Opinion: Rend Collective leads powerful night of worship

Rend Collective is a Christian worship band that is originally from Ireland. They travel around the world creating an alternative folk sound and on April 14, they performed at Fellowship Church to promote their album “As Family We Go.” This band was not here to be praised for their great music, but to lead the people of Knoxville in a powerful night worship.

Urban Rescue was the opening act to Rend Collective. They began the night with an enthralling performance, encouraging the hearts of everyone in that room. The lead singer’s vocals were incredible. They floated through the room in beautiful sound waves. and left the audience in eager excitement waiting for the main act: Rend Collective.

Patrick Thompson, a member of Rend Collective, came on stage shortly after and told the audience a story about his wife and a dresser. We were overcome with laughter and joy, and when his story turned into an important message, our hearts filled with compassion.

Shortly after Thompson left, the whole band jumped onstage dressed in skinny pants, button-downs varying from a muted red to chambray with suspenders, vests or bow ties. They were fascinating to watch.

Each band member was constantly changing out instruments throughout the songs. They were all incredibly musically talented. It was a real treat to watch them perform with their loud voices and their ability to play a variety of instruments.

Although, this was probably the best concert I have ever been to, and I have been to a lot of concerts, it was not the performance or the band that made it so amazing. It was the content and authenticity of the music. It was the beautiful fact that I was in a room of people that were solely there to worship. That is what makes a splendid concert, in my opinion. The way they praised God was so powerful to witness. It was a truly amazing experience that I will never forget.

I strongly suggest attending one of their concerts, so you can be a part of this striking and captivating love.

For more information on Rend Collective and their tour dates, visit their website.

Featured image by Jolin Baker

Edited by Taylor Owens

Opinion: Big Ears 2016 is an experiential feast

Downtown Knoxville’s seventh annual Big Ears Festival drew yet another potent cluster of world-class artists to our relatively unsung streets. The festival delivered every ounce of promised brilliance to niche patrons and pedestrians alike. Reputable independent art sponsor, AC Entertainment, organized this festival to “celebrate the the never-ending adventure of artistic creation and exploration,” showcasing indie talent that the majority of residents are unlikely to come across.

This year’s eccentric collection proudly included Laurie Anderson, a strikingly avante-garde multimedia artist whose work has remained provocatively cutting edge for 50 years running. She was also the cherished wife and inspiration of the late Lou Reed. According to “Rolling Stone,” her collaboration with “minimalist master,” Philip Glass, was the “most notable” feature of the festival. It was also this particular show’s second performance on earth, and its first performance within the United States.

Envision the Tennessee Theatre’s guilded-age grandeur housing a hypnotized ocean of an audience, each awaiting Anderson’s poetic invitation to the solemn stroke of her bow, each hand clapping feverishly just as she lifts it. Meanwhile, to complement her gripping reflection, Glass’s buoyant piano and comical tone complete the performance by exposing the brighter hemisphere of human experience. With many sate souls shining from many wet eyes, the performance draws to its haunting close, and the audience rises to its feet.

This experience was merely one among many performances that inspired profound responses in the Big Ears 2016 audiences. At the very least, this festival is consistently a testament to the merit of witnessing and supporting rare talent that escapes mainstream press.

Our city is given this opportunity to amble listlessly into presentations that reward our artistic experimentation through film, gallery exhibition, live performance or artist/audience interaction.  As affirmed by the “Oxford American Magazine,” “It’s an obscure and prismatic music festival in an obscure and prismatic city, catching the light from all different angles.”

Next year, don’t be fooled by the discretion of Knoxville’s predominately indoor venues because precious experiences lurk beneath downtown’s scruffy husk.

You can find out more about this year’s festival on the Big Ears website and their Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of Big Ears Festival Facebook page.

Edited by Katy Hill

Opinion: Top 7 Easter activities

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Easter is a holiday celebrating the life of Jesus Christ, and is also full of beautiful pastel colors to resemble the coming of spring. There are so many ways Easter is celebrated throughout the world, and if you are looking for inspiration, you have come to the right place! Here are some things you, your family and friends can do this Sunday to celebrate this bright holiday.

1.) The Classic Easter Egg Hunt

The necessities: colorful plastic easter eggs that open up, lots of candy (Kit-Kats, snickers, peeps, jelly beans, etc.), a large yard with open space and good hiding spots and last but not least, something to collect large quantities of plastic eggs. Scatter the eggs filled with candies and let the hunt begin.

2.) Dye Boiled Eggs

If this is your choice of an easter celebration, you will need eggs and you will need to boil them. You will also need to buy an egg decorating kit, which should help you with the directions, but if not, take the colored pellets and drop them into a bowl of water or vinegar. You can decorate the eggs by coloring dots or lines on them. You will then drop the egg into a bowl of your choice of color. Let the egg dry and you have yourself a colored egg!

3.) Pictures with the Easter Bunny

Around Easter time, malls usually have a giant bunny costume filled with a person. They sit in big chair covered in easter decorations with grassy plains or Easter eggs for a backdrop. Take a picture with the bunny to create a fun memory that can last a lifetime!

4.) Easter Sunrise

Grab your family or a couple friends and get up early. Check when the sun is predicted to rise, and go watch the sun rise to simply celebrate life with the ones you love most.

5.) Sack Race

A sack race is fun for everyone, and a great opportunity for giggles. You will need a couple of large bags that can go up to the peoples’ waists. Have a start and a finish with a prize of candy or money, like 5 dollars or a solid chocolate bunny. Let the fun begin as people hop with both legs in a sack, racing against each other.

6.) Host a Tea Party

If you are a tea fanatic, like myself, this will be fun for you! You can go for a mad kind of tea party, like the Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland,” decorating your table with mismatching tea cups, pots and spoons. Fill your table with a variety of teas and cute petite sandwiches. Serve them up and enjoy small sandwiches and tea for your “very happy un-birthday” with all your friends and family.

7.) Attend a Church Service

Easter is all about Jesus Christ being resurrected, so this is a huge celebration for the church! Go to a local church, hear the story of Christ and learn the history of Easter after a weekend of fun celebratory activities.

The opinion of our writers/bloggers are not a reflection of the opinion of the Tennessee Journalist as a whole.

Featured image by Katy Hill

Edited by Katy Hill

International conflict mediator shares strategy for countering extremism in Syria

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Violence will not stop terrorist extremism in Syria, according to international conflict mediator and international law attorney Samar Ali.

Ali presented a lecture titled “Countering Violent Extremism in Syria and Beyond” on Monday, Feb. 29 in the Howard Baker Center.  Her lecture discussed the Syrian conflict over the past decade and strategies for countering violent extremism in the Middle East.

Ali stated that there are now 13.5 million refugees as a result of the Syrian Crisis.  As a result, 40 percent of youths in the Middle East are unemployed, which makes them targets for terrorist recruitment.

“[Terrorist groups] prey upon grievances, and they understand what those are,” she said.  “The smart thing for us to do is to provide alternatives to those grievances.”

Ali stated that these “grievances” that make individuals or communities vulnerable to violent extremism recruitment are predominately conditions like physical insecurity or the inability to provide for oneself or one’s family.  But sometimes there are mental factors as well, such as feeling valued or having a “higher purpose.”

Ali’s solution is to implement strategies that improves living situations for at-risk populations.  Some strategies included promoting human rights, expanding economic and political opportunities and avoiding harmful generalizations about entire groups of people.  She concluded by suggesting that there is a global responsibility surrounding these strategies that cannot be left to just the Middle East.

“The majority of Muslims want to live the same lifestyle that everyone in this room is living right now,” she said. “These people are people, just like anybody else, and they have had historical realities that have pushed them into a very unfortunate time period.  This is a global security matter where we all hold a certain level of responsibility, and if we rise up to the opportunity, we will conquer violent extremism.”

Grace Rotz, a senior studying technical communications attended the lecture. She appreciated the reminder that it is crucial to be well-informed before forming opinions about groups of people, especially during a time when the United States is seeing large numbers of Syrian immigrants enter the country.

“Public policy and international policy deals a lot more talking with the people and not just assuming political rhetoric is always correct,” Rotz said.  “We can’t assume that Americans know everything about Syria or that Syrians know everything about America.  We need to know both sides of the story.”

Ali’s lecture was held by the Howard Baker Center’s Global Security Program, which offers many related events year-round that are free and open to the public.

For more information about events at the Howard Baker center, click here.

Featured Image by The Tennessee Journalist

Edited by Jessica Carr

Paleontologist, author discusses link between humans and fish

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Humans and fish have a lot more in common than most people know, according to fish paleontologist and author Neil Shubin. On Thursday, the lecture “Your Inner Fish” explained how Shubin began his search for the fossil link between fish and land creatures and why this discovery matters today.

Shubin’s search began as a second year Ph.D. student, after his professor showed him a diagram of a fish changing to a land creature.

“It captured my imagination,” he said, “that is, to find evidence how fish, and the descendants of fish, evolved to walk on land. That became my quest in 1987 and it hasn’t changed since.”

These similarities arise from what Shubin calls “a common history with the rest of life on earth.” Scientists find these similarities when they study fossils, embryos and DNA.

“Often some of the best road maps to our own bodies lie in other creatures,” Shubin stated. “Some of the best road maps to the bones of our arms lie in fish (…) some of the basic road maps to understanding the complex tangle of nerves inside our heads lie in sharks.”

Previous scientific research conducted by Ashton Embry in the 1960s led Shubin and an expedition team to the Arctic Islands. In 2004, they uncovered what they called the Tiktaalik, a large, freshwater fish that has both land and water creature characteristics.

This discovery was monumental because the creature had the first neck in fossil records, as well as similar wrist and neck structures to those of humans. These similarities have led biologists to discover other similarities between fish and humans including embryos, muscles and nervous systems.

Such connections have greatly increased medical research to help prevent and cure diseases.

“The breakthroughs that will ultimately enrich and extend our lives will be based in some way on worms, flies and in some cases even fish,” Shubin predicted.

Shubin believes that these advances make today “a very exciting time to be a biologist.” Robert Jacobsen, sixth year Ph.D. graduate student in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department, agrees with Shubin.

“It’s exciting to have people that have made great discoveries come and share those experiences,” he said. “I feel that it’s important to expose myself to those people that are seeking truth.”

After his lecture, Shubin signed copies of his book “Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body,” which was published in 2008.

This lecture was held as part of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department’s annual Darwin Day celebration, which ran from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11.

Featured image by Elizabeth Garrett

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt

Black Lives Matter group protests city council meeting

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Even with vast developments in Knoxville, Amelia Parker has known for over 30 years where she could go when she wanted to surround herself in what she considers enriched, African-American culture.

“(Magnolia Ave. is) where I went to get my hair done. That’s where I found the Kumba festival, where I found different types of entertainment, where I could find after school programs. Where I could learn, you know, some African history that certainly wasn’t taught in public high schools of Knox County.”

Parker, along with a protest group associated with the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement, attended the Knoxville City Council meeting on Tuesday to protest the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission’s Magnolia Avenue Corridor Plan.

The public forum generally only allows a half hour of speaking time for people who sign up. However, Councilman Finbarr Saunders suspended this rule since eight people signed up to speak. This gave everyone five minutes to speak on the subject.

David Hayes, a young man who lives on the south side of Knoxville, made an impassioned plea to the council to rethink their decision.

“What systems do you have in place to keep people from being priced out of their homes,” Hayes said. “Because right now, I don’t see any.”

The protest group referred to the plan as gentrification, saying that beautification of Magnolia Ave. would cause people who live in that area to be priced out of their homes. In addition, the group criticized Knoxville’s funding of additional criminal task forces, which the group says is used primarily to criminalize black youth in south Knoxville.

The development plan includes building condominiums in an overgrown lot in the Magnolia area. The community is concerned that this will lead to more discrimination and will leave certain localities including after school care to suffer.

“South Knoxville has needed services for a long time, but what kind of investors do they attract to the area? Those that will serve UT,” said Parker. “It’s not investment in any kind of infrastructure or people that want to work in the community to make it better.”

The community fears that the new demographic expected to be drawn in will drive out the current community.

“This should be considered the inner city, but we don’t call it the inner city, right? Because it’s predominantly white,” said Parker. “We want investment that doesn’t push us out. We want to be able to carve out a space in this city that represents us. That tells the history.”

The next city council meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building, 400 Main Street.

Jarrod Hall and Hannah Hunnicutt also contributed to this story

Featured image courtesy of creativecommons.org

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt