by Abby Ledoux ’14

Emerson’s Aim to End Violence Week launched March 25 with an event called “Painting Your Pain,” which had students using art to express their feelings on gun violence.

The weeklong series of events is meant to encourage a campus dialogue on America’s culture of gun violence. Several student organizations are co-sponsoring the week, which is spearheaded by Emerson Peace and Social Justice.

“This event is a mix of conversation and creativity,” Dennis Connors ’15, an Emerson Peace and Social Justice member, said of Painting Your Pain. “We wanted to have different event types.”

As music played throughout the Piano Row Multipurpose Room, students gathered around tables and painted everything from peace signs to rifles to abstract motifs.

“I think this event is really important because it’s just about creating art, which is a lot of what our school is about,” said Victoria Masteller ’16. “It’s an easy technique that creates conversation.”

"Before, we were talking about inner-city violence,” said Connors. “So we’re painting what is inspired by that conversation to express ourselves.” A large poster on a nearby table asked students, “What does gun violence mean to you?” In different colors they scrawled their answers, ranging from “preventable losses,” “a solvable issue,”  “lack of control,” to “something I see on TV.”

“I’ve been very supportive of everything Emerson Peace and Social Justice has done this whole week,” said Nick de la Canal ’15, who attended the event. “I think it’s good to bring awareness to gun violence.”

De la Canal is also president of the Class of 2015, which organized a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence that took place on Boston Common on the night of March 25.

“The biggest inspiration for us was [Emerson President Lee] Pelton’s letter to the school, and his letter to President Obama,” Connors said. “We saw that as a call to action, and that something needed to happen within the school community, student-run, to start to have that dialogue.”

Shortly after the December school shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Pelton gathered nearly 300 signatures from college and university presidents pledging to join him in increasing dialogue on gun violence on campuses across the country. The signatures were attached to a letter sent to President Obama. Pelton also started the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center website.

Aim to End Violence Week will continue through March 30, when the week concludes with a letter-writing initiative for students to express their opinions on gun control to congressional representatives.

“Where does violence come from? What can we do to help bring about its end? What are the controversial issues that we can talk about?” Connors said. “That’s how we got this started.”

This article can be found on the Emerson website here.

by Alicia Carroll

Growing up in North Philadelphia, I heard a lot of horror stories from my family. My parents tried very hard to shelter me from the reality that surrounded my small city block.  We moved away from the city to a suburb in Maryland, where we finally lived in a safer environment. As I grew up, I missed the city, and would complain about suburban life to my mother, wanting to go back home. Now that I am older, my mother jokingly tells me that I would hear gunshots at night and she would tell me it was firecrackers. She jokes, but it’s true. I don’t know if she intended to tell me that or not, but I remember this happening on numerous occasions. My uncle would tell my father about the latest shooting that happened a few blocks down. It was all around me. And being as young as I was, I would watch the local news hearing about things that happened not even ten minutes from where I lived and I didn’t think twice about it.  And no, it wasn’t the worst environment. It wasn’t New Orleans, or Detroit, Baltimore, or Chicago. But Philly is in the top 10 cities for Gun related deaths and homicides in the country.

Emerson Peace and Social Justice and the Emerson class of 2015 hosted a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence. After our dedicated silence, we had an open discussion about how gun violence has affected us personally. We wonder why is this violence so rampant? It’s ridiculous to hear that kids my age are shooting each other for botched drug deals or turf wars. Its ridiculous to think that tens of thousands of suicides are committed with guns each year. Its ridiculous to think people would shoot someone for something as miniscule as a parking spot after a snowstorm. It’s ridiculous to think that someone would murder an entire group of people he doesn’t even know. It’s especially ridiculous to see in the news that someone shot someone and himself on an off campus apartment at a college your best friends attend, and worry if it was them before names are released. People die every day of natural causes or accidents. But I shouldn’t fear for my own life or the lives of my loved ones as a result of gun violence or any other form of unwarranted attacks on another human being. It just shouldn’t happen. Violence should never be the answer in any situation.

I am not trying to be political or liberal or however this may be negatively perceived. I just want to stop seeing mothers weep and grieve the loss of their children due to unnecessary violence. People have the right to bare arms, yes. But that law was written at a time when our country was at war every ten seconds. I think it is reasonable to think there needs to be a change. You have the right to own a gun. But does it have to be a semi-automatic? Does it have to have enough power to kill dozens before you need more amo? No. You have the right to own a gun, legally. Why is it so unreasonable to ask that you get a background check before you are licensed to carry a concealed weapon? Why is it unreasonable to ask that you are educated in gun use to make sure you do not use a deadly weapon irresponsibly? You do not have the right to hide behind the 2nd amendment to wield firearms as a statement of force or power.  You have the right to defend yourself, but you do not have the right to attack people just because something didn’t go your way, or because you feel threatened. You do not have the right to take the life of another living, breathing human being that has not physically and immediately attempted to do the same to you. Defense is reactionary, not proactive. Defense is warrented, not unnecessary. Death should not be the consequence of living an innocent life. Whether you are talking about Movie goers, college students, high school students, or children. No one deserves to have his life taken by another citizen of this country.  People can defend the 2nd amendment all they want, but you cannot tell me that keeping the language of that amendment intact is worth all of the deaths it causes. Trust me, the people committing these crimes are not “baring arms” for the reasons our founders intended.  All I ask is for people to open up this conversation and support Emerson’s Aim to End Gun Violence. Speak for the silenced and let your legislators know what you believe is best not just for you, but also for the entire country. This is one issue we cannot afford to politicize. Something needs to be done now.

By Megan Kay, EPSJ Women's Rights Committee Chair

If you’ve watched a movie lately and you care the slightest bit about feminism and the representation of women in film, you’ve probably been dismayed. Many movies these days either completely neglect or stereotype women into confined boxes, like the ditzy blonde or the nerd. It’s so disheartening to constantly see your gender flaunted as a sex prop and only in the movie or scene to be attract the main male character. It’s even more disheartening to see your gender absent from a film altogether. In fact according to Forbes, “Only 16% of protagonists in film are female.” Even worse, of these 16% of female protagonists, many of them are over sexualized. Many female heroes or protagonists use their sexuality and their bodies to save the day. Think of Lara Croft or Catwoman, for example. The entirety of their characters are based around their sexual attraction, and although they may fight alongside or against men, they are doing so in revealing, tight outfits, that are meant to utilize the power of the male gaze and attract male viewers. So what kind of message is this sending to women? If you want to be a star, you have to use your appearance. Sure, you can be just as powerful as a man, but you will have to use your body to do it. 

Let’s face it, there is an astounding lack of Buffy or Katniss-like female characters in Hollywood. But why is that? Mostly because behind the scenes, the shows are run by men. According to Forbes, “Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising).” Additionally, “Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.” Chances are, the last movie you watched was written, directed, and produced by a man, which means that most of our media is from the perspective of a male. Consequently, Hollywood films and television shows are male-dominated, and the female characters are created by the male perspective because they are mostly written by men. Of course, men do not know what it is like to be a woman, so female characters are often boring, dumb, or just plain inaccurate. Take Penny from the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. She is very one note: blonde, ditzy, shopaholic, and boy-crazy. Is any real woman this one dimensional or stereotypical? No, of course not. Unfortunately however, Penny is like most female characters on television. Here we can clearly see the gap between real women and the women of Hollywood. We desperately need more women behind the scenes, writing roles that accurately depict women, and we need more women directing movies that don’t alienate or hyper-sexualize them. 

It’s also important to support movies and shows with great female characters. As Geena Davis, an actress from movies such as BeetlejuiceThelma & Louise, and A League of Their Own, said in the documentary Miss Representation, “All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: That women will watch stories about men, but men won’t watch stories about women. It is a horrible indictment of our society of we assume that one half of our population is just not interested in the other half.” Of course, this is wildly untrue. Think of The Hunger Games or Bridesmaids, both of which featured strong female characters and made astronomical sums at the box office

One great way to determine if a movie represents women well is the Bechdel Test, developed by Alison Bechdel. To pass this test, a movie must have at least two female characters who interact with each other and talk to each other about something other than men and relationships. It’s important to note that just because a movie passes the Bechdel Test does not mean it does not portray a sexist message in some way. However, it is a great start to have multiple women conversing about something that is not male-centric. Normally, movies that pass the test have more well-rounded female characters with above average depth. Sadly, about half of all movies produced and made in Hollywood fail the Bechdel Test. Think about that. That means that about half of all movies either don’t have more than one female character and/or the women don’t talk to each other about anything but men (or talk to each other at all). Some of the most popular movies of all time fail this test, such as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, AvatarThe Social Network, The Original Star Wars Trilogy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part IIThe Shawshank RedemptionInception, and Pulp Fiction. In an astounding amount of hit movies and franchises, there is little to no female presence. 

It’s time for a change in Hollywood. Women are 51% of the population in America but only 16% of protagonists in film. See the problem? There is a huge and unjust misrepresentation of women in the media. To support a change, go out and see films or watch shows in which female characters are realistic and non-stereotypical. If you're a film maker or writer, especially at Emerson, write strong female characters. If you’re a woman, be a director or producer. And regardless of your gender, support women who want to work in Hollywood, because their voices and perspectives are what will change the future of film. 

This article can be originally found at Isis Magazine
(In response to a reflection question on Alternative Spring Break)
       Why do I personally serve? A question I constantly ask myself and remind myself of everyday. Dedicating my life to public service and helping other is a decision I made a while ago and I haven’t looked back since. I serve because I believe that every small act of kindness and aid can help make a positive Impact on the world. Think about it; if every person in the world dedicated thirty minutes a day or even one hour a week to bettering their community, humans would be a lot more positive and civil to one another. I serve because I love getting to know places that are unfamiliar to me and places I would have otherwise not have gone. I serve because it makes me feel like my place on earth is purposeful and positive. I am passionate about serving because when I leave this world, I will leave knowing I did my best to help others and better the communities I’ve lived in.

            This week of service is not just limited to this one week. Not only have we left a positive mark on the communities we’ve served in that will last past this week, but we have had an empowering experience that will hopefully inspire us continually to give back and serve others/ I strongly believe that we as compassionate humans can make positive human connections that far surpass the duration of our service. Every community experience I’ve had, no matter how long I served for, has stayed with me and empowered me to make a difference in the world. It’s been three years since my teaching in Ghana and I still remember every moment of it and how much it inspired me to continue my passion. 

 (In response to a reflection question on Alternative Spring Break)   
       We change the world by our mere existence. Why not make that change positive? We create ripples, despite our intention. That is both empowering and frightening. Every action changes something. We change the world. We do. We have to realize the greatness that lies in your words, my fingers, our actions. We have to realize the potential the power, the vitality. We have to realize and utilize it. Some say that it is futile to try to change the world, that it is ignorant. Tell those cynics to shut their half-empty asses up. We are not small. We are beams, stars, explosions of possibility, of positivity and the stuff that world change is made of. We are the right chemicals to catalyze a widespread world change. We are the fire under the movement. We are so much more than what we take ourselves for. We are supernovas.