MAX Bus brings affordable transportation to underserved areas of Massachusetts

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By Joshua Brown

MAX Bus owner and managing director Connie Englert spoke with WMUA News’ Joshua Brown on the unique services the transportation service provides to Central Massachusetts residents. Areas in central and western Massachusetts are some of the most underserved in terms of transportation in the state, and happen to be some of the most impoverished and isolated. MAX Bus received government subsidies to address this. In a phone interview, Englert commented on the ways the public transportation industry must address accessibility, affordability, and sustainability today.

Kingdom of the Young: an interview with Edie Meidav and Kevin Salem

By Becky Wandel and Katie Donegan

Edie Meidav is a professor in the Humanities and Fine Arts’ MFA program at UMass. Her new book Kingdom of the Young is set to hit the shelves next month. She will kick off her book tour here at UMass on April 6th, accompanied by Kevin Salem, a musician and friend who produced an album to accompany the short story collection.

Meidav’s collection of short stories, Kingdom of the Young, explore her bohemian youth of wonderlust and adventure.

“These stories more than my other novels are an attempt to heal the wound of otherness,” says Meidav.

Kevin Salem composed an album with the same name, but the music isn’t meant to be listened to “like background music” while people read the book, says Salem. In a way, the project was a challenge for both artists in non-revision.

“I decided to approach music the way that she writes books,” Salem says. And what he means by that is to sit down and compose the first thoughts and ideas that come to mind.

The two collaborators don’t work in the traditional sense.

“We don’t sit down and discuss it. It’s kind of like our little artistic high five to each other,” Salem says.

“I always think that it’s not that you make a friend, it’s that you recognize a friend,” Meidav says about her friendship with Salem.

The HR 610 bill is “a little scary”: an interview with UMass Professor Sireci

By Phillip Bishop

The HR 610 is one of the bills introduced to Congress that would change the way it distributes funds to elementary and secondary schools. The bill would also lower nutritional standards.

“It’s a little scary repealing the Elementary and Secondary Act, which goes back to Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1965. It was really designed to protect civil rights and to try and making education equitable across racial and socioeconomic barriers,” says Stephen Sireci, a professor in the Psychometrics program at the University Massachusetts Amherst.

Federal funds for schools would be distributed in the form of vouchers for eligible students. Sireci says there isn’t enough research on the program.

“When you hear about it first, you think, yeah that might be a good thing. And that’s kind of where the conversation is. We want to give parents more choices, of course. We want to make sure that the child goes to a school they want to go to. However, this is an under researched idea. The research that has been done on charter schools, for example, is equivocal,” Sireci says.

“If you ask me, Steve, what’s the most pressing problems in education today. Charter schools and vouchers wouldn’t even be in my top 100. It’s a little disappointing that’s where the focus is,” Sireci says.

Lincoln Quang Duong talks about building a new campus app and engaging in community service

Lincoln Quang Duong is running for president in the upcoming Student Government Association elections. But he’s a solo candidate.

Duong clarifies, “On the ballot, I’m going to be a single candidate. But I have a VP in mind, but because of the conflicting information we were provided, I will remain as a solo candidate until the campaign ends. But my first executive priority is to have the office of VP filled.

He believes the vice president’s goals are to connect SGA with different residential areas on campus. Another priority of the VP is to connect the campus with other 5 colleges around the area, Duong says.

Overall, Duong says that he doesn’t believe that the SGA has been doing enough outreach to represent the whole student body. He points to low voter turnout as an indicator of this.

“Take, for example, the student voting turn out every year is only at 15 percent. So how does it represent the whole student body if only 15 percent vote and care about SGA?” says Duong.

Not many students even know what SGA is, Duong notes.

“The first thing we’ll do is make SGA transparent to give students information about what SGA does, what project senators are doing and provide students with budget allocations on all of the clubs on campus. The other thing is to increase student engagement on campus.”

The main way Duong wants to increase student engagement is by developing a phone application. The app would alert students about events that are happening around campus, like Living at UMass, the Bus Track and UMass Dining applications.

“I think that Living at UMass is a comprehensive application, but there’s too much information on there that confuses students. I want an application that’s only for RSOs and the events that freshmen and other students can attend to,” says Duong who plans to work with student experts to develop the application.

Duong is a member of Theta Ki and believes that students should be as engaged with community service as fraternities are.

“I don’t think students on this campus are focused on community service that much. As a member of Greek Life, we do compulsory community service every week. As a Theta Ki member, we go to Amherst Survival Center every week,” he says. “As an SGA member I haven’t seen a lot of community service projects that SGA has been developing and leading as an example for other students.”

 

WMUA’s February Concert Review

WMUA hosted a show in the Student Union Ballroom on February 4, 2017. WMUA News’ Andrew Cunningham and Becky Wandel got to speak to all three performers, Cliff Jensen, Pink Navel and Ivy Sole.

The night opened with Cliff Jensen who specializes in producing flipped versions of popular music and television shows, like Spongebob Squarepants. Jensen was joined on stage by the next performing act, Pink Navel. It turns out that Jensen and Pink Navel are friends. They’re both performers in Massachusetts, too.

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A projection of Cliff Jensen looking into the webcam of his Macbook. That’s how he performed on Feb. 4, 2017. Courtesy of photographer Zach Becker.

Pink Navel’s act was more poetic and entrenched in references from Steven Universe, the TV show that inspired the performer, Devin Branting’s music and band name.

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Pink Navel performing at the WMUA show, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo courtesy by Zach Becker.

“Worrying about physical human bodies, and all the stress that comes with that would be erased if I was just a computer file. I’ve been so moved by that idea now that I’ve written poetic songs about it,” says Branting.

Headlining hip hop artist, Ivy Sole took to the stage and brought the audience closer to her, both physically and emotionally. The Philadelphia artist encouraged clapping, singing along and dancing. Sole released a single off her new EP East and performed it live at the show.

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Headlining act, Ivy Sole, energizing the crowds on Feb. 4, 2017. Photo courtesy Zach Becker.

“2017, I honestly just want to make the best music possible. I’m  not really concerned with a specific end goal. I think my optimal year would include, but not be limited to, lots of shows, maybe getting a nice opening spot for an artist I respect and an artist I can learn from.”

You can check out the artists here:

Cliff Jensen: https://cliffjensen.bandcamp.com/

Pink Navel: https://pinknavel.bandcamp.com/

Ivy Sole: https://ivysole.bandcamp.com/

Reporting and producing: Andrew Cunningham and Becky Wandel

Photography: Zach Becker. Check out his show, Hip-Hop Made Me Do It, Mondays 10 pm – 12 am on WMUA 91.1 FM.

Assuaging fear and stereotypes through children’s literature: an interview with Canadian author Alhan Rahimi

Over 40,000 Syrian refugees have settled into Canada since 2015. But there hasn’t been a single book written for children explaining the Syrian refugee crisis. So Alhan Rahimi decided to write one.

Yara, My Friend from Syria was published in December 2016. The children’s  book follows  Yara, a young Syrian refugee who moves to Canada with her family.

“It’s a topic that’s touching children. The newcomers that are coming, there are many children among them and they went through difficult times. Just the fact that they have to leave what they like behind, is a very difficult thing for a child. So I wanted our children [in Canada] to know that not every child has the opportunities that they have here,” says Rahimi about her book over the phone to Phillip Bishop and Katie Donegan.

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Book cover of “Yara, my friend from Syria. Courtesy of author and illustrator Anahit Aleksanyan.

The children’s book focuses on universal themes of love and compassion. Rahimi says that she didn’t want the book to include any violence because she didn’t want to shock children and parents, but rather teach them about open mindedness.

“I’m trying to show [children] that they can go and help newcomers. That’s why Oliver goes and gives his snack to Yara…There are things that are out of our hands, but that’s something they can do.”

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Angela and Oliver approach Yara at school. Courtesy of Alhan Rahimi and illustrator Anahit Aleksanyan

Rahimi says that the book has already provided a lot of insight for children who have read her book.

“Some of the children that read the  book told me, ‘Oh, we didn’t know that there were nice houses in Syria,’ when the illustration came out that Yara was sitting in the front yard with her family and they were having fun under the apple tree. That’s another point that I want our children to know about. Life was very nice in any country that is a war country now. Before that, they had a nice life and they were educated. I don’t want them to think of those kids as uneducated children or poor children…some of the stereotypes that might  be present in our children’s minds, I wanted to clear that up.”

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Canadian children Angela and Oliver. Courtesy of author and illustrator.

Reporting by Phillip Bishop, Katie Donegan and Rachel Swansburg

Engineering and production by Lucy Martirosyan and Katie Donegan

Standing Rock: a significant moment in history of our generation

Mike Wardynski is a landscape photographer based in Oakland, California who teaches photography to people from all over the world. He was driving home from work one day when he felt a pull to go to Standing Rock.

“I felt like this is a part of American history that may be more important than a lot of other things that have happened in my life time. I felt driven to go,” says Wardynski, the founder of his new photography project, “A Sign of the Times,” which looks into social injustice in the US.

Wardysnki visited Standing Rock as the news of the denial of easement was announced by the Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 4, 2016. The denied permit allegedly should have stopped construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Courtesy of Mike Wardynski: “A line of water protectors wait to heat up in blizzard like conditions near the center of the Oceti Sakowin camp on December 5th. Despite the severe weather, spirits remained high in camp.”

“Standing Rock is a very difficult thing,” Wardysnki explains, “when you’re on the ground there, it’s difficult to know what’s actually happening.” Miscommunication and rumors spread frequently as there is a lack of internet and cell phone service at the camp.

But what Wardynski can be sure about is that the folks still remaining at the Oceti Sakowin camp aren’t going anywhere until “they can walk to that drill site, and see that the Energy Transfer Partners have left.” He estimates that around 1,500 water protectors are still on the site.

Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners’ intentions are to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline no matter what.

“When I was there, even when the easement was denied, I could look out at the hillside and I could see excavators still digging in the sand,” Wardynski recalls. “So I think there’s a false notion, out in the real world, that this thing is over. But in reality, it’s still happening. There’s still people out there and they’re still fighting for clean water.”

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Courtesy of Mike Wardynski: “Tropix Knight is a Navajo Native American as well as an eight year Marine Corps veteran. She traveled from Hard Rock Arizona with her teenage daughter to stand with 2,000 other veterans fighting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is directly threatening the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux as well as millions of other people along the Missouri River.”

All of the photography featured in this article was taken by Mike Wardynski. To learn more about his project, “A Sign of the Times,” check out: www.asott.org/

You can also support Mike Wardysnki and his project through his kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/970182…e?ref=user_menu