#NationalWalkoutDay At Brooklyn Tech High: Photo Story

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Brooklyn Technical High School

 

 

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BKTech student at the walkout has a 17 marking for the seventeen fallen at Parkland.

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Student bows head in solidarity for victims of shooting.

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Group of students pose for a 4×5 photographer at the rally against gun violence.

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Crowds gather in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

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Crowds gather in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

Brooklyn Tech students gather at Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

Crowds gather in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

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Student holds sign in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

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Solar Power Prepares Southern Brooklyn For the Future

The realization that clean energy, namely solar, can save the city in a crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, is sweeping through neighborhoods. Solar, which is renewable, efficient, and off-the-grid, provides energy which was needed throughout the damaged areas of the boroughs lacking in emergency preparation.

A press release in November 2016 announced that the Office of Storm Recovery, funded by Governor Cuomo, appointed 26 facilities and 19 service providers under the New York Rising Community Center Program to create a network of neighborhood-based recovery centers for extreme weather events.

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Caesar Nash, a Solar One employee from Yonkers, pulls apart the summer stage in preparation for fall.

In 2014 the reconstruction plan for Canarsie was set in motion, which was directly inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Two of the hubs are in the Canarsie area, having been identified by the community center program committee as necessary. They will be fitted with solar power and sustainable batteries.

The Canarsie planning committee members include established local organizations such as the Canarsie Disaster Recovery Coalition, Flatlands 108th Block Association, Fresh Creek Civic Association, and the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie. Major non-profits, such as Solar One, the largest weatherization organization in New York State, help connect these local residents with the program’s renewable services.

Kristin Devoe of the Division of Emergency Services for New York City said, “Through our stockpiles, we can provide generators, light towers, etc. to local emergency managers for local use to power essential buildings such as gathering centers, warming centers, critical infrastructure public buildings. However, none of these items are fueled by renewable energy.”

Solar energy is a powerful resource. The lithium ion batteries, its non-toxic counterpart device, stay charged with the sun’s energy for when it is needed, while the excess is sent back into the city’s electrical grid. The Energy Association reports that, “Today’s electricity grid is increasingly vulnerable to threats from nature, terrorists, and accidents. Power outages cost as much as $130 billion annually, while hitting the job-creating commercial and industrial sectors the hardest.”

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The rebuilt Stuyvesant park nature trail behind the Solar One facility at sunset.

The Solar One site at Stuyvesant Park Cove on The East River was pummeled when Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. According to their program report that year, they were able to quickly adapt their solar panel system into a crucial charging station for people nearby during the city’s recovery. Without alternative methods for powering electronics, and in one case a child’s nebulizer for asthma, people’s communications and safety would have suffered.

“You have to be prepared,” said Elba O. Melendez and Community Emergency Response Team volunteer from Canarsie.

Melendez and the committee have dedicated their time to readying their neighborhoods for natural disasters. The idea is to transfer Solar One’s adapted crisis methods into full-blown emergency and environmental education centers. “Many sources encourage the use of solar chargers by the general public in the event of a power outage for small items such as personal cell phones, rechargeable or crank operated lanterns, flashlights, and weather radios and these are considered effective in these instances,” said Devoe.

The organizations determined that solar powered devices, panels, and storage batteries would be the most helpful to maintain communications and basic comforts during a crisis recovery in Canarsie. Even suggesting in the reconstruction plan that resilient street lights powered by solar energy would improve safety during an emergency.

Angelica Ramdhari, Solar One Project Director of NYRCR Solar and Battery Backup Program for Community Facilities, hopes to create backup power for neighborhoods in need with elderly or local residents that have less access to charging, resources, and transportation.

 

 

 

Canarsie Dog Owners Skeptical of Local Animal Shelter

The Canarsie Kennel Club meet every first Saturday in Canarsie Park at Seaview Ave. and 88th St for their monthly Meet and Greet event, at which two dogs, lost and dirty, were found wandering around and taken in by members. The dog owners in the club, as well as pet owners in the Canarsie community, are reluctant to send stray or rescue animals to the only available animal shelter that is three miles away.

The dogs, a young black female Patterdale terrier and a blonde Pitbull, were found around 8 a.m. by three of the members in the kennel club. With the help of experienced dog trainer, Marquise Berry, and pet owner, Richard Want, the dogs were coaxed out of hiding and given food and water. Their ears were fly bitten and they smelled strongly of urine. According to Berry, they were soiled enough to indicate they’d both been in cages for a long time. It is still unclear if both of the dogs had the same unknown owner.

Canarsie Kennel Club and Canarsie Improvement Association Co-Founder, Leanne Desvignes said “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We can’t leave them here. This has never happened at a meeting before.”

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(Left) Marquise Berry, local dog trainer and owner of New Era Dog Training company, and (right) Richard Want helps rescue a blonde Pitbull and a Patterdale in Canarsie Park.

In the Canarsie neighborhood, there are currently three animal clinics but does not have its own animal shelter. The closest one is the Animal Care Center of NYC located on Linden Blvd in East New York, but pet owners are reluctant about it because of its kill policy.

“If we call that’s where she’s going to end up,” said Berry, on how to handle the dogs. The members opted to keep the dogs at their houses instead of calling the authorities or taking them to the shelter.

Dr. Peter Gusmorino of the Animal Clinic of Canarsie, that sometimes partners with the Linden Shelter, has been working in Canarsie for 30 years. He said the population has gone up in the neighborhood and there have been a few trends that he’s noticed. “I’ve seen less of the puppy mill dogs. Used to see a lot more of those. Now it’s more from shelters,” said Dr. Gusmorino. He remained neutral about the kill policy at the Linden shelter.

An Animal Care Open-Admissions Center, or commonly referred to as kill shelter, “accepts any animal that comes through its doors, no matter its medical or behavioral condition. As a result, decisions about placements are often based on resources and space availability, the health and the temperament of the animals at the given time.” It also means that there is regrettably a time limit on how long animals can stay in the shelter with overcrowding being a main issue.

Pet owners in Canarsie find the center’s policy to be understandable, but definitely an uncomfortable topic among animal lovers, many of which hoped to use the shelter as a last possible option.

“They’re a kill shelter but I can understand,” said Greg Hassett, a shopkeeper at Pete’s Pet Supplies, “There’s only one in the area. They could open one in the many abandoned buildings like on 95th and Glenwood. Been empty for I don’t know how long.”

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New blonde Pitbull found that morning

The Canarsie Kennel Club members kept the dogs in their homes for about two weeks while  advertising their photos and contact info for the strays on their Facebook page. The Patterdale was found a good home with an elderly couple who had recently lost their dog. The Pitbull is still temporarily at a member’s home until she can be placed.

Community Joins Forces to #GetBKOrganized Against Racism in Brooklyn

Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner and the Racial Justice Subgroup of Get Organized Brooklyn have banded together on Wednesday to assist with their community in self organizing efforts to confront racism in Brooklyn in response to the white nationalist rally and attack in Charlotte, Virginia.

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Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner shown before her opening remarks for the GOBK meeting

The Charlottesville incident last month concluded when several people were fatally injured after a man ran his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators at a white nationalist gathering.

In response, the Brooklyn organization decided that it was important for white and non-white members to reflect on root causes of white nationalism that affect their borough. Since last year the massive bi-monthly meetings brought together a “multi-racial, multi faith” group focused on breaking down systematic racism. About 300 people were in attendance in the large auditorium, quietly murmuring amongst themselves until the beginning of the meeting.

Councilman Lander, who was present and in full support of the group, and Rabbi Timoner gave brief introductions and updates on the agenda. Dara Silverman, director of Powerlabs, which is a network that backs other independently run organizations took the floor.

“Racism isn’t just what happens in the south, or in Charlottesville, or in other places, but it also happens here in Brooklyn,” said Silverman. She spoke briefly on different forms of oppression.

The other prominent speaker and group member, Eric Ward, advocated for positive and creative responses to bigotry or racism rather than violence, such as marching or artistic expressions.

“The best defense is unity,” said Ward, “unapologetic unity.”

A panel of community leaders spoke on diverse subjects such as the criminal justice system, segregated schools in New York city, passing meaningful legislation, and intergenerational incarceration.

As part of the non-hierarchal philosophy, the closing “break out groups,” small sections of attendees that are interested in specific panel discussions or activist subgroups, convened afterwards. They even took to separate floors or rooms in the building with self-appointed leaders to hyper focus on their interrelated agendas.

“We have these mass gatherings,” Timoner said, “to build democracy. I do think that’s the answer.” She said that they are committed to holding an open space for people to continue to organize themselves and make an impact.

Renowned Legal Activist Stands By Michael Bennett Civil Rights Lawsuit

The President of the NAACP Legal Defense and essayist Sherrilyn Ifill backs a civil rights lawsuit filed by NFL player Michael Bennett, a Seattle Seahawks Defensive End, against the Las Vegas police department after police targeted and abusively detained him.

According to a letter he posted on his Twitter account, on August 26th after the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match, Bennett was targeted for being a black man, arrested, thrown to the ground, and threatened immediately following a shooting in the area.

Held at the Open Society Foundations headquarters near Columbus Circle, Ifill and legal scholar Angela J. Davis were discussing their new book, “Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment,” before a crowded room and overflow room packed with fans of their work.

“We have a democracy problem. Not a black people problem, you know, and not a race problem,” Ifill stated as the panel began.

The book, a collection of essays edited by Davis, focuses on policing and racial discrimination in the U.S and the impact of the criminal justice system on African American boys and men. Ifill and Davis, delved into why prosecutors, local public officials, and police often create racial disparities in the legal system because they hold all the control with no real transparency.

Bennett announced his intent to file the lawsuit hours prior to the start of the panel. During the Q&A portion, an attendee asked if civil rights lawsuits against police officials affect the progress towards a solution to routine racial discrimination.

Ifill said, “It does matter very, very powerfully. It’s part of the equation.” She expressed a hope that individual claims, new patterns and practices of the justice department, and prosecutors willing to take action would raise consciousness. “I was thrilled. He [Michael Bennett] was willing and he wasn’t just going to suck it up.”

She closed the discussion saying that the civil rights lawsuit is just a small stepping stone in a bunch of processes designed to pressure the criminal justice system into change, but a necessary one.

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From left Speaker Sherrilyn Ifill, Moderator Chris Stone, Speaker Angela J. Davis

The Rise of Birtherism

Written by Ariama Long

Our country has created some interesting and unassuming neologisms, most notably the addition of words like ‘hashtag‘ or ‘favorited‘ to link and save the latest social media phenomenon. However, not every new word we cultivate as a society is as safe and trendy. Recently, the new term Birtherism has taken on a life of its own.

This phrase is generally attributed to none other than business mogul, Donald Trump, when he savagely went after current President of The United States (P.O.T.U.S) Barack Obama in his second term run against Mitt Romney. Trump thrust himself into the limelight claiming that Obama had no right to run for presidency because he was not a natural born citizen, after which dominated a large percentage of the news coverage that year.

According to James Taranto, in his article published in the American Spectator, “That same week, Donald Trump’s revival of citizenship questions accounted for much of the attention directly on the Obama administration, at 4% of the newshole in PEJ (Project for Excellence in Journalism) reports.”

Briefly fueled by the media, Trump is slinging the same accusations against a new opponent, namely Ted Cruz. Birtherism thus takes a gruesome pirouette in the spotlight in a year where refugees, immigrants, racism, and religious outcasts are always sure to be the topic of conversation for any candidate. Considering that I’m not a huge fan of politics, I’d rather briefly discuss the emergence of this word and the societal attitude that bore it than rant on about Trump and his inveigling tactics.

As President Obama stated in his last State of The Union address:

 

 

Have an opinion? Leave a comment.

African-American Student Opens Case Against Alma Mater

This country is in a state of ‘turmoil,’ finding itself talking about race more often than not. Our society throws terms, like ‘turmoil’ or ‘justice’ or ‘race’, around like fists of shredded paper towels, too scared to stand beneath them. I’d like to take a moment from writing poetry to say that our country is not in a state of ‘turmoil,’ it is turmoil. Our country was born from struggle. There has always been an us, the Americans, and a them, the British; a North and South; and unfortunately a man-made separation between black and white.

It is this last point that is most evident in the Trayvon Martin case, the Ferguson riots, the recent developments on the University of Missouri’s campus; and, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) findings against Chestnut Hill College in the case of Allan Michael Meads. A model African-American student, director, actor, and volunteer was expelled on unfair grounds and harshly escorted off the premises with only weeks until his graduation in 2012 after his production of ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ debuted on campus due to an alleged misappropriation of funds. Today, November 23rd, after fighting an uphill legal battle for the past couple of years, his case is finally gaining some traction.

Allan Michael Meads (left) in his starring role of the production of 'Fiddler on the Roof' at Chestnut Hill College.

Allan Michael Meads (left) in his starring role of the production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Chestnut Hill College.

As a member of the cast for ‘A Raisin In The Sun,’ I honestly didn’t think that a play about race relations would have such an impact on the director’s life in the very same way. Through auditions and rehearsals, building sets and finding wardrobe and props, it became clear, at least to me, that as the first all African American production at Chestnut Hill College (CHC) our play would always be more.

Mead, the cast, and the African Awareness Society on campus poured ourselves into putting on the best performance we could because of the unspoken expectations of us. For every student who had struggled with a feeling of discrimination at CHC, it was a big deal if it failed in any way.

After successfully coming together to entertain and simultaneously educate hundreds of people, Mead deserved to enjoy his accomplishment. Instead he, as well as the cast, were scrupulously questioned in regards to the proceeds of the play and procedures. The PHRC found that

“There was no written contract or agreement between Complainant [Mead] and Respondent [Chestnut Hill College] detailing the obligations of conducting a student performance.”

Nor was there a faculty adviser provided to inform us beforehand of how these things should be handled.

Now, for people who may speak about this occurrence in the future with terms like ‘race baiter’ or ‘black card,’ I’d like to address you. Not every battle over race is bloody. Sometimes an event is devoid of riots and violence. Sometimes its the pain of the everyday, persistence with lawyers and meetings that makes a difference. There are many within the minority of CHC’s community, and the country for that matter, that attend a predominantly ‘white’ school (PWS) thinking that an unseen hammer is always hanging above them, ready to strike down at the smallest slight.

In some instances we can regard this feeling as paranoia, and others are too obvious to ignore. When “100% of the African-American students charged with a violation were either expelled or suspended,” compared to the overwhelming amount of ‘white’ students found guilty of the exact same infractions or more severe offenses, received suspension or alternate correction only after multiple cases, we can not ignore the facts.

These findings in no way reflect the amazing professors, faculty, cooking staff, and security guards employed by CHC that work tirelessly to treat all of us, black, white, or in between, as students and friends. But, even so, I have had moments on campus where a comment or disdainful judgement has made me feel uncomfortable to say the least. Hopefully, our Alma mater will learn to grow from this experience in accordance to their mission, and help transform the school for future generations of graduates.

Even though the college refused to cooperate with Allan Michael Mead and the PHRC initially, they are currently in the pre-hearing stages as of today. I for one would like to see a peaceful resolution reached, but if the case does make it to trial, I’d stand in full support against what was an egregious mistake.

I welcome all questions, comments, or concerns on this topic, if you’d like to contact me directly. If you’d like to learn more about the case, please click on the link below:

Open Letter on Behalf of the CHC Alumni of the Color Collective

–Written by Ariama Long, Creator of The Poetry Corner, Member of CHC Color Collective

5 Ways To Get Past Your Poetic Writer’s Block

By Ty Jacoby

As poets and writers we all know that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing poetry, how great you are at creating long and intricate pieces, or even how many stories and experiences you have to tell…we all get writer’s block sometimes.

Writer’s block is defined in the dictionary as a “temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of any work”. Sounds about right, sometimes it seems like there’s a literal block inside your brain preventing your ideas from communicating themselves with first you and then your pen.Often times this will stop you from being able to write for days and sometimes weeks on end. Trust me it’s not fun, especially when you have deadlines to make.

So how exactly do you overcome your poetic block? Well, in just a few simple steps you will be on your way to beating writer’s block in no time.

Think of a topic that you’re passionate about

What gets you fired up? What topics make you feel 10 different emotions all at once? Whatever it is, identify it immediately. It could be anything that you have an opinion on, want to tell a story about, or have a unique interest in. The faster you pinpoint what you want your piece to be about, the better. Try not to spend more than 10-20 minutes thinking of a topic, not only is it a waste of your writing time but poets go wrong when they spend days trying to find the best topic to write about. The best thing is whatever hits you the most.

Start Writing Down Key Ideas

Grab a piece of paper and pen or pencil of your choice…no, do not write anything down in the notes of your smartphone…and start jotting down words and phrases that come to your mind when you think of this topic. It gives you almost a list of things that can be used once you actually start to write your piece. Writing things down on paper also makes you think more critically and it helps you remember your ideas better. Things you write down could be anything! Even rhyming phrases. For example sometimes when I write songs, one line of the verse or chorus could come to my head and I just think to myself, “I should write that down”. Next thing you know by the time I go to the write the song I’ve got all my best lines down on paper for me to just organize into a flow of lyrics.

Write and Don’t Think

Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to think later. One of the worst things about writer’s block is that feeling of being stuck because everything you think to put down on paper doesn’t “sound right” to you. It prevents you from getting the pen going, and once you get the pen going it gets easier to keep writing. Therefore the most important thing is to just start writing and don’t worry so much about the technicalities until you’re done and you’re ready to revise. That’s what revision is for, so you can think, but when originally writing a piece you want your freshest and most raw thoughts to be on paper first and foremost, so that you’re not contemplating the perfect first line for hours.

Look For Inspiration in Things

Having a hard time finding inspiration? Watch a movie, read a book or talk to some fellow poets. Sometimes when I’m stumped on what to write my poem on, I’ll watch slam poetry on YouTube to get me inspired. A lot of times I’ll just watch some of  my favorite poets perform and it somehow loosens up my brain a little bit so that I can start writing. Reading short poems or poetry books usually can help too.

Take a Break

You know how they say if you can’t figure out a puzzle you’re trying to solve, put it down and come back to it later? Sometimes we tend to focus too much to the point where we’re frustrated and not seeing any more answers or clues. However upon returning later, you find things you didn’t see before and it’s easier to think now that you’ve unloaded all that pressure. It’s actually pretty true, and the same can be so when you’re writing a poem.  So putting down a poem and coming back to it later is never bad. You may even think of some other great lines you could put in there while you’re away for a while.

All in all writers block is a very common thing, even in poetry and can be overcome by taking these small steps. Happy Writing!

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I Know You Rest In Peace

Maya Angelou, my hero, died at age 86 in her beautiful home in North Carolina today.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” said her son, Guy B. Johnson.

Her poem “Still I Rise,” was the first I ever recited, ever memorized, ever performed, and ever loved. As a kid her words found me in a dark place when no one else’s did, and continue to inspire me to rise beyond who I was. My only hope is that she passed knowing that she moved countless generations to poetry, and that she fermented a love of language that could leap oceans.

Inaugural, outstanding poet, will never cover how much Maya Angelou meant to the literary community. Her life and works awe millions. So I challenge you this day, in honor of a woman who was always more than just a poet, to rise above and believe that words can make a difference. In truth, they are the only things that have ever infected and effected change.

 

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou, 1928
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.Maya Angelou in Oil