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A fellow student of mine sent me a link to this NPR story, Muslim Women’s ShelterProvides Refuge. I found it quite uplifting to read, but also a bit saddening.

Pictured: Asma Hanif. Photo by Dianna Douglas, NPR

The story focuses on Asma Hanif, a Muslim woman who runs a home in Baltimore for other Muslim women who have suffered some form of abuse. It is a place of “sanctuary” and “escape,” and a place they can practice their own faith without fear.

It is uplifting to hear how this one woman-who herself was forced to leave behind her three children after being abused by her husband and seek shelter-could make such a difference over 12 years for other Muslim women going through similar trials and provide them hope among the circumstances.

I encourage anyone to look up a local shelter and get involved. Whether you sign up to volunteer or make a donation, especially around this holiday season, your contribution will be appreciated more than you know.

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I’ve been staying updated on the Sheila Dixon trial through my Twitter feed as well as tuning in to the news. After the verdict was given yesterday, I paid even more attention.

What will this mean for Baltimore? Will Dixon inevitably be forced to step down as mayor? Shouldn’t she be? I sure think so.

When I actually stopped reading my Twitter feed and turned on my television, I was watching Dixon being interviewed post-trial, and never did I get a sense of remorse or apology from her. And it doesn’t even seem like the media is making a big deal out of what she did? Hello! She stole from needy kids and that is that!

Sure we all make mistakes, but I think we should hold our leaders to higher expectations, and that includes Mayor Dixon.

I also have to wonder, would the outcome of the trial have gone differently if the mayor were a man?

I had a discussion today with some of my coworkers on the topic-also saw similar opinions in a Sun article– and we came to the same conclusion. Yes, we think if it were a man in her place, maybe the jury wouldn’t have been so sympathetic. Did the jury assume that because Dixon is a woman that perhaps she may have gotten “mixed up” and “accidentally” thought the gift cards were hers?

Sure, she was found guilty for that, but it still makes me question whether this whole trial was just a big gimmick all together.

Anyway, enough ranting from me. Anyone else care to share their thoughts on the outcome of the trial?

Towson University is observing World AIDS Day today on the 3rd floor of the University Union. The Center for Student Diversity has put together several events with other organizations to last throughout the day.

Here is a list from the Daily Digest of the events and times. Try to make it out and show your support for the cause!

FREE HIV Testing (Walk-In Only)
10am-3:30pm, UU305

“I Am Because We Are” Documentary
10:30am & 2 p.m., Chesapeake 3

46664: Mandela’s HIV/AIDS Initiative: Africa & Beyond (Including Peace Tree Lighting)
12pm, Women’s Center (UU 313)

Sexual Jeopardy (Hosted by Dowell Health Center, HIV Testing & Outreach)
4pm, UU306

One World, One Fight, One Meal
Benefit Dinner ($5 suggested donation)
6pm, Potomac Lounge

At 18, Rebekka Armstrong became a Playboy Playmate. It was her dream.

Three years later, her doctor told her she had HIV. Her dream started to crumble and her body physically started to break down.

Armstrong’s message to students at Towson University touched on her success with Playboy, her struggle with HIV, the empowerment she now feels after overcoming her fears and an emphasis to students on safe sex.

I’ve decided to tell this story through Armstrong’s quotes. There were so many and I feel like her words describe here experience more powerfully than my own.

Living the dream

“I felt like when people knew my Playboy status that meant I needed to rock their world.”

Confirmed diagnosis: She was HIV+

“I was 22 years old. They gave me two years to live.”

‘When [the doctor] told me that I was HIV positive, I lost it. The only thing I knew about HIV was death.’

“I was terrified of people not wanting to be around me.”

“I drank and I used drugs to self-medicate.”

Sick in hospital, wasting away. “I weighed 80 lbs.”

Spiked fevers, night sweats, cramping in abdomen, diarrhea, vomiting.

“I had eight spinal taps in four days.”

Collapsed at a club in Texas. “My pancreas is rupturing form DDI.” This was her second experimental prescription, not FDA approved.

“I decided, I’m going to take my life.”

She washed down a box full of narcotics with tequila and drove into a wall near Panga Canyon.

“I was in coma for three days. Everything hurt, black charcoal was coming out of me.”

The reality of HIV/AIDS

“This is one of the many faces of AIDS. I highly doubt you’d be walking through campus and say ‘That bitch got AIDS.”

“Every hour of every day, those aged 13-24, two of you are infected.”

“We are all human beings and we make mistakes, but we don’t have to.”

“AIDS is a tricky little bastard. It works around the drug.”

Epiphany: She wanted to make a difference

“’I’m Rebekka Armstrong and I have AIDS.’ Those are probably the most empowering word I’ve ever said.”

“I will help save the life of another woman.”

“I want to make a difference and I want to prevent kids from getting this.”

“I got a web page, started writing…visited my old high school, doing real grass root stuff.”

“I’m on a journey. This is my path so I gotta make the most of it.”

When asked who she contracted the disease from, her answer: “I infected me.”

“By putting on a funny face and laughing and putting on a good vibe, it’s saving my life.”

“As far as my future is concerned, I’m definitely going to be around for it.”

Encouraging safe sex

“I think I am more open than your grandmother to talk about sex.”

“Being that sex is an important topic in college, I want people to see the repercussions of not having safe sex.”

“It only takes one time to make a decision to have unprotected sex.”

“Take the time to protect yourself. You are worth it. One of these could have saved my life.” Holding up a condom.

 

Invisible people

“The very first time that it actually sunk in I was terrified,” said Alicia Williams. “I actually said, ‘This is it. This is the bottom. And what am I going to do to get back to the top?’”

At 15-years-old, Williams became homeless after running away from an abusive foster home. She continued school as a straight-A student and competed in school sports until being homeless started causing problems. She wasn’t getting enough sleep, was dirty and had nowhere to go.

Continue reading the story

 

Homelessness in Baltimore. Photo by Nicole Fallek

 

 

Walking into the Media Center today, you probably noticed the table of chocolaty, sprinkled treats along with a couple fresh fruit selections.

Lambda Pi Eta sorority held their annual fall bake sale 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, to raise money for the homeless. With a goal of raising $100, by 2:15 p.m., they beat their goal raising $131.

Project PLASE, an organization that provides transitional housing, permanent housing and supportive services to homeless adults in Baltimore, is where the money is intended to be donated at the moment.

In the past, the bake sale donations have been donated to House of Ruth, a shelter in Baltimore for women and children suffering form domestic abuse. This year, one of the girls learned about Project PLASE and thought homelessness would be another great cause to support and raise awareness for. However, if Project PLASE isn’t approved, the donations will go to House of Ruth.

“Usually we have two [bake sales] during the academic year, but we’re hoping to expand this year,” Amanda Kearns, co-president of LPE, said.

Courtney Hammond, another co-president of LPE, said they will be having another bake sale in the spring, but would like to expand and hold a candy bar event in the Union as well.

Beat box and burlesque

Last night I attended Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Show in the World” at The Recher Theatre in Towson, Md. The show was amazing and showcased a lot of talented actors, musicians and entertainers.

Particularly, I wanted to point out the female performers because they showed some amazing talent on stage! My favorite was the first act, Phatima, The Pharaoh’s Private Vocalist. She managed to beat box and sing so fluently and did it with attitude. I loved it so much, I took two videos with my FlipCam to show off her talent to those who didn’t make it out.

And here is another one with Angelo Moore, aka Dr. Madd Vibe, on the saxaphone.

Another performer that stood out to me was Mei Ling, Esteemed Equilibrist of the East. She was raised by circus acrobat parents and trained by martial arts masters and has some amazing strength. Check out this video to see her balance her whole body on one hand!

One more act that stood out in my mind was Melody Sweets, The Sultry Siren of San Michele. This burlesque singer had a great voice and stage presence. Some women may find this portrays when as sex symbols, but when looking at all of the performances as a whole, I found this one stood out for the talent. It shows a woman that is comfortable with her body and is not afraid to be a little bit of a tease.

Your thoughts on the show? What do you think these acts say about women? Positive or negative?