Photo by Michael Rivera
Grace Higgins kicked off the conference by performing the following poem.

mornings filled with such strong tension 
that i buy black coffee. 
and wince as i gulp it down 
so i can try to blame my stomach’s queasiness 
on something other than the morning news, 
this isn’t easiest for me or for you. 
the coffee helps me forget the sleeplessness  
i awake to from each previous 
are we alright? 
a political campaign thriving off of hatred of whole races, 
ostracizing any different faces. 
how much black coffee do i need to drink before i can forget the sourness of society? 
trying to avoid the pain of so much ignorance by putting bitterness inside of me. 
mocking the disabled, 
insult the differently labeled, 
drown us in the progressive waters we have waded 
for years, swimming forward slowly trying to stop the hating. 
one step forward, six decades back. 
people being killed because they are black. 
something’s gotta be out of whack, cause 
people pushing laws that simply lack love 
and white supremacists trying to attack us. 
oh, please, excuse my harsh tone, 
they’re just decent people exercising freedom of speech 
just like the black reporter fired for saying you should be impeached. 
and i hate the taste of coffee, but i needed an extra large 
the day you passed an executive order 
banning millions of innocent people from our border 
just because of their assumed faith, 
i can’t stand this awful taste, 
neglect everything the dreamers ever chased, 
the feeling that our progress is being erased, 
as if our voices are nothing but a hopeless waste. 
when “we the people” only represents you the powerful 
you feel tall, you’re just standing atop your tower, though. 
and i drink my coffee trying to convince myself that 
our society knows it isn’t okay to grab her by the anything. 
but the words and actions you’ve taken do already ring 
in the heads of our nation’s next generations 
will you ever stop and look at the example you’re creating? 
because we shouldn’t be teaching to grab girls and build walls 
promoting rape culture and catcalls.  
excluding people because of who they love or their skin color 
whatever happened to loving our sisters and our brothers? 
and that’s why i drink coffee, 
but it’s time for me to stop. 
because by using coffee as a scapegoat for my stomach pain  
i’m playing right into this crazy, screwed up game. 
i’m done turning a blind eye, chugging coffee, suppressing a cry 
so please, listen to me now 
we can make a difference even if we don’t yet know how 
because if you tell me your stomach doesn’t feel sick from this tension 
then you better open up your eyes and start paying attention. 
this affects us. whether you believe it or not. 
we need to stand up and share our own thoughts 
your stomach ought to feel like it’s twisted in knots 
so we’ve got to act now, hear the ticking of the clock. 
it’s time this hatred and prejudice and sexism stop. 
and to anyone who believes we are overreacting 
i hope your coffee soon stops its temporary distracting. 
you may not like what i am saying, but you can’t stop me 
because today’s the day we spit out our black coffee.
Read more…
Photo by Michael Rivera
The afternoon portion of the conference included multimedia “pop-up magazine” style performances by several Teens in Print journalists. Elebetel Assefa performed the following narrative recounting her memories of watching the election of Obama in Ethiopia, and how that affected her impressions of America. 
I remember the night of the election vividly. I was sitting on a stool right next to my dad, who was sitting cross-legged on the sofa. He insisted on keeping me awake way beyond my 8 pm bedtime because this was supposedly a historical occasion I needed to witness.  
“You need to retell, it detail by detail, for your future grandchildren,” he said. 
As a 7-year-old, I could care less, but my dad kept insisting. So I kept a jug of water right next to me, splashing my face with water every time I struggled to keep my eyes open. Eventually, after what seemed like endless waiting, the president-elect himself walked out. Then, sitting under my dad’s feet, my eyes glued to the TV, and with my dad repeatedly emphasizing “This is important, Elebi. History is being made,” I saw a man I could relate to and identify with on world TV for the very first time.  
Before, the people I saw on TV were complete strangers that in no way resembled me, and because I grew up up in a small rural community, TV was the only portal through which I saw the outside world. I was ignorant to the history of the world and the history of black people. But, I can tell you that even to me back then, 8,000 miles away, it was evident that Obama’s election was a milestone and proof of America’s triumphing freedom and democracy. A regular man who persevered through hard times made it to the white castle. Obama was a symbol to entire world of the American promise of equal opportunity.  
It was with this mindset I moved to Boston in 2012 with my entire family, where I was welcomed with open arms. The America that was advertised to the world in terms of opportunity and freedom seemed true for a time. And Obama was a manifestation of these ideals for me as a president. However, as time went on and I immersed myself more and more into American culture, my perfect bubble of America shattered. This was especially due to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the following demonstrations that occurred throughout the nation. The reaction to the call for fair and equal treatment by these movements with “All Lives Matter,” racial slurs and outright hatred made my once positive view of America seem like a ridiculous joke. There was a huge clash between these movements that lacked actual talking and listening to each other. Most lived in their own bubbles that only let them hear what they wanted to hear.  
As a Teens in Print journalist, I am lucky enough to be able to cross into other people's worlds, hoping to learn more about them and the world they come from by respectfully asking questions, trying to create a medium where real conversation can occur. So thank you everyone—by being here, listening to my story and having conversations, we're all doing our parts. 
 Gabriella Diplan shared the following “breakup letter to America” in response to the actions of the new administration.  
America: It’s not me, it’s you.

You have spent your precious time nurturing me, and I thank you for that. By letting my parents come here, it gave them the livelihood to provide for their American daughter, and I’m forever indebted to you for that. However, it’s time we start rethinking our relationship.  
It’s not because I don’t love you, but lately things have gotten complicated between us. I am starting to realize you are not the country I thought you were. People said you stood for freedom and liberty and justice for all, so I thought you were always going to take care of me. And for a while, that seemed true. You worked day and night to give me as many opportunities as you could by sending me to the right schools and giving me wonderful teachers who cared about me.  
I wanted this to work. I tried to make you proud. I stayed late at school EVERY single day and didn’t do much else because I wanted to do everything in my power to make you happy. 
 Of course, everyone warned me about your baggage from past relationships, that you spent centuries discriminating against people who look like me. But what can I say? I wanted you to prove them wrong.  
After all, you helped me grow from a loud, happy child into a bright young woman with her whole life ahead of her. How could the same country that showed me bright fireworks covering the New York skyline on the 4th of July do anything to hurt me? Over the past eight years I came to believe our relationship would last forever.
But then, on November 8, 2016, I realized I couldn’t keep making excuses for you anymore.   
You changed on me, America. We stopped communicating the way we used to. When I tried to talk to you about racism and climate change, you just changed the subject to North Korea and Russia. Honestly, you’re acting like a petulant six-year-old that doesn’t have the ability to take care of itself.  
What hurts the most is that it seems like my voice doesn’t even matter to you anymore. I’m not denying you’ve made an imprint on my life. Our relationship has taught me an invaluable lesson about freedom. I am resisting not because of my inability to grasp reality, but because I have seen our reality and won’t accept it.  
We want different things and that’s driving us apart. I don’t regret our time together but I’m afraid this is all it’s come to. America, it wasn’t me this time, it was all you. I’ve been trying to make this work but I have lost hope.  Maybe down the road we can be friends and laugh about the good times we had together. But for now, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.  
P.S. I am blocking you on Twitter.  
Read more…
Photo by Michael Rivera
I was honored to facilitate the hate crimes workshop alongside Carlos Rojas, special project director for Youth on Board. The main objectives of the workshop were to ensure participants left with a better understanding of what a hate crime was and how to report one.  
Participants were asked to share their definition of a hate crime with other students. Many of the answers proved that not everyone understood what was considered a hate crime. 
After we presented them with the legal definition of a hate crime, we conducted an ice breaker around stereotypes. Participants were asked to write down the first word that came to mind when they heard “African-Americans,” “Muslim” and “Latino,” which are the main groups that are often targets for hate crimes.   
We also discussed the intersectionality between stereotypes and hate crimes. One participant mentioned how they hadn’t taken into consideration how stereotypes not only make groups of people look bad, but they also make them vulnerable to harsh treatment from others.  
The following excerpts were written in response to the prompt "What is an element of your identity that you value, but other people in society may not see as valuable?"

That the fact that I’m black, others think that because she’s black she’s probably not that smart. -Johanna Thermidor 
My defensive attitude. I am usually seen as a really rude person when really...I use my attitude as a way of protection. -Josiehanna Colon 
One thing I wish people would understand is that I’m not smarter than anyone. I just worked hard for my academic status and when people say “How did you get that wrong?” or “you guys are gonna win because you are super smart” it makes me frustrated. The people just assume these things about me. -Luis Santana 
Being a black woman is difficult because society expects me to be quiet and uneducated. When I do speak up I am seen as ghetto and angry. -Christie Barronville 
An element of who I am as a black man is my skin color, as it ties me to my race, my family. Others may not like it because of how it differs from theirs, but I don’t care. -Anonymous 
Read more…
Photo by Michael Rivera
I facilitated “Journalism in the Era of Fake News” alongside Teens in Print program director Carla Gualdron.Our workshop consisted of ways to research wisely by avoiding “fake” news and finding reliable sources. The goal was to assist teens in identifying reliable, unbiased news sources. We wanted people to walk out of this workshop as savvy news consumers, confident in their abilities to verify whether a source is suspicious or not.  
During the workshop, we defined false news and gave examples of different stories and people. Along with defining fake news, we also defined real news and gave examples of news outlets that are reliable. Other terms we covered included “bias” and “satire.” Lastly, we had a panel featuring former journalist Evelyn Martinez, Everyday Boston blogger Cara Solomon, and WGBH’s Dan Kennedy. 
The topic of fake news is extremely important because the term was referenced often during the presidential election of 2016. During his campaign, Donald Trump continuously dismissed stories and labeled them as fake news. We wondered what he meant by that, which led to the idea of designing a workshop to help us clarify the term. It is crucial to talk about fake news because it is prominent in our everyday lives, but can easily go unnoticed. When we are on social media, we are bombarded with all sorts of stories published by unknown sources. It is our responsibility as media consumers to promote real news stories from reliable news outlets. This way we won’t be fooled and are instead knowledgeable when we make an argument.

Here are a few tips on how to be a savvy news consumer.

  1. 1. If you want early breaking news, check Twitter—before newsrooms
    report a story, usually locals are tweeting about it. But remember, early news isn’t always accurate.

  2. 2. Read newswires—The Associated Press and Reuters.

  3. 3. Read your local papers—Dorchester Reporter, The Banner.

  4. 4. Make sure the article is attributed to someone. Then Google the person.

  5. 5. Check the “About” section of a news website you don’t recognize. Do they have a particular slant?

  6. 6. Check if the website has listed sponsors. Are they reputable?

  7. 7. Ask yourself if there is something suspicious about the story.

  8. 8. Check or other fact-checking websites.

  9. 9. Google keywords to see if other organizations are writing about it. 

Read more…
Photo by Michael Rivera
I co-facilitated the immigration workshop alongside Celina Barrios-Millner, an immigrant integration fellow for the city of Boston. Leading this workshop alongside an experienced and intellectual professional was beneficial, as she helped me to steer the discussion towards immigration issues most important to the youth.  
Amidst Trump’s repeal of DACA and his implementation of other immigration reforms, he has raised a lot of uncertainty for undocumented students and their friends and families. Holding this conference during a heated political environment made it crucial that I sent forth the message that even with Trump in office, undocumented students are not alone.  
In the city of Boston at least, undocumented students have more people with them, than against them. This is evident through all the resources we provided in this workshop including scholarship opportunities and community programs. 
For many immigrants, coming to the United States often means a chance for a better future and education. But, this opportunity is now in question for undocumented students. What I hope participants got out of this workshop is that undocumented peers and their allies should not fret, because there are numerous resources in the city to help them. 

The following excerpts were written in response to the prompt "If you were an immigrant, what would you want the country you're coming to to look like?"

In a perfect world, my ideal country would give immigrants a voice. If immigrants could vote, we will change everything.Immigrants need a voice in big decisions.  -Belkis Montas 
A government that sees police, and education system that sees no color, immigration status, or ethnicity. One that sees everyone as part of the human race. -Nickoliss Twohads 
I would expect less hate crimes, segregation and stereotypes. I would expect better of this glorious place, NOT what Trump has turned it into.  -Peter Raymond Gilliam 
The people would be welcomed into a collective community in which immigrants can feel safe and not be so afraid of deportation or losing their families. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger and help out in anyway they can. -Anna Pham 
I would want schools to be integrated and not segregated because it all begins there. How? Well currently there is an achievement gap between schools not only in the United States but everywhere really. Which leads to an academic achievement gap, job gap, health care gap, life expectancy gap, etc.  -Monica Dyesy   
I would want America to be a country that would have a female president with reliable people in her cabinet, who not only understand the gravity of their jobs but who only want to serve the public.I would want people on TV to look like me in order so that little brown girls everywhere could learn: how to embrace their curves and their textured hair and the color of their skin.  -Anonymous 
I would want the country I am coming into to look like a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities and I would want their to be more support for immigrants from all organizations, and more opportunities for them to live out their dream.  -Mageney Omar 
I’m not sure what my ideal country would look or be like. Even so, the U.S. is a symbol of freedom, opportunity and anew. As of now, I find the U.S. is the opposite of its intent.  -Calvin Tran
If I was an immigrant, I would want the country to be very accepting towards where I came from, not matter what terrorist attack happened from there in the past. -Wellington Matos 
What I want to change about America today is the climate of non-cooperation I rarely see people having real and honest conversations. The first step to making America great again is talking not hating and shouting. -Anonymous  
The country I would want it to look like would be for people to be more friendly and understanding and don’t discriminate anybody from either their skin color or background culture. And also a president who should take immigrants into consideration not just abandon them when they need help or when they are coming to America for opportunities.  -Trenyce Williams 
Firstly, Trump and his posse of ignorant privileged twerps would be impeached. Immediately. And we would bring back Obama because I want nothing but respect for MY president. Then we would have people learn about each other’s history -- real history. Not alternative facts.  -Kanilla Charles 
I’d like for it to be or have many sanctuary cities and kind, welcoming people. I also want for it to be diverse so that I’m not shy or feel left out. It may have aspects of America although the government may be tuned here and there.  -Djibril Conte 
Read more…