Cover Story
What the Future of Our School System Means for Us Now
Located across the street from Fenway Park, Boston Arts Academy is the city’s only public arts high school. Founded in 1998, the school harbors about 450 students, myself included, all brought together by a love for the arts. The building, formerly a warehouse, has gone through a lot over the decades. While it wasn’t falling apart, it was remarkably bland. Most spaces felt cramped, and there wasn’t even an auditorium—just a small black box that only fit 100 people.  
In December 2017, our school was finally okayed for some serious renovations under Mayor Marty Walsh’s BuildBPS plan. While this meant we would have to move all the way to Dorchester and share the building with the Community Academy of Science and Health for three years, the end result would give future BAA students the creatively fulfilling space they deserve. However, while we were complaining about our temporary move, other BPS students were losing not only their buildings, but their entire school communities. 
BuildBPS is a plan to renovate, merge and build new schools over the next decade. “BuildBPS is an opportunity to invest in school buildings that will deliver high-quality learning environments for our students for generations to come,” said Walsh in a press release. “In order to achieve our goals, we need to think big and work together to build a bright future for our school.” According to the BuildBPS Phase II Report, the goals of the initiative are to “expand access to quality learning environments for more students, locate new or expand buildings in neighborhoods with high student need and low current access, create more equitable program placement and learning opportunities for vulnerable students, and reduce pre-K-12 transitions by creating clear pathways.”  
BAA has been positively affected by BuildBPS, with renovations underway 20 years after the doors first opened. The project budget is $125 million—only a tiny fraction of the $1 billion going into BuildBPS overall. 
However, the McCormack Middle School, which is also part of this initiative, is getting the short end of the stick. The Dorchester school, along with Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy, is being affected in the worst way—the school, as well as the community, is being destroyed in order to phase out middle schools. The current BuildBPS plan neglects these communities, and places the best interest of future students far above those of current students.  
The original plan stated that McCormack will close in 2020 and its students will become part of Excel High School, a lower-performing school. Traditionally in a school merge like this, the entire staff and students would move to Excel and become a new community. However, that is not what is happening with McCormack. 
“It's more like dismantle and then send the kids to Excel on their own," said Neema Avashia, a teacher at the McCormack who has spent months advocating for the community. "What upsets me about it is that it’s not necessary. They're going to need seventh and eighth grade teachers when they go to Excel, so why would we, as a city, enact additional harm on kids? It's already going to be hard enough for kids to change schools… there's no reason to separate the adults and the kids." 
Rob Consalvo, Chief of Staff of BPS, talked about the plan and how our voices are being heard. “We are extremely sympathetic to the aspect of closing schools and recognize how difficult that is,” he said. According to Consalvo, BPS is listening to both students and teachers, considering the ideas they are putting forth and using that feedback to devise the final plan.  
One of the biggest motivators for the BuildBPS plan is making fewer transitions for students—which involves getting rid of middle schools. According to Consalvo, in 2009, there were a total of 16 middle schools in Boston. Currently, there are only six. This dissolution of middle schools is already happening naturally, and the McCormack is part of that demographic.“We believe that it's in the best interest of the entire district to give parents that sense of continuity, to move away from middle schools and into that shorter structure," explained Consalvo. 
   Yet, while it makes perfect sense to lessen the transitions from school to school, there is no clear explanation as to why the McCormack can’t travel as a community. 
"Closing a school, taking kids out of their community—it hurts,” said Avashia. “The number of our kids who—if you watch our school committee testimony—they're like, 'The McCormack is my home.’ When you take someone's home away, that's traumatizing.” 
Even though she, and many others, are possibly losing their jobs, that’s not their main concern. They are looking out for their students—something they feel the BuildBPS plan isn’t doing.  
“That is completely outrageous and irritates me,”  said TaNeja Williams, a student at BAA and a McCormack graduate. “My question is, why can’t the McCormack be treated the same way and be given the opportunity to have a swing space, thus keeping the community intact, as the Boston Arts Academy was granted?” 
BuildBPS is for the future. It isn’t for the students of right now—it is for the wealthier class taking over urban areas where working class and minority families live, and their future kids. “It's getting more and more expensive for my kids and their families to live in the city,” Avashia said. “So when you are reading them a letter in school that says 'Oh, we're going to make your building really nice, but it's not for you'—kids experience that as being evicted, the same way you get evicted from a house.”  
Recently, interim BPS superintendent Laura Perille stated that in response to the backlash from the McCormack community, the plan may shift—leaders are considering a model in which teachers will help select a partner high school and create a new 7-12 school to move into the building on the McCormack site after renovations. However, even if this plan is ultimately accepted, Avashia believes the fight is far from over. 
"What's happening to my kids now is going to happen five more times,” Avashia says. “And there are going to be ripple effects.” 
 
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Imagine a movie where the protagonist is the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, with the villains being incompetent, barefooted, drunk black men that must be defeated. Pretty distasteful, right?  
Well, this is the plot of the 1915 movie “The Birth of A Nation,” critically acclaimed then and now and credited as the first Hollywood blockbuster of all time. The movie was based on the novel “The Clansmen” by Thomas Dixon, who claimed the purpose of the book was “to demonstrate to the world that the white man must and shall be supreme.” It was the first movie to ever be shown in the White House. The propaganda was so powerful, it transformed the KKK into heroes. The film is even credited by some for the reformation of the KKK in the early 20th century.  
With the 104-year anniversary coming up, people are still defending this movie to the ends of the earth, and the reason for that is understandable. The movie was revolutionary in the film industry. It produced some of the first movie stars and showcased previously unheard of movie techniques. The Hollywood Reporter praised “The Birth of a Nation” for its use of “spectacular battlefield panoramas, operatic melodrama, thrilling chase scenes—the full power of cinematic art pulling at their heartstrings and quickening their pulses.” History.com says the film’s director, D.W. Griffith, “popularized countless filmmaking techniques that remain central to the art today,” like close-ups, flashbacks, and fade-ins. 
But, in a world where racial tensions are heightened and we’re increasingly aware of political correctness, should this film still be so well-regarded in movie history? What legacy should a movie that revolutionized film, but indirectly increased the death count of black people in America, leave? 
Film Analysis professor Nathan Blake from Northeastern University has studied “The Birth of a Nation” for many years. When asked about the relevance of the film, Blake first acknowledged Griffith’s advanced film strategy innovations that defined the Hollywood studio style and the dominant approach to narrative cinema. However, he then pointed out the film’s troubling racial elements. “It illustrates our troubling, racist history, not just of the Civil War and Reconstruction, but of the early 20th-century and beyond,” he said. “It is also relevant today because we continue to see these same stereotypes and tropes of ‘purity’ in contemporary white-supremacist discourse.” 
 I asked him how his students perceived the film, and he said “Students are generally troubled, and often don’t know how to respond, at least initially. If anything, students are shocked by the film’s blatant racism, its cartoonish stereotypes, and the depiction of the Klan as ‘heroic.’”  
On the topic of how the film should be remembered, Blake explained that “Birth of a Nation” will remain an important film to watch and discuss because it was simply a highly influential film. “It illustrates the ways in which cinema can manipulate its audience,” he said. “It is one thing to feel moved by a story in which you might already share its ideology to some degree. But when you see how you are positioned to fear for Flora (Mae Marsh) as she is pursued by the ‘monstrous’ Gus (Walter Long), you begin to see how the narrative, placement of the camera, music, and editing position the viewer to identify with certain characters and perspectives and against others.” 
“In other words, its objectionable ideology allows us to see the ways in which such messages are conveyed.” 
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Created by the late Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963 and popularized by writer Chris Claremont in 1970, the X-Men team consist of heroes born with genetic mutations that grant them powers from telekinesis to the ability to shoot sparkles from their hands. These heroes, known in the Marvel universe as “mutants,” were cast out by society because they were different, and often considered a threat. While they may sound like another generic superhero team, Lee and Kirby had more planned for the fledgling heroes. From their inception, the X-Men were meant to be an allegory for those unrepresented in society.   
“Mutants in the Marvel Universe have always stood as a metaphor for the underclass, the outsiders; they represent the ultimate minority,” Claremont wrote in “Uncanny X-Men Masterworks Vol. 9.”  It would hardly be a Gambit to assume that the average moviegoer’s knowledge of the various “X” teams begins and ends with the SNIKT of Wolverine's claws; however, the X-Men universe is home to the most diverse cast of characters in comics and have pushed for a more inclusive world by mirroring the struggles of those outcasted by society through the exploits of the superhuman team. 
Kurt Wagner, otherwise known as the Nightcrawler, has been a staple of the X-Men franchise since his first appearance in 1975’s “Giant Sized X-Men #1.” Kurt hails from a German traveling circus, which, okay, isn’t too weird an origin for a comic book hero. He’s also blue and has a tail and fangs.  
Comics are weird, folks.  
While a bit on the nose, Kurt represents the broader social ostracism young people often face. While “social ostracism” to Kurt means being chased around the German countryside with pitchforks and torches, and it is doubtful the loner kid in the back of class doubles as a creature feared by German farmers, everyone certainly has had those moments where they feel alone. Kurt represents the idea of not judging a book by its cover turned up to eleven, set on fire and disintegrated with an optic blast for good measure.   
Ororo Munroe, better known as the weather-controlling mutant Storm, “shocked” readers and critics alike by being the first woman of color superhero in all of comics. “Hail”-ing from Kenya, Storm would bring the “thunder” with her inclusion in, again, “Giant Size X-Men #1.”  Storm’s role on the team revolutionized not only Marvel, but comic books as a whole, as she and her future husband, Black Panther, would be two of comics’ premiere non-white heroes. And Storm was no side character—she would go on to not only lead the X-Men team, but become headmistress of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, teaching a new generation of mutant heroes.  
Local artist and poet Kenny St. Fleur, 17, believes that Storm was the most significant contribution to diversity in comics.  
“She’s this ridiculously powerful, kick a** black woman who one minute is enriching young minds, then blowing up robots with her mind the next!” he said.  “As far as role models go, I can think of few better.”   
Suffice to say that Storm’s role as the first woman-of-color hero was be a big win for inclusion in a medium that even today is dominated by white dudes in tights.  Her inclusion on this most memorable of ‘X’ teams would pave the way for other female and minority heroes to come while also providing an underrepresented demographic, African-American girls, a hardcore superhero they can see themselves in. 
While he has been both friend and foe to to many X teams, Max Eisenhardt is probably one of the most controversial progressive characters in comics. While most villains are driven by greed or blood lust, Magneto, master of magnetism, is simply after tolerance. Being a holocaust survivor, he has seen first hand the atrocities of man, and seeks to liberate mutants from the oppression of  “Homosapiens,” often by any means necessary.  This mindset is often the cause of him being labeled a villain; however, it can not be overlooked that despite his often radical approach, it is clear to see where he is coming from. Just because he is the bad guy, doesn’t mean he's an objectively bad guy.  
The big reason Magneto is the villain is because we’re reading from the X-Men’s point of view. “We see him as this big bad, when really, he’s just a survivor trying to keep his people from going through what he did,” said Boston Arts Academy student Christian Kinney. “Yeah he’s intense about it, but that’s the only way he knows will keep mutants safe.”  While arguments can be made on both sides as to whether Magneto is hero or villain, his fight for the betterment of a marginalized group gives him a level of depth not often seen in older comic baddies, and pushes the idea that even the villain can just be a good guy with a different means of supporting change. 
 
JP Comics’ Paul Bryant believes that [The X-Men] “is about a group of ‘other,’ so as long as we have these other ‘other’ groups that feel like there’s a greater society pushing against them, then the X-Men will always be relatable, and people are more likely to support something they can relate to.”  Thanks to the enduring cultural pushback to characters who are separated from the majority, there will always be need for a team like the X-Men.  
By breaking the norms of 70s comics, the team would gain notoriety. By amazing writing and societal undertones they would gain fame. And, thanks to readers being able to better see themselves in the new team, the Giant-Sized X-Men would gain an undying legacy, the effects of which are still felt in comics today. 
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Johnny Silvercloud [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
African-American lives have just as much value as anyone else’s does. African-American lives have just as much value as anyone else’s does. 
Before I actually understood what the world around me was really like, I was just living my daily life, doing the things that I always do. I woke up, went to school, came home, and did my homework. That was my normal, daily routine. I thought the world was just fine. I never saw anything really happening outside and I never watched the news, so I assumed that everything and everyone was doing okay.  
In the past, I wasn’t willing to watch the news because I thought the whole news system in general was nosy and was always looking for a story. I didn’t realize that the media was saving lives by drawing attention to injustice. One day, I had nothing to do, so I decided to focus my attention on whatever my grandparents thought was interesting on TV. They turned on the news, and I saw something that sparked my train of thought. Innocent black lives were being taken by white police officers. That day, my whole world changed.  
As I consistently saw similar situations like this happen, I felt incomplete because I felt as if I could have spoken out or I could have done something to help prevent things like this from happening. The youth’s voice is strong, but I kept my voice to myself instead of using it as a weapon against inequality. As a young African-American girl, I should have been more aware of what was going on. I should have cared more about this topic instead of just wandering around like everything was fine, ignoring the fact that people like me were being innocently slaughtered by people that are “higher in power.’’ But I thought, who was going to listen to me? I’m a young girl and no one is going to care about my opinions because I do not have that much power.  
Now as I search police brutality against people of color, I see a bunch of news articles and videos about it. I now realize that I’ve been ignorant to the fact that African-Americans such as myself need guidance, strength and support in such crucial situations. I felt as if I’ve been misled by my society, just thinking that everything was fine because of all the cheery, upbeat videos I watched on YouTube. The world is like a person that pretends they’re happy in front of others, but is deeply hurting inside. 
 
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It’s a place that has more than what meets the eye 
It’s Beauty 
The beauty behind the rubble and decay that spectators have witnessed throughout the 4 seasons 
The elegance of the culture scattered throughout the community, the embodiment of who we are as people in the front lines 
Within these communities it contains the beautiful figures, profiles, and numerous dispositions dispersed throughout the realms that stretches as far from the sunshine Oaklands to the brutal cold Dorchesters 
And yet 
These dispositions are hidden behind the innumerable fourth estates 
projecting these unappealing images of these beautiful kingdoms 
Placing them in a negative limelight they’ve never asked for that have constantly appears on conservative and liberal outlets. 
They’re afraid to display elegance and  prosperity that are the various gems and diamonds  
the people who’ve  molded and proper this beautiful estate in which is common to the ear of those who are not familiar with are kingdom name: 
The glorious ghetto... 
Our humble abode... 
My Home...Our Home...
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