Live Video: John Francis, Ragged Edge of Silence

(via the Nelson Institute): John Francis, Visiting Professor at the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, kicked off the Institute for Justice Education (IJET)’s Spring 2012 Speakers and Trainers Series on January 26 with his public talk, Ragged Edge of Silence. Through storytelling, music, artwork, discussion and interactive practice with silence, Francis engaged participants in thinking about the connections between silence and listening, humanity and sustainability, and faith and justice. Francis is the author of two books, Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking, 17 Years of Silence and The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World.

For those of you who missed the lecture or want to experience it all over again, the Nelson Institute recorded Francis’s talk. You can view it below or on YouTube.

Part One:

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Harnessing the Potency of Interfaith Cooperation in Social Justice Movements

Usra (left) and Katie (right) discuss how interreligious cooperation and conversation on campus can impact and inspire social justice movements.

On February 8 and 9, the MSC and Institute for Justice Education and Transformation hosted a two-day interfaith leadership training with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). Campus community members were invited to participate in an interfaith literacy and strategic visioning session on the first day. The second day, students learned about storytelling as a tool for interfaith cooperation.  We interviewed IFYC trainers, Usra Ghazi and Katie Baxter, about what it means to make a social impact across lines of difference.

Why do you personally feel that interfaith campus cooperation is important and relevant to social justice work?

Katie: Students come to campus with many different beliefs that society has taught them to keep private because we think of religion as a personal matter.  But these beliefs often run deep, and to really respect someone else as a whole person, this includes respecting that person’s beliefs, even if you don’t agree with them.  To me, that’s justice: allowing someone else to be who they are, and knowing that, by doing so, you can be who you are, too.  I also feel strongly about the civic and social purpose of interfaith cooperation.  We need to bridge the divides that can run deep between religious communities so that we can promote a culture of pluralism both on campuses and beyond.

Usra: There are great examples from historical movements in the United States when college students have been the driving force behind social change. I think back to the Civil Rights movement, Environmentalism, and Multiculturalism as groundbreaking, youth-led initiatives. Many of the leaders behind these movements are my faith heroes-individuals inspired by religious and non-religious values to fight for social justice. Likewise, young people today are harnessing the potency of interreligious cooperation to address social issues such as domestic poverty and environmental sustainability. Student leaders of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge and the national Better Together campaign are strong examples of this.

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Apply for the 2012 Meyerhoff Excellence Awards


Cynthia Lin (right) congratulates Zina Knox (left) on being the MSC's 2011 Meyerhoff Award winner.

Juniors and Seniors are encouraged to apply for the 2012 Meyerhoff Excellence Awards. Recipients are recognized for their strong academic performance, outstanding leadership, and service to the university and larger community. The Multicultural student Center will be selecting one recipient for this award.

Application materials must be submitted by 4:30 pm, Friday, March 30, 2012. A committee will review application materials submitted and select one award winner. A $1000 cash award will be presented at the Meyerhoff Awards Luncheon on Friday, May 11, 2012.

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We have every right to be angry about Chris Brown at the Grammys

My tacit method of avoiding most “major label” produced media is why I didn’t watch the Grammys last night. If I had watched, I would’ve found out sooner rather than this morning that convicted felon Chris Brown performed onstage, three years to the day from when he was arrested, and later pled guilty to, the felony assault of then girlfriend Robyn Rihanna Fenty. (Rihanna performed too, so we had both the victim and the assailant at the same show. Hmm…but let’s not get into that right now). The new and varying ways stewards of mass media will bend ethics for financial power never ceases to amaze me. And it’s as simple as that. There’s no room here to claim that he’s been rehabilitated or learned from the errors of his ways, especially when just last year he vandalized the set of Good Morning America after being asked about his assault charges. Brown got a standing ovation after his first performance, and referred to himself as a “role model” on Twitter before deleting it. Really?

Sasha Pasulka of Hello Giggles sarcastically remarked: “It was nice of the Grammys to let him off a couple years early for high record sales good behavior.” Also disappointing was Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich’s response, where he claimed that he and Grammy Awards were victimized by Brown.

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TV Worth Watching: New Sketch Comedy Show Key and Peele

From Comedy Central

Comedy Central recently aired the premier of their new show Key & Peele, starring MADtv alumni Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as…well…themselves. The comedy duo created this new sketch series to explore (among other topical issues) their experiences growing up biracial in a “not quite post-racial” America. Interweaving reflective dialogue with culturally insightful (albeit raunchy) sketches, Key and Peele paint the picture of a multicultural generation forced to reconcile personal politics with upward mobility in a hegemonic society…with varying degrees of success. Ironically, that’s where the humor ensues. In Key & Peele’s world, Obama has an anger translator (@ObamaTranslated), because he’s afraid of displeasing voters; Lil’ Wayne’s prison reality show reveals the rapper to be a faux-gangster; and stereotypes force two guys on their cellphones to change their tone of voice out on the street.

Self-described as “Black nerds,” Key and Peele push at the barriers between pop culture pandering and intellectual criticism. During one part of the show, they talk about being a “White-Sounding Black Guy” and what it means to adjust their blackness on a daily basis.  “We sound whiter than Mitt Romney in a snowstorm.” The program has been hailed as a promising replacement for the long-running success of Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show. So far, all signs point to a hit first season.

You can view the full premiere episode online and catch more Key and Peele episodes on Tuesdays at 9:30pm. 

We Take Your Jobs: Pete Hoekstra’s Racist Superbowl Ad

During this year’s Super Bowl, Pete Hoekstra, former Michigan Republican Congressman currently running to replace Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow, launched a state-wide 30-second ad campaign called “Debbie Spenditnow.”  For those of you who haven’t seen the ad, you can view it below.

We’re not really surprised that the video has gotten some heat for being racially insensitive and offensive. New Yorker blogger, Evan Osnos, describes the now-viral ad as such: “[The spot] opened with the sound of a gong and showed a young Nondescript Presumably Scary Asian (N.P.S.A.) riding a bike between rice paddies, and saying, in broken English: “You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs.”

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Call for Nominations: 2012 McDowell Alumni Achievement Award

The Multicultural Student Center seeks to recognize outstanding alumni who exemplify the Wisconsin Idea through their work, actions and values. This Award, first presented in the Spring of 2011 was named in honor of The founding Director of the MSC Candace McDowell and her spouse, Chuck McDowell, former Wisconsin Alumni Association Board Chair. They were also the first recipients of the award.

After 10 years of working in UW-Madison Admission, Candace McDowell became the founding director of the Multicultural Student Center in 1988 and led the organization for its first 22 years of existence. Charles McDowell served as president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association from 2003-04. The McDowells have provided us dynamic examples of leadership, service, and commitment to excellence and community that will serve as a blueprint for evaluating future recipients of this award.

We are looking for individuals who live the Wisconsin Experience by creating and applying what they have learned during their time at UW-Madison to make the world a better place. Nominees should:

  • Identify as Persons of Color
  • Embody the Wisconsin Idea
  • Enhance the Wisconsin Experience through gifts of time, talent and/or treasure
  • Be a UW-Madison Alum*

*If nominee fulfills the other above criteria, exceptions may be made for individuals who matriculated but did not graduate

Nomination letters should be 1,500 words or less and should be sent electronically to Donte Hilliard ( by Sunday, March 25th. Nominators may attach additional materials, such as a resume, curriculum vita, etc. The award ceremony honoring recipients will take place on Monday, May 7 in the On Wisconsin Room (Red Gym, First Floor) from 7:00-9:00pm.

Download the printable flyer here: