Amid racial tensions, black students find refuge in religious groups

Q&A: Student organization doubles as a safe haven for minority students at MSU

The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the outpouring of grief and frustration following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 – a young, unarmed black man who was shot while walking in a gated neighborhood – and the subsequent acquittal of the man who killed him. In the five years since Martin’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum, driven by the killings of Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and other black people at the hands of the police. The movement has grown into an international network of more than 30 chapters. College campuses across the country have used various platforms to respond to and/or participate in efforts led by Black Lives Matter. At Michigan State University, a student-run Christian organization encourages students to use religious faith as a tool to combat racial tension.

MSU student leaders combat declines of religiosity

Sprinkled throughout the first two rows of sand-colored seating in Conrad Hall, the Michigan State University Gospel Choir rehearsed its rendition of Kirk Franklin’s “Brighter Day.” The five-minute song was practiced in complete A capella, with some members swaying to instrumentals they played in their heads and others using their hands to mimic the song’s thunderous beat. In harmony, the choir bellowed the chorus, sounding much louder than its size. The second largest religious or non-religious group in the U.S. is non-religious. Close to one in four Americans consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. At MSU, the size of its Gospel Choir, a Christian organization founded in 1971 reflects the  trend of decreased religious participation.

MSU students embrace diversity during “War on Christmas”

When Starbucks released its cranberry-red and forest-green holiday cups in 2015, void of snowflakes or anything reminiscent of Christmas, Michigan State junior Arianna Dickason wasn’t a part of the outrage that ensued. To her, the blank canvas didn’t wage a “War on Christmas” that many politicians and holiday enthusiasts claimed. Instead, she considered it a nod toward inclusivity, drank her coffee and moved on. Two years and a re-installment of festive Starbucks cups later, President Donald Trump has declared a victory on his vow to end the “War on Christmas.” The Trump family’s official holiday card reads: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” with the hashtag #WHChristmas.

Trends in spirituality mirrored at MSU

Studies show spirituality rises while religiosity declines. Naledi Makhene had attended church a handful of times. She was familiar with a few verses in the Bible, though she rarely opened one. She prayed occasionally and believed in a higher power, though she didn’t know whether or not to reference it as “God.” When asked, she’d deny ever identifying as religious, but she had adopted the term “spiritual.”  

According to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center, more than 27 percent of adults now identify as spiritual. This is an 8 percent increase over the past five years.

Red Cedar renovated their playground in 2003.

East Lansing community suspects closing school movement

 

By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing

In 2003, three elementary schools and education centers serviced the East Lansing communities near Michigan State University. By 2016, those schools had long disappeared. When Red Cedar Elementary School shut its doors in 2014, it cemented what some believed to be a closing school movement in East Lansing. Spartan Village School, Bailey Community Center and Red Cedar Elementary had been community staples, educating the children of graduate students and young families living near Michigan State University. For many, the closings of the schools came to the detriment of the local neighborhoods.

East Lansing ride-sharing services cause concern over regulations

By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing

Earlier in the spring semester, the Michigan State University Police Department issued emergency alerts warning of multiple sexual assaults involving ride-share drivers in East Lansing. The alerts, among other recent headlines regarding ride-sharing services, caused residents to question their safety when using the popular companies, like Uber and Lyft. “I personally do not use ride sharing services alone, before the recent events and especially after,” said Michigan State student Adonne Washington. “I tend to only use them with groups of three or more and when the place is out of walking distance.”

Washington is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Uber driver Jason Dalton is accused of murdering six people and injuring two others in between his scheduled Uber rides. While he harmed none of his own passengers, East Lansing Police Lt. Wriggelsworth said Dalton is an example of the major risks people take when using ride-sharing services.

Schools switch to electronic report cards

By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing

The East Lansing Public Schools district is beginning the use of an electronic school messenger to deliver important documents, such as report cards. The communication system was created in an effort to improve the exchange of news between parents and faculty and is available for free download in the iTunes app store. Its development was discussed at the district’s school board meeting on Monday, March 28. It was revealed that this past marking period, the messenger was used to distribute electronic report cards for elementary and secondary school students. “Now that we’ve kind of passed this hurdle, we’re looking at other things we can send out that same way,” said Director of Technology & Media Services Christian Palasty.

Red Cedar residents push to reopen neighborhood school

By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing

Members of the Red Cedar neighborhood voiced concerns over the closing of the Red Cedar Elementary School at the joint East Lansing City Council and Board Meeting on Monday, March 21. In February, the school board unanimously voted against reopening the school, despite previously approving the motion in December. The decision caused widespread disappointment among those who felt the elementary building was an integral part of the Red Cedar neighborhood. “We were very excited at the plans that came forward earlier in the year,” said former city council member Kathleen Boyle. “We were very disappointed that those plans were met with so much objection and rancor and we’re disappointed that we can’t go forward with those at this time.”

At the time the elementary school was being considered for reopening, the school board announced plans of beginning “innovative educational programming” at the building.

Sanders ignites Michigan State University's campus ahead of March 8 primary

By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing

A crowd of roughly 10,000 swarmed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign rally held at the Breslin Student Events Center on Wednesday, March 2. https://youtu.be/PLzgOizqZXw

The upper and lower bowls of the Breslin basketball arena were comprised mainly of young adults. The crowd cheered as the Democratic presidential hopeful called for equal economic opportunity for all Americans. Free college tuition and eliminating high interest on student loans were among the issues that appealed to the large crowd. “It is becoming increasingly inaccurate that young people are not going to be involved in the political processes,” Sanders said in his 55-minute address.