Archives for September 2018

E Jones: Civil Rights Trip to Montgomery and Washington, DC

In the summer of 2018, along with two other students, I was invited on a week-long civil rights era themed trip. I was filled with anticipation and excitement at the opportunity to experience my ancestors’ history firsthand. Throughout my high school career, I had buried myself in civil rights research and history in an earnest attempt to understand the plight of our nation.

The trip would consist of us visiting Atlanta, GA, Montgomery, AL, and Washington D.C. These cities were incredible, and driving through them, it was easy to see how the civil rights era had impacted them. Our first civil rights location in Atlanta was the Museum of Civil and Human Rights. It was an incredible sight. The beautiful interior had a masterful layout that took the viewer from an outsider perspective to a very intimate one. The museum also hosted an immersion audio experience in which you could see what it would have been/felt like to be an activist during a sit in. In the experience, you would sit on automated bar stools and place your hands flat on the counter in front of you. The headphones you were supposed to put on would play audio recorded specifically for your experience. The sound was such high quality that it felt as if I were sitting at a real lunch counter. It is recommended to keep your eyes closed during the experience to make it feel more personal. It was incredibly difficult not to cry during and after the experience. The audio experiment is such a unique way to deliver an impactful, historical lesson that I believe everyone should experience it at some point. It was a means of making our history feel real and too close for comfort.

Afterward, we journeyed to Montgomery, AL. We visited the Equal Justice Initiative’s memorial site and museum and were profoundly touched. As I was recording a documentary for my junior seminar course, I was not allowed to film in certain locations and had no desire to film in such sensitive areas. As we slowly made our way through the lynching memorial, it was haunting and truly disturbing to view the thousands of names written into stone of those who were murdered in the worst way possible. A haunting phrase that followed me through the site was that we would never know the thousands of names of those who were lost to racial hate crimes. These deaths were not only hundreds of years ago, but also frighteningly close to our modern day. Justice is a resource that is much too valuable and necessary to daily life and sadly it is only reserved for a few. Justice will never be given to those whose names are lost in time.

Montgomery was also amazing to me in that this museum and memorial were funded and supported by the Equal Justice Initiative. A legal group comprised of attorneys and other social servants who wish to serve those that our justice system has abandoned. While many, many men of color and not given a fair trial and unreasonably given the death penalty, these lawyers will help at no charge to the people in question or their families. This was amazing to me as it coincides exactly with the reason I want to go to law school for. As an attorney I hope to specialize in indigent criminal law and immigration law, helping families who may not be able to afford legal help at no cost. I am trying to intern at the Equal Justice Initiative next Summer, in the hopes to work under Bryan Stevenson, the attorney who founded the organization.

Our final destination was Washington D.C.. We visited the newest Smithsonian and were so lucky to have even been able to get in, the museum was booked out 6 months in advance! The experience was amazing and well worth the long wait in line. The Museum of African American History was truly revelatory in telling the history of blackness in America. If you tour the museum in chronological order, you will go from the sugar trade all the way to Outkast and Kendrick Lamar. What made the museum so amazing was that it not only celebrated our history, but our culture that was manifested from such history. It is a very surreal feeling to look in the display glass at artist’s clothes and records that you still listen to today.

Overall, the entire trip made me feel incredibly thankful to have been born black and Hispanic. While our history is almost unbearably painful and marred with the anguish of those we have lost on our way to get to where we are now, we must always realize that our work is never done. Instead of feeling a bit hopeless as I did before I went on this trip, I know feel hopeful for the social future of America. It is up to the youth to maintain the passion and vigor our social activist forefathers did, and to never take things for granted. When we become comfortable where we are, we start going backwards and that is something we can never allow. This trip put me back into contact with what we can do every day to ensure change. We must be rational, strategic, loyal, and energized in our fight for complete equality. Most importantly, we must never forget to love one another, and it is through love that the most hardened of hearts are touched.

Sofiya Stasiv: Learning to Become a Model in New York City


I imagined my journey to New York to become a model for MONTHS. I was inspired by some bold friends who had been “discovered” in New York. I mainly chose to venture to New York because of their validating words claiming that I had the right “look” to be a model.

Prior to arrival, I dedicated much time to collecting addresses, finding contact information, sending emails, and filling out modeling applications. Anxiously, I was ready to be brave and see if this Arkansas girl had the potential to be noticed.

Needless to say, the premeditated scenarios I had created in my head were nothing like the reality of the city of Manhattan, where all of the modeling agencies are located. Manhattan overwhelmed me. I became nervous, questioning every aspect of myself, wondering if I was worthy of grabbing the attention of these well-known agencies. The fear was building up rapidly. I felt as if I was over my head trying to make my far-fetched dream come true.

My adventures began with attending my first open model call.  After searching Google maps for the location, I noticed a mysterious door that had no label. I opened the door to a single hallway with two elevators. Luckily, there was a little bulletin board that displayed the studios within the building and my modeling agency was on the 4th floor. Entering the agency, I was shocked. The room was the size of the Honors College Forum (a little bigger than a standard classroom), but split into three sections. A studio, a conference room, and a miscellaneous room made up this entire space. All the rooms were about the size of your average honors dorm room.

Next came the open call. First, models of different shapes, sizes, genders, and ages took turns being interviewed in front of everyone. Then, standard full length, waist up, and side profile photos were taken of each model. And lastly, models would then get silently graded on their modeling talents based on the portfolio photos that they would present to the casting director. The casting director was full of energy and seemed interested in what everyone had to share, but in the end, he was very stern in terms of how we would be contacted if we sparked an interest. He put emphasis on not calling the agency. No call back meant we hadn’t made it, with no explanation why. I went through this whole process twice more with other agencies. Sadly, I did not get any callbacks. I wish I had been able to attend more open calls, but many agencies do not host open calls because so many people want to become models in New York.

The rest of my days consisted of entering over 12 different modeling agencies to gain additional information about becoming a model. I had hoped by entering unannounced I’d grab somebody’s attention. However, I was never able to get past reception. Some of the receptionists were very kind and took pictures of me, asked me to write down my information on a post-it note, told me agents would call if interested, then would give me a list of other agencies to go see in the city. Other receptionists were very straight with me. Needless to say, I was discouraged.

The trip to New York taught me to persevere in my actions. I learned that having connections in New York is everything. I learned that rejection is part of life. Nothing in life happens by only trying once, but for some reason, I thought it would for me. I learned about the person I can be when outside of my comfort zone. I learned that the city is not for the weak. I learned that time and patience is everything. I was disappointed that things did not go my way while in the massive city, but, honestly, what was I expecting? I will continue to find inspiration within myself as far as where I wish to get with my modeling career. Until then I will be flashing my face in your local Arkansas magazines, commercials, and Instagram feed.

Sophia Ordaz: Summer in the City – Exploring Publishing and Testing My Limits in the Big Apple

After hearing all my life that a liberal arts education is wholly un-lucrative, I felt pretty dubious about majoring in English in my freshman year. My father, an electrical engineer, had tried persuading me on countless occasions to pursue a STEM profession—which is only natural, I think, because as a parent, and especially as an immigrant who traversed miles and borders in search of greater opportunity, you want your child to prosper as much as, if not more, than you.

My attitude shifted after I got involved with student media and interned at the Oxford American, a national literary magazine based in Little Rock. The skills I was developing as an English major—the writing, the reading, the editing—were essential to a multitude of careers in journalism, publishing, communications, nonprofit work, and academia. Instead of feeling stranded when faced with my career prospects, I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities, and because of that, I felt compelled to explore as many of those possibilities as I can through internships and opportunities on campus.

In August 2017, I set my sights on an internship at the Feminist Press, an activist-minded indie publisher with a backlist of books that resonated strongly with me. My plan was laid early on: First, apply for an ELF (Experiential Learning Fund) grant to help fund the expense of living in New York City as an unpaid intern, and second, get the internship, somehow. The stars were aligned for me because everything fell into place, and thank goodness for that.

As much as I tried to suppress it, the idea of abandoning my family and friends to live in a place where I knew virtually no one scared me out of my mind. There were the more practical obstacles—like learning how to ride the subway—but also the more high-stakes trepidations: Would being so alone make me unbearably lonely? Looking back on my apprehensions, I can readily discern how dramatically the summer has developed my character, in the enthusiasm I feel when I meet new people, in the liberating effortlessness of being alone with myself, in the unearthing of a level of confidence I never knew I possessed.

Throughout the summer, I worked closely with the small FP staff, which gave me invaluable insight into the management of nonprofit work and independent publishing. Some of my responsibilities included proofreading forthcoming titles and grant applications, drafting metadata, live-Tweeting FP events, evaluating agented and unsolicited manuscript subscriptions, volunteering at the Harlem Book Fair, and mailing out orders and review copies. That’s not to mention some of the perks of interning, which included meeting FP authors, free tickets to an off-Broadway show, and, to my great pleasure, a lot of books.

I’m coming away from this experience with the knowledge that I could thrive in a publishing career. But I’m also keeping in mind a piece of advice from the executive director and publisher Jamia Wilson. Over tea in her office, she told me that if I’m feeling like I’m being pulled in multiple directions when it comes to a career path, to keep doing what I love and keep doing it well. It’s okay to not have honed in on a single vocation and to expand the experiences you undertake. In my free time, I’ve been giving my all to writing album reviews, and if next summer I have the opportunity to explore that further, I will gladly take it.

Reflecting on this past summer, a huge part of why it is so unforgettable is just the fact that I got to live in New York City. I met some of the most imaginative and driven individuals there, and it felt like I got to reinvent myself because I was in a setting where no one knew me. At the risk of adding to the endless romanticization of NYC, getting to live in Lower Manhattan made me feel as if anything were possible in the city: live music on street corners, rap cyphers in parks, break dancing on subway trains—being surrounded by that kind of purposeful, creative life constantly energized me. Before I left for NYC, I was so scared of leaving my friends and family. I’m stronger now, because I realized that in order to grow, I have to keep putting myself in situations that make me uncomfortable.