St. Stephen’s Church: A sacred Kennedy institution

St. Stephen's Church, in Boston's North End.
St. Stephen’s Church, in Boston’s North End.

BOSTON — St. Stephen’s church, a white-trimmed brick building in the heart of Boston’s North End, is quiet for a Sunday afternoon. The morning Eucharist began at 10:30 a.m., and the congregation has dispersed by 1 p.m. Tourists stroll past the doors and notice, among the many plaques the line the brick walls of the entrance, a small metal plate in the corner. It reads:

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

July 22, 1890 – January 22, 1995

(…)

“… the most important element in human life is faith.” Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

In Memory of Our Founder – Ace of Clubs

                “Oh, Rose Kennedy was baptized here!” One after another murmurs. The fellow tourists nod, and they wander into the Paul Revere Mall across Hanover Street, following the red bricks of the Freedom Trail to the grandiose Old North Church.

Inside, the church is empty. Hymns play from small white speakers mounted on the columns that neighbor long, creaky pews. Two silver chandeliers hang, unlit, and service pamphlets still sit at the back of the church, near an altar.

The occasional tourist strolls in, reads about the historic significance of the church on more plaques, and strolls out again. For a church with so much history, the interior looks polished and modern (thanks to a renovation authorized by Cardinal Richard Cushing in 1964). The air smells faintly musty, so faintly that this reporter cannot tell whether the smell is just imaginary, expected of a place so old, where Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy sat and worshiped with her family throughout a century of services.

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's memorial plaque.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy’s memorial plaque.

Kennedy began her religious life here in 1890, daughter of parishioner and Boston mayor John Fitzgerald. She came back to St. Stephens with her family, and she and her daughters were spotted at Sunday service by congregation members throughout her long life. She often publicly spoke about her fierce Catholic faith, and wrote about her religious inclinations in her autobiography and personal journals.

After returning to Boston from college, Kennedy founded the Ace of Clubs, a Catholic women’s organization, in 1910.  The club still meets today, and celebrated their 100th season two years ago. Her son, Senator Edward Kennedy, used “Ace of Clubs” as a code for correspondence, according to The Boston Globe. He told former St. Stephen’s reverend Kevin Hays that, if the priest ever needed help, he should give one of his staff a letter with “Ace of Clubs” written clearly on the front – the staff would then give Kennedy the letter immediately. The engraving on her memorial alludes to her Ace of Clubs quietly, fitting for the secrecy of the institution.

She returned to the church for the last time in 1995, when her family mourned her passing in a Mass of Resurrection. Various

St. Stephen's, from the neighboring Paul Revere Mall.
St. Stephen’s, from the neighboring Paul Revere Mall.

grieving politicians, celebrities and fellow Kennedy family members attended the funeral, and Kennedy admirers and community members gathered outside the church to listen to the service. Rena Buccino, an 86-year-old North End resident, stood outside the church on that cold January morning.

“It was a very engaging service, very emotional,” Buccino said.  “It was effective because the family was very sociable – after the service, they went to corner store to get coffee, dessert, whatever, and then they carried on in their limousines.”

Almost 19 years later, no one gathers outside St. Stephens, but the quiet seems to suit the famously self-effacing, stoic matriarch. Outside, the air smells sweet, like fried dough, perhaps from the Italian restaurant next door. More tourists pass, and note the plaque. One man, in particular, lingers near the memorial.

“Do you remember when she passed?” this reporter asks.

“Not particularly,” he responds. “But I remember her.”

Marty Walsh pulls a narrow win, Connolly gives “full support”

Marty Walsh pulls a narrow win, Connolly gives “full support”

By Brooke Jackson-Glidden

BOSTON — State representative Martin J. Walsh narrowly played the underdog Tuesday night when he beat City Councilor John Connolly in the Boston mayoral race by three percentage points, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

At 10:15 p.m., Marty Walsh was elected with 51 percent of the vote, Connolly with 48 percent.

Walsh’s preached a narrative of inclusion after the serenade by the Dropkick Murphy’s at 10:45 p.m. Echoing the promises he made on the campaign trail, Walsh promised to improve conditions for all of Boston, including the working class and other marginalized groups.

“Stand by me because I’m ready to stand and work with you,” Walsh said in his victory speech.

Walsh also thanked his family, friends and the entire city of Boston, even those who voted against him in the election.

“We are one Boston,” Walsh said.

A very civil election overall, Walsh had only kind words for his opponent Connolly.

“John [Connolly] cares deeply about his people,” Walsh said. “I know he’ll continue to serve our city in many ways.”

Connolly, similarly, expressed no hard feelings toward Walsh, calling him a “good man” in his concession speech.

“[Walsh] wants to do good things for Boston, and he will do good things for Boston,” Connolly said. “He has my full support.”

National Coming Out Day: Positive, Privileged, or Problematic?

National Coming Out Day: Positive, Privileged or Problematic?

By: Brooke Jackson-Glidden

BOSTON – Members of the LGBT community knocked down the closet door on Oct. 11 for the 25th-annual National Coming Out Day. This holiday celebrates the individuals who publicly announced their sexualities in hope of moving the general public toward a more accepting and tolerant community. However, a growing population of activists are rejecting the idea of a “coming out day,” claiming the concept of coming out is exclusionary, unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

Twenty-five years ago, gay rights activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary founded Coming Out Day. To them, the day represented an important moment of unity within the LGBT community and its allies, but even more so, it represented a rejection of the “closet:” a painful, emotionally starved state of being, in which gay individuals cannot be honest with others (or themselves) about their true sexuality. The Human Rights Campaign, which now organizes the holiday, chose the theme “Coming Out Still Matters” for the 25th anniversary – as in, coming out still matters not only for the emotional benefit of the LGBT individual, but also for the benefit of overall society.

“Twenty-five years later, visibility is just as important,” said Candace Gingrich, associate director for youth and campus engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, in a phone interview. “We know that someone who knows someone who’s queer is more likely to understand the issues, to be supportive, that kind of stuff.”

But for the “queer” movement, the idea of visibility seems less than ideal, and the idea of coming out for the benefit of straight understanding seems just as oppressive as the metaphorical closet.

The term queer, which is a term used to describe anyone who identifies as “not straight” (gay, transgender, bisexual, etc.) arose as a way for certain members of the LGBT community to not classify their sexualities – in other words, to keep, in their eyes, a modicum of privacy regarding sexual preference. These queer-identified individuals saw the “closet” as not necessarily a prison, but rather a way to stay safe or stay private.

“There’s this sort of entitlement about knowing private things about others in our society,” said Daniela Amaya, a queer activist with Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism. “People don’t get things like sexuality or gender are actually really private for some people.”

Beyond just personal preference, the pressure to come out can be dangerous for a large portion of the queer community, especially in less accepting and more violent areas. In the eyes of many queer activists, the pressure to “come out” for the benefit of overall society trivializes the danger many closeted individuals face.

“Fifty years ago, coming out almost anywhere was really frowned upon, more so in some places than others,” said Bridget Daley, vice president of the Feminist Collective at Boston University and a queer activist. “But now that it’s much more mainstream in America and the UK, it’s more divided from countries where, you know, you’re incapable of coming out altogether because of how your country deals with homosexuality or any other sexuality that differs from heterosexuality.”

The queer movement emerged around the time of National Coming Out Day’s founding, with a group of radical thinkers and academics (like former Boston University professor Eve Sedgwick) who believed that the mainstream gay movement preached “assimilation” into heterosexual society at the cost of queer culture and liberation.

“On my understanding of the difference between a queer activism and LGBT activism, a queer activist tries to destroy problematic institutions, while LGBT activists try to broaden institutions to include those they previously excluded,” said C.J. Queirolo, Editor-in-Chief of the Washington-based queer magazine Wetlands, in a phone interview.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is a classic example of a queer activist. A trans woman and author of several award-winning books, Sycamore rejects the idea that assimilation is a good thing for the queer community.

“The mainstream gay movement is fighting for the most privileged, so all the resources — by that I mean financial, intellectual, creative, and just the energy of the movement in general — have shifted away from those who need them the most,” Sycamore said in a phone interview.

Using the example of gay marriage, Sycamore argued that activists should not fight for the ability for gay couples to get married but rather fix the problems within the institution itself, for instance through the removal of privileges that married couples have legally or socially.

So how does this relate to National Coming Out Day? The queer movement argues that by urging queer individuals to come out, the mainstream gay movement is sacrificing the personal choices of queer individuals to improve, not fix, conditions within straight society – in other words, it’s ignoring the systemic problems (for instance, the idea that everyone is “assumed straight”) in favor of inclusion. For many queer activists, coming out should be in the hands of the individual, whether that person wants to stay private, come out for personal reasons or use coming out as a queer political tool.

“I think LGBT activists broadening these institutions to include marginalized groups is an admirable goal, but I think a more admirable goal would be to broaden these institutions not for the sake of assimilation into straight society but for the development of a more queer society,” Queirolo said.

The Human Rights Campaign still maintains that National Coming Out Day should be seen as an inclusive day for the entire queer community, and that closeted LGBT individuals should try to stay safe. Nonetheless, the organization insists that the solution to the problem of LGBT persecution is still exposure.

“Any time I talk about coming out, or any time HRC talks about coming out, we acknowledge that it’s still a risk,” Gingrich said. “Of course, the more people who know people who are queer, the further along we get in the work toward our equality, but we don’t want that to come at anyone’s expense. We want everyone to be able to be their authentic selves, in whatever state that they’re in, but we also recognize that that’s not always possible.”

For many activists, National Coming Out Day is not necessarily all good or bad – for some, it’s a question of definition.

“I think [National Coming Out Day] existing as a day intended to celebrate the people who have come out and celebrate their experience of being able to say who you are and speak openly about who you are, it’s fantastic,” said Krisitin Russo, award-winning LGBTQ advice blogger of Everyone Is Gay, in a phone interview. But she cautions, “I feel like its general interpretation in the world is as a day when you should come out (…) For some people who see that as a pressure, that’s not a good thing.”

Although the overall validity of National Coming Out Day is in question, for many queer youth, it is still a personal moment of positive reflection. Amaya celebrates National Coming Out Day as a moment of self-love.

“I know that for me, [NCOD is] a reminder of accepting myself and feeling comfortable and safe enough to share that with the people that I care about,” Amaya said.

Emerson College takes steps in the right direction after sexual assault complaints, BARCC says

Emerson takes steps in the right direction after sexual assault complaints, BARCC says

By: Brooke Jackson-Glidden

BOSTON — Emerson College’s administration released a new plan of action for survivor support and assault prevention yesterday after students filed an official complaint with the Department of Education last week. The plan involves the creation of a “sexual assault advocate” position for students, among other changes to the current response plan.

Meg Bossong, manager of community engagement of the Boston Rape Crisis Center, commended Emerson president Lee Pelton for the “promptness and gravity” of the campus-wide email he sent yesterday, in which Pelton detailed the plan and apologized for the response of the university in the past.

“I think, without delving into the details of the plan, it’s really important that the leadership of a university make a clear statement about the campus response to sexual assault,” Bossong said.

In particular, Bossong considers having one person as an expert or resource for [survivors] “a hallmark” of sexual assault prevention plans in universities.

The university will hold campus community meetings about developing a safe environment on campus in the future.

 

Bay-area journalist Kira Klapper faked it until she made it

Kira Klapper speaks to BU journalism students.
Kira Klapper speaks to BU journalism students.

California newswoman Kira Klapper doesn’t sleep often. But that’s not news.

During her typical news day as a reporter for ABC-7 in the Bay Area, Klapper wakes up at 1 a.m., arrives at work at 3 a.m. and goes on the air by 4:30 a.m. with a smile and a story. She’s become a professional insomniac, dedicating the free time she has to her husband and friends as opposed to the sleep most human beings need to survive. Don’t call her a superwoman, however – it’s all a part of her job.

Just returning from a month of unpaid vacation, Klapper visited her alma mater when she spoke to BU College of Communication students in a class on Tuesday. Her nails are meticulously trimmed, curls tumble down her shoulders with no hair out of place, and her eyebrows, which jump with exuberance as she discusses her life as a broadcast journalist, are beautifully shaped and carefully groomed – eternally camera ready. As she rejects the compliments she receives for her appearance with the wave of one manicured hand, she brushes any praise for her work with the other, even after she climbed the broadcast journalism to a high-profile Bay Area news station seven years after graduation. Klapper refuses to swell with pride and, in her own words, fakes it until she makes it.

Klapper returned to Los Angeles after graduating from Boston University with no resume reel (the hard drive containing four years of her college work was stolen from her apartment while she lived in Boston), but that didn’t stop her from moving forward. The young clapper found a position at ABC-7 as a production assistant, filming her own versions of stories as she shadowed reporters in her free time.  Soon, she had a full reel and could move from behind the scenes in the San Francisco area to on air in the thrilling …Mankato, Minn., where she worked for nine months as a “one-man band”: She did her own camerawork and stood in front of the camera itself, writing stories as they came and learning on the job.  From Mankato she moved to sunny Santa Barbara, Calif., where she anchored for the morning broadcast for two years, worked for a brief stint in Chico, Calif. as an evening anchor, before moving back to ABC-7 as a reporter and fill-in anchor.

Now, Klapper has returned to her roots, running to the scene when the news happens. For instance, in the case of a fire: Before she goes on air, she rarely gets a quote from the policemen or firemen, so she scans the scene for the story herself. She checks to see if other homes appear damaged, how people react to the fire, etc., and simply describes the scene. In other words, she fakes it until she makes it.

“You learn to be very observant,” she said.

But if Klapper had her choice of stories, she would report on the good news, not the bad.

“I like to cover the happy stories,” she said. “They’re so rare.”

A particularly happy story, Klapper remembered, was about Dan Jones,  man in Northern California who sent two tickets to the Oakland zoo in a bottle. A homeless man picked up the bottle and told the man that he didn’t want tickets to the zoo — he wanted a meal. Jones went beyond a simple plate of food, and, with the help of his community, gave the man new shoes, warm clothes and a bicycle, as well as something to eat.

“You feel very blessed when people let you into their homes to let you tell them what’s happening in their community,” Klapper said of broadcast reporting. “It’s a privilege.”

‘The Coat Route’: A map of bespoke around the world

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Meg Lukins-Noonan speaks to BU College of Communication students on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of: Isabel Schooler

The Coat Route: A map of bespoke around the world

By: Brooke Jackson-Glidden

Travel writer Meg Lukens Noonan was waiting in a small boutique in Florence when ”a bear of a man” with bouncing, shoulder-length curls glided into the room and sighed, “Meg Lukeeeeens.” Illustrious silk designer Stefano Ricci, or “the Maestro,” as Lukens-Noonan referred to him [in the myriad emails she sent his assistant,] had agreed to meet Lukens-Noonan without fully understanding why they had decided to meet.

Regardless, he welcomed her into the world of the lavish with trips to Lake Como to see Ricci’s silk screening center and dinners with Russian diplomats. If Noonan were to write about luxury, the luxury of the best materials, meticulous hand-stitching, world travel and one $50,000 coat, she would have to learn what it meant first-hand.

But before all of the dinners, the trips into the shops of Parisian cloth merchants and the melancholy English  button-makers and Peruvian vicuna shearing, Noonan found a $50,000 navy overcoat online.

“I was thinking about this idea, that people in the most remote places imaginable could make things that are considered the ultimate luxury,” Noonan said. So with a simple google search, she found tailor John Cutler, his client Keith Lambert and the piece of lush outerwear.

With a few emails and the arduous process of writing a book proposal, the freelancer began her journey around the planet,  crafting an impeccably designed and constructed narrative for her first book in twenty years: The Coat Route, which hit shelves last July.

Noonan began in Vancouver, B.C., to meet Lambert and see the famous coat. Then, she followed the creation of the coat to Peru, where she saw the ceremonial and rare shearing of the vicuna, a camelid (similar to an alpaca) who is sheared only once every three years. From there, she went to London to see the famous bespoke tailors of Savile row, to Paris to observe the high-end fabric house, and the Midlands in England to meet the button-maker for the Cutler coat. After her visit with the Maestro, she ended her trip in Sydney, with the man who brought it all together.

“People say, ‘A $50,000 coat? That’s obscene!’” Lukens-Noonan said. “But it’s because people like Keith Lambert exist that people with these obscure trades can continue. I don’t begrudge these people… It’s almost as if you would buy a painting as they would buy a suit.”

Chinese government to shame cities into reducing air pollution

Chinese government to shame cities into reducing air pollution

By Brooke Jackson-Glidden

BEIJING — The Chinese government will attempt to shame the seven most air-polluted cities into reducing their overall emissions to cap the record-breaking pollution levels.

Vice Premier Zhang Gao Li told the 18th Air Pollution Control Conference in a statement that this environmental crisis could deter the social and economic growth of China overall, beyond the devastating health and ecological risks.

And the ecological risks are great: A recent report by the Asian Development Bank showed that seven of the 10 most polluted cities in the world were in China. The study surfaced a year after the Chinese capital reported China’s air pollution levels broke the record for worst air pollution levels in recorded history.

“China is now realizing that they have really got to clean up the air, because it’s making the population suffer,” said Professor Nathan Phillips, a BU professor of Earth and Environment. “In cities like Beijing, people are concerned for their children, for their babies.”

Not everyone is optimistic that China’s claim will prove successful, however.

“This will do absolutely nothing to address the problems that China faces,” said Professor Joseph Fewsmith, a BU Professor of International Relations with a specialization in Chinese domestic politics. He, among other BU professors, believes the government could lower China’s overall carbon footprint with a stricter policy from the top.

“The way things are done in China is from the top down,” said Professor Peter Rand, a BU journalism professor who has written extensively on Chinese politics and translates Chinese works. “The party has to usually punish in some effective way that will make them do what they want them to do.”

“I do think that they might actually do something in some of the worst cities, like Beijing,” Fewsmith said. He recalled the public outcry regarding air quality in the capital on his last visit. “I could imagine the leadership taking some fairly serious steps to do that, but that would go way beyond shaming.”