A cultural content comparison and analysis, this paper looks at the framing and portrayal of non-routine and violent collective action, comparing and contrasting how they are portrayed in fictional films versus real-life news clips. This includes a discussion of how US culture and society talks about different incidents of rebellion, as well as how it views the use of violence in achieving the goals of a movement. The piece examines how different types of media portray non-routine collective action, and especially, how that might affect the way society responds to these events. In feature films about violent collective action, those using violence to fight against powerful regimes are usually portrayed as heroic, while at the same time, news media depicts people involved in real life action as criminals, with each portrayal affecting how these events are viewed by US society. Such media portrayals results in a disconnect to how US society views fictional rebellion versus when it happens in real life.
For my community improvement, I volunteered at the Fredericksburg SPCA, a local animal shelter. Through the volunteer work, I was able to talk to multiple employees in order to gather information about the services provided, power distribution, and other details about the shelter. For example, I learned that the shelter is a no-kill, independent organization, meaning they receive no funding or regulation from the local government. From my conversations with employees, I also learned that this granted them all of the decision-making power, allowing the shelter to create their own adoption policies, programs, et cetera. However, they also informed me that this meant the SPCA was also responsible for 100% of their own budget, which meant that fundraising and volunteer work were a huge part of the process.
By volunteering, I learned about the wide range of volunteer opportunities that are available. One can work directly with the animals through dog or cat socialization and dog walking, or they can participate in cleaning the facilities, doing laundry, clerical work, and many other jobs. The staff also informed me that they get many volunteers, meaning they have been able to establish strong connections with the community. These connections also play important roles in their fundraising, allowing them to organize with community members and provide many opportunities for them to participate in the events the shelter holds. I learned that they receive many donations, ranging from monetary gifts to cleaning supplies or dog/cat food.
Through this work, I was able to get a sense of how important volunteer work was for this organization, which showed me the distribution of power. Because their budget is limited, the shelter relies heavily on volunteers, creating a cohesive network between the SPCA and the community. The staff explained to me that their organization is different than others in the area, because they are a no-kill shelter and independently run. Because of the strong presence they have in the community, they are able to maintain a high adoption rate, meaning most animals do not remain in the shelter for more than a month or two. This allows them to be a no-kill shelter, since overpopulation is not a huge issue and they receive enough funding from the community to properly care for the animals that come through the shelter. Through this experience, I learned about the importance of non-profit organizations for animals, because as an independent organization, they are able to make their own decisions about the care of the animals. This distinguishes them from other shelters, who are often forced to put animals down if they are there for more than a week. The power in this case is distributed in the hands of the shelter and the community members who participate in the function of the SPCA.
Through community engagement, I have not only gained a better understanding of what it means to be little, but of what it means to play a role in a little person’s life. Children are a huge part of this world we live in and they are often times overlooked. I chose to engage in the community by looking them in the eye and letting them know that I believe in who they are and what they are capable of. Through my work with Bigs in Schools at UMW and my work as a dance teacher, I have explored mentorship at it’s finest and sometimes it’s hardest yet it is what I look forward to most during the week.
For the past six months, I have volunteered at the Table, a food pantry in downtown Fredericksburg. It is run by St. George episcopal church and is open every week at 9:30 in the morning and 5 in the evening for an hour and a half each time. I try to go once a week in the evenings, where I am tasked with monitoring the types of food that each person may or may not take. This food costs $45,000 each year, money obtained from governmental, nonprofit, commercial, and public funds.
The individuals that attend the table are usually not homeless. Often, many of them have homes, and work low income jobs whose salaries do not provide enough to put food on the table week to week. Before the Table began, individuals would be given an emergency food bag if they couldn’t last the entire month on their income. This bag restricted their choice in food and had a limited quantity. Then, the food pantry began to give the church perishables, which eventually lead to the creation of the food pantry. The new system created was set up in a market style pantry where shoppers were able to select their own items with a selection of food focused on fresh produce.
There are so many aspects of power that can be seen at the Table. For example, the Table exhibits power by how it gets its money; the shoppers exhibit power by their choice in produce; the volunteers exhibit power by deciding and controlling the amount a shopper can take from one specific item. By using governmental funds partially, and instead focusing on receiving funds from charities, the public, and local commercial organizations the table takes a lot of the power out of government’s hands, placing it instead in control of the Table. This also puts more responsibility on the Table to do work for the people of the community, something traditionally meant for the government. This, in a lot of ways, mixes up the often obstructive role of power by the government onto the people of low working class.
When I worked as a volunteer, I have the power mentioned above – I say how many you can and cannot have in order to feed your family. I do this because there needs to be enough to go around for everyone. I also have an unmentioned, automatic power: I am a healthy, white female who is financially secure with many privileges, and most of these individuals are minorities with nowhere near the amount of privileges that I have. This can create tension sometimes, and it has. Sometimes, some individuals will try to take too many cabbage, or lettuce, or something, and I have to say no – often with a language difference making the power difference a lot more obvious. This means you need to find ways to lower the power differentials. One of the ways I found to do this was to ask the names of the produce in languages of some of the shoppers. This puts me at a lower power level than originally, making the tension recede slightly.
Working at the table has been a fantastic experience for me. A lot of the power dynamics that we talked about in class are applicable to here very clearly. Its enabled me to interact with people who I normally wouldn’t interact with in my daily life, and it gives the statistics a visual reality with what it is really like.
Abstract: My brother asked me to pick up Smelly, his friend from jail, and let him stay with me, and I was initially hesitant, but agreed. Smelly turned out to be remarkably normal and this experience reaffirmed my understanding of ex-inmates as being no different than anyone else. This experience also showed me how desperately we need available aid for those transitioning from incarceration to normal life.
I did my research paper on the factors at play in the Baltimore riots. I looked at the historical issues, media portrayal, the government, the citizens, and the aftermath of the damage. I also engaged in looking at outsider perspectives to see how other people understood and made sense of the events. comm power research 2
I was compelled to volunteer at Hazelwild Farm in the therapeutic horseback riding program for children with disabilities. The activities the program offers assists in improving the children’s motor skills, flexibility, strength and many other physical and emotional attributes. With the help of friendly volunteers and the director of the program, these children look forward to their lessons and form a touching bond with the horses. The farm is run by local community members which allows some power to be used in a way that makes a difference in these children’s lives.
December 4th 2015
Thurman Brisben Center
I decided to do the alternative research project for my second project because I went to the Thurman Brisben Center a couple of different times over the course of the semester. The first time that I went, I went with my church, volunteering in the kitchen. We prepared the food, we served the residents the food, and we went out and sat with them as they ate and talked with them for a while. I’ve gone with my church twice this semester alone to volunteer. I went again with a couple of my friends from UMW and decided that I wanted to do things a little bit differently to see if the interactions were the same coming from a church group and coming from a University.
When I was with my church, we were all wearing aprons that said ‘Bethel Baptist Church’ and when I went on my own, I was wearing a UMW sweatshirt. When with my church I sat with multiple different people for a few minutes at a time socializing with them and talking about why I was there. With my church, it was a much different atmosphere. They knew I was volunteering because I wanted to and that I was with a church so it’s a different feeling. But when I was wearing my UMW shirt, and talking with them, I would say that I went to the University and that I was volunteering to get out in the community and do something to engage in the community but I wanted it to be personal, and beneficial.
The reactions weren’t the same. I didn’t encounter anyone who was rude or unfriendly, but I could tell that they felt differently hearing from a UMW student than hearing from someone volunteering from a church. The quality of the conversations weren’t the same. I didn’t sit with individuals as long as I did before. It was a much different situation than what it was with my church group. It was so obvious that the difference was because I was in UMW attire and told them that I went to the school. I’m sure that being in a homeless shelter and having your food prepared and served by a 21 year old UMW student isn’t a pleasant feeling because of the fact that me going to the university makes it seem that I have money and that I’m more privileged to be able to afford something like that while they can’t afford to have a home. I had people ask me if I paid for school or if my parents did. I also had someone ask me if I was there volunteering because I was required too for community service for a class or because I wanted to be there. I related this to the course because I think that money can relate to power. And I’m sure that the people who I encountered may have felt the same way.
My church has volunteered at the Thurman Brisben Center for years. I haven’t always been able to go, but every time that I did I would sit and talk with parents of kids, I would play with the kids and color with them. But when I went on my own, it was a much different experience. The younger kids obviously didn’t know the difference, so I still played with them a little but it was not as comfortable of an experience as it’s always been. I think that the idea of being a wealthier and more privileged college student had a lot to do with the differences in my experiences. I hope that it isn’t something that made those who are at the Center resentful or uncomfortable with being helped by a college student. Being helped by a church is something that is in a way expected or more normal, but being helped by a college student isn’t.
Each Tuesday in Downtown Fredericksburg, for fifty weeks out of the year, the food pantry The Table provides staples and fresh produce to the community. Those who attend do not have to prove need, as there are no poverty requirements or threshold—the pantry is open to all. I volunteer here each week from 5PM to 7PM and attended on Tuesday, 1 December 2015. On this day I helped distribute produce, as I usually do, but also interviewed Chris Cook, the lead grant writer of the operation, for this project; her answers have provided me all the information gathered on The Table presented in class and recounted in this paper.
I was very interested in the services that Micah provides to the community and chose to find a volunteer opportunity through them. After contacting one of the directors in the organization I learned about daily dinners that churches in the community provide. I chose to help out at the Presbyterian Church from 4-6pm on Saturday night. The environment was every friendly and everyone that attended seemed to be familiar with each other. The volunteers wanted to create a safe place where the individuals attending the dinner could work on socializing skills and make ties within the community. Instead of self-serve the volunteers would serve the individuals and also give many opportunities for seconds. There was also music put on by members of the church’s congregation. The Presbyterian church acknowledged the power difference between the volunteers and the people coming to the church for food. They made many efforts to learn names and leave income and housing at the door.
I was able to sit down with many people and talk about their experiences with the dinner and other dinners also run my Micah. A majority of the people I talked with encouraged me to attend more dinners to see all of the great dinners that the community offers. At first conversation was awkward and short, but once I shared that I wanted to volunteer people began to open up about their stories. I found that a majority of the individuals were either in the warm weather shelter or had housing that was simply not permanent or stable.
A police officer entered the dinner looking for someone and immediately, people were telling me of the police harassment that they face due to their financial situation. Many people I talked with were frustrated with the police and didn’t find themselves able to trust them. While we discussed racial segregation involving the police, hearing these experiences provided a lot of insight into social institutions, like socioeconomic status or race, that continue to shape and run society.
The community involvement project gave me the experience to see power at work. There are many perspectives of power that can be viewed, but I saw power through the roles of the church. The local churches in downtown Fredericksburg take on the role of the provider for many individuals that are facing poverty. Most of Micah’s funding is from donations which keeps the power of these services as the responsibility of the local community. This takes the pressure and responsibility away from the government and works to decrease the poverty problem at a local level.