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Celebrating World Water Day

March 22, 2016

By Dr. Sheila Davidson Pressley, Professor

Associate Dean, College of Health Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University

In light of the Flint, MI water quality crisis and its impacts on Environmental Justice, I would like to celebrate World Water Day by raising awareness and sharing safe drinking water tips. The tips provided in this blog are supported by various sources.

Should I Drink Bottled Water or Tap Water?

Both bottled and tap water could contain small amounts of contaminants, but the presence of contaminants does not always pose a health risk. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set drinking water standards. EPA sets standards for tap water provided by public water suppliers, and FDA sets bottled water standards based on EPA standards. Bottle and tap water are safe to drink as long as they meet these standards. Bottle water must be tested and meet certain regulatory standards before it can be sold in the US, but neither EPA nor FDA certify bottled water. Consumers may notice a logo or a seal from other organizations such as the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), or the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

Where Can I Find Information About My Local Water System?

Annual Consumer Confidence Reports are due from water suppliers by July 1 each year. These reports contain information on the water’s source, possible health effects, and contaminants found in the drinking water. Some Consumer Confidence Reports are available at: www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.htm. You may also contact your water supplier to get a copy of the report.

Should I Have My Water Tested?

The answer to this question depends on many factors. In addition to illness, a variety of other less serious problems such as taste, color, odor and staining of clothes or fixtures may be signs of water quality problems. What is the composition of your home’s plumbing materials? Do you have a well close to a septic system? If you suspect your water may be contaminated with lead or other contaminants, or if you are considering purchasing a home water treatment unit, your situation may require testing. Also, if someone in your home has a weakened immune system or if you are caring for or nursing an infant, you should definitely consider testing your water.

How Can I Have My Water Tested?

Contact your local health department for help with testing for bacteria or nitrates. You can also have your water tested by a state certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or by visiting www.epa.gov/safewater/labs.

How Does Safe Water Impact Global Health?

According to the World Health Organization, safer water could prevent the following annual fatalities across the globe:

  • 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea;
  • 500,000 deaths from malaria;
  • 860,000 child deaths from malnutrition; and
  • 280,000 deaths from drowning.

What About Drinking Water In Other Countries?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a great source for travelers who want to learn more about possible health threats in destinations outside the US. If you will be traveling soon, checkout CDC’s Travelers’ Health website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.

Should I Drink Water Directly From Lakes Or Streams?

If you are camping or hiking, it is best to bring bottled water from a source you trust. If you cannot pack bottled water or if you are in an emergency situation, you can disinfect water by boiling it for 1 minute. If you are at a high altitude (greater than 6562 feet or 2000 meters), boil it for 3 minutes. Another option is to use chemicals such as iodine or chlorine to disinfect water. Portable filters may also be used, however, many of the portable filters on the market do not effectively remove viruses so chemical disinfection may still be needed after filtering.

The following websites were used as references and can be used to obtain more information on clean water:

www.epa.gov

www.cdc.gov

www.who.org

 

The Return of Tarzan: Hollywood, Race, and the Undying Myth of Darkest Africa

By Alix Heintzman

Original dust jacket illustration Edgar Rice Burrough, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, A.C. McClurg, 1928

 

Figure 1 Original dust jacket
illustration Edgar Rice Burrough,
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, A.C.
McClurg, 1928

If you happen to be an avid movie-trailer-watcher, you might have seen the preview for Disney’s upcoming The Legend of Tarzan. If you didn’t choose to spend three minutes of your life watching Alexander Skarsgard wrestle gorillas in a loincloth, allow me to summarize: It opens on a sweeping shot of unidentified jungle, with Skarsgard providing ominous narration. “The jungle,” he tells us, “Consumes everything. It preys on the old, the sick, the wounded. It preys on the weak.” This is followed by a series of fast paced clips, including some Africans throwing spears, Christoph Waltz looking like a dapper colonial villain, various CGI animals attacking humans, and Jane (Margot Robbie) staring adoringly at Tarzan.

Taken at its surface value, this is typical Hollywood summer fare: a star-packed remake promising action, romance, and just enough plot to knit the fight scenes together. But, if you’re familiar with Western tropes about Africa, or the history of colonial adventure fiction, The Legend of Tarzan is the latest example of a very old, very damaging cultural narrative.

I’m talking about what Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie calls “the single story” about Africa (and if you haven’t seen her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” please do so immediately). The phrase is an attempt to summarize the oppressive ways Westerners have portrayed Africa and Africans for the last four hundred years, in everything from novels to comic strips to advertisements. Collectively, these stories present an Africa that is savage, primitive, tribal, and above all profoundly different from the white, civilized world, which has helped justify everything from European colonialism to 21st-century economic exploitation.

Within the narrow confines of the single story, Africans themselves are offered very limited roles. Most often they’re portrayed as dangerous, violent savages—either the spear-wielding cannibals of nineteenth and early-twentieth century works, or the bloodthirsty warlords of modern cinema. Alternatively, African characters are cast as the helpless victims of these narratives. African women, in particular, are often silent, sexualized, and victimized, in need of rescue. The rescuers are almost invariably white Western males, who are often contrasted against African weakness and otherness in racialized displays of masculinity.

But the single story isn’t just communicated through race and gender dynamics; some of my own research has explored depictions of nature in Western writing, and especially the culturally-loaded landscape of the Jungle. Jungles—dark, mysterious forests full of vicious beasts and unknown peoples--have provided the perfect backdrop for white adventures in the Africa, from The Heart of Darkness and She to The African Queen and King Kong.

So, beginning in 1912, enter Edgar Rice Burroughs’s most beloved creation: Tarzan of the Apes. From the very beginning, when it was published in the pages of a cheap children’s newspaper called The Argosy

All-Story, Tarzan seemed to tap into all the most vital pieces of the single story. Here was the story of a white man lost in the jungle and raised by apes, who grew up to assert his natural superiority over the entire jungle, humans and animals alike. He fulfilled every white Western fantasy about Africa, at a key historical moment: by the early twentieth century, European colonial powers controlled 90% of the African continent, and the US was increasingly mired in the violence and inequality of the Jim Crow Era. Western audiences were thrilled with the chance to read stories about white racial superiority against a backdrop of African otherness.

Original theatrical poster, Metro-Goldwyn 1934

Figure 2 Original theatrical poster, Metro-Goldwyn 1934

But, long after African nations had won their independence and Jim Crow had been defeated, Tarzan lived on. In fact, he never died—Burroughs himself published twenty-five sequels, which were immediately followed by comic strips, radio shows, spin-offs, and over two hundred movies with some version of Tarzan in their title (including, and I’m not making this up, Tarzan and the She-Devil and Tarzan Goes to India). Each of these productions were layered, messy affairs, representing both the lingering values of the colonial era and the changing social mores of the time period the produced them.

So the question is: Where does Disney’s The Legend of Tarzan fit into this narrative? Is it a dramatic departure from its predecessors, which inverts and subverts the racist tropes of previous eras?

Just from watching the trailer, it looks like the answer is a huge, resounding no. It still seems to rely on African characters who are savage and primitive, wearing animal skins and wielding spears. Worse, only one African character has been named in the cast listing (played by the fabulous Djimon Hounsou)—in a movie supposedly set in Africa. The focus is instead on Skarsgard’s Tarzan, who seems to perfectly fulfill the worn-out role of white male hero taming the jungle, rescuing Africans and damsels in distress. And, of course, the jungle is still deadly and mysterious. It “consumes everything” and “preys on the weak,” remember?

Now, at this point, it’s worth asking whether any of this actually matters. What, exactly, is the point of dissecting the trailer for a summer blockbuster flick designed solely to sell a few movie tickets and gigantic, greasy buckets of popcorn? Nobody could mistake The Legend of Tarzan for an accurate representation of Africa, anyway.

All that’s true. But, as Adichie says, we cannot underestimate “how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story.” Stories matter. They are the tools through which we build our cultural narratives and express our identities. By continuing to tell and re-tell the Tarzan story, with its hyper-masculine heroism and unsubtle colonial legacies, we’re participating in a narrative that denies, simplifies, and erases African identities. Surely, in 2016, there is room for a different kind of story.

 


Discovering, Identifying and Preserving Kentucky’s African American Cemeteries! 

By Gwen Graham, AFA Instructor

Publishing Date:  February 22nd, 2016

Gwen Graham teaching

The Central Kentucky African American Cemetery Association is a group founded by Ms. Cindy Peck, an Eastern Kentucky University instructor, Danville.  Cindy’s interest in Kentucky’s African American cemeteries began when one of her students stated that he did not know who his father was.  Cindy thought of ways she could help the student identify his father.   Before the student could begin this process, Cindy knew she first needed to educate him on how to search for past relatives.  She began looking for African American cemeteries in Kentucky, thinking students could select a person and conduct a genealogical search.    This assignment began with the Shelby City cemetery in Junction City, Kentucky.

The Shelby City cemetery began in the 1780s and was an area where Governor Isaac Shelby’s slaves were buried.  By 1866 the cemetery became a public burial area for local African Americans (separate in life and also in death).  

Glass artifacts from White Oak African American Cemetery

After a year of cleaning the cemetery, unearthing some of the remaining burial markers and the discovery of graves, Cindy and her students began to identify some of the African Americans buried there, such as, Maggie Carpenter, Matilda Stigall (a former slave freed by her owner Lamert “Jake” White), Wallace Gaines (a member of the Harlem Hell Fighters) and Jordan Wallace (a member of the U.S. Colored Troops).    The discovery of Mr. Jordan Wallace is one that had a personal connection to one of Cindy’s students.  While conducting a genealogical search on Mr. Wallace, one of her students, James Hunn discovered that Jordan Wallace was his great-great grandfather.  What an amazing discovery! 

Since the Shelby City project, Cindy has formed the Central Kentucky African American Cemetery Association.  The associations helps to discover, identify and preserve Kentucky’s African American Cemeteries.

The current African American cemetery project Cindy is working on is the White Oak Cemetery located in Garrard County.    

This is a great project and a community service opportunity for our AFA and EKU students to participate in.  The benefits of this project on our students would be a personal view of the connections between the African Diaspora and Kentucky, a deeper understanding of the African American experience, and exposing a community to a piece of their past history.  

As I receive clean-up dates for the cemetery project I will forward those on to the AFA instructors.  

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