Editor’s note: This letter to the editor was written in response to “GSU, why skip Dragon*Con”, an article authored by Jaira Burke, a staff columnist hired by The Signal. The Editorial board at The Signal would like to remind readers that student columns printed in the Opinions section do not reflect the opinions held by the Editorial staff.
I am writing in reference to the article concerning the marching band’s decline of the invitation to play at Dragon*Con. I’m not sure what sort of vendetta the editors either want to start or believe they already have with the marching band and the school of music in general, but it’s really getting absurd and offensive to school musicians and non-musicians alike. Other artistic organizations have their own bones to pick with the music department, but that has never stopped any of them from very excitedly and genuinely giving congratulations where it was due. Insofar as your readers are aware, you don’t even have a specific reason to be so combative. How petty are you, then, to denigrate one of the university’s largest groups of students who regularly represent the entire school, including yourselves, on the grandest stages available? What good do you really expect to come of that? It’s especially unfortunate for you, really, considering the unusual concentration of honors students and university scholars within all factions of the music program. How sad it will be when the infuriated responses are likely more articulate, more well-written, and more researched (not that it would take much – Dr. Phillips’ name is on essentially all university references to the marching band and you still managed to miss it) than the original article. Since the original author didn’t seem to understand, that’s much closer to the actual meaning of irony. The marching band actively does everything they can to present the best possible image of Georgia State, so we only ask that you do the same. It would be “frankly awesome.”
English and Film/Video Major
Charter Member of the Georgia State University Marching Band
In response to the “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater”
On September 21, 2011, at 11:08 pm, the state of Georgia became an international pariah when it executed Troy Anthony Davis, the man accused of killing Savannah police officer Mark McPhail in 1989. The claims of innocence around Troy Davis were not without validity. There was no murder weapon found, no physical evidence, and only blurry eye-witness testimony. Seven out of the nine witnesses would later recant their testimony claiming they were coerced by the police to finger Troy.
The state of Georgia will once again come under serious scrutiny as it has announced the execution of Warren Lee Hill for February 19th at 7 pm, a black man who has been proven in the court of law to be mentally disabled. As our fair state has put itself directly on the path of breaking a serious amendment to the Constitution (executing the mentally disabled counts as “cruel and unusual punishment”), it should force us to stop and reflect on the death penalty. The United States of America ranked high in 2010 in the number of citizens it executed according to Amnesty International, putting itself right itself next to China, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea; havens of democracy and human rights, or am I wrong? More than two-thirds of the countries on this planet have abolished the death penalty. Only 58 still have it on the books.
In 1972, fewer than 350,000 people lived behind bars. At the end of 2010, there were 2,266,800 adults in incarceration. We live in a country that locks up a higher percentage of its citizens than most other developed nations. Since the birth of the privatized prison, coincidentally around the same time as the beginning of the “War on Drugs”, incarceration has quintupled. In 2003, Thomas P. Boncszar of the Department of Justice—Bureau of Statistics announced in his study that one in three young African-American men will be locked up behind bars if current trends continue, which they seem to be doing. He also noted that in larger urban areas more than half of young black men were under some form of correctional control.
Last week, Tuesday February 5th would have been Trayvon Martin’s 18th birthday. A couple weeks from now on February 26th, it will be the one year anniversary of his murder. No judge, no jury. Kaushalya Charan De had it wrong in her opinion piece last week. The Old South didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. That baby is alive and well; this is the New Jim Crow. Strange fruit is hanging from the poplar trees.
Luke O’Donovan is a queer youth and political activist who has been a personal friend to many and an ally of student led movements at Georgia State University (GSU). Last year when he was assaulted by campus police during a March 19th anti-budget cuts demonstration many progressive faculty signed an open letter in support of him. In response to the concerns and protest voiced by the campus community at that time all charges were dropped against Luke.
This time around Luke was the victim of a homophobic attack in which he was stabbed in the back during a party on New Year’s eve. Once more it is time for us to stand up in his defense. The media frenzy following the tragedy of the murder of school children in Sandy Hook has focused the attention of the public on issues of youth and violence. In this context there have been grossly inaccurate statements made by the media describing Luke’s response to his attackers at the party as a type of ‘stabbing rampage’. This is completely false and ignores the fact that Luke’s actions that night were entirely in his own self-defense.
This narrative also glosses over the clearly homophobic nature of the attack. Luke was repeatedly insulted with homophobic slurs throughout the night, including being called a “faggot” during the fight itself. Several witnesses have reported watching between 5 and 12 men mobbing up on Luke and stomping on his head and body with the intent to kill. Luke’s situation is similar to that of our Black transgender sister CeCe McDonald who was convicted and imprisoned after fighting off racist and heterosexist attackers.
Another repeated claim in this pattern of disinformation is that Luke left the party after being kicked out and returned with a knife to force his way back in. As multiple witnesses have testified and will testify, Luke was never kicked out of the party and did not leave. He remained at the house where the party was occurring up until the physical confrontation occurred.
After having been held without bond since the fight, Luke was released in mid-January pending his trial. Progressive Student Alliance, BlackOut, Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity and allies urge the campus community to organize in support of Luke during this critical time. For more information please go the website letlukego.com, also check the Progressive Student Alliance at GSU Facebook page for updates and events on campus to support Luke.
Senior – English Major
Submitted on behalf of GSU’s Progressive Student Alliance, BlackOut, and The Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity