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Jessica Bryce

Orlando Weekly

Recent Stories from Jessica Bryce

Image: Maternal Mortality Rate

Shocking Rate of Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in the United States

One of the most underreported stories of 2017 is the shocking rate of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States, which is rising steadily while it falls everywhere else in the developed world. Each year over 600 women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 65,000 experience life-threatening complications, says a report by the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute. Inadequate medical coverage in rural areas, racial disparities in access to care, the ever-more-confusing health system and the rising age of mothers are all drivers of this maternal health crisis. Whatever the causes, the reason the story is so little-known isn’t mysterious. In the patchwork of recordkeeping across 50 states, data on deaths caused by pregnancy is difficult …

#metoo image

Sexual Harassment and Assault

In 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress performed a bit about Bill Cosby that revolved around an open secret in show biz: Cosby was said to have raped dozens of women. A year later, Cosby was charged, but the general attitude was that these women were attention seekers. No one wanted to believe such things of good old Bill Cosby. But it was a watershed moment. In the next three years, as 60 women spoke up about Cosby, as a man heard on tape saying that “when you’re a star, you can grab ’em by the pussy” went on to be elected President of the United States, women had had enough. The floodgates opened. Hashtags like #yesallwomen and #metoo aired millions of …

Image: Performance Artists Brian Black and Ryan Bulis, Art in Odd Places FB page.

Art in Odd Places

Signal to noise ratio: It’s the proportion of useful, valuable information to worthless background static in any system. This year’s Art in Odd Places festival, happening Friday through Sunday, takes ‘Noise’ as its theme, but judging by past years, the festival promises to offer a high ratio of signal to noise: plenty of good work, very little rubbish. More than 34 artists from around the country will take over downtown this weekend, inhabiting and enlivening the sidewalks, streets and building surfaces. In its third year in Orlando, Art in Odd Places has found its sweet spot, striking the balance between artistic freedom and administrative oversight that’s required of all city-sponsored festivals. Barbara Hartley, executive director of the Downtown Arts District, …

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com

With the influx of Puerto Ricans fleeing Hurricane Maria’s wreckage, Central Florida’s affordable housing becomes a scarce resource

Ana Mieles wants to be buried in Puerto Rico. She tells her children this when she visits them every few months on the mainland. But Hurricane Maria destroyed her home. Now she’s staying with a daughter in Orlando, just one of thousands fleeing the wreckage. Like Mieles, many are staying with their families for now. Others, though, may need more permanent, affordable housing – a scarce resource in Central Florida. The Metro Orlando area ranks third in the nation for its lack of rental housing within reach for extremely low-income residents, with just 18 affordable units available for every 100 needy families. But state leaders estimate that about 100,000 Puerto Ricans will migrate to Florida in the coming months. Orange …

Image: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival Sunday after a gunman opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. David Becker/Getty Images, npr.org

Mass Shootings are Becoming More Deadly and More Frequent

This isn’t normal. Sunday’s horrific event in Las Vegas is now the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. For 16 months, Orlando was burdened with this title. Awful as it was to be at the top of of that list, it wasn’t one we wished on anyone else. If it feels like mass shootings are becoming both more deadly and more frequent, it’s because they are. They’ve become such regular occurrences – five in just the last two years – that our reactions have become formulaic. When horror strikes we fall into a predictable cycle that ultimately achieves nothing but to make us just a bit more numb. Politicians and elected officials offer “thoughts and prayers.” Anyone calling for …

Image: How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story, peacefilmfest.org

The Global Peace Film Festival

Watching movies doesn’t have to be an idle pastime. In fact, the organizers of the Global Peace Film Festival want it to be a revolutionary one. This annual festival of short films, features and documentaries hopes to inspire audiences to action, using movies as a catalyst for change. And in this, its 15th year, it feels like peaceful change is needed more than ever. Festival founder Nina Streich admits that 2017’s environmental devastation, global social inequality, and divisive politics are scary. But she’s counting on that atmosphere of heightened urgency to motivate her audience rather than turning them off. Streich says, “What’s exciting about the festival is at the end of a film, when people are kind of leaning forward …

Image: Screen shot of @MarcoRubio tweet, twitter.com

Group Demands Marco Rubio Stop Tweeting his Daily Bible Verses

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has a penchant for waking up early and tweeting a daily Bible verse to the 3 million followers of his Twitter account. But an organization devoted to the separation of church and state has asked him to stop, claiming that he’s breaking the law. Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the request in a letter to Rubio’s Washington D.C. office. They cited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in June that tweets from President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account are, in fact, official statements. “We have no issue with people reading and discussing the Bible,” says Andrew Seidel, the foundation’s director of strategic response. “But it is not for the government in our …

Image: Photo by Allen Sheffield via Flickr, orlandoweekly.com

A Farmers Market is Coming to Parramore this Fall

A federal grant awarded to the city of Orlando last year is finally coming to fruition. City officials say they are working to open a new farmers market in Parramore by October, giving residents a more convenient option to buy fresh produce. Parramore has been deemed a “food desert,” meaning at least 33 percent of the population lives more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. In October 2016, the city won a USDA grant to expand healthy food options in West Orlando. The grant initiatives include creating 10 to 15 large vegetable gardens in residential front yards, based on the Fleet Farming model; teaching classes on healthy cooking in partnership with Hebni Nutrition; and establishing a …

Image: photograph from “Roadsides and Skylines” by Jenn Allen, orlandoweekly.com

Ekphrastic Floridas at the Gallery at Avalon Island

A great thing about writing for a living is that you learn new things all the time. This week I learned the word “ekphrasis,” which is a rhetorical term for vividly detailed written description. Plato first defined the form in 380 BC, but the most widely known ekphrastic poem is Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” – a work of art about a work of art so illuminating that the reader actually “sees” the Greek vase. I stumbled over the word in an invitation to an event happening next week at the Gallery at Avalon Island. Local publisher Burrow Press is teaming up with Avalon for something called “Ekphrastic Floridas,” an evening of writers reading works directly inspired by the …

Image:  Eggleston1988 Parking Lot, mennellomuseum.org

The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston

Last Friday Orlando’s Mennello Museum of American Art opened an exhibition of work by Memphis photographer William Eggleston, who’s widely acknowledged as a living national treasure. Before Eggleston’s groundbreaking 1976 show at the Museum of Modern Art, color photos were seen as lowbrow. “Real” art photographers shot in austere black and white. But naysayers were put in their place when Eggleston’s brilliant dye-transfer prints became wildly popular and influential. Their saturated intensity lends significance to their humdrum subjects – rusty gas station signs, tattered fabric on a clothesline, a parking lot by night. And seeing as he’s known for his use of color, it’s a surprise – and a delight – to find that half the show is black-and-white photos. …