The complexities of feeling safe

It’s more than using your common sense

By: Autumn Barszczowski

If I had written this piece one week earlier, I would have focused on how paying attention to my surroundings in downtown is what makes me feel safe at Point Park.

It would have been about how people do not always pay attention like they should because they do not look up from their phones or they listen to their music too loudly.

However, on March 6, the body of Dakota James was found in the Ohio River. From that moment on, my idea of safety was turned upside down and lost amongst the unknown facts of this case.

It was no longer just about paying attention and being able to save myself by controlling my own actions. After a case so close to home leaves more questions than answers, it is hard to prepare yourself to face the day as you usually do.

I have been going Downtown for school since I was 14 years old. That means the coming fall semester marks the beginning of my sixth year as a commuter student. I thought I knew a lot more than most about staying safe in the city.

In fact, the moment my family knew I would be in Downtown Pittsburgh, they began lecturing me on the importance of always keeping my head up and surveying my surroundings. In doing this, they often talked about the situations that everyone fears, including the one that James’ family has been facing since his disappearance.

Up until this point, I thought that being aware of my surroundings was enough. That if I stayed alert and used my “common sense” by never traveling alone or not going home on the bus after a certain time, I would be fine. Surveying my surroundings was supposed to be enough to keep me safe on my way to classes.

Clearly, this is not the case. There are tragedies that can happen no matter how much you look around or how many precautionary steps you take to protect yourself. We cannot control the actions of others simply by controlling our awareness of those people.

Paying attention does not save us from everything. It can help us in small situations like avoiding traffic when crossing the street and staying away from that one student you just cannot stand, but not all situations are that simple.

I feel for the James family and the loss they are enduring. I can’t tell you how future situations like this will pan-out or my ideas on what should happen in terms of safety of going forward. These scenarios are complicated and the solutions will probably not be simple.

All I can tell you is that I hope the family and friends of Dakota James can heal from this loss and that the city can continue to work on creating the best solution for us. It will not come easily, but I hope that with some effort we can grow to make our home a safer place.

Originally published in the Globe

The flaws of American nationalism

Citizens can’t ignore our nation’s past

By: Autumn Barszczowski

When you grow up in the United States, especially after 2001, you are bombarded by American flags and overly-patriotic songs, encouraging you to sing about how you’re obviously proud to be an American.

Well, here it goes: I am not proud to be an American. Or at least, I am not proud of what the reality of being an American means today.

Let me explain. On paper, the United States is meant to be all about freedom for all people, but in translation from paper to reality, we have somehow forgotten the rights that this nation was built on. In the past few weeks, we have taken a step backwards for transgender rights, freedom of the press and have taken a step closer to the nationalism that I fear.

This nationalism I speak of is this idea that the United States is the best country in the world. That this country is the greatest, can do no wrong and is always the winner. In the past few years, the nationalism that I witness the most, is a blind love for a country whose flaws people refuse to recognize.

The more I learn about the United States, the more I realize how willing we are to cover up the dark spots in our history.

I did not learn until 10th grade about the treatment that was received by Vietnam soldiers after they returned from a war that many were forced to fight. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I learned about the amount of indigenous people that were enslaved or killed by Christopher Columbus, our national hero. It took me until high school to see that our history is not as squeaky clean as I once thought.

I have learned that growing up in this country after 9/11 meant that I would continue to be taught this clean history, expected to stand for the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, even when I didn’t agree with the words and that I would keep my mouth shut about the glaring flaws of our country.

I cannot let myself stand by and watch as these groups of people who cannot see the hatred that is brewing at the core of their nationalism. The hatred that is taking away rights that people have just gained. The hatred that has taken away the voices of the people who continue to be oppressed in this country.

I can’t be proud of a country that says that all men are equal, but only means that all white men are equal. That being a woman, or being black, LGBT, Muslim, Mexican, disabled or anything outside of the realm of the “perfect American” means that your concerns will not be heard.

That instead, you’ll watch as your media becomes “fake news” for millions of people just because the president says so. That you’ll watch as your rights continue to be dismantled before you and that everything that has been gained in the past eight years continues to crumble.

America is meant to be for all people. I cannot find myself being proud to call myself a citizen of this nation until we truly take into account the writing that our country was built on and work on making that written freedom into a reality for everyone.

One day, I think that I could be proud of our country. The numerous protests that have happened in Pittsburgh alone have given me faith that we can restore what has been damaged. Maybe not for a long time but, eventually, it could happen.

So I’ll keep my faith in those people who continue to fight back and until then, I’ll stand my ground about why I cannot be proud of this country until it recognizes its flaws and finds a way to improve them.

Originally published in The Globe

Ranking important issues in your life

It’s all a matter of perspective

By: Autumn Barszczowski

The other day while sitting in my research class, a fellow student handed out a survey about his client’s brand. One question stood out to me as it asked respondents to rank a number of issues (like animal rights, feminism, etc.).

The idea of ranking the most important human rights or environmental causes in order from one to seven was a strange concept to me. However, since I am an advertising student, I understood that this helped researchers to establish my lifestyle, feelings and personality.

Ranking these issues felt like deciding which wound to try and heal first, at least in my mind. In some ways, it almost makes me feel guilty because in a perfect world, you would not have to decide which was more important to you because you’d be able to dedicate the same amount of time to worrying about each.

But the world isn’t perfect so without consciously knowing it, we begin to rank the issues in our mind. As a bisexual, cisgender white woman who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood, I have been faced with and witnessed a variety of issues in my life.

I was presented with the grief and stereotypes faced by my black classmates. I was faced with the beauty and lady-like standards that I was supposed to follow as a woman. I watched as my friends feared for how society would view them due to who they loved or who they were.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, when these issues are constantly in your face, they tend to rank higher. Putting a numerical value to an issue almost seems silly, but they speak a lot to who you are as a person and what you are faced with in life.

You do not consciously decide that something is less important; it just doesn’t feel as urgent when it is not constantly affecting how you live your life or even the lives of those around you.

I attended a public middle school with a large population of black students in a poor neighborhood. We did not focus much on climate change because we were focusing on diversity, and acceptance was much more relevant to the students.

Immediately following that, climate change and environmental issues grew in importance for me because my high school focused on recycling and emphasizing environmental issues alongside diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve been able to see how these issues became more or less important as you grow and learn more about the world. The importance of these issues at that time in your life reflect the world you were faced with and the perspective that you had.

That is perhaps the one upside to examining our own individual rankings. You can see exactly where you are or were in life just by the issues you fight for, and how you have grown as an individual.

Originally published in The Globe

The Progress We’ve Made Since 1967

A look back at what has changed since the Globe’s founding

By: Autumn Barszczowski

Let me set the scene for you: 1967, the year the Globe debuted, was at the tail end of the Civil Rights movement, during the second wave  of white feminism, and before the Stonewall riots. It was a time of historical movements that stemmed from people trying to improve their livelihoods, obtain equal rights and claim their own identities.

The thing is, someone 50 years from now could also use that last sentence to describe 2017.

I started to consider how the Globe and our society has changed these past 50 years when I read a Globe article from March 6, 1969 entitled “The Power to Define” by James L. Saylor.

He discussed “the extinction of black identity” during that time and how, what he defined as white America, took control of the right to define black people’s role in society. Saylor wanted black people, including himself, to have the opportunity to define their own purpose in the world.

The ability to establish who you are is crucial for human beings, especially in a world bombarded by media and advertisements that attempt to tell you who you should be.

The specific rights that current movements are fighting for have evolved as the culture in our society changed. However, the core of all of our movements today are no different than what Saylor was suggesting to readers in 1969.

The Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March and the LGBT communities are trying to define their own role in the world. They are fighting back against the stereotypes and misconceptions about themselves on a daily basis that curtail their freedoms and cause them pain and misfortune.

Each movement is tailored to the rights that the individual groups have been denied in recent years. Through intersectionality and determination, these groups are attempting to achieve their goals.

Many of our history books claim that we have already obtained equal rights and our chance to set our own standards, but that is not the case for these people in the United States.

Our struggles are concealed and more complex than they once were, but they are not gone. People are being placed neatly back into their stereotypes and reminded that they already have their equal rights.

Just as Saylor did in 1969 in order to take control of his black identity, people of color, women and members of the LGBT community must gain the power to construct their own identities.

If we allow white, straight, cisgender male America to monopolize our identities, then we lose everything that we have worked for.

While our strides in social justice are not as complete as our history books claim, we cannot afford to lose this progress. Within these past 50 years we have taken baby steps towards our goal of equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The United States has managed to keep the expectations and standards for these people the same since the 1960s.

On the positive side, despite the fact that we have not improved these standards, we have made tremendous advancements in technology.

Our ability to access social media and have our messages reach the entire world has given us a better chance of fighting back against the definitions that have been created for us.

In 50 years, I hope that people will look back on our archives and see that we, like Saylor, have continued to defend ourselves against the limitations placed upon us and that we did not allow ourselves to be defined by the America that stands before us.

We are more than our stereotypes, and we should not let the world ignore that.

Originally published in the Globe

Documentary highlights Afghanistan photographers

Point Park’s School of Communication and Honors Program present documentary about Afghanistan photojournalists in JVH Auditorium 

By: Autumn Barszczowski

image

Point Park School of Communication, The Honors Program and the student chapter of the National Press Photographers Association hosted a screening of the award winning documentary “Frame by Frame” last Tuesday night in the JVH. The documentary features photojournalists in Afghanistan and the trials and tribulations they endure on a daily basis.
Photo by Gracey Evans via The Globe

The reality of the plight and opportunity photojournalists face covering the lives of citizens in Afghanistan was featured Feb. 9 in the JVH Auditorium.

The event, hosted by the School of Communication and the Honors Program, invited students as well as professionals to watch and discuss the significance of the documentary “Frame By Frame.”

“I think it will inspire young photojournalists and photographers to go out into their own neighborhood, and any boundaries and barriers that you might think are there are nothing compared to this film,” said Jasmine Goldband, a Point Park alumna and photographer at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The film featured a few Afghanistan photojournalists and their everyday lives. Students were able to learn about what each of those photojournalists focus on from conflict to the lives of Afghanistan women, and the importance of having this focus in the photojournalists’ careers.

Goldband hoped that the film would inspire them to learn about life outside of the United States after witnessing day-to-day life in Afghanistan.

Chris Rolinson introduced Goldband to an audience filled with not only students, but professional photographers as well as photojournalists and she shared her thoughts on her pre-screening of the film with Honors Student Organization (HSO) Director Helen Fallon and another co-worker.

The documentary gave those in attendance a chance to witness day-to-day life in Afghanistan for photojournalists and the difficulties that these people had to overcome, including the hoops photojournalist Farzana Wahidy had to jump through in order to get her story on the women burn victims found in her country.

Without other media sources to report, these photojournalists are the ones who have to document what is happening in their country, including the conflict coverage of a bombing that won Massoud Hossaini a Pulitzer Prize.

Photojournalist Renee Rosensteel discussed afterward her own experience in Afghanistan and the struggles of being a foreigner, including how obvious it was that she was an outsider in the country. She told a story of how she tried to fit in by wearing a scarf on her head, but she wrapped it so terribly that even male Afghanistan natives were walking up to her to fix it.

Fallon had been the one to discover this documentary among emails about journalism, and she was immediately fascinated with the trailer. After she read about it, she had intended to show it to her Journalism 101 class in the fall, but believed that the film should be viewed by more than just a small crowd.

In order to bring the screening to Point Park, she helped to pay the $250 licensing fee for the movie along with the honors program because she believed that students should be learning outside of the classroom and that the fee for the movie was worth the learning experience.

“This documentary goes a long way towards explaining the status of journalism and photojournalism, in particular, in Afghanistan, and by that you can learn the history of Afghanistan,” Fallon said.

Jacqueline Roberts, a junior journalism major, said she enjoyed the movie, saying that it was an eye-opener for her. The documentary enhanced her perspective on the photography field, particularly in Afghanistan.

“I mostly learned that photojournalism isn’t just a field,” Roberts said. “It’s something that you do because you want to tell a story.”

As for Matt Nemeth, a senior photography major, he believed the movie gave him a basic understanding of the field outside of the United States. It connected his experience here in the U.S. with the experiences of the Afghanistan photographers.

“One of my favorite parts of the film was the more humanistic aspect to it…it was the perfect way to show that these people’s lives are just like ours,” Nemeth said.

Originally Published in The Globe