AFH Photo // Bobo, Esther
Within the bustling city of Boston, the streets hide a gruesome truth. Homelessness has plagued Boston for decades, and the number of homeless individuals and families are still on the rise. 
Boston’s 2015 annual homeless census counted 7,663 homeless men, women, and children, with 139 unsheltered individuals. While there are fewer unsheltered individuals than the previous year, the total number of men, women and children without a stable home is rising.  
“With extremely low rental vacancy rates for households looking to rent apartments and out-of-reach rental costs for units that are available, many Boston residents experience homelessness and housing insecurity. At the same time, Boston -- and Massachusetts as a whole -- have very complex and multi-layered responses to homelessness,” says Kelley Turley, Director of Legislative Advocacy for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.  
The census also found that the number of homeless families in Boston rose 25% between 2014 and 2015, and the number of homeless youth is on the rise nationwide. The National Homeless Coalition notes that homeless youth are at a higher risk for mental health problems, substance abuse and sexual abuse. Between 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, who are even more likely than their counterparts to experience sexual abuse. It is more difficult for homeless youth to find shelter because adult shelters are often unsafe and there are fewer emergency beds for young people. 
However, there are several organizations in Boston devoted exclusively to this issue. Bridge Over Troubled Water has been helping homeless youth and runaways since the 1960’s. They provide counseling, in-house medical services, accessible education and other daily support.  
In 2012, Harvard graduates opened Boston’s first student-run overnight shelter for youth: Y2Y. Based in Harvard Square, the organization seeks to provide dignity, safety, and adaptability for young adults experiencing homelessness. Many of the shelter’s volunteers are college students. “What unified us was this simple belief that people our own age should not be sleeping right outside our dorms,” reads a quote on their website. 
“Young people are important players in the work to promote housing stability,” says Turley. “[The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless] has been working with youth and young adults for the past six years to create a systemic statewide response to homelessness among unaccompanied youth (young people outside the custody and care of a parent or guardian). Young people with and without housing have come up to the State House with us to share their recommendations to lawmakers and to tell their personal stories.” 
Human compassion drives many of the organizations and individuals working with the homeless. Volunteers in homeless shelters and organizations are at the core of the movement to improve the Boston housing situation. Although homelessness may seem like a large, menacing, undefeatable issue, the solution begins with one person’s decision to make a difference.  
Read more…
AFH Photo // Heap, Tristin
Rachel Gies has been a fan of the Franklin Park Zoo since she was young. “I like the zoo a lot because I enjoy seeing all the different kinds of animals in real life, not just in books and on television,” said the junior at Boston Latin School. Like many New England children, Gies has often wondered what happens to animals during the winter.  
Many zoos that experience frigid winters have policies in place to protect their animals from the extreme weather. John Piazza, Zoo New England Mammal Curator, is responsible for managing the mammal collection at both Franklin Park and Stone Zoo. Piazza says, “I work with our zookeepers on a daily basis to monitor our animals’ behaviors and actions as a means of keeping them healthy, safe and comfortable. We are lucky to have a lot of resources to assist in accomplishing those goals.” 
At Franklin Park Zoo, lions have a special heated rock to keep them warm and African dogs can escape into heated caves. Piazza states, “Many of the species that hail from tropical regions have permanent indoor exhibits and are not affected during the winter months. The Tropical Forest at Franklin Park Zoo is a good example of this. This large indoor space, which is kept at 72 degrees year-round, is home to western lowland gorillas, ring-tailed lemurs, pygmy hippos, Baird’s tapirs, free-flight birds and many other species.” Piazza adds that tropical animals are more vulnerable to the cold. “We take great care to ensure these species have adequate heat, light and sometimes adjustments to seasonal dietary needs,” he said.  
Joanne Leu, a junior at John D. O’Bryant, always assumed the animals were brought inside once all the visitors were gone. She also concluded that their fur would keep them warm.  Leu is correct, some animals require less attention than other. “North American porcupines and reindeer – all of which are well-adapted to winter weather -- usually only require a minimal amount of heat be provided in their shelter,” said Piazza. 
Both the Franklin Park and Stone Zoo are accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This means they “undergo a rigorous six-month long review, as well as an on-site inspection by a team of experts who examine the animal collection; veterinary care; exhibits and physical facilities; safety; security; finances; staffing and involvement in education, conservation and research,” said Piazza.  
While the winter months are long, animals are kept physically and mentally occupied. An enrichment committee is responsible for understanding how animals act in their natural environments so they can recreate it. “Whether an animal likes to stalk and chase its prey, burrow underground to hide, or forage for food, its behavior is taken into consideration when creating enrichment.” 
Through observation and research, zookeepers have thoughtfully created environments where different species can survive year round in environments that most closely resemble their natural habitats. The next time you find yourself visiting the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo, know they are well taken care of all year round.  
Read more…
AFH Photo // Chen, Yvonne Yanying
History often repeats itself. Natural disasters, war and social turbulence occur every day, from Syria to Massachusetts. In times of need, the United States should help foreign countries in difficult situations by donating resources to help ease the difficulty and help the population get back on their feet.  
According to CNN, during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, estimates of 220,000 to 316,000 people died, 300,000 people were injured, 1.5 million people were displaced and almost 4,000 schools were damaged. Most people were badly affected in this situation. During that earthquake, most schools were damaged and now many kids don’t have the chance to get an education. This situation is going to affect the country in the long term because if children don’t get the right amount of food, sleep or education it will harm the well being of that generation. For the people who are having the most difficult time, the U.S. government should provide aid so they can get better.  
CNN reported that over $13 billion in aid was allocated by international agencies to Haiti for 2010 - 2020, according to the United Nations. The U.S. allocated $4 billion, and deployed civilian and military personnel to carry out activities ranging from search and rescue operations, restoring air and seaports, providing life saving health and medical services, and helping meet the basic food, water, and shelter needs of the Haitian people. This is a great example of countries coming together in times of need.  
With the current refugee crisis in Syria, last year the U.S. admitted just over 12,000 Syrian refugees, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, Canada took in 26,000 individuals from Syria in just three months last year, reports the Guardian. As the refugee crisis continues to grow in 2017, what should the role of the United States be? 
Alyssa Hughes, history teacher at Boston International High School, thinks, “In general, we should, as citizens of the United States, think of ourselves as a part of a national community to help each other in crisis in the global community.” She thinks that we as “global citizens are responsible for people around the world.” However, Hughes also talks about how all country leaders should cooperate with one another, not just the U.S., in providing aid, because a country should not be dependent on others.  
Boston International High School English teacher Catherine Finkenstaedt said the responsibility of America should not be just financial support, but also “medicine, schools, food and housing. The U.S. should not help right way after the disaster, but think about the long term.” 
We as citizens need to encourage our government to take action and assist other countries when they are in need by rebuilding their economy and improving their quality of life after a crisis. It is in everyone’s best interest if we all help each other out. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Nguyen, Mary
Barack H. Obama was the first African-American president of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton was the first major female party nominee for president. 
Their achievements are unalterable truths in the short history of the United States, and their successes represent the empowerment of two marginalized groups that have been oppressed for much of the nation's history. In times of heightened tension, it is crucial to highlight unprecedented accomplishments so that we continue the momentum of progress.  
Matthew A. Kazlauskas, an Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher at the John D. O'Bryant High School, comments, “The history of African-Americans and of women in the U.S. are incredibly important. Both have played vital roles in shaping this country. They didn't always make up the major narrative. They obviously weren't always in government which tended to dominate traditional narratives.” 
The oppression of African-Americans and women as a whole in our nation's history is not debatable, and it continues to this day. African-American men are disproportionately incarcerated, and women of all nations continue to struggle with equal pay for equal work.  
The worldwide Women's March on Washington in January occurred in response to Donald Trump’s presidency after a series of hateful, sexist rhetoric during his campaign. In recent years, numerous protests have transpired after an alarming amount of video evidence showing what appears to be excessive force by police officers against unarmed minorities. These social responses are evidence of ongoing struggles among marginalized groups.  
Agnes Ugoji, a junior at the O’Bryant who attended the Women's March in Boston, said, “Women need to continuously prove themselves in male-dominated jobs. They have to prove they are worthy of their positions and people undermine their education because they are women. Gender shouldn't be a barrier in professional work.” 
The unfair disadvantages of women and African-Americans in our modern society is what makes the achievements of Obama and Clinton stand out further. They defied stereotypes and misconceptions that society holds.   
Dahlia Elamin, also a junior at the O’Bryant, says, “Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency set an influence -- not just for women, but for everyone -- that women are capable.” Clinton set new, higher standards for women and became a positive model to young girls all over the world.  
Elamin elaborated, “Another African-American president also seems possible because of Obama’s positive public image. Other people could do what they might have once thought was impossible because of the stereotypes and misconceptions Obama challenged as an African -American president.”  
Obama and Clinton broke barriers and carved paths for others to follow. Their stories bring hope for improvement into reality. As a generation raised under Obama’s game-changing presidency that is now witnessing a dramatically different political atmosphere, it is our responsibility to continue the legacy of Obama, Clinton and all those who will follow in their pursuit of change and progress. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Petitjean, Lourdes
Controversy around cultural appropriation is taking place across American society and surfaces many questions: What is cultural appropriation? Why is it significant, and what message does it leave behind?  
At the core of cultural appropriation is the idea that it is appropriate for one group of people with social power to take on elements -- cultural, religious, or historical -- of another group with less social power. It is particularly demeaning for that ‘dominant’ group to take factors of that marginalized culture. Especially when the supposed superior group oppressed them for centuries.  
It seems that everywhere in the media, culture is being used as a form of entertainment, rather than being used to learn from and educate. This controversial issue is fueled by celebrities who often wear clothes, hairstyles, or recreate dances that are not their own. To many, these celebrities are stealing from a culture they may have little knowledge about. On multiple occasions, the Kardashians have worn culturally African-American hairstyles as their own. Their fans praise them for ‘acknowledging’ the culture, when in reality they are only wearing these styles as a fashion statement.  
Cultural appropriation is especially degrading because those ‘borrowing’ the culture may be praised for it, while those of that culture are shamed for it. Notably, when a black woman wears African or black hairstyles in a public setting, they are deemed as unprofessional or less beautiful. When white individuals wear these same exact hairstyles, they are often praised for it, to the point where it becomes normalized in society. During a Marc Jacobs’ fashion show in 2016, his models were styled in faux dreadlocks. This sparked criticism from the black community, citing claims that African-Americans are discriminated against for wearing the same style. In the same year, a federal appeals court decision maintained that it is legal for employers to ban dreadlocks at work, even legally firing employees who do not comply. This speaks volumes about the society we live in today, where credit is not given where it is due.  
When a black girl has to struggle for acceptance wearing the same styles that a white girl would be praised for, the message sent to them is that their beauty is not enough, and will never be enough; that their beauty will never truly be accepted as their own in a white society; that their culture is not good enough until it is in the hands of white individuals. Simply put, cultural appropriation is hypocritical and represents our society’s lack of respect for underrepresented minority groups.  
Read more…