UMF New Commons Project Selects Kendrick Lamar Album “DAMN.”

UMF New Commons Project Selects Kendrick Lamar Album “DAMN.”

By Jeremy Austin Staff Reporter


Kendrick Lamar’s album damn gets into his life and how he became a successful rapper. (Photo courtesy of Spotify)

For the month of February, the UMF New Commons Project is exhibiting their selection of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 album DAMN. as an essential work both to the students on campus and to the populace of Maine as a whole.

   The goal of the project according to its director UMF English professor Kristen Case is twofold. “The first,” Case said, “is we wanted to talk to people all around the state about cultural works… that they care about and hear about why they think they’re important.” Works included paintings, albums, movies, books, etc., and overall there were 160 submissions.

   “Another really important part of it,” Case continued, “is [helping] articulating some ideas about why the humanities matter.” These works all came from either UMF students or from folks all around the state, with the goal of creating both the sense of a cultural commons in the state as well as promoting the importance of the humanities.

   The album’s nomination, a video sent in by Kara Chandler of Oakland, made the case for why the album should be selected by the project. “As popular as Lamar is,” Chandler explains, “I feel like he doesn’t get the correct amount of recognition for the content of his songs that he deserves—especially for the songs on this album that target relevant topics in today’s society such as racial bias, poverty and police brutality.”

   Chandler describes the album’s first eight tracks, starting with the opening spoken word piece called, “BLOOD.,” and ending with the album’s lead single, “HUMBLE.” The songs cover a wide selection of social issues that Chandler goes through, including being black and famous (“YAH.”), poverty (‘FEEL.”), loyalty (“LOYALTY.”), and the notion that he’s the same on the inside as everyone else regardless of his skin color (“DNA.”).

   On selecting the album, Case said that Chandler’s video made a really convincing argument. “She basically talked about the impact it had on her as a high school student to be hearing this music,” Case said. “Many of us just felt moved by that argument and actually persuaded by it.”

   She went on to say that she and the others on the committee of faculty, students, community members and many others felt that this was an important experience for a high school student in a “rural, mostly white community” to have.

   The project’s assistant director, UMF postdoctoral fellow of Digital and Public Humanities Stephen Grandchamp, said in an email interview, “The original nomination video was particularly powerful in explaining how the album inspires today’s youth to become politically engaged. More than that, DAMN. is a fantastic example from an important contemporary artistic genre (hip hop) that is meaningful to our community.”

   Grandchamp also said of the entire project, “One of the aspects of the New Commons Project I love most is how it opens a discussion of artistic works among various populations in our community… Many of the most rewarding moments have been when these groups—students, faculty, community members, etc.—articulate why they believe a work, genre, or author is particularly important to them.”

UMF Graduate Brings Fiction Writing Contest to UMF for Second Year

By Eryn Finnegan President

  The Islandport Magazine fiction writing contest is back for its second year. This contest is held in partnership with the UMF creative writing program and is open exclusively to UMF students of any major.

   Islandport Magazine is a quarterly publication from Islandport Press, located in Yarmouth. The winning piece will be featured in the spring 2019 issue, with 40,000 copies distributed to their readers, over 100 stores across the state, as well as subscribers of the Maine Sunday Telegram.

   The only requirement is that the pieces must be based in Maine. How writers choose to tackle this requirement is up to them. According to Shannon Butler, a 2013 graduate of the UMF creative writing program and creator of the fiction writing contest, Maine does not have to be explicitly mentioned; it can be represented through setting, character or mood.

   “Most of what we got [last year] was pretty straightforward fiction, the daily lives of New Englanders represented in different ways, which was a lot of fun,” Butler said. “This year, I really encourage subtlety. You don’t have to have a lobsterman character; you can feature much more of Maine than just what people know.”

   Creative writing major Aimee Degroat won the first contest with her piece, “Where He Ain’t.” Her piece, published in the spring 2018 issue, was well received by Butler, her coworkers and readers of the magazine. Butler cited the reception of the winning piece as a major reason the contest is being held again.

       Butler created the contest as a way to promote fresh Maine voices. “We wanted to break out of the Portland market since it’s saturated with writers and artists, but Maine has so much more talent around the state,” Butler said.

   Butler also mentioned the lack of magazines focusing on fiction writing as inspiration for the writing contest, calling Maine a “hub for fiction writers, readers, artists and creative communities.” She suggested to her colleagues that the contest pull from UMF’s creative writing program after thinking back to her classmates.

   “When we started the magazine, we wanted to keep [Islandport Press’] core values of promoting Maine and New England talent,” Butler said. “We wanted to make sure we were featuring fresh voices, so I was like, why not feature the freshest voices? I said, ‘let’s go back to UMF,’ and my coworkers were really supportive.”

    Butler first discovered Islandport Press when she successfully sold them an ad for a poetry book while working as an intern for Caribou based magazine Echoes. Her apprenticeship at Echoes oriented her career aspirations toward the world of publishing, though she still manages to write everyday.

   “When I left [Echoes], I started angling myself more towards publishing than writing because I became more self aware,” Butler said. “I’m more of an active reader now, but I’m still engaged in the writing community. I write press releases and emails now. I edit pretty much daily.”

   Butler also stressed the importance of being a skilled writer and communicator, and that a writing degree can lead to many job opportunities.

   “The great thing about a writing degree is you can use it anywhere,” Butler said. “There’s publishing and editing, but pretty much every kind of industry has room for writers. Hospitals need writers, nonprofits need copywriters and people to write press releases. There’s so many options for writers that aren’t just writing.”

   The deadline for the Islandport Magazine fiction writing contest is December 31st. Students interested in participating should email any questions and/or submissions to For more information, visit their website at

Panel of Teachers Speak at ‘Tales from the Classroom’

Panel of Teachers Speak at ‘Tales from the Classroom’

By Andrew Devine – Editor-in-Chief

   The UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine (AEM) hosted a panel of teachers to discuss horror stories, life lessons, and experiences that came from working in the classroom.

   The panel consisted of teachers of all levels: Dan Ryder and Andrea Palmer, who have been teaching for about twenty years, high school and first grade respectively, Chelsey Oliver, a first-year teacher and recent graduate from UMF, and Elaine Grant, a retired teacher that taught for nearly 40 years.

   The program started with a potluck style dinner to which all attendees were invited. Following the meal, the panel began with a light-hearted question that led to some serious answers: “What is your favorite story to tell about teaching?”

   Most responses from the panelists resulted in profound lessons that the group had gathered over what amounted to over 80 collective years of teaching. Dan Ryder, an English teacher at Mt. Blue High School for nearly 20 years, included some of these important responses.

   “You can be friendly without being a friend,” and “You have to be authentic, and figure out what that means exactly,” were some of the lessons Ryder shared with the club.

   Students in attendance seem to have taken in important lessons pertaining to their future careers from the event.

   Bradley Howes, a sophomore Secondary Education student who worked with Ryder during his practicum, said, “What I took away from it is, you’re going to screw up many times in your first, second, and third years; the point is you have to go with it and own it.”

   On the horror theme of the event, Bryan Eldridge, a member of AEM, said: “Kids aren’t scary; kids are only scary if you make them scary.”

Stephen Riitano, President of UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine.
(Photo courtesy of Andrew Devine)

   Stephen Riitano, President of UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine, helped organize the event and led the panel on stage in the Landing. Riitano said, despite the title of the event, which is a spin on the 1980s television program: ‘Tales From the Crypt’, it was not meant to be a scare.

   “I think the big thing was a balance between horror stories and what is rewarding and informative about teaching.” Riitano said, “If we had just done an hour full of the worst that can happen, it might come as turning some people off.”

   AEM has held similar events in the past, under former name Student Maine Educators Association, and hopes to continue work in aiding students in their advancement towards work in the education field.

   “It’s usually an annual event that Aspiring Educators does,” said Riitano. “Last year it really wasn’t that big, there were only five or six people in the Ed Center lobby, so it was great to have 65 people show up.”

   This event, and the high attendance, shows the progress the club has shown since the start of the school year.

  The club will be hosting an event focusing on Special Education in November.

Event Spotlight: A Filmmaker’s Journey Through A Life Of Art And Practice

Event Spotlight: A Filmmaker’s Journey Through A Life Of Art And Practice

By Courtney Fowler, President

Alrick Brown, artist and filmmaker. (Photo Courtesy of

Alrick Brown, artist and filmmaker. (Photo Courtesy of

The silence that fell across the room after watching Alrick Brown’s four-minute short film that highlighted historical lynching in America was a profound silence indescribable to those who were not present; the type of silence that makes you hesitant to make even the slightest move or take a breath. As the bright lights flickered to life overhead and my eyes readjusted to my surroundings in Thomas Auditorium, Brown quietly said, for the second time in his presentation, “When I take the time to tell a story, it needs to matter.”

Brown, who was dressed from head to toe in black clothing and spoke with a slight Jamaican accent, is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Undergraduate Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Though his dedication and passion for teaching is what drives him, it is his love for film and inspirational life story that truly catches the attention of his audience.

Originally from Kingston Jamaica, Brown immigrated to the United States as a young boy, shortly after the brutal murder of his father when he was just three years old. With such dramatic life events, coupled with a constant feeling of being an outsider in his newly established New Jersey home, Brown found himself seeing the world in a different light. A self-called “natural observer,” Brown began noticing stories around him that others did not see; the stories of individuals that were not being told.

   In one particularly transformative experience, Brown traveled in West Africa to see the famous slave castles in Ghana, an experience he now credits as the moment he realized his future as a writer and film director.

“Visiting the slave castles in Ghana was stimulating, it was historically painful, emotional; every fiber in my being was going off. The walls were still stained black with blood,” explained Brown. “As I looked around, I thought to myself, ‘How can I ever explain this experience to others and make them feel what I do?’”

From this life-changing moment in Ghana, Brown fearlessly and relentlessly pursued his dream to tell the stories of those who were not being heard, those who could no longer tell the story themselves. Specifically describing his tactics as “looking at the world with your head tilted slightly toward the side,” Brown discussed the obstacles he faced throughout his career and the challenges of bringing a story to film.

“Art is created within limitations,” said Brown. “We are constantly bound by rules. Take for instance, a Shakespearean sonnet: fourteen lines, three quatrains, and the final couplet. The sonnet is bound by a structure that miraculously gives it meaning and purpose.”

In the final moments of his presentation, Brown presented a behind the scenes look at the making of his Sundance World Cinema Audience Award winning film, “Kinyarwanda. Maintaining his mission to tell the hidden stories of those otherwise unseen, the film brought together six true stories of individuals who lived through the horrors and survived the Rwandan genocide. Through his work, Brown not only gave a voice to these remarkable individuals, but inspired many in the process.

Moving forward, Brown plans to continue to devote his time seeking out the stories that matter; the ones that change the way people feel and see the world. His most anticipated project is one that features a documentary of children in Jamaica who hold a quiz show competition in their spare time.

Brown was graciously brought to UMF for his presentation by the Honors department, specifically the Honors First-Year Seminar, Travelers’ Tales: Outward Journeys, Inner Truths.