Justice for Ahmaud

Ahmaud Marquez Arbery was gunned down on February 23, 2020, during one of his jogs. Ahmaud was a 25-year-old African American.

On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, GA when Gregory and Travis McMichael confronted him with two guns. Travis McMicheal then gunned down Ahmaud, not once, not twice, but five times.

Ahmaud Arbery is not the first African American killed or gunned down for no reason.

There have been plenty of cases and where young African Americans have been killed for the color of their skin. Such as: Trayvon Martin, age 17;  Jordan Edwards, age 15; Micheal Brown, age 18.

The racism needs to stop and sadly it hasn’t. As a black African American it makes me scared to go anywhere because it makes me feel like what if I’m next. We as people, as human beings, shouldn’t have to go through something like that. The African American community is constantly taking losses.

As a child, having to view these crimes, and seeing no justice being served, is stomach aching. It’s traumatizing really. Ahmaud Arbery was doing nothing but jogging, simply working out like any other person, and was targeted by people so hateful and sinful. They felt the need to hurt, and not only harm, but kill, Ahmaud Arbery.

And yet, they still aren’t sentenced to the death penalty. If it had been reversed, and Ahmaud had killed them, he would’ve been sentenced to the death penalty so quick. 

The justice system in America is sooo messed it literally makes no sense that someone loses their life and isn’t served the proper justice they deserve.

Everyone wants to scream Black Lives Matter but the question that should be asked is do they? Do black lives really matter? Cause at this point, we don’t know what to believe anymore.

The world is so messed up that we have to constantly relive the past. It’s sad that we can’t just live our lives and be free. 

So, I would like to end this article with saying long live Ahmaud Arbery and #justiceforAhmaud. 

Seniors missing graduation

Since the start of COVID-19 seniors have been a bit on the depressive side. Many seniors, including my own brother, have been in a panic when it comes to long distance graduation. My parents and my brother have been on the spectrum of trying to get prepared for the day of his virtual graduation.

When it comes to it, most of the seniors I know are really hurt right now. They’re upset that they are not able to have the graduation that they have been longing for their whole lives; the day where they are finally free from the whips of high school and are on to their new lives going on to be adults.

Not only are the seniors upset, but so are their parents and siblings. As a sibling, I’ve always awaited the time where I got to record my older sibling walk across the stage in their cap and gown. But since COVID-19, I am not able to have that experience. It’s also upsetting to my parents because they’ve longed for the day they were able to send my brother off to prom, and to see him walk across that stage.

Not only are seniors upset about graduation, but they were also upset that they weren’t able to have their prom. I’ve spoken to a couple of the 2020 graduates themselves and asked for their input on the matter.

Willie Wright Class of 2020 graduate 

I first had a conversation with none other than the man himself, (my brother) Willie Wright, a graduating senior at Como Park Senior High. Willie is a 2020 graduate with a football scholarship to Minnesota State University.  He said, “It’s so crazy because every other class year such as 2001-2019 got to walk across the stage, and I’m not able to. Those are the most memorable moments in our life. Even prom, and I wasn’t able to have that, hopefully this will all be over soon.”

Chaniyah Fenner Class of 2020 Graduate 

I then had the opportunity to speak with Chaniyah Fenner, a senior also at Como Park Senior High. She said that, “I am upset about the virtual graduation. I don’t like it at all, I understand that there’s a virus going on and everything, but they already took away our prom and senior night, and now they’re taking away our graduation. It’s just messed up.” 

William Albert Class of 2020 Graduate 

I then reached out and spoke to William Albert, who attends Gordon Park High School. He said, “I hate the thought of not being able to walk across the stage, but knowing there’s a strong system of people behind me who are willing to bend for my education, it drives me to do better and prosper moving forward.”

With all of this going on, at least the seniors have something good to look forward to. They get a graduation speaker, who is none other than the man himself, Barack Obama (which is something really amazing).

But I just hope that all the seniors aren’t too upset about this, and I hope they still have a great graduation at home.

The addiction of social media

Zakianna Johnson

Introduction

There’s been many things going on in social media these days. But the addiction to the apps we all have is really bad. Apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, etc. are all of our lives, especially teenagers.

Now-a-days teenagers don’t know what it was like to just go outside and have fun. And many of them are always at home on their phones on social media. Yes, sometimes it’s fun, but other times it can be affecting their physical and mental health.

How it affects our lives

Social media is like drugs; you get addicted easily. Everyone has some sort of social media on their phone. Whether it’s to stay in contact with friends or family, or to have a laugh or two. But we don’t understand what the effect is on our minds and bodies.

I myself spend about almost a whole day on social media. I spend about 17 hours a day on my phone: texting, scrolling, liking and reacting to people and things on social media. Kids these days are addicted to the app Tik Tok, teens are addicted to Instagram and Snapchat, and adults are addicted to Facebook. 

These apps are toxic, but we love them. We try to take breaks, but it doesn’t work.

I spoke to my parents and asked them, “Do you guys have an addiction to social media?” My mom responded with, “Yes, I do have an addiction to social media because I get on because I see my family members on and that’s the way I communicate with them because I’m far away.”

My dad responded with, “I used to be really addicted to it. Like I used to not be able to sleep without it. But now I usually only go on social media when I do my live videos, and I speak on reality and show my family. You know, because I’m showing a side of me and my family and our morals and values.”

As I sat to finish writing this story, I came to realize that maybe I could take a break from social media. I mean, the apps that we have can really damage us and take us off our game. 

How the coronavirus has impacted my job

So, today we are going to talk about how the coronavirus has affected me in my job.

Well, at the start of the coronavirus outbreak we were still working in the Science Museum. However, after a while it called for us to just stay home and then eventually we were laid off, but temporarily, I’ll be working soon I think.

Working from home is a lot different than working at a location. I don’t get to see people at all unless we are in a video; there is no physical interaction. I can’t tease a coworker, hi-five them maybe, congratulate them in person too, and I used to talk to them one-on-one. No, it’s just all online; like we’re looking at video screens and you know sometimes multiple people try to talk and we have to make a rule to not talk while others are talking because it gets way too confusing.

Then there’s the fact that we like to have icebreakers and, we can’t really do that, but we have been playing online games together like trivia games, scribble.io and trivia murder. Those are fun games to play during this quarantine but then working with others can be hard as well because we have to leave the call and find another way to call our partners that we are working with.

So, we ended up starting a Discord where we can talk to each other but that wasn’t looking as professional so they decided to go with Slack, which is like Discord, but for work. It’s much easier to do work stuff in Slack, like make documents, but then you know we got a message saying that we would all get temporarily laid off.

It’s been maybe a month since I’ve been laid off and it sucks. I don’t get to talk to my people anymore and, you know, I don’t get to make money. I don’t get to, you know, have time to go buy stuff for my family now because I’m trying to conserve a little bit of money.

I have to watch my little brother now like a lot more than usual because, you know, mom’s got to work on her laptop with the video calls, because she can’t go into work and, you know, he likes to make a lot of noise so now he’s just in my room when I wake up usually.

So, in conclusion, quarantine sucks a lot for all of us, but there are still ways for us to stay connected and to help each other out. Just look at the image below, these are people in my
apartment complex trying to help each other in the dire time of need.

Youth Climate Justice Summit: Part 2

By: Vivian S

On Wednesday, February 26th, I woke up, brushed my teeth, and walked out of my house. But instead of continuing down to the bus stop, I was driven to the Capitol.

…Well, not exactly the Capitol, I was driven to the Good Neighbor Building, as that is where the Youth Climate Justice Summit began.

After I managed to find my way around all the twisting roads of the Capitol, I completed my registration and went down to breakfast. Everyone sat at tables with people in the same district as them and chatted for a while. Then, youth took to the stage.

We started with some icebreaker activities, but the true beginning of the summit was a speech about the exploitation of Native American people to this day, and how it related to climate justice. That idea is a part of intersectional climate justice, which was a big focus of the summit, which says that climate change disporportionallly affects communities of color and other disenfranchised communities which are normally systematically targeted, making it not just an environmental issue but also a social and economic issue.

We then were given a short presentation of how to talk to representatives, and on the bills that the summit was trying to get passed, and those they were trying to stop from passing.

The bills that were being supported were:

  • Solar on Schools (HF1133 & SF1424): which is a grant program to give schools solar panels which will eventually take on a great part of the electricity load of the schools.
  • Energy Conservation for Schools (HF1148 & SF2016): which would make a loan-fund for schools to make investments in energy conservation.
  • The Women of Color Opportunity Act (HF841 & SF1123): which is a collection of grant programs for organizations working with women of color to develop small businesses, expand access to STEM careers, provide internships, etc. to combat the how women of color are underrepresented.
  • Trash-burning is Not Renewable: which would declare that trash-burning is not a renewable energy source and companies cannot keep claiming it as such. It is still being drafted.
  • Green Affordable Housing: is a proposal by Governor Walz to make massive investments into affordable housing that is energy efficient as well.

The bills that weren’t being supported were:

  • Felony Free Speech & Guilty by Association (SF2011/HF2241 and SF3230/HF2966): 4 bills which would make harsher punishments for water and pipeline protesters.
  • Clean Energy First Act (SF1456): which, while it says that electric companies have to prioritize carbon-free energy, it also defines trash-burning as renewable and coal and gas plants “carbon free resources”.
  • Exempting Climate Impacts from Environmental Review: which says that new projects in Minnesota don’t have to consider the impact they would have on the environment due to carbon emissions. This bill is still being drafted.

After we were given these bills, and an overview of them, we then went to meet with our representatives. I went to meet Rep. Dave Pinto.

We were let in, and about 10 of us squeezed in. We went around introducing ourselves, then got straight down to business. Rep. Pinto immediately expressed his support for what we were doing and the bills we were talking about. The meeting was short, and we only had the time to bring up a few ideas, like how to get moderate Republican support, and short discussions on the bills. By the end of it, Rep. Pinto said that he would co-author the House Solar in Schools bill, which would mean he would be signing his name as someone that was supportive of the bill.

Then, we tried to go meet with Sen. Dick Cohen. We didn’t have a meeting with the senator though, so our meeting failed, but we left letters expressing what bills we supported and what we didn’t.

After that, I participated in one of the student-led workshops. There were many of those over the day, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to see most of them, but I managed to catch one. “Raising the pressure on legislators”, in which one of the students led us through how to contact your legislators and more effectively express your opinions and ideas to them. We were given instructions and how to write letters and emails, how to make phone calls, and how to be active on social media and the community.

We were also given a list of places to look for other events to become active in: US Climate Strike, MN Climate Strike, and Yea! MN.

Then, there was lunch, which may have been my favorite part of the day.

After that, all of us walked up into a sanctuary and filed in row by row, to listen to a whole host of speakers.

The first speaker introduced Will Steger, who founded ClimateGeneration, one of the programs leading the summit. Then came Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan who discussed the need to be active in politics and the fight against climate change. Following her came Governor Tim Walz, who talked about the urgency of battling climate change and how we as young people had to protest, to demand our rights.

Before this summit, I had barely known who Governor Walz was, much less how much of a contested character he was to the climate change activists at the summit. He only spoke for ten minutes, and left at the end without taking any questions. The entire group had a discussion about what he had said, with many of us coming to the consensus that we were disappointed by his lack of specifics.

After that, we had the chairs of both the house and senate climate justice committees talk to us, in which they discussed the specific actions they were taking, their problems, and how to get involved.

All in all, it was a very long day.

I enjoyed it, getting to talk to our representatives was important and it did feel like having a bit of a voice in politics, but the summit could have been managed a bit better, and I wish we got to meet with more representatives.

I would urge all of you though, even if you were unable to make it, to contact your representatives and make your voices heard, and to join in other events.

LGBTQ+ misrepresentation in the media and how it harms people

LGBTQ+ representation in the media is much more frequent nowadays than it was even ten years ago. However, more representation means more chances for misrepresentation, which more often than not is the case in media with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships. 

Harmful stereotypes of members of the LGBTQ+ community are a huge part of this. One of the most popular stereotypes is the extremely feminine gay man. While obviously there are many people like this, and it is in no way a bad thing, the sheer amount of characters written in this way reinforces the harmful stereotype that being attracted to men “makes you” incredibly feminine. In the same way, lesbians are frequently portrayed as more masculine by having short hair, wearing what is considered traditionally men’s clothing, etc. 

Forcing gay and lesbian characters to fall into these categories can cause mental health issues and emotional struggles amongst people in the LGBTQ+ community. For example, LGBTQ+ people might not fit in with who they’re “supposed” to be/how they’re “supposed” to act in accordance with their sexuality. From here can stem extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation, as described in the article “Is Chronic Loneliness Real?” as people who don’t fall into these categories would not feel like they belong anywhere, even within the LGBTQ+ community, which of all the places should be the most safe and accepting space for all its members. 

Often times gay characters that fall into the stereotype category are overly sexualized as well and they overly sexualize all other attractive people of the same gender that they come into contact with in a way that is more often than not inappropriate and borderline harassment. The existence of this trope greatly harms the public perception of the LGBTQ+ community. It reinforces the idea that LGBTQ+ relationships are solely sexual and thus people involved in them are “sexual deviants,” which was and is an argument used against same-sex marriage and relationships. 

According to the LGBT foundation, the misrepresentation that follows the trans and non-binary community often damages the public’s perception of them. Anti-transgender hate crimes doubled in 2018 from the previous numbers in 2015-2016. This strongly indicates a surge on anti-trans attitudes, that can be credited to misrepresentation on who these people are.

Another way LGBTQ+ people are misrepresented is in the form of queerbaiting. Queerbaiting according to PinkNews is a way that companies and producers try to lure people from an LGBTQ+ viewer base that are connecting with a character that is heavily implied to be part of the community but ultimately ends up either unconfirmed or being heterosexual. This is thought to be a way to satisfy, and or appeal to the media’s LGBTQ+ community fanbase and not lose their main/straight audience. This seems to do more harm than good though as it insinuates that the LGBTQ+ audience is a 2nd thought to them, or less important. It also suggests that queer relationships are less valuable.

The misrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in the media is abundant and harmful. In the end, it hurts the very people the media is trying to represent. The problem is that all companies that don’t take the time to hire LGBTQ+ writers and editors want the most amount of people to be interested in whatever it is they are producing, instead of wanting for all people to be represented in media. Because of this, these companies become lazy in writing media with LGBTQ+ people and instead write whatever they think will appeal to the LGBTQ+ community by playing into stereotypes used by other sources of media. This cycle repeats itself over and over again for years. 

So, how can we address and solve these issues? Well, for starters, media creators heavily rely on the audience’s response to their product. Without viewers the creators make no money, so they’re almost always willing to adapt to whatever their audience wants (although this isn’t always the case). If there’s a big problem with the product, cause an uproar. Make people notice the problem. Once the issue is addressed, people will start to react and hopefully the producers will too. From there we can show these companies how to show LGBTQ+ characters in a way that doesn’t harm the community. There is hope for improvement in the representation of LGBTQ+ people in media, all we have to do is act.

Cultural appropriation

Zakianna & Kiana 

2/18/2020

Appropriation of black culture 

Like the above image asks, “What if?” That’s the question that all African Americans ask. Nowadays Black culture isn’t as appreciated as it should be. People believe that racism is over but in reality it isn’t. It’s still affecting African American people. 

Many people try and appreciate the Black culture. But do they know how African American people feel when they do what they do? People see appreciating Black culture as doing things that they feel are right but in reality are actually really wrong and hurtful. Like for instance, when other races get box braids or get extensions added to their hair people react to them with positive comments. But for an African American woman or girl to do the same thing it’s considered “ghetto” or it “isn’t cute.” 

These are the types of things that go on everyday and people don’t seem to realize it, but it happens. The caucasian community loves to make fun of the Black community by calling them things like “hoodrats,” “ghetto,” or ”ratchet.” These are words commonly used everyday to bring down the spirits and hopes of the African American culture. 

We ourselves as African Americans are proud to be who we are. But just being proud really isn’t enough anymore. Other cultures and ethnicities don’t know what it’s like to be in our shoes. They don’t know what it’s like to be called out for trying to protect your hair or being fired for wearing color in your hair which they call ”inappropriate.” As an African American it’s hard to live life when you’re constantly judged during it. 

African American women are constantly judged everyday for trying to protect their hair. When they wear box braids, or twist, or any form of weave they’re called ghetto, but African American people wear weaves because they like it and think it is pretty.

Many famous people have celebrated cultural appropriation. But little did they know that non famous people were hurt by them because they were not of color and did not look okay wearing what they had done. Kim Kardashian once had cornrows.

They did not look right because it was just not a look for her. Instead of doing multiple cornrows she should do just 2. In my opinion when non African American people try and celebrate cultural appropriation they should try and involve African American people or, just give us credit for our looks and how we look and dress. 

With that being said, cultural appropriation is a big thing in the world. 

Thoughts on Personal Project

Personal Project was due just a week ago. Even though the project was a way for you to do something based on your interest, and it was supposed to be exciting, I think the Personal Project was just a waste of time. I don’t see the point of writing a paper and doing a process journal of what you accomplished. It just had a lot of stress, so there wasn’t really a point in doing it.  

Not everyone shared my opinion about Personal Project. Here are some opinions from others and why they thought it was a good thing:

“I think it’s really good for students to make a project about things they like versus being forced to do essays on certain topics in school. It gives us the opportunity to explore our own interests.”

“I think it’s a great way to explore things we like and a good way to be productive. I trained my dog which was helpful for him and my family. I do think the project felt more like a chore than being fun. This was mostly because of the paper which was really long and repetitive questions. But overall a good exploration of my teaching skills.”

“I got to spend time learning something new. Gain new skills. And also getting time to reflect on my process.”

“The Personal Project definitely helped me explore something I was interested in, it should be worth more. I didn’t feel motivated to do it.

“Well, I think the Personal Project is a great way to be creative. I think it’s great we can decide on what we want our project to be, I also think that it’s a great way to show others what we’re most interested in and show the process of it.”

“Although I have heard some of my peers say they feel that there is no purpose to the Personal Project, I disagree. I feel like the Personal Project can be used to enhance interests that we already have. For example, I have always been fascinated by pianists and how they are able to memorize so many keys. The Personal Project motivated me to make my first step to playing a song. Overall, I think the Personal Project had a purpose.”

“I think it was ok, not really exciting.”

While there were people who saw value in the Personal Project, others shared my thought on it being pointless. Some said the following:

 “I think it’s a waste of time.”

“I think it’s dumb.”

“It was a waste of time, to be honest.”

“I kinda don’t see the point. I didn’t think that it was needed and it doesn’t make a difference if a school makes you do it or not.”

“It’s a pass or fail. It’s not terrible because of how flexible it is but it is dumb.”

“I feel like it’s okay but useless at the same time because we as students express ourselves through our work already so we shouldn’t have to do a whole project to express ourselves.”

“It was a waste of time and there’s no point in doing it because it’s supposed to be something we enjoy doing but end up hating.”

“I think the Personal Project was a waste of time. There wasn’t really a point in doing it. I didn’t really see the purpose of writing a whole paper about it and explaining how it’s personal to me. I wish it was a different assignment than writing a whole essay about a dumb project.”

“I think it’s mostly unnecessary because it is worth no points so students don’t have a lot of motivation to do it unless it’s something they like. Even then though, most people don’t like to journal the whole process or write a paper and that ruins the motivation.”

So overall, there were mixed reviews and thoughts about the Personal Project. It’s done though now, and so we can move on.

Should schools require vaccinations without religious or philosophical exemption?

Little child have a vaccination shot in studio. Image taken from: https://thrivingschools.kaiserpermanente.org/5-reasons-to-get-kids-vaccinated/

In Minnesota, vaccinations are required by law before enrolling your child in school, whether it be public school or private school. However, it is legal for people to get a religious or philosophical exemption from getting their vaccinations. Should such a thing be allowed if it puts other people’s and children’s health at risk? 

Parents choose not to vaccinate their children for a number of reasons. While in general, there are no restrictions on vaccinations in any major religions according to History of Vaccines.org, there are a few smaller denominations of religions that do, such as Christian Scientists or the Dutch Reformed Church, denominations of the Christian church. There is also a number of muslim people who claim that they cannot use vaccines made from pork (gelatin), as it is against Islam to consume pork, but the refusal of vaccines is not agreed upon throughout the whole religion. Additionally, both of these religions support the morals behind vaccines, them being to prevent children (and adults) from suffering. 

So, it’s a very controversial topic even within one religion. Can the excuse that vaccines are against one’s religion be used even if it is unclear whether the religion as a whole opposes this idea or not?

Another reason parents do not vaccinate their children is the fear of vaccines, specifically the vaccine for mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR), possibly causing autism. According to historyofvaccines.org this is most often thought to be because the rate of a child born with autism is increasing while we are getting more advanced medically and using more vaccinations to defend against diseases. Not only that, but the spread of misinformation in the media and in person can be a great reinforcer of this idea.

According to ncbi.gov, widespread exemption from vaccines undermines the benefits of herd immunity. Herd immunity is when a large group of a population has a strong resistance to a type of disease. This helps not only people but also people with weaker immune systems such as babies or young children.

Parents who don’t vaccinate their children contribute to outbreaks of diseases that could have been preventable by vaccines, such as measles or whooping cough, according to the University of Michigan Health Lab. It keeps these diseases alive. For example, according to The Hospitalist, measles, which the USA had been declared clean of by the CDC, has started to make a comeback because people refuse to vaccinate either themselves or their children. 

The graph below, which can be found on the CDC website, shows the number of measles cases recorded in each year. 

As you can see, between the years 2015 and 2017 the number of measles cases were generally small, staying in the low hundred. However in 2018 there was a spike in outbreaks which brought the numbers up to 375 and even higher in 2019 at 1282 cases.

This brings us to the million dollar question. Should vaccines be completely required for every student, regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs?

The practical answer would be yes. They prevent diseases that could be fatal amongst children and without them these preventable diseases keep coming back. Thus, without question, requiring vaccines would turn out for the better.

However, would we be violating the religous freedom of those who are against vaccines? Religious freedom is an incredibly important part of what makes our country so diverse and something we have fought so very hard to keep.

The real question is does it matter what the religious or philosophical beliefs of one person is when it comes to the well-being of all the children around them?

Ending animal testing

At this very moment there are animals that are being tested on. Testing on animals happens worldwide. It is a big problem, but it is often ignored. Testing on animals is another way of animal abuse. According to PETA, these poor animals are exposed to: burning, shocking, poisoning, isolation, starvation, and brain damage. No animal should be exposed to this kind of harm no matter what.

Animals that are often tested on are dogs, rats, rabbits, pigs, and fish. They are used on a daily basis for tests in the laboratory. Each year, around 100 million animals die for the purpose of experimentation. One of the most common products that use animals to test on, is make-up.

Testing on animals is just a waste of time overall. Not all the information they find on animals will be accurate on humans. It’s an inhuman act that scientists take on animals that are defenseless. Animals are also very different from human beings, which is why they make bad test subjects, the anatomy of animals and the anatomy of a human are very different. They may be able to pass tests that are dangerous to humans. 

So, what can you do to make this situation right and save more animals? Some things you can do to help suffering animals is to buy 100% cruelty-free products. If you don’t know where to look, you could look for any bunny logos on the product or you could search up a list of brands that sell cruelty-free products.

You could also educate people about the dark side of animal testing and why it shouldn’t be supported. You could also educate friends on what brands to use and not use, because your friends probably don’t know how bad animals are being treated in labs; help them see and understand this horrible situation and help them make the right choices. 

If you want more information on brands that are cruelty-free, visit: https://features.peta.org/cruelty-free-company-search/index.aspx