Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Let's Call It: My President Is Still Black

I remember when Obama became president in 2008. I didn't really understand much about politics - only that he was the first black president in U.S. history, and that was controversial in itself. I remember going into my parents' bedroom and hearing Young Jeezy chanting "my president is black, my lambo's blue." I remember going to school the next day and the atmosphere feeling a little... happier, even though we were only in 7th grade. It was the talk of the school and, I would soon learn, the talk of the world. I remember all of us in the class burst out singing "my president is black, my lambo's blue" and us not realizing the implications of this election or what would unfold in the next eight years. Moreover, we definitely did not anticipate his disheartening departure from office, only to leave us trumped on and troubled.

I didn't start caring about politics until four years later, when Obama was to run against Mitt Romney (even then my interest was limited). It seemed obvious that Obama would serve a second term, but I soon realized that not everyone was as convinced. My high school soon trickled with Mitt Romney supporters. I was even more alerted that Blacks, Asians, and Whites alike all prided in their beloved presidential candidate, carrying Romney-Ryan signs and berating my negro president.

Two years later, I learned what white privilege was, like most things I learn, via Twitter. Through an intense conversation with a former classmate - a Romney-supporting girl from high school, in fact - I soon realized that not everyone held my same sentiments. She denounced white privilege, affirmative action, and even racism, itself. I wondered how she could possibly say that since she grew up in a predominantly black community attending a predominantly black school with predominantly black friends. It was then on my bed that late Wednesday evening, amidst a life-changing conversation, that I realized that maybe Obama's presidency was more than just about being black. As if by domino effect, the colorblind, racism-is-outdated, slavery-is-over, white-privilege-doesn't-exist conservatives began flooding in. I was quickly enrolled in a crash course on life, race, and politics, including lots of homework, pop quizzes and, of course, a final exam.

During the last eight years, Obama managed to deliver the longest streak of economic growth and stability, allowed every American to have access to affordable health care, addressed climate change and pledged to cut greenhouse gases, and was a political pioneer in marriage equality. Despite countless accusations of illegitimate citizenship and political roadblocks from Congress, he was still able to push America towards forward movement and positive change.

2016 would mark the first year I could officially vote. I was well-informed and eager to participate in the political game, no matter how trivial my vote would be or how disappointing the nominees may have been. I especially knew what I did not want, particularly during my premature years of adulthood.

Despite our good fight we lost, and defeat, frustration and fear filled the country. We had failed the test, not because we were not prepared but because bigotry and discrimination are what this country is rooted upon.

During his farewell speech as President of the United States, he addressed racial tensions in America, highlighted our economic advancements, encouraged anti-discrimination and inclusivity, and shouted out his amazing supporters, including his most elegant and brilliant wife, Michelle.

What's done is done. There is no certainty for what the future may look like now that America's credibility has been trumped on. But maybe that is what this country finally needs - someone to appropriately reflect what America has always been and reveal its true colors of rednecks, blue collar, and white picket fences.

As the president-elect assumes his position on January 20, I will carry out my normal Friday, not out of denial, but of pride - that I had the honor of living during the governance of whom will go down as the most notable president in U.S. history. Obama was more than just a black president. He was a symbol of hope, altruism, and change. And although he gave his farewell speech yesterday, I am sure this is not the last we'll hear of him. The House and Senate maybe red, but my president is still, and will always be, black.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Let's Call It: A Response to Alyssa Mancuso

Disclaimer: This post is not a means of hate or slander, but rather an opinionated response to The Tab article written by Alyssa Mancuso a few days ago.

This article gave me mixed emotions, and here's why:

The issue of security at Temple University has, surely, peaked our interests. Many of us, including myself, have been guilty of presenting a card other than our Temple IDs to get into the buildings. I've joked with my friends about how anyone could get into several buildings at my school if they wanted to and have even brought friends outside of Temple into the buildings. It was a fair point to be raised, but of course, that is not my issue with the article.
Had the article been an honest critique of the concerns of security at Temple, I would not have been bothered. However, the means Alyssa decided to articulate her point was inconsiderate and tactless. Not only did she have a security officer presented in the photo with her, she also recorded a video that depicted that same security officer. While she was not paying attention as she should have been, and that, of course, is a concern for a potential break-in to occur, including that former employee in the photo and video was absolutely debasing. If she wanted to create a genuine critique of the inefficiency of Temple security guards, adding one to her video did not justify her point. I question what her true motive was in writing this article, and what she intended to get out of it. It was, in fact, rather unprofessional, as most media outlets that record people tend to blur their faces to disguise identities. We also cannot be too sure why the security guard was not paying attention at that moment, although that is not a valid excuse for her actions.

This article definitely sparked the interests of Temple University, as security has been heightened and employees have been fired. So while we are now more secure, we also have no room to be infallible and forget our IDs. To be honest, flashing an ID that wasn't Temple-issued has saved me from being late to several exams. It allowed me to enter buildings quickly without delay. However, I'm certain that this luxury will soon become obsolete.

This article was unique in its own respect and highlighted an issue that many people can relate to. However, it was inappropriately projected, which is the only reason I cannot condone it.

While the article topic was extremely interesting and appealing in its controversy, and the best journalists are those who write unapologetically in the midst of controversy, the manner in which this was written was distasteful.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Let's Call It: A Political Conspiracy

Here's a conspiracy theory: What if Donald Trump is actually just political propaganda to ensure Clinton's admission into office? What if this entire nonsensical presidential election was already predetermined, and the point of Donald Trump is to steer public opinion in favor of Hillary Clinton?  

I had a revelation while seating a customer at work the other day when I heard a few people discussing the presidential election. My virgin-voter ears perked up to hear their comments, as I am constantly searching for different perspectives on this election. One of the ladies made a comment that there was no way Clinton wouldn't win, because Donald Trump is obviously insane. I nodded in accordance as I passed by, however that statement stuck with me during that entire shift. Then, just as all of the greatest ideas come, it hit me: perhaps there really is no way Clinton can lose this election.

Let's face it: what do we really know about Hillary's platform? The only thing we are certain of is that we absolutely don't want Donald Trump in office. Media have skewed our image of the presidential campaign and practically shaped the public agenda by blinding us from the real issues at hand and encouraging us to vote for a candidate we barely know.  

Aside from her email controversies, we are only acutely aware of the other questionable aspects of the Clinton enterprise. I refer to it as such because, as the definition states, the Clintons, together, are a business – a political corporation rooted in exploitation and deception. 

So here we have two interconnected theories: one that uses the character of Donald Trump to reinforce the dependability and integrity of Hillary Clinton and another that shields her corruption by highlighting the email scandal.  

Perhaps this was the plan all along. If I'm correct, then it was a pretty darn good one. I mean, you have the balance of an unfavorable opposing candidate mixed with a seemingly controversial email debacle. I'm sure in their blueprints they didn't anticipate Donald Trump to accrue such a rapidly-growing fan-base.  

In retrospect, she is the better candidate, or the "lesser of the two evils," as some have said. And in the end, I will vote for her. But I have this gut feeling, a conspiracy, let's say, that something bigger than a simple presidential campaign is about to unfold in America.  

With that, I encourage you to do your homework, because media's sole purpose is to feed us false information in hopes that we'll regurgitate it to the rest of the world.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's Call It: Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

This famous rhyme has served as a legendary farce for billions of people across the United States. Growing up, I had learned about Christopher Columbus, the legendary explorer who discovered the Americas and established a civilization in a new part of the world. Of course, as children we never questioned this. I mean, it was in the textbooks, so it must've been true. But as I got older, I began to realize that truth is truly a subjective term, and everyone has a different truth, depending on his or her perspective, ideology, or upbringing. Textbooks also give an extremely one-sided view of a complex occurrence of typically more than one party. Wars, for example, are the biggest culprits of this, in that the textbooks only give the perspective of war from the side of the winner (or the side that the author sides with). You rarely ever get the other party's side. Does that make their truth less valid than the one told in textbooks?

This is how the United States education system systemically brainwashes people into viewing history in their perspective - a very biased, white-washed perspective.
Now, Christopher Columbus certainly did sail the ocean blue. And, indeed, it was in 1492. But to think that we are honoring a man who not only didn't find what he was looking for, but also reached an unknown island filled with indigenous people, who already had their own culture and socioeconomic systems, and call this a discovery.
Celebrating Columbus Day is like celebrating someone getting lost on their way home and walking into someone's house and claiming it as theirs.
Columbus didn't discover anything that day other than white privilege. He discovered how easily it can be to manipulate people (of color) and exploit them for their goods and services. (Sound familiar?) He has even said in his personal notes how he planned to swindle the native people into becoming his slaves!

This country was literally founded on lies, bigotry, oppression, and genocide, and that's often the perspective of history we don't get to learn about. I truly believe that the United States keeps information like this hidden in order to keep nationalism high and mitigate public dissent. Unfortunately, its ploy to keep us all blinded is quickly being shattered, and the truth, both cultivated and sheathed, will, surely, set us free.

Columbus was no discoverer, no man of great wisdom or esteem - rather, he was a liar whose entire prestige is based on a fallacy that we have been lied about for years.

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day, everyone.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Let's Call It: A Letter To My Old Roommates

In light of the anguish black people have been publicly facing over the past few years, in response to the rise of televised police brutality and hate, I decided to write a letter to my old roommates. Perhaps this will help explain my disengagement from our friendship and the rise in my black pride and self-love.

Dear Old Roommates,

It was a great few semesters that I shared with all of you. You exposed me to a different culture that I
would not have, otherwise, ever seen. You taught me what meatloaf was and even took me apple picking. We jammed to Rock and Roll and Punk music. We ate ice cream and shared stories on late Saturday nights, confiding in each other even the most embarrassing things. But albeit the great times that we, admittedly, did share, I must say, our friendship was one of the hardest obstacles I ever had to surpass.

I entered college extremely eager to diversify my friend group. Granted, I did have a wide array of friends of all African and Asian backgrounds. However, the only white friend I've ever had grew up in the same environment I did, and, therefore, I was under the impression that she "didn't count."

Let me be clear: when I said I wanted to diversify my friend group, I was specifically referring to white people, and that's exactly what I did. I made a nice small circle of white friends my freshman year, and I was very content with our friendship. I was finally able to see a new perspective on white culture and live life vicariously through you. We, of course, shared our differences, but I saw past that. You were cool, you were fun, but I always knew something wasn't right.

The first time I saw myself as black - as other - is during our friendship. I never had a problem with being the only black person in the group before (I suppose I had never, before then, been the only black person in a group). But something changed. Maybe you got too comfortable. But maybe I let you. During one of our conversations, one of you told me that you were nervous about who your roommate would be. 'Yea, me too,' I remember responding. You said you thought I'd be ghetto or something. 'Yea, me too, ' I responded again, a little hesitant and really confused. But, luckily, your reservations disappeared because I was "basically white." I'm not sure if you truly understand the shock I was under at that point. Dumbfounded and confused, I probably said something back to you that may have been taken as anger, but I wasn't angry; I wanted to correct you so that you wouldn't find yourself in a situation saying something so ignorant to a less easy-going black girl. Did you realize everything that was said in those two words? You "basically" told me that because I'm articulate, I couldn't possibly be black. You told me that black people are inherently ghetto and anything that opposes that image can obviously only be a different race: White. It wasn't the first time in my life someone had said that, but it was the first time it was used with that connotation. And I'm sure you're reading this thinking that's not how you meant it, but it is. Deep down, you hold unspoken prejudices against black people, and that's okay because I hold prejudices against white people. But the difference is, I don't let my prejudices become micro aggressions or affect the way I treat people.

Another time, a different one of you and I were eating in the cafeteria together one day, when I invited you to my friend's birthday party. 'Free of charge,' I persisted. 'And there'll be food.' But rather than being excited with me or even simply saying no, you asked 'Will I be the only white person there' and expressed that if you were, you wouldn't feel comfortable going. That's understandable, I suppose, but did you ever stop to think how I felt being the only black person in our friend group, or even in the cafeteria that day? And to that you responded, 'But that's different.'

That's when I knew - that's when I realized that you all really weren't my friends. You could never understand me, or what it feels like to be black. And while I don't expect you to, I half expected you to have the decency to see my color and the daily battles I had to fight every day at a predominantly white institution.

Every day since then our friendship felt like work. No matter what you said or did, all I could see were those traces of racism that are forever ingrained in you. I look back on our time spent together and wonder what I would have been doing had I not met you all. But I realize, now, that it took those experiences - it took me being the token black friend - to see that not all white people are your friends, and maybe I don't want to be friends with them after all.

My dear old pals, I don't hate you, or white people as a whole. But I also don't care for you, and I think that is okay. I refuse to go about my life kissing your asses to make you feel less uneasy around me or switching up my dialect to conform to your Western norms. Following our shared semester together, I've been genuinely happy and finally found people who understand me - like, really get it.

Thank you for being there for me through that transition into college, and thank you for helping me gain this new insight on life. But I apologize for ever giving you the impression that saying those things were okay or that they didn't bother me. But because of you all, I will never again allow someone to tell me that I am basically white, because if I do, I will basically have to put them back in their Caucasian places.

Peace and blessings,


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let's Call It: Operation Crossroads Africa

It's been a while, to say the least.

2016 has been quite the year so far, filled with economic instability (and growth), political controversies, social injustices, and everything in between. From the infamous Donald Trump to the legendary Bree Newsome, there have been a plethora of notable figures keeping us posted and yet distracted from the real tragedies that are occurring in developing countries.

But for the first time, I have decided to unplug and remove myself from the mainstream world and embark on a different adventure. In two days, I will be in the Kakumdo Village in Ghana for two months with Operation Crossroads Africa working with the Foundation for Economic Development and Educational Promotion (FEDEP), a local non-governmental development agency which focuses on community development, youth training, and sanitation awareness programs.

This excursion includes many firsts in my life, but certainly not any lasts. This is not the end of my road in international development by far. In fact, it is only the beginning of a very long and eventful ride that I'll be taking #AllSummer16.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Let's Call It: Straight Outta Philly

Prior to last night, if you would’ve said anything about NWA, I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. My knowledge of old school hip hop is definitely not where it should be, but I promise I’m doing my homework.
The movie Straight Outta Compton hit home more than I thought it would. I’m not from Compton, or the West Coast, for that matter. I’m from Philly, a city known for many things, and some not as good as others. But growing up, I never wanted to be from here. I absolutely hated living in the "City of Brotherly Love." I hated the slang, the people, the culture, everything. I would try my hardest to disassociate myself from my zip code, claiming to live in certain suburbs or not claiming it at all. It wasn’t until I got to college where I realized that being from this city was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Considering the fact that I didn’t like the city, you can imagine how I felt having to go to Temple University, a school known notoriously for its surrounding neighborhood. I thought everyone I’d meet would be from Philadelphia, and my life would continue to be flooded with the same “jawns” I grew up with. Quite the opposite, in fact: in total, I think I met four people from Philadelphia. Most of the people I’ve befriended are from outside of the state, and some even outside of the country. This made me open up more to the idea of being at Temple. It wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. But before I knew it, a newfound pride in my city began to grow inside of me. I took offense to the negative light my peers were casting on Philly. I wouldn’t hear the word Philadelphia without hearing dirty or dangerous following suit. What did they know about living here? What did they know outside of the six block circumference of the university? When I confronted them about it, they would say, “Oh, you don’t count. You’re not like them.” But who is them? Them could be my friends, my classmates, my family. Them could be me, too. And it was at that point when I realized I’m just like them, whether I wanted to be or not. The papi stores, cheesesteaks, projects, slang, Septa,… all of it made me who I am today. I may not be what you expect your typical Philadelphian to be like, but that’s because there is no typical Philadelphian. We all have our own stories, our own swag. Each section of Philly does its own thing, so don’t be surprised if two Philadelphians aren’t the same. I love where I grew up. Philly is a place I’ll never forget. I’m straight outta Philly, for better or for worse; in sickness and in health; until death do us part.