Remembering Francis Smith

The Friarside Chats team and community offers its love and prayers to Matthew Henry Smith and his family. Matthew’s father, Francis Smith, died Tuesday morning. Mr. Smith was a devoted father and Smith Hill community leader. He was a friend and neighbor of Providence College. Read more about Francis’ life and legacy.

Please consider making a donation to the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation in Mr. Smith’s honor.

Smith Hill Community Development Corporation, 231 Douglas Ave., Providence, 02908.

“No Justice, No Peace”

Cheesefest PictureGuest Chat – Eric Rivera, PC ’16

You may be wondering what happened outside your window last night. Why were a group of students walking around campus with signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace”? Last night was another instance that showed me why Providence College is the best place in the world. Last night, the news came out that Darren Wilson, the officer that shot and killed Mike Brown, will not be indicted. Many people, including myself, were absolutely outraged because of this news. Personally, I was frustrated to the point where I needed to seclude myself. I use this as a method to fully reflect and try to process difficult information. This information was difficult for me to understand because I do not understand why somebody will not be going to trial for murdering another human being. After learning about the news I took a walk to the BMSA office where other students were talking about what had just occurred. While sitting in the office I received an email from one of my classmates and a fellow leader on campus, Kadene Pitter ’16, saying that there would be a peaceful protest starting on the Slavin Lawn at midnight. The time was exactly 11:30PM when I received the email. I read the email to the rest of the people in the room, and a rush of excitement ran through my veins. It was beautiful to see a student-run movement be organized in 30 minutes. We are creating our own voice in a society where it is so easy to feel like we are silenced.

I arrived to Slavin Lawn at midnight and saw a few students ready to march. I was skeptical due to a small showing of people and the lack of preparation but at 12:10, after setting a few ground rules, the small group of Providence College students began to march. “Black lives matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” rang through Slavin Lawn and the upper quad. The feeling of solidarity was beautiful. This feeling completely took over my body and made me forget about all of my nerves, fear, and hesitation. Seeing our group grow and hearing the chants get louder put me in awe. The way the small group materialized into a huge crowd of people walking for the same purpose was inspiring. This peaceful protest was an example of our PC students from all walks of life coming together for a cause. This was an amazing display of diversity and how our diverse group of people was able to put differences aside so that similarities could create something special. It is very easy to put yourself into a category based on your interests and who you feel comfortable around, but this protest took us all out of our comfort zones and brought us all together. We truly came together as a “Friar Family”.

This Friar Family kept walking around campus yelling chants such as, “Justice for Mike Brown” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. We walked from Slavin to the chapel, then found ourselves walking in front of Guzman crossing Huxley Avenue onto lower campus, we then passed Davis, Bedford, and Suites, and eventually walked through the Fennell gates, and walked along Eaton Street going towards upper campus. Our group then walked back to the chapel, up towards Harkins Hall and eventually out of the main gate on River Avenue. From the main gate we walked up Eaton Street behind Al Mag and Ruane. Our March took a turn behind the library to head back to the quad where our protest concluded with a few words from the students that coordinated the event. Throughout these 40 minutes we were able to let our lights shine by standing together and expressing our opinions about an injustice that occurred last night. We stood in solidarity for the loss of Mike Brown. Today I am proud to be a Friar.

I’d like to thank Kadene Pitter and the others that set up this peaceful protest. You are amazing, and your initiative is something I envy. It isn’t easy to organize a group of people that are filled with anger and rage to peacefully display their emotions and opinions, but you were able to do so in a short amount of time and make this protest a huge success. Shout out to you. I would like to thank everybody that was a part of this protest and was able to help create a night that I will never forget. For everybody that is out there wondering where we go from here, I encourage you to stay positive. I know it’s hard to believe right now after this decision and many decisions in the pastm but as the chorus of Tupac’s famous song, Keep Ya Head Up goes, “Oh child, things are gonna get easier. Oh child, things will get brighter.” Enjoy your Thanksgiving breaks, tell your families you love them, and remain positive. Go Friars!


Eric Rivera junior from San Diego, CA. He is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Administration, Spanish, and Economics. He takes pride in being an RA, a devoted member of BMSA, and a student coordinator for the Horizons Retreat. Eric cares about creating community and promoting the Friar Family.  

52%: a Bazaar Opportunity

shoot3“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   -Genesis 1:28

Do you know what the most dangerous animal on the planet is? You. Yes you! Congratulations. We’re there! We did it! With the World Wildlife Foundation reporting that since 1970 humans have wiped out 52% of all wildlife on planet earth we can successfully say it has been subdued. As a recent article from The Telegraph describes, “Almost the entire decline is down to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting.”

But of course the earth hasn’t been subdued. It has been inundated. It has been overwhelmed. And it is responding with unstable weather patterns and climate changes. This is climate chaos, and our dwindling biodiversity is leaving us at tremendous risk of a systems collapse. There is a reflexive nature to our actions in this world and the more we subjugate what’s wild around us the more precarious our own situation becomes.

You might think things are observably OK because you saw five or six squirrels on your way to your 1 o’clock class, but even those grey squirrels aren’t naturally occurring in this urban area and were put here by our ancestors to ease our spirits.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I can’t fall asleep, my mind preoccupied by the quandary of the human mission on earth. Certainly I am proud of my species – man which surpasses man – and of what we have accomplished. But I can’t help  interpreting these facts as a reflection of our skewed execution of the Genesis Model: rather than becoming stewards to creation we have become masters of disaster.

So I’ve hatched a plan, and I’m going to need your help. Over the next four days I will be collecting all of the clothes you no longer  want or need, and then on Saturday I’m going to sell them back to you. That’s right, this is the  Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar  and it’s an opportunity for our community to unite in an effort to challenge our own habits and protect the environment. At PC we spend quite a bit of money on new clothing and by shopping at corporate retailers which contributes to the destruction of the environment through industrial capitalism. This week I am asking you to donate your old clothes and shoes to me (but not coats – save those for a warm coat drive!) before Friday. Then, on Saturday, you are invited to come to the Bazaar at the Unity Center in Lower Slavin and shop through the clothing that our Friar Family has compiled. All proceeds will go to the World Wildlife Foundation. The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar takes what has historically been an American method of coping with crisis (consumerism) and inverts its negative impact (if only for a day). Why not donate directly to folks in need? Well, in a sense you will be. Everything is connected, and the folks who are typically marginalized for socio-economic reasons are also the folks who are disproportionately at risk of experiencing the perils of climate chaos. Fight hunger, fight war, fight the (literally) rising tide. Go shopping on Saturday.

Oh, and you’ll have one more opportunity, and this is perhaps the most important part of all.

On Saturday, at the Bazaar, we’ll be kicking off a campaign to petition for the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness at Providence College. As you know PC is doing wonderful things and we provide an invaluable service to the City of Providence and its residents. Every year we graduate brilliant young people who go out into the world to seek justice and good living. To achieve all of this we have had to increase our capacity through the development of the Ruane Center, the Smith Center, the Slavin Center, the Schneider Arena, the Ray Treacy Track. Indeed, these developments have allowed us to draw tomorrow’s leaders, writers and teachers through our doors, but building has a cost beyond the dollar amount: the carbon cost. While have some impressive bioswales for processing the storm-water from our parking lots, a solar panel on Slavin that powers some of its lights and a plethora of Hydration Stations around campus thanks to the efforts of Think Outside the Bottle and Student Congress, we don’t seem to have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. But our competition does: Holy Cross plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. 

If you were to do a web search for “Providence College and Sustainability” you get a link to a three paragraph page that talks about how we recycle on campus. Recycling is last in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra because it is a least effective last resort option that comes with its own carbon cost. And while we will probably start composting next year this will only be in compliance with Rhode Island State Law. The Sustainable Endowments Institutes gathers information from academic institutions and compiles it into Green Report Cards. Providence college submitted our information to them in 2010 and the grade we received was a C- (Boston College and Holy Cross both boast B’s).

We need the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness to advise our Board of Trustees in the making of every development decision and the creation of every strategic plan. It all goes back to that first responsibility God ever gave us in the book of Genesis, and who would we be as a Catholic institution if we didn’t give this reality some very specific attention? The folks at the top may not pay attention to this unless they believe it’s marketable, and they won’t believe it’s marketable unless the student body demonstrates interest. If you believe the Providence College should be a leader in Christian environmentalism come out on Saturday and show your interest by signing the petition. Join your friends at the Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar, where we’ll exchange threads, empower consumers and (maybe) save the planet.  It starts with 52% and a C-, and I think that’s a Bazaar opportunity.

The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 12-5pm in the Balfour Unity Center of Lower Slavin. Please feel free to visit our website and follow us on twitter. If you would like to donate clothing contact the Organizer: msmith44@friars.providence.edu. 

Sources:

Sarah Knapton – The Telegraph 

Jason Bittle – Slate

The United Nations News Center

The College Sustainability Report Card

A Niche Discussion of Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Responsibilities

IMG_497604574877~2Matthew Henry Smith, ’16

There is a part of the abortion debate about which you may be unaware. It’s one I hold a queer stake in, and one that you should be talking about.

I was reading the Providence Journal this morning while enjoying a big bowl of Raisin Bran when I came across an article by Randal Edgar profiling four pieces of legislation in Rhode Island that have to do with abortion. The last proposal Edgar noted was about sex selection, “Yet another [bill] would ban abortions in cases where ‘the decision is based on the sex of the unborn child.’”

To preface, those close to me know that I have a pragmatic opinion about abortion legislation. I dream of a world without abortion, but I know the way to get there isn’t to legislate against it. I understand some of the reasons why people pursue abortion and also understand the reasons why people abhor the practice.

Inasmuch as I want to see the end of abortion, I know that abortion won’t end before poverty and misogyny end. I know that abortion decreases when pregnancy decreases and that pregnancy decreases when women in every country are educated. My life-respecting philosophy in regards to reproduction involves an approach that is a multi-faceted combination of abstinence and safe-sex education. And I know that a view this moderate might appear a cop-out for some of my friends on the polar ends of this issue, (some of whom might think that, as a man, I have not right to have an opinion at all). I’ll tell you that I have arrived here after years of deliberation. It is also a position that will call me to shout, not at right-to-life marches, but in support of women’s groups who fight for equal access to education and resources. What’s more, my view on this is just one element of many in my philosophy on environmentalism and human population, (you should know I am not a speciestist).

Further, if you believe as I do that there is an enormous difference between abortion and contraception then you should consider that the institutions we think of as the abortion industry provide many service to prevent abortion (by preventing pregnancy). They offer sexual health and wellness amenities for men and women in need, educating on safe sex and pregnancy prevention, etc.  For more on this I recommend that you watch Aljazeera America’s fabulous documentary The Abortion War.

But while the majority of this issue – and the solution – centers around equity there is a part of it that does not.

And I have a queer stake in some legislation rising in Rhode Island.

America critiques other cultures for post-birth sex-selection. We look at China’s preference for males and we shake our heads. But our prejudice, inconsistent as it might be, is rooted in a far greater hubris. It is quieter, cloaked in the laurels of scientific achievement and discussed in thin-lipped, even tones. In America we terminate pregnancies when we don’t prefer the sex of the baby.

That is if it even gets that far. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, (or PGD) is the practice of fertilizing multiple eggs and then determining the traits of each. This often results in a person choosing only to implant the fertilized eggs with the traits they prefer. Often, this means that parents are choosing only to implant eggs of the desired sex. I’m not opening up the “where does life begin” argument. But I’m saying we need to talk about what we allow ourselves to expect from our kids and where we think we get the authority to have a sex preference in the first place.

There are two queer reasons why sex selection in preimplantation and pregnancy termination is unjust. The first is that it is another way our culture promotes the sex binary. We choose to believe that people are either males or females and, when a person is born with XXY chromosomes or ambiguous genitalia, we take away their sex identity and make them either male or female surgically. According to ISNA.org, incidents of “intersex condition” are 1 in 2000. This means that there are more people who are intersex than there are people with cystic fibrosis. This means that there are more people who are intersex in the world than there are Jews.

You can see how many people are degraded by the sex binary. When they are born we often assign them a sex surgically. I have spoken with people who defend parents in this case saying; “they thought they were doing the best thing for their child.” The argument is that parents just want their kids to grow up and have normal sexual relationships. But when we “fix” our intersex children to fit our sex binary, (or never allow them to be born), we reaffirm a dysphoric cultural paradigm that says the following: Happiness and achievement in its highest form is sexual and procreative. I believe this to be patently false. And so there is a great risk of intersex discrimination with PGD and sex-selective pregnancy termination.

The second queer reason to reject the practice of sex selection is that it reaffirms a cultural ignorance of the differences between sex and gender. While someone might choose to implant or terminate a zygote based on the knowledge that it is male or female, there is just no telling whether or not that male or female will (or would have) go up (or grown up) to be a boy or girl. We default to the cisgender  “rule” and in much the same way that we default to heterosexism. When we partake in sex selection we promote cisgender privilege and reject the dignity of trans people. When we choose not to carry a female fetus to term because we want a boy we are fooling ourselves into think we can choose gender.

We cannot.

So this is my queer stake in this issue. I’d like you to care about it. But even if you don’t, even if you are so far to the left that I appear to you some misplaced queer zealot, you still have a stake in this. Because this isn’t a faith argument about the origin of personhood: it’s a rallying cry for the unmasking of the illusion of human control.  And whether this law comes to pass or not, Friars, consider the assumptions you might hold about your future kids. Would you love your intersex child if love meant loving their birth body? Do you dream of one day having a “boy” OR a “girl?” Do you buy into this illusionary market of control?

It’s time to think about these tough questions.

Pick Up The Damn Towel

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

Many students here at Providence College have questioned the decisions of our administration and the true intent of the cancellation of John Corvino’s “debate” about gay marriage. Some have not and have supported the administration’s decisions. Wherever you stand on this issue, we all know that Facebook has absolutely exploded with opinions, articles, and frankly, the pissed off sentiments of so many PC students. Herein lies the great irony: out of the midst of this controversy we have discovered the true capacities of the students here at Providence College. Are you ready for this?

We actually have the ability to get mad about something.

I love this school for many reasons. However, it is seldom that I actually see the majority of the college get “friared up” about something related to social justice. Of course, this is not to say that there are not large populations at this school who commit themselves to bettering the world around them. There are these groups of people. However, in my years here at PC I have literally never seen such a profound response from the student body about an issue that may not directly touch them personally. You know what that shows some of us? It shows us that we have empathy. It shows us that we can feel for other people who may feel abandoned by their school right now. It shows us that we not only feel badly for each other but that we actually are angry on one another’s behalf. A wave of a protective instinct has kicked in here, not only for the PC students and faculty/staff who do identify with the LGBT community, but for our friends, parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, and strangers who do not attend PC and also identify as LGBT. Many of us are attempting to hold their frustration with them. Do you know how remarkable this is? We have literally been watching advocacy work on our newsfeeds. Our twitter feeds show the passionate attempts of students to be heard on this issue.  However, I do have to say that many of these statements, while worth making, are angry.

Here’s another thing that I know: anger is a surface emotion.

When we get angry, we usually are feeling something else that we cannot or do not want to recognize. Maybe we are angry because we are scared for the future of our school. I know that many of us have gotten calls this week from confused friends and family members asking: “What the hell is wrong with your college?” Perhaps we are ashamed. Maybe we are confused. However, there is one thing to recognize: we are concerned. No matter what any student’s opinions are on this issue, a level of concern is being demonstrated as opinions are offered and, hopefully, listening is taking place. So where does this leave us? What are our options? Do we give up on our school? Do we “throw in the towel” on this issue?

No. Pick up the damn towel.

Show your peers that you care about them. Start conversations with not only fellow students, but with professors. Contact administrators. Form some groups to start this necessary dialogue. Attempt to understand this issue better. One very positive solution to being angry is to tap into some sympathy. PC needs us right now, perhaps more than ever. We need each other right now, perhaps more than ever. So are we going to give up on the place that so many of us call home? No.

We are too young.

We are too smart.

We are too determined.

This story has just begun to be told. We have the power to write the ending to it. Let’s make it a compelling one.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To Our Readers:

It’s been a full ten days since we’ve last posted to Friarside Chats. We’re sure you’ve felt the pre-holiday heat as well. The amount of school work piled on before breaks makes it hard to find time to eat or sleep, and maintaining a commentary blog on top of it all proved nearly impossible. But hey, Providence College- we made it!

In this ten day hiatus, there’s been much to talk about. There’s been a struggle and ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Rumors have been flying about cabinet appointments for the second Obama administration. In an appeal to consumers, stores have decided to open for Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day itself; is this worker abuse?

This Thanksgiving, we would like to thank our readers for their support of and interest in this developing project. We’re thankful for many hundreds of readers who have viewed our blog multiple thousands of times. We thank you for agreeing and for disagreeing. We are thankful for the opportunity to share our thoughts and to hear yours.

We hope that you’ll stay Friarside as we resume the chat. Join in with comments! Share with friends! Most importantly though, we wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving. See you in Providence on Monday!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Friarside Chats!