Darla Walters Gary

Democracy Matters

adonal foyleIf you have happened to catch a Golden State Warriors basketball game in the last few years, then you have seen 6'10" Adonal Foyle in action. Adonal plays center for the Oakland, California-based NBA team, and has been with the Warriors since the 1997 draft. The average fan may think of him as any other player, but then the average fan would be wrong.

On top of playing basketball and pursuing a Masters Degree from John F. Kennedy University in Moraga, California, Adonal is the founder of Democracy Matters, an organization advocating for campaign finance reform. Yes, that's right, campaign finance reform! He is dedicated to working with high school and college-aged youth on campuses across the country to change the political environment in the United States.

After leaving the islands where he was born and raised, Adonal attended high school in the US and college at Colgate University. He is an avid reader and poet, and has gotten numerous awards for his community service. On top of juggling all that, he made time recently to answer some of my burning questions.

WireTap: What was it like growing up in the islands? Were you conscious of politics in St. Vincent and the Grenadines?

Adonal Foyle:
I grew up on a tiny island, Canouan, which is one of the small islands that are part of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. On Canouan there were less than 1,000 people, no electricity, and my tiny house had no in-door toilet and a kitchen outside. I was raised by my grandmother and great-aunt who "gardened" -- growing peanuts and other ground crops. I grew up working in the garden and doing many other chores all day when I was not in school.

Everyone is aware of politics in St. Vincent because the country is so small. Also, people on Canouan and the other small Grenadine islands think that they get ignored and shortchanged by the main island where most of the politicians are from, so we are very aware of what is going on.

WT: When you were a child what did you think you would be doing when you grew up? What was your dream?

When I was a child I dreamed of becoming a judge but I knew that I would end up like everyone else on Canouan -- fishing, gardening, or working for the government in a road crew doing maintenance work.

WT: Why did you decide to come to the US for high school?

Two American professors came to my island to do research and I met them. They asked if I would like to get an education in the US and I immediately said yes though I did not know them at all. Everyone I knew dreamed of coming to America and getting a chance to get ahead because there was little chance if you stayed in the Grenadines.

WT: When you left high school you decided to go to Colgate University and studied history. Why did you decide to go to a small school, as opposed to a school with a large focus on basketball? Do regret that decision?

I decided to go to Colgate for one main reason: I really wanted to be sure I could get the most out of my college education. I loved small classes where you could have discussions and really get to know the faculty. Colgate is a school that is highly ranked on the academic side but still plays division one sports so I thought I could have the best of both worlds that I loved: basketball and education. I was worried that at a school that was a basketball power I would be forced to neglect my studies. I have absolutely no regrets!

adonal foyleWT: How did you get interested in politics?

I have always been interested in politics -- but when I came to the US at age 16 I of course wanted to understand this new country, and understanding politics is an important part of that. In addition, my American parents -- the Colgate professors who brought me to the United States -- were very politically involved. Both Joan and Jay Mandle were part of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle to end the War in Vietnam. Joan was director of Women's Studies at Colgate, and Jay has written many books on globalization and poverty. So our dinner table was always an education in itself -- mostly about politics and social change.

WT: It seems to me that athletes are often very present in the media but only for playing sports. Are there other athletes who are interested in politics? Do you talk to your teammates about politics?

Not too many athletes like to speak out about politics. They may be interested in it but I think they are cautious because they don't want to stand out of the crowd and be controversial in that way. But in fact I talk to my teammates and other basketball players about politics all the time and they are very interested.

WT: As a professional basketball player you are a role model for many people. Why is it important to use your influence to interest people in politics?

We are role models as professional basketball players whether we want to be or not. I am using my influence to get young people and others interested in politics because I believe that a democracy can only work well if everyone is involved and participates. It isn't really much of a democracy when only a small proportion of people vote and most feel that their government isn't interested in them and doesn't represent them. When this happens, like today, it is very dangerous because important decisions that affect everyone like issues of war and peace, education, health care, the economy, civil rights, the environment and many others are decided by only a tiny fraction of the American people. I believe that everyone has the right and the responsibility to decide what kind of world we live in and ought to be involved in making these important decisions.

adonal foyleWT: What is the point of Democracy Matters? Why campaign finance reform?

The mission of Democracy Matters is to activate young people around the issue of money and politics as a way to deepen democracy in the United States. Campaign finance reform sounds boring but it is the most important political issue to work on because it affects all the issues I care about. It is the reform that will allow all other reforms to occur.

When we see that the clean air laws are being eroded or that college tuition is rising or that the unemployment rate is climbing, these are all policy decisions made by politicians. When we see this country spending billions of dollars in Iraq, or cutting basic services to homeless people or children, or putting new restrictions on Internet access, these are political decisions made by the people we elect. They affect us but we have little influence because we can't contribute big bucks to politicians' campaigns.

Democracy Matters wants to elect representatives who care about all the people, not just the funders. We can do that by publicly financed election campaigns like they have in Arizona and Maine, where anyone can run for office whether they are rich or poor. That is the American dream and that is real democracy. It affects everything happening around us and to us, even though we may not realize it. If we change how elections are funded -- supporting public financing -- we can change America.

WT: Right now is a very important time in our country, this being an election year. What are you doing to support voting? Are you working on the "youth vote?"

I am working on the Youth Vote. I am part of an effort called the New Voters Project and of course Democracy Matters, on our 60 campuses around the country, has been deeply involved in a non-partisan way. We do not endorse candidates, but Democracy Matters students have been registering new voters, holding mock candidate debates, distributing information on candidates, sponsoring teach-ins and discussions on money and politics, and holding Democracy festivals, all-day dialogues, and parties! Politics should be fun too. Check out our website www.democracymatters.org to see more about how to make political engagement fun and how to make a difference.

WT: The perception of youth culture is that youth are concerned with friends, school, sports, entertainment, driving and money. That is it. How do we get these youth interested in current events and politics?

The way to get youth culture involved in politics is to show that friends, school, sports, driving and money are all affected every single day by politics. Whether your friends will be drafted to fight a future war or not; whether your school has funding for after-school programs, art classes, and sports or not; what college tuition and student loans cost and whether you can afford the gas to drive your car or not; and whether you have a job when you finish school so you can earn any money -- these are all affected by POLITICS!!! They are affected by who is elected and who they listen to. Right now politicians listen to their campaign contributors and big bucks, but we can change that. You too -- young or old, rich or poor -- should be able to influence those decisions in a democracy. We need to show young people these connections and the vision of how they can take their democracy back and have fun doing it. That is what Democracy Matters is all about!

WT: You are a basketball player and you are involved in your organization. How do you juggle the NBA with Democracy Matters?

I am very busy with basketball, but everyone has some time that they can and should give to making the world around them a better place -- especially for people who are disadvantaged. I am lucky because I have a great staff at Democracy Matters who can carry out a lot of the functions of the organization. So I talk to my Executive Director all the time, making decisions, and try to speak out publicly whenever I am not involved in basketball.

WT: What books are you reading right now? What do you recommend?

I am reading Bob Woodward's book, "Plan of Attack" and I just finished reading Paul O'Neill's "The Price of Loyalty." Both of these are about the present political situation. I like reading non-fiction that gives me information about what is happening in the world. I would recommend these books, as well as Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." I also read and write poetry, but I can't recommend anything specific because I like so many different poets!

WT: How do you spend your free time? What do you do to unwind?

I don't have a lot of free time, but I listen to music a lot and I like to watch movies as well as hanging out with close friends and my family. I also am the Vice President of the Basketball Player's Union and that takes up a lot of my time.

WT: What is next for you? What is in the future?

What is next for me is unknown because I have just become a free agent. I played with the Golden State Warriors for the last seven years and now I get to choose where I will play. I will be interviewing teams that want me to play for them and will make a decision about where I will go later this summer. I know I will be playing basketball next year but I don't know where. I am also getting a Master's Degree in Sports Psychology, but I am not sure yet what I want to do after my basketball career is finished. I know I will keep working with Democracy Matters and our effort to get young people interested in important political issues.

WT: Is there anything else you would like to tell Wiretap readers?

I would like to tell Wiretap readers that every one of you can make a difference in the world around you. Young people will inherit this world. I urge you to go beyond trying to help only a few people to thinking BIG! Thinking about how you can affect the MOST people at once through involvement in big political issues like poverty, civil rights, peace, and democracy. These issues remain crucial both before and after elections. They need new creative ideas that only young people can offer. JOIN WITH OTHERS AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Darla Walters Gary is a staff writer for WireTap. She is 17 and impatiently awaiting high school graduation in June. She will be finally leaving the Bay Area to go to Sarah Lawrence College in August.

Veggie Car

Soybeans can be processed to make biodiesel.

Think about the last time you were stuck in traffic behind a big-rig diesel truck, fumes seeping into your car, making you gag. Now imagine that instead of toxic gas smells, you smelled french fries or popcorn. Imagine how much nicer your drive would be. If you were behind a biodiesel truck that is exactly what you would smell.

Although it seems far-fetched or like something out of a children's book, biodiesel is becoming more and more common. Organizations ranging from a coffee company in the northwest to school districts on the east coast are chucking their diesel oil for biodiesel. Even the United States Army is a huge consumer of biodiesel.

So what is biodiesel, and why does it smell so good? Biodiesel is an alternative fuel that can be made out of anything from organic canola oil to used cooking grease from Burger King. It is made from plant products, not fossil fuel, which means it is renewable. Unlike gasoline, which is processed from oil that is pumped from the ground from a limited supply, biodiesel is processed from vegetable or soybean oils. Biodiesel is literally fuel that you can grow. It does not have to be drilled out of the ground, we do not have to fight wars in Iraq to get permission to drill for it, and we do not have to rip up the national parks in Alaska to get fuel. It can be grown right here, in your backyard, and it smells pretty much like whatever you make it out of.

The process of changing the veggie oil into biodiesel is a relatively simple scientific process that strips the oil of glycerol (which can be used later to be made soap). Ester is left and processed further to make biodiesel. Amazingly enough, the whole process can be done in your own home.

History Lesson

jason west
Mayor Jason West

In a Fall 2003 interview with RiseUp Radio, New Paltz , New York Mayor and Green Party member Jason West discussed biodiesel. He spoke about how in New York (and elsewhere) "we can have biodiesel rather than petrodiesel and support this newer technology that is a cleaner burning fuel." Mayor West is correct in pointing out that biodiesel is cleaner burning, but he is wrong to state that it is a newer technology. In fact, biodiesel is not at all new, but has been around for almost a century.

When Rudolph Diesel initially designed the internal combustion engine, it was made to run on peanut oil. The original Fords, beginning with the Model T in 1908, ran on ethanol (another biofuel). It wasn't until the 1920s when car engines were modified to use fossil fuel-based gasoline, which was being sold at cheaper prices than biodiesel.

Things are now starting to come full circle with people getting back to the basics of biodiesel. The current biodiesel movement is big and getting bigger. Biodiesel is being revived by people from all over the political and environmental spectrum. From those who are concerned with the environment to the genetically modified soybean industry looking for a bigger profit, people are increasingly trying to get biodiesel in use. Cooperatives have sprung up all over the country and more and more people are learning about this alternative product.

"I'd say there are a couple of biodiesel movements happening in this country; the movement of the small producer and that of industry interests," explains Johanna Shultz, the Director of Environmental and Social Policy at Northern California's Thanksgiving Coffee. A small independent business, Thanksgiving has used biodiesel in their trucks for a year, and it is one of the many things they do to cut down on their emissions. "We started using biodiesel right around when the U.S. starting bombing Iraq last year, and were overjoyed that there's a renewable fuel that can be produced domestically by small businesses to fuel our fleet, and that we can support a solution like biodiesel."

Thanksgiving represents the biodiesel movement being driven by small producers. At the other end of the business spectrum are large corporations. According to Schultz, "The National Biodiesel Board advocates for biodiesel. Their governing board is also made up almost entirely of pro-GMO (genetically modified organism) soy interests." Since biodiesel can be made from soybeans, the soybean industry could profit greatly from an increased use of biodiesel. Although the movements and motives are varied, small businesses, environmental activists, and large corporations all have the same focus: to get biodiesel used.

The Drawbacks

dave williamson
Dave Williamson of the Ecology Center in Berkeley holding up some biodiesel.

For all the benefits of being renewable and cleaner burning, biodiesel, like everything else, has a downside... four actually. First of all is the cost. Depending on where you are getting your materials or if you are buying from a dealer, biodiesel is usually 80 cents more per gallon, according to Dave Williamson of the Ecology Center in Berkeley, California. His organization has been using biodiesel in recycling trucks for a long time and has recently overseen the transition to running all Berkeley diesel vehicles on biodiesel, including its emergency vehicles. It is slightly more expensive, but businesses and districts can get tax cuts and grants.

One other drawback is that biodiesel, according to Williamson, gets 17% less miles per gallon than gasoline-powered cars. The big problem with biodiesel, however, is the output of nitrogen oxide, which is a part of pollution, or smog. Biodiesel vehicles put out slightly more nitrogen oxide than normal diesel. Biodiesel supporters claim that these are offset by the absence of other toxic chemicals and the absence of problems relating to normal diesel. Williamson points out that with biodiesel there are "no oil refinery, oil fields, oil slicks, and oil wars." As Schultz puts it, "100% biodiesel is ten times LESS toxic than table salt, has 80% less carbon dioxide emissions than petrodiesel, and 44% less carbon monoxide emissions."

Even with these relatively minor downsides, the thing that seems to turn most people off is that biodiesel is only used in diesel cars. You cannot fill up your 1997 Taurus with fryer grease (but you can fill up that new turbo diesel Beetle across the street with biodiesel). To use biodiesel, your car has to have a diesel engine.

biodiesel bug
A bug that runs on biodiesel.

Though people come in contact with diesel every day, they do not seem to get it if they drive gasoline fueled cars. "When people hear for the first time or understand for the first time that [biodiesel] is only for diesel engines and not for gas engines -- which is what most people have -- they just turn off. They don't make the connection that all the food that they buy in a supermarket was brought there using diesel engines, which could be running on biodiesel. That their trash is always picked up with diesel technology not gas technology," explains Jon Bauer or the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective.

Just because you cannot fill up your own car on biodiesel does not mean that you should forget about it. You can be a part of getting biodiesel into use -- even if you are not using it directly -- by pushing your city or district to implement biodiesel in their fleets. Fleets of buses, trucks, and farming machinery are the largest users of diesel fuel, and pushing them to use biodiesel will greatly reduce the amount of diesel fuel used.

Bio vs. Electric

biodiesel pumps
Biodiesel Fuel Pumps
So you like the idea of biodiesel, but you don't want to make it yourself. Well biodiesel is becoming more and more available. Pumps are springing up everywhere. For a list of stations to pump your great smelling, non-war causing biodiesel, try: http://www.biodiesel.org/buyingbiodiesel/retailfuelingsites or http://afdcmap.nrel.gov/locator/LocatePane.asp

Even though biodiesel is a good solution, there are other alternative fuel choices that are being introduced to consumers. Everywhere you look there are advertisements for hybrid cars, gas and electric vehicles that are smooth and sleek. The Toyota Prius as well as Honda's Civic and Insight, have all done well on the market.

Is biodiesel a better alternative? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Shultz believes biodiesel is better because there is nothing left over. "Though most vehicle manufacturers are focusing on electric, there are still batteries that must be disposed of, therefore generating more waste. Biodiesel can be made by either growing it or by recycling used vegetable oil -- nothing is wasted. Even the by-product of the manufacturing process can be made into products like soap!"

Williamson seems to see problems with both. "In the future we will have all sorts of fuels: biodiesel, ethanol, biogas, electric (from solar) and hydrogen (from solar). None can entirely replace petroleum by itself. Nor should they. We need to get more productivity out of our energy resources and make intelligent transportation decisions. Walk. Ride a bicycle. Catch a train."

Calling all Youth

Cities, schools, and adults are catching the biodiesel bug, but what about the younger generation? What about high school students who are getting their first car and their first taste of buying their own fuel? People who are my age are growing up with impending problems, such as major environmental instabilities and global warming. Unless something is done we are going to have even bigger problems, and it is our generation that is going to have to be the backbone of the change. "In the near future we will either have no oil or very little oil. Future generations will lament that we burned it all instead of making something good and lasting," comments Williamson.

I was at a recent biodiesel event in Berkeley and was amazed at the diversity of the cars, but frustrated with the diversity of the drivers. Everyone was an adult. Where is my generation in this movement? Young people are growing up and learning to drive in a pivotal time in history. We have many choices now on how to fuel our cars. Why not chose what is obviously better for our planet? We may have to live with the mistakes of our parents' generation, but we do not have to continue with them. We can make a difference. Biodiesel is obviously not going to change everything -- it may not even be the ideal fuel -- but it is a start, and a very important step.

What You Can Do:
Look into biodiesel for your diesel automobile.





Buying a new car? You can get an older diesel or a brand-new one (you may need to change a couple of hoses on new cars but this is very simple). You don't have to give up style -- I recently ran across a biodiesel Jetta that I fell in love with.

If you are a youth and your school has an auto shop, talk to your teachers and administration about biodiesel. It can be made in chemistry class and used for drivers ed and auto shop.

Let your city officials know that you want them to look into biodiesel. It is so easy for the city to run biodiesel in buses, trash and recycling trucks, and many more vehicles. This will make the air a lot cleaner.

Darla Walters Gary is a staff writer for WireTap. She is 17 and impatiently awaiting high school graduation in June. She will be finally leaving the Bay Area to go to Sarah Lawrence College in August.

The Company

Rarely does a movie come along that is so breathtaking and beautifully done, that a detailed plot is not necessary to carry the movie. No, I'm not talking about "Torque" or "You Got Served," I'm talking about "The Company," the new film from director Robert Altman ("Godsford Park").

the company"The Company" follows the members of Chicago's famous Joffrey Ballet, focusing on up and coming dancer, Ry (Neve Campbell from the Scream series and TV's "Party of Five"). Ry is talented and strong, but emotionally damaged. Her relationships with her nagging mother, her ex-boyfriend/ex-ballet partner, her teachers, eccentric company leader Alberto Antonelli (Malcolm McDowell) and her new love interest, Josh (James Franco from "Spiderman"), make up the thin plot. The stunning dance scenes, however, take care of the rest.

I have always liked Neve Campbell, and I am happy to see her finally steal the show. She has obvious talent, but in the past she has never captured viewers the way she does in this movie. Campbell trained as a dancer most of her life in her home country of Canada, but had to give up dancing due to injuries. Her passion has returned full-on in the form of this movie. Though she is the only actress in the movie to play a dancer (the other dancers are portrayed by actual ballet dancers with the Joffrey Ballet), seeing her perform would make you think that she was born in toe shoes. Her training and talent as a dancer are apparent, especially in the scene with dancer Domingo Rubio, where the pair dance flawlessly in the midst of a rainstorm.

All around me in the theater, jaws dropped during the intense and undeniably sexy dance scenes. From a woman suspended from the ceiling spinning and swinging in a dream-like twirl of lights, to dancers in animal suits speeding out of a mechanical snake mouth, the choreography varies in style but is always passionate. In other words, this ain't your grandma's Swan Lake. Nor is it the ballet that I learned as a 7-year-old with daydreams of tutus and toe shoes. This ballet is powerful, colorful -- and often risqué.

In short, the lack of storyline would hurt most films, but it is actually ideal for "The Company" because it means that audiences can focus on the dancing. The beautiful movements make it well worth seeing. In fact, once may not be enough.

Darla Walters Gary is a WireTap staff writer. She lives in Oakland, California and is a senior at Far West High School.

Shattered Glass

shattered glassA young journalist is always learning. There are always experienced journalists, teachers and editors teaching you different rules. The first and most important thing you learn is to tell the truth. Never make up sources or say that you were somewhere that you were not. What a journalist writes is taken as fact.

"Shattered Glass," the new film written and directed by Billy Ray is based on the true story of Stephen Glass. Hayden Christensen of "Star Wars" and "Life As A House" fame stars as the young reporter who does not follow these rules. By his mid-twenties, Glass was a well-known writer at the famous New Republic Magazine. Glass was everyone's favorite guy; he was funny and smart and always got great stories. Then the trouble comes. A writer at an online magazine uncovers Glass's deceptions. When confronted about his lies, he finds himself with so many excuses that he cannot keep his story straight.

The movie is wonderful and the cast, also including Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn and Peter Sarsgaard, are magnificent. My only complaint is with Christensen. Now do not get me wrong, I love this guy. I think that he is brilliantly talented, but his whiny youth act is getting over played. Every time he started to complain to his editor about what was happening, I started having flashbacks to "Star Wars," when he is begging for Queen Amidala's love. He needs to do something different (like a comedy role) and get away from always playing the torn youth. I like Christensen and I hope that he is not typecast, because the young Jedi images are getting annoying.

Regardless of my flashbacks, I found the film extremely powerful. Some may believe that Glass, at such a young age, was unable to keep up with the fast paced environment of the journalism world, and others may think that he simply found the lies more interesting. In the movie, he is portrayed to not have much confidence, so maybe he did not think he was good enough and had to make up stories to measure up.

No matter why you think he did it, there is no denying that he played the media and the readers for all he could, and to be honest that makes for a really interesting story. The film starts with a likable and seemingly talented young man, and ends with a pitiful cheater. The viewer cannot help but feel bad for the guy, no matter what bad things he did, and in the end he came out looking sad and pathetic, not evil. The whole aspect of cheating and getting caught is intriguing.

Watching Glass completely ruin everything he had gotten by making up stories makes you think about every time you have cheated. Let's be honest, we have all cheated on a test or two… or ten. But could you completely make up a story that is read by thousands of people? I could not, but I definitely enjoyed watching him do it. This movie is a must see for any aspiring journalist and anyone who has ever cheated on a test.

Darla Walters Gary is a WireTap staff writer. She lives in Oakland, California and is a senior at Far West High School.

Hunger and Homelessness

hunger logoThe college environment is known to start many groups and clubs, on topics ranging from politics to yo-yos. Some are just for fun and others have a mission. At colleges across the country, groups are fighting the devastating effects of homelessness and hunger. It is a difficult topic to address, and in order to make a change, students must stay informed. The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness is dedicated to making sure that students have the resources to tackle this difficult issue.

The Campaign, independent of the universities, is run by a full time staff of adults who work to bridge the gap between student organizations and the information that they need. The Campaign teams with organizations already in action on over 600 college campuses.

I spoke with Meg MacWhirter, a 20-year-old student at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., who told me about her experience having the National Campaign working with Hoya Programs and Education (HOPE), a direct service organization on the Georgetown campus.

bowl and spoonIf you want to know more about the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, or what you can do during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 16 - 22), visit the Campaign's website: http://studentsagainsthunger.org

WireTap: What is the mission of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness?

I've seen it as a group that really helps educate the community of students about work that needs to be done, and also find ways for them to coordinate and improve the effectiveness of their programs and efforts by working together. That's something really valuable for college students because that kind of information isn't always very accessible in the normal academic setting. You don't have access to the most current legislative issues, or the best ways to reform policy. Campus communities aren't connected in a very efficient way... to have a group that really pulls them all together, I think has been really beneficial for all the students who have worked with them.

WT: What projects do you do in order to accomplish this?

I work with student groups at Georgetown, and attended the conference with the National Student Campaign last fall, so that was the first time I was introduced to them. For me it was a really great experience because I'd been involved with charity work on campus for the past couple years and in high school and it was something very familiar; but to attend the conference and to learn more about the advocacy issues was a really great step for what to work on next. I learned a lot about the legislative issues, the challenges faced by large nonprofits, and the efforts that other students have made.

students in ohioWT: What have you accomplished so far?

One thing that I felt was successful – or at least an exciting step in the right direction – was after the conference last year we made some connections with some student groups in the area. [We are] starting to figure out ways that we can work together and support each other in our events, send our members to each other's events, try to look on a broader level of what are the actions that people are taking. We had some students come down to an event we had here and I was able to attend the 24 hour camp out and fast up at Loyola [College] in Baltimore. After attending that I came back and started one here at Georgetown, so it was through learning from their experience and their planning contacts that we were able to start that here. The way that the campaign has been able to connect us all together has been really great. The conference itself, all the energy that is there and all the enthusiasm and optimism of the students when we all get together and get excited about what can be done, and then our willingness to act on that when we get back to campus. The way that the campaign brings everybody together really is good.

WT: Do you work with any other organizations?

On campus I work with a student service group called HOPE, an outreach program on education. And in terms of the other organizations that [The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness,] works with, they are very closely associated with the National Coalition for the Homeless, because they have a very grassroots approach and access to lots of research. Making that connection between the biggest advocacy network for the homeless and direct outreach for campuses and students is important.

WT: Would you consider what you do as part of an activist movement or would you just consider it community service?

Well I definitely think that what I did before last year's conference was community service based. We had our distributions [of food and clothes]. It's a great student service activity, it's definitely great to get classmates involved, but after the conference, I definitely learned much more about the way the homeless people are being treated and what the next step needed to be... it really changed the experience for me to see that there are ways we should be responding outside of the food and shelter. We are looking at the legislative issues.

One of the things that I did when I returned was we added some advocacy components to HOPE, but I also worked with another group to create a web site that tracks housing in DC and communicates with the housing authority and local landlords trying to find available housing. It was a really interesting experience to invite volunteers to get involved with structural issues and take action in non-traditional service opportunities. Once individuals become connected to the individuals they have met through direct service, the realization is often made that structural challenges lead to many social issues. Some people begin to see that feeding hungry people and working at shelters are not the best solution we can find. To be able to shift from the perspective of a volunteer into that of an activist includes the thought, "There should not be people to go out and serve" and plays a central part of the movement towards advocacy. As students we have a role to take action and to use the information we have available to us.

students at uclaWT: I work with Food Not Bombs, so I definitely understand the side that it is great to do it, but it really needs to not be needed. Why is it important for youth and students to be a part of organizations and community service for this struggle?

I think it is important because it helps keep things in perspective in terms of living on a college campus, having all the resources you need very accessible, everything comfortable, everything set up to be very safe. And you aren't always put into situations where you see this broader scope of what's going [on] outside of the campus, and you don't always get a sense of problems of the city... how different programs are funded or politics of the shelter system.

I think by getting yourself off campus by seeing some of that, or by looking at legislative issues or by reading the newspaper more closely for those things, students are able to connect to those issues in a more realistic way.

I also think that the direct service components in particular help us keep perspective in the choices that we make after we're finished in college. How do we wanna be vacationing? You know? (laughs) Would we consider being involved with service after we graduate? Would we consider making a commitment to philanthropy or to work in non-profit and I think that having direct service experiences and advocacy experiences during college helps people to set that as priorities and to see that as something that is part of who they are.

mittensWT: What are the challenges that your organization faces?

[With] HOPE, since we don't ask for a commitment from any of our members (basically we just give them a list of the activities that are going on and then send out an email to a huge number of people), that there is not really a sense of, "They are expecting me to be there, I have to show up." [On the other hand], we get a lot of people who have never tried these things before, who play a sport and have a double major, but still find the time to come out for one event a semester or one event a month. And we think that is really valuable, but it also does limit us in terms of building a community around it because we don't always know everyone's name at the event because people are shifting all the time.

And with such a big group it's sometimes hard to make people feel connected to that cause; also we have a wide range of activities so there is sometimes a disconnect between the people who care more about the direct service stuff and the advocacy issues. We work hard to rebuild that connection, but it's definitely hard, because it's a lot easier to articulate when it's from the framework of going to a conference, getting tons of information available. It's a little more challenging when you are posting up fliers or trying to petition people at a table in the middle of campus. I think that to serve many people we need to really click and it's hard for that to happen if they are not going to make a big commitment.

And in terms of the National Student Campaign, the challenges may be that it is at college campuses that are all over the place and it's not a common occurrence for them to talk to one another about these things. Very valuable and very necessary, but it doesn't happen a lot. Another challenge is that with college populations it is shifting all the time, people are always graduating, and group leaders are always changing and people study abroad and people graduate. And so when you have that turnover I think that can be a limitation. Those would be the challenges I guess.

WT: So what got you interested? You said you did some stuff in high school, but what got you interested in the Campaign?

Well, I was just really lucky. I had a faculty member at school who found some information on it and said she was willing to pay for me to go to the conference last fall, and so I went to that conference and that was the first time I had heard about it or anything, and just had an incredible time learning about the resources out there and learning about ways to connect this to the school and be part of this larger movement.

WT: What about with HOPE?

With HOPE I participated in the program my freshman year. And they had programs similar to things I did in high school so it felt familiar.

WT: How has it impacted you?

I think for me it's been a good way to keep balance in [my] college experience, because when you are in situations when you are realizing the challenges that people in our community face, it's just a lot easier to just head back to the library and study, or a lot easier to figure out a way to get over a roommate issue, or a lot easier to get to sleep easy. You have some sense of how lucky you are to go to college.

Darla Walters Gary is a WireTap staff writer. She lives in Oakland, California and is a senior at Far West High School.

Lost in Translation

lost in translationHave you ever looked at your own picture and not recognized yourself? Or spent only a few days with someone but knew that they would have an effect on the rest of your life? In the new film by Sofia Coppola, "Lost In Translation," the characters, no matter how seemingly different they may be, go through everyday feelings of longing, confusion and affection.

The viewer will be taken aback by the new, forlorn side of Bill Murray, so drastically different from his early days on Saturday Night Live or my favorite, the Ghostbusters movies, but occasionally his trademark sarcasm makes an appearance. The character of Bob Harris, an actor in the middle of a midlife crisis, is made for him.

Bob is in Japan making whiskey advertisements. Whether talking on the phone with his distant wife, or running along the bright streets of Tokyo, along side Charlotte, ("Ghost World's" Scarlett Johansson), Murray is brilliantly dull and at the same time fascinating. The only thing better then watching Murray is watching co-star Scarlett Johansson.

lost in translationJohansson is spectacular as Charlotte. As the wife of a photographer who is always busy at work, Charlotte needs something to do. When she and Bob Harris meet, the two make a strange yet perfect pair.

The characters in the movie bring the audience on a trip lit by the neon lights of Tokyo and propelled by the fascination of a new face, a new city and a newfound view of life. Viewers will really care about the characters and get to know them by the end of the movie. Though some people (for example, my dad) may complain that it starts out too slow, I found it perfect. It is realistic yet completely unlike anything you might expect.

One of the most interesting things about Sofia Coppola is her unique way of capturing how eerie and sad life is. The shots of Johansson sitting alone in her hotel room listening to self-help tapes or fading away in the crowded Tokyo streets, and the scenes of Murray drinking alone in the bar, give off a feeling that they don't know themselves any better then you do. As with her last film, The Virgin Suicides, some of the most striking scenes in the movie are stripped bare. No sound, no words, just silent images of the characters' isolated lives.

Even though I spent $10.00 on the ticket, which is a lot of money for someone with my limited bank account, it was completely worth it. As my friend said, it's the second best Bill Murray film ever�"Who you gonna call, Ghostbusters!"

Darla Walters Gary is a WireTap staff writer. She lives in Oakland, California and is a senior at Far West High School.
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