Category Archives: News

Fourth of July: When America Takes Over the Internet

By Alanna Anderson 

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Fourth of July is a time for barbecues, fireworks, people wearing full outfits with the American flag as the only pattern, and the highly anticipated summer memes. They can be optimistic, or sarcastic, but either way they will discuss the views and thoughts of some citizens when it comes to America. First, I’ll start out by introducing a little background on this holiday that is more than just a day for elaborate firework shows.

We all know, even if it’s vaguely, the story of the colonists showing true American stubbornness by declaring independence from the British. What you may not know is that since John Adams believed that Independence Day was on the 2nd he refused to celebrate it on the fourth. Ironically, he died on July 4th, 1826. I don’t know exactly what you’d like to do with that information but, if anything, you could use it as an excuse to light fireworks on both days — even if your neighbors give you disgruntled looks. Early celebrations of the Fourth of July differ from today mainly because of the cultural differences of the time periods.

Fireworks were documented to have been used as early as 1040 in China, but the first commemorative fireworks set off in America was in 1777. Despite this, fireworks for public use didn’t become available until 1783. This ruled out the early use of fireworks and in its place was instead the ringing of bells, bonfires, recitation of speeches, concerts, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets.

Another interesting event, which may or may not be debated as morbid, was the fact that the colonists held mock funerals of King George III. The colonists saw this as a way to symbolize that the King’s rule was dead. They would even carry around an empty casket with the King’s name on it and sit it near a gravestone that also had his name on it. I don’t know about you but I could see this becoming a coming-of-age tradition for eighteen year olds leaving the house to go to college. Or for millennials when they leave home.

Back to the focus of the article, it seems that a new tradition has been adopted by the holiday. While some guests at celebrations are kicking back with reminiscent tales, the others are lounging back in order to post what we’re all really excited for: holiday memes. It seems like memes have a culture all their own. They manage to connect all of our thoughts and emotions into one little picture and facial expression.

Fourth of July memes take on a whole new meaning when they begin to remind us of the reasons why some people might not appreciate the fourth of July. Such as:

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While others are focusing on the advantages that this holiday brings (like the sales) (just kidding) (kind of), others are focusing on other aspects. Like the reasons why the holiday highlights the fact that though we fought for independence, the lack of independence for some means that we have an unfinished battle.The Fourth of July is when  some will take the time to focus on the fact that the holiday contains a lot of irony.

Such as:

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We shouldn’t ignore that there is merit to the holiday, but we also shouldn’t ignore the irony of the holiday. While watching the fireworks light up the sky, also remember the smoke of muskets that took the lives of people whose land was taken. While stuffing hot dogs in your mouth, also remember those who were stopped from eating for the sake of being forced to build this country.

Fourth of July memes help to bring people back from the fireworks and into reality. They help people realize that there is more to this holiday than food and American flags. That even though we are free from British rule, there are still people in the present and in the past that have been oppressed by America’s power and ruling. This is not to say that people shouldn’t enjoy the holiday, it’s just to say that people should be aware of what this holiday means to everybody and not just themselves. Memes help people to be able to step away from themselves and into other perspectives. A memorable caption and a facial expression accomplishes this with just a click, and internet connection.

Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram 

Barbara Ingram’s Little Mermaid

By Amber Eason

It’s been announced that this year’s Barbara Ingram School for the Art’s play is the Little Mermaid. And I was allowed exclusive access into the world of sea creatures, and upcoming musical numbers.

The Little Mermaid is the sixth consecutive musical Barbara Ingram School for the Arts has produced. The play’s cast consists of only BISFA students, and this year’s play boasts one of the largest cast of them all with a breathtakingly huge ensemble. The sheer size of the production offers some of its own challenges as well; however, this enormous cast of characters guarantees a full-bodied and immersive experience. “It’s the largest we’ve ever had,” said Amanda Askin, a musical theater major in the play.  “There’s a lot of coordination and timing that goes on behind the scenes that the audience doesn’t see.”

Along with its staggering number of performers, the show also offers some rather amazing special effects: lighting, projections, and even creatures floating on the air. “The audience will feel they’re under the sea with us.” That was Amanda’s favorite thing about the Little Mermaid: “It’s going to be a beautiful experience … I can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction to just that — to us.” She described it as a sort of under the sea choreographed jigsaw puzzle, filled with brilliant colors, fancy footwork (or perhaps finwork), all complete with the lovable — and laughable — buoyant banter of the characters you love.

A look around Black Box Theater and I couldn’t agree more. I was surrounded by a sea of rainbow sequins, bubbly bright colors and swirl after swirl of wispy tool. I think every color in the spectrum was captured.

So at this point you might be thinking so what? It’s bright and beautiful, and somewhat immersive — what’s the big deal about that? Well, alongside it’s bedazzling costumes and sparkling atmosphere, the die-hard Little Mermaid fans will be sure glad to hear that it develops a rather close narrative to the Disney story.

“The play follows a lot of the movie — it’s pretty close, actually,” said Judah Ickes, a musical theater major also in the play. “You get the classic music — the well known stuff — but you also get to hear some cool new tunes, and it puts a nice spin on the old characters.”

So there you have it, folks: the same songs you love and a fresh story to make it pop. It should also be noted that the voices behind these songs are simply magical. I sat in with the concert choir (featuring many of the voices that will be in the play) and honestly I was speechless. Their voices were so strong and harmonious that they resonated around the classroom. It was like everything was in sync with the graceful ring and echo of their pitch. I’m certain the musical will be no different, and these glorious voices will leave the audience as entranced as I was sitting in that white-tiled classroom.

I felt hopeful and alive while leaving, I think that feeling can be found almost anywhere downtown. I saw a few posters advertising for the play in the windows of some local businesses like Regenerate Float Spa and struck up conversation with one of the employees. He said he was excited for the big event, and was happy that the Barbara Ingram School for the Art’s students we’re apart of it. He said it was a way of “making art for now, and saving it for the future.”

The musical is sure to deliver in every way possible, and so if you haven’t already, I would suggest purchasing your tickets hereLiam Clark, a musical theater major performing in the play, said, “It’s like a bonding experience for everyone — you develop a connection with the actors right in front of you — so like people get to bond with their own families while watching ours perform.”

 

Amber Eason is a Sophmore at Barbara Ingram.

The Case Against the Gay Panic Defense

By Alanna Anderson 

Should penalties or convictions in regards to murder cases be lessened by this discriminatory legal tactic?

Imagine that you’re in the hallway at school when someone asks you to be their Valentine; they happen to not identify as the gender that you’re attracted to. Do you get upset about someone saying something to you that you’re uncomfortable with? Or do you let them down gently in order to erase any ill feelings from rejection?

If you happen to be fourteen year old Brandon McInerney, your reaction is going to be a bit more violent. You come to school the next day and shoot the person that asked you to be their Valentine while they are seated in a classroom. Instead of receiving a civilized answer, they end up being murdered. You also get to cut a deal with the prosecutors that will give you a lesser sentence of twenty-one years in prison. How do you manage to convince the jury that you deserve to have your sentence lessened: by using the Gay Panic Defense.

 

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Brandon McInerney (left) shot openly gay 15 year old Lawrence “Larry” King (right) in February of 2008

This may seem absurd to you, but it’s not the only case of murder being excused for this reason. Jonathan Schmitz murdered Scott Amedure, his friend, on the grounds that Scott had a crush on him. He directly stated that he was so embarrassed about Scott having a crush on him that he was unable to control himself and thus murdered him. To some, this would seem like a terrible excuse for taking someone’s life, but the jury bought it and the Gay Panic Defense was able to lessen Schmitz’s repercussions.

In 2002, a seventeen year old named Gwen Araujo, born with the name Edward, was brutally murdered by two other teens because she was a transgender individual. The murder was an act of revenge because they had slept with her and then compared their experiences to later on figure out that at birth she was considered male. She ended up being beaten, tied up, and strangled by them before she was buried in a shallow grave without being found for two weeks. One of the guys even admits to ‘vomiting and weeping’ at finding out that she was transgender, and that he hit her in the head with a frying pan. A third teen, who was not a part of the murder, aided in burying the body in order to stay loyal to their friends. In order to lessen the sentence of the attackers, the defense lawyers offered up the Gay Panic Defense.

In 2008, Joseph Bidermann, age 30, was acquitted of the murder he performed. The victim, Terrance Michael Hauser, was his neighbor and invited him to his apartment, though they had never spoken before. Bidermann ended up passed out on Hasuer’s couch, but awoke when Hasuer allegedly locked a grip around his neck and attempted to sexually assault him while a 16-inch dagger was in his hand. Bidermann responded by stabbing him 61 times essentially carving him to death.  He then fled to his girlfriend’s house where he took a shower. In place of calling the police, he and his girlfriend went to the hospital where Hauser went to get a knife wound on his arm treated, and a call to the police was made for them. In the end it was decided that Bidermann’s choice of stabbing Hauser 61 times was a justified way to handle the situation. And how did he get away with this: the Gay Panic Defense.

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(cartoon from SlapUpsideTheHead.com)


What is it about this defense that can cause murderers to get lesser sentences? Is it even valid?

According to data gathered by expert attorneys at NOLO, many courts have refused this defense, but despite that, it has still been used many times, like in the cases mentioned previously. It’s used when a defendant feels that their crime is justified because their panic over a romantic/sexual advance from a LGBTQ+ individual made them a victim, and in an act of self defense they were provoked into temporarily losing control of their behavior.

Courts defend their acceptance of this defense by stating that they don’t want to dismiss the fact that people can be provoked into actions, and they don’t want to charge them as much as someone who acted in cold blood. For them, the romantic/sexual advance acts as the provoking that the defendant needed to feel as though they were being attacked, and it justifies them going off the deep end.

But what about those victims who were walking home alone and were suddenly brutally attacked; or those minding their own business and not interacting with others? Is it fair to say that, because they were gay or transgender, they caused the people around them to ‘panic’ and lose control?

It is true that the opinions of others have to be heard in court, but there comes a time when the law has to decide whether something is fair or not. The whole point of the law system is to settle disputes between people in a civil manner that is unbiased and full of the rights that the constitution is supposed to provide us. But how can the court consider themselves fair and impartial when they are acting in a way that is discriminatory towards a specific group of people?

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Another thing to consider it that the situation can arguably become more or less difficult to assess when the defendant is there behind the stand ready to answer questions, and the prosecutor’s family is the one representing the prosecutor because they are dead and can’t do it for themselves. Is it really fair to say that the person who acted out of revenge for being ‘deceived’ was a victim, but the person who has ended up dead for being themselves is at fault for their own death? It seems that using that logic would be unreasonably blaming the victim for a crime that was committed against them and that they can’t even defend themselves against.

The court has to understand that when excuses like these are allowed in law, it is setting the bar for public opinion and stances on matters. The use of this defense in court reflects a grim idea of the parts of society that feel this is justified, and those hateful opinions are being entertained with its continuation.

We can’t expect for the citizens of a country to fully embrace progression and positive change when it’s apparent that’s not what the law itself is representing. On top of this, it also shows that there are those out there that will continue to use it as long as it’s around. There are those who will see the cases where it has succeeded in reducing sentences and provides people with the out that they need to get away with murder. There is no way that the continuation of this ‘defense’ can be argued in favor of standing for the equality and equal rights of all. If we want to provide a safer, more equal, more just government, then we need to take away these loopholes that victimize victims. We need to take away the Gay Panic Defense.

Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram 

The Academic Hub: What’s Up?

By Ray Newby

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“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent van Gogh

“What about the Academic Hub?”

The question was arguably off topic, but I can’t for the life of me remember who brought it up. We were in government class one Tuesday morning, only an hour and a half or so into the school day, and we were listening to the Mayor talk about local infrastructure. Though the class had started off on an interesting note (we’d all met him at one point, but not this intimately, and we were temporarily star-struck) most of us had our phones in our laps or, like me, were drawing on our hands with pen ink. Most of us, however, looked up when an unidentifiable voice peeped up on this.

My immediate response was to look at Mr. Drabczyk, our teacher. He stayed silent. He was curious too.

The Mayor, as if he knew this was coming, sighed slightly and leaned against the table behind him. We knew he felt somewhat responsible for our school’s struggles — he’d alluded to it at the last Board of Education meeting (we’d been there — 90% of the crowd was BISFA, BISFA, BISFA).

“The Academic Hub,” he said after a pause, “is in a complicated position.”

Barbara Ingram School for the Arts was opened in 2009. Named after a woman passionate about the arts, there were five original disciplines — theater, instrumental music, vocal music, dance, and visual arts. Two quick years of success and another department became “literary arts,” renamed creative writing (it had a better ring). Students had classes in stairwells, offices, lobbies, and dressing rooms. I am only a sophomore, and since those first years we have acquired spaces in five different buildings for classes. Through rain, snow, incredible heat, and even once or twice a hail storm, Barbara Ingram students from 13 to 18 trudge across downtown every other hour. With at least two art classes and three academic classes every day, we meet our credit requirements and then some. All students are loyal to the school, bussing in every day from as far as counties away. All students care — all 270 of them.

 

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Students of Barbara Ingram crossing the street to attend classes at one of our five buildings downtown.

 

Space is becoming a problem again, however. The building we use for most of our academics has only signed our lease for one more year. A year we are halfway over with.

Proposed almost since the school’s beginning is the Academic Hub. Most of us see it as the end game for Barbara Ingram — no more weekly rumors of shut downs, monthly “talking to”’s about proper street-crossing technique, or how to be mouse quiet and not disturb the other tenants in our buildings. The proposal, though everyone’s interpretations are different, is of a building designed for us and other specialty schools in the county. It would connect to the main Barbara Ingram building, replacing the very wobbly uninhabited structure next to us. It would have academic classrooms for us (no more rainy day umbrellas!) and provide room for other extracurriculars from other schools.

The Mayor suggested it may even connect to the theater next door. “They don’t have a big enough backstage to put on a lot of shows, which is a lot of lost revenue,” he said.

The idea has been out there for a while, and even before this year fundraisers went on to build up a money supply for the proposed 15 million dollar construction project.

Not that a bucket at the back of a poetry reading or a dance show is ever going to raise 15 million dollars.

Recently, after hearing about our trouble in the building we use for academics, the Mayor brought the Academic Hub back up again at a city council meeting. On September 22nd, 2015, everything seemed to be going smoothly. The commissioners had voted 4-3 to begin construction with the money the Board had saved for us (1.5 million dollars, according to the Mayor). Apparently, the commissioner’s only issue was with spending money, as we found out on October 6th when they voted again, denying us the 4.4 million we needed to really get underway.

 

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Barbara Ingram instrumental students performing in one of their many concerts

This is when it all hit the fan.

The students were outraged. One started a hashtag on popular social media called “Why BISFA Matters,” which quickly grew as students even from other schools started posting. I had a few things to say, personally, and so did many of my other classmates. Every single student was rallied for the Academic Hub. No one wanted to leave.

So when in government class the mayor heard this question, he knew months of tweeting, talking, and bad feelings were behind it. Not towards him, necessarily, but towards the situation. He gave us some insider information.

First of all, there is a lot we don’t know about that is going on behind the scenes. Biases, related to “white flight” and against urbanization. A lot of the rather old members of the commission still didn’t believe in the downtown area where we are located. The rather infamous Karen Harshman was calling the streets “unsafe,” and saying she “would never let her children walk around down there.”

I guess she doesn’t know we have police officers at every corner, and these new spangled devices called “stoplights.”

As cliché as it sounds, for every student I know this school is their home. Not everyone has the chance to go here, and we understand we are lucky. But lives at our old schools would mean bullying, mockery, and less of a chance at our dream for a lot of us.

So what about the Academic Hub? The Mayor assured us all Barbara Ingram would not be shut down, but he had that look in his eye the teachers and staff have had for the past couple months; the shimmer of doubt, and of fear.

We fuel local businesses. We come at every angle of the city with a youthful outlook. We perform nearly every week, at least one discipline with at least one show.

We are here to stay. We will use stairwells, offices, lobbies, and dressing rooms as classrooms if we must.

Barbara Ingram School for the Arts lives.

Rachael Newby is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

On Body Cameras (In Your Downtown Area)

By Ray Newby

Maryland has legalized body cameras for police officers.

As a Hagerstown resident, of course I was shocked. When things happen elsewhere — Ferguson, New York City, anywhere you are not on a regular basis — they feel less real, more like the news is a movie. More like characters and settings than real people and places.

Body cameras, for those who are unaware, can range from pen-shaped lenses to cell phone-sized harnesses, generally worn on the torso (though there are some very interesting sunglasses that incorporate cameras).

The closest incident we’d had was in Baltimore. A boy named Freddie Gray, caught on video by passerby, had his spinal cord fractured in transport to the police station. He was arrested for possession of an “illegal switchblade” — what turned out to be completely legal and not have been used against anyone. The police were not wearing body cameras, but the citizens wore their hearts on their sleeves.

Most of us didn’t know how to feel; some called them “thugs” as the riots grew more violent, others stayed silent. Throughout Hagerstown we had both of these people — one girl, furious her band trip had been cancelled, snapped at anyone who talked to her. She didn’t see Freddie Gray’s broken back, only the broken city.

The decision of the Maryland Assembly on the bill entitled “Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance – Law Enforcement and Public Transportation – One-Party Consent for Interception of Oral Communications,” is that for police (and public transportation officials, but more so police), you only need one party consent as an officer to record video or audio of another person. And, at the discretion of each police department, they could soon be mandatory.

“Policy is policy, practice is something else,” said one attorney, representing an officer who was present as Freddie Gray was arrested. He is currently suspended with pay as the investigation goes underway.

Before this decision, there was the “Wiretap Act,” a federal law still in effect. It prohibits both the secret recording of another person or persons, and the reading or listening in on personal conversations (for example, emails or telephone conversations). An exception is to government officials and police officers — think of cameras listening in on investigations. When put into effect, there was no specific text about body cameras. Only general ideas.

Now, six cameras have been purchased for the Hagerstown Police Department — one for each active section on the streets. Including the police officers we work with on a day to day basis; even for crossing the street, something I do downtown every day.

Maryland was, before the decision, one of twelve states in the U.S. who had even stricter wiretapping laws. Two way mirrors were all in; devices are the issue. In these twelve (now eleven) states, two party consent was mandatory to record anyone, even in instances of law.

Now that it has changed, body cameras could become mandatory in the state of Maryland, and will definitely be used — the prediction released by the General Assembly says $7.5 million will go into supplying officers by the end of 2016.

People will turn this into a privacy complaint, and there is no doubt there have and will be instances where that is a logical argument. Personally, I don’t think we don’t need the drama of accusations right now, in Hagerstown or anywhere. Especially in schools where police are a common face and wearing body cameras is a big controversy. As a student in Hagerstown specifically, I don’t have an issue with body cameras personally, and neither do my classmates as far as I can tell.

“I feel like it will be more useful than harmful. They’ll have to call in less witnesses, which is good, and with hard proof police brutality disputes won’t be disputes,” said one student at Barbara Ingram School For The Arts, my high school.

This seemed to be general opinion. “It makes me feel more safe, knowing that there is a video record of what really happens if something goes wrong.”

Yet some did disagree. “I don’t feel comfortable being filmed all the time,” said one. “It seems a bit excessive.”

Still, there are more instances in which body cameras have proved police misconduct than there are privacy complaints. Arrest rates have gone down. Complaints of brutality have gone down.
And now in Hagerstown — my home, my school — we will hopefully be safer.

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Rachael Newby is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

Hatred and History — The Confederate Battle Flag

By Loka Pitcher

It is a little comical the first time you hear a horn play the tune of ‘The Land of Dixie’ — it’s kind of a upbeat tune. It is curious, where it came from and what it means to some. Is it rude to have a horn like that, offensive even? Or is it just harmless, maybe the owner just likes the song and doesn’t mean much by it. When you talk about things like that you may ask yourself, when does it stop being harmless and fun or for a decent reason and start getting serious?

It starts getting serious when local schools are banning the display of the Confederate battle flag on clothing because it provokes fights. Why does it start fights? Because it is associated with hate and racism and has become a symbol used to represent a hateful agenda. Some people say that it’s irrelevant what the flag is associated with in the public eye; the historical significance of the flag should allow people to proudly display their heritage in whatever way they want. We live in an area that has deep roots stretching into the civil war era so I figured that people around Hagerstown would definitely have something to say about it.

I interviewed the executive director of the Hagerstown Historical Society, Linda Irvin-Craig, to help get an idea of where members of the community might stand on the issue. Linda stated that racism is an issue all over and that the flag is definitely associated with racism in the public eye. When referencing its historical significance, Linda said, “It wasn’t the actual flag of the Confederate Nation; it was primarily used in battle and after the war it went away for a while until integration in the south started happening and integration was an issue. What’s troubling is that at one point the flag was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan as their symbol.” This is where we get into the controversial issues.

From that it is clear that at one point the flag was a definite symbol of racial hate, but does that mean that historically the flag has always been racist? I browsed local news publishings and found scattered opinions on the matter. One person wrote, “the flag isn’t a racist symbol and doesn’t have any relevance to racism. Issues today that involve racism are collateral damage from Barack Obama’s PC (politically correct) war. Because of him cracking down on people for rather minor misdemeanors he has brought attention and tension to the issue. Things like the South Carolina shooting wouldn’t have happened if people weren’t so focused on matters irrelevant to today.”

By bringing awareness to an issue you have the potential to increase the activity of it. On the other hand if you let it go ignored the issue is never resolved. So what do we do when were forced into a position where we must make a choice? Do we ban the offensive use of the confederate flag in Hagerstown? In response, Linda had this to say, “No, we have freedom of speech in this country I wouldn’t deny any one the right to display that — that’s what they choose. But for me, it would not leave a good first impression.” It’s essential that we recognize that freedom of speech is a huge factor in this. In our country it’s unconstitutional to say no you can’t say that to someone when they are sending a message.

Things aren’t going to change any time soon, and this issue will come up again and again until something is done about it. In the meantime, it is nice to know where Hagerstown stands. The influence of your opinions may help shape the result of this country’s debate and have a more ideal future. There isn’t anything wrong with encouraging opinions every now and then, and in this interview I learned a lot about what that can mean for the real world. Maybe when opinions are confused with facts things become a little too serious.

William Pitcher is a Freshman at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts