I am a Political Science major at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH attempting to encourage involvement with political initiatives around campus and throughout the local community.

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INSPIRATION!
According to Natural History Magazine and innumerable other sources, the young people of Egypt are the ones driving the revolution. In a country where the media age is 20, social networks, technology of all breeds, dire necessity, and pure passion for freedom have been instrumental in making political and social progress.
As we, American students, watch the protests on television and watch a new nation emerge, we should be inspired by the passion and hard work of our Egyptian peers.
To learn more about the revolution in Egypt, check out Al Jazeera English on Youtube, read about it on the Democracy Now! website, and follow #egypt on twitter. Stay informed and stay inspired. If these young people are fighting for their beliefs and breaking free of oppression, what can you do in a country full of people who applaud speaking out?

INSPIRATION!

According to Natural History Magazine and innumerable other sources, the young people of Egypt are the ones driving the revolution. In a country where the media age is 20, social networks, technology of all breeds, dire necessity, and pure passion for freedom have been instrumental in making political and social progress.

As we, American students, watch the protests on television and watch a new nation emerge, we should be inspired by the passion and hard work of our Egyptian peers.

To learn more about the revolution in Egypt, check out Al Jazeera English on Youtube, read about it on the Democracy Now! website, and follow #egypt on twitter. Stay informed and stay inspired. If these young people are fighting for their beliefs and breaking free of oppression, what can you do in a country full of people who applaud speaking out?

Take Back The Night

On Thursday, April 21st at 6pm, Franklin Pierce students and faculty will gather in the library courtyard to participate in the annual Take Back The Night walk through the campus. According to the Take Back the Night twitter page, the TBTN Foundation, “…is a 501(c)3 publicly funded charity with the mission of ending sexual violence in all forms and lending support to survivors.”

FPU, as well as many other communities throughout the country, takes one night out of the year to hold activities devoted to calling attention to sexual violence, reducing fear, and showing support to victims.

WAYS TO PARTICIPATE -

1) Attend student Jeff Payne’s presentation in Marcucella Hall on Thursday, April 21st at 4pm entitled, When Funny is Serious : TV Sitcoms and Rape

2) At 6pm, gather in the library courtyard for the Take Back the Night Walk around campus.

3) Watch Reality Check perform three skits inspired back Take Back the Night in the Alumni Lounge at 630pm followed by a speak out and snacks.

4) Speak out on twitter, facebook, and your blogs to call attention to the events and to the reality of sexual violence.

Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin Library Archives

REASONS TO PARTICIPATE (from Rainn.org)-

1)1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

2) About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

3) Victims of sexual assault are:

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

4) Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

For more information on TBTN events, legal resources for victims of rape or sexual assault, and news, please visit the Take Back The Night website.

For more about the RAINN Organization, visit their website.

For more information about the events to be held at Franklin Pierce, please contact Tawni Turcotte or Prof. Donna Decker through FPU email. 

Kwan Booth explains the importance of a diverse media to PiercingPolitics.

To learn more about Kwan Booth, please visit his website or follow him on twitter.

"Facebook, NOT FRIENDSTER!"

Erin Gibson, host of the ModernLady segment of Infomania on CurrentTV, speaks to PiercingPolitics and advises students on how to use social media to be politically active.

Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day is designed to spread awareness about the gap between wages of white males and the earnings of minorities including women and racial groups. I was very pleased to see that FPU is encouraging students to act by sending a mass email to all of us on campus. If this is a cause close to your heart or a reality of your life, please act in one of the following ways or think up your own way of spreading awareness or showing solidarity. Its so simple to get involved.

Wear red to signify that women and minorities are financially “in the red”!

Sign a petition encouraging your congressional representative to support The Paycheck Fairness Act at the ACLU’s website.

Spread awareness by marking posts on Twitter with the tag #EqualPayDay!

Post a statistic or status on Facebook!

For more information, see the Equal Pay Day website.

Linda Quintanilha - Parent and Activist

After the presentation by Gordon DuBois on March 22nd, he introduced a woman by the name of Linda Quintanilha to the group of students and faculty remaining in Pierce Hall.

She told a story of an average childhood which blossomed into an average adulthood that included marriage, a home, a career, and eventually two delightful children. In 2005, however, the story of Mrs. Quintanilha’s life changed and she was confronted with challenges that for the first time set her apart from the other “normal” families she had been exposed to all her life. In 2005, Linda Quintanilha’s daughter was diagnosed with autism.

When Linda delved into the world of developmental disorder workshops, support groups, and community programs in order to assist her daughter and save her family, she soon realized how valuable they were to her life and to others experiencing similar circumstances and joined the activist group Able New Hampshire.

In her few moments before the audience, Linda Quintanilha balanced her time between sharing personal experiences and biting political criticism of the budget cuts soon to be voted on in Concord. She informed the crowd that there were over 600 families who testified with the New Hampshire state legislature to prevent the new budget from eliminating all state funded programs for disabled state residents, but even in the budget’s current incarnation all of the services in New Hampshire communities dedicated to caring for disabled citizens in existence today remain in jeopardy.

Quintanilha brought the message home by sharing the statistic that at least 50 families in the Monadnock region alone would be totally left without care for their disabled adult children. She said, “We’re looking at chaos. We’re looking at families with nowhere to turn… How are we going to live? How are we going to survive?”

Quintanilha implored all audience members, as well as friends, family, and concerned citizens to take a stand and help advocate and show support for the developmentally disabled by attending a rally on March 31st at noon on the statehouse lawn in Concord, NH.

For more information on Able New Hampshire, please visit their website.

For more information about the New Hampshire State budget cuts, please visit BusinessWeek.com or google New Hampshire State Budget.

For more information about the rally to be held in Concord and transportation options for getting to the rally, please contact Linda Quintanilha at Linda.Quintanilha@gmail.com.

Lost In Laconia - A Documentary by Gordon DuBois presented at FPU

Gordon DuBois is an educator, writer, filmmaker, amateur historian, and activist for marginalized and often forgotten citizens of NH. On March 22nd, he spoke at a showing of his film “Lost in Laconia” at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH. The film was brought to FPU through The England Center For Civic Life and the Franklin Pierce Civic Scholars program, headed by Prof. Joni Doherty.

DuBois became involved in activism when, after graduating from SUNY Cortland in 1968, DuBois said he, “…felt called in a way to work with those disenfranchised by society.” In 1977, DuBois accepted a fateful position working at The Laconia State School located in Laconia, NH.

According to Gordon DuBois, former LSS worker and writer and producer of “Lost in Laconia”, he was attracted to the job by the paradigm shift taking place in the way Americans thought about disabilities during the 1970s. During the time period, the country was transitioning from a focus on institutionalized care to community based programs.

After accepting the position at Laconia, Dubois quickly became enveloped in a world that, “…probably 90% of the population didn’t know about; didn’t want to know about. Institutions… they were hidden away. People really were just lost there…to their families, friends, communities.” In the case of LSS, the school served as a dumping ground for members of society who found themselves unwanted and unaccepted due to the circumstances of their birth.

The institution which became Laconia State School was founded in 1901 as an alternative to the regional “almshouses”, set up on local farms to contain impoverished and disabled community members. According to a former employee of LSS, Alberta Sitt, “…it was like a warehouse.” Some of those who came to live at the school like, Samantha Chamberlain, were homeless, some, like Carol Dow, were born into families unwilling or unable to care for them. Still others suffered from developmental disorders and were sent away when doctors encouraged families to abandoned disabled offspring and start over.

 The theory of eugenics was lauded as the driving force behind Laconia and sterilization, usually without consent of the patient, was common practice. Dr. Benjamin Baker, a former employee of the state school and proponent of eugenics wrote on the subject saying, “The world does not need the moron…it could get on much better without them. I strongly support eugenics.” By the time the practice of sterilization at Laconia was discontinued in 1958, doctors had completed over 400 procedures.

The unacceptable care and abuses at institutions like Laconia State School had long been noted by members of the community, but the activism really began to gain momentum when Dr. Richard Hungerford as hired as the superintendent of the institution. He was the first superintendent to be an educator rather than a medical doctor. In his time at LSS, Hungerford helped parents to form support groups and to become a presence in the community, while encouraging them, for the first time, to visit their institutionalized children.

Patients, like Samantha Chamberlain who said in the film, “You had to fear for your life there, you really did…people running around naked and jumping into your bed…Your dignity, your rights, everything, was pulled away from you,” suddenly were given a voice.

As a result of Dr. Hungerford’s work, the NH Council for Retarded Children and the Great Bay Association worked to spread the message of our nation’s inadequate resources for developmentally challenged Americans. Projects like the “Help Wanted” documentary drew national attention and newspapers like The Portsmith Herald published articles and pictures on conditions in the school. The next superintendent of LSS, Dr. Arthur Toll, continued to welcome parents and attempt new therapies designed to aid the patients rather than to just contain them.

In the meantime, the population of The Laconia School just kept growing. According to the film, by 1970 there were more than 1,162 residents and a waiting list of over 400.

The movement which sprung from the activism of the superintendents and others connected with The Laconia State School inspired a class action lawsuit which lead to an order from the Concord Federal Court demanding a switch from institutionalized establishments to community based resources for those with developmental disabilities. During the lawsuit and the subsequent work done to retool the system of resources available, the vast majority of employees of Laconia were supportive of the changes.

Many employees of LSS, like Alyce Jewell, truly had the best interests of patients in mind. Jewell said in the documentary, “If I had to do it all over again I would do it. I wouldn’t change it…I loved them.”

Concerned citizens of New Hampshire rallied around those those being released into the community and those already there by creating the Action for Independence Group, devoted to caring for those who require support to live a fully functioning life.

In 1991, the closing of Laconia State School marked what Gordon DuBois called, “…the end of a dominant paradigm,” in the sphere of developmental disability care. As seen in the film, the closing sparked celebration and made New Hamsphire the first state in the nation to move away from the institutional system.

*Note - All facts and quotations featured in the above article come from the film “Lost in Laconia”, the corresponding press release, or interviews conducted during the FPU showing. Biases can be blamed on the author who may have been slightly affected by the deeply personal nature of storytelling featured in the film.

For more information please visit, the “Lost in Laconia” website.

To contact Gordon DuBois about presenting his documentary at your school or organization, you can reach him by phone at 603-279-0379/229-1982 or by email at forestpd@metrocast.net.

The Vagina Monologues at Franklin Pierce University

On Saturday March 5th and Sunday March 6th 2011, a group of female students at Franklin Pierce University performed the often inspiring and always controversial, “Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler. The proceeds of the performance were donated to The Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention.

Each monologue is written from the perspective of a different woman and explores her personal journey with her vagina. The monologues features in the F.P.U. rendition included those written from the perspective of trans-gender women, rape victims, heterosexual females, lesbians, and several others adding up to convey the wealth of experiences common and uncommon to women and their vaginae.

According to one of the narrators at the F.P.U. production, each year, the creator of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler, adds a new segment to the work. Often these new additions are inspired by the way women are affected by events around the world. When I interviewed Dr. Donna Decker, a Franklin Pierce professor about this tradition of including and accepting cultures around the world she stated that, “…Ensler’s work, T.V.M. and her others, has heightened my awareness of how much women suffer because they are women. Women make up the majority of the population of the world and are treated, heinously sometimes, as a minority.”

Of all of the controversial monologues featured in the play, one of the most often criticized is, “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could”. It details the struggles of a young woman who has learned to associate her vagina with shame, terror, and physical pain due to a history of injury and rape but eventually comes to embrace her sexuality through an encounter with an older female. This segment of The Vagina Monologues is sometimes charged with hypocrisy for its description of violent statutory rape by a male and a pleasurable incident of statutory rape perpetrated by female and spoken of in the play as, “a good rape.”

Marzell Barker, the actress and F.P. student who performed, “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could,” said that the controversy did not affect her at all. In an interview Barker said, “The play is against rape and female violence, but that means we have to let people know it exists. To avoid it would just give it more power.”

In the interview, Barker also spoke in regards to the idea that the play shows men as aggressors and enemies. In her opinion, it doesn’t portray men badly, and in monologues like, “Because He Liked to Look at It,” “…’the average joe’ is seen as a hero. He was the type of guy most girls don’t go for, but he was able to help the woman find herself sexually.”

Another performer, Meredith Imbimbo, also spoke up for the play, “What I believe is that The Vagina Monologues are just the truth…. It just so happens that there are bad experiences with men and a woman’s vagina sometimes. But there are also good moments…I feel like I can’t emphasize enough the theme of acceptance and awareness which comes from The Vagina Monologues. These performances can break the ice for women who have a hard time with their own bodies and it can create a deeper connection to those who love themselves. This is why I am part of the this project. I have always been an advocate for self esteem and the more avenues I can utilize to help create that feeling of empowerment and love for oneself, the happier I am.”

For more information about Eve Ensler and The Vagina Monologues please visit, V-Day.org

For more information about feminism and women around the world please visit, The Feminist Majority.