Tag Archives: Activism

Study War No More: Our Right to Voice

Cross Fence

By Stephanie Pratt BA ’13, Graduate Admission Coordinator

For as long as I recall, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution included the right to speak freely and peacefully assemble. Today, however, I sit confused, staring at a plea made by Father Roy Bourgeois, leader of the SOA Watch. This plea is a result of a permit refusal and the silencing of a beautiful and necessary movement. This movement, which is very dear to my heart, as well as many others of the Ursuline community, is the progression to close the School of the Americas.

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Ursuline celebrates ‘Preservation Month’

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Sarah and Hannah joined other HiPsters in presenting a booth at EarthFest 2014. Over 15,000 people attended Ohio’s premier environmental education event.

In Centennial, author James A. Michener asserts “During the few years allotted to each of us, we are the guardians of our earth, the custodians of our heritage, and the caretakers of our future.”

What an inspiring affirmation for preserving cultural memory and the intersections between Historic Preservation and environmental responsibility! The above statement encourages emphasis on the importance of the land and distinctive sense of place in our personal and national identity.

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H.E.L.P. Malawi journey: last day

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Final thoughts from the H.E.L.P. Malawi Ursuline College team: Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer, Rhianna McChesney, Taylor Bruno, Maggie Stark and Molly Sabolsky.

Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer. As I sit in the Dulles Airport waiting for our final flight back to Cleveland, I can’t imagine a better trip with Maggie, Molly, Rhianna, Taylor and the entire H.E.L.P. Malawi team. It may have been my third trip, but each visit gets better and better with new and exciting experiences. I was able to visit the local secondary school this time where I saw the four students, Felia, Mary, Ramek and Stand, who we taught sewing to on our first trip in 2011. Such a special moment to reconnect with them! H.E.L.P. and Ursuline have such an important mission to educate and I am so proud to be a part of both organizations.

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Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer

Q&A with the H.E.L.P. Malawi Team: Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer

Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer ’03 is the Director of Alumnae Relations and Development Specialist at Ursuline College.

What is your connection to the H.E.L.P. Malawi organization?
Back in 2009, I received a mailer from the H.E.L.P. organization and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for Ursuline College to become a part of.  It took a good year to produce a full plan, but the H.E.L.P./Ursuline Sewing Project was created.  The UC fashion department graciously donated sewing machines and tons of notions to the cause.  In 2010, myself, Dr. Connie Korosec and Anne-Marie Gurko headed over to Malawi to begin the sewing project.  The first trip was a jam packed 10 days full of ideas, set-up, creating lesson plans, teaching children and adults and even hosting an all-day mending day to fix the children’s clothing who were students at Nanthomba.  The trip was an extremely successful and the team at H.E.L.P. Malawi said it was their most successful volunteer trip to date.

Why is the partnership with Ursuline and HELP important to you?
When I first heard about the H.E.L.P. organization I was very intrigued by their work and how not only did the organization and Wolstein family help this community, but the Malawian community itself was so very invested in the projects.  Once I began working with the group, I soon loved the work I was doing as well as what Ursuline was doing for the organization.  It is an organization that is truly near and dear to my heart now.  It is hard not to forget the faces of the children you come into contact with while you are there.  On my second visit, I thought there would be no way they would remember me, but when I arrived at Nanthomba School the many children I taught were yelling my name and running up to greet me.  It was extremely overwhelming to know how much what we did meant to them.

Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer

What was your first impression of Africa and what are you looking forward to on this trip?
My sister had traveled to Mozambique, which is located right next to Malawi, so I tried to get an idea from her on her travels, but I knew that no matter how much information I had ahead of time, I would be completely in awe of the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings I would have in Malawi.  I was raised in Chagrin Falls, so being in a place link Malawi, was extremely eye-opening.  I learned so much about myself on the trips.  I am really looking forward to the upcoming trip to see the sewing project continue and grow.  My real excitement is going to be watching the 4 students who are going on the journey.  None of them have been to Africa before and one of them has never been on a plane.  This is experience changed my life and I know it will do the same for them.  I can’t wait to watch their journey.

What are your thoughts on Molly, Rhianna, Maggie and Taylor?
To be completely honest with you, I could not have hand-picked a better group of students to travel to Malawi with me.  Each student is studying a different degree; nursing, education, art and psychology so the trip will be different for each one of them.  I am very encouraged by their eagerness to know as much as they can before we travel and be open to the experiences we will have on the trip.  After my fist trip to Malawi, now I just tell people who are going for the first time to be completely open, so you can take in all of the wonderful opportunities Malawi, the “warm-heart of Africa” has to share with you!

Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer

Taylor Bruno

Q&A with the H.E.L.P. Malawi Team: Taylor Bruno

Taylor Bruno is a Psychology major set to graduate in 2016.

What inspired you to go on the H.E.L.P. trip?
Maggie (Stark) gave me information about the trip in the spring of last year and I’ve been so excited ever since!

What do you hope to gain from the experience?
I hope to gain insight of what its like to live in another country and to appreciate everything I have at home. I also hope to learn from the children and capture the beauty of Malawi.

What are you most excited about?
To see the elephants, monkeys and hopefully a lion. To help the children so they can have a successful future, to gain a new perspective and to see the African sunrise and sunset!

Thinking about Ursuline’s motto, Values, Voice & Vision, how will it represent you on the journey?
I will present my values by working hard to help those in need and having a positive attitude throughout the entire journey. I will present my voice by sharing things with the children in the village and trying to teach them new things. I will gain a new vision of what it is like to live in a completely different area and culture.

What’s your favorite African animal?
All of them!

What are 3 words that come to mind when you think about Africa?
Elephants. Monkeys. Safari.

Taylor Bruno

Taylor Bruno

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Q&A with the H.E.L.P. Malawi Team: Molly Sabolsky

Molly Sabolsky is a senior nursing major and volleyball player at Ursuline College. 

What inspired you to go on the H.E.L.P. trip?
It was kind of by chance that I got included on the planning for this trip, but my freshmen year I had heard about the trip and thought it was only for fashion majors. I was so jealous because it sounded like such an awesome opportunity!

What do you hope to gain from the experience?
I hope to have an eye opening expereince that will make me more knowledgable of a different culture. I also hope to have fun and just make some great memories.

What are you most excited about?
I am most excited for meeting the kids in Malawi and teaching them a skill that will allow them help themselves, but also their community!
Thinking about Ursuline’s motto, Values, Voice & Vision, how will it represent you on the journey?
I feel that by going on this trip I will be able to take who I am as a person and the core values of Ursuline  that I embody as I interact with the people there and make a positive impact on their lives.
What’s your favorite African animal?
AN ELEPHANT! It has aways been on my bucket list to ride an elephant in Thailand…I obviously wont be in Thailand and I probably won’t get to ride one But, if I get to see one while I am there I will be so excited!
What are 3 words that come to mind when you think about Africa?
Service. Eye opening. Memorable.
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Sr. Dorothy Kazel Club Attends School of America’s Watch Protest

Well here’s the short story: 16 students, two days of protesting, 32 hours of travel.

Now, let me back up and give you the play by play…

After our send-off prayer at Ursuline, the Sr. Dorothy Kazel Club hopped in the car for a short trek to Magnificat High School. Here we boarded the bus for Georgia. One car got a bit lost on the way but, no worries, it only delayed us a half hour.

The bus ride down was filled with movies about social activism and the School of Americas (SOA) to keep us up-to-date.

We finally arrived in Atlanta, Georgia around 9am to grab breakfast and freshen up pre-protest. Surprisingly, we we’re earlier than most to reach Fort Benning Road, where the School of America’s protest would take place. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of America’s Watch (the organization monitoring the School of America’s bad behavior) actually took time aside to meet with us. It was so inspiring to hear how Roy dressed in a military uniform, climbed a tree on the School of America’s base and played Oscar Romero’s last homily (urging “Salvadoran soldiers to disobey their military commanders, lay down their arms, and stop killing their sisters and brothers”). Roy Bourgeois performed this civil disobedience 30 years ago, igniting the start of this protest!

Throughout Saturday, there were speakers (victims of the SOA, leaders in social movements in Central America and grassroots organizers from the States) and musicians with powerful messages at the heart of their lyrics. Along the side of the street, organizations set up tables with information on a wide variety of social issues and fair-trade items available to purchase. There was also a Puppetista show that some Kazel Club members took part in as well. It’s was a wonderfully artistic way to make a statement through non-violent performance!

Around 4pm we made our way back to the bus, drove to the hotel and then walked to dinner. We actually hit up a restaurant I found on last year’s trip – there’s was a stuffed polar bear wearing a sombrero in the window, so it was hard to forget. The convention center was a short walk away and was already packed with protest-goers eager to sit in workshops on everything from killer drones to international solidarity to free trade and corporate colonialism to grassroots fundraising strategies! Around 8pm, we gathered to hear spoken-word and dance to jams from some incredibly diverse musicians. It was a personal highlight of my night to see everyone jam out to some high-powered ska music!

When Leah Song from Appalachia Rising performed the song Caminando, the entire crowd fell to hush tones. Madgie Dunn, Kazel Club member and Ursuline Education student, was personally touched by this performance. Madgie says, “Before singing Caminando, Leah explains that social justice is not something that we will wake up and just have… it’s something we will be continuously walking towards for the rest of our lives…There will always be problems in the world, so we must make this our journey… siempre vamos a estar caminando”.

Caminando from Ursuline College on Vimeo.

We woke up the next morning at the crack of dawn to eat breakfast and make our way to the protest for the second day. On Sunday, it is definitely a more solemn event – with all protest attendees in procession while each name of those murdered are read aloud. We converge at the fence, barring us from Fort Benning, to place our crosses and signs on it as we chant / pray / sing to ‘CLOSE THE SOA’. This is an incredibly emotional and spiritual part of the protest.

After helping tear down the stage and acting like the roadies for the School of America’s Watch, we boarded the bus back to return home. It was really nice to hear how first-time protest attendees and people that have attended for 17 + years felt about the weekend.

Please join us Monday, December 2nd for a Lunch Discussion on the Protest and Martyrs. It will be 12- 1 in Mullen 214. Also, at 4:30 there will be a short prayer service remember the women in the Mullen St. Angela Chapel!

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To the protest we go!

thank you2The Sr. Dorothy Kazel Club was able to raise $3,395.35 through the support of the Ursuline community, family and friends. I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to each person who has cared about our efforts through donations, food packages, thoughts and prayers.

You might be wondering why 16 current students, two alumnae, one faculty member and a friend of the college are boarding a bus for a 14-hour ride to Georgia…

Well, to be honest, the first year I rode to Georgia I was jumping at a chance to feel warm weather on my face and cross ‘Attend Protest’ off my bucket list. Now, attending the protest for my third year in a row, I truly feel connected to the thousands of people who gather in solidarity at the base of the School of Americas. I stand with such an eclectic group of people, whom know Sr. Dorothy’s story and the story of tens of thousands of others who died like her.

I want to be more. To do more. And by riding to Georgia I’m able to use my voice to speak out against the injustices in this world, to educate myself through workshops and lectures, and to continue to work towards nonviolence in my life.

I will be writing and posting photos about our trip and all that we have learned from this experience. Please check back next week for a recap of the protest.

P.S. If you would like to donate to the Sr. Dorothy Kazel Club, we are sending the extra money we raised to the Cleveland Mission Team in El Salvador (the same team Sr. Dorothy Kazel served on) for clean water efforts and sustainable stoves.

#AftertheLecture Women in Activism

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For the last few months I’ve been quite engrossed in both my writing and my activism and I’ve noticed some important similarities between diverse that have allowed them to engage in work that has resulted in some very important changes for many people, many animals, and the environment. I think that it is telling to look at how different women, continents apart, are engaged in seemingly different work using the same focus and goals. While it is always important to shape one’s activism to the conditions in which the harm we are fighting takes place I also think that it is important to see what others are doing that has worked and to exchange ideas that will allow us to further the higher goal that we all hold in common. I would like to take the next few months to first look at the similarities between these groups and then to examine the women and the movements themselves. This will let us acknowledge the work that has been done and to see how the work is linked together. Many times activism is thought of as limited to one specific condition. For quite some time now many resistant thinkers have recognized that all oppression is connected. I think that this will let us see that all liberation is also connected.

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The basic similarity that I have seen is a belief that all life is precious, especially that life which is not valued by society. In all of the instances that I have studied, this belief comes from the women’s own experience of violence and oppression. Many mainstream activist movements have targeted the problems of mainstream groups—groups who are considered to be valuable by society. While it is the case that no one ought ever to be treated badly, there is a large difference between, for example, a female attorney facing a glass ceiling and women whose children are so at risk that it is unlikely they will live to adulthood. We don’t have to look very far to see which people and other creatures are valued and which are not.

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Most of the advances I have seen have come from this basic belief- all life is precious. One of the first consequences of this mindset is a change in what kind of security activists are interested in promoting. Mainstream movements generally keep the focus on state security- the security of a country, of borders, of laws. That means that little change will come from them since the focus is on securing the way that things are now, even if a few little changes are made. This also means that the people, the animals, and the environment are not a part of the focus and can, indeed, be put in jeopardy by the movements. Many women have started to look at human security and even at what I like to call life security.

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A second immediate consequence is that the activists realize that, many times, the danger comes from the people we are taught are there to protect us. As a result of this these activists are ready to challenge anything that affects life in a harmful way, be it an institution, a principle, a law, or a tradition. Many mainstream activists start out with an agenda to protect mainstream institutions. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist, inspired a movement that has many examples of this. The women gathered and challenged the members of the police force who were raping many women.

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Another result of starting from this belief is that there is a coming together instead of keeping a separation between the activists and those who are oppressed. Another way to say this is that the solidarity is created between everyone involved. I believe that this stems from the common experience of violence and oppression that these women share. A good example of this kind of solidarity can be found in the women who were killed in El Salvador- they held a belief that the people who were suffering were precious and that, if they really did care, they would share the fate of the people.

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The final result that I have noticed is that the activism is one’s life. Many mainstream activists take jobs as activists and have a set beginning and end to the time that they will spend on their activism. That is partially because their work is about a movement and not about the fate of those whose lives are impacted by the current conditions. There is little room for adaptation to the conditions that need to be fought against and the employment conditions allow for one to further remove oneself from the beings and conditions that are supposed to be the focus. This is not to say that all people who can also make their activism part of their livelihood are more focused on the job than the beings and conditions, but it is to say that many people who take these jobs take them as any kind of a job within activism and feel no connection to the beings who are affected.

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Over the last few decades, a few women’s movements have changed the definition and focus of security. In Liberia, during the civil war, women came together in a non-violent protest movement to end the war. Their goal was on the security of the people—not of the state. This means that, since the concern was the safety of the people, they had different kinds of demands. Human security means more than just the absence of violence, it means that the people are safe from violence and that they have access to work, material necessities, and other conditions that are needed in order for people to thrive. The women in Liberia demanded an immediate end to the violence as well as help to re-integrate the soldiers with their families and to rebuild and heal the people of the country. Ordinary women came together in order to end a war, they sang, prayed, held hands, wore white T-shirts, and put their demands out every single day. In the end they did, indeed, end the war and made revolutionary changes in the way that the people in their country live.  These women have also started to work to end damage to the environment and to end violence against the animals in Liberia.  We could call this kind of work life security and define this as ending the damage that humans have caused to the earth, animals, and people as well as the work to heal life and to ensure that future life has the conditions necessary in order to thrive.

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In Kenya, a woman named Wangari Maathai started a movement to plant trees in order to address the conditions under which the people were living. In the process of building the Greenbelt Movement, the women involved helped to overthrow a dictator, stopped the degradation of the environment, and raised the standard of living for most all Kenyan people. They have planted over 51 million trees in Kenya alone. This group has worked to end the human-caused damage to the environment as well as to help to heal the earth, the animals, and the people who live there.

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Last year I started to work with a large, dispersed group of women who have made saving the animals in shelters the main focus of their lives. We have made a large impact on the animals and many have been saved as a direct result of our work. Most people don’t even know that we exist, let alone have any idea of the work that we do to save the animals who are clearly not valued by our society. We have, without knowing it, shared many of the same beliefs and tactics as the women in Liberia, in Kenya, in Latin America, and in many other places as well.

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In Tanzania, a woman named Jane Goodall started a movement to save the chimpanzees. Half a decade later her movement has spread all over the world and has saved not only many chimps but also many people and has had a positive impact on the environment. She has shifted her focus to children and has had amazing results with what they have been able to do. Almost everyone knows who Jane Goodall is.

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Starting now I will blog about a women’s movement that has shown these beliefs and tactics until International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, which falls in the official 16 Days of Activism to end Gender Based violence. If you are following me, feel free to add other movements, too and we can see what we can come up with for the 16 days of activism.

Remember- we have to change the world, it’s the only world we have.

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After the Lecture: A Night in the Life of an NYC Urgent Activist

My first blog entry was supposed to focus on the large-scale protest of New York City Animal Control practices. This, however, seemed to make no sense out of the context of the nightly war that activists for New York City’s pets wage every day of the year. So, this entry will, instead, show you how I have spent my nights since I began to work for the pets of New York City. philosophy13

Animal activists engage in rescue work because each year in the United States about four million pets are killed in shelters, that is about 10,000 a day or one pet every ten seconds or so. In thirty-one states, including our own, gas chambers are still used . The vast majority of the dogs killed are either American Pit Bull terriers or Chihuahuas. Many places, including Cleveland, have implemented many No Kill policies but some cities, such as NYC, are far behind in their treatment of shelter pets.  philosophy12

Activists have created a network of posting and cross-posting pets on Facebook and other social media. This allows us to save thousands of pets everyday across the U.S. NYC activists use this network to reach out in order to find foster homes and adopters for the pets each night.

We know which pets to share each night because the demands of the Urgent volunteers have led the shelter administration to provide us with lists of the dogs and cats that are to be killed the next day; a barbaric practice, indeed. For NYC pets, however, it is progress. Many of the pets on the nightly list come from the hundreds of dogs and cats who are not available for the public to see when they come to the shelter to adopt. The Urgent Facebook page is the only place from which these pets can be seen. To date, NYC Urgent activists, including myself, have saved the lives of over 16,000 dogs and 11,000 cats. Here are tonight’s lists:
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Every evening the to be destroyed list is posted, sometimes as early as 6 PM, sometimes as late as 9 PM. and we spring into action, sharing each pet on our own networking pages and in the many cross-posting groups on Facebook. We only have until 6 AM to save all of the cats and dogs who are on the list. Some of these pets can be reserved for adoption online, prior to 6 AM, others have been rated for New Hope rescues only. These pets can only be pulled by approved rescue groups. Pets end up with a New Hope rating for being very young, very old, sick, frightened, or for not being happy with the SAFER evaluation. SAFER evaluations consist, in part, of pinching the pet’s paw, poking the pet with a large plastic hand, giving the pet food that is then taken away by the large plastic hand, and giving the pet a toy and a raw hide that are then taken away by the plastic hand.

Each night we have to find donations to cover pull fees and vet bills for the pets who are pulled by rescues as well as fosters and adopters for each pet. While other shelters allow long distance adoptions and links to transport services, the NYC ACC does not. Pets generally cannot travel more than three hours away from NYC. This makes our work more difficult and can be very frustrating for those who want to help the pets. Tonight there are eleven dogs and puppies ranging in age from six months old to ten years old and thirty cats and kittens whose ages range between four weeks old and fourteen years old. While some of these pets were brought to the shelter because they were lost or homeless, many were brought here because of the breed ban in public housing or because their people were evicted or arrested or because they became sick or died. Many pets are also brought here by their guardians. The most common reason stated in NYC is that the person had “no time” for their pet. Some pets are kept at the shelter for months while some are added to the to be destroyed list after only two or three days.

We start by figuring out what each pet needs. We see who is rescue only and who can be adopted. We add up any pledges that each pet already has in place and check to see whether anyone has shown any interest in the pet. We post each and every pet to our own pages and to many groups as well, in hopes of attracting fosters or adopters for them, as well as pledges to cover the rescue costs. Activists and rescue workers get little sleep since we only have until 6 AM to find a place for each pet to go later in the day. Many times, particularly in Brooklyn, workers begin to kill the pets as soon as the deadline has passed so time is of the essence for us.

If we find someone who will commit to fostering a pet we have to also have each foster fill out applications for at least three of the approved rescue groups. This means that we also spend much time assisting prospective foster parents in choosing which rescues will be most likely to help that particular pet and with filling out the applications. If we find adopters for pets who are available for public adoption we assist them with the process of reserving the pet, paying the deposit, and filling out shelter applications. We also have to communicate with the rescues and entice them to help with the pet by showing them that we have raised enough money for the pet and that we have a committed foster or adopter available.

We often become attached to a pet, even over the internet. All together we have succeeded in saving the lives of over 27,000 pets just in NYC. One of my very favorite rescues was a Pit Bull terrier named Thomas who was the last lost pet from Hurricane Sandy. Together activists shared Thomas’s picture and story over 16,000 times before we found him a home in Baltimore.

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THOMAS!

The loss of our sweet Chopper was devastating for all of us and many people stopped their activism after he was killed. I’ll never understand how, in a city with over eight million people, not even one person would foster sweet Chopper, even for a few weeks.

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Chopper

Jake was another devastating loss for us. Sweet Jake had been shot by a policeman in his own apartment while his human was being arrested. He progressed with the volunteers and, by the time, he was gone, had taken to crawling on their laps and giving them kisses. Because Jake had lunged at the policemen who broke down the door to his apartment and forcibly took his human away, he was labeled aggressive. No pictures of videos of him snuggling with volunteers would change the minds of the shelter workers and, after having kept Jake in a cage for 23 ½ hours of every day for months, they killed sweet Jake with no warning to us. Many rescues had let the workers know that they were willing to pull Jake. When Jake came to the shelter he looked like this:

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At the end he looked like this:

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It is harder to save a pet then one would like to think. Before I began to engage in this kind of activism I thought that you could just show up and adopt. It is rarely so easy! I do, though, know that, while I can’t save the world, I CAN save the world for at least ONE pet! For now, as our sweet Emmit says ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

EMMIT!

EMMIT!