By Moses Kirori
It was the film Sarafina that sparked my interest in
Nelson Mandela. Sure I‘d heard my middle school history teacher mention his
name several times in class, but my short attention span at the time often
found its way out of the classroom way before I could learn anything about him.
Sarafina portrays students’ rioting
as they protest apartheid rule in South Africa and also features a collection
of inspiring songs that called for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
I began to take interest in a man
that I could not fully understand. Mandela had been imprisoned for 27 years, a
time during which his son had died and been buried. Yet, he walked out of prison head held high
and ascended to the reins of power where he would shake the hands of his
jailers and dine with those that many deemed his enemy. Mandela’s actions as
president provided a sharp contrast to what I knew about my own country’s
On December 12th 2013,
Kenya will mark fifty years of independence from Britain. History had taught me
that my forefathers fought hard to liberate my nation from colonialists and
when they were finally successful, the Britons had to go. Life’s circumstances had
also conditioned me to believe that if someone inflicts pain on you and somehow
the tables turn, you gladly return the favor. But Madiba, as his people fondly
referred to him, did neither of the above.
Mandela’s life has inspired me to
always seek a peaceful resolution through my own personal struggles. His long
stay in prison has provided me with a basis of proof that by taking time and
reflecting on my actions, I can make better decision and life choices.
Sure there are some who have
criticized Mandela’s way of life and his style of leadership with the current president
of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe top on that list. Several media reports have actually
quoted Mugabe saying that Mandela is a coward who sat in prison doing nothing
while he (Mugabe) fought colonialism. Mugabe’s actual quote from the news
report is too vulgar to print, but this comes from a man who has ruled his
country with an iron fist for over 25 years and refuses to retire from the
presidency despite his country’s failing economy.
Mandela taught the world and Africa
in particular how to retire gracefully as a political leader. Mugabe should
probably borrow a page from Mandela’s book, but I highly doubt the former would
be willing to learn anything the latter has to teach. African leaders in
general have cultivated a tendency to love and to hold on to power till death do
them part. Mandela’s short but sweet stint as president should serve as an
example to all African leaders that it shouldn't take forever to fulfill your
promises and deliver to your people.
To quote the great words of writer
Charles Bukowski, when something bad happens, we raise a glass and drink to
forget. If something good happens, we
raise a glass and drink to celebrate. If
nothing happens, we still we raise a glass to make something happen. So I raise my glass and mourn Nelson Mandela,
I raise it again to celebrate his legacy, and one more time I raise it hoping that
something will happen in Zimbabwe.
Kirori is the Coordinator of Television Programming in Public Affairs at MCC.
He is a 2011 graduate of the college.
Hopefully you're not reading this blog post while driving, and if so, it had better not be in the town of Bedford, because both the Bedford Police Department AND Middlesex Community College are watching!
This week, members of our Criminal Justice program provided a presentation for the command staff of the Bedford Police Department to show them the results of a semester-long service-learning project that studied Bedford drivers, and specifically, distracted drivers. The results were sobering, and will be taken under advisement by the town as part of an enforcement plan moving forward.
Here's how it worked:
The Bedford PD collaborated with our Service-Learning program and an Intro to Criminal Justice course to review existing accident reports, analyze data, and provide recommendation to improve road safety in town. The results showed that distracted driving, primarily through cell phone use, is widespread and needs to be addressed town-wide.
One of the many public safety functions of a police department includes taking appropriate actions to make the roads safer for drivers and pedestrians. The Bedford PD wants to improve driver safety by reducing the number of accidents along what is known as “The Great Road”, a very busy stretch of road from RT 128, to the center of Bedford. The central issue to be examined and evaluated in this project was distracted driving caused by several factors including cell phones, food/drink, grooming, electronics, reading, passenger interaction, and other actions.
Distracted driving is a widespread problem in America and is defined as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive/mental attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.
Here's some data the students unearthed to support their research in town:
The number of people killed in distraction – affected crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012.
An estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012. This was a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011.
As of December 2012, 171.3 billion text messages were sent in the US every month.
11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
For drivers 15 – 19 years old, involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.
At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent – at 55 mph – of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
The data on distracted driving was obtained by students from MCC using two methods; field observation and review of past accident reports from the Bedford Police Department. Students were required to do one hour of field observation and one hour of reviewing past accident reports over a three week period starting September 23 and ending October 11, 2013.
The following recommendations made for the Bedford PD and should be considered as part of a comprehensive plan to address the problem of distracted driving along the Great Road. The goal of reducing traffic accidents resulting from distracted driving by using cell phones will increase safety and benefit the Bedford community.
◦ Enforcement efforts of the Massachusetts law enacted in 2010 on the use and restrictions of electronic/mobile devices should increase. The locations and times to focus on are:
Great Road at Elm: 8am to 9am and 4pm to 5pm
Great Road at South: 4pm to 5pm
Great Road at Marsardis: 4pm to 5pm
The students said this should be done in conjunction with a high – profile public education campaign. It is recommended that both efforts be done consistently over a period of time to have a lasting effect.
Strategies such as the use of plainclothes officers observing cell phone use/texting and radioing other officers to pull the vehicle over, making it a standard operating procedure as part of routine patrol, and targeting efforts focused on specific events such as Distracted Driving Awareness Month should be considered. Observing drivers who are texting can be difficult, so the use of a higher vehicle such as an unmarked SUV if available could be used.
The high - profile public education campaign should include awareness in the local printed media, electronic bill boards such as those in use on route 128-route 3 and social media including Twitter, You Tube and Facebook.
The Bedford PD should consider partnering with local businesses and corporations as well as the high school on distracted driving prevention awareness.
Bedford Chief Robert Bongiorno, an MCC alum, said he was grateful for the work of the students. "They provided a tremendous service to the Bedford community, and yielded some very sobering data about the drivers on our roadways," Bongiorno said. "I look forward to implementing some of their recommendation as part of a strategic deployment of our resources to address road safety issues in town."
Nicely done, folks! And keep your eyes on the road, everyone! You never know who may be watching!
One of the most significant actors, directors, and environmentalists of the last half-century will be headlining the 2014 Middlesex Community College Celebrity Forum - Robert Redford!
Redford, who has starred in dozens of iconic Hollywood roles beginning with his co-starring role in the 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, will be headlining for MCC at the 16th outing of Celebrity Forum on Friday, June 20, 2014. Tickets for the event, which will be priced at $65 and $45, will go on sale on November 29, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, through the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. For more info, you can also visit the college's Celebrity Forum web page at www.middlesex.mass.edu/CF14
MCC President Carole Cowan said the college was both thrilled and honored to have an actor and activist of Redford's caliber step into the Celebrity Forum spotlight.
"Mr. Redford certainly carries the star power with his Hollywood pedigree," said Cowan. "But it's his inspirational leadership in taking on causes that help preserve our natural resources, and his championing of the art of independent filmmaking that have helped define him as an icon of our generation."
Besides his role as the Sundance Kid, Redford is also best known for his leading roles in other Hollywood roles in films like the Sting, The Way We Were, the Great Gatsby, All the President's Men, the Candidate, and the Natural.
His solo tour-de-force role in the newly released All is Lost is winning him Oscar buzz, and he will also be starring in next April's Captain America Sequel, the Winter Soldier.
Among the causes Redford supports are Greenpeace, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness, and the Sundance Institute. In 1981, he also founded the Sundance Film Festival.
Cowan said the timing of Celebrity Forum's 2014 speaker's visit is fortuitous for the college, since it just received confirmation of $11 million dollars in funding to help fund the renovation of the old Boston and Maine railroad depot, which is going to serve as the home for the college's new academic arts building, including a theater.
"For several years, we have been looking to expand the arts programs at the college, and will finally be able to do so with the restoration of the Boston and Maine," Cowan said. "It's our hope that Mr. Redford's visit will help cultivate even more enthusiasm for the burgeoning arts scene not just on our campuses, but in the Lowell region."
Once again, the TJX Companies, Inc., will be the presenting sponsor for the Celebrity Forum, as they have been for all 16 years of the fund-raiser.
"The enduring support of the TJX Companies, along with our many other sponsors and friends, is what allows us to draw national and international speakers to Greater Lowell to interact with our extended community," Cowan said.
For information on how to become a sponsor at next year's Celebrity Forum, please contact MCC's Dean of Advancement, Dennis Malvers, at 781-280-3514.