Lights On, Peoria Discusses Community Activism

Lights On, Peoria Discusses Community Activism

by Alexander Martin

Click HERE for the full interview video.

Students participating in Peoria Public Schools’ “Lights On, Peoria” interviewed Alexander Martin. Martin is a member of the newly formed Peoria Guild of Black Artists, an arts activist, and has an MFA in printmaking from Bradley University.How does an artist make an impact oncommunity? 

The “Lights On, Peoria” program, funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Department of Education Climate Transformation, is designed to fill in gaps of support for Peoria high school students residing in the city’s Opportunity Zones.

The purpose of the grant is to ensure a safe and supportive school climate and includes funding for positive learning experiences. Due to COVID-19, “Lights On, Peoria” has adjusted to small group and virtual weekend activities, as well as mentoring and career exploration over Zoom.

Taking advantage of Peoria connections, students have explored careers in barbering and hair-braiding by interviewing Richwoods alum Robert Lamarr Randle Sr., now a Los Angeles-based barber, and Nicole Ward-Wallace, a hair stylist and braider, also based in Los Angeles.

The interviews are conducted by Peoria High School students Raven Johnson, Jaylin Sprattling, Macy Webster, Ashlyana Wright, and Amarion Young. Prior to the interviews, the students received public speaking training from Woodruff High School alum Teck Holmes, who has since established a successful career in television and film acting as well as coaching and mentoring students.

Other Zoom interviews have included a panel discussion with Top Chef finalists Eric Adjepong, Gregory Gourdet, and Justin Sutherland, and a conversation with actor Tristin May of MacGyver and the 

“Vampire Diaries.”

Giving Voice and Big Picture Initiative thank the “Lights On, Peoria” students, Peoria Public Schools, and Alexander Martin for sharing this opportunity and interview with the public.

How Diversity Empowers Us All

How Diversity Empowers Us All

by Anjali Yedavalli

The crowd gradually grows silent and the lights fade out. Then, the music swells again, and we run onstage dancing to A.R. Rahmen’s “Jai Ho,” and grip each other’s hands as we take a prideful bow. Another performance draws to a close.

I have been trained in Bharatanatyam for over a decade. It is a style of Indian classical dance that integrates intense facial expressions and sharp geometric movements to tell cultural stories. Bharatanatyam is best characterized by acute head and eye movements, intense stage makeup (including dark, thick eyeline), and colorful costume pieces. These costume pieces include a fan that elegantly spreads when the dancer sits in Aramandi (half-sitting pose), in which the knees are bent to ninety-degree angles and the back is aligned perpendicular to the ground.

Bharatnatyam dance academies have flourished in Peoria as the years have gone by, mostly a result of the ever-increasing South Asian population. Central Illinois has welcomed these diverse art forms into the community. As such, my Bharatanatyam school, Mythili Dance Academy, was enthusiastic to collaborate with other local dance troupes, including ballet schools, Middle Eastern dancers, and Chinese folk dancers to put on a series of multicultural theater productions.

The first show I danced in, Shakuntala: The Forgotten Ring (2014), was one of the first times I was exposed to Bharatanatyam in a professional setting. I remember watching in awe as the lead Bharatnatyam dancer remained steady in the half-sitting pose, her hand movements sharp and picturesque as if they were traced along a ruler. I had the opportunity to perfect my own Aramandi and hand movements in the next show, In the Shadow of the Swan (2016), especially after the cast was invited to perform a show in Dallas, Texas, by a local cultural organization. The fledgling dancer within me experienced great joy as I witnessed our diverse group of dancers board a plane—all of us waiting to tell a story to a city that had yet to see anything like it. It soon became clear that whether it was Peoria or Dallas, what audiences seemed to appreciate most about the shows was the way it widened their lens: a vibrant peek into various sectors of our diverse world.

Some of the most important takeaways from these experiences occurred during the time leading up to the performances. Just like the audience members, our dancers also had an opportunity to grow and learn. During rehearsals, each group of dancers would watch each other with great admiration. The ballet dancers would applaud the Bharatanatyam dancers’ traditional pieces, the Bharatanatyam dancers would ogle at the perfection of the Chinese folk dancers, and we would all stare in awe as the Middle Eastern dancers executed their choreography with finesse. There was an intimate sense of respect for each other as well as a sense of pride for our respective identities.

We can all find strength in embracing diversity and self-expression. Exposing ourselves to different ways of life, exploring various cultures, and even exploring our own identity is the greatest ways to learn about the world around us—whether we are onstage sharing the experience or sitting in the audience learning from it. For me, this means that I will never stop loving my style of dance, but I will also never stop admiring all other dance styles. For you, I hope it means that you actively seek out the experiences that allow you to see all these parts of the world pan out on a single stage—and the best part is, you don’t have to go very far to do it.

Learn more about Bharatanatyam and Mythili Dance Academy at

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.

The Lack of Uniformity Unites

The Lack of Uniformity Unites

by Adeline Ferolo

Eighteenth century Renaissance gowns swirl, paraded in front of potential suitors on the ballroom floor… Intricate threads dangling from flapper dresses swing in the haze of smoke to the rhythm of blistering music underneath the roaring streets of New York City… Baggy jeans, graphic t-shirts, and chunky gold chains bop alongside 80s American hip hop classics of Public Enemy and Run DMC…

These distinct moments within fashion represent the popular trends of those time periods. Styles and trends are often associated with certain political, religious, and social groups, and an individual can display their personal beliefs, morals, and values outwardly, leaving them to be interpreted by society. For instance, the flapper dress of the 1920s was considered a provocative and alluring outfit to wear. Considering the conservative political circumstances, with the Prohibition movement at its peak—outlawing the production and consumption of alcohol— wearing that style of dress was viewed as a rebellious act. The free-form structure and short length defied societal expectations of proper behavior for a woman. Additionally, the dress represented the younger generation’s resentment towards the political and social environment of the era.

Just as with the flapper dress, popular styles throughout history reflect the concerns, needs, and conflicts within a society. This idea is mirrored within 2020 as the intersection of race, politics, economics, and health, alongside other global issues, are plastered across all forms of social media and news outlets. Sentiments towards these topics are communicated through styles and trends, most directly observed through the various protests that have transpired throughout the world. Specifically, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have and continue to challenge the centuries of systemic oppression targeting Black people. Protesters wore no identifiable uniform but instead wore everyday clothing. In doing so, the protesters expressed their unique identities, often breaking stereotypes associated with their skin color, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender. While likely a subconscious act of defiance, it stands in stark contrast against the uniformed clothing that police and military personnel wore while confronting protesters. The presence of law enforcement officials looming behind cement barriers and SWAT shields often incited fear among protesters, perpetuating the oppression which disproportionately affects the Black community.

While no common article of clothing can identify a protester, graphic t-shirts proclaiming controversial or political messages do. This is especially evident in the campaigns of rivaling political parties for the presidential election. These shirts explicitly challenge the problems of society and are often worn by distinctive, passionate individuals. Additionally, these clothing items are gender neutral and financially accessible, dissolving economic and gender barriers. In the past, clothing articles indirectly represented a certain disposition towards a particular topic, just like the flapper dresses of the 1920s. Through these forms of expression, an opinion was inferred, but never explicitly addressed. In contrast, the screen printed words and images on graphic t-shirts directly state the anger, frustration, and desire for change that accompanies the year of 2020.

About Adeline Ferolo

Stories, arguably, are the most underrated form of currency that floods the digital world, through highlighted Instagram posts and viral YouTube videos. As a rising senior at Richwoods High School, Adeline Ferolo aims to express herself and the issues closest to her authentically through engaging, storytelling, and other mediums. She is a competitively academic student. Her interests range across many creative outlets—as an active writer for the Richwoods Shield, the monthly school newspaper, and as a contributor to the youth-led blog EnviroWrite, which explores rising environmental concerns. Recently she has discovered her passion for the medium of film after attending the National High School Institute summer program at Northwestern University, where she had previously studied creative-intensive subjects ranging from sustainable architecture to graphic design. Within the past year, she has focused her efforts on exploring the visual medium in both her academic and personal life, opting to create experimental videos for class projects and continuing to explore different aspects of the visual language.

The Industry of Electronic Sports

The Industry of Electronic Sports

by Izaak Garcia

Over the thousands of years that they have been a part of human life, sports have been a cornerstone of entertainment and a test of strength, agility, and focus. From the calm greenscapes and peaceful waters of golf, to the rough and unforgiving field of football, sports are a testament to some of the greatest athletes of all time. With the turn of the century, a new definition of what a sport can be has emerged, surging in popularity across the globe.

As you walk through the entrance of the venue, the anticipation builds in your body. The roar of the crowd swells, filling up an entire basketball stadium as they watch their favorite team take a risk that pays off, all while hundreds of thousands, even millions watch from their phones, tablets, computers, and much more on a streaming app called Twitch. Characters flash on the screen, with their abilities initiating fights, and defending objectives. This is the world of Esports.

The industry of electronic sports has taken the world by storm, from its humble beginnings in small rooms with barely 100 people, to entire arenas filled to the brim with tens of thousands, and millions more watching on live streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube. The growth of Esports, especially in terms of revenue, has been exponential. The total amount of investment has skyrocketed since 2017, spiking from $490 million to a whopping $4.5 billion in just one year, with the year-over-year growth rate being over 800%.

But big investments aren’t the only thing that has contributed to this industry’s overwhelming surge in relevance. Not only are these Esports growing in terms of generated revenue, they are growing in size. Leagues and organizations have been formed, with different Esports teams popping up everywhere. The game “League of Legends” has some of the largest viewings in the Esports world. From that came the LCS, or League of Legends Championship Series, where teams formed by coaches, sponsors, and even companies can compete against each other for the title of Split Champion. Other Esports such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive and the Overwatch League have many sub-leagues in them, where lower tier teams can compete against each other for a chance to have players advance to the major leagues. From there, these players can join teams with enormous sponsorships and companies that back them, allowing them to form contracts that can amount to six figures or more. Some of the biggest Esports players in the industry, such as Yilian Peng (going by his username Doublelift), have secured sponsorships with Honda and even Marvel, showcasing the company logos on their jerseys.

The world of Esports is growing fast, with new teams being created every day and more people watching all the time. Pop culture is constantly shifting, but wave of electronic sports is something that will influence and impact generations to come.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a senior at Richwoods High School, enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program. After high school, Garcia plans to study Computer Science. He has played soccer with FC Peoria and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and Computer Science for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two total productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new coding languages, and video games.

Virtual Volunteering

Virtual Volunteering

by Trent Miles

Engaging in community service offers students an opportunity to become active members of their community. It also has a lasting positive effect on society as a whole. Community service or volunteerism helps students improve their life skills and gain valuable experience, while providing critical services to those who need it most. As Richwoods High School transitioned to remote learning in August of this year, so did its student organizations. The school’s student community service groups have been particularly successful finding creative ways to stay active, even though many of their members cannot participate due to the pandemic.

Seniors Brianna Convington and Hannah Srinivasan have been making positive strides in their community through organizational clubs. Covington, co-founder of the Richwoods Climate Change Club, is an avid advocate for climate awareness. When asked, “What are you stressing to your club right now in regard to climate change?” She answered, “Not to be sidetracked by world events. We cannot lose focus of the task at hand. We need to engage with students and faculty about what’s going on and how to prevent further damage to the Earth.” Covington says she is planning more virtual activities throughout the rest of the year and hopes to spark a change in her school’s opinion about the climate crisis.

Srinivasan, executive board member of the Interact Club, is working tirelessly to provide opportunities for students to help their community. The club’s members are youth aged 12-18 who want to connect with others in their community or school. They have fun while carrying out service projects and learning about the world. As a response to asking about Interact Club’s potential activities and plans for the year, Srinivasan said, “Since we are in a pandemic, it is hard for us to plan activities for students—but we are still continuing to support and donate to organizations like Operation Christmas Child and Peoria Rotary Club. I believe everything we are doing is impacting individuals who show up to meetings and care about being a positive change.”

There is a lot of good that can come from connecting on the internet. Online volunteering encourages you to devote your time virtually and make a positive difference, even if you can’t volunteer at a physical location. Check out my list below to learn about a few different ways you can help!

  1. UN Volunteers: If you want to take your volunteering worldwide, this is the place to start. UNV needs those with skills in science, writing, painting, design, and more. They connect you with organizations working for peace and development. Over 12,000 volunteers from 187 nations are now contributing their skills to organizations across the globe. Find out more here:
  2. Translators Without Borders: Check out this nonprofit that blends language skills with humanitarian assistance for those fluent in more than one language. Volunteers provide foreign organizations with translations (10 million words a year!) that concentrate on disaster relief, health, and education. Find out more here:
  3. DoSomething empowers young people both online and off to enact social reform. Volunteer online to help address real world challenges through one of their projects. Members of DoSomething have used the internet to effectively persuade Apple to diversify its emojis, urge style changes (ex., capitalizing “Black” when used in the context of race and culture), and create the first antibullying guide for crowdsourcing. Find out more here:

About Trent Miles

Trent Miles is a rising senior at Richwoods High School and has been working for Big Picture Initiative since May 2020. He is academically competitive and a well rounded student. Trent is the co- founder of his Richwood’s climate action club, Vice President of the Minority Academic Advancement Project, and a varsity tennis player. Outside of school, he is involved in Jack and Jill of America, where he served as the Central Region Teen Vice President in 2018. In his chapter he served as Vice President, Legislative Chair and Foundation Chair. Trent also runs his own environmental blog called “EnviroWrite,” which is a youth-run blog that seeks to innovate how we discuss and inform ourselves on environmental concerns. He has won 1st place in a Regional Best Hobby Exhibits competition and two Regional Alexander Pushkin writing competitions. He has contributed more than 800 hours of community service through various service projects including a winter wear drive, collecting toiletries, and even an educational African-American museum.

The Case for Community College

Art by Sophie Liu

The Case for 
Community College

by Jenin Mannaa

The fall of senior year is so idealized. Going into this year, I anticipated breezy weather, warm sweaters, and pumpkin-spiced lattes. Instead, I have been overwhelmed with college applications. Between managing high school and contemplating my future, the pumpkin spice lattes I was excited for have been replaced with loads of espresso.

I know I’m not alone in my obsession over the future. Every senior is facing their own proverbial fork in the road. Following high school, a student could move to Hollywood in hopes of making it on the big screen. Another student might pursue cosmetology, while another may choose to pursue higher education. The possibilities are endless.

Personally, I’m set on attending college, and traditionally a lot of students follow that route. But while navigating the finances involved in the college process, it dawned on me how blessed I was for the opportunity to pursue higher education. This realization made me recall an encounter I had with a friend who was facing a decision between a state university and community college.

She mentioned that she desperately did not want to attend community college. She felt as if her academic potential would be better suited to what she perceived as a more prestigious institute. Her embarrassment communicating that she didn’t have the money to fund her education upset me, and I realized that there are huge misconceptions surrounding community college.

Instead of thinking positively about community college as academically rigorous, convenient, and economically sound, parents and students stigmatize it. According to a survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling in 2018, greater than a quarter of individuals held “very stigmatized” views of community college transfers. What is ironic is that the level of stigma amongst those who work in college admissions was lower than 8%. If college officials are implying that there is little difference between a community college transfer and a first-year applicant, why are we so easily swayed by societal views? The pursuit of higher education is respectable regardless of the institute. A student attending a state university and a student attending community college both have the same desire to immerse themselves in academics. Why is one type of student praised and another shamed?

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to destigmatize community college. First, we have to acknowledge that individuals attending community college are not less intelligent than individuals attending a four-year institution. We also have to recognize the advantages of community college. The American Association of Community Colleges states that community college is 50% cheaper than four-year institutes. The smaller classroom sizes, the student support services, and the available programs are also huge advantages. Moreover, community colleges and universities are very similar, and students can easily transfer to universities once they have completed their associate degree.

As seniors, whatever path we decide to take should not be shaped by societal pressures. We need to support each other regardless of our personal decisions, because we are all scrambling to make a future for ourselves. Personally, I just hope I get to sit back and enjoy a pumpkin spice latte by next fall.

About Jenin Mannaa

Jenin Mannaa is a rising senior at Dunlap High School. Her stellar academic performance has granted her entrance to the National Honors Society at her school. Jenin has expressed her love for advocacy through her involvement on the Dunlap Speech Team as Junior and Senior Captain. Within speech, her primary goal has been expressing her identity as a Muslim American woman. Jenin attended IHSA State for Oratorical Declamation her junior year of high school. Within her speech team, she was also awarded Sophomore and Junior MVP. Jenin’s passion for the arts is evident through her involvement in Stage 323, where she was inducted in the International Thespian Society. She has also been involved in Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale, and Show Choir throughout her high school career. Moreover, her devotion to garnering support for ethnic minorities motivated Jenin to create Dunlap’s UNICEF Club, which educates students about the tribulations of underprivileged individuals in impoverished countries. Within UNICEF, she leads fundraisers, and within the first few months of the club she raised approximately $500. During her summers, Jenin has spent over 200 hours volunteering at the Unity-Point Methodist Hospital within the daycare or shadowing various doctors within Peoria.

Black Women are Mentally Tired

Black Women are Mentally Tired

by Kianna Goss

Being Black in America is tough—carrying the issues of police brutality, stereotypes, unequal opportunities, and other forms of oppression. Like many other Black women, I am mentally tired.

Usually I try to steer away from this stereotype of being the “angry Black woman.” This stereotype portrays African American women as “sassy” or “quick-tempered,” but the purpose of creating this is to silence Black women. However, I will no longer be silent because I have every right to be angry towards a society that does not protect Black women.

Just recently, on September 23, 2020, we watched as a grand jury refused to bring the charges against the officers involved in the murder of Breonna Taylor. Only one of three officers in Taylor’s case was charged, and he was merely indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree for the shots he fired into the neighbor’s apartment. He was not charged for Taylor’s death and was granted a $15,000 cash bond. Even as protesters, activists, and leaders marched and campaigned for justice for Breonna Taylor, the system failed our Black women once again.

Not only are our Black women tired of this repeated suffering of police brutality, we are also tired of society not believing our stories. When Black women experience traumatic events, we are silenced by a society that does not believe our stories. We often have to explain ourselves or be mocked in the media as “liars,” or we are accused of exaggerating. We fail to have a voice in a society that wants us to be silent.

In July 2020, the rapper Megan Thee Stallion was shot in the foot by Tory Lanez. When police arrived at the scene, Megan concealed the fact that Lanez shot her, blaming the wound on broken glass. She did so because she was worried that the police might begin shooting if they thought a gun was involved, thus protecting him. Later, around August of 2020, Megan broke her silence and openly talked about Tory shooting her in the foot on her social media. This was the first time Megan classified Lanez as her shooter.

On September 24, 2020, Lanez dropped an album gaslighting Megan Thee Stallion, denying that he shot her. Many fans and trolls were on social media making memes and harsh tweets making fun of Megan being shot. This was an incident where a Black woman is trying to protect a Black man from jail, but he failed to protect her. Lanez has since been charged in Megan Thee Stallion shooting and is facing two felony charges for assault with a semiautomatic firearm and carrying a loaded unregistered firearm in a vehicle.

As Black women, we are mentally exhausted of being the “protectors” and having no one to look after us. After so long you can’t continue being “the Strong Black woman” everyone expects you to be.

Do you know what’s it like to walk in the shoes of a black woman? I have to work twice as hard to prove that I belong in a professional setting. I have to watch my tone and dialect so I will not be perceived as sassy or uneducated. I have to be polite when I am being catcalled because men fail to take rejection and it could lead to death if I choose to ignore him. I must always smile—if not, people assume I am angry, even if I am happy, relaxed, or not showing any particular emotion. When the cops pull me over, my hands must stay where they can see them because I know my skin makes me a target.

So what can society do to protect Black women?

Start believing us, listen to our voices, educate yourself on our dialect, our hair, or our style. Get rid of the stereotypes that keep us from having equal power in institutions and society. Stop portraying us as the villain, but think of us as the creators, the empowered, and the leaders. If we want to heal the trauma behind Black women, we must eliminate our implicit biases and grapple with the idea that Black women need to be protected.

About Kianna Goss

Kianna Goss is a junior at Bradley University, majoring in journalism with a double minor in sociology and advertising with public relations. Community involvement requires the use of one’s voice; in Goss’s case, her voice, which she expresses through writing, is one of the strongest platforms she has. Being a Black woman, Goss often writes to give a voice to the Black community. In doing so, she gains control over a media narrative that portrays the Black community in a negative way. As a writer who expresses herself through many different forms expressions, she has written poetry, blogs, newspaper articles, and opinion pieces. She is always looking for more opportunities to grow as a writer and personally. Goss is involved in many organizations at Bradley University. She is currently the marketing/ communications director for Bradley’s Communication Agency, a peer mentor for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a writer for the student newspaper The Bradley Scout, and a caller at the Bradley Fund. Being able to explore her creativity is what Goss loves most about Bradley. The Communications department is molding her into the journalist she aspire to be.

Tickled Pink?

Tickled Pink?

by Kratika Tandon

Tina Fey’s character in the television show “30 Rock” was right: “Being a woman is the worst.” From the catcalls to the pay gap, mansplaining to periods, the over-sexualization to the inherent inability to open tight jars—it just can’t get any worse than this. Right? Think again. 

Introducing the “pink tax”: half of the population is subject to it, yet most don’t even know of its existence. The pink tax is the practice of charging more for products marketed towards women. The phenomenon is a form of gender-based price discrimination, and the name comes from the observation that the products advertised for women are often pink in color. Manufacturers claim that the price difference is a result of higher costs for producing women’s products/services, but there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that proves these claims are invalid since the products are practically the same—just catered to different groups of people.

According to the Joint Economic Committee for US Congress, women pay roughly an extra $2,135 each year due to this price discrepancy, or 7% more for consumer goods than men. For women, it costs more in 30 out of 35 categories for products of equal value and quantity. As Sherry Baker, president of the organization that launched the #AxThePinkTax campaign states, “By the time a woman turns 30, she’s been robbed of $40,562 just for being a woman.”

The DCA has found that products across most major categories are affected by the pink tax, from products catered to infants all the way to those for senior citizens, or as the study put it: “from cradle to cane.” On average, personal care products cost women over 13% more, with lotion and razors costing 11% more than the equivalent “for men,” and shampoo costing over 48% more. Women’s shirts cost 25% more than men’s shirts, 20% more for sweaters, 10% more for jeans… and the list goes on. As Vox notes, “The problem is that, for the most part, this is completely legal. Some states ban charging women more for services (like haircuts or dry cleaning). But consumer goods are still fair game. Ultimately, society expects women to look a certain way. And that way is just more expensive.”

But what about the added cost of functions women can’t control? Monthly periods cost a lot more than just the pain of menstrual cramps. From sanitary products to pain relievers to birth control, the costs add up—Aunt Flo is one high-maintenance lady! According to HuffPost, the total cost of a period in a woman’s lifetime is $18,171. Paying for sanitary products is a first world problem, but not all women live in the first world. Lack of access to menstrual products is a very real problem for women in less developed countries. UNICEF estimates that 10% of African girls miss school during their periods. Period poverty negatively affects the life opportunities of women and girls everywhere. (For more information and ways how you can help, visit

So, what can women do to avoid this tax? The first and foremost step is to understand what products are overpriced. The difference between products targeted at men and women often can be found in the packaging, design, or formulas used. Many times, products for both sexes are practically identical, all the way down to the ingredients with the only slight difference being scent or color. In other instances, there is no variance other than the name on the label. Being aware of such price discrepancies can help you make sure you don’t fall prey to them. You can buy products that are targeted towards men or that are gender neutral. For example, men’s razors work just as well or often even better than women’s razors, giving you a bigger bang for your buck than your average one-use disposable pink razor. You can also invest in bath products for men (such as body wash and sometimes even deodorant). If you don’t want to “smell like a man,” you can always opt for unscented products. Being a mindful consumer and aware of purchases made can help you avoid this pesky tax.

However, these are only a few small steps we have to take on the long road to equality. Although women can dodge these extra expenses, the price discrepancy is still there. Here is what these trailblazing women are doing to fight back. As previously mentioned, the organization European Wax Center has recently created a movement led by the tag #AxThePinkTax. (Check out their website:!) The organization is leading this effort with the intent of raising awareness of this unjust gender price discrimination. According to Forbes on March 19, 2019, more direct efforts such as those of Nitasha Mehta’s, Director of the Online Marketing Board at online retailer company Boxed, have made a big impact. After doing her own research on the pink tax in 2016, Mehta decided to take a stand and pitch her ideas to the cofounders (all men) of the company which eventually led to a series of initiatives in order to tackle this inequality.  

Two years after launching the initiative, Boxed has saved their customers over 1 million dollars but still remain the only US retailer taking a stand on this issue. The company knows that there is still a long way to go, and Mehta has been on the road testifying in state assemblies and legislatures to convince states to change their laws. She has also partnered with California State Representative Jackie Spier on her Pink Tax Repeal Act. Based on a press release from her own page, on April 3, 2019, Congresswoman Spier, who has been pushing for a bill to end such price discrepancies for over a decade now, reintroduced H.R. 2048: The Pink Tax Repeal Act. This is a bipartisan bill with 50 cosponsors and will end gender-based discrimination in the pricing of goods and services by allowing the Federal Trade Commission to enforce violations.

This price inequality is inherently unjust, but with small steps made by individuals like us and raising awareness by spreading the word, we can make an impact and make this movement gain support from those in power. We still have a long way to go, but recent progress has been incredibly promising and brings hope for the future.

About Kratika Tandon

Kratika Tandon is an incoming freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is majoring in biology and graduating with a minor in environmental economics and policy. She graduated from Dunlap High School as class valedictorian. Tandon is incredibly passionate about sustainability. As such, she is interested in many different career paths that involve helping the environment. She is most interested in writing about the subjects of environmental issues, social justice, life during a pandemic, and racial equity. She is proficient in informative and expository writing as well as public speaking. Tandon was a part of her high school’s speech team for four years. This past season, she competed in two events at the state championship tournament: original oratory and informative speaking. She wrote and perfected these speeches on her own, both tackling specific topics dealing with the environment. Tandon was also the president of her school’s local Interact Club. She possesses great leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. She is participating with Giving Voice because she wants to use her voice and writing to inspire others and facilitate change.

A Note From our Editor – Nov. 2020

A Note From our Editor – Nov. 2020

“I’m trying to speak — to write — the truth. I’m trying to be clear. I’m not interested in being fancy, or even original. Clarity and truth will be plenty,if I can only achieve them.” —Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Welcome to the second issue of Giving Voice.

I think it goes without saying that even in the best of times, launching a new publication is a challenge. Our student writers are learning to work on a deadline, our Giving Voice team is working to expand our reach, and our talented designer must come up with new and engaging ways to illustrate content. And yet the team has managed to do just this—and more—during one of the most contentious periods in our country’s history.

When I opened up the folder of unedited student articles this month, I was genuinely curious to find out what was on their minds. As it turns out, quite a lot… from difficult higher education choices and volunteerism, to Esports and dance. One of the articles, “The Lack of Uniformity Unites” by Adeline Ferolo, has a title that could just as easily be the theme of this issue. Though the students are writing on a wide variety of topics, they are united in their desire to enact positive change in their community.

I encourage you to listen to the many calls to action you will find in these pages. They come from not just future leaders, but those who are already fully engaged in social justice efforts, community organizing, the arts, and sports.

Recently, I began reading the science fiction masterpiece Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. I admit with some embarrassment that while I had been inspired by quotes from the book for years, I had not read it. But somehow, lately, it seemed fitting—a story set in the mid-2020s and told from the perspective of a teenage woman. American society has collapsed due to wealth inequality, climate change, greed, and a host of other calamities. And while it might sound like a depressing plot, it is far from it—the main character, Lauren, must make her voice heard in order to protect those she loves.

Communication is a radical act that has the power to transform. As you scroll through these pages, I hope you are impacted by the true potential of these ideas.

A Note From Our Publishers – Nov. 2020

A Note From Our Publishers – Nov. 2020

Feeding the Wolves

There is a Native American parable about two wolves. A grandfather is teaching his grandchild about life and says, “There is a terrible fight going on inside me between two wolves. One wolf is evil and filled withanger, greed, and resentment. The other wolf is joy, peace, love, empathy and compassion.” The grandfather continues, “The same fight is going on inside everyone.” The grandchild thinks a moment then asks, “Which wolf wins?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

This parable is timelier now than ever as we read headlines of more and more unrest in our nation. The evil wolf is being fed. A recent poll by Hill-HarrisX shows that 75 percent of registered voters believe the way news is reported increases political divide. In addition, hateful messages that are distributed and shared on social media contribute toa growing feeling that our nation is divided. The business of social media is built on drawing attention, so the more outlandish posts often get shared the most. With over 3 billion users on social media platforms, there is a lot of opportunity to sow seeds of hate—or of understanding.

Giving Voice is dedicated to feeding the wolf of compassion and love. That’s why each month we ask students to present to the public their views on life and how we can work together for a better future. This month you will read about student-led groups, what your clothing says about you, the opportunities community colleges offer, and more.

Our role as publishers of Giving Voice is to listen, learn and support them in their desire to be heard. These students are tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s hear what’s on their minds today and feed the ideas thatwill help our community become a better home for all.

Doug and Eileen Leunig

Big Picture Initiative