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Rally and Resilience after Parkland Shooting

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Source: Lorie Shaull

“Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged & disappointed in failure & disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, & bad politics – but never give up.” – Marjory Stoneman Douglas

February 14, 2018 is a date that America and the world will sadly remember. On a day where people were celebrating Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday, heartbreaking sadness and unspeakable tragedy struck in what was called the safest city in Florida. Parkland, located in Broward County and roughly 37 miles from Miami, endured the worse school massacre since Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. As students were wrapping up their day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, a heavily armed 19-year-old and former Marjory Stoneman student with a history of mental health issues, Nikolas Cruz opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle on school grounds which left both this school and close-knit community in complete shambles. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel described the tragedy as

“Another horrific day, a detestable day. I’m absolutely sick to my stomach to see children who go to school armed with backpacks and pencils lose their lives.”

Rebecca Bogart, a student at Marjory Stoneman, reflected on the moment when she and her classmates hid underneath their desks for safety in which “it was really hard to be calm. My friend was holding my hand. I’m still in shock right now.”

The aftermath of the Parkland shooting not only claimed 17 innocent lives (most of whom were students with promising futures along with a couple teachers that saved other innocent lives from being taken), but also left a deep wound where the community would immediately come and heal together. Students, their families, and the rest of the community wasted no time in consoling and supporting each other through while voicing the need for both stricter gun control and greater emphasis on mental health opportunities.

A candlelight vigil would be held the following day where thousands of students, family members, and school staff congregated while chanting loudly “no more guns.” Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime, 14, was one of affected victims, fought back tears while giving a speech about his daughter and the issue on gun violence. In his eyes,

Jaime was such a special kid. All the kids here are. What is unfathomable is Jaime took a bullet and is dead. I don’t know what I’ll do next. My wife is home. We are broken. But I can tell you – – don’t tell me there is no such thing as gun violence.” – Fred Guttenberg

His emotionally charged speech would set a greater tone for rallying the Parkland community and having their voices heard louder throughout Florida and the rest of the country.

Following the vigil, community members of Parkland banded together and marched towards Tallahassee where students met with lawmakers to advocate for gun control legislation. The day ended with a town hall special hosted by CNN where students, family members, teachers, and others from Parkland had the chance to vent their anger and frustration towards key lawmakers (including Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson, and Rep. Ted Deutch) while posing difficult, yet serious questions and expecting answers that would strongly advocating for stricter gun control.

There were many defining moments of the town hall, but the one that stuck out most was when Emma Gonzalez, one of Marjory Stoneman’s most vocal student activists, confronted NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch with her opening remark, “I want you to know that we will support your children in a way that you will not”, where she proceeded to ask her the question about the NRA and their stance on how difficult it would be for people to obtain semiautomatic weapons.

Emma’s remark and question towards Loesch not only received praise from the audience, but also led major sponsors such as First National Bank of Omaha, Hertz, United, and Delta to sever ties with NRA. This movement from the Parkland community is just the beginning of a significant movement where a greater and immediate call can be enforced for stricter gun laws and implementing more opportunities for curbing mental health issues.

As the Parkland community continues to heal and rally from this tragedy, their voices and actions continues to grow louder and stronger by the minute. More importantly, their outreach and engagement has galvanized and impacted every part of the country, if not every part of the world. The recent National School Walkout sent a greater tone and louder message throughout the country and the world. Students peacefully walked out of their classes to not only observe a moment of silence for the 17 students whose lives were tragically taken from the Parkland shooting, but also continued expressing to lawmakers the end to school violence using hashtags such as #EnoughIsEnough and #NeverAgain.

Grace Myers, a student in the School of Arts in Rochester City School District, summed up her walkout experience as, “Leaving school is an incredibly powerful message to send to politicians. Education is something that is foundation in both parties. Democrats and Republicans both believe education is a key element of American democracy.” The movement and advocacy presented by America’s youth is a clear sign that all lives including students matters!

By: Francis Asprec

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Young Man with Autism Opens his Own Coffee Shop After Being Denied Employment

Sydney Murphy

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Michael Coyne, despite being on the autism spectrum, shows everybody should have equal opportunity by opening his own coffee shop and has brought people together through community engagement.
Source: Red White & Brew Coffeehouse | Facebook

Michael Coyne, a Special Olympics Athlete, is living with Autism, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

He is already living a challenging life, and when faced with each challenge, he has used his passion and positive attitude to push him forward.

Though he was determined to get a job as he turned the age of 21, Coyne was met with many denials. He soon used the constant rejection as motivation to make an opportunity for himself no matter what negativity he was faced with.  

“After I turned 21, I applied to multiple places. None of them would hire me,” said Coyne.

Post-graduation, Coyne and Sheila worked together in starting up a privately owned coffee shop. The shop was friendly and welcoming to all people, no matter their ability. 

With the inclusive coffee shop, Coyne proved that discrimination was unacceptable and is continuing to respectfully fight the unfair business world. The coffee shop serves locally-roasted coffee and pastries. 

The name of the coffee shop is Red, White, & Brew. Nearby businesses are partnering with the coffee shop because of the unbelievable acceptance the shop shows for all people. 

“It’s just a beacon of hope for people with disabilities,” said Coyne. 

A nearby craft store called, Budding Violet, sells homemade products made by artists with disabilities and is also advocating for the impact these welcoming businesses are having on the community.

A few of the artists are Coyne’s peers and play an essential role in his motivation and successful community engagement. 

“We’ve had parents come in with tears in their eyes with the hope that their young children will eventually be accepted into the community,” said Sheila.

Coyne will continue to grow his business and is hoping to someday hire people with and without disabilities to bring all walks of life together in one business to work together.

He hopes to open the doors for other disabled individuals who may also be struggling to find employment.  

“What I liked about the coffee shop idea is the community. We learn on both sides. We teach people, ‘Yeah, he has a disability, but look what he’s doing. And he’s out in the community getting his social skills,” said Shiela. 

Shiela is very proud of Coyne as he takes steps in creating a better world for himself and his peers. The Red, White, & Brew Coffeehouse has received tons of support through it’s Facebook page and hopes to use social media as a tool to spread awareness of Coyne’s inspiring achievements.

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A Look at the Most Famous Queer Art Form and What it Means to a Small Town Drag Queen

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Source: Jhderojas| Flickr

A Brief History of Drag:

LGBTQ+ History Month is a pivotal moment to look back on one of the most prominent forms of queer art and expression – drag queen history.

Both drag queens and kings have had their narratives woven into the grander history of the LGBTQ community. However, its beginnings were not what you may expect.

Theatrical Beginnings

Drag first found its home in the theatre. Pre-Shakespearean era theatre used men in drag for the female acting parts. This was surprisingly due to religious reasons. It was seen as a religious right that only men were allowed to act in plays. This is quite ironic given the context drag is often seen in now.

However, it was during Shakespearean era theatre, where only men were allowed on stage, that the term “drag” is believed to have come from. This is rumored to be because the male actors would always comment on how their dresses would drag across the stage.

An Intimate Vaudeville Setting

Until the Vaudeville era, drag was strictly apart of group performances such as plays. Once Vaudeville performance gained popularity, drag became a much more intimate art form.

Men found themselves impersonating women alone on stage and in a way that allowed them to mix comedy, music, and dance.

It was during this time that we saw one of the first famous drag queens come to light – Julian Eltinge.

Eltinge found popularity in Vaudeville that would earn him success that surpassed the giants of this era, such as Charlie Chaplin. Eltinge and the drag queens of his time undoubtedly prove that drag has been visibly woven into queer culture for some time now.

Despite the success seen during this time, prohibition brought a challenge for drag queens of the time. It was hard to find venues that really showcased the atmosphere they wanted, so many gay men and drag queens alike used speakeasies to entertain and be entertained.

The Broader Culture

Naturally, even if drag queens were flourishing in the underground queer community, the majority of society was not welcoming.

During prohibition, queer culture was a crime and police often cracked down on gay speakeasies and underground bars.

It was bad enough that serving alcohol was illegal, but the fact that queer folk couldn’t dance together legally didn’t help the situation. Years passed, and while alcohol became legal once again, being queer in any sense was still very much crime.

The community was not without allies, even back then. The New York Mafia often gave drag queens and the queer community as a whole various outlets to express themselves.

Specifically, the Genovese played a large part in what would, unknowingly at the time, become a huge part of the community’s history.

Stonewall and the New York Scene

The Genovese family purchased the Stonewall in 1966. This spot would become a hub for queer culture in New York City. This would also be home to the 1969 Stonewall riots and the beginning of the gay rights movement.

At the forefront of this movement was transgender women and drag queens. This is often an overlooked piece of history, and arguably one of the most important things to remember.

One drag queen who found herself front and center during this movement was Flawless Sabrina. She organized drag queen pageants that presented drag beauty in the same respect as traditional pageants presented cisgender female beauty.

Flawless Sabrina, like many of those who took part in this movement, was arrested several times over and was also brave enough to dress in drag and appear in public and on talk shows.

Over in Harlem and Washington Heights during the early 1970s, ballroom culture was blooming. Started specifically by queer people of color, the drag scene was beginning to adapt to a new form of expression.

Drag “balls” were where “houses” or groups of queer folk would compete to be the best at their art form. A mix of fashion, dancing, and cutting edge gender expression found itself on the floor of every ball.

Becoming Mainstream

Shortly after the ballroom culture found its way into the queer culture, drag culture began to weave itself into the broader culture of the United States. Drag and gender-bending performances exploded—from the likes of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, to the fashion of David Bowie and Boy George, and even beyond.

It’s important to note that these white men could’ve only used this for their art forms because of the oppressed queer people that came before them, and notably queer people of color.

With the popularization of drag, the world became ready for the now ultra-famous RuPaul Charles. Charles found fame beginning in the 1990s amidst the New York City club scene. He skyrocketed into stardom with his 1993 hit song “Supermodel (You Better Work)”.

He soon became the first drag queen to become a spokesperson for a major cosmetics company, get their own talk show, and even a morning radio show.

Since his early days of fame, Charles has launched his drag competition series, Rupaul’s Drag Race, which is also premiering in Canada and the United Kingdom now. The show, and many of the queens who have been a part of the show, have become worldwide phenomenons.

RuPaul and drag culture are prime examples that marginalized communities can be uplifted with the right media presence.

The Significance of Drag History to a Small Town Drag Queen

With a clear past of ups and downs, drag is undeniably an important art form in the queer community. This brings us to today, to State College: the small town surrounding the famous Penn State University. Named one of the most LGBTQ friendly universities in the country, Penn State has a small yet thriving drag community. A part of this community is Marceline.

Marceline, aka Marco Planchart, is a transgender man who is just starting out in the drag scene at Penn State.

“I got into drag because I had friends that encouraged me to do it,” said Planchart.

With experience in cosplay, Planchart found the transition to drag very easy. This, paired with years of dance experience, he found himself combining the two and finding himself comfortably transitioning into the drag scene.

Beyond being a drag queen and a member of the queer community, Planchart is also a student intern at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity at Penn State, where he aids the office in educated students on all things related to the LGBTQ Community.

During this LGBTQ History Month, Planchart made it very clear that his identity as a drag queen is significant to the rich history queer folk.

“I think it’s very important to recognize drag queens and kings during LGBTQ+ history month because of how prevalent they were in queer history.

Many queens and kings were a part of the queer community already and saw it as a way to have an amazing experience for themselves.

Plus, just looking back on major moments in queer history like Stonewall, they were on the front lines as much as any identity. I would talk to Freddy or some people from Opulence to talk about how important they are, and how important especially the [people of color] drag queens and kings were in shaping a lot of queer cultures today.”

By: Madison Star

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Jonathan Van Ness Speaks Out about Living with HIV, Highlights the Importance of Getting Tested

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Source: IG: jvn

            Reality TV star, queer rights advocate, and hair guru, Jonathan Van Ness, has come out recently, but most certainly not out of the closet.

In recent weeks, Jonathan Van Ness, made famous by the Netflix hit series “Queer Eye”, has released several statements surrounding their life with HIV, being an addict, and being sexually abused.

Ness’ decision to come out revolves around the release of their book “Over the Top”. Their book, which came out just last week, recounts several stories surrounding these aspects of their life.

“It’s hard for me to be as open as I want to be when there are certain things I haven’t shared publicly,” Van Ness stated in an interview.

            The interview, as well as the novel, shows a much more serious side of Van Ness that fans and media are not used to seeing. They discuss several traumatic experiences, such as being abused in Church as a child, deep-rooted self-esteem issues, drug use that would become an addiction, to now living with HIV.

             That the self-described “the effervescent, gregarious majestic center-part-blow-dry cotton-candy figure-skating queen” would share such personal news came as a shock to everyone. In an interview with CNN, Van Ness explains why they chose to do so before the book’s release.

            “Part of it is that I wanted to heal. And the other part of it is that, you know, living publicly and experiencing the success of ‘Queer Eye’ and experiencing this platform,” said Van Ness.

“We don’t grow when we are comfortable and I have had a lot of time to grow comfortable with my HIV status. I’ve had a long time to process and heal from the abuse that I endured in my life and I am ready to share it now.”

            Not long after this interview, Van Ness teamed up with Planned Parenthood to create a video on the importance of getting tested for STIs, and why protecting access to STI testing under Title X is vital. This partnership was inspired by the fact that Van Ness got their diagnosis at a Planned Parenthood.

            While Van Ness does have the type of fame that could draw attention to an issue such as this, many stereotypes and false claims about HIV out there do occur. Van Ness defies one of the most important ones to debunk: you can’t live a happy life with HIV.

            There is no denying that everyone’s favorite hair guru has been through a hard life, he is lively and glowing. HIV is no longer the death sentence like it was in the 80s.

There are medications and treatments that can increase the lifespan and quality of life for somebody with an HIV diagnosis. You can very much keep up your everyday life with some minor adjustments.

There is a lot of misunderstandings about how HIV and AIDS get transmitted from person to person. You can’t pass either through kissing, hugging, sharing food, insect bites, toilet seats, sneezing and/or coughing, or sweating.

You can only get it from passing bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucous, and breastmilk from person to another. Ways these bodily fluids can be passed from one person to another is through unprotected sex, through childbirth and breastfeeding (from mother to child, injecting drugs with needles that have the blood of a person with HIV or AIDS on it, and blood donations that are infected.

            The final misconception is the most important piece of information, not only to Van Ness’ story but to anyone living with HIV or AIDS. The two are different. People with HIV are not living with AIDS, though it could one day grow to that. There are three stages of HIV: Acute HIV infection, chronic HIV infection, and AIDS.

            Acute HIV infection has several symptoms that can be attributed to many things. These symptoms include headache, fatigue, aching muscles, sore throat, and a red rash that doesn’t itch.

If you have symptoms like these, it’s possible that you’ve been exposed to somebody with HIV in the past six weeks. If you have any of these symptoms, you may need to go to a doctor and get tested.

            Chronic HIV infection brings on a different experience. Once you enter this stage, this flu-like symptoms of acute HIV infection leave, and you will go through an asymptomatic stage that can last up to ten years.

It is pivotal in this stage to start taking medication, and as early on as possible. Without treatment, you become vulnerable to other infections.

AIDS is the final stage. Symptoms at this stage, if not medicated, and without a proactive lifestyle change in a previous stage, can include: swollen lymph nodes, a fever that lasts more than ten days, purple spots that don’t go away, and unexplained weight loss.

Without medication, a person at this stage can only live up to three years. The most important thing to remember about this stage is that with treatment you can live a long and happy life.

By: Madison Danielle Starr

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