Cultural Criticism
Secondhand smoke is my last choice
Meagan, a teacher at Boston Arts Academy, quit smoking cigarettes, but she’s still around it a lot. Her dad smoked when she was young, as did her grandfather. Before she started, Meagan was always the person to tell people to “stop wanting to fit in with college peers.” But, by the end of her freshman year of college, her perspective changed. People would move away and give her weird looks when she was smoking at the bus stop — when they would start coughing she would get annoyed. Smoking is “not gonna be the things that kills you,” she said.
Cigarettes are addictive and can cause cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and other health problems. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and tobacco-related products. More than 70 are known to cause and/or initiate cancer and are called carcinogens. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes contain dried tobacco leaves along with chemicals and additives. Some, like tar and arsenic acetone, are very dangerous. Even “natural” products, such as herbal cigarettes, give off smoke and tar that contains many of the same chemicals.
Even non-smokers can get sick by inhaling secondary smoke states the Centers for Disease Control. With this in mind, people shouldn’t smoke right next to someone else, especially a minor. I’ve encountered people on the train who sat next to me smelling like cigarettes, even if they aren’t smoking at that very moment. In fact, cigarette smoke can rub off on anyone. Smokers should be mindful and wary about this. 
“Smokers need to be respectful,” Meagan said. She didn't feel that way before, but now she feels bad.
I’ve had an experience with secondary smoke before. One lovely afternoon, my friend and I were sitting at an outside table doing homework as I waited for my work shift to start. Everything was going well until a stench forced its way into my nostrils, causing my survival instincts to emerge from within! Immediately me and my friend covered our noses with our hands, but realized it wasn’t working so we used our sweaters. 
My friend couldn’t stop talking about how bothered he was by it. I had to shush him multiple times because he was speaking loudly and I didn’t want things to get out of hand. We could have moved to another table, but they were all occupied and I wanted to stay near the area where I work. Hoping to still get some homework done, I found that every now and then I would get distracted by the smell. Eventually, I gave up on doing homework and told my pal that I couldn’t stand it anymore so we left.
When I spoke with ninth graders at Boston Arts Academy they felt similarly.
“I don’t really like when people smoke around me because it makes my head hurt,” said Arlynn Varela. “I just don’t like the smell of smoke, so I wouldn’t be happy; I would tell em to put that crap away.” 
No one is stopping you from smoking, but keep in mind the people around you and how you could affect them; whether that be physically or emotionally.
Smoking is an addiction. Meagan smoked for 10 years before stopping at age 28. She had gotten diagnosed with a chronic illness. It was probably not caused by her tobacco used, but the doctor still asked her to stop smoking. She did, but she told me she would probably keep going if it wasn't for her health issue. She tried to quit even before the illness. She was switching back and forth on an “on and off, four-year period.” People started asking if she smoked two or three years ago because they could smell it on her, so she eventually got paranoid and kept perfume and body spray on her at all times. 
People should be allowed to smoke in their backyard, or in public spaces that are specifically designated for smoking, because then non-smokers can enter at their own risk. As Meagan said, it’s “a choice you’re making not the people around you.
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City News
Is vaping fated to burn out?
Vaping, the act of inhaling and exhaling vapor produced from an electronic cigarette or similar device has been around since 2003. As the industry thrived, specialized vape shops opened to satisfy the growing product demand. Now, almost 17 years after their introduction, lawmakers all over the country are taking action against the potential health risks of vaping.
"Today I'm officially declaring a public health emergency in the commonwealth, due to severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and marijuana-infused vaping products," said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to the press on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at the State House. “This order prohibits the sale of all devices, all non-flavored and flavored vaping products including mint and menthol, and all THC or marijuana vaping products in the Commonwealth.''
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,291 hospitalized E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury cases as of Dec.3, and 48 deaths have been confirmed. The intake of nicotine in both vaping and smoking regular cigarettes can cause lung diseases, however, diseases associated with vaping are mysterious and not very well understood. At the ban’s announcement back in September, Monica Bharel, state public health commissioner, said to the press  "We do not know what is causing these illnesses, but the only thing in common in each one of these cases is the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products. So, we want to act now to protect our children."
The popularity of nicotine vaping among children is part of what led to Gov. Baker’s decision to ban vaping products. Schools and parents have become increasingly concerned with kids’ embrace of vaping and possible long-term health risks. As people around the country begin to become ill and even die from the effects of vaping, the health risks and call for legislative action grew more urgent. 
Although e-cigarettes and vapes have only been on the market in the United States since 2007, vapes have had a history much longer than 13 years. According to Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, the first patent for a smokeless cigarette was granted to Joseph Robinson in 1930. It would be over thirty years before Herman Gilbert pioneered a prototype resembling the modern e-cigarette in 1963, and another couple decades after that before Phil Ray and Norman Robinson attempted commercial cigarette devices in the 1980s. This particular ‘vape’ was not electronic but instead relied on nicotine evaporation. Fast-forward to 2003, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, created the world’s first commercially successful electronic cigarette. By 2006, they were being sold in Europe, and in 2007 arrived in the US.
Originally introduced as a “safer” alternative to smoking, e-cigarettes took off. Their success was immediate and their popularity only grew. As the industry began to expand even further, companies began to add flavors into cartridge-based e-cigarette pods. Once the e-cigarette vaporizes water and nicotine from a pod, the user inhales the vapor, thus the name “vaping.” Adding flavors to the pods increased their appeal, but these flavors weren’t just any flavors. Stores started selling mango, strawberry, candy, vanilla, and many more pod flavors, which attracted new users. This new line of products profoundly affected the vaping industry since its commercialization in 2003 because now there was a different and larger group of consumers: teens. 
Suddenly, high schools around the country were plagued with vaping in bathrooms every day. Students who vaped either took their parent’s vape or simply bought their own online. The accessibility for vaping only made it easier for e-cigarettes to get into the hands of children who would get “hooked” on vaping, increasing the bottom line. According to the Pew Research Center, 31% of teens choose to vape just because of the availability of attractive flavors.
At first glance, the vaping ban seems reasonable. As a state, we will stop selling vapes and vaping products to prevent and research new and related lung diseases. We will also protect our children from vaping’s harmful effects. But one should also take into account who is being negatively affected by this ban. With a phenomenal demand from consumers, businesses exclusively catered to the sale of vape products. Locations such as the Vape Shop in Allston, Boston Smoke Shop on Newbury Street, or Beyond Vape in Sommerville all primarily sold vape and e-cigarette products. As a result of the ban, they will likely suffer heavily or close due to the fact that all of the money they invested to stock their shelves has been spent for nothing now that buying or selling the products is illegal.  Furthermore, the ban affects many traditional cigarette smokers, who are frustrated and worried that they will now revert back to smoking traditional cigarettes.  
Public health policy and consumer freedom are considerations that hang in the balance; that is the nature of such policy-making. Recently, a Massachusetts judge ruled that the ban will remain in place. Gov. Baker planned to lift the ban four months after it was instituted, but with such court ruling, the ban’s extension is expected. 
Is vaping fated to burn out, or will we continue to light up?
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School
Walkout at Boston Collegiate Charter shines a light on racial tensions
On Nov. 1, students at Boston Collegiate Charter School sat at their usual lunch tables, the room buzzing with chatter and gossip. Underneath the typical background noise was a layer of anticipation bubbling to the surface as the hands on the clock made its way closer to the fifth-period bell. It was evident even to those out of the loop what was to come, as demands were posted on every floor and dozens of students and some teachers were defying the school uniform by dressing in black. Everyone in the lunchroom knew that with the fifth-period bell would come an explosion never seen before at BCCS. 
In recent weeks, there have been multiple racially motivated incidents at the school, including the n-word being written on multiple bathroom walls, and a hijab being pulled off a student’s head. In response, several students decided to organize a walkout to point out racial tensions and draw attention to a list of student demands on how the school could create a better environment. Anyone who wanted to participate was to wear black and rally into the school parking lot after the lunch bell.
During lunch, a handful of students dressed in black passed out slips of paper to each table with “POCatBCCS DEMANDS” in bold, numbered one through ten. The same sheet was rotating around social media the days following. Student demands included a public show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, allowing cultural head wraps to be worn on school grounds, hiring more teachers of color, anti-bias training for all teachers and more.
By the end of the lunch block, Ariana Constant-Patton, junior and one of the student organizers, had taken to the stage, wielding a microphone and flanked by other walkout participants, some holding posters. The representatives stated that the walkout was necessary to respond to the racial problems taking place at the school. 
Critics whispered that the walkout would flop and participants wouldn’t exceed five, while others excitedly posted about the event on social media. While expectations varied, dozens of students ended up walking out of the building, some of whom had always planned to, and some of whom were convinced by the speeches in the cafeteria. 
Afternoon classes were relatively empty, ranging from two to ten kids present. Most teachers, those who weren’t protesting alongside their students, gave up on their lesson plans and allowed their students to watch the protest from below.
The crowd of people in black stood in the parking lot, holding hands and chanting “No justice, no peace.” Individuals took the microphones and gave speeches, being cheered on by their peers. Some were full of anger and passion, leading call-and-response chants and yelling up at underclassmen who were laughing down at them from indoors. Others were full of praise for everyone that participated and sending love to those that stayed in the building to gawk out the window. Journalists from the Boston Globe observed from the back. After the speeches and chants came music and dancing. 
“The people who participated in the walkout don't hate anyone,” Constant-Patton assured. “It’s just about finding the mutual respect line for all of us and just trying our best to like come together as a community rather than be against each other … I think that as long as we're respecting each other and respecting the way that we go about things that will be a lot better.”
The following Monday, morning classes were replaced with an assembly addressing the walkout, where faculty came forward and discussed the events that took place and where to go from there. 
“It felt like we were seen as the aggressor,” Constant-Patton said regarding the assembly. “The students who were laughing in the windows during the walkout weren’t called out. I feel like the the assembly didn't really like fully attest to what happened.”
Following the assembly was an optional space for discussion. Some felt the walkout was empowering and necessary, while others stated it created a divide in the student body. Sarah Purvis, senior, countered the latter, saying, “The school has been divided since I can remember. The walkout just highlighted the divide that’s been here for years.” 
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A work of art is only as good as the message it conveys. While many artists try and fail to make a piece more than what it was meant to be, I have yet to see social commentary executed better than “The SpongeBob Musical.” 
Yes, you read that correctly. No, you’re not having a stroke. “The SpongeBob Musical” not only exists, but it may be the best satire of the decade.
Curtains rise and we see the familiar yet fresh setting, Bikini Bottom. The musical has a makeshift set with a majority of the props and pieces seeming to be recycled from everyday items, adding to the charm.  The lighting moves ever so subtly to emulate the motion of the ocean. You remember the simple pleasures of wasting away weekends in front of the TV.  Try as you might, your Gen Z cynicism is melted away by a tide of nostalgia drowning your heart only to be rescued by the shrill tones of one SpongeBob SquarePants, played be the miraculously square Lorenzo Pugliese. After catching up with your favorite fish-folk, the plot is set into motion. And what, you may ask, is the plot of a SpongeBob musical? The heckin’ apocalypse of course.
After resident scientist, Sandy Cheeks (Daria Pilar Redus), uses science to figure out that a volcanic eruption is two days away, the entire town loses their collective mind. It is then up to SpongeBob and his friends to stop the volcano that would destroy Bikini Bottom and prove he is, in fact, “manager material.” 
“The SpongeBob Musical” uses its jovial tone and familiar characters not only to raise awareness of social issues but also to poke fun at them.  A personal favorite is that after it is revealed that the world is set to end, a school of fish engage in anti-mammal sentiments directed at Sandy in an effort to blame someone. While commentary on ignorance is often heavy-handed and distracting, here it is done in a way that not only spotlights the damage that the “us and them” mindset creates, but makes a mockery of it in the process.
Praises aside, there are scenes that feel unnecessary and several of the musical numbers feel forced. With every semi-important character getting their own song explaining their motivation, it becomes distracting and over bloats the run time. This isn’t to say that every song is bad, however. Where it works, the music is entertaining, catchy, and downright hilarious. Credit must also go to the stellar soundtrack, including songs written by David Bowie, Panic! At The Disco, Steven Tyler, John Legend and the Plain White T’s (the guys who wrote “Hey There Delilah”). The songs are bops and perfectly capture the essence of he who lives in a pineapple under the sea. 
Should yee be interested—he said like a pirate—“SpongeBob SquarePants” is playing at the Boch Wang Theatre through October 27, matey!
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During the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s, African American people exerted their potential. The movement was rich in black excellency across many spectrums, but most articles only mention three parts of the movement: the work of Amiri Baraka, often seen as the igniter of the Black Arts Movement, the poets of the movement and jazz. What’s missing from the narrative is visual arts and dance. 
Hannah Fosters, author of “Black Past,” begins by describing Amiri Baraka, as he’s seen as the “Father of the Black Arts Movement.” She proceeds to write about how jazz musicians were celebrated such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Archie Shepp and others.
For an article dedicated to the understanding of African American history, I’m surprised that there’s isn’t discussion of more aspects of the Movement. For example, a Google Images search for “Black Arts Movement” on google yields a lot of artistic drawings. Yet, that drawing aspect of it is barely even mentioned in articles. 
Non-profit website Poets.org also starts off with the mention of Baraka after its introduction. Here Baraka is also seen as an “important figure.” It focuses specifically on the poem aspect of the black arts movement because “poetry was the genre that saw the most expansion and growth at the time.” The site shares information about Baraka and poems, but it fails to acknowledge other perspectives and narratives such as how art was transformed or how women played a part in helping exhibit the black aesthetic. 
Learning about the Black Arts Movements solely through a lens of writing, men and music is bad because of the limited perspective. I find it kind of saddening that only these aspects of the Black arts movement are portrayed. Many sources accuse the movement of sexism, but these sources also exclude female artists who strived to make the Black Arts Movement even more popular. 
I could only find one article that focused on another type of art: painting. In “Widewalls,” notable journalist Patina Lee explores theater, dancing, and drawing. For example, Lee mentions Jeff Doanldson, who was a respected artist and was known for his “Wall Of Respect” mural. Lee writes that he was “one of the most prolific visual authors.” If it weren’t for this article, I would have never learned of the artistic and theatre aspect of the Black Arts Movement. If we are to learn about something as encouraging and powerful as the Black Arts Movement, I would want to learn all perspectives of it. Wouldn’t you?
Why then? Firstly, sexism was much more prevalent in the 60s. Women in general were looked down upon by men and males were seen as the dominant. Like the previous articles said, the Black Arts Movement was criticized for being sexist, and I believe it indeed was. You can most definitely find solid information on the web in which women contributed to the movement now, but the articles themselves would tell you that the Black Arts Movement seemed to be exclusive of them. 
How come writing is so much talked about, and specifically about poems? Part of the reason why this might be was because the start of the Movement itself first revolved around poems. Also, since poems were short and could be recited at rallies and other protests to sway the people, poetry was one of the most popular aspects of the Black Arts Movement. Music, particularly Jazz was a big part of the Movement as well. That is no surprise as Jazz was invented by black people. So why not include that in a movement that focuses on the Black aesthetic? 
The Black Arts Movement let people see the aesthetics of their culture and helped put many black people in the spotlight across many professions. The Movement can be criticized in any way, but you can’t deny the fact that the movement did a lot of good. It helped Black culture progress and thrive at times where the dominant was trying to oppress them. 
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