[apr 21] about digital storytelling: overcome.

While searching through the Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015 videos from Center of the Story, I came across the story of Dinah, a girl who was kidnapped after an attack on her village. She was held captive for over 12 months in a faraway place without any of her family and was forced to take on terrible tasks. What caught my attention most while listening to Dinah’s story was the tone of her voice while telling of the horrific events she has experienced. Dinah speaks in this digital story with animation and vivacity. Through her words and the way that she voices them, it is apparent that although she has been through hell in her life thus far, she has such a strong zest for living and passion for her community. Her present outlook on life is not affected by her past, as she speaks of plans for her future and how she focuses on moving forward and never looking back to think about the rebels’ or their impacts on her view of life. Her wisdom and confidence to speak out at such a young age is what stood out to me most. Her drive to accomplish her dreams and not letting anything or anyone stand in the way of that is, in my opinion, what makes the ultimate survivor story.

[mar 5] about writing: reflect. improve.

As I reflect upon the postings I have made thus far on this blog, I am becoming more and more aware of my own personal writing style. Overall, I think my writing has been strong and supportive of the articles and links mentioned. I believe I do well in summarizing outside sources in a detailed and concise way. This, in particular is something I have been focusing on for this blog because my writing can easily become wordy. In my “Wheelchair Liberation” post for example, I summarize the story of Deepa Malik, careful to only state what is necessary for the reader’s knowledge.

In like manner, this is the story of a woman, Deepa Malik, who has dealt with repetitive tumour formations in her spinal cord since she was young and is now a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. Nonetheless, at forty-four years old, she refuses to adopt a hopeless attitude about her situation, as most would expect. As a result of her paralysis, she has become her country’s first and oldest para-swimmer-athlete-biker and car rallyist. She has created records and won awards but does not wish to be a role model, but rather inspire others with disabilities to start moving and working to make today’s society more “disability-friendly.”

I then go on to state my own opinions on her viewpoints and way of life. I also think I do a good job of incorporating different viewpoints and fusing them together; I included another article on a topic similar to that of Deepa Malik’s, explaining how people who are “bound” to wheelchairs are looked upon differently due to social norms.

On the other hand, throughout this blogging process, I have noticed some negative tendencies in my writing as well. I have recently become aware of my repeated use of general terms and not directing my writing toward a specific audience. This is something would like to work on: vivid and concise use of language. In my “Wheelchair Liberation” post, I knew I wanted my introductory sentence to be short and to the point. My original sentence was, “Today’s society puts up a front.” After some reflection on what that really means, I began to realize that the phrase “today’s society” is too broad for the topic I was addressing and could even come across as offensive to some. Therefore, I revised it to be more geared toward a specific kind of people: “Today, many Americans put up a front.” I think that providing a sort of leeway with the use of the word “many” makes the statement more applicable and relevant, while keeping the sentence as a whole strong and brief. Hence, I think that being aware of what I’m writing and who I am addressing makes this goal of concise language much easier to attain.

[mar 5] about the blogosphere: read. write. motivate.

Through taking part in this blogging experience, I have discovered a variety of things about myself as a writer and a reader. One particular topic that drew me in and gave me particular confidence to write about was the topic of domestic violence awareness. I found the posts I have written about this are not necessarily easy to write, but most rewarding to write overall. Obviously, it’s motivating as a writer to write about something you feel passionate about, but writing about this issue specifically helped me in learning that I am able to have my own opinions and that I am able to voice those through writing. Normally, I am most comfortable stating facts and citing resources, but writing about a topic that I feel strongly about in the blogosphere has given me a sense of freedom that has allowed me to realize that relating to the reader is not just stating a neutral point of view but can consist of my own thoughts and feelings as well.

As a reader, one post that motivated me to respond was the story of Deepa Malik. Her unique point of view on living with a disability really inspired me to share her story and write about it. Merely learning about her life is inspiring in itself, but through reading her story, I found myself motivated even though I cannot specifically relate to her situation. Along with all of her accomplishments listed, the thing that was most compelling to me was her new take on vocabulary, altering words in such a way to shed positive light on what is typically viewed as a setback or disadvantage. Witnessing her new take on language has sparked my imagination to try and do the same in life and in my writing.

One particular article that caught my eye and I believe serves well as a model of writing is this one. Although this Priebe’s post does not necessarily try to persuade the reader to go out and take an action, the eloquent and well-thought out arrangement of words and ideas have made this piece a model for my writing. I have found through reading this article and ones like it that I enjoy the use of the occasional short sentence/phrase to catch the reader’s attention; I have found that I also enjoy the repetition of short phrases for emphasis. I think Priebe’s post uses concise, vivid imagery to get her point across to the reader, which is something I strive to do. And finally, Priebe is not afraid to speak her mind through writing and does not beat around the bush. I Iove the fact that through her simple words, she is able to relate to the reader seamlessly, thus making her writing exciting and her style something to work toward.

[mar 5] about domestic violence: do something.

So in some of my previous posts, I have talked about how I came to be passionate about the issue of domestic violence and what I have done to spread awareness to others, but I’m sure at this point, you’re still left wondering, “Is simply talking about it really going to put an end to this worldwide matter?” Probably not. Nonetheless, it generates progress. While the action of sharing a conversation with someone about domestic violence may seem minimal, it may take just that to give someone the confidence to speak up and help themselves find a better way of life.

Stand up for women.

For men.

For teenagers and children.

Domestic abuse often does not just affect one person but can affect anyone nearby as well. No one should feel threatened by someone they love or inadequate because an abuser tries to make them believe it; no one should have to deal with fear for their safety inside their own home, or anywhere else for that matter, either. Simply put, as humans we should be looking out for one another, and we should continually work to put a stop to domestic violence. Beyond simple conversations, there are many more ways to take a stand against this problem. So what can you do?

  • Educate yourself. Learn about the statistics. Listen to personal stories.
  • Promote healthy relationships.
  • Take part in Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and Healthy Relationships Week (February 9-13).
  • Get involved in some sort of project, like this one, to help give a voice to survivors.
  • Get a proclamation to recognize Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in your community.
  • Look out for yourself. Take the Dating Pledge and These Hands Don’t Hurt Pledge (see picture below).
  • If you are suffering from any sort of domestic abuse, call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 to reach help.
  • Be aware and open to helping others. Keep talking about it, and don’t take this issue lightly.

IMG_2311

These Hands Don’t Hurt Pledge: “I pledge to never use my hands to hurt, abuse, disrespect, or in any way violate the wishes of others. I will use my hands to help stop sexual, domestic, and power-based violence in any and all forms, at all times, and in all places.”

[feb 24] about domestic violence: educate.

As I explained in my last post, my first year of college has been that of an eye-opener for me in many ways. But more specifically, I have become very aware and very passionate about the issue of domestic violence since the school year began. What have I done about it? Well, last month throughout the week of February 9th, I took part in Healthy Relationships Week, along with the rest of my sorority. HRW is a week to promote what it really means to be in a healthy relationship of any sort and spread awareness on the topic of domestic abuse.
As an organization on campus, our sorority used a variety of different tactics to raise awareness about domestic violence on our campus. Throughout the week, we took part in the Love is… Campaign by posting pictures on social media of what “love” means to us personally.

FullSizeRender

This was my definition. 
We also encouraged others to take part in it by setting up a table outside the Caf every day and speaking out about the campaign and its purpose of promoting healthy relationships with people on campus. We had them write down their personal definitions of love and put them all together on one big, LOVEly banner (haha, get it?) And it made for a great finished product.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Our completed banner!

On February 10th, we participated in Wear Orange 4 Love Day and wore the color orange to support Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Likewise on that Friday, we encouraged everyone to wear as much purple as possible to support domestic violence awareness in general. Another tactic that seemed to work well was handing out free donuts on campus (props to whoever thought of this genius idea) along with facts and statistics about domestic violence to let people know about the magnitude of the issue.

Overall, I feel like during this week we made a great impact on our peers, mentors, and those that surround us everyday. Many people are so unaware about the regularity and the degree to which domestic violence occurs. As real strong women, simple letting people know about domestic violence is the least we can do for those out there, both men and women, who have been through or are going through emotional or physical abuse. And while spreading awareness seems like such a simple thing to do, I think it is also one of the best ways to educate people about the problem so that maybe it will happen less and less, or maybe it will give someone who has been suffering the courage to speak up and save themselves. If we can make people more aware about the warning signs of domestic violence and promote what it means to be in a healthy relationship, we can decrease weight of this problem and possibly save lives.

[feb 17] about domestic violence: spread awareness.

For this post, I am focusing on a form of injustice that not many people tend to speak about very often: domestic violence, a very real issue that is occurring anywhere and everywhere in the world today.

Before I came to college, I was, to be honest, quite unaware of what domestic violence even meant. I have been blessed with a good family/home life, so the issue never really crossed my mind until I went through rush week for the sororities here on campus. (I know.. I wasn’t expecting that to happen either, but thank goodness it did.) On the second night of rush, I went to Alpha Chi Omega’s (which is now my sorority!) philanthropy night, the philanthropy being the awareness of and fight against domestic violence. Being truly educated on the topic for the first time, I took it all in and didn’t really know what to say about it; it’s not an easy topic to carry on a casual conversation about. Nonetheless, becoming aware of what it is and how often it actually happens was a huge eye-opener for me. Not only did hearing statistics help me come to realize the magnitude of the problem, but listening to personal stories from people my age, as well as others in the community who have experienced domestic abuse influenced me on a deeper, more personal level to take a stand against the issue of domestic violence. For example, I recently learned about the Asian Women’s Shelter here in the US that works with the organization, Silence Speaks to use digital storytelling to communicate survivor stories, like this one. And while domestic violence is not a problem based on any specific race, the people involved with this project use today’s technology to shed light on past personal experiences: the perfect example of what it means to take a stand against such a difficult topic.

As an Alpha Chi Omega today, I can tell you that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime, women ages 20-24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims, and about 40% of domestic violence victims are male. I would never have guessed these numbers before coming to college and being made aware of how big this issue really is. Primarily, our chapter works with the YWCA to provide materials and services for women and children who are working to get back on their feet as independent human beings. As Alpha Chi Omegas, we are known as Real. Strong. Women. and work to make others feel the same way. We focus on spreading awareness about domestic violence, because how can it be stopped if people don’t realize how common it actually is?

A Purple Ribbon for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

One of the trees at UMaine, behind the library, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month; A Purple Ribbon for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Megan Long Photography/Flickr

Love shouldn’t hurt.

[feb 9] about “wheelchair liberation”: break the stereotype.

images-2 images-3 images-1 images-4 images-5

Today, many Americans put up a front. We say we are accepting of everyone: legalizing gay marriage, promoting feminism, claiming that every body shape is beautiful, the list goes on. Meanwhile, we continue to judge others for being different from what we expect. Especially for those with disabilities, it can be hard to come to terms with adopting a new, different kind of lifestyle, such as adjusting to life in a wheelchair. This article on viewing wheelchairs and like disabilities in an unconventional light asks the questions on everyone’s minds, “Although it can make our lives easier, why is it so emotionally disturbing? Why is it that the very thought of using a wheelchair is mentally so upsetting? Why do people dread to be seen using a wheelchair in public? Why are the phrases ‘wheelchair bound’ or ‘confined to a wheelchair’ used?” The writer, Abha Khetarpal, goes on to answer these very questions with the sad, simple truth that society is to blame. “Our mind gets conditioned by the established social norms. All this reinforces an unending focus on comparisons and appearances. And people are dragged down into the whirlpool of negativity, especially those, who have physical disabilities.” Nevertheless, she contradicts this simple-mindedness with support and positivity. She gives those who are hesitant about becoming “wheelchair liberated” the reassurance that having a disability should not make them feel inferior or unworthy compared to others. Life must continue on. “If these wheels do not roll, our lives would come to a standstill.”

In like manner, this is the story of a woman, Deepa Malik, who has dealt with repetitive tumour formations in her spinal cord since she was young and is now a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. Nonetheless, at forty-four years old, she refuses to adopt a hopeless attitude about her situation, as most would expect. As a result of her paralysis, she has become her country’s first and oldest para-swimmer-athlete-biker and car rallyist. She has created records and won awards but does not wish to be a role model, but rather inspire others with disabilities to start moving and working to make today’s society more “disability-friendly.”

I really admire the fact that others’ negativity and pessimism has motivated them to accomplish the incredible things they have. Specifically in Deepa’s case, I love that she chooses to alter words in her vocabulary, not just for the sake of being different from the norm, but in a way that helps her maintain a positive outlook. She uses words such as “bounce forward” instead of “bounce back” in regard to how other people’s words have influenced her (the article even goes so far as saying that she despises the term!), as well as the term, “wheelchair-liberated” in the place of “wheelchair-bound.” If everyone had Deepa’s relentless enthusiasm and motivation and if society would stick to its claims of acceptance and love, the world would be a much different, much brighter place.

“Let these wheels give you wings to fly.”