Mental illness remains the taboo of our society.
When someone says they have a mental illness, many people automatically believe the individual is crazy or unstable.
As a society and as a community, we must understand that mental illnesses are not as bad as they’re made out to be. Some people live their daily lives without others knowing they have been diagnosed as mentally ill.
We should grow in ways that help those with mental illnesses and find ways to make them feel comfortable in society, instead of viewing them as outsiders.
One in five adults in the United States will experience a mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illnesses. That’s about 43.8 million people.
An additional one in 25 U.S. adults will experience a serious mental illness that interferes with or limits major life activities. That’s about 10 million people.
With such high numbers, one would hope society is doing more to normalize mental illness. Unfortunately, it seems we are not.
I didn’t think much about mental illness until I enrolled in an abnormal psychology class. Everything changed when we learned about mental illnesses. My studies provided insight, which started making me more passionate about the subject.
As part of our curriculum, NAMI individuals diagnosed with a mental illness visited the class.
They told us stories about their “dark days,” when they first began to experience a mental illness. They moved on to telling us how they grew from that and were able to continue their lives. One visitor shared his hopes for the future: an end to the stigma that mental illness incapacitates an individual.
He hopes for a day when those with mental illnesses can have checkups with a doctor in the same way in which one would have a physical examination.
His point is worth repeating. People do not become their illness. They are still human beings.
Compiled by Erik Medina
From award-winning Mexican cinema to car-free neighborhood strolls, upcoming festivals offer varied ways to celebrate spring. Here are our suggestions for top choices.
Tucson Cine Mexico: March 22-26
The showcase, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Hanson Film Institute and by New York’s Cinema Tropical, is the longest-running festival of contemporary Mexican film in the United States.
This year’s line-up features a mix of award-winning thrillers, comedies and documentaries. Filmmakers will interact with audiences during question-and-answer sessions.
- Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
- Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.
- Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18, 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz. (Interstate 19-Irvington Road)
Admission is free but it is recommended to reserve seating at thethinyellowline.brownpapertickets.com
Fourth Avenue Spring Street Fair: March 24-26
Tucson’s largest arts venue returns to Fourth Avenue between Ninth Street and University Boulevard. Hours are 10 a.m.-dusk each day.
Activities include 400-plus arts and crafts booths, food vendors, stage musicians and street performers, plus a free children’s hands-on art pavilion. No pets are allowed.
Marana Founders’ Day Festival: March 25
The Marana Heritage Conservancy and the Town of Marana celebrate Marana’s roots from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Ora Mae Harn Park, 13250 N. Lon Adams Road. Activities include a vintage tractor and car show, heritage village, live entertainment, kid’s zone and food court.
A parade begins at 10 a.m. along Marana Main Street. Parking will be accessible from Bill Gaudette Drive.
Details: maranaaz.gov, calendar tab
Africa Night Dance Fusion: March 25-26
Diaspora Showcase presents a night of live music and dance performances at Grand Luxe Hotel, 1365 W. Grant Road. An eclectic mix of African sound, salsa and reggae will play from 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Admission costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
Cruise, BBQ & Blues Festival and Car Show: April 1
After a weather cancellation in February, the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance has rescheduled its annual festival.
Thousands of participants will enjoy live blues music and purchase barbecue as they view a variety of cars and trucks that celebrate the art of vehicle design.
The event takes place 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Oro Valley Marketplace, 12155 N. Oracle Road. Tickets cost $5, with a $1 discount for veterans and active duty military with ID. Ages 10 and under are free. Cash only.
Cyclovia Tucson: April 2
Walkers, bicyclists and roller-bladers celebrate neighborhoods and alternative transportation from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. during this annual car-free event.
Living Streets Alliance has designed a new route that makes its way from downtown Tucson through historic neighborhoods to South Tucson.
For the first time, portions of West Alameda Street and Church Avenue will close to vehicle traffic. Participating downtown museums include the Tucson Museum of Art, which will offer free admission.
The route continues down South Eighth Avenue, ending at a Healthy South Tucson Coalition health fair. Activities will include music, activities and demonstrations.
By ERIK MEDINA
Call Pima Community College student Montessa White an artistic Cinderella. “I’m a creative, ambitious person — I like to think at least,” White said. “I think I’m pretty smart and I want to do what I want to do. I have a lot of dreams and passions and I’m trying to pursue that. I’m a dreamer.”
White was born on June 14, which makes her a Gemini. Although White does not pay much attention to astrology, she believes Gemini actually does describe who she is.
“I can be two different people,” she said. “I can be smart and nice Montessa or really mean Montessa.”
White is originally from southern California, mainly the Yorba Linda and Placentia areas.
White didn’t grow up in an average family. She was raised by her mother after her mother and father separated. White’s mother left for California and her father stayed in Arizona.
“It’s complicated, I know,” she said.
White didn’t have a “happy-go-lucky” life as a child. She constantly movedaround and was homeless at one point.
“I was sleeping next to mailboxes with my mom’s jean jacket wrapped around me,” she said.
However, White said she doesn’t let that define her. She strives for the best, despite her struggles in life.
White can recall one moment she classifies as happy: the moment she met her stepfather.
“My life flipped upside down, like the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’” she said. “We were in a really bad situation and then we moved into a nice household.”
Eventually White moved to Oro Valley to live with her father, and attended Ironwood Ridge High School.
White’s years of moving around meant she missed a lot of high school between her freshman and sophomore years.
She had to scramble to make up missing credits needed to graduate.
“Everyone was bitching about their classes,” she said. “I had a full schedule, plus online classes. Twice as many classes.
It was hell.”
White completed high school with top grades, and graduated on time.
At PCC, White is majoring in digital art with a concentration in illustration. She is also looking into animation classes.
Besides attending school, White works as a student aide at the West Campus library. She works along Christine Seliga,
a library service specialist who has known White since August.
Seliga describes White as a creative and conscientious person.
“She’s got amazing skills with drawing and coming up with concepts for her design class,” Seliga said. “Montessa has
some visions that other people don’t have. She’s got some talents.”
Like many artists, White started drawing at a young age.
“My mom actually told me she would find my sketches on the toilet paper while using the bathroom,” she said.
Her go-to supply is a pencil. She does have other instruments for drawing but likes to stick to the basics.
White doesn’t draw inspiration from any famous artists.
“I actually don’t look towards famous artists,” she said. “I think their work is cool. I like looking at it sometimes, but I don’t care.”
White does relate to animator Tim Burton. They do not draw or create similar pieces, but she thinks they share similar art styles.
White can’t put a name to her style. She mainly draws people but tweaks them.
She also creates feminist art, which she defines as women drawing women.
Her post-Pima plans include finding a good school with digital art and animation programs, possibly in California.
She would enjoy any job related to full-length or short films, but would especially like to work on storyboards by helping with characters or background art.
Her dream job would be working as a storyboard artist at Disney.
In fact, Disney has been a very important part of White’s difficult life. Disney movies taught her life lessons such as to have courage and to follow her dreams.
If she could be in any Disney movie, White said she’d be in either “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella.”
“Cinderella is my life,” she said. “I feel like I’m like Belle and a little like Jasmine because Jasmine is fierce and fire. I can actually see myself in any movie.”
Interviews and photos by Erik Medina at Desert Vista Campus
“I am spending time with my brothers and sleeping in.”
Major: Equine veterinarian
“I am going to spend time with family and friends. I’ll probably go see the latest movie and will definitely sleep in.”
“I will be studying and enjoying time at home. I will also spend time with friends, and work.”
“A team of friends and I are going to be bike riding at Gates Pass. Party! Chill! Enjoy life!”
Major: Mechanical and nuclear engineering
“I will most likely be playing video games, hanging out with friends, sleeping and definitely eating food.”
Major: Liberal arts
By ERIK MEDINA
In the desert and concrete beyond Interstate 10 on the south side of Tucson, you’ll find a punk rock historian at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista Campus.
Alisha Maria Vasquez, born in Tucson on Nov. 5, 1984, has lived in the city her entire life.
“I’m a bubbly, punk, Chicana krip,” she says.
Krip, a term for anger, reflects her feeling about being born with short-leg syndrome.
She had her first surgery at age 5, and endured another 20 surgeries over the next 10 years.
However, Vasquez says her disability is a part of her character.
Vasquez witnessed her parents’ divorce at age 10 and stayed with her mother. She says her family didn’t have many material goods but was culturally rich.
She later went through a punk rock phase and says the genre helped her control anger that originated from frustration with her place in society.
“We were poor, whatever, a lot of people are poor,” she says. “But I’m Mexican and a woman.”
Through most of her high school years, she wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon because of her history with medicine and doctors.
Her goal changed when she took a history class in her junior year of high school. She realized she loved history and decided to learn more.
Her high grade point average helped her receive a scholarship from the University of Arizona. Vasquez majored in history and women’s gender studies, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
Vasquez later moved to San Francisco, and attended San Francisco State University to obtain a master’s degree in history.
She studied Chicanx history and felt fortunate to count disability activist Paul K. Longmore as an instructor. Under his guidance, Vasquez dreamed of being the next big disability historian.
“I was breaking boundaries,” she says.
Her studies mirror her personal life. “I’m the most narcissistic person,” she says. “I study myself.”
Vasquez graduated from SFSU with a 4.0 grade point average, and returned to Tucson with an academic perspective. She was jobless for one year, but spent 50-plus hours a week volunteering.
Serving on the board of directors for Tucson Urban League helped her better understand the community.
She then joined a task force on racial ethnic disparity, and identified areas where kids were getting picked up and arrested. She represented the youth and sought alternatives for those who were facing jail time.
Vasquez eventually found part-time employment at PCC, working as a Mexican American Studies instructor.
Sandra Shattuck, a Desert Vista writing instructor, met Vasquez in January 2016 when their classes were paired as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities Border Culture grant.
“I like Alisha’s enthusiasm,” Shattuck says. “She is passionate about what she teaches.”
She also admires Vasquez’s teaching methods.
“Alisha is so clear in presenting complex issues and offering a long view of the history and then making the connections between back then and today,” Shattuck says.
The grant program brings students to Tucson from across the country to learn about Mexican American culture and border issues.
“I’ve brought my fifth-generation Tucsonan perspective into the program,” Vasquez says.
She would like to teach full time for PCC or work in administration to create community partnerships.
“For me, higher education made a lot of sense but it’s not for everyone,” she says. “As a society, we must also assist people to achieve their dreams even if it seems outside the norms.”
Although retirement is far away, Vasquez would like to retire as a PCC employee. She says she would only leave if she was offered a position where she could root for the underdog, as she always has, only this time for pay.
Her plan for the years ahead is to start a family with her husband. She likes the idea of two kids. She would also be interested in traveling if she doesn’t start a family.
“Be yourself,” she says. “You will never please everyone, but if you can find a way to live a life that is true to morals and values that you set for yourself, you will be happy.”
By ERIK MEDINA
Pima Community College writing instructor Molly McCloy will lead a weekend workshop on March 3-5 to teach students how to write and perform nonfiction stories from their lives.
“Art of Storytelling” sessions will be held at the Downtown Campus in the AH building, room 140. The schedule is as follows: Friday 6-8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Students will also write individually on Saturday evening.
Students will view videos and listen to podcasts, read short nonfiction based on storytelling performances, and learn to organize stories using a traditional three-act structure. They’ll have an option to perform their work live for an audience on the last day of the workshop.
McCloy earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from The New School in New York City. She is a three-time winner of the NYC Moth StorySLAM and has published in Slate, Nerve and Swink.
She recently wrote a one-woman show, “Mad Dog Grudges,” and has performed it in New York City, Tucson and Phoenix.
Students can earn two credits. Current PCC students can enroll in WRT 298T4 through MyPima, CRN 23823. Non-students can complete an online admission form at pima.edu/admissions. Cost for state residents is $183.
For more information, contact Josie Milliken at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brooke Anderson at email@example.com.
By ERIK MEDINA
For some reason, many residents of the United States think it’s “un-American” to speak a language other than English. In reality, the U.S. does not have a national language.
Many of our citizens use the excuse of “it’s freedom of speech” when speaking their mind, but harass individuals who are speaking another language. Isn’t that the non-English speaker’s “freedom of speech?”
I believe that being bilingual should be glorified and not criticized. We should embrace the diversity our nation holds.
Being bilingual is without a doubt a positive thing. It’s been proven to actually help intellectual growth and enhance mental development.
Many like to say that if children speak two languages, they will be confused or forget their native language. Ironically, learning two languages actually helps children understand their native language.
Being bilingual also provides better job opportunities. Employers look for individuals who are able to communicate with more than just one group of people.
Now for the downside of being bilingual and learning two languages … There is none.
There has been no proof that learning two languages can negatively affect the mental function of an individual. The only possible downside is discrimination and typically discrimination comes from those who see bilingualism as a “bad thing.”
We as a nation should understand that people are not born with prejudice. They are taught it.
Instead of growing up to believe that something or someone is superior to others, we should learn to understand that we are all equal and that we are all humans.
Language is a form of communication. It brings people together and helps them express themselves. Language is a way to share culture and tradition.
Cesar Chavez once said, “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speaker.”
Erik Medina plans to transfer to Arizona State University and hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and journalism. He also likes cats.
Snuggle up to fun February events
Compiled by Erik Medina
February is the month of love and relationships. Don’t know how to celebrate? Here are some events suitable for both couples and singles.
Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase
More than 40 shows set up across the city in tent, hotels and exhibit halls. Items on display range from precious jewels to mineral crafts to dinosaur fossils.
Most citywide shows are free and open to the public.
The main event is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show on Feb. 9-12 at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.
Admission to the convention center cost $13 with discounts available. This year’s theme is “Mineral Treasures of the Midwest.”
Details: visittucson.org/events/gem-show or tgms.org/show
Savor Food & Wine Festival
The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance brings together more than 75 chefs, wineries, breweries and restaurants to showcase the diversity of heritage foods and ingredients in the southwest.
The event will take place at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2510 N. Alvernon Way. The admission price of $65 allows you to sample from a variety of menus.
Arizona Renaissance Festival
Feb. 11-April 2
The festival just outside of Phoenix is a 30-acre medieval amusement park with 13 stages, an arts/craft fair and jousting tournament. The annual event runs every Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 11-April 2, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. It will also be open Feb. 20, President’s Day. No pets allowed.
Tickets start at $24 for ages 12 and up, with discounts available at participating Fry’s Food Stores. Parking is free.
From Tucson, take Highway 70 to Florence Junction. Go west 7 miles on Highway 60 to Festival Village.
Details: royalfaires.com/arizona or Arizona.renfestinfo.com
Lunar New Year Celebration
The Tucson Chinese Culture Center will host Year of the Rooster celebrations at Tucson Mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road, on the first floor near JCPenney.
The event will feature live performances all day. The first act begins at 11 a.m. and the last at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Fort Lowell Day
The historic neighborhood invites the community to relive its past. The 36th annual celebration from noon to 4 p.m. will include a wide variety of activities and displays such as adobe brick making and tours of historic sites. Admission and parking are free.
By ERIK MEDINA
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)
Don’t be basic! If you’re single, do things you’re not used to, have fun. In a relationship? Spice things up! Try sushi with your partner.
Pisces (Feb.19-March 20)
Didn’t get a New Year’s kiss? Don’t get too excited, you probably won’t get a Valentine’s Day kiss either. Sorry.
Aries (March 21-April 19)
We’ve all had desperate times. Can’t get rid of a clinger from Tinder? Remember, when in doubt, “New number, who dis?”
Taurus (April 20-May 20)
Don’t focus too much on your romantic relationship, but more on your friendships. Your friends have been there through your ups and downs. Appreciate it.
Gemini (May 21-June 20)
Fries before guys. Sisters before misters. Mates before dates. Pals over gals.
Cancer (June 21- July 22)
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to watch “Fifty Shades Darker” alone. Just in case, though, bring a friend or take the book. Say it’s for book club.
Leo (July 23- Aug. 22)
You might not have found the “one” yet but that’s OK. Don’t rush into things. Would you rather pick up 10 pennies from the ground or one dime?
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sept. 22)
Relationships are overrated, so stick to pets. We know you’ve closed the door to force your pets to spend time with you. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)
Feeling blindsided on what to do for Valentine’s Day? Have you ever heard of Pinterest?
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)
When planning a romantic evening, it’s the thought that counts. However, making ramen, pouring it into a bowl and serving it to your date does not qualify as a fancy meal.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec 21)
Being single isn’t as bad as it’s put out to be. That’s why there’s Netflix. Binge watch a series and eat food. That will mend your lonely heart.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan 19)
Date someone outside of your circle. Be aware, however, that artists aren’t always the best choice. If you break up, they make something out of the experience. Your pain is their path to becoming famous and rich.