Critique of Lauren F. Klein’s “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings” – Digital Feminisms

In Klein’s “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings”, she discusses at length the idea of silences in our current archives. She uses the example of James Hemings, a servant of Thomas Jefferson, to describe to the reader that although he was mentioned many times in letters that Jefferson wrote, when you search his name in an archive, he won’t come up. This is because in all but one of Jefferson’s letters, Jefferson did not explicitly mention the name “James Hemings”, but referred to him as “his servant”. In Jefferson’s letters, Hemings is visible between the lines; you can feel his presence. However, you can’t actually see his name, and in our archives, he’s a ghost.

This article made me think about history, and how so much of history is told from the point of view of the “winners”. In American history classes, we don’t learn about history from the perspective of slaves or indigenous native tribes. Our understanding of the past is all from the “winning side”, and this is prevalent in our archives as so many people throughout our history that are on the “losing side” are missing from our archives.

Along with social and historical groups that are silenced in our archives, I think that there are existing silences in our current news/media outlets. Klein mentions “epistemological biases”, which is definitely a concept that applies to our current news outlets. For instance, since the The New York Times’s ideologies are left leaning, naturally, there are existing silences, as the outlet will not present right leaning ideologies.

Also, there are many silences in our academic archives. When looking at our school archive, the Northeastern Library, you can’t help but notice that many historical books, scholarly articles, etc. are written by men, white men. This silences both women and minority groups from our archive, which doesn’t allow for us, as readers and researchers, to really grasp certain theories and historical events. If certain voices aren’t heard in our archives, how can we have a comprehensive, multi-perspective understanding of our past?

So, moving forward, in the archives that we create, we need to think of ways to avoid these silences by being more inclusive to those voices that often times aren’t present in our archives. The first step towards avoiding silences in our archives, is recognizing that there are biases, that silences exist in the first place, which is something that I hadn’t really thought about before reading Klein’s piece.

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Dorchester housing prices are going down

Once notorious for its high housing prices, Dorchester’s rent costs, due to efforts on the mayoral level and in Boston’s official departments, have decreased in recent years.

Mayor Marty Walsh coordinated with Boston’s Neighbourhood Development and Economic Development Departments in order to create the Housing Boston 2030 Plan after the city was faced with the challenge of balancing its growing population with its total amount of available, affordable housing, according to the “Boston 2030: Year Two Snapshot” report. The goal of the report as outlined in the 2030 Plan was to provide the city with 53,000 new units in order to accommodate for the city’s increasing population. These new units would be priced at a higher cost in order for the existing units to become more affordable, according to the report.

Theresa Gallagher, the Deputy Director of the Neighborhood Housing Division, highlighted the importance of the 2030 Plan in maintaining affordable housing for those residents in Boston who could be priced out of the housing market.

The plan attempts to make certain that people who have called Boston home for a long time and made these neighborhoods what they are can remain there if they want to,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher also discussed her involvement in the 2030 Plan and highlighted the efforts that were made by public officials and citizens to implement this plan.

“We worked with a large task force of folks from across the city, housing advocates and housing providers, different agencies, to really look at what the housing needs of Boston were going to be for the long haul,” she said. “There were community based groups, many people in the development community involved, including nonprofits that were in the business of creating affordable housing.”

John Barros, the Chief of Economic Development gave insight into some of the ways that his department has been striving to accomplish these goals.

“Within the Economic Development cabinet, we work with developers to encourage and incentivize them to produce more moderately-priced housing in neighborhoods outside of the downtown core, this would include Dorchester,” Barros said.

This department’s efforts, alongside the efforts of others, have caused the rents and housing prices in Dorchester to decrease by 5 percent in recent years, according to the “Boston 2030: Year Two Snapshot” report.

Amelia Najjar, a research analyst with the Policy Development and Research Division of Boston said that Dorchester has decreased its rent from 2015 to 2016.

When looking at the data, in terms of the housing prices, it doesn’t necessarily mean a single unit decreased their rent, but overall in the market, we’re seeing a little relief in Dorchester, so we’ll see if that keeps up in 2017,” Najjar said.

According to Najjar, the research analysis team is constantly tracking development in the Dorchester area, as well as in other neighbourhoods in Boston.

“The Boston Housing 2030 Plan drives a lot of our analysis. We look at how many units have been permitted, how many have been completed and of those what percent are affordable,” Najjar said.

The 2030 Plan, according to Gallagher, encourages the development of not just low-income units, but moderate-income units and middle-income units.

Najjar supported this claim as she dove into some of the efforts that have been made to provide people of all income levels with more access in the home ownership and rental house areas.

“There’s a lot of work to be done around both low income households who are likely to be renting and also middle income households who would like to purchase their homes,” Najjar said.

Carrie O’brien, the Media Relations Coordinator for Neighborhood Development, said that the Dorchester area, like other neighborhoods in Boston have been positively affected by the 2030 Plan. She said that the plan has allowed for Dorchester to preserve its diversity since some of those lower-income people who bring their food and culture to the area will be able to afford housing.

“Dorchester is the largest neighbourhood in Boston, it’s a melting pot like the rest of the city,” O’brien said.

Gallagher backs this statement as she too believes the 2030 plan has benefited Boston’s neighborhoods.

“Boston is a very diverse town and we want to keep it that way,” Gallagher said.

More than meets the eye in Dorchester

Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood, is still perceived by most non-residents as an impoverished, crime ridden area. But in the eyes of its inhabitants, Dorchester is a community that swells with cultural diversity and warmth.

Elisa Girard, owner of Home.Stead Bakery & Cafe, a local coffee shop in the Fields Corner district, spent the majority of her time painting the neighborhood and its greater surroundings in a positive light as she touched upon its inclusiveness and diversity.

“It’s the most diverse place in Boston and there are a lot of cultural events that go on,” Girard said. “I don’t think people realize how friendly it is here and how easy it is to get to know people.”

Khanh Ngo, a freshman at Northeastern University and a resident of Fields Corner for seven years explained why Dorchester is so special to her.

“On Geneva Avenue, there’s this West Indie restaurant and it sells Haitian patties and I’m in love with that place! If you’re looking for good food, Dorchester is definitely the place to go,” Ngo said. “Dorchester is so diverse so you’ll get so many different people and backgrounds and they’ll bring their food and their culture to the area.”

Madeline Miller, a 24-year-old student in Boston University’s Graduate Program, realized that there’s a negative connotation that goes along with Dorchester when she tells people that she recently moved there.

“The worst thing about Dorchester is its reputation,” said Miller.

While residents acknowledged that there are central crime and safety issues in Dorchester, most of them didn’t think it was a defining factor of the neighborhood.

“We have a little crime here,” Girard said. “I don’t feel very safe walking by myself at night, I usually go out with my husband.”

Conversely, Jeffrey Salamone, a 26-year-old resident who works at a restaurant in the South End, said he thinks that Dorchester is not more dangerous than any of the surrounding areas of Boston.

“I’ve lived here for a while and I work downtown. When I tell people I live in Dorchester, people usually just think it’s unsafe and far away and uninteresting and that there’s nothing to do here,” he said. “I actually think it’s very artistic and creative, there are a lot of small businesses here.”

Teta Fofana, a worker at Nare African Hair Brading, a local hair salon in the area said that she isn’t very concerned about the violence and crime in her community either.

“People who don’t know the area think it’s a dangerous place but it’s not. I don’t find the homeless people a danger, they’re friendly and don’t bother me,” Fofana said. “I’ve worked here for more than ten years and I love it.”

Fofana said she is hopeful that the public’s attitude about Dorchester might shift as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified.

“We have a lot of higher class, white people moving in so maybe that will change people’s opinions about the community,” Fofana said.

Girard also expressed hope for Dorchester’s reputation as she explained that WGBH, a public radio station in Boston, opened headquarters right above her coffeeshop as of March. She said that WGBH has been focusing on writing more positive stories about Dorchester, which she hopes will boost the public’s opinions about the neighborhood.

Salamone, like the other members in his community said he wants nothing more than for Dorchester to be recognized for its good. He wants Dorchester to be a place that people are excited to visit.

“I would love for it to be less stigmatized and I want it to be appreciated for all that it is,” Salamone said.

Trump’s presidency drives liberal artists to create with a new intensity

A middle-aged woman leans over to ask the elderly man next to her if she could take a look at the program in his lap. The two strangers discuss the play at which they were about to see, their conversation eventually becoming more and more muffled, until it blends in perfectly with the rest of the audience’s faint murmurs.  

All at once, the audience falls silent as the lights slowly dim in the Inner Sanctum Studio Boston, where the performers come to life through the play “Incident at Vichy”.

Daniel Boudreau, the founder of Praxis Stage Theater Company, said the play, which is about the rise of Nazis, parallels his feelings about the current political situation and President Donald Trump’s “hateful immigrant bashing”. Praxis Stage was launched in the wake of Trump’s election as a company that would perform strictly political plays.

It is just one of the many ways in which people are expressing their opposition to the president through political art.

Political art in its many forms has been a conventional driving force in the resistance against president Trump and his administration, according to visual artist Sarah Rushford.

“After the inauguration and during the first major protests, I personally knew hundreds of artists involved in protest exhibitions. It is absolutely a time of art making directly about politics,” Rushford said.

Rushford is largely involved in video and text art, where she produces videos or examines the power of language by picking apart certain parts of a text and scribbling different elements, such as graphite over words to emphasize them. Her text artwork, featured in the “Transition of Power: 2017” art exhibit, in the 13FOREST Gallery in Boston, corresponds directly with our current political situation, according to Rushford.

Her work, entitled “Alluvion”, includes a series of drawings made by scratching the text of the U.S. Constitution onto paper and then scribbling with graphite over the words to reveal them, Rushford said.

“I’m doing this as a way for myself to take in the meaning of the fundamental ideas on which my country is built, through my body, by writing by hand. The scratching stylus becomes a tool of urgent communication in a time of great need,” Rushford said.

Northeastern freshman Chané Ghuman attended the “Transition of Power: 2017” event when it first opened. She said the visual texts, the photography, and the art pieces, spoke to her about politics in a way that the media could not.

“It sounds weird, but I felt like the artwork was talking to me. It was an enlightening experience, Ghuman said.

The works in the exhibit influenced not only the viewers, but also the artists themselves, according to Rushford. As Rushford strolled through the exhibit, viewing her own art as well as the works of others, she said she remembered smiling and thinking of how beautiful it was for artists to unite together against such a strong and hateful force.  

“For me this exhibition was important because it showed me that making art in reaction to Donald Trump is a real and effective way of protesting,” Rushford said.

Asia Kepka, a visual photographer whose work was also featured in the “Transition of Power: 2017” art exhibit, discusses the importance of political art and shares with us some of her experiences as a political artist during the Trump era.

“When I found out that Trump would be our next president, I was in mourning. The sadness and disbelief I felt was overwhelming,” Kepka said. “The period after the election brought me back to memories of funeral processions in my home country of Poland, where black flags would blow in the wind, letting the whole world know a tragedy had happened”.

Kepka said that as an artist, she felt as if she had an obligation to make art that expressed not only her feelings, but also the feelings of others who may not be able to express their opinions in a visual way.

Northeastern freshman Josie Cerbone said that she thinks it is amazing that there are so many political artists willing to share what they believe in and represent the beliefs of so many others through their art.

“Art during the Trump Era is definitely a valuable tool for so many people who can’t create or share their feelings. It is nice to know that people can still see some of their opinions being represented through the works of others,” Cerbone said.  

Kepka’s collection of black and white photographs, which were presented in the “Transition of Power: 2017” exhibit reflect the overall dark and dismal reality of Trump being the current president, Kepka said.

The artist’s house is featured in one of the photographs. In the photo, long, black, strips of fabric hang from the windows of her house. Kepka said that the black fabric hanging from her windows symbolized the black flags that were present at funeral processions in Poland.

“My house was going to become an outlet for my crying soul,” Kepka said.

Although she was the only Polish person on her street, Kepka said that she was getting reactions about her house from many people in her neighborhood.

“The new look of my house resonated with people from different walks of life, people from all over the world. I was told that seeing my house in mourning expressed exactly how they were feeling,” she said.  

Being from Poland, Kepka said that she is well aware of the importance of political art. She said that art has the power to save nations and that it is vital now more than ever to remind American citizens of the value of political art.

“My country did not exist for more than 100 years during Russian, German, and Austrian occupation. My nation survived because of the art that was created by painters, poets, writers, and musicians,” Kepka said. “Art gives people a sense of pride during difficult times. Art is a weapon in speaking out against injustice”.

Critique of “Where are all the female college presidents?”

In the article “Where are all the female college presidents”, featured in the Metro section of the Boston Globe, journalist Michael Levenson begins with a strong opener: “Last year, a search committee at Springfield Technical Community College recommended four highly qualified administrators as finalists for the job of president. Three of them were women, but the Board of Trustees ultimately picked the only male candidate to lead the institution.” By beginning with what is characteristic of an anecdotal lead, the journalist draws the reader into the story. Throughout the story, he provides data for the reader that supports his claims that there is an underrepresentation of women college presidents. For instance, he includes data from the American Council on Education as well as data form the Eos Foundation. He also incorporates stories about women college presidents as well as various quotes. Towards the end of the article, the journalist mentions Mckenna, who was fired last year after being the president of Suffolks and getting into a fight with the primarily male board of trustees. The journalist demonstrates excellent reporting skills throughout the piece. He ends with a strong quote from Mckenna: “Nobody says that to men: He’s too tough. And that definitely is a bias”.

Critique of Laura Krantz articles

In the article “Growth spree has the UMass Boston campus in a bind”, journalist Laura Krantz takes an effective approach to writing the story, as she begins by discussing the University’s success back in 2011 as well as the University’s anticipated growth. She then flips her focus on the readers in paragraph four, where she talks about the warning signs that the University received when wanting to improve the campus. The main point fo the story is addressed in paragraph six: “Now, five years later, the campus finds itself in a situation much like the one it was warned about. In its quest to rise from a commuter school to a top-tier research university, it followed through with the buildings, the programs, and the faculty while largely ignoring the warning that came coupled to those promises”. In general, the journalist’s reporting skills in this story are outstanding, as she backs her claims with data, observations, and direct quotes from various people. She even includes at the end of the piece, data on UMass Boston’s enrollment and fund-raising patterns, among other things, from the years 2012 to 2016. Her meticulousness in reporting and gather information definitely shows through, as by reading this tory, the reader is able to better understand the information she presents and the claims she makes.

Another one of Laura Krantz’s articles in the Boston Globe is entitled “Some faculty fear that UMass Boston is being scapegoated”. This article, unlike the article motioned above, follows the news style writing in journalism more. For instance, the journalist begins with a lead, which addresses the main point of the story: “At UMass Boston, where officials are grappling with overdue construction projects, declining enrollment and a looming $30 million deficit, there is frustration — particularly among black faculty — that Chancellor J. Keith Motley is receiving too much blame for the campus’s problems,”. The paragraphs directly following the lead, like in news style writing, address the main point of the story in a more detailed way. Then, the journalist includes a strong quote from the director of the UMass Boston William Monroe Trotter Institute, which studies black culture. In general, Laura Krantz does a really good job of incorporating a lot of information and different ideas into this story, as she discussed race relations on the UMass campus, fundraising issues on the UMass campus, etc.

In the article “Warren calls on business leaders to join fight against Trump”, Laura Krantz again writes in the news style fashion. Her lead, expressed in the first paragraph states: “Senator Elizabeth Warren called on state business leaders Monday to get more involved in the political fight against Donald Trump, saying the president’s agenda will harm New England,”. She includes strong quotes from Warren: “It is in your economic interest to be in these fights,”. Although the article follows news style writing, there are still bits of the story that have characteristics aligned with feature style writing. For instance, in one paragraph, Krantz states: “As silverware clinked and waiters scurried between tables…,”. This more observational and creative style of writing is characteristic of a feature story.

Critique of “Shots fired in Cambridge are the first reported in months”

The article “Shots fired in Cambridge are the first reported in months, police say” follows traditional news style writing in journalism. The lead, which reads: “Multiple gunshots fired in mid-Cambridge Saturday night were the first reported in the city in months, according to Cambridge police”, is straightforward and addresses the main point of the story.

When reading the article, I looked for how many people were injured as the article’s title was about multiple gunshots being fired. Journalist Bret Hauff did not include the information that “no one was injured” until the second paragraph, which I found interesting. Many journalists would have included this in the lead since the amount of people injured in incidents such as this one, is of great interest to the public. Instead, the journalist decided to go with a more vague lead, maybe in hopes of drawing the reader in and encouraging them to want to read more.

The journalist includes statements as well as a direct quote from the Cambridge Police spokesman. In general, the rather short story did not include much information as to why the shots were fried in Cambridge, but that is probably due to the fact that the journalist had to write the article in a short period of time to get the information out to the public. Based on observations, it seems like the article will have to be followed up once journalists obtain more information about the incident.

Critique on three nut graphs in The Boston Globe

The article “Spurred by dot-coms, school furniture is becoming comfy” highlighted in the Metro section of The Boston Globe follows the feature story style in journalism with a nut graph in the fourth paragraph of the story. The nut graph states:Across Massachusetts, teachers are increasingly embracing a lesson learned from the dot-com world: different types of seating can make folks more comfortable, which in turn can boost productivity and creative thinking,”. In this, the main point of the story is introduced, similar to a lead in news style writing. However, in this case, the main idea is not at the very beginning of the story. This is characteristic of a feature style story. Journalist James Vaznis begins the story by introducing a specific second-grade teacher, Kelly Fitzpatrick, who says she feels her students are more attentive when sitting in comfortable furniture in classrooms. By the journalist beginning the story in a narrative way and then after, highlighting the main point of the story in the nut graph, the journalist is able to engage the reader in a non-traditional news style writing way.

Another story with a nut graph in the Metro section of The Boston Globe is the article titled “Bagpipers play the sounds of the season”. The nut graph reads: In the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums — marking its 25th anniversary this year — they’ve forged friendships”. In this story, the nut graph can be seen in the third paragraph of the article. Similar to the article mentioned above, the story begins in a narrative way, with sentences describing the characteristics of bagpipes as well as the different way bagpipes have functioned over the years. Then, in the third paragraph, journalist Cristela Guerra gets into the main point of the story with the nut graph.

Lastly, another story with a nut graph in the Metro section of The Boston Globe is the article titled “Fallen Watertown firefighter is saluted in solemn procession”. The nut graph, which is seen in the third paragraph of the story, states: A day after Toscano, 54, suffered a medical emergency while battling a two-alarm house fire and died, his fellow firefighters mourned Saturday during two solemn processions. Toscano lived in Randolph with his wife and five children, who are ages 12 to 19,”. It is here that journalist Laura Crimaldi gets to the main point of the story and addresses the who, what, when, where, why, and how. The journalist waits until the third paragraph to address the main point of the story so that she can begin the story in a more narrative way, drawing the reader in. This is characteristic of feature style stories as mentioned before.

Building a wall of compassion

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More than 300 protestors stood in silence outside a Boston mosque in Roxbury on a Saturday to show their solidarity with the Muslim community in reaction to President Trump’s immigration ban.

The afternoon event, called “The Human Wall of Compassion” took place from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during Dhuhr or midday prayer. It took place on the sidewalks outside of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC). People stood in complete silence against a fence facing the mosque. Some held signs reading, with messages like, “We have your back”.

Event organizer Richard Inonog discussed the importance of staying silent during the event. He said it was out of respect for the people praying in the mosque. In this way, he said the event was unlike other protests.

“Since it’s prayer time, we decided to do a silent demonstration and take a different approach to protesting,” Inonog said.

Inonog said he organized the event as a reaction to the travel ban.

“I consider myself Muslim by heritage and can relate a lot to the Islamic religion, but you don’t need to have a connection to the culture or religion to want to show up and support the Muslim community,” Inonog said. “You just have to be a good person”.

Sarah Brubeck of Boston said she was there in solidarity with Muslims she feels are targeted by President Trump’s travel ban. The ban prohibits citizens from seven Muslim countries including Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq, from traveling to the U.S.

“I’m here to show them I’m beside them,” Brubeck said.

Elise Springuel of Roxbury expressed a similar sentiment.

“I came because I am concerned with the way in which the leadership of our country and countrymen are treating Muslims and people of color,” Springuel said.

People passing by on foot and in their cars said thank you to the demonstrators by beeping their car horns and waving. Members of the Muslim community also expressed their gratitude by saying thank you to the silent protestors.

An elderly woman coming out from the mosque took the time to thank and shake the hands of every single person lined up on one of the sides outside of the mosque.

After the prayer, the ISBCC opened their doors to the protestors and allowed them to come inside the mosque. Members of the ISBCC smiled and expressed their appreciation for the demonstrators.

Boston elementary school teacher Bridget Shepard felt awkward when the members of the Muslim community came up and thanked the protestors.

“I feel like they shouldn’t even have to thank us. We shouldn’t be thanked for anti-racist activism,” Shepard said.

Critique of “Joe Kennedy speaks to NAACP members of hope in ‘dark and difficult times'”

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The article “Joe Kennedy tells NAACP members of hope in ‘dark and difficult times” embodies all of those qualities present in a typical journalistic speech story. The lead states: US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III assured a crowd packing a Central Square church Saturday morning that President Trump’s administration will not rewrite the “American story”, as he encouraged the group to sand together in the face of potential oppression”. The lead addresses the central point of the story and allows for the reader to understand what they will be getting into. It is interesting because in this lead, journalist Amanda Hoover mentions the speaker’s specific name. Though she very well could have said “A US Representative assured a crowd packing…,” the journalist decided to state “US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III assured a crowd packing…,” which causes the reader to realize that the representative is an important figure worth noting.

The journalist then goes on to begin the body of the story with a direct quote from the speaker: “We gather this morning gin some dark and difficult times,”. This addresses the why of the article in an engaging way, causing the reader to want to continue the story. In the piece, the journalist displays excellent reporting skills, by both paraphrasing and direct quoting what the speaker said, interviewing several other sources, such as audience members, and observing how the audience members reacted to what Joe Kennedy was saying. Her observation skills can be seen here: “Kennedy’s speech drew a warm response from the crowd, who applauded and cheered as they sat around tables draped with blue tablecloths and gold napkins, the colors of the NAACP logo”. The reporter then backs her observation with a direct quote from an audience member: “The only way this mission is going to move forward is if you have more people like him,” said Andrea Collymore, 53, an educator who lives in Cambridge,”. All examples of good reporting skills.