Pride Month

Since it’s June, it seems to be a good time to write about Pride Month and its history!

June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community. June was chosen because it’s the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which began on the early morning of June 28th, 1969. The Stonewall Riots took place in New York, and are often considered the start of the modern gay rights movement. The Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia at the time, and was one of the only places to openly cater to the gay community, including its most marginalized members, such as transgender people, drag queens, butch lesbians, and homeless youth. Police attempted to raid the inn, and tensions went up when transgender women refused to go to the bathrooms with police officers to have their biological gender checked. A crowd gathered, drawn by the commotion, and were sparked into action when a woman resisted arrest, fighting with police officers.

Rainbow flag proudly waving

There are two other very important anniversaries to the LGBTQ+ community that also take place in June. The first is the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting last summer, which was on June 12th. The shooting was a hate crime that killed 49 people attending a gay and lesbian club in Orlando, and was both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest hate crime against LGBTQ+ people in US history.

On a substantially happier note, the final noteworthy date, June 26th, marks the anniversary of same-sex marriage legalization in the United States! The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples could indeed get married, a goal that the LGBTQ+ community had been working towards ever since the Stonewall Riots started the Pride movement. It just goes to show, even though we still have a long way to go, we’ve come very far since the days of Stonewall.

(Cool side note: If you Google any word related to Pride Month during June, such as ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual,’ Google will add rainbows to the search results.)

The firing of James Comey

Earlier this month, President Trump fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey, in a move that has proven to be very questionable and controversial. In the days immediately following the incident, a number of conflicting stories emerged, from many people involved, muddying the truth further and further.

The choice caused backlash from both the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as many Americans, some of whom suspect that Comey was fired due to his investigating Russia, and President Trump’s potential connections to them. In fact, a recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed that a majority of Americans, more than fifty percent, do not believe his story about the firing, and think that he is abusing the powers of his office.

At first, the White House claimed rather straightforwardly that Trump was acting on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Supposedly, Comey was fired due to the way he had handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton. Later, however, the president rejected this version of events and instead stated that he had fired Comey himself, and that he had been losing confidence in the Director of the FBI since taking office in January.

What actually happened, at this point, is up in the air, but something else that lends a new perspective to the story is Comey’s own version of events, which is that he refused to pledge his loyalty to the president, instead promising his honesty, when pressed at a dinner party.

Many Americans are of the belief that Trump asked Comey to stop investigating possible ties between National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russia, and by proxy, between Russia and the Trump Administration. These ties have been a cause of great concern, since before Trump was elected, due to rumors of Russians manipulating the election to get Trump into office.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

With the American release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, on May 6th, now seems to be a good time to talk about future movies from Marvel, and about the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

Currently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in Phase Three. Phase One consisted of introductory movies for the main Avengers characters (Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Iron Man 2) plus The Avengers. It was Phase One that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and first drew attention to it, with the release of Iron Man in 2008 and culminating in The Avengers in 2012.

Phase Two consisted largely of sequels to the Phase One movies, such as Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. These movies expanded on characters introduced in Phase One and tended to be rather darker and grittier than the “comic book” feel of their predecessors. Along with the sequels came two other movies, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, that introduced new characters and plotlines. Phase Two spanned from 2013 to 2015.

That brings us to Phase Three, which started last year, in 2016, with Captain America: Civil War, which functioned as a sequel to Age of Ultron. The other two Phase Three movies released thus far have been Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 

There are seven movies planned for the future at the moment, which will continue the trend of some movies being sequels and others introducing new characters. Two of them (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther) will serve to formally introduce characters who first appeared in Civil War, while four of them (Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Avengers 4) will be sequels. The last planned movie, Captain Marvel, will introduce an entirely new character.

Diversity Week

This past week at Highland Park Senior High, from Monday the 17th to Friday the 21st, was Diversity Week, as organized by the students of our Gender-Sexuality Alliance.

(The GSA meets Wednesdays after school in Ms. Ostendorf’s room, if anyone is interested in joining.)

Rainbow flag proudly waving image taken from: ttps://

The Day of Silence is usually an international day solely focused on raising awareness for silenced members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, due to the success of the event in the past, and because of the wonderful diversity of our school, the students organizing it made the decision to expand it into a full week, covering other kinds of diversity and culminating in the Day of Silence.

Each day, leading up to Friday, was dedicated to a different kind of diversity, with an associated color for participating students to wear:

  • Monday was gender diversity day, with red
  • Tuesday was ability diversity day, with blue
  • Wednesday was sexuality diversity day, with green
  • Thursday was race diversity day, with purple
  • Friday, as the Day of Silence, didn’t really have a dedicated color, but students were encouraged to wear white and/or black if they were participating

Friday, then, was the Day of Silence, dedicated to people of all walks of life who are discriminated against and silenced. Many Highland Park students signed up for the day, and were given bright orange pieces of paper explaining why they were silent. They were also given the chance to write on a long roll of paper explaining why they were silent. There was also an option to buy a pin, for support, for twenty-five cents.

The students who organized the event also created a video, recording the voices of dozens of people talking about why they were going to be silent for the day. Though participants were not excused from giving presentations, and similar projects, that were already scheduled, they could hold up the pieces of paper to explain their silence if called on in class. 

House Bill 2

Opponents of House Bill 2 protest across the street from the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016 during a rally in support of the law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The controversial North Carolina bill officially called House Bill 2 and unofficially called the “Bathroom Bill” has been making waves ever since it was passed in March of 2016. Almost exactly a year later, on March 30th, of 2017, the law was repealed. To understand the swift about-face, you need to understand just what the bill meant.

First of all, it was the bill that made North Carolina the first state to openly restrict what public bathrooms, and locker rooms, transgender people were allowed to use, limiting them to the gender they were designated at birth, not the gender they identify as. Backlash against the bigoted bill was almost immediate, and was only worsened by the fact that North Carolina is a swing state; split between very liberal cities and very conservative rural areas.

The bill caused many businesses and celebrities to boycott the entire state in protest: Bruce Springsteen cancelled his stop on the River Tour there, and a PayPal distribution center that was supposed to open there withdrew from the deal, costing the state millions of dollars of potential profit. The NCAA gave the state until Thursday, March 30th (the day the bill was repealed, incidentally), to get rid of the law or lose the rights to host college tournaments in the state for the next six years. Many smaller businesses and performers boycotted the state as well. Eventually, North Carolina surrendered to the growing economic and social strain, and removed the law.

However, it did come with a catch. The conditions for the repeal included a temporary ban (lasting for three years, until 2020) on other anti-discrimination laws and measures; stopping local jurisdictions from creating new protections for LGBT+ people. Many are angry about this new measure, and there’s been debate over whether it’s even any better than House Bill 2. 

Overall, whether this is a step forward, or a step back, for LGBT+ rights has yet to be decided.

Movie review: Arrival

Arrival, a science fiction and mystery movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, was one of the nominees for Best Picture this year at the Academy Awards. This is special, because science fiction movies are rarely nominated for that highest of awards. In order to do so, the move in question must be very high-quality.

So, of course, I went to see it, and I can now confirm that it is, indeed, really excellent. It’s also the kind of movie that is hard to talk about without ruining it, but I’ll try my best to avoid spoiling it. I will tell you that once you see it once, you’ll want to see it again in light of the ending. It’s also got beautiful cinematography; the sort of movie that you’d want to see on as big a screen as possible. I saw it in the movie theater and loved it.

The movie is set in the present day, immediately after twelve giant, featureless oblong “spaceships” touch down all over the planet at seemingly random locations. It focuses on a linguist who is brought in to figure out how to communicate with the aliens inside, squid-like creatures called “heptapods” for their seven legs. The whole movie is driven by a need to ask a simple question – “Why are they here?” – before intergalactic war breaks out.

Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. It’s very slow-moving, so even though its running time isn’t even two hours, it can feel much longer. It can also be quite confusing at times, because some scenes are shown out of order, and the timeline of the movie doesn’t really make sense until the end. The soundtrack is very loud and sad, and can sound like an endless funeral dirge at times.

The ending, however, is fabulous in a very bittersweet way, and the story is overall quite interesting and thought-provoking. I recommend it highly.

Upcoming concerts

It seems like we’re being constantly bombarded by increasingly alarming or unsettling news, but here’s a happier note to balance it out: Spring and Summer of 2017 are definitely going to be good times for live music in Minnesota.

First, in less than a week, on March 12th, Panic! at the Disco, a popular alternative band, is going to be at the Xcel Energy Center on their Death of a Bachelor Tour. Just a few days later, on March 14th, pop princess Ariana Grande will be performing at the same venue for her Dangerous Woman tour,  and the day after that will see Miranda Lambert, a country singer-songwriter, there on her Highway Vagabond tour.

A lot of bands from the seventies, eighties, and nineties will be stopping by to play the Xcel as well: Eighties rock band Bon Jovi will be performing on the 27th, and on April Fool’s Day, Green Day, a punk band first formed in the nineties, will be there for their Revolution Radio tour. Iconic rock band Def Leppard will perform on April 21st, and May 11th will see the music of eightie’s bands Hall and Oates and Tears for Fears, who are currently touring together. On July 14th, Queen (with the addition of Adam Lambert) will be playing, and Roger Waters, from Pink Floyd, will be performing on July 27th.

The Xcel can’t have all the great performances though: at the end of July, on the 30th, Guns and Roses will be playing US Bank Stadium on their Not in This Lifetime tour, the first tour since 1993 to have the three classic members of the band (Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan) perform together. Shortly after that, on August 12th, Coldplay will play the same venue.

In conclusion, go get tickets before they’re gone!

The 89th Academy Awards

Oscar statuettes are displayed at Times Square Studios 23 January 2006 in New York. The statuettes will be presented to winners of the 78th Academy Awards 05 March 2006 in Hollywood.

Oscar statuettes are displayed at Times Square Studios 23 January 2006 in New York. The statuettes will be presented to winners of the 78th Academy Awards 05 March 2006 in Hollywood.

On Sunday, February 26th, the 89th Academy Awards will air on television. They’re going to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, and a total of twenty-four awards will be given out. They range from the big ones (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director) to the smaller ones (Sound Mixing, Makeup and Hairstyling), but all of these aspects are vitally important to creating a complete movie for us in the audience to enjoy.

The movies nominated for Best Picture, the most prestigious award of all, are as follows:

  • La La Land: a musical romance set in modern-day Los Angeles starring Emma Stone as an actress and Ryan Gosling as a jazz musician
  • Arrival: a science fiction movie about a linguist who’s brought in to translate the language of a mysterious spaceship
  • Hacksaw Ridge: a true story, from World War II, about an army medic named Desmond Doss; the only American soldier to fight on the front lines of the war without a weapon
  • Hell or High Water: a crime drama about two brothers who work together to rob a bank that is foreclosing on their family land
  • Hidden Figures: a true story about the African American women who did the math to put men in space
  • Fences: a drama about an African American man who’s eaten away by the fact that he’s too old to play in the major leagues
  • Lion: a drama about an Indian boy who, twenty-five years after being separated from his family, attempts to find them again
  • Moonlight: a movie telling the story of a young black man from childhood to adulthood on the streets of Miami.

As is rather standard for the Oscars, most of the nominees are drama films or biopics. This year, a full half of the movies focus on people of color, a stark change from last year when the Oscars received widespread criticism for the lack of nonwhite nominees. Also interesting about this year’s list of nominees is the presence of the film Arrival, considering that it is rare for a science fiction movie to be nominated for Best Picture.

The red carpet will start at 6:00 PM, and the award ceremony itself will begin at 7:30 Central Time, airing on ABC.

Immigration ban

On Friday, January 27th (Holocaust Memorial Day), President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning all entry into the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. This ban included U.S. citizens who had left the country to visit family, as well as desperate refugees who had finally finished the arduous vetting process only to be turned away.

Demonstrators spell out "# No Muslim Ban" during the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Demonstrators spell out “# No Muslim Ban” during the “Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders” to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The countries affected are: Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Notably excluded are: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The countries in the second group were where the majority of the 9/11 terrorists originated from which is interesting due to the fact that the ban is supposedly meant to keep terrorism out. Also notable, the excluded countries happen to be where the president has profitable businesses.

Protests broke out at airports, starting at JFK in New York City, and where people had been detained across the country, shortly after the order was signed. A New York judge, however, signed what is called a habeas corpus petition, the day after the ban was announced, deeming the detainments unconstitutional.

Trump’s acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, also refused to enforce the ban. Part of the Attorney General’s job is to stand up to the president if he or she believes his decisions are unlawful. She was immediately fired and replaced.

Recently, many tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber, and others, have united to take legal action against Trump’s ban, as the executive order makes it more difficult for them to recruit, hire, and continue to employ “some of the world’s best employees.” In the brief they submitted it states: “The Order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years.” 

The Statue of Liberty has a plague on its base. It reads, “Bring me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” America was founded by immigrants, on the principles of freedom and equality for all.

Many, many students here at Highland Park are immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants. In times like these that are scary and turbulent, when the future is uncertain, we need to stand together with our friends and show that they are safe and welcome in our school.