Self-Love Is The Best Love, The Body Is NOT An Apology


The University of Tennessee held its fourth annual OUTstanding seminar on Saturday November 8, and it was…wait for it…outstanding! The conference, entitled The LGBTQ+ Mind, Body,and Soul, lasted from 9 am until 5 pm. The evening was split up into several small group sessions and two large ones, each aiming at exploring issues surrounding LGBTQ+
community members and other sexual and gender minority groups. However, the highlight of the evening was the lecture presented by the keynote speaker Sonya Renee. Renee who is an award winning poet, social activist and founder of the international radical self-love movement The Body Is Not An Apology, spoke to the audience about the effects of body terrorism and the value of self-love.

Social activist and poet Sonya Renee performs "Delighted" during OUTstanding 2014 seminar

Social activist and poet Sonya Renee performs “Delighted” during OUTstanding 2014 seminar

The Body is Not An Apology was started in 2011 as a result of one “bad” Facebook photo and was created as a resource aimed at aiding people of all genders, ages, ethnicity, abilities and sizes in learning how to accept and embrace their mental, physical and spiritual bodies. Since its founding, The Body is Not An Apology has helped thousands of people worldwide learn to love the body they are in today.
Sonya Renee performs encore piece for OUTstanding audience

Sonya Renee performs encore piece for OUTstanding audience

Along with educating the OUTstanding audience on the effects of body terrorism, Renee also gave tips on how to combat, or interrupt, body terrorism. However, what made Renee’s session so unique and memorable was not her passion about radical self-love, but her ability to hammer home lessons about rejecting body terrorism and accepting ones self as is with her poetry.

Hungry conference participants gather for a quick lunch before start of second half.

Hungry conference participants gather for a quick lunch before start of second half.

In between tips and lessons on how to ignore the “outer” voice, or the influence of media messages and negative feelings, and accept your “inner” true voice, Renee performed some of her original works, included the acclaimed “The Body Is Not An Apology.” Her performances, which were weaved expertly into her lecture, earned several standing ovations – and even an encore – from the audience. Each piece she performed coincided with the point she was making, and each piece highlighted a struggle faced by minorities.
OUTstanding audience gathers for small group workshop "Minority Stressed Out: Minority Stress and Minority Resilience" hosted by Juliet Meggs

OUTstanding audience gathers for small group workshop “Minority Stressed Out: Minority Stress and Minority Resilience” hosted by Juliet Megg

OUTstanding 2014: The LGBTQ+ Mind, Body, and Soul was was put together by a group of UT students, faculty and staff from all across the university. The OUTstanding Planning Committee put together the conference in order to “explore the visibility of diversity and LGBTQ+ cultural issues in order to create campus-wide discussion, education, exploration and celebration of intersectional diversity of the community on campus and general society,” while also working towards the UT VOL vision of nurturing and exploring diversity.
Learn more about OUTstanding and Sonya Renee and her movement.

After The High: Chronic Marijuana Use On The Brain


Since the passing of Colorado’s historic Amendment 64, three other states and the District of Colombia have legalized marijuana for personal use. Thousands of Americans are now able to enjoy their drug of choice everyday, without fear.

But is that a good thing?

According to findings released by the University Queensland in Australia, that answer is a resounding no.

The study, which was conducted over a period of two decades, reveals that chronic, or daily or near-daily, users show poorer cognitive performance than nonusers in areas of verbal learning, memory and attention. The study also found that “early and persistent” marijuana smokers showed an average decline in IQ by 8 points.

New research released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) further backed this claim, saying that individuals who stared marijuana use at a young age showed decreased grey matter, or brain volume, in the orbitofrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision-making and mental processing. Damage to this area can cause impaired learning and reversal of stimulus-reinforcement associations, resulting in inappropriate behavioral responses in situations according to a study released the by National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Well, if that is the case then chronic marijuana smokers should show a decrease in the ability to complete every day tasks, right? Wrong. 

According to Dr. Sina Aslan, professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and co-leader of the PNAS study, the brain compensates for the loss of matter by increasing brain connectivity.

The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for grey matter loses.”

These connections, however, are not permanent and continued use of marijuana will eventually erode and degrade these connections.

Brain MRI scan by OnlineDocturs

Brain MRI scan by OnlineDocturs

Well, if I just stop smoking everything will fix itself, right? Wrong again.

Both researchers at the University of Queensland and PNAS agree that the brain shows no sign of recovering cognitive function after a user has quit smoking.

Well, I don’t smoke everyday so I should be safe from the side effects, right? Wrong, yet again.

According to a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, the brain shows decreased grey matter in individuals who started marijuana use in adolescence before the age of 18 and not just in chronic users.

So, what have we learned from all of this?

Marijuana, while the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, has serious and long-lasting side effects. Chronic marijuana use has been linked to impaired cognitive functions and decreased grey matter in the brain. Marijuana abuse and dependence is the most common form of drug dependence after alcohol and tobacco in the United States, Australia and Canada, and it has the ability to permanently alter the connections in your brain.

CCI Diversity and Inclusion Week: Health Care Panel Review


The University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information continued its Diversity and Inclusion week Wednesday Sept. 24 with a panel discussion on health care and health care access.

The panel, which kicked off with commentary from Dr. Nan Gaylord UT assistant professor in the College of Nursing, lacked in several areas including its range of topics, but it still managed to educated the audience on health care issues in America to an extent.

After Dr. Gaylord’s comments, the conversation started to move away from health care in Tennessee, and more towards what the panelist did in the their day to day careers. It was not until the audience question and answer segment, did the conversation shift back to its main focus: diversity and health care.

Overall, what the session lacked was structure. The moderator of the discussion, Dr. Kimberly Douglass UT assistant professor of information, barley spoke and made no effort to make sure the panelist stayed on topic. This is in direct contrast with the “Open Forum on Diversity and Dating/Marriage” panel I attended. The moderators of that panel, who happened to be three undergraduate students, were very involved in the session and asked questions that were relevant to the overall theme. The moderators made sure the session was structured and that all the panelist used their time to speak wisely. While there are several negatives that I can say about the health care panel, there were several positives as well. While most of what was being said was not directly related to diversity in health care, I did learn what Naturopathic medicine was and how practitioners of that field learn the same information as “normal” western doctors.

In future panels, it may be good practice to moderate the conversation so that the panel does not get off topic and lose the interest of the audience. Also, a policymakers view point should be recognized, it is all about diversity after all.

UT Diversity Panel to discuss health care access


The University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information will hast a discussion on the economy and health care access Wednesday, Sept. 24 in the Patrick Auditorium.

On March 23, 2010 President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans and provided some of the biggest health care tax breaks for the middle class in American history.

Since its passing the American uninsured rate has fallen from 14.4% in 2008 to 13.4% in the second quarter of 2014, the lowest its ever been according to a Gallup study.

Built into the Affordable Care Act, is the ability for states to chose to opt- or out of Medicaid expansion. Choosing to expand would provide coverage for all Americans under the age of 65 who have incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

However, if states chose to opt-out then they would have to offer private health care options to those individuals whose incomes were above the federal poverty level.

In Tennessee, a state that chose to opt-out of the federal funded Medicaid expansion program, there are currently 578,000 uninsured people, or 9.2% of the population. By expanding Medicaid, an additional 140,000 Tennesseans would be insured.

According to a study done by Wallethub, if Tennessee chose to opt-in to expansion then it would have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country.

While the Affordable Care Act has made several strides in addressing the lack of health care in the country, it is still important to discuss the issue and improve upon the results.

The Voices will be doing live coverage of CCI’S Diversity Week Event “Diversity and Health: Economics, Access & Technology” on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

It will begin at 8:55 a.m. and last until 10 a.m. and will be moderated by UT Assistant Professor of Information Sciences Kimberly Douglass and will feature commentary from UT College of Nursing Assistant Professor Nan Gaylord, Open Hands Musculotherapy Board of Directors member Danae Miley and Heartland Apothecary owner Dr. Ben Smith.

The discussion is part of of the college’s Diversity and Inclusion week.

Current Black culture echos racial past


Since the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown Black Americans have, once again, started to question their status and treatment as American citizens. All over the country, Blacks have rallied and protested the government’s handling of the Michael Brown case, and as a result the entire nation is now talking about race and race relations in America.

Texas school cancels sport event due to school integration by Vieilles Annonces

Texas school cancels sport event due to school integration by Vieilles Annonces

Last month, the conversation took a different turn and instead of focusing on what is going on outside of the Black community, it has turned inward. Recent talks amongst race leaders have uncovered the racial undertones that are hidden in African American culture.

Children playing in the Defrees Alley, NE Washington, D.C. by the  New York Public Library

Children playing in the Defrees Alley by the New York Public Library

“Growing up, my parents used to always tell me to make sure I was in the house before the street lights came on,” said University of Tennessee senior Daria Smith, “and if I wasn’t home before then I would get a whooping.”

According to a segment on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, the significance of this teaching stems from what is known as a “sundown town.” Sundown towns were prominent in the 1970s and were towns that did not let Black enter after sundown, and if one were to do so then their safety was threatened.

“You always have to be aware of your surrounds because you get treated differently,” said UT senior Victoria Brown, “no one is going to say that they [police] are targeting you.” She then went on to say that for African American’s that is what “you are taught unconsciously by your parents.”

Victoria Brown discusses the pressures of being African American at majority white college.

Victoria Brown discusses the pressures of being African American at majority white college.

According to James Loewen author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, there are thousands of former sundown towns in the United States and even now, some towns remain all white on purpose. In Tennessee alone, there are 25 suspected sundown towns, including Gatlinburg, Lenoir City, Waynesboro and Cookeville.

For more information about Sundown Towns and to see if there is one in your back yard, visit Loewen’s webpage.