Tag Archive | "michigan"

Showdown at the Capitol, the Flint Water Crisis

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Showdown at the Capitol, the Flint Water Crisis

On Jan. 19, citizens from Detroit and Flint, joined by Michigan State University students, took buses to the Capitol in Lansing to protest the water crisis and demand the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The protest took place before, during and after Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address – an annual speech to Michigan’s legislature which gives an update on the affairs of Michigan.  

Protesters gathered outside of the Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 19. Photo via Ben Schroff.

Protesters gathered outside of the Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 19. Photo via Ben Schroff.

Gov. Snyder’s speech was relatively short compared to others and was strangely abrupt. He talked about Flint for only a few minutes at the beginning of his speech, promising to release his emails over the crisis. Many believe that his remarks attempted to shift the blame from himself to others.

In April of 2014, Flint switched its water source from Lake Huron to using water from the Flint River. The Emergency Manager of the city, Ed Kurtz, implemented this change in order to save money. After the switch, the water coming into people’s homes was reportedly discolored, had a bad taste and a putrid smell.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality assured the citizens of Flint that the water was safe to drink – this turned out to be false. In an article from the Detroit Free Press, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said she discovered high levels of lead in children’s blood – indicating lead poisoning. Despite this finding, local officials claimed that water tested at the water treatment plant and in homes indicated no lead contamination. 

Many other studies were completed by medical centers and university researchers, including Hurley Medical Center and Virginia Tech, which all indicated high levels of lead. The people of Flint began to criticize the emergency manager, state agencies and Gov. Rick Snyder.

Flint’s water crisis has rapidly gained national attention, becoming an important talking point on broadcasts such as The Rachel Maddow Show and the recent Democratic Debate, most notably from Hillary Clinton. People from all across Michigan and the United States have sent water filters and water bottles to Flint to show support.

The crisis has escalated to the point of President Obama declaring a Federal State of Emergency in Flint. The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Attorney General of Michigan, Bill Schuette, have opened investigations into the crisis. Some believe that Attorney General Schuette’s investigation is a political showing, due to his ambitions to potentially run for governor. There are also allegations that he appointed a top Snyder campaign contributor to lead the investigation.

What’s clear in this crisis is that the people of Flint need an immediate solution to fix their pipes and to return safe and clean drinking water to their homes. Along with the necessity to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing, the well being of Flint needs to be secured.

The next steps include congressional hearings by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee over the crisis and whether there was criminal negligence or not.


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Jennifer Granholm: Where is she now?

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Jennifer Granholm: Where is she now?

Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan and Michigan attorney general, was a dominant political figure in Michigan for over a decade. Since her final term as governor ended in 2011, she’s seemingly kept a low profile. What exactly has she been up to?

Granholm was seen as a likely choice to run for Senator Carl Levin’s empty Senate seat in 2014, but declined for family reasons. She also aided with President Obama’s transition team in 2008. Granholm has managed to remain a well-discussed political figure in Michigan and is bolstering her national presence as well.

Former Governor for the State of Michigan Jennifer Granholm. Photo via Creative Commons.

Former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm. Photo via Creative Commons.

Throughout President Obama’s two terms, Granholm has been speculated to be on the short list for three positions: the associate justice of the Supreme Court, which was eventually filled by Elena Kagan; the other associate justice seat filled by Sonia Sotomayor; and the attorney general position now held by Loretta Lynch.

Despite not holding office, Granholm hosted her own political talk show, “The War Room with Jennifer Granholm.” The show ended after its host network was bought out by Al Jazeera. Granholm then went on to co-chair Priorities USA Action – a Political Action Committee aiming to aid in President Obama’s reelection.

Recently, after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential push gained momentum, Granholm became a leader in the PAC Correct the Record, which aims to protect Hillary Clinton from political attacks, where she can act as a surrogate for the Clinton campaign.  

What lies ahead in Granholm’s future? One thing is for certain, the United States may not be done with her yet. After years of being passed over by the Obama Administration, perhaps she will have her opportunity in the potential Clinton Administration.

Granholm has been a long-time supporter of Hillary Clinton, even endorsing her during the 2008 presidential primaries. This support over the years has the likelihood to promote Granholm from useful backbencher during the Obama Administration, to cabinet-level material in the possible Clinton Administration.  

Granholm has been frequently discussed as a good pick for the Supreme Court or as attorney general, but current speculation sees her taking a place in Clinton’s potential cabinet as secretary of commerce. If given this position, she would be in charge of promoting American businesses and industries.

Jennifer Granholm’s political star may be far from set. Her commitment to public service is pushing her into the inner circles of Democrat powerhouses – where she could easily rise in prowess. Due to her rise among Democrats and the political connections she’s made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Jennifer Granholm stays in the public eye for years to come.

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Traveling over Christmas break on a college budget

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Traveling over Christmas break on a college budget


Christmas break is on its way, and if you’re stuck in Michigan and wondering what to do during over the four-week winter vacation, here are some cheap ideas to check out with a group of friends or family.


Michigan may not have as much going as some of us would like, there’s plenty of fun stuff in the area to do, even on a college budget.

East Lansing

Although it means travelling back on campus, it’s completely free to view MSU’s collection of brains, featuring 156 different brain specimens, in Room 3 of the Natural Science Building. The room is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm, but anyone interested in looking at the collection must make an appointment with John Irwin Johnson (517-353-3852). Still, it’s totally worth it to look at a bunch of brains.


A town called Hell can’t be anything but a blast. Driving through is free, and grabbing an ice cream cone from the local ice cream store is only few dollars. But if you want to go all out, you can pay $100 to be the mayor of Hell for a day complete with a key to the city of the Hell. Besides, what better place is there to spend to holidays than in Hell?


Founded nearly 80 years ago, Midland’s Santa School teaches men from all over the world how to be Santa Claus. The classes are usually in October, but “Santa’s Workshop” is open to everyone during the Christmas season and is an absolute blast, especially for children. If you have a younger family member around for the holidays, definitely consider taking them here.

Farmington Hills

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is one of the World Almanac’s 100 most unusual museums. Its founder, Marvin, collects various mechanical oddities including pinball machines that guests are welcome to play (if you have a quarter or two on you). The museum is open 365 days a year, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


The bar Kalamazoo Beer Exchange experienced a surge in popularity after someone posted a picture of it’s menu on Reddit. The menu works like a stock market, where the prices go up or down depending on how many people are ordering the item. If you’re willing to make the drive to Kalamazoo and pay for dinner, it would certainly be a unique dining experience.


It’s only about a three and half-hour drive from East Lansing to the windy city. If you’re willing pay for gas or a train ticket and plan out your stay in the city down to the letter, there’s plenty to check out in Chicago on a short day trip.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park might be a bit chilly in December and January, but if you don’t mind the cold, the Bean and the Crown Fountain are both worth checking out. The Bean is hard to miss – it’s a giant, steel, bean-shaped structure that reflects the city’s high-rise buildings. The inside is just as remarkable as out, with a dome shape that’s reminiscent of fun house mirrors and makes for a perfect new Facebook profile picture. The Crown Fountain is worth seeing if you’re in the area, as there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. It features two giant walls in a pool of water with screens on both that turn the walls into faces. Every once and while, the person on the wall will “spit” water into the pool that is between the screens. Weird, but definitely worth checking out, since the park is always open and always free.

Tiffany Dome

At 38 feet in diameter, the recently restored dome in the Chicago Cultural Center building is the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world. The dome was originally built in 1897, but had been covered with concrete in the 1930s. The Chicago Cultural Center dismantled the dome and restored each of the 30,000 pieces of glass individually. Entry to the Chicago Cultural Center is free of charge.

Money Museum

Chicago’s Money Museum is a quirky site that features displays of currency without charging guests a penny. Some of the museum’s most popular attractions include a shredder that shreds over $10 million of old currency every day, a suitcase of a million dollars that guests can take pictures with and a stack of a million one dollar bills that weighs over 2,000 pounds. The Money Museum is located in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but keep in mind the museum is closed on bank holidays.

International Museum of Surgical Science

If blood, 3-D models of anatomy and ancient medicine don’t creep you out, you might be interested in checking out the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. The museum features everything from a 3-D printed model of an actual patient’s heart to paintings depicting artists’ struggles with various medical conditions. The museum is open 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Friday and 10 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10 for students, but Tuesdays are free for everyone.

Championship Vinyl

Before you head out on your trip to Chicago, you may want to watch (or re-watch) “High Fidelity”. That way, you can drive by Rob Gordon’s record store, Championship Vinyl, at 1514 N. Milwaukee Ave. Today, it’s just a boarded up abandoned building, but just imagine how smart you’ll feel pointing it out to all your friends.

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Redrawing the Political Boundaries: Gerrymandering in Michigan

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Redrawing the Political Boundaries: Gerrymandering in Michigan

Egelston Gerrymandering Graphic

Click to enlarge

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Action on abortion legislation heats up in Michigan

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Action on abortion legislation heats up in Michigan

Elaina Clark, Michigan State University sophomore human biology student, said that women should not have to be convinced or manipulated into making a decision that could put an innocent child at risk for growing up under poor circumstances.

Ohio recently received national attention as it joined eight other states, including Michigan, that require women to be given the opportunity to view the ultrasound of their conceived child prior to abortion.

“[This law] makes it seem like they’re trying to make women feel guilty for what they are doing,” Clark said. “It’s already a hard enough situation as it is.”

Earlier this year Michigan House Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, presented a bill to the Michigan House of Representatives that would intensify the statewide ultrasound viewing law. Michigan also recently approved a bill that prohibits insurers from paying for abortions unless the woman has already purchased coverage through a separate insurance rider.

Genevieve Marnon, Public Affairs Associate at Right to Life of Michigan, said that this bill would take the Ohio law a step further.

“We currently require the abortion clinic to offer a woman the option to view an ultrasound image prior to an abortion, if the clinic uses ultrasounds, but we do not mandate that an ultrasound be performed or that the clinic maintain a copy in the patient file,” Marnon said. “HB 4187… would mandate that an ultrasound be preformed, [which] Ohio does not make this requirement.”

Long-time activist for women’s reproductive rights, Dr. Penny Gardner, associate professor for Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at MSU, said that she finds the idea of requiring a woman to have an ultrasound done as part of abortion procedure is a defamation of women’s rights.

“It’s terribly destructive,” Gardner said. “It’s something put up to dissuade a woman of a decision that she has made, [and] it is her right and her choice no matter what way she has come to that decision.”

MSU sophomore social relations and policy student Kathryn Maass said that although she considers herself to be pro-life, she thinks it is unfair that male political figures are making the decisions, regarding abortion legislation, on the behalf of women.

“They will never understand the situation or the stress that a woman is put under,” Maass said. “Women’s rights should ultimately be made by a woman.”

Dr. Jayne Schuiteman, interim director of the Women’s Resource Center and associate professor in the Center for Gender in Global Context at MSU, said that anti-abortion legislation, like the one passed in Ohio, could have detrimental effects on the efforts that have been taken during the past decades in the revolution of a woman’s right of choice.

“I think each effort is a chip away at women’s reproductive rights,” said Schuiteman. “I think the ultimate [goal] with anti-choice people is to eliminate abortion altogether and each step is just a chip away at that general overall goal.”

Stressing the importance of having mandated ultrasounds on women in Michigan, especially for college-aged adults, Marnon said many women don’t realize that they are carrying a living being inside of their body.

“Many young people have been told that it is just a clump of cells or it isn’t really a person,” Marnon said. “Having the image of a tiny human in front of your eyes will dispel that illusion and hopefully lead more young women to choose life.”

As a woman who has devoted a large majority of her life to traveling the United States to spread the ideals of reproductive freedom, Gardner said how each piece of intrusive legislation affects her personally.

“If you don’t want to have an abortion don’t have one, if you don’t want to buy birth control don’t buy it,” Gardner said. “But I don’t see why those of us that make those decisions need to be penalized by insurance companies, by the state, by access, by all kinds of barriers put in front of us where we should have a voice to choices that we are making, that are about our lives.”

While decisions on these abortion-related bills in Michigan could be drawn out all the way until election season in November of next year, only time will tell as to whether or not they will become enacted into state law.

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Michigan State weighs in on lowering the drinking age

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Michigan State weighs in on lowering the drinking age

Colleges all over the world are debating with lawmakers about the idea of lowering the drinking age to 18.

Recently, college presidents are asking lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age to 18 specifically on college campuses to decrease the dangers of binge drinking, according to multiple newspaper reports.

The reports showed that some colleges pushing the idea include Syracuse, Ohio State, and Duke.

By definition, binge drinking is the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time.

But what is Michigan State University thinking?

Sally Nogle, Head Athletic Director at MSU, goes back and forth with this issue and is not sure of how effective this law would be.

“I’m not sure it would change the binge drinking,” Nogle said. “I would hope it would, but I think right now that seems to be a college thing no matter what your age is,” she said.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings people’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams. Usually happening when men consume five or more drinks and women four or more drinks within two hours.

A survey conducted by the NIAAA showed, of American adults (age 18 and up), 28 percent of women have participated in binge drinking as well as 43 percent of men.

This proves that young adults may not drink as often as older adults do, but drink a lot more alcohol when they do drink.

Rebecca Allen, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Health Educator of the Olin Health Center at Michigan State University said, “A lot of students have the misperception that drinking in college is the norm.”

Allen and others at the MSU Olin Health Center created a Social Norms Campaign, commonly known as the “duck” campaign.

This campaign allows for students to become aware of the common misperception college brings to alcohol and drugs. It can help educate students and create protective strategies in cases of binge drinking, Allen said.

Information from ProCon.org, a nonprofit public charity website that provides research and insight on controversial topics, said that in the 1970’s, some states experimented with lowering the drinking age to 18. Michigan was the first state to push the age limit back up to 21.

Mona Davis is the Associate Director of Prevention and Training Services (PATS), which is an organization established to create programs to reduce various criminal behaviors.

“We’ve tried that before. It didn’t help,” Davis said.

Daune Rensing, Academic Coordinator of Student-Athlete Support Services at Michigan State University, believes that this time around will be unsuccessful as well.

“So many people can’t handle everything else that’s going on let alone the social side of things, they can’t handle the drinking responsibly,” Rensing said.

1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, while 25 percent of academic problems relate to drinking and alcohol, the NIAAA said.

Sue Carter, journalism professor at Michigan State, said, “I think opening the doors wider, making it more positive experience, would not help the academic environment.”

Carter also said she believes Michigan will not be lowering the drinking age in the near future.

On the other hand, to some MSU faculty, the MSU counseling center and various debate websites, lowering the drinking age to 18 there will be a positive impact.

For example, Allen thinks the drinking age right now is “artificially set too high” because she said that if an 18-year-old can make the decision to fight for our country, they can handle other responsibilities.

Sources say lowering the drinking age may be helpful among college campuses because the age 18 is the introduction to adulthood.

Nogle said she agrees that young adults should be able to make a mature decision.

“Research shows that we have more problems if you lower the age, but I feel like in college if you can go to war at 18 and vote at 18 I’d rather have you start drinking early and it not be a penalty,” Nogle said.

So, will Michigan give the 18-year-olds another shot?

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Soccer is still loved by Americans, despite how its popularity compares to other sports

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Soccer is still loved by Americans, despite how its popularity compares to other sports

            Many former youth soccer players remember the embarrassing picture button pins that our moms wore to our soccer games to cheer us on in our recreational soccer days as a youngster. We all played it, we all loved it.  For a countless amount of us, it was our first sport. So why did only a handful of us stick with it?

Photo credit: Cayden Royce

            Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but in America, few people can even name a professional American soccer team, let alone players. When it comes to football we all know who Payton Manning and Tim Tebow are. It’s easy for us to name off countless basketball and baseball players as well. Soccer just isn’t at that level in America.

International Perspective

            “Back home soccer is the number-one sport,” said Yerbol Zhakupov, a Michigan State University senior from Kazakhstan. He is a big fan of the game of soccer and has noticed many differences between the culture of the sport back home and here in America.

“I think one of the reasons it is so popular is the influence from big European tournaments such as the Champions League. Sometimes people back home have to stay up until three or four a.m. to watch the European games. Another reason it’s so popular is that soccer is a simple and affordable sport. All you need is ball. When I was a kid, there weren’t many soccer fields, so we would just play in an open field. Instead of the goal, we would use bricks, bottles or something else to designate the goals,” said Zhakupov.

            Zhakupov said he was not surprised that soccer is not the most popular sport here in America because there are so many other sports.  He believes that it’s easy for people to get bored during soccer because sports like basketball and football have a lot of commercials and activities in between their breaks to keep people entertained, when soccer has two 45-minute periods with a short 10 minute break in between.

            In Kazakhstan when there are big events such as the World Cup, or Champions League on television, people get together to watch the games. Zhakupov said that during the World Cup, games are shown everywhere. Bars, restaurants, and other public places designated for entertainment like bowling alleys, and billiards are usually filled with soccer loving people.

“There is no such thing as tailgating though. Maybe one day I will introduce this awesome pre-game tradition,” said Zhakupov.

MSU Student Perspective

Michigan State Freshman Sean Conerty, a midfielder for the Spartan men’s soccer team also notices the different views of soccer here in the U.S. Conerty has been playing since he was four years old and says that when he plays soccer, nothing else is on his mind.

MSU Soccer Fans in Fall, 2012. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

“I’m not bothered by the unpopularity of it here. It’s the sport I love and no one else has to, although they are missing out,” declared Conerty. “The only time I really notice it is when you compare it to other sports. The most we’ve had at our games is about a thousand, while home football games fill up the whole stadium that seats 75,000 or so and the Breslin fills up the whole venue during Men’s basketball games as well,” said Conerty.

Conerty admits that he watches European leagues more than American leagues. The reason for that being that there is far better competition and teams. Conerty recalls going to Europe this past summer to train and he could clearly see differences.

 “One of the clubs we trained at had a facility with housing. It was a school just for kids that played soccer. They would go to classes, then come out and train the rest of the day and they would even have fans at their training sessions,” Conerty said.

A History of Soccer

            Peter Alegi, an associate professor and soccer and global sports expert at MSU, has a contrasting view on the popularity of soccer in America. He believes instead of focusing on soccer as “unpopular”, we have to look at the history of the sport in order to fully understand the journey it has gone through.

                  Alegi pointed out that in the 1880s soccer was really the only organized American sport besides baseball, which started in the 1870s.  Soccer was huge when it first started. In the 1920s, the United States had one of the top professional teams in the world.

 “In fact, at the time when the American Soccer League was created, [the teams were] paying so well that many excellent players from Scotland and England came to play for them,” said Alegi.

            The Great Depression is what put a damper on soccer organizations in America.

            “The ASL was [at its] largest in the 20’s, but in 1929 the crash really undermined the fan base,” reported Alegi. Then of course, WWII did not help.

            Professor Alegi pointed out that when televised sports became big in the 1960s, unfortunately at that time soccer didn’t have a professional league. Therefore, TV was the tool that other professional sports teams used to become extremely popular.

            Alegi noted that by the time the World Cup came to the United States in the 1994, it was the best attended World Cup in the history of World Cups. “These are signs that rather than focusing on the unpopularity of the game in the United States, it’s really about the growth and decline. It has never been absent. In fact, right now I think we’re at a peak,” Alegi said proudly.

            When it comes to Americans watching European soccer, Alegi encourages it.

“I think that is one of the drivers. In other words, how can American soccer get better if we’re not engaging in the highest quality game overseas? That’s how kids learn their moves and that’s how their imagination grows and develops. You always want to follow the best,” said Alegi.

            Professor Alegi says that he doesn’t think soccer is going to become like baseball, football, or basketball, but it doesn’t mean that one should look at soccer in America as unpopular. It may never get to a super bowl level to where it can focus the attention of a nation, but Alegi truly believes we are moving in that direction.

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Students get a ready for a summer of music

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Students get a ready for a summer of music

Every year, college students flock to amphitheaters, concert halls and theaters for a round of annual summer concerts.  With the warm summer wind crawling through the air and the carefree relaxation of the season dominating, artists invade cities melting with summer heat annually, selling out summer tours and festivals such as Bonnaroo, Summer Camp, Lollapalooza and Faster Horses Festival.

While the Wharton has plenty of concerts to see this summer, students are going beyond Michigan to see their favorite acts. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

“Summer concerts appear to be special because you are not only paying to hear an artist you enjoy, but you’re paying for the atmosphere,” said Lindsay Shafer, an education sophomore.  “I believe outdoor summer concerts and festivals are becoming more popular because they offer more than just a show.”

Since one of the most famous summer music festivals in 1969, Woodstock, festivals such as Lollapalooza (established in 1991) and Bonnaroo (established in 2002) have toured the United States with a treasure trove of varying musical acts each year.  These acts include hip-hop, rock, pop and even comedy troupes.

“This summer I will be going to Summer Camp,” said Kevin Smith, a media arts and information and communications junior. Summer Camp is a music festival in Chillicothe, Illinois.

Summer Camp sets up shop every Memorial Day Weekend.  At the festival, a variety of activities are also held. There are centers for children called Kids Camp, which allow children to be attended to during the concerts, as well as a family-friendly area in which most adults and children participate.

Since 2001, Summer Camp has expanded to more than 15,000 attendees, while hosting more than 100 bands on their seven stages over a period of three days.  This year’s headliners include Moe., Umphrey’s McGee, and the Trey Anastasio Band.  For the full lineup, see http://summercampfestival.com/lineup/.

“At many festivals there are extra activities, campgrounds, chances to meet people and an opportunity to see more than one artist,” said Shafer.  “I also think it has become a lifestyle for many people our age.  Going from festival to festival with a group of friends makes for a very exciting summer.”

For many college students, music festivals are the time to let their hair down, not shower for a few days and live as if there is no future or past.  With a warm breeze and cold refreshment, summer festivals may seem like a type of paradise.

Another popular music festival is Faster Horses, being held July 19, 20 and 21 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  This country music festival headlines with some of country music’s most famous names, including Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan.

At Faster Horses, audiences are able to camp in the “rolling Irish hills” of Michigan while enjoying some of their favorite country musical acts.  This year, the show is being dubbed the “three-day hillbilly sleepover.”

Not only are music festivals popular during the summer season, but also regular music tours.

“So far I’m going to see Grizzly Bear and The XX at The Fillmore in Detroit on June 12, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at the Kalamazoo State Theatre on June 24,” said Amanda Heckenkamp, a sociology freshman.  “Any concert is special, regardless of the season, because there is absolutely nothing better than being able to support someone in what they love to do, and love the art that they are creating at the same time.”

Like Heckenkamp, Shafer expects to see some of her favorite bands in the warm and relaxed days of summer this season, including The Lumineers and Cold War Kids.

“Summer concerts are popular because it’s one of the few times of the year where you can fully enjoy them, meaning you don’t have to worry about classes,” said Smith.  “But more importantly, they create a distinct memory for that summer that will stand out from the rest.”

Heckenkamp agreed with Smith on this.

“Summer concerts are so popular because there is more time to be able to attend them and more time to have fun,” she said. “Summer concerts have a different vibe.  Regardless of the artist, the shows seem to be a little more upbeat and everybody’s feeling good and are more carefree.”

For a complete list of upcoming concert dates and ticket information in Michigan, check out: http://www.miconcerts.com.

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Black History Month is a time to reflect on progress

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Black History Month is a time to reflect on progress

If you catch yourself peering through a history textbook, you will undoubtedly find stories of the modern African American.  From the days when Gone With the Wind was a reality to when an African American woman sat down courageously at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the trials, experiences and joys of African American life have dissolved into the modern mind, and are appreciated more and more each year.

“Black History Month is a time of year that acknowledges the contributions of people of African descent in U.S. and Black Diaspora,” said Dr. Austin Jackson, assistant professor in African American and African Studies.

“Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African-American to receive a Ph.D. in Harvard University, first established it,” said Jackson. “What started first as Negro History Week in 1926, evolved into Black History Month today.  It’s celebrated in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and other parts of the world.”

Black History Month has become a major topic of discussion for students young and old.

“I’ve been learning about Black History Month since elementary school,” said Kaylee Storey, a psychology and religious studies senior. “Every year, when it comes along, I think that it is a good reminder for things we should appreciate on a regular basis.”

Each year, Storey finds Black History Month as a commemorative and insightful time.

“Black History Month is so important,” said Storey.  “Because of it, we have the chance to raise awareness of our past and find a way to be proactive for even more change in the future.”

The importance of Black History Month is often debated.  Controversy has sparked between many members in and out of the African American community.  Notably, Morgan Freeman, famed Academy Award winning actor, once professed that he did not want a Black History Month, rather that black history is American history.

Jackson debated the importance of the month with his students.

“Most of the students in the class are white,” said Jackson.  “As they discussed The Autobiography of Malcolm X, students said that Black History Month was imperative, since the textbooks they read in school either excluded or misrepresented the Civil Rights Movement, American chattel slavery, while at the same time affirming a wide range of racist stereotypes about black people.”

Black History Month allows people to reflect on how far African American leaders have come. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Kyler Wilkins, a computer engineering senior, agreed with the importance of the month long remembrance.

“Black History Month is a time of reflection for me and my life as an African American,” said Wilkins.  “While I never have experienced day to day oppression, segregation, and blatant mistreatment, my parents have and my grandparents even more so. It’s so strange to think that if I were born a generation earlier the way I am now I’d have a completely different life in terms of how the whole world viewed me.”

Because Black History Month proves to be necessary for many people, it is a way to remember the past for guidance and look to the future for hope.

“Black History Month is imperative, on multiple levels,” said Jackson.  “It is a moral and ethical responsibility, to make sure that children — both my own and those I’ve been privileged to teach — receive a comprehensive and inclusive understanding of history.  This means making sure that they understand the rich and remarkable history of people of African descent in the Americas and beyond.”

With a bright light shining in the future, Black History Month still stands as a beacon of remembrance—a symbol of American history that is essential for all to recognize.

“The fact is,” said Wilkins, “we need to set aside a time of reflection each year to remember where we were, where we are, and therefore how far we’ve come. The next step is to look at where we’re going to go and how we can help bring everyone to the same level of awareness and respect.”

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Middle of the Mitten 2013

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Middle of the Mitten 2013

This year, Middle of The Mitten celebrated its 5th music festival with a three-day affair, Jan. 24-26, organized by The Record Lounge on Grand River, as opposed to two days in previous years. The music festival is way of celebrating the opening of the all vinyl store, which opened early 2008. What started out as a small project by Joel Heckaman who obtained his degree at Michigan State University in professional writing, has turned into a much bigger part of the community. Every year there are a few current students at Michigan State who are a part of his team, organizing, planning, designing and advertising.

On Thursday, Jan. 24, there was a kick off party featuring solo artists like Vince Zydek and The Hand in The Ocean. It was an intimate setting as twenty or more people got to listen to acoustic sets in the store. Despite the small space, everyone got to enjoy the local up and coming music artists. On Friday, the event moved a little less than a block where it was held at SCENE Metrospace, which was not so far away from the store. More artists locally in Michigan were featured, including Nathan Alan. The last night of the festival took people slightly further away. The night was filled with rock music as they occupied the Loft down in Lansing. With a much bigger space, there were many more possibilities.  Bands like Bicycle Sunday and Elliot Street Lunatic took the stage where both local and not so local bands have played.

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