Dear Little Black Girl


Dear Little Black Girl,

Big Lips are not attractive

or should I say were not attractive

but somehow we captured the beauty

that you seemed to keep ugly for so long.

Don’t worry we’ll take your freedom song

and turn it into white beautification

without having one clue

as to how much you went through to gain that song.

We understand that you went through the struggle

but that was so long ago.

Get over it.

This isn’t us being racist or ignorant

our response your beauty might be bigoted

but this is just us marketing your ugly

and plastering it on a fashion trend that’ll never go out of style.

It’s called being white

this old face holds up the standards that your dirty skin could just not contend

we can pretend

write a sorry letter

but our actions will just keep speaking louder than our words

louder than the howling of your ancestors.

Never mind the tears that hit the ground

when her baby comes home from school saying she was called ugly.

Lips so big they look swollen.

We just don’t get it do we.

We’ll keep marketing your pain for our gain

so don’t attempt to sue.

We once owned your rights

but now we own your features

Ha! You don’t even own your own beauty

With best regards,

The Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge


Black Lives Matter


What I’ve learned

is that blacks don’t just have the ability to rap

But we

carry a tune that knocks classical notes out of your bones

and shoot smooth rhythmic jazz into your soul.

We don’t only have the ability to be enslaved by our oppressors

by living lies we’re expected to replicate

we don’t just procreate

but we invent

we have minds that extend far beyond

the term twerk, thot, baby mama, and big booty june…


this is the sound of our defense

our revolution

our wake up call

Our deliverance from the lies televised

the injustices hidden

because no one wants to believe a white man killed him

He wasn’t racist

he was just doing his job and got a little overzealous

Never mind the fear that strikes the eyes of black mothers everywhere

Never mind the eggshells he has to walk on

When he decides to wear a hoodie

Maybe stop by the corner store to pick up some skittles

Never mind that he’s innocent


Never mind.

That is the word used to define

the ignorance that plagues this nation

Delayed hesitation.

unwilling and unable to say that something is happening

a breach

killing the singing preached by black grandparents, great aunts and uncles

saying we shall overcome someday

when is that day?

When will we open our eyes

take off the rose colored vision

and recognize that freedoms bells haven’t been ringing

When will our song rock you to your core



will we decide that black culture is not something to be taken lightly.

When will we say no.

Black lives matter

how many lives have to shatter

for that to become clear to us


Wake Up.

LGBT students react to Indiana religious freedom law


The feud between the LGBT community and the strict boundaries of religion has been akin to the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets, Apple and Microsoft. The Indiana Religious Freedom Act, recently passed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is doing nothing more than fueling the flames. Although the intended purpose of the law is to apparently protect people’s (namely, business owner’s) freedom to practice and live by the rules of their chosen religion without having to worry about the confines of state or federal law, the use of the law has spiraled into a discriminatory measure against the entire LGBT community. Business owners are allegedly refusing to serve gays, lesbians and transgender people on the basis that it goes against their religion.

Obviously, refusing to serve someone based on their sexual orientation goes against the Constitution. Or does it? Are we supposed to look at the law as protecting freedom of religion, or as discriminating against a certain group of people?

Although the LGBT community has received a lot of positive press in recent years, what with thirty-seven states legalizing gay marriage (including our home state of New York), situations like this seem to stress that their problems are far from over. Even at our own school, LGBT students still experience quiet forms of discrimination.

“I have experienced some discrimination,” says Stephen Perez, an openly gay GHS sophomore. “I’ve been called slurs in the hallways of school, or just out in public.”

While he says that his peers and the majority of students at Guilderland have been very accepting of his sexuality, the student says he still experiences exclusion based on things he can’t change. “I’ve been excluded for my sexuality. In the locker room, a lot of guys will make sure they are far away from me. When we pick partners in class for projects, I’m usually the kid that doesn’t have a partner. A lot of people don’t really want to interact with ‘the gay kid,'” he says. “I don’t know if it’s out of fear or hate.”

As for the Indiana Religious Freedom Act, he believes it is disgusting and discriminatory. “I plan on taking a stand against it any way I can, even if it’s just over social media,” he says. “It’s important for LGBT youths to get their voice heard on important issues that could affect them for many years to come.”

JC, another LGBT sophomore, also believes that the Indiana law is discriminatory. “People do have the freedom to believe what they want, I have nothing against that,” JC said. “But to be able to keep people from jobs and having a peaceful life using your religion as an excuse is ridiculous.” JC is pansexual, meaning JC does not discriminate between gender when determining attraction.

Although JC’s peers are not aware of JC’s sexual orientation, JC did have problems at first coming out to their parents. “My parents didn’t really believe me when I came out to them,” they said. “They thought I was just ‘confused.'” JC remarked that their parents were more understanding now, although the stigma around young teens in the LGBT community might have attributed to JC’s parents’ hesitation.

Proponents of the Indiana Religious Freedom Act say that business owners should not have to serve people who do not agree with their religion. However, a problem with the law is that it furthers the growing divide between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, as long as forcing homosexuals and the like into an almost separated, different community. JC’s peers do not know about JC’s sexuality, nor do they probably care. The question is, is the LGBT community so different from others? Or is Indiana’s new law just trying to make us believe that?

Iggy Azalea and white rappers


Over the past year, Iggy Azalea has been ripped to shreds. Hip hop and rap fans have made fun of her, laughed at her, and examined her. Memes have spread across the internet and we’ve even witnessed a Vine of her falling off stage. Why has all recent hate been centered on Iggy? It’s a question that can’t fully be answered, but it is a topic that should be discussed. Iggy Azalea is an Australian rapper and songwriter who rose to fame in early 2012. In 2006, she moved to America at the age of 16 and slowly worked her way to a major record deal. She rose from literally nothing, bouncing around from Houston to Atlanta and finally to L.A. She eventually made a breakthrough and the rest is history. You must give her credit. In 6 years, she rose from no name to big name.

People attack the color of her skin. Yes, she is a white rapper. But it is so incredibly wrong to judge a person’s musical ability based on their skin color. Eminem, The Beastie Boys, Mac Miller, Action Bronson, Hoodie Allen. Each and every one of these rappers, music talent aside, have made it big. No matter if you like them or not, they are successful big-name rappers in the industry. Nobody questions these rappers and their color. Yet Iggy is singled out from the rest and she is targeted.

Iggy is picked apart for the content in her songs. Over the past couple of months, I have heard numerous radio stations and websites criticize Iggy for not discussing black culture in her music. I do agree that hip hop and rap are symbolic in the black community. These genres have served as platforms for blacks to describe and depict their struggles within society. Beginning in the 90s, with the famous NWA, blacks have been able depict gang violence, drugs and racism vividly through rap and hip hop. Rappers such as Nas and Kendrick Lamar have exemplified this type of expression.  These genres are truly revolutionary and special, yet, when Iggy raps about something that doesn’t regard black culture, she is criticized. Numerous rappers have existed that rapped about non-street culture topics. Eminem has rapped about his personal struggles. Hoodie Allen has rapped about laid-back partying. But, when Iggy gets on the mic, the entire hip hop community goes haywire. Why? She is held to a double standard.Yes, she rants on Twitter. She is sometimes rude, and tends to ridicule strangers and critics alike. Many celebrities abuse social media, not just Iggy. I don’t condone this behavior, but Iggy shouldn’t be held under a microscope when celebrities like Amber Rose and Kanye do the same.

I want to establish that I don’t really enjoy Iggy’s music. Correction: I don’t like her music at all. Compared to the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Kanye or J. Cole, she is an amateur. But, I do think it’s unfair how an artist in today’s modern music industry is being held to a double standard, specifically because of her skin color and even gender. The big name rappers I have listed are all men. Iggy is pinned against a wall. She is a white female trying to make it in a genre dominated by black males. Yes, we all know Nicki Minaj has done well, but can you name another female rapper? So cut Iggy some slack. Her rise to fame has impressed me. There’s no need to be racist or sexist. Let Iggy express herself.  You don’t have to be a fan of her music. I am not one. But you need to realize that she is free to express herself musically as she wants and there is no reason to destroy her character because of it. Yes, she can’t freestyle compared to Logic, and she doesn’t have the best flow, but at least show her some respect, just as you did with Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen and most of all, Eminem.

The injustice of affirmative action in college admissions


For many students here at Guilderland, race isn’t something that we spend a lot of time thinking about. While GHS is a place filled with all kinds of diverse interests, it is not a place filled with all kinds of diverse people: we are an overwhelmingly white school. There is a limited amount of individuals able to see race through the often sharper lens of minority. I am guilty of it too – as a white American I easily forget the privileges I garner simply because of that fact. Recently, however, as the college admissions wave crashes in once again, the sometimes-difficult contemplation about who we are, where we come from, and how that affects us peeks its head above the surface.

“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.” President Lyndon Johnson said this in 1965, as he so eloquently described the rationale for the continued, then contemporary, use of affirmative action in the United States. Affirmative Action programs are meant to help bolster opportunities for minority groups who have been subject to both the visible and invisible barriers of discrimination. They are an attempt at leveling the playing field so all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, are able to have their slice of the American Dream. I’ll give you the logic: Two hundred fifty years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of “separate but equal,” and the continual, omnipotent gray cloud of discrimination under the police and justice system. And this idea of marginalization isn’t unique to African Americans – as the U.S. population swelled to become the melting pot it is now, nearly every ethnic minority group – Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans – has been subjected to some form of discrimination under the law. Affirmative Action programs began just after the Civil War and continue today, through employment and recruiting procedures, as well as how it pertains to many Guilderland students – college admissions. And while it should be clear at this point that I believe sturdily in the principles that Affirmative Action are built upon, I have recently begun to ask the question that unbearably arises each year around this time: Is Affirmative Action in college admissions truly fair?

Before I begin making any kind of case, I feel it behooves me as a senior and as the author of this article to briefly explain my own college process.  I applied to school Early Decision and by incredible luck and potential divine intervention, I was one of the lucky few who knew where they were going by mid-December of this past year. I’m saying this not to toot my own horn, but rather to explain that this article isn’t some angry retaliation at a hoard of rejection letters. I also think it behooves me to mention this: Personally, I don’t know if I think Affirmative Action in colleges should change drastically, it’s an idea that I struggle with. But I do know that there is an argument to amending the system, and it’s one that I believe is important to make.

It is fairly well known that college admissions is not a perfect science – not even close, especially when it comes to elite universities. Acceptance to top-tier schools, even by the most qualified of qualified students is never close to a guarantee. Perfect grades, amazing standardized test scores, a host of extracurricular activities, and great essays have now become the norm among applications to say, an Ivy League institution. The admissions standards are so high that simply meeting them means relatively little. These standards, however, aren’t consistent from applicant to applicant. Students that fall under the category of “underrepresented minority” or URM (typically black, Hispanic, or Native American), are often subject to a relative detente by admissions officers regarding the level at which their applications are scrutinized. I’m not claiming that URM students who are accepted to prestigious universities aren’t deserving of it, and that they aren’t incredibly bright, driven people, because in order to get into a top school you must be. However, what I am saying is that many, many rejected applicants are as well. More specifically, Asian-American applicants.

I wrote earlier that the basis of Affirmative Action was to help level the playing field, and on its surface, easing the acceptance standards for URMs does that. It uses the idea that these students have been given less opportunity, and inherently don’t have the same platform that say, white people have, to achieve high academic success. I’ll get back to this point, but for now I will say yes, that is true. Being white in America has a lot of advantages that other minorities don’t receive. So while Affirmative Action has an arguably reasonable basis behind changing admissions standards for URMs, it’s harder to account for the raised admissions standards that Asian-American individuals fall victim to. In 2009, in their book “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal,” Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford, studied applicants from 1997 and found that whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than fifteen times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian-Americans. And this was data from now nearly twenty years ago. Okay, there are inherent disadvantages that black people face in America, however, I believe firmly that there aren’t inherent advantages to being an Asian person, especially not in comparison to white Americans.

The reason for this disparity in standards is the case of diversity – we need it in colleges. Diversity is a good thing in a learning environment. It helps give a wide range of perspectives. It benefits both minorities who are able to have people that they can relate to ethnically, and for whites who can understand the world better through their classmates. Schools aim to create a student population reflective of the population as a whole.  If colleges ignored race in their admissions process, we wouldn’t get the same cross-section of humanity that campuses would like to reflect. Take UC Berkeley, arguably the most prestigious school in the UC system, a system that in 1997, began a race-blind admissions process. In 2014, Asian Americans were the largest demographic to be admitted, making up 42.8 percent of admissions offers, followed by whites with 28.4 percent. While California does have a high Asian-American population, they are not the majority ethnic group, not even close.

So, a race-blind admissions process does create some diversity issues, I can agree with that. However, something feels inherently wrong about essentially punishing a demographic for having high levels of achievement. In many Asian-American households, education is an important value, which is why we see such staggering levels of incredibly successful Asian students. The thing here to note is this, though, successful students in general tend to come from families where education is a stressed ideal. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic – if your parents expect you to take school seriously, you likely will. Asian-Americans aren’t successful because they are Asian, they are successful because they come from an environment where they are expected to be, just like the vast majority of every other top student from every race. If colleges raised their admissions standards off of which students were read to when they were little, encouraged to take enrichment opportunities or watch educational television, I imagine that their acceptances would change. This noted disparity in Asian-American academic success and everyone else has little do with race and more to do with values, values that are more prominent in Asian communities but likely the most prominent on the campuses of elite universities, where the majority of students benefited from the very same things that Asians are being penalized for.

This idea that academic success is derived not from your race, but rather from your household, is the driving force for much of the backlash against Affirmative Action. This logic is also pretty simple: You have a black student and a white student, both with two parents who are college educated attending the same high school and falling in the same socioeconomic bracket. It is challenging to find any disparity in opportunity for academic success between these two students. They both come from households where education is important, they have the same chance to take challenging classes, join clubs and sports, and neither has to worry about family economics more than the other. However, when it comes to applying to colleges, the black student has an advantage because they are black. I am someone who hates the absurd claims of so-called “reverse racism,” or the idea that any of this somehow makes up for the atrocities that African-Americans have been subject to in our history as a country and still today. I’m not complaining about my whiteness, I’m just stating the fact that this is true.

I’m not saying that Affirmative Action needs to go completely. It does a good job helping bring up minority groups that haven’t been given a fair hand, but it also tips the scales against Asian-Americans, and at times, poorer white people. The most readily available amendments to this entire system stabs at the demographic that we haven’t talked about yet: the poor. People from challenging economic backgrounds are at the most disadvantageous position when it comes to academic opportunity. Beyond just the stressors and struggles of daily life around or below the poverty line, students from low-income areas often attend worse public schools, and are less likely to have parents who graduated college. Here is the important thing though: the URMs I was talking about earlier all have significantly higher poverty rates than white people. If Affirmative Action focused more on class and family background, and less on race itself, theoretically, diversity should occur in an organic way.

I know that this isn’t a perfect solution. I know that discrimination isn’t black and white (no pun intended), but rather a dynamic mosaic of little things, of micro-aggressions, of deeply rooted and unrecognized stigmas we find within ourselves. I know that in the search for equality, we have so, so far to go as a country. But I also know this: I have spent hours at night doing APUSH, gnawing through calculus, stressing over English papers. I have seen my friends do the same, friends who are white and friends who are black, friends who are Hispanic and friends who are Asian. While our struggles are often unique, we are bound by our work ethic and love of learning, our late nights and our long readings. So when college admissions comes down to the nitty-gritty, when rejections make us question our efforts or hurt for our friends, white, Asian or anything else, it is known: we could not have done this any way but together.

The hypocrisy of “progress:” the state of racism in America


On Sunday, March 7, 1965, nearly six hundred marchers assembled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to protest the shooting death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young, unarmed black man who was an activist for African-American voting rights. In the tragedy that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” the nonviolent demonstrators were sprayed with tear gas and beaten with billy clubs by Alabama State Troopers as they fought to march across the bridge. The events of “Bloody Sunday” sparked national outrage, with protesters pouring into Selma from around the country for further demonstrations; they also prompted political action, ultimately leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The tragedy was one of the most important events of the civil rights movement; the heroic acts by the protesters on Bloody Sunday are a vital part of the long story of civil rights in America.

But the story of civil rights in America is not over. Last month, thousands of people gathered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedies in Selma. Led by President Barack Obama and Congressman John Lewis, who was beaten on the bridge on Bloody Sunday, the demonstrators walked across the bridge, symbolically completing the march from fifty years ago. But despite the air of hope and optimism, the event was cast against a backdrop of desperation. Two years ago, a Supreme Court decision dismantled a key aspect of the Voting Rights Act, the very legislation that resulted from the protests in Selma. And in the past year, America saw the murders of two unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, casting a stark reminder to the needless deaths of Jimmie Lee Jackson and countless other African-American lives. Indeed, it seems the struggle for racial equality is as much a part of the present as it is a part of our past.

A few years ago, the underlying and often-ignored racial tensions in America were reawakened when Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager, was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator who thought Martin “looked suspicious.” Personally, following the case of Trayvon Martin was the early spark to my convictions about racial equality and social justice. Prior to Martin’s death, my concept of America was only what I had been taught in history books; I knew that racial discrimination had been a part of our nation’s past, but was ignorant of it’s lasting impact. But through absorbing the nation-wide discussions stemming from Trayvon’s death, I became increasingly aware of the systemic racism that has permeated American society and the cultural implications it has caused. Racism, I realized, is not merely buried in history books – it is, sadly, an integral aspect of modern society.

Some, however, refuse to acknowledge this reality, and continue to ignore our society’s inherent racial bias while only admonishing those who call for change. When millions of people demonstrated in cities across the country in protest of the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, carrying signs declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe,” the last words of Eric Garner before he was choked to death by an NYPD officer, they were met with criticism for being, as Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly labeled them, “racial agitators” who “set back race relations in America years” with their “tactics of violence.” Similarly, when the Department of Justice released a scathing report showing a horrific pattern of racial bias within the Ferguson police department, including blatantly racist emails and evidence that police officers arrested African-Americans only to raise revenue, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri pointed his finger back at the Justice Department, saying “there is more racism in the Justice Department” than anywhere in the St. Louis area; “it is the left,” he says, “[Attorney General] Eric Holder and the Obama-left and their minions who are obsessed with race. The rest of us are moving on beyond it.”

But the painful truth is that the institution of racism exists today in much the same way that it did in the 1960’s. Racism exists in the city blocks where helpless people are detained and victimized by crime and gun violence with no option of escape. Racism exists in our nation’s prison system, where most of the inmates are minority citizens. And perhaps most painfully, racism exists in the messages sent to minority children through the injustices in our society that there will be more barriers to their success than they can overcome, that their hopes and dreams are invalid, their futures held hostage by the color of their skin. Racism, systemic racism, is alive and well in America, but in the post-racial paradox in which we live, many refuse to see it.

So when an African-American student at the University of Virginia is thrown against the pavement by the police, it must be viewed in the context of a larger cultural problem of race relations; when a University of Oklahoma fraternity is caught on video chanting a racist cheer, it must be seen not merely as an isolated incident, but rather as a reflection of the cloud of racism that hangs above our nation. In today’s society, we seem to have a tendency to pinpoint racism as if it exists only in specific places and the minds of certain people. Instead, if we are to truly make progress, we must accept that racism is a prevalent problem in our nation, an issue that is deeply rooted in our society.

Before we, as a nation, blindly accept that we have made progress since the days of Jim Crow and complacently claim to live in a post-racial society, we must deeply analyze the present state of race in America. When we do, we will see that the progress we speak of exists only in our minds as a source of comfort and innocence. To accept this false reality as fact is an injustice to the victims of our innocence, a truly hypocritical action against our national doctrine of liberty and justice for all.

After all, today’s similarities to our nation’s past seem more pronounced than the differences we speak of. In 1955, Emmett Till, an African-American teenager, was beaten, shot, and drowned with a cotton gin fan tied to his neck because he allegedly “threatened” a white woman. At his funeral, his mother, Mamie Till, issued a call for change by leaving her son’s casket open, exposing the deformities caused by his murder. But in the past few years, we’ve seen the murderers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner slip through the cracks of the court system, and with each acquittal, Mamie Till’s hope for change slipped further and further into the foggy abyss of the forgotten past.

Progress? Sadly, it seems not.

Attack in Kenya overlooked in America


Not everyday do we see nearly 150 university students killed in a mass shooting. But could it be that we don’t hear about it at all?

On April 2, the Islamist militant group al-Shaabab claimed responsibility for the massacre at Garissa University in Kenya earlier that day. After entering the campus grounds and shooting the guards, the four militants began firing in the library and classrooms, killing 148 students and wounding another 80. Though the militants claimed to have released Muslims and killed only Christians, the attack was seemingly random and targeted all groups, especially women.

Al-Shaabab was also the perpetrator behind the Westgate shopping mall attack in September 2013, which killed nearly 70 and wounded 175. A jihadist terrorist group with around 8,000 members, al-Shaabab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012 and continuously launches attacks in Kenya. Hardly a week earlier, al-Shaabab attacked Hotel Maka Al Mukaram in Mogadishu, killing 20 and wounding another 30.

In fact, al-Shaabab conducts so many attacks in Kenya—whether it be skirmishes with local military forces or large civilian massacres—that each specific one does nothing but paint a larger picture. In fact, they lose individual significance. Could that be why we students hardly hear about, or even care about, events of such stupendous magnitude?

Al-Shaabab’s attacks are not about demonstrating international power. They don’t have international consequence, and matter even less perhaps for countries like the U.S. What they do show is their ability to frustrate the Kenyan government in an everyday setting, such as schools or malls. Not only are they more vulnerable; attacking a glamorous mall or newly constructed school is more symbolic than functional. Perhaps that’s why fundamentalist groups such as al-Shaabab continue to survive and thrive: their threat is local, and their opposition is weak.

And maybe that shows something about American foreign policy towards radical Islamic groups in the Middle East and Africa: the drone strike and the bolstering of a naturally weak leadership is not the right way to confront fundamentalism. Instead, the U.S. should focus their help on the local level, because Kenya’s problems are local.

Building a capable nation requires time, so that local political and economic divisions can be solved. This means building a capable economy in both Kenya and Somalia, where al- Shaabab is based. Ending this economic misery eliminates the perfect environment for such radical terrorist groups. But there is a larger problem than al-Shaabab for the U.S., and that’s the absence of attention towards events like the university shooting. The Garissa University massacre did not spawn the massive social media outburst like #freeourgirls or #JeSuisCharlie.

Stéphane Charbonnier and four other cartoonists were killed for publishing what they believed in, and their names will be remembered as symbols of free speech. But those 150 students were killed for learning, for trying to better their futures and worshiping different Gods. Will the deaths of these students have the same symbolic meaning than the attack on Charlie Hebdo?

Most likely not, and it spawns the crucial question: why not? What makes the attack on Charlie Hebdo so much more striking and important than the shooting at Garissa University?

The first consideration is location. Is it possible that Charlie Hebdo received more attention simply because it occurred in Paris? Perhaps, but then we remember that #freeourgirls began because of the kidnapping of 200 female students in Nigeria. Could it be the perpetrators of the killings? It’s unlikely. Radical Muslims carried out the assassinations of Charlie Hebdo columnists. Islamic fundamentalists also carried out the abduction of the Nigerian girls.

What about the ideals that the killings symbolized? The assassinations of Charlie Hebdo journalists reinvigorated support for free speech, while the abduction in Nigeria demonstrated the universal right to an education. But the same goes for the attack at Garissa University. So where is the discrepancy?

A final consideration is that the attack in Kenya was a more local problem than the attack in Paris or the kidnappings in Nigeria. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was conducted by French Muslims because for many years the newspaper’s satirists had been slamming and mocking Muhammad and Islam under the protection of free speech. In Nigeria, the 200 schoolgirls were abducted because the Islamist group Boko Haram, who carried out the kidnappings, disliked the new style of Western education that was “corrupting” Africa and wanted a return to traditional Islamic education. In contrast, however, the recent massacre in Kenya was merely one piece of a thread of constant attacks carried out by a dangerous but overall typical fundamentalist group. The attack in Kenya had little to no international implications—and though one could argue that the other two events did not either, the attack on Kenya was motivated almost solely by local reasons. Undermining a nation’s local security is not symbolically the same as assassinating members of a famous satirical newspaper or kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls.

Ultimately, that’s the danger we face: ignorance to the real problems. We can continue to fight a war against a danger we cannot see—radicalism and fundamentalism in a religion that’s becoming widely scrutinized—but we will not be able to restore peace if we continue to turn blind eyes towards an actual problem. Radical Islamic terrorist groups are continuing to pose real threats in Africa, the Middle East, and increasingly in the West and in Europe. But that problem lies in Kenya, and other African countries where attacks and conflicts are daily occurrences, not in Paris or Washington, where threats are only that and one attack grabs historic attention.

All of these events are horrific. Assassinations of Parisian journalists threaten American newspapers and massacres in Kenya frighten students at home. But to address the long-term problem, we need to consider the problem in Kenya as well as Paris, and we need to force ourselves to look at the problem we face, because every one of the terrifying events should deserve our attention.

Focus on STEAM, not STEM

Chant it with me! S! T! E! M! What does that spell? STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

Well, at least it feels as though everyone is cheering for STEM these days, and booing for the liberal arts.

And who can blame them? The one place the United States has not been able to dominate is in education, specifically math and science. In order to maintain our power status, the country must improve in its ability to produce intellectuals on par with those of our competitors.

But are we constantly pushing STEM too often? By pressuring kids into STEM careers are we neglecting those students who would thrive in a liberal arts environment?

Science and Math department head Mr. Piscitelli would argue no. Although he thinks there are winds blowing in our country pushing our sails towards STEM for competitive reasons, the main reason why there is a push for stem is the “swell of the industries in the area and probably the opportunities that they’re seeing.” World renowned programs and institutions like SUNY Polytechnic in Albany and GlobalFoundaries in Malta are only steps away, which, according to Piscitelli, “makes more opportunities available in STEM careers to the graduating classes and that’s why it seems like we are pushing for STEM more these days.”

This isn’t only happening here though. Nationwide, the careers in STEM fields are growing in number while, and Piscitelli points out, other fields like journalism may have more people going into a field with a smaller number of opportunities available. Although there’s a lot of rhetoric out there about STEM recently, he isn’t wrong – there are more opportunities for these fields. New York State even just introduced a large scholarship for those pursuing STEM careers in NYS SUNY schools.

But as high schools students we are presented with a brightly packaged dilemma. Do we follow the trail of opportunity? Or do we construct a path for a career we love? And if those two paths happen to meet, great, but for those of us who would like to pursue a more liberal career path words and phrases like job security, income, and “liberal arts won’t get you a job,” start to poke at us. We’re pressured by our parents, teachers, the media and other sources to go the more secure route: going for the higher paying STEM  job. It’s the battle between of happiness and success (however one defines it.) No one wants to be a failure, but no one wants to be unhappy.

Picking a major, and then a career is the hardest choice we have to make as young adults. And as Alicia Chen, a GHS Senior, points out, it will be difficult sometimes to always do what we love. “Way back when the people who made money off of art were friends with the king, like Mozart and Beethoven. Van Gogh never made any money.” It has always been hard to make a living off of more artsy activities because it’s so hard to place a price on books and paintings.

Science and engineering, on the other hand, are number-based fields. It’s easier to put a price on chemicals or machines. Chen elaborates that “money, and consumerism, are all based on numbers, so if you’re working with numbers that’s more easily translatable to money in the long run.”

But just because it’s harder doesn’t mean we should give up on our dreams. Chen thinks that as long as you’re not trying to “take the easy way out,” by avoiding the “more difficult” science majors then students should follow their hearts. “If you really like English or history, or whatever obscure thing, like philosophy or slavic languages, then you should go for it,” she says.  Nick VonDollen, a Senior at GHS, agrees. In the end, he says, happiness will always beat a fatter paycheck. “A salary is something that we use to live off of, but the things we do in our lives that give them true value are the things that we know we love to do deep down. I wouldn’t bother working a ‘better job’ for a better salary if I were waking up dreading work for the next 65 years.”

Possibly there’s an even simpler solution, a compromise. If one loves both art and science, or one loves art and is concerned about scary things like job security, then why not do both? In fact, a new and improved term has begun to circulate in the education community: STEAM. With the inclusions of the arts in this new term, artistic pursuits and STEM paths are combined. Art Teacher Ms.Best agrees is the best possible solution, because you have to be creative even in a STEM career.  “I don’t think you can have good science or math without creativity,” Best explains. “Art is like science sometimes because you have to experiment and try new things, or else you’re not going to survive, you’re not going to float. Science is like art because you have to be rigid in some ways, but if you’re not creative you’re not going to progress, you’re just going to do the same experiment you’ve always done.”

Mr.Bender, a science teacher, agrees that STEAM is the better way to go. “ I don’t think you can’t do art if you’re doing STEM – you should do art and STEM. Some very creative people who are in engineering need a way to spatially relate what they’re building, and that’s art. That’s good. Music,too, is another language. They’re all good.” He believes the focus on STEM in recent years is because of the need for people in those careers, especially women and minorities, but he doesn’t think we should as he says, “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” as there are good parts to a liberal education. For example, he says, “Reading Cicero tells you the same problems we have today that they had back then.”

If our country wants to become the true leader in education, we need to stop focusing on STEM and focus more on STEAM. We need to stop discounting the liberal arts and start appreciating that there is value in all types of education. In fact, it seems best if we act studiously in both fields if we wish to truly succeed in life. Guidance Counselor Mrs.Sheehan makes the important notice about how often different subject areas can be combined in careers, “There are a lot of ways to combine art, and math and science and tech, which I don’t think a lot of kids know they can combine.”

The bottom line is that our future is in our hands. We need to decide what will make us happy, whether it be STEM, STEAM, or liberal arts, and not what will make us a lot of money, or what society is pressuring us to do. Sheehan puts it best when she says “I think you have to follow what your heart is saying. Do what you’re passionate about.”

Free Verse: Why Did I Do That?


I’ll hang my head in the bottom drawer because she’s the only one who knows
That the Abuse is happening just few inches from her handles and there I am next to the music completely faded away just like I’m just another half note in the melodies that make me alive
I am alive through the crutches I hold tight in my mind
I think I need them but I long for the opposite
I’m not just another darkness, parts of
Me have light
Especially with a lighter
The books will be written and the songs will be composed out of the substances that are taught as a sin
Gateway to the shiny golden gates of a new life
Life is forgiving and there’s Your second chance
Maybe third or fourth
But who’s counting

Free Verse: Empty Hands


Roses, dozens of roses, dozens of wonderfully red wishful roses waiting so patiently at my doorstep
Dozens of roses
I didn’t mean to scare you when I screamed but your love was too gigantic for me
It filled my belly like a baby, shone its light into my world so brightly I had to shield my eyes
I close my door on your hundreds of roses
and creep quietly back to my romance novel with a blanket and flashlight in hand
How small am I? So small.

I read about your kind of love in between the lines of my books and in the ending of movies, I see it in the meadows and up the valleys where the flower stems intertwine and grow up and up
How small am I? So small.

I keep my love locked in the corner of my room in an envelope with all the other letters to the boy I haven’t met yet-

A boy who isn’t coming.

And yet you’re here with your roses, dozens of roses, dozens of wonderfully red wishful roses and I am so small. I am so deaf to your poetry written in ways I haven’t heard before,
I am so silent to your questions spoken in ways that haven’t been asked before-

Not to me, at least
And I cry and I cry and I cry to the pages of love in my hand
Tears fall, there they go, goodbye
And you cry, and you cry, and you cry to a girl who is real and in your hands and she is me
And I’m sorry,

But these pages are my blood while I am your blood
I am not ready to be somebody’s love
Yet you love me with your dozens of roses
And I close myself off with a dozen goodbyes dozens of woefully whispered goodbyes, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye