Member Blogs


Beyond the Stereotypical Image of Young Men of Color

Written by // David J. Knight Categories // Member Blogs

The Atlantic

Beyond the Stereotypical Image of Young Men of Color

At a time when young black and brown men are regularly stereotyped, silenced, and blamed for the oppression they face, American culture needs develop ways to embrace these young men as they are—not as they are made to be. Change first and foremost lies with Americans, who need to engage imaginatively with these young men in order to build new understanding.


Stories of Human Connection Sweep Across Media

Written by // Anna Smith Categories // Member Blogs

In two weeks, a commercial advertising a basic Google tool, the search feature, has already had over 8 million views on YouTube. What would make a commercial without talking hamsters or crass humor so popular? It seems it is the story of friendship and connection. The commercial titled, “Partitions divide countries, friendships find a way,” tells the story of the impact of the India-Pakistan partition of 1947 on two childhood friends. Google India explains:

The India-Pakistan partition in 1947 separated many friends and families overnight. A granddaughter in India decides to surprise her grandfather on his birthday by reuniting him with his childhood friend (who is now in Pakistan) after over 6 decades of separation, with a little help from Google Search.

Likewise, Bank of America is rebranding its company with a “Life’s Better Connected” theme. In two commercials that have recently been released, the images and words focus on humans connecting with humans.

Before they became a family.
There was a connection that started it all and made the future the wonderful thing it turned out to be…
We know we’re not the center of your life, but we’ll do our best to help you connect to what is.

In a commercial aimed to show that human connection is Bank of America’s common goal, at 0:13, there is an interesting interaction around what it means to have a business relationship, and if those relationships can be “human.”

Felissa Cowell: We strive to make our relationships more human with each and every customer we have.
Auske Jurkute: I wouldn’t even say more human it’s just making relationships human. It’s the essence of what we do.

Stories of human connection are not just showing up in advertisements, but overwhelmingly in discussions of what makes quality media. Eric Maierson, a producer at MediaStorm recently blogged about being reminded that cinema aesthetics are valuable but shallow without stories of human connection. He stated:

I would trade a beautiful backlit mountain vista at sunset for a quiet moment of deep connection every time.

Likewise, during an interview with my grad students in a course on literature and the adolescent experience, Tyler Weaver, author of Using Comics to Construct Your Transmedia Storyworld, explained that stories of human connection are at the center of even the most cutting edge transmedia design. He explained:

The first rule of transmedia is that you tell good stories. The second rule of transmedia is that you tell good stories.

At 18:50 in the interview, Weaver spoke more in depth about what he meant by a “good story,” explaining that like any story, feeling connected to characters who are “real people” as opposed to stereotypical depictions, “characters not characterizations,” is the main criterion he uses to judge quality.


A Paradigm Shift in Research about Human Nature

Written by // Anna Smith Categories // Member Blogs

A Paradigm Shift in Research about Human Nature

In the convening meeting of the Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity (PACH), Niobe Way encouraged us with the reminder that though we live in a culture that “privileges autonomy or self-sufficiency over relationships, the self over community, and individual interests over the common good” that there is also “a paradigm shift occurring as researchers converge in the recognition that humans are by nature empathic, cooperative, social beings.” We want and need close relationships to thrive as humans, and researchers from across the spectrum of the human sciences are helping us to see through the fog of cultural traditions that have worked to isolate and separate us from each other.

In an Atlantic article announcing the release of Matthew Leiberman’s book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, Emily Esfahani Smith reviewed a range of the kind of research Way was referencing, research from neuroscience to economics and experimental social science to anthropology. Each reported study concluded that there are immediate benefits to happiness, health, and satisfaction when humans connect with other humans. Together, the research makes a strong case that humans are indeed social animals with drives for connection, much like those for survival.

Smith’s article, Social Connection Makes a Better Brain, is worth a read as a whole. Here are a few highlights:

  • Matthew Leiberman’s neuroscience research has led him to conclude that when the brain is in a relaxed state it has the same activity as when the brain is actively working out social relationships. He is quoted in the article to report: “The [brain’s] default network directs us to think about other people’s minds—their thoughts, feelings, and goals.” In other words, our brain’s default setting is to focus on social relationships.
  • Anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s work has led her to the conclusion that the size of humans’ brains is related to our inherent social nature. From an evolutionary standpoint, human ancestors with the brain size closest to ours were also the first to have “division of labor (they worked together to hunt), central campsites, and they may have been the first to bury their dead.”
  • Leiberman and Naomi Eisenberger have also conducted studies involving the emotion of social rejection and loss in gaming scenarios, concluding: “To the brain, social pain feels a lot like physical pain—a broken heart can feel like a broken leg…The more rejected the participant said he or she felt, the more activity there was in the part of the brain that processes the distress of physical pain.”

Community College Students Face a Very Long Road to Graduation

Written by // Ginia Bellafante Categories // Member Blogs

The New York Times

Unlike the students at private universities, who are offered an array of supports — academic, social, psychological — community college students rarely get the help they need from their chronically underfunded institutions.


The Life of Carlos, an Undocumented New York Teen

Written by // Alexandra Starr Categories // Member Blogs

New York Magazine

As many as 74,000 children could come into this country by themselves this year, undocumented. There are more in New York than in any other state save Texas, many awaiting court rulings that could send them back home. Here's one.


Stop Telling Women They're Crazy

Written by // Amber Madison Categories // Member Blogs


The danger with calling women "crazy" is that it completely delegitimizes us — when we're physically ill, in an argument, or when we're going for a promotion. It causes us to explain away our feelings rather than pay attention to them. In legitimately upsetting situations, it makes the blame fall back on us rather than on someone else's problematic behavior. So, we have two choices: We can notice things that are upsetting and say nothing. Or, we can speak up and get called irrational. It's really a catch-22. And, it's enough to drive you, well, crazy.


A Well Formed Soul

Written by // Khary Lazarre-White Categories // Member Blogs

Huffington Post

We teach our young people at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol that they are intertwined with the larger society, that they must reject the fundamentally American and ever increasing focus on the individual, the self and material accumulation.


'Yes' Is Better Than 'No'

Written by // Michael Kimmel Categories // Member Blogs

The New York Times

The recent passage of Senate Bill 967 in California is such a welcome game-changer in understanding and preventing sexual assault. "Yes means yes" is clearly saner — and sexier. And that's true for both Leopold and Molly Bloom, as well as the rest of us.


Men: We can start a movement to stop violence against women

Written by // Carlos Andrés Gómez Categories // Member Blogs

The Guardian

A culture that tells us we're not allowed to be afraid is a culture that denies our own humanity. And if we're not allowed to be human, then we become something else.


On race, America has far to go. Ferguson won't be the last flash point

Written by // Farai Chideya-Chihota Categories // Member Blogs

The Guardian

The events in Missouri spring from America's deeply embedded segregation and black economic deprivation


The Adolescent Girl Moment: Passion Is Our Fuel but Not Our Plan

Written by // Judith Bruce Categories // Member Blogs

This girl moment must be seized, lest the "talk" outpace the "walk." The adolescent girls campaign—so successful as "branded communication"—must be transformed into on-the-ground activity.


Young Voices

Written by // Marianne Schnall Categories // Member Blogs

A Gathering of Minds Around the State of Girlhood


Mine Own Deformity: Shakespeare Through the Lens of a Military Veteran

Written by // Stephan Wolfert Categories // Member Blogs

Howl Round

This series examines Shakespeare from a military veteran's perspective and offers a new angle on Shakespeare's text and characters, while delving deep into the challenges facing American theater and society.


Getting to the Root of the Problem

Written by // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs

The deeper problem, according to the hundreds of boys I have interviewed over the past 25 years, is that the patriarchal structure is premised on the dehumanization of all humans and not just of girls and women. In fact, patriarchy can only be maintained if we are dehumanized or disconnected from our own humanity and the humanity of others. The system depends on us not recognizing our full or common humanity, in other words, because if we did, the system could no longer be upheld.


Men of Grosser Blood

Written by // Stephan Wolfert Categories // Member Blogs

Howl Round

But eventually, the training and wars end. And camaraderie gives way to "going home."

This, to me, is our national crisis. We as a nation, much like Shakespeare's plays, are brilliant at using camaraderie to: define masculinity, create and dehumanize an enemy, and to motivate our men and women towards violence. But after the "blast of war blows" in their ears, where is the blueprint for what to do after killing? Where are the speeches post-combat that teach men and women how to reconnect with their humanity? Where is the camaraderie and training to leave the "stiffened sinews" of combat training behind and learn how to regain the "modest stillness and humility" of peacetime? Why isn't there an equal amount of time and energy in creating camaraderie as a tool to heal after war?

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