Contradictions

School is right around the corner, so why not get ready with a little self-reflection?

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New Haven Student Athlete Helps Develop School Football Team

 

The following is a profile I wrote on one of the campers I had the privilege of meeting during my time in Connecticut.


An athlete since age seven, 17-year-old Casmir Ebubedike is a model student and leader at Achievement First Amistad High School in New Haven.

“When I came to my school, football was in its first year, so basically I had the opportunity to be a leader and start something new,” he said.

Football was new to Ebubedike as well. Though he prefers basketball, which he has been playing since he was 7, Ebubedike threw himself into football in his freshman year. He even went so far as to sit out the basketball season during his junior year to focus on being a better football player.

“I’ve been focusing on football because I kind of want to keep it as an option that I can take and play at the next level possibly because I’m more likely to play football in college than basketball,” he said.

Ebubedike said his football team is like his family.

“In basketball and football, I feel like you’re kind of in a brotherhood,” he said. “You basically create family because you’re around these people a lot; you’re working hard with them; you’re sweating with them, and you have to make sacrifices for each other.”

Family is a big part of Ebubedike’s life. As a Nigerian-American, he said he is very proud of his culture and immerses himself in it regularly through food, movies, partying and social media.

“I think that’s one of the most identifying parts of me,” he said.

Though it is unclear, another characteristic Ebubedike thinks defines him is his focus on the future.

“I feel like I haven’t really narrowed what I really want to do yet, but I know that I want to be successful so I make sure I keep doing things that’ll put me and keep me on that track,” he said.

As a rising senior, Ebubedike has been putting thought into colleges and is considering several Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs.

“I’m looking for colleges that have strong communities that I can fit into and feel comfortable in,” he said, adding that HBCUs are “an excellent way to stay connected.”

For now, he will focus on his high school education and the opportunities that being an athlete will give him. In his last year at Amistad, he wants to bring leadership and a sense of community to his teams.

#Chitcamp 2018

I never knew how much Connecticut had to offer until I met the Chitlins (as I affectionately call our #chitcamp 2018 team.)

My experience with the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT) was an adventure from start to finish. It was only my second time on a plane and my first time traveling out of state without my family. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous. I suppose I knew I was in good hands.

The C-HIT team welcomed me even before I got on the plane, and it was so much warmer when I landed. It was only a five-day program, but somehow the chitlins became a family during that short amount of time.

Even more unbelievable was how much we learned in that span. I was one of few campers with prior journalism experience and even I was a little nervous about the time constraints, yet somehow we pulled through.

Along with the amazing editors and campers, I got to meet so many professionals across the journalism spectrum. It was especially rewarding to get to speak to George Colli, Michael Lyle Jr., and Mark Mirko, who taught me broadcast and photography skills that I don’t develop as much. I was even featured on the WQUN AM 1220 afternoon broadcast with Lyle and Brian Smith to talk about the camp. You can find the audio here.

It was an all-around amazing experience, and like a true journalist, I documented all of it. Below, you’ll find tweets and photos that will tell you more about the experience than words alone can. Enjoy!

 

It Takes a Village

My Miami is not the metropolitan paradise lined with beaches that immediately comes to everyone’s mind when they think of The 305. My Miami is a little suburb where everything I need is no more than a short walk or a fifteen-minute drive away. I may want to live in the city later in life, but for now, I love living in my little Town of Miami Lakes.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” is a phrase that often comes to my mind when thinking of Miami Lakes. We really are like a village. Here, you know your neighbors and you’re bound to run into everyone you know at Main Street or Publix. We’d be happy to lend a helping hand or a cup of sugar. It’s just the way we are.

And while I’ve always felt this way, I was reminded of it in a beautiful way on Sunday. Everything about Miami Lakes can be summed up in four words: “free ice cream social.” It is just like the Miami Lakes community to think “it’s summer; it’s hot; it’s national ice cream day—let’s hand out ice cream!”

It was a sight to see. The sun was shining; music was blasting, and kids were zig-zagging everywhere trying to get in on all the fun. It truly was a family affair, one I feel blessed to have attended. I’ve hopped around Miami-Dade and Broward in my 17 years and though I’ve only lived in Miami Lakes for two, it’ll always be home.

How could it not be when it has so readily welcomed me in? Miami Lakes defines community. Its residents are the type who support the schools, churches, Boys and Girl Scouts, and everything else they can. We are always finding an excuse to gather because even if we’ve never met, we’re family.

Anyone who’s been around me for even just five minutes knows how much I love Miami Lakes. I am proud to be part of such a great community that truly is “Growing Beautifully.”

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

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.

Another Senseless Tragedy

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

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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The Hurricane

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.


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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.


Behind the Story: Live Updates

* Are they still “live” updates if this happened 9 months ago? Oh well, here’s what I was thinking at the time.

 

HAIR

 

 

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,

I’m unprofessional.

If I weave another’s hair into my own,

I’m fake.

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.

I am

Humorous

Ambitious

Intelligent

Radiant

 

But I am not my hair.

Shadows and Lights and Exit Signs

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.

 

 

 

The Fall

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 ohI’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.