The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, the Wayne State Global Studies Program and the Irvin D. Reid Honors College collaborated on a fundraising event Sept. 21 to raise money for students to study abroad.
Laura Kline, the director of Global Studies at WSU, introduced three students and a recent graduate who were the winners of the Global Crossroads Scholarship last semester. The students each presented research they conducted related to a specific culture.
The presentations varied depending on where the students traveled and what aspect of media or culture they chose to focus on. Connor Tukel, a Global Studies major, presented his project titled: “360 Detroit: A Novel Method of Exploring and Capturing Urban Culture.” Tukel began his presentation by addressing the negative perception by people around the world pertaining the city of Detroit through a Google search.
“[Google] still gives recommendations for ‘slums’ and ‘abandoned’, and so I don't want to just focus on negating the bad stereotypes that are around because there are also grandiose stereotypes [of Detroit],” Tukel said.
Another scholarship winner, sophomore Alice Santana, used her winnings to travel to the island of Janitzio, Mexico and South Sulawesi, Indonesia to study the culture and attitudes toward death and how it differs from American culture.
Santana presented the Indonesian ritual of Ma’nene in which the dead are dug up from their graves, dusted off and made to look presentable to show that death does not mean the person has passed on. She also presented her research on the Mexican celebration Dia de Los Muertos in which natives honor the lives of their deceased with symbolic altars.
“There is no connection between life and death [in America],” Santina said. “It’s important to not lose touch with who we are and where we come from and to pay respect to those who have given us life.”
Following the student presentations was the panel discussion, “Global Crossroads: Media, Culture and Politics.” Dr. Saeed Khan, an Islamic scholar and professor of Global Studies, Islamic and Middle Eastern History and Politics and Culture moderated the panel which featured Jack Lessenberry, head of the journalism department and a senior political analyst on Michigan Radio and Herschel Fink, retired lawyer and the in-house legal counsel of the Detroit Free Press.
Fink said he is concerned about the future of freedom of speech because of recent events of violence erupting in rallies where the speaker’s view differed from protestors.
“What has me worried is the discouraging through social pressure and violence, and offensive, dissenting thought and unacceptable speech,” Fink said.
Jack Lessenberry emphasized the importance of the freedom of the press and of speech allowing America’s citizens to speak without censorship.
“We cannot censor blatant lies, freedom of the press means freedom of trash too. But we don’t have to give lies an elevated platform,” Lessenberry said.
A question from the audience was asked about how to differentiate fake news from real news. Fink said to always check sources and the publisher of the news and to read from other news sources and views on the same topic.
“There is no such thing as fake news. If it’s fake, it’s not news,” Lessenberry said. “What we need to do, as citizens and educators, is demand accuracy, transparency and honesty from our media.”