Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The "recovery" continues

Yes, duct tape on an operating traffic light. Been like that a few weeks. Probably be like that another few weeks.

from Mister's Words and Pictures

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dear University Student #19

Do not expect a 'Congratulations!' or free pass because you tell me 3/4 into the semester that you 'never bought the books.' Do not tell me this after an open book quiz and wait for a response.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dear University Student

Certifiable Princess' Dear Patients of Any Doctor made me hurt myself laughing. I've been inspired (and royally pissed off multiple times a day for the past 2 weeks).


Dear University Student,

To make this first semester easier for you and, especially, me, let's set some ground rules:

  1. 1. Do not give me Katrina-sized attitude because you do not want to take an English class. I did not make the core curriculum. If I had, you’d not only take more English courses but all freshpersons would start in the grammar and expository writing class.
  2. Do not tell me you were in AP English then wait for a response. I do not care if you were in AP English or if you are directly descended from Langston Hughes or W. E. B. DuBois. You will not pass this course because of your grades in high school or genetic potentialities.
  3. Do not tell me how your English teacher in high school a) never asked you to __, b) let you turn in extra credit work at the end of the semester to salvage your grade, or c) did not correct your work for grammar, expecting me to do the same things. This is not high school, I keep my job if you fail and no one will intimidate me into passing a student who cannot punctuate a 5-word declarative sentence.
  4. Do not ask me if you need to buy the textbooks. I would not require the books if we were not going to use them.
  5. Do not walk into class and ask, before I have unpacked my bag, “Are we doing anything today?” This is not your idea of high school where the classroom is a rest stop between hallway social engagements. If we weren’t going to do something in class, I wouldn’t be here.
  6. I hold office hours at specified times and you will not find me in my office before or after those times or on days when no office hours are scheduled. Do not try to lodge a complaint with my chair or dean because I am not in my office on Wednesday at 4:30 when my office hours are Tuesday 1-3.
  7. Do not walk up to the front of the class in the middle of a lecture or in-class assignment to ask about your grade, your last paper or how many absences you have. I am teaching and you are not the only person in the room. Ask before or after class or send an email. A polite one.
  8. Do not in any email to a professor or anyone of higher status or education write, “Get back with me.” Save that for your friends.
  9. Do not email worries about not getting an A in my course. I do not care if you get an A or an F or a W. You get what you earn, not what you want.
  10. Do not expect me to repeat myself because you were fixing your hair in a mirror, reading a book, or talking to the girl behind you. This is common sense and needs no explanation.
  11. Do not assume that if you complain to my chair or dean about a grade that the chair or dean will immediately chastise me and raise your grade. The first thing either will want to see is the assignment sheet, what you turned in and what comments I made. They might also want to know if you have talked to me first, attended office hours, requested conferences or missed too many days of class. My chair even knows the content of the course and has every right to quiz you orally on the assignment under dispute. Generally, you will lose. I am a professional, not some ho they pulled off the street 5 minutes ago.
  12. Do not ask your parents to call, write or email me on your behalf. If you have never taken responsibility for yourself before, now is the time to do so. Do not tell your parents that I am a mean and unfair teacher then neglect to admit you have missed half the classes, never bought the textbook, sleep half the time you do show up for class or didn’t turn in a 300-point portfolio you had 4 weeks to complete.
  13. Do not answer your cell phone during a conference or when you are asking for explanation of an assignment. Your time is not more valuable than mine. I am also a person with a life.
  14. Look at my class, and your other classes, as a full-time job. You are expected to show up every day dressed and ready to work with the requisite materials, be that a textbook, a handbook, a newspaper article, a pen or your ability to think. I come to work every day. Do you?
  15. Do not look blankly at a piece of paper, like an essay assignment, and ask me "what it means." Read.
  16. Do not tell me “how hard” you work. I do not care how hard you work nor do I see any of that. All I see is the final product. That is what I grade, not some amorphous quantity of time you call “effort.”
  17. I do not “work” for you. This is not a service industry. This is education. You get out of it what you put into it, both of which are up to you.
  18. Do not blow off half the classes of the term then expect me to work overtime to tutor you and grade 4 weeks of late homework and late essays. This should also be common sense.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Duck Crosses the Street Grammar Review: Answers

  1. "Only _a foolish, overconfident rapist_ (head: rapist; subject; a: indefinite article D) would enter _the room of his victim_ (head: room, direct object; embedded NP _his victim_, head: victim, object of a preposition; the: definite article D, his: possessive pronoun D), not knowing if _she_ (embedded NP; subject) would shout or scream," _he_ (subject) said.

  2. _He_ (subject) also said he found _the woman's actions_ (head: actions; direct object; the: definite article D) inconsistent with those of _a real rape victim_ (head: victim; object of preposition; a: indefinite article D).

  3. _She_ (subject) didn't call _anyone_ (direct object) after _the alleged attack_ (head: attack; object of preposition; the: definite article D), _he_ (subject) said

  4. _She_ (subject) didn't shower.

  5. And _van der Merwe_ (subject) said _he_ (subject) didn't believe _her account_ (head: account; direct object; her: possessive pronoun D) that _she_ (subject of relative clause) "froze" when _she_ (subject) discovered _Zuma_ (direct object) assaulting _her_ (indirect object--I think).

Which of any of the above are: gerundive noun phrases? Infinitival noun phrases? None.

Identify all determiners (D), predeterminers (PD) and postdeterminers (POD) in the NPs above.

All Fall Down

The shit has hit and shattered the fan at the University. This session has been chaotic at best, exhausting and physically damaging at worst, seemingly unending and frighteningly short.

At the beginning of July all these events collide: graduation; last week of the session; start of hurricane season; finals (2 days); grades due a day after finals end; hotel move-out day for faculty, staff and students. All these happen after most of our contracts end.

Students are feeling sick, tired, depressed, distracted. They are quitting jobs left and right and struggling to catch up in classes they have attended regularly but somehow goofed up in or classes they blew off for 2+ weeks (to sleep, go home, wander the hotel) and now desperately want (read: need) to pass. Out of 12 classes this session, some students have missed 5, 6, 8, 9 of them. I have been struggling with students to submit papers for almost 2 weeks because most did not read the directions they begged me to post online telling them exactly how to submit. The emails I sent went unanswered. I can count on one hand how many students have emailed for help or talked to me about the course content or their work (the majority of emails have been babyish whines about wanting an A or asking for help 3 hours before an assignment/paper is due). The lack of a break between sessions is breaking some of the students. Most of them attended classes elsewhere post-Katrina. It has been impossible either to teach a semester's worth of work and/or learn a semester's worth of work in cubicles with no ceilings and no way to control acoustics, impractical shuttle schedules...and we are in post-Katrina New Orleans, after all. That alone takes a few hours off your life each week, if not day.


I spent about 2 hours this morning calculating and posting midterm grades then compiling a table of D/Fs and reasons for their poor performance for the provost's office. Like they told us at the beginning of the first session (and every faculty meeting I remember on campus), we the faculty are responsible for retention. And this 'year,' the University needs 100% retention.

About a quarter of the students failing missed 4-9 classes (out of 12). Others have yet to submit papers in the format or location I requested 2+ weeks ago. They miss class and I cannot tell them I haven't gotten the papers, I email and get no response or I email and get random assignments in the proper format and wait still for the papers. One email I sent yesterday read:

You have 5 absences. You are allowed 2 for the session. There is nothing you can make up; I do not take late homework or allow makeups of in-class work. You've turned in nothing, including an Essay 2, so I have no way to judge whether or not it is possible for you to earn any particular grade. Absences alone will lead to an F. You would have to submit all perfect work which is unlikely.

It is up to you.
So he wants to try.

I am ready to be committed.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Some Questions for Our Mayor

What is your plan to recreate what little middle class New Orleans had pre-Katrina? What about the nurses, teachers, social workers, professors, business owners, principals, etc. who lost their jobs and their houses, primarily in New Orleans East and Gentilly? What will you do to draw jobs other than in tourism and service?

What is your plan to deal with the crisis in property taxes? We have a fractured, corrupt and ridiculously inequitable property tax system with well-connected assessors and generous donors whose donations save them $10K/year+ on property taxes.

How will you put the blame and pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers, Congress and the White House?

How can you please the groups who voted for you, African Americans of all economic classes and largely white conservative businessmen? Their interests conflict. Who will win when?

What will be done about the obscene amount of blighted housing in the up-and-running parts of the city? Central City is full of entire blocks that can and should be razed and redeveloped for working and middle class people, blocks that could quickly repopulate the city and provide the housing and workers needed.

Knowing that the mayor has little direct control over the public schools, what will you do in this new administration to alleviate the social and political problems that helped the schools deteriorate and decline?

What will happen to the housing projects left? Will they, too, be handed over to private developers who solicit federal funds then create blocks of housing few New Orleanians (and I mean gainfully employed people) can afford? Will private developers be allowed to add more $300K condominiums and $700K townhouses to a city with little economy outside of fast food, restaurants, bars and retail stores?

Will you use the money you have solicited to keep City Hall running to pay City Hall workers enough to stay off food stamps, not qualify for Section 8 housing and maybe even be able to live in post-Katrina New Orleans?

And sir, will you please stop acting like a preacher? Do I have to hear "God" every time you open your mouth?

Tags: New Orleans, Ray Nagin ,

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stop Slapping FEMA and Kick Some Corps Ass

FEMA will take the fall for the disaster that is New Orleans post-Katrina. There is plenty of blame to go around. Not enough of it, though, is falling on the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps which was in charge of our levees, the Corps which told us our levee system was Category 3, the Corps that told professional engineering firms to ignore soil weaknesses and allowed the Orleans Levee Board to claim that grasscutters provided the proper level of oversight.

The Corps is a boondoggle of failed projects, pet projects and dumb projects, all wasteful and few of which protect the taxpayers and voters footing the bills.

The Corps has eluded the public's outrage - even though a useless Corps shipping canal intensified Katrina's surge, even though poorly designed Corps floodwalls collapsed just a few feet from an unnecessary $750 million Corps navigation, even though the Corps had promoted development in dangerously low-lying New Orleans floodplains and had helped destroy the vast marshes that once provided the city's natural flood protection.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's failures didn't inundate a city, kill 1,000 residents and inflict $100 billion in damages. Yet FEMA is justifiably disgraced, while Congress keeps giving the Corps more money and more power. A new 185-point Senate report on what went wrong during Katrina waits until point No. 65 to mention the Corps "design and construction deficiencies" that left New Orleans underwater. Meanwhile, a new multibillion-dollar potpourri of Corps projects is nearing approval on Capitol Hill. [The Salt Lake Tribune. Yes, in Utah.]

This link will take you to a Times-Picayune graphic (you will probably have to register with the site but it is worth it) that shows how 80% of the city was inundated in about 6 hours. The floodwalls, the levee support systems, the MR-GO (the above-mentioned "useless shipping canal")--all Corps projects, all failed. And instead of blame, reform, shame and public humiliation worth more press time than some email Brownie sent about his suits, the Corps gets MORE money.

I wish I could fuck up like that and get paid more.

Three pieces of the Corps-created disaster:

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Nagin's Businessman Solution

To save the city from an abrupt halt to city services, Our Mayor Ray Nagin secured a $150 million line of credit through Chase Bank for the city. This brilliant idea will earn the four banks involved $3.75 million in upfront fees because of a likely interest rate as high as 6%:

Instead of borrowing the money at 4 percent, as is typical for a municipal deal of this size, the city likely will pay interest of around 6 percent, [Peter] Kessenich [the city’s long-term financial adviser and managing director of Public Financial Management Inc. in Atlanta] said. Again, he said the city can’t obtain a lower rate because its credit rating was downgraded to junk-bond status in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The interest rate could have been as high as 7.25 percent, but the banks agreed to lower it in exchange for the higher upfront fees, Kessinich said. The banking executive said the lower interest rate will not come close to offsetting the increase in fees.

Nagin declined to discuss details of the deal when he announced it on Monday...

When asked if he had a signed deal, Nagin said, “They’re working on the final paperwork right now. But this deal is done.”

Thanks, Ray, thanks a lot.


Much of the mayoral runoff buzz, worry, conspiracy theories, etc. hinge on race. A student said to me a few weeks ago, 'You know that if Landrieu wins, he’d be the first white mayor in over 20 years?' I said, 'And?' But she didn't have anything else to add and her face said that there was nothing else to add. The buzz is that if it weren't New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward that were devastated and still largely empty, as opposed to Lakeview and Uptown, Nagin would be re-elected b/c he is black. That's it. Voting solely on race. The last white mayor N.O. had was Moon Landrieu, a man who consistently opposed segregation. Our black mayors, like our largely black School Board, have presided over the city's long decline with the predictable rise in corruption and minor fortunes made overnight. Is it their fault? Were they on duty during those times? Was it their friends and families who became richer and richer? All yes and no questions. Not all people, white or black or green, are corrupt. And not all are honest. Character does not reside in melanin.

I am repulsed by the focus on race, by the growing buzz or fear that local whites feel it is Their Time To Take The City Back From Those Black People. But what all who follow that line of thought ignore is that this is a Chocolate City, that the bulk of the population yet to return is black, is involved in and the roots of the culture and music and history that makes the city what it is and that made up a huge chunk of the middle class. A Huge Chunk. Not the white folks. Who are deluded about what they are taking back and what the city needs to recover. It is not melanin that is the primary local problem. It is the economy. It is STILL the economy. I don’t care if Burger King and the hotels are now paying $8-10 an hour--rent for a one-bedroom apartment on an iffy block has skyrocketed to $1000 or more a month. Entergy will raise rates b/c of its bankruptcy and all the repairs still to be done citywide. $10/hour is not enough. It is no improvement. It is no economy.

And I haven’t even gotten to the almost non-existent health care system......

tags: . . .

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tell Me Why #1

Why were the New Orleans mayoral runoff candidates on MSNBC? Why was Chris Matthews involved? Chris Matthews does not care about black people.

Listen again:
George Bush Don't Like Black People mp3 via Boing Boing

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Wednesday, May 17-International Day against Homophobia

Though nothing, as far as I can see, is planned here, it is a day to remember, honor, blog and generally agitate and get in people's faces for LGBT communities internationally. There is an online petition (for what it is worth) and a website with information on international events and press releases.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Private Right to Be Repulsive

Kentucky School May Lose Funding After Expelling Gay Student

There is an unfortunately all-too-common belief among some conservative Christians that belief is the be-all and end-all, that if something 'violates' their 'beliefs,' no matter how shifting and political those beliefs may be, they have a Private Right to Discriminate. That is the impulse behind marriage initiatives and amendments to state constitutions--a deep need to have an -ism codified. Like Plessy v. Ferguson.

I could see my school doing this. I don't think it would, not now anyway when it is desperate to keep and draw students. But if the atmosphere in the country became more religiously fundamentalist/conservative, I could see students agitating to get 'those people' off campus.

image by Lilith Adler

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Real Mother's Day

Mother's Day as we know it did not start out as a "day off" or "tribute to motherhood." (And that tribute is often wrapped in patriarchal stereotypes of the mother and the backassward notion that 364 days of free labor is paid off in one day. I'd rather get paid some of the $134,121 a housewife gets paid; I figure I'm owed about half.) It was a day of activism and pacifism -- sanitation and world peace. I'd rather have that than a card, a dinner...though I won't turn down shoes.


The only white woman I hate more than Cokie Roberts is Ann Coulter. I hate her so much I can't even feel it anymore, frozen solid. And her increasing calls for fascism in the light of the Bush Administration's many violations of and flat-out disregarding of law and the Constitution should make us all wonder if Bush and Co. are pushing us toward fascism.*


I read 2 student "drafts" this morning so horrible, I told both students never to send me anything they hadn't looked at first. I wanted to tell them it was a waste of my time but I was able to hold back. It is time for the school year to be over, not for it to start up again. If it weren't for hysterical laughter and my grammar class, I wouldn't make it through the week.

* Stew Albert's list of signs of fascism:
  • weak labor unions and eroded right to strike
  • erosion of civil liberties
  • weak and divided opposition
  • warlike and "criminally aggressive'
  • propaganda, esp. of the leader as A Big Man
  • racism (rise in anti-Arab sentiment especially)
  • lack of free, fair elections

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Duck Crosses the Street Grammar Review

Underline the noun phrases (NPs) in the following sentences. Indicate the head of the NP with “H” and state the NPs’ functions in each sentence (subject, direct object, indirect object, inverted indirect object, subject or object complement).

  1. "Only a foolish, overconfident rapist would enter the room of his victim, not knowing if she would shout or scream," he said.

  2. He also said he found the woman's actions inconsistent with those of a real rape victim.

  3. She didn't call anyone after the alleged attack, he said

  4. She didn't shower.

  5. And van der Merwe said he didn't believe her account that she "froze" when she discovered Zuma assaulting her.

Which of any of the above are: gerundive noun phrases? Infinitival noun phrases?

Identify all determiners (D), predeterminers (PD) and postdeterminers (POD) in the NPs above.

Source for sentences:
South African Judge Clears Zuma of Rape

Bonus: Identify all NPs, the determiner system and functions of the noun phrases in the following:

  • The accuser was heckled as she arrived for court hearings, Zuma supporters burned her photograph outside the courtroom and aggressive cross-examination about her sexual history prompted concern that other women will be deterred from reporting rape.
Source: Zuma Apologizes for having Unprotected Sex

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Crunchy on the Outside, Crunchy on the Inside

Z*lda wrote a comment to "Another Reason Why the Future Will Not Occur" and my answer got long enough to pass for the only kind of post I’m getting done this week:

Do you work at a community college or high school? Are they full time students taking a full load of classes and or working, too? Maybe, since so many students were unclear about the assignment, you ought to have them repeat it back to you before leaving the room (seems to work better to get the attention of my 7th grader!). Also, the very act of writing is complicated and difficult. Do your students have a "learning center" at which to get help for their questions when you're not available?

I work at a 4-year college, not high school, not CC. These are not students who need methods for 7th graders but need to stop talking while i am talking, keep track of and actually fucking read detailed assignment sheets given to them well in advance and use email instead of just IMing their friends and looking up rap lyrics on the Internet. My students are not deprived and have help all over the place they refuse to use--a Writing Center and nightly and daily tutoring no one attends until the last 2 weeks of the semester. As much as i can, i help the students who struggle. But it is up to the college to support the students it admits and it does not do that.

(Some of our students probably should be at community colleges. Our school needs an arrangement/agreement with one of the CCs here. It has refused to do that.)

The "complicated and difficult" part of writing i handle by doing stages and small steps in the classroom that are combined into papers. If students keep up with (okay, if they do) the reading, come to class, ask questions, do the small group work, turn in the homework and in-class work completed and on time, i have scaffolded them into several small writing assignments and a few larger assignments, including MLA documentation and library database research, by the end of the semester. When they don't come, don't ask questions, don't buy the books (and not b/c of cash--book vouchers are easy to get and wait for some students all semester long every semester), don't look at the assignment sheet before they ask when it's due and the due date is centered in bold 16 point type.......

I am burned to a near crisp with 8 more weeks to go.

Monday, May 08, 2006

If I Did It My Way

Mister and I came up with these. They are only a beginning (and a way of tempering and focusing my usual totalitarianistic “If I were elected president, the day after inauguration, EVERYthing would change”):
  • Remove 3 layers of political appointees from every agency and sector of the federal bureaucracy. Promote from within.
  • Amendment Free Tuesdays—no amendments, riders, etc. attached to any bills on Tuesdays
  • The Put Up or Shut Up Rule: if there is a large deficit without any declared war/depression/cataclysmic natural disaster or series of terrorist attacks, the president is removed from office and the highest ranking senator of the opposition party serves out the rest of the president’s term. That senator’s seat is filled by a special election in his/her home district.
  • Lower the bar for impeachment. Make it more like a civil trial, like you can’t prove it in criminal court but you can sue the fuck out of your sister’s killer.
  • Presidents get a total of 8 years to serve—first a 5-year term then re-election to a 3-year term.
  • The presidential inauguration will be paid for like the Super Bowl—through advertisement and sponsorships. Let Anheuser Busch, Microsoft, Waste Management and ExxonMobil sponsor the limousines, police escorts, security, barricades, podium and stage, etc.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

#*@*%^! People Live Here!

During Katrina, the 17th Street Canal floodwall protecting Jefferson Parish was about to collapse . . . but the one protecting Orleans Parish failed first
As they help now to write their team's final report, Rogers and Bea say the bottom line of all the research tells them that neither side of the 17th Street Canal floodwall was properly designed to withstand the force of rising water and that both were built on equally unreliable swampy soils, including a layer of something Bea likens to "black toothpaste," the consistency of axle grease.


"A portion of the wall on the Jefferson Parish side, across the canal from the breach, is leaning, bowed out toward the land -- about one foot," Rogers said. "That might not be of concern if not for the fact that it is directly opposite the 17th Street Canal breach . . . and our drilling has confirmed similar foundation conditions."


[Reed] Mosher [a member of the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task force investigating the levee system failures] said he would also be looking to see if a gap had formed on the west side, a failure dynamic that figured prominently in a task force report issued six weeks ago.

In it, the interagency team said sophisticated computer models showed that the east floodwall came down in a four-step process that started when pressure from rising water began to push, or deflect, the concrete floodwall and its subsurface steel sheet piling supports away from the canal and toward doomed Lakeview.

That deflection created a gap between the wall and the levee on the canal side, a separation that extended the entire length of the sheet pile wall to 17 1/2 feet below sea level.

Water quickly rushed into the opening, creating a channel that separated the floodwall from the levee and allowed high water pressure a straight shot down to the soil beneath the wall.

Design flaws. Not really category 3 protection though they called it that.

The daily news.

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The Plan Against Plan B

From Susie Bright's Journal, a link to P.Z. Meyers' Why the wingnuts hate Plan B. It's thorough, brilliant and should be mandatory reading. His site, Pharyngula, is damn good, too, if you're the 'godless liberal' type who's not afraid to learn some science and new terms. A teaser:

This is an issue on which we can completely ignore any assertion that life begins at fertilization (which I personally find absurd), because it's irrelevant: fertilization doesn't take place. No zygote, no fetus, no embryo, no babies. The claim that this argument is about the life of a baby is null and void, and the opposition to Plan B makes it glaringly, brilliantly clear that this isn't about the sanctity of life at all: it's all about controlling a woman's ovaries. She will not be allowed to tamper with the timing of ovulation.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another Reason Why the Future Will Not Occur

I assigned 50 students to begin prewriting their argument essay. Tuesday, an outline was due. I told them what they turned in in class was only a fraction of their process, that they have to work on this outside of class. I had to miss class Tuesday so I changed the submission to an online one. Tuesday morning, after 4 days of complete silence and not a single question, I was bombarded with panicked emails from students who didn't 'know what you want!!!!!' and were 'worried to death' about their grades. Not worried enough to start more than an hour before it would've been due had I been there for class, I guess....That afternoon, more panic. And when all the dust settled, I got a grand total of 16, half of which were completely wrong and earned instant zeros.

And when I limp in tomorrow, I will be bombarded with excuses, most trying to blame me, the rest claiming the work was sent and somehow disappeared in cyberspace. It's one thing to ask for or need help. It's another to think that 2 days after the assignment is due is the right time to ask for help.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And We Wonder Why They Do Not Vote

Poll: 1/3 of Youths Can't Find La. on Map

Americans aged 18-24 with high school diplomas also couldn't find Iraq or the state of Mississippi or India.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day 2006

Boing Boing has links to pictures and blog accounts of May Day 2006/Day without Immigrants.
Un día sin inmigrantes: la huelga en Tijuana, MX
SF Day Without An Immigrant: snapshots, blog accounts
NYC Day Without An Immigrant: snapshots
LA Day Without An Immigrant: protest snaps, webcam feeds
Tampa Day Without An Immigrant: protest photos
Share Day Without An Immigrant: videos at

A real day without immigrants (to the area now called the United States) would leave nothing but Mexicans, American Indians and black folks (since we were enslaved, not a class of immigrants).

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!

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