Sunday, April 26, 2015

Freedoms, Flags, Fires ---- Wright State University Students Protest Injustice

College students have a reputation. Wild. Careless. Lazy.

What people tend to overlook is the passion young people have. The hunger for knowledge. The fearlessness. The willingness to start a fire.

All it takes is one spark to set a campus ablaze.

For Wright State University, that spark turned to flame on April 24.

I sat with students and concerned citizens Tommy DiMassimo, Will Kellum, and Jordan Ross, to discuss the issues and mainly, to listen.

When these students and others decided to exercise their First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech, they set out with a very clear goal: stand in solidarity with Eric Sheppard (if you don't know, read up) and ultimately contribute to the dismantling of white supremacy.

The students went to the campus's center with a desire to begin an important and necessary dialogue. They displayed their ideas on a sign which read,
  • with Eric Sheppard and the preservation of First Amendment Rights.
  • for all men and women in service to their country.
  • for the accountability of the media and other social institutions.
  • justice, equality, tolerance, and diversity.
  • upon the belief that higher learning should provoke students to question social norms, mainstream values, and power structures.
  • [upon the belief that] the "American" spirit is a revolutionary spirit.
  • on the American flag because there's no thing MORE American than that."
The protest began with students only holding the sign. When they recognized the lack of interest from their peers, they decided to actually stand on an American flag, as Eric Sheppard, Valdosta State University, did and is now being persecuted for--a statement that definitely brought attention to the stance.

Unfortunately, the attention was not geared toward the unjust oppression of Freedom of Speech, the "rampancy of racism," or the frequent loss of black lives, but to the flag. Not the human beings, the stars and stripes. This was not only a disappointment to the protesters but a shameful display of insensitivity and lack of humanity.

"This is not the tragedy. They'll make more flags. It's not that easy to make more black people," DiMassimo expressed.

Once students noticed the protesters standing on the flag, many were angered. "Nigger" was spat out, a protester was threatened to be lynched, and another was told he would be "put in a coffin with a flag draped over it." These threats were dished out both in person and online. Other messages included "if you don't like America, go back to where you came from" and "get out of my college, better yet, my fucking country."

Some called the protesters "terrorists," to which Kellum responded, "we are terrorists to the white privilege system".

Of course, the local news covered the protest. And our media outlets never fail to let us down. Instead of defending the Constitutional rights to speech and protest, bringing the issue of racism and white supremacy to light, or even condemning threats and promises of physical violence, they painted the protesters as the problem. The "angry" protesters "disrespected" and "threw down" the flag. The story became about the (white, as they only interviewed white students) bystanders' discomfort, instead of the dead, or soon to be dead, (black) men the protesters were fighting for.

The problem is, you can yell "black lives matter" and no one will even look your way. But if you whisper it while upon a flag, they'll pay attention. Not to the issue that matters to you, but to the piece of cloth beneath your feet. Flags matter to people. Black lives don't. The responses and threats the protesters received prove that to be true.

Imagine a nation in which citizens cared about black people as much as they cared about the flag.

"Replace 'black man' with 'flag'. Next time a black person gets shot, we need to say 'cop shoots American flag'," said DiMassimo.

Although it is understood that the flag is often a symbol for freedom (for white people), it must also be understood that the same flag is, ironically, a symbol for oppression. A powerful and deadly force exists in this nation "under God" that is too often ignored. The systematic oppression in America is what allows institutionalized racism, police brutality, economic apartheid, racial profiling, etc. to plague the lives of citizens of color every day. Standing on the flag is not standing on your idea of freedom, it is simply asking: "Freedom for who? Liberty and justice for all?" It is challenging the notion that a black Valdosta student can be hunted for expressing his basic, inalienable rights.

To those who disagree with this act and means of speaking out against injustice, ask yourself, would you be paying attention now if they hadn't stepped on that flag?

To those who believe there is a "better way" to get the point across, like singing Kumbaya and participating in group hugs, wake up. Love is necessary but action is what's effective. As DiMassimo said, "there's no thinking and loving your way out of racism."

And finally, to White America, still in denial of privilege, insistent on supremacy and blind to the bloodshed of fellow citizens-fellow human beings-, your burning will provide light and heat for the rest of us.

If I am to be completely honest, I must express that there is both fear and excitement in me as the flames continue to spread, not only through Fairborn, Ohio, but through the nation. People think of the word "fire" and fear the possible destruction. What they fail to realize is that fires often clear out the debris, allowing a healthier world to grow in its place. Fires will mean out with the old systems, old ideals, old institutions, and old power structures. In with the new.

Jaylin Paschal is the founder and editor of INSIGHT Magazine. She also runs Creative Liberation, a personal blog where you can read through her rants and rambles. At school Jaylin is Editor-in-Chief of her school paper and an editor of the school's literary arts magazine. She spends her days writing and sleeping, or wishing she could write or sleep.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Rage in Color" ---- Poetry by Alexandria Montgomery

We enter into New Years hoping to purge the last of all global adversity, but in our annual catharsis we lose a fraction of our humanity.

No new year can erase the erasure of a culture of colored oppression.

This poem is to Israel, Jim Crow, Iran Contra,  diaspora choking the dead, and capitalism covering slave shackles.
Even if we could tolerate your tricks, we would not tolerate your tricks.

This poem is to George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, NYPD, KKK. Even if we could tolerate your tricks, we wouldn't tolerate your tricks.

As a black woman, I am not just breasts and sex. I am Eric Garner's lungs crushed by a society of white supremacy.
I am Trayvon Martin's tea spilling an Arizona sunset onto Floridian concrete. I am Mike Brown's swishers suffocating under tobaccos acrid stench, waiting for weed under Missouri's bloody breeze.

This ain't Dayton, Ohio. This is black feet hidden by the night and guided by Harriet Tubman's light. This is all 2/3 human beings gathering to take down Mr. Man's regime.

This is Ferguson, Missouri. Selma, Alabama. Gary, Indiana.  Detroit, Michigan. Compton and Queens.

This is blood under brown skin burnt by Mr. Man's fire.

Tell that arsonist even if we could take his tricks. we wouldn't take his tricks.
And his flames we will quell,
His flames we will quell,
His flames we will quell.

Alexandria Montgomery is a crazed poet with an acumen for not only social consciousness, but spiritual consciousness as well. Alexandria, or the Sohamist, has a reputation for being a 'radical' and nearly getting her journalism teacher fired. Writer for high school paper (found at and regular blogger at

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Your "Black on Black Crime" Argument is Irrelevant

by Jaylin Paschal
To first put the topic of discussion into context, let's say a white man shoots a black man. Perhaps because he was wearing a hood in the rain, or playing his music “too” loudly, or reaching for his wallet after being asked to provide identification, or maybe just for being black. Let's say the white man-police officer, neighborhood patrol, random civilian-isn't convicted, or even indicted, for the senseless murder. Let's say a “black lives matter” protest spreads nationwide, and people take to the streets outraged by the notion that you can kill a black man for virtually no reason and get away with it.

One of the first things (some) white people, or in some cases, black people, will say is “black men shoot black men all the time, and there are no protests.”

This statement is first offensive because it is inaccurate. Protests against black on black crime, gang violence, and gun violence occur on a daily basis. They receive less media attention, but there is still a movement. Countless programs exist that are dedicated to eliminating black on black crime, so if you don’t think we care, you’re not paying very much attention. We are upset over the loss of lives, and do not pardon the death of a black man as long as it is at the hands of another black man. In fact, that is when it is the most upsetting.

Along with being inaccurate, this argument is irrelevant for multiple reasons.

1. Although black on black crime does exist, it is not rampant as many believe. Black on black crime seems to occur much more frequently than it does due to the lack of a racial equivalent. Those who racialize crime, and throw staggering black on black crime statistics out there, never mention the crime happening between other races. The truth is, “black on black” crime happens about as frequently as white on white crime does. As stated in an Alternet article, “black criminals are not particularly different. America is very segregated, and its criminality conforms to that fact. So the victims of most crimes are the same race as those who commit them. Eighty-four percent of white people who are killed every year are killed by white people. White people who buy illegal drugs are most likely to buy them from white people. Far from being extraordinary, the fact that black criminals are most likely to commit crimes against black people makes them just like everybody else. A more honest term than “black-on-black” crime would be, simply, ‘crime’.”

2. Yes, black men kill black men every day. The difference between a black murderer and a white murderer is that the black criminal is almost always convicted, where white people are let off. Even when white criminals are prosecuted, they tend to serve less jail time than they're black equivalents. Often white criminals are convicted for the "lighter" offenses, such as (involuntary) manslaughter, where black parallels are convicted of first degree murder, which leads to harsher sentencing. For example, a black kid steals rellos from the corner store. Killed in the street. White man shoots up a movie theater. Apprehended. At the end of the day, “Black Lives Matter” is addressing an unfair system that allows the murder of black men and thrives on the incarceration of other black men. Below is a chart of crime and punishment, specifically drug use, related to race.

3. When relating this statement to police murders, Ta-Nehisi Cdates said it best: “To the extent that killings by the police generate more outrage, it is completely understandable. Police in America are granted a wide range of powers by the state including lethal force. With that power comes a special place of honor. When cops are killed the outrage is always different than when citizens are killed. Likewise when cops kill under questionable terms, more scrutiny follows directly from the logic of citizenship. Great power. Great responsibility.”

4. Many are under the impression that black men, especially young black men, are committing an insane amount of crimes. This is false, as stated in the chart below, but even if it were true it would make sense simply because of demographics and behavioral patterns.
Let me explain: Black men would be more easily involved in violence and crime due to circumstances and location. A link between poverty and crime has been made, proving that those who are poor are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. When you are living right at or below the poverty line, you are both more likely and more willing to go to extreme measures to make ends meet, even if said measures are illegal. Considering that America’s poorer neighborhoods are home to more minorities than white people (because of the economic and social disadvantages white supremacy and privilege put into place long ago), minorities are more likely to resort to crime for survival.

U.S. Census Bureau (2010)
At this point in the argument, you may ask why those struggling to keep their heads above water do not resort to honest jobs. Most of them do. However, we are all aware that it is nearly impossible to survive off of minimum wage jobs. $8.10 is not enough to support one individual, and does not allow a family to even scrape by. Higher paying work options are often not available, as people living in these poorer neighborhoods struggle to put food on the table, let alone put themselves through college to obtain the degrees these careers require. And so when you can't afford school, and therefore can't get a good job, and therefore can't feed yourself or your family and improve your circumstances, you are not left with many options. It’s a vicious cycle, and crime is there staring you in the face.
This is not me justifying crime, simply analyzing a pattern. If more black men live in these circumstances than white men, more black men are going to be involved with crime than white men, and therefore black on black violence will result.
Referring to my first claim, there is a societal acceptance that the black man is violent and breaks laws on the regular. This acceptance stems from the historical figure of the "angry black man" and the negative portrayal of black people by the media (which I could write an entire article on, but I'll refrain because this already a bit lengthy), and leads to racial profiling, underlying fear (which leads to a lethal force when other means of apprehension could be used), unfair sentencing, and dangerous generalizations.

5. Injustice here does not pardon injustice there. It doesn’t matter if you feel like black people don’t get upset over “black on black” crime. Someone was still unjustly murdered. If people protest wrongful death, let them protest wrongful death. Protest with them. Do not shrug off injustice now because (you think) it was once shrugged off before.
If you somehow are indecent enough to be "annoyed" by the protest of wrongful death  happening without punishment, you're going to need a much better excuse for your inhumanity. Mentioning black on black crime is inaccurate, invalid, and irrelevant.

Jaylin Paschal is the founder and editor of INSIGHT Magazine. She also runs Creative Liberation, a personal blog where you can read through her rants and rambles. At school Jaylin is Editor-in-Chief of her school paper and an editor of the school's literary arts magazine. She spends her days writing and sleeping, or wishing she could write or sleep.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


"Like light bulbs, ideas, if transparent, hang in the air, shining, bringing light to the darkness."
Photo courtesy of AP2 Photography

An idea is worthless until it is executed.
That's what I've been telling myself as I've been building this magazine.
It's not enough for me to just have an idea anymore, at some point what's in my head must escape; become tangible. And of course execution is not easy. Not by any means. INSIGHT has existed for a little over a month and I've already lost days of sleep, uncomfortably large portions of paychecks, and a bit of my sanity. I've nearly killed myself trying to generate traffic, and especially trying to collect submissions. (Getting people to contribute has proven to be the most difficult and most important aspect, as INSIGHT is nothing without contributions.) Even after all this work, I know there's so much more to be done. It is an exciting project, but if I am to be completely honest, I must also mention that it's an intimidating one.
But it's worth it. I've received an overwhelming amount of feedback expressing appreciation for the magazine. I've already heard discussions and debates over the articles posted. And even if all of this hadn't been a source of encouragement, the simple pleasure of turning a thought into something real makes the endeavor well worth it. Creating, executing ideas, is easily one of the most rewarding things you can do.
And so I hope that if you have an idea, a thought, a dream, you decide to turn it into reality. Do it. Do it well. Do it wholeheartedly. Even if no one but you will ever see, watch, hear, or read it. Execution is extremely fulfilling. Execution is all that matters.

Imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never articulated his dream. Or if Steve Jobs' ideas were never produced. Or if To Kill A Mockingbird never went beyond one thought of a lawyer and his daughter. Without the realization and execution of the ideas of Edison, Bell, Mozart, Dali, etc. where would we be?

Ideas are just a catalyst for change. Execution is what will push humanity forward.

Enjoy, contribute.
Jaylin Paschal - April 2015

Learning in America ---- What's Wrong with the Education System?

Photo courtesy of Google Images
by Cody Shuster
Although we need education for everything in our lives, it has many negative aspects to it. A major cause of stress among students, not being taught what we will use when we are adults, and Common Core are just a few of the problems we face on a daily basis in high school. Education is meant to be a wonderful aspect of life, but what happens when the system is more wrong than it is right?
How does school cause stress? To start, most students cannot get a proper nine and a half hours of sleep due to the massive amount of homework and studying that is required each night. Some students have problems with their lives at home. Some students are in sports, where they do not get home until late at night. Other students are in clubs and other activities funded by their high school and they don’t have the time to do everything assigned by their teachers.
When we become adults, we are expected to know how to pay taxes, buy a house, rent a car, and so many other things that we just do not get taught when we are in high school. Instead, we get taught to solve some difficult math problem that we most likely will never see again. We are taught that passing a test is more important to an employer than filling out a proper resumé.

Is it because all we are to our school is money? In case you did not know this, when a school does their student count, it’s so they can report to the state how many students they have and can get money for each of them. After we graduate, when we are no longer making money for them, why should they care about us?

Common Core is a new system of education that is supposed to teach all students to do an assigned item the same way. Throughout our lives, especially when we are teenagers, we are told to be ourselves. We are told that we are unique and that we shouldn’t try to be like anyone else. We are told that we can learn however we want, as long as it works for us. What honestly makes the government think that every single student can learn the exact same way? Some students have ADHD/ADD, some learn concepts more quickly than others, and others just don’t have a clue of what they are being taught. No one learns the same. Who told the government they could control how I learn?
I think it’s safe to say that in order for our education system to return to a higher quality, the government must stay out of it. After all, it’s our education, our schools, our lives. Not the government’s.

As an aspiring journalist and teacher, Cody Shuster has been part of the high school journalism program for four years.

ARTWORK: "Robot Lover" by Byron Berry

"Robot Lover"

Byron Berry|19| Artist| Founder of the local youth collective, The Midwest Art Movement in Dayton, OH.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Intersectionality: Mainstream Feminism vs. Unconventional Feminism

Photo courtesy of Google Images
by Anzie Dasabe
Mainstream feminism is the acknowledgement of patriarchy and female oppression while excluding race, sexuality, religion, disabilities (mental and physical), as well as gender identity. Intersectional feminism addresses all of the above. During 1989, in her essay “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” Kimberle Crenshaw coins the term "intersectionalism." The term is exactly the way it sounds. As woman you are oppressed but as a woman of color, a queer woman, a woman of a faith besides Christianity, a woman of a lower socioeconomic status, a woman with bipolar disorder, or a trans woman, there is another level of complexity to your state of oppression. It’s almost as if being a woman is a curved street but being a woman of with one of the qualities listed above is like being at a 4 way stop. If a physically disabled, North African Muslim woman is discriminated against she will wonder “Was it because I am black; because I am a woman; because of my faith; because of my disability?” The list goes on. Intersectionality helps the oppressed pinpoint oppressors, uncovers their reasoning, and attempts to dismantle the systematic oppression.

Going back and looking through history, women of color around the globe have suffered at the hands of ever changing oppressors, but one face has always continued to stay the same: the faces of men and white women. Patriarchy is defined as a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. White women fit in to the pyramid of patriarchy by holding the place of women. Though they still treated terribly, they are the only women acknowledged when discussing issues of sexism. Most recently, Patricia Arquette tried to articulate that women are the most oppressed group in the United States at the moment. It’s not an oppression Olympics, but the fact that she said “The truth is: Even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women," Arquette reflected. "And it's time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we've all fought for, to fight for us now," is fantastic example of her privilege. She has a platform to be able to speak about her lack  of equal pay compared to her male counterparts. Now I’m not saying that isn’t unfair but it’s quite unsettling that she would compare the on going struggle of  legalizing gay marriage as well as the on going struggles of people of color to her 78 cents to a man's $1. On top of that, there are queer women of color ALREADY fighting for their equality as women.

This is called a "white savior" or a rich man's hand out ideal. Your fight doesn’t matter until someone rich or white or both decides that it is important. Arquette completely disregards challenges of people of the LGBTQA community as well as disrespecting people of color, specifically women of color. As a white woman she makes more than women of color. According to the Think Progress Gender Wage Chasm Chart compared to white women, Latina women make .54 cents, Native American women make .59, Black women make .64, and the list goes on. To completely ignore the struggles of these woman is rude and gives mainstream feminists a bad name. This is a prime example of why women who aren’t accepted in society classify themselves as intersectional feminists. In intersectionalism, these women have a voice and feel like even though mainstream feminists and patriarchal males disregard them, they matter.

Intersectionality isn’t as precious to everyone as it is to the women it supports. Women like Julie Burchil are extremely against intersectional feminism. Apparently it “further divides” women, as well as providing a bully-like relationship between non-privileged women and those who are not. In the eyes of people like Burchil, intersectionality is just a ploy for people to be rude. Many times she refers to the whole thing being like the movie Mean Girls, which is extremely contradictory to feminism in general because Mean Girls is a movie about girls in high school being petty and rude to one another for a high position in their high school caste as well as the attention of a young man. This is extremely left from what feminism is, whether it be intersectional or not, it’s what it’s actually about.

What it is about is getting equal rights for women as well as promoting love between women. What is described in the following [...]is the complete opposite. The author also often says that intersectional feminists confuse her because when she “attempts” to apply the ideals to her form of feminism they tell her it's not for her and she needs to leave them alone. Obviously, Julie is offending the nonconformists. As an intersectional feminist, I welcome privileged women, as well as men, trying to deprogram their subconscious use of privilege in their everyday. As do the community of intectionalists. Much like herself the author must have interacted with a group of people or a person who classifies themselves as an intersectional feminist, but doesn’t apply the ideal correctly. The non-privileged feminist community welcomes allies with open arms and are very willing to educate those who are open minded and ask respectfully, but if you don’t bring either of those things to the table no one will help you. If women like Julie apply childish connections to real life issues after being told about their privilege and go on temper tantrums, they obviously didn’t care to learn in the beginning. Comparing an important component of feminist theory to sounding like “[…]some unfortunate bowel complaint resulting in copious use of a colostomy bag[...]”, then you obviously have no respect for your fellow women who are just trying to dismantle the patriarchy in today’s society in a different way than you are.

Twitter user Political Dissident shares opinion of Intersectionality.

On the other side of that, women like Laverne Cox (actress) are a prime example of why we need intersectional feminism. Laverne is a transgender woman. Laverne is not a man she is a woman, do not disrespect her or the trans community by misgendering. As a famous transgender woman Laverne is  always in the eye of the public. Many mainstream feminists do not consider her as a woman which is extremely offensive. On top of being trans, Laverne is also a black woman which means twice the oppression. Though it isn’t addressed in the news ,every 28 seconds someone is killed for being black and 1 out of every 12 transgenders commits suicide or is murdered yearly. Laverne Cox makes it her mission to spread the awareness of trans death, many times she has talked about almost taking her life so now she wants to make sure that younger trans kids don’t go down that path. Most recently a beautiful soul named Leelah Alcorn took her life because she couldn’t take lying to herself and the scrutiny she faced from her parents for trying to be herself. Even after the news of her tragic death came out her mother, much like Julie Burchil, continued to discredit her daughter. The mother refused to use the correct pronouns and continues to disrespect her daughter by referring to her as “her son”. If Leelah had supportive parents who allowed her to be apart of the intersectional community she would’ve found role models like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox who could’ve helped her find herself, but because her mother was scared and didn’t understand her child she ended up dead. Mainstream doesn’t accept transwomen, society doesn’t accept trans women, patriarchy doesn’t accept trans women. So where do they go? Where do they find shelter? They find shelter, love, belonging, and sisterhood in intersectionality. This is why intersectional feminism is valid and needed.

Intersectionality is a safe haven for distressed women, those who tear it down are sick and harbor some form of prejudice in them. Intersectionality brings together women from all over the world by saying “Oppression is terrible, but it’s something we all face. I can find a friend in you. Now, how do we fix it?” Intersectionality allows women across the continent being suppressed by strict laws, [like in] Saudi Arabia, [to] be able to connect with women of color in America; to have a voice without someone of a high rank or lighter skin tone co-signing it. Much like the women in America, the women in Saudi Arabia are criticized harshly because of their clothing because of their faith. Islam can be a particularly strict religion at times (aren't they all?), but their government blows it out of proportion. Women must be covered head to toe in thick clothing, they cannot drive themselves anywhere, and in order to finally be able to leave the house they must be accompanied by a male. America doesn’t have actual laws set up, but these are misogynistic practices that most families in America do stand by. Though we are not the same we can relate and empathize with the Saudi women. Intersectionality creates that bridge that  mainstream feminism avoids all together.

Mainstream feminists could chose to simply cross over the intersectionality bridge but instead they decide to ignore [it] and swim across the wide river. Though it was easy, it’s going to take a while for mainstream feminists to dry off, and everyone knows it can get very cold when you’re drying off.

My name is Anzie Dasabe. I talk about things that end in -ism. Known for large hair and even larger opinions. Follow me on twitter/insta/tumblr at @egyptique.

Monday, April 6, 2015

On the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: The March Towards the Termination of Discrimination ---- Sounds Good, Especially Because It's Good for Business

Doodle by SebVan on Deviant Art. "Old Man Capitalism"
by Alexandria Montgomery
Recently in Indiana, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed. This act essentially allows businesses the freedom to “exercise their religious consciences” (Paul Waldman, Washington Post). While the exact parameters in which “religious consciences” may be “exercised” is very questionable, I am not here to play on the semantics and logistics of the situation. I am, however, here to criticize the ethics and intellectual reasoning of a movement this new legislature has inspired.
Liz Gannes, writer at Re/Code, shared this ethics piece sharing her concerns with the local activism against the Indiana law, which contradicts with the issues plaguing her locality. What caught my eye, though, was this paragraph:
"A who's who of leaders from companies such Yelp, Square, Twitter, Lyft, Airbnb, eBay, PayPal and others signed their names to a petition today urging legislatures to forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone, saying, 'Discrimination is bad for business." Petition leader Max Levchin, a PayPal co-founder and currently CEO of finance startup Affirm, told Re/code: 'I am asking all CEOs to evaluate their relationships and investments in states that do not specifically protect LGBT people from discrimination."
Upon the first few lines, it sounds great. Major business figures petitioning for LGBT rights? Great. Love it. But, it gets sour. If you missed it, here it is:
“A who’s who of leaders from companies [...] signed their names to a petition urging legislatures to forbid discrimination [...] to anyone, saying, “Discrimination is bad for business."
Wait, what? Victims of sexual orientation-centered discrimination in Indiana and abroad are seething at the passage of this law, as it may allow for the unbridled discrimination on the basis of religion, and your main concern is how it will affect business? Not the civil rights implications, not eerily subtle similarities to race, gender, and sex discrimination in businesses, but the effect this law will have on business?
The problem with this statement is not the statement itself - as it is perfectly logical and smart thinking for a business man - but the hidden implications of the statement. In a society where social and structural issues such as rape, colorism, and islamophobia are normalized by prominent figures, it is not surprising homophobia is also a victim of normalization. It is, however, very disturbing. Business shouldn’t be the motivating factor for the dissolution of all oppressive acts - humanitarianism should be. What Levchin’s statement is telling me and plenty others is that as long as it makes a profit, it is good. So, naturally, one would ask what happens when queer people do not make a profit. And in the answer lies the essence of my qualms with Levchin and his intellectual reasoning for the petition.

Alexandria Montgomery is a crazed poet with an acumen for not only social consciousness, but spiritual consciousness as well. Alexandria, or the Sohamist, has a reputation for being a 'radical' and nearly getting her journalism teacher fired. Writer for high school paper (found at and regular blogger at

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A DISCUSSION with Christensen Oninku ---- Poetry, Protest, Purpose

INSIGHT sat with student and poet Christensen Oninku at Stivers School for the Arts before one of his spoken word performances.

Interview led by Jaylin Paschal.

INSIGHT: A good place to start is with the definition of poetry. What is poetry to you?

ONINKU: Poetry is a way of life. Poetry is a way of expressing emotions that you normally can't.

When and why did you start writing poetry?

Tenth grade. I thought I was a rapper, like every black teen. But there was a show for Martin Luther King Day and the Harlem Renaissance, stuff like that, at my school, and I wasn't asked to perform. They told me I was more of a nuisance than anything, so I really started working and got away from rap and into poetry.
The summer of the Trayvon Martin trial I had went down to Florida, originally for vacation, and we stopped in Sanford. And that made a mark on me so much that that next day I went home and I wrote a poem. And that was my first ever strong, personal poem. And ever since then, I've been writing.

And you still pay a lot of attention, judging by your social media presence, to current events, especially issues of social injustice, so how does that directly or indirectly impact your more recent work?

Even with the poetry collection I've kind of been working on, Kids With Colored Voices, all that is not just a reflection of me but a reflection of every adolescent out there. Like, when I wrote Skin Color, it was not just for me. It was a voice for the next person down the street. And so every type of social injustice, every type of current event that happens, affects me in some way and immediately I write from it or I include it somewhere. Whether it's black incarceration or immigration or anything like that.

How do you feel about poetry as a vehicle for social change?

I think it's a great vehicle for social change. I think, for someone who doesn't speak much, it's a great way to get their voice or their view out there. And it gives people a new perspective. They may think, "Well he's my age, and he's standing up and saying something about this, maybe I should be more aware." So I think it's a good vehicle to catapult ideas into anybody.

Do you use poetry to escape these issues, and other, more personal problems, or to confront them?

I think it's some of both. When I wrote this poem titled Redwoods in the Shadow Realm, it was all about escaping. It was about depression, and trying to utilize anything other than yourself to escape that depression. But it doesn't work that way. So I used that specific poem to escape. But with more upfront poems like, Skin Color, I definitely want to reach out and confront the issue; be very abrasive. It's not obnoxious, but it's definitely in your face.

Who is a poet with a large influence on your writing?

Whoa. Well since I just started writing poetry my tenth grade year, I didn't really read much poetry. But immediately I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and that changed the way I looked at life. And especially this year in my AP Literature class we're reading a lot of middle aged poetry, and I have a huge textbook on poetry. And even if I just read through it once a week, it just helps me refresh my mind and refresh my style. Whether it's Hemingway or Angelou or Poe. Kanye West [has] a major influence on my work and thinking habits.

Do you think going to an art school has positively or negatively impacted your writing?

I think it has been very positive. Without Stivers I don't know if I'd be writing poetry.

Thank you, Christensen.

Follow Christensen on Instagram @blxvck_supreme & on Twitter @mrchampagnepapi