Pierce Pioneer

Shelitia Pratt, Pierce College student and friend of George Floyd’s cousin, shares her thoughts and experience regarding racial injustices and the global pandemic.

I was born in Centreville, Illinois, and raised in Lovejoy, Illinois before I moved to St. Louis, Missouri.  I identify as African American, and recently I found out that through my father’s side I am multicultural – black, white, creole and native.  

The town that I grew up in was a settlement of African Americans escaping slavery; it later became the first black town in America to be incorporated and named after Elijah Lovejoy, who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois in 1837.  

My morals and beliefs were embedded in me through my grandparents who raised me.  They taught me to love myself before I love someone else; be honest with others and myself; be loyal; trust no one; do my best at everything I do, and treat people how I want to be treated. They also taught me that hard work pays off; two wrongs don’t make a right; silence is golden, and every response doesn’t need a reaction.  I learned to abide and respect these things as I grew older and later taught these same things to my children.  

Today these guidelines, along with my life experiences and things I have seen, have supported making me who I am today.  I believe that what makes me unique is that my heart always looks out for the best interest of others, and I tend to often recognize my blessings because I give generously. This quarter, I gave a lot.

Being biracial myself, I have never completely “taken a side”.  However because of the one-drop-rule, I do know that I am African American and will always be looked at in this manner, because of the color of my skin. Black lives and every life has always mattered to me growing up.

These days I have been speechless, confused, depressed, and anxious back using my meds to support my anxiety along with increased blood pressure. My reaction to the injustice black Americans have recently faced is mind-blowing, but it does not surprise me at all. 

These injustices have been this way for hundreds of years and nothing has changed.  I have raised my children here in Puyallup, Washington and we all have faced injustice, discrimination, and racial profiling. 

Not all cops are bad and not all black people are criminals, but to wake up every day and know that because of my color I have to work harder than average and still get turned down opportunities, not because of my educational background, but because of the color of my skin; it breaks my soul and aches my heart, to the point that I continue to educate my children, siblings, and nephews.  

Black communities, and other communities, are in pain due to recent events and how things have continued to play out along with our President.  I am friends with George Floyd’s cousin and I’ve had to be a huge support for him, allowing him to vent to me on his feelings, and the family and him just needing a safe place to come to and get away from things. 

During the protesting, my friend got a call from his son’s friend in Bellevue. His son had been racially profiled and the police had his son and three of his biracial friends handcuffed on the curb. He saw his son on television while talking to me about the protest the night before that he and his family attended.  

I am not sure how the Pierce College community can help support those of us who are grieving the injustices that communities of color face. I personally have been just over it and have given up; I have never done that on my education or anything. I’m afraid every time my kids leave my home, and I call them more often because of it.

If someone has to be harassed or killed for being black, out of my children and family, I would rather it be me. I am aware that I should not feel this way, but it’s been a norm to live a life like this; from my hometown to here and across the world, this is the life of being black in the world.

My experiences during this pandemic and social unrest have been very hard to describe. Right now however, I am most concerned for my family. If things open too quickly in Phase Two, they may get sick. I am also concerned about whether my children and I will pass our online classes during this time. 

I have been attending Pierce College for the last three quarters taking classes to finish up getting my degree in human services, along with taking some CMST courses to better educate myself on some of the cultures that I work within my career field.

When I learned that Pierce College was going online, I was planning to withdraw because I am a hands-on learner and learn best being in a classroom. I freaked out a bit and asked my college student kids who have taken online classes what it would be like.  

I anticipated being frustrated often because I don’t navigate computers as well as I could. This online journey has been a struggle for me, as I anticipated it would be, but 10 times worse given how much of my time was devoted to serving others.

I realize this year has been especially hard on several families. At times, I wasn’t even aware of my own coming and going and just stress ate to the point where I gained over 10 pounds.

My household went from two people to six. My two college students came home from Canada and the other from Eastern Washington. I struggle with health issues myself, and fear for my daughter-in-law who works in an emergency room dealing with COVID-19 patients. I fear for my two-year-old granddaughter,  and for my daughter who has one kidney; all-the-while, I continued to fear every day that I could lose my salon business. It is important that I go to work to support my family and keep the business I built.

I was able to navigate through those challenges with lots of prayers; reaching out to my instructors, my supervisors, and my co-workers; and being honest to my building owners about what was truly going on in my life. If only they could have seen how regularly my eyes filled with tears and how constantly my voice cracked. Things constantly happened in my family.

I will do it all over again until I complete it to my satisfaction, but I will be glad when it’s over and I will continue to fight for injustice and peace.

Surprises of color bring joy

The holiday decorations are put away and it seems the laughter and gaiety has gone with them. The New Year celebration with the bubbly and good cheer has come and gone. A look outside only serves to add to a spirit of melancholy.

The world looks dull, gray, lifeless. The never-ending rain occasionally gives way to snow, but even then, does little to lighten the mood.

Then a whiff of the peppermint mocha wafts up from a cup, while the barista sends a wish of a good day.

Bright colorful stocking caps bob up and down as children and adults go about their day. With a spot of red here, a wild mishmash of purple, green, and yellow there, it is like the canvas of “Fantastic Beasts” where things that are magic are just about the only things with color.

And like a spell has been cast, the weight upon the soul is not so heavy. Footsteps are lighter, laughter returns.

The world outside the window is a detailed coloring book brought to life. Walking by a rose bush brings a smile at the sight of a rose that refuses to acknowledge it is winter.

Random acts of kindness spring up, much like the crocuses, those cheerful heralds that pop out of the ground to say that spring is coming. At the coffee shop, someone pays for the person behind in line, and it starts a chain reaction. A bag of groceries is dropped off where a single mom is looking at near-empty cupboards.

In the world outside that is full of green and gray, seeing color gives hope that there is a brighter future ahead. Just one more day, just one more step, just one more thread, that is all that is needed.

Light a candle at Christmas

A candle flame does more than light up a room

A lit candle is more than a source of light in a dark room. All civilizations and religions have used it as a focal point for something.

For the Hindu, an oil flame represents using knowledge to conquer the ugly side of human nature – lust, anger, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, envy, etc.

Jewish rites center around lamp flames as they symbolize God himself present among His chosen people. A Roman Catholic Mass uses candles in the sacred rites for the same reason.

The sight of flickering candles on top of headstones in graveyards around Finland creates an almost ethereal air as family members remember past loved ones.

This ritual is used in many homes where a lit candle is more than just scent and ambience. They are often lit to remember a loved one who is no longer here.

Losing a mother or father is hard and can make the holidays difficult to handle. Watching children climb onto Santa’s lap in the mall brings back painful Christmas memories of Dad or Grandpa playing Father Christmas.

Having to bury a son or daughter is devastating. Tiny Tim proclaiming “God bless us everyone” can bring a never-ending flood of tears.

Lighting a candle is a symbolic way to represent the soul. For those who believe in spirituality, the soul never dies. By lighting a candle, in a way that soul is once again a part of the holiday.

As long as the candle is lit, memories can be shared and the ache is less. The instant the lighter touches the wick, it is as if a magic spell has been cast.

As the flame dances with the air movement in the room, it is as if the spirit has joined the festivities. For just a moment, a wisp of air on the cheek is a kiss.

This year for Christmas, light a candle and welcome the memories. Hold tight to the hand of the ghost of Christmas Past as you peek through the windows.

Attend a Christmas Eve service and as the candles are lit around the room, make plans to create new memories.

Seek to become your own candle and light the world around you. When a candle is lit in your memory, may it ease away the ache that was left behind.

Communities come together to heal

Americans face recent tragedies by helping neighbors

The faces of Americans dominating the news and social media recently have told a story. It is a story of grit and hope that is so deeply woven into the American identity that it is almost taken for granted.

Over a period of weeks, Americans experienced and watched events unfold that tore at the fabric of their lives. Out of those events, people have rediscovered what really matters — community.

American faces showed desperation as they cried for relief. Mud and muck gives a commonality to skin tone on those who arrange rescues from fast-moving water.

They shouted with fear as they seek to protect the ones around them even as they run for cover themselves.

They are white and scraggly, mingled with brown and bearded. They wear skull caps or prayer shawls. Designer clothes are just as dirty as the neighbors’ second-hand threads.

Barely a month ago, the hottest neighborhood buzz had passionate debates about who was going to win the Mayweather/McGregor boxing match. Fantasy football players had their teams picked and fans were hotly debating their favorite players against their opponents.

Social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter were full of people freely sharing their angry opinions without any regard to the human soul that would be affected.

Now they are desperate for survival. In an instant, their lives changed. Conversations now centered around who survived the night.

When the water is rising and it is still raining, citizenship status does not matter. All victims equally; no one stopped to ask to see proof before accepting a ride in a boat.

Bullets make people bleed and are indiscriminate in their victims. Those running for cover the day before may have been loud and vocal about gun rights.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes strip away the material stuff of life. They leave in their wake the bones of an infrastructure that is either healthy and capable of supporting the community or is just as shattered and broken as the people.

Mass shootings also strip away facades. Those with personal and political agendas use the events as examples to further their causes. The faces of the victims become trophies or targets, depending on the stand.

Behind those faces are human souls that have the same needs. The needs for clean water, food, shelter, feeling safe going to public even — these are basic necessities for life.

For a moment — political agendas, immigration status, social injustice — none of those mattered. For a moment, Americans showed the faces of who they really are. They came together united as one spirit to tackle what was in front of them.

Hey, Can we talk?


Communication is a wonderful thing. In today’s world, technology takes microseconds to send information to a select few or to the masses.

Emails are sent out to the students on the campus daily. Most of the time they barely get recognition.  There are announcements for Student Life events, Canvas notifications for those whose teachers use it, and emergency alerts as needed.

Among them recently was a notification about a “Code of Conduct” meeting. Details were provided about location and time, but very little else. The very small handful that showed up learned that the Pierce College Student Conduct Code is being revised in places. The meeting was to garner feedback for the changes before being implemented.

There is also a buzz on the campus about the purchase of a food trailer. Was it purchased? What is the purpose? Where did the money come from? Details have been hard to pin down.

Current students have been trying for about a week to get classes set up for the next quarter. Because class codes and details about class times have being reworked, this has been a complicated process for some.

At least the Legislative Panel hosted by the student government was promoted, sort of. That promotion was done for those who walked by the table where they were handing out voting ballots for the outstanding faculty.

Those interested in coming to the Standing Rock play also found problems. Unlike other productions, tickets for this show were available only online – regardless of student or guest

Overall, they are a symptom of a larger problem. The community still needs to know what is going on.

Yes, it is the end of the quarter and for many, graduation is just around the corner. Campus life is busy.

It takes just a few minutes to take the time to send out an email, to post a sign, to get the word out.

The community does want to know what is going on. Details are important; they determine the course of action if someone is going to participate or not.

We all have a responsibility to tell people what is going on in their world. Things that happened, events coming up, changes in policies, all of these deserve their own spotlight.

Spike in use of dangerous synthetic drug Spice


A potentially dangerous drug called Spice has become common among users of marijuana as a cheap and interesting alternative.

The drug creates high risk for those who consume it, as it is coated in untested, ever-changing brain stimulating chemicals.

Depending on the crowd, synthetic cannabinoids have street names such as Spice, K2 or fake pot and is usually used by people under the legal dispensary age or those who want a less expensive alternative to marijuana.

Spice is a mix of herbs and man-made chemicals. The combination produces mind-altering effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. This entails a number of hazards, as the shifting chemical makeup makes Spices use a gamble at every use.

The drug is so widely varied throughout its many incarnations that it’s impossible to pin down any particular symptoms of use or overdose. Even so, the number of cases surrounding synthetic cannabinoids and visits to the emergency room hit more than 25,000 in the US in 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

The majority of its distribution is as a street drug, but it is sold disguised as a product other than a recreational smoke in stores, often as incense. Because of its harmful nature, the FDA has found it difficult to monitor and outlaw the drug, making it a prevalent threat.

Although synthetic cannabinoids is pushed as a natural offshoot of marijuana, its added chemical nature can lead to an increased risk. Addiction and withdrawals develop in many users. As the effects do not last long, it becomes increasingly hard to maintain an addiction. This leads to a higher percentage of overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

According to spiceaddictionsupprt.org, addiction to the substance develops quickly.

“The first withdrawal symptoms usually occur within the first few hours of ending drug use and typically persist for days or weeks,” the website said. “The most common spice withdrawal symptoms include nightmares, paranoia, extreme nausea and diarrhea, cold sweats, insomnia that can last for days, tremors, anxiety and restlessness.”

The website provides information on how to get help, including detox methods and facilities, counseling and group therapy, and ways to assist in self-recovery.

Combatting synthetic cannabinoids is in an ongoing legal battle, resulting in heightening the risk of new, experimental strains with no end in sight.

Homegrown News Goes Viral

Is it news or gossip?


Set into the floor of the main entrance of the University of Washington is a mosaic of a compass. The points of the compass are set so that it spells out “NEWS.”

In today’s world, news travels fast. With one tap of a button stories can reach all corners of the world in less time than it takes to pour a cup of coffee. Consequently when a story is breaking, the pressure for news outlets to be the first to get the word out is high. No one wants to be behind.

However, the standard for accuracy has not changed. In today’s world with technology being used so much, it may be more critical.

People have always shared things that are emotional or sensational, but the facts are often missed. For example, does any one know the real story behind why Brad’s wife got fired from Cracker Barrel?

In the news world, there is only one chance to get the story right. Retractions and corrections happen, but by then people have already acted on what came first. Look at how many times have people cried because Betty White or Chuck Norris died.

It is one thing to share a story among friends. Conversations like, “Hey, guess what I saw in my Facebook today?” are common. The problem becomes when those stories are taken as fact. A picture of students facing a hallway is used to support claims that Islam is being taught in schools. All it takes is a click of the mouse to determine that in fact it is a tornado drill.

An extra ten seconds to stop and think if a story is real and checking the facts supporting it means the difference between credibility and gossip. While the gossip may be more sensational, the facts are the cornerstone on which news rests.

Social media and the Internet as a whole is a great place to find news. Those presenting the news have a responsibility to be honest and accurate. Those reading about current events have an equal responsibility to check the truthfulness before sharing

The Smoke Pit


         The smoke pit, the vile eyesore of a health-conscious Washingtonian. Opinion of smokers, who suck down cancer sticks like they’ll live forever, ranks low nationwide. Smokers are considered social pariahs, cast aside because the habit they share is widely considered disgusting and extremely unhealthy. While the health issues are medically proven, the health consequences pale in comparison to the smell of freshly burned carcinogens on a smoker’s clothing.

         Many people are afraid to visit this center of intellectual stimulation. This gathering place, in my experience, is a trip back in time to what I imagined a college experience is supposed to be. Not the parties, the athletic events, club rushes or other activities with like-minded students. I picture the time when college was there to open your mind to beliefs, ideals, and points of view that conflict with the bubble college students were raised in.

         In this place, the Socratic Method is alive and well. There is no Powerpoint, Wamap, or Canvas. There isn’t a group of kids with headphones in; drowning out the world while blindly scrolling through algorithmically programmed social media. This is a place of free idea, opinion and speech where almost no topic is off limits. In this archaic institute of free thinking, spurred by a lecture, there was discussion about the allegory of Plato’s cave and how it relates to the modern day.

         In the short ten minutes between classes discussions ranging from the geopolitical implications of North Korea’s continued aggression, the link between Afghanistan’s opium production and heroin addiction, and the effects of prolonged warfare fill the air between puffs of smoke.

         Talks of what could happen if a nuclear device or an electromagnetic pulse detonated in Seattle. Imagine the chaos if the world’s largest tech companies were abruptly left without power. Or worse yet, watching as your entire internet social life disappears in an instant.

         As these stimulating conversations fill the air; smokers watch as other classmates idly stroll by on their way to class. Most of them glued to a screen where programmers and psychologists are purposely coding the content of your life: reference Plato’s Cave allegory and the shadows on the wall.

         If one were to put away the shackles that bind you and see the smoke pit for what it really is,  one would have a wonderful tale of intellectual stimulation unlike anything ever experienced before. Sadly, your friends will refuse to believe the story you tell. Instead, they’ll be too busy staring at their phones believing only what is being shown to them.

         In my opinion, Pierce College shouldn’t ban smoking completely. In this group there is no divide based on the classification systems human’s created. The perceived divide depicted by the media amongst race, religion, ethnicity, gender preference, or other human classification systems is virtually nonexistent.

          Smokers are already part of an endangered minority in this country. They realize the health consequences of their actions. But they will not forget the people they met, the conversations that were held, and the laughs that were shared. Because they spent time actually being social, not pretending to be.

         Remember in eight minutes a sudden burst of energy from the sun, traveling at the speed of light, could destroy the magnetic field and obliterate all life on earth without any warning (because nothing travels faster than the speed of light). You should lighten up a bit; smokers do. Let them enjoy their assigned safe space, because being social is a rare commodity these days.

Michelle Obama Leaves a Legacy of Grace and Service

In showing a world what was possible, she made a world of difference


The Verge

Courtesy of the Verge

Michelle Obama is a mother, lawyer, and community outreach worker. For eight years she was also our First Lady.

Barack reflected on Michelle’s heart in the documentary “South Side Girl.” said, “Her dad was a sweet man, a kindhearted man, someone who felt that everybody should be treated with dignity and respect. I think that carried over to Michelle.”

Growing up in Chicago’s South Side, she saw first-hand the struggles poverty can present. Even though her parents instilled in her a goal for a college education, her mother would tease about kids getting that education and never coming back. Michelle never forgot something her parents had said, “If just a few people would come back and live in the community it would make all the difference.”

In 1985, Michelle graduated from Princeton with a B.A. in sociology, three years later graduated from Harvard with a law degree. Soon after she went to work at a prestigious Chicago law firm. It was there where she met Barack Obama; she was assigned as his mentor while he was an intern while studying law at Harvard.

The call of community service would eventually take her from the firm. She worked for a time in the Mayor’s office, then started a Public Allies division in Chicago. In 1993, she became the Executive Director of Public Allies.

In the “South Side Girl” documentary, Yvonne Davila, one of Michelle’s coworkers in the Mayor’s office remembers when Michelle left for Public Allies. “It didn’t matter that (the job) didn’t pay any money; this was important to her, it was her mission, it was what she wanted to do,” she said.

Public Allies is a program from AmeriCorps that partners young people in diverse backgrounds with leaders in nonprofit organizations. By using nonprofit partnerships, they learn how they can make a difference in their communities. That they can earn an income while learning skills is additional bonus.

In the same documentary one of her co-workers at Public Allies, Travis Rejman recalls “her uncommon gift how she could see the potential for community leaders in young people that were seen as having no potential at all.”

Jobi Peterson Cates also remembers Michelle’s warmth and encouragement. “Just by her presence, a comment, a hug Michelle could make you feel like you can do anything,” she said.

Michelle’s commitment to public service would not stop with Public Allies. In 1996, while the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, she started the Community Service Center. Here she lead the community outreach efforts at the University Hospitals.

Six years later she switched hats at UChicago to become the executive director of community relations and external affairs. Then in 2005 she was promoted to vice president in the same department, serving there until Barack’s inauguration in 2009.

At the same time, she also served as a board member for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. This gave her the experience she needed later as the First Lady.

A small group of men and women started the Council in 1922 as an impartial forum for discussing foreign affairs. Since then it has expanded and evolved to include concentrating on European development and human rights. Representative speakers have included leaders from other countries, such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Despite her experience serving in the public eye, including that of a Senator’s wife, the thought of being in the White House was a bit daunting. In a “To The First Lady, With Love” column the New York Times ran on October 17, 2016, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and speaker, wrote that she remembered Michelle was somewhat hesitant about the prospect of being the First Lady. Nonetheless, when her husband was elected, she molded herself to fit the role without compromising her own identity.

Perhaps the image that had the biggest impact was how Michelle conducted herself. “With her grace, poise, and style, she became an icon, especially to young black women,” Adichie wrote.

Because Michelle was a working mom, she could encourage others how to balance a career and family. She became the face of a successful working mother and encouraged others that is was possible. In the same column Gloria Steinem, a journalist and social and political activist wrote, “Even living 10 years in the public eye she managed to live a public life without sacrificing her privacy and authenticity.

In addition, she did not stop in her mission of community service. She and her husband would continue to volunteer at homeless shelters and soup kitchens when schedules and other commitments would allow. As she was taught the value of volunteering in her community, so she would teach others.

Throughout the eight years she was in the White House Michelle was constantly bringing people together. Her second year in she partnered with a local elementary school to replant a vegetable garden on the White House south lawn, the same place that Eleanor Roosevelt had planted hers.

Not satisfied with that, she also created “Let’s Move!” She brought together a wide range of professionals nationwide with an ambitious goal. Using education, physical activity, and corporate effort, she started a movement to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation.

Whether the issue was military service members and their families or encouraging young woman around the world in education and business, she helped to form networks and bring solutions.

In the end, Rashida Jones, actress and comic book author, summed up in one sentence the legacy that Michelle Obama has as the First Lady. She wrote in her letter to the Times, that her strongest impression of Michelle was that she made you believe you could be anyone, go anywhere, and be yourself.”







“South Side Girl” official Obama website www.barackobama.com









Are Social Acceptable behaviors being overlooked, or we, as a society, courteous to others?


Hyun-Soo Seo


22 October 2016


There is a plethora of subjects that, when mentioned, might stir up distress in some people. These subjects might include, but definitely are not limited to, breast cancer and the concealed carrying of guns. Whether the other participant in the conversation has dealt personally or even impersonally with death by either of the two examples, he or she may not feel comfortable discussing the subject.

There are other topics that some feel should be talked about in the open such as politics and government transparency or differences in culture. These subjects, while they may not have harmed anyone, may still instill uneasiness in the other participant of the conversation.

There are different types of sensitivity about these topics. Among these different types, as mentioned above, there may be sensitivity through dealing with death, or near-death, or even a hard time.

Another issue may be that our society simply does not accept each and every point of view. There are very obviously opinions that our society accepts more than others. While some may agree there are some opinions that are “stuck in the past,” or “outdated,” and belong in a different generation, it should not discredit someone’s opinion.

One’s opinion is one’s right and freedom, but what is wrong is not being open to learning. Some of these outdated opinions were rooted into society at a particular time and the reason for it was because of the lack of information that society had. Needless to say, information is constantly peaking; there is more information today than was ever had before. With this information, we have redacted some of the wildly incorrect prejudices and assumptions that our predecessors carried.

While we can form all the opinions in the world, they should always be based on facts. The only wrong opinion is one that is not one’s own and was simply handed down through a generation. If everyone were open and committed to learning all sides of an issue and then forming an opinion, many more people would be able to comprehensively and intelligently debate a subject.

This applies to a multitude of situations. The current political debate is just one example. Many people have formed their political stance on only one or two pieces of the candidate’s platform. Some of these people are so gung-ho about these one or two pieces of the platform that they are now relentlessly supporting whichever candidate.

It is easy to be sucked into either side by one or two of the stances the candidate has, but if everyone was more willing to look holistically, peer debates and conversations could be much more positive as well as effective.

Still, there are those in the category of sensitivity mentioned first. These people and their willingness or unwillingness to share their opinions or thoughts about a subject should be respected.

Of course, there are people who go through grave hardships and are more than willing to share their stories. Those who are willing may simply have a more communicative coping mechanism and therefore speaking to others about their pain can help to understand and cope with what occurred. Others may cope internally and need time to understand what happened.

How, though, can someone know the events of someone else’s life so thoroughly to know which subjects are up for conversations and which are not? The answer is that no one knows each and every experience another individual has had. Due to the obvious inconsistency in personal knowledge, it is imperative for everyone to be considerate.

If someone strikes up a conversation about a particularly sensitive subject, no one should be afraid of simply informing the other person that the aforementioned subject, whatever it may be, is not something that he or she is willing to discuss. The other participant in the conversation must also be considerate and accept that the subject is off-limits.

The only thing that can be wrong in a peer debate or conversation is the unwillingness to learn from someone else. Everyone is entitled to opinions and thoughts, but being open to other opinions is crucial. Open dialogue can help to advance our societies openness and willingness to accept different opinions, but dialogues should be prefaced with consideration for subjects that may impart discomfort in someone else.

Halloween: The Holiday of Cultural Appropriation


It’s that time of year again. Children roam the streets in search of candy-holding patrons and adults go out decking raunchy costumes in the spirit of Halloween. For a holiday celebrating spunk and spookiness, the scariest things are the “ethnic dresses.”

If someone enters any Spirit Halloween store or simply shops online, one will encounter many costumes with knock-off names like “feather girl” or “Disco afro” that convey obvious stereotypes. The worst costume yet has been the “Skull-face” costumes, obviously mimicking the traditional sugar skulls of Dia de los Muertos.

Now what makes this worse is that many costume retailers will portray this cultural celebration as “Mexican Halloween,” when it is far from being any vapid holiday. For two days, citizens will decorate altars in honor of what their departed relatives loved the most. Of course later some revelers will join the parade (in which they represent the dead coming home) and go door to door for some party bonanza.

This is not the same as Halloween. Repeat, Dia de los Muertos is far from the debauchery of Halloween. This holiday has a much deeper meaning than trick or treating. It has cultural depth and ritual wrapped around it and to demote it to a simple costume is insulting.

  Usually, customers don’t know Although a certain article of clothing may hold religious or cultural meaning, it is lost in the crinkly plastic packaging that reads, “cool dress.”

Of course, if someone wants to be original, or just wants to play it safe, they may ignore Spirit store altogether and create their own costume, but even that has some issues. No matter how well researched or accurate the dress is, if you’re not part of that culture, it’s not yours to wear.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is outright disrespect. Most extreme cases are of course “black-face” and “yellow-face,” but there are other examples of racial exploitation. Last year, there were tweets with a couple of non-native people decorating themselves as “dead Indians.” After a couple of weeks, this trend of tweets hit the Native-American community and struck a raw nerve with them, many were rightly offended and were outraged by the pictures.

Halloween is meant to be joyous and to provide a creative outlet for costumed patrons, but if it becomes an event to mock other racial groups, it is not fun.

Millennials and Voting


If you are in the 18 – 21 year-old age group, then congratulations on your first opportunity to vote in the United States.

As first time voters, there can be questions about voting.  According to the Pew Research Center, the main question for 54% of Millennials (ages 18-32) in 2012, was “Should I vote at all?” and their answer was “no.”

While many people may feel that their one vote will not make a difference, consider for a moment that there are 69.2 million Millennials and this is a very significant number.

The only other demographic of voters that can rival Millennials is the Baby Boomers (ages 52-70) and there are 69.7 million of them.  According to the Pew Research Center 69% of them do show up to vote.

While there is no competition between demographic voter blocks, an argument could be made that Millennials will be impacted by the decisions made today for a much longer period of time, than any other demographic group of voters.

 While it may seem that a Presidential candidate elected to office for the next 4 years isn’t a long-term issue, the judges they appoint, for example, could have an impact on daily life for the next 40 years. In some cases, a lack of governing policy could affect generations to come as well.

Millennials currently have the largest student debt ever in our history.  Also, longer wait times for marriage, home-ownership and starting a family than ever before in our country’s history.  The inheritance of climate change and the effects of severe weather patterns around the world means that Millennials will have a lot of important choices and struggles ahead of them as well.

Millennials will have to live with the policy decisions made by today’s politicians longer than any other demographic group and this alone should compel more than only 46% of Millennials to vote in this upcoming election.

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously once said, “nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

If you care not currently registered to vote, you have until October 31st to register to vote in the State of Washington.  At this late date you must register in person at the Pierce County Elections Office at: 2501 S. 35th St, Suite C, in Tacoma (3 blocks north of the Tacoma Mall).  You must be a U.S. citizen and 18 years old by Election Day. Once you are registered, a mail-in ballot will be sent to your home address.  This ballot must be returned either by drop box or U.S. Postal Service, anytime by November 8, 2016.

There are 30 ballot drop boxes in Pierce County; to locate one near you go to www.piercecountyelections.org.

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