Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Krispy Kreme Challenge: It's Worth the Calories!

Posted by Melanie Zink and Angie Luvara, RALEIGH, NC -- On Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, runners from all over gathered in Raleigh to participate in what may be the only road race in which participants actually take in more calories than they burn—The Krispy Kreme Challenge. Participants run from the Bell Tower at North Carolina State University to the local Krispy Kreme, where they ingest 12 doughnuts (2400 calories) and then run back to the Bell Tower. The 4.77 mile run burns about 500 calories on average, only a fraction of those donuts ingested during the run! Possibly due to the abnormal nature of the race, the Krispy Kreme Challenge attracts anything but average runners. From a man dressed as a Spartan to a few different superhero costumes to grown men outfitted in their finest footie pajamas, participants in this stomach-churning race had plenty of interesting sights to take their mind off the sugar-induced stomach ache they were sure to endure for the second half of the race! The light-hearted atmosphere, free doughnuts, and great stories to tell more than make up for the extra workouts participants will need to burn off all those extra calories.
Melanie Zink is a Psychology Student in the Master’s Degree Program at North Carolina Central University. She is an avid runner and participated in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also an avid runner and participated in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Emails can be directed to Angie Luvara at For more photos from the Krispy Kreme Challenge, log on to our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Keeping It Real

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, GDANSK, POLAND – Bill boards are meant to grab the attention of large, locally-based consumer audiences and the three gregarious, middle-aged, swimsuit-clad gentlemen pictured in this downtown Gdansk one certainly do. They are selling klopsiki…meatballs. According to the tag line, meatballs are an invigorating summertime meal. To be honest the bill board didn’t really entice me to run out and buy some Pamapol Klopsiki. But the three Klopsy (Meat Balls) in the picture stopped me in my tracks, put a big laughing smile on my face, and moved me to take a photograph. It also made me wonder why bill boards in the United States are rarely so tongue in cheek, and include such likeable every day characters as the Klopsy. In America, if it's not an ambulance-chasing law or insurance firm that coughs up enough money to purchase bill board space, the most likely bill board candidates are big corporatation-sponsored young, thin, attractive -- airbrushed -- people with nice hair, prominent cheekbones, wide mouths, and very straight white teeth. But characters like the Klopsy are much more interesting because they are real – not formulaic or vapid. And images of real people convey more authentic stories of social life that we can all identify with one way of another. So if that ever youthful, ‘perfect-looking’ Calvin Klein underwear model featured on the Times Square bill board since the 1980s was on this one, seductively holding a jar of Klopsiki against his tanned and rippled abs, I probably wouldn’t have even stopped to look.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at To view more photographs from Gdansk log on to our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Public Housing and Protest

Photo by Deirdre Oakley
Posted by Natalia Deeb-Sossa and Deirdre Oakley, NEW ORLEANS, LA -- On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, claiming the lives of almost 2,000 people and causing over $100 billion in damage. On August 23, 2010 the fifth anniversary of Katrina was observed across the country with President Obama calling New Orleans a “symbol of resilience”. In many ways this is true – the city’s tourism industry has come back to life, housing is being rebuilt, and many displaced residents have returned. But it is not the city it was before the storm. In fact its population size and racial composition have changed dramatically. According to a New York Times article by Campbell Robertson, just released U.S. Census figures show that the city's population has shrunk by 29 percent. And yet the white population has grown to 30 percent while the Black population has declined to less than 60 percent. In other words, the city has become smaller, whiter, and wealthier.

Photo by Natalia Deeb-Sossa

Why? Well one of the primary reasons is that displaced Black citizens, many of whom owned homes, have not been able to return. Unlike the French Quarter, the storm damage remains visible and pervasive in the Ninth Ward as well as around the now vacant Charity Hospital.  And then there was the controversial demolition of public housing. Even though Katrina caused only relatively minor wind and water damage, government officials decided The Bricks – totaling 4,500 units -- needed to come down.

Photo by Deirdre Oakley
After the storm the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) would not let public housing residents into their apartments. Within a few months steel plates were placed on all the doors and windows, along with fences and razor wire surrounding the buildings. A year later, after repeated assurances from HANO that residents would be allowed back once the minor damages were repaired, the authority announced demolition plans. HANO said residents would be given a subsidy for private-market rental housing. But the storm had severely compromised the city’s rental housing stock, resulting in an affordable housing crisis some experts say is the worst since the Civil War. Even with a housing subsidy, many public housing residents could not find housing in the city.

Prominent civil rights lawyers, grassroots organizations, politicians, public housing and other New Orleans residents began a coordinated effort to stop the demolitions. What emerged was a social movement to save public housing and the continuing battle has been one of the most intense within the broader framework of current public housing transformation efforts. There have been some victories – for one thing the Iberville public housing community remains open. But the movement couldn't stop the planned demolitions. Still, the public housing movement continues.
Photo by Natalia Deeb-Sossa

A number of sociologists who attended the 2009 Southern Sociological Society’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans had the unexpected opportunity to witness firsthand the passion and conviction of this movement. More than 70 of us signed up for what was supposed to be a tour of the remaining public housing – enough to fill a school bus. The bus ended up taking us to an anti-demolition rally at the Lafitte public housing community, which has since been demolished. The rally was organized by Community Concern Compassion (C3), a group central to the public housing movement. Most didn't expect the tour to take us to a public demonstration. Some were unhappy about it, and no one could have anticipated such a significant police presence, nor the many television cameras. Some of us observed and listened, some got right back on the bus, while others actively participated in the demonstration. We took photographs. Regardless of the varying opinions of this unexpected adventure, it’s safe to say that we all learned something about public housing in New Orleans and the people who keep fighting to preserve what’s left.

Photo by Natalia Deeb-Sossa

This little boy came to the rally with his grandmother. His grandmother had been displaced from public housing after Katrina. Although it was unclear whether he was displaced as well, his young life has most certainly been affected.  This photograph is a stark reminder that there is a human cost to these public housing transformation policies.

Photo by Natalia Deeb-Sossa

This gentleman used to live at Lafitte along with his elderly mother and aunt. They were all evacuated after the storm and were not allowed back in to get their belongings. He told us he misses living at Lafitte. So does his mother and aunt. But he and his family represent some of the lucky ones because that they were able to secure subsidized rental housing in the city. Still, the look on his face conveys that things haven’t been easy. How could they be? He lost his home.

Photo by Deirdre Oakley

Sam and Sharon, who are among the community leaders from C3, speak to the crowd. Both were in New Orleans when the storm hit. Sharon is a former public housing resident. She has housing now but continues to work tirelessly to help other public housing residents return to the city.

Photo by Natalia Deeb-Sossa
In the foreground is the little boy’s grandmother. Along with several sociologists, she’s listening to Sharon speak. Her face is weathered and there is a graceful weariness about her.  Her face and the way she holds herself also exude a deep pride and resilient strength. 

Photo by Natalia Deeb-Sossa
As the rally ended and we got back on the bus, it was difficult to reconcile the dispassionate policy discourse about the ills of traditional public housing with the passion and perseverance of the advocates, former public housing residents, and citizens who organized this event.

Natalia Deeb-Sossa is an Assistant professor of Sociology at University of California, Davis. She can be reached at Deirdre Oakley is an Associate professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at For more photographs of post-Katrina New Orleans log on to our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Texting on the Job

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS – Texting on the job is never a great idea, but if you’re a ‘lady of the night’ in Amsterdam’s Red Light (De Wallen) District it’s probably particularly bad for business. Window sex working is unique to the Netherlands and the red-lit lady in the picture is supposed to be vamping seductively to attract ‘window shopping’ customers (mostly young male tourists).  Texting in the window isn’t quite the same thing and it could get taxed. According to a recent New York Daily News article the Dutch government has decided to levy a 19 percent sales tax on the window-advertising sex workers beginning this year.

Photographers beware:  you’re not supposed to take photographs in the Red Light District. I didn’t know this and was yelled at by another sex worker. This was lucky. Word on the street is that it’s not uncommon to get your camera snatched and smashed by an angry pimp.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at To view more photographs of Amsterdam’s Red Light District log on to our Facebook Page.