What Black Panther’s Minority Representation Means to Me

By Sabine Joseph Yes, it’s that serious. The premier of Black Panther in my little Town of Miami Lakes was as glamorous as the one for Hollywood’s hottest stars and most acclaimed critics. Excited viewers who arrived early had to be kept outside behind velvet rope to prevent the theater from becoming an overcrowded fire […]

via The Importance of Black Panther’s Minority Representation — The Harbinger


The Sisters

This is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.

Top: the youngest sister, Sabine. Bottom: the eldest sister, Cassandre.


Between every set of sisters is a dynamic as unique to them as their DNA, and each has a moment in their lives that can perfectly sum it up. The Joseph sisters have a habit of getting on each other’s nerves and laughing at the other’s pain, so naturally, this is how their defining sister story goes:

Two sisters–one young enough to still wet the bed yet old enough to form full sentences, the other a temperamental dancer very proud of and vocal about her various abilities–sit together on the eldest’s bed on a fine Sunday afternoon. This is a rarity in the Joseph sisters’ room: “You stay on your side and I stay on mine,” was the general rule, but today is a different day. Today they sit in peace for the first time in a long time, finally following their mother’s instruction to “play nice.”

They do for a while. Everything is gumdrops and lollipops until an argument starts out of the blue. There is no logic behind the spat–there rarely is when children are involved–but these two intensely emotional and stubborn sisters take it to the next level.

“Stop it or I’m gonna pee on your bed,” says the youngest.

“You wouldn’t,” her sister replies.

She’s right. Ordinarily, her sister wouldn’t dare making such a move; it could get them both in trouble and ruin a mostly perfect Sunday, not to mention doing so would be the classic rookie mistake of pulling out the big guns on the first play. But she wasn’t backing down.

“Oh yes I would. 1 . . . 2 . . .3 . . .”

And the stream begins flowing as she stretches out the final number for dramatic effect. It slowly creeps toward the eldest sister, gradually shrinking her dry mattress island. The eldest gives a horror-movie-worthy shriek of the simultaneously most comforting and terrifying word a child (especially a mischievous one) can hear: “Mom!”

So Mom came running. She first begins fretting over whether or not her babies are okay, then she takes in the scene. Her face shifts to slight annoyance upon realizing that her quiet time (the first she’s gotten in a long time) has been interrupted by what is not a life or death emergency.

“Bibine peed on my bed” the eldest complains.

The accused looks as innocent as can be despite the pool of evidence she’s sitting in, so her dutiful mother gathers her in her arms, ready to carry her to the bathroom for cleaning.

“Clean it up,” her mother says; you can almost hear the cartoon sound effect of the eldest’s jaw-dropping. She looks at her mother incredulously and her mother stares back with a look that says “Well? That wasn’t a request, so get going.”

As her mother cradles her, the culprit turns and smiles at the eldest like Michael Jackson at the end of “Thriller.” It is a memory that brings a smile to the youngest’s face and a cringe to the eldest’s to this day.

Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence: Direct Correlation or Disturbing Coincidence?

It has been well established that mass shootings are an American epidemic primarily perpetrated by white males, but what hasn’t been established is why.

Some argue that guns are too easily accessible; after the recent Sutherland Springs shooting Trump attributed them to mental illness; but there is another trend that some believe suggests that mass shootings are linked to domestic abuse.

Of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, nine of them were committed by men with a history of domestic abuse, and 54% of the mass shootings that occurred between 2009-2016 involved domestic violence, according to analysis by gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley had a history of domestic violence that got him dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. He beat, choked, and threatened his former wife with a firearm, abused his current wife, and struck his infant son hard enough to crack his skull. The shooting was called a “domestic situation” because Kelley had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law, and it is believed that he targeted the church to kill her.

Many other shooters in recent shooting incidents also have a record of domestic violence. Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, was abusive toward his ex-wife who reported that he repeatedly beat her and called her the Afghan word for “slut.”

The man who opened fire at a GOP charity baseball practice, James Hodgkinson, and injured Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others had a previous arrest in 2006 for choking and hitting his daughter.

Robert Dear, who fired shots at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, was accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives and was arrested for rape in 1992.

However, the Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock does not follow the trend. Because of this case and other exceptions, many believe that domestic violence is not a direct causation of a mass shooting, rather a mere coincidence.

“Right now we don’t have enough data to have a pattern,” said director of the Ortner Center on Family Violence and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Susan B. Sorensen, in an interview with Time. “[Domestic violence] might just be one of a series of bad behaviors. The issue might be something else entirely, and we just don’t know.”

“The one thing that we know that they all have in common is that they have access to massive firepower,” she continued. “That’s the single unifying force at this point in time”

Though some experts are convinced of it, many others think that there isn’t enough data to tell whether domestic violence and mass shootings are linked.

All that experts currently know for sure is that some elements of domestic abuse, including violent rage, feelings of masculine grievance, and a desire to be feared, are also found in mass shootings. Hopefully, the data set of mass shootings never expands enough for them to find a definitive connection between the two.

Snapping Smiles

Yesterday was Photo Day, a class-favorite activity in the Pinkroom. We were given fifteen minutes to frolic in the school courtyard and take pictures of anything. I know, it’s a big deal.

The allure of Photo Day is that it gives a bunch of giant toddlers who are treated like adults a chance to be themselves. Our adviser always tells us that we’re so amusing to watch because we all revert to our five-year-old selves.

We’re curious and adventurous again. Everything is a mysterious and new and it’s beautiful and wonderful. We chase lizards and moths and butterflies and birds. We roll in the grass and climb as high up on a tree as we can before getting lost. We wander around the familiar campus and see magic and stories in the things we once thought were mundane. We have young, reinvigorated eyes and the school we thought of as “plain Jane” suddenly became a place full of photo-worthy possibilities.

As everyone examined grass or trees as if they’d never seen them before, I watched them. Their smiles were as bright as the sunlight bathing them, and I was transfixed by the wondrous looks in their eyes and the thunderous laughter that boomed from their mouths. So naturally, I photographed them.

Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, a lot of the photos (and I mean a lot, like upwards of 100) were lost. Fortunately, I was able to save these favorites.

Mass Shootings: America’s Fastest Growing Epidemic

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph 

The recent attack on the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival in Las Vegas–the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history–has ignited the hotly contested issue of gun control in the United States.

While the efficacy of strengthened gun control laws acting as a panacea for mass shootings is debated, the one thing that is clear is that mass shootings in the U.S. are an epidemic.

There is no concrete data on mass shootings, because of the ambiguity behind the definition of “mass shooting.” According to a 2013 USA Today investigation, even the FBI’s database is only 57 percent accurate. By the widest parameters, a mass shooting is one where the gunman shoots four or more people at the same general time and location; the narrowest parameters, set by the Congressional Research Service, require that a shooter kills four or more people at random in a…

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Living Batteries: The Dark Horse of Alternative Energy

    Two “living” batteries have been made in recent years that may revolutionize the way we generate energy: bio-batteries (short for biological batteries) and microbial fuel cells (MFCs). The former are made from organic compounds (such as sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and enzymes), while the latter are powered by bacteria.

    At this point, these batteries have yielded substantial results, with one experiment even suggesting that a sugar-powered bio-battery has ten times more energy than the traditional lithium-ion battery used in smartphones.

    While it is unlikely that bio-batteries and MFCs will power our TVs, computers, or cars anytime soon, their development is still quite significant. Current models have already shown to be effective energy sources to power medical devices essential to saving lives in rural areas without electricity.

    That may not mean anything to people who don’t directly feel their impact, but it means the world to those who receive life saving medical care they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anything that helps people who suffer and die day after day of treatable diseases because of poverty, inaccessibility of medical care, or inferior technology is extremely worthwhile to most, but for those who are less sympathetic, there is cause for you to support bio-batteries as well.

    It seems that some particularly astute researchers took notice of the fact most organisms use ATP to convert glucose into energy, and decided to make a sugar powered battery because of the immense quantities of untapped energy that sugars hold (ex: a single bowl of rice has the same energy output as 96 AA batteries).

    So far, the latest news on these sugar batteries is a 2014 Virginia Tech experiment and the latest practical application was the use of a Sony sugar battery to power RC cars, but there is still hope for this form of bio-battery to power high-energy  devices.

    The chief researcher in the Virginia Tech experiment, Y.H. Percival Zhang, estimated that the sugar batteries would be ready for commercial use in three years. Yes, we are in 2017, three years after that statement was made; however, the year is not yet over and there is still time (albeit very little) for Zhang to meet his projected deadline.

    It is also worth noting that even if the batteries aren’t ready by this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be ready any time soon. History has continuously proven that many things once thought impossible are quite possible, so considering science already establishes the possibility of these batteries, it is not too far stretch a to believe that they may become a reality in the next few years.

    Whether that “few” means the next year, decade, or century (all relatively short periods in the grand scheme of things), it will happen. Our bodies are already capable of doing it, so it is only a matter of time before scientists in all of their brilliance develop a way of manufacturing that process outside of the body to produce bio-batteries with energy outputs suitable for our energy expectations.

    And when that does happen, we will see a host of other benefits. Not only are these batteries safer and inexpensive, they will make all of us a little “greener” too.

    Rather than having to carefully dispose of toxic batteries, we will have batteries that can be recharged with materials that are safe for consumption, like sodas and energy drinks (though it is more likely that a 15% maltodextrin solution will be used) whose only byproducts are electricity and water. Some batteries even use wastewater or other waste materials, so we will contribute less trash to the environment while also helping to clean it up in the process.

    This clean-up goes for the air as well as our waste. If bio-batteries and MFCs are made to power cars and other fuel-powered machines, we can reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy, which is the primary factor of climate change.

    It may seem like a longshot, but at some point so did developing planes, cars, phones, computers and basically every other modern luxury we now enjoy. If today’s scientists ignore naysayers and work diligently like those of the past did, it is likely that commercialized bio-batteries and MFCs will become a reality, taking us one step closer to rehabilitating our deteriorating planet.

AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph American Horror Story (AHS) has become an instant cult classic, but its “cult” of fans was quick to abandon their favorite binge-worthy show after the cast of the the latest season was announced. Lena Dunham and Colton Haynes, two actors scheduled to appear on this season, have been dubbed by the internet […]

via AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

Trump and the Alt-Right: An American Romance

Originally Published in The Harbinger

Though Trump’s minions claim that he “continues to denounce racism of any kind,” his own words belie him. And now–due to racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and otherwise offensive rhetoric–Trump has ascended to the office of the president riding on the wave known as the alt-right movement.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the movement started, but journalist Anthony Smith traces the origins of the alt-right to a speech made by philosopher Paul Gottfried after Obama’s 2008 election win.

“From there in the wake of America electing its first black president, all of a sudden you see these people rising from the shadows and organising in a way they haven’t organised before,” said Smith.

The timing–immediately after America elected its first black president–may suggest that the movement is somewhat racially charged, but many prominent members argue that such is not true.

According to Gottfried’s speech, the alt-right is “an independent intellectual Right, one that exists without movement establishment funding.”

Its enemies, as stated by influential alt-right media personality Milo Yiannopoulos, are “the progressive Left, feminism, Black Lives Matter,” as well as the “’safe space’ and ‘trigger warning’ culture” and media intended to narrow minds and silence certain opinions–especially right-wing ones.

But in regards to white nationalism, Yiannopoulos says he does not subscribe to such views.

“All my boyfriends are black,” he said. “I don’t give a toss about skin colour.”

However, members do not deny that the movement has swept up a large, racist, white nationalist population.

“The real racists… are very serious, are deep into studies and data attempting to prove that some races are smarter than other races–they’re really dorky,” said Yiannopoulos.

Along with that group, the alt-right is composed of a variety of ideologues including libertarians, men’s rights activists, Christians, traditionalists, and neo-nazis, all of whom boarded the ‘Trump Train’ this election.

And finally, after months of proclamations of love from the alt-right, Trump has made a public display showing that he reciprocates the feelings.

The horrific display in Charlottesville, Virginia has naturally sparked outrage on the internet; things went so horribly wrong that Democrats and Republicans united their rage towards a common enemy and finally tweeted each other without starting beef.

During the incident, it was alt-right nationalists who marched with torches blazing, proudly hoisting swastika and Confederate flags. It was alt-right nationalists who threw punches and sprayed mace in the eyes of fellow Americans. And it was an alt-right nationalist who recklessly and intentionally drove into a crowd of counter protesters, taking one life and endangering several others.

Yet, when the time came to condemn alt-right nationalists the same way he did to innocent, marginalized groups during his campaign, Trump barely gave them a slap on the wrist.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” stated Trump.

“Many sides,” he said. He is right that there are many sides to any issue, each has a spectrum broader than the color range of Crayola crayons, but this was not the fault of many sides. What transpired in Charlottesville was the result of hatred brewing in the hearts of alt-right nationalists who have recently been emboldened to make their views known.

It is because of Trump that KKK members are brazen enough to abandon their hoods, neo-Nazis spew anti-Semitic hate speech outside their community, and other radical groups are taking to the streets to terrorize fellow Americans.

Though not spoken in the context of these groups, Yiannopoulos’s statement that “Donald Trump has re-energised those people” rings true.

As if that weren’t enough, the movement has no intention of dying with Donald Trump. While it is probable that should a politically correct president be elected post-Trump-era the movement will subside, as libertarian columnist Cathy Young put it, “after everything that’s happened this year, I have completely given up on making any kind of predictions.”

“Skinny Repeal”: The Next Phase of Operation “Repeal and Replace”

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

After several failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, lawmakers tried yet again to implement health care reform on Thursday, July 27 with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed Health Care Freedom Act (HCFA), to no avail.

The HCFA, commonly known as the “skinny repeal”, was intended to strip some of the more unpopular aspects of Obamacare rather than repealing the bill entirely.

Lawmakers hoped that the bill would receive a minimum of 50 Senate votes, thereby acting as a way to open up a discussion between the Senate and the House so that a comprehensive health care bill would finally reach President Trump’s desk.

Though the “skinny repeal” was intended to serve as serve as a starting point and not a final destination, some GOP senators feared that the bill would be the end of the road for health care reform and that the House would…

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Democratic Senators Show Strong Concern for Minority Students in Letter to EdSec Betsy DeVos

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

Last Tuesday, led by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, 33 Democratic senators and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders penned a strongly worded letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regarding what they feel is her disappointing and alarming lack of dedication to making sure that  “all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination.”

This letter followed shortly behind two directives proposed by DeVos’ right-hand on civil rights, Candice Jackson, were released. Loosened regulations on how civil rights cases are investigated and the reduction of federal monitoring of the department’s regional offices were discussed in one memo.

Another directive seeks to reverse guidelines for transgender students set by President Obama, which DeVos repealed, by not expressly giving transgender students the right to use the school bathroom corresponding to…

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