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School Sports Put Students At COVID Risk

volleyballPxfuel

This story was reported by the staff of The Princeton Summer Journal and written by Kayla Bey, Jariel Christopher, Melanie Paredes, and Daniel Sanchez.

Summer F., 17, is a high school senior in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she plays varsity volleyball. In March, Louisiana was stricken with one of the earliest and worst U.S. outbreaks of COVID-19, forcing the shutdown of classroom learning and youth sports. But months passed, cases subsided, and by early June the state had okayed the resumption of practices for fall sports. When Summer returned to volleyball practice, however, she felt her school, Port Allen High, might be courting disaster. “Most [athletes] decided to wear masks, but it didn’t last long,” she said. “It’s sometimes hot in the gym and with workouts it’s hard to breathe.”

Several regulations were in place, including prepractice temperature checks and a prohibition on locker room access. But the school, Summer suggested, was partly relying on students to police themselves, asking them to report any virus symptoms or contact with infected individuals. In July and August, cases again began to rise in Louisiana, which now has the highest per-capita infection rate in the country. Volleyball practice continued three times a week, as scheduled.

Port Allen High is following the re-opening guidelines set in June by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA). But the regulations may not be addressing major drivers of the virus. Cloth face masks are encouraged for coaches, but are not recommended for athletes engaging in “high-intensity aerobic activity.” Perhaps more troublingly, the LHSAA has has not prohibited teams from congregating in enclosed indoor facilities, from “meeting rooms” to gymnasiums. COVID-19 is thought to
spread primarily through airborne particles in poorly ventilated spaces.

According to Port Allen principal James Jackson, “two to three” student athletes have
recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But he defends the school’s protocols. “We never had an outbreak on any team,” he told The Princeton Summer Journal. This, he said, suggests the infections were “due to some type of gathering that they may have had outside of school.”

The situation at Port Allen High School is a microcosm of America’s unruly and improvised approach to safely resuming high school athletics.

In July, the Summer Journal conducted a survey of 33 school districts’ sports reopening plans, polling schools from California to Rhode Island. The results varied wildly.
Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland canceled summer practices and fall sports, as did the state of New Mexico. But in Chicago, Illinois, Orange City, Florida, and Tahlequah, Oklahoma, summer practices or conditioning drills continued. Some districts, such as Boston, Massachusetts, called off summer programming but pledged to resume competition in September. School districts were almost evenly split between those that held and cancelled summer practices—though districts in the Northeast,
where the virus hit early, tended to have more restrictions than elsewhere.

The survey may be most telling for what districts didn’t know. Many indicated that coaches would be wearing face coverings, but most were non-committal about how
athletes were meant to wear masks or socially-distance in team settings. The school district encompassing Orlando, Florida provided a detailed presentation about its summer practice protocol. Several weeks later, amid sharply rising coro-
navirus cases, the district postponed all practices until the end of August. Few districts stated with any clarity how fall competitions would be conducted safely, if at all. If anything, the survey reflected the Frankenstein monster that is America’s patchwork response to the pandemic.

While the COVID-19 fatality rate remains extremely low for minors, the resumption of classroom instruction and organized sports could spread the virus to coaches, teachers, and family members. Unlike professional sports teams, which have rigorous testing protocols, most high schools have virtually no way of detecting asymptomatic transmission between students.

For now, Summer is deciding to play volleyball, despite her anxieties. “I feel as if they do not care about our safety, even though there are some precautions put in place,” she said, citing her district’s decision to re-open.

“Most students who play sports are choosing to go to school in August because sports is all they have. For some, it’s their senior year. Who doesn’t want to play sports their senior year?”

On the night of July 16, the Gwinnett County Board of Education convened outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Though the county had the second-most COVID-19 infections in the state, the school district would resume in-person learning the following month. Just one board member, Everton Blair Jr., voiced his disapproval. After he spoke and as cameras continued to roll, Chairwoman Louise Radloff muttered, “I could strangle him.”

Radloff, who is white, later called her comment “out of order,” and apologized to Blair, who is Black. The subject of re-opening high school sports in Georgia, where football is close to a religion, has been no less charged.

Early in the summer, the Georgia High School Association released a strict re-opening protocol. Locker rooms were off-limits and group sizes were limited. But on July 22, with football season looming, the GHSA relaxed the rules. Locker rooms were opened and
athletes could huddle in unlimited number. Asked about the district’s latest protocols, Gwinnett County Assistant Superintendent Reuben Gresham told the Summer Journal, “It is not feasible for student athletes to social distance.”

As it turns out, it may not be feasible to relax standards either. On July 29, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that 655 positive cases had been shared with the GHSA,
more than double the number on file two weeks earlier.

By August, Georgia had cancelled summer football scrimmages. It’s anyone’s guess if most districts will play football in September.

“The decisions necessitated by the current pandemic are literally changing almost daily,” said Steve Figueroa, Director of Media Relations for GHSA. “What we believed would be the case a month or even a week ago has often proven to be quite different in the present.”

As states scramble to re-start the school year, there appears to be an inverse correlation between high coronavirus rates and postponements.

Some of the states with the highest infection rates in the country, such as Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, say they are proceeding with fall sports.

Meanwhile, some of the states with the lowest rates, such as Oregon and Colorado, have postponed them until 2021. (Some of the hardest-hit states are also some of the most
enthusiastic about high school football.)

School districts committed to gridiron clashes under “Friday night lights” may consider heeding the Centers for Disease Control. Players are at especially high risk for transmission, the CDC warns, during “full competition between teams from different geographic areas.”

But for schools that play it safe, and postpone sports, will there be unintended consequences?

“Swimming has been my life,” said 17-year-old Michael F., a senior at West Boca Raton Community High School. Ranked 25th in the state of Florida and 422nd in the nation, he is one of the best at his craft. Last year, he started generating interest from recruiters from Georgia Tech, The College of Wooster, and a number of other schools.

But what will happen to that interest—and the scholarships that could come with it—if sports don’t resume?

The Florida High School Athletic Association has released three options for returning to
sports, but Palm Beach County has not specified which they will choose.

If sports don’t resume, “recruiting will be harder than ever,” said Monte Chapman, who coaches track and field at West Boca Raton. “There will be no way of approximating how much an athlete has or has not improved.”

In New York City, school officials have similar concerns. Ciana DeBellis is an assistant principal at the Fordham Leadership Academy in the Bronx. “We have students that were going to college on scholarships,” she told the Summer Journal. “I’m not really sure how that is going to work.”

On August 9, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City—like Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities—would be reopening its public schools for in-person instruction. But high school sports in the Big Apple, for better or for worse, would remain indefinitely postponed.

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How a 17-year-old from South Jersey fought for racial justice

blm4Lia Opperman

By Lia Opperman

Galloway, N.J.

A mid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests after the tragic death of George Floyd, 17-year-old youth activist Sunrose Rousnee of Galloway, New Jersey, decided to take matters into her own hands.

A rising senior at Absegami High School and president of her school’s drama club and Gay Straight Alliance, Sunrose planned a local protest that took place on June 26. The protest was held in Galloway’s neighboring town, Absecon, New Jersey, where she was joined by around 50 people from the community.

When asked why she decided to start her own protest, Sunrose explained that there was a protest in her hometown, Galloway, but many people who lived in nearby towns were upset that there wasn’t a protest where they resided—and weren’t stepping up to host their own. That inspired Sunrose to spend weeks planning a location, speeches, and safety pre- cautions for citizens in Absecon to have their voices heard and be properly represented in their community.

Sunrose also spent a lot of time deciding on a name for her protest, but ultimately settled on “All Black Lives Matter” in order to be inclusive of all Black lives, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.

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Lia Opperman

The protesters marched, spoke, listened to speeches, knelt in a moment of silence for George Floyd, and sang in Absecon’s Heritage Park, all in an effort to honor Black people who have en- countered police brutality and to advocate for change.

Eventually, the group departed from quaint Heritage Park and marched to busy and bustling Route 30, taking their posters and voices with them for all to see and hear.

Sunrose hopes that the protests that have been occurring in Atlantic County, including her own, will provoke change in the community.

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Lia Opperman

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An immigrant’s story

Credit Maggie SalinasMaggie Salinas

By Maggie Salinas

Sunland Park, N.M.

My father, Carmelo Salinas, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s after he couldn’t find work in Mexico. He was only 17, and he supported himself by picking pears in Southern California. We recently discussed how hard those early years in America were after he kept his experiences silent from everyone for years. Why did you find it necessary to immigrate for work?

“Mexico was corrupt and they didn’t want gente like me working. Everyone needed the money and was out to get you en Mexico. My dad used to be a bracero when he was young too, and he introduced my mom to American money.” What exactly did you work as?

“A lot of us usually worked in barracas de comunidad, and we would go up the mountains en Tehachapi [a city in California] to trim pear trees. Las barracas looked like prison cells. There [was] a two-in-one small bed, and we shared one toilet and a kitchen. Looking back, it was dangerous, but back then it was better than nothing.” Do you remember how much you earned?

“The owner would visit every quincena to pay us, 15 days. He would come up to you and go:

¿Cuantos arboles podaste, Carmelo?’

No pos’ que cien’

‘Bueno, son $150 por cien arboles’

He gave us about $150 per 100 trimmed trees every 15 days or a month algo así.” Did you face conflict with other workers?

“Sí, there were some old folk with us who didn’t want to go out and work with us because they had reumas, like arthritis, and they didn’t want to go out in the cold. Pero there were others who were just lazy. And they wanted us to split our earnings with them, or they would threaten to beat us. Some of us got into a fight with some of them. We didn’t want to pay them, and they tried stabbing me. I was able to take the knife away from him but your tío started punching him out of anger for threatening me. I remember telling him to stop so we wouldn’t get in trouble.” Was trimming pear trees the only way you earned money?

“No, after la temporada de piscar [harvesting] we would go to Bakersfield and lay down an irrigation system. We had to move pipes, and I remember when I had to supervise them at night, I would sleep under the water when they broke because the water was warmer. We needed to rent a place down in Bakersfield, and they paid me $3.25 per night. It was good money. We rented this house, and we had six Mexican guys, including your tío and me, and four girls. Some were American, and others were pochas, Mexican-American.” Did you have any encounters with deportation?

“Oh yeah. I used to have a girlfriend, her name was Suzy, but she was part of the pandillas, like gangs, in East LA, and I was really scared of the cholos. Fights would break down often when we went out to eat in her area, and I tried to get away, but one time la migra, immigration, came down and got us. They took us down to Tijuana. Sometimes they took [us] down to Calexico, Chula Vista, and Downtown LA for detainment. They would deport [us] in about 48 hours.” What did you do when you were deported?

Credit Maggie Salinas 1

Maggie Salinas

 

“I came back, por la familia.” Did you meet any interesting people?

“Cesar Chavez. I met him when he began his protests in Bakersfield, around 1973. Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t participate. To me, I felt there was no real gain in protesting other than attention, but I had more to lose. If I were older and had been educated past age 12, maybe I would have spoken to him more. A lot of us stayed away from the huelgas. We needed the money, our parents needed the money, and it was better than unemployment in Mexico. Uno tenia miedo de perderlo todo.”

“I was young, I only knew to survive. If I were educated, I think I would have appreciated the movement more. But I didn’t want to lose my progress in life. And he was famous, but I didn’t care to pay attention, but that was just me.” Today, Carmelo Salinas is a father of five children, all first-generation American citizens. He worked his way from being an immigrant in California to residing in Sunland Park, New Mexico. Born in 1955, he immigrated to California in the ’70s and learned English through pop culture. Though he didn’t receive his GED until 2014, along with his wife who was also an immigrant, he earned certification as a machinist and welder. He earned his American citizenship in the ’90s and helped his wife gain residency in 2007. To this day, he works endlessly to support his family, and contrary to harsh claims that date back to the ’70s, he never took advantage of welfare or the government’s re- sources without working. Although monetary wealth is not present in the family, love and moral values always are.

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My mother’s escape from civil war

By Saw Kay 

San Diego, Calif.

The Karen Conflict started in 1949 in Burma (Myanmar), when the Burmese government began ethnic cleansing by killing non-Burmese or expelling them from the country. This continues today, including the religious cleansing of non-Buddhists, and is the longest ongoing civil war in the world.

At least 50,000 people have been killed. Around 93,000 people live in the nine refugee camps along the border between Burma and Thailand. Most of them are of Karen ethnicity. There are at least 1.5 million Karen who left Burma due to this conflict. They now reside in various countries around the world: the United States, Australia, Canada, Korea, India and Sweden.

Among them is my mother. My mother’s name is Ma Aye Myint and she is 60. She had to flee through the jungles in Burma for many years just to settle in Mae La refugee camp, Thailand. She was around 10 years old when she escaped from the Burmese soldiers who attacked her village.

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The Karen Flag

The village my mother came from is Chitturae, located in Burma. She lived in the village with her parents and siblings. In my mother’s village, every day was a repeat of working in the field picking plants, selling food to the community, hunting, and holding com- munity events. Everyone in the community viewed one another as family members. They all held a warm and welcoming space. It was a home that could never be replaced, as my mother told me in a recent interview.

The villagers were prepared to face the conflict given the fact that it started a few decades earlier. However, they would not know when they would be the next victims.

The village was attacked around 1970. They were given no mercy and had to quickly flee for survival. What once was a beautiful village was now torn apart due to the destruction of the conflict.

When the Thailand refugee camps opened in October 1979, my people feared entering the camps since they might have been a trap. This influenced my mother’s family and caused them to constantly flee in the jungles between Burma and Thailand. In order to make it out alive, people would have to be mobile and not settle in one spot for too long. She would tell me that she had to flee barefoot because there were no such things as shoes where she came from.

As the years continued, my mother’s parents passed away and there were no safe villages to re- turn to. She could not depend on anyone for help and eventually sought refuge in the Thai camps at her own risk. She was between 20 and 30 years old at the time of arriving at one of the camps.

Life in the camp was very different from the village she came from. It was bordered off and you were prohibited from entering the city. Despite the protection she received, she remembers having to flee again from Burmese soldiers. To make things worse, she was pregnant with my older brother. We were born in the Mae La refugee camp. He was born in 1999 and I was born in 2002.

I am the youngest in my family and I was born with a disorder that influenced my parents to enter the U.S. I had to use a colostomy bag because my digestive system did not function normally. This was a disability I struggled with. The whole camp knew about me and believed that I would not make it. However, this would not stop my mother from reaching out to doctors to help me. Most professional doctors and nurses gave up on giving me treatment and doubted my chance of living. My mother’s love was too strong to give up on me and so she continued. She did not want me to be another child neglected by an undeveloped medical system in a third-world country. Only one doctor said I would make it and gave my mom hope. After a few years, once our papers to enter the United States were approved, we were sent to the Bronx, New York.

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Pandemic Boosts Pet Adoptions

Credit_ Laura Wagner image7Jake, a Jindo terrier mix, has been treated to longer walks with his owner, Laura Wagner, during the pandemic. (Photo by Laura Wagner)

By Chastina Simmons and Sarah Furtado

Stone Mountain, Ga. and Vero Beach, Fla.

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus has hit everyone like a truck. Health scares, quarantines, and school closings are changing the lives of millions of humans. But there is another, less-talked about population that’s also being affected: pets.

Right now, because of quarantine, many people are stuck at home with more free time than we used to have. Many are filling this void by adopting pets.

“They’re flying out the doors, not in,” said Jill Van Tuyl, the director of shelter operations at SAVE, a shelter for homeless dogs and cats in Skillman, New Jersey. From her experience, she noted that more people are considering adopting cats and dogs during the pandemic.

“Because of COVID and so many adoptions, right now, a good portion of my day is dedicated to scheduling transports to bring animals in and also reviewing adoption applications for potential adopters,” Van Tuyl said. Both sides benefit: The new owners get an addition to the family, and these animals get a start to a new, and most likely better, life.

Credit_ @furio_gram on Insta 1

Furio, a Shiba Inu mix, lives with Kate Knibbs in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Photo by Kate Knibbs)

Laura Wagner and Kate Knibbs of Brooklyn, New York, have recently adopted puppies during this pandemic. However, the process of adopting their pets wasn’t easy. According to Wagner, “because everyone was trying to adopt dogs during quarantine, it was really difficult to get a dog or even get an interview with the various different rescues in Brooklyn.”

Although the adoption process was lengthy, both owners thought the pets were worth it.

In addition to offering companionship, Wagner said that having a dog helped her physical health. Every morning, Wagner takes her Jindo terrier mix, Jake, for a long walk.

“I went from averaging 700 steps a day to averaging 15,000 steps a day,” she said. “Your physical health is tied to your mental health, so definitely being more active is good.” She also noted that just cuddling with her dog during her breaks helped lift her mood.

Knibbs’ Shiba Inu mix, Furio, also keeps her spirits lifted despite demanding quite a bit of work. “I mean, it’s pretty hard to stay in bed when there’s this incredibly cute creature who needs your attention,” she said.

Cute creatures don’t just include dogs.

Credit_ @freddieyourbeardie on Insta

Zimmerman’s bearded dragon, Freddie, sunbathing. (Photo by Kier Zimmerman)

During these long, lonely months of quarantine, Kier Zimmerman was thankful to have a new bearded dragon lizard as a friend. “They like to be cuddled, they like to hang out. They’re very social, and they’re very easy,” said Zimmerman, a recent Harvard graduate cooped up at their parents’ home in Minnesota.

Their lizard, Freddie, has a compact build, a sand-colored complexion, and an apparent love of the TV show “American Horror Story.” “He will fall asleep on me or in my hand a lot, which is very cute,” Zimmerman said. “And he nuzzles into the corner of my hand and tries to bury himself in there.”

In a world in turmoil, these pets offer refuge to their owners. That’s apparent watching Zimmerman and Freddie. Zimmerman cradled their bearded dragon and reassured him: “Calm down. It’s OK.”

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As Pandemic Threatens Pocketbooks, Black Activists Promote ‘Mutual Aid’

JGordon-Nembhard2018

Jessica Gordon Nembhard

By Daniel Sanchez

Boca Raton, Fla.

A natural opening for this story might have been focused on an individual, a relatable human being who was assisted by a mutual aid fund. But focusing on just one person would defeat the purpose of looking at a cooperative economic initiative.

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, an economics professor at John Jay College specializing in community-based approaches to justice, views mutual aid funds as precursors to cooperative economic systems. The difference? Mutual aid funds have been practiced by “every population in the world … continuously,” she said.

Nembhard describes mutual aid funds as informal collections of money that are distributed to the community based on need. Each member of the group contributes through dues, with people designated to oversee the fund. They are usually specialized for specific circumstances, such as to pay health care bills or to plan funerals. The story of these grassroots programs spans generations, and continues to subvert traditional economic norms to provide opportunities to members of historically disenfranchised groups.

Founded in 1966, the Black Panther Party developed social programs like the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for School Children Program, which gave free breakfast to tens of thousands of children in underserved communities. They also had cooperative housing for the homeless in the surrounding communities of local chapters. Nembhard said there are not many historical examples of large organizations like the Black Panthers using “humane economics.”

A major reason why, according to Nembhard, is because productivity threatens the system. “If we show this system works well, why would you want to exist in a capitalist society?” Nembhard asked.

Now, young Black activists are picking up the gauntlet thrown down by their predecessors.

Red curtains framed the lightning bolts hitting New York as Tropical Storm Isaias passed the Northeast coast. Diligently answering questions while glancing at hurricane warnings on their phone, Asanni Armon explained their passion for assisting the LGBTQ+ and Black communities.

A 2017 Princeton graduate, Armon founded the organization For The Gworls, which raises money for Black trans people for rent and gender-affirmation surgeries. Their method for fundraising is throwing rent parties that generate revenue. In this sense, For The Gworls is a textbook mutual aid fund, one that focuses on a specific problem faced by minority residents in New York. Armon receives applications for aid and accepts everyone who fits within the scope of the organization.

However, Armon is adamant about preserving solidarity within the organization, a guiding principle which differentiates it from the non- profit industrial complex. “I don’t want to play into that,” Armon said, referencing non-profit organizations that attempt to ensure the fiscal responsibility of those to whom they provide funding. Instead, they trust the word of those who apply for assistance. Armon’s goal is to grow For The Gworls, but only in a sustainable way that ensures a community, people-centered approach.

With a pandemic and protests for racial equality raging throughout the United States, many people view mutual aid funds as a way to contribute to improving their community. “We got this boost [in fun- draising] in June,” Armon said, when protests and recent killings of Black Americans pressured many to consider their values. Now they hope the donations will continue throughout the year, as racism is an ongoing, systemic issue.

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Asanni Armon (L.) founded a mutual aid group that provides financial assistance for rent and gender-affirming surgery.

By Abednego Togas

Silver Spring, MD.

Asanni Armon did not know what to do when their two friends were facing eviction in late June 2019. With roommates of their own, Armon had no room to house additional people, so in an effort to help their struggling friends, they devised a collective way to provide immediate assistance.

Pooling resources, Armon put together a 4th of July party that required a fee of five dollars to enter. The money would then go directly to Armon’s friends, all of whom are Black and transgender. “The rest was history,” Armon said.

Armon’s strategy of hosting New York City ‘rent parties’ to raise funds to put directly into struggling Black trans people’s pockets continued to take place well after their July 4th occasion. Armon’s initial party led to the creation of the For the Gworls fund, an assistance program that fundraises money for rent and gender- affirming surgery.

For the Gworls is an example of mutual aid funding, a method of collectively raising money or pooling resources for the benefit of a community. Mutual aid funds are often relief efforts that take place after a sudden natural disaster, and focus on collecting resources such as water after an earthquake or masks during a pandemic.

Mutual aid has been predominantly used by marginalized groups to address and alleviate ongoing social needs. The Black Panther Party’s Survival Programs, for example, provided services such as free breakfast for children, and funded community health clinics to combat socioeconomic disparities in the Black community.

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, professor at John Jay College, specializes in community economics and says that collective efforts like For the Gworls often come about from mainstream society’s neglect of marginalized groups. “The reason why most people start cooperatives … is because whatever was the norm, the mainstream, wasn’t doing what was needed,” Nembhard said.

A r m o n founded the For the Gworls mutual aid fund after facing discrimination in the workplace because, to their knowledge, there was no sustainable form of assistance for Black trans people. “When I started this last year, there was nobody else in New York doing this work,” Armon said. “People had been crowdfunding for individuals… but it was never a sustained effort.”

Unlike charities, nonprofit organizations, or other forms of assistance, For the Gworls puts money directly into recipients’ pockets with little to no follow-up because their main purpose is to help struggling Black trans people, and not to provide care with strict stipulations. “We should be trying to move away from that and move towards just radically caring about someone,” Armon said.

Mutual aid is also dissimilar from other methods of fundraising due to its collective and collaborative nature, historically forming out of a collective feeling of frustration due to economic discrimination and segregation. “It’s the racism, it’s the economic discrimination … in almost every case African-American people were excluded from something or marginalized by something,” Gordon Nembhard said. “A lot of the housing co-ops started because African-Americans couldn’t get access to housing.”

Instead of operating as a stringent corporation, mutual aid goes against capitalism and involves a community coming together and solving immediate problems to remedy each other’s needs. “Mutual aid to me is, at its core, very anti-capitalist,” Armon said.

The rise of COVID-19 has disrupted the Gworls’ rent parties, but Armon continues to crowdfund on social media, garnering the attention of several mainstream celebrities. COVID-19 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in June have also led to a host of other mutual aid funds being created to address community issues.

But for Armon, the sole existence of mutual aid highlights a society’s failure to provide resources to all of its members. Until Black trans people are provided the same protections and support as others, Armon will continue to run For the Gworls to help their community.

“We are here, helping each other in the ways that we need to help each other, showing up for each other the way that we need to show up for each other,” Armon said.

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Is philosophy dead?

Credit K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
K. Mitch Hodge

By Stephanie Garcia

Bronx, N.Y.

It is human nature to question what is around us. In the ancient world, questioning and seeking answers to life’s mysteries was met with mixed opinions. Nonetheless, the contributions of these philosophers are valuable to our contemporary society. They ultimately paved the way for intellectual curiosity.

The question now is whether the study of philosophy is still relevant in our science-based society. Today, philosophy may not be as highly valued as science, but does that mean it should die off?

“It’s still relevant,” said Daniel Dorsey, a philosophy enthusiast from New York City. “But it’s slowly dying because some people aren’t using their brains to question the world around them — something that is necessary for philosophy.” He believes that philosophy is still relevant in our personal lives rather than in society more generally.

Teniesea Russell from New York City is a college advisor who chooses to live by a wide range of her own personal philosophies. Her beliefs regarding the subject differ from Dorsey’s. She believes that she and many others use philosophy on a daily basis and that it cannot easily die off because of its relevance to our lives.

Russell

Teniesea Russell

Russell elaborated: “Some individuals like referring back to historically popular statements conveyed by philosophers concerning morals or virtues such as ‘patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet,’ which derives from a philosophical notion. We still talk about philosophers like Aristotle and sometimes apply their ways of thinking in our society or lives.”

While some people, like Dorsey, argue that philosophy is at risk of dying, there are others who say that it is already dead. In an interview from 2011, Stephen Hawking claimed that philosophy is dead because of its inability to catch up with science, which Hawking called “the torch for discovery.” However, he then went on to say that while philosophy may no longer be able to discover anything new, “it is still relevant in people’s day-to-day lives.”

Hawking’s claims about philosophy’s contemporary significance seem to contradict one another, but they do raise a question: Has science replaced philosophy? Both fields push us to question our world, yet science focuses more on actually finding answers.

Dorsey emphasized that in order to progress, it is important to “question why things exist, like a philosopher, and then find answers to anything and everything that can be answered, much like scientists do.” He concluded, “in order to progress, both must coexist.”

Russell believes in the application of philosophy to science, particularly when developing sentient technologies such as artificial intelligence. “I believe we still need both because they provide different aspects of thinking,” she explained. “By having philosophical thoughts, we can continue to use science to get into the microscopic details surrounding these thoughts, which can pave the way for more scientific achievements.”

It is likely that philosophy will always be a part of society due to our natural curiosity. Science relies on philosophy to provide some of the ethics surrounding our new scientific endeavors and it is likely that philosophy will transcend into a new field of study: one vital to the ethics behind scientific progression and societal life. As long as these questions are asked and explored, philosophy may never truly die.

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‘Old Guard’ Has Little New To Show

Untitled drawing (1)Maggie Salinas

By Tara Monastesse

Warwick, R.I.

Andromache, or Andy, played by Charlize Theron, is the battle-hardened leader of a group of immortal warriors who serve as de facto protectors of the planet. In “The Old Guard,” Andy finds her crew targeted by greedy scientists who plan to kidnap them, extract their biological data, and replicate their powers of regeneration. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film brings impressive choreography and new concepts to the action genre. But it stops just short of transcending it.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with “The Old Guard” is the risks it doesn’t take. While the rogue group of scientists is clearly immoral, the movie never delves into the serious question posed by their attempt to create a drug that extends human life: What do we owe to the rest of humanity? Moral questions like this present themselves throughout the movie, but instead of exploring them further, Prince-Bythewood always swerves back to more traditional fight sequences.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that—after all, who doesn’t love watching Charlize Theron bring a sword to a machine gun fight? For a movie that’s trying to bring new depth to the genre, however, the lack of commitment to challenging storytelling in favor of gunshots and bloodshed feels tiresome. When a new member of the immortals’ group, Nile Freeman, played by KiKi Layne, questions Andy about the lives she takes without hesitation, the film appears to be on the cusp of an engaging conversation about the nature of life and death. Instead, they part ways and return to their action-flick adventures.

The immortals in the film feel almost hollow, as if their centuries of life had no role in shaping the people they’ve become. While Andy has mastered multiple languages and fighting styles over the course of human history, she ultimately presents herself as any other 21st century woman would. This is understandable, since hiding her immortality is easier if she blends in. But Theron doesn’t quite convey the burden you might feel defending humanity over centuries; often, she just looks tired.

However, I enjoyed the dynamic between the immortals, their camaraderie and constant wise-cracks, as well as the compelling romantic relationship between immortals Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Despite its shortcomings, “The Old Guard” is a fun addition to the world’s pandemic playlist. I just wish it were more than that.

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Immortals In ‘Old Guard’ Also Show Their Human Side

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By Hana Hammad

Debary, Fla.

The Old Guard” follows a strong female lead, Andy (Charlize Theron), an immortal trying to change the world she’s lived in for eternity. Andy stands at the head of a group of immortal warriors—Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli)—that she discovered and trained over centuries.

One night, the immortals have a collective dream of a female Marine, Nile (KiKi Layne), a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan but mysteriously comes back to life. Andy seeks out the Marine to join her immortal warrior team—but Nile resists, confused about what is happening to her. Having lost her father a few years prior, she’s hesitant to leave her family.

Andy and her immortal warrior team are betrayed by an ex-CIA agent, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who traps them in an evil scientific research lab. The lab captures Nicky and Joe to perform tests on them for medical research. Along the way, a betrayal and plenty of action ensue.

The movie was enjoyable because it didn’t take long for the plot to pick up. The love story between Nicky and Joe was beautiful. Seeing that they had been by each other’s sides for hundreds of years softened the movie’s hard edges.

In many action movies, the theatrical fighting and explosives can be too raw, or even boring. But “The Old Guard” was able to tie in elements of love and action to make the characters seem more human, despite their immortality. Similarly, Andy’s backstory with Quynh—an immortal whose fate is revealed through a series of flashbacks—made me love the movie so much more. The strength of them together in battle scenes fighting side by side was magical.

The only downside to this movie was the predictability of some of the plotlines. The big betrayal of the film is similar to many others, such as “Big Hero 6,” “The Matrix,” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” But overall, “The Old Guard” has to be one of my favorite action movies. I typically don’t care to watch action movies but this one kept me engaged the whole time.

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A Digital Summer To Remember

Staff Editorial PictureSTAFF EDITORIAL

This year’s Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP) was built on virtual connections. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, participants couldn’t convene together on campus, and there was no space to build in-person connections. A 10-day program was, with little notice, transformed into a 7-week one, forcing us to adapt in order to make the most of our summer. But program participants are a resilient bunch, and students from a variety of backgrounds united under one common love: journalism.

PSJP empowered students from backgrounds underrepresented in journalism to harness our unique life experiences in order to tell important journalistic stories.

Our cohort faced numerous trials and tribulations during our virtual summer program: poor WiFi connections, different time zones, Zoom mishaps, and the distractions that came with the raging chaos of COVID-19. Sitting at our desks, on our beds, and beside kitchen tables did not align with our initial expectations of PSJP. We overcame Zoom fatigue, sore shoulders and backs, and eyes burning from the bright screens of our phones, computers, and tablets. Sitting at home, without much contact with the outside world, became more difficult as the summer went on. Yet the students and counselors of PSJP prevailed, finding ways to stay connected instead of simply missing out and mourning what could have been.

Through weekly Zoom sessions and a group chat active almost 24 hours a day, we shared our doubts, dreams, and goals throughout the seven-week program. We attended lectures that exposed us to a variety of subjects and workshops that taught us about different types of journalism. And each week we put our new skills to the test, writing news stories, opinion articles, features, and more.

With support from our peers, interns, counselors, and PSJP alumni, we were able to come together as the world around us seemed to be falling apart. Though the pandemic, emerging social movements, and economic upheaval impacted our individual communities in different ways, we formed a community of our own, a haven protected from the unrest. We came together not knowing the people and family we would become. Now, we leave with a network of counselors who have supported us from day one and what are sure to be life-long friendships.

On August 11, our lives will go back to normal—well, our new normal. We will enter our senior year with a newfound perspective on both life and journalism. Despite having to endure a global pandemic and a plethora of other conflicts, we were still able to immerse ourselves in a transformative PSJP experience. We now leave the program having gained invaluable knowledge and bonds strong enough to last a million lifetimes.

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Hollywood’s Pervasive Color Problem

 

The book cover of “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (on the left) featured a dark-skinned Black girl while the movie adaption stars a light-skinned actress (on the right).

By Anne Tchuindje

Washington, D.C.

The critically acclaimed movie “The Hate U Give” began as a book. It’s the story of Starr Carter, a young Black girl who tries to balance two worlds—her low-income Black neighborhood and her wealthy white prep school—while still fighting misogyny and racism. On the cover of the book, the illustrator draws Starr Carter as a Black girl with Afro-textured hair and brown skin. The actress who plays Starr in the movie, Amandla Stenberg, is a lighter-skinned Black girl with braids.

Stenberg’s casting is an example of a lack of diversity in Hollywood that new awareness about race and representation has yet to fix: colorism. The term means “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, including prejudice held by members of their own ethnic or racial group.”

People of color have slowly, but surely, made a significant impact on the big screen. Diversity, especially in Hollywood, allows people from different backgrounds to see themselves reflected in popular culture. But when it comes to the representation of darker-skinned Black people, the movies haven’t made much progress. Executives tend to hire lighter-skinned actors to play Black roles, or to consider darker-skinned actors only for roles that fulfill a specific stereotype. Until colorism is addressed within the filmmaking industry, there will never be true diversity.

The illustrator of “The Hate U Give,” Debra Cartwright, has said in interviews that she “wasn’t thrilled” about the choice of Stenberg to play Starr. In a meeting with Fox, executives told her that they’d have to lighten her illustration, and “change the hair.”

Author Angie Thomas also criticized the colorism infecting the film adaptation, which omits the references to colorism in the Black community expressed in her original book. “It’s disheartening, because I do feel like so much money was thrown behind the movie, and so much marketing was thrown behind it,” Thomas said. “You can tell who Hollywood is pushing to be in the limelight, and everybody knows it has a lot to do with appearance, but it also is still being driven a bit by colorism.”

“The Hate U Give” is far from the only example. Among others, actress Zendaya has spoken up about issues of colorism within Hollywood and admitted to having a privilege over her “dark skin brothers and sisters.” She vowed to continue to use her platform to bring attention to issues of colorism within the industry. “Guardians of the Galaxy” actress Zoe Saldana, cast in the role of singer and songwriter Nina Simone despite her lighter skin and looser hair texture, expressed great regret for playing the role.

“I should have never played Nina,” Saldana said. “I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless.”

Colorism is also apparent in animated movies. In recent Disney films, a variety of princesses from different backgrounds and cultures have been featured— and through each movie we witness the development of each princess as she embarks on an adventure that ultimately changes her life forever. But colorism remains.

In “The Princess and the Frog,” the first Disney film to depict an African American princess, main character Tiana was trapped in the form of an animal for over 80 percent of the movie. Disney’s decision to make this princess a frog throughout the movie is not only racist, but colorist, in the sense that this plot is only used in a movie containing a dark-skinned princess.

Issues of colorism within Hollywood do not only affect who is cast to play roles, but also how they tell the story of those they play. When Hollywood does cast dark-skinned actors, they are given less screen time or made to play demeaning characters; for instance, dark skin characters make frequent appearances as maids and servants. It’s important to cast actors and actresses of darker skin in order to show more diversity, be more inclusive, and break down these stereotypes.

We need stories that spotlight more people within the Black community. Actors and actresses with a platform and leverage should give other actors and actresses of darker skin tones more opportunities and voices within casting decisions. Representation within film builds character and identity for Black people.

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How Can We Mitigate Bias In AI?

By Mahbuba Sumiya

Detroit, Mich.

Facial recognition software—used by millions—doesn’t properly identify people of color. This technology was meant to provide accurate results, but alarmingly, “nearly 40 percent of the false matches by Amazon’s tool … involved people of color,” according to Queenie Wong, a staff reporter for CNET News. Amazon’s face-ID system recognized Oprah as male, wrongly matched 28 members of Congress to a mugshot database, and detected a Brown University student as a Sri Lanka bombing suspect.

Algorithms are learning to adapt to society’s stance on racial biases. They’re programmed and trained by showing millions of human pictures; however, if the algorithms are trained with only white faces, they won’t be able to recognize any other types of faces. Artificial intelligence (AI) can only be smart if they are trained with fair data. If an AI is trained with millions of faces that are people of color, then it would not have a hard time recognizing those faces accurately.

Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, researches the social implication of artificial intelligence, and recognized the biases that companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon have in place for AI services. While at MIT as an undergraduate, Buolamwini tried out an algorithm called Coded Gaze as part of an assignment. She learned that the system recognized her light-skinned friend’s face better than her own. When Buolamwini put on a white face mask, it was able to detect her face.

Racism exists in computer algorithms because of individual values. If people did not care about how the person next to them looked, racism would not still be America’s biggest problem. People being wrongly arrested because of false detection is not ethical. If people are fighting for justice, they must fight for justice in everything. Racial justice must equal algorithm justice.

Plus, even if algorithms are trained with antiracist databases, accuracy continues to be an issue. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) stated in May 2020 that Asians and African Americans had false positive rates even when they programmed computers with 8.49 million faces. Will AI ever be fair to people of color?

Growing up in a generation where algorithms are becoming more and more prevalent, it’s hard to recognize machine bias—a problem that will continue to amplify inequality in future generations, if left unchecked. We must train AI to be fair and neutral. But with the current state of the field, this may prove difficult. Computer science tends to attract more men than women—only about 25 percent of computer scientists in the United States are women. Minority racial groups are also not represented equally in tech industries. Having more diverse points of views in this field can prevent us from training computers with biased data. In society, a woman might be associated with teaching, childcare, or nursing, but we should not use these existing societal assumptions when building an algorithm.

Luckily, some businesses are taking small steps to measure and minimize bias, including IBM’s Fairness 360 (an open source allowing developers to examine, report, and mitigate bias within the machine learning model), according to Macy Bayern, as associate staff writer for TechRepublic.

After all, the only way we can eventually move forward with AI fairly is by allowing diverse people to be engaged with tech industries.

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Bill de Blasio Has Failed Enough New Yorkers

By Aima Ali

Brooklyn, N.Y.

In late March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and chancellor of education Richard Carranza announced that schools would close. Now, with 232,000 reported cases and more than 23,000 deaths in the city, the mayor is planning on reopening schools in the fall. Reopening schools with the proposed hybrid learning model will only result in more unnecessary death.

Though cases are decreasing in the city, allowing some businesses to reopen, people still die from the virus every day. Before schools closed, more than 60 Department of Education employees—including 25 teachers—contracted COVID-19 and eventually died. Opening schools will inevitably lead to more cases and will raise the risk of students being exposed to the virus. School students and staff often have to commute using trains or buses. Though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city’s transit agency, has been cleaning trains nightly, those who use public transportation during rush hour know how crowded trains can be. Some MTA employees have even refused to come to work after their colleagues contracted and died from the virus. As a result, already unpredictable buses run on even more unreliable schedules and remain packed at all hours of the day.

The Department of Education released guidelines limiting the number of students per classroom, but keeping up with these requirements will be more difficult for schools with larger classroom sizes. Those are often schools serving low-income students. Low-income, Black, and Latino individuals are already more likely to both contract COVID-19 and die from the disease. Larger classroom sizes and fewer teachers will only increase these inequalities.

Those pushing for reopening claim that it will not affect death rates, as students are less likely to die from the virus. However, older students are still susceptible to becoming extremely sick and may suffer from other symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell. Students can be symptom-free carriers, infecting high-risk family members without even knowing. Older teachers will also go to work fearing for their safety each day. Teachers’ unions are predicting that teachers who can retire will, causing an even greater shortage of teachers and making it more difficult for class sizes to remain small.

Poor planning caused New York City to hesitate before closing schools when a COVID-19 case was first detected in Manhattan. Still, with months to plan, the best the mayor and his fellow politicians have been able to come up with is a plan that will ultimately result in the deaths of more New Yorkers. We cannot bring back those 63 DOE employees that were exposed early on, but we can make sure that no other teacher, school staff member, or student dies a preventable death.

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Finding The Silver Lining In A Global Pandemic

photo-1588612005960-a382b1eca714Image created by Daniel Barreto

By Alyssa Ultreras

Oakland, Calif.

Late in March, COVID-19 abruptly stopped everyone’s schedules, plans, and events across the nation. The global pandemic put families through struggles regarding finance, access, and opportunity. Through this pandemic, the media has also shed light on the disproportionate hardships faced by people of color.

Yet despite all the turmoil people have faced during this time, many have been inspired. Some have started a small business, become more educated, become advocates, or taken other action to help people in their communities.

Living through this time, and witnessing all the tragedy as well as the glory that has risen through it, I have been inspired to reevaluate the way I spend my time.

Before quarantine, I worked non-stop with my school schedule, extracurriculars, jobs, and household responsibilities. I was exhausted, unable to realize that I was devoting time to people and commitments that did not make me happy anymore. I was a lit flame burning myself to ashes, taking on too much out of a feeling of obligation that’s common among high school juniors.

Now when I look back on those pre-pandemic times, I know why I thought this way. Like a college freshman, a person transitioning to find a job, or a person seeking a higher position in their field, I was suffering from a lack of balance.

As I was burning out at the end of the first semester, I watched a Ted Talk by Shonda Rhimes. She explained how she felt burned out because massive production and success led to a loss of family time. I could only relate from afar because I did not have a daughter as she does. However, I do have a family. I do have a younger sibling who looked up to me as an older sister, only to see me come home after a long day too tired to play with her.

As Rhimes says, “Work doesn’t work without play.”

Rhimes argues for spending more time with who or what brings balance to work. And so, once quarantine came and my entire life was put on pause, I had time to reconnect with myself and find the balance to my work.

It took a global pandemic to allow the world around me to stop and give me a chance to realize this. As young advocates are helping to change the world, seizing the moment and rising in this dark time, we all must strive to find the balance between work and play if we want to persevere during this pandemic and come out the other side stronger.

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White Teachers: Stop Saying ‘Negro’

By Kuftu Said

Aurora, Colo.

As a Black student who has attended diverse schools my whole life, I’ve seen my fair share of racial microaggressions. Racism in the classroom is particularly aggravating. It’s embarrassing enough that we are taught whitewashed history, are shut out of AP classes, perform lower on standardized tests because of a lack of support systems, and learn from very few teachers of color. I’m tired of hearing my non-Black teachers tell me they can say “negro” for educational purposes.

Whether it’s classmates who tell me not to play the “race, religion, or woman card” in debates, or people who warn me not to perpetuate the “angry Black woman” stereotype, I have let many a bigoted remark go. National statistics show how Black students graduate at lower rates and experience harsher and longer disciplinary actions than their white counterparts, but there are none that show how many Black students experience racism at school. Racist educators have the ability to determine how racist acts are punished, much like how police essentially police themselves.

Some of these facts I have learned from the same teachers who use “negro” or other racial slurs for “educational purposes.” I shouldn’t have to educate my teachers; we can be “educated” just as well by reading around the word ‘negro.’

I had a white teacher who justified her use of the word in a classroom with three Black students by showing us an article that explained how “negro” was used to describe Black people on the census until 2013, so it was an objectively descriptive word. I had a white teacher who announced that he was the only person allowed to say “negro” in the classroom. I had a white administrator who said an even more offensive n-word when disciplining a group of Black boys; he justified it by saying he was repeating what he heard from the group. None of these teachers was punished.

When I talk to my fellow classmates, especially my Black peers, we whisper about the ignorant use of the word. I could never say my feelings out loud before, but in a time of moral revolution, when Twitter has the ability to hold people accountable for hate speech more than schools do, we must normalize calling out what’s ethically backward.

At a time when Black students from Ivy League universities post anonymously on social media about their terrible experiences (check #BlackIvyStories and wince), let’s make sure white teachers stop saying “negro.”

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Cutting Weight Can Wait; Teens’ Health Can’t

Aigner Settles (left) and Sofia Barnett (right) powerlifting for their high school teams.

By Sofia Barnett

Frisco, Tex.

I didn’t understand the toxicity of high school sports until I had to lose 11 pounds in 36 hours for varsity powerlifting.

On weigh-in day, I rose before the sun. Having completely deprived myself of food the day before, I immediately sank back down as fireworks of red, blue, and green interrupted my blurred vision—my body’s way of warning me that I needed help. I put on five sweat- shirts and six pairs of sweatpants, hot-flashing already as I struggled to tie my sneakers. Still, I made it to my high school track just before the first wave of runners started their early morning jogs.

Twenty sprints, 100 meters, 16-second average. Ready, go.

My heavy exhalation lingered in clouds of vapor in the cold December air. I wasn’t sweating enough. The chill was preventing me from expelling every remaining drop of water my body had clung to. It became too much. I threw up on the side of the track just as the sun began to rise: a ceremony honoring the fact that my stomach had forced out the last of its contents.

For thousands of student athletes nationwide, the demands of weight-cut culture are a tragic reality. In order to compete, lifters and wrestlers must make a designated weight class, often by gaining or losing weight rapidly, forcing them to choose between their health and their athletic performance. With added pressures from coaches and teammates, it’s not an easy choice to make. At what point does an athlete say no?

As weight-cut culture continues to grow, the increasing number of athletes resorting to physical harm in order to make weight is not only normalized, but praised within the sports community. During my time as a powerlifter, I have heard locker-room horror stories of coaches buying students laxatives, glorifying eating disorders and unjustly punishing athletes who were unlucky enough to miss weight by even the slightest fraction of a pound.

As teenagers, we are highly susceptible to internalizing the beliefs we are exposed to, whether good or bad. Young athletes, told often of the virtues of rapid weight fluctuation, start to believe that the harm they are causing their bodies is just another inconvenience they have to overcome rather than a potentially life-threatening compulsion.

We are minors. This isn’t the Olympics, it’s high-school competition. The only thing at stake here is a cheap, bulk-produced aluminum medal that will eventually end up collecting dust in a grandmother’s moldy basement—well, that and our health. The detrimental impacts of weight-cut culture—immune system deterioration, development of unhealthy habits, and life-long trauma—far outweigh any momentary competitive advantage.

That boy spitting ounces of saliva into a jug on meet day deserves better. That girl sticking two fingers down her throat because she accidentally forgot she couldn’t have breakfast deserves better. My teammates, my competitors, and I deserve better.

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Get The Police Out Of Schools

Opinion art by AbedAbednego Togas

By Vanessa Zepeda

Chicago, Ill.

There is a consensus among students of color that we must act more “normal”—meaning white—when we’re around student resource officers (SROs) compared to our white counterparts. We wonder: Will they consider us suspects due to our differing features? Will our efforts to capture a white society’s concept of normalcy be enough as we scurry past?

“Why are you afraid of the police?” supporters of SROs ask, bewildered. But bewilderment is the child of ignorance. The question suggests apathy, ignorance, and disregard for students who have faced encounters with the brutality of SROs.

To ask such a question in a time of an uprising against systems of oppression requires the ability to turn away from something others have been forced to face their entire lives—it requires privilege. It’s easy to get entangled in a rose-colored world, oblivious to the way our fears heighten around SROs, because this obliviousness is not a new problem.

To understand why the SRO system disproportionately impacts students of color, we must address its origins. According to the ACLU, SROs first appeared in the wake of school desegregation, after “white community members argued that … a lack of discipline among Black children would bring disorder to white schools.” After the Columbine school shooting, more schools began to assign SROs in hopes of preventing similar tragedies. However, police in schools became concentrated in low-income neighborhoods of color, letting minority students face higher rates of punishment.

Police provide protection, but they are not the protectors of minorities. They protect the systems that harm us. Schools where SROs enforce zero-tolerance policies criminalize trivial behaviors, pushing students towards the school-to-prison pipeline.

Who are the children most impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline? Students with learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect. As low-income neighborhoods of color continue to use SROs, schools rely more on police. In a way, student resource officers become walking gateways to the pipeline as schools begin to give up on students.

Supporters of SRO programs often bring up a fear of school shootings to justify police presence in schools. However, there is no substantial research that proves SROs improve the safety of schools. What the data have shown is the disproportionate impact of SROs on students of color.

Safety does not come from armed individuals working for a historically racist system. If you believe that, re-evaluate what you perceive as safety. I can assure you that safety for you does not mean safety for all.

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How Racism Leads To Anime’s Stigma

photo-1581833971358-2c8b550f87b3Credit: Tim Mossholder

By Crystyna Barnes

Elm City, N.C.

Have you ever heard of anime?” asked a student at the front of the class. My teacher looked at the kid, confused. “It’s like those weird cartoons from Japan or something,” the student added. “Don’t watch them. They’re really gross and weird.”

The students, and even the teacher himself, laughed. I sat in the back of the class beside my friend, a fellow fan of anime. We slowly turned to look at each other, puzzled. The last anime I’d watched was about a middle school boy rediscovering his love for piano. What’s so gross about that?

Cartoons are a staple of most childhoods. No one bats an eye when asked about their favorite Disney film. Why is it any different when the content originates in a foreign country? The watered-down reasoning is that it’s simply racism. But the bigger culprit is social conditioning that teaches us to think of something outside of the norm as “weird.”

What people don’t know is that they’ve probably already consumed western content inspired by anime. Ever watch “Avatar: The Last Airbender”? “Powerpuff Girls”? “Teen Titans”? All of these childhood favorites took notes from anime: exaggerated facial expressions, big eyes and mouths, and a color- ful palette for character designs. We’ve been enjoying cartoons based on anime all along.

Whenever I’ve asked someone why they don’t like anime, the answer is short: “It’s weird” or “I just don’t get it.” I have even heard people say that anime all seem per- verted. I don’t necessarily believe that the average person who says these things is outright racist, but continued anti-Asian stigma and a lack of edu- cation contribute to this pointless opposition. If all someone hears about anime is that it’s strange and distasteful, a cycle of indoctrination has been created where no one questions or denies this out of fear of being viewed as weird as well.

In the scheme of things, the only noticeable difference between the cartoons we know and love and anime is the place of origin. Anime is not just one genre or one style. Just like cartoons, there is one out there for everyone.

If we want to end the stereotypes around Asian culture, change starts with the individual. Go on Netflix, find an anime with a plot that piques your interest, and start watching it. Suggest it to friends. Normalizing content that is viewed as abnormal will only create more open-minded people and more shows and movies to enjoy.

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Area Stores Stock Expired Food, Drugs

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Expired products were found at seven different area stores, including the above-pictured Family Dollar in Trenton. Photo credit: Brian Rokus

This story was reported by the staff of The Princeton Summer Journal and written by Emily Barrera Cedeno, Jasmyn Bednar, Justin Fajar, and Angela Nguyen.

Children’s ibuprofen. Pepto Bismol. Contraceptive sponges.

These are just a few of the expired products found in an investigation by reporters of The Princeton Summer Journal on the shelves of New Jersey’s pharmacies and convenience stores.

There were 41 expired products found among seven different stores—Walgreens, CVS, 7-Eleven, Tropical Supermarket, Family Dollar, Rite Aid, and Colonial Farms.

Eleven items were found at a New Brunswick Walgreens, including baby food, allergy medicine, and cold and flu medication. Ten were found at the Tropical Supermarket in North Brunswick, and nine at a neighboring North Brunswick CVS. A handful were found at Trenton’s Colonial Farms and Family Dollar, and a 7-Eleven and a Rite Aid in New Brunswick. The oldest expired product, a bottle of liquid Dial Soap found at Colonial Farms grocery store, expired in December 2017.

A majority of the products were three months past their expiration date, with two products over six months expired and three products over a year old. The products include aspirin, glucose testing strips, and baby food, which expired in April, May, and June 2019, respectively. Out of 41 items, 19 were medicinal, 17 were food products, and five were hygiene products.

Expiration dates are sometimes disregarded by consumers, who believe that they can still consume goods past the recommended date. According to an article on the FDA website, “expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.” For instance, expired glucose testing strips like the ones found at a North Brunswick CVS may lead to inaccurate readings, which could be detrimental to diabetics.

The FDA began to require expiration dates on all medication in 1979. According to their site, “drug expiration dates reflect the time period during which the product is known to remain stable, which means it retains its strength, quality, and purity when it is stored.” However, the government does not regulate expiration dates within the food industry, with the exception of infant formula.

Many of the stores were located in low-income areas, where residents rely on local stores and don’t always have other options available.

The concept of people not having choices in the stores they shop at is called a food desert, which is defined by the USDA as “an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.” New Jersey has food deserts, which contributes to food insecurity among residents, but it also has problems with a lack of medications. The number of stores selling expired products in New Jersey only adds to the problem of food and medicine insecurity. Notably, a few stores selected for the investigation in Trenton had closed in the previous year.

It’s important to note that the large majority of products investigated were unexpired. At one CVS in Trenton, no expired goods were found—the manager said they restock the shelves every Friday. All of these stores have a large inventory with a proportionally small staff, and products may slip through checks every so often. This does not necessarily speak to gross negligence across the board in these corporations, but rather can speak to human error.

According to the CDC, in the United States 76 million people a year get sick from the food they eat. When food expires, the nutrients they provide start to degrade—not to mention the fact that eating expired food can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Eating expired food can expose people to harmful bacteria such as E. coli.

At each store, managers declined to give a comment directly to reporters. When the owner of Colonial Farms was confronted about the expired products found in his store, reporters from this paper were asked to leave.

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Reporters from the Summer Journal found expired aspirin at a Rite Aid in New Brunswick. Photo credit: Alberto Lopez

When reached, Christopher Savarese, the director of public relations for Rite Aid, said, “We take this kind of incident very seriously, as we do the health and welfare of our customers. While we believe this to be an isolated case, this is totally unacceptable to Rite Aid. We have very strict policies, procedures and training in place to prevent outdated products on our shelves.” He added, “Our local management will be visiting the store, and we are using this as an opportunity to retrain our associates, to ensure that everyone understands our policies and procedures.”

Randy Guiler, a vice president for Family Dollar, replied with a similar statement, “We have store procedures to routinely check sell-by dates and to remove items from our shelves that have surpassed those dates. If instances occur where an item has been identified that surpassed its sell-by date, we immediately re-check the products in our store and reinforce these procedures with our store associates.”

CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Tropical Supermarket, and Colonial Farms did not respond to requests for comment.

The legal fights over expired products in the region have gone on for well over a decade. In October 2006, Rite Aid faced a civil suit in New Jersey for selling expired non-prescription medicine and baby food, which was settled for $650,000. The following year, the state pursued a civil suit against Duane Reade, a regional pharmacy chain, for similar reasons. It was settled for $175,000. In Pennsylvania, CVS settled a suit for $450,000 due to expired products.

These stores have significantly improved from last year’s findings, in which reporters for The Princeton Summer Journal found 75 expired products in 12 stores. The initial 2008 investigation found 191 expired products in seven stores.

The following stores had expired products: 7-Eleven, 358 George St., New Brunswick; Colonial Farms, 137 E. State St., Trenton; CVS, 949 Livingston Ave., North Brunswick; Family Dollar, 117 E. State St., Trenton; Rite Aid, 366 George Street, New Brunswick; Tropical Supermarket, 959 Livingston Ave., North Brunswick; Walgreens, 20 Jersey Ave., New Brunswick.

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Local Youth Undecided Among Dem Candidates

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Photo illustration by SJP staff

By Audry Themen

Jersey City, N.J.

On a recent afternoon, reporters from The Princeton Summer Journal scoured the town for opinions on the current 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Though the youth interviewed had varied opinions on which candidates appealed to them, many of the students also had a limited understanding of the candidates’ proposals.

Sophia, a rising senior from Bordentown, N.J., felt that Bernie Sanders was a promising candidate, citing his policies on free college and “Medicare for all” as compelling factors for her support. She likened Sanders to Trump in the sense that he “backed up his words with actions,” though she did not elaborate on the instances where Trump substantiated his words with policy.

Lauren, a rising senior from New Brunswick, New Jersey, also had Sanders as her candidate of choice. As an environmentally conscious democratic socialist, Sanders’ progressive policies, specifically his climate change proposals, appealed to her immensely. Lauren cited Joe Biden as her second choice based on his accomplishments as vice president under the Obama administration.

Grace Hutapea, a 16-year-old from Guam, liked Elizabeth Warren. As a citizen of an island territory, she advocated for action on climate change, especially since the coral reefs surrounding Guam are heavily impacted by global warming. Grace also believed that Biden would be a good presidential candidate because of his history, noting that in terms of political experience, he has a “strong foot in the door.”

Not every teenager advocated for a progressive candidate, however. Friends Shikar, Dean, and Siji, moderate Democrats from Texas, believed that Sanders was “too extreme” and impractical. “We can’t ‘Feel the Bern,’” Dean, a 16-year-old from Houston, said. He claimed that Bernie’s “Medicare for all” policies are “not feasible” and would take “too much time and legislation” to implement.

Siji, a Houstonian, admitted that he did not follow politics too closely, but he does favor Biden. “I just think he’s a fun guy,” Siji said. “I like him as a person.”

When asked which candidate has the best chance of winning the primaries, the three students agreed that the state of affairs were not settled. “All candidates, even the lower-tier candidates, have a shot,” Shikar said.

The other two boys agreed. “It’s really anyone’s game right now,” Dean added.

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Local Princeton Residents Remain Unsure of 2020 Election Stance

By Jarlem Lopez Morel and JC Villon

New York, N.Y. and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Two sets of Democratic debates and countless candidate interviews have sought to clarify the candidates’ stances on various issues. Yet some Princeton residents interviewed this month said they are still unsure what the 2020 hopefuls believe and what their policies and plans are. Jason Green, 42, who is “very interested” in following the campaign, said voters are not “receiving authenticity from the Democratic candidates.”

Cynthia Medley, 24, said she’s still waiting to find out “what the candidates are really about,” adding that she wasn’t following the race very closely. “Nobody is completely wrong on anything,” she said.

The theatrics seen on all four nights of Democratic debates led some Princeton viewers to feel indifferent regarding the candidates’ policies. Residents said the contenders focused too much on attacking the other candidates rather than discussing their own plans.

Annemarie Porter, 58, followed the debates attentively. The candidates, she said, failed to stand out and provide the Democrats with a “strong enough candidate to beat [President Donald] Trump.”

Many residents said they believe that, because the candidates were aiming to capture independent votes, they were not proposing extreme policy positions. However, independent voters, such as Porter and Medley, said a candidate who can beat Trump is as important as a candidate who represents their beliefs.

The August debates, which drew more than 10 million viewers, did little to change the position of frontrunner Joe Biden. The poll numbers of the candidates below him, however, did fluctuate.

Biden is still at 32 percent in the Aug. 6 Quinnipiac University poll, with Elizabeth Warren at 21 percent (an increase of six points from before the debate) and Bernie Sanders at 14 percent. Kamala Harris’ approval rating, which after the first debate surged to 13 percent, fell to seven percent in the poll.

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Princeton Residents Weigh in on 2020 Election

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Several local residents were skeptical that a Democratic challenger will be able to defeat President Trump. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the White House

By Rabeya Sultana

Bronx, N.Y.

Sam knows who he’s voting for in 2020—anyone but President Trump.

“Trump doesn’t have anything in his head,” the 48-year-old Princeton resident said. “He cut taxes from us even though he himself doesn’t pay taxes, and most importantly he is racist.”

Sam’s views are similar to those of several Princeton residents interviewed this month by The Princeton Summer Journal. Tom Goursen, 69, is unsure which of the many Democratic Party candidates should get his vote in the upcoming presidential election. But even though he’s voted for several Republican presidents, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, he won’t be supporting the incumbent. “[Trump] is not capable,” he said. “I would rather vote [for] you than him.”

Many feel Joe Biden is the best option for the Democrats. For example, 45-year-old Add Henderson said, “Joe Biden is more electable, I like his points.” Patrick, a Democrat, echoed Henderson: “Joe Biden is a better candidate to defeat Trump,” he said. But, he said, any of the Democratic candidates would be more capable than Trump as president.

Additionally, residents think it is more important to defeat Trump than to choose between the particular candidates. Jimmy, a 64-year-old who lives in Trenton, said, it “doesn’t matter who is elected, as long as it’s someone who does their job, because Trump is not doing his job. He is just taking all the credit for what Obama did.”

Not only are residents dissatisfied with Trump’s job performance, they are also outraged at Trump’s morality. “He is evil,” Patrick said. “I do not like him.”

Despite the majority of respondents hoping to vote for a Democratic candidate to defeat Trump, however, some Democrats still doubt if someone from their party can defeat him. Mostly, though, Princetonians seem to believe the United States deserves a better president—not a president like Donald Trump.

 

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Zwicker Seeks Third Term in State House

 

By Jhoana Flores 

Queens, N.Y.

The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 raised alarm over whether he is qualified for the position because he was a businessman with no political background. However, other elected officials also have no political experience.

New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, a Democrat who represents the state’s 16th legislative district, said at a press conference that he once believed that he was not qualified for a political position because he is a scientist who works at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Lab. But as a second-term assemblyman, he is advocating for more diversity of background in politics.

Zwicker said his scientific background helps him in his job in the legislature. As for Trump’s lack of experience, he said he prefers that candidates for the highest office in the land have more of a political background.

Still, he doesn’t advocate limiting the field. “Anyone who wants to run for president should run for president,” he said.

The issue of qualifications for public office can be complicated. What makes someone qualified? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, for instance, also had no political experience and worked as a waitress before becoming a congresswoman.

Should political experience be a qualification? Should that qualification only apply to those running for president? If yes, why should different political positions be weighted differently, since local politicians also impact our communities?

In Zwicker’s case, his voters don’t seem to mind his lack of political practice, as he’s won two elections. Now he’s campaigning for a third term after four years in the legislature, but he’s still learning on the job.

“I am not qualified,” Zwicker said with a smile. “I’m making it up as I go…I’m doing my best.”

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A Lab Report On Princeton’s Ph.D. Assemblyman

By Kesia Oliveros

Doral, Fla.

OBJECTIVE:
To find the results of the election of a representative with a doctorate degree in physics and a career as a physicist to the highly energetic environment of the state legislature as well as to determine the effectiveness of experimentation in this environment.

THEORY:
If one elects a scientist to office then his proposed bills will be evidence-based, effective and conscious of long-term solutions.

PROCEDURE:
1. Inspire a lifelong advocate for science and education to run for elected office to champion unlimited clean energy, deterring global warming, and curing cancer.
2. Win the first election by a margin of 78 votes with bipartisan support.
3. Support declared goals of job growth and environmental protection with bills that:
• Require Rutgers University to study gun violence.
• Incentivize veterans to attend college and demand that they receive credit for their service.
• Provide grants for new farmers to implement sustainable agricultural practices as well as providing tax incentives to those who lease land to new farmers.
• Require New Jersey to uphold the Paris climate agreement.
• Add student representatives to the board of Rutgers University.
• Encourage planning for the location of electric car chargers.
• Provide a loan forgiveness plan for STEM professionals.
• Make the bog turtle the state reptile of New Jersey.

CONCLUSIONS:
The election of a pragmatist with a solution-based mindset that aims to improve the community’s future welfare is what the people wanted when they elected Andrew Zwicker in 2015. Charming and charismatic, Zwicker is down to earth and willing to admit that like the rest of his voters he’s “making it up as I go,” at least when it comes to his new life in politics.

It is a different type of trust that he gains from his supporters. Maybe every policy won’t be successful, but by experimenting in the legislature, he’s aiming to improve his district.

FUTURE EXPERIMENTS INCLUDE:
Engineers for Secretaries of Defense, data scientists for governors and chemists for senators.

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Residents Confront Gentrification

By Sabrin Sultana

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Shirley Satterfield’s family has been living in Princeton for six generations. She was born in Philadelphia but was raised in Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. After college, she moved away, and when she came back in 1981, everything had changed.

Satterfield said she felt like “African Americans were not recognized in the community” for their hard work, and she worried that Princeton was “losing its history.” Outsiders started coming to this neighborhood, which forced African Americans to leave Witherspoon- Jackson for areas they could afford to live in.

Satterfield has created a tour for the Historical Society of Princeton to memorialize the neighborhood and the town’s extensive African American history. During the Great Migration, African Americans moved from the Deep South looking for jobs. They settled near the University, but much of that neighborhood was later demolished to make way for Palmer Square, a collection of high-end restaurants and shops.

African American Princetonians then moved to the Witherspoon- Jackson neighborhood. Witherspoon-Jackson included Princeton’s first integrated lower school, the “Colored Cemetery” where prominent African Americans are buried, and Miss Vann’s Ice Cream Parlor, one of many businesses run out of private homes.

Eventually, however, prices in the neighborhood began to rise. Now many properties cost as much as $1 million — far beyond what many families can afford.

Satterfield said she “wants the town’s history to stay forever.” But historical houses are either being renovated or knocked down in favor of more modern structures. In the meantime, the high prices are forcing people out.

Sharon “Nini” Campbell’s family has lived in Princeton since the 1930s. “People who grew up here can’t afford it,” she said. Campbell, 70, lives in a one-bedroom affordable housing unit in the Waxwood building, which used to be Princeton’s first integrated lower school.

Witherspoon-Jackson was too expensive for Debora Lapointe, who spoke to a reporter at a park in the neighborhood. So was every other area near the University. The 44-year-old had little choice but to live in Griggs Farm, a low-income community in Princeton.

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Area Programs Aim To Address Child-Care Crisis

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A teacher reads to children at the Princeton Nursery School. Photo courtesy of Princeton Nursery School

By Amoni Hinton

Essex, Md.

On Leigh Avenue, in between the aging homes, housing construction sites, and un-level sidewalks, you stumble upon a two-story home that has more to it than meets the eye. As you walk up the faded yellow wooden steps, you enter into a land of opportunity for the next generation. Located in the John Witherspoon community—once the heart of the African American population in Princeton—is the Princeton Nursery School.

The school, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, is a resource for low-income families in need of daycare. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, children between the ages of 2 and a half to 5 years old are fed breakfast, lunch, and a snack.

Executive director Rosanda Wong has been leading the school for two years. During that time, she saved the nursery from possibly closing down, started a program that provides each child with hygiene necessities called Bubbles and Brushes, and began a program that allows students to take home meals for the weekends called Send Hunger Packing.

Wong continues to raise money to renovate the roof and playground and for any other possible needs for the children and the school. Wong said that even though all of the staff at the nursery are underpaid, they love their jobs. Their mission is to provide an exceptional preschool education and childcare for low-income families.

Not far from the Princeton Nursery School is another building that houses opportunities for young children. Head east on Leigh Avenue to Clay Street, and you’ll find the Henry Pannell Learning Center, which is supported and run by the YMCA’s Princeton Young Achievers Program.

The center provides after-school homework assistance, tutoring, and literacy support for children from kindergarten to 5th grade. Pannell prepares students for the next day in the classroom and gives them skills to expand their resources.

“All of the parents are thankful from the beginning,” said Leigh Zink, who has been working with the YMCA for 12 years and has tremendous experience dealing with children in low-income neighborhoods.

Running non-profit organizations like these are not for the faint of heart. They have to fight and go above and beyond in ways they never imagined. Even for families receiving assistance, parents need to work long hours, and children walk around in tattered clothing. The kids can suffer from depression and bullying.

“The more you can give them,” said Zink, “the more successful they can be.”

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Local Nursery School Provides Relief to Low-income Families in Princeton

By Diana Padron 

McAllen, Texas

There are two worlds in Princeton. Walk out of the front gates of the University, and you are transported to a land rich with booming businesses, beautiful late-Victorian buildings, and clean-cut grass. High-end bookstores, a small independent theater, and quirky gift shops dot the downtown strip. No one can deny it: Princeton is the perfect place to raise your children.

However, in every community, there are pockets of people who live outside the majority. Walk farther from campus, and the landscape changes before your eyes. Suddenly, dignified white pillars become decaying columns with chipped paint. Plastic lawn chairs and broken flower pots litter the porches of the modest white houses that line the streets. The neighborhood radiates a warm familiarity, as if saying, “It’s not paradise, but it’s home.”

Rosanda Wong tends to the children of the other Princeton. She is the executive director of the Princeton Nursery School, a daycare center for minority and low-income children. The average cost of tuition to a child-care center is around $1,500 a month. The nursery serves countless struggling families, 95 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Wong provides aid to these families when no one else will.

Cost of tuition is based on a sliding scale that considers all aspects of every family’s living situation. Wong and her staff help prepare children for public school by teaching kids in both English and Spanish, incorporating the sciences into everyday learning, and practicing real-life skills such as gardening, among other activities.

Wong helps kids outside the classroom, too. Programs like Send Hunger Packing and Bubbles and Brushes provide students with food and personal hygiene products over the weekend when parents have trouble making ends meet. She once even bought shoes for a girl whose only pair were wrapped in duct tape. For parents who can’t afford tuition, Wong created the Angel Fund, a program that connects parents to “angel donors” who are ready to hear families’ stories and help with their cause. For three to six months, the Angel Fund covers the child’s tuition.

“They’re doing everything right,” Wong said of the families helped by the Angel Fund. She understands that sometimes life deals people a bad hand.

Without Wong, the children of Princeton’s working class would be greatly affected by steep child-care costs. She may not be an angel straight from heaven, but she comes pretty close.

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Princeton Organizations Combat the Rising Cost of Child-care

By Daniela Bolanos

Miami, Fla.

Finger paintings, pictures of smiling kids, and a colorfully decorated reception area greets anyone walking into the Princeton Nursery School, which serves mostly low-income families. Its house-like architecture and gray carpeting creates a sort of coziness. Inside a classroom is a young girl who is crying. The teacher eagerly goes to her side and asks what’s wrong. The girl looks down and a teardrop falls on her duct-tape covered shoes. Her parents had wrapped her old shoes in duct tape to keep them from falling apart. Her mom’s work hours had recently been cut and they couldn’t afford to buy their daughter a new pair of shoes.

This story—recounted to a group of reporters recently by Rosanda Wong, the school’s executive director— provides a glimpse into the lives of Princeton’s low-income community. While many see Princeton through a lens of affluence and status, the town separates two different communities through an invisible ivy-covered wall of socioeconomic status. On the one side, you have the wealthiest of the wealthiest who drive Porsches; on the complete other side, you have kids who are wearing shoes that are only being held together by old pieces of duct tape.

Wong—the kids call her Ms. Rose—understands the child-care crisis in Princeton, and she has made impressive efforts to do something about it. But she isn’t the only one. There is also the work of the Henry Pannell Learning Center, which partners with the Princeton YMCA to run an after-school program for low-income students called Princeton Young Achievers.

Leigh Zink, the Youth Development and Outreach Director at the Princeton YMCA, puts the challenge this way: “Cost of daycare is killer.” It is a silent killer, one that infiltrates homes and suffocates them until they have nothing left to give.

Princeton Nursery School and Princeton Young Achievers are making progress in addressing this problem, but they still face challenges of understaffing and funding. The institutions rely heavily on grants and donations to stay up and running. Most parents of Princeton Young Achievers only have to pay $20 a month for their children to participate in the afterschool program. Wong said Princeton Nursery School fundraises up to $250,000 per year for scholarships. As a result, the minimum the parents have to pay for the students at the daycare is $20 per month, but even this is negotiable. Wong is very generous about waiving a fee for a struggling family. She is able to do so by reaching out to companies such as Mercedes-Benz and persuading them with pictures and stories of adorable little kids with the biggest dimples and warmest smiles. Who can resist that?

Yet even with the significant amount of money that they raise, there are still issues, such as a lack of special education teachers in the facility. “I cannot afford it,” Wong said. In general, they are understaffed and depend mostly on volunteers.

These problems don’t stand in the way of providing quality education to the children of low-income neighborhoods. In a way, “their enrichment programs are sometimes better,” said Zink, with a chuckle. The kids at Pannell can learn about STEM and coding. Westminster Choir College helps the students host two performances a year; the kids also have “Art Fridays,” where local artists come in and teach them art. These children, unlike the ones who go to traditional after-school programs that cost upwards of $300 a month, often do not have the chance to join a sports club or take private art classes, so PYA’s enrichment programs are meant to fill in the gaps, Zink explained.

Similarly, the Princeton Nursery School has “a very strict curriculum,” said Wong. It not only sticks to the HighScope Preschool Curriculum of New Jersey, but also incorporates a stronger science curriculum. The school even started a gardening program where kids can take home the plants they grow. It doesn’t always take a whole lot of money and resources to provide a child with an extraordinary education, but instead it takes a whole lot of heart.

Wong and Zink have been able to make a difference in the lives of these children. They are giving them the confidence they need to take on the world. Regardless of all the obstacles these kids face, getting an education isn’t one of them. It is because of people like Zink and Wong that even students whose families struggle to afford shoes will see a brighter tomorrow.

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Police Work To Build Trust With Local Community

By Stacey Coleen Lubag

Las Vegas, Nev.

Some cops are in it for the thrill of the chase, but Lt. Johnathan Bucchere believes police also need to meet the emotional needs of their communities by acting as counselors, therapists, and social workers as needed. The almost 20-year-veteran of the Princeton Police Department urges officers to be “well-rounded” and promotes trustworthy, kind policing throughout the ranks.

Bucchere’s passion for law enforcement was born during his college years. As the younger brother of two, he found himself looking up to his siblings so much that, when his brother made the sudden switch from coaching basketball to serving as a New Jersey state trooper, Bucchere went in a similar direction. But he didn’t follow his brother to the state’s highways. Instead, he sought to help a community by joining the Princeton Police Department.

“I realized that criminal justice would be a good avenue [for me],” he said. “I learned a lot about the profession by watching my brother.”

Bucchere lit up when asked how he ensures a strong bond between the people and law enforcement. “The patrol division is required to do one community policing project per squad a year,” he explained. “At first we did Coffee with a Cop, but [then] we had to think outside the box.” Officers have bagged groceries on Senior Citizen Day, and recently the department hosted a “Bats and Badges” event, where officers brought hamburgers and hot dogs to the Princeton Little League, serving as coaches and helping the team. “Nobody was in uniform, but we were still representing the department,” he said. “It was unbelievable. That’s how you get external legitimacy, where the community values and trusts you.”

Bucchere is cheerful and outgoing, but even he can be frustrated by citizens who take their anger out on him after receiving tickets. His boss, police chief Nick Sutter, advised him to stay pleasant and polite in those situations, and Bucchere tries to put on a straight face and let incidents pass.

Bucchere said the department also tries to assist marginalized parts of the community, like undocumented residents. Princeton is a “welcoming community,” he said, and police do not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I think the community trusts us,” he said, “because we give them a reason to.”

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Missing Teach for America

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Teach for America co-founder Wendy Kopp defends the value of the program. Photo credit: Sebastian Derungs

By Samanta Gonzalez Castro

Houston, Texas

A young, enthusiastic teacher stood in the middle of my seventh grade classroom, looking ready for whatever we threw at him. The teacher, a corps member with Teach for America (TFA), injected enthusiasm and liveliness into my class.

The image of a teacher has completely changed within the YES Prep Brays Oaks campus—my middle and high school— since 2016, when the Houston Independent School District ended its contract with TFA. The district cited, “among other reasons, its teachers’ relatively low retention rate,” according to an article in ProPublica. Education Dive wrote that “90 percent of TFA teachers reported they did not plan to stay in education long-term.” These criticisms are at the core of disputes over TFA and its role in educational systems.

Yet TFA leaders defend their system as bringing “academically able” but “nontraditional” teachers to the classroom. Anna Almore, a managing director for TFA in South Dakota, said the program’s goals include “bringing people who may not have typically, or traditionally, thought of themselves as a teacher” to the profession. They help corps members transition from college to teaching with a “rigorous five to six weeks” of extensive training, Almore said, where they learn “the art of teaching” with the goal of “equity.” Wendy Kopp, the co-founder and CEO of TFA, wrote that encountering low-qualified teachers motivated her to search for potential educators from non-traditional backgrounds who excel academically.

This plan has transformed American classrooms. A 2013 study by Emily K. Penner found that “students of TFA secondary math teachers outperformed students in comparison classrooms in 11 districts in eight states.” These conflicting views of Teach for America are what has made it a controversial organization. “No teacher is ready,” Almore says of her experience in South Dakota, both admitting their short preparation period and pointing out the complexity of the task at hand. TFA, in contrast to other programs, is “there during the process,” Almore adds. It’s that dedication that has made the TFA teachers’ absence so pronounced now that they’ve left YES Prep Brays Oaks.

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Cops Prioritize Outreach

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The Princeton Police Department has prioritized community engagement. Photo Credit: Brian Rokus

By Farinna Izquierdo 

Hialeah, FLA.

Lt. Johnathan Bucchere wears a gun in his holster, a weapon that often makes people feel threatened. But in an interview with The Princeton Summer Journal this week, Bucchere was anything but threatening: He sported a small smile and a fresh sunburn around the bridge of his nose.

Bucchere said that increasing the number of positive interactions the Princeton Police Department has with the community is a priority. They focus on reaching out to residents and establishing relationships with those around them, ensuring the safety of their fellow residents while also being shoulders to lean on.

Bucchere, who has been with the department for two decades, said the department has made progress since he started. When he was a young officer, the department was less connected with residents. “We’ve made adjustments to how we do things,” he said. “The community trusts us because we’ve given them reasons to. We’ve grown a lot in the last several years.”

A Princeton native, Bucchere detailed how one of the main priorities of the police department is to try and build trust among the people they serve. Aside from typical police work, each of the department’s four squads carries out a community project every year. One of these projects was “Coffee with a Cop,” where officers drank coffee with residents. Although this project was a great start, it wasn’t sufficient. Officers felt as if they were only meeting people rather than establishing true connections with them. They decided to put additional efforts into deeper engagement.

One day, off-duty officers bagged groceries for older shoppers. They brought burgers and hot dogs and served them for a local Little League game. The department also paid for a pool night for Princeton residents, complete with an officer dunk tank. At all of these events, officers presented themselves not as law enforcement, but as members of the community.

Police officers come into contact with many people on a daily basis. These experiences can often be negative—even if it’s just issuing a traffic ticket. Bucchere doesn’t want all of those interactions to be bad ones. “It’s critical that you police with a guardian mentality and rehabilitate those encounters,” says Bucchere, “so that it’s a positive experience.”

ICE raids and police brutality have given officers a bad reputation and ignited fear and resentment toward them. According to Bucchere, police brutality is not an issue in Princeton. While police face criticism on front-page head- lines, Bucchere reminds residents that a corrupt minority does not represent them all. Rather, the Princeton Police tries to live up to a sign hanging in their headquarters. It reads: “Police like a champion today.”

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New Eviction Lab Closes Data Gap For Policymakers

By Sarah Wang

San Gabriel, Calif.

I could hear the distinct rumble of Baba’s construction truck approaching. He came home every day with cuts from glass, calluses on his hands and an aching back, but he always greeted me with a warm smile.

When my father moved to America, he didn’t know any English, so he worked as a laborer. It didn’t pay much, so we frequently moved around.

One day, as Baba washed the rice for steaming, I finally asked the question I’ve been wondering for years. “Why do we move so much?”

“That’s just how it is,” Baba said.

My father’s hopelessness is not uncommon. According to collected data from the Princeton University Eviction Lab, displacement and poverty is a way of life for those immersed in the eviction crisis. Joe Fish, a research specialist at the facility, said that between 2000 and 2016, there were 84 million eviction cases in the U.S. That estimate does not take into account the number of evictions left unfiled. “In reality, that number should be higher,” Fish said.

Before the work of the Eviction Lab, estimates like this simply did not exist. Federal and local representatives, journalists, and the general public did not have access to clear data about the crisis occurring in their communities. It takes immense resources and time to sort out documents that provide valid evidence of the issue, Fish said. Due to this, individuals living in these communities endured a cycle where reform was not a priority. No one was aware of how immense the eviction crisis was. “[When] you don’t know, you don’t think about it,” Fish said.

Princeton sociology professor Matthew Desmond founded the Eviction Lab after writing “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” To close the knowledge gap, the team analyzed millions of eviction records and published the first-ever nationwide dataset of evictions. Their findings showed that there is a direct relationship between poverty and housing. Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean eviction causes poverty. The housing system in America keeps low-income individuals in unstable economic conditions. This can eventually lead to their eviction because they are no longer able to afford rent.

The Eviction Lab’s work extends beyond providing the public with information. “Most everything we do is an attempt to sway policy,” Fish said. On a grassroots level, Fish emphasized the need for communities to start pressuring local officials with the facts. Now that Americans have tangible evidence, representatives must listen. “[We need to] protect what we have and push for what we don’t,” he said. “It’s about holding power accountable.”

Ultimately, uplifting those in poverty is like a construction site. The Eviction Lab holds the nail and hammer, restructuring broken communities one fact at a time.

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Princeton Mayor Discusses Keeping the Peace

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Before becoming Princeton’s mayor, Liz Lempert was an environmental journalist at National Public Radio. (Princeton Summer Journal File Photo)

By Sergio Reyes Aguilar

Arleta, Calif.

Princeton is a small New Jersey town that is well-known as the home of the prestigious Ivy League university of the same name. It is very peaceful and has very friendly residents—there are always people smiling everywhere, trees all over the place, shops on every corner.

But there was a time when public outrage broke out and the constant peace was shattered. In January, a white supremacist group threatened to hold a rally in Palmer Square. Ultimately, the white supremacists never showed up, and the rally didn’t happen. Even still, it caused concern within the small community.

For the mayor of Princeton, Liz Lempert, it was her toughest moment to date.

“I was very worried the morning of the rally,” Lempert said in a recent interview. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, or if it was in fact going to happen, so I just closed the central part of the town to make sure that everyone remained as safe as possible.”

She said it was important to make Princeton a very diverse and safe space for everyone. “Princeton is such a great community with smart, helpful people and although the town is small, it never gets boring,” she said.

Born in San Mateo, California, Lempert has a degree in history and symbolic systems from Stanford University, as well as a very political background: Her mother and brothers were deeply involved in politics. Despite that, she said she never planned to get into politics herself. Before taking office, she worked as an environmental journalist at National Public Radio, and was recruited to run in 2012.

Princeton is a relatively small town, but it carries so much prestige because of the University and its distinguished reputation. There are tourists, students and local residents who try to peacefully coexist with one another, which has worked so far.

“Princeton is and will always be a work in progress,” said Lempert, whose term expires in 2021. “It’s impossible to get a perfect community in which everyone is happy, but I’m doing my best efforts to get everyone satisfied and to support the local people.”

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In Divisive Climate, Mayor Recalls Threat of White Supremacist Rally

By Francin Vasquez

Brooklyn, N.Y.

The threat slowly forced itself forward, reaching every shadow, every corner, every chest, every heart. It yelled from the sidelines that it would walk inside, take over the streets, and tarnish everything with words of hatred.

It was January 2019, and rumors of a white supremacist rally in Princeton’s Palmer Square began circulating on social media. Flyers were spread in many areas in town and around the University.

In this type of situation, Mayor Liz Lempert’s hands were tied. Under the First Amendment, freedom of speech is protected—even if that speech consists of slurs from white supremacists. As long as there is no threat of violence, no legal action can be taken. “[We] have to make decisions where there are no real answers, and it’s painful,” Lempert recalled in a recent interview.

But neither Lempert nor Princeton were silent about the scheduled white supremacist rally. Shop owners, students, residents—everyone—united to say that they did not believe in those ideologies. 

Princeton’s white supremacist rally did not have a deadly ending. After all, it did not happen. Instead of expected hate signs and racism, the town was filled with love and welcoming. Hundreds of people showed up to protest against the white supremacists, and the white supremacists themselves stayed away.

“Forces from outside are repelled by the community. This is who we are, and there is no space for this speech,” said Lempert. “The people said ‘we don’t want you.’”

 

When one thinks about the name “Princeton,” their first thought might be the prestigious Ivy League university. However, the word Princeton is more than a private school with high expectations for their applicants. Princeton is where people come together to work with each other. By fighting off hatred, the Princeton community showed itself to be strong. By rallying against hatred, Princeton gave us all a reminder of the meaning of America.

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Bucchere Says Communication Is Greatest Asset in Building Trust

By Jimena Molina

Fayetteville, Ga.

Five years have passed since a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed a young African American man named Michael Brown. Brown’s death sparked a movement that exposed the brutality minorities suffer at the hands of the people charged with protecting them. But it also strained the relationship between police and the communities they serve.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to gain trust,” said Lt. Johnathan Bucchere of the Princeton Police Department, who’s been a cop in the area since 1999, in an interview with The Princeton Summer Journal. Communication is one of the department’s greatest assets in counteracting the problem. “We’re an open book,” he said.

The department achieves transparency by learning from past mistakes, he said. Every day when he comes to work, he reviews the previous day’s arrests. If he catches a mistake, he wants to figure out what he can learn from it.

“Our failure to learn from these incidents will lead to our failure” in the future, he said.

Princeton police work to win over the community. That’s done not through arrests, but through positive interactions. The department has regular community nights where residents and cops can talk to one another.

“It started off with coffee with a cop, but it’s expanded,” Bucchere said. “For example, recently officers made hamburgers and hot dogs for a local Little League, and the community loved it—the parents, the kids, the coaches.”

With a smile, Bucchere recalled a sign that hangs above his department door. He sees it every time he reports for duty: “Police like a champion today.” It’s a play on the Notre Dame football team motto.

Bucchere also often tells his officers: “Go out. Be guardians. Be good people.” He wants them to be the kind of officers that the people of the Princeton community can trust.

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‘Green Book’ Overcomes Controversy

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Viggo Mortensen (left) plays Mahershala Ali’s driver as their characters travel through the segregated Deep South in 1962. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

By Michelle Garza

Spring Valley, N.Y.

I went into “Green Book” expecting nothing substantial. While it may have won three Oscars, I was considerably skeptical.

I had closely read the derisive reviews and followed the controversy. The public was not pleased with a film having a white savior complex becoming a three-Oscar winner.

I went into the film with preconceived notions and biases. Nevertheless, I found myself captivated by the development of a complementary relationship between characters who expressed conflicting mentalities.

Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, “Green Book” tells the story of Dr. Donald Shirley, an African American pianist embarking on a Deep South tour. Integration had not yet spread to that region, and he needed a driver for protection.

He hires Tony Lip, an Italian- American cliche who previously worked as a bouncer. The storytelling shone through from the very beginning. At first, I saw the criticisms, with Lip’s racism obvious from the get-go. Great, another racist-that-getsbetter story, I told myself.

However, Shirley’s appearance forced me to give the movie a second look. His grandiose apartment above Carnegie Hall makes him reminiscent of a king. Actor Mahershala Ali projects a royal image. On the other hand, Lip evidently hails from a humble upbringing and his wardrobe is mostly tattered wife-beaters.

The appeal of “Green Book” is rooted in the film’s use of its greatest asset: the uber-talented leads, Viggo Mortensen and Ali. It was a heartwarming experience for me to witness the unexpected friendship develop between their characters. It is their differences that bring them together.

Lip helps Shirley become less wary of new experiences, such as eating a piece of KFC fried chicken. In turn, Shirley helps Lip properly express his feelings for his wife in love letters. Moreover, the storytelling challenged my preconceived notion of Tony being a “white savior.” He is not by any means a savior. Shirley does not need “saving.” Rather, he needs companionship that a genuine person like Lip can provide him with.

The movie is littered with references to Shirley’s loneliness and struggles with alcohol. Despite living in what Lip describes as a “castle,” he lives alone and realized this when Lip invites him to Christmas dinner with his family, solidifying their bond.

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Character’s Evolution On Race Issues Lets ‘Green Book’ Shine

By Jakaylah Redmond

Isola, MISS.

“Green Book” follows the story of Dr. Donald Shirley and Tony Lip. The movie begins with Lip working at the Copacabana nightclub when it closes for renovation, putting Lip out of work. Lip finds creative ways to make money in order to sup- port his family until he gets an interview with Shirley, an African American pianist who is looking for a driver for his tour throughout the Midwest and Deep South. Lip, who is white, refuses to do certain jobs for Shirley and will only agree to be his driver. After Shirley receives approval from Lip’s wife, Dolores, the two begin an eight-week tour. Lip and Shirley don’t get along at first because of Lip’s ignorance and lack of manners. But Lip becomes Shirley’s bodyguard on the tour and helps him out of difficult situations that occur due to racism.

The major strength of “Green Book” lies in how the characters evolve over time. In the beginning of the movie you see how racist Lip is toward black people. His family makes derogatory comments about black people, and so does Lip. When two black men come over to work in his apartment, his wife gives the men a glass of water. Lip sees this and waits until the men and his wife leave to throw the glasses in the garbage. When I watched that scene, I thought he was a very ignorant man and I didn’t like him despite his charm. His racism toward African Americans really bothered me.

But over time, Lip changes. Going on the road with Shirley really alters his view of African Americans. At the end of the movie, you see Lip defending Shirley to his family for the first time by saying, “Don’t talk about him like that,” after someone calls Shirley a derogatory word. His wife smiles and rests her hands on his hand, indicating that she is proud of his growth as a person.

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Pulitzer Prize-Winner Parks Delivers Quirky, Chilling Play

By DayOnna Carson

Chattanooga, Tenn.

Lincoln sighs, hangs up his coat, and removes his face paint and beard. He trades out his dark slacks and top hat for gray sweatpants and a black satin durag. This all may sound strange to an outsider who couldn’t imagine a man named Lincoln wearing a durag—never mind being a black man. However, to the audience seated in Princeton’s Hamilton Murray Theater, this was the beginning of the quirky-yet-chilling “Topdog/Underdog.”

The story follows the plight of two African American brothers trying to make it through life as society and their past continues to work against them. Lincoln, the older brother played by Nathaniel J. Ryan, has a job re-enacting Abraham Lincoln’s assassination over and over again at an arcade that allows its patrons to brandish a gun and roleplay as John Wilkes Booth. His brother, Booth, portrayed by Travis Raeburn, has managed to scrape by with things that he has looted, or in his words, “boosted,” and is always open to any means of earning money.

The mind behind the emotional drama is playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for the play in 2002, making history as the first black woman to receive the honor for a drama.

Throughout the production, a multitude of props and small details symbolize important themes. Parks uses the brothers’ hustle, a fast-paced card game, as an allegory for their destiny: Together, their competition hinders their success, and the only solution is for one of them to come out victorious. These elements, along with the play’s foreshadowing—like the characters’ names—effectively illuminate the systemic inequalities of the black experience.

“What I want people to get out of this story is that black men are in pain and need access to healing,” Ryan, who played Lincoln, said in an interview. “A lot of men don’t have access to mental health [care] or both parents, and on top of that, they are navigating a world in which they are suppressed. The main focus is to show black families that we need to love and rebuild the family.”

Ryan and Raeburn’s dedication to crafting realistic, relatable characters through expressive articulation and lively gestures further added to this astounding narrative. Their portrayal of these characters compels observers to reconsider their preconceived notions of the lives of black Americans. The genuine passion radiating from the cast and crew, coupled with the hardworking technical producers, created a sense of authenticity. Director Lori Elizabeth Parquet and set designer Rakesh Potluri did an excellent job bringing the script to life and immersing the audience in Parks’ universe. Through works of art like “Topdog/Underdog,” we can redefine the black narrative, and better understand the complicated strata behind the unique experience of minorities in America.

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Brave “Topdog” Impresses

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Nathaniel J. Ryan plays Lincoln in the
Summer Theater’s “Topdog/Underdog.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of Princeton Summer Theater

By Bryan Ventura 

New Brunswick, N.J.

Suzan-Lori Parks’ 2001 play, “Topdog/Underdog,” explores the story of two African American brothers in continuous competition with each other, and how tragedy can arise from a shared dark past. Most notably, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002, making Parks the first African American woman to achieve this honor.

In this particular stage adaptation directed by Lori Elizabeth Parquet and presented at Princeton’s Hamilton Murray Theater, Travis Raeburn plays Booth, the younger brother who tries to con people through deceptive card games, though it doesn’t come naturally to him. He houses his older brother, Lincoln, played by Nathaniel J. Ryan, who scams unsuspecting people with an ease Booth could only dream of. But Lincoln has since turned away from his hustler ways, and is now content with his low-paying Abraham Lincoln cosplay gig at the local arcade.

Viewers quickly pick up that the brothers have their problems. Booth rents an apartment in New York City, but sometimes can’t afford to pay the cable, phone, or electricity bills because he isn’t that great of a con man. His ex-girlfriend leaves him because he has no steady source of income, and his loneliness hardens into resentment.

Lincoln wants nothing more to do with the card games that so consumes his brother. He hates reflecting on his time as a con man, and gets angry when Booth brings it up. He screams at Booth, driving up tension and further dividing the two brothers.

The production consists of only two characters, but actors Ryan and Raeburn did them justice. They were exciting and emotional in their delivery, which created a very reactive crowd that laughed at every joke and gasped at every surprise. There was something about the unintentional humor that made the production very fascinating.

It’s supposed to be a serious moment, laden with underlying sibling rivalry, when Lincoln and Booth argue over money and begin to tear down the apartment in their ferocity. Yet the crowd, including myself, was dying of laughter.

A lot is foreshadowed in this play, and mentioning it would ruin the experience for viewers. However, this production provides a story like no other: how ceaseless emotional abuse can quickly turn brotherly love into malice. How, without structural support, those struggling can fall through the cracks. While these brothers, Lincoln and Booth—the topdog and underdog—care deeply for each other, it might not be enough to save them from each other, or the cards they’ve been dealt in life.

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Teach For America Must Work With Teachers

By Jasmyn Bednar

Eagle River, Alaska

To sa y that education is in my DNA is probably an understatement,” says Anna Almore. “It’s literally part of the fabric of my whole universe.” Almore, the managing director for Teach for America (TFA) in South Dakota, spoke recently to a group of reporters from the Princeton Summer Journalism Program.

Almore joined TFA in 2008, teaching fifth and sixth graders in New York; she later worked in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and along the border in El Paso. To Almore and the many TFA alums who continue to work in education, the organization is doing incredibly valuable work. But while it’s true that TFA has plenty of successes to its credit, the organization is also leaving a complicated legacy across the country.

Teach for America was founded in 1990 by Wendy Kopp, who, in a senior thesis at Princeton, stressed the need for increased education initiatives in low-income communities. She launched the program a year after her initial proposal, and its impacts were immediate. Since its founding, the program has served 410,000 students from 51 different regions where access to quality education is historically limited. Most of these regions are classified as “hard to teach” areas, where teacher turnover rates are high, and literacy and mathematical proficiency are low. Almore, like many alums, continues to carry on the work that TFA advocates for—in her case, training upcoming TFA members in rural South Dakota.

Yet as TFA has thrived, teachers’ unions have suffered. In recent decades, the educational reform movement has led to new non-unionized schools, including charter schools, and increased advocacy for education privatization. TFA has been accused multiple times of union busting.

According to the Associated Press and Education Week, the recent strikes in Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Denver are part of this pattern. Education Week reported that more than 300 TFA alums wrote an open letter to the Bay Area chapter of TFA, criticizing it for withholding payment to any member of TFA who joined the Oakland strike. (TFA has said that it doesn’t have a stance on how its members interact with unions.)

Teachers’ unions and Teach for America have gone head to head for years now. Much of the conflict stems from the recent push toward charter schools. TFA’s largest private funder, the Walton Foundation, is a major supporter of charter schools. A ProPublica report found that the foundation promised TFA $4,000 for every public school teacher and $6,000 for every charter school teacher. In 2018, nearly 40 percent of TFA teachers were sent to charter schools, despite the fact that those schools only educate seven percent of students in America.

As the interview with Almore makes clear, TFA is doing no shortage of admirable work. For instance, the organization is helping students on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota to pursue college access, she said. But TFA must figure out how to have a better relationship with teachers’ unions, so that all teachers—both those in TFA and others—can retain protections and turn the focus back to providing the best education possible for students.

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Staff Editorial: Leaving As Different People

Ten days ago, 36 students from all around the United States boarded planes, trains, and cars to come to the Princeton Summer Journalism Program. Leaving our homes behind, we felt a strange mix of excitement and anxiety at what the next 10 days would hold. Looking back at passionate debates, inside jokes, and learning more—and sleeping less—than any reasonable person can squeeze into a week and a half, we have built a home among each other.

PSJP is a unique experience. Students come from states ranging from Alaska to Florida, each bringing a unique story waiting to be heard. Our striking curiosity, love for challenges, and resilience— along with the passion and talent of the staff—transform the classroom into a learning paradise. Journalism is a field built on trust and honor, and that same feeling prevails within everyone in the program. On the first day, we were complete strangers, but we became more than acquaintances or friends—we became a family. A family that will provide each other with the emotional support they need in order to complete the odyssey of college applications. A family that will send each other memes, cat pictures, and gossip in the group chat. A family that will stay strong even if there are hundreds of miles in between them. This program is a treasure that everyone will keep forever.

PSJP is not about where we come from—it’s about giving students the opportunity to learn and thrive. Here, we are not just low-income students: We are writers learning investigative journalism, crime reporting, and topics such as sports and entertainment. We are people who are not afraid to take a stand. At PSJP, we learned to flourish and to not allow societal stereotypes to define or discourage us. From traveling to three states, to talking to strangers on the street, every experience was transformative, and helped us grow stronger. The road to college is stressful, but having a counselor to encourage and guide us makes students feel supported. No matter the obstacle, we will always have our army of counselors rooting for us.

However, not everything about PSJP is sweet. Time management is a huge issue. When the clock hits midnight, students are just walking back to their dorms, carrying with them an aura of exhaustion. There’s not enough time to explore the Princeton campus, meals are too close together, and there’s not enough time to cover every topic. But these are small tradeoffs for the experience of a lifetime.

By the end of the program, students leave as different people. We return to where we came from, but the effects of the relationships we built at Princeton will be everlasting.

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Gen Z Struggles With Anxiety

By Zandrea Evans

San Antonio, Texas

Young people are under so much pressure to surpass their peers. They’re anxious. They’re depressed. You don’t need scientific studies to prove this. The evidence is walking around America’s high schools.

I attend a school with an intensive curriculum. Schools like mine do help prepare students for the challenges of college, such as approaching teachers for help and developing critical thinking skills. However, they cause many students to develop mental health issues at a young age. According to a study by the American Psychological Association in 2018, members of Generation Z (ages 15 to 21) are the generation least likely to describe their mental health as “excellent or very good.”

My peers and I suffer from excessive stress that comes from at least five hours of homework a night—not including studying for tests and quizzes. In 2009, high school seniors took an average of 3.6 more credits than they did in 1990, according to The National Center for Educational Statistics.

On top of that, the pressure for students to score well on standardized tests like the SAT, AP, and ACT exams heightens stress levels. Some students find themselves stuck taking a slew of exams with little time to study. For instance, as a junior, I needed to study for the ACT and three SAT subject tests on top of the homework that came with my five AP classes. Because of the pressure high school students are constantly under, anxious and depressive statements are common. There are even memes about the prevalence of suicide jokes made by young adults.

This is an issue that should concern schools across the country, many of which are without a designated mental health counselor. The Washington Post recently reported that, in public schools, there is one psychologist for every 1,381 students. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends one for every 500 to 700 students. By not giving students the proper tools to deal with their mental health issues, schools negate their efforts to push students to higher levels of achievement. Mental health problems can hurt students’ grades, relationships, and quality of life.

The mental health of students is of vital importance, not just for their well-being, but for society’s. Today’s overtaxed teenagers will be tomorrow’s leaders.

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Why America Isn’t Great

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Illustration by Francin Vasquez

By Justin Fajar 

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Every day, thousands of people—some forced through social coercion or otherwise—put their hands on their hearts and pledge their allegiance to the United States flag. While some would see this as a beautiful showing of people who love their country, in reality this is an undeserved show of nationalism. The reality is that, while America has some strengths, it isn’t nearly as admirable a country as many of its citizens think it is.

The United States has one of the bloodiest histories in the world, having invaded or fought in dozens of countries around the globe. This would be fine if the U.S. made efforts to acknowledge and try to remedy the damage it has caused. But instead high school history textbooks often skew our country’s history. A prime example of this can be seen in the South, where many textbooks make sure that the Confederacy looks more sympathetic.

Discrimination against minorities is also common, particularly in the education system, including higher education. Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a classics professor at Princeton, recently shared his experience as a “token minority” in higher education and how he has had to deal with “a general aura and practice of exclusion.” He also discussed how bad he felt knowing how few minorities had the same opportunities he did. “It took me a long time to reconcile my place in being here [Princeton] with the fact that with the unluckiest of dice rolls I could have been dead at 24,” he said.

Meanwhile, our democracy is deeply flawed. In the United States it is constantly put into our heads that our votes matter. But if we look closely at the 2016 election we can see that is far from the truth. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a few million, Donald Trump was selected as the president through the Electoral College. The ability to vote is also a huge issue. Voter suppression is a real and ongoing issue, particularly for minority voters. A country cannot call itself a democracy until all voices are heard.

And what about how we spend our money? According to NationalPri- orities.org, a recent budget deal calls for military spending to be 54 percent of federal discretionary expenditures in 2020. Historically, military spending dwarfs the amounts spent on energy, the environment, housing and community. How federal money is spent is a great indicator of what the United States prioritizes—apparently, it values invading countries over helping its citizens.

To be sure, there are a lot worse places to live, and there are positive aspects to this country. People around the world aspire to immigrate here and to live the American Dream. The United States has a Constitution that guarantees many rights. It also has thriving economic sectors, from technology to film to finance. Many people are making efforts to address the problems listed above: Many universities are trying to increase diversity, and reparations for the descendants of slaves are being seriously talked about as a way to rectify what has happened in history.

But Americans often put forward a facade in which we are a perfect country—and that is tragically far from the truth. We as a society have to demand better from our government, so that one day when we stand for our flag, hand on heart, we can truly mean it.

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Building My Confidence, Question By Question

By Savannah Joyner

Barnwell, S.C.

I was burning with embarrassment as I walked the humid streets of New Jersey. It was only my first day at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program, but I still felt disappointed with myself.

My rapid footsteps on the paved sidewalk matched the pace of my heart. My person-on-the-street story about the 2020 election was not going so well. I breathed out.

A good journalist doesn’t give up on the first failure, so I couldn’t give up. I saw another person coming. I tried to speak but the words got caught in my throat. Time and again, I would find the courage to speak, and then I would choke.

My group and I walked to a small park, where I saw a woman with a dog. With a little push from my counselor, I approached.

“Hi, my name is Savannah and I’m a student journalist. Can I ask you a few questions about the 2020 Democratic debates?”

“Yeah, sure.”

My heart leaped with joy. Her dog shared the same emotion, as he jumped on me excitedly.

The woman’s name was Louise and she was 24, a native of Princeton.

“Who are your favorite candidates so far?” I asked.

“I would have to say Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They agree about work, unions, civil liberties, and they know that the current administration is toxic.”

“Who do you think would win the 2020 election?”

“Umm, I’d have to say Bernie.”

My heart was racing but this time in a good way. Success.

As I left the park, I felt my anxiety begin to leave, and in its place, I felt confidence begin to bloom. I began to believe that I could do it. My heart rate slowed. I walked further, ignoring potential interviewees, because I didn’t want to lose this victory.

Eventually I stopped in front of a cute brick restaurant, which was where I met George, a 69-year-old Princeton resident. He said that his favorite candidates were Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Most people associate Elizabeth Warren with Bernie Sanders. I asked him to explain his picks.

“I like how professional Elizabeth Warren is. She has a plan and goes point by point. And I like Kamala because of her experience in government.”

Walking away, I felt the self-doubt creeping back. What if I wrote a terrible article? What if I didn’t do well enough?

When I got back to my dorm, I went to sleep conflicted. I felt success for doing two interviews, but I also felt failure for not doing more.

Three days later, I found myself having to do person-on-the-street reporting again. But this time, the game was different—and the pressure even greater. I would have to walk the streets of New York City and ask its denizens how they felt about their mayor running for president. I felt the same feeling of despair and panic that I had felt on my first day. But I had to get out of my feelings.

In New York, I interviewed five people. Yes, I got rejected a lot but I managed to not let it get to me. I felt different. I felt proud of myself.

The thought of having to do this a third time completely terrifies me, but I have a feeling that I will interview even more people next time.

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Eagles Should Sign ‘Ready’ Kaepernick

By Angela Nguyen

Pennsauken, N.J.

The Eagles’ loss to the Titans in Thursday’s preseason game wasn’t their worst loss of the night: Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld broke his left wrist in the second quarter and could miss the next six weeks. The Eagles need a strong, seasoned backup quarterback. The team would be wise to consider Colin Kaepernick.

Though Kaepernick hasn’t played since 2016, his past performance with the 49ers outshines the Eagles’ current options to back up Wentz. If the Eagles want to win another Super Bowl, signing Kaepernick could provide a much-needed sense of security.

In six years with San Francisco, Kaepernick guided the 49ers to two playoff berths, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2013. He gained notoriety for his running ability, but he was also a good passer, completing 59.8 percent of career attempts and throwing 72 touchdowns, with an 88.9 career passer rating. He led seven comebacks and seven game-winning drives.

Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality, and he has not been signed to any NFL team since. Kaepernick’s demonstration and his continued social activism have drawn critics, including President Trump, but that shouldn’t concern the Eagles. Not afraid of protest themselves, most of the team refused to visit the White House after their Super Bowl title, and defensive back Malcolm Jenkins has raised his fist during the anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick’s cause.

Last week, Kaepernick posted a video showcasing his training, declaring he is “still ready.” Considering his NFL accomplishments, it’s more than clear that he is.

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It’s Time For Journalists To Respect Women’s Soccer

By Alberto Lopez

Mission, Texas

When the U.S. Women’s National Team beat the Netherlands 2-0 in July’s Women’s World Cup final, 16 million Americans tuned in. The white home uniforms the USA wore that day in Lyon, France, became Nike’s top-selling soccer jersey of all time for a single season. Four years earlier, 25 million people watched the U.S. women beat Japan in the 2015 final, a record for a men’s or women’s match. But despite the obvious popularity of the team, the media still treats women’s soccer like a sideshow.

That doesn’t have to be the case. Fans may not be aware, but all 23 players who won the Women’s World Cup play in the National Women’s Soccer League, a collection of nine teams across the country.

But with the exception of Portland Thorns FC, who averaged 16,578 fans in 2018, NWSL teams struggle to draw crowds. Seven teams averaged fewer than 5,000 fans, including New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC, which averaged a league-worst 2,390.

Some journalists cover the women’s game with the enthusiasm it deserves. But far too many sports networks and publications overwhelmingly favor men’s soccer, even covering foreign leagues more than female teams—stacked with star footballers, from both the national team and elsewhere—in the U.S. That includes social media: @ FOXSoccer tweets eight or more times a day about men’s soccer, but the account’s last tweet about women’s soccer was on Aug. 3, during the USWNT’s win over Ireland on their World Cup victory tour.

But there are signs that the media is starting to appreciate the women’s game. The NWSL recently signed a television deal with ESPN to broadcast 14 games. And while those matches will be broadcast on ESPN News or ESPN2 rather than ESPN, it’s a step in the right direction.

After the announcement of the deal, ESPN executive Burke Magnus said, “We are pleased to once again televise the National Women’s Soccer League and showcase many of the world’s top female players when they return to their professional club teams.” It’s long overdue, but it’s a positive sign that ESPN is recognizing the value of pro women’s soccer.

Despite the inadequate coverage, fans are showing more interest in the league. NWSL attendance rose by 70 percent after the Women’s World Cup, according to USA Today, and even long-struggling Sky Blue had to relocate its upcoming match against Reign FC—featuring USWNT star Megan Rapinoe—to Red Bull Arena because of high ticket demand.

But as the World Cup fades from memory, the media needs to continue covering the NWSL. Women don’t just play soccer once every four years—they play every day.

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Tanguay Brings It On As Eagles’ Male Cheerleader

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Kyle Tanguay is the first male cheerleader on the Eagles squad in 35 years. Photo credit: Brian Rokus

By Jacky Huang

Simpsonville, S.C.

Backstage, a line of women in cocktail dresses with asymmetrical hemlines and off-the-shoulder straps waited anxiously, hoping for an announcer to call their number. Some of the 61 hopefuls would make the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles cheerleading squad. Some would not.

“Contestant number 32!” an announcer called out. “Kyle!”

A man in a black suit ran onto the stage, beaming, and took a bow. The crowd roared.

Kyle Tanguay had become the first male cheerleader on the Eagles squad in 35 years. As one of a small but elite group of NFL dancers, Tanguay challenges preconceived notions of cheerleading in the macho world of professional football. “All too often, whether it’s cheerleading or not, men that are going into dance often think about how other people are going to receive them,” Tanguay said. “I’m guilty of that, as I get nervous and sometimes think, ‘what if they don’t like me?’”

By all accounts, Philly likes him. A New Jersey native, Tanguay grew up with sports. He was a Boy Scout who played T-ball, hockey, and soccer. None of them stuck. Then he found dance. There was something about the gold floor and mirrors, and the twists and turns of his first jazz class that made him keep going back. He never felt like he was marginalized or outcasted because of his gender.

Later, Tanguay pursued dance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. There, he became a fan of the Eagles after watching them play every Sunday with his friend and her boyfriend. Those two worlds combined on New Year’s Eve last year, when, while waiting for the ball to drop, he took a chance and emailed the Eagles.

They responded. An official told Tanguay they “were open to the idea of men trying out for the squad.” As it turned out, the team had had male dancers in the 1970s and ’80s. The Eagles, the team official said, have “always been inclusive and diverse.”

For weeks, Tanguay practiced with his roommate Rae Holtz, who was also auditioning for the squad. Tanguay and Holtz made it through three rounds of auditions before final cuts. He waited to hear his number called. “I was very nervous. I was shaking. I was very quiet,” Tanguay said.

He made the squad. “The world has never stopped spinning since,” he said, “and it’s been such an honor.”

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It’s Time For Equality In The WNBA

By La’Nisha Richardson

Yazoo City, MISS.

Last Summer, LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. A’ja Wilson, a forward for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, responded to the news on Twitter: “154M… must.be.nice. We over here looking for a M but Lord, let me get back in my lane.”
Have you ever noticed that WNBA players don’t live in big mansions and ride in lavish cars like NBA players? The reason is that they can’t afford it. While 50 percent of NBA revenue goes to player salaries, WNBA players only receive an estimated 22 percent. The minimum starting salary in the NBA is nearly $600,000. In the WNBA: $50,000. Female basketball stars get paid much more overseas.

I’m a point guard on my high school team, which takes dedication and hard work. I can only imagine what it’s like for a WNBA player. I’m sure the top stars wonder why they’re spending so much time practicing to get paid so much less than an NBA benchwarmer.
To be sure, the NBA brings in more money than the WNBA. But the women put in the same amount of training, practice, travel, and time as the men, and should be compensated accordingly. Gender equality starts with income equality. Being a woman shouldn’t determine your pay rate.

WNBA players like Wilson and Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings have spoken out about the pay gap. But it feels like league officials haven’t heard them. They need to give players 50 percent of league revenue and find more marketing opportunities, such as sponsorships and commercials, for them. The league is trying to fix this, but it’s not moving fast enough, and it might take a strike to get equal pay.
And though the NBA’s Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook—as well as LeBron James—have attended games to show support, an NBA player shouldn’t have to show up to get people talking about the WNBA. This is sexism, plain and simple. Everyone should speak out.

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Titans Trounce Eagles, 27-10

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The Tennessee Titans kicked off their 2019 preseason with a resounding victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.  Photo Credit: Brian Rokus

By Ella Wilkerson

Philadelphia, PA.

Walking in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field, or the Linc, as native Philadelphians call it, you could feel the excitement of Eagles fans. Green was in view everywhere. It was just a preseason game be- tween the Eagles and the Tennessee Titans, but Philadelphia fans did not seem to care.
That level of energy from the fans didn’t transfer to the Eagles, who ended up losing their preseason opener 27-10 on Thursday.
With Nate Sudfeld starting at quarterback for the Eagles in place of Carson Wentz, the first quarter was a bit slow. Jake Elliott scored the first points of the game in the first quarter with a 53-yard field goal to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.
But Tennessee soon took control. In the second quarter, tight end MyCole Pruitt caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to give the Titans a lead, though Austin Barnard missed the extra point. The Eagles responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld to Marken Michel, but the Titans reclaimed the lead with Anthony Firkser’s 23-yard touchdown catch. A successful two-point conversion attempt gave Tennessee a 14-10 lead at the half.
Perhaps the most significant moment of the game came right before the quarter ended, when Sudfeld suffered a left wrist injury. The third-year quarterback was expected to take over as Philadelphia’s backup after Nick Foles’ departure this offseason, but he’ll reportedly miss several weeks while he recovers.
The Titans dominated the second half. Eagles fans started to leave during a scoreless third quarter, and two touchdown passes from Titans quarterback Logan Woodside in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
Meanwhile, Cody Kessler and rookie Clayton Thorson struggled at quarterback for Philadelphia. Kessler finished the game with three completions on six attempts, and Thorson completed two passes on nine attempts.
Could this preseason game be a glimpse of Philadelphia’s regular season? No one can say for sure, but Wentz is the starter, and if he stays healthy, they could have a chance to win some games. Otherwise, especially considering Wentz’s injury history, the season is not looking as pretty as 2017, which ended with the Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

Candidate Partly Defends Trump ‘Kung Flu’ Remark

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President Trump’s repeated references to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” have drawn broad political backlash as a racist slur against Asian Americans. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Dana M. Clarke)

By Andrea Plascencia and Lia Opperman

Flower Mound, Tex. and Galloway, N.J.

Alan Swain, a Republican running to represent North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, tore into controversial issues including police brutality and immigration at a press conference with The Princeton Summer Journal.

Swain shared his views: shaming the abuse of power by many officers, such as the ones
who killed George Floyd, and calling for a “complete revamping” of police unions.

Although police unions are typically opposed to reform, he believes that it is necessary in
order to weed out the “bad apples” in the force.

“There needs to be a better process and a reset of what we’re allowing police unions to do,” Swain said.

However, Swain said he was opposed to completely dismantling current forces. “How do you restart a police force? We need the police force, and I, Alan Swain, fully support backing the blue,” Swain said. He advocated for a different tactic to combat police brutality, stating that police unions “should receive additional support and new funding that can be put towards training programs to make them better.”

Swain, who expressed concern about illegal immigration, spoke in opposition to sanctuary cities, chain migration, visa overstays and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“We’re long overdue for immigration reform,” Swain said. “That’s probably the biggest thing … You have to register in this country is all I’m saying.”

Although his philosophy of “trying to help” immigrants lead better lives in America was
a recurring theme, Swain’s position was unclear. At one point, he referenced a plan to dissolve DACA, but soon after voiced his desire to “bring them in [and] put them in the process” of legalization, possibly through the allocation of green cards.

Swain also expressed support for immigration reform. “We shouldn’t have [them] living in the shadows in sanctuary cities,” he said.

Swain added, though, that he was opposed to sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants who don’t “follow federal law.”

Though Swain has never run for office before, he cited his 26 years of experience in the U.S. Army, including his service in leadership roles on the Army Staff and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He also talked about his work in the White House under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as executive officer to the White House Director of National Drug Control Policy.

Swain also expressed the urgency of the return of students to school this fall under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, indicating his dislike for digital learning.

“We’re not getting enough guidance,” Swain said. “Each state gets to decide how they want to [go back]. … Two months ago, [everyone said] ‘Oh, well, we’ll worry about that in the fall.’ [But] we have children starting [school] at the beginning of August here in the state of North Carolina.”

“They’re right around the corner,” Swain said. “We’ve got to do something.”

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By Naziea Fruits, Sarah Furtado, and Kuftu Said

Cleveland, Ohio, Vero Beach, Fla. and Aurora, Colo.

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Army veteran Alan Swain is running to represent North Carolina’s 2nd District in Congress.

Republican congressional candidate Alan Swain—a Japanese American and president of the North Carolina Asian American Coalition—partially defended President Donald Trump’s description of COVID-19 as the “kung flu” and the “Chinese virus” at a press con-
ference with The Princeton Summer Journal.

“We don’t like the fact that he would probably use those kinds of words, but he was just talking about where the origin was,” Swain said. “I’ve actually called it the China flu, too, or the Wuhan flu.”

Trump’s characterization of the virus, the spread of which he blamed on the Chinese government, has been widely condemned as law enforcement and human rights officials report a surge in reports of harassment towards Asian Americans.

“A lot of people went crazy about it,” said Swain, an Army veteran who is running to rep-
resent North Carolina’s 2nd District. “There have been concerns that there could be repercussions against the Asian American community.

Being of Asian descent, I have not seen any around me.”

Swain’s campaign aligns with Trump in other areas, which may make his election an uphill battle in the majority-Democrat district.

In the wide-ranging press conference, Swain also discussed police funding and border control. His stances reflected his self-proclaimed “law and order” ideology. “I, Alan Swain, fully support backing the blue,” he said.

“Everybody wants to defund the police,” he continued. “But Alan Swain’s position is that
I don’t think we need to defund the police; I believe we need to fund it.” Swain said that training police to de-escalate tense and potentially dangerous situations would be more effective than sending social workers to them, as some reformers have suggested.

Swain’s politics on immigration were less reflective of the national party. Swain said he was in favor of helping people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, perhaps by giving them green cards. Otherwise, he generally supported stricter immigration controls, including building a border wall and cracking down on immigrants who have overstayed visas.

“That’s why President Trump says they come over the border and they think they’re coming to a picnic,” Swain said. “If you go to Iran and you overstay a visa, you know
what they do to you—they kill you.”

Griffin Says Schools Should Reopen

By Anne Tchuindje, Myanna Nash, and Daniel Sanchez

Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill. and Boca Raton, Fl.

At a recent press conference with The Princeton Summer Journal, Republican congressional candidate Sheila Griffin spoke to reporters from The Princeton Summer
Journalism Program.

Born and raised in Pinellas County, in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, Griffin became a Republican at age 18. In 2012, Griffin became involved with the Florida Bar’s Executive Committee for Labor and Employment. She found her life’s calling in politics. If she wins the Republican primary, she will face incumbent Charlie Crist, former governor of Florida.

Griffin spoke about some of the most controversial issues of the day: race, the coronavirus, and returning to in-person instruction in public schools.

Challenging students’ questions about systemic racism in America, Griffin—who is Black—instead advocated for a “color-blind” approach to race.

“There’s only one race and that is the human race,” she said, when asked about ways to reduce systemic racism against people of color.

The candidate also dismissed racism’s role in the increased prevalence of COVID-19 among African Americans in the district where she is running. Though Pinellas County
is overwhelmingly white, Black residents account for approximately 17 percent of the reported COVID-19 cases in the county.

Griffin attributed this to the recent increase in testing in Black communities. “When COVID first hit Pinellas County, it was in all-white neighborhoods. Right now, most of the testing is done in African American neighborhoods,” she said.

Passionate about education, Griffin spent considerable time talking about coronavirus-related school closures. “Elementary schools should never have closed in the first place,”
said Griffin, adding that “there simply isn’t enough science that proves that younger children could be affected by the virus.”

Although health officials are still researching how children are impacted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that children can indeed become infected
and spread the virus.

With summer slowly coming to an end, school officials are now struggling to find a safe way to reopen schools and hold classes in person. Griffin said not reopening schools will do more harm than good, but that parents should be able to make their own decisions.

“It should be up to the parents, not local officials, to decide whether their child goes back to school or not,” she said. “Parents know their child best.”

Griffin Says Pandemic Response Overblown

By Aigner Settles and Brianne LaBare

Pennsauken, N.J. and Orlando, FL.

As new COVID-19 cases in Florida topped 10,000 per day, 13th District congressional candidate Sheila Griffin argued in a press conference with The Princeton Summer
Journal that her state’s response to the pandemic has been overblown.

Despite the increase in coronavirus cases in her state, Griffin—one of five candidates competing for a spot on the ballot against incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist—told reporters she believes that schools should be reopened immediately.

“When you start saying that somehow or another there’s no transmission or
likelihood [of catching the virus] for those who are under the age of 12, then I
don’t understand why we even closed the schools,” Griffin said.

Griffin argued that school closures will affect underprivileged youth who don’t have access to the technology needed for remote learning. “The big impediment will not
be for those children who already have what they need,” she said. “The impediment will be for all the children who will be left behind because they do not [have the resources necessary to succeed].”

Current plans in Griffin’s district provide varying options for families. “Most of our communities here have three choices. Their children can work totally online. Their children can come to school for two days and still work online. Or they can come full-time. Those are parental decisions that are being [put] up by the school board,” she said.

Griffin also emphasized the importance of parents having the final say regarding their child’s education, despite the increasing number of cases and guidance from public health experts to keep schools closed. “I never transfer responsibility that belongs to parents to anyone in government unless the parents are abusive,” she said.

Palzewicz Rejects ‘Defunding’ Police

By Paola Ruiz and Kwanza Prince

East Boston, Mass. and New York, N.Y.

At a recent press conference, Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Tom Palzewicz said he does not believe in “defunding the police,” but instead supports what he called “investment and reinvestment” to other social services.

“I think a lot of the dollars need to be moved from our policing system and reinvested into our mental health and a whole bunch of other areas,” he said.

Palzewicz, who is running to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin’s 5th District, said police are too often called to treat issues they are not trained to address. “The way I describe this is: Our police force shouldn’t have to be
the one that gets called for everything that happens in our society,” he said.

One in four deaths that result from police encounters are individuals with mental health conditions, according to a report from the Treatment Advocacy Center. If funds were in-
vested in programs well-versed in these issues, he said, that would provide callers with an alternative to the police, and the fatality rate would decrease.

Palzewicz, a Navy veteran, ran against and lost to longtime Rep. Sensenbrenner in 2018 with only 38 percent of the vote. With Sensenbrenner retiring, Palzewicz has a clearer path to office, though the district is reliably red.

In an effort not to alienate more conservative members of his district, Palzewicz objects to the terminology “defunding the police,” saying, “it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.” Yet his strategy of “reinvestment” sounds similar to most calls for defunding, in that he would move money spent on police activities to other government services while stripping police departments of their military-grade weapons.

“I think mental health is a huge issue in this country that has absolutely no dollars dedicated to it,” Palzewicz said.

“In Wisconsin, we spend more money on prisons than on education, and that tells you about where our priorities are, and our priorities need to change on that,” he added.

Biden’s Advantage: He’s Not Trump

bidenFormer Vice President Joe Biden has failed to draw sustained excitement among younger voters. (Photo credit: Adam Fagen)

By Perla Duran and Crystyna Barnes

Newark, N.J. and Elm City, N.C.

Joe Biden may have a young person problem.

In recent interviews, four teenagers from the Princeton Summer Journalism Program said they don’t approve of the presumptive Democratic nominee’s policies, especially his resistance to universal health care. They were disturbed by allegations that he inappropriately touched women or made them feel uncomfortable. They felt that he wasn’t reliable or modern enough, but said they would vote for him despite these
reservations.

Anne Tchuindje lives in Washington, D.C., and Alyssa Ultreras in Oakland, California. Both are 17. In deciding whom to support, they said, a candidate’s authenticity is the most important factor. Alexa Figueroa, 17, of Brentwood, Maryland, and Stephanie Garcia, 16, of New York City, agreed, adding that they’re not confident that Biden will uphold the policies he claims to support.

For example, Biden said he wants to pay educators more and modernize schools. About this, Ultreras wondered: “Is everything you’re emphasizing really going to happen?”

They also feared Biden was cynically trying to reach a specific demographic: people of color. Tchuindje mentioned a recent interview on the popular radio show “The Breakfast
Club,” in which Biden said, “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or
Trump, then you ain’t Black.”

To Ultreras, this attitude is exactly what Biden needs to work on. In a society where people of color face a lot of backlash, she said, “he knows that voters are in a tough position, especially Democrats, where [he’s] your only option. Therefore, like, you’re going to have to pick [him] because you don’t want Trump.”

Biden is making Black people feel either obligated to vote for him, Ultreras explained, or guilty if they don’t.

When asked what other candidates they liked, three students named Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, who dropped out of the race in April. They said he was a candidate they could rely on to uphold the promises he had
made, as illustrated by his past activism: marching for civil rights in the 1960s and getting arrested for protesting discrimination against Black people in the Chicago school system. The teens also mentioned Sanders’ unwavering support for a government-run “Medicare for all” system.

“I’m disappointed that it got to the point where we have to pick between the lesser of two evils,” Tchuindje said. But she and Ultreras said Biden’s election would halt the current administration’s harmful health care and environmental policies. In that sense, they said, not voting for Biden would be negligent—even dangerous.

Eviction Crisis Looms For Millions Unable To Afford Rent

By Yeabsira Moges

Silver Spring, MD.

V never anticipated that she would be unable to find work after her temp job ended. She had been living in a small, cramped apartment in the middle of Trenton, New Jersey,  with her husband and 4-year-old daughter. A recent college graduate and new mother, V had been searching for full-time employment while working temp jobs to be able to pay rent and other bills. When her temp assignment ended, however, she was unable to find another job that would allow her to cover her rent.

“I wasn’t even making the minimum to be able to pull my part of the bills,” she said.  With bills quickly piling up, V, who asked that her full name not be used, was worried about whether she would be able to keep a roof over her head and take care of her daughter. She and her family were eventually evicted from their apartment, resulting in “non-payment and then an eviction.” They had nowhere to go and had to quickly work to
find new housing.

According to census data, roughly 36.6 percent of people in the United States rent their current housing arrangements. A Harvard study from February found that 47.5 percent of renters are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income
toward rent. With the massive job loss as a result of the pandemic, many renters will become unable to pay rent, leading landlords to turn to eviction.

With the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative that as many people as possible stay at home and protect themselves and their families. Yet eviction puts millions of families at risk of being thrown out of their homes. Lawmakers, recognizing the devastating impact of an eviction crisis, included special rent protections and an eviction moratorium on most federally subsidized housing in the coronavirus relief bill that was signed into law in late March. This move, however, only impacts around 28.1 percent to 45.6 percent of renters who meet these criteria and, with the expiration of the relief bill’s provisions in late July, even those covered under the law lost federal protection.

To exacerbate the problem, large corporate landlords, such as The Blackstone Group, pursue evictions so aggressively that the United Nations last year accused the company of “contributing to the global housing crisis.” In gentrifying neighborhoods, evictions are the primary tool used by landlords to push lower-income tenants out in favor of richer ones.

Landlords sometimes intentionally create an uncomfortable living situation for the tenants that they wish to push out. They may start construction projects in the renter’s building, enter the living space without notice, take away services like parking and laundry, or even change the locks while the renter is away.

Eviction carries stigma that can have long-standing negative effects, which is something that landlords exploit. V has lived in buildings where the landlords would tack eviction paperwork on people’s front doors. “I’ll see the paperwork there,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just take it off and tuck it in their mailboxes because I feel like it’s embarrassing.”

Since her last eviction experience, V is doing much better. She is working at a welfare agency, helping struggling families and renters make ends meet. She recently had her second child and is looking to move out of her current apartment and into a better neighborhood.

But because she has an eviction on her record—even though she is currently much more financially stable—she is struggling to find housing in a better area. An eviction can remain on one’s credit report for up to seven years, barring renters access to their preferred neighborhoods. To expedite the removal process of a recorded eviction, one would need to petition the court in the county where the eviction occurred to have it
expunged.