Community Partner Spotlight: Turning the Page

By Mishal Karim

Turning the Page (TTP), a community partner of GW SMARTDC, actively works with various schools in Ward 8 with DC schools, students, and families to encourage conversations around promoting literacy at home. Through vigorous programming that engages families, such as Community Night Events and Increasing Social Capital, TTP equips parents with skills to advocate for their children’s education. Both programming methods are interrelated and encourage parents to expand their networks by building relationships with teachers and school administrators. In Increasing Social Capital, for example, parents are connected with various resources to become advocates for their children’s success. Resources include free workshops and training opportunities on how to support learning at home such as social and emotional learning training and fun at-home math and science experiments.

“Part of the need we try to address is that schools don’t always have the capacity to engage with parents.” says Jenn Parisi, TTP Volunteer Coordinator. 

A cohort of GW volunteers serve at TTP’s weekly Community Night events that bring school administrators, parents, TTP, and students to the same table to foster a sense of community. Each event is hosted at a different partner school and consists of workshops for parents, literacy-based activities, and free book giveaways. In addition, the entire community sits down together to enjoy a free and healthy meal! Workshops feature different topics that address challenges of navigating the public school system and encouraging at-home learning.

The poverty rate in Ward 8 is very high and parents often work multiple jobs to make ends meet. This makes engaging parents in school programming a challenge.  Therefore TTP uses creative methods and relies heavily on the talents and energy of GW and other student participants to offer family programs. TTP offers an avenue for GW students to build lasting relationships with families and learn about the importance of family engagement.

Turning the Page is one of six SMARTDC community partners. If you have a Federal Work Study award or are able to volunteer your time to address the literacy gap, we encourage you to serve with SMARTDC. Please contact us at gwserves@gwu.edu.

 

Understanding Homelessness

GW Civic House to Host Homeless Awareness Event on March 9th

By Antwann Harper

Homelessness is a prevalent societal issue within the United States, especially here in the nation’s capitol. Many stigmas and stereotypes surround the epidemic of homelessness that promote an insensitivity towards those experiencing it. When better understood, those who are both aware, and unaware, of the effects of homelessness can make a real difference in the lives of those experiencing it by contributing to resources that support them.

The Civic House, a freshman service-learning cohort and program within the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, is seeking to engage the George Washington University campus in order to bring awareness and understanding to the issue of chronic homelessness in DC. Civic House is a residential community program that seeks to build relationships with students, faculty, and community-based organizations through service.  

Teaming up with Street Sense and Miriam's Kitchen, the event will engage students with speakers and artists who have all experienced homelessness, and challenge preconceived notions and attitudes. Students have already teamed up with various on-campus organizations and Miriam's Kitchen, a community partner, to collect clothing and canned food donations. Boxes were placed in select locations on both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon Campus, and the results have been successful.

Please join us on March 9th, 2017 from 10am-3pm in Kogan Plaza, for the Civic House event, Understanding Homelessness!

His Rallying Cry was "Si, Se Puede"

Why César Chávez’s Legacy is Important

By Joy Yi

 Photo: Dallas Morning News

Photo: Dallas Morning News

Before the first African-American United States president took the national stage and uttered the words “Yes, we can,” a 35-year-old Mexican-American- almost 5 decades prior - left a stable job in San Jose, CA to improve the conditions of migrant farmworkers and soon after uttered the words “Si, se puede.”

César Chávez (1927-1993) is most known for creating the United Farm Workers, but he did a lot more. Through boycotts, nonviolent protests, and community organizing, Chávez championed labor rights and improved pay, working conditions, and housing for migrant workers locally. Chávez also led nationwide boycotts on these same issues. In 1965, for example, Chavez joined Filipino farmworkers to strike and boycott grapes.

Chávez believed nonviolence was an active form of resistance. In 1968, when younger strikers thought violence was a better strategy, Chavez - following the examples of Gandhi and Dr. King Jr - participated in a personal 25 day fast, refusing to eat in order to rededicate the movement to nonviolence. His fast - and ultimately, his leadership- ignited the masses. Violence discontinued. Thousands joined the grape strike and boycott. By 1970 - five years after the boycott began - the boycott was declared a success. Grape workers signed their first union contracts and won better labor conditions and better pay.

 
“The worth of humans is involved here...Twenty years ago over 17 million Americans united in a grape boycott campaign that transformed the simple act of refusing to buy grapes into a powerful and effective force against poverty and injustice.”
—  César Chávez, May 1986 (Wrath of Grapes speech)
 

Today, the refrain “Si, se puede” translated to “Yes, we can” continues to be a unifying affirmation at marches and rallies. It was used as a campaign slogan during President Obama’s 2008 election and most recently, the Women’s March on Washington. The meaning behind the refrain remains largely the same as it did when Chavez first proclaimed them: in the face of strong opposition, the will of the people, together - even the most vulnerable and poor -  will prevail. It is a refrain that unites, ignites, and empowers all people to action.

Chavez’s values of nonviolence, community, innovation, sacrifice, commitment, and determination are all values the Nashman Center believes is at the core of a vibrant, democratic, and thriving society.

At the George Washington University, a group of students are organizing to celebrate the life and legacy of César Chávez. They call themselves César Chávez GW (CCGW), and their hope is to create an annual day of celebration, service, and reflection every March 31 at GW. This year, the Honey W. Nashman Center will partner with CCGW for César Chávez Day and the Campaign for Change Grant Competition. Along with the day of service, there are other events you can participate in to become informed and involved.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 21 (11am-4pm): Tabling at Kogan, learn more about the event and participate in an interactive reflection activity
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 (6pm-8pm): “Cesar’s Last Fast” Documentary Screening at Rome/ Phillips Hall 209
  • Friday, March 31 (10am-8pm): César Chávez Day.
    • 10am-4pm at Marvin Center: art workshops, students and DC community orgs displays, art exhibitions, performances, etc.
    • 4pm-8pm at Jack Morton Auditorium, speakers will cover a range of topics related to immigration, contemporary Latinx  issues, youth activism, biculturalism, a remembrance of the UFW and where it stands today, contemporary issues regarding labor rights, etc. (and performances!) 

Questions? Email cesarchavezgw@gmail.com

Bridging Cultural Divides Through Film

By Joy Yi

  Hannah "Dot" Sheridan, Alexandra Dietz, Mimi d'Autremont, Katie giles, and Shelby Bean discuss appearing in and creating their documentary films at George Washington University's King Week event FIRST CUT: Bridging Cultural Divides Through Film. Photo by Kristin Adair

Hannah "Dot" Sheridan, Alexandra Dietz, Mimi d'Autremont, Katie giles, and Shelby Bean discuss appearing in and creating their documentary films at George Washington University's King Week event FIRST CUT: Bridging Cultural Divides Through Film. Photo by Kristin Adair

As part of GWU’s King Week, filmmakers and graduate students at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design Mimi d’Autremont and Alexandra Dietz presented the first cut of their films “Anyone Like Me” and “Your Way Back to Me, films about the intersection of deaf culture & football at Gallaudet University and grief & feminism in a Native American family, respectively. A panel discussion with the filmmakers and subjects of the films followed.

The following transcript from the discussion has been edited for clarity and brevity. The panel was moderated by Bailey Edelstein. 


B: What are your opinions about the representations of people with disabilities or Native Americans in the media? What are the stereotypes?

S:  There are a whole bunch of people within a minority.  I think the biggest thing with disabilities is that if you’re Deaf, everyone thinks you’re the same as every other Deaf person. I can communicate with my voice by talking, for example, but there are a lot of Deaf people who are full ASL. 

K: Just to add on, I think disability and Deaf are way different worlds. As far as Deaf goes, most people don't even know to say Deaf. Most people want to say 'hearing-impaired.' There's an array of vocabulary. 

B: What about you, Alexandra?

  Photo by Alexandra Dietz

Photo by Alexandra Dietz

A: Apart from the rise of the Standing Rock movement, Native Americans are fairly nonexistent in the media. And then, the way they're portrayed in the media is pretty problematic as well. I think about the #NoDAPL movements and rallies I've been going to and there would be masses of a thousand, but there would be a crew of filmmakers and photographers that are fixated on man with the headdress or the woman with the drum. There aren’t many depictions of the rest of the crowd that are everyday, identifiable people. I think one must recognize there is a way that mainstream media pigeonholes and likes to portray Native Americans. And in our culture, our society, there is definitely a way that we like to consume Natives as well. I'll let Dot talk about the stereotypes because she's about that.

D: Well, once I moved to Washington, D.C., I was just slapped in the face with the Washington Redskins logo everywhere. To me, that's so hurtful. If you were to place another minority in that mold - a poorly depicted version of them - and put a racial, hurtful term, that wouldn't be okay. There's so much misunderstanding and exotification of Native Americans. I think a lot of that has to do with media. You tune into the Victoria's Secret fashion walkway, and they're up there wearing these giant headdresses made in China, and then you tune into the music festivals and all the girls there are wearing headdresses. And you know Halloween, everybody's wearing Pochihotty and Chief's costume. It's everywhere. I really wish people would just stop. It's hurtful. It's not a cool costume. It's not cute. It's not a trend. That's who I am. That's my culture.

A: Being Native American is not about checking a box on your college applications so that you sound more interesting. It isn't about the drop of blood quantum that you might have. It is about whether you are raised within the ways and the spirituality. And also whether you are subject to the objectification and mistreatment that is very prevalent and still rampant in this country.

  Photo by Alexandra Dietz

Photo by Alexandra Dietz

B: So, I'll segway there with Alexandra and Mimi answering as to how film could be used to bridge cultural divides.

M: I wanted to play with the idea of accessibility. There are various Easter eggs through the film, and if you understand ASL, you probably understand more of what’s happening here. I didn’t translate everything that was signed. That’s one way I wanted to play with the understanding of hearing people. I wanted other people to be able to get into the same experience as Hard of Hearing people. 

B: I think good stories definitely break those stereotypes and break those assumptions. Ali, maybe you can speak to the same question which is how can film, in general - maybe tying from your film in particular- be used to bridge cultural divides? This is a culture that you don't come from.

A: Yeah, I think it's a little bit different because this is my family. And (Dot and I) we've been together for almost four years. And so, I had a lot of access to them. I don't actually think that my film is going to deconstruct stereotypes. It's actually not about stereotypes and about addressing all those stereotypes. It's about grief and loss and I made it that way because I think we can all identify with that. We all know what it's like to lose a loved one. I feel like so many documentaries that are made about Native Americans are about ceremonies. And I know, yes, the first fifteen minutes you guys saw a sweat. But it's a lot more layered and a lot more dynamic. And most of the documentary is just about the everyday life of a family dealing and emerging from that grief and carrying on tradition. So being Native American is really just the foundation of the documentary.

B: What challenges did you have working in a community and culture that you weren't a part of?

A: Maybe a challenge was that I'm a really loud person. And I worked for the Cheyenne Arapaho TV. I was doing interviews with elders. And so I had to learn about how to pay respect. You bring tobacco offerings, you are to be seen and not heard a lot of the time and that's out of respect for elders. And learning about the hierarchy within the tribe. And you know - I don't know if you guys noticed - I'm white. So, I think that attached to me is the history of colonization. And it isn't so much that that is the only issue except for the fact that also white privilege today still plays a big role in taking, appropriating, mistreating Native Americans. It's never been resolved. It's not recognized. And so, I think it wasn't hard as much as it was really important to validate that skepticism. And so I think that like with any documentary, it took time and patience and good energy in order to create a relationship and trust outside the family also.

B: What did you learn while filming? Why did you want to tell this story?

  The Gallaudet University Bison football team gets pumped up before practice to the beat of their oversized bass drum. The Bison are the only college-level Deaf team in the world, and are seen as underdogs due to their specific recruiting requirements. Coaches and players for the team will all say the only thing that separates them from their hearing counterparts is their inability to hear the whistle. Everything else, they say, is comparable. (Photo by mimi d'autremont)

The Gallaudet University Bison football team gets pumped up before practice to the beat of their oversized bass drum. The Bison are the only college-level Deaf team in the world, and are seen as underdogs due to their specific recruiting requirements. Coaches and players for the team will all say the only thing that separates them from their hearing counterparts is their inability to hear the whistle. Everything else, they say, is comparable. (Photo by mimi d'autremont)

M: I learned a lot about football. I actually started to watch an NFL game every week this fall. There's no announcer at Gallaudet, so sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on. I've tried to pick up as much ASL as I can but I'm not very good at it. There's a duality of learning how to focus on a language that is entirely visual. I naturally talk with my hands and I had to learn to put my hands down. I thought I probably shouldn't do that. I might say something really offensive with no idea. But it was fun to learn the ins-and-outs of cultural respect and trying to definitely be quieter. I had these two very big things where I had no experience with and no knowledge of and but I've been there for well over a year now.

B: Shelby and Katie, what's it like being on the other side of the lens?

  SHELBY BEAN, 25, SITS FOR A VIDEO PORTRAIT FOR THE FILM "ANYONE LIKE ME" ABOUT DISCOVERING HIS TRUE IDENTITY AS A MEMBER OF THE WORLD'S ONLY COLLEGE-LEVEL DEAF FOOTBALL TEAM.  (PHOTO BY MIMI D'AUTREMONT) 

SHELBY BEAN, 25, SITS FOR A VIDEO PORTRAIT FOR THE FILM "ANYONE LIKE ME" ABOUT DISCOVERING HIS TRUE IDENTITY AS A MEMBER OF THE WORLD'S ONLY COLLEGE-LEVEL DEAF FOOTBALL TEAM.  (PHOTO BY MIMI D'AUTREMONT) 

S: At first, it was really awkward and weird. Now, it's weird not to be on camera. We actually have a couple funny stories of me being mic'd up. There would be inappropriate conversations that would happen at various times, and Mimi could hear everything. It was funny. Anytime Mimi was around, everyone kind of changed how they talked to me because they didn't know if I was mic'd or not. I guess the first couple weeks or the first interview was confusing, not knowing do I look at the camera. Do I look at Mimi, this or that? I naturally move around when I talk. So sitting still and not changing where I sit because it makes it twice as hard for everyone. But Katie, she hates being on camera. She doesn't like being the center of attention most of the time. I guess I'm just used to it now.

K: Don't take this the wrong way, Mimi. The first few months Shelby was like, "Yeah, this girl is following me around and filming me?" I was like, "Should I be concerned?" I had never met this girl. And he was texting her all the time. So I was like hm. Then I met Mimi - and lo and behold, she's pretty awesome. But, yeah, I never quite warmed up to the camera.

M: The first time I met Shelby, he asked me point blankly if I could photograph his wedding. And I was like, who are you? Now, it's all pretty chill. We talk about vegan food a lot.

B: Thanks for sharing. Dot, what was it was like to be on the other side of the camera?

D: Well, I agree with Shelby. It was a little weird to be in front of the camera and getting used to that. I have a very big problem with the way that my voice sounds. Even now, she'll (Alexandra) be editing and I'll hate the way that my voice sounds. It's weird. Sometimes, I say ‘Wow do I really sound that hickish?’ And she'll say 'Yes, you do.'

A: No, I never say that. That never happened.

[laughter]

D: But, I've gotten over it all. I think I've become quite natural. But I guess also with my family too, they're not used to being on camera. So they would have to remember if they are doing an interview to repeat the question back to make it make sense and to not look at the camera. Especially with the kids. The kids were all over the place but they got better quickly actually.

B: Looking back at this experience, how do you think you'd view this experience?

  Photo by Alexandra Dietz

Photo by Alexandra Dietz

D: I'm really happy that Alexandra chose - and I'm honored that she chose - to do this project on my family and I. Going through loss is such a hard thing to deal with especially two consecutive years back to back. So I guess in a way, I didn't necessarily deal with it head on because I am from Oklahoma and my whole family is back there. And after my dad and grandma passed away, I flew back to Florida to live my life. So, this documentary has allowed me an opportunity to really face all those emotions head on and also understand how my siblings are dealing with it. They're each dealing with it in different ways. And if anything, I think this documentary is really going to shed some light for my siblings and I and into each other's feelings and how we are really dealing with it all. Also my mother too and her perspective and what she's dealt with the divorce.

I think this documentary is going to bring us closer together and a lot more understanding of one another because we're not really emotionally vocal family so I think this will kind of just be like "Here. Here's all the words and all the feelings." I think it'll be really great.

You can view the “Anyone Like Me” trailer here and the “Your Way Back to Me” trailer here. Alexandra and Mimi's work is currently being displayed at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design until February 12, 2017. Both full length documentaries will be completed in Spring 2017. 


ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS

Alexandra Dietz
Alexandra Dietz is an independent multimedia documentarian born in Detroit, Michigan. She earned her BFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. In 2011, Dietz received the Fulbright India Research Fellowship, and in 2013, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund her photo documentary project on the diverse lifestyles within Key West. In 2015, Dietz moved to Cape Town, South Africa to photograph ten women as they transitioned out of a life as a sex worker. Dietz is currently working on a project documenting a Cheyenne family in Oklahoma as they grapple with sudden loss, while pursuing a Master’s Degree in New Media Photojournalism at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, DC.

Mimi d’Autremont
Mimi d'Autremont is a Washington, D.C. based multimedia journalist originally from Portland, OR. She is a second year New Media Photojournalism Graduate Student at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Mimi is the current President of the Corcoran Association of Photojournalists (CAP). Her work has previously been seen in a New York Times web feature video, Slate, Studio Theatre, and the GW Hatchet blog. Her work will also be seen in an upcoming exhibit at the United States Diplomacy Center called "Faces of Diplomacy." www.mimidautremont.com

ABOUT THE SUBJECTS 

Katie Giles
Katie Giles, Shelby's fiancé, is a full time graduate student at Gallaudet earning degrees in International Development and Social Work. She is Hard of Hearing and was raised with knowledge of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture. She is a swim coach at Gallaudet.

Shelby Bean
Shelby Bean is an assistant coach for the Gallaudet football team, the Bison. He is Hard of Hearing and before coming to Gallaudet to play football had no prior knowledge of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture.

 

Power of the People

My experience at the Women's March on Washington

By Marisa Cordon

  *MARISA CORDON IS THE PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATIVE FELLOW AT THE HONEY W. NASHMAN CENTER

*MARISA CORDON IS THE PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATIVE FELLOW AT THE HONEY W. NASHMAN CENTER

I come from a country where “feminism” is not a widespread word. I learned about feminism indirectly, understanding the harsh reality women face in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America as the victims of “femicide” multiplied and eventually made international news. And the world took notice. I wondered why it was not the norm to voice these concerns at home in Guatemala in our own society, wondered what were we all doing to protect the next victims?

I also did not understand the concept of “freedom of speech” until I immigrated to the U.S. It wasn’t until Saturday, at the Women’s March on Washington, that I fully understood its purpose. I have never experienced what it feels like to be part of a protest, and more specifically, one of the largest protests the U.S. may have ever seen.

I am still in awe at how many people surrounded me in every visible direction. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to witness the messages that were conveyed through posters and chants. I feel privileged to be studying for a Master’s Degree in Public Health, focusing on women and children who find themselves at the epicenter of these controversial political times.

At this point in my life, I can truly say that I am learning as much inside and outside of the classroom. My professors and classmates are a constant source of inspiration, providing me with new perspectives in every conversation about the future of this country, in their outrage at the plans of this new administration, and their desire to speak out in the hopes of change. Solidarity was personified in every individual that chose to join the crowds and march alongside one another. Solidarity is the message I received from the powerful unity of bodies marching toward the same direction, pushed forward by the same aims, and determined to achieve equality in any and all forms.

  Marisa Cordon with her mom Sandra Villa de Leon at the Women’s March on Washington. (January 21, 2017)

Marisa Cordon with her mom Sandra Villa de Leon at the Women’s March on Washington. (January 21, 2017)

I have never seen or felt the power of the people when they become united for a cause. And I personally believe that the March on Washington epitomized multiple causes, because in the end the purpose was expression. The purpose was to have a voice, a voice made louder and stronger when joined with other voices. I had the gift of marching with my mom, someone who, coming from a conservative society, had not been able to protest her whole life. 

The values of the new administration do not reflect the values of a “free society” that I quickly began to associate with the United States after immigrating. But thankfully people’s reactions to it do.  

Reclaiming the King

MLK spoke on the fierce urgency of now and, now is the time to act

By Jonathan Butler

   JONATHAN BUTLER IS THE SENIOR PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, SERVICE AND SOCIAL INNOVATION AT THE HONEY W. NASHMAN CENTER

JONATHAN BUTLER IS THE SENIOR PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, SERVICE AND SOCIAL INNOVATION AT THE HONEY W. NASHMAN CENTER

This year marks forty-nine years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Each year as we approach the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of celebration and remembrance, across the world we invoke the legacy of Dr. King and all that he gifted to the world. Pictures of Dr. King at the 1963 march on Washington for jobs and freedom adorn our newspaper stands, primetime television, and Facebook cover photos. Stories from his life’s journey tingle down our spines. Quotes from his letter from the Birmingham jail rest on our tongues and in our hearts.

Heralded as a vanguard of his generation and a fearless truth-teller Dr. King imparted to us a mantle of dignity and love for all, worthy of celebration, that continues to echo throughout the chambers of time. Although the mantle he passed down is poignant in its clarity, the collective struggle on how to embody that mantle is the center of many debates to this day. A hallmark of these dialogues on his legacy have centered largely around defining explicitly what “his dream” looks like in a 21st century context. In the age of social media, self-driving cars, and hover-boards, many individuals who desire to define this context challenge the public, their colleagues, and loved ones to continue to live out “his dream.” When referencing “his dream” picturesque images of King’s desire for America to institutionalize equality at its core encamp around our ears. But given that the speech he made in 1963 was not his last I sometimes wonder if we should focus less on the rhetoric of “his dream” and instead reclaim the complete, unabridged legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One of my first memories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an animated video with the title Our Friend, Martin inscribed in an ill-tempered shade of yellow on a VHS box. Something I always appreciated about the video series was that it introduced me to Dr. King in a much broader view than just “his dream.” It showed me that Dr. King was human. He laughed, he cried, and much like his work with sanitation workers in the labor movement, he was much more than a dream. He fought for civil rights, economic justice, labor rights, and always looked ahead towards the arc of the moral universe which in Dr. King’s eyes was long, “but it bends toward justice.” From that time until now I have been inspired by the truth of Dr. King, his complex history, and the vibrant call-to-action he left behind for all us to digest for the years to come.

I believe that is why I struggle with the narrow, sometimes watered-down, version of Dr. King we are often presented with this time each year. Rather than solely rest on the laurels of his dream of an America with a robust commitment to democracy I believe he would want us to focus on holistically addressing the current ills of our society. I say this not because I desire to put words in his mouth or to amend his legacy but because that was his direct command to us in 1967, a year before he was assassinated.

Dr. King explicitly expressed that, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” His words at the time were directed towards his view of the Vietnam War as an unjust and devastating pursuit yet fifty years later his words still ring true. Across DC whether it is homelessness in Ward 1, food deserts in Ward 5, or gentrification in Ward 8 we are faced with great and urgent tasks that will test our collective moral fortitude. Tasks that we can either funnel into the dark spaces of our minds where the vulnerable and marginalized of our city are forgotten or tasks we can seize urgently and compassionately to address the social ills that surround us. I believe the latter is not only what Dr. King would desire of us all but also the true context behind the mantle he left for us.

A mantle of urgency that demands us to channel our energy not just into “his dream” but an intentional and committed love for one another, especially the most marginalized in our society. An urgent love that requires a deep level of commitment to human dignity. That requires that we become literate in the language of humility, literate in the power of compassion, and literate in the resilience of hope. In the words of Dr. King, “In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” This is a time to reclaim the King.

Speaking Through Need

And how our community partners are addressing the disparity

By Grace Boone

  GRACE BOONE IS AN AMERICORPS VISTA SERVING IN TURNER ELEMENTARY THROUGH THE GWU/DCPS PARTNERSHIP.

GRACE BOONE IS AN AMERICORPS VISTA SERVING IN TURNER ELEMENTARY THROUGH THE GWU/DCPS PARTNERSHIP.

Turner Elementary School is located in the historic Congress Heights neighborhood in Ward 8, the oldest and most economically disadvantaged ward in Washington DC. The evidence is overwhelming: communities “east of the river” have lower incomes, education levels, life expectancy, quality of life, and the list goes on. Why, you may ask? Gentrification, loss of cultural identity, economic factors, neighborhood disinvestment, systemic injustice, and inequitable distribution of resources are just a few contributing factors. I want to focus briefly on systemic injustice and unequal opportunity.

When I was first interviewed for the VISTA Community Liaison position at Turner, Principal Bethel spoke passionately of the needs at the school, “99% of our students receive free lunches, 90% of our families are on TANF.” Although Turner is committed to academic excellence, to extra-curricular success, in order to get to academic success, we must also be motivated to defeat systemic injustice with our students everyday; to defeat the statistics that African-Americans are more likely to have a teen pregnancy, less likely to graduate from high school, etc. Our community partners help make student success in school and in life a reality. This holistic approach to education is how we stay true to our school slogan: committed to excellence.

A part of the systemic injustice that is playing out in Ward 8 is the lack of access to affordable, healthy foods. Serving as home to over 70,000 residents, the southernmost ward has the fewest number of grocery stores in the district. There are only two, to be exact. There is not enough access to affordable, healthy foods to sustain the population. Much of Ward 8 is a “food desert,”  an urban area in which there is little or no access to affordable or good-quality fresh food.

There are a lot of negative health effects that can occur to a community as a result of a food desert. Heart disease and high blood pressure result from unhealthy eating. They are the leading cause of death in the United States. African-Americans are two times more likely to die as a result of heart disease and high blood pressure than the Caucasian population. There is also a higher rate of obesity and diabetes in food deserts than other areas, mostly affecting African-Americans. Read more about food disparity in Ward 8 here.

Martha’s Table is an organization that aims to strengthen communities through “quality education programs, healthy food, and family supports.” Joyful Markets is a part of their Healthy Eating Initiative. Every month Turner Elementary School, as well as 30 other schools in the district, participates in a Joyful Market which brings an open food market to our school gym. This open market is full of healthy, fresh fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome products like beans and pasta. Each student at Turner is eligible to receive any of the foods, and they can shop for a bag of food, often weighing up to 25 pounds a student! Oh, and the best part? Everything is free!

Joyful Markets is deemed “joyful” for a reason. When family members and students walk into the gym they are greeted with red table cloths, family-friendly music, and volunteers who walk with them through each table of fresh food. There is also a chef who attends every market. The chef has a table in the middle of the gym and cooks up a delicious recipe with all the ingredients found in that month’s market, encouraging families to use the ingredients and take them home. In the Junior Chef section, children are able to hang out, make simple recipes, and learn how rewarding cooking can be.

Joyful Markets is an example of an initiative from an organization fighting systemic injustice in a very real way. They provide families with free healthy food in an area that lacks those resources. But they go beyond providing free food to working with families to address long term health through healthy eating and community-building. If you would like to be a part of the movement at Turner, please contact me at grace.boone@dc.gov. We would love to have you serve with us as a part of the partnership between GW and Turner. We would love to have you learn more about the beautiful Turner community.

My Service Story: We Can All Make a Difference, One Baby Step at a Time

By Lillianna Byington

 GWU student Lillianna Byington volunteers at Bright Beginnings every Friday. Bright Beginnings is an organization that provides childcare for children living in homeless situations and assists the families living in poverty to find jobs. 

GWU student Lillianna Byington volunteers at Bright Beginnings every Friday. Bright Beginnings is an organization that provides childcare for children living in homeless situations and assists the families living in poverty to find jobs. 

It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to be a journalist. The concept that being nosy and getting the scoop could be my chosen profession intrigued me. I knew it was exactly what I wanted. So I came to GW for the journalism program in the School of Media and Public Affairs because I was dead set on changing the world with my words and holding others accountable with investigative journalism. I can’t say that my mind has changed, but my perspective definitely has.

After my first freshman semester, I found myself reevaluating my choices. I realized I didn’t feel satisfied with my life because I wasn’t being a productive member of society. Part of that feeling came from the fact that I was no longer engaged with the community, as I was prior to coming to GW. That’s how I found engageDC, a program that pairs students with organizations in D.C. for service that fits both the organization and the student.

For me, that organization was Street Sense. Street Sense is an organization in Washington, D.C. that writes and distributes a newspaper and engages those who are experiencing homelessness in digital, media and creative enterprises. Street Sense vendors have the opportunity to sell newspapers that feature news, editorials, and art about homelessness, poverty, and other social issues. About half of the paper is written by people experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless individuals. This experience gave me the opportunity to not only interact with the homeless population in D.C. and hear their stories but also to contribute my writing to the paper. The experience pushed me to learn more about the homeless community in the District, and I gained invaluable experience outside the classroom that helped me journalistically. I realized from my short time with Street Sense, that you don’t have to change the world with every story. Engaging one-on-one with community members and telling one person’s story can make an impact.

That next year I became a leader in the engageDC program for Bright Beginnings, an organization that provides childcare for children living in homeless situations and assists the families living in poverty to find jobs. For my second year now, I have worked with children, ages ranging from infant to five years old, and also with the volunteer coordinator to connect GW students with the program. As a volunteer, I work in classrooms directly with the children, watching them take their first steps, read their first books, make decisions and learn about the value of education that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Bright Beginnings has become my oasis. When I am stressed at school or at work, I can count on going to Bright Beginnings every Friday to see the smiles on the faces of Bright Beginnings students.

Through my involvement in Bright Beginnings, Street Sense, and the other cohorts of EngageDC, every week I am able to learn more about those experiencing homelessness in the District. D.C. has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country and there is always more to learn and more we can do.

This week is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and there are many opportunities to engage in discussions about homelessness and also to take direct action. You can attend an event, make a donation or raise awareness. GW’s Human Services & Social Justice Program is holding a feminine product drive until November 18th in partnership with an organization called BRAWS: Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters. In addition, GW’s Civic House is hosting a Thanksgiving Basket Drive to support Permanent Supportive Housing, an initiative sponsored by Miriam’s Kitchen to support former homeless individuals. Lastly, you can also connect with the Nashman Center to see how you can engage with those in the D.C. community experiencing homelessness.  

You don’t need your name in print to make a difference. Whether it’s making someone smile, making a donation or writing a story about poverty in the District, doing the right thing is not always measurable.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to change the world. But for right now, I will be taking baby steps, literally.

 

Thank you Veterans!

 GW students and veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

GW students and veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

It's Veteran's Day! Thank you to our amazing GWU current military and veteran students, staff, and community members. We at the Nashman Center are incredibly grateful for your service.

Here are some upcoming GW Veterans and Veteran Service Initiative events and service opportunities. 

11/11: GW Men's Basketball VALOR Military Appreciation Night at 7PM, Charles E. Smith Center.

11/11: I'll Be Seeing You: A World War II Love Story at 8pm, GW Lisner Auditorium

11/15: I've Got Your 6 at 3-5pm, Colonial Health Center 

11/17: Veteran's Leadership Coalition Disability Claims Summit at 8am-12pm, 499 S Capitol, Fair Suite 508

11/18: Career Services/ NGO, Non Profit, Government Panel, and Career Fair at 11am-3pm, Marvin Center 3rd Floor

11/19: Treats 4 Troops at the Armed Forces Retirement Home at 10am. Contact Germansanchez1@gwu.edu by 11/15 if you'd like to participate. 

11/28: Armed Forces Retirement Home Ice Cream Social at 1:30-3pm, 140 Rock Creek Church Rd, NW. Contact Germansanchez1@gwu.edu if you'd like to participate.

Check out the full calendar of events and email GWVALOR@gwu.edu with questions or for information on how to get involved.
 

The Youth Vote Matters

By Rebecca Connolly

It’s been a long year of presidential campaigning. As both major party candidates make efforts to reach millennials by interviewing with social media blogs, appearing on  SNL, and taking to Twitter, voters ages 18-24 continue to vote at the lowest rate compared to other age groups. According to the Census Bureau, only 38% of us cast votes in 2012, compared to 63% of of voters ages 45-64.

As made evident by the last two presidential debates, this election will have a lasting impact not only on issues that immediately affect our lives as millennials in our early 20s, like campus sexual assault and student loan policy, but will affect us for years to come, through issues like climate change, national security, the economy and labor laws, gun control, health care, civil rights and a variety of social issues. By showing up to the polls on November 8th, you can demonstrate to your elected officials that you care about these issues and are demanding to be heard as a demographic. By increasing voter turnout among young people, we can pressure our politicians to be more responsive to our political concerns.

Your vote, however, is not just a display of civic engagement and policy preference; it could be the deciding factor in the election. In February 2016, CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) released their Youth Electoral Significance Index, a statistical model which ranks districts where young people have the highest possibility to critically influence electoral outcomes. The influence of young voters described in the YESI was demonstrated in 2012 when the youth vote was a key component of President Obama’s victory in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

As you head to the polls, it’s important to remember, however, that the presidential candidates are not the only names on the ballots. After being involved with service and the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service since my freshman year at the George Washington University, I have learned that most change happens at a local level. Who makes policy decisions about our cities, police, and public schools is an important element of the fight for a more equitable and just society. Research your local congressional races to make sure you are voting for candidates who will represent your voice in Congress, but also research the candidates for your state legislature and municipal positions, and be prepared to vote on ballot measures. Use BallotPedia’s sample ballot tool to get details on the content of your district’s ballot and polling information.

With less than a month until election day, time is of the essence. Find out your state’s registration deadlines and get yourself registered. It takes less than two minutes to visit vote.org to register to vote, check your registration status, or request an absentee ballot. Make sure your voice is heard on November 8th.

Presidential Administrative Fellow Marisa Cordon Shares Passion, Encourages Seniors to Apply

Marisa Cordon, one of five Presidential Administrative Fellows (PAF) in the 2016-2018 cohort, jokes she feels she has grown two years in just the first month of her fellowship. After studying Psychology and Public Health as an undergraduate student at GW, Cordon is now pursuing a Master’s of Public Health, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. As a PAF, she will receive a stipend covering up to 42 credits towards her MPH and gain professional experience through her placement at the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.

“GW has been a really big surprise for me,” Cordon says “As an undergrad, I got to see a lot of DC through GW.  I applied to the PAF program because I wanted to continue learning about the city.”Cordon believes the diverse demographics and wide range of social issues facing DC mirror global populations.

As an undergraduate student, Cordon became involved in service through the Milken Institute School of Public Health working with Hispanic and bilingual communities. As a PAF placed in the Nashman Center, Cordon continues this work with Professor Dolores Perillán on GW Operación Impacto. Impacto is an academic service-learning program that aims to give back to the DC community while fostering students’ Spanish language and cultural literacy outside of the classroom. In addition to facilitating relationships with community partners, Cordon also works with Impacto to plan GW’s Second Annual Celebration of Cesar Chavez Day, which she hopes will become a staple event for years to come. Over the next two years, Cordon hopes to build connections between the student population and the Nashman Center and give back to the Hispanic community.

After her time as a PAF has ended, Cordon hopes to pursue work in global development professionally, especially in Latin America. She aspires to work with communities to create sustainable change and focus on women's rights. Cordon says the PAF program has helped her become more focused in her career goals by emphasizing organizational and time management skills as well as providing networking opportunities and professional experience.

Cordon encourages seniors who are considering applying to be themselves and demonstrate their dedication to their passion. “All of the PAFs are so different. What we have in common is that we are all doing something we are passionate about,” Cordon says. “The Nashman Center has sponsored a number of PAFs over the years,” says Amy Cohen, Executive Director of the Nashman Center, “We love having a PAF in the office. Each one brings unique skills and perspectives and helps to push forward with our agenda for innovation.”

The PAF application instructions for the 2017-2019 cohort are now available. If you are interested in applying, you are encouraged to attend an information session to meet current fellows on Thursday, October 6 from 5-6pm in the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) 209. Applications are due October 14, 2016.

Nashman Center's Joan Mitchell Celebrates 20 Years at GW

Today marks Joan Mitchell's 20 year anniversary at George Washington University! Joan is currently the Business Manager of GW's Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. Previously, she was part of GW's Center for Student Engagement (formerly Student Activities Center, or SAC) from 1996 to 2011. To commemorate the occasion, we asked her a few questions about her time here.  

What is the best part about working at GW? 

I love the interaction I have with students. It is so fulfilling and rewarding. I love what I do.

Over twenty years, I've also made many friends along the way. Some of them have retired. Some have moved on. Some are lifelong friends. 

How did your journey begin at GW? 

I used to work in the hoteling business in L'enfant Plaza. The concierge's wife received a promotion at GW and there was an open position. I had no experience in higher education, but they encouraged me to apply. Some of the staff who interviewed me at GW are still here. At the time, my daughters complained they didn't see me enough on the weekends. That was all it took for me. I accepted the position, and I never looked back. When Deborah asked me how long I would stay, I said, "Five years." She looked at me and said, "See you in twenty."

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Seeing my daughters come to GW. I used to bring them here to pack supplies. One of my daughters actually wanted to go to NYU at first, but after visiting their campus she said it just wasn't GW. 

What is your favorite memory at GW? 

Being a parent on the other side of Colonial Inauguration. One of the Vice Presidents here saw me at Colonial Inauguration and asked what I was doing there. When I said I was there as a parent, he looked at me wide-eyed. We both didn't realize so much time had passed. 

You've been here for 20 years. You've probably seen it all. What is your advice for GW students?

Enjoy what you do. Be able to listen and take criticism and make it into something positive. Learn from people who came before you, and keep connections. 

What are you looking forward to at the Nashman Center? 

New, fresh ideas! 

 Student Activities center staff, 2011

Student Activities center staff, 2011

Here's what Jovanni Mahonez, Immersion Coordinator at the Nashman Center, had to say about Joan: 

Mama Joan's commitment to students and her colleagues is an inspiration. I have had the pleasure of working with her in two departments and no matter what her role has been she has been the spirit of each office. Joan brings warmth, kindness, humor, swag, and an amazing work ethic to the Nashman Center every day. GW is a better place because of her and hundreds of students, staff, and faculty can attest to that. 

 

#IAmAmeriCorps

It's AmeriCorps Week and we're highlighting some of the reasons why GW staff and students serve in AmeriCorps!

A Moment or A Movement? Why Black Lives Matter on the Path to Equitable Development in Washington, DC

Movement building is the focus of the third annual conference on equitable development in

Washington, DC co-sponsored by ONE DC and The George Washington University.  Bringing together residents from all parts of the DC area, organizers, students, developers, elected officials and all who are concerned with sustainable, equitable development, this conference will build on the ongoing efforts to create more democratic and just communities in Washington, DC.  This conference will feature a diverse panel and emphasize audience interaction, engaging questions from attendees, and stimulate compelling conversation for movement building and grassroots advocacy.  The day will also include a series of DC Study Tours in the afternoon, immersing attendees in various equitable movements. The Study Tours will travel throughout the District, exploring firsthand the ways in which local organizers are changing the face of development and advocating for equitable growth within their communities.  These tours revolve around the central ideas of ONE DC, including the right to housing, the right to income, and anti-gentrification and acceptable community growth movements.

To register, please visit: http://go.gwu.edu/edc16.

Seating at this conference is limited; RSVP as soon as possible. For more information and to become a part of the greater movement for equitable development in the District, please contact: organizer@onedconline.org, tel:202-232-2915.