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Oil Grease To Engine Fuel

Oil Grease To Engine Fuel from Black Swamp Journal on Vimeo.

Bowling Green State University’s sustainability coordinator, Nick Hennessy talks about the process of converting left over cooking oil, from the campus’ dinning halls, to diesel engine fuel.

More Organic…Please.


The annual growth of the billion-dollar organic food industry is reaching college and university campuses.  However, there is only a pinch of organic food on Bowling Green State University’s campus.

Bowling Green students have a very limited range of organic products to choose on campus.  At university food stores, such as Outtakes, the only organic products include small organic pizza, milk, cereals and dried cherries.  In the dinning areas the same products are available, however serving organic food to students is something that BGSU dinning services is still working on.

BGSU Dining Director, Micheal Paulus said the university’s organic offerings are limited, mostly due to the cost of product.

“Most students are resistant to the increased price point of pure organic offerings,” he said.

Organic products can be very pricey.  The high cost has a lot to do with the practices of organic farming and government regulations.  Organic farmers have to take extra precautions due to USDA regulations by the National Organic Program.  However, as many people are aware of the high costs of organic food they are rarely aware of the difference in taste.

Bowling Green sophomore, Eric Smuda, a bio engineering major, has put the idea of there being little taste difference to his list of reasons to not buy organic food.  “Spending extra money on organic food, when it tastes just like any other regularly grown food, just doesn’t seem necessary to me,” Smuda said.

And he may have a point.  If taste difference is the only thing that Bowling Green students are looking forward to getting out of organic food, then they may be in for a heap of disappointment.  The International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) is a nonpartisan foundation that works to effectively educate the public with its science-based information about nutrition, health and food safety.  According to the 2007 Food & Health Survey, published by the (IFIC), when Americans were asked what had the greatest impact on the food they select, taste was ranked the highest (88 percent).  Price was ranked second (72 percent).

Over the last few years, there hasn’t been conclusive evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.  The USDA couldn’t even claim organic food is safer or more nutritious.  Besides recent results of there being higher levels of Vitamin C in organic strawberries, there isn’t too much for evidence for consumers to depend on in this area.

With a scarce amount of organic food available on campus, it puts students in a position to spend even more money.  Every student living on campus is required to have a meal plan, at least $1,475 per semester.  But what about students who want organic food?  Living on campus, they could use their meal plans and sacrifice their organic diets or go to a local grocery, buy organic produce then be left with about a thousand dollars worth of meal plan by the end of the semester that just goes to waste.

Amanda McGuire Rzicnek, an instructor for Bowling Green’s General Studies Writing Program, has focused classes on the study of food products, including organic foods.  As an organic produce consumer herself, Rzicnek understands how hard it can be eating organic foods.  Everyday she brings her organic lunch to campus with her, knowing that she will not be able to go home and eat.  However, things are not quiet as simple for students living on campus.

“It’s horrible because they are paying for the meal plan, so why would they go to Meijer to buy organic food?  And organic food, most of the time, is a lot more expensive than buying regular food.  So they are in a catch 22,” said Rzicnek.

A catch 22 is definitely something sophomore, Lin-Z Kay Tello is in.  Tello has the option of  getting organic foods from local groceries such as Meijer and Kroger.  However, along with the extra money she would have to spend, the trip alone can be inconvenient for students.

“It’s kind of hard to get to some of those places because I have to go out and get my car just to get to the store and then can’t use the meal plan, so its kind of a hassle right now,” explained Tello.

Tello was a student in Rznicnek’s class her freshman year.  In the class she researched and wrote about organic foods, and she eventually became an environmental science major.  “That class changed my life,” she said.  “It just really got me thinking about the impact I have on the environment through my eating habits.”

As much as Tello wants to be an advocate consumer of organic foods, living on campus has made it hard for her to do so.

“I’ve basically kind of put it off until I’m older and live off campus and I’ll be able to go to supermarkets and actually purchase organic foods,” Tello said.

The struggle to find organic food on campus is something that Bowling Green senior, Lindsay Conway can relate to.

“Living off-campus makes a really big difference,” she said.  “When on campus, it’s unfortunate, but it’s like you can’t even really have an organic diet.  Lets just say if you do, you’ll probably starve.”

Recently Bowling Green’s dining service has made changes to its menus in the dining halls and mini markets to be more nutritional, however, maybe its time for the university to start making larger strides towards providing organic for their students.  USA Today reported on a project called the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which is embracing the organic life of Yale students.  For the last eight years, the project encourages students and school staff to visit farms to see how the food is grown in an ecologically friendly manner.  Yale’s dining service makes organic food available as well.  Yale is not the only university following the organic trend on its campus.  There is also Williams College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers University, just to name a few.

BGSU’s dining services does plan to make steps towards providing a little more organic on campus.

“Dining services does plan to increase organic offerings next year with the inclusion of Pinkberry frozen yogurt within the new Commons dinning center,” Paulus said.

Pinkberry frozen yogurt is a healthy of frozen yogurt with a few choices of organic toppings.  However, the frozen yogurt is not organic.

Dinning Services plans to feature more  “local” produce thru its continued development of relationship with local growers.  Dinning services first step in this direction was with its first annual on-campus Farmers market.

Many students were present at the on-campus Farmers market.  Bowling Green senior, Lindsey Conway was present.  “The market was a wonderful idea, especially the fact that they made things even more convenient for students by accepting their BG1 cards,” she said.  “That was great.”

Having an annual farmers market may be one of the best steps to making sure the campus provides more organic opportunities for on campus students.  But to keep such organic lifestyles happening on campus.  Rizicnek knows there is one thing that must happen.

“The only people that can solve this is Dining Services and I think the only way for that to happen is for students to say what it is that they want, cause they are ultimately paying BG to provide a service,” says Rzicnek.



Thinking of Going Organic?

Places Where You Can Find Organic on Campus:  Outtakes at Founders, Kreisher and Offenhauer.  Products Include: organic milk, cereal, frozen foods and dry cherries.

Spend your food dollars wisely.  BGSU’s Diabetic’s Program presented a list of foods with the highest levels of toxin residues.  They advice for people to purchase organic versions of these foods when possible.

  • Peaches, Nectarines & Apricots
  • Apples & Pears
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Imported Grapes
  • Spinach & Lettuce
  • Potatoes & Carrots
  • Milk & Beef
  • Peanut Butter
  • Baby Food

A Closer Look at BGSU “Green” Dining Services

Kreischer Sundial

Just how “green” are Bowling Green State University Dining Services?

Some of the major projects students may notice are the two dining facilities under construction. They are silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified free standing dining facilities. LEED is a national system of ranking buildings based on their environmental impact, design, construction, operation and management recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the Division of Students Affairs Report for 2009-2010 once construction is finished at McDonald Dining, BGSU could potentially be the first university to have a free standing LEED certified cafeteria in the nation. Another accomplishment of dining services sustainability is the conversion of used fryer oil to be used as bio-fuel in campus shuttle buses.

“Right now we’re at a fryer oil surplus,” said Mike Paulus the Director of BGSU Dining Services. “We have 4,400 hundred gallons,” said Paulus. “We’ve ordered a brand new diesel truck to be converted locally to bio-fuel.”

While these new additions are helping to make the university more sustainable, smaller changes could be made as well.

“If you fix all of the small stuff it would make a big difference,” said Jonathan Zachrich an undergraduate student government representative from the Dining Advisory Board.

For example Zachrich said people are needlessly using to-go boxes when they are dining in. He said hanging signs explaining why customers should not do this would be helpful.

“It’s a big problem it happens a lot in Mac and Founders,” said Zachrich.

“They could do more talking to students, asking ‘Do you really need a to-go box?’” Zachrich said.

Students dining-in

Paulus realizes the problem and says it’s wasteful to purchase take-out boxes when students are not using them for the right purpose. Every box cost 34 cents to purchase.

“If you don’t need it don’t waste it,” Paulus said.

Despite the unnecessary use of take-out boxes they are bio-degradable.


“Dining Services has eliminated 97 percent of all the take-out boxes made out of foam,” Paulus said. All of the new take-out boxes are made out of sugarcane. If you throw it away, within 90 days it will compost to nothing.”

Bio-degradable take-out boxes

Napkins got an eco-friendly boost as well. They are biodegradable and are made out of 80 percent recycled materials.

Zachrich isn’t the only one with some constructive criticism. Gary Silverman the Director of the Department of Environmental Sustainability only eats at the Student Union and has noticed one irritating problem he thinks is an easy fix.

“The union still makes it difficult for customers,” said Silverman. “When I want a piece of pizza I have to work to get a non-disposable plate. I’m always able to find one, but it takes 10 minutes. It’s not a convenient option.”

Paulus said this issue will be corrected in the brand new MacDonald Dining that will be opening this fall. The new dining facility will only have china because customers can only eat in. A few other amenities will include collecting rain water that falls on the roof and using it in the facility’s low-flush toilets.

“Recycled barn wood from Ohio will be used for the tables and customers will be able to tell which barn the wood came from,” Paulus said.

Reducing paper waste is also one of the things that dining services has been trying to do.

LCD televisions reduce paper waste

“We used to waste so much by printing specials of the day and menu boards,” Paulus said. “Now we use LCD televisions as our menu boards. Using technology to serve as a menu board enables the campus commitment to sustainability.”

One new way of helping to accomplish this is through QR stamps. Paulus said there are little square images similar to a barcode displayed on LCD’s. Customers with smart phones can take a picture of the barcode similar to scanning it. Then your phone will automatically go to the webpage linked to the code.

“This reduces paper waste and eases communication with students. In the first week we got 8,000 hits,” Paulus said.

While BGSU dining seems green lets compare it to another school 90 miles away. Oberin College was listed as one of the “12 Most Healthy and Sustainable College Cafeterias,” by The Daily Green. Oberlin has curbed waste by purchasing 45 percent of food from local sources. Students have the opportunity to meet local farmers and growers at fairs.  Cafeterias have been tray less since 2008, helping to decrease food waste, energy and water use spent by washing tray’s daily.

The colleges’ two main dining facilities composted 21,500 pounds of kitchen scrap. All raw food kitchen prep was composed as well and the school uses bio-degradable packing.

It’s important to note when comparing the two universities that BGSU has a larger student population. Oberlin has 2,888 students and tuition is higher at $41,577 dollars.

BGSU Dining is owned by Chartwells a branch of Compass Group. Compass Group is the largest contract food service in the world. They also have a focus on promoting sustainability.

Zachrich knows that the university can do more to compete with other schools level of sustainability.

“It’s a continuous problem, trying to solve one problem and three more pop up. It’s tough.”

Zachrich welcomes anyone interested in helping to keep BGSU dining services sustainable should come to the Dining Advisory Board meetings. There is an outlet, students just need to take advantage of it if they want to see more change.

Lights off at BGSU

The oldest buildings on campus, Moseley, University and Hanna halls, can be considered creepy in the day time, but imagine what they are like when all the lights are off at night.  On the outside, the old brick is covered with long vines, which make their way down the sides of the buildings.  As they walk through Moseley, the old floors creak with each step, while the theaters in Hanna and University become even eerier as the lights go out.  In order to reduce the university’s energy costs, students brave their fears and venture through their hallways and classrooms.

Junior, Jennie Hartman, participates in Friday Night Lights for the first time. "I think it's a great organization, and I definitely want to do it again," she said. Photo by Hannah Mingus.

Every Friday night, students at Bowling Green State University participate in Friday Night Lights, an effort to turn out lights in academic buildings on Friday nights.  The program aims to help the university save money and become a “greener” campus.

At 6:30 p.m. each Friday, between 10 and 30 students meet outside of the Bowen Thompson Student Union Theatre.  Students then divide and conquer – they split up into small groups and are given a clipboard with their assigned building on it. The clipboard gives them a list of rooms/ hallways on each floor, and how many light banks they can shut off for the weekend. After all the lights have been shut off, the students meet back in Olscamp to turn in their clipboards. The process usually takes less than an hour to complete.

Nick Hennessy, BGSU’s sustainability coordinator, has worked with the project since it was first launched in October 2009 by a former student, Dustin Sabo. Sabo first came up with the idea after learning of a similar program called Friday Night Lights Off at Penn State. He contacted Hennessy to help him figure out which buildings it would be beneficial to turn lights off in, figure out how to save money and keep track of it each week, and most importantly, how to get volunteers to help out with the program.

“It had good timing because it takes place before students’ Friday night plans,” Hennessy said. “Students want to help out, and it’s convenient community service and a fun event.”

Sabo gathered volunteers from his major, middle-childhood education, which is where he got his “core” group. Hennessy put information about it on an email list for environmental majors, and on the campus update. They relied a lot on word of mouth from students.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Bailey has been working with the program since nearly the beginning.

“It makes a huge impact with such little effort, and makes you feel really good that just by giving like 30 minutes of your time, you are making such a change every single week,” she said.  “It’s also fun because you get to do it with friends and we always leave with inside jokes that will never get old.”

Bailey said one of her favorite memories of the group was when she and a few other volunteers discovered a box of free board games in East Hall, as well as a time when they accidentally turned the lights out on someone in the bathroom.

There was no opposition to the program when it started, but students did come across one problem.

“They unplugged the TV’s in the Business Administration, since no one looks at them,” Hennessy said. “They got flack for that since staff said they needed them on all weekend for weekend events.”

In fall of 2010, Friday Night Lights saved the University $13,260, according to Hennessy.   Students turned off lights every Friday of the semester up to Dec. 10, not including the Friday after Thanksgiving. The best savings last semester occurred one week in September with $1,012, while the lowest occurred in November with $826. The average savings is usually between $800 and $950 per week, according to Hennessy.  By not having lights on all weekend when no one is in the buildings, the university’s electric bill becomes substantially lower.

Various light switches across campus are labeled with the "Power Down BGSU" sticker to help remind students and faculty to switch off lights when not in use. Photo by Hannah Mingus

The program saves the most money by turning off lights in Education, Olscamp, Math Science, B.A. and Life Science buildings. Not because they are the “biggest energy hogs,” but because those buildings have much more going on, so there are more lights to turn off, according to Hennessy.

The only buildings on campus the volunteers do not go are the dorms, the Administration Building, and student affairs buildings such as Bowen Thompson Student Union, the rec center, field house and Jerome Library. Many of these buildings have their own process for turning off the lights, or they don’t have enough hallway light switches available.

BGSU is currently working on a project called Energy Control Management, which may put the Friday Night Lights staff out of a job in the near future. The project will have two phases. Phase 1 has already started, and it will involve replacing the heat/ ventilation, ducts and valves in buildings and having set point temperatures with digital controls. Phase 2 will deal with lighting and put motion sensor lighting in the buildings.

“It will be like Friday Night Lights every night of the week and day,” he said.

Surfing the Crimson Tide: a look at feminine hygiene products

Periods happen. Since the beginning of time women have had to deal with the flow between their legs. Most American women opt for mainstream products like tampons or sanitary napkins to manage their cycles.

The mainstream feminine hygiene product industry is a booming business simply because women will always need a way to manage their cycles. According to Global Industry Analysts, a business strategies company, the world feminine hygiene products market is projected to reach $14.3 billion by the year 2015.

Bottom line, women + periods = a lot of money. But, there are alternatives to mainstream products.

Brittany Boulton is a legislative aide in Columbus, Ohio. While in college at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) she took an environmental class and learned about two alternative feminine products that changed the way she dealt with her period. “I found out about sponges and Diva Cupsin that class.”Said Boulton. She opted for the sponge because it was significantly cheaper.

“I was a little nervous because throughout the day, they need to be rinsed and I didn’t really want to deal with that in campus bathrooms. It didn’t end up being too big of a deal for me; it might be for women who have a heavier cycles and

do n’t know where the one-person restrooms/less crowded restrooms are,” Boulton said.

She said using the sponges cost her about $12 for one year as opposed to the approximately $120 per year she spent on tampons.

Aside from saving money, a big factor in Boulton making the switch in college was the chemicals she was told were in tampons. “Here in America, they actually bleach them and it’s not so healthy for vaginal tissue, which is obviously super absorbent. In Europe, tampons are natural paper but we bleach them to make them look sterile and clean,” Boulton said.

Barbara Hoffman, is a certified nurse practitioner and Associate Director of Clinical Services at the BGSU Health Center. She said there are health risks associated with using tampons. Women can suffer from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). “TSS is simply a staph bacterial infection; it usually happens when a woman is using a tampon that has a higher absorbency than she needs.” Said Hoffman.

TSS in association with Tampons began in the 1970’s around the time women began frequently using tampons. One popular tampon called Rely was said to be the cause of hundreds of cases of TSS. That brand was pulled from shelves and changed the legislation for tampon regulations… namely making it necessary for tampon manufacturers to include the tampon absorbency on the box. Aside from TSS, some believe one of the reasons the tampons were so bad for women was because they contained a lethal chemical called dioxin. The dioxin was a bi-product of the bleaching process used to sanitize the cotton in tampons.

In 1997 a Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn B. Mahoney believed there still needed to be a change in the way tampons were manufactured. She presented a piece of legislation called, “The Tampon Safety and research act of 1997.”

“Although the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] currently requires tampon manufacturers to monitor dioxin levels in their finished products, the results are not available to the public. When I — as a Member of Congress — requested the information, the FDA told me it was proprietary information and therefore could not be released. It should be noted that the dioxin tests relied upon by the FDA are done by the manufacturers themselves, who not surprisingly insist their products are safe. Some of my constituents say this is the equivalent of the fox guarding the hen house,” Mahoney said in her press release about the bill.

The bill did not become a law, and like School House Rock teaches us, it is still sittin’ on Capitol Hill.

According to the FDA, the levels of dioxin found in tampons are not harmful to women. In 2009 Representatives from the FDA made a statement about the accusations about dioxin in tampons. “State-of-the art testing of tampons and tampon materials that can detect even trace amounts of dioxin has shown that dioxin levels are at or below the detectable limit. No risk to health would be expected from these trace amounts.”

Proctor and Gamble, based in Cincinnati, manufactures Tampax, and it also made the product Rely. In a 2003 press release, the company said its products are safe.

“Tampax Tampons, Always Pads and Panty liners DO NOT contain dioxin because chl orine gas is not used in the bleaching process. We buy pulp, cotton and rayon from outside suppliers who exclusively use chlorine dioxide (not chlorine gas), oxygen and/or hydrogen peroxide in a process called ‘Elemental Chlorine Free,’ or ‘ECF’ bleaching. Chlorine dioxide has different chemical properties and reacts differently with pulp than does chlorine gas,” the company’s statement said.

The makers of a product called Diva Cup they believe women should search for other alternatives to conventional tampons and pads to protect their bodies.  The company is in Ontario,Canada and claims to have a large international client base. The product is a silicone cup that holds the liquid from menstruation. Those cups cost about $40 and can be re-used for up to one year.

“With all the state-of-the-art conveniences Western society has developed, it baffles us why outdated feminine products are still being used. We believe that reusable menstrual cups are the next generation of feminine hygiene because they are the most environmentally responsible choice. They are also the most convenient and reliable option available and are not linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome,” said Francine Chambers, a co-founder of the product, in a press release.

Not everyone is sold on the Diva Cup. Alison Bryan is an avid participant in outdoor recreational sports. She doesn’t believe it is a realistic option for women who are in an outdoor environment. Bryan said, “If I’m hiking all day it would be really hard for me to find a place to empty the cup, then I’m going to feel gross because it doesn’t seem clean.”

The makers of Diva Cup believe if used correctly the Diva Cup is more sanitary than tampons or pads.

There are many other alternativesavailable. Finding these products takes a little bit of extra work and a decision to get over what Boulton calls the “icky factor.”

Boulton concluded that not all women would use a Diva Cup or sea sponge; she just feels it is important for women to be informed on all the risks. “In the end it’s really about making better choices for you and your body,” Bolton said.

Reddin Symposium Interview

24th Annual Reddin Symposium from Black Swamp Journal on Vimeo.

Scientists from Canada joined Bowling Green State University professors for the 24th Annual Reddin Symposium. This year’s conference addressed the decreasing health of the Great Lakes.

The Dead Zone’s Effects on Lake Erie

Lake Erie may be on the verge of dying.  Again.

Dead birds on a beach

The beaches as well as the lake became "dead." Photo courtesy of John Gannon.

In the 1960s, Lake Erie was proclaimed to be “dead.”  The lake was full of algae and pollution, which led to many fish dying and tourists fleeing the beaches.  Scientists identified phosphorus, a chemical which causes excess amounts of algae to grow, as being the culprit.   

Many scientists predicted that the lake would recover completely, especially after the passing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972 between the United States and Canada, which attempted to control the amount of phosphorus going into the lake.  They were wrong.  Lake Erie on its way to being completely dead once again.

John Gannon, a limnologist of Windsor, Canada, spoke on problems facing Lake Erie at the Reddin Symposium on Jan 22, at Bowling Green State University.  Gannon is retired from the International Joint Commission Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor.

Gannon shared his concern about the current levels of phosphorus in the lake.  Phosphorus enters the lake through runoff from the rivers flowing through farms and cities.  Phosphorus is necessary in the lake for feeding the plants and animals that call the it home.  When the amount of phosphorus exceeds the needed amount to feed the organisms, it becomes a problem.  Too much phosphorus may cause algae to run rampant in the lake.  When the algae decomposes, it sinks to the bottom of the lake where it proceeds to absorb all of the oxygen, which leads to a “dead zone.”  Fish are unable to survive in an area that does not have enough oxygen, which is what gives the dead zone its name.

The buildup of phosphorus in the lake is called eutrophication .

According to Gannon, during the ‘60s, scientists did studies on the water quality and fish, which is how the large amounts of phosphorus were identified as being the unbalanced nutrient in the lake.  The public wanted action taken, which led to the water quality agreement.  Many bans were placed on phosphorus in detergents.

The amount of phosphorus that declined in the lake in the 1970s and improved the water quality immensely, began rising again in the past several years, which has led to an increase in algae.

The dead zone is not the only problem facing Lake Erie at this time.  Another key problem is the introduction of

Sea Lamprey

Very few fish are able to survive the attacks of the sea lamprey, such as the one shown here. Photo courtesy of John Gannon.

 invasive species.  Invasive species are non-native plants or animals that have strong effects on their new ecosystem.  An example of this is the sea lamprey.  It is the oldest recorded invasive species in the Great Lakes, and as few as one in seven fish survive its attacks, according to Gannon.

Toxic chemicals, unplanned growth, habitat destruction and climate change have also had a massive effect on the lake over the years.

The Lake Erie Water Quality Agreement is currently being revised, after nearly 40 years.  Gannon said that people can help out by supporting the negotiations and revisions concerning the agreement.   They can also reduce the amount of household products they use that contain phosphorus, as well as lawn fertilizers containing the chemical.

“Give the Earth a chance.  It will restore itself,” Gannon said.

For more information on the agreement between the United States and Canada see,

Kaycee Hallett

Kaycee rappelling in Hawking Hills, Ohio

Kaycee rappelling at Hawking Hills, Ohio

I’m Kaycee Hallett, a Bowling Green State University senior, slated to graduate in May. I’m originally from a small town by Lake Erie so I’ve grown up my whole life in the Great Black Swamp.

I enjoy the outdoors and outdoor activities, although admittedly I do not do well with insects.

My sequence in journalism is Broadcast and ideally I would like to be a reporter on television. My minor is history which I’ve been interested in as a little girl especially Ancient Greece and the American Revolution.

I’m very excited to be working on the Black Swamp Journal and hope you have as much fun reading it as I do working for it!

Saisha Gailliard

Hey there!  My name is Saisha Gailliard.  I’m currently a junior at Bowling Green State University studying broadcast journalism.  As my college experience is going so fast, I must say I have enjoyed just about every moment!  During my time in college I have continued to learn a significant amount of material, including environmental studies.

After taking an environmental studies class my sophomore year, I became even more intrigued with environmental issues.  I am excited to know that this blog will bring a further fulfillment to such interest with the environment.  Lets face, its a very important matter…we have to take care of our environment so that it will take care of us! 😉

Alesia Hill

Hi there!

I am a Senior at BGSU majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minors in Ethnic Studies and Spanish. I am looking forward to being a contributor to The Black Swamp Journal.

I plan to work in television news, but I  have a passion for print as well. One day I hope to change the way society views people of color, and inspire change.



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