Laverne Cox Tells SLU Students Her Story

Laverne Cox Tells SLU Students Her Story

SLU students gathered in the Center for Global Citizenship last Monday to hear Laverne speak.
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"I showed up to the GCG at like three o'clock and I ate at the cafe and did homework while I was waiting. I went so early because I love Laverne. She's one of my favorite activists and actresses," says SLU freshman Caroline Frick, who ended up getting a seat in the second row. "I love how she's changing society's views on certain issues from race to transgender awareness and feminism."

Huge banners near the Busch Student Center's entrance and small flyers in the residence halls had been up for weeks leading up to the event. Students knew that Laverne Cox was coming, and they had long awaited her arrival.

Doors were to open at 6:40 for the 7:00 appearance of Laverne Cox, a talented actress, advocate, and artist. The excitement and buzz among students was so elevated that they were arriving and sitting down on the floor of the Center for Global Citizenship hours before the event began.

Members of SLU's Rainbow Alliance executive board, Great Issues Committee, Black Student Alliance, and Una were the only ones allowed in the half of the CGC that Laverne would be speaking in. At 5:30, these group members gathered to set up and block off the entrances, preventing students from entering before 6:40.

(Rainbow Alliance executive board members before Laverne's arrival)

Finally, Laverne walked out onto the stage, a few minutes past 7:00, eliciting cheers and applause. The title of Laverne's speech was "Ain't I A Woman," inspired by Sojourner Truth's speech in 1851. Truth was one of many artists, speakers, writers, and advocates that Cox referenced during her own speech.

Though some members of the audience already had a grasp on this concept, Laverne Cox introduced intersectionality to the student body, defined by Wikipedia as "the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination."

In Laverne's case, she discussed how her identity as a black, transgender woman contributes to her oppression in various ways.

"Seeing her and hearing her story expands our ideas that we exist outside of any singularities. We can understand that we are never defined by a single identity. We are our genders, our races, our sexual orientations, our romantic orientations, and more at the same time.Through a struggle, we can find ourselves," says Chad Maxwell, junior member of Rainbow Alliance e-board.

Though difficult, Laverne spoke of her childhood experiences of being outcast by classmates, disciplined by teachers for expression, and prohibited from being involved in ballet because it was "too gay," according to her mother. She continued by sharing her experiences as a young adult of being cat called, laughed at, and inaccurately called a man while walking down the street.

Senior Rainbow Alliance executive board member Summer Worthington says, "What I loved the most about Laverne's speech was that she didn't shy away from talking about difficult topics, especially ones that are controversial on a Catholic campus."

Laverne kept the speech light-hearted, and told the audience that sometimes we have to laugh at ourselves and what is said about us as a way of breaking down the power that our bullies and oppressors have. She often referenced that her mother was warned about the possibility of Laverne ending up in New York City wearing a dress. With a sassy flip of her hair, a glance down at her tight pink dress, and a smile on her face, Laverne laughed and shrugged, as a way of saying, "Well, look at me now."

SLU sophomore Brenna Campagna was also sitting in the second row during Laverne's speech, and was personally impacted by her words.
"More than anything, I appreciated and connected to Laverne's message about shame. She referenced Brené Brown, who happens to be my favorite author, which made me realize how deeply connected developing a personal identity and feeling personal shame can be. Too often, I think we become our own worst enemies and become terrified of being ourselves. Laverne reminded me that true love and acceptance from others begins with ourselves; if we don't believe we're worthy of love and belonging, we'll never accept it from others."

(A packed auditorium in anticipation of the presentation)

The enthusiasm, presence, and willingness to learn demonstrated by the general student body and members of the greater non-SLU community are a glimmer of hope for the very issues that Laverne Cox addressed during her speech. Once we can learn to respect, support, and become active with issues of social justice, we can really make a change in our community, and eventually in the world. As Laverne put it, "Justice is love in public."

In the Q and A segment that took place in the end of Laverne's speech, just past 8:00, it became clear that students on campus are incredibly passionate about the subjects that Laverne discussed. Much of what was asked related to how exactly students can get involved and help, what SLU needs to do to foster acceptance and understanding of others, and what governmental policies need to change in order to make a difference in the ever-present system of oppression. Laverne responded warmly to these questions, as they demonstrate hope for future generations and great potential for change.

"I'm glad I was able to listen to her story and hear her calls to action because I can be more supplemental in creating a safe space for others to express themselves in the way that they feel most comfortable,"
says sophomore Haileigh Armbrust.

Once the Q and A segment wrapped up and students began to exit, some stayed behind and had the opportunity to meet Laverne and take a photo with her. She was just as sweet one on one as she was during the presentation, as she greeted students warmly, and often with compliments. After two sessions of meet and greets, students filed out of the building, shortly followed by Laverne.

"I hope that Laverne's speech has taught SLU students to be more accepting and open minded to others who may have to take extra steps to becoming the person that they were meant to be,"
says senior Danielle Limia, who is studying Psychology, Women's and Gender Studies, and African American Studies.

Thank you to all of the student organizations that contributed to making this event happen, and of course, a huge thank you to Laverne for gracing SLU with her presence!


Cover Image Credit: Carolyn Calamia

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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5 Thoughts You've Probably Had About The Government Shutdown If You, Like Cardi B, Are Paying Attention

I'm not sure if Trump thinks he's playing a real-life game of "The Sims," but I can assure you that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in.

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2019 — what a time to be alive, am I right? Normally I would use that phrase sarcastically, but each day I am more and more confused, transfixed, and curious (with just a dash of anticipation) about our current state as a society and the direction we're going. Even though most of the time the world seems like sh*t, you've got to admit that out of all the times in history, the current one we're in has a lot of cool perks. I mean, 70 years ago, who would've guessed that there'd be computers and a world wide web filled with endless information and apps that allow 125 million people to see cute pictures of Kim Kardashian's baby. And compared to life in the 1600s, an airplane seems just as extraordinary as the second coming of Jesus.

We're making a lot of wonderful and exciting progress, like our advancements in medicine, but for some reason, we've hit an impasse in terms of social improvement. Not even three years ago would I have guessed that the U.S. would elect an unqualified, most likely racist, reality TV star as president, but alas, here we are, which brings me to his latest antics.

The government shutdown.

Despite how bleak the future seems, a little part of me is just a tad grateful that I'm alive to see this all go down. Like everyone else, however, I've had quite a few thoughts about it all over the past few weeks...

1. So we're screwed, right?

We briefly had a government shutdown in 2013, but for some reason, I have absolutely no recollection of it (my 14-year-old self was probably too preoccupied with who was posted on my high school's Instagram "thot page." Spoiler alert: I was), so this is like my first experience dealing with one. There have been more than a dozen in U.S. history, but the current shutdown is the longest out of the list. My first thought when hearing about the news was "what the hell does THIS mean?" I immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were in a total state of anarchy, but of course, that isn't even partially true. According to The Balance, a government shutdown is "when non-essential discretionary federal programs close." The shutdown doesn't affect state social services, like the Department of Public Safety, and thankfully for us broke college students, funding for financial aid was approved last September, meaning there's no current effect on student financial aid programs.

However, federal services and agencies like the IRS (don't get too excited... you still have to pay taxes), Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Institute of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration are completely shut down while the budget process is in limbo. With no current end in sight, this is bound to get very bad, very soon.

Already, hundreds of thousands of government employees have been sent home without pay and will continue to not be paid as long as the shutdown is in effect. People living in low-income housing may be evicted as HUD freezes funds for programs. Without funding, all of these services very well may close. Not only that, but the shut down is costing us money: approximately $1.2 billion every week. I wouldn't normally be worried, but Trump is the exact type of immature and petty to where he'll keep this going until he gets his way (or he's impeached, whichever comes first). His attitude firmly suggests that he's not backing down, and if services do close, there will be terrible effects on affected departments and citizen well-being.

Should we just drink the kool-aid now?

2. All of this over... a wall?

Out of all of the things that a president could request funding for, the one we currently have wants $5 billion for a damn steel wall? I'm not sure if he thinks he's playing a real-life game of The Sims, but I can assure you that real humans are much more crafty than we give each other credit for and that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in. Trump has said that the wall is the "only solution for a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the border," yet common sense and many politicians/organizations can tell you that that's complete and utter bullsh*t. Not only that, but Trump's whole presidency has revolved around quelling illegal immigration, but no one has stopped to ask why he's only focusing on the border.

How would a wall decrease the number of people who overstay their visas? How would it decrease the number of illegal immigrants who aren't even crossing the border?!

While I am not well-versed in how much of a threat illegal immigration presents to the U.S. people and government, I still am convinced that there are way more important issues that the president should be concerned with. F*** global warming and renewable energy, let's build a wall, right?!?

Trump's obsession with his wall is a pathetic attempt to flex his self-professed prowess and a way to appease his hate-filled fanatics who only voted for him because he promised he could get it done.

What happened to Mexico paying for it? Oh right, that was just more bullsh*t.

3. People actually donated to this sh*t?

I just... People's stupidity and callousness never cease to amaze me. Before GoFundMe rightfully shut this fundraiser down, over 345,000 people actually donated $20 million dollars for a (wait for it) steel wall. Why is this the thing that people feel their money is worthy of being spent on? Imagine if we all banded together to raise $20 million dollars to help end homelessness or food insecurity. Or better yet, pay the federal employees who are getting screwed over by this whole ordeal.

4. How do Trump supporters feel about all of this?

I know that die-hard fans can take a lot of sh"t from their idols, but I think that after a while it's only natural for them to get fed up. Out of the 62 million people who voted for Trump, there's probably a good portion of them who are significantly affected by the shutdown. The ones who are government employees are feeling the brunt of it now, but if this continues on for months or even years like Trump is threatening, then we're all going to feel it and I can't think of any good excuses that someone could come up with in order to justify such a foolish and reckless decision made by the president. To a federally-employed Trump supporter, I can't imagine how it feels to go 26 days without a paycheck because the president you voted for is desperately trying to propose funding for a wall that you want to be built. It's got to be a catch-22, but hell, I feel like almost all Trump supporters are delusional anyway, so they're probably thinking they're undergoing some grand act of martyrdom.

5. Even Cardi B is worried... Now you know we're screwed.

Cardi B took to Instagram recently to post a video of her addressing her worries about the government shutdown. While not eloquently put, the rap princess is really only just voicing the thoughts and opinions of a lot of us out here. If Cardi B is taking the time out of her day to stop popping off at her haters and fantasizing about Offset's peen, then you know that this issue is a pretty big deal. The self-proclaimed gang member and boss bit** has admitted that she's scared. I think that warrants us to all be.

Well, there you have it, folks. Five of my most pressing thoughts about the government shutdown. As it continues, I'm sure they'll be thousands more that pop into all of our heads. But hey, let's look on the bright side -- we've made history; now's the only time we can say the government has been shut down all year.

Hopefully, we won't be able to say it for much longer.

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