So, today for Jews around the world is the most holy day of the year, YOM KIPPUR! On this day Jews are required to fast in order to better reflect on their past ills and mistakes of the past year, and attend an ample amount of religious services that help to facilitate this experience. 

While more religious or observant Jews chose to not even drink water today, some will eat a little to ensure that they do not feel sick, but rather can participate in the purpose of the day. While the Kove is closed for obvious reasons, the caf chose to incorporate a whole lot of HAM in its lunch options today. We felt as though Dining Services reaalllyyy "did it up" today with their incorporation of two ham options for lunch. You could have your pick of a "ham salad" for your wrap, or "baked smoked ham". Ham or any pork for that matter is not kosher and is one of the least "holy" things a Jew can consume. While we have to applaud Dining Services for their typically fantastic job at catering to most students' dietary restrictions, today they missed the mark, big time. 

We are not proposing that we should all act as PC police, but we do think this is an interesting example of how we can think about who we include and exclude in our campus community with regards to religious sensitivity. For everyone observing Yom Kippur, have an easy and meaningful fast, and for everyone, have a wonderful Homecoming Weekend! 
"After seeing this, and seeing all the... histories and the stories that weren't told in the regular history books, I got to get a different view of what it means to be an American... and I was like, yo I'll be that American. I'll stand up for that as well."

Lupe Fiasco quoted here duringan interview on Chicago Public Radio this past January, as he joined the cast of "The People Speak, Live!" This one night performance "aims to bring to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who made the United States what it is today," according to the Voices of the People's History website.

When I read this quote by Fiasco, I began to think about how we all have different views of what it means "to be" American. In light of the 11th anniversary of September 11th, passing just two days ago, I think it is important to explore this idea. In the spirit of Zinn, to be crtical about ourselves, and those around us, about how the America of past histories is very different from the America today. How while we so often hear about what "true" American values are, espeically in the resent Presidental debate rhetoric, why is this discussion about what it means to be an American left to the rich men in the fancy suits? As we remember those who died on September 11th and lost their lives trying to save those attacked, it is important to think crtically about what you think it means to be an American, not what you have been told it means. So often dangerous, violent, and descriminatory ideas of past history are perpetuated because we do not take the time, or practice in, critical thought. The notion to challenge what one hears about America and its values is so often upheld as "un-patriotic". Wouldn't a nation of critically thinking individuals be vital to the success of a democracy, or as Michelle Obama recently reminded us, the future of humanity? Critical thought and self-reflection could only lead to important thoughtful discussions around so many of the issues that Zinn felt went un-noticed or represented in the dominant history narrative.

So, are we going to take on Lupe's attitude of, "yo, I'll be that American" or just sit quietly and let others do the critical, or not so critical, thinking for you?
Julia Preston's recent NYtimes article, "More Young Illegal Immigrants Face Deportation," reports on the recent surge of illegal immigrant children, crossing the southern border into Texas alone in the past year. Most of these young immigrants come from El Salvador, Guatemela, and Honduras. With the number of Mexican immigrants crossing over into the United States dropping, it is interesting to consider the surge of children coming in. 
Most of the young immigrants have family already in the United States who have paid, up to $5,000 for them to be smuggled across the border. 

Already in this year alone, 11,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained and have had to face a judge in court. Preston reminds us that in immigration court "there is no right to a lawyer paid by the government for people who cannot afford one," and this extends to children. This means that most of these 11,000 children have to "defend" themselves when their cases are tried. I use "defend" loosely as most of these children do not know where they are, what the United States is, why they have to speak to a judge, and why they are in trouble. And they do not know English. With judges struggling to offer fair hearings to these children, and simultaneously following the court of law, advocacy groups must come in on behalf of the children. There has been a push by Kids in Need of Defense, known as KIND, for pro-bono lawyers to take on this excess of cases. The organization cannot keep up with the growing demand for cases, which according to Preston appears as though is going to be the "new normal". The children who are not immediately deported, which in most cases there is a waiting period, often because of their minor status, are detained in federal shelters. A report by the Vera Institute of Justice, found that "as many as 40 percent of unaccompanied minors who were detained in federal shelters were eligible for some kind of legal immigration status." The problem therefore rests in getting these children adequate legal representation.

We have chosen to highlight this story because, in the spirit of VOTP, these children need a larger "voice". Thanks to accidental birth and a multitude of economic realities south AND north of the border, these children are not only voiceless, but faceless. Becoming a statistic does not help anyone because we, as those participating in the anti-immigration/pro-immigration debate in this country forget we are talking about living breathing humans, and in this case, helpless children. So, I argue that first we give these children a face, and then let us help them find their voice in a court of law. Give them a face in the national media and the reality that the immigration debate is more complicated than "send them back" or "we have no jobs because of immigrants" takes on new dimensions. 

When our immigration courts do not even lend adult immigrants a defense, or legal voice, how do we choose to handle children? Are we a nation that abandons the completely helpless?  Why aren't immigrant advocacy groups blowing this issue up in the media? 

I urge you to read Preston's complete article, available in the hyper-link above. Get the dialogue going. Who is responsible for helping those who end up on the wrong side of history? And how? 
This week's blog post will be highlighting Sean Corn, an internationally celebrated yoga teacher, and founder of Off the Mat, a yoga activism organization (mission: "OTM uses the power of yoga to inspireconscious, sustainable activism and ignitegrassroots social change.") for her creation of The Oasis at the past Republican National Convention and current Democratic National Convention. One can imagine how heated and impassioned a political convention can be. As we sit from home and watch attendees proudly wearing their parties' colors, wave signs and banners, and cheer for his or her political pundits, it all can seem very, intense. On a personal note, all of the political fervor and stalwartness seems a bit overwhelming. Where a convention could be used as a forum for dialogue and understanding, these two events appear to be a puppet show for determined and close-minded political rhetoric. Corn, a lady of compassion and action, decided these conventions could use a little bit more "yoga" mentally. 

Corn partnered with Ariana Huffington, of the Huffington post for the last DNC and created The Oasis. This year, both conventions have had and will have The Oasis. The Oasis is to be a place of reflection, peace, and pause. Simple yoga practices, massages, conversation, meditation, and food all worked to create a place of respite; an environment where the leaders could re-charge to make clear-minded decisions. 

Talk about an un-sung hero. While we typically think about individuals who speak out, here we have someone imploring individuals to really "shut-up" and listen to themselves. Sometimes it takes a compassionate and open leader to facilitate or inspire this process. Zinn touted people with all different talents and methods of mobilizing new of ways of thinking. Corn is doing just that. In a time of intense attacks from both political parties, the political world at large could use a bit more time spent on contemplative thought. I know, it sounds a bit utopian, but great things have always originated from people who do just that, think differently. 
On behalf of everyone here at the Office of Diversity Initiatives, WELCOME BACK! We are all back in the office, excited to get the year started. With new staff members at Landis, an official LGBTQ program coordinator, and a partly remodeled LANDIS, we are all feeling the freshness of a new beginning, a new school year. We are extremely excited about this year's 10th ANNUAL DIVERSITY MONOLOGUE CONTEST, which will be in early December. We have a special (group) of guests for the performance, and we can ensure that you all will not be disappointed. 

We are looking for fresh talent, calling all underclassmen! If you know of anyone who is interested in participating this year, have them contact Landis immediately. This year's contestants will be going through a new process of working together in a few workshops to work on crafting their performance pieces. More on that soon. 

Also, we are having a Labor Day celebration at Landis this afternoon 4-7pm with food and games!! Hope to see you all there