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March 17, 2017 - Image 4

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s we drove down Carpenter
Street in the Binghampton
neighborhood of Memphis,


in royal purple polos
and khakis flooded the
sidewalk as school let
out for the day. Their

on their backs as they
crossed the street to the
Carpenter Art Garden,
a lively purple house
with a yard full of large,
painted, wooden hearts.
Our tour guide, Noah
Gray, the executive director
of the Binghampton Development
Corporation, explained they were
part of a Valentine’s Day craft. The
same hearts were speckled around
the neighborhood, the children’s
colorful masterpieces proudly on
display in nearly every yard down
the street. It was the picture of
a loving, vibrant community.
Though poverty levels and crime
rates in Binghampton remain
high, it was hard to believe people
avoided even driving through it
about a decade ago.

Over Spring Break, six students

and I visited Memphis with a
global health and design student

Health Engineered for All Lives to
serve the city — a destination that my
mother constantly worried about.
All she knew was that Memphis
ranks as one of the most dangerous
cities in the United States, and
that statistic was enough for her to
imagine a blighted, desolate ghetto.
She’s not alone in this thinking.
Media and statistics have framed
Memphis — and similar cities of
highly concentrated poverty and
racial minorities, such as Detroit
— as dangerous, drug-ridden and
to be avoided. It was a perception
that I, admittedly, shared before
a week in the city showed me just
how inaccurate and unfair the
stigmas attached to Memphis are.
In seven short days, my impressions


One of the goals of Serve901, an

organization we worked with in
Memphis, is to educate outsiders on
the history of Memphis and to erase
the negative stigmas attached to the
city, and they surely did just that.
We learned from many residents
that Memphis was once primed
to be the “New York City of the
South” until yellow fever struck and
wealthy, white residents fled to the
suburbs, leaving behind a population
that was predominantly poor and
Black. Institutionalized segregation,
perpetuated by years of systemic

African Americans in certain

such as Binghampton and Orange
Mound. Needless to say, Memphis
did not become the Big Apple of
the South and instead garnered
a reputation as a city falling apart
at the seams.

However, what the statistics

and media fail to show is all the
wonderful change that is happening
in Memphis.

One of the largest problems

in Memphis is food scarcity, a
phenomenon in which people living
in an area do not have regular access

to healthy food, either because they
cannot afford it or because grocery
stores are too far away and there are

no transit options, such
as bus lines or access
to cars. For example,
the historic Orange
Mound neighborhood
of Memphis is a USDA-
classified urban food
desert, because most of
its residents do not own
cars and often have to
choose between paying
rent and buying food.


serious problem in his

community, resident Mike Minnis,
whose wife was born and raised in
Orange Mound, started Landmark
Farmers Market, an urban farming
operation and food kitchen in the
middle of the neighborhood. Now,
residents of Orange Mound can
access affordable, healthy, fresh-
grown fruits and vegetables only a
short walk away. Minnis’s efforts
have even inspired others in the
neighborhood to start their own
gardens and take control of their
own health.

And it doesn’t stop there. With

intimate knowledge about the
exchange of information within
the families of the community,
Minnis plans to educate his
neighborhood on nutrition and
health education by way of
children’s comic books. Through
these simple yet genuine actions,
he is stirring tangible change in
the roots of his community.

The Binghampton Development

Corporation is another organization
that aims to combat food scarcity in
the Binghampton neighborhood.
Although Gray did not grow up
in Binghampton and thus hasn’t
experienced its problems firsthand,
he makes it a priority to engage
members of the community in
the BDC’s efforts by hiring them
or listening to their personal
testimonials. For example, after

Binghampton and discovering they
have to take multiple buses to get
to the nearest Kroger for groceries
— a trip that can take several hours
— the BDC began development
of a new plaza in the heart of the
neighborhood. When it is complete,
no resident will live more than a mile
away from a grocery store.

The BDC has also reshaped the

community in other substantial
ways, such as building parks in

rundown apartment complex into
a senior living center and opening
the Carpenter Art Garden. The Art
Garden houses a number of after-
school activities and clubs, allowing
the children of Binghampton to

carpentry, sewing, writing and
entrepreneurial skills that might’ve

listening to and engaging with
the community — rather than
coming in and assuming they
know best, as many “saviors”
of blighted neighborhoods do —
the BDC is proof that positive
change can happen quickly
when people are passionate
about their communities.


Montague is another figure who

has used his privilege for the
betterment of those not as fortunate.
Once a successful businessman
and computing analyst, Montague
used his money and expertise to
found the BDC. His latest endeavor,
Tech901, aims to confront the
shortage of IT talent in Memphis,
as well as the lack of diversity in the
field. By teaching young Memphians
how to code and equipping them

skills, Tech901 is making the future
of Memphis marketable. It would
be easy to make lots of money by
teaching programming classes in the
richer suburbs of Memphis, but by
investing in people in the inner city,
Tech901 is investing in its future.


the BDC and Tech901 are only
a handful of all the wonderful
organizations that are dedicated
to improving different aspects of
Memphis, and the more I saw, the
more I realized how mistaken my
initial impressions of the city were.
With the work of these community
organizers, Memphis is proving
its negative reputation wrong —
proving me wrong.

Many University of Michigan

students come from a place of
privilege and may feel far removed
from the problems in Memphis — or
even in Detroit, a mere 40 minutes
away — but as the people at the BDC
and Tech901 have demonstrated,
that is no excuse to ignore and avoid
the very real problems that are
happening. These organizations
recognized the problems within
these communities and made real
improvements by working with the
people living there. As University
students, we, too, can use our
privilege for good. Our education
has afforded us knowledge, skills
and resources that would be well-
spent helping a population that
doesn’t have the same privileges.

And we don’t have to wait


making a positive impact; even
as undergraduates, there are
a number of resources at our
fingertips. M-HEAL is just one
fine example. Devoted to global
health, M-HEAL project teams
reach out to contacts in developing
countries to identify health needs
in those regions and design
solutions to the problem using all
the resources this University has to
offer. Through this design process,
we gain valuable experience in
engineering and global health, but
the focus of these projects is always
on the people we are hoping to
help. Through constant contact,
research and needs assessment
trips, we make sure we are always
catering to their needs, requests
and wishes, because when you’re
helping a city or country in
need, it’s really about helping
the people there.

As we finished our tour

of Binghampton, Gray said of
Memphians: “We do not love

Memphis is great because we love
it.” That love is so evident in all the
wonderful work they do, and it is
truly something to learn from and
aspire toward.


y friends know me to be
an inconsistent texter
at best, and I readily

admit that it’s not my
forte. The optimal way
to reach me is as simple
as it is surprisingly
intimate: call.

I’ve always loved

phone calls. When I was
younger, I memorized
my home number —
along with those of my
grandparents and my
(Gammy). Every night,
I’d sit in our small breakfast nook,
pick up the landline and chat with
Gammy. It was meaningful time.

I can’t recall what we talked

about, but I remember viscerally
that it brought me a great deal of joy.
I liked hearing her voice and having
a real conversation. My Gammy has
long since passed, but my impulse
to engage with others not directly
in my presence via phone has
persisted throughout my life.

When I was allowed to get an

AOL Instant Messager account, for
example, I always insisted on video
chatting with friends. It made the
interaction even more personal to
see whom I was talking with and
feel like their whole presence (as
opposed to just their voice) was
there in the room.

It’s why I love FaceTime so

much now. For those of you who
watch “Broad City,” FaceTime is
an integral part of the show. Its
main characters, Abbi and Ilana,
FaceTime each other no matter
the context. FaceTime feeds their
impulse to speak to one another
whenever they’re not together (and
sometimes, even when they are),
whether it’s from the street or a cab
or the bathroom.


University of Michigan psychology

personality and social contexts,
whether or not my tendency toward
phone calls and FaceTiming is
rooted deeper than individual
preference, and she explained

that “human beings are social
animals” for whom interpersonal
communication is as necessary as

food and water.



is limited in terms
of conveying deeper
and intimate feelings
and subtle nuanced
messages,” she wrote in
an email. “We can pick
up a lot more subtle but

about the other person
through different tone

of voices and facial expressions.
Through body languages, we can
communicate … (a) variety of subtle
messages that is not always easy to
convey in written words.”

The more extensive sensory

experience of voice-to-voice and
face-to-face communication, Park
noted, “can make people feel closer
to one another.” Sounds right to me.
You can’t “ghost” someone when
they’re listening live on the other
end of the line. A phone call is an
investment: of time, of substance
and perhaps of emotion, to some
extent. Answering a phone call is
as active as making one; it means
that both parties actually want to
be part of it (for the most part). It’s
not a coincidence that I associate
phone calls with the strongest
relationships in my life.

Phone calls are how I check

in with my parents throughout
the week, and how I catch up
with my grandparents (albeit a
little less frequently). My sister
and I sometimes FaceTime in
silence while we do homework,

BuzzFeed quizzes and comparing
our results when we need a break.
It’s about the company, you know?

When I FaceTime non-college

buddies, it’s as much about talking
as it is about seeing what the other
person’s environment is and how
they occupy that space. What is
their normal? Their routine? What
does it look like? Sound like? How
is it different from (or the same as)

the space in which we interacted
in the past? Video chatting is so
special because physical separation
is bridged by literally bringing
another human being into my lived
experience (and vice versa).

And when folks aren’t around

to pick up the phone (or when I’m
not, for that matter), I’m thankful
for the documentary nature of
voicemail. Some people don’t listen
to voicemail, but I treasure it. My
mailbox is frequently full — in
part out of laziness, sure, but also
because I save certain messages
and re-listen to them.

Some are for laughs, like this

favorite from my sister: “Hello.
It’s me. Mom and Dad are being
weird again. Okay. Bye.” Others
have a deeper meaning. Last
January, while I was on the East
Coast as part of the Michigan

monumental blizzard hit D.C. one
weekend. I still have the voicemail
saved from my dad’s father, who
called to ask me about it. He died
over the summer, and every once
in a while, it’s nice to pull up that
message and hear his voice.


conversations serve a purpose,
and they’re not to be avoided.
Some of my funniest and most
memorable exchanges have been
via text, particularly in places
where speaking aloud would be
rude, frowned upon or altogether

powerful, and even more so when
it’s accompanied by visage. It’s
not a coincidence that I ran this
column by both my mother and a
high school friend via FaceTime
before I finished writing it.

Now that I’m graduating, I’m

cognizant of the fact that my
college friends will be added to
the list of people who are spread
across parts of the country
where I am not. So a heads-up:
expect frequent FaceTime calls
from this guy.

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
4 — Friday, March 17, 2017


Managing Editor

420 Maynard St.

Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan since 1890.


Editor in Chief



Editorial Page Editors

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily’s Editorial Board.

All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.

Carolyn Ayaub
Megan Burns

Samantha Goldstein

Caitlin Heenan
Jeremy Kaplan

Sarah Khan
Max Lubell

Alexis Megdanoff
Madeline Nowicki
Anna Polumbo-Levy

Jason Rowland

Ali Safawi

Kevin Sweitzer

Rebecca Tarnopol

Stephanie Trierweiler


Phone call fanaticism


Using privilege for good


Ashely Zhang can be reached at


Michael Sugerman can be reached

at mrsugs@umich.edu.



ecently, a student-written
article titled “My Child
Will Not Be Allowed to Be

Transgender” has been popping
up on my social media. From one
student to another, here’s my

This is about to be a critical

response, but I want to level with
you first. I admire your desire
to do the best for your future
children. I do. As someone who
works in a family psychological
clinic, I love seeing people who
want to do the right thing for
their children — who want to sing
to them, care for them and make
them happy. I have no doubt that
you will love your children.

But here’s the thing that most

people don’t want to acknowledge:
From those who do all the “right”
things to those who commit abuse
or neglect, a vast majority of parents
love their children. Loving your
children does not mean that you
cannot, or will not, hurt them. So, I
ask you to be vigilant in evaluating
your behavior; do not fall into
the trap of believing that doing
something out of love means that it
is the best thing to do for your child.

With that said, let’s get into it.
I want to believe you truly love

and respect transgender and other
LGBTQ people as you say you do,
but after reading your article, I find
it hard to do so. This is the message
that your article gives off: I love you
and respect you, but your existence
is invalid. I love you and respect
you, but you are a flawed human
being. I love you and respect you,
but you are sick. I love you and
respect you, but you cannot be who
you are unless it is in a way that I
deem acceptable.

That’s not how love and respect

work. You cannot say you respect

their existence and trivialize their
identity to a simple “decision.”
And what message does it send
to say I love you, but I would not
let someone who is “closest to my
heart” be like you?


I gather that you have two

transgender is against how God
intended us to be, and that being
transgender is a mental illness.
So, let’s talk about that.

“My children will always be the

ones closest to my heart, but this
does not mean that I will accept

their desire to be anything other
than who God made them as.”

Let me ask you a question: How

does one know what God intended
for them? Growing up Catholic,
I was taught that the Bible offers
insight into God’s will. In the
absence of an actual scriptural
reference, many religious people,
yourself included, argue that God
created man and woman and that
being transgender is wrong because
transgender people go against God’s
will by straying from that design. I
don’t buy that argument — mostly
because it reveals a misconception
of what it means to be transgender
in that it conflates identifying as
transgender with receiving gender
reassignment surgery.

Being transgender does not

mean that you will change your
biological sex; it just means that
you don’t identify with it. While
many people choose to have
gender reassignment surgery in
order to make their physical state
match their mental state, not all
transgender people do. Whether
they choose not to have surgery

age, lack of resources or simply
because they don’t feel a need to,
they are still transgender as long
as they experience a disconnect
between their biological sex and
their identified gender. It is
problematic, then, to argue that
being transgender is against
God’s will using a biologically

doesn’t reflect the reality of what
it means to be transgender.

It’s also important to note that if

we are basing gender on genitalia,
then it isn’t true that God only
created man and woman because
God also created intersex people,
who were born with ambiguous
genitalia. Many people who are
born intersex have a surgery
performed upon them, in which a
doctor changes their genitalia to
look more like a penis or a vagina. If
you are strongly opposed to surgery
that changes one’s genitals (like
gender reassignment surgery), then
you should probably be open to a
third gender — or else you would
have to allow intersex people to
choose whether to be a man or
woman regardless of the genitals
they were born with.

So perhaps God’s design isn’t all

that clear cut, Moriah. But even if
it isn’t ungodly to be transgender,
could you still be right that being

transgender means that you are
inherently sick or mentally ill?
Not quite.

“In my opinion, transgender

humans are suffering from a
mental illness, in a similar fashion
to those fighting sicknesses such as
anorexia and depression.”

Disorders like anorexia nervosa

and depression are described in
the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual, the manual clinicians
use to diagnose and treat their
patients. Transgenderism is not
described here. To equate being
transgender to having a mental
illness is a dangerous comparison
to make. We used to make
this comparison in regards to
homosexuality until the American
Psychological Association — with
the help of some tenacious activists
— realized how detrimental it is to
pathologize homosexuality.

To be fair, I could see how you

might be confused. A concept that
is related to being transgender
is in the DSM-5 under “gender
dysphoria,” which is described as
distress resulting from “a conflict
between a person’s physical or
assigned gender and the gender
with which he/she/they identify.”
But gender dysphoria is not an
identity, and it is not an inevitability.

Praying that your child will

suddenly feel like their penis or
vagina fits with their body isn’t
going to make gender dysphoria
go away. Taking your child to
conversion therapy that will try to
make them “accept” their biological
sex isn’t going to work either — in
fact, it can make it worse. There
are reasons why some states
have made conversion therapy
illegal and why the American
Psychological Association does not
support it: It can lead to higher rates
of depression, anxiety, drug use
and homelessness. Scariest of all?
Conversion therapy is correlated
with a higher number of suicide
attempts and completions. So
perhaps we should be focused
on making conversion therapy
illegal if we want what’s best for
LGBTQ youth.

By the way, do you know


people with gender dysphoria?

My child can be transgender


Anna Smith is an LSA senior.






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