Oscars So White?

For over 86 years, the Oscars a.k.a The Academy Awards have been acknowledging the hard work and dedication that numerous actors and actresses have devoted to making great cinematic films for us to enjoy. On that one night of the year, we are able to root for and show our support for our favorite actors and actresses, watch musical performances, and catch a glimpse of the films that are being nominated. When the awards show finishes, we are left with memorable moments such as when Ellen DeGeneres’s famous selfie broke the internet, the Titanic won an Oscar, when Michael Jackson and Madonna went on their date at the 1991 Academy  Awards, and so on. Although we are able to take back so many positive memories, there are  also some negative ones that will be remembered. The 2016 Oscars has one that will be remembered  for a long time. In recent months, many actors and actresses have been stepping forward  and voicing their opinion on how the Oscars have been called a “white event”. This is because the majority of the nominees have been Caucasian. This has caused some tension. Even though the Oscars is a time to celebrate, laugh, and enjoy yourself, touchy issues such as racism can cause people to turn such a joyous occasion into a more serious one.

By now everyone in the United States has heard about the issues of African American teens and adults who have been killed by Police officers, which has brought about the formation of numerous protest groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter. With this in mind, when the list of nominations for the Oscars were released in the middle of January, people began to state that there was a lack of diversity on the list saying that majority of the nominees were white. Soon after, people began to create memes and write their opinions using the hashtag Smith released a video scolding the Oscars for being too white and in it she said that she was boycotting the Oscars by not attending and that many should join her (ew.com). Her husband, Will Smith, also believed in what she said and stood by her. Caucasian actors also believed that the Oscars were a white event. George Clooney stated on his twitter account that he believes that African American actors and actresses aren’t getting the recognition that they deserve (vanityfair.org). Celebrities such as Spike Lee, Idris Elba, David Oyelowa, and more have also stated their beliefs that the Oscars is a white event and that it should be changed.

However, even some African Americans celebrities believe that people are overreacting. Janet Hubert, the mother from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, said that people should stop acting like the Oscars is something that every actor should win (etonline.com). Many Caucasians feel that it isn’t right to call the Oscars a white event since many African Americans have been nominated over the years. Also, many are saying that it isn’t right that African Americans have their own award show (B.E.T Award show) yet are condemning the Oscars for being a white event.(etonline.com).

Even though the issue and sentiments of the Oscars being a white event were around this year, the show still went on. The host of this year’s Oscars was Chris Rock. While hosting, Chris Rock made jokes throughout the Oscars saying that it was too white. Although there was tension before and during the Oscars, everyone was able to enjoy themselves and watch actors and actresses win an Oscar. Alesia Kum and Amanda Porretto, seniors at the Academy of American Studies, gave their insights on this sensitive topic. “It’s all about perspective. When you’re watching a movie are you the type of person that would notice the lead actors and distinguish them based on their skin color or by how well you have seen their acting skills? In the end it’s a matter of how you perceive a movie and your views towards the world” (Alesia Kum). “I agree with Alesia. When I’m watching a I mainly focus on the plot, not the actors. Don’t get me wrong, when I watch I movie I notice the big and famous star, but I only notice them on a name recognition basis.” (Amanda Porretto).

Written by Christopher Morote


The Invasion of Privacy

Many people don’t realize the damage they inflict on a person by publicly exposing or sharing photos/videos etc. of someone who believed they were alone. Some people who are exposed feel dehumanized and never seem to recover. Different people cope with the situation in a variety of ways; some feel so ashamed that suicide seems to be the better getaway for them. Others deal with the situation head on and have the strength to face their victimizers. Individuals like Erin Andrews and Tyler Clementi are perfect examples of people who have encountered this issue which is an increasing concern.

Erin Andrews is a public figure. She is an American sportscaster and television personality. Andrews was filmed in her hotel room while she was changing by Michael Barrett who also stalked her previous to this incident. He would watch her on television and then eventually stalked her to the room next door in a Nashville hotel. Erin Andrews filed a lawsuit and dealt with her situation on the spot and fought to be heard. She also fought for this man to face consequences for his actions. “Erin Andrews has been awarded $55 million,  Andrews had asked for $75 million in her lawsuit over the 2008 incident, claiming ongoing emotional distress from the episode and the video’s continued existence online” (washingtonpost.com). Erin Andrews is a great example of an individual who was victimized and fought back against her victimizer. Not all people have her strength. 

Tyler Clementi attended Rutgers University and was exposed publicly on the internet in September 2010. Tyler was targeted for being different. His sexual preference was exposed when he wasn’t ready to share it with others. “That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet, and three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide” (nytimes.com). Tyler Clementi wasn’t as strong as Erin Andrews and ended up committing suicide. Since hearing this story many people have read about the impact he left. One outcome for many people was the realization that taking such drastic measures can take a huge toll on families and friends.

Not much is being done to address these situations. A lot of people are scared to speak up and tell people if someone is hurting them. There also aren’t any laws regarding posting someone’s personal business online. Most teens don’t think about the consequences of their actions and don’t think about how their actions affect others. This is a growing problem that is really not okay and should be controlled. There is a national suicide prevention lifeline that is willing to listen to any problems that one is facing, simply call 1 (800) 273-8255.

Written by Jenisa Castillo


Photo Courtesy of Andy Ryan/Stone/Getty Images

Human Trafficking

When hearing of human trafficking, one may think about third-world countries. It seems like one of those issues that teens living in the New York City don’t need to worry about, but believe it or not, it is closer to home then one might think. As any famous and popular sport, football brings many people together. According to SportingCharts, the total attendance of all Super Bowls combined is 3,747,914 people. Surprisingly enough, the Super Bowl hosted by the NFL unintentionally provides an opportunity for human trafficking, the exchange of humans for sex or labor. A time when so many people are only focused on the NFL Super Bowl, human traffickers had the perfect opportunity to sexually exploit females. The Super Bowl also brings together thousands of men from different states and countries leading to such acts. (Photo courtesy: New York Times)

Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It is the exchange of humans for sex or labor. Men, women and children are exploited on a daily basis. Kimberly Ritter, an anti-sex trafficking advocate, describes the horror during the super bowl: “They take little girls and walk them from truck to truck, they call them lot lizards. The pimp needs to keep control of the girls, that pimp can sell her up to 20 times a day, 7 days a week.”

This year, the NFL Super Bowl took place on Sunday, February 7th in Santa Clara. But this issue of human trafficking during the Super Bowl takes place almost every year. The sporting event attracts more trafficking than any other sport in the U.S. according to Huffpost. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, the Super Bowl is the “single largest human trafficking incident in the U.S.” Researchers from Arizona State University found that leading up to the event, the number of online advertisements involving sexual content spiked in volume and almost half of these ads involved sex trafficking victims according to Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Human Trafficking Task Force said the business of selling sex was up in the weeks and days leading up to the Super Bowl. Teenagers and adult women are being exploited and forced into prostitution coming from different countries. Nita Belles, the anti-trafficking activist and the author of “In Our Backyard”, an account of the trafficking in the US says, “The enormity of the sporting event provides an ideal setting for traffickers to cash in.” She also says, “Any time you have a large number of people gathering in one place, especially males, and it’s a party atmosphere, it’s prime ground for sex trafficking.”

This issue is prevalent right in front of our eyes, yet we don’t see much of it, it’s hiding in plain sight. There is human trafficking taking place discreetly in Flushing, Queens and Long Island. “Queens is not only the epicenter for trafficking foreigners in New York, it really is on the entire East Coast,” said Lee, the Executive Director at Restore, which offers safe homes for victims who are able to escape and seek refuge. Many victims in Lee’s organization claim that when they first immigrated and got involved in the trade, they started in Flushing. Human trafficking happens in the US, often times when people are guaranteed a job which later turns out to be sex trade work and prostitution (Queens Chronicle). According to the US Department of Justice, 83% of victims are citizens. In Queens, people are forced to work in salons, shops, and brothels and on farms in Long Island. The issue is closer to home than many might think.

There are several efforts to prevent human trafficking, specifically the exploitation of women for sex. The United Nations is taking care of the issue on an international basis since it is prevalent in many parts of the world including countries such as Pakistan, Tanzania, Bolivia and Morocco. These countries have a significant number of victims and has shown no evidence of efforts to improve conditions, thus placing them on the United Nation’s watchlist (www.theguardian.com). There are many laws that prevent or reduce the risk of human trafficking which many countries choose to obey or disobey secretly. Here in the U.S., there are numerous agencies that help with the issue such as the National Human Trafficking Resource Center which can be contacted on a 24/7 basis. The media also makes efforts to cover the issue when it is prevalent during the Super Bowl or other events to bring awareness to people which can sometimes help prevent it.

Written by Lamia Rahman

Photo Credits to New York Times

Student Athlete Irene Constantinou

Irene Constantinou is a seventeen year old senior of the Academy of American Studies. She enjoys playing sports and is a member of Academy’s soccer team as the goalie. She has also been on the basketball team since her sophomore year. She likes being on the sports teams because she feels these sports teach her sportsmanship and leadership skills. Playing sports keeps her occupied, but also gives her a great opportunity to make new friends of all ages in the school. Tania, who is a senior at the Academy, said “She is not only a great teammate as well as a great friend and without her I would have never joined the soccer team.” She is known to be the MVP goalie she rarely lets a soccer ball defeat her. Another senior at the Academy, Lisette Romo, said   “Irene reminds me of a starfish, this is because when she catches the ball she crawls her body up to protect it like a starfish.”  Irene has gotten closer to a lot of other students as well. Even though she enjoys being a student athlete, there are some disadvantages and obstacles she has to overcome. Mixing schoolwork and practice can be very stressful, especially since practice ends late.

Junior year and senior year were very hard years for Irene filled with lots essay writing and lots of regular tests and AP tests during the seasons. “I tried to finish my homework and assignments from the day before so that I didn’t have to cram everything last minute” said Irene. This was a way for her to manage her time well.  A challenge she faced was being able to juggle all of that when practice would end at 6:30, and sometimes even later. “I really enjoy playing these sports, but it took a lot of getting used to being a student athlete’’ she says. Irene never gives up and is always willing to take one for the team. Notwithstanding the difficulties of being a student athlete, Irene has stayed on the teams and kept up her grades. Now that her seasons have ended and senior year comes to a close Irene looks back and misses all the hard work.

Written by Khiabet Leal

Photo Credits to Khiabet Leal

The Climate Conference: What Did It Achieve?

Last year throughout the month of November, the official Climate change conference occurred in Paris, France. This event was attended by representatives from over 200 countries from all around the world including the United States, India, and China. So what did this conference which spanned two weeks prove? What must the conference accomplish and how will it affect us, especially as New Yorkers? Climate change is a big issue with many key aspects that had to be looked over and there were many issues that were hard to find a solution to even with many countries being involved.

So what did the climate change conference set to accomplish? The obvious answer is solving climate change, but there is more to the problem then meets the eye.  Paris has asked countries to submit pledges to reduce global greenhouse emissions in the years ahead.  According to The New York Times editorial “What the Paris Climate Meeting Must Do.”, “If the Paris meeting is to be a genuine turning point, negotiators must make sure that the national pledges are the floor, not the ceiling of ambition, by establishing a framework requiring stronger climate commitments at regular intervals every 5 years. This should be accompanied by a plan for monitoring and reporting each countries performance.” “The meeting also seeks to enlist investors, corporations, states and cities in the cause.” Because of this, Michael Bloomberg, who made reducing emissions a priority as mayor of New York attended the meeting. The article also states “Richer developed nations should help poorer developing nations reach their targets in playing their part in reducing damage to the environment and letting out harmful green house gasses. Stopping the destruction of tropical forests also plays a huge role in absorbing co2 and giving animals a place their natural habitats.

  Did the climate change meeting resolve much of what was supposed to be accomplished? Many issues were talked about such as how private donators can help in this issue. Bill Gates, who had made finding a solution to prevent climate change a priority, donated to countries such as India to help them start reducing harmful fossil fuels. The money used from the dotation will  help the countries switch to cleaner energy solutions. According to a CNN article by  John D. Sutter, Joshua Berlinger, and Ralph Ellis, “The accord achieved one major goal. It limits average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures and strives for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). According to The New York Times article “ Nations Approve Landmark Accord in Paris.” by Carol Davenport “That is the point at which, scientific studies have concluded the world will be locked into a future of devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages and more destructive storms.” The core of the Paris deal is a requirement that every nation take part. Because of the Paris talks, governments of 186 nations put forth public plans detailing how they would cut carbon emissions…Countries will also be legally required to reconvene every five years starting in 2023 to publicly report on how they are doing in cutting emissions compared to their plans. They will be legally required to monitor and report on their emissions levels and reductions, using a universal accounting system.” Ultimately the decision wasn’t perfect, but it accomplished most of what was set out to solve. President Obama, who considers climate change a central element of his legacy, spoke of the deal in a televised address from the White House. “This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future,” he said. “We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.”

So how will this all effect the people of our country, and New Yorkers specifically?  According to Melissa Eddy from The New York Times “ There will be greater emphasis on more efficient  electrical products, homes, and vehicles. Even though this does not directly effect us it lets us use less carbon emissions, especially as a huge city with thousands of cars being used everyday to travel in and out and around the city.” This allows us to avoid some of the catastrophic events of climate change and allows us to live in a healthier planet. It will allow us to breathe in cleaner air and avoid pollution around us and avoid extreme weather conditions such as an overheated planet. Erick Jiang who goes to the Academy of American Studies said “ It is a great thing that the United States and the rest of the world is lowering their Carbon emissions. This would allow us to have less hot boiling summers that are in the 100s. I can’t take the boiling heat.” Also, according to Omar Hernandez who also goes to Academy of American Studies “ I like that we could be using electric cars which is  a cleaner energy transportation. It lets out no Co2 and allows me not to breath in polluted air.”

The Climate Change conference was a huge milestone with over 187 countries attending. Together they found ways to solve the issue of climate change. It helped these countries build relationships and be able to work together and solve issues without violence. It helped them agree on issues and solutions and show that the planet is in danger and needs help. It was great turning point in the world and hopefully it will help us make the world a better place to live in.

Written by Saima Khan

Photo Credits to Global Nation Inquirer 

Blue Candy Bags

Schools all over New York City have given students the opportunity to sell candy. At the Academy of American Studies, about 100 students have blue candy bags to sell as a way of raising money to pay for their graduation requirements, souvenirs, trips, and many other costly luxuries. Does this benefit the students and the school? Is it detrimental to their future and health? Can we sell healthier products?

In high school, many individuals depend on vending machines or the school lunch to provide them with their basic calorie needs. While schools have been trying to improve their school food, environment studies have shown that 71% of middle schools and 89% of high schools have vending machines that sell mostly junk food to their students (NHLBI). These are high in calories, have very little nutritional value, and individuals that rely on them don’t usually get full which may lead to overeating.

According to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers (AFRDS), analysts have proposed and discussed whether programs or non-profit organizations should be created to orient parents and teachers of a stabilizer between nutrition and fitness so that they can make healthy lifestyle decisions or if junk food in schools should be eliminated entirely. Elif, a member of student government at the Academy of American Studies, believes “It should definitely not be eliminated because many students cannot afford to pay for school needs so they use candy bags to make up for that.” she stated in a recent interview. Selling candy in schools provides a contribution for the student body’s educational experience because the schools fund can only provide for so much. Khiabet, also a member of student government, believes that schools should sell candy as a way to fundraise, she stated “I like that students sell candy especially because I am one of them, and I believe that we all get hungry, just seeing the candy bag and getting something to eat satisfies us”. When asked about whether it promotes obesity or not she responded “I think it depends on what you buy and how often, some students buy it every now and then, others buy it constantly so it depends on you”. This brings up the question: will the school be able to function the same way without these types of fundraisers?

Although Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity raised a lot of awareness and cheerful hoorays, others questioned whether it will result in “lost revenue for the schools” (seriouseats.com). Eliminating junk food from a school’s environment could be detrimental not only to their future, but the students as well. Where will the money come from? How will students in clubs and sports teams buy the equipment they need? The simple solution lies in the problem. If the schools slowly decreased the amount of processed food sold and provided some healthier options, it might not create such a huge impact on their financial stability and the students would see a positive change. According to Selina, an Academy high school student, selling protein bars like Nature Valley and KIND, mixed nuts, seeds, raisins, dry fruit, and dark chocolate, will better the student’s health. But selling food is not the only way to raise money, another high school student, Bryant, proposed that “during classes students could sell school supplies like pens, pencils, post-it notes, folders, and paper”. When asked about whether or not this will succeed he stated “I believe that the Academy of American Studies will do better when it comes to student obesity if healthier products are sold that can benefit the students in their school environment”. These are all healthy alternatives to better every kid’s future. The Coordinator of Student Affairs and the Student Government Advisor, Mr. Randle, stated “I think selling healthy snacks are a great idea. We have tried to sell granola bars in the past. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very successful.” Perhaps we shouldn’t be questioning the school’s actions towards selling unhealthy snacks…we should question our own actions. The reason why it’s being sold is due to the popularity of purchases. If enough students care about promoting change, anything can be achieved.

Written by Rosa Jimenez

The Truth Behind Train Delays

Do you ever find yourself taking the train and all of a sudden it stops between the stations? We have all heard the sounds of frustration coming from our fellow New Yorkers when we hear “There is train traffic ahead of us, we apologize for the inconvenience.” This might be valid on some occasions, but there might be more to the delays than the MTA employees are letting on. There are often signal problems, sick passengers, switch problems, and train malfunctions that are the real reasons why trains are constantly delayed.

Signal problems are common because the subways are not as advanced as they are supposed to be. According to an article produced by “The Village Voice,” there hasn’t been a lot of money that has been donated to the subway system, and although “…the MTA has spent more than $100 billion on improvements,” “…the agency remains in “catch-up” mode.” When the train conductor states over the loudspeaker that there are troubles with the signals, he means that red sensors pick up that there is a train in front of theirs, indicating train traffic. The problem with the sensors is that they pick up all metal objects, not just trains. This causes delays because the conductor must take the time to figure out whether or not a train, or a small object such as aluminum foil, is blocking theirs. An article from “AM New York” explains that conductors can move the train with a red signal, but must receive “…permission from The Rail Control Center, and move at a sluggish pace.”

Passengers often cause train delays without meaning to.  There are over 3,000 sick passengers that have prompted delays each month. A “New York Magazine” article suggests that travelers can get off the train at the following stop, but “…often an emergency brake is pulled, forcing the train to an immediate stop and sending ripples of delays down the subway line.” When the emergency cord is pulled, the brakes are stopped and it could take the MTA staff up to 15 minutes to restart the train. This causes delays not only for the passengers on that train, but the trains behind it. Individuals who take the train should never pull the emergency brake, unless “…someone gets caught between the train’s closing doors, or between subway cars,” according to an article from the New York Times. If there is violence or a fire in a train car, alert MTA employees, do not pull the emergency cord because it will delay passengers from receiving help because the train is stopped underground.

There are also malfunctions that occur, but they don’t happen as often as the other reasons for delays. There can be broken switches, which are necessary to operate the doors on the trains. An article from the New York Daily News stated that there have been power outages at Grand Central Terminal. During power outages, signals stop working, and when track fires occur, trains run less frequently and take different routes. The doors on trains can open onto the tracks instead of at the platform. These are all rare, but can cause delays that can interfere with a person’s commute.

It is frustrating when trains are delayed, but it is a part of the system that is constantly being worked on. Signal problems occur the most, but sick passengers are unpredictable, as well as rare malfunctions. The next time your train is delayed, don’t be too quick to blame the MTA.

Written by Rachel Manheim

Picture Credits to C2E2


Women Struggle To Achieve Equal Pay

Women have come a long way in creating a role for themselves in society. Prior to the Women’s movement and other historical events that brought attention to their rights, women were traditionally deemed inferior to men. However, throughout the years, women began to gain more acknowledgement and raised their voices in matters such as politics, business, and in society. Nevertheless, the gender pay gap remains a barrier to equality. The Economic Policy Institute gathered data which shows that women continue to be paid significantly less than men. Their ethnicity and background further influences how badly they’re affected. When they have no partner to contribute financially for the household, it affects them even more.

Based on a New York Times article by the editorial board, in 2014 women earned 79 cents for every dollar a man made. When the Equal pay act was put into effect in 1963, women who worked full time generally made 59 cents for every dollar that went into her male colleague’s salary. The editorial board states that in the last few decades, there has been a steady improvement in women’s wages however, they still remain below the wages for men in the same profession. Catherine Hill is the Vice President of the American Association of University Women which advocates for women’s equity and education. She explained in her Economic Justice report that women from African American and Hispanic backgrounds are facing similar problems, although their pay difference from men of their ethnicity is lower than the white race. This is due to the fact that men of other races have traditionally been paid less than white men. She provides a graph from 2014 which shows that women from these backgrounds made around 10,000 dollars less than white and Asian women in annual earnings.

Generally people with a higher level of education tend to find a better job and higher salary, however it is not effective against the gender pay gap. Thus the ways for women to be guaranteed a higher salary for their hard work is limited. Since an aspect of success is determined by one’s salary, more women fail to become as successful as men in their field of work. The National Women’s Law Center emphasizes that families are largely harmed by these circumstances, especially when a women is the sole breadwinner. They point out that single mothers have no other source of income so they have to work in order feed and provide shelter for their children. As they focus on the impacts of the wage gap, they revealed that in 2013 over 61 percent of working single mother families suffered from financial hardship as their poverty level fell under $18,800.

There have been several attempts made by the government to further enhance a woman’s right to equal pay. The White House site states that the initial support for equal pay between men and women by the government is clearly demonstrated through the Equal Pay Act signed by John F. Kennedy. This act ensured that men and women wouldn’t face sex discrimination in their workplace and they would both be compensated equally for the same work. However, they claim that wage disparities still exist regardless of the changes made for women’s equal pay. The New York Times article also disclosed that during several years of his presidency, President Obama tried to pass a bill for a Paycheck Fairness Act which would cover the whole American workforce, but it was eventually prevented by Republicans.

The process of acquiring a woman’s right to equal pay is long and faced with obstacles. Diana Rodriguez, a high school student voiced her opinion on this issue and stated, “most women of color tend to encounter discrimination in the workplace and their salary is lower than other workers. The treatment they get at work affects their self esteem and more, so it is only fair that their hard work is equally compensated.” Catherine Hill explains in her report that there is always room for improvement in the workplace, which contributes to a lower pay gap. She mentions that a difference between female and male workers is that males are more determined to negotiate for a higher salary or promotion. Due to the fear of being criticized or received as arrogant, women since an early age have been adapted to keeping quiet on these subjects. However, “Women can learn strategies to better negotiate for equal pay”, Hill concluded.

Written by Tsering Dolkar


Photo Courtesy of National Education Association