WHY BLACK PANTHER MATTERED SO MUCH

By Ruthchamar Jolibois

​Black Panther…WOW! That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about that spectacular movie. The visuals, the sound, the plot, the costume and makeup just left me all types of shook! The surplus of melanin that oozed from the characters’ skin took my breath away! This was Black Excellence at its finest!
Apart from the breathtaking beauty that was displayed, this movie took representation to another level. The type of representation that is often ignored in Hollywood when it comes to African-Americans.

Ironically, yesterday was International Women’s Day, and this movie definitely had powerful women in it. Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nikia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Shuri (Letitia Wright) all powerful on their own. Okoye was the leader of T’Challa’s army (that were full of women). Can you imagine a woman operating an entire army? An African-American woman at that? Put yourself in a little girl’s shoes and seeing that sort of representation for the first time! The excitement that a child must have felt. The opportunity to see a woman who might resemble her or her mother or even a friend being so powerful and dominating, this is why Black Panther mattered so much. It provided African-American children the opportunity to see people that shared the same skin color as them are able to be superheroes. That they can be scientists, warriors, kings, and that they can be more than thugs and/or drug dealers.

Black Panther drew in all ages, however since children are so impressionable, this was the right movie for them. I recently saw a video on social media of two little African-American boys who were arguing over who was going to be T’Challa or Killmonger, and it warmed my heart. Finally, these children had superheroes who they could imitate so easily. It was beautiful to see such a thing.
I can not wait for the upcoming Halloween Season. I am extremely excited to see African-American children as Shuri, Killmonger, Nikia, and etc. Black children finally being able to dress in African inspired clothing then the common Batman or Wonder Woman costume from Party City. This was long overdue and it well deserved for this year’s Black History Month.

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BREAKING THE SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE

By: Yolian Ogbu

 

For centuries, societies have believed in the power of education. Today, we still believe that an effective education system can solve deep-rooted societal issues, such as the cycle of poverty and overburdened prisons. This belief has translated into legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in the United States. However, the existence of the school-to-prison pipeline seems to contradict these long-standing beliefs.

Harsh, zero-tolerance disciplinary policies that push students out of the classroom lead to an increased likelihood that misbehaving students are introduced into the criminal justice system. Many schools, especially those in urban, low-income areas, have implemented strict measures against misbehaving students, including police presence and automatic punishments. These measures have resulted in an endless flow of youth to juvenile detention centers for minor classroom infractions. While these policies may be well-intentioned, they pave the road to institutionalization for many youths, a consequence that has lead many to refer to these policies as contributing to a school-to-prison pipeline.

What is perhaps most concerning is the two groups of students who are disproportionately victims to the school-to-prison pipeline: racial minorities and children with disabilities. For both groups, there is a significant difference in suspension and expulsion rates than the rest of the population. It’s even worse for racial minorities with disabilities. Countless studies, including those conducted by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, have found that the racial differences in disciplinary rates in schools have increased since the 1970s. These studies have also found that using suspension as a method of discipline greatly increases the chances that a student will end up behind bars. To have such stark differences based on race and disabilities is simply unacceptable.

According to the US Department of Justice, between 1997 and 2007, the amount of school resource officers (SRO) in the United States increased by 38%. Schools with these SROs have higher criminalization rates and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on these officers, according to Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, a 2011 report released by the Justice Policy Institute. Along with zero-tolerance policies, this has led to the unprecedented likelihood for students to be arrested on campus. A vast majority of these arrests have been due to nonviolent offenses. Zero-tolerance policies assume a one-size-fits-all stance for infractions on school grounds. However, the nature of every offense is different, and to dole out the same consequence for every and any offense is illogical.

So how can we stymie the flow of the school-to-prison pipeline? It all begins in the classroom. Teachers should be encouraged to use positive behavior supports and intervention strategies for at-risk students instead of zero-tolerance policies. This should reduce the rates of criminalization and support at-risk students. Schools also have a role to play. The amount of school resource officers should be minimized and police force should be utilized as a last-resort option. Schools should also ensure that the student codes of conduct are up to date and comprehensive so that students are not unfairly punished. Governments may have the most important role. Governments need to allocate funds towards schools for more long-term solutions such as teacher training and development, rather than short-term solutions such as police presence.

The school-to-prison pipeline deprives millions of youths of a quality future and puts them on track for an institutionalized future. Given the already overcrowded prisons all over the world, it is critical that schools start addressing this issue. There are numerous complications to reform, such as school safety, but with cooperation from the classroom to the government, great strides can be made towards addressing this issue.

SELF LOVE

By Destine

Self -love is something that is so important. Especially as women. it is crucial that we are constantly working on our self- love.  People sometimes don’t realize, but the way we feel about ourselves affects a lot of our decisions and our relationships with people. Poor self- esteem can stem from many things. It can come from traumas, lack of parental/family presence, bullying, etc…  No matter the source of it, it is important to address the issue. There are many tactics and habits that can help improve one’s self-esteem. Something as simple as telling yourself you are beautiful every day in the mirror can be helpful. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. I say to this to say that self-confidence doesn’t happen overnight and you will definitely have moments where you aren’t that confident. The goal is to not be confident all the time (because that’s impossible) but to be confident as much as possible.

Being confident can take you to places that you think are beyond your reach. You will also find that you have better relationships with those around you. People will respect you more when they see that you carry yourself with confidence. You will not tolerate anything less than you deserve which in turn saves you from being disrespected. With confidence you will be surer of yourself and your decisions. You will become more fearless and will work harder for the things that you want. Having self-love is a key component to having a more meaningful life.

BODY IMAGE

By: Deja

A woman should have a curved shape with big breasts, a flat stomach, slim waist, and toned legs. If you are a woman, and do not fit these specific features, then you are not “sexy” or “appealing.” This is how the mind of society has evolved to portray a woman’s body. Unfortunately, this has caused many women, especially teenagers, to reach crooked conclusions about their bodies and take drastic measures to reconstruct bodily imperfections. The images of beauty are unrealistic and hurt them by assaulting their body image. Body image is a major factor in self-esteem; which is the way an individual feels or thinks about themselves. For many years, society has created an impractical view of body image for women. Around the world, women are continuously bashed for not possessing the physical features of the ideal body image. This is an issue that must be addressed because women deserve to be respected and admired, no matter their size or shape.

Magazine publishers and photographers are often blamed for portraying an ideal body image through advertising which causes women to question their looks and lose their boldness. These people are trained to edit and airbrush photos to alter a woman’s standard look; to make them appear “better” or “perfect”. This is also known as photoshop, where an individual is able to alter an image through an image-editing software. Editors are able to make women appear slimmer, remove any blemishes, whiten teeth, change eye color, enhance skin tone, etc. Once all of these changes are made to a woman’s appearance, it is no longer natural beauty but artificial beauty. Movie directors and even video producers refuse to accept women to feature in their movies, commercials, or music videos, if they do not expose a certain type of sex appeal. Hundreds of modeling industries require specific looks for women to obtain. Victoria Secret, is an American designer, manufacturer and marketer of women’s premium lingerie, womenswear and beauty products. Their models must between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet tall. They must meet the specific measurement requirements of a 34-inch bust, a 24-inch waist, and 34-inch hips. Women who do not fit these requirements are typically not considered to model their designer clothing. However, expectations are acceptable only if the model contributes other desirable attributes, such as a “beautiful” face. This type of behavior influences society, especially the youth culture, to only accept beauty as what they see being portrayed in social media. Not only do these businesses and corporations shun women of their natural beauty, but society’s criticism causes women to physically alter their looks.

Women alter themselves to fit the stereotypes of the “perfect look.” Women spend countless dollars on makeup, beauty products, and cosmetic surgery, to “enhance” their beauty. “ The pressure to look good has allowed cosmetic surgery rates to increase by nearly 20% since 2008. A few cosmetic surgery procedures are breast enhancement, facial and body contouring, facial contouring and rejuvenation, and skin rejuvenation. Women can now physically change their appearance by getting botox, facelift, liposuction, breast or butt lifts, etc. Miami board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Salzhauer, better known by his screen name, Dr. Miami, is notorious for recording his operations through social media, such as snapchat, as he “[rearranges] the shape of his patients’ bodies.”  Also many weight-loss solutions/products have skyrocketed in the market due to women’s’ insecurities. Diet-pills, waist trainers, and plastic surgery are three major ways women nowadays try to lose weight or “mold” their bodies. Now, some women simply just want to change their appearance for the sake of themselves, for their own good and self-confidence, and not society.

Instead of handling the situation in a healthy and positive manner, many teenagers  are choosing a dangerous route instead. These young ladies begin to develop health issues, such as bulimia or anorexia, by obsessing over what they eat and their weight or physical appearance. Bulimia is an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting. Anorexia, also known as anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Studies also show that these girls influenced by the media, wanted to lose nearly half of their weight even though more than half of these girls were at a healthy weight. Society has caused women to take drastic measures in order to fit in with the “norm.” While living in a world where society creates this “image” for women, women begin to start  actually believing what they are being exposed to and this begins to mentally and emotionally affect them.

Society has mentally and emotionally affected women by their absurd ideal image of a woman. The level of self-confidence and self-esteem falls to an ultimate low. Women begin to focus on their physical appearance and sexual appeal as a measure of their self-worth. They begin to believe that they are not as worthy, or desirable, if they do not look a certain way.  “Catfish,” is a MTV series that brings together couples who’ve interacted solely through the internet for months. A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they are not by using social media to create false identities in order to pursue deceptive online romances. Although, this show does consist of both male and female, it contributes to the message of this essay. Women are so afraid of not being accepting for who they are, that they feel the need to portray themselves as someone else to get attention. Some of the men on this show actually fall in love with who they’ve been writing back and forth for months. They fall in love with the personality of the person behind the screen, but once they finally meet this person and this particular individual doesn’t look as how they thought they did, that “love” has vanished. If society was not as judgmental or subjective, then women would become more emotionally and mentally sustained.

However, there are many individuals who believe the images of beauty are not unrealistic and should not hurt women. These people agree to this “ideal body image of a woman.” They believe women who do not naturally possess these seductive features are held at a disadvantage. If women do not have the big breasts, curved shaped, or flat stomach, then no men will find them attractive. “Women should be toned, tanned, and lack excess fat.” Even political figures, such as Donald Trump, are vulgar and profane, when it comes to women and respecting their bodies. Miss America, Alicia Machado, told CNN, Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and that she has “gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.” It has been taught in society to believe that women should not let themselves get to an “unattractive” size or shape and achieve the “ideal look.” It is very unfortunate for women who do not acquire this specific “look” because they are neglected in society, by other women and especially men.

If only women would exploit their sex appeal, than maybe women will achieve more in life. This is the intolerant mindset that has been disclosed to society. Women of all shapes and sizes are not appealing in society or the media. A woman’s purpose is to appear dateable and sexy to a man. More job opportunities are available to “sexy” or “appealing” women. Alluring women have a higher chance in becoming more successful in a workplace. Jobs such as acting, modeling, exotic dancing, etc. If society did not hold women up to this “ideal image,” then women would be more comfortable and confident in their own skin.
Social media has brainwashed society and has a huge effect on the body image of women, which cannot be ignored. If this type of behavior progresses, more and more women will continue to feel rejected by society. We must learn to embrace and value women as the beautiful creatures they appear to be.

Love Series: What is Love?

By: Anonymous
Everyone has experienced love in their lifetime. Whether it’s relationship wise, something you love to do, and even loving a family member. Love has a way of showing itself differently but remains the same word throughout. Senior year in high school I realized that I did believe in love at first sight. He was in a grade under me but was on the same level as me mentally (sometimes). First time seeing him I immediately slid into his dms making it seem like it was not intentionally. Who knew I would spend 2 years of my life with him. At the beginning of our relationship, it was very rough because other females wanted him too. You never know how much you love someone until you feel the pain when you see your loved one talking to someone of the opposite sex innocently. But because I loved him I knew for a fact it was nothing more. Seeing him every day, the butterflies in my stomach was constantly there, seeing him play on the football field hoping he doesn’t get hurt, and cheering him on, the butterflies were there. Waiting for him after his game, the butterflies remained. My smile never drifted away whenever I was with him. To have love, you need someone who is going to treat you like the King and Queen you were born to be. Someone who shows you why they love you and not just say it. “ Love is what it does, not what it says”.

​In the second year of our relationship, the butterflies started drifting away. He didn’t look at me like he loved me anymore. He wasn’t as excited to see me as he was in our first year. He wasn’t showing the affection that I deserved anymore. (This is the part where you know love hurts). Hearing rumors in high school that your boyfriend, the one you loved and stood by his side through everything he went through, was talking to another female, that is when my heart shattered. Deciding if I should believe it or not. Hearing this in one ear and that in another, you begin to lose yourself because you don’t want to believe it. I would ask him and he would either tell me it’s not true or change the subject. What I did to get to the bottom of it was talking to the female who was “supposedly” talking to my boyfriend. After finding out the truth I knew what my next step was. Ended a relationship with a broken heart, and eyes full of tears. I loved that boy, and I did anything for him. But just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean he didn’t love me. To this day, I am careful with who I talk to and very careful of the signs they may send just to break my heart in the end. Because of that break up I learned a very important lesson, take your time with the person you’re in a relationship with, no need to rush love, it will happen if it is meant, and we’re young so let’s not forget to live our lives and we can most definitely love later.

LOVE SERIES: “SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU”

By: Anonymous

Valentine’s Day is on Wednesday, and everyone on social media will be showcasing their love and affection for their loved ones. I will be at home watching Nicholas Sparks movies while fantasizing about my current love life.

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The single life is not new for me, but last summer I was in a relationship with an amazing person. When I say amazing, I mean amazing. I am not gassing either. Many of the guys that came my way were very unfocused, not passionate about the things I was passionate about. I would not even give them my house address. After my freshman year of college, I decided to take a dip into the love life. To be honest, I did not know how to date, so I watched Nicholas Sparks movies to see how being in a relationship would be. I was so focused on my work and school that I never really thought about dating.  I was so scared to take that next step, but eventually, I met a guy who I had known for a while, and we clicked once I got back home from college. We went on our first date, I was so scared that I watched the movie “Southside With You” before the date and asked my friend to help me pick an outfit.

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That summer was filled with butterflies and roses, my stomach felt like that every time I saw him. For some reason, I was able to be myself around him. I was able to wear my basketball shorts with my Hillary Clinton shirt. He let me complain about the election after six months after the election. We would walk down the river almost every night and I never appreciated nature until then.  We would talk for hours and hours about our dreams, goals, and how we hope to make the world a better place for not only ourselves, but for others.
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​We would play basketball even though I lost my passion for basketball; for some reason, he inspired me to pick up the basketball again. We would drive for a long time, knowing we were wasting gas.  When things went wrong, he would be the person I could call. He was the first person who would read my blog website when I first started writing; now I am a published and paid writer. The crazy thing this Valentine’s Day I won’t be sad, but happy with the memories. Of course, I will be watching Nicholas Sparks with my ice cream, but I am thankful to have experienced a real relationship. Although he and I are not together anymore, I truly wish him the best and I thank him for helping me become a better woman.

LOVE SERIES: I LEARNED TO LOVE ME

By: Anonymous
He made me feel so special. He made me feel like I was the most important person in his world. I was never boy crazy, and never really felt ready to date, but with him, it was different. I did not know why I was so attached, even when he did something wrong. Was this love? I always see tweets about real love and staying even when it’s tough and working through the problems. So am I in love with this guy?

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I couldn’t tell what it was. He just made me feel good. He motivated me to be a better person, he was there through my toughest moments and didn’t ever ask for much. It really seemed like he loved me. But I guess I was wrong.

How could you love someone so much, and tell them how much you want to be with them, but you choose another girl? You did not choose me, you chose her. Even though she tears you down and tells you that you are a bad person. I lifted you up, I kept you smiling and laughing. I took care of you even when I didn’t have to. But you chose her. Did I do something wrong? Did I not please you enough? What does she have that I don’t?

These thoughts will forever linger in my mind when I think of you. We planned our whole future together down to our kids and their kids. I never felt like this about anyone before. I thought you were real. I thought I was your everything. But the whole time, she was your everything. She was always your priority. You went the extra mile for her and did the bare minimum for me. I was blinded by your words and your gentle touch. How did I not see this coming?

I am shining now. I have let go of you and moved on. I realize my worth, and I know who I am. I see why it was easy to attach myself to you. You’re a drug for the vulnerable. You made me weaken myself so you can appear stronger. I am stronger than you. I was before I met you, and I am even stronger now that I don’t know you anymore. I am beautiful. I was before I met you, and I am radiant now that you aren’t telling me how I look. I am smart. I was before I met you, and I am intelligent now that I have learned my lesson by knowing you.

Thank you for the sprinkles of water when I was just a small plant and letting me sprout to a beautiful tree I learned to love me.