On “Hamilton”

With 11 Tony awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and a sold-out theater until 2017, it is undeniable that Hamilton has taken the nation by storm.  If you haven’t heard much about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, you’re probably wondering “what’s so great about Hamilton?”

Well, let me tell you…

Hamilton follows the life of an Orphan Immigrant – Alexander Hamilton – as he moves to New York City, joins the Revolution, and becomes the first Treasurer of the United States of America.

Still sounds like a bland history lesson?  

What if I told you that the entire story is expressed through modern hip-hop and rap, that “cabinet meetings” are transformed into “rap battles,” and that Miranda merges 18th century history with 21st century issues like racial discrimination and immigration?

From the very beginning, Miranda knew that if he wanted to make Hamilton a hit, he would need to make it relatable to ALL Americans. So, he decided that he didn’t want to cast the founding fathers traditionally (as the white men with gray wigs that we see every time we open our wallets); instead he chose to cast them as people of color, in order to better represent “America Now.”

In 2016, the minority-majority is a very real concept in America. In fact, according to NPR, minorities will make up the majority of U.S children by 2020. However, almost all of these minority groups remain under-represented in the media. Needless to say, it was a refreshing change of speed to see Hamilton’s racially diverse cast in a time when whitewashing is such a prominent issue in Hollywood and on Broadway.

People all across America have praised Hamilton for its colorblind casting, and for its emphasis on the idea that history belongs to everyone – regardless of skin color or origin. In fact, very little serious criticism of Hamilton exists. As a whole, Americans agree that all people deserve representation in society, and no one should be excluded from the history books…at least in theory. In reality, however, our actions do not support this idea.

Perhaps the best example of this hypocrisy is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. How can we so adamantly support a musical that highlights racial diversity, while simultaneously supporting a presidential candidate who has proven himself to be a racist, xenophobic bigot?  Donald Trump has conflated the word ‘terrorist’ with the entire Islamic religion, and has made claims suggesting that Muslims should not be permitted to live in the United States. Donald Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and promotes building a wall to keep immigrants out, rather than embrace the positive contributions that they have on our economy.

 And yet, many Americans still passionately support him.

How can we watch a musical like Hamilton, so obviously focused on the positive impacts immigrants have on society, and continue supporting a candidate like Donald Trump who stands for the exact opposite ideals? How can we support a musical that spotlights people of color, while continuing to remain silent about police brutality against black people? 

The answer: we can’t.

If we want positive change in America, we must stop talking about the problems in our society, and start taking action against injustice. We must stop talking about building walls, and begin building bridges. Only then will our ideas become our reality; only then will we see racial and ethnic equality in America.

On Brexit

The past two weeks have been filled with talk of Great Britain’s exit from the European Union and the drastic effects it could have on the UK, EU, and the entire world. Initially, only a small faction of people believed that Brexit would actually happen. However, in the wake of the UK’s separation from the EU, many people worry about how Britain’s decision will affect the British (and global) economy, stability of the EU, and the state of the British political system.

In order to fully understand Brexit, it is important to consider the reasoning behind such actions. Initially, I assumed that the reason for Britain’s separation from the EU to be purely economic.; however, I have since come to the realization that Britain’s objections to the EU stem primarily from xenophobia. As a member of the EU, Britain has been required to maintain open borders and has thus received a significant number of immigrants (many of which being refugees) from the Middle East. Despite the overwhelming proof that these immigrants and refugees have worked to STIMULATE the UK’s economy, many Brit’s argue that they are doing more harm than good.

The value of the pound began a steady decline after David Cameron began the four-month battle to determine the UK’s future with the EU. And, on June 24th, the day of the Brexit referendum, the pound’s value dropped to a seven-year low. Unfortunately, this is not the only potential consequence of the referendum. Without the EU, Britain could face significant trade barriers and increased taxes with many European nations. These set-backs could possibly  result in the relocation of various international corporations located in the UK and subsequent job loss. Many people wonder if Great Britain will be able sustain itself independently of such a powerful alliance with such a small economy and limited resources.

The EU will also face economic difficulties, seeing as Great Britain was the EU’s second largest contributor (after Germany). In fact, Great Britain has consistently contributed billions more than it received from the EU. Many people also suspect that Brexit will have a domino effect within the EU and will prompt other member nations to consider independence from the EU. While it is unlikely that this will happen immediately, depending on the precedent set by the EU and UK, more European nations may follow in Britain’s footsteps – further weakening the EU.

Despite the marginal majority of the Leave Vote in the Brexit referendum, many citizens would have preferred to remain in the EU. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, Prime Minister David Cameron declared his resignation, leaving the British government in a state of rocky transition. Although Prime Minister Cameron has agreed to remain prime minister until another is appointed in October, he has made statements that he will only “steady the ship,” not advance it. Furthermore, after the Brexit vote, Scotland’s government has taken action to hold another referendum independence from the UK, claiming that they still wish to maintain membership in the EU.

In the wake of Brexit, it is important to reflect on the effects that fear can have on a nation. It was fear of the perceived threat of foreign immigrants that motivated Britain to separate from the EU. It is fear that has lead to the overwhelming support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump despite (and, in some cases, due to) his xenophobic policies. If we are to make true progress, we must set aside fear of those who are not like us and embrace our differences.

On Oklahoma’s Financial Situation

I received an email from President David L Boren yesterday regarding OU’s financial situation and the effect that the severe lack of state funding will have on students this upcoming year. According to president Boren, since 2008 “the state share of the OU budget has dropped from 46% to 12%.” This lack of funding has resulted in a 7% increase in tuition during the 2016-17 school year that will burden both parents and students. Furthermore, these budget cuts have resulted in the loss of jobs for over 300 university employees.

Higher educations institutions are not the only ones facing these substantial budget cuts; Oklahoma’s public education system is also facing a severe lack of state funding. In the last five years, legislators have cut per-pupil education aid by 20%. Furthermore, many legislators have begun to advocate replacing public schools with private charter schools completely. At first glance, these charter schools seem like a positive alternative. However, what charter school advocates don’t tell you is that these schools are authorized to potentially discriminate against students based on their gender, ethnicity, religion, and even finiancial situation.

Meanwhile, our legislators just recently approved a massive tax incentive for oil companies that will cost the state over 300 million. In order to contend with the budget crisis that this would undoubtedly create, legislators decided to severely reduce a tax credit devised to help Oklahoma’s working poor; this cut will negatively affect over 130,000 households in Oklahoma. In short, big businesses thrive while working families struggle to make ends meet.

It is time that we take a good look at the state of Oklahoma’s financial situation and who it is currently benefitting, because it is certainly not the lower class and it certainly isn’t the education system. It is time that we hold our legislators accountable for their actions, and stop turning a blind eye as they defund programs that benefit OK citizens in order to support big oil companies and their own agendas.

Read more here!

To whatever end,
LK

On Orlando

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all who were affected by the tragic massacre in Orlando, FL.

We live in a world in which we constantly divide ourselves based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc. however, today we stand united against Omar Mateen, ISIS, and any other individual or organization that would promote such violent acts of terrorism.

Now I would like to address a few of the popular comments I have seen floating around for the past two days:

First, I would just like to remind everyone that ISIS is not a true representation of Islam, nor is it a representation of all Muslim people. Do not let this tragedy further divide us based on our different religions. Instead, let’s focus our energy on helping those involved and developing a plan to eliminate events like this from happening in the future.

Second, I think that it is important to dispels the idea that this shooting was “the most deadly in U.S. history.” It wasn’t, and to claim that it was is to ignore the deaths of thousands (primarily Native Americans and Blacks) in our history. However, I have attached a link to NPR’s explanation behind the claim that it was “the most deadly” in order to clarify the reasoning behind such statements.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is not a time for victim shaming. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the LGBTQ lifestyle, each and every person affected was a human being – a person with friends and a family – and no one deserves to be so violently attacked.

“Hate: it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.”
~Maya Angelou

My School Rules

There is a new initiative in Oklahoma called “My School Rules” meant to highlight the positive qualities of the public education system that have recently been omitted from the narratives of what public schools are like, in order to raise support for political schemes to replace the current education system with exclusive, private, charter schools. For this reason, I feel that it is my responsibility to share my experience in the Moore public school system.

For the sake of time (and sanity) I begin my story in Junior High and only briefly describe a few notable teachers, despite the many others who positively impacted my life as well; if I were to mention them all, this could easily be a twenty page thesis. So, without further ado, let’s begin ––

Junior High kids are a lot of things; however, in my experience, likeable isn’t always one of them. Looking back on my thirteen-year-old self, I remember a few key things: I was obsessed with the Twilight Saga, I desperately wanted to be “popular,” and I had decided that I was far too cool for school.

Another thing that I distinctly remember about Junior High is not having a cell phone. This might sound insignificant but trust me, when you are trying to survive in a school with hundreds of petty pre-teens, an I-phone can serve as one of your greatest weapons.  Even in 2010, when I was in the 7th grade, I felt like I was the only kid in the world who was deprived of what I then considered a basic right.

My philosophy changed completely when my Geography teacher, Mr. Langan, explained to my class how privileged we were to have access to clean water and electricity, let alone cell phones. Mr. Langan asked us a series of seemingly ridiculous questions, and all I could think was “obviously, I have a refrigerator,” And “everyone has a car, how else would we all get around?” At the end of class, he claimed that, based on our answers, each and every one of us was in the “top 1%” of people in the world. Needless to say, I was shocked; how on earth could I be more privileged that 99% of people on Earth if I didn’t even have a cell phone?

Throughout the school year, we talked a lot about the world – a place that, I soon realized, I knew almost nothing about. Up until that point, I had lived my life in a bubble; all that I really cared about was what table I sat at during lunch, and when I was going to get my next pair of Miss Me jeans. However, when I started thinking about the girls my age living in under-developed countries who weren’t allowed to attend school, who had to walk miles to retrieve clean water for their families, all of my previous concerns seemed rather silly in comparison. Mr. Langan taught me to care, not just about myself and the people around me, but about the world.

Flash forward to the 8th grade, and I had another phenomenal teacher; Ms. Clay, who taught US History. While I still struggled with the never-ending need to be one of the “cool kids,” I had rid myself of the notion that paying attention in class was nerdy. In fact, I was quite possibly the most outrageous over-achiever in my grade. This was, in large part, because Ms. Clay’s class was like nothing that I had ever experienced in school before – it was actually fun. Instead of writing notes and reading textbooks, we played History-Jeopardy, drew political cartoons, and held in-class debates.

The most notable aspect of Ms. Clay’s class was, undoubtedly, our chapter on the American Civil War. During the chapter, my class was split into two teams: the Union and the Confederacy (go figure, right?), and we then proceeded to reenact the civil war over the final month of class. During the chapter, each assignment and extra credit opportunity was a way for us to earn points and thus “win the war.” I remember going home and making Hardtack (a disgusting cracker that was a staple for soldiers during the war) to bring to class for extra credit, spending hours reciting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (which still runs through my mind every now and then), and writing page after page of notes for our in-class debates, all so that my team would win.

It could be argued that I was simply a teacher’s pet who had nothing better to do than devote herself to US History, and, to some extent, that would be correct. Not every student in the class took it as seriously as me. However, by the end of the year, there was not a single student who neglected to turn in assignments. Why? Because we each had a responsibility to each other – a responsibility to pull our own weight and not let our team down. Ms. Clay made learning worthwhile, she made it matter, she made it fun.

As a sophomore in high school, I encountered another extraordinary teacher – Ms. Parks – who taught World History. Ms. Parks’ class was nothing like Ms. Clay’s had been. It was difficult; the readings were challenging, the workload was heavy, and by the end of the year I was convinced that my hand would fall off if I wrote another vocab definition. I worked harder in that class than I did in any other class throughout the duration of my public education, and I simultaneously loved and hated it.

I soon realized that overcoming challenges while learning was one of the most empowering feelings that I had ever experienced. Because, even though I often times wanted to scream that I did not care a single bit about the Byzantines or the Ottomans, the feeling of making a good grade on an exam after spending hours studying was totally unmatched – it made all of the hard work worth it. Ms. Parks didn’t dumb anything down; no student got a free pass, we all had to work hard to succeed. And, as difficult and stressful as the class was, it taught me a valuable lesson: that I was capable; that, if I was willing to put in the work, I could achieve whatever I set my mind to.

During my senior year, I decided to take Human Geography (mainly because I had heard that it was relatively easy, and I was hoping to have the sought after “senior blow-off year”). In retrospect, I should have known better than to trust the rumors, because the class was anything but easy. However, while it was not the blow-off class that I had initially hoped for, it was by far the most interesting class I took during my public education. As a senior, I had grown very interested in the world around me, but I still had relatively no idea how it worked.

I was well aware of the problems with our society, but I had no idea how to fix them. I still struggle with this and, unless I miraculously transform into some all-knowing being, I assume that I will struggle with it for the rest of my life. However, Ms. Lewis (my Human Geography teacher) taught me that we had a much better chance of changing the world for the better if everyone’s perspective was valued equally – if everyone’s voice was allowed to be heard.

I learned a lot of things during my public education: the Pythagorean Theorem, the function of the mitochondria, and (most importantly) every word to “The Fifty Nifty United States” song, to name a few. But, my public education was much more than that.

I learned that the world was much bigger that Moore, Oklahoma, and that there were people struggling all around the world that are too often overlooked. I learned how to work in a team of diverse people, some of whom I had almost nothing in common with. I learned that school could be fun, that learning could be rewarding. I learned that I was strong, and intelligent, and capable of success. And I learned that if we want to change the world, we have to do it together.

Public education has come under a lot of scrutiny lately and many people have denounced it entirely, claiming that the public school system just “doesn’t work anymore.” However, public school worked for me, and it works for millions of American students every year despite significant differences in students’ gender, race, socioeconomic status, and language. Public education also allows students with mental and physical disabilities the opportunity to succeed.

The charter schools that many people point to as a better alternative to public schools, on the other hand, are not required to accept all students. In fact, they can choose students based on ability, wealth, gender, and even race. If all children are not allowed equal education, how can we ever hope for all people to have true equality?

Nelson Mandela once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Every child is an unlit match – infinite potential – and many could change the world for the better if given the chance. Public education empowers every student to succeed, while private charter schools bar certain children from ever having the opportunity to begin. I choose Public Education; I choose equality for all children. What do you choose?

One Down, Three To Go

Anyone who has been following along with this blog should know by now that I am passionate about ending modern forms of slavery. Regardless, for anyone who is just now tuning in — let me catch you up to speed. I came into my freshman year at OU knowing all of the facts about human trafficking: I could easily tell you how many people were being affected, how victims were initially trafficked, where trafficking typically took place, etc.  Perhaps what I knew the most about was why human trafficking is such a seemingly unstoppable system of violence and injustice. However, the one thing that I didn’t know how to do was join the fight.

Sure, I participated in social media movements like #TheEndItMovement and I bought all of the t-shirts and necklaces that donated proceeds to non-profits dedicated to eradicating slavery. I even became involved in an especially large anti-trafficking organization and planned to intern at their Florida office while in law school. Each of these was a great opportunity for me to become more involved and make global connections in the world of anti-trafficking, but I was still left feeling like I wasn’t making any real, sustainable impact.

During my first two weeks at OU, I tried to find organizations involved with anti-trafficking, but I had no luck and eventually gave up the search. However, about a month later, I happened upon an article about Dr. Kevin Bales (an OU alumni and the founder of Free The Slaves) and a course he taught on modern day slavery at the University of Oklahoma in 2014. After a little bit of searching, I was able to track down his email address and, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get a response, decided to shoot him an email asking about how I could get involved with anti-trafficking at OU. Much to my surprise, he responded within an hour, giving me the contact information for a senior at OU named Lucy Mahaffey.

After I got over my initial shock, I emailed Lucy and we ended up meeting for lunch at Chipotle. After hearing about all of the amazing things that she had done to fight slavery, I immediately knew that I was completely out of my league. Still, when she asked if I would be interested in co-planning Off the Market (a symposium on slavery and what we can do to end it), I was thrilled and agreed immediately. After months of planning, the day of Off the Market finally arrived on March 4th and, despite a broken down car and a miscommunication with one of our speakers, it went off without a hitch! Now, Off the Market is a registered student organization at OU with over 60 students who have expressed interest in joining next year.

Not long after meeting Lucy, I was introduced to the OU organization ENACTUS. I was initially hesitant to join ENACTUS because it is focused primarily on business endeavors and, as an International Studies/Anthropology major, it didn’t really sound like my thing. But, after hearing about ENACTUS’s involvement with No Boundaries International (a local anti-trafficking non-profit organization) I quickly reconsidered and applied to be a member of ENACTUS’s anti-trafficking project: Hope. This year, Project Hope put on an Art Gala called Shining Hope in which 50% of all proceeds were donated to No Boundaries. Since the current Project Hope Lead, Kes, will be studying abroad next year, I decided to apply for the position for next year. After a long process of applications and interviews, I was eventually nominated to fill the position, and I am ecstatic to begin planning for next school year.

I was also recently chosen to be a part of OU’s Global Engagement Fellowship’s Event Planning committee. Although, we have not yet planned very many events for the GEF Community, I am very excited to begin planning more fun things for GEF’s to do during next school year. I am amazed at the many opportunities that I have been presented with, and all that I have been able to achieve this past year, and look forward to continuing my involvement at OU as I furture my education.

To whatever end,
LK

 

Dr. Laura Murphy

This year at Off the Market: Slavery Then and Now, I had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Laura Murphy, a world renowned expert on modern forms of slavery. Unlike many others in her field, Dr. Murphy has made it a priority to focus her work not only on helping enslaved individuals escape their circumstances, but also on helping them to tell their own stories. A current professor at Loyola University, Dr. Murphy is also the Lead Researcher for Loyola’s Modern Slavery Research Project. So far, Dr. Murphy has interviewed over forty survivors of slavery — documenting their first-person accounts — in order to better understand their experiences, and the lasting effect that those experiences have had on them.

Dr. Murphy began her speech by explaining that real-life slavery is nothing live the Liam Neeson movie: Taken. The majority of enslaved individuals do not have a wealthy fathers in the CIA who have the resources to rescue them within a week; In fact, the majority of victims are targeted because they do not have any local friends or family — no one will come looking for them. This means that many of the targets are either immigrants or individuals of low socio-economic status. Another sad reality of modern-day slavery is that, despite years of joint efforts between governments and NGO’s, there is no easy way to rescue people from slavery. This is because the majority of people are not aware that it is going on, and do not know the signs to look for in order to identify it. If we are to truly end modern slavery, it is imperative that we dispel of our false notions of what slavery looks like.

During her speech, Dr. Murphy emphasized the importance of allowing survivors of slavery to tell their own stories without criticizing them for not explaining every horror they experienced in graphic detail. She explained that many times survivors intentionally skip over some of the most violent situations that they endured because the experiences are simply too painful to share with the world, or they do not feel that they should have to share the entirety of their story with the world. Dr. Murphy elaborated that many survivors are weary of allowing others access to the pain and suffering that hey endured because they had relatively no privacy while enslaved and do not feel obligated to share their private experiences with the public.

Survivors of slavery have multiple tactics of sharing their narratives without laying their experiences out in the open for anyone to examine. Many survivors will use deflection, shifting the focus from themselves to another individual (either a friend or someone whom they helped after escaping slavery) when describing traumatic events. Others will completely skip the most violent encounters by panning the focus to a seemingly insignificant details of the situation. For instance, it is common for sexual slavery survivors to focus on something like a candle, or the color of the walls, when they are describing their rape. In other cases, survivors will code their speech in metaphors, that allow them to explain their experiences without blatantly stating them.

Presently, it has become a trend for (typically) wealthy white women to narrate, or co-narrate, survivors stories with them. Although this does seem beneficial in that it allows survivors stories to be told, it also distorts the survivors original stories. In fact, in many cases, the survivors original story can end up playing second fiddle to narrators personal agenda (whether it be fame, fortune, or the furthering of a specific organization). In order to truly understand and eradicate modern systems of slavery, we must stop viewing survivors as merely the helpless victims of circumstance and begin to recognize them as our equals, allowing them to voice their own stories without our interference.

UN Symposium

On Thursday, April 22nd, in celebration of the United Nation’s 70th Anniversary, the UN symposium was held in Zarrow Hall featuring an eye-opening lecture from Jennifer Foray, an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University. In her lecture, Dr. Foray discussed the many behind-the-scenes interactions between different people and organizations that directly affect our history. She specifically mentioned September 28, 1950 – the day on which Indonesia was accepted into the United Nations as an independent state. She explained that the Indonesian Flag raising ceremony outside of the UN headquarters in New York City was simply the finite result of years of Indonesian struggle against Dutch imperialism and the extremely complex process of decolonization in the East Indies.

Until December 27th of 1949, what we now know as Indonesia was recognized as the Dutch East Indies – “the crown of the Dutch empire.” It is a commonly-known fact that Indonesia is now a free and autonomous state; however, the long and violent process that lead to Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, and the United Nations’ (and a few especially influential delegates’) instrumental role in the process of decolonization are less well known. The process began during World War II; while Dutch officials (who were typically stationed in the Dutch East Indies) were away in London, Indonesian nationalists declared their independence to the world. Unsurprisingly, their declaration of sovereignty was not recognized by the Netherlands or, initially, the United Nations. This lack of recognition speaks to the massive inequality between states in that it displays the ubiquitous hierarchy between the Netherlands and the East Indies which allowed the Dutch to determine the status of the East Indies, thereby denying Indonesians the right to self-sovereignty.

Both Jeanne Mintz and Ambassador Sutan Sjahrir played instrumental roles in Indonesia’s journey to independence. Due to Dr. Mintz’s extensive knowledge of both the Netherlands and Indonesia, she was able to provide incredibly valuable insight that ultimately resulted in the UN decision to allow Indonesians to fight to obtain their independence. Despite its status as an “observer,” granted by the United Nations in 1947, Indonesia still had no voting power and was thus unable to determine its own fate when the larger UN powers determined that the situation in the East Indies was not threatening and closed the case. Again demonstrating the inequality of power between states on the global stage. Imperialist powers like the United States and the United Kingdom have relatively absolute power over smaller states and especially nations who are not recognized as sovereign. Since these Imperialist powers have such a huge amount of power, smaller states often have no say in international dealings.

Fortunately, in 1949, the United Nations realized that the Netherlands had repeatedly violated its cease-fire agreement with the East Indies which prompted the UN to reevaluate the situation in the East Indies and reconsider Indonesia’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands. After Indonesian delegates, specifically Ambassador Sutan Siaharir, presented their argument at UN Headquarters in New York City they were finally granted their independence. The fact that Indonesia was not able to declare its sovereignty from the Netherlands, despite the violent Dutch treatment of Indonesians and having created a stable government is further testament to the inequality of states; there are a few large and powerful states who hold the majority of global control. They are responsible for making many decisions of international importance, and play crucial roles behind-the-scenes of most global interactions even when their influence can’t be directly observed.

Indonesia was the first state to transition from colonial control into the United Nations. Since 1949 many other states have followed in the steps of Indonesia, and have gained active positions in the United Nations. However, even states who are active members of the United Nations do not have the same weight and influence as the larger, more powerful countries. I found Dr. Foray’s lecture to be extremely insightful into global politics as a whole, the United Nations and inequality between states. As Dr. Foray began to explain how the United Nations was involved in Indonesia’s journey to Independence I began to realize how much power the elite powers wield in comparison to smaller states who have a limited influence. I was also surprised by the “observer” status of states that aren’t recognized as sovereign by the United Nations. I feel that this system gives large nations a significant advantage over smaller, poorer states that could (and most likely already has) result in corruption. I certainly agree with Dr. Foray that the UN played a significant role in Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands, especially after hearing the extensiveness of UN involvement.

It’s a Wrap

This is it – Two more weeks until my first semester of college officially comes to a close! My college experience has been everything that I expected and so much more, and I feel like this semester has flown by. Upon initially coming to OU, I knew that I wanted to get as involved on campus as I possibly could, and I also hoped to find an organization that was involved with combatting human trafficking. During my first three weeks at OU, I was bombarded with opportunities to get involved and, unable to decide which organizations I was most interested in, I ended up joining almost all of them. So, as you could imagine, my first few months at OU were an absolute whirlwind of meetings and events. However, I was having some serious difficulties finding any clubs or organizations involved with modern slavery.

By September, I was convinced that I would never find an anti-trafficking organization to get involved with. So, as a last resort, I decided to email Dr. Kevin Bales – founder of Free the Slaves and a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. Imagine my surprise when I actually got a response! Dr. Bales put me in contact with Lucy Mahaffey – a senior at OU – and together we decided to put on Off the Market Symposium 2016 to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking. Soon after meeting Lucy, I was introduced to Kes St. Clair through the Global Engagement Fellowship and was able to join ENACTUS – an organization that is currently partnering with No Boundaries International (an anti-trafficking organization based in Oklahoma City) to create sustainable solutions for trafficking on the local, national, and global levels.

Overall, my time at OU – although it had been so busy that I have, at times, struggled to keep up – has been spectacular and I have been able to become more involved with human trafficking prevention than I would have ever thought possible. Through my work within these two clubs, I have been able to meet a multitude of diverse people – all of which have been incredibly influential throughout my first semester here at the University of Oklahoma.

Until 2016, LK.

Journey to Turkey

Coming into my freshman year here at OU, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to study abroad. When I thought about where I wanted to study abroad, my line of thought looked something like this: “Norway! No, India. No, Peru.” and so on and so forth. So, as you can see, I had no concrete idea of where I wanted to go whatsoever. However, a few weeks into my Becoming Globally Engaged seminar I began to realize that I was extremely interested in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. I have been passionate about helping the Syrian Refugees since the weapons crisis in 2013. However, up until recently I had never considered how learning their culture could better enable me to help them. It is with this sentiment that I decided to travel to Turkey with the University of Oklahoma’s Journey Program.

Turkey and Syria have extremely interconnected histories and during Journey to Turkey 2016 Dr. Jill Irvine is scheduled to teach a course on Turkish history. Ironically, Dr. Irvine is one of the professors that I have been working closely with while planning the Off the Market Symposium on modern slavery and human trafficking, and I am very excited that she is also one of the professors sponsoring the trip! After going to a few meetings with a study abroad advisor I began to realize how multifaceted country and has an extremely rich and diverse history. I hope that while in Turkey I will be able to learn a lot about the Turkish culture and history and expand my worldview and broaden my global perspectives.