Diversity

BG Council listens to citizens angered by racist attack at Waffle House

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green City Council heard more Monday evening about the ripple effects from the racist attack at Waffle House two weeks ago. Council chambers was so full – with about 80 people there – that people had to listen from the hallway. They heard from a black woman who described her own experience of being verbally abused in a local restaurant. They heard from a Hispanic woman who wants training for business employees so they know how to handle such incidents. And they heard from a white City Council member whose voice shook with emotion as he told how one of the alleged attackers at the Waffle House was in his government class at North Baltimore High School. “I feel the sting when that’s inadequate,” council member and teacher Mark Hollenbaugh said. “There are people within our community who have values who don’t represent us,” he said. Eleven citizens took their concerns to City Council about the racial attack reported in the middle of the night on March 31. The incident started when Justin Hartford, 18, of Mount Cory, and Zarrick Ramirez, 18, of Findlay, entered Waffle House and were reportedly met with racial slurs from two other men in the restaurant. One of the men allegedly told the teens that President Donald Trump would deal with immigrants like them. Before leaving the restaurant, the men taunting the teens reportedly went over to their table and began beating them. Three employees and a customer told police the two victims did nothing to provoke the attack. Bowling Green Police Division arrested Jacob Dick, 22, North Baltimore, and Zachary Keller, 21, of Custar, for felonious assault and ethnic intimidation. Since then, two community meetings have been organized by La Conexion in an effort to come up with preventative measures to keep similar incidents from occurring in Bowling Green. “The incident deeply affected and rightly enraged” city citizens, said Beatriz Maya, leader of La Conexion. She thanked the police division for its quick response to the attack, and city leaders for speaking out against such hate crimes. “Bowling Green has taken a clear stance against hate,” Maya said. But more must be done, she told council. Maya read a list of recommendations gathered at the community meetings following the attack at Waffle House. The suggestions included: Acknowledgement that racism exists in the community, with more open dialogue needed. “We must recognize this is a systemic problem,” she said.Enactment of an ordinance stating zero tolerance for racist incidents. Businesses could use that ordinance to require patrons to immediately leave if they are using racist language. If they don’t leave, police should be called.Training should be offered to teach employees how to respond to hate incidents. Those businesses completing the training would be given “welcoming city” decals for their doors. Council President Mike Aspacher said he has spoken with Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter and Police Chief Tony Hetrick about the possibility of such training be offered. Hetrick said the police division may be able to expand the training it already offers for liquor establishments, to make it instructional for businesses that operate overnight. It’s possible that some type of training for bystanders could also be offered in the future. “It’s clear this is a community problem that will require a community solution,” Aspacher said. City Council heard from many citizens who wanted some type of training. Karla Davis-McGowan prepares her comments before speaking at City Council meeting. Karla Davis-McGowan talked about her experience when her father first brought her to BGSU in 1983. “Wow, baby. It’s just like…

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Controversy swirls around Gish Film Theater over ties to ‘Birth of a Nation’

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News When “The Birth of the Nation,” originally called “The Clansman,” was released in 1915 it was a blockbuster, the first blockbuster movie. President Woodrow Wilson screened it at the White House, the first film shown in the White House, and then gave it a rave review. The film’s vicious depiction of African-Americans sparked civil unrest, including anti-black violence. Still from the silent film “The Birth of the Nation” is projected during town hall meeting hosted by the Black Student Union. The nascent NAACP  protested and campaigned to have it banned, and it was in two states, Ohio and Kansas. The Ku Klux Klan liked Griffith’s film so much it used the movie as a recruiting tool. That helped the Klan, once dormant, become more powerful and widespread, extending into the North including Wood County. More than 100 years later, the film is still stirring controversy. The Black Student Union at Bowling Green State University has questioned the name of the venerable Gish Film Theater.  The theater, then in Hanna Hall, was named for Lillian and Dorothy Gish in 1976, after Lillian  Gish received an honorary doctorate and visited campus. Lillian Gish, an Ohio native who made her stage debut in Risingsun, was a star of “Birth of Nation,” and a close associate of D.W. Griffith, the director and producer of the film. The move of the theater from Hanna Hall, itself controversial, to the Bowen Thompson Student Union gave the name more prominence. Kyle Thompson, political action director for the Black Student Union, said that visibility sparked the call for considering changing the name. The scheduled March 29 rededication of the theater, featuring Oscar-winning actress and BGSU graduate Eva Marie Saint, who worked with Lillian Gish in 1953, has been canceled. Saint is still scheduled to appear on campus at that time. President Rodney Rogers has asked Dean Raymond Craig, of the College of Arts and Sciences, to form a task force to study what if any action the university should take and report to the board of trustees in May. Last week, the Black Student Union organized a town hall meeting to elicit comment from all sides in the controversy. Thompson set the tone. “Keep in mind there are other voices in the room,” he said. “Respect each other. Please, at the end of the day, remember we’re all humans, and we all have emotions. We have to validate those and understand that this is a very touchy topic” He said the BSU’s call for action was aimed at creating “a better and safer campus.” “This is essentially like having a Confederate statue on campus,” he said. Tierah Townsend said that the Gish shouldn’t be in the union, which should be welcoming for all students. “BGSU prides itself as being a campus full of diversity and inclusion.” BGSU student Brandon Seifert argued that this had to be looked at in the context of the time it was created. Just about every public figure back in 1915 held views on race that would now be considered racist, he said. “Are we to go on a witch hunt through history defaming and erasing the names of influential figures because they held the popular opinion of the time, no matter horrible that opinion may be?” Gish was an actress playing a part, and actors often play controversial roles, Seifert said. Gish, who died at 99 in 1993, became known as the first lady of American cinema. “She is an inspiration for actors around the world.” His remarks drew a smattering of applause from the 80 or…


BGSU’s Christina Lunceford reflects on a legacy of fighting for equality during MLK tribute

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Christina Lunceford has been thinking about her legacy lately. In introducing Lunceford as the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Tribute Friday, university student Morgan Hollandsworth noted that this was Lunceford’s  last day as Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion.  Lunceford, who had a split role at Bowing Green State University for the past couple years, will become interim chair of the Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs and part of the leadership team for the College of Education and Human Development.  Lunceford said in this period of transition she’s looked back at those who helped guide her to become who she is as an educator, scholar, and mother. Some are unknown outside her family, others more renowned. Yet each struggled for social justice “with integrity, resilience, and joy,” she said. “I am definitely part of each of these legacies. I do my best to make sure their investment in me was worthwhile, and I take that responsibility very seriously to do good with what they instilled. It’s important that the legacy continues.” Lunceford started with her grandmother Lyda Mae Saunders.  Lunceford said growing up in East St. Louis, Missouri, her father “started fighting, stealing and drinking at a young age.” Bowling Green High School Madrigals perform “Tshosholoza” with David Siegel, left, on percussion, and Kam Frankfort singing lead. Her grandmother moved with him to the outskirts of Dallas, where she taught, taking advantage of some of the opportunities just opening up for blacks. Yet she knew she needed more, so she went to graduate school in Denver, because what she needed was not available to her in the South at that time. Lunceford still wears her grandmother’s 1958 class ring. Her father, Ronald Lunceford, went on to become a sociologist and counseling psychologist. He met her mother in Kansas where he went to train teachers working in newly integrated schools. As a mixed race couple their lives were “adventurous,” Lunceford said. They relocated to southern California, where he taught and together they founded a clinic for black and Latinos setting an example of building community. The percussion played during the Madrigal Singers’ performance of the South African anthem “Tshosholoza” earlier in the program reminded her of her father. He often played African drums, sometimes to relieve stress and sometimes “to bring joy” to their family. Part of her family’s circle in California were two of black pioneers in psychology, Robert Guthrie and Joseph White. They would argue between themselves, each wanting to bestow on the other the distinction of being the father of black psychology.  Each wrote seminal works on black psychology. Guthrie, who received his bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M, a historically black university, was told when he went on to graduate school that he could not cite his former professors. Their work was not published in the “right” journals. Guthrie went on to published the book “Even the Rat Was White: A Historical View of Psychology.” At the time, Lunceford noted, he was criticized for being “divisive” by the American Psychological Association. His book has since been inducted into the APA’s archives.  He and White were instrumental in founding the Associate of Black Psychologists. White wrote a seminal article “Toward a Black Psychology” in 1970 and published it not in a scholarly journal but in the popular magazine “Ebony.” He wanted the article read by the general public. He wanted it in beauty parlor and barbershops, Lunceford said. She learned from them how to disagree respectful and good natured way. They had divergent views, for example,…


A teacher by example, Marcy St. John, honored with BG’s Drum Major for Peace Award

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Marcy St. John taught French at Bowling Green High School she instructed her students in more than verb conjugations and vocabulary. She wanted them to learn to be able took at the world from an international perspective, said fellow teacher Jennifer Dever.  St. John even served as advisor to an Amnesty International chapter that had students petition governments on behalf of prisoners of conscience. Dever was introducing St. John as the recipient of the Drum Major for Peace Award given by Bowling Green Human Relations Commission for dedication to promoting a just and inclusive community.  The award was given Friday as part of the 30th annual tribute to Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. (A second story on Christina Lunceford’s keynote address will be posted later.) From left, Mayor Richard Edwards, Jennifer Dever, Marcy St. John, and The Rev. Mary Jane Saunders during presentation of Drum Major for Peace Award. Dever, who teaches English and serves as secretary for the commission, was a new teacher when she first met St. John.  They monitored a large study hall together. Though St. John was unaware of it, she became Dever’s mentor. “I wanted to be like her,” Dever said. “She served as my counselor and coach, helping me through the most difficult years of my teaching.” The Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, St. John’s friend and her pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, said: “For many years Marcy has provided a strong example of what it means not just to talk the talk, but walk the walk, when it comes to loving God and loving and serving her neighbors.” Dever said: “In her personal life, Marcy shows a commitment to promoting the values of justice and inclusion. She has a generosity of spirit and a love for her community. In the decisions she makes in spending her time and resources, Marcy shows an amazing commitment to living a life in service to others.” In accepting her award, St. John cited the words of Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” Earlier St. John referred to the lyrics “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from “South Pacific.” “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,” she recited. “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” In an interview following the ceremonies, St. John said, her education shaped her life of service. “I’ve just been pretty fortunate, very privileged through no merit of my own,” she said. “I’ve always been taught by my church, my parents, my community,  to give back. So that’s what I do.” As a teacher the helped students increase their awareness or the world and their community.  After she retired in 2001, St, John said she had the time to turn her focus to local social justice issues. She was a member the Human Rights Commission, and worked to get city council to pass an ordinance that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Then she worked on the campaign to save the ordinance when it was challenged on the ballot. The ordinance survived “by the skin of our teeth,” she said. With almost all the votes counted, it looked like the repeal of the ordinance would succeed. “We were so demoralized.” Then on the strength of provisional ballots, the ordinance was upheld, St. John said. People need to know that injustice doesn’t have to be accepted. There’s still work to do in…


Halloween bias incident counter to BGSU values, but did not violate code of conduct

Nine Bowling Green State University students who dressed up as Mexicans and denigrated the concept of cultural appropriation on social media will not face discipline under the student code of conduct, though they will be required to meet with administrators to discuss the Halloween incident. The fraternity has also agreed to other actions. In a statement to the BGSU community issued Wednesday President Rodney Rogers and Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Gibson said the investigation into the action of nine fraternity members has been completed. Though Gibson and Rogers did not name the fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, has issued an apology for the incident. In the administration’s statement, Rogers and Gibson write: “While their actions were inappropriate and counter to BGSU’s Core Values on diversity and inclusion, the reported behavior is protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and our own policy on free speech and expression. Therefore, there was no violation of the student code of conduct.” The nine students, however, have been suspended from the fraternity for at least one year and must apply to be readmitted. In its apology, the fraternity said: “The costumes pictured were offensive, arrogant, and insensitive.” Pi Kappa Alpha promised to cooperate with the university on sanctions to the nine students. The behavior, the fraternity said, was “unacceptable,” and does not reflect “who we are a chapter or as citizens to the community.” The fraternity and administration agreed to a series of sanctions: • The chapter will appoint a Diversity and Inclusion Chair. The fraternity member appointed to this role will meet with staff from the Office of the Dean of Students to learn about campus resources to educate active and future members on diversity and inclusion. • The chapter will work with the Office of the Dean of Students to identify a speaker to come to campus next semester to talk about diversity and inclusion. All members of the fraternity will attend, and the presentation will be open to the campus community. • The chapter will identify a community service project for spring 2019 that focuses on the Latino/a/x community. In addition, the Office of the Dean of Students will meet with each of the students involved in the incident to discuss their choices and how they do not align with our values as a university.


Trans athlete Chris Mosier talks about the long road he traveled to be a trail blazer

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For Chris Mosier, the crisis came on his birthday. Mosier a groundbreaking trans athlete told an audience at Bowling Green State University as the guest of We Are One Team that he hated the song “Happy Birthday.” Even when it was sung to a stranger, “I have a physical reaction to it.”  He made it a practice of not celebrating his birthday. He felt that he was “inauthentic” and not worth celebrating.  On his 29th birthday, though, his partner persuaded Mosier to go out to a restaurant. It was packed, and then the waiter referred to Mosier and his partner as “ladies.” Mosier began to cry. They had to leave. Mosier knew he had to do something to address his gender identity. He decided to begin his transition. Six years later a few blocks from that New York City restaurant, Mosier said he cried again, this time with joy. He was in a trailer and he had just finished the filming of a Nike commercial featuring him as a trans athlete. In both those instances he had the same thought: “I never thought my life would be like this.” Mosier grew up in northern rural Wisconsin. He was told he couldn’t wear his hat backwards, or run around without a shirt even as a 6-year-old, or skateboard, because girls don’t do that. He pinned an image of a male bodybuilder’s torso on his closet door. That was his future. “For my entire life, I was searching for a vision of myself.” His dreams didn’t fit into a “princess” future.  “Those were painful and hurtful years,” Mosier said. But no matter how he was viewed elsewhere, everybody wanted him on their team. He was a talented athlete. And he dreamed of having his name on a basketball jersey. When he looked for colleges, he looked for ones that had jerseys with names.  He was recruited and was headed towards playing college ball. Then he refused the offer at the last minute. He had, he said, a lot of excuses. He needed to work. He wanted to participate in extracurricular activities. He needs time to study so he could excel academically. It was only later, he said, that he realized the true reason: “I didn’t want be on a women’s team.” So he went to Northern Michigan in Marquette. It was only there that he started hearing about what transgender meant. It took him five years to graduate, and because of health issues related to a history of head injuries, he was out of shape. After graduating in 2003, Mosier went to Chicago for graduate school. He saw promotions for the Chicago Marathon and decided despite his poor physical conditioning, he wanted to run it. Running, he said, was a way to reconnect with sports without having to deal with locker rooms and being on a women’s team. Mosier said some trans students feel so much anxiety at the prospect of using bathrooms that they will not eat or drink through a school day in order not to have to deal with the issue. During the question and answer session, he encouraged institutions to have private stalls, and curtained stalls in shower rooms to allow for privacy. That benefits not only trans people but others who want privacy for a variety of reasons. After Chicago, he moved to New York with his partner, whom he’d met at Northern Michigan. Even then Mosier said, he felt uncomfortable being seen as a lesbian. She seemed at times more aware of what he was struggling with and encouraged him…


Not In Our Town project to tell stories of local lives

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Every life has a story. There’s a beginning, an end, and everything in between that makes a person who he or she is. Not In Our Town Bowling Green would like share the stories of local residents’ lives by putting words and photos together for an exhibit. “We want to use narratives and storytelling to promote understanding across differences,” said Christina Lunceford, campus co-chair of Not In Our Town. “We are trying to find a way to better tell the story of who’s in our community.” The Not In Our Town Narrative Project will be modeled after storytelling projects in other communities across the U.S. The purpose is to provide “space for our community to develop understanding of varying world views and lived experiences.” The photos and stories will tell about the lives of local leaders and everyday people in the community, Lunceford said. “Who’s got a story to share,” she said. The idea is that once the photos and narratives are collected, they will be displayed on a BGSU diversity and inclusion webpage, but also be part of a rotating exhibit in the community – in places like the library or storefronts. “We want to talk about the richness our backgrounds bring,” Lunceford said. “We want to understand how people’s backgrounds and experiences benefit their communities.” Local people wanting to share their stories or be part of the process of photographing or collecting the narratives are asked to email blazec@bgsu.edu, or fill out this survey to indicate interest. Individuals who would like to share their stories and portraits will be contacted to set up photography sessions and interviews. The interview questions that will help guide personal narratives will be sent out in advance. By showcasing the various voices that make up the Bowling Green community, the goal is threefold: to celebrate diversity that is in BG through visual arts, to showcase acts of “ally-ship,” and to raise awareness of the experiences of marginalized groups in the community. The idea for the narrative project comes from the works of Dr. Howard C. Stevenson on racial literacy and inspired by the California Polytechnic State University’s Dr. Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti’s work with the Kennedy Library’s “I am Cal Poly” exhibit and University of California-Santa Barbara’s Dr. Kip Fulbeck’s “Pan Asian, 100% Hapa” traveling exhibit.