Category: Diversity

Strength in Differences

Friendship can look very different than you would expect it to. Though similarities draw many people together, differences between us can do the same. People who are different from one another can be just as close as those who are incredibly similar. Today, divisiveness is prevalent since we must physically be apart to protect those we love and ourselves. It is important to remind ourselves of the love and connections we have in these trying times. Strength in Differences is a ten-part project featuring portraits and interviews with friends who are close despite their differences. In it, we at Rising Rock Media, aim to look at togetherness while staying six feet apart.

(Written piece by Charles Bledsoe.)

Sandi Bledsoe and Julie Dennis have an unbreakable friendship that will last the rest of their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has separated many loved ones, but not Julie and Sandi.

The unbreakable friendship between Julie and Sandi has lasted for over 15 years. Through the years Julie has faced adversity in her fight with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), but through it she has maintained a mindset that makes her invincible. Julie’s strength comes from her faith in God and striving for better health through her diet intake.

A little over a year ago Sandi gave up her quick and easy commute to work to move in with Julie. Julie’s husband, a truck driver, is often gone for weeks at a time. Sandi holds Julie accountable in her positivity and drive to increase the movement in her legs. They spend their weekends in their pool doing intense leg and core strength training in hopes that Julie will walk with a walker soon. Their love for each other and their ability to keep each other uplifted is truly inspiring and heartwarming.

It just goes to show, when you give someone kindness and constant positive support, they feel like they are special and strong. Julie never lets her disability change the way she loves and shows kindness to everyone she comes in contact with. Sandi is the ultimate giver of love and time. Together their friendship can bring tears to anyone’s eyes.

Next time you think about helping someone you see struggling, don’t think about it. Be more like Julie and Sandi, and do everything out of love—especially caring for others.

(Written piece by Tierra Web.)

There are approximately 7.5 billion people that exist in the world. Of those 7.5 billion people there are no two people on this planet that are exactly the same. 

There is something distinctively unique about every individual that walks this earth that sets them apart from their peers. For Alexis Hodge and Moriyah Wimbley this distinct characteristic happens to be the shade of their skin.

Walking through life together for almost  a whole decade, Alexis and Moriyah have lived through some of the same life experiences. Although the experience was the same, the impact it had on each of their lives was completely different.

For Alexis growing up as a biracial female in the heart of the south, discrimination based on her gender and the color of her skin has had a huge impact on the person she is today.

At the age of five Alexis had her first encounter with the cruel act of racism. She was told by an uneducated little girl that because her skin was dark there was no way her mother could be white. As a five-year-old little girl this encounter left Alexis feeling confused and she was constantly second-guessing why the color of her skin set her apart.

Hodge said, “If I could go back and give my younger self any piece of advice, I would encourage her to love the skin that she is in and that the discrimination would only get worse as she got older.” 

Moriyah Wimbley had a similar experience in the first grade, but she was discriminated against by her elementary school teacher. At six years old Moriyah, along with several of her African-American peers, was told that she would never make it anywhere in life. The same teacher would constantly make fun of Moriyah because of how big her lips were.

Wimbley said, “Hearing such derogatory things about yourself at six years old really has an impact on the way you view yourself in life.”

Unfortunately for both Moriyah and Alexis this would not be their first encounter with racism and discrimination. 

Wembley sail,“Being discriminated against made me feel like I had something to prove. I wanted to prove to my first grade teacher that regardless of the color of my skin I will be something great in life.” 

Although discrimination is something that these friends have experience most of their lives, The impact discrimination has had in both of their lives has resonated in a different way. 

(Written piece by Luke Dammann.)

Two life-long friends prove that no matter what you share in common, the uniqueness of one another is what truly strengthens friendships.

Hannah Dammann and Summer Ghaffari, a sophomore and junior in college respectively, have been friends for as long as they can remember, and both share a bond that truly exemplifies the word “friendship”.

Hannah and Summer first met when they were in elementary school, as they both attended the same church. 

By simply observing these two “peas in a pod,” you might conclude that they have everything in common, but that is far from the truth.“Our friendship makes no sense,” Hannah proclaims, “But differences make our friendship what it is. But it just feels like we really needed to be together and connected and we’ve stayed connected through everything. I couldn’t see it any other way”.

The difference in the backgrounds of these two young women alone is striking, with Hannah being raised in Tennessee her whole life, and Summer being from a different country entirely.

Summer is originally from Russia and was adopted when she was five years old, living in Memphis for a while, until finally ending up in Chattanooga.

“Everyone’s always wondering how that was for me, because I lived in Russia until I was five”, Summer says, explaining her experiences and the adoption process, “It’s still part of me you know, I still have memories of Russia. I remember a lot of snow and the orphanage I stayed at and friends I made there”.

Another big difference between the two are their hobbies and interests, with Summer being very athletic and Hannah being a more artistic type.

“I would call myself creative. I’d rather create things than do anything else really”, says Hannah, who is majoring in art education at Tennessee Tech University. 

Summer grew up as an incredibly athletic girl, playing soccer and basketball throughout middle and high school. While she majors in physical education at UTC, Summer still engages in sports with an intramural flag football team. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two young women is their unique experiences in school. 

Hannah was homeschooled until arriving at college, growing up with three other siblings who were all taught by their mother.

Summer attended Loftis Middle School and Soddy Daisy High School which is where she played most of her sports.

When asked why she thinks they make such good friends, Summer’s answer was almost identical to Hannah’s, saying, “You get to learn new things. The differences are what make you grow close and connect. We’ve connected through different life experiences and have supported each other through everything.”

Hannah and Summer’s relationship is a story of true friendship despite many differences in their lives. Their hobbies, passions, backgrounds, and schooling could not be more opposite of each other, but their willingness to learn, grow respect, and support one another is always on full display. 

A New Normal by Elian Richter

Journal Entry 4

Selfie taken using the reflection in a mirror on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Photo by Elian Richter)

After today, my college experience will be over. One last zoom meeting and a brief ten minute presentation are all that stand in front of me graduating from UTC. College has been the absolute best time of my life so far and I’m uncertain how to feel about leaving.

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A New Normal: A Quarantine Commentary

Two to fourteen days. That is all the virus is supposed to live for, but the inability to stop our fast pace capitalist society from going keeps the COVID-19 going. Small businesses hurting, stock market crashing, unemployment rate increasing, people social-distancing, colleges closing. Not just the nation, but the world is having to learn new ways to live their day to day lives. The digital age has taken a whole new level of meaning. Every person is affected by the coronavirus in different ways. Rising Rock, a group of students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seek to tell their stories on how this pandemic shapes their experience, and what this extraordinary moment in history looks like from their perspectives. A New Normal: A Quarantine Commentary is a creative and documentative project by the students of Rising Rock. Step foot into the perspective of college students as they share what their world now looks like in this rapidly changing society because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scroll to the bottom of this page to click on individual stories.
By clicking one of the names below, you’ll see a glimpse of how this global pandemic has now shaped each of our lives.

This week’s featured story:  A New Normal by Elian Richter

Waverly Hunter poses for a photo from her back yard in Hendersonville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Photo by Elian Richter)
“As the days blur together and the heavy weight of isolation builds, it’s easy to dwell on the negative emotions brought out by the current situation: boredom, loneliness, depression. These emotions are certainly overwhelming at times but there’s also a brighter side to this too. … I’ve recently realized that the pandemic has also brought at least one positive outcome during this strange time; the opportunity to spend time with one of my favorite people in the world, my little sister Waverly.” To continue viewing more of this post, visit A New Normal by Elian Richter.
Produced By Rising Rock Media

One Roof

The St. Andrews Center is a multicultural hub providing space for creatives of all kinds, whose passions are found in art and cultivating community. Terry Davis, the St. Andrews center Building manager, figured out how to lease the space for an affordable price offering artists an opportunity to continue creating and expand their community with surrounding tenets. 

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Ungrounded

In 2009, the Chattanooga Aerials opened the first aerial studio in the area. It was opened in order to put on performances and teach the art of aerial dancing to the community. Amy Powell is the founder of this studio, but passed it down to Jen Keehn after owning and operating it for about four years. The Chattanooga Aerials studio teaches classes on silks, trapeze, aerial cubes, aerial ladders, lyra aerial hoops, bungees and many other pieces. They teach beginner levels to pro levels at their studio nearly every single day of the week. 

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A Different Perspective

In a world where visual cues are key to interaction and accessibility, some people have to do without it.  Adam Hixson, a 42-year-old Tennessee native, is all too familiar with this issue. When Hixson was 32 years old, his optometrist told him that he had about a year until he would lose one-hundred percent of his vision. Hixson was understandably confused, frustrated and scared.  When asked what he misses the most about having his vision, Hixson stated, “Used to, when I could drive, if I wanted to go somewhere, I got in the car and went, I didn’t rely on other people. Since I went blind, I have to rely on everybody to get places.”

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Cup of Culture

With over 50 local coffee shops in the Scenic City alone, coffee has become its own subculture that has spread and affected the ambience of Chattanooga. Not only do these shops act as a social space for the spread of art and ideas, but many have their hand in community outreach as well. 

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