Diversity- Not Just a Social Issue
Did you know that our bodies are made up of trillions of microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, protista) that make up what is known as our microbiome? In fact, it is believed that around half of the cells in our body are foreign microbe cells rather than our own! My personal interest in the human microbiome became much more personal when I began to consider the potential for improving human existence. Specifically, I learned about the potential role that our "gut bugs" may play in neurologic conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, which my grandfather has. This first came to my attention in a video appearing on PBS's Nova series, “What’s Living in You?”
There are trillions of microbes living in and on us, more than the cells that make up our bodies. If you weighed these companions, they would weigh about 3 pounds! Our bodies are ecosystems providing exactly what these microbiota need to live. We tend to ignore what we can not see like the bacteria in our world. These single-celled creatures keep us well much more often than they make us sick as they are vital in helping us digest food and fight off microscopic enemies. For a little history on the subject, we only first became aware of the microbiome world when Leeuwenhoek improved upon the microscope and discovered protozoa which he called “animalcules.” The unseen world was now on view. In 1926, Alexander Flemming came across some mold growing in one of his “germ farm” petri dishes and realized the mold had killed all the bacteria he was growing: the birth of penicillin, the first antibiotic. We all know what happened next ... an all-out effort to kill ALL germs. An antibiotic explosion fueled by a frenzied fear of germs soon followed which led to the manufacture of thousands of soaps and disinfectants and today’s ever-popular hand-sanitizers. BUT ... what if we are killing GOOD germs, germs we desperately need to stay healthy?
Humans evolved as a species that lived and thrived in the outdoors, now that we spend all our time indoors, what bacteria are we missing? What germs do we need to stay healthy? Scientists have begun to study the Amish population for clues as to why their communities experience half as many food allergies as the regular population. It seems that the Amish’s exposure from birth to the bacteria in their farm life constantly exposes them to a variety of germs which keep their cells from overreacting when exposed to new germs.
We have to be careful when we consider “germicide” (the wiping out of a germ). Sometimes in our rush to heal someone, we storm in with antibiotics like the ones used to kill H. Pylori bacteria found in stomach ulcers. While the patient might be cured of his stomach ulcer, a different disease might develop due to the lack of H Pylori. It’s a delicate balance.
The rest of this article will be published next month ... stay tuned!
Medgar Evers, a True Possibilist
America’s Civil Rights Movement was a time of incredible change. People of all races and backgrounds came together to fight for a common cause: equal rights for the African American population. Martin Luther King Jr., the face of the civil rights movement and whose legacy is celebrated in the holiday we recently observed, had many great followers who also rose to the challenge and put their lives on the line in the name of change. One of those such persons was Mississippi’s own Medgar Wiley Evers. He exemplified what was possible: an attainable future where everyone could live freely and fairly. Many things are named after him including the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers Airport. February is Black History Month, and I’d like to share a few things about Evers you might not know.
Medgar Evers was strongly involved in the NAACP, or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In fact, he was the first person to hold the position of field secretary in the South.
Evers was a soldier in WWII and participated in the Normandy invasion. After his assassination, he was given a funeral with full military honors.
While serving in the NAACP, Medgar Evers was involved in the investigation of the murder of Emmett Till.
Just hours after President Kennedy delivered a speech about the moral obligation to desegregate the South, Medgar Evers was shot in front of his home.
Evers’ house was designated as a National Historical Landmarker in 2017. It is open for tours. The address is 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive, Jackson.
The accompanying photo of the painting of Mr. Evers was painted by Jason Bouldin and can be viewed at the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Few Mississippians can discuss the groundbreaking significance of the Civil Rights movement without discussing Medgar Evers. As citizens of the United States, I believe it is our responsibility to learn more about the great men and women who helped form and grow this nation for the better.
“You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” - Medgar Wiley Evers
Over the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to volunteer at HeARTWorks, an art program that meets once a week at Stewpot in downtown Jackson. I have been volunteering with HeARTWorks over the past several years and was looking forward to seeing old friends. When I walked toward the doors of the building, I was expecting a relatively uneventful day of helping the clients lay out canvas drop cloths to be splattered with bottles of paint in a Jackson Pollock-esque style. When I made it to the second floor of the building, I was greeted with many welcoming faces from people spread out around the room with hands laid on top of round tables eager to get started.
After twenty minutes of prepping the plastic paint bottles we were ready to begin. With several unsure, first-time volunteers also helping in this totally new project, the helpers themselves were also timid and unsure of how to use the bottles. Still, these minor intimidations did not keep the clients at their tables and hold back their desires to express their love of art. With only a few words of encouragement, the canvas started to come to life. What followed was two hours of fun, laughter, and joy as everyone in the room united in their effort to create something beautiful.
Despite the differences of all of the people in the room, the art project became our common goal and helped open communication. People who thought they had nothing in common with each other began to work as a team and smile at the colorful “mess” being created. Conversation flowed and intimidation dissipated. The freedom of spreading bottles of paint on a canvas with friends and kind faces invited laughs, smiles, and a welcomed break from our own routines.
I am reminded of the importance of art in our society, how it opens our eyes and helps us understand others like a common language spanning across all human identities. There is no right or wrong in art ... every work created with care is appealing to someone somewhere. People must work together and welcome their differences, so that the vast colors on the finished canvas mirror the diversity of the people in our community.
A recent "hot-button" topic on high school (and even moreso college) campuses is the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion and how these play into the pursuit of a well-represented student body. However, how can true change happen in the United States if its fundamental government is not ethnically and ideologically diverse? How can schools, comprised of our future workforce and the politicians who will govern it, be inspired to attain a slice of "real" America if the law of the land does not fairly govern its diverse population? Senator Cory Booker shares his experience in THIS article by the Huffington Post about his first days in the United States Senate. He was clearly in a room where he felt underrepresented.
Diversity and Inclusion are issues and topics many may be aware of but few are willing to address. The members of Jackson Prep’s United Student Union (USU for short), of whom I am also a member, are devoted to discussing such issues and to providing an open platform for student voices and opinions. I spoke with Brittany Wilson, President of the United Student Union, for information on this important organization and its positive impact on Prep.
Q: How often does the USU meet?
A: The USU meets twice a month.
Q: How long have you been involved with the USU?
A: My Junior year is when I became a part of the United Student Union. The previous President asked me to lead the group. USU has been my opportunity to apply my leadership skills. Some other cultural organizations at Prep I am involved in are the Student Ambassadors/ International Student Program, the International Day Committee, and the French Club. Joining all of these organizations has helped me participate in activities from different cultures and has given me opportunities to talk to students from other countries.
Q: How has your involvement in the USU prepared you for college?
A: United Student Union has prepared me for college by allowing me to hear and listen to the perspectives of students who are different from me in many aspects of life. Colleges have people who think differently. Because United Student Union gives students a look into others' views, students who participated in USU will know how to join or avoid confrontational subjects.
Q: What are the goals of the USU?
A: The goals of USU are for students to engage in conversation of topics such as racial tensions or political influences, use the Golden Rule, and improve their arguments by seeing different perspectives. We try to get input from every member because even people who have similar views can have something different to say.
Q: A lot of students read The Sentry. What is something about the USU that you would like students to know?
A: For students who laugh at the efforts of a diversity club at Prep, I hope that they will understand that USU is the foundation for future clubs/organizations that want to see Prep evolve into a diverse oasis. Just because Prep is a predominantly white school doesn't mean that USU is all white students. For a diversity club at Prep that is receiving more recognition than in years previous, United Student Union is fairly diverse. We do hope to encourage more members to join so more students can be aware of what other students believe.
Q: A lot of people other than students read The Sentry. What is something you would like them to know?
A: To appear more progressive, many communities look for racial and ethnic diversity. But diversity is more than appearances, it includes differences in opinions. United Student Union attempts to enlighten students' ideas on topics such as societal tensions and morals.
Brittany and I will be organizing a future panel discussion here at Prep. This will be a first and will further inform the student body about the goals of the USU. Stay tuned!
My goal, and I hope yours, is to see Jackson Prep be the best we can be. I don’t believe this starts with school-wide initiatives, though those will necessarily come. Rather, improving Prep must begin at the individual level. Each of us must look within and realize our strengths and weaknesses. We then can look at each other and find commonality in our similarities and synergy and in our differences. American poet Maya Angelou (1928-2014) said it well:
by Maya Angelou
I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.
Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.
The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.
I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land.
I’ve seen the wonders of the world,
not yet one common man.
I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.
Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.
We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.
I note the obvious differences,
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
JOHN MCCRADY (1911-1968)