Rana Plaza: 6 Years After the Tragedy

by María García-Mauriño

The day of the Rana Plaza tragedy, journalists from all around the world traveled to Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. It was a sunny morning that 24th of April, 2013, when the garment factory collapsed. In a globalized world, it took seconds for astonished reporters to cover that around 40 workers were found dead. A couple of weeks later, the number had rose to more than 1,134 deaths, with families still searching for their loved ones under the rubble.

The Rana Plaza factory after it’s collapse in 2013. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

The Rana Plaza factory after it’s collapse in 2013. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

If this all sounds unfamiliar, don’t worry — you are just one of the billions of people who didn’t hear about it. Even though fast fashion production has doubled in the last five years, Rana Plaza remains the deadliest garment related tragedy in history. Bangladeshi workers pointed out the humongous cracks in the walls of the building to management for days before the collapse, yet they were forced back in with violence. Unfortunately, Rana Plaza was just one of four garment tragedies that year due to unsafe working conditions, and surprisingly enough 2014 (yes, the year after) was the most profitable year in history for fast fashion companies, according to the 2015 documentary the true cost. Less than a month away from the 6th anniversary, we question how the tragedy impacted production and consumption in the second dirtiest industry in the world only after oil.

Fast fashion as we know it was born as a way for brands to rotate more product, and the need to keep costs low was solved by outsourcing production to third world countries such as Bangladesh or China. The system has created 52 micro-seasons, versus the traditional approach where between two and four seasons were produced throughout the year, thus fueling our compulsive shopping needs. This shift in production led to negative externalities in the countries where the clothes are produced and even earlier in the process when the cotton is farmed. As factories become completely unable to fulfill order requests from big fast fashion corporations, they have been pressured to subcontract part of the production to other factories, leading to clothes being manufactured in facilities that are more than often “noncompliant with minimum standards for safety and workers’ rights” in a phenomena referred to as “indirect sourcing”. However, Rana Plaza was a huge turning point for the industry, with governments, consumers and companies quickly taking action.

In fact after the collapse, the scope of the conversation crossed borders at a high governmental level and was entirely focused on guaranteeing the safety of workers in order to avoid another catastrophe the size of Rana Plaza. As an example, the U.K government quickly built up and passed the “Modern Slavery Act”, which actively demanded that all businesses with a revenue exceeding 36 million pounds a year should make a compulsory annual disclosure of the treatment of workers in the factories that they use.

One could think that this “government-taking-action” thing comes as little surprise — it’s what they are expected to do. With Rana Plaza however, a different and extremely powerful voice entered the conversation and started changing the game: consumers. It only took days for them to turn into activists, start both boycotting brands involved in the tragedy and campaigning in the streets fighting for answers. Probably the most significant actions taken by companies given the pressure received from consumers were the creation of The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The more than 200 Western fashion brands that signed are “committed to the goal of a safe and sustainable Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures." Although The Alliance stopped operating last year finishing the five year period it was intended for, the Accord was extended to 2021 and more than 190 largely European brands have already signed on to the extension. Seeing the threat of losing their businesses, thousands of factory owners invested in fire doors, sprinkler systems, electrical upgrades and stronger foundations, ending more than 97,000 safety hazards identified in the Accord. For the first time in history, the biggest global garment players worked together to introduce common human rights standards on factory safety, and that was just the start. Zara and H&M, both among the biggest fast fashion brands in the world, boycotted an industry conference in Dhaka in 2017 as a way of protesting the mistreatment of workers and the strong regulations against labor unions.

Garment workers in Dhaka protest following the Rana Plaza tragedy. Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Garment workers in Dhaka protest following the Rana Plaza tragedy. Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

It is indeed time for traditional fast fashion companies to take sustainability and safety as part of their mission. Zara offers an incredible example of transparency and responsible production by owning most of the factories where they produce. With their name on the line, they have huge incentives to provide the best conditions they can to workers and to build long term relationships with suppliers based on trust and future development. H&M has disclosed the list of factories they work with, and they have taken an active part in externally auditing their supply chain. Less than a month ago, they worked alongside the global union IndustriALL and the Swedish trade union IF Metall to provide support to local unions and fight for an increase in wages.

Some brands have emerged from under this hurricane of change and, by understanding the importance we as consumers are giving to a direct and transparent sourcing, and they have built their competitive edge. Everlane is a great example. If you quickly visit their website, you’ll be able to track exactly what factories they operate in. However, not only do they know where their clothes are made, but they carefully choose those factories based on how much of an impact they are making in their respective communities, marketing it through the hashtag #KnowYourFactories. For instance, they work with the factory MAS in Sri Lanka, a leader in ethical manufacturing in the country offering workers educational programs, health initiatives, financial aid plans and training to substantially improve their workers’ lives. Other brands such as Reformation blend style and sustainability, and keeping true to their motto “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option - we're #2,” they also offer exhaustive information on where their clothes are made. They also prioritize long term relationships with factories to give us quality products not sewed beneath unsafe ceilings.

All in all, Rana Plaza opened a lasting debate on fast fashion practices and lead to imminent pressure from consumers, who have unapologetically acknowledged their power and established clear limits on what they won’t be tolerating anymore. Six years after Rana Plaza, brands are fully aware that they can’t risk being involved in a similar tragedy, transforming the core of the business from a competition based on who provides lower prices to a new battle ground of who offers the most sustainable practices. Gen Z are more concerned than ever about the world around them, and it is up to the population as a whole to come up with effective solutions so the time comes when we’ll be able to remove the term “unsafe” from the definition of fast fashion.

The Russell Bateman Video: As Shocking As It Is, We Shouldn’t Be Surprised

By Hanieka Balint

The Skinny Bitch Collective (a name that is a statement in and of itself) is a workout program run by celebrity coach Russell Bateman that is as exclusive as it is intense. The all-female program costs between $50–$60 per class and is strictly invitation only, leading to a clientele that is entirely made up of wealthy white women, many of whom are celebrities and supermodels.

Photo obtained from @russellsbc on Instagram

Photo obtained from @russellsbc on Instagram

It may be unsurprising, then, that Bateman’s fitness retreat in Kenya led to controversy. Last week, Bateman posted a video online of one of the workouts from the retreat, showing the participants meeting on the Maasai tribe’s ancestral lands and using men from the tribe as props. In some parts of the video the white women exercized to the beat of the Maasai, who were evidently instructed to dance and pound a drum. In other parts of the video the white women weaved around the men, using them as markers in an apparent obstacle course.

The video brought an onslaught of criticism, and for good reason. It showed an alarming distinction between the white women and the Kenyan men that had strong colonialist undertones. The white women got to play their part—they were the travelers, the self-improvers and the ones seeking a unique experience and willing to pay top dollar for it. Apparently that unique experience must come from the Maasai, whose only role in the video was to add to the exotic scenery.

We see people of color being used in this way all the time. There are the countless photos posted on social media of white tourists taking selfies with African children in order to document their “life-changing volunteer work.” There are the token minorities who are used to add to the showcased diversity of institutions without being given any of the organizational power. There are the politicians who use people of color to prove their apparent open-mindedness, as demonstrated last month when Representative Mark Meadows argued during a testimony that the President of the United States could not possibly be racist simply because he has a black woman working for him. And now there is a fitness program that uses Kenyans as physical props during workouts.

Russell Bateman already received his 15 minutes of infamy after posting the video. The Skinny Bitch Collective’s website is “down for maintenance,” and its Instagram account has been deleted, the offending video along with it. Bateman publicly apologized, acknowledging that SBC’s actions “lacked appropriate cultural sensitivity by reinforcing colonial era stereotypes of people of color" and stating that the experience was a "huge wake-up call."

But where should the SBC go from here? Where can the SBC go from here?

Surely Bateman knows well enough to avoid hosting another retreat in Kenya. But that doesn’t mean that the toxic culture of the Skinny Bitch Collective will change. The SBC is composed entirely of rich white women, a demographic that has a tendency to perpetuate elitist tribalism in the name of sisterhood. The program is exclusive by design - it is no accident that only white women are allowed to be part of an invite-only collective, or that only the rich can take part in pricey fitness programs, or that all of the participants are conventionally attractive enough to be used in promotional photoshoots for Bateman’s business. There are plenty of women-only workout groups that exemplify sisterhood in a wholesome, motivating, and unproblematic way. As a female athlete growing up, I was part of many teams that were just that: a true sisterhood. But no matter how apologetic Russell Bateman is, no matter how hard he tries to rebrand, it may be impossible for the Skinny Bitch Collective to become that kind of a program.

Local Artists: Cristina Silva

By Anita Goharfar

“Local”: a word that has found its way into our twenty-first century vocabulary as we frown at the growing hold of mass consumption, and in return place a newfound emphasis on what it means to be sourced from a place of familiarity.

“Artists”: a maker, a do-er, and a creator of sorts; a person who seeks to find his or her place in the creative realm, whether with a tool as complex as a camera or as atypical as typography.

What happens when these two powerful words come together? Who is a “local artist”? Is he or she any different than the renowned artists we hold in high praise or the newcomers learning the basics? I have to admit, I don’t have an answer to this question, nor is it an easy one to answer. However, I’m starting to learn how to tackle this, so there is a lot to be learned from aspiring designers and artists such as Christina Silva, who themselves truly define the term.

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Part-time faculty and alumni Cristina Silva graduated from Northeastern University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Interactive Media. Originally from Boston, she transferred into Northeastern from Fordham University and soon began to thrive in her work and in the campus community. During this time, she founded Scout, an organization for designers and creative thinkers with a strong entrepreneurial drive. But to Cristina, design is more than just studio work. She incorporates her passion into her newfound hobby, pottery, as she brings together crafting skills and influences from her surroundings to create unique bowls and mugs. And just as most of us can relate to, food plays an important role in her life. From cookbooks to experimenting with new recipes, she uses the skills she learned in college and through co-op to constantly expand the scope of her art.

Just as all artists have their own studios, offices, or even  corner coffee shops, Cristina has a special place where she creates. Her current position as Senior Product Designer at BevSpot allows her to work partially at home. And this home office is like no other. She works surrounded by her favorite inspiration posters, string lights, cozy throws, and plants that create an energetic vibe in the room. This environment gives her the perfect opportunity to read the works of her favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, or make works she is most proud of, one being front-end development for bars and restaurants.

Cristina considers herself a designer, and not necessarily an artist. She consumes, but she also creates and she emphasizes the importance of collaboration as a source of inspiration. For example, she sports tattoos with a meaning, but also cool works of art such as those of Justine Wayne, Hannah Medeiros, and Magic Mallo — an artist by whom she will soon be tattooed  — who motivate her to travel as far as Paris to materialize the aesthetics of linework. And Paris is not an unusual destination. Cristina has had the opportunity to travel all over the wold, from a dialogue in Berlin to visiting family in Italy and other — often solo — ventures to Iceland, Lisbon and Amsterdam. Alongside linework, Cristina is extremely passionate about typography. Her belief, which I find truly eye-opening, is that design must be made for its platform. So when she plays with fonts, she must consider, How does this font fit this web app?

Design, she expands, “is positive. It makes you happy. It doesn’t need to necessarily be intense.” That is something we typically overlook at a place such as Northeastern where the why is the driving force in our education. I asked Cristina to describe her why using only three words; a question I can barely answer myself. She responded: intention, delight, and pride. Because after all, good, thoughtful work influences people and regenerates satisfaction.

Retreating back to the original purpose of highlighting artists such as Cristina Silva, it is crucial to assess how these local artists interpret the term themselves. Cristina connected it to her concern for the role a city plays in deviating artists from living in expensive places such as Boston and New York City. With the pre-existing concept of the starving artist, how do we welcome back these talented people?

And of course, like any other artist, Cristina has her own notable preferences that  give individuality to her craft and her personality. The following Q&A is a glimpse into Cristina’s lifestyle:

Q: What is the one tool or tech you can’t live without?

A: Kindle/Kindle App

Cristina enjoys reading and listening to audio books such as Swingtime by Zadie Smith and cookbooks such as Salt Fat Acid Heat, which she highly recommends as all you need to know about cooking.

Q: What is your go-to song/artist?

A: Drake, Emmett Kai, Phoebe Bridgers, and of course Ariana Grande’s new album

Who can resist hits like “break up with your girlfriend” and “7 rings”?

Q: If you were to revive a fashion trend, what would it be?

A: Candy Jewelry

Just like me, she is very much opposed to the revival of tiny sunglasses. How do you even wear those? Am I supposed to be squinting this much? That being said, candy jewelry is a must; What’s better than having hip, colorful accessories, as well as a snack on you at all times?

Finally, I asked Cristina for any advice she may have for students and even artists. From her own personal experience, she encouraged us to “keep making things” even if there is a gap in the craft. I consider Cristina a local artist, but not in the connotation that hinders her reach. From the time I spent with her and the works I’ve seen, she is a force. She constantly designs and exercises her craft in every aspect of her personal and professional life. But most importantly, she taught me that local is not necessarily small. And an artist is not always a painter or a photographer. Through words on a website and in hobbies like pottery, Cristina illustrates that it is always important to return to art if that is the dream, and her words “don’t stop making things” are a compelling phrase to live by.

Check out Cristina on social media:

portfolio: cristinasilva.com code pen: https://codepen.io/cristina-silva         instagram: @ohaicristina

Why Does Hollywood Keep Making Serial Killers Hot?

By Masha Johansen

Image courtesy of JoBlo

Image courtesy of JoBlo

Earlier this year, the trailer for “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” ignited yet another conversation about the portrayal of serial killers and other disreputable figures in our present-day media. The film centers on notorious American serial killer Ted Bundy, who was responsible for the killings of up to a hundred women in the 1970s. Popular media since then has been hooked on talking about Bundy and the horrific crimes he committed, which is consistent with pop culture’s peculiar fixation on serial killers and criminals. Fascination with killers isn’t a new phenomenon; news and other media make access to stories of gruesome events incredibly easy, and we’re all hooked on them.

We seem to have an appetite for the macabre, thus projects such as Extremely Wicked gain huge traction, which sparks debate from two sides; first, enjoyment of a dark but very real reality, and second, outrage over the way this reality is presented to the public. Such anger isn’t necessarily irrational or misplaced; for instance, many critics have criticized the film on Bundy’s life, which tells the story of his crimes from the perspective of his long-term girlfriend, arguing that it glorifies his persona beyond how he deserves to be represented. One of the main talking points was the casting of ever-so charismatic Zac Efron in the role of Bundy. The trailer for the movie overflowed with cinematic shots of Efron in the shoes of the man who terrorized the ‘70s, and left people confused as to whether it should be considered okay for a human monster like Bundy to be portrayed by someone as objectively attractive and well-liked as Efron.

Comments poured in under the trailer on YouTube and have circulated platforms like Twitter, saying that Bundy had been romanticized to the point where the audience dissociates the actor on screen from the very real murderer who once terrorized the country. Is it okay that the major talking point from the trailer has been how hot Zac Efron looks and not the topic of Bundy and his crimes hitting the silver screen? Some say the film makes entertainment out of what was and continues to be great tragedy for many people. One tweet said: “I feel so bad for the families of the victims that have to sit there and see their terrors revived as a witty romantic thriller”. This all raises the question: How far should Hollywood be able to go when it comes to embellishing real-life tragedy?

Still from “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” trailer

Still from “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” trailer

It should be considered that this goes beyond the issue of Hollywood and Extremely Wicked itself, as well as the genre of true yet dramatized crime the film presents. Earlier in 2019, Netflix released “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”, a docuseries using archival and present day footage and interviews to tell Bundy’s story. No script, glamorized shirtless shots, or Efron. Yet, people continued to express an attraction towards Bundy, to the point where Netflix had to hit Twitter to ask people to not express attraction towards him.

The intentions behind criticism for the film may be well placed, but have people missed the point? Director Joe Berlinger responded to the angry comments, saying in a statement to Bustle: “I think the idea of this particular story, making a movie about Bundy, equals glorification of him is a very naive and knee-jerk reaction. If you actually watch the movie, the last thing we’re doing is glorifying him. He gets his due at the end, but we’re portraying the experience of how one becomes a victim to that kind of psychopathic seduction.”

Image courtesy of Rolling Stone

Image courtesy of Rolling Stone

People argue that Bundy being charismatic and physically attractive in the film is vital to addressing the fact that this was exactly how Bundy managed to get away with these crimes in the first place, how evil cannot be declared on a surface level. Police had consistently ruled him out as a suspect based on his seemingly upstanding character and clean-cut appearance, and even once captured, the judge claimed to hold no animosity against him, and many people (especially women) said they felt an attraction towards him. Kathy Kleiner Rubin, a survivor of one of his attacks, spoke out saying that “when [people] do say positive and wonderful things about him...That's what they saw, that's what Bundy wanted you to see."

Is it ultimately problematic for us to enjoy media on serial killers? I don’t think so. Most creators really try to portray the reality of these monsters with their motivations and the way they got away with the things they did. While writers have to be careful to not seem apologist or romantic about people like Bundy, it’s also up to us as viewers to use what we learn to be more cautious and careful.

To Those Entering the Fashion Industry for the First Time

by Michelle Rodriguez, The Avenue Magazine president

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For my second co-op, I was fortunate enough to be able to work as a PR and Social Media Manager for Nautica in NYC. As a graduating fifth year, I feel it is my duty to guide the younger members of our community to help them understand what it is like to work in the fashion industry as a co-op. Outlined below are some tidbits of advice to help you figure out the industry.

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  1. You won’t have to run about the city like some would think. When I first started working at my co-op I was expecting to be like Andy from The Devil Wear Prada running around NYC, but to my surprise there wasn’t much of that. My boss valued me as a co-op and wanted me to learn and grow as a marketer. Open communication was key. Make sure you are transparent with your boss about what you want to get out of your co-op; that way they are aware of your goals and can tailor your projects to help you achieve as much as possible.

  2. Fashion Week really is crazy but it’s worth all the work at the end of the day. As a spring co-op, I was thrown directly into the planning and execution of our fashion week show. There were definitely nights when my boss and I stayed behind in the office while our co-workers enjoyed happy hours out in the city. It was in those moments, when we were both stressed trying to figure out how the solve the latest issues, that I found myself wondering if this was really worth all the heartache. But once you see the final product and you get the positive reviews, it is then that you can finally take a breath and know that all your hard work paid off. If you find yourself overwhelmed and slightly neurotic from all the work, just think about the end product and how amazing it is going to look.

  3. Photoshoots aren’t as glamorous as you would think. As part of my position I was required to attend all photoshoots. At first I was really excited to lend a helping hand, but I grew bored waiting for something to do. It was frustrating that this happened, but it wasn’t only I who faced the boredom. Luckily, my fellow co-workers felt the same, and with our spare time we would liven up the mood by playing music and providing tons of caffeine and sugar to get us through. This experience allowed me to grow closer to my team and connect with them more; you can always make a bad situation better by taking the time to see who’s around you.

  4. Take advantage of the discounts and free samples. Being in the retail industry comes with its perks. You are able to see firsthand what the new season entails, as well as often getting a discount on merchandise; mine was 50 percent! What’s really special about working in a corporate office is being able to raid the sample closet before the clothes go out for sale. Make sure that you take full advantage of it as you will miss it once you are out of the industry. Of course before making assumptions that you are able to take from the sample closet, always double check with your boss.

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Reflecting on my time as a co-op in the fashion industry, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and can’t recommend it enough to others. I hope that by reading this you’ve gotten a taste  of what it is like to work in the industry. No matter what industry you’re in, make sure that you’re happy with what you’re doing and try to learn as much as possible, because if you don’t you will come to regret in the future.

Fame in the Digital Age

By Lineyah Mitchell

In the age of the internet, the concepts of fame and celebrity are changing rapidly. Traditional celebrities were actors and actresses, musicians and artists; all people who have high visibility in careers dedicated to consumers. Celebrities were an elite group who were almost worshipped by average people. Fans and journalists alike have always spent lots of time trying to learn more about the private lives of celebrities because there has always been a large and obvious distance between public figures and their fans. All of that, however, is beginning to change, and that change can be largely attributed to the internet.

Jackie Aina, photo courtesy of @jackieaina

Jackie Aina, photo courtesy of @jackieaina

One of the biggest changes to come with the internet is social media. Through avenues like Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram, anyone can gain an audience and become a public figure. We’ve seen this with the explosive rise of internet celebrities in recent years; anyone can amass a following and become a public figure, becoming equally as, if not more, famous than traditional celebrities. Youtuber Jackie Aina, for example, has a combined 237 million views and almost 3 million subscribers, with her subscriber count increasing by around 1,000 per day. She also has around 400K Twitter followers and is working to make substantial changes in the world around her, sharing experiences as a US army vet and speaking out about the exclusion of women of color in the beauty industry. Similarly, Huda Kattan started out with a Wordpress beauty blog and after some success founded her own cosmetics company. Both the company and the blog were named Huda Beauty. The success of these endeavors gained her over 20 million followers on Instagram, further catapulting the success of her business and turning Huda Beauty into a household name. These internet celebrities have become famous based on their audiences’ receptions to their genuine personalities and passions, something that distinctly separates them from traditional celebrities. We love online stars because they choose to share so much of their lives with fans, and the relationships they have with these fans feel like relationships between friends, rather than the distant relationships of one-sided admiration fans have with traditional celebrities.

Social media has had an effect on the way we interact with traditional celebrities as well. Since traditional public figures have more control than ever over their public presence and personas, we have come to expect the same level of openness that we get with internet celebrities from them. Today’s most beloved celebrities post regularly on Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, are relatable during interviews, and attempt to have seemingly genuine relationships with their fans. As traditional celebrities have realized the value in social media popularity, they have utilized these platforms with varying degrees of success. Will Smith on Youtube, Ariana Grande on Twitter, and Selena Gomez on Instagram have all expanded their online presences and done it well. Of course with the good comes the bad, and we have also seen celebrities’ online presences act to their detriment, as in the cases of  Roseanne Barr, Kevin Hart, and, most recently, Demi Lovato.

The roles played by public figures like celebrities and politicians are also becoming very muddled. Celebrities are becoming more outspoken in politics and activism, using their influence to expose their wide audiences to movements and causes that matter to them. Meanwhile, politicians are engaging more publicly in non-political matters, using social media to show off their more personable sides in the hopes of widening their voter base. There is an interesting, simultaneous increase in the apparent intelligence and credibility of celebrities and the breakdown in professionalism and credibility of politicians. For example, Beyonce, Jessie Williams, Colin Kaepernick, and many others have spoken out against injustice and advocated for equality, effectively breaking a stereotype of shallow and vain celebrities, while Virginia’s Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General (among many others, including the POTUS himself) are all embroiled in scandals of racism or sexual assault.

Similarly, more and more companies are seeing real financial consequences, positive and negative, from their online actions and presence. Wendy’s using Twitter for comedy, even going so far as to release a mixtape, was met with a massively positive reception, while a failed campaign from Burger King, an ad promising free burgers to everyone who got themselves impregnated by an Olympic athlete, almost led to a steep fine. Scandals like these are becoming more and more common as Twitter especially shines a light on these missteps.  In the past month alone we’ve had scandals from Gucci and Adidas involving racism, Amazon involving immoral business practices, and Topshop involving sexual harassment of employees and blackmail. Twitter has forced companies to take greater responsibility; when every action they take comes with heavy consequences, it becomes easier for consumers to see missteps and to hold corporations accountable when they’ve offended us or violated our values.

Laura Lee in her apology video, photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

Laura Lee in her apology video, photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

This, too, is a consequence of the changing nature of fame. Now, more than ever it is easier to hold public figures accountable for their actions. All actions, past, present, and future are much more visible now, so it is much easier to see when someone says or does something that we find unacceptable, and stop supporting that person or company. The internet has brought accountability to the world of celebrity, so even though it seems like anyone can become famous now, those in command of large audiences must either be conscious of what they release or risk losing that audience. Laura Lee and Roseanne Barr, for example, both had racist tweets exposed, causing high profile scandals, and both faced heavy criticism online from critics and disappointed fans alike. Following the scandal Roseanne was dropped from her eponymous TV show and she, in her own words, “lost everything”. Laura Lee, after losing thousands of subscribers in response to her scandal, released an apology video which was widely criticized as inauthentic and even misleading. This video resulted in an even more rapid drop in viewership and subscribers, from which she has never really recovered.

There are also those who have been embroiled in scandal, often repeatedly, who have managed to avoid any such deep and long-lasting consequences, such as Kevin Hart (whose only real consequence was being removed as host of the Oscars), any of the Kardashians, or Donald Trump. There have also been those who have faced online criticism that we may disagree with; Ariana Grande being blamed for Mac Miller’s death, or Jameela Jamil receiving backlash for speaking out against uninformed celebrity endorsements, for example. These individuals and their many scandals have forced us to ask ourselves and each other hard questions on an almost daily basis. Do people really change? Do the actions of individuals determine their character? Do an individual’s contributions to their field outweigh their behavior? The internet has blurred the line between fame and infamy and left it up to us, the audience members, to answer these questions, and to choose who gets to keep their power.

Flawed but Valuable: Three Years of the Women’s March

By Melissa Wells
Photography by Ellie MacLean and Melissa Wells

Generations from now, when America looks back on the poignant moment in history that was the 2016 presidential election, each one of us will be able to vividly recount the moment Donald Trump became president: what we were doing, how we felt, and what we did next.

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I had just turned 17, a year shy of being able to contribute to the election that would define my existence. As a woman, as an Afro-Latina, as an American, and in the simplest sense as a human being, I felt that very existence was threatened by a choice my country made without me.

For many women, this story was familiar — bubbling outrage that reached a boiling point on Nov. 7. It was out of that collective call to reject the racism, sexism and xenophobia Trump represented that a movement was born.

As incredible as the movement seemed in retrospect, it was not perfect. It was never perfect, from the very beginning.

I did not attend the first Women’s March. Still processing raw emotions, I was frustrated by the seeds of a movement I felt didn’t include the voices of women of color like me.

It would be remiss not point out the significant role white women played in that first Women’s March. It could not yet reckon with what some would coin the “53 percent,” the percentage of white women who pushed Donald Trump into the presidency.

Despite the fact that the Pew Research Center would eventually prove that the percentage of white female Trump voters was actually 47 percent, the narratives perpetuated by these numbers kept many women of color from truly investing themselves in this first wave of the resistance.

This narrative did have some truth to it: the Women’s March was less a call for solidarity across racial lines and more a surge of resistance among white feminists who felt betrayed by their female, Trump-supporting counterparts.

Women of color, especially black women, still remember that our white feminist counterparts proudly placed their “I Voted” stickers on the gravesite of Susan B. Anthony, who excluded black voices from the feminist movement and opposed the Fifteenth Amendment, which would have granted black men suffrage.

By the time of the second Women’s March, a year had allowed that initial flurry of emotions to mature. The resistance expanded and took on the mantle of intersectionality, and for every targeted action Trump made that targeted one community or another, we took notes.

I had reached voting age and finished my first semester of college. I was just starting out on my path to be a journalist, but I took note of how I planned to use my voice in this blossoming resistance.

In many ways, that second Women’s March was perfectly timed. The march brought together communities that hadn’t felt represented and became the catalyst for grassroots activism throughout 2018. Perhaps most importantly, though, the majority of us weren’t aware of the issues behind the scenes.

Perhaps one of the most powerful tools the resistance has put forth is accountability — in Hollywood, in politics and even within the Women’s March.

Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez were the diverse dream team of Women’s March leadership that graced TIME’s The 100 Most Influential People in 2017.

Tablet Magazine’s expose, “Is the Women’s March Melting Down?”, however, details the anti-Semitism and hypocrisy among the four women self-selected as the face of this movement. The revelation of ties between Mallory and Sarsour and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, an openly anti-Semitic Democrat with misogynistic and homophobic views, was the icing on the cake.

Alarming hints pointed at this ideological disconnect, from allegations of anti-Semitic talking points made by Mallory and Perez at the very first Women’s March meeting to Mallory’s attendance at a speech Farrakhan gave in Chicago that was riddled with anti-Semitic comments. Even the Women’s March homepage notably excludes disabled and Jewish women from their unity principles.

As accusations of anti-Semitism rocked the organization, other issues came to light: undisclosed finances and PR statements defending the organization as the co-leaders’ actions openly contradicted them. All of this would reach a boiling point just before the third Women’s March.

Headlines normally praising the movement reported the fallout instead; from The Democratic National Committee backing out of its partnership of the Women’s March to groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center quietly distancing themselves from the organization. Local and state chapters from Chicago to Rhode Island cancelled rallies and formally broke off their connections to the organization born out of that first chapter in D.C.

The circumstance highlights an important lesson. The growth the movement continues experiencing is the result of conversations surrounding intersectionality over white feminism.

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The mistake the four women make in their apparent animosity towards Jewish women is that the very definition of intersectionality does not exclude anyone, nor does it place blame on one group or the other for the marginalization of certain communities. It is about unity that educates based on shared experiences and explores justice across the board.

When the third march came around, the women on the ground, undeterred by the fracture lines traveling throughout the movement, took charge of the narrative.

This time, the common message rang clear; the march wasn’t about Mallory, Sarsour, Perez or Bland. It was about solidarity among women who continue to stand strong where those four have failed — for equality, for justice, for intersectionality.

Despite the struggles, even in light of the controversy, I believe the movement transcends a single entity. It is representative of two intertwined forces that prevail in America, regardless of the era, the administration or the issues: the evolutionary strength of activism, and the power of women.

The collective goals women strive to achieve are bolstered less by physical unity and more by the forums through which we network, support and broaden our messages.

In this digital age, we use the Internet, social media and even the press to strengthen our movement’s presence not just in America, but around the world. We pressure those in power to act and translate the movement's goals into definitive legislation.

Even with dwindling visible attendance at this year’s Women’s Marches, even with the palpable shadow over the embattled figures of Women’s March Inc., even with the growing animosity that is political partisanship today — the resistance is amorphous, composed of millions of women, across all communities, unified by the power they found in raising their voices three years ago, not just that of four women who chose to overshadow us.

So march, for women of every community more severely threatened by the president’s power than Mallory, Sarsour, Bland and Perez combined. Vote, for the girls whose voices we must represent, for the women who made strides throughout history for the rights we have, and for us, the women who continue to demand change.

The movement isn’t perfect, nor should it be. The movement is made up of the best of humanity, but we will make mistakes, we will falter, we will struggle. All that’s left is to learn from our missteps and strive forward. I carry hope that even in a chapter as dark as the one in which we are living, women will light the way for brighter days.

In the words of Coretta Scott King, “Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”

Slowly but surely, we’re doing just that.

Why the BuzzFeed Layoffs Aren’t The End of Media

By Phil Zminda

Image courtesy of Digg

Image courtesy of Digg

In October 2014, tech and media journalist Simon Owens wrote that the immense layoffs hitting media companies like CNN, The New York Times, and Yahoo were indicative of a positive shift in the industry. “Many of the most recent layoffs can be seen through the lens of an industry in transition,” he wrote. Given the strengthening economy at the time, Owens opined that the companies needed to invest in new business models and revenue generators to stay afloat. “And this influx of capital due to a rising economy,” he wrote, “may indeed be their last shot at doing so.”

The first few weeks of 2019 hint that these companies’ shots have only blown up in their faces. According to The Cut, as many as 2,100 writers, editors, producers, and other media professionals have been laid off in the latter half of January alone — and unlike the local newspapers whose deaths rarely make headlines, the companies doing most of the damage are new media juggernauts like BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Vice, and Mic.

These companies, from the outside, seemed to represent the stable future of the media world; places where both mindless content and rigorous, never-before-seen journalism could thrive (absolutely free to readers, no less). For the college students and fresh graduates who came to journalism in the wake of this nouveau riche media cohort, it seemed like a stable career in the technicolor dream world of digital media could actually, maybe, somehow exist. But with even these success stories falling prey to the outsized influence of social media, pursuing a traditional media career feels more dangerous, difficult, and unclear than ever before.

Caty Enders, a journalism appointment at Northeastern and contributing editor at The Guardian who has been in the industry for just over a decade, understands why these layoffs are so alarming to students. “It’s unsettling because the outlets involved in the layoffs in recent weeks are considered hot properties,” she said over the phone. “It’s an indication that the outlets that were alternative and innovative and new when I was coming out of school are hitting the mainstream, and hitting those layoffs the same way those mainstream media companies are.”

Like most layoffs, these have little to do with the quality of these employees’ work and rather aim at creating a more stable financial position for the company, which is becoming exceedingly difficult. Nearly 60 percent of digital advertising revenue — historically the primary revenue stream of media companies — belonged to Facebook and Google alone in 2018. And when nearly two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media and minute changes in news feed algorithms have outsized impacts on article readership, the media industry has found itself in an even more precarious position than during the Great Recession.

What’s so disconcerting about these layoffs, says Enders, is that people saw these younger outlets as ways to stabilize the industry and avoid having to go through these constant layoff cycles.

For what it’s worth, though, the media industry has never been an easy one to enter. When discussing the future of the journalism industry in 2014 with BU Today, renowned New York Times columnist David Carr was quick to quip “Journalism has always been horrible to get in; you always have to eat so much crap to find a place to stand.”

But, thankfully, he followed it with something a bit more reassuring:

If you’re gonna get a job that’s a little bit of a caper, that isn’t really a job, that under ideal circumstances you get to at least leave the building and leave your desktop, go out, find people more interesting than you, learn about something, come back and tell other people about it—that should be hard to get into. That should be hard to do. No wonder everybody’s lined up, trying to get into it. It beats working.

Enders shares this same sense of optimism. Even though those companies may be seen as the new standard in the digital media, “it’s important to remember that those places didn’t exist too long ago,” she says. “And it’s reassuring to think about the publications that [people] want to exist, that they want to work for.”

This optimism isn’t in defiance of the facts: layoffs are horrible, it’s terrible to see talented people lose their jobs, and the media industry is (and likely will forever be) difficult to get into and succeed in. But perhaps these obstacles should not be seen as impenetrable walls, but hurdles necessary to sustain a pillar of our democracy that is quite literally under attack. For better or worse, it’s up to us — students, fresh graduates, young people — to defend it. Let’s not cower away from that responsibility, but rather take it, celebrate it, and get to work.

The Golden Globes 2019: Sandra Oh Hosts and Wins

By Dea Davita Krisanda

photo courtesy of popsugar

photo courtesy of popsugar

Fresh off the 2018 train, the Golden Globe Awards welcomed us into the new year with some exciting news: Sandra Oh was to become the first Asian actress ever to host a prominent award show in the United States. (She also won her second Globe, this time for Best Actress in a Television Drama!) With such a spectacular and diverse lineup of films last year, this moment is yet another breakthrough for representation in the media. As I laughed and cried to the many things that happened at the Golden Globes, I couldn’t help but think, what a nice way to start the year.

For those of you who aren’t well acquainted with Sandra Oh, she is an Asian-Canadian actress, best known for her work as Dr. Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy and more recently, as Eve in Killing Eve. She was born in Ontario, Canada, but her parents originally emigrated from South Korea to study. In addition to hosting the Globes, Oh also became the first Asian actress ever to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

One of the things that I’ve always loved about Oh is her passion and tenacity, which comes across in all of her roles, and in her real life too. When she left for college, Oh decided to decline a Journalism scholarship to Carleton University so that she could pursue her acting career instead. In a 2007 interview on The Ellen Degeneres Show, after she won her first Globe, Oh stated that her parents initially disapproved of her decision. She said, “They go like, 'What’s the purpose of it? What is the social purpose of what you’re doing?' Because they really instilled in all of us, my sister and my brother, that whatever you do has to be good for society and (acting) just doesn’t seem to be." Despite the odds, she continued to study in the National Theatre School of Canada, paying her own tuition.

The Globes opened with a monologue from Oh and her co-host, Andy Samberg, as per usual. They presented and joked about the nominated actors and films of the night: Black Panther, If Beale Street Could Talk, Roma, and A Star is Born. However, the highlight of this first segment was when Oh sarcastically introduced Crazy Rich Asians as “the first studio film with an Asian-American lead since ‘Ghost in the Shell’ and ‘Aloha.’” The two latter are noted to have whitewashed their casts, specifically the roles played by Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone. After Oh’s statement, Stone, who was in the crowd, screamed “I’m sorry!” and Oh acknowledged her with a smile. Not only was she able to correct what was mistaken, Oh also responded with an act of peace and redemption, not anger and revenge.

photo courtesy of BBC America

photo courtesy of BBC America

While Oh has opened yet another door for more conversation, what really took everyone’s breath away was her Best Actress acceptance speech for her performance in Killing Eve. Sure, there was the typical moment of shock and all the thank-yous. But the moment she mentioned her parents and bowed on stage…it may not be common here, but bowing is one of the ways to show respect in Asia. For Oh to do so on stage is a declaration of gratitude and honor of her parents. Yet, somehow, I felt that it was also something bigger—to Oh, to her parents and family, and most importantly, to the audience in that room (or even those at home) that night. To do such an intimate gesture on a live international program is enormous. I would even say that Oh is starting a dialogue between cultural worlds. Thus, coming back to her parents’ question, “What is the social purpose of what you’re doing?” I and all the people who watched the Globes will answer, “This is the social purpose of what she’s doing.”

It has indeed been a long overdue awakening, but with the Globes starting the year on a good note, one can only hope that this is a sign of more amazing things to come for inclusion and diversity. (Here’s to the Oscars!) I would like to end this celebratory piece with Oh’s own words from that night: “I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change. And I’m not fooling myself. I’m not fooling myself. Next year could be different. It probably will be. But right now, this moment is real.”

My Heritage, My Gumbo

Written and photographed by Colin Thompson

There are three things I learned while being raised by a mother from Louisiana - the best restaurants have their bathrooms in the kitchen, good food must “stick to your ribs,” and never, under any circumstances, put tomatoes in your gumbo. I’ve had gumbo so many times throughout my life, I couldn’t tell you what it was like to eat it for the first time. But when I can get my hands on a bowl, I can’t help but to be reminded of my mother in the kitchen - the smell of onions stewing seeping into every corner of the house, the sting of cayenne powder drifting in the air, and the soft, slow bubble of the stew on the stove. She would work for what seemed like hours, starting with preparing the roux early in the afternoon. From there, she would stew heaps of onions, celery, bell peppers, and sausage until it was time - she never set a timer or kept track of how long the gumbo was on the range, but without fail she knew when it was ready and would promptly cut the heat. The moments my working mother would prepare a home-cooked meal were few and far between, but when she had time to prepare a dish for our family, there was an immense sense of pride in the toils of her labor.

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Admittedly, everyone seems to have a bias for their own family’s home-cooked meals. However, there has always been something magical about Southern food for me. It may be the buttermilk, three sticks of butter, and inhumane quantities of salt that do it in for me, but without fail Southern food cannot be replicated. Growing up in Texas and Louisiana, there was always an emphasis on feeding the crowd; if I had walked into someone’s house and hadn’t eaten in at least two hours, their parents would force-feed me as many things as they could rummage out of their pantry. After moving to New England, I longed for these blissful moments of affection expressed through food. Sure, I will always welcome a small cracker plate, but there was something so meaningful behind the gratuitous culture of food in the South.

Unsurprisingly, authentic gumbo was hard to come by up north. What was once my lifeline as a child disappeared completely, and over time my connection to the South faded as well, save for the few days out of the year I was able to return home. But every time I walked through the door of my childhood home, I was greeted upon entry with a piping hot bowl of gumbo. While I took this for granted the first few times, I’ve realized that these meals remind me of where I come from, who I am, and what food means to me. Seeing past the fads, boutique fast-casual eateries and unnecessary amounts of avocado I typically subscribe to, that bowl of gumbo made me feel loved.

Perhaps the reason a gumbo chain has yet to make it up north - or exist, really - is because it can be a bit labor-intensive. But when it comes to food that speaks to the soul, nothing is quite as magical as gumbo. At a glance, its origin, a roux, isn’t the sexiest concept - it’s essentially fried flour slop, and all you have to show for it is a sore bicep. However, it’s through this magical slurry that one of the most iconic Cajun dishes takes form. When done correctly, roux is rich, nutty, and velvety. When done incorrectly, it tastes somewhat like charred toast, with the mouthfeel of wet sand. Nobody wants that.

Treat your roux as you would your own child, and you’ll avoid that mess. If you’re a purist like myself, you’ll be making your roux on the stovetop - and that means you need a good whisk, patience, and immaculate cooking music. I’ve been really into Trance Farmers lately, lots of good tunes to zone out to while choppin’ veggies and whiskin’ away. Through your dedication and sheer willpower to see this gumbo through, you’ll get an idea of how one can put love into the food they make.

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My Mother’s Sausage Gumbo

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 4-5

A quick note on the consistency of gumbo - some people like it thin and runny, and some people like it thick. If you want to make it thicker, add less broth, throw some okra in at the same step as the broth, or add gumbo filé, also known as powdered sassafras. You can dash some in when you throw the rest of the spices in, or even use it as a condiment at the table; my mom prefers this method since you can avoid the unwanted sliminess that okra sometimes imbues and better control the thickness of your gumbo. I will say that I have yet to come across filé at grocery stores in Boston, but you can always order some online if you’re feeling adventurous.


Ingredients

Roux

  • ¼ c. flour

  • ¼ c. vegetable or canola oil

Gumbo

  • 4 stalks celery, diced

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3-4 links sausage, sliced

    • Andouille sausage is best, but you can also substitute this with kielbasa or vegan sausages.

  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, separated

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 ½  tablespoons paprika

  • 1 ½  tablespoons dried thyme

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • ½ tablespoon black pepper

  • ½ tablespoon white pepper

  • Cayenne powder to taste

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Extras

  • 2-3 cups of cooked rice

  • Fresh parsley to top

  • Hot sauce to top

Optional

  • 1 cup of sliced okra, ½ inch pieces

  • Gumbo filé, to preference

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Steps

  1. In a heavy-bottomed large pot over medium-low heat, pour in your oil. Whisk in the flour to combine, and whisk continuously for about 30-40 minutes, preventing any flour from sticking to the pot. You want to go low-and-slow here; if you burn the roux, you’ll have to start all over again. If your roux is getting too thick and gritty but not browning, turn down the heat to the lowest and keep whisking until it gets smooth again.

  2. Are you still whisking? Good! At this point, your roux should be thick, smell nutty, and taken on a color between peanut butter and milk chocolate.

  3. Once you’ve got your roux in good shape, toss in the celery, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.

  4. Pour in 4 cups of your broth in addition to the bay leaves and spices, stirring to combine. Increase the heat, bringing to a boil, and then lower the heat and allow the gumbo to simmer. Stirring occasionally, let that bad boy simmer away for at least 30 to 45 minutes.

  5. In the meantime, coat a large pan with oil over medium heat. Cook sausage until nicely browned. Once cooked, remove and put on a plate with a paper towel to sop up any of that extra grease. You can also pour some of the leftover grease in the pan into your simmering gumbo for some extra flavor.

  6. After the gumbo is done doin’ it’s thing, check it out and see how you like the consistency. Too thick? Add some more broth! Too thin? Add a little gumbo filé until you get there. If the my tip above didn’t get your attention earlier, check it out to learn about how to play around with the consistency of your gumbo.

  7. Once you have tamed your roux-beast, remove the bay leaves and grab a bowl. Fill it up with some cooked rice, and ladle in your gumbo. Top with sausage and some chopped parsley, if that’s what you’re into.

  8. Congratulate yourself! You just made a roux-based stew, which is no small feat. But, uh, do you mind if I come over and snag a bowl too?

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