RI got the opportunity to visit my old middle school yesterday and it was so strange.
I’ve lived only a short walk away from it for the three years I’ve been in high school, but I’ve only visited been back about three times and pbky gone in twice.
Going inside yesterday was like going back in time, but not quite. So much was the same and yet so much had changed.
I could point out all the old things I remembered and all the memories I had there.
“This is the hallway where Dr. Sanchez jokingly called my friends and I hobos because we were sprawled on the floor taking a break from band practice.”
“Oh, the computer lab! I used to come here in the morning and mess around after setting up the computers for testing.”
(I promise I’m not a delinquent)
I had so many good times there. So many rooms held memories of some of the best times of my life.
But then there were all these new things: there was one of those really nice water fountains with a water bottle sensor (I love them and feel the should be everywhere) and the cafeteria is blue!
It was both a place I recognized and I place that was completely new. I haven’t really gone back to a place that’s half remembered and half forgotten so this experience was a whole new feeling for me.
I took pictures to show my friends all the changes and now I want to post them here just so I can look back in a little while and remember the feeling.
Who knows, maybe the next time I look at this post I’ll be standing in MLMS again and so much more will have changed.
The tragedy that occurred at the Capital Gazette newsroom on Thursday reaffirms the legitimacy of two pressing issues we currently face that many have tried to sweep under the rug: our country has a major gun problem and our journalists are under attack.
Jarrod W. Ramos, the suspected shooter, bought the 12-gauge pump-action shotgun used in the attack legally last year. Ordinarily, there would be nothing wrong with that, but this is not an ordinary case.
In 2011, Ramos plead guilty to harassment charge. After reconnecting with a former classmate via Facebook in 2009, Ramos quickly turned hostile as he “alternately asked for help [and] called her vulgar names” in his correspondence, according to the Gazette article written about the case.
“He seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist,” said the woman to the judge from the case. “I tried to…
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I had the privilege of interviewing Danticat for this profile about a year ago but wasn’t quite prepared to share it yet. Now, in honor of Caribbean-American Heritage Month, I am sharing it with you all to highlight this prominent and inspiring Haitian woman.
Edwidge Danticat’s life began in 1969 amidst the latter portion of a double dictatorship—beginning with “Papa Doc” Duvalier and continuing with his son “Baby Doc”—that put Haiti through two generations of oppression.
To cope with all that was happening around her, Danticat took comfort in stories and was inspired to write by the ones she’d heard while growing up.
“I started writing in Haiti when I was 9. My brothers and cousin and I used to write homemade books for ourselves. . . I loved listening to stories and wanted to be a storyteller, but found the comfort of writing a lot more intimate.”
That intimacy of putting pen to paper also helped Danticat through the major transition of moving to the United States at age 12 to join her parents in New York.
The adjustment was difficult for Danticat—she did not speak the language, she endured constant bullying and harassment for her heritage, and she had been apart from her parents, who stayed in New York while she lived in Haiti with her aunt and uncle, since the age of two.
Being apart from her mother for so long was also a challenge because it made it difficult for the two to form a traditional mother-daughter relationship, a recurring theme in many of Danticat’s works.
“After spending eight years away from my mother, it was a bit tough but we eventually became very close, especially in the final months of her life as she was dying in 2014.”
During this time, Danticat also faced prejudice from her neighbors and schoolmates and she found solace in the sense of community offered by the church her family attended. Despite the constant ridicule, Danticat remained proud and “never claimed to not be Haitian,” contrary to what many tend to do.
As she grew, Danticat continued to pursue her love for writing and contributed to New Youth Connections (now called YCTeen), a citywide publication written for and by teens.
“Learning English was probably the biggest challenge I faced. Being able to write in English now feels like a big accomplishment,” said Danticat.
Danticat gained a rewarding experience as a result of her time with the publication and was encouraged to write her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, because of it.
“I would definitely encourage young people to write for teen publications if they want to become writers,” she said.
But at the time Danticat did not intend to be a writer, rather she was pursuing a career in nursing. In the end, her love for writing overpowered her more practical career choice and the world was gifted with such remarkable works as Brother I’m Dying, The Farming of Bones, and Krik? Krak!.
After that decision, Danticat rose as an accomplished author and has received many accolades for her novels and short stories such as the National Book Award, the Pushcart Short Story Prize, the International Flaiano Prize for literature, and more. But she never entirely left behind the bullying she faced during childhood and has received plenty of criticism in her career that was by no means constructive.
“Often if you’re a black woman and have accomplished certain things, people think it’s because of affirmative action and not on your own merits. I’ve had people mention that even in bad reviews of my books. That happens a lot to black women who succeed.”
Both criticized and widely congratulated, all of Danticat’s works were written from the heart and her inspiration for such stories came from her experiences, the culmination of which have shaped Danticat and her writing.
“Everything I have ever gone through has gone into my writing in some way. Both good and bad experiences have influenced my work. I see every experience as possible inspiration,” said Danticat.
One positive collection of experiences for Danticat was starting a family. Though many women in the field are discouraged from doing so, getting married and having children positively impacted Danticat’s writing process by making her more efficient, and everyone in her life was supportive of the direction she was taking.
“I am lucky that people kept telling me the opposite. My editor, agent, and family members told me that I could do it all if I manage my time well. I also went to a women’s college—Barnard College—and we were told that we could do anything we put our minds to.”
Aside from her own two daughters, Danticat also fostered generations of young minds during her time as a professor at New York University and the University of Miami.
“Some of my students have become published authors but I don’t know if I can take credit for that,” said Danticat. “I try to nurture talent in my students and guide them as much as I can.”
In addition to education, Danticat also dipped a toe into the film industry, working on the projects Poto Mitan and Girl Rising. Danticat’s novels and short stories have not yet been adapted to film, but it is a prospect she is looking forward to.
“I’m happy to option my books for film,” she says. “Some have actually been optioned for film, but the films have not been made. I hope to see one of my books made into a film one day.”
On the whole, Danticat can be best likened to a phoenix. She flies in the flames of negativity, criticism, and prejudice unharmed; she has risen from the ashes of her rocky past and has emerged a talented and accomplished author, a loving wife and mother, and a source of pride for any Haitian, New Yorker, or Miamian.
Image source: Penguin Random House
This is one is a blast from the past–which of course means it’s from less than a year ago–and it is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.
We’re going to die. From the way everyone’s acting, that’s the only possible conclusion I can draw.
Every channel I click to is broadcasting images of people stockpiling supplies like they’re going into a nuclear bunker for the next several decades.
“I’m here outside of Home Depot where they just got a new shipment of wood,” says the handsome Channel 4 reporter. “As you all know, many other locations have run out of wood, but while the supplies last here, people continue lining up. The line started around 6 o’clock this morning and, as you can see, it’s almost stretching around the store.”
The camera pans to a bunch of sunburnt men and women in shorts, bright tank tops and polos, and the Florida fashion staple, flip flops. They tap their feet impatiently and the young children accompanying them tug at their pants or run around in circles trying desperately to amuse themselves.
“The manager says that there is enough wood for everyone here in line, but after that, supplies will be limited,” continued the reporter. “If you haven’t already gotten wood, come to this location as soon as possible as it is one of the last stores still stocked.”
The number of people in line tells me that many families will be without wood, just like us.
Our windows are bare, and so are all the others in the complex. The powers that be won’t let us board-up our windows or put tape on the outsides. Mom is really scared about that. She knows that if the windows shatter, we’re screwed. She thinks that the roof might cave in too, in which case, we’re screwed.
But Mom is crafty. We’re moving the couches and mattress in front of the windows in their respective rooms to protect us in case the windows blow out. I’m worried that the mattress might fall on me as I sleep directly underneath it on the boxspring, and that our tower of couches will topple over in a catastrophic crash, but I decide not to say so–Mom doesn’t need more stress.
Like everyone else, she’s tightly wound with worry. We have five cases of water just for the two of us, and she seems to have gotten every carb in sight at Publix. My friends at school say their parents are the same. They underestimated Irma when she first came on the radar, but now that she’s looking like a serious threat, they’re flying to the shelves only to find that all that’s left are the expensive bottles of water and almost expired cans of unsavory foods.
I’m making chocolate chip pancakes before doomsday. The kitchen is a mess–ingredients and bowls and spoons and measuring cups are strewn across the counter–but Mom doesn’t mention it when she walks in.
“Good morning,” I say. “Do you want your pancakes with or without chocolate chips?”
“Chocolate chips, Sabine? Are you kidding me,” she asks incredulously. “You can’t be making stuff like that before a hurricane. What if we run out of food and all we have left to live off of is chocolate chips?”
“Mom, I assure you that if we start running out of food, I will kill myself before it gets that desperate.”
After my pancakes, I go to my room to relish in the day off of school and get the one thing that has evaded me since mid-August: sleep. As I shut my eyes preparing to drift off into REM, I see the lights flicker once . . . twice . . . give a feeble last attempt at a glow, and then fizzle out and die.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I scream. I glance at my phone, which I had foolishly disconnected while wasting its battery life on Instagram and Youtube Music. It’s now at 86%, practically as dead as the lights.
Now dejected, rather than delighted, I fall asleep, as there’s nothing else to do.
I wake up later to a slightly darkened sky and hear a voice coming from a small battery powered radio sitting on a makeshift bed in the middle of the living room. “It’s 2:57 on this rainy Wednesday afternoon,” says the announcer.
It’s only three? How’s that possible? The sound of thunder and rain that disturbed me while I slept sounded like another bout of Zeus fighting his father, so I was sure that the storm had passed. Apparently not.
I’m not tired anymore, so all that’s left to do is listen to the sad little radio. There is no music playing–all of the DJs are off of work– and all that’s on are constant reports of the weather. They annoy me to no end. We get it: we’re going to die.
The color of the sky slowly deepens to a menacing indigo; the rain batters the building and shakes our windows; the newscasters on the radio drone on with their dreary reports; and I am bored and anxious and tired. To take my mind off of things, Mom reads me a story like she used to way way back.
After a chapter, I am sufficiently lulled and ready to go to sleep. Just before going under, I turn to Mom and say:
“Watch, Mom, the lights are gonna come on in the middle of the night. We’ll be sleeping in the dark and suddenly we’ll sense it: the house’ll be filled with light and it’ll be like a Christmas miracle.”
As predicted, I feel the house flood with yellowish artificial light as I sleep; my eyes shoot open instantly. I marvel at the brightness and the familiar hum of electricity, and wake Mom up to witness the beauty of the moment. “See, I told you.”
I sleep until the sun coming over the horizon beckons me to wake. Naturally, the first thing I do is turn my phone back on. It’s flooded with texts asking “Are you okay? How’s your family?” I respond that we’re fine and fire back the same inquiries. To my relief, I quickly receive positive responses. Many are without power or water, but they’re alive.
* Are they still “live” updates if this happened 9 months ago? Oh well, here’s what I was thinking at the time.
My hair is never just my hair.
It’s always a statement,
One which, apparently, I’m not entitled to make.
If I rock my natural kinky curls,
If I weave another’s hair into my own,
If I permanently straighten it with chemicals,
I’m trying to be something I’m not.
Everyone’s got an opinion.
People pleaded with my mother:
“Nancy, please don’t perm that beautiful girl’s hair.”
“Nancy, she’s going to high school; it’s time.”
My hair was always the topic of conversation,
But I was never part of the discussion.
My hair may be attached to my head,
But it’s not a part of me.
It’s some thing that hangs in my eyes,
That everyone feels entitled to touch.
But I let it define me.
I hated being restricted to braids
When everyone else’s hair flowed and changed.
I hated the idea of a weave
Because I wanted my hair to be my own.
After I finally relaxed my hair into long, straight strands,
I never wanted to let go.
It was the source of all my confidence;
The measure of its length was the measure of my worth.
And then I cut it.
Again, the decision wasn’t my own.
But it’s one I love.
It has taught me to love myself for myself.
But I am not my hair.
What do you get when you make an impatient journalism student wait in a dark space with several strange light sources for over an hour? A photo shoot of course!
While I loved the thrill of riding the many death-contraptions at Busch Gardens, the best part of the experience was definitely this shoot. I loved being able to be silly and just play with my phone and the angles to see what would happen. We even used our phone flashlights to add light (it was really dark in there.) I’m sure the people around us thought we were crazy or annoying, or both–we were on the floor several times and I accidentally spooked a woman by bumping into her–but it all ended well. No one screamed or complained and we all eventually got what we wanted: to get on the fast-paced ride that spins you forward, backward, and sideways (which is not great on an empty stomach, or a full one I imagine), Cobra’s Curse.
I’m still waiting for some photos to be sent (they were taken on several other phones since I left mine in the locker) so I’ll be updating this post as I receive them.
Although this one is a little different, it’s one of several stories in my memoir in the making. If you’d like to read the full collection, click here.
The first time I went ice skating I had only one thought in my mind: don’t fall.
I repeated this thought in my head like a mantra, thinking that doing so would somehow prevent the inevitable. I was bound to fall–it had been my signature move for as long as I can remember. Little me would be doing something I had no business doing, then there’d be a thud followed immediately by an “I’m okay!”
I tried so desperately to avoid falling, not only to avoid pain but also because I’d created graphic scenarios in my head of what would happen if I did fall. I’d already injured my left wrist twice, once while skating, and my mind concocted a scenario where I did so again, this time because someone ran into and sent me hurtling toward the ground, causing my bones to fracture into a million pieces.
I thought of scenarios like these (including a pretty gruesome one involving someone’s skate blades and my face) as I approached the skate rental counter. My nervousness and fear combined to create a roiling mass of liquids in my stomach. Uh oh, I’m going to throw up. I quickly muttered my shoe size to the man behind the counter then ran to a bench as soon as he handed me my skates so that I could sit and calm myself down. I did, but it only lasted a moment. As soon as the skates were on, the fear set in again. “Who let me do this,” I asked my four companions in a panic. “Who thought this was a good idea?” If I was already losing balance on carpeted ground, I would definitely fall and break something within three seconds of being on the ice. But Ally, the only skilled skater in the group, chuckled at my concern and said, “you’ll be fine, trust me. It’ll be fun.”
It was not fun.
At least not the first fifteen minutes anyway. I clung to the wall for dear life and slowly dragged myself along the rink, stopping at certain intervals to allow my friend Ashley to catch up. I watched with awe as people around me skated with ease; even children who looked no more than six danced around the rink with skill and grace. Ally was one of those graceful skaters, circling the rink and coming back to us before we even made it three feet ahead. She offered to help me but I refused. I could only imagine the chaos that would ensue once I stepped away from the wall. Instead, I stayed with my friend Cris, who was more my speed.
After the first hour, I finally felt confident enough to let go of the wall, if only for a few seconds at a time. Around me teens and adults were doing twists and tricks, shredding ice as they glided. Most of the children skated expertly as well, but there were still some who fell to the ground in dramatic fashion. There was something intriguing to me about the kids who had fallen. There were no tears, no cries of pain: they simply got back up and went again. I thought to myself that I wished it were so simple–to be able to just fall and get up again with no complaints, to go out onto the ice without regard for safety and just try and try until you succeed. But I am not a young child. I don’t just run into a situation without assessing the possible consequences. I can’t just throw myself into the middle of the ice without care. I’m older. I do not see the ice as a playground; I see it as an arena of possible catastrophes. When I look at it, I am reminded of the “skate at your own risk” signs I saw upon arrival. I’ve assessed the risks–I know the fall will cause pain, and since I’ve felt pain before, I avoid it at every cost.
I did not fall that first time ice skating, but looking back on it, I wish I had. Because the hardest part is not the fall, it’s getting back up when you’re on the ground. And once you’ve learned to get back up, the rest is easy.
This single-scene, two-character play that only came about because my English teacher assigned it to me will soon be a major motion picture (in an alternate reality of course.) Enjoy.
The sunlight streams through the living room window and reflects off of the photos on the mantel; family trips, pee-wee soccer games, and a wedding kiss are seen inside the frames. It’s a beautiful day and the children should be outside, but they’re not. If not outside, they’d be in the living room watching TV, but today only their father sits on the couch. Another man is sitting in the recliner across from him. Between them is the coffee table and on it rests an untouched plate of cookies, still cooling, and a gun.
Man in recliner (Butch): [gesturing toward gun] I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but it seems you need some motivation.
Father (Mr. Fisher): [making worried gestures with his bound hands]: P-please don’t s-s-shoot me! My f-family!
Butch: Yes, little Sarah and Samuel. And who could forget your lovely wife, Jess? So kind of her to put out a snack for us.
Fisher: [losing the stutter as his concern for his family makes him try to seem more forceful in an attempt to intimidate Butch, though fear is still evident] Where are they? What do you want?
Butch: The Boss made it very clear what she wants.
Fisher: I already told her that I couldn’t do what she asked. I tried to gain access at the precinct but the case has gone federal. Everything was packed up and sent to an FBI evidence locker. There’s no way I can get anywhere near it.
Butch: [leaning forward]: Well Mr. Fisher, the Boss believes in you. See, she thinks that you’d be more than capable of getting your hands on those files if you just applied yourself. That’s why she decided to help you out by giving you a little push.
Fisher: [With the same conviction, though this time the fear is more subtle]: Where is my family?
Butch: [Reclining in the chair] Relax Mr. Fisher, they’re perfectly fine. The Boss is having me keep an eye on them to give you more incentive.
Father: [attempting to rise despite his bound feet.] If anything happens to them I swear I’ll⸺
Butch: Now now Mr. Fisher, no need to get all riled up; we’re just having a friendly conversation. In fact, since we’re friends and all, I even brought you a present. [He pulls out a small ring box with a carefully tied bow around it from his coat pocket and hands it to Fisher. Fisher struggles to open the box due to his bound hands. When it finally opens, he gasps in horror and drops the box on the floor. The audience finally sees that inside the box is a woman’s severed finger with a wedding ring on it.]
Fisher [voice breaking in anger and panic]: You said they were fine!
Butch: And I meant it. Missing a finger don’t mean dead. Now, if you don’t like my gift I won’t bring you another, as long as you give the Boss what you owe. [He rises and grabs his gun and a cookie off the table.] I’ll be back to check in on you soon. Same time next Tuesday? [Fisher gives a worried look as Butch begins to work toward the door. He opens it, takes a bite of the cookie, makes a sound of satisfaction, then turns to Fisher.]
Butch: [Almost mockingly emphasized] These are incredible. Jess is definitely a keeper.
[Cut as the door slams shut after Butch.]
This is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.
Under the fluorescent lights of Publix, everything’s aglow, especially the lovely pregnant woman ringing up our groceries. Her belly is out two feet in front of her and she wears a ring on her left hand with the tiniest diamond you’ve ever seen. Her green vest has a name tag that reads “Marcy” and her smile is as radiant as her flaming red her as she greets us: “Did you find everything okay today?”
“Yes, thank you,” we say. We stocked up on the essentials–Cape Cod chips, Nutella, sushi, and two slices of cake.“Mmmmm chocolate, my favorite,” says Marcy as she eyes the cake. “I’ve been craving it all throughout my second trimester, with a few modifications of course– applewood smoked bacon and jelly beans–I can’t really explain it,” she laughs.
We laugh too. There’s something so refreshing about her kindness and energy. I ask her the name and gender; she’s expecting a girl, Annalise. Cassy (the eldest Joseph sister) and I both agree it’s a lovely name. She hands us our receipt and wishes us well, we do the same.
We step out of the frigid air and artificial light of the store into the parking lot where afternoon is turning to evening, painting the sky sapphire and dotting it with shining stars, as we walk the tree and lamppost lined sidewalks on the familiar path back home.
I scan the sidewalk intently, looking for leaves that would be the most satisfying to step on, pebbles to kick all the way back home, and lizards to avoid accidentally squashing. Cassy is walking alongside me, listening to music so loud that I can hear it from the earbud dangling at her chest. She’s playing “Walk Out” by Preedy; she’s always playing that song. Her current obsession with Soca music annoys me to no end. It’s not the songs– they’re pleasing to the ear and the hips– it’s that the stream of Soca music is nonstop. It flows through the house constantly, and even though I only hear it in the brief intervals when I’m not wearing noise-canceling headphones trying to drown out her music with my own, it’s still too much.
Despite the music blasting in her ear, she is passionately telling me of her plights as a college student and how Mom is trying to ruin her life. I’m almost a little surprised at this: Mom is out of the house and so are we, so we’re under no obligation to play nice. But we do. I listen and nod my head, still looking down at the path in front of me and the little pebble I’m kicking with each step, trying to think of the right words to say. I can’t relate to her problems– I’m what is known as the “perfect,” “favorite,” or “golden” child, so I’ve never had such issues. Nevertheless, in terms of sisterly wisdom, I am a master who can resolve any issue with a few smart words, so I dole out a simple truth that completely blows Cassy’s mind:
“You’re just like Dad and I’m just like Mom,” I say. “That’s why you two don’t get along.” Cassy considers this fact and I can see in her facial expression the moment this revelation dawns on her.
“You’re right,” she says, almost surprised. Her unwarranted surprise is the only unexpected thing in this situation. Of course I’m right; I’m always right. But I elect not to remind her of this fact for fear it will be too much for her to handle. Instead, I tackle one astonishing truth at a time and elaborate on the I just told her.
“You have Dad’s people skills and some of Mom’s smarts,” I say, half expecting her to hit me for that “some of” remark. She doesn’t, so I continue. “I have Dad’s ability to sleep everywhere and Mom’s . . . well, everything.”
She nods in agreement, probably coming to the conclusion that I’m always right on her own, saving me the trouble of having to break it to her.
“Unfortunately,” I add, “we both have Dad’s looks.”
“Unfortunately for you maybe. I’m cute,” she quips back.
I trip her slightly for that and she shoves me back. Our laughs are drowned out by the sound of cars zipping by, but we both know without looking that a smile has spread across the other’s face.