The Greatest Story I’ve Never Read

By Sabine Joseph

Miami:

For so long I’ve claimed

That it’s where I was born and raised,

But only recently did I realize

That’s a lie.

 

Well, not a lie really,

A half truth.

I was born there,

But raised almost everywhere else.

Some cities had “Miami” in the name,

Others didn’t,

But none could truly be called

Miami.

 

Yet, somehow I still feel that

Miami is home.

No matter where I go,

I will never have left.

I have yet to see the world,

Yet I’m sure there’s nowhere else like it.

 

Miami is like my favorite book

That I’ve never opened.

Written in its history and people is

A beautiful story

That I’ve never fully experienced.

It was a birthday gift from years ago,

But to this day I’ve only read the jacket.

 

From the cover alone,

I’ve fallen in love with the novel.

I long to crack it open

And lose myself in its pages.

Advertisements

Dive. (Part 2)

This poem is based on a quote from my last post.

Dive.

I’m standing on the edge of a new life,

My feet buried in the smooth sand below me:

It’s soft, comfortable, familiar to the touch

In front of me is the sea⏤

Vast, cold, and unforgiving

 

The sky above is blue,

Calm in the midst of chaos

I inch closer to the edge,

My breath hitches at the sudden touch of cold water;

I inch back

Fear is caught in my throat

Like a menacing manifestation of the sand below

Scratching, burning, making it hard to breathe

 

The tide subsides, the sand dissolves,

I breathe

A deep, shaking breath

I have only moments before the tide comes again,

I must make a choice

 

Do I stay on the shore:

Safe, secure, and stuck in the same life

Or do I leap into the water:

The dark, deep unknown

To transform into a new version of myself

 

The water is rushing back to shore,

I’ve made my choice.

I do not inch in either direction

For it is useless

I’ve chosen the water

And I cannot come to it slowly

The only thing to do is

Dive.

Dive.

I was watching Supergirl when Cat Grant (arguably my favorite character), played by Calista Flockhart, gave our heroine some words of wisdom. Ms. Grant is a strong-minded character who always doles out good advice, but this time her words stuck with me.

Dive.  You are standing on the shore, afraid to dive into new waters.  And you’re afraid because you don’t want to say goodbye . . . Now you are standing there, looking out at your options.  The icy blue water, the fast flowing river, or the choppy blue sea.  And they all look very appealing to you because you’re dying to go for a swim.  But you know the water is going to be cold and the journey is going to be hard.  And when you reach the other side you will have become a new person, and you are scared to meet that new version of yourself.  Now, we all get used to our own personas and used to our own comfort zones.  But trust me, in order to live we must keep daring.  Keep diving.

Cat Grant, ‘Supergirl’, 2×1 “The Adventures of Supergirl”

I think the sensory language is what got to meI could see myself standing on a shore contemplating my choices; feel the fear in my throat as I edged closer to the water, inching ever nearer to a new life and a new me; feel icy daggers in my skin after I finally took the plunge into the cold, deep waters of the unknown. It was a situation I’d been in before, though at the time I never thought much of it.

As she spoke, I realized that I have been many different people in my short lifetime; I’m not even the same person today as I was yesterday. I know that the reason for this is the experiences I’ve had and the choices I’ve made. I’ve been at the edge of the water so many times: sometimes I was at the edge of  a puddle that I’d happily stomp and splash in, and other times I’d stand before a vast ocean, terrified of who I’d be when I reached the shore on the other side.

What I learned as I listened was that I can’t let the fear of who I may become consume me. I can’t stand still at a crossroads and I can’t sit by the edge of the oceanI have to make a choice. The path I chose or the plunge I take may frighten melife-altering decisions often dobut nothing, not fear nor any other force, can alter the fact that the decisions must be made in order to live life.

Lowering Your Carbon Emissions

The other day I took a Buzzfeed quiz to estimate the size of my carbon footprint and I was surprised to find out that it is fairly large. I’m aware of the problems our carbon footprints can cause and I liked to think that I was doing fairly well with keeping mine a reasonable size, but as I was taking the quiz I thought, Oh no, this is very bad. So, because it’s Earth Day and because the quiz brought to my attention how large my footprint is and how simple it would be to decrease it, I’ve decided to share some tips on how to decrease your carbon footprint.

  • Avoid personalized motor vehicles. Instead, opt for walking, riding a bike, or public transportation.
  • Turn off lights (when they’re not in use obviously). When you are using them, be sure to use compact fluorescent or LED lightbulbs instead of incandescent ones.
  • Mind your thermostat settings. Make sure not to set it to high or too low and to turn it off when you’re not home.
  • Watch what you eat. Avoid beef and dairy (especially from areas such as Brazil where cows graze on formerly forested areas cleared for agriculture) because it takes a lot of resources to raise cows. Also, purchase locally grown, organic food to reduce fossil fuel emissions from transporting the goods and from certain fertilizers.
  • Recycle! Reusing and recycling reduces the need for the “provision of goods” resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of consumer goods which accounts for an estimated 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

These are just some tips that I thought would be easiest to fit into my lifestyle, but for more click here.

Easter Brunch

In my family, we divided the holiday hosting duties between the sisters, and my mom ended up with Easter. True to her nature, Mom decided that the best way to celebrate Easter is with brunch (which is always more of a lunch really because no one is ever on time), and it is always a festive time full of food and family. We gather together in celebration of our faith and we talk and laugh and dance and sing until afternoon turns to evening and our guests have to go home and prepare for the Monday to come. Before the day arrives there is plenty of prep that can drive Mom mad, but Cassy (my “dearest” sister) and I can help to take the load off of her back. For Mom, despite the stress, when the day is done and our family goes home with full bellies and full hearts, it’s all worth it. This year was all little different— some relatives had to work and the rest of the “kids” are off at college— but through it all, some things remained the same. We still felt like a family even though some couldn’t be with us, and, just like every year, the macaroni didn’t arrive on time.

A Surge in Solar Power

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar power in the California Independent System Operator made up 40% of net grid power for three hours on Tuesday, which is a major first.

California’s growing solar energy market is evidenced by wholesale energy prices which dropped to negative figures last winter and spring. The solar energy market is also creating a lot of jobs, especially in California, which is the number one state in America with the leading number of people employed by the solar energy industry.

Though the falling wholesale prices don’t translate to retail prices, the fall is still good news. It means that California is relying more on solar energy— a cleaner, renewable source which will ultimately be better for the environment and is already showing economic benefits.

The solar industry is experiencing exponential job growth after a “breakneck” growth of 25% last year, making the industry currently employ over a quarter of a million Americans.

According to Andrea Luecke, the executive director of the Solar foundation, “The solar industry currently has more (U.S.) workers that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined.” This job growth is proof that the industry is strengthening the economy and is incentive for more companies and individuals to switch to solar power.

From One Young Writer to the Next

Originally published in The Harbinger

Dear Young Writer,

As a young writer myself, I know exactly what you’re going through: You have millions of ideas bouncing around your brain that never seem to make it out; sometimes one breaks free from your mind and takes root on page, only to be abandoned before it can blossom into something great; and you even have masterpieces that you keep stowed away from the world for fear of how it will react.

We tend to feel guilty about our writer’s block— we tell ourselves to finally put that thought into words, or to finish a draft from several months ago, or to send our masterpiece, our pride and joy, out into the world— but rarely do we ever make a change. It’s a defense mechanism. You can’t fail if you never try and you can’t be criticized if you never put yourself out there.

This desire to protect our work is completely normal.  Just as a warrior wears a breastplate to protect his heart, writers use self-doubt to protect theirs. Writing is personal. Any harsh criticism can dismantle all the effort put into a piece.

A teacher of mine constantly recites the maxim, “You haven’t written until you’ve bled on your paper,” and I don’t think that I have ever heard anything more true. On any given day you may write a number of things— an essay for English, a report for History, a birthday card—but the only time you truly write is when you put your heart and soul on paper.

True writing makes you feel drained of energy. After you’ve put everything you had into your story, you experience the greatest feeling of relief and satisfaction in the world.

Still, that great feeling can be so hard to share with others. When it comes to my own work, I see myself as Smeagol and my piece as the One Ring. It is my “precious” and I don’t want anyone to touch, see, or even think about it but me.

It’s easier to relinquish your hold on your story to family and friends but there is still the anxiety that comes with inviting someone into the deepest part of you. After all, that’s what true writing is. It is a reflection of what you feel deep in your spirit, an integral part of your being that you feel the need to express in words.

Once you’ve expressed that feeling, you owe it to yourself and to your work to share it. Ignore the voice of doubt in your head, take a leap of faith, and just put your work out there. Not everyone will love your work and that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged over one bad review. Instead, take each criticism and use it to fuel your creative fire.

That is not to say that you should write to please people, but keep in mind that sometimes people will critique your work to help you.  Their opinions can be helpful in taking your work to the next level.

I’ve said a lot, but I’ve saved the most important thing for last. The most crucial piece of advice that I as a young writer can share with you is to never give up on your potential.

Sincerely,

A fellow young writer

Hollywood, Stop Hiring White Actors to Play People of Color

Originally published in The Harbinger

It seems that, for as long as it has been around, Hollywood has had an aversion to portraying people of color on the big screen. In the more racist America of the past, this was to be expected. Yet the problem persists today despite viewers’ collective disapproval at seeing only white actors in films that are supposed to engage all American audiences.

From as early as 1932, Hollywood has featured an array of races —black, asian, latino, Native American— but cast white actors to do so. The instance of Mickey Rooney donning yellowface in his role as a Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is infamous for its offensiveness as not only was Yunioshi played by a white actor, his character also negatively portrayed the Japanese.

More recent instances that stirred controversy, all within the last decade, are: Russell Crowe as a Middle Eastern in Noah; Christian Bale as a Middle Eastern in Exodus: Gods and Kings; Johnny Depp as a Native American in The Lone Ranger, Emma Stone as a Chinese-Hawaiian in Aloha; and the main cast of The Last Airbender portraying Native Americans.

This is not okay.

In a country as diverse as the United States, it does not make sense to hire white actors to play minority roles. The ethnographic of America is so diverse that casting directors could easily find a minority actor to fit a character of any ethnicity.

 According to the 2012 Census, the largest growing ethnic group is multiracial Americans, followed by Asians and Hispanics. Among minorities, blacks make up the second largest group at 12.3 percent of the American population, following Hispanics which make up 17 percent.

Statistics from Data USA show that in 2015, the majority of employed actors in the U.S. were white, making up 76.1 percent of the total while minorities made up a combined total of 24 percent. Meaning that, in relation to their population percentage, whites were overrepresented while minorities were grossly underrepresented.

On top of this, hiring white actors to play people of color is just plain racist. Taking away the opportunity for minority actors to play characters of their own race then giving it to white actors is like telling them, “You’re not good enough to represent your own people.” It’s discriminatory.

The 2011 film Drive, based on a book of the same name, starred white actress Carey Mulligan playing a character named Irene. The book Irene was originally a Latina woman, named Irina.

“I couldn’t find any actress that would click with me personally. I couldn’t make a decision for some reason. I had all this talent in front of me and out of the blue I get a call from Carey because she wanted to meet me about doing a movie. She came by the house and she walked in and I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is what I was looking for. I wanted to protect her’ … And I knew that was the Driver’s motivation,” said the film’s director, Nicolas Winding Refn, in an interview with the Huffington Post.

 That is not a valid reason, and the reason that the rest of Hollywood usually offers is just as unjustifiable. Those in Hollywood would say that casting white actors to play people of color is done for the same reason as anything else: to make money.

Hollywood big shots are obsessed with name recognition and think that audiences are too. In their minds, viewers would rather watch a white actor with a little bronzer play a person of color over an equally talented minority actor without the same level of fame.

    But viewers think differently.

According to research done by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, viewers, regardless of race, prefer to watch films that feature a diverse cast. The study has shown that, for the past three years, movies with diverse casts have done better in the box office than less diverse movies.

“What we’ve found for three years running now is that audiences prefer content that looks like America,” said Darnell Hunt, a director of the Bunche Center and lead author of the study.

Money talks, and it’s saying that audiences prefer to see diverse casts but Hollywood refuses to listen. They continue to cast white actors for ethnic roles and ignore the voices of minority actors and audiences while doing so.

It took a while for minorities to be portrayed in Hollywood and even longer still for them to be portrayed positively, so it seems that there will be a long wait before Hollywood rejects its discriminatory ways. Still, change will come and one day we will not have to tell Hollywood “Stop casting white actors as people of color.”

A Brief Overview of Puerto Rico

Flag

  • The white star represents the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • The blue of the triangle represents the sky and the coastal waters that surround the island.*
  • The sides of the triangle represent the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial).
  • The three red stripes represent the blood that feeds the three branches of government.
  • The two white stripes represent the rights of man and the freedom of each individual .
  • The flag is the same as the Cuban flag with its colors inverted to represent the close ties Puerto Rico and Cuba had in the 19th century.

* There is debate about the shade of blue. It was originally a sky blue and was later changed to a darker shade that resembled the one on the U.S. flag. Historians believe this is due to the flag’s relation to an independence revolution.

History

  • Puerto Rico was first discovered by Europeans with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493.
  • It was called Puerto Rico, meaning “rich port”, after gold was discovered. San Juan, the shortened version of its original name (San Juan Bautista), became the name of the capital city.
  • Under Spanish rule, the island produced cattle, sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee, which eventually led to the importation of African slaves.
  • English, French, and Dutch forces all wanted the island but failed to procure it. It was under Spanish rule until after the Spanish-American War (1898) when, in accordance to the Treaty of Paris, it became a territory of the U.S.
  • Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917 and the island officially became a commonwealth in 1952.

Language

  • Puerto Rico was first discovered by Europeans with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493.
  • It was called Puerto Rico, meaning “rich port”, after gold was discovered. San Juan, the shortened version of its original name (San Juan Bautista), became the name of the capital city.
  • Under Spanish rule, the island produced cattle, sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee, which eventually led to the importation of African slaves.
  • English, French, and Dutch forces all wanted the island but failed to procure it. It was under Spanish rule until after the Spanish-American War (1898) when, in accordance to the Treaty of Paris, it became a territory of the U.S.
  • Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917 and the island officially became a commonwealth in 1952.

Religion

  • Puerto Ricans all have freedom of religion, which has resulted in a cornucopia of religions on the island.
  • The most practiced religions in Puerto Rico are Roman Catholicism (practiced by 85% of the population) and Protestantism (practiced by 8% of the population).
    • During the Spanish occupation, Puerto Ricans were forced to practice Roman Catholicism. When the Americans began occupying the island in 1898, the previously banned religions were allowed and Protestantism was introduced.
  • The remaining 7% practice some of the following:
    • Santeria
    • Spiritualism
    • Judaism
    • Islam
    • Mayombe
    • Palo Mayombe

Music

  • Some famous Puerto Rican artists are Ricky Martin, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Fat Joe.
    • Salsa is the major type of music coming out of Puerto Rico, with its hot rhythms and danceable vibe. Willie Colón is just one of the masters of today’s salsa beat in Puerto Rico.
  • Bomba y Plena are two types of music that are coupled with dance and have very different origins.
  • Bomba has its roots in Africa. It is a combination of different drum beats and its sound is very interactive with the movements of the dancer.
  • Plena music is a combination of Puerto Rico’s cultural backgrounds, including some of the sound of the Taíno tribes.
  • The güicharo, or güiro, is a notched hollowed-out gourd, which was adapted from pre-Columbian days and is used to make a rhythmic percussive noise.
  • The requinto, the bordonua, the cuatro, and the triple, are also Puerto Rican instruments which are all adaptations of the classical six-string Spanish guitar. Each of these produces a unique tone and pitch, the most popular of the group being the cuarto which has ten strings in five pairs.

Art

  • Santos, meaning saints, are figurines crafted from wood, clay, or stone and began due to Spanish influence.
  • The catera is a mask worn during festivals that symbolizes a demon. It was originally created due to Spanish influence to represent the Moors and eventually it gained Taíno influences.
  • Mundillo, or pillow lace, was also brought to the island by the Spanish. It was primarily used by the church but also used to adorn clothes for special occasions like baptismal clothes and wedding gowns.

Festivals & Games

  • In Puerto Rico, Three Kings Day, or El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, is celebrated on January 6 and is the highlight of the holiday season. For most Puerto Ricans the holiday outshines Christmas by far. It is a common tradition for children to gather grass in boxes to put at the foot of their beds for the camels of the three kings to eat when they visit through the night.
  • Ponce Carnival is the most celebrated and colorful festival on the island. The festival can be likened unto Mardi Gras and is a major tourist attraction dating back to the 1700s. The carnival takes place the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. The focal point of the whole thing are the vejigantes who wear colorful masks and vivid costumes. The festival closes with what is called Entierro de la Sardina, or Burial of the Sardine.
  • The rueda is a popular children’s game in Puerto Rico during which the children form a circle and sing a traditional Puerto Rican song called A La Limon. The children jump around pretending to be broken fountains and then go on to sing about eggs, money, and eggshells. Dominoes is also another favoured game in Puerto Rico.

Food

  • Puerto Rican cuisine typically consists of chicken, seafood or shellfish, rice, plantains, eggs, vegetables, and spices like coriander.
  • The Puerto Rican flavor has a combination of Spanish, African, and Taíno influences.
  • Mojo isleño is a popular dish that consists of fried fish with a sauce made of olives and olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, and a flavoring of garlic and bay leaves.
  • Chicken is used in dishes like pollitos asados a la parrilla and arroz con pollo which translate to broiled chicken and rice and chicken, respectively.
  • Tostones, fried green breadfruit slices, accompany most meat, seafood, or poultry dishes. Tostones can also be made with plantains.

 

 

Who’s Laughing Now: April Fools’ Day Pranks to Get Even with Your Enemies

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

While its origins may suggest that the holiday was intended for innocent fun, these days it is about anything but. April Fools’ Day is not a day for the faint of heart and it is not meant for lighthearted fun.

It is the day when you settle scores and get back at your enemies for ever wronging you.

You will make them rue the day they stole the pencil you lent them in algebra. The time they neglected to tell you that there was something in your teeth before you talked to your crush. Or the day that they made a meme of your somewhat unflattering yearbook picture and sent it to the groupchat.

The most experienced pranksters plan for months, even years, in preparation for their next Fool’s Day strike. They smile every day on the outside, pretending that the betrayal slid right off their backs…

View original post 1,069 more words