What is a performer anyway?

In 2017, Rolling Stone published its own “25 Under 25” list shining the spotlight on “young musicians, actors, [and] activists changing the world.”

Rolling Stone successfully equated how musicians, actors and activists make waves in cultural conversations. If musicians and actors are performers, wouldn’t an activist be a performer as well? So, how should we really be defining what a “performer” is and isn’t?

Typical performers tell stories for onlookers to question, criticize and admire. Arguably, activists do the same thing. If making a story resonate with audience members makes for a performer, then Martin Luther King Jr. is the most influential performer of all time.

If you say the names “Michael Jackson” and “Elvis Presley,” every American knows who’s being discussed. MJ had a story to tell with every song and dance move. Elvis had hips that did all the talking for him.

Martin Luther King was the only one who could’ve brought the nonviolent civil rights movement’s story to its nobility. King had a performer-mentality bubbling inside him, giving him the power to share a story no other could. He’s the most influential performer because he told the story so many African Americans wanted to share but couldn’t.

Right away you know what the words “I have a dream” symbolize. Those four words proclaim the story of ending 400 years of slavery, discrimination, racism and prejudice in America.

With pure emotion, bravery, insistence and kindness, King convinced America of the reality of hatred. He spoke of slaves beaten, bruised and worked to death every day just because of the color of their skin. Regular people beaten, bruised and insulted every day at school, work and on the streets just because of the color of their skin.

King had a dream of waking up America from a heinous nightmare. He couldn’t have accomplished all he did and inspire so many people without his triumphant storytelling — his performances.

He was successful because his message roared through the crowds and into everyone’s heart.

Rolling Stone was right; performers can and do change the world. Martin Luther King Jr. is just the most influential example.

A nation desensitized

Every day students must find their way to overcome obstacles — talking to their crush, mean girls, locker room gossip, calculus homework, football tryouts, and — now — school shootings.

More so than any other country in the world, America faces the problem of gun violence. When kids should be worried about what they’re going to text their crush that evening or that upcoming Spanish test, instead we’re worried about what we will do if and when that alarm goes off in the hallways indicating there’s an active shooter on campus.

This is a problem no one expected would haunt us each and every day. We all thought Columbine would be the last time we’d see so many deaths and injuries plague our communities. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We have run out of fingers to count how many times we’ve read a headline announcing yet another tragedy that could’ve been prevented or sat in silence with our neighbor, realizing our community would never be the same.

Columbine wasn’t the last time. Neither was Sandy Hook. Neither was Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Our peers courageously took it upon themselves to speak up and act when our government couldn’t be bothered with anything more than extending their thoughts and prayers to those who lost their lives or loved ones. Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, Sofie Whitney and Delaney Tarr had to be the ones to yell to their nation, “Never Again.”

When lawmakers, NRA members, manufacturers, distributors, large corporations and American citizens who claim to be overwhelmed by their support of the 2nd amendment start to turn a blind eye, we — young students — remind them of our friends who will never attend their prom, never graduate, never get married or have their own kids, never fulfill their dreams and who were viciously murdered by assault weapons. Murdered by people who so easily got their hands on weapons of mass destruction.

Our nation is now filled with mass destruction, and there is no turning back.

It is the young people of our nation that hold the power to prevent future school shootings. Why? Each morning, we are scared walking into our classrooms with windows that don’t open, doors that don’t lock, with four walls that fail to include even a closet for our safety. Where would we go? What would we do? What if we never found out until it’s our best friend since elementary school or our favorite teacher falling to the ground with a bullet in their chest?

We, the students of America, have all been affected by gun violence. We can all rattle off names of schools that have experienced such devastation. We can all remember what we were doing when our lives turned upside down and we no longer felt safe at school.

The nation may have become desensitized to school shootings; but, we will never forget, and we will continue to chant, “Never Again.”

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Avery Cooper

SMU alumna Rosie Roberson’s career is skyrocketing in an unexpected way

Rosie Roberson has always been herself.

She hasn’t changed who she is when she embarks on a new journey. She’s always been goofy, creative and out there. Throughout her transitions from Austin back to Dallas and from music to fashion and journalism, she learned how to be a little more refined “while not being cookie cutter.”

Roberson was born and raised in the Preston Hollow area of Dallas. Throughout high school, she expected to attend The University of Texas (UT) to pursue her dream of managing musicians since she had inherited her passion for music from her father. She was excited to explore the artistic city of Austin and her identity.

She decided to venture out on her own, starting school at Austin Community College (ACC). However, she quickly realized she had a lot of soul-searching to accomplish. She had never moved from Dallas and really wanted to immerse herself in a social lifestyle but had no real plans for her future.

Her time at ACC was spent realizing that she didn’t know which career path to choose, so she headed back home to Dallas to start over at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Her plans for attending UT had changed, yet she was thrilled to attend SMU and pursue music through her Arts Management minor.

“I didn’t know anyone at SMU really, so I thought I’d just buckle down and work,” Roberson said.

Roberson decided on a career in journalism, allowing her to meet Lisa Goodson, an administrator in the journalism school at SMU. Goodson introduced the idea of Roberson interning with Paper City Magazine.

Despite a windy path of not knowing what to do in life, Roberson finally discovered her passion for the magazine world working at Paper City until December of her junior year; but what would be her next step?

Her internship at Paper City led her to her next step at Forty Five Ten, a clothing boutique on McKinney Ave. that had been around for years. After being bought by Tim Headington, Forty Five Ten transformed into what it is today — a successful store on Main St. in downtown. Roberson was inspired by the store’s metamorphosis, so she decided on a whim to interview to be a marketing intern only three weeks after the store established its new home on Main St.

“I thought I had no chance,” she said. “[Forty Five Ten] was the new huge thing at that time. Everyone thought that store was so cool, but then I became the [store’s] only intern.”

She had the chance to work under Nick Wooster, the men’s fashion director from New York City, when he flew into town for photoshoots for the men’s department.

Instead of describing a glamorous encounter with Wooster, she told a story about the time Wooster gave her $100 to go buy him coffee at the first photoshoot.

“I went to buy his coffee with the money he gave me, but they wouldn’t accept the $100. They said the bill was too big. So, I paid for his coffee with my own money and ran back to the photoshoot to deliver it,” Roberson said. “I gave him his coffee and his money back and explained what happened. He looked surprised and told me to never spend my own money for work.”

She explained that Wooster then took her under his wing and became an important mentor. She said that their personalities “hit it off so well.” She explained how you don’t see a lot of genuineness and kindness in the fashion industry, which helped shape her work ethic.

Tracy Hayes, a friend of Roberson’s since 2017, was editorial director of Headington Companies and working at Forty Five Ten when she first met Roberson.

“She was one of those interns you dream about — smart, engaged, enthusiastic, quick to learn and not afraid to work! She also has great style, which is never a bad thing in this industry, and a seemingly innate ability to connect with people and build lasting relationships. The same qualities that make a good intern make a successful career. It’s truly been a joy to watch Rosie grow and bloom,” Hayes said.

Roberson said her time working at Forty Five Ten was the big start to her career. She learned that there are no small tasks and precision is key.

“[I learned] to be a hustler,” Roberson said. “Do things fast and right and always say yes you can do something. Hustle is so important to being successful.”

After working at Forty Five Ten, Roberson started a “super entry-level job” as the marketing and events coordinator at Modern Luxury, a luxury lifestyle publication. Due to what she had learn thus far and becoming close to the editor-in-chief, when the assistant editor left the magazine, Roberson was offered the job.

“Grit and luck got me where God wanted me to be. I got that [Forty Five Ten internship] because I was just confident and went with my gut and asked questions,” she said. “I didn’t even want to go into fashion at first. I wanted to be different than my mom because she’s a fashion designer and I grew up in the fashion world. But fashion is booming in Dallas and it comes naturally to me.”

Roberson has no real plans for the future.

“I kind of fell into the [fashion industry] completely and I’m taking life as it comes,” she said. “I want to see where my passion can take me.”

Pigtails and Peruna

My relationship with Southern Methodist University did not begin my first day of classes as a freshman student. It began when I was a toddler, prancing around the boulevard in an SMU cheerleading uniform, hair in pigtails and hands holding pom-poms the size of my head. I’ve gone to every home football game for as long as I can remember.

My grandfather, Mark Ussery, graduated from SMU in 1964. For years, his old friends from the football and baseball teams have had a tent set up on the boulevard, hosting my grandparents and their friends, their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. We’d eat hot dogs and brownies and drink white wine. Their spot on the boulevard is right by the Meadows Museum; it always has been, and I think it always will be. As years go by, some of my grandpa’s friends have slowly started backing out of the boulevarding extravaganza; but my grandpa remains dedicated to the tradition of wearing red and blue from head to toe, uniting generations of SMU Mustangs at each game.

Next semester, however, the student population is moving off the boulevard. To increase student attendance at the football games, Greek life and student organizations are moving from Dallas Hall lawn to the Mustang Mall, the pathway from Moody Colosseum to Ford Stadium. Students have been quite outspoken since being told about the move in a letter only a couple weeks ago. Students and alumni will no longer share Bishop Blvd. on game day. SMU’s version of tailgating, what is known as “boulevarding” by all of Dallas, might become just that — tailgating. With this change, tradition dies.

Even with next semester’s move, I can promise that my grandfather and his friends will still make an appearance at every game. I have wondered, though, will my grandpa’s boulevard experience change once Greek life moves away? One of my favorite memories of being a toddler on SMU campus was seeing all the older and wiser students strutting around promoting their Greek organizations. I remember wanting to be just like them.

The boulevard experience has been around since SMU President R. Gerald Turner came to town. In 2000, Ford Stadium hosted the first Mustang football game against the University of Kansas. The first tailgate featured the Mustang band and spirit teams, celebrating the stadium’s grand opening. Turner brought the idea for the boulevard from the University of Mississippi, where he served as chancellor until 1995. Ole Miss fans tailgate before football games on “The Grove,” an open area in the middle of campus, resembling SMU’s Boulevard. Turner’s goal for the Boulevard experience was achieved with the construction of Ford Stadium and his desire to unite the community of SMU students and alumni.

This experience has become a tradition — something incoming freshmen at SMU can’t wait to join in on. That’s why my fellow students are not thrilled with the boulevard move. I know my grandpa, a very active alumnus, is concerned about what will happen to his party, too.

“Being on the boulevard has become tradition. Once tradition has been established, why change it? When I found out that they were changing the location for getting together before the game, I was taken back and disappointed,” Ussery said. “For us, it’s not just boulevarding — it’s getting together with friends of old and reminiscing about great times of the past and watching SMU’s future in front of us.”

“My concern is,” said Ussery, “will the excitement of game day be diminished?”

Analysis of the history and philosophy of free speech: Do whatever the hell you want

My mother has always told me that “you can’t please everyone.” It’s a part of human nature to develop opinions about people and ideas, even moments after one’s introduction to them. Humans are biologically manufactured to be survivors. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t know when a situation could be dangerous and result in our own harm. The fight or flight response is still ingrained in us all today — informing us how to judge a person or situation.

Because of our fight or flight responses and survivor-mold, people are going to judge you from the first moment they see you. It’s not necessarily a bad trait to have, considering it helps us stay alive — which is always good. However, humans are also emotional beings. Humans are distinct from any other animal, allowing us to form relationships that are far more than complex.

The Age of Enlightenment produced the philosophical movement of Romanticism, in which Immanuel Kant carried to nobility. Romanticism has a way of connecting the human features of survival and emotional expression. The movement essentially emphasized a heightened self-awareness to therefore improve society and the human condition.

Through studying the history and philosophy of free speech, I was able to interpret the bond between being a survivor and an emotional being. Romanticism does not lack a support for reality, but rather argues the perception of reality is contingent on the linking of intuition with factual knowledge. I recognized power in expressing freedom and creativity of the human spirit. I found logic in the web I discovered to be human interaction and our continuous evolution.

Being a social being is an experience, according to Romanticism. Some things cannot be studied — such as nature — and require the complexities of the human brain to decipher meaning, feeling and significance. It is philosophically rather difficult to define morality; but humans know that it exists because we feel it. In Kant’s opinion, humans do not directly see “things-in-themselves;” we only understand the world through our human point of view.

Why is Romanticism so important to me following my studies? Since adolescence, I have been an outsider. Don’t go start feeling bad for me, though, because I am so much better off understanding the insubstantial qualities of people’s judgments and perceptions.

I have been told that I am exactly the way I was when I was two-years-old. I didn’t want to play silly games with other kids my age; instead, I wanted to go explore and learn things on my own. Now, eighteen years have passed, and I remain the same viciously independent force to be reckoned with. I have never done something or believed something just because someone told me to. I have had to figure things out on my own, making a multitude of mistakes along the way, to be able to tell you today that I am overwhelmingly satisfied with who I am and my ability to never change for reasons I find insufficient.

In elementary and middle school, all these girls tried with all their might to bully me. Literally. Imagine the Big Bad Wolf trying to bully me down to nothingness rather than huffing and puffing the three little pigs’ houses down. Spoiler alert: I never budged.

When others may choose “flight,” I choose to not necessarily fight, but to not change an absolute thing. Perhaps that’s the same thing as fighting — that I am still unsure about. Alas, all my bullies went away. That is, they went away until I became a young adult in college.

In college, I have been commended by my professors and others for my sense of pride and confidence I have within my own existence. I have, too, been told I am intimidating because my beliefs don’t waver. I have been belittled and questioned for my unwillingness to “play the game.” It isn’t that I wish to defy social norms or go against authority. It also isn’t that I lack any form of self-consciousness. It is merely because I have been shown time and time again throughout my experiences that I am the way I am. I cannot change my image, increase my speed of learning new information, or suddenly become a mathematician. I can, however, take small steps every day to further my understanding of the world around me and the way people interact within it. I wouldn’t mind being remembered for my utter stubbornness as long as it means I’m not remembered for trying so hard to be like someone else. Every person in power started as a nobody whom everyone loved to hate, criticize and question.

The history and philosophy of free speech has strengthened my view that one must hold on to their opinions with all their might, no matter how hard people try to change them. Elijah P. Lovejoy was an abolitionist and journalist who died for what he believed in. If you’re not willing to die for what to believe in, you become just another person in a herd of cattle. Benjamin Franklin said everything will offend someone. If no one is perfect and all-pleasing, why would I ever consider transforming into a fraud who lets her views change to be accepted by society? The most famous philosophers demanded for freedom of speech and expression. I am simply practicing those rights.

I’ve always said: if I am not myself, then I am no one. The greatest of philosophers I have studied were excommunicated, killed, beaten, harassed and critiqued for their views. The thing is, though, we’re still studying them today because they never let anyone sway their views.

If everything in this world is up for interpretation, then I will interpret my survival skills and emotional nature every single day — strengthening my knowledge of not only myself but the rest of the world. I am no longer an outsider. I am a steadfast and hungry vacuum for understanding. Even if I were still an outsider, I’d be an outsider that knows she’s an outsider. I never want someone to tell me to play along and follow the most travelled road. I want to be told to run to experiences and have even the slightest chance of discovering something new.

You don’t like my clothes? You don’t like my hair, my makeup, the way I support the LGBTQ+ community, pro-choice, or one’s decision to not follow a singular religious theory? That’s just alright. If I die tomorrow, I know it’ll be me that’s dying and not a cookie-cutter version of billions of people that inhabit this planet. So, at this point, I thank the history and philosophy of free speech for encouraging me to trust my intuition and seek out knowledge through my own experiences instead of accepting someone’s word; and that I will take to the grave.

Come at me now, Big Bad Wolf.

Jewish Wedding Trends for 2019

Planning a wedding is hard enough as it is but having to remember all the Jewish wedding traditions complicates things even more. Recently, couples have started adapting those traditions to suit their own dreams for their special day. Couples have evolved from die-hard traditionalists to aspiring trend-setters.

When making your very long list of things to do to tie the knot, you might want to start with assessing how you wish to blend Jewish tradition with contemporary pizzazz. Which traditions do you want to keep, you know, traditional, and which things would you like to add a special touch to?

Randi Steinhart, certified special event professional for RS Event Productions, has found recent wedding trends to revolve around saving an extra buck and unique branding for the bride and groom.

“Their names or initials [are printed] on everything from cocktail napkins, dance floors, bar fronts, walls and mirrors,” Steinhart said. “I’ve produced a lot of different styles of weddings and each has their own uniqueness designed with the bride and groom in mind.”

While keeping up with the times, Jewish brides and grooms add their trendy touches throughout their otherwise traditional Jewish weddings. After all, weddings are all about the bride … yes – and the groom.

Steinhart’s clients haven’t strayed too far from the traditional Jewish wedding. The events may incorporate different music genres to suit the happy couple or less flowers than you may imagine in order to stay within a smaller budget.

Jennifer Hines, special event professional for Tie A Bow Event Planning, has found similar trend-setting at weddings for her clients.

Hines has noticed weddings becoming more tailored to the digital age with wedding websites full of all the necessary information and digital invitations. Although she was quite surprised to find so many couples not wanting to send out paper invites, she’s intrigued to see the world of weddings evolving and moving online just like many other things. However, one can only hope brides stick to going to a bridal store to “say yes to the dress” instead of ordering online.

A Jewish wedding is still a Jewish wedding though. Hines said there’s no bigger and rowdier party than an Orthodox wedding. If you ever have the privilege to attend such an event, be sure to pay attention to every magnificent detail because you’ll never see a better party.

Keeping with tradition, you’ll still find kosher catering at Jewish weddings along with quite modest wedding dresses during the ceremony. The ceremony is the most structured and specific aspect of a Jewish wedding; and when you get to have a look at the rings, you’ll notice they still meet all the requirements for Jewish wedding rings.

On that note, you’ll find all the trendy and unique touches at the reception – the real party. Having a band is the standard, but many couples have switched to hiring a DJ to supply the tunes and keeping the party more casual.

Other big changes you may observe are the venues being chosen. Several years ago, every hotel would be booked during wedding season; but, now, venues have become the best way for a couple to plan a wedding that matches their personalities.

Weddings have moved away from hotels, churches and temples to venues designed for weddings that allow for the creation of a distinctive setting.

“Venues are very turnkey,” Hines said, “They’re made for weddings and reflect the bride and groom’s vision. Venues set the tone.”

This makes a lot of sense when considering how much effort a couple has to put forth to create their desired setting in a hotel ballroom. A venue is creative, more stylized and more special. A couple can decide on anything from a barn to a garden to a warehouse.

Additionally, Ruth Spirer, certified wedding planner for Weddings and Events by Ruth, has seen her own set of changes in the world of weddings. Couples have been leaning toward incorporating Orthodox traditions such as their separate, pre-ceremony receptions, “Tisch” and “Bedeken.”

Spirer says that “couples are adding important heirlooms into their Chuppahs such as a grandfather’s Talit or a grandmother’s dress.”

She works on a mix of Orthodox and Reform or relaxed weddings, finding increasingly popular reception additions at them all. Food stations are being chosen compared to plated meals or buffets; fun desserts are popping up along with the traditional cake; and, the sentimental, personal “first look” moment before the ceremony, showing the groom seeing his bride in her gown for the first time, are now trendy.

“The emphasis is on fun and [having] a party-atmosphere,” Spirer said.

You’ll find a lot of differences between the weddings you attend, as Randi Steinhart, Jennifer Hines and Ruth Spirer have described, but at least you know to expect a traditional ceremony at a Jewish wedding and one heck of a party that follows.

Today’s Jewish wedding trends showcase the bride and groom and what sets them apart from other couples. Unique touches will continue to be added to weddings, and you’ll just have to wait and see what people come up with next.