Dear Mama

Rap Lyrics and The Face of Tupac Shakur

Yesterday was the holiday where we celebrate the women in our lives that gave us life, took care of us, and raised us. So today, I want to write a letter to my mother to say thank you for everything my mother has done for me.

Mom,

Tupac Shakur orchestrated a classic song “Dear Mama” that is a homage to the love that he has for his mother. When I listen to this song the lyrics that resonate deeply with me is simply “I love you. I love you. You are appreciated.” These words may be simple, but to me they are the perfect bars over a lovely melody that express just how I feel about you. You have always been a mother to me, and regardless of the situation you have always had my back. As a child you kept me busy while my friends were out running the streets during the summer. You made sure that during my time out of school I had absolutely no idle time. I went to dance classes, art classes, photography classes, SAT classes and whatever else you knew I would benefit from. As a child I struggled with understanding why you would not let me just be free and hang out, but now I get it. By keeping me busy, you kept me out of trouble and gave me a chance to experience the world in a positive way. I may not have understood all the decisions you made in the past, but I do know that you had, and still have good intentions for me. So, I just want to say thank you for everything you have done for me, the sacrifices you have made for me, and the love you continue to give to me.


In closing I want to say:

“And there’s no way I can pay you back. But my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated”

-Tupac Shakur

Love, Cherishe Cumma

Visit Great Destinations While on a Budget

Each semester I venture out into the world to search for great destinations that I can frequent while on a college budget. Below you will find some of the destinations that I still frequent that don’t cost much, and satisfies my need to go out and enjoy the world. Some of these destinations are:

  1.      The Promenade

I was introduced to The Promenade before I started college. At that time, I would just go to The Promenade to sit on the benches and look out at the horizon. As time progressed, The Promenade expanded into what it is today. There is a bridge that lights up at night, which allows you to walk directly to the Dumbo area. Before reaching the Dumbo shopping area there are various stops on the way. There’s a full soccer field, basketball court, restaurant, pool, and a pop up beach in the summer. There are also areas where you can sit on the grass and simply relax. As you continue walking towards the Dumbo area you’ll stumble upon an amazing carousel, that is surrounded by a completely glass building. If for some reason you visit Dumbo and the carousel isn’t up and running, you can still see the beautifully sculpted carousel from the outside. If you continue walking there’s a beach like area where you can sit on rocks and look out into the East river. The view is absolutely amazing.

  1.     Betty Bakery

One day I was walking down Atlantic Avenue and I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful window display. I just had to stop and admire the rare beauty of this little shop. As I entered the bakery, I was greeted warmly by the young lady at the cash register. Every pastry behind the counter looked absolutely delicious, and I was dealing with the horrible predicament of choosing one pastry. The young lady at the cash register was very patient with me until I made my choice. After a few minutes of contemplating, I choose a Lemon Tart with strawberries on top. I took my desert home with me so that I could enjoy it in the comfort of my own home. The pastry was amazing from start to finish, all the flavors blended perfectly together. I was completely satisfied and I felt that the tart was well worth price.

  1.   Ocean’s 8 at Brownstone Billiards

The first time I entered this pool hall I immediately felt cool, calm and collected. There’s a really mellow feel to the place, and the staff is really friendly and accommodating. Each group that comes in to play pool is charged by the hour. There’s also a student discount that all students are eligible for, as long as they have their college id card. Inside the pool hall, there are at least 20-30 pool tables that are equally spaced. In the back area of the pool hall, there are various arcade games like table hockey, ping pong, basketball, and a mini bowling alley. The menu has a variety of finger food, including boneless wings, french fries, and for veggie lovers there’s a few healthy options.  At times, I would go to the pool hall and watch the old timers play pool, with hopes of picking up on some of their talent. Throughout the past few years I would make random stops at the pool hall, to clear my mind and enjoy a relaxing game of pool.

  1.     Happy Days Diner

This little dinner is hidden between two larger buildings. During my first semester of college I used to walk right past this place, because I barely noticed it. One day a group of my friends stopped here for a late night snack. The staff was extremely friendly, and our orders were taken immediately. The food was delicious, and the menu ranged from classical breakfasts to fancy pastas. There was also a Belgian waffle on the menu that came topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and sprinkles. Everything on the menu is affordable, and it’s perfect for  a college student’s budget. The restaurant is always packed to the rim, but the service is so quick that there’s always an empty table awaiting the next customer. I’ve visited this restaurant on numerous occasions and every meal that I’ve had has been amazing. I’ve been a faithful customer for about 3 years, and I’d recommend this place to anyone who is interested in great food for a great price.

  1.    Brooklyn Crab

Brooklyn Crab is one of the most exciting restaurants I’ve ever been to. This restaurant is definitely for seafood lovers, because the menu has a variety of  shellfish. I personally always get crab legs, with the bread crumb and parsley covered mac and cheese. Just like the restaurant I mentioned before, the food is always extremely tasty. This restaurant not only has great food, but it has a pool table, and a complete mini golf course on the lower level.  I usually play a game of competitive mini golf so I can work up an appetite. After a victorious, or not so victorious game, I celebrate by having dinner, and sometimes one of their mouthwatering desserts. This is actually one of my favorite restaurants to go to in the summer because you can sit outside and look out at the horizon.

The establishments above may differ in price, but they all are great spots to frequent, especially during the summer time. As students we deserve to treat ourselves, so take a break and check these establishments out. I promise you they are worth your time.

Now that I have mentioned some affordable restaurants that are great for students to frequent, let me know if you have any suggestions in the comment box below. As college students we are all looking to get the best experiences for the best price possible. So help us all out and  let us know about the great restaurants or chill spots in the area.

 

Winning an Award at The 2018 Literary Arts Festival

Girl holding certificate and SmilingOn April 12th, 2018 I received an email from Professor Lucas Kwong informing me that I won First Place in the Michele Forsten Advocacy Category for my paper “The Price of Gentrification: Who Pays?” I was ecstatic when I read the news that my paper had been chosen, and that I was going to receive an award. Immediately I called my loved ones and my mentors to tell them about this major accomplishment in my life. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself because this paper “The Price Of Gentrification: Who Pays?” caused a lot of controversy in my life. What I mean by this is that I had a lot of people tell me that discussing this topic was going to cause too much uproar. People also told me that my words were too harsh, and that I should try and soften my words so the message I was trying to convey wouldn’t offend people. For weeks I faced backlash from various people who were not only against my views, but who also were against me speaking out on this topic. However, I didn’t let these people stop me from saying what I had to say, and because I spoke my truth I was awarded an honor for a paper that I wrote while being nearly on the brink of tears.

This paper was a work of art that came from the depths of my soul. As I typed the words, I allowed myself to express my pain in the only way I knew how, with hopes that people who were and still are experiencing the same thing as me,  could gain some comfort. I understood that I could potentially offend many people, and possibly make some people uncomfortable, but it was a risk I was willing to take. So I went up against many people, and in the end it was all worth it when I walked on to the stage in the Atrium Amphitheatre and accepted my award in front of people like my Mother , Father Professor Jospeh Jeyaraj, Professor Jason Ellis, and The Buzz’s own Professor Jill Belli.

In that moment I felt as though my hard work paid off, and I was grateful for those people who supported me through the process of writing about the current struggle I was going through with seeing how the neighborhood I once knew had drastically changed.In the end I realized that in life you will face many obstacles when it comes to speaking about topics that may cause the majority to cringe. However, the best part about writing this piece on gentrification was not only the award, but the positive feedback I received from people who said they were going through the same thing. After reading my piece many people shared with me how difficult the process of gentrification has been for them, and many of them were glad to hear my side of the story. 

Winning this award at The Literary Arts Festival was a blessing for me because it showed me that my words resonated deeply with other people. People heard and they understood me and to me that was valuable recognition.

Now that I have told you about the struggle I faced to tell my story, and how my struggle turned into triumph, tell me your story.

Have you ever experienced a struggle that was difficult to overcome, but in the end everything worked out in your favor? If so, let me know in the comment box below.

Watching Seeds Blossom Into Flowers

As a child growing up in Brooklyn, I’ve always been very loving and willing to open up to others unconditionally. As I got older and my life evolved I’ve tried to hold on to the people I held dear to me as much as possible. I know that anything could happen in the blink of any eye, and I do not want any regrets. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into years, and I began to see all the people around me grow. As they grew, I noticed how much their progress in life resembled flowers, and how beautiful their success looked to me.

Each time that I spoke with someone who was doing well for themselves, I felt overwhelmed with joy. To see people work diligently towards a goal, and try their hardest to make their dreams come true makes me feel warm inside. This warmth that I feel is genuine happiness to see other people in my life aspire to be great, and do what’s necessary to achieve greatness.

Often times people go through life with the “crabs in a barrel” mindset. For those of you who may not be familiar with this phrase, it basically means that people will try to  hinder the success of others attempting to get ahead, in order to better themselves, or if they aren’t talented enough to attain the same goals as others. If this definition doesn’t resonate with you think of a time where you visited the seafood section of a grocery store. Do you remember seeing the live crabs in a wooden barrel that is left open for customers to pick and choose form? Have you ever noticed how the crabs climb and step all over each other in attempt to get to the top of the barrel and get out. If so, then you have a visual representation of what  this mindset actually means. In retrospect,this mindset is in no way shape or form a part of my personal values or beliefs. In all actuality, I’ve always wanted to help people around me as much as I can. I believe that we as people should help others, just as we were helped into the positions that we are all currently in. I believe it’s only right to keep the trend going.

In retrospect, as I look back on my life I can see how much people in my life have helped me to get to the position that I am currently in. Now that I have a platform or a position where I can help others, I would like to introduce you to a young man named Christopher Jordan Livingston. Chris J as he likes to be called is a 14 year old young man, who is a wordsmith, or as many people say today, an aspiring rapper. He uses his passion for music, along with his words and his voice to personify his experience and create art. I see him as a visionary, just like how people in my past saw me as a visionary. So I have decided to share his art with you through this soundcloud link, with hopes that I can help him get closer to his dream just like how so many people have helped me.

When I was a seed I had people who gave me the proper nutrients such as water, support and food for the soul so that I could be successful.  Now that I have blossomed into a flower I can help someone else do the same. We are all seeds that require different nutrients to grow. However, the main nutrient that we all need to grow and blossom into flowers is support. So my goal is to support others just like I have been supported, and how people close to me continue to support me. In doing so I hope to aid someone on their path of success so they can in turn help someone else and keep the cycle of success going. In the past I’ve heard the saying “Hate Begets Hate”, and I’ve seen how hate can turn a person with promise bitter. So, I put positivity out into the world so that my positivity can beget more positivity and the people around me can grow, and blossom into whatever they want to be.

I know that life can difficult at times but having positive people in your life can drastically change your outlook on life. Now that I have told you about the way that I hope to help others achieve their goal, can you tell me about a time when you were helped or when you helped someone be great?

Believe In Yourself Like Sisyphus Believes in Himself

A man pushing a boulder up a hill

Retrieved from The Myth of Sisyphus

“As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it, and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward the lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain. It is during that return that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.”                                       

Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”

A few years ago I was introduced to the story of Sisyphus, a man who had been cursed by the Gods to roll a boulder up a hill repeatedly, only for the boulder to roll back down once it reached the top of the hill. Sisyphus received this punishment because he used his wit and tactics if deceit to cheat death. His punishment seemed absolutely tedious and although simple sounding very cruel. Can you imagine the struggle he faced daily trying to complete this one task over and over, and then after completing the task having to do it all over again? It may seem like a farfetched idea but in all actuality we are all living the same life as Sisyphus, we just may not be fully conscious of it.

Have you ever heard the saying “Get up and get the ball rolling”,referring to getting out of your morning slumber and preparing for the day? See, every day we repeat the same routine of waking up, getting ready to start our day, going out to complete our daily activities  and then going home to sleep. Then we repeat the same routine the next day. Every day we “get the ball rolling” and then once the day is over we let the ball roll back down the hill so that we can rest and prepare ourselves physically and mentally to complete the same tasks again the next day.

I know that Sisyphus’s plight may seem tedious, but can you see the similarities between his life and ours? Can you see that although his life seems pointless, the only way he could continue to stay active is to keep rolling the boulder up the hill? Imagine if he were to give up. He would not only be showing the Gods that he isn’t strong minded, but he would be losing out on valuable exercise,  become depressed, and he would forget his purpose. Without purpose he would sit around all day, sulking about his life, and give up on himself and his dreams to be released from his punishment. However, by continuing to push himself to keep up with his daily routine, Sisyphus will:

  1.       Learn new, less time consuming and more efficient ways to push the boulder          up the hill.
  2.       Have a purpose.
  3.       Exercise daily which will keep him healthy and help him sleep at night.
  4.       Show the Gods or the people who seek to keep in a stagnant position that he        can overcome any task thrown at him.

Sisyphus believed in himself when he was forced into a position where his life became as whats Lemony Snicket would call “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. He worked hard and pushed himself to do what he needed to do each day regardless of his circumstances. Do you see the message I’m trying to convey in this short analysis of Sisyphus’s life?

What I’m trying to say is that if Sisyphus believed in himself even when the odds were against him, then you should do the same. In life there will be many difficult people, and many different tasks that will try to get you down, much like the boulder. However, you have to be able to channel your inner Sisyphus and push away, and push past all that negative energy that is trying to hold you down.   Forget your insecurities, stop doubting yourself, and know that you are capable of accomplishing anything you put your mind to.

Life is difficult for everyone in one way or another, but the only way to work through your problems is to wake up every day and get the ball rolling. Wake up, work hard, play hard, but most of all believe in yourself. Every so often we get in our own heads, and downplay our promise by not believing in ourselves. Don’t hinder your success by downplaying your ability to be amazing.  Go out each day, live life to the fullest and most of all believe in yourself like Sisyphus continued to believe in himself.

Now that I have talked about Sisyphus, tell me is anything in life weighing you down? What are your personal struggles? How do you manage to keep the ball rolling in your life?

Friends: The Company You Keep

Over the spring break I began to break down certain personal situations in my life, so that I could analyze and understand who I am. During this analysis I realized that as a young woman, I am currently in a really good place in my life. Most people think that a person’s success can be attributed solely to their personal drive and work ethic. However, what people often overlook is the fact that a person is also heavily influenced by the company they keep, and the environment they have grown in.

Throughout my 24 years on earth, I have had many friends and people who I looked up to with hopes they would be great role models. As I matured and became aware of my individual preferences for my life I saw that certain people weren’t positive influences on my life.  I also noticed that my involvement with certain friends, boyfriends and acquaintances were actually causing me to stray from my path. So, in college I decided to let go of negative relationships, and I also made a big step and deleted all of my social media accounts. My reason for taking these steps in my life were to disconnect from people, so that I could focus on myself and the aspects of life that mattered to me such as my family, my academic career and people who really love me.

After taking the initiative to remove outside influences from my daily life, I began to notice that so many opportunities began to come my way. As I lost my instagram followers, and lost contact with friends, I gained more academic opportunities. Not only did I begin to get into really amazing academic programs, I also began to build bonds with people who had positive impacts on my life. I found mentors in my school who provided me with paying jobs, wrote letters of recommendations for me, and who supported me through all of my ventures no matter how small. Through these mentors I met other people at universities like The Graduate Center who have also all supported me. Each of the mentors that I encountered provided opportunities for me to enhance my resume, as well as affording me some life changing experiences.

Since becoming affiliated with the people that became my mentors, I realized how much of a positive impact they have had on my life. Each of these people opened up their lives to me, and showed me how positive influences can increase the success rate of people they invest time into. While reminiscing on the past events in my life, I realized how true that saying  “Be Careful of The Company You Keep” really is. Once I decided to let go unhealthy relationships, focus on myself and only associate with people who were positive/ supportive my life began to drastically change.

In life you must be careful of the company you keep, who you love and who you call a friend. From my own personal experience sometimes the people closest to you are capable of bringing you down the most. What I mean by this is that, not everyone is going to want to see you win, some people are what you call haters. If they aren’t where they need to be in their lives , then they will try to hinder your success by any means necessary.

My purpose for writing this blog is to let you readers know that as you grow, you will lose many relationships and that’s okay. Some people are only meant to be in your life for a season, to teach you a lesson and then to leave you. I want you to understand that in life you will meet all kinds of people who will impact your life in various ways. However, you must be able to see people for who they are and make the conscious decisions on whether or not you want them in your life. It only takes one negative person or one negative influence to make you stray from your path. Make sure that you know what kind of company you keep because they are not only a reflection of you, but they can also seriously alter your life and prevent you from achieving your goals.

Now that I have talked about the effect that negative people, and negative influences can have on your life tell me about your experience. Have you encountered negative people in your life? How did your involvement with these people impact your life? What did you learn from your involvement with this people?

Advisement Isn’t Always Great Advice

woman sitting on top of a mountain

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “Women for Wakanda”, where I discussed how the Dora Milaje , a group of fearless women, that protected Wakanda, the throne of the Black Panther as well as themselves. These women stayed loyal to their personal beliefs, and their purpose no matter who stood in their way, or questioned their abilities. After writing this post I thought back to a time where I had to stay true to my personal beliefs, after getting some advice that made me feel uncomfortable and a bit discouraged. This moment in my life, where I questioned my ability occurred during my first few semesters of college.

When I first started college I wanted to become a Radiologist because I thought it would be the perfect field for me. I worked as hard as I could to get good grades to be accepted into the program, but I realized after numerous conversations with my mentor, and family members that the program just wasn’t for me. However, before I came to this recollection on my own I had an advisement session with a Professor in Fall, 2013. This professor took one look at my GPA and said to me you “should consider transferring to another University or Hospital” if  I wanted to continue in the major. Although I had almost completed all of my prerequisites for the program he advised me to either change my major or transfer out to another college entirely. As he continued to advise me, I was so upset that I made an appointment to be advised and I was given the advice to leave a major that I wanted to be in so bad.

Can you imagine dreaming to join a profession and then having those dreams crushed by someone who tells you, you can’t do it? Well, let me be the one to tell you that the feeling is horrible in the moment, and it will be one of the moments where you feel insides turn, and your heart will drop a bit. However, the positive part of this advisement session is that I learned, that sometimes in life you can’t let other people dictate how you should plan your path to success.  I also learned in that moment that the negative experience I had during my advisement session was just a minor setback for a major comeback. I realized that in my own time, and at my own pace I would figure out where I was supposed to be and what major would be a suitable fit for me.

After that advisement session, I didn’t immediately change my major. Rather, I discussed the issues that I was having with my family , and then my mentor at the time, and they informed me about a few majors that may be more suitable to my skill set. After researching the majors she provided to me, I finally stumbled upon the Professional and Technical Writing major. After reading the degree requirements for the major, and the coursework I would have to complete I decided that I would try this major out. Since entering this major I have never been happier with the required coursework, as well as the professors I interacted with. Not only have I learned an abundant amount of information from my professors, but I also have great advisers.

Since joining this program, all of my advisement sessions left me feeling excited, full of pride and most of all supported by the faculty in my school. Unlike advisement that I have had in the past, the advice that I have received since becoming a part of this program has encouraged me to do my best, and made me feel as though the professor I was conversing with actually cared about my future. Each adviser that I spoke with took a significant amount of time out of their busy schedule to spend time with me. They went over my degreeworks with me, and they asked me about my goals and aspirations for the future. They also spoke to me in an inviting tone that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or like they were rushing to get me out of their office. Our conversations may have been brief, but they were enlightening and they helped push me to do the best that I could each and every semester.

I think that a major issue I have with the advisement process is the way that some advisers convey their personal opinions about a student’s academic success. As students we are still looking for guidance, and we can be very impressionable. Advisers are our map that helps us navigate through the difficult world of academia. If we as students receive advice that negatively impacts our confidence, there is a possibility that those words can potentially be very harmful to our work ethic and our interest in school. I know that professors are busy, and advisement adds an extra load to the work they have to complete but I do wish that the quality of advisement could be amazing throughout all majors, regardless of a student’s success rate.

If I could suggest some basic improvements for the advisement process, they would be:

  1.     Advisers should smile more often and seem interested in the student in front of them even if the student’s GPA isn’t up to standard.
  2.     Advisers should provide more options for struggling students rather than telling them they should consider other majors or other schools.
  3.      Advisers shouldn’t express the negative thoughts or opinions they have about a student’s academic career, and if they do, they should present their ideas in a manner that is appropriate and befitting the situation.
  4.     Lastly, advisers should have empathy, and consider how difficult life might be if they were in the students shoes they are currently advising. This suggestion is really important in my opinion because in life it’s not always about what you say, but how you say it. In my experience an advisement appointment can turn into a catastrophic event really quickly depending on the advisers attitude, and the way that they convey the information to the student they are advising.

My reason for bringing this experience to your attention is to let you know that I have faced adversity in my life and I surpassed it. I know that it may be difficult to move past negative feedback, or criticism because words hurt. However, people’s personal opinions, no matter what position they hold do not define who you are, and what you are capable of. I left that advisement meeting feeling negatively about myself and my promise. However, if I had listened to the adviser and left the college to change programs, I would never had found out that I’m really passionate about writing. If I had listened to what my adviser at the time said I may not have taken courses that afforded me the opportunity to get my essay published in City Tech Writer and to win a prize at The Literary Arts festival. I also may not have become a member of The Futures Initiative Program and The CUNY Pipeline Program, which have been pivotal in my success as an academic.

My decision to stay in New York City College of Technology and struggle to find my promise, helped me discover my passion. What I’m really trying to say in this essay is you can listen to the advice that people give you, but you don’t have to follow what they say. There are a lot of people in the world who will tell you how they feel, and what they feel you should do with your life. You have to know for yourself what you want, and if their advice benefits you. Don’t let people say things to you that will make you stray from your path. Follow your own mind, and remember not all advisement is actually applicable advice.

Now that I have shared my story with you, let me know have you ever been in a position where someone told you that you couldn’t do something? How did you feel? How did you handle this situation?

The Price of Gentrification: Who Pays?

As I sit on the three train riding to Brooklyn, I always reminisce on the days when my neighborhood was a familiar place to me. I know you may be thinking “How does a neighborhood that you have lived in for 24 years become unfamiliar to you?” My answer would be that my neighborhood started to change when moving to Brooklyn became the “new, hip and popular” thing to do. Over the past five years, as a result of gentrification, the people who live in my neighborhood have started to disappear into a sea of new and unfamiliar white faces. As the invasive nature of gentrification began to impact people and businesses in my neighborhood, the world that I knew as a child began to change. If you aren’t familiar with the term Gentrification, you should know that the word “gentry” is a homage to white civility and respectability. Gentry can be defined as “people of good social position, specifically (in the UK) the class of people next below the nobility in position and birth.” Stacey Sutton defines the term gentrification in her 2014 Tedx New York Talk “What we don’t understand about gentrification” “ as a process in which higher income or higher status people relocate to or invest in low income urban neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have historically been disinvested by both the public and private sector and as higher income people move to these areas, it’s typically to capitalize on the low property value. In doing so they inflate property values, displace low income people and fundamentally alter the culture and the character of the neighborhood.” I choose this definition because it addresses the real impact of gentrification, and how it can alter the culture of a community rather than the economic standpoints that people mostly focus on.

The real issue with Gentrification is that if it continues at its current pace it shows a strong resemblance to negative housing practices in the past. For example in the early 1900s practices such as Redlining, were adopted in order to place limitations on the housing that people of African descent could attain, and to specifically keep all-white neighborhoods segregated. According to Blackpast.org, redlining, which was “institutionalized by the 1937 U.S. Housing Act ” can be defined as “a discriminatory pattern of disinvestment and obstructive lending practices that act as an impediment to home ownership among African Americans and other people of color. Banks used the concept to deny loans to homeowners and would-be homeowners who lived in these neighborhoods. This in turn resulted in neighborhood economic decline and the withholding of services or their provision, at an exceptionally high cost.” What this means is that people of African descent weren’t permitted, or were prevented, from taking out loans from banks so that they could move into decent neighborhoods, regardless of their income. The practice of Redlining was ultimately used to keep races separate at the expense of people of African descent who could afford to live in prominent neighborhoods. Now, the current process of gentrification is increasing property taxes as well as the prices of rent, and as a result of this, once again people of African descent who cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for rent every month are being displaced.

My neighborhood has always been filled with people of African descent. However, as the people changed, so did the culture of the neighborhood. Local restaurants and businesses where I used to eat and support regularly began to shut down. My neighborhood was no longer full of kids playing outside until the street lights came on. Block parties stopped happening, the food in the bodegas started to change, but most of all, the brightly colored neighborhood I once live in became pale, and gloomy to me. No one was sitting out on the front steps during the summer, the ice cream trucks seemed to stop coming around, and as gentrification increased, all of the original residents began paying for the change they were unable to prevent.

The familiar friendly faces that I once waved to in the morning as I went to school began to drift away as the new faces forcefully, but smoothly took their place. Building by building, apartment by apartment, person by person, the block that was once filled with owners of African descent whose kids I played with as a child, became foreign to me. As new residents moved in, the older residents who couldn’t sustain living in an area where the rent began steadily increasing had to move. My home of Crown Heights, Brooklyn went from being a safe haven where I could be around people who I had grew up with, to a neighborhood where people only converse with each other solely to request parking spots.  Over the years I have watched the neighborhood around me change from having bodegas and Caribbean restaurants with my favorite foods to organic supermarkets, Parisian-themed food trucks, and then a Starbucks appeared. My neighborhood has become so gentrified that on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Eastern Parkway, directly next to the train station, there is now a Citi bike stand. This bike stand has become an inconvenience for tenants who have been living in this neighborhood for years because the bike stand takes up almost half a block of parking spaces. Now for people who do not own vehicles, this isn’t a major issue, but for those whom street parking is necessary, this along with the other changes in the neighborhood have become major inconveniences.

Asides from the practice of Redlining that was implemented to prevent much needed improvements in the housing available to African descent, there was also quite a resistance to integrating neighborhoods that were already well established.  This resistance to integrate certain neighborhoods in the early 1900s came from white home owners who stood firmly together in their decision to keep their neighborhoods all-white. I know you may be reading this and saying “What? I don’t believe you, this can’t be true.” On the contrary, According to Mary Sacks’ book Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York Before World War I, in 1889 “white New Yorkers became more strident in their refusal to live in proximity with black people. They pressured landlords to rent exclusively to white tenants, leaving only the dregs of the housing market available to the black population.” The white residents of Harlem were so enraged about the integration of their neighborhoods, Mary Sacks writes, that in 1913 “angry white residents demonstrated less restraint in their opposition to the black “invasion” of Harlem as they desperately sought to defend their neighborhood from the black “enemy.” She went on to say that “they argued that 130th Street ought to be the dividing line between colored and white people.” This resistance continued to increase, and at times, became violent. People of African descent who were actually able to obtain housing in upscale neighborhoods faced constant harassment from their white neighbors. The book also says, “Police officers’ refusal to protect black people from violence left blacks constantly vulnerable to assault, especially from the ethnic white enclaves living in the vicinity.” People of African descent faced many obstacles when trying to integrate fully white neighborhoods, and they were often brutally assaulted or harassed so much that they retreated back to the steadily declining neighborhoods that they originally worked hard to flee from.

A man, woman and child standing in front of a broken window

Retrieved from Ket.org

Now can you imagine the difficulties people of African descent faced to find quality, and affordable neighborhoods to live in? Neighborhoods where they could live in without being forced out based on the color of their skin. These neighborhoods where people of African descent found solace in were areas where they built their lives so that they could feel comfortable around other people who for the most part accepted them, and could identify with them. Now that gentrification has begun, the same race of people who fought so hard to keep people of African descent out of their neighborhoods in the past are now moving to the “hood”. Not only are they moving to the “hood”, they are taking over the community and making it their own. It’s amazing to me how in only a few decades, people who wouldn’t dare to live in my neighborhood have started moving in and walk the streets as though their presence in a non-factor. I’ve noticed the tension between the tenants who originally lived in this community  and the new white tenants, and as you can imagine one day the question was asked.

An older woman in my neighborhood asked a new white tenant in her building “What are you doing here, living with us?” Her response was “We need cheaper rent, and this neighborhood is affordable.” The conversation ended there, but then I don’t think the question was understood. Personally, I don’t think the older woman was literally asking “did you move here because rent is affordable?”; I interpreted her question to be that she was asking “Why after all this time have you decided to move into our neighborhood after we were never allowed into yours?” I’m only speculating here because of course I don’t know exactly what the older lady meant, but I understood the implications of the question that was posed.

Of course there is a lot of resistance from tenants who lived in this neighborhood before gentrification, because the neighborhood that they knew for years is steadily changing. Yes, on one hand, the produce and food choices are improving and the chain businesses in the area are remodeling their stores to accommodate the new tenants. However, according to the article Gentrification in a Brooklyn Neighborhood Forces Residents to Move On by Vivian Yee, the prices of apartments and the property taxes are increasing, and people who live on a fixed income are getting evicted and displaced from the neighborhood they lived in for decades. Can you imagine how devastating it could be to finally find an area to live in where you don’t face discrimination, racial profiling and constant mistreatment by your neighbors for significant amount of time in your lives, to then be pushed out of your apartment for new tenants?   

It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the people living in my neighborhood, and I only hope that some improvements can be made where longtime residents can keep their homes. However, the process has already begun; bike lanes have been implemented onto the side streets and we now have muni meters for hourly parking. These new tenants moving in are populating this area because it’s affordable for them, without considering who’s paying the real cost for them to live here. As the process of mass gentrification seems to be inevitable I do hope that as new people move in, they start to appreciate the culture of the neighborhood their moving into and are respectful of the people who have called the neighborhood home for many years before their arrival. The original tenants are the patriarchs of the community, and it is unethical for newcomers to enter into a community and change it so that conforms to their specific taste.

Now that I have described my personal experience with Gentrification in my neighborhood, tell me your story. What are your thoughts on gentrification? How are you or your family or your friends directly affected? Leave me a comment and let me know how you a currently feeling about this topic.

How To Deal With Annoying Classmates

As a college student, one thing you’ll never be able to get away from is an annoying classmate. Every semester I can guarantee that you’ll have at least one person who is skilled at consistently getting on your nerves, directly or indirectly.

What makes life even worse is when you have a group assignment and you just happen to have that person in your group. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have ended up doing a group project with people who just grind my gears because they don’t do their part! However, I never let my emotions stop me from achieving the ultimate goalwhich is getting an A on all my assignments. In order to do so, I have had to become passive in some situations, and aggressive in others. There are times times I have even had to “check” my group members, so that the level of respect in the group stayed comfortably balanced.  The fact remains that no matter what class I am enrolled in, I have always encountered at least one student who irritated me to the core while working with them, so I devised a plan to help me through each semester I end up in this situation. I know you may be wondering, “What is this plan that Cherishe is talking about? What gems is she about to drop? I have been waiting for an annoying-classmate strategy forever!”

Well, as the innovators of the “Tootsee Roll dance” named their 1998 album, “The Wait is Over,” because in this blog post, I will share with you my nine-step plan that helps me get through each semester, and successfully complete each group project, regardless of who I am working with.  

The nine steps are as follows:

  • Step 1: Pay attention to your group members’ work habits, and figure out the characteristics of each one. What I mean by this is be aware of what’s going on in your group, and what kind of people you are working with. If a group member is obnoxious from the beginning, then note that. If you have a group member who likes to steal other people’s ideas, watch out for them so you can protect yourself and your work. Pay attention to the signs around you; people will show you who they are, and you need to pay attention to the signs.
  • Step 2: Be prepared to do more work than what was originally delegated by the professor or the group leader if the situation arises. Group work can be the worst sometimes because there is usually one person who goes “missing” and conveniently ignores all efforts of correspondence from the group. When this begins to happen, you have three choices:
  • 1) Check with the person and
  • 2)  Get the professor involved.
  • 3) Buckle down and just do the work yourself.

*Reminder: Some people just aren’t reliable and if they decide that they don’t want to do their work, you may have to take it upon yourself to complete their part as well. Just make sure you let the professor know who should be credited for completing this section of the assignment.*

  • Step 3: Get everyone’s contact information, and keep your conversations with each group member saved until the end of the semester. As my father would say, “Make sure you get things in writing, and always save your receipts.” Text messages can be a saving grace for students who are having difficulties in their group. Save your messages as proof, just in case one of your group members accuses you of saying or doing something you didn’t do. That way you have evidence that you can use to hold them accountable, and also to defend yourself if it comes to that.
  • Step 4: Stay on top of your work and make sure your group members are doing what they need to be doing. If you have to, assume the role of the group leader; then, you have a reason to hound everyone about their progress on their individual parts.
  • Step 5: If at any time during the process of working with someone you feel disrespected, consider communicating this to them immediately. Don’t let anyone’s insolence slide, because once you let one thing slide, there’s the chance people will start ice skating all over you. Handle any issues that you have with your group members in a professional manner, and make sure you say what’s on your mind. If you don’t, tensions can build and the group meetings will not be a conducive working environment, which is the last thing you want if you’re striving for success together.
  • Step 6: Do your best to a bond with your group. If it doesn’t seem likely that you all will get along, at least connect with one group member. That group member will become your partner in crime and you both will serve as each other’s support system. This group member can become more of a friend, and someone who you will work with in the long run. Remember, group work can be difficult a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this assignment as an opportunity to network, and possibly make a connection with someone that could be beneficial in your future pursuits.
  • Step 7: Make sure that you consistently communicate with your professor about what’s going on in the group. If your group members are slacking and pulling the group down with them, let the professor know. This is not the time to “take one for the team”; rather you should look out for your team by discussing with your professor what is happening in your group. In doing so you are preventing one person’s insolence from jeopardizing the groups final grade. This is also your chance to make that person aware of what the group needs from them moving forward, in an effort to see change.
  • Step 8: Don’t let other people take credit for your work! When the day comes to present group assignments, here comes that one person who didn’t contribute but is prepared to put on a show and act like they contributed to the group work. You should respectfully talk to the person who didn’t contribute to the group project, and let them know that they shouldn’t present on work they didn’t do. If they are an individual with a nasty disposition, then I would say, again, you should get the professor involved. The last thing you want to happen is a full-out argument; that doesn’t look good on anyone’s part.
  • Step 9: After you present and get your passing grade, celebrate your victory. Reward yourself with great food from your favorite restaurant. A few semesters ago, my group members and I went to Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar, which is right up the block from the school on Adams Street. Their guacamole is amazing! You don’t have to go there specifically, but make sure you celebrate. You deserve to be rewarded for all of your hard work, and a victory dinner is always a perfect idea.

Now that I have shared my nine steps to dealing with difficult classmates, put them to the test. The next time that you have to complete a group project, adopt some of the steps I mentioned above to the strategies you use to complete group work. As time progresses, keep me posted and let me know what you observed and how the steps did or didn’t help improve the situation you are currently dealing with. Does my strategy work for you? Positive and negative feedback are both welcome!

Women for Wakanda

An army of African Women preparing for battle

Retrieved from GIZMODO

 

After watching the movie The Black Panther I was amazed to see that the warriors, or better yet, the protectors of Wakanda were fearless women who were skilled in the art of war. These women were prepared for battle at any moment and worked together to take down any opponent that stood in their way. That’s why, for Women’s History month, I chose to discuss the Women of Wakanda, also called the “Dora Milaje.” These women fiercely protected the nation of Wakanda and although they are fictional characters in a movie, they deserve to be discussed during this time of female empowerment!

I  choose the Dora Milaje as my topic of discussion for Women’s History month because they are the epitome of strength, pride, and unity. These women worked together to defend the nation of Wakanda, and they didn’t require the strength of any man to assist them.  Not only are these women a unit that values loyalty, life, and love; but they are led by a phenomenal woman named Okoye. Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, is the head general of the Dora Milaje, as well as the head of Wakanda’s armed forces. She, along with her army of skilled and highly trained officers, work together as a team to protect the royal family by any means necessary.  These women depict strength and discipline, and also show how powerful women can be when they come together as one. We are so used to seeing male-dominated armies, but the Dora Mijale, under the rule of Okoye, who prides herself on respecting culture, loyalty, and good character, show us an army of women that fights as successfully as any other army.

Throughout the film, the women of the Dora Milaje leave their mark on every scene they are in. Whether they are protecting the royal family, moving together in perfect unison, or sharing simple conversations with one another, their presence had a lasting effect on me. These women rarely ever smiled, but were caring individuals and avid believers in upholding the laws of the land. Okoye was so loyal to the Wakandian throne that during the major battle scene, when it seemed to be the only option, she was willing to kill the man that she loved in order to protect the Black Panther, his throne, and his family’s honor! Okoye’s act of loyalty to the crown showed showed that she wasn’t dependent on men to validate her, and didn’t let men influence her decisions. The women of the Dora Milaje were astonishingly strong, and although they are actors in a movie, as I watched, I found myself hoping that I could one day develop some of the characteristics that they displayed in the movie. Most of all, I hoped to learn to become faithful to a cause the way Okoye was devoted to the throne.

Okoye’s character stood out the most to me in the movie because she displayed the strength that I’ve seen in the women like my mother, aunts and grandmothers who hold my family together. Okoye’s “no nonsense” attitudealong with her unquestionable loyalty to her proposed purposestruck a cord deep within me. As I became more and more familiar with her character, her mannerisms won over my heart. I saw her as a pillar of strength, and the powerful leader and fighter that I strive to be for the people I love. She taught me that you must always protect what or who is important to you regardless of the circumstances. Most of all she taught me not to let my loyalty to a position cloud my judgement when it comes to what is right, and what is wrong. Okoye’s personal journey throughout the movie was so special for me to view because I saw so many similarities between her and myself. She was strong, serious, passionate, and yet flawed like we all are. However, she was also kind-hearted, brutally honest, fun-loving, and able to admit her mistakes and learn from them.

In my opinion, Okoye and the rest of the Dora Milaje represent the true essence of strong, unapologetic women of African descent who are willing to protect their loved ones by any means necessary. Their power as a unit showed me how great and powerful women can be when we come together for a purpose, stand strong in our beliefs, and are led by a woman who is the absolute epitome of “Black Girl Magic”the beauty, power and resilience of black women.The performances in this movie had an impact on my understanding of what kinds of people can serve in an army, or be an army general. I interpreted their success in these roles as being an example of non-traditional leaders. It made me realize that my notion of who can be a leader was limited by race and sex, and I didn’t even know it!

 

Woman are, and have always been leaders in their own right, but their promise is often downplayed because of the expectations society imposes on minorities. However, in this film, women are respected and honored, and are the true protectors, innovators, and leaders of Wakanda.

Of course, this was my personal analysis of The Black Panther movie, what’s your opinion?  Did your views on what a leader could be change after you saw the movie? Do you think women could do just as good of a job leading armies as men? What are your thoughts on being a woman, a leader, an innovator, or a mother? Give me your feedback in the box below.   I’m excited to see the differing opinions about this topic, especially because this month is Women’s History month!

Be honest, be free and let’s start this dialogue!