Claudia Rankine Provides Commentary On Citizen: An American Lyric’s Message

9.21.2017

By Elise Collene

Claudia Rankine Discusses Citizen

On Thursday, September 7, hundreds of KU students and staff bustled into the Lied Center, packing the auditorium and filling every seat. Attendees patiently waited for Claudia Rankine to discuss this year’s KU Common Book, her book “Citizen: An American Lyric.

Chancellor Douglas A. Girod began the ceremony by explaining the history of the Common Book program, which has been connecting students on campus since 2012. Girod discussed how past Common Books have often focused on difficult times and that Rankine’s work “Citizen” is no exception. Focusing on the question, “What does it mean to be a citizen?” “Citizen” dives into what racial aggression looks like in today’s society and what it feels like receive racial aggression. Girod explained that he believes this aggression is relevant in light of what is happening in society today and that it can have extreme effects on a person’s day-to-day life. Consequently, this year’s Common Book was chosen to allow KU students to face these challenges in a constructive manner and allow students who deal with these issues to bond.

I was unsure of what to expect reading “Citizen.” As I began reading, it was difficult to catch on to Rankine’s style of writing. However, once I was in sync with the lyrical flow of her writing, I was intrigued and shocked at some of the stories in the book. “Citizen” is filled with snippets of stories; some are told by family, friends and strangers while others are from news reports or Rankine’s own analysis of different events. Photos, sculptures and other forms of art also line the pages. Rankine brings these elements together to form a unique and powerful piece of poetry. The combination of personal stories and true, documented events allows Rankine to create this piece of literature that is simultaneously formal and intimate. Rankine said she created the book to be “able to be entered without being colored by specific events”. With all of the distinct pieces coming together, her ideas ring clear and readers are left with the stark realization that racism is alive today and manifests in many forms.

When Claudia Rankine finally appeared on the Lied Center’s stage, I was excited to hear what she wanted KU Students to extract from “Citizen”. Rankine discussed the book’s art and how it played a role in the meaning of the book. She discussed in further detail how the art was hand-picked and intentionally placed to uniquely connect with sections of the text. It was interesting to hear directly from the author and compare her intentions to my own thoughts and opinions while reading the book. The art, for me, was the most difficult part of book to interpret, but after her speech, I was left with a better understanding of the novel and how she was able to pull from many different sources, finally merging these contrasting excerpts together to create a beautiful and influential piece of literature.

Before Rankine left the stage, she left the audience with a piece of advice.

“There are all kinds of people and they will help you if you let them,” she said.

Rankine explained that we are unable to carry all of our mistakes in ourselves, so we must find people to help us unpack them. Rankine offers an important message for people of all races, ages, and genders: we are all people and we can help each other if we try.

NOT JUST A PHASE: EMO NITE ROCKS THE GRANADA

9.19.2017

Every night is emo night, but this night was particularly emo.

By Justin Hermstedt

Photo by Caleb Hundelt

On September 8, a couple hundred darkly and emotionally dressed young people emerged from the shadows to descend upon the Granada. Style on the Hill came to document the party – nay – the movement that is Emo Nite.

That night the Granada provided a space for Lawrence’s millennials to let their emo flags fly. Here are a few of the looks Emo Nite inspired.

Photos by Nicole Mitchell

“Not a band. Not DJ’s. We throw parties for the music we love,” says the twitter bio of Emo Nite. I had come expecting a band, to be honest. I didn’t know what to make of the fact that I was basically just listening to someone’s emo playlist. As it would turn out, I just needed to hear the right song. Here’s an audio clip of when the Emo Nite team played “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance. 

Photos by Caleb Hundelt

Emo music brought people together that night. Emoism may have been a temporary, regrettable phase for many of us, but at Emo Nite I learned that a part of it sticks with you forever. You can take the eyeliner off of the kid, but you can’t take the kid off the eyeliner. Anyway, one of the Emo Nite hosts said it best at the end of the show. “There’s hurricanes happening and the threat of nuclear war, but none of that matters right now.”

How awesome is that? Emo Nite is an outlet for angst and anguish no matter where it comes from: politics, parents, or puberty.

Heard on the Hill

9.17.2017

HOTH crop

  • “Spring door stops have the best comedic timing.”
  • “I’m like never at the union, so I never get condoms!.”
  • “I’m just like, not really the college kind of guy!” – a guy, at college
  • “I hate going out with Emily because Emily has boobs!”
  • “If you black out before Emo Nite, you get to meet some very nice paramedics.”
  • “Mom please just take my picture with NO flash. It’s for my fake ID.”
  • “Why are there no Groupons for the Hawk?”
  • “The only reason I stopped masturbating is so that I could get up in the morning and make coffee.”
  • “Skate fast, eat ass.”

 

SZA Brings Timeless Authenticity to Kansas City

9.08.2017

By Rebekah Swank

 

The Uptown Theater is an old-school concert venue with vintage vibes. The bright-shining bulbs spelling out “Uptown” lit the sign below –“SZA” was illuminated. Kansas City natives and visitors began lining up outside of the theater as early as 4:30 p.m. Fans dressed in true, fabulous SZA fashion while wrapping around the corner and down the street. I saw tight, full-body sequin jumpsuits; oversized jackets, Adidas sweatpants paired with bikini tops, and voluminous, curly hair.

Walking into the concert hall, I was overwhelmed with a skunky scent. White clouds of smoke were scattered throughout the crowd. As the curtains opened and people screamed, giant neon letters spelling “CTRL” gleamed over the heads in front of me. SZA emerged in loose, purple, metallic pants and a black tank top; her long red hair billowed behind her with every step she took.

SZA’s real name is Solána Imani Rowe. She got the inspiration for her stage name from the Supreme Alphabet and the rapper RZA. S stands for “sovereign,” Z stands for “zig-zag,” and A stands for “Allah, the most high.” SZA was raised as an Orthodox Muslim, and still practices Islam, and relies on her faith to stay true to herself and her music.

Mitch Saffle, a student at Kansas State University, admires SZA for being honest in her album newest album, CTRL.

“[The album] was a story of her life. She was being open and honest with her listeners, and because of that I realized I related to some of her struggles regarding relationships and self-worth. SZA is truly an inspirational artist,” Saffle said.

SZA’s connection to her fans is unique to her and her performances. When she sang and danced, I could see her radiating with happiness as more and more of her followers sang along with her.

“SZA was an amazing performer, and I really appreciated her interaction with the crowd, asking how we were doing ‘physically, mentally, and spiritually,’” Saffle said. “To me it seemed that she was just a genuine person doing what she loved.”

Although her show seemed short, SZA’s performance was energetic and authentic. From her opening song of “Supermodel,” when the crowd screeched with excitement, to her finale singing “Twenty Something,” she twirled around the stage and bellowed her lyrics with fervor.

I have listened to SZA since I was a senior in high school. I have trolled through her Instagram and Twitter accounts. I have tried to recreate some of her greatest looks with very little success. She is truly a one of a kind musical artist, and after seeing her on stage, all I can say is “Go Gina.”

A Man’s Rights

7.27.2017

By Logan Gossett

 

After losing a house, two jobs and $16,000 in court expenses, Phil – whose name has been changed to protect his anonymity – humbly received his ambitious reward: his son, for five hours, once a month.

        Five days ago he paid a monthly fee of $600 still owed from the home’s mortgage, a fee he will continue to pay until 2027 when his son will be 15 years old. Phil now pays more in child support than he earns from unemployment checks.

“My son was about four inches taller when I finally got to see him,” Phil said. “His mom told him not to tell me what his favorite color is, but I think it’s green. She also told him not to tell me his favorite superhero, but he let that one slip: Batman,” he said. He just hopes to be a close second one day.

Men’s rights advocacy was partly catalyzed by stories like Phil’s. Through forums like MensActivism, A Voice for Men and Reddit’s Men’s Rights board, men’s rights advocacy attempts to provide support and resources for fathers with similar struggles. However, their outreach is inhibited by their designation as misogynist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC describes the men’s rights movement as “savaging feminists,” and cites the website manboobz.com as a useful watchdog of the men’s rights movement.

Male mortality rates paint the grisly picture that illustrates the story behind the men’s rights movement.

Advocates see that men are five times more likely to commit suicide than women; that men are twenty times more likely to die in the workplace; that men are four times more likely to be the victims of homicide. Men’s rights advocates see disproportionate workplace deaths and question the existence of disproportionate privilege.

Annie McBride, Assistant Director for the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, suggests that male privilege is not an easily measurable commodity.

“Privileges are things that [men] were born into, not that they’ve had to earn,” she said. “The ability to, as a white person, walk around department stores and not feel people’s eyes on you and be followed. I didn’t do anything to earn that privilege. It was just something I was born into.”

McBride agreed that male mortality and men’s mental well-being is concerning. She argued that toxic masculinity stigmatizes the male pursuit of mental health treatment, something feminism seeks to rectify.

Many scholars believe that the men’s rights movement is simply a backlash to feminism and the progress it has attained for women. Megan Williams, Program Coordinator for the Emily Taylor Center, agreed.

“[Men’s rights advocates] use the language of civil rights to undercut actual inequity,” she said. “It’s really just a reflection of men who are seeing their privilege challenged; seeing the entitlement that they’ve had challenged and thinking that that is oppression or discrimination.”

Men and indebted fathers struggle to reconcile their alarmingly higher rates of experiencing homelessness and being victims of homicide as challenged privileges. Men posting on MensActivism and A Voice for Men often resist the implication that the right to a home and life are privileges to be challenged.

Like McBride, Williams viewed feminism as a solution for the issues central to men’s rights advocates.

“If we’re talking about liberation of men, then that is a feminist project. If we’re talking about a real men’s rights movement, it’s feminism,” Williams said. 

The most urgent men’s rights topic for fathers, however, is the low likelihood of fathers being granted primary guardian custody of their child after a divorce. Custody is six times more likely to be obtained by the mother.

Phil doesn’t identify as an advocate for men’s rights or women’s rights: just a father, if only for five hours a month.

Phil was deployed to work on oil rigs for nine months per year. After four months of working rigs in Saudi Arabian waters, he returned to his home in the deep south to find it empty.

“Everything was gone. Furniture, TVs, kitchen stuff — you name it, it was gone,” Phil said. But, while furniture is replaceable, family is not.

“My heart sank when I knew what she did. All I thought of for months was seeing my wife and kid; maybe watching a movie or something,” Nease said. “Now I don’t even have a TV.”

Phil was the sole working parent while married. While he was on oil rigs, his wife was at home serving as their son’s primary caregiver. According to KU Law Associate Professor Melanie DeRousse, parental roles like those held by Phil and his ex-wife while married limit the outcomes of custody battles.

“Most of the time moms are doing that primary caregiving. The judge wants to maintain that stability for the kids so the kid has access to that attached parent. They’re going to maintain some of that gender disparity that was existing in the relationship into their orders. They’re looking at what will not disrupt the kid’s lives, not some parent’s rights,” DeRousse said.

If the mother serves as the child’s primary caregiver while the father is only parenting during the weekends, the judge will grant joint custody with the father having the kid for the weekend, while the mother maintains the child during the week. Extended periods away from his son while working hurt Phil’s chances of attaining equal joint custody.

Melanie DeRousse said that, while some judges may assume that the kid is better off with his/her mother, “more often than not you have the parties trying to figure out what form of joint custody is going to work for the kid.” DeRousse added that, “Most psychologists would agree with the legislature: joint custody is preferred for the kid.”

As traditional gender roles continue to undergo egalitarian permutations, fathers will begin to attain equal joint custody more frequently. Male mortality rates and mental health still present an issue, however, and men’s rights advocates and feminists view their respective movements as the optimal solution.

A Voice for Men founder Paul Elam argues that feminists preach equality while pursuing favoritism. Annie McBride, Megan Williams and most self-identified feminists disagree, instead viewing feminism as a potential solution for men’s rights issues and equity for all genders.

Both men’s rights advocates and feminists will continue to pursue their ideal of gender equity. Both men’s rights advocates and feminists will continue to provide assistance to men or women suffering through mental illnesses or unforgiving workplaces.

Meanwhile, Phil will be eagerly anticipating his next visitation with his son.

“[My son] likes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I bought him some action figures and Ninja Turtle shirts — stuff like that. Hopefully he likes them; I just wanna see him happy.”

 

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