Sheila Raghavendran

bloomington-pride


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Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival

My friend Vicki and I went to the Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival yesterday and watched three shorts and one feature-length film. The film festival is a yearly event that started in Bloomington in 2003 and explores LGBTQ+ issues and themes. Bloomington has a thriving LGBTQ community and we were excited to check out the films for the first time — and were not disappointed.

These films did an astounding job of sharing very personal, intimate stories without adhering to stereotypes or disrespecting the characters. We saw the short films “Nasser” directed by Melissa Martens, “100 Crushes: They” directed by Elisha Lim and “Veracity” directed by Seith Mann and the feature-length film “Real Boy” directed by Shaleece Haas. Vicki and I walked away from the theater realizing something profound: unlike many stories of LGBTQ characters in mainstream popular television and film, none of these queer characters died.

I think it’s unfortunate that queer characters are often portrayed stereotypically or negatively. The good parts of the story are missed, and therefore the depiction isn’t accurate. I am really glad that the directors of these films focused on the people, not the expectations, and think it made for exceptionally honest, real stories.

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“We the People”

Today I hosted American Student Radio’s first show of the semester, “We the People”.

I brooded over the theme for a long while, and finally chose “We the People” to tie in with Friday’s presidential inauguration. I wanted to create an outlet to talk about what is next for the people of this country. We crafted the show around the uncertainty that comes with a change of power.

It was a great opportunity to talk about newsworthy topics at a relevant time. I am proud of the show and thankful to my dear friends who produced pieces and worked on the episode. It came together so well thanks to their dedication!

I produced a piece on campus activism in the 1960s and the parallels and differences of today’s youth. Finding the relevance and purpose of the piece was a challenge — I knew that young people were affected, but at times felt that it was too early to tell the story. I soon realized that the story was exactly that: Young people, and all people, don’t know what is next, but things are happening to affect them.

All of the pieces in this episode have to do with that motif. It resulted in an interesting array of stories about people in a state of limbo, just waiting to see what will come next.

Link to the show: 

Gwen Ifill. Photograph from The New York Times.


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NYT Mag’s ‘The Lives They Lived’ & Feeling Good in 2016

2016 has somehow become notorious for “the bad stuff”. International tensions, political uproar, tragic, violent deaths.

It’s some of these deaths that The New York Times Magazine has taken a spin on. In its “The Lives They Lived” issue each year, writers highlight the influence of prominent deceased people, often with unique anecdotes. In 2016’s issue, published December 25, the story that caught my attention particularly was that of Gwen Ifill.

Gwen Ifill. Photograph from The New York Times.

Gwen Ifill. Photograph from The New York Times.

Role models often appear with a thunderclap, a bright flash on a dark horizon, but can feel remote and evaporate just as quickly. Gwen Ifill was different.

In this piece, writer Sara Mosle tells Ifill’s story through her profound impact on two of Mosle’s former journalism students, Sophie Sabin and Isabel Evans. These girls’ journalistic aspirations quickly became tangible thanks in part to Ifill’s strong encouragement.

Sophie had the chance to interview Ifill via Skype in 2014, and she asked Ifill why “this important person, who had this really busy schedule” was taking the time to talk to her. Ifill answered, “Well, Sophie, it’s because I was you.”

Isabel had learned that race, ethnicity and gender were hurdles she had to jump. Her admiration of Ifill began when she noticed that Ifill, despite her own race, ethnicity and gender, had “never been held back”.

Sophie’s and Isabel’s mindsets remind me of my own — starting out timid, but quickly becoming imbued with a drive to ask the hard-hitting questions and tell the important stories, and facing the challenges of being a young, female person of color. Even though I never had a relationship with Ifill akin to those of Sophie and Isabel, I can find my role model in her through the lives she touched.

The editor of the annual “The Lives They Lived” issues, Ilena Silverman, talked on the podcast Still Processing, another product of The Times, about the purpose of the issue: finding humanity.

“Everyone is sort of looking for the deep humanity in their people,” Silverman said, referring to the writers’ goals. On the general audience for this issue, people who are moved and upset about these deaths, she said, “I feel like at its best you’re reading these stories and you’re going deep into people’s lives and deep into particular eras and that you just actually feel good.”

And in a year end that dramatized and dwelled upon the bad, I think it’s valuable to search for that humanity and cause for celebration, and just actually feel good.

My sister and I at "Fun Home" the musical in Minneapolis on Sunday, December 18, 2016.


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“Fun Home”: a familiar allusion

“The end of his lie coincided with the beginning of my truth.” (pg 117)

The cover of "Fun Home", a bestselling graphic novel by Alison Bechdel.

The cover of “Fun Home”, a bestselling graphic novel by Alison Bechdel.

Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel “Fun Home”, which is now a Tony-award winning musical of the same name, is a precise documentation of her family’s secrets. Whether thick, unanswered or forgotten, they shape the story to be reminiscent of more than just “In Remembrance of Things Past” or “The Odyssey”, two of the many pieces of literature to which Bechdel alludes. The story of the Bechdels, as specific and exclusive as it is made to seem, is an allusion to every family and its own secrets. Continue reading

MacDonald Scholars


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MacDonald Scholarship connects students with community for long-lasting success

Originally posted on IU Communications’ Student Experience blog.

Photo the MacDonalds Scholars dinner, taken on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.

Alumnus Scott MacDonald meets with the inaugural MacDonald Scholars during a recent ceremony. Photo by Eric Rudd.

In 1970, IU Bloomington was very different from IU Bloomington today – its population was only 30,368, the building of Assembly Hall wasn’t yet completed and SPEA had yet to be established. But there is one aspect that has remained for some students and families: struggling to pay for college. Continue reading

Bicentennial intern


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Bicentennial intern projects showcase IU history

Originally posted on IU Communications’ Student Experience blog.

One hundred ninety-six.

That’s how many years since IU was founded in 1820, and today’s campus is greatly transformed from that first version. In anticipation of the 200-year anniversary of the university’s founding, interns for the Office of the Bicentennial have been researching IU’s history for projects that will be featured on the IU Bicentennial website. Their projects will be featured at an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, in the Indiana Memorial Union Dogwood Room.

scott jauch

IU Senior Scott Jauch works on his project in the common lounge at the new Media School. Photo by Eric Rudd.

According to Kelly Kish, Director of the Office of the Bicentennial, 2020 will be not only a celebratory year for IU but a moment for reflection.

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Science Fest


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Third annual Science Fest exposes community to science and technology

Originally posted on IU Communications’ blog Science at Work.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, IU was overrun with robots.

These robots — machines such as PARO, the therapeutic robotic seal — were on site for holding and petting as part of the School of Informatics and Computing’s activities at the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ third annual Science Fest. Continue reading


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Jhumpa Lahiri

Click here to listen to a piece I produced for American Student Radio on Jhumpa Lahiri wannabes.

***

She was wearing a maroon, comfortable shirt, paired with brown pants that sloshed as she walked and an decadent, teal-stoned necklace. She appeared serious, almost disinterested and stoic.

Is she nervous? Bored?

I contemplated as author Jhumpa Lahiri sat poised on the stage of the Whittenberger Auditorium last Monday. She checked her fingernails, adjusted her ring. As Indiana Unviersity Hutton Honors College Dean Andrea Ciccarelli gave an introduction, Lahiri quietly coughed, the first audible breath of her voice caught on microphone.

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Photo from thewrap.com.


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Tina Fey’s role in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is the same as always, and that’s a good thing

Photo from thewrap.com. This contains spoilers for “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”:

Tina Fey’s role in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is exactly what we’re used to from her — a working, somewhat unhappy adult, rooted in her ways and heavily concerned with her job and impressing her boss. We saw this with “Baby Mama”, where Fey played the careful, collected woman intimidated of chaos; we saw it again with Liz Lemon in “30 Rock”, who was unhealthily committed to work; and we saw some glimpses through her several stints as Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” (“somewhat unhappy”, “concerned with impressing her boss”, you get the point). Fey’s role in “WTF” is no WTF — but it’s the jarring portrayal of women that caught me unexpectedly.

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Memorable memories: afraid at age 4

One of my earliest memories of life is about death.

It’s difficult to gauge what my first memory is because young ages are a blur of emotions and recollections from others. I’ve pieced my early memories into a timeline (with my mom’s help with chronology, thanks mom), and one of those memories is most significant because it introduced me to pain, death and fear.

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Where I’m a Local

People frequently ask me, “Where are you from?” When I reply with the unsatisfactory, “Cincinnati”, they shake their heads and further and ask, “Oh, I mean, where are your parents from?” Reluctantly, I give them the answer they want.

I find it frustrating because it allows others to define me by my ancestry and the preconceived notions that are associated with it.  Taiye Selasi tackled this topic in her recent Ted Talk called “Don’t Ask Where I’m From, Ask Where I’m a Local.”

She explained that there is a three-step test in determining where someone is a local: through rituals, relationships and restrictions. Continue reading


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There’s nothing ‘mock’ about the impact of Mock Crash

I feel like all my experiences in theatre thus far were leading up to Mock Crash: the opportunity to inform the school about the devastating consequences of drinking and driving and urging everyone to think first and drive safely.

The Chronicle and MBC teamed up to put together this fantastic coverage of Mock Crash on thecspn.com.

As an actor in the demonstration, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve never been in that kind of situation, never lost someone close in a car accident. I made the 911 call in the simulation and we prerecorded it a week before.

It’s hard to imagine what it’s like pretending that your friends just got into a car crash, that one of them was drinking and driving, and that one of them is most likely dead. Continue reading


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Lucky: an ode to high school journalism

I recently talked to a friend of mine who attends Kings High School — which is the school 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn attended for some time before switching to the Ohio Virtual Academy.

Leelah, a transgender girl, committed suicide on December 28, 2014 because she felt like she could never truly be who she wanted to be because of the surrounding environment and people, including transgender conversion therapy.

You’d think that, after this tragic event, Kings School District would have implemented some policies for tolerance, for anti-LGBTQ bullying or creating safer spaces for LGBTQ youth. According to my friend who is a junior at KHS, there hasn’t been much of a change, though a quick search on WCPO let me know that counselors were made available by phone and the basketball teams held a moment of silence. KHS also held a candlelight vigil shortly after her death. I didn’t find any information regarding policies or programs advocating for LGBTQ safe spaces or against LGBTQ bullying.

I asked my friend if someone who we know at Kings who is gay is taking his boyfriend to prom. He replied that no, he didn’t think it wasn’t allowed. I don’t have information about whether or not gay couples are allowed at Kings’ proms, but my friend said most of the gay students at his school weren’t out. He said he could only think of five openly gay students, whereas at Mason High School the list never ends.

We both thought it was a little ridiculous that gay couples weren’t allowed at Kings’ prom, or at least that their appearances weren’t common, and that gay students felt uncomfortable or unsafe bringing a same-sex date.

I asked him if his school had a newspaper and he nearly laughed at the question. He pulled up an online news site on his phone, populated with quick tidbits of news, but it doesn’t have an opinion section or any kind of forum for student opinions. So students who feel strongly about Leelah’s call to “fix society. Please” or who may have known her personally can only sit idly by watching as their friends stay hidden in the closet, at prom or elsewhere.

It’s times like these when I notice how lucky I am to be attending MHS and to be working as editor of the newspaper. Our opinion section thrives, thanks especially to the incredible work of Jessica Sommerville, Madison Krell and our columnist staff. Our staff editorials consistently take an intelligent perspective on light and heavy topics alike — ranging from our generation’s desensitization of terrorism to bathroom graffiti. We have Tweets to the Editor which allow MHS students to use social media to voice their opinions on our hot-button questions like how far is too far when directing social-media angst toward the superintendent.

The Chronicle is also fortunate enough to have Emily Culberson, the Business Manager, and Ashton Nichols who is diligently learning how to take Emily’s place next year when she graduates. Through advertising with various businesses, Emily and Ashton supply all of the money to print the newspaper. We receive no additional funding from the school — because we don’t really need it. Emily and Ashton do such a great job that we are able to operate completely self-sufficiently.

Some other schools, like Steinmetz College Prep high school in Chicago, didn’t have enough money to support its printing. Luckily, Hugh Hefner, a graduate from Steinmetz, pitched in money to keep the newspaper running for five years.

But not every school has an Emily or an Ashton or a Hugh Hefner — many school newspapers have been forced to fold because their staff cannot support the funds.

According to The Chicago Tribune:

In 1991, nearly 100 percent of Chicago public high schools surveyed in a study byRoosevelt University‘s College of Communication had newspapers. By 2006, the number had dropped to 60 percent, according to Linda Jones, associate professor of journalism at Roosevelt.

This can be attributed to a bigger interest in social media, teachers’ focus on standardized testing and diminishing interest in the news media in general.

Further in the same article from The Chicago Tribune:

At Morgan Park High School, English teacher Keith Majeske used to have to hide stacks of newspapers in the school’s main office so students wouldn’t grab them before they were ready for distribution. Today, stacks go untouched for days — unless it’s an issue with prom pictures or Valentine’s Day personal ads.

This is particularly interesting to me — especially since we spend so much time working the kinks of our cover page. We try to make something appealing to a huge demographic, hoping that everyone will be eager to pick up our paper. But lack of interest is lack of interest, and we’re very fortunate that our student body (on the whole) thinks highly of The Chronicle.

Journalism has the potential to make change. At Kings High School, it could allow gay couples to safely attend prom together, or for the school to implement anti-bullying policies. And I hope it does. High school journalism in particular is crucial because it provides a forum for students to be heard.

We’re lucky.