The Indian Wars: America’s longest war

When Joe Biden announced his intention to remove all troops from Afghanistan by September 11, he made one critical error in what should have been a universal moment of relief. In describing the 20-year conflict in the Middle East as the longest in American history, the president swept under the rug centuries of ongoing and incessant wars against the nation’s Indigenous peoples. Whether by intent or, more likely, sheer unthinking accident, Biden’s comment serves to once more silence a critical narrative. As John Martin of the Oglala Lakota (South Dakota) bluntly put it: “Forgetting us is normal — it’s what settlers do.”

Since 1776, there has not been a single year in the history of the United States when the original inhabitants were not pulled, pushed and injured as collateral damage in the country’s turbulent and aggressive growth to nationhood. The Beaver Wars, the Plain Indian Wars, the Apache Wars, King Philip’s War, the Sixty Years’ War and so many more all directly involved, sucked-in and spat out Indigenous cultures from New York to New Mexico. This is not to list damages and abuses, but to construct a platform to articulate, yet again, the tendency for even the most well-intentioned American to forget the Indian Wars, or to set them aside as an unfortunate part of the greater good.   

Avery Red Cloud from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, is an Oglala Lakota artist and historian. A direct descendant of Maȟpíya Lúta, the Red Cloud war leader of 19th century fame, Avery is well positioned to understand the impact of the Indian Wars on Indigenous peoples, and the continuing legacy it brings.

“Maybe Biden doesn’t know…” he muses, “or maybe he doesn’t even think it was a war. Rather, [those in power] sweep across and cancel cultures without trying to even understand.

“But this, what has happened to us, wasn’t even a war — they tactically took our tribes out down the line. Not one single tribe would have done these horrific acts to their neighbors. Us Lakota put up a fight. That’s why they really hate us and have been pushing down harder on us all these years.”

Avery’s feelings on anti-Lakota prejudice certainly ring true. Pine Ridge, an almost exclusively Lakota reservation, remains the poorest corner of the nation. It has been subject to uranium poisoning in the water, municipal support from the state is essentially non-existent, alcoholism and drug abuse are at critical levels, unemployment is staggering, and self-harm so prevalent that a former Oglala Sioux Tribe President, Theresa Two Bulls, described the reservation as being gripped by a “suicide state of emergency.”

“It’s time those in Washington start to honor our culture and learn and teach about us natives in a right manner. Help build our people back up. We are humble and are not trying to be rich and rule the world. We just know that everyone is equal.”

But equality is a dream long held and never realized by those striking the balance between Indian Country and colonial America. Xochitl Laur is a Providence-based, Arizona-born member of the Diné nation, and the tiredness in her response is evident. 

“It’s not surprising,” comments Laur, taking time out of her birthday celebrations to address another mistake at the top. “Their war against Indigenous people has been a secret one, they never have and never will admit that the US has spent centuries trying to eradicate Indigenous people for their land, resources and knowledge. Why would we ever expect this administration to be different, because he has Indigenous cabinet members [Deb Haaland]? That’s a small olive branch; though a great step for us, our voices are still being dampened.”

Michele Bruyere, Cree, is a traditional drummer, singer, storyteller and educator. He is also a rockstar (although you’d never know it from his humble demeanor), playing the kit for one of Indian Country’s biggest and longest standing stars, Buffy Sainte-Marie. Bruyere also has a skeptical eye on the Biden administration and the inclusion of Haaland. 

“Halaand speaks about government ‘units’ to deal with issues in Indian Country. ‘Unit,’”… Bruyere screws up his face, “why not fix [government established] band councils? Tribal councils are not good for Indigenous peoples, a different kind of greed brews. Control our matters properly and in the traditional way, that’s what we need.”

I ask Bruyere whether this secret, ongoing war against Indigenous people will ever change, and what the goal is in Indian Country to make it happen.

“Great question. I asked the same to all my elders and they tell me, ‘Live and navigate your way well in this world.’” 

Laur seems to share his pessimism. She said, “[Government] can’t be honest because it would completely change history. It would cause a lot of turmoil and upheaval if they admitted that their end game was and is to eradicate the Indigenous people for gain.”

Maybe Biden was trapped by the constructs of what brought him to power in the first place. To acknowledge the Indian Wars is to acknowledge a greater tragedy, and that would require a lot of complex conversation that few in power seem ready to have.




Equity, Social Justice, and Weed: Introducing Yes We Cannabis

Humanity has a peerless ability to make a mess of even the most beautiful of things, and for quite some time, cannabis has been right there at the top of the heap, entangled with racist and anti-immigrant motivations ever since Federal prohibition reared its ugly head in 1937. 

In Rhode Island, the situation is dire. In April 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that people of color are almost 3 and a half times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession in the state than white people, despite comparable usage rates. The report further revealed that racially motivated trends have been getting worse, not better, over the past 10 years. Cannabis prohibition and discriminatory immigration practices have also found themselves entwined in Rhode Island, with an individual deported as recently as early March under the auspices of a cannabis-related crime. And with a quickly devised adult-use bill from the new McKee State House expected to get over the line sometime this summer, unaddressed community disparities will likely continue to fester unresolved.

That is why a group of cannabis equity advocates and non-profit organizations from across the state united to form Yes We Cannabis, a community-focused collation that fights for cannabis legalization that “prioritizes social justice and equity.” In the words of group spokesperson Emily Cotter, “Yes We Cannabis elevates the voices of those who normally don’t get an opportunity to have a seat at the table.” 

“Many states have failed in social equity,” continues Cotter during a lengthy phone call on drizzly afternoon, “but if we move forward without addressing the harms of cannabis legalization, we will fail to construct a framework than ensures equity into the future. What Yes We Cannabis strives to achieve is to put these pieces into place before laws pass.” 

Emailing a single, comprehensive document, Cotter reveals how Yes We Cannabis is structured around five key points that outline “what a just and equitable model of cannabis legalization” would look like in Rhode Island (edited):

1. Automatic expungement for prior cannabis offenses.

2. An equitable, fair and inclusive cannabis industry, including cannabis business licenses not exceeding $500 and tax breaks for businesses with workforces that include a significant percentage of people who were formerly incarcerated and/or who live in a disproportionately impacted area.

3. Reinvest cannabis revenue in communities hardest hit by the war on drugs, including affordable housing, community schools, expanded Head Start and scholarship assistance.

4. Establish civil protections and prohibit discrimination, including ending state and local agencies taking actions against an employee for using cannabis outside of work, as well as protections for undocumented people and immigrants.

5. Strengthen the medical cannabis program and support economically disadvantaged patients, including eliminating the 4% Compassion Center surcharge applied to medical marijuana sales.

The collation’s message is uncompromising, and Cotter, who is the Chief Operating Officer at hemp operation Lovewell Farms in Narragansett Pier, is surrounded by powerful colleagues and peers who add further weight to the collective voice: the ACLU, the Marijuana Policy Project, Formerly Incarcerated Union (FIU), Rhode Island Political Cooperative, Regulate RI and Reclaim RI, as well as a host of independent cannabis and drug policy reform advocates, lawyers, public defenders and legal experts.

“The time to act is now,” continues Cotter. “In Rhode Island we have to legalize through legislature, not a ballot measure. This year with a new governor, there is a new attitude at the State House, but what they are proposing fails to mention expungement and community investment.” 

But what of the governor’s seemingly Marvel-inspired “Cannabis Reinvestment Task Force,” an outfit permitted to make recommendations on how cannabis revenues could be used in job training, small business support and community development, including affordable housing and equity?

“It is so lackluster, nothing more than lip service. We don’t want it passed through.” 

Even with McKee’s “lip service” toward equity and affordable living, the issue of social housing remains a murky grey area. The Federal government oversees the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8, and since cannabis is currently on the Federal Controlled Substances naughty list, the two are unable to legally coexist. And here we step once more into the matter of race. According to the State Of Rhode Island’s 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, black and Hispanic families are more likely to live in Section 8 housing than any other group. If adult-use is legalized for Rhode Islanders, just what percentage of us will benefit, and more critically, what will our skin color be? 

“What we need is the removal of cannabis from the state-controlled substances act,” explains Cotter, finding a loophole as a fight for equity (how far haven’t we come). “Only then can we be truly in control of what happens in our own backyard.”

Cherie Cruz is the co-founder of Yes We Cannabis Collation member FIU, and as an individual directly impacted by cannabis inequity, Cruz is clear on the local situation: “Rhode Islanders have spent decades with these barriers in place, these collateral consequences, barring them from housing, employment, education.

“We know that the criminalization of marijuana is a tool that has been used to disproportionately impact certain populations, particularly Black and brown and poor communities. [Adult-use legalization] is an opportunity for our state legislators to really turn the tide and make this right, repair those harms.”

Cruz’s colleague Meko Lincoln has also been directly impacted by cannabis discrimination, and has suffered similar shared experiences: “For too long has our country turned a blind eye to particular populations pushed to the fringe and not allowed to participate in the process. This shift to legalize the sale, purchase and consumption of marijuana is a welcomed by Yes We Cannabis, but it must accompany some real reparations and reflect a true understanding of the harms done in the past.”

By uniting this varied group of committed, differently experienced individuals and community groups, Yes We Cannabis has achieved the unthinkable: a formidable force for good spearheading a charge against institutional inequity that the state has not been seen before at this level. Indeed, the collation is even singular among advocacy groups at a national level.

As Cruz neatly concludes: “It’s about having all these different viewpoints, perspectives, knowledge and skills, and bringing them together to make sure we have a great legalization bill here in Rhode Island. 

“Because we have an opportunity to show the rest of the country how we can do it.”




Vote Uncle Dan!: Wearing cool shades and drinking something non-dairy, new gov takes the state by storm

And Now for Something Completely Different

In keeping with the time honored tradition of sponsoring the natural environment with state names, Rhode Island is now considering adding a “state coral” to the list of “official state” flora and fauna. The lucky winner is Astrangia poculata, the Northern Star Coral, which is normally found in Narragansett Bay, but occasionally turns up in seaside montages at your local preschool. Yet the move has been met with outcry from some members of the marine invertebrates community, claiming that singling out just one species of coral is a sign of favoritism. 

“I mean, what has coral ever done for the people of Rhode Island?” challenged Mick O’Yster, spokescoral for the Rhode Island Shellfish Division (RISD). “It’s not like they sacrifice millions of their species every year to supply all those clam shacks! Cheeky monkeys if you ask me.”

In response, Governor McKee has agreed to give every living being in the State of Rhode Island an official designation, but this has become a problem with the Big Blue Bug becoming the Official State Bug, since the Official State Insect, the American burying beetle, already holds a similar office. Not to be outfoxed, McKee deftly redesignated the iconic landmark on 195 as the Official State Wonder. But this drew immediate complaints from, Bishop Tobin, who has been calling himself the Rhode Island State Wonder for years.

Ganja Believe It?

And just like that, a bill has emerged to legalize adult-use cannabis in Rhode Island. Despite having more holes than a Cianci legal argument, it appears that Lil Rhody is set to see the proposal steamrolled through and legalized sometime in the summer. The move has been welcomed by underground growers, who with their tax-free product don’t have to worry about donating toward the next set of roadworks on the Providence/Cranston line. Meanwhile, in the State House, hip and happenin’ Dan is drafting a proposal to install environmentally friendly, single-use bongs in the second floor bathrooms, just the latest move to win over the state’s young voters before the next election. 

“It’ll work,” commented McKee, wearing shades and drinking an almond milk latte from Brewed Awakenings. “Rhode Island has young people and in them there is a future. Bongs in bathrooms was the next logical step.”

Biden His Time

With both Gina and former Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh heading south to join the Biden Administration, Governor McKee has seen the path laid out for him. 

“What’s up in 2028, when a whole new bunch of politicos get their chance at ultimate stardom, will largely depend on the awesome shit we plan to do during our tenure in the State House,” commented an aide to the governor during a sneaky (socially distanced) beer at the wee bar downtown.

“Expect a monorail linking PVD to frontier towns like Burriville and Exeter, and we are also planning to build a cool, massive skatepark in the adandoned lots near the sewage works.”

It all sounds a lot of fun, but what I’m really looking forward to is the social laser tag game. Like the scooters found around the city, the new administration will install laser tag backpacks — rent a set for an hour and go have some fun! And remember: Vote Uncle Dan!




Giving Rhody a Lfe Line: The latest kid on the fashion block

Clothes carry meaning, and fashion has the power to change social discourse. As the nation wrestles itself free from four years of hateful and divisive politics, society has an opportunity to express what it has learned from the experience and what it will no longer tolerate, and the fashion industry has the tools to communicate that attitude to a national audience. In Rhode Island’s latest apparel Lfe Line, married couple Amos and Katie Goodridge have taken their passion for design and lifestyle and fused it with a commitment to the greater good. 

Amadeus Finlay (Motif): Brand names carry meaning, and nothing is decided upon without deeper thinking. What does Lfe Line mean to you? 

Amos Goodridge: When I think of Lfe Line, I think of dependability, it is about everyday life. The name Lfe Line is unique, I want it to be different from anything out there. It’s not a brand, it’s an empire.

AF: Powerful name, focused intentions… now let’s talk about the clothing. What sets your products apart?

AG: Within our Lfe Line clothing range, our tie dye especially is unique within itself. Each shirt is none like the other giving each customer a one-of-a-kind design with each purchase. But more than that. Lfe Line does not apply to one size gender or race. Lfe Line is for the people.

AF: Do you practice ethical sourcing?

AG: We at Lfe Line strive to produce not quantity but quality clothing. We make it a point to be ethical in all operations of our future empire. The point is to set a strong foundation, and the only way to do so is to do everything the right way.

AF: Your Facebook page also covers a lot of food conversations. What is the relationship there?

AG: What we are trying to accomplish is helping people of all walks of life. Lfe Line is a lifestyle and one of the aspects is nutrition. I wanna show people there’s other ways to nourish your body through natural foods, meditation and exercise.

AF: At a time when socio-political tension is at a high point, what is it about your message of togetherness that compels customers to choose your products?

AG: It starts with the team that we have around us, we have people working with us from all different backgrounds. Our team consists of people from Cambodia, Africa, Portugal and more, giving our clothing a flair like none other.

AF: As the son of Black immigrants from Liberia, and as a woman of mixed European, African and Indigenous cultures, what does this beautiful partnership of romance and commerce say about the potential for a modern America?

AG: It shows what the American dream should be, it’s about unity and bringing everyone together. This is more than just a partnership; this is the solid foundation that is needed for this impending empire.

AF: Any final thoughts for the stylish, socially-conscious people of Rhode Island?

AG: No matter what your background or style you can always LIVE LIFE in Lfe Line.




Emperor Denies Getting New Clothes: Fashion industry in an uproar

The nation’s capital descended into its fourth straight week of protests. The outcry started in the first week of November, when the emperor refuted a claim he had purchased a brand new wardrobe made of the finest Parisian silks. In a follow-up press conference the following morning, his Majesty asserted, “I’m always naked from the socks up. The suit I’m currently wearing is a manufactured illusion by my enemies.”

“Why would I need clothes?” he continued. “I mean, look at me, I am naked, I am always naked. Everybody wants to see me naked. It’s a form of national service, really.” A statement from the emperor’s legal counsel indicated they are demanding an inquiry in the entire clothes-making industry to prove they do not actually make clothes.

Protestors Protest Emperor’s Lack of New Clothes Claim

Pro-emperor protests gathered in large numbers one morning, citing frustration at the quickly escalating the-Emperor-Maybe-Has-Clothes scandal. The groups, who refer to themselves as the Emperor’s Squadron, rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles down the capital’s main streets, hollering at pedestrians and demanding all weavers cease operations until their group can confirm whether the emperor wears clothes. 

Members of the Emperor’s Squadron are also on record advocating for deporting immigrants back to their countries of origin, and draining a public works project they call “the deep state.” They tote guns and dress up in bright Hawaiian shirts over their squadron-issued Harley-Davidson tees. “It’s plain as day our emperor is always as naked as an infant,” says one squadron member. “The illusion that he is dressed is the lamestream media projecting, in order to shield his glorious figure from underage voters and other patrons of Cracker Barrel.”

It’s Black Friday for Bookies

Bookies across the Empire are taking bets on what’s coming down first: Emperor Squadron banners or this year’s Christmas decorations. The betting industry is making a comeback, but not all are so happy with the recent social unrest.

“We wish they’d go out and get a job,” said Bertie, a seasonal worker from a local strip mall. “But all they do is sit around the place and take advantage of the fruits of our labor. Protesting whether the emperor has clothes or not is a privilege for those who have the luxury to do so.” 

No one in the squadron could cobble together a statement refuting it before press time, however, Mckenzie has vowed protesters will find something else to get indignant about. “Don’t worry,” he told us over text. “Our members will soon be drafted into the war on Christmas, and we’ll rally against pagan propaganda on take-out cups.”




Student-Led Summit Tackles UN Global Challenge: FOOD

Hack For Global Good, the annual student-led hackathon produced by Rocky Hill Country Day School in East Greenwich, returned for its third year this fall, reimagining what a two-day face-to-face, high-energy event could look like as a fully virtual event. Established by students determined to create real-world solutions to UN Global Challenges, this year’s summit tackled issues surrounding FOOD: People | Production | Policy. 

Revised as a two-week, virtual design sprint for the era of social distancing, the event was attended by public and private high school students from across Rhode Island, as well as groups from Malaysia and Russia. Students formed 13 teams, each tasked with exploring three key areas: Food and People, Food Production, and Food Policy.

• People: Farmers, agricultural technologists, vendors, food pantries, growers, and vulnerable populations. Goal: zero-hunger.

• Production: Vertical farming, hydroponic techniques, robotics, GMO, seed saving/genetic ownership, innovative farming techniques, clean food, etc. Goal: zero-waste.

• Policy: Around sustainable food systems, access, transportation, health, affordability, and safety. Goal: food equity.

“The purpose of a hackathon is to offer high school students an experiential learning opportunity focused on citizenship, innovation and entrepreneurship to tackle a real-world problem,” explains Rocky Hill Country Day’s director of innovation, Meg Stowe. “This year, working toward a common vision of zero hunger, zero food waste and food equity for all, students brainstormed bold solutions to a U.N. Global Challenge and ‘pitched’ their novel idea to industry judges.”

In 2017, two students (now alumni), Cortlandt Meyers and Ben Pogacar, wanted to create an experience for students where they could accomplish three simple goals: 1) to work on challenges that matter 2) to bring together students across public and private schools to collaborate with experts in the field and 3) to have fun while learning. According to the students surveyed, 100% of students felt Hack for Global Good accomplished these goals and each of them would recommend the event to a friend. 

Hack for Global Good has tackled themes such as Energy in 2018 and Pollution in 2019, with the 2020 theme hitting close to home for many around the globe who experience food insecurity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leveraging an event app, some participants using one for the first time, students collaborated with experts from many sectors as diverse as design, policy, farming and agriculture, researchers, technologists, and more to tackle this challenge in a self-contained, yet global, virtual environment. 

Teams met up virtually within the app, learning to network with mentors, while speakers joined for the live kickoff event and the closing pitch event. Importantly, students led the entire production of this event, as well as managing the technology platforms used (Zoom and Whova), and working in teams under the leadership and guidance of two student event co-chairs, Lucia C. ‘21 and Drew T. ‘22. Student-led sub committees were created to focus on Business Development, Production, Marketing, and Tech/UX (user experience.) Another factor goal of the event is to create an inclusive, accessible, and powerful learning experience for all. In 2020, we introduced our Student Ambassadors Program, with the creation of leadership positions held by students from other schools, this year representing both public school and private schools in other areas of the state. 

Among the solutions pitched were new legislation to address food waste at the state level, new venture models leveraging bio-meat to mitigate the effects of climate change due to large-scale animal agriculture, and sustainable fabric production using food waste. 

According to Hackathon mentor Arnell Milhouse, founder of CareerDevs and Brown University’s Nelson Center entrepreneur-in-residence: “The fact that 95% of student report that participation in this event has changed their perspective and behaviors related to FOOD, how they will eat, food donation, composting, minimizing food waste, food purchasing, and even what they cook, is remarkable and an indicator of the power of the event and impact theme selection could have on Rhode Island!” 

But the real story is the connection between what these young minds are capable of and the innovations that are being brought to life in the real-world. Students generated ideas which leverage creativity, mindful use of technology, and a focus on the impacts of their solutions on the planet. Due to the relevant and open-ended nature of this event (by design), students worked for two weeks (in addition to their schoolwork) to uncover critical academic content, applied what they are learning to their real-lives, and worked well into the night to pitch a viable solution that has never been thought of through their unique lens as the next generation change-makers. 

To learn more about Hack For Global Good and to keep on top of updates for next year’s summit, visit hackforglobalgood.org




The Voice of Tomorrow: Introducing Jake Kambo

Jake Kambo

I am not easily swayed from my intentions or plans, but on a rare occasion even this bloody-minded writer can be put off course by something truly remarkable. Driving through East Greenwich on a bright fall afternoon, a live singing voice floated through the open car window that caused me to cancel my plans, park up and listen. That voice was Jake Kambo, a local crooner who at the tender age of 14, already sounds like the heroes who he emulates. We took a moment between sets to catch up and shine a light on tomorrow’s Chairman of the Board.

Amadeus Finlay (Motif): What inspired you to get into swing music?

Jake Kambo: I’ve been in love with music ever since I was little. Always tapping my feet to the music so loudly that I get yelled at. But the music that warms my heart, that’s the standards and jazz. I was inspired when I first heard one of the many standards, “Fly Me to the Moon.” I guess you could say I started flying up to the moon.

AF: When I hear you, I hear a young Frank Sinatra mashed with a young Michael Buble. How does that make you feel?

JK: To be thought of as if I sound like two legends is a tremendous compliment, but I have a long road ahead of me before I reach legendary status.  These guys are my inspiration and also motivate me every time I grab the microphone. As their legacies are tremendous, I want to establish my legacy in the years to come.

AF: Is it difficult to be a crooner in an era of pop music? Or does it help you stand out?

JK: I’ve always been told that I have an old soul.  To be a crooner in the era of pop music separates me from the majority music style, which I feel as though gives me my niche to share with the world. I like being different because I can carry this type of music down to a younger generation, and keeping the spirit of the croon alive for years to come. I respect all kinds of music and the talents that perform it, but only this kind of music seeps into my heart and makes me feel life.

AF: Who’s your biggest musical inspiration?

JK: My biggest musical inspiration … that would be my entire family. My family has helped me more than anybody else has. So I inspire to be like my family because they make me feel more love and joy than I could ask for.

AF: Tell us about your vision for the future. Do you want to make this a professional career once the lockdown ends?

JK: I guess you could say I’ve already made this a professional career even with the lockdown going on. I’ve been practicing, working hard and giving my best effort. I’m on Facebook, SoundCloud and YouTube. All social media outlets of which I’ve been keeping up-to-date and sharing the love of music. In the future, I hope to see myself continue singing and spreading the message of love, hope and peace to the rest of the world.

AF: What’s been your favorite experience on stage to date?

JK: Being on a stage is like being at home. I love performing whether it is to a small audience or a big. I am 14 and can take on any challenge that comes my way. I truly hope to see you beautiful people, some time or another.

Find Jake Kambo @jake.kambo or facebook.com/jake.kamborian or soundcloud.com/jake-kambo




Quirky, Nerdy and Brilliant: The Alexandra Cipolla story

Bloody good antibodies.

As far as expressions of self goes, you could do worse than Rhode Island. From supporting the creative arts in all their myriad splendors to providing global perspectives at world class universities, Rhody is a haven for those who want to be themselves — and be accepted — on an international stage. Many of our citizens embody this distinctly Rhode Island flavor, but if there was to be one who speaks for us all, local actor, comic and in-vivo antibody biologist Alexandra Cipolla might just be the name on the ticket. Amadeus Finlay caught up with this lover of Halloween and all things weird and wonderful as she prepares to celebrate the year’s spookiest event. 

Amadeus Finlay (Motif): In-vivo antibody discovery and theatrical performance … two very different pursuits, yet you successfully weave them together. Tell us a little about your distinct worlds, and how they overlap to influence your personality and creative verve. 

Alexandra Cipolla: Working in two completely different fields may seem bizarre, but it feels completely natural to me. It is almost as if I am two different halves put together. I have my nerdy science side, and I also have my artistic creative side. I have always been quirky and never really felt like I fit in anywhere, so it makes complete sense to me how I gravitate toward two unique industries. There is a point where I feel like each pursuit complements the other. There are times when being a performer has made me a better public speaker, and times when my creativity has assisted me in the lab.

AF: What has been your biggest challenge in each?

AC: The biggest challenge in both fields is balance. To be able to balance a creative endeavor while maintaining my professional career is quite difficult. I am a mother as well, so trying to weave so many intricate schedules together can be very tough. I have tried at times to focus on each field individually, but always find that I feel like I am missing part of my self. When I was taking time off from science to start a family, I missed it. And when my career gets too busy for me to create and perform, it feels like a piece of me is missing. I need both in my life and getting it all to fit together is the most challenging thing of all.

With Michael Thurder in Severed

AF: Your IMdB profile says that you enjoy “making waves…” Can you define what that means for you?

AC: “Making waves” refers to the passion inside of me and how it manifests. If I set my mind to something, I can do it. I can recall many times in my life when I was told that I would not succeed at certain things. It started with sports when I was young. I joined the track team and asked what the longest race was because I craved what was most difficult. In high school, I wanted to play soccer, but did not know how. I took a book out of the library and taught myself. An advisor in college saw me struggling in a class and told me I would not succeed in science and to change my major. Yet here I am, a scientist. It is also what propelled me as a self-proclaimed tomboy to throw myself into the world of pageants and modeling. I love experiencing new and different things. Some individuals feel that after a certain age people need to settle down. That is not me. I will always be “making waves” no matter how old I am.

AF: It was initially improv and the thrill of hearing an audience laughing that turned your heart toward performance. Do you still do the comedy work?

AC: I do. Comedy can be exciting and wonderful. A large portion of my work has been horror, but I am always open to a vast array of projects as an actor. I have played a cheerleader from outer space on a mission to see Elvis as well as a vigilante nun fighting the mob. The original improv moment I performed as a child opened a brand-new world for me. I was painfully shy and anxious, and it consumed my identity. Hearing an audience laugh was honestly life changing for me. The chance to be something other than myself was freeing and not something I had considered at the age of 10.

AF: What have been your standout performance moments?

AC: There have honestly been so many amazing moments, but one stands out above all the rest. In 2018 I performed in an original musical titled The Inside of His Severed Head. I absolutely adore musical theater, but this collaboration by Lenny Schwartz and Duncan Pflaster was so unique. I had spent so much time working on films and modeling that I forgot how much I loved theater. Not only did I get to originate the role of Bernard, but we also traveled to New York City to perform. For a science girl from Rhode Island, it was a dream come true. The art of pouring tiny pieces of yourself into an original character that no one has ever played before was amazing. Growing up it became a goal of mine to pursue musical theater professionally, but it was always on the back burner. Having the opportunity to create and perform with such a wonderful group of individuals was incredible.

AF: Some corners of society have developed a distrust of science and those who live and breathe medicine. What’s with that, and as a professional, how does it make you feel?

Alexandra loves to make costumes for her children at Halloween.

AC: The distrust of science is disheartening. I chose a career in science not just because it was something I enjoyed or was good at. I chose this path because I wanted to have a positive impact on people’s live. It is upsetting to see individuals who have no experience and background in the industry try to discredit the work and findings of others. Children in school are taught the scientific method growing up. They are taught that careful observation is required of any hypothesis. Through experimentation and analyzation that hypothesis is determined to be true or false. These findings have data to back them up. At what point do people stop believing in facts and why? I cannot speak for these individuals. I can only speak for myself. Personally, science is amazing, and I truly believe that the work I do positively affects people’s lives.

AF: Now, the question everyone has been waiting for: What are you dressing as this Halloween?

AC: As an actor I feel like I get to experience Halloween year-round working on different projects. I would love to say that I have an amazing costume planned for myself but as a parent, Halloween is now all about my kids. I have handmade every costume for them since they were born. When they were small and had no opinion, I loved to make movie costumes for them. My favorite was Barf from Spaceballs. And now that they are a little older, I am constructing cardboard garbage trucks and sewing superhero costumes. 




Clean-Up in Aisle Three: No more dirty politics

Clean Politics

Marty the Stop and Shop cleaning robot (Store #0723, Metacom Ave, Bristol) has declared his intention to run in the Presidential election this autumn. “My job is to clean up messes,” said Marty in his campaign announcement. “And the Oval Office is the ultimate in clean-up jobs. If I had been around in the Clinton years, that dress would have been so clean, Bill would have never been impeached, just cancelled.” Speaking with Alt-Facts, Mr. Stop and Shop’s campaign manager, Bee Rush-Pan, commented, “Marty’s inimitable slogan, SUCK IT UP 2020, is the only thing voters should be thinking this November.” Rush-Pan denied allegations that Marty’s slogan was too close to the “Settle for Biden” slogan that Democrats coalesced around last month.

Snowbirds Take Off

Governor Raimondo signed an executive order today, instructing all able-bodied Rhode Islanders to move to Florida. “With Floridians likely to be extinct by Thanksgiving,” Raimondo stated in a press release, “this is a prime opportunity to add another ocean to the Ocean State.” State officials are eager to avoid losing electoral college votes and Congressional Critter offices by this rapid expansion.

The release has been met with alarm by the local Republican caucus in the General Assembly, who are not eager to lose another Red State in the Union. “We might gain a few members,” admitted Lance Corporal of Burrillville, “but they’ll never want to make the commute from Jacksonville to Providence in the official party clown car for Assembly meetings.” GOP communications strategists have made it clear they will take to the series of tubes called the internet and complain on their grandchildren’s Facebook pages.

Tidying Things Up

Some things just don’t make sense: tofu, socks with sandals, Dan McKee. That all pales alongside a map of Rhode Island. Gina has tasked Middletown’s star cartographer, Dr. Mazon Dickson, with tidying things up. “East Providence will be merged with the city’s East Side,” explains Dickson in an exclusive reveal to Alt-Facts, “while North Providence will be amended to Northwest Providence, because that’s where it actually is.” The changes are intended to make the state more streamlined and more attractive to small family-owned businesses such as Raytheon, Costco and Pottery Barn.

Dickson reveals that Cranston will be renamed Cranstopia, and West Warwick will be divided into West West Warwick and Warwick Minor. East West Warwick won’t exist, says Dickson, but Warwick Major (as it will soon be known) will be allocated three further villages within its town limits (to join Conimicut, Oakland Beach and the rest), including South Central Warwick and South by Southwest Warwick. “The proposals have been met with universal acclaim,” explained Dickson, “with the only real protests coming from the owners of cliffside mansions in Slavery-Owner Town.”




Get Your Jocks Off: An interview with Strapped for Danger II director, Richard Griffin

Richard Griffin

Unassuming, welcoming, understated, even shy at times, you need to peel back the layers to uncover the man beneath the myth. But Pawtucket-based film director Richard Griffin has long been a legend in Rhode Island film circles, and is also becoming an important figure in the nation’s LGBTQ+ creative scene. We caught up with Griffin ahead of the July 31 premiere of his latest movie, Strapped for Danger II: Undercover Vice to discover why he returned to the Strapped for Danger franchise, and how the sequel is even more explosive than the first. 

Amadeus Finlay (Motif): Strapped for Danger II has just landed; tell us more about the plot. 

Richard Griffin: Strapped for Danger II: Undercover Vice revolves around two straight and highly inept police officers who, after blowing a big case, are forced to go undercover as gay porn actors to bust a blackmail ring involving several Republican senators. It was originally written as fiction, but now in 2020, it’s basically a documentary. 

(L-R) Graham Stokes, Ninny Nothin’, and Victoria Paradis star in the movie

AF: How have critics responded?

RG: The critical response has been nothing but overwhelmingly positive. It’s always a worry that a sequel will not live up to the original, but so far, the reviews have been as positive, if not more so, than the original. Reviewers are really getting into the political satire of the movie, as well as the well-drawn characters, performances and the overall comic book tone of the film. I seriously couldn’t be more proud. 

AF: The second in the franchise, why did you return to the Strapped for Danger setup?

RG: One of the major things I’ve loved about the original Strapped for Danger was the strong LGBTQ+ characters that writer Duncan Pflaster created. When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, when you’d see a gay male in a movie, they tended to be weak, cowardly and ineffectual. So, it was a delight to see really strong, forceful and proactive gay characters. Even though you do not have to see the original Strapped for Danger to enjoy the sequel, they are very spiritually related in terms of the strength of the characters.  They are also very playfully erotic, without either being blatant pornography, nor keeping it in the shadows. One of the greatest compliments I’ve gotten about the original film was from gay men who have said it was the type of film they really wish they could have seen when they were younger.  That really means everything to me.  

AF: How was it working with this group of actors?

RG: It was a delight. The cast was broken up into actors I’ve worked with before, and a group of fresh faces. It did take a couple of days for us to get up to speed, but that’s the nature of things. But once we got going, it was wonderful. I love working with actors who are passionate and want to bring something of themselves to their roles and, most of all, take some risks. I mean, being in a movie like this takes a lot of guts, so I applaud all of them not just for their talent, but also their bravery. 

Undercover Vice also features Alec Farquharson, Jay Walker, and Ricky Izzary

AF: What’s next for your production company, Scorpio Film Releasing? How about that long-hoped-for Richard Griffin Western?

RG: I would love to do a Western, but you know … it’s hard to find those locations in New England. Maybe someday when I decide to go really John Ford / Howard Hawks. But we have three movies currently in the works — Disorienting Dick, a dark comedy about a “gay conversation” group that may not be what it appears, Gay as the Sun, which is a satirical fake documentary, and The Taint of Equality, which is based on an award-winning, off-Broadway play by Duncan Pflaster. Obviously with COVID still being a major threat, we have to wait and see when it will be safe enough to go back into production. 

AF: Where can our readers watch Strapped for Danger II?

RG: Strapped for Danger II will be having its world premiere online on July 31. Readers can find out all about it on its Facebook page: facebook.com/events/275054047148391

There is no set ticket price, but we are asking people to donate to three Rhode Island LGBTQ+ organizations.