Beyond the Books

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Students from the Muslim Students’ Association at GW, George Mason and American universities came to the Marvin Center Friday night to participate in the Muslim Monologues.

The students shared their experiences as young American Muslims through song, poetry and storytelling.

Zeinab Bakillah, a member of GW’s MSA, said that the event gave students the opportunity “to kind of just be vulnerable and talk about their life as American Muslims going through the college experience.”

Video by Deepa Shivaram.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015 8:00 p.m.

Video: National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

Helium balloons, marching bands, colorful floats and other performers filled the ten blocks along Constitution Avenue for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

The parade is part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual celebration commemorating the gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees from the mayor of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. in 1912.

Video by Randala Abraham and Blair Guild.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporters Grace Gannon and Victoria Sheridan.

Updated: April 13, 2015 at 10 a.m.

The GW Public Health Student Association hosted a screening of a new documentary about campus sexual assault, “The Hunting Ground,” on Friday as part of National Public Health Week.

The film profiled dozens of sexual assault survivors at universities across the country, who spoke candidly about their experiences reporting their attacks to law enforcement or school officials. In the film, experts said universities may try to conceal reports of sexual assault on their campuses because a high number of reports might tarnish their image.

As sexual assault has become a major conversation at schools across the country over the last year, universities have struggled to properly punish perpetrators while offering support to survivors, the filmmakers found. The documentary showed some schools that punished perpetrators with fines, temporary suspensions, a requirement to write an essay or mandatory volunteer hours at local rape crisis centers.

More than 100 schools across the country are under investigation by the Department of Education for their response to sexual violence on campus, though GW is not on the list.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with Director of Strategy and Planning for Men Can Stop Rape Patrick McGann, former federal prosecutor and GW professor Shanlon Wu, executive director and co-founder of the National Campus Leadership Council Andy McCracken and junior Maya Weinstein.

Armin Aflaki, a member of the Public Health Student Association, said during the panel discussion that some schools may struggle to discipline students who are in sports or Greek life. He argued that’s because supporting those programs and organizations can create strong bonds with future alumni who could donate money.

“What I took away from this movie is that all advocacy efforts have to hit the college campus where it hurts, and that’s the pocketbook,” Aflaki said. “Nothing like money seems to be driving this university or any university.”

Weinstein, a sexual assault survivor and member of Students Against Sexual Assault, was profiled in the film and spoke about her frustration with the judicial process at GW. Weinstein said she waited six months before reporting her sexual assault case and was surprised by the lack of support the University gave her after filing the report.

“You’re making this huge step and you think, ‘OK, there’s going to be this process, there’s going to be these people to walk you through this process,’ and there’s not,” she said during the panel following the screening.

Weinstein, who did not detail the outcome of her 2013 sexual assault hearing at the University, said she thought the evidence in the case “didn’t match up” with the result.

Weinstein said students should not approach administrators with “pitchforks and torches.” Instead, she urged them to support student organizations that may already be planning reforms or new prevention programs.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015 12:41 a.m.

Hidden Gems: D.C. Improv

by kpayne

Comedy club D.C. Improv has hosted famous comedians like Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan and Ellen DeGeneres since opening in 1992.

Headquartered in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, D.C. Improv is also home to a comedy school and regularly hosts workshops for aspiring comedians.

“A big part of comedy is performing,” said Chris White, D.C. Improv’s director of creative marketing. “You can’t be a comedian, you can’t be an improv comedian, you can’t be stand-up comedian, unless you have an audience.”

Video by Yara Bishara.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015 3:22 p.m.

‘Snowden’ stars spotted at White House

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films.

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films.

Tourists seeking cherry blossoms in peak bloom weren’t the only ones headed to the District this week.

Actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, along with director Oliver Stone, were spotted filming “Snowden” outside the White House on Tuesday. The crew also filmed at Tryst coffee shop in Adams Morgan on Monday, the Washington Post reported.

“Snowden” is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day in 2015. Gordon-Levitt plays whistleblower Edward Snowden and Woodley plays his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. In real life, the couple also went on dates to Tryst, the Post reported.

Woodley is best known as the star of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and for her role as George Clooney’s daughter in Academy-Award winner “The Descendants.” Gordon-Levitt starred in “(500) Days of Summer,” “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” Stone is best known for directing “Midnight Express.”

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Monday, April 6, 2015 11:02 p.m.

Photos: Spring #Fling

Photos by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The 2015 Carnival-themed Spring Fling attracted students to University Yard with flash tattoos, rides, and cotton candy. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The 2015 Spring Fling attracted students to University Yard with flash tattoos, rides and cotton candy.

A student breaks the shark ride at Spring Fling and falls to his victory. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A student falls down after a bucking mechanical shark ride broke at Spring Fling.

Theophilus London previewed music at Spring Fling from his upcoming album "VIBES" that was produced by American rapper Kanye West. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Theophilus London performed songs off his 2014 album “VIBES” that was produced by Kanye West.

Theophilus London, a Trinidadian-born American rapper, and his live band co-headlined GW's Spring Fling. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Theophilus London, a Trinidadian-born rapper, and his live band played last at Spring Fling.

Student artist JUNYR, who landed his spot to perform at Spring Fling by winning GW's Got Talent contest, opened up this year's Spring Fling. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Student Joe Jean-Mary, who raps under the name “JUNYR”, performed at Spring Fling. Jean-Mary landed his opening spot by winning Program Board’s GW’s Got Talent competition.

Students congregate in University Yard for this year's Spring Fling concert.

Students gathered in University Yard for this year’s Spring Fling concert.

Stopping in DC just for a few hours on his way to Las Vegas, DJ 3LAU brought energy and excitement to GW, which has hosted other electronic artists in the past few years. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

DJ 3LAU performed at Spring Fling, which has hosted other electronic artists in the past few years.

3LAU encouraged dancers at Spring Fling to jump along with him during his hour-long set in University Yard. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

3LAU jumped around the stage during his hour-long Spring Fling set.

Justin Blau, known by his stage-name 3LAU, shakes hands with students after his set at Spring Fling before he left for the airport. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

DJ 3LAU shakes hands with students after his set at Spring Fling before he leaves for a performance in Las Vegas.

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Monday, April 6, 2015 5:28 p.m.

First Family hosts 137th Easter Egg Roll

This post was written by culture editor Jeanine Marie.

By noon on Monday, President Barack Obama had unveiled a new family portrait, addressed the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in the New York Times and hosted a backyard bash at the White House.

President Barack Obama waves to the press at the 2015 Easter egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

President Barack Obama waves to the press at the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

About 35,000 people attended the 137th Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, according to White House officials. The event was also a fifth birthday party For First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” health campaign, the president said, flanked by the First Lady and the Easter Bunny.

To celebrate the occasion, the First Lady asked Americans to share five ways they’re committed to healthier lifestyles on social media. Beyoncé and Ryan Seacrest have already shared #GimmeFive posts on Instagram, she said.

Children and families gathered on the South Lawn of the White House Monday for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

Children and families gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday for the annual Easter egg roll. Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

After their remarks, the Obamas joined about a dozen children and their families in the egg roll. Each child pushed a colorful egg across the finish line, and the prizes were high-fives, hugs and warm smiles from the Obamas.

Notable guests included television hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, chef Bobby Flay, and football players Ryan Kerrigan, Chris Baker and Robert Griffin III (better known as RG3). Sasha and Malia Obama could not attend the event because they had “a little school stuff” to take care of, the president said. But Bo and Sunny, the first family’s Portuguese water dogs, made an appearance.

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Thousands of students attended Spring Fling on Saturday in University Yard, which this year featured student rapper Joe Ramón, DJ 3LAU, and rapper and singer Theophilus London.

3LAU, a 24-year-old electronic dance artist who performed at Ultra Music Festival last weekend, mixed tracks for the crowd. London, who recently released an album produced by Kanye West, closed the show.

Program Board called the event “#Fling,” and handed out temporary gold tattoos with the phrase to attendees.

Joe Jean-Mary, a senior who performed under the stage name Joe Ramón, opened the show. Also a member of rap group Perplex The Crew, Jean-Mary landed the opening spot after winning the first-ever GW’s Got Talent competition in November.

Video by Sarah Mann.

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Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor

Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor

This post was written by culture editor Jeanine Marie.

Photographer Annie Griffiths’ positivity is unwavering. When she spoke to the nearly-packed Henry Harding Auditorium in the Elliott School Wednesday night, she deflected any notion that her experience as an unaccompanied woman traversing the globe was anything but rewarding.

But over an hour into her presentation, sponsored by the professional foreign service sorority Delta Phi Epsilon, Griffiths, whose talk fused journalism and advocacy, revealed a moment of her career at National Geographic where even she lost hope.

In Kaukoma Refugee Camp, where about 70,000 Somalis were seeking refuge in Kenya, Griffiths said she thought, “I can’t make a dent,” as she snapped a heartbreaking photograph of a woman and her sick child.

But Griffiths knew she needed to do her job. Years later, she saw the photograph in the office of an U.S.-based aid organization. When she said the image looked familiar, Griffiths was told the woman and child were doing just fine. In fact, the woman was working at the local KFC.

“And that,” Griffiths said, “is why you can’t give up.”

Griffiths attributed her resilience to her mother, who could finagle her way around any problem “without smacking right into it.” Her mom was rejected by Pan American World Airways when she applied to be a flight attendant – simply because she wore glasses.

“Instead of getting mad, she left and became a pilot,” Griffiths said. “That’s the role model I had.”

Griffiths was one of the first female photographers for National Geographic and has traveled to more than 150 countries for her work.

For much of her career, Griffiths brought her kids to remote regions where they befriended locals and kept up their American school work. She said people fretted about her bringing them to places like the Kingdom of Jordan and so beforehand, she did a little research. She said only nine people had been murdered that year in the country, and compared the number to a “bad weekend in D.C.”

In an interview before the event, Griffiths joked that she hardly had any good photographs of her own kids. But as she scrolled through her work during the presentation, she paused at a striking picture of her young son and daughter atop a camel.

“The kids and I did a whole bunch of work in the Middle East,” she said matter-of-factly. “NatGeo wasn’t asking the [male photographers] about their daycare plans.”

She told the audience to never make decisions based on fear. She said fear is “crippling,” whether it be about switching majors or traveling to an unfamiliar part of the world.

Griffiths, who changed her major to photography as a junior in college, advised that college students pay attention to their gut, and their happiness, instead of the expectations of others’.

“Get out of your precious self,” she said.

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Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox spoke on campus Tuesday. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox spoke on campus Tuesday. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: April 2, 2015 at 1:01 a.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Sucharita Mukherjee. 

On Tuesday, larger-than-life personality and transgender actress Laverne Cox began a night of impassioned speech with a quote from the social activist Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

The evening was a celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility organized by Allied in Pride and co-sponsored by Program Board, Student Association, the LGBT Alumni Association and five other student groups.

She called her speech “Ain’t I A Woman? My Journey to Womanhood,” referencing Sojourner Truth, bell hooks and many other black feminists to tell Cox’s story of breaking boundaries, transcending shame and accepting others.

Cox is a blend of many minorities as a black, transgender woman from a working-class background, and she was raised by a single mother. She said each of those groups deserves justice.

Cox spent the majority of her speech talking about her transition from being one of two fraternal twin boys in Mobile, Ala. to being the Emmy-winning transgender woman she is today. She said her family played a huge role in this transformation.

Cox’s twin brother, who she said describes himself to be a “practicing homosexual because ‘gay’ is a white, bourgeois construct,” was supportive from the start. Her mother, after some concern about Cox’s large hands and feet, and a little education on the issues transgender individuals deal with, was also supportive.

The scrutiny Cox faced started early-on: Most of the trouble Cox got into growing up was when other students chased her at recess, or when teachers told her it wasn’t okay to imitate Scarlett O’Hara.

“My mother got a call saying, ‘Your son is going to end up in New Orleans in a dress if we don’t get him into therapy soon.’ I am the son in question. They were very confused,” Cox said.

Growing up in an African-American family, Cox was made aware of her race very early in life. But shame was a lesson learned later, she said. After her grandmother’s death, Cox felt as if her late grandmother would see the thoughts she had about herself and her attraction to men, and this shame brought on her suicide attempt in sixth grade.

The antidote to shame is empathy, Cox said. She found empathy when she studied at Marymount Manhattan, but she also found more unpleasant parts of the city life, like men who catcalled her to only realize, disgusted, that she was a biological male.

She emphasized creating safe spaces and aimed to inspire the audience to transcend boundaries. Her last words were orders to have the “tough conversations” – because even if you don’t know what to say, the words are still important.

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