Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Cost of Freedom

Janine Harouni
Final Event Blog

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a showing and discussion of the documentary “The Boys of Baraka.” This film was about a handful of Baltimore boys living in the inner-city. They were all hand picked by a special program to study abroad in Africa for two years from the 7th to 8th grades in preparation for high school. The goal of this program was to take bright students who were at high risk of not graduating high school because of personal and environmental complications. The idea is that by taking students out of the harsh circumstances of drug use, broken homes, poverty, and crime and placing them in an educational and encouraging environment the children would be set on the right track. The Baraka Program gave these boys the opportunity to be exactly that- boys.

So often in inner-city areas children are not able to be children. While working with choice tutoring this semester I worked with children who had their innocence stolen from them at such a young age. I once asked a student if she had fun trick-or-treating. She looked at me in total shock. “Are you crazy” she asked “I would get shot if I walked around my neighborhood at night.” I just sat their in disbelief. How could an eleven or twelve year old not celebrate Halloween? Why is it that I had that opportunity? Is it just because I was lucky enough to be born into an upper middle class family in a good neighborhood? She and I did nothing to deserve our roles in life. Yet, she must suffer?

These were exactly the issues the movie touched on. After one year in Baraka the boys traveled back home for summer break. Immediately there was a noticeable difference in the boys’ behavior. Most stayed inside anxious to get back to the Baraka School. They were all aware that in just one year so many of their friends had become “trouble.” One scene showed a Baraka student staring out his window observing a group of boys no older than he. “Drug dealers” he remarked quietly to himself “all drug dealers.” Later that summer they learned that due to tension in Africa the Baraka school was being shut down and the boys would have to finish their 8th grade in Baltimore. “Sending our kids to school in Baltimore is sending them to jail” one mother exclaimed when she heard the news.

Her reaction may seem dramatic to some but after working with juvenile offenders in Baltimore this semester I can whole heartedly agree with this mother. According to the movie “61 percent of Baltimore's African-American boys fail to graduate from high school and 50 percent of them go on to jail.” Just tonight at Choice I spoke a boy turning 17 this month. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he paused for a moment. “To be free” he said. He has spent his past three Christmases and birthdays in jail.

I went home and thought about what he had told me. I plan to stay involved with programs like Choice as long as I possibly can. I think that I am so lucky to have been born into a loving, encouraging, and safe environment. Too often people take that for granted. Choice has opened my eyes to the social justice issues that prey on the most defenseless of Americans- children. All I can do is treat the symptoms for now and continue my education so I can one day work to cure the cause. And this year I will share my Christmas wish with that tutee and hope that each child in America has the opportunity to be truly free.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gabrielle Miller
On November 15th Bishop Aquila spoke here at Loyola College on behalf of club “alive”, and informed students about the respect owed for the dignity of each individual human being. Mainly, Bishop Aquila discussed the importance of understanding the current and devastating issue in society, abortion. He encouraged the decision to choose pro-life, in respect to the ethical code of life devoted to every individual. Bishop Aquila also spoke about other morally questioned issues, such as the death penalty, stem cell research and genocide.
Bishop Aquila affirmed that God bestows dignity and value to each human when he creates human life, and therefore it should remain solely in the hands to make decisions on which individuals are worthy of life or death. A major problem in contemporary society is that younger generations are raised with the notion that things like abortion and other government chosen policies are considered to be acceptable and standard practices. However, just as Bishop Aquila reminded his audience, it is extremely important to hold onto our Catholic and Jesuit beliefs, and to continue to encourage others to also seek to choose pro-life without pressuring moral decisions upon others.
This speech provoked me to think back to an event that my senior class attended in high school, the pro-life march in Washington, D.C. I remember this vividly because I had been previously injured in a track meet, and as a result had to experience the march on crutches. However, this hindrance proved to be a blessing in disguise. It was incredible to sit back and watch all of the people gathered together to express a common goal, the preservation of life. I was able to speak to one girl in particular, who was only a year older and had a three-year-old baby. I was so moved by this girl’s story, because she showed me what it means to be strong, and expressed her desire to have the child regardless of the consequences out of respect for that individual’s life. She mentioned that her boyfriend claimed that he worried the baby would not be given fair opportunities, and that throughout her pregnancy her own parents encouraged her to obtain an abortion. However, she chose to have the baby, and said that even though being alone in such a major part of her life, she did not regret her decision one bit and that her child was the greatest blessing in her life. I was amazed at her strength and looked up to this girl knowing that she could stand strong and continued to encourage other girls in her position to make a similar choice, not only for themselves, but in regard to this new human life. This proved that the correct choice can be made, even though society provides an "easy alternative" to difficult situations.
The human conscience is defined as the inner voice which persuades a person to make decisions, and provides us with the ability to decipher between acts of good and acts of malice. This mental perception of morality is often blurred and influenced by actions in society, and therefore it is essential that new generations are reminded of the importance of morality. The Jesuit mission aims to restore justice in an unjust world, this statement applies to helping those in need in addition to enforcing education for the future.

Walters art museum

The Walters Art Museum is a great Baltimore attraction. I have a particular love for art and the history which it supplies the world. Since arriving to Loyola College I have wanted to get off campus to see the many art museums Baltimore has to offer. The problem was last year I didn’t have a car. Even with taking two semesters or art history I never reach my destination of the art museum circle. This year has taken a turn for the better; much better. So far in this semester I have been to the Visionary Museum, the Baltimore Art Museum print room and the Walters Art Gallery with my teacher as our personal guide. Each museum has been extremely different but affected me differently.

Since I had really wanted to see what the Walters had to offer, last weekend some of my peers from my Northern European Renaissance class and our teacher ventured down Charles Street to the Walters. This was also my first time driving around Mt. Vernon area. The George Washington monument was pretty neat to see up close. I liked how the traffic circle was old cobbles stone bricks. The street we parked on had a nice little garden patch. It was nice to see some trees where in Baltimore there aren’t many city parks with a lot of green space. The Walters was my only destination planned for trip to the Mt Vernon area.

After I was done my day at the Walters, I fortunate enough to expand my wonderful day when I stumbled down a flight of steps. I was shocked to have discovered such a unique looking place. What is sold in Red Emma’s is slight to the people who inhabit the space. Red Emma’s is a relaxing bookstore and coffeehouse that serves fair trade coffee, vegan munchies and organic food. This is not your typical bookstore; it is even funkier than The Evergreen. Red Emma’s was my fabulous finding for the day. Along with a variety of liberal reading the shop focuses on radical politics and changing culture. Making the economics and politics of our society more just became a noticeable concern for the worker owned collective after only a brief visit. With the three tiny tables, one small coffee bar and three computers, the books hardly fit in the underground shop. The atmosphere and the structure of the bookshop made the space feel more

Being in Red Emma’s made me look at the judgments made on people just by the clothes they wear and the places they hang out. Red Emma’s inspired me even more than the art I had studied earlier that day. When I stepped into the bookstore with my North Face jacket and UGGS I thought I was going to die with from all the glares that came my way. Observing the people that were occupying the bookstore was mostly the artsy or hippie type. Many of the men had wacky haircuts and dresses in tight jeans, with almost everyone I saw having visible tattoos. The style of the hair and the clothes they wear might be a lot different but that doesn’t mean our views are significantly different. I am a big advocator for social justice and poverty in Baltimore but it might not look like it by the way I dress. Just browsing the books I thought how interesting Red Emma’s was and my connection to it. I want to be more artsy, carefree, and revolutionary. I find myself stuck in too many norms here at Loyola. Feeling out of place actually felt kind of good for once in Red Emma’s. I know it is my own personal perception and judgment but I think most of those customers in the coffeehouse are extremely intelligent and passionate about what they do in life. I find I am attracted to those types of people. I am very intrigued and I really like to gain knowledge from all type of sources.

Red Emma’s gave me the feeling of excitement and intellectual stimulation. It was as if I wanted to read every book on the shelves because I knew they would all be challenging and resourceful. I enjoy people and places that are out of the ordinary Loyola scene. What is interesting at Red Emma’s is that finding liberal gurus isn’t that out of the norm for Baltimore. This just proves the point made about the Loyola bubble. I hope I can concert my efforts into meeting some radically charged individual living in Baltimore. I realized art I can look at anytime but Red’ Emma’s is what I am looking for in life; something out of the ordinary.

Boys of Baraka

I recently held an educational event on campus with some of the other service coordinators; a showing of the movie Boys of Baraka. Before the event, I watched the movie myself so that I’d be better prepared to show it to whoever came to our event. Though I sat down expecting a decent film, I did not expect to feel as moved or as inspired as I did. The documentary revolves around a special program for young aged, black boys in Baltimore. Twenty boys are chosen for the opportunity to spend their middle school years at an intensive school in Kenya, Baraka school. Unfortunately for the group of boys being filmed, they are unable to return for their second year after the summer break because of the escalating political situation there. Despite that, the filmmakers still manage to follow the boys into the beginning of their high school careers.

One of the first scenes of the film is a woman speaking to the boys about why they should apply for the school. She explains that the boys have three outfits they could be wearing on their eighteenth birthday: an orange jumpsuit (jail), a nice suit (dead), a cap and gown (graduated). According to her statistics though, they have almost no chance of getting the cap and gown. “61 percent of Baltimore's African-American boys fail to graduate from high school; 50 percent of them go on to jail.” ( The boys that got accepted into the program were extremely enthusiastic about it in the beginning. Even when they came home for the summer they didn’t associate much with the other boys in the neighborhood, because they didn’t want to get pulled into any of the numerous bad scenes. When they heard the school was closed, it was heartbreaking to see the boys’ reactions. For them, it was yet another time in their lives that the people they relied on had failed them. It was yet another time that they were abandoned. Unfortunately, the Baraka program did not establish anything for the boys in Baltimore. Though, for example, one scored the highest on his math exam than anyone in Maryland and was therefore accepted into a competitive high school, another was sucked into one of the huge public schools and most likely wouldn’t graduate.

After watching the film that Sunday afternoon, I could not wait to share these boys’ stories with as many people as I could. Even though I am involved in service at Loyola, and meet people in similar situations to the boys the movie is unique in my life in that the audience gets to see them grow up. The audience hears their voices change and sees the attitudes improve and dissolve. I knew my volunteers would adore the film, simply based on previous conversations we’d had. Even though they work directly with adults in Baltimore they have a good grasp on the entire picture. That is to say, they understand that the adults they tutor are there, most likely, because they were once in the Baltimore city public schools.

Though not everyone who came for the film showing stayed for the discussion afterwards, I eventually decided I was content with the sequence of events. We had advertised heavily that there would be free food, which was a major draw for much of the audience. At first I was frustrated that they didn’t stay, and didn’t do their best to get the most out of the event. After thinking about it though, I decided that I’m glad they came and at least saw the movie. Many of the people there seemed not to travel in circles that would talk about the issues addressed in the film. Whether or not they stayed for the discussion the movie still forced them to reconsider their opinions about society, Baltimore specifically, and their role in it.

Cristo Rey

This Friday past, I went to volunteer at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. I have been going weekly since about the end of September. I knew at the start of this year that I wanted to volunteer this year, I wanted to volunteer to get the full Loyola experience. I was having trouble finding a volunteer opportunity that I felt suited me. When I heard about Cristo Rey, I immediately wanted to know more about the initiative.
The position I signed up for was homework help because I was told that was where the most help was needed. I remember my first day being nervous that I would have to help the students with math. I hate math, I have always hated math, so needless to say I was worried. I was relieved when the student I was helping, Xavier, pulled out history books, my major. I really liked helping Xavier with understanding the concepts he was learing, Ancient Greece.
I believe that it is less tutoring and more so talking to the students that make the impact on them. Down the road they will not remember the person that just helped them with homework one time, they will remember the person that talked to them, got to know them, asked them questions about themself, and was able to answer questions about things other than school work. I remember Xavier asking me what I felt the biggest difference between college and high school was. My response was that in high school you are taught facts and undisputed information, however, in college you are given facts, but you must use those facts and apply them into arguements. Another difference I believe is that in college there is not anyone to hold your hand and pull you through. In high school, teachers will hassle students to get their work done, in college, however, the responsibility is solely the student's. You must be able to manage the workload yourself to be successful.
Another good thing about volunteering at Cristo Rey, is being able to see the Jesuit ideals put into action. "Cura Personalis" or care for the whole person is especially prevalent in the halls of the school. The school is structured so that each student gets individual attention. Even the homework help is structured with one tutor per student. The school also instills a good work ethic into the students through a weekly internship the students participate in. One day a week they work 8 hours at a local business as an intern. The business in turn subsidizes part of the students tuition.
The concept of this school is brilliant and it is good to see that the concept is actually being put into action. I look foward to returning to Cristo Rey next semester and hopefully in a larger capacity. Through helping the students there, I gain a better sense of who I am and the person I want to be. I am very satisfied with my volunteering experience at Loyola, and look to carry my experiences with me into the future.

Michael Waskiewicz Event Analysis

On November 15th I attended a lecture in the Alumni Memorial Chapel that was held by the ALIVE club and was given by Bishop Aquila.  The ALIVE club is a student organization that is committed to showing respect for the dignity of all human life, and this is exactly what Bishop Aquila's lecture had to do with.  This lecture had to do with a few topics that are constantly discussed in the news today.  Bishop Aquila established a connection between our Catholic faith and the heavily debated pro-life issue.

Bishop Aquila is very set on his beliefs in pro-life, and his beliefs against pro-choice.  He believes that the Bible teaches us that it is morally wrong to take the life of something that God has created.  I personally agree with Bishop Aquila against pro-choice and believe that abortions should not be allowed to be performed in most instances.  The Bible teaches that God sacrificed his own life for all Catholics.  It is morally wrong to in any way harm ourselves or another human being.  

The only reason any one would need to get an abortion is due to an unwanted pregnancy.  This means that it is necessary to lower the number of unwanted pregnancies so that there is not as much of a debate about this issue.  I personally believe that the only instance in which an abortion should be allowed to be performed should be in the case of rape.  Most unwanted pregnancies are completely unavoidable, but in the case of rape, there is no way for the woman to avoid becoming pregnant because she did not give consent.

Bishop Aquila also spoke about the death penalty.  The death penalty is given as a sentence to those who have committed terrible crimes and taken the lives of others.  It is illegal in many states, but not all of them.  Bishop Aquila believed that even though the death penalty is punishing terrible people that it is still immoral and should not be used under any circumstance.  I share the same exact views that Bishop Aquila does.  I believe it is much more of a punishment to have the criminal spend the rest of their lives in prison instead of ending their lives early and not making them live with a guilty conscience for the rest of their lives.

Personally I agree with everything that Bishop Aquila talked about in his speech.  I agree with his beliefs about pro-life for the most part, and completely agree with his view on the death penalty.  I learned a lot from Bishop Aquila's speech and it will cause me to do more research on my own into what is going on with the death penalty and the pro-life debate in todays society.

Habitat Event Blog

Emily Hauze

Over this past weekend, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. The national program’s main goal is to help to less fortunate in order to decrease the prevalence of poverty in cities, such as Baltimore. Not only do the projects of Habitat for Humanity benefit the person the house is being made for, but it helps create a sense of community. Habitat is made possible fully by groups of volunteers whose purpose is to serve others. As I was participating in the construction of the house, I felt like my time and effort were more valuable than if I had just given money to the program. Watching the teamwork of my fellow volunteers was an amazing sight to see because we were coming together as a unit for a good cause. Like the Jesuits value, experience will teach you more about yourself and helping others than anything else.
The physical labor at the house being built for Habitat for Humanity is incredible. A simple part of a house, such as a window or door frame, that many people do not acknowledge very often requires a tedious dedication and determination. My appreciation for the roof over my head increased with each task I was assigned. The whole experience made me realize how much work people put into building a house or any building for that matter.
My participation in this Habitat for Humanity event reflects many of the ideas supported by Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. In the essay we read for class, I found the following quote to accurately represent the goals of Habitat expressed by Jesuit ideals: “Saint Ignatius wanted love to be expressed not only in words but also in deeds.” It is extremely important that both service and justice are enforced in order to make change in not only Baltimore but all over the world. As I worked that day, I knew I was serving myself as well as serving others by providing a person with a home that I had been so privileged to have during my lifetime. Another example of giving to those less fortunate was prevalent in the article “Serving Up Hope” about the couple who gave jobs to recovering drug addicts at their restaurant. The opportunity of being given a second chance can not only be appreciated by those who receive it, but by the providers of that chance as well. For the man that is receiving the house made by Habitat for Humanity, he is also being given a second chance and I am glad to be part of an organization that allows him to have it.