Category Archives: Bay & Beyond

Attempts to Call Students to Climate Action Fall Short

Hundreds packed McKenna Theater earlier this month for the final day of Climate Action Week at SF State, drawn in by famed climate change activist Bill McKibben. However, many left after his speech when people were asked to join discussion groups, each led by a different environmental advocacy organization.

In his first appearance here, McKibben speaks about efforts to protect the environment globally and at SF State. He calls the university’s student-led move toward divestment, “one of the high points in this global campaign.” SF State is the first public school and the first university in the world to engage in fossil fuel divestment, in which entities refuse to invest in oil companies.

The understanding of climate change has grown over time. Twenty-five years ago, McKibben says, we knew about global warming, but we had no idea how bad it would get or how fast it would spread. We still have trouble comprehending what a profound impact an apparently small temperature increase can have. A one-degree change may not seem like much, “but measured in [certain] ways, it’s an immense amount,” McKibben says. The world may be headed for even greater temperature gains. “For me, the scary part is were just at the beginning of this process…” he explains, adding that scientists predict a four to five degree jump over the next century. With the devastating effects a one-degree rise in temperature has had, it is scary to imagine the sort of havoc four or five degree more could wreak.

Demonstrations are held worldwide to take a stand against what McKibben describes as “the first truly global problem we’ve faced.” He shows photos of people in a wide variety of locales such as Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Wheaton, Illinois, China, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Bhutan, Washington, D.C., the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, Somalia, Brazil, Vietnam, Italy, and San Francisco. McKibben reports that people from “every country in the world except North Korea” have demonstrated on behalf of 350.org, which encourages grassroots climate activism. In some of the photos, people stand together to write out “350.” In Yemen, the zero is composed of women in black burqas. These efforts to raise awareness about climate change bridge deep schisms. At the Dead Sea, Jordanians form the three, Palestinians, the five, and Israelis, the zero. Some pictures depict a humorous take on the potential consequences of climate change like the one that shows people sitting in a makeshift living room on a beach because of the rising sea levels that threaten to wipe out some low-lying coastal areas.

McKibben proclaims that current college students “will be in the prime of your lives” as the worst outcomes of climate change begin to be felt. He closes to lengthy applause before most of the crowd streams out of the exits.

After McKibben’s speech, representatives from the following five environmentally-minded organizations each describe his or her group’s mission: Fossil Free SFSU, the Green Initiative Fund, 350 Bay Area, Idle No More, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. The idea was to people have spend a session with one group of their choice and then join a second session with another, but only one session is held because so many had left.

Idle No More, an indigenous activism organization, believes in connecting with people and respecting the Earth. “Mother Earth does not negotiate,” declares group leader Pennie Opal Plant. “We can pray, we can ask, we can tell her how sorry we are, but her system is her system.”

The more people who join the movement against climate change, the better. “What we really need is billions of people in the streets,” insists Plant. Unfortunately, this event did not prompt much growth. Jason Schwartz, an environmental studies major and one of the leaders of Fossil Free SFSU, admits the weak response from students is “disappointing.” He indicates a small stack of clipboards clasping mostly empty sign-up sheets, saying he had anticipated recruiting many new members out of the hundreds in attendance. Instead, “we got three,” he groans. Still, he hopes to see more people becoming active on campus even if they are not focused on the environment. “I would really like to organize students around whatever they want to work on,” Schwartz says. “I would like to see students feel like they have a voice.”

Shuddle, an uber app for kids

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 1.17.34 PM
Screenshots of the Shuddle app.

Would you trust your child getting into a car with a stranger? One of the first things we learn when we are young, but finally able to exist more than ten feet away from mom or dad, is to not talk to strangers and most definitely to not go anywhere with them.

Shuddle is a new app being deemed the “Uber for kids.” The premise: to make life easier for busy parents who do not have the time or capability to drive their kids everywhere; or, as the website suggests, to allow parents to kick back after a long day.

From the looks of it, Shuddle looks like a pretty perfect idea. The drivers undergo “extensive” criminal and Department of Motor Vehicle background checks, have experience working with children, and attend an orientation and driving test. Drivers must also have a four-door car less than ten years old that passes a nineteen-point inspection.

You check out their website, download the app and see all of these happy and wonderful looking people. Mostly women and a few gentle looking men pop up on every page.

You know there is no way you can get your daughter to soccer practice and your son to piano lessons both at two o’clock; what better solution then calling Shuddle to send a random person to take one of them and pick them up?

Personally for me, someone with no children but many young kids in my life, I cringed when I first heard about Shuddle. Sure, it may sound great on the surface, but can sending your kid off with a stranger ever really be your best option?

Every day, parents trust teachers and nannies and caregivers and church leaders with their children. People who work with kids are automatically given full trust. While the majority of adults in these positions are probably good people, how many breaking news headlines have we had to see? How many amazing parents have been astonished to find out that their child has been harmed by someone they trusted completely?

The reality is that there are always people who slip through the cracks. There are people who are really good at hiding the bad things that they do, and those who decide to do a really bad thing for the first time on a whim.

Again, Shuddle takes the precautions and measures you would ask for: a safe word chosen by the family that the driver must say upon arrival, GPS tracker of the ride, and a message sent when your child has hit their destination. Shuddle also does not take any children who require a car seat and insist the children have cell phones.

Sounds great, sounds flawless, but are you going to risk that one day a bad seed may pick your child up and never bring him back? Do you trust that your child will not get in the car if they feel scared or uncomfortable? Do you trust that your kid, who is told to get in the car with a new stranger each week, is not going to understand when something might be wrong?

For you single mom or dads still in school, always running late to your part-time job, this may seem like a huge weight off your back. Just remember, you are entrusting your child to a stranger; someone who you may not ever even see or meet unless you are there upon every arrival and drop off, in which case you would probably not need this app anyway.

My advice: get a microchip or something in your child if you plan on using this a lot. I would never say that normally, but yes, I am now. A driver could easily send the arrival message, turn off their GPS and turn off your child’s phone, and then what? With children it is always better to be safe than sorry, right?

‘No Shave November’: put down the razors for charity

Illustration by Catherine Uy
Illustration by Catherine Uy

November is finally upon us, and for most people this means getting mentally and physically prepared to gain tons of weight during the holidays. But November is much more than just turkeys, elections, and veterans, the month has been re-named ‘Movember’ or ‘No shave November’, giving men and women (but mostly men) the justification to put down their razors and let their hair be wild and free.

Starting on November 1st, all partakers in this holiday agree to go for an entire month without shaving any hair on their body, resulting in some pretty epic beards by the end of the month. Many men look forward to this month, as it gives them an excuse to express their inner manly man with some next level facial hair.

What many people do not know about Movember is that the whole point of the event is to raise awareness of cancer. According to No-shave.org, the goal of Movember is to raise awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients loose.   The Movember Foundation, which started in 2003, runs official campaigns in over twenty-one countries committed to changing the face of men’s health. They have raised over five-hundred-and-fifty-nine million dollars that go towards improving the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health problems.

So to all of you folks who wish to partake in this year’s hair-growing festivities, remember the true meaning behind the event. And to all of the facial-hair-disapproving girlfriends, brace yourselves Movember is here!

The Best of November

With summer gone, the leaves have finally changed colors. (Catherine Uy/ Xpress Magazine)

It is almost that time of year – the leaves have fallen, San Francisco’s Indian summer is coming to an end and people are starting to wear winter appropriate outfits. As the ghosts and ghouls go back into the dark, turkeys and busy shoppers begin to appear.

Even though school is still in session, students across the Bay Area are looking forward to what November has in store for them. This November will be filled with an abundance of events to look forward to before the holiday season begins, such as devouring delicious stuffed turkey to enduring crazy Black Friday sales.

The following are five of the top things that I look forward to this November.

1.) Daylight Savings Time: Surely, overworked students everywhere are excited to fall back and get an extra hour of sleep.

On Sunday, November 2 at two o’clock in the morning, clocks around the nation will go back one hour to signify that daylight savings time has ended.

The purpose of this time change is “to make better use of daylight” and to save energy. However, people around the country look past this and instead enjoy getting more time to sleep.

As opposed to having to jump one hour ahead in the spring, people acknowledge this night because it gives them a chance to rest before another full day of chaotic activities that occur on a daily basis.

2.) The holiday red cups: The holidays have not truly started until the release of the red cups at Starbucks on Thursday, November 6. These cups are always looked forward to by customers to the point where there is a countdown online.

Peppermint mocha along with gingerbread latte are two drinks that are widely popular among Starbucks customers. This year, the well-known coffee company is introducing a new drink to their winter menu called the Chestnut Praline Latte. According to Grub Street, this new drink is “a latte with chestnut praline syrup, whipped cream and praline crumbles.”

The drinks that are presented in these holiday cups always keep Starbucks customers warm. Despite only being November, the red cups symbolize the coming of Christmas. It brings out an excitement that keeps people in the holiday spirit.

3.) Thanksgiving: Falling into a food coma after gobbling down stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes and corn bread is highly likely to occur on this day. Thursday, November 27 is a day where families spend time together, enjoy good food and give thanks for all their blessings.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is a long-celebrated tradition within the United States. The three-hour event is televised nationwide which shows elaborate floats, large character balloons, talented marching bands and featured performers.

Along with grubbing down on good food and watching parades either in-person or on television, some families may also enjoy watching football. This year, the San Francisco 49ers are set to play against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

Aside from watching decorative floats travel down a street and men throwing a football, Thanksgiving is a day where people enjoy each other’s company. Being with family and friends is the ultimate goal on this holiday.

4.) Black Friday: On Friday, November 28, the shopping madness begins at midnight after Thanksgiving for citizens across the nation. Malls and major department stores open their doors early into the night to allow customers to begin their holiday shopping.

Doorbuster sales and early bird specials are what attract consumers to stand in line hours before opening. Electronics are the most popular bargains on this day. For example, brand name LED HDTVs can range between $1000 to $1600. The original pricing for these televisions would typically range between $1500 to $1800.

Black Friday marks the “official” day of shopping for the holiday season. Shoppers take advantage of the low pricing of products they cannot purchase on any other regular day.

5.) San Francisco Tree Lighting, Union Square: People from all over the Bay Area gather together in Union Square to watch the annual tree lighting.

According to the official website, this event which will take place on Friday, November 28 will happen “in Union Square Park between Sutter and Post and Geary and Stockton Streets, right across from the Macy’s.”

This merry ceremony features live performances, cheerful holiday music and more importantly – the eighty foot fir tree that is covered in 21,000 LED lights. When the tree is illuminated with the vast amount of twinkling lights, crowds are finally able to say, “The holidays have officially started.”

The San Francisco Tree Lighting is a great way to kick off the holiday season. It is a perfect celebration to enjoy a cup of peppermint hot chocolate with family and friends while you wait for the tree to light up the city.

This November is packed with many things to look forward to. There are many activities and events within the month that prepare individuals around the country for the holiday season. The spirit for the merry time is sparked up even though Christmas is not for another two months. With that being said, get ready for another fun-filled month packed with seasonal festivities to enjoy with your family and friends.

 

Major League Sexism

Chelena Goldman, who reports on the San Jose Sharks for the Bay Area Sports Guy, scans through her notes at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 1. (Annastashia Goolsby/ Xpress Magazine)
Chelena Goldman, who reports on the San Jose Sharks for the Bay Area Sports Guy, scans through her notes at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 1. (Annastashia Goolsby/ Xpress Magazine)

In the history of sports journalism, there has never been more women reporting on televised American sports then there are today, according to the Women’s Media Center. Erin Andrews hosts Fox College Football for Fox Sports and here in the Bay Area, Amy Gutierrez is a sideline reporter for Comcast Sports Network (CSN) Bay Area, reports on the San Francisco Giants, Chelena Goldman covers the San Jose Sharks for Bay Area Sports Guy, and Susan Slusser former As’ beat reporter for the Chronicle and former top ranking baseball writer as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

“I loved it every time I did it,” says Melissa Ludtke, former Sports Illustrated reporter and researcher, about her time reporting on baseball and being in the locker room. “In the tunnel I began to see beams of lights and green, and every time you came out it was like a mosaic, beautiful. It never seemed old.”

When it comes to sports and journalism, women are on it. From reporting on-the-field, to doing in-depth reporting, even being anchors, female reporters are more prevalent than ever. Look at Jeannie Morris, who was the first female winner of a Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports journalism; however with every step forward, we have two steps back. Ludtke, who has been in the business for four decades, sued Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1977, when she was banned access to either locker room during the World Series, after MLB announced that no women reporters would be allowed to report from inside either team’s locker room. Ludtke won her case with the court ruling that women sports reporters are at a severe disadvantage.

But why are women still not taken seriously as sports journalists? Female sports journalists are winning awards, just like the men, and they are out on the field reporting, interviewing the players, and bringing the stories to their fans. Why are women not at the “roundtable of experts” giving their two cents about a professional game, but instead being bullied? In 2005, while covering the Saint Louis Cardinals, Paola Boivin was approached by a player and asked if she was there to cover sports or to stare at a bunch of naked penises. The bullying continued when a sweaty jock strap hurled into the air, hitting Boivin in the head. Stunned, she ran out of the locker room. That incident alone almost made her end her career in sports journalism.

Goldman says she would love to do a radio spot before a game or a pre-game talk on a television, using different outlets to report on the sports she loves but to also continue writing.

“The same thing happen to women in science and video games,” says Ludkte. “It’s invading a territory that belongs to a man. And when that happens, they turn women into sex objects, it’s an automatic reflex.”

In 2012, 90 percent of sports journalists were white males, according to the Women’s Media Center. One-hundred and fifty sports newspapers and websites received a failing grade for their hiring practices because did not hire enough women as editors, columnists, copy editors, or designers. Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) is one of the few news organizations increasing the number of women, and racial minorities, in their industry, according to the Women’s Media Center. Without their statistics, only 4.6 percent of the sports media industry would be made up of women.

“I actually haven’t had many instances where I was judged for being a woman in sports journalism,” says Maggie Pilloton, co-editor at Golden Gate Sports. “There was one time where I felt that my presence on a blog’s staff allowed the site to brag about having a female sports writer on staff. I generally find though that if you know what you’re talking about, you do your research, you work hard, and you’re confident and consistent, that people will give you the respect you deserve.”

Pilloton also adds that there are always going to be people criticizing you, but you cannot take it personally. She says that you have to believe in yourself, your talent, and your work ethic.

Sports journalist Amy Gutierrez, known on Twitter as @AmyGGiants, likes to report the “emotional, non-technical side of the game” to attract more viewership. Gutierrez has her own webcast on Comcast Sports Network (CSN) called Amy G.’s Giants Xclusive, where she interviews Giants players and produces short webcasts including Buster Knows Squat. The show features one of the Giants most popular players, Buster Posey, and incorporates the athlete’s funny side with the professional side of sports.

“A couple months ago, I did a story on a day in the life of Amy G.,” says Pilloton. “I was able to shadow her for a Giants game to see what a normal day was like for her.” “That was an unforgettable experience, and I feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to do that. I love being able to interview someone or attend an event, for example, and find the storyline. Writing human interest stories like that are so fun for me, especially since I got the chance to interview a role model of mine, Amy G.”

Pilloton went on to say that Guiterrez was an extremely hard working person, and humble and professional. It is clear that she loves her job and her family. Pilloton says that she learned so much from Guiterrez and loved being able to connect with her on a personal level, as they are both alumni from University of California, Davis.

“A normal day can be pretty busy and hectic for Amy, as she has to balance being a mom and wife with being the in-game reporter for the Giants,” says Pilloton.

“Her day is full of planning the hits she will deliver on the in-game broadcast, staying up to date on all Giants news, speaking with Giants players and coaches, interacting with fans, taking notes during the game, etc. She handles her busy schedule with incredible grace, humility, and patience.”

Amy Gutierrez is not as loved by the Giants fans on Twitter as one might think. Instead, Twitter is filled with hate and people tweeting that they want her off their television because they cannot stand her voice or the way she reports. Some fans have even adopted the hashtag #muteamy, while others call her names like “horseface.” Rene Godoy, @feenixgavredux on Twitter, a die-hard Giants fan, is one of the many people on Twitter who harasses Gutierrez and her work. Godoy says that in his eyes, her reports have no relevance to the teams’ progress and he would rather just listen to [Giants broadcasters] Kruk and Kuip talk.

A collection of mean-spirited tweets hashtagged #MuteAmyG, in response to Amy Gutierrez’s coverage of the Giants.
A collection of mean-spirited tweets hashtagged #MuteAmyG, in response to Amy Gutierrez’s coverage of the Giants.

Gutierrez takes her insults well though, replying to tweets saying “that’s nice! Thanks, lol!” or even joking that she needs to do a Jimmy Kimmel-like segment called “Amy G. reads mean tweets,” adding that she would crush it.

“It’s a little too much for the male comfort zone,” says Ludtke. “They turn it into hate. It doesn’t just happen in sports; it is challenging, difficult, and sad. It’s unbelievable that in four decades, this is still happening.”

In July, Erin Andrews was called a “gutless bitch” by Boston radio host Kirk Minihane, after asking Saint Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright if he was “throwing easy pitches” to Derek Jeter. Minihane apologized for his language but then bashed Andrews again, insulting her intelligence and saying “Fox only hired her because she was good looking; if she weighed fifteen more pounds she would be a waitress at Perkins.” Instead of Minihane apologizing and leaving it at that, he personally attacked Andrews again.

Chelena Goldman, who reports for Bay Area Sports Guy, describes herself as very girly for someone who likes sports; she has her own uniform for games — dresses and tights. Goldman says no one has personally attacked her because she is a woman. She has had a scout or two talk down to her, though. Goldman added that the Bay Area has a lot of women in sports journalism.

“I love what I do, it is my dream job,” says Goldman. “This is what I went to school to do and I am lucky and happy to be doing it. It is cool to sit and watch a game.”

Women still have a long way to go in the male-dominated field of sports journalism, but they are bridging the gender gap and it does not look like they will be stopping anytime soon. Although there are only about 5 percent of women covering sports in this country, they are still kicking ass doing it.

The Terrible Cesspit of Internet Terrorism

An arm pops out of a woman's computer screen and chokes her. (Illustration by Catherine Uy/ XPress Magazine)
An arm pops out of a woman’s computer screen and chokes her. (Illustration by Catherine Uy/ Xpress Magazine)

The “gamer” label has always been peculiar to me. A tag like that only pigeonholes a person through one aspect of their life. Besides that, it does not have the best image that gets associated with it.

Especially now.

Anita Sarkeesian, the host of the successfully-Kickstarted Feminist Frequency YouTube channel, came under fire, which she is not a stranger to. It is hard to even say that this new step has gone too far because any abusive step here is too far.

Sarkeesian was supposed to give a talk at Utah State University that was being organized by the campus’ feminists. That was until this anonymous email was sent to the staff of USU:

How delightful.

Her plans were to go through with the speech, even with some neckbeard threatening a massive school shooting, but she could not find an agreeable solution with campus security. Utah’s open-carry law is responsible for that. The talk was canceled because of the ease of sneaking in a firearm and the police’s lack of control over a possible massacre.

This awful situation is just another recurring nightmare in the Groundhog’s Day of hateful horseshit that just keeps happening over and over again. It is fucking tiring. But the Internet easily enables this extensive harassment through its ability to allow cowards to cover their tracks and hide. But harassment is a tame word. This is terrorism, plain and simple. You instill fear from a distance through a threat, even if you never intend to act upon it. But now, you can do it from your own home if someone so much as slightly disagrees with you.

Terrorism like this festers in the confines of the Internet for those who are afraid of change. Afraid of being acceptable to different groups of people. Afraid of letting more individuals into the hobby they love (or at least claim to), or that is at least a poor cover up, which has been perpetuated by the increasingly-stupid “#GamerGate” hashtag, which came to light after the whole Zoe Quinn scandal.

The hashtag has some commendable intentions: to raise the ethical standards in gaming journalism and to create a sense of transparency between game publishers/developers and writers. That much I am behind. However, this has also led to the eye-rolling movement of trolls using this as a means to ruin the lives of “Social Justice Warriors” or just women in general. Because that is how narrow-mindedly they see justice. Gaming is already sort of a boy’s club and these toxic pricks are planning to keep it that way by attempting to drive out the few unique voices of the industry, be it developer or writer.

The Internet allows people to gather around something they like and discuss from the safe confines of sitting behind a monitor. But it also lets people form a digital mob and rally around something they hate, which is where most people tend to focus on. Good or bad. Love or hate. Extremism is all too prevalent on the web and this whole damn mess is the thesis statement.

We cannot disagree with Anita. We have to yell, scream, and threaten to rape or kill her. We cannot agree with only some things she claims. We have to wholeheartedly back her no matter what and fiercely lash out at the slightest disobedience. Each side offends the other, each side gets defensive, and each side further cements themselves in their respective stances.

Anita is not infallible either. She has been accused of stealing game footage without permission, lying, faking some of her own threats, and manipulating game footage to prove a point – her point. I do not condone those actions (if true) and, frankly, it drives me nuts when I see this sort of deception by her. Her Hitman: Absolution section in this video in particular really rustled my jimmies, but I do not threaten her in any way. I do not smash a keyboard in anger. I act like a normal human being and I am able to continue living normally despite a slight disagreement on a branch of a greater overall message.

Disagreement is healthy and the discussions that a level-headed debate brings is good for the mind. But that takes time and self-control and some assemblance of empathy. Those aspects are in short supply on the Internet. It is all too easy to shout than to actually reflect and critically analyze the situation. Instead of taking the humane route, these Internet gremlins would rather start a hate campaign that exclusively targets different genders and races under a twisted guise of “keeping games the same.”

Hostility and hate campaigns do not even seem to be working too, which is the extreme irony in all of this. Anita has been doing more interviews, gracing the front page of the New York Times, and been on sites that would never cover anything related to video games. All of this hate is only publicity for her and furthers her message of equality and also subsequently enforces the negative stereotype that people who play games are a less-than-stable, unsocial group. It is a double-edge sword. Her proposition of equality spreads but so does the toxic harassment that sadly comes installed with the culture.

I write this (mostly) not as a person who plays video games and engages in the culture, but as a human. Witnessing abuse like this is sickening and seeing it happen to people in a medium that I hold dear makes it exponentially more depressing. I love how video games are finally starting to be mature enough to tell unique stories and spark debates, but this surrounding garbage is not what I wanted to come part and parcel with the aforementioned maturity. We want to claim that video games do not cause school shootings, yet some people have to threaten to shoot up a school to stop a person from talking about video games – now that is irony.

Kicking for change

J Coach Benjamin Anderson, center, holds a team chat after practice at Margaret Hayward Park. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)
J Coach Benjamin Anderson, center, holds a team chat after practice at Margaret Hayward Park. (Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)

On the basketball court underneath the Interstate 280 overpass, men and women gather on a chilly September evening and introduce themselves twenty minutes before the last practice at Mission Bay Creek Park. There is a mix of old and new players from Street Soccer USA (SS USA). A tall man wearing a newsboy cap comes up and introduces himself as Shane Bullock, one of the preliminary candidates to represent the United States at the Homeless World Cup (HWC) taking place in Santiago, Chile in October.

When brothers Lawrence and Rob Cann combined social work with their love for soccer in North Carolina, they found that using the two together kept people engaged, hopeful, and motivated. This realization turned into more teams being brought together, slowly creating the Street Soccer USA organization. When Rob moved to San Francisco, they were able to cover more ground.

Through soccer, the organization aims to help homeless men, women, and youth get their lives back together. They realize that a lot of the homeless are just stuck in a cycle of hopelessness; after being on the street and in shelters off and on for years at a time, they get stuck in a loop, and it becomes their identity.

It took Bullock a while to decide he wanted to join Street Soccer USA. He thought they were just pick-up games and was hesitant about playing for a homeless team. For weeks, recruiters from the organization had been coming around the Saint Vincent de Paul Society homeless shelter – where he had been living for ten months – and when they asked him if he wanted to play, almost saying yes, he said he would take a raincheck instead.

“I didn’t see them for a couple of weeks after that,” Bullock says. “But they came by again, so I decided to go and I’ve been here ever since. I didn’t realize it was this whole thing.”

The twenty-six-year-old joined the program the week of Thanksgiving last year. He explains that when you are in the shelter [at Saint Vincent de Paul of Society] for the night, you have to stay in. So when he first went to practice, it was just to get out.

“I could only read so many books in there,” Bullock says. “I was at the library every day and I would just go there, read books, eat dinner, and just go to sleep.”

According to the Homeless World Cup website, after attending a conference on homelessness in South Africa in 2001, founders Mel Young and Harald Schmied believed the power of soccer can push the homeless into a positive direction. And with the help of seventy partners around the world, they were able to bring the first HWC to Graz, Austria in 2003.

The United States team was picked during the Street Soccer USA National Cup, which was hosted in August by the Street Soccer USA organization in San Francisco.

In the past, the Street Soccer USA National Cup was held at Times Square in New York City but this year was the first time it was held in San Francisco, after it was continuously hosted on the east coast. According to Antoine Lagarde, a coach of the Bay Area team, with the Cann brothers’ connections and networking, Street Soccer USA set up partnerships with the mayor’s office, various members of the board of supervisors, San Francisco Recreation and Parks, corporations, and with the connections in the soccer leagues to get players to participate and help fund the program, making it able to come to life on the west coast. With City Hall as its backdrop, the sixteen teams from all over the country came together at the Civic Center Plaza to celebrate their hard work and showcase to the community that they are more than just homeless.

“Choosing players to represent the country in the HWC is not about who the most skillful player is,” Lagarde says at another practice in Margaret Hayward Playground. “We want to send a message [to the other players] that it’s not about who’s good, it’s the people who are in the program who are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

There are three criteria in which a player is chosen. First, what they have achieved off the field: securing housing, a job, and going back to school. Second, how they act on the team: their attitude, teamwork, and if they act as a role model [to other players]. Lastly, playing ability and commitment – even if the player is at a beginner’s level or has just joined the program, showing up to practices and games is critical.

Lagarde, a former player, is now an employee of the organization as a coach, and is also a teacher at the San Francisco Conservation Corps. When he first joined the Street Soccer movement, he was “in a weird transition stage,” struggling with bipolar disorder that led him to destructive behaviors. When he was getting better and on the path out, he was an assistant teacher, and a lot of his students that were in gangs were having issues. With his love for soccer, Lagarde, along with a case manager, started a soccer team, and ended up going to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National Cup. Soon after that he went to the 2011 Homeless World Cup in Paris to coach the US team under the Eiffel Tower.

“With what I learned as a player, I try to transmit to the current players,” Lagarde says. “Players who represent the country become ambassadors and serve as role models to the other players.”

“What we do that’s different— we realized that a lot of these players are numb. They’ve given up, they don’t want to feel the pain and would rather shut it off, and not have too many expectations. So when they step on the soccer field, their emotions come out again- they’re happy, they’re sad, they’re passionate, they enjoy life, they want to taste more of it.”

Street Soccer USA supports and gives those in the program “tough love,” Lagarde says. He explains that they check in on them, ask about appointments, or ask about cutting down on drinking. Other players on the team encourage them to keep that motivation and help with the resources they need to get that focus back in their lives. After a year in the program, 75 percent of the players reach their main goals: housing, getting sober, going back to school, reuniting with family, and obtaining full-time employment. The struggles of the other 25 percent are related to alcohol, drugs, or various types of mental illnesses.

“Even in a city like San Francisco, with all these social services, there’s very little funding when it comes to mental health issues,” Largarde says.

The organization is funded through grants, churches, private donations, and a for-profit soccer league called “I Play For,” where they have multiple games throughout the year. Grants from the US Soccer Foundation helped fund the Street Soccer court at Margaret Hayward Playground that was installed over the summer, and corporations like BlackRock, an investment management company, gave donations. These donations have allowed them to hire coaches and have scholarships so that some of the players can pay for college books, buy clothes for interviews, get IDs, or pay off tickets. Sponsors also give funds for uniforms, cleats, and some of the travelling expenses.

According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were over six hundred thousand sheltered and unsheltered homeless in a single night in January last year, seeing a decline since 2010. California had the highest rate of homelessness, representing 22 percent of the homeless population, and even though the country as a whole saw a decline, the Golden State had an increase in homelessness second behind New York between 2012 and 2013. San Francisco has one of the highest homeless populations amongst United States cities.

James Grigsby does tricks with the ball before Street Soccer practice at Margaret Hayward Park. Grigsby comes from a hip hop dance background and constantly looks to incorporate those talents to his time in the Street Soc- cer world.(Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)
James Grigsby does tricks with the ball before Street Soccer practice at Margaret Hayward Park. Grigsby comes from a hip hop dance background and constantly looks to incorporate those talents to his time in the Street Soc- cer world.(Sara Gobets/ Xpress Magazine)

At the September practice at Mission Bay Creek Park, while the players got acquainted with one another, a man with blonde hair down his neck set up perimeter with small orange cones around half of the basketball court. He then gathered everyone in a circle and introduced himself to the newcomers as Benjamin Anderson. In the circle, Anderson asked each person to say their name and pick a stretch to do, with each person after having to repeat everyone’s name of who went before him or her.

“Support is really important when you’re trying to make a change in your life,” Anderson says, almost shouting to the small group, competing with the noise of cars and trucks exiting the freeway directly above.

After hearing about the organization a year ago, Anderson contacted the director of the program and has been involved as a Street Soccer coach ever since. To him, the biggest thing about Street Soccer is that it creates a community of support and gives the homeless a reason to get out of the shelter and engage in a healthy activity. Those individuals who continuously come to practice then become friends, help each other, and become each other’s support system, Anderson says.

“Collectively, we do some goal setting and life skills coaching,” Anderson explains. “And then the community kind of helps hold the players accountable to reaching those goals through positive reinforcement, encouragement, and it instills a sense of confidence in the players.”

After engaging with homeless players for a year, the twenty-eight-year-old thinks the biggest struggle is the fact that they do not have a lot of motivation.

“A lot of these folks are in the shelter and looking for work and they’re continually demoralized because it’s difficult to get your feet on the ground,” Anderson says. “San Francisco is a really expensive city. The job market isn’t the best for entry-level employment. So a lot of players get discouraged when they do make the attempts to improve their situation.”

One player from the Saint Vincent de Paul Society homeless shelter had just joined practice that afternoon when Anderson and Bullock came to ask if anyone wanted to play soccer. “I just wanted to relax on my day off,” Aldo Sanchez says, about joining the group.

Earlier, he looked up at the building on the other side of the court and asked another player how much he thought it was to live in the luxury apartment. The Edgewater Apartment on Berry Street he was referring to ranges from $3,224 for a one bedroom to $4,428 for a two bedroom. Sanchez came to the city from Las Vegas last month, and Long Beach, California before that.

“I don’t think about what we do,” Sanchez says, unsure if he wants more out of it. “I just like to go with the flow.”

Bullock was at the shelter for ten months before moving into his single room occupancy. Now an employee of Street Soccer USA, he is able to make enough for the necessities he needs to get by. Before San Francisco, he was living in Sacramento with his older brother and moved down when he realized his younger brother needed help.

Not wanting to go into detail regarding his brother’s status, Bullock says, “I don’t want people judging him for the situation he’s in.” He did not have money saved up when he came down, and neither him or his brother saw it as a “viable option” to live together, and as a result, Bullock found himself homeless.

“There wasn’t really anyone here for him, or at least that’s how he felt,” Bullock says, looking down at his hands. “And so I took it upon myself to come down here.”

It was overwhelming for him to be chosen for the Homeless World Cup. He says that he is only an alternate and will not play unless someone else cannot, but he is excited to watch his teammates from other cities across the country play. He has never been to South America, but he has been to France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland for a People to People program, which gives students the opportunity to learn about other cultures through traveling and giving them the chance to gain hands-on experience of what it is like to live in another country.

“I haven’t had a specific goal I wanted to reach in my life,” Bullock says. “But the reason I came to San Francisco was to help my brother, so that’s my goal right now — Just to get him going better.”

Inside the barriers of the street soccer court at Margaret Hayward Playground, where names of their sponsors and crests with bold words such as “OPPORTUNITY,” “SUPPORT,” and “HOPE” wrap around the sides, players and a new volunteer huddle in the center where the Street Soccer USA logo lays to listen to the coach at the end of practice. Lagarde shouts, “We all play for change in our lives—everybody put their hands in—”

“One, two, three, CHANGE!” everyone chants loudly in unison.

#BlackTwitter Addresses Cultural Appropriation

After years and years of trying to tame large backsides “in countless exercise classes,” we can finally relax because according to an article published by Vogue last month, we have officially entered the era of the big booty. According to the article, Jennifer Lopez succeeded in making butts kind of cool in the early aughts (who could forget that Versace dress she wore to the 2000 Grammys?), but ample butt was nothing to be proud of until recently.

Never mind the fact that having and celebrating sizable derrieres has long been a part of black music and culture. As far as Vogue is concerned, none of that mattered before they cosigned butts with their article.

In response to Vogue’s article, which gave a nod to a total of four black artists, black Twitter users began using the hashtag #VogueArticles to suggest other story ideas for the magazine, all of which praised white people for things that have been a part of black culture for what seems like forever. The hashtag quickly began trending, and has been included in more than three-hundred thousand mocking tweets.


https://twitter.com/lancehouston/status/510438522747379714
The #VogueArticles hashtag is just one shining example of the way Black Twitter, the name used to refer to black Twitter users en-masse, utilizes the site.

No one is sure when Black Twitter started, or who even coined the term ‘Black Twitter’, but the virtual community has become a way for African Americans in the United States to voice their contempt, joy, and other feelings about the black experience in America. If you’ve never heard of it, it is likely because the issues and references that are worked out through the community’s often playful hashtags are ones that have never impacted you. But if you can relate, and are capable of curating a Tweet funnier than the last guy’s, Black Twitter is open to you too.

“I use Twitter every day, if not every couple of hours,” says Barbara Cummings a black, 22-year-old, recent graduate of SF State.

Cummings isn’t alone in her frequent Twitter use, the same Pew survey showed that of the twenty-two percent of black people that access Twitter, eleven percent log on at least once a day, compared to just three percent of whites.


Though the hashtags are often humorous (after ABC news published an article titled ‘Twerking: A Scientific Explanation’, Black Twitter created the hashtag #ABCReports, and began suggesting titles for other investigative pieces like: Is It Scientifically Possible to Smack the Taste out of One’s Mouth? A Roundtable Discussion #ABCReports) trending hashtags are also used to highlight the plight of blacks in America and spark social change.

“I can’t really speak for all black people, but I can say what I see a lot of. If something pops up in the media that may have an underlying racial motive my black twitter followers will bring it to my attention or look at it in a perspective that’ll really leave me thinking like, ‘This whole racism thing never really died,’” says Cummings.

After the death of Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, protests began and the small town’s residents began to clash with the local police.
Meanwhile, the news coverage of the events transpiring in Ferguson focused mostly on the well being of the police force and painting Mike Brown as a thug through pictures found on his various social media accounts, instead of using pictures that showed the teen had a soft side.

In response to the way the Mike Brown and the countless black victims of police brutality are portrayed in the mainstream media, Black Twitter started using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and users began posting pictures of themselves in which they were drinking, smoking or joking around alongside pictures of themselves graduating from college, posing in family portraits and doing other non-threatening activities and asking the simple question #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, what picture would they use?


https://twitter.com/_cooljase/status/500790616737845249

Similarly, shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder last summer, one of the jurors responsible for coming to that verdict, known in the media as Juror B37, announced that she would be publishing a book about her time on the jury in what was a highly publicized case that was an extremely sensitive topic for a lot of black people.

Upon hearing this news, Twitter user @MoreAndAgain disseminated the contact info of the literary agent who was responsible for offering Juror B37 the book deal in the first place and encouraged other black Twitter users to contact the agent and voice their opinions on a potential Juror B37 book.
https://twitter.com/MoreAndAgain/status/356945360259788800
Soon after, the agent contacted @MoreAndAgain to let her know that Juror B37’s book deal was off the table.

 

Feminism is for men too

Men and women are posting photos showing their support for #HeForShe campaign, an initiative to promote gender equality.
Men and women are posting photos showing their support for #HeForShe campaign, an initiative to promote gender equality. (Dani Hutton/ Xpress Magazine)

For a long period of time, the only people who spoke out about the cause of equality for women through the establishment and defending of equal political, cultural, economical, and social rights for women were feminists and activists.

In the past decade, however, female celebrities like Beyonce, Shailene Woodley, Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, and Ellen Page have bravely declared themselves “feminists”—influencing a whole new wave of young adults.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That definition is quite different from the image of “man-haters and anti-men activists” that feminists have generally been depicted as. Feminist and social activist Bell Hooks, born Gloria Jean Watkins, argues that without the liberation of men, as well as women, equality of the sexes cannot be reached.

“It is not the word [feminism] that is important, it’s the idea and the ambition behind it,” says British actress Emma Watson. Watson is one of the latest Hollywood stars to call herself a feminist. Last month, the young actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador made headlines when she spoke at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, inviting men to take part in the #HeForShe campaign.

The essence of Watson’s speech was not just to reach the number of women in the world who declare themselves “anti-feminists,” but to also reach all the men who think that this issue is irrelevant to them and their lives.

“I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves,” says Watson.

Male celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Legend, and Ryan Gosling have all made declarations toward the empowerment for women through equal rights.

“All men should be feminists,” says Legend in an interview at his Chime for Change event back in 2013. “If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered— it leads to a better society.”

Other stars like Gosling have started Tumblr pages to share feminists phrases and motivational quotes through their celebrity. Gordon-Levitt used his popular YouTube page HITRECORD to create and share an inspirational and informative video regarding feminism.

“How can we accept change in the world if only half of it is invited, or feels welcome to participate,” Watson explains about the impartial role of men in this social movement.

It is naive to think of women’s rights as an irrelevant issue, especially with the fact that women still earn less than men. In 2012, the  U.S. Census Bureau found that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterpart. This is one of many inferiorities that women face.

With many women, the target of the campaign, being “against” the word “feminism,” it is as if this issue is even more crucial now then it was when it began in the 1800s, when the movement started. Modern day women are thought by some to be equal or even superior to some men because of the improvement in the work force and in powerful positions, but a few exceptions do not erase the bigger issue of gender inequality.

The birth of the #HeforShe campaign brings new hope for the public view and stigma currently surrounding feminism. Men and women can make the declaration to help the equalization of sexes by pledging for the U.N. campaign. If the campaign passes, can we see if anything will change.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

 Photo by Brenna Cruz, special to Xpress

Starting today, September 27th, a seemingly unusual partnership starts on Alcatraz Island. From now until April 26th 2015, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz will be shown on the historic federal prison island turned national park site. The significance of this? For starters, this artist will not be attending his own show.

Well, at least not for now. The artist is, and has been, banned from leaving China since April of 2011, and will continue to be indefinitely until Chinese authorities allow him access. He was originally detained for eighty-one days on the premise of “tax evasion,” but has continued to be detained because the Chinese a government suspects him of “other crimes.” Others say it is because Chinese authorities have not liked Ai for some time because of his outspoken politics and art.

Ranked in the top twenty of most influential artists in 2011, it is not hard to believe that Ai has a huge following online, with about one hundred and two thousand followers on Instagram and more than two hundred and fifty-five thousand followers on Twitter. Hashtags including #aicantbehere, #passportnow, and #flowerforfreedom are dedicated to the artist and his work and have been spreading across social media. Since his the first day of his detainment, the artist has taken a picture of flowers on a bicycle and posted it on social media daily, symbolizing his inability to travel; some followers have done the same to show their support of the artist.

So, how is it this show came into fruition then? Curator and executive director of the For-Site Foundation, Cheryl Haines, took it upon herself to come up with one of the most symbolic while slightly ironic places to hold the exhibition. Haines has been planning with Ai since his release from jail two years ago, when she offered to bring him a prison for his work to be featured in.

“This exhibition is a very large undertaking for our foundation and addresses some very basic issues important to us all, the need for human rights, freedom of expression, and the role that communication plays in creating a just society,” said Haines in an interview with SF Gate.

The curator, the artist, the For-Site Foundation, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (the National Park area that has managed Alcatraz since 1972), Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (the nonprofit partner of the GGNRA), along with groups of volunteers have worked together to plan and execute this exhibition.

Many of the pieces in this art show are a part of a larger global discussion – that of prisoners of conscience. The goal of this initiative is to draw attention to other activists and political prisoners locked up or put under house arrest globally, and the injustice in such a system that allows this. The exhibition includes pictures of one hundred and seventy-six prisoners of conscience, including Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Martin Luther King Junior, made out of one point two million LEGOs and then constructed by volunteers in San Francisco following more than two thousand sheets of instruction put together by Ai.

“Alcatraz has been a place for movements of freedom to be seen ever since the indigenous people occupation in the 1970s. With Ai Weiwei’s exhibit, this brings the same conversation to a global scale,” says Alexandra Picavet, public affairs officer for Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Entrance to see @Large is technically free, because Alcatraz Island is a National Park site, but the ferry ride over to the island via Alcatraz Cruises is $30. Other packages are available as well, with things like the early bird special and gift for $50 and a guided tour plus the gift for $125. You do have to make sure you purchase tickets in a bit early – they tend to sell out a few weeks in advance.

But this show is much more than LEGOs. Every part of the exhibit intends to send a message; a colorful dragon kite representing personal freedom, porcelain flowers in sinks and toilets representing the comfort flowers could bring to prisoners, and a giant wing, made out of repurposed Tibetan solar cookers and kettles, representing freedom that can be viewed by visitors, but not accessed are just a few of the pieces of the exhibit.

Although it is also aesthetically pleasing to visit, @Large raises more important questions than “why did he chose that color over this other one?” It brings visitors and onlookers to think about what exactly constitutes right and wrong, who deserves to be treated like a criminal, who does not, and what type of society we live in now, the year 2014, that would allow this and many other injustices in the world.

As Ai has been quoted time and time again, “If there is no freedom of expression, then the beauty of life is lost. Participation in a society is not an artistic choice, it’s a human need.”

Hazing Tragedy Shakes Bay Area Greek Life

A Cesar Chavez student center view of SF State's campus. Creative Commons photo by Librarygroover
A  view of SF State’s campus from the Cesar Chavez student center. Photo under Creative Commons by Librarygroover

Along Malcolm X Plaza, fraternities and sororities set up booths to advertise Fall “rush,” where prospective students participate in a recruitment period in hopes of gaining an invitation to the Greek organization of their choice.

Justin Lovell, 22, historian of SF State’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter, remembers when he pledged his fraternity. “It was honestly the best part of my college experience,” says Lovell. During his pledge, he participated in social networking events with sororities, did volunteer work, and learned about the organization’s long history.

SF State’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter is currently home to fifty-six active members. Lovell has been able to find the best friends he’s ever had and admires the strong sense of brotherhood within the fraternity.

But despite all the fond memories of his chapter, this year, the members of Pi Kappa Phi are haunted by the tragic death of an associate member.

In the midst of summer, Cal State Northridge student and Pi Kappa Phi pledge Armando Villa, 19, participated in SAW (Super Awesome Weekend), a 14-16 mile round trip hike along with other Pi Kappa Phi pledges and brothers. The fraternity-sponsored event in the Angeles National Forest quickly escalated into a disturbing scene when Villa was found by a Pi Kappa Phi brother in a ditch, where he lay in great distress, barefoot, and blistered. He was pulled out by frantic fraternity members who attempted to cool him down by sprinkling him with water. Villa was pronounced dead upon hospital arrival.

university investigation of the fraternity was conducted due to the accusations of hazing. In the investigations findings, it was discovered that the pledges were given one gallon of water each and had run out of water between one-third to three-quarters of the way through the hike. The pledges, showing signs of heat exhaustion, reported feeling disorientated and dizzy.

The condition of Villa’s feet was most likely due to his instruction by fraternity members to wear shoes that were too small for his feet while on the hike.

On Friday, the Zeta Mu Chapter at Cal State Northridge announced a permanent voluntary withdrawal and closure of the chapter.

“Although closing a chapter is never an easy decision, Pi Kappa Phi expects our students to uphold and abide by the fraternity’s risk management policy and standards of conduct. Hazing has no place in our fraternity,” says Chief Executive Officer Mark E. Timmes.

“They put all of us in a bad light; we don’t want to be seen as hazing douchebags,” says Lovell about the incident, aware of the organization’s strict no hazing policy. The SF State student defines hazing as making someone do something they don’t want to do. SF State University’s policy on hazing describes it as acts of physical abuse, excessive mental stress, and verbal abuse.

Lovell says SF State’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter takes anti-hazing education and prevention very seriously, which has resulted in a 20-year-long incident free streak at the university. The death of Villa now serves as a reminder of the dangers of hazing at SF State.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering 9/11

Photo courtesy of AJ Montpetit
Photo courtesy of AJ Montpetit

Certain moments in history are so monumental that most people will never forget where they were when it happened or when they heard the news. For this generation, 9/11 is that moment.

I am sure I will always remember how I found out about 9/11. I had just recently started the fifth grade at Carr Elementary School in Torrance, Calif., and was nine days shy of my tenth birthday. Sometimes, my mom would turn on the news while I was getting ready for school, but she had not on that day. I walked to school that morning with no idea how the world had changed while I was sleeping. Once we were all in our seats, my teacher, Lauri Beard, told the class what had happened. The air grew heavy as a hush fell over the room. There was no sound but her voice.

I cannot repeat verbatim what she said to us, but the way she told us has always stuck with me. She did not try to sugarcoat things or pretend nothing was wrong just because we were children. She also did not try to scare us with talk of terrorists or warn us that we were under attack. She spoke to us straightforward, calmly, but with gravity. I cannot begin to imagine what she must have been feeling that morning, but I am sure having to tell a room full of mostly ten-year-olds something so horrible was no easy task. Whenever I think back to that awful day, I want to thank her for the way she handled such a difficult situation and the respect she gave us.

I can recall two ways in which my school attempted to convey the enormity of this tragedy to us students, and how they still resonate with me. When Miss Beard broke the news to my class, she told us that there had been enough people in the Twin Towers for them to qualify for their own ZIP code. On one of the following days, a row of easels was set up, each bearing a sheet of newspaper, covered with nothing but columns of names—thousands in all—of the dead and missing. I never would have imagined that mere text could have such a strong visual impact.

At the time, one of my best friends, Huda El-Haj, and her family happened to be Muslim. I remember her telling me about her father, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, experiencing discrimination after 9/11. Years later, the Muslim Student Association at my community college, Cypress College, hosted Purple Hijab Day to raise awareness about domestic violence. They encouraged female students to don the hijab for a day to support the cause. I wore one of the lavender headscarves they were giving out and got dirty looks from at least a couple people. I was not personally hurt by this, but I could not help but feel for those women who wear the hijab every day as an expression of their faith and are subject to the prejudice I received that day or much worse.

In the thirteen years since 9/11, I have developed an ever-deepening desire to understand the world as best I can. Among other things, I want to have at least a modest comprehension of global politics. That is why I chose to mark the anniversary by attending the Thirteenth Annual Jules Tygiel Memorial Forum on Post-9/11 World Affairs, held on the 13th anniversary at SF State.

The assembled panel spoke on a number of political topics, centered around the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, politics in India, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and U.S. foreign policy. I found the whole discussion fascinating, but the discourse on the Middle East was what I found to be most fitting given the date. Fred Astern, a professor of Jewish studies, pointed out that we cannot yet know how the current state of world affairs will look when framed in a greater historical context. He elicited laughter from the packed room when he said, “the French Revolution—we don’t know how that’s going to turn out.” He also encouraged a shift from the predominant western view of the conflict in the Middle East that “emphasizes European colonialism and imperialism.”

The moderator, history professor Maziar Behrooz, explained some of the similarities and differences between Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafism, which are all derived from Islam. I found his description of the Muslim Brotherhood most interesting; Behrooz called it a “reformed” Islam and said that it encourages followers to be Muslim while accepting the likes of modern technology and reason.

Andrei P. Tsygankov, professor of political science and international relations, offered a bit of advice. “The world is changing fundamentally,” he said. “We need to come up with a better definition of what is the world we live in.”

 That will not be easy to do, and it will be even harder to come to something enough people can agree on. Still, Tsygankov is right – the world is not at all the place it was thirteen years ago.