A&E
Young Critics' Pascale Florestal amplifies the importance of diversity in pop-culture criticism
Photo courtesy of Delon Photography
When considering going to a new restaurant down the block or checking out a play that just came to town, chances are the first place you’d turn to are the reviews. Critics serve the important purpose of giving people an initial impression of art and culture, becoming a bridge from creators to appreciators. Their words can determine a product’s reception.
With critics carrying so much power, how important is it for their demographics to be diverse? In the modern world of theater, the contributions from artists of color have been growing exponentially, with the likes of Jordan Peele, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kehinde Wiley to name a few. While the types of media are diversifying, critics have not been able to keep up. According to a report from Variety, 82% of critics who reviewed the top 100 grossing movies in 2017 were white.
“How are white reviewers able to understand and contextualize the experience of artists of color?” Pascale Florestal, director of Young Critics Organization, asked herself. Florestal noticed that works by people of color are often judged more harshly, or are not understood by critics. In theater especially, she describes how reviews can be “the only documentation of these experiences, so what happens when the majority of people reviewing do not represent the community or the stories being told?”
Hoping to spark a change in the world of professional criticism, Florestal founded the Youth Critics Organization with WBUR’s “The ARTery” to focus on training young adults of color in criticism. The Young Critics Program now trains 12 young adults by taking them to theater performances to critique. It strives to teach youth about criticism and reporting, and how to exercise these skills while viewing performances all around Boston.
Pascale has been surrounded by the arts since the age of three and was shaped by theater after being put in dance classes by her parents. Her love for theater intensified after she participated in backstage work for community service in high school. 
Eventually, she was inspired to get a BA in Theater at Ithaca College. After immersing herself in the industry for so long, she began to notice an imbalance in the reviews that different types of art receive.
“[In the] last like four years, a lot of new work has been happening, which has been so exciting and there's also been a big surge of theater of color,” she explained as we sat in the Boston Center for the Arts. “And one of the things I kept noticing is the people who are reviewing [these new productions] are mostly old white men.”
One she noticed, she realized the lack of diversity hurt both the audience and the artists.
“I felt it was imperative that we have younger voices to talk about the work because they're going to be the next people coming in doing this work, seeing this work, hopefully investing in it,” Pascale said.
With the help of top New England writing consultants, participants will become more familiar with criticism, while also getting to leave with a nice check after each review. Encouraging a more diverse group of people to pursue this type of reporting opens up an opportunity for a much-needed ripple in the world of criticism.
Expect a boom in the world of critics and a long overdue one at that.
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A&E
SCP Foundation wiki: reader's dream or navigational nightmare?
Sometimes the most interesting stories start not with a hook, but with a government-ordered file number. Such is the case with most stories on the niche SCP Foundation Wiki, a site that parodies government websites. The wiki is a fictional catalog of cool people, places and things, and the stories that surround them, à la “The X-Files.” 
Some bizarre stories include a woman who can stick her hands into photos, an alternate-dimension version of the Foundation that is attempting to invade the multiverse and a giant unkillable lizard. The main story of the wiki is that “The SCP Foundation” attempts to capture these beings and keep them secret from the world. To keep a record of these beings, they catalog them on the wiki, which is designed to appear as a secret government website.
Those who would make comparisons to the somewhat more mainstream Creepypasta wiki  — another site that lists scary events and things — would not be wrong to do so. Both sites use the Wikidot website platform, a collection of forums and pages that catalog information on a number of topics. They also both have thousands of writers who use them as outlets for their creativity — and both stem from horror themes, referencing urban legends and popular science fiction. However, any person who has visited both wikis would see glaring differences between the two. The Creepypasta wiki has a low standard for the written works on the site, which leads to many poorly written, repetitive stories. In contrast, admins who run the SCP wiki are quick to criticize or even remove works they view as “not up to par” or unoriginal, and the community itself views the entire wiki as an opportunity for all members to improve their writing skills. Many people revise their stories and SCPs after posting them on the site’s main logs. This striving for originality and constant improvement can lead to an amazing reading experience, as writers will expand their stories into other genres such as action and drama. When it comes to expanding on cliché ideas in interesting ways, this wiki gets a passing grade.
The wiki is also open to new readers, with full book-length stories that are often made to introduce new readers to the “SCP Lore.” These stories include diverse casts of characters, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community and diverse races. Stories can include lesbian witches, nonbinary wizards and transgender wendigos. I guarantee that if you can imagine it, one of the nearly 1,000 writers on the wiki has written something like it. Also, if you are looking for a more audio-based introduction to the community, there are plenty of YouTube channels explaining and reading the wiki to listeners.
The community is quite cohesive, as writers and readers are often very accepting of each other’s so-called “headcanons” — or personal interpretations of characters and stories — in the universe, with the phrase “no real canon” getting thrown around a lot when discussing things and events in the “Foundationverse.”
There has only ever been a few problems with writers not respecting admins, and in those situations, writers were banned and articles were removed. When it comes down to it, the SCP community has weathered any and all drama that has come its way, and shows no sign of ending this pattern in the future. If you are looking for a stable fandom to join, with a welcoming attitude towards new readers and writers, this is the place for you.
However, any person who has visited the SCP wiki will see a problem that community support cannot fix. The site is frustrating to navigate. Like many wikis, the SCP Foundation wiki isn’t made in a creative way, and is built from a cookie-cutter framework. Also, the admins and most people in the community aren’t exactly skilled when it comes to site design. This, combined with the sheer amount of information that is saved on the site, makes it dense and difficult to navigate. For this reason, I would give the site a failing grade for ease of navigation. 
As I’ve said before, if you have a certain reading itch you want to scratch, be it sci-fi, fantasy, horror or any other niche fiction theme, you will most likely find it on the SCP Wiki, as long as you are willing to search for it.
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A&E
A Bajan's do's and don'ts
Photo by Jon-Ade Holter of Unsplash
Have you heard of the country Barbados? It’s an island in the Caribbean. When I say Caribbean island, what do you think of? Playing on the sandy beaches, having a fun time in the crystal-clear water, amazing food and upbeat music may come to mind. But, you should also think about getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, ants infesting your home and random stray cats asking for food at your doorsteps! If you ever plan on visiting Barbados, follow my tips on how to make the best out of your trip.
Things to do: 
  1. Visit in the summer 

If you’re going to Barbados, go during the party months of June, July and August because that's when Crop Over, also known as the Harvest Festival, happens. Crop Over is a 200-year-old tradition that celebrates the end of the sugar cane season. There is a lot of partying in the streets, parades and food. Crop Over ends with the biggest festival of them all, Kadooment, where people dress up in colorful and feathery, skimpy garments to march in the streets and party all day. 
  1. Hire a tour guide

It's easy to get lost in Barbados! The island has rocky, narrow roads and you have to drive on the left! But, if you get a tour guide, you can ask them to take you to places like Harrison Cave and beaches with pink sand and clear water, according to US News & World Report Travel Guide, which will make your trip more fun. My mother, Medina Jones, said, “It's best to get a tour guide. If you're really new, find a map or local.” 
  1. Carry bug spray

The bugs in Barbados are going to be wild! According to Barbados.org, there are flying cockroaches, ants, sandflies and the notorious mosquito, all which you can combat with the bug spray. Make sure to buy the bug spray in Barbados because the bug spray in America isn't strong enough to kill all of the bugs. Jones said it would be great to bring bug spray but don't expect it to work all the time. “Usually bugs come out at night, so be more careful then.” 
Pack accordingly 
When packing, the first thing you want to do is get proper summer clothes, the lighter the better. Another thing to do while you’re packing is to exchange your American money for Bajan dollars — the rate is approximately two Bajan dollars to every American dollar. Also, bring an umbrella because when noontime hits, the sun will be beaming and make you hot and sweaty. You also need the umbrella because it rains randomly and then stops at least 10 minutes later. Be sure to pack sunscreen to prevent sunburn and tan lines. 
  1. Eat the local food

When you go to Barbados, try the food. Cou cou and flying fish is the national dish. It's cornmeal with a side of tomato paste sauce with fish in it. You should also try macaroni pie. No, it’s not macaroni in a pie, it’s just baked macaroni and cheese. This is a big staple in the country’s diet. Another food you can try is a fried savory food called fish cakes. It's made with saltfish and dough batter, seasoned with scallions and other seasonings, then fried to a golden ball of perfection. According to Crane.com, it's the most popular food for tourists in Barbados. Other staple foods are rice and peas and a fruit called gineps, but in Barbados, they call them Bajan ackees. Not to be confused with the Jamaican ackee, it has the shape of a grape with a hard outer skin that you have to bite off. It's very sweet and sour. You can get them from street-side vendors in Barbados. “If you’re new to the island I really would recommend the food, there's a lot of flavor and spice that will make you feel very very excited,” Jones said. 
Things not to do:

Beware of the animals 
Barbados is full of animals like the green monkey, bats, lizards and rabbits. There are also animals like wild cats and dogs. To combat these tricky animals, don’t feed them! Yes, they may seem cute and cuddly, but they could have rabies, ticks or fleas and they could come back for more food if you feed them. I fed the cats and for sure they came back! Not sure about the dogs, but on the safe side don’t feed them either! If you see a monkey, don’t get too close. They can feel threatened and attack you, resulting in serious injuries. That said, animals aren't all that bad, but don't go out your way to bother them. If you bother them, they'll bother you. “Be careful too, and take awareness if you get bitten by an animal. Get medical treatment as fast as possible,” Jones said. 
Avoid poisonous trees 
In Barbados, there are many trees and fruits that look pretty and you may want to eat its fruit. However, you have to be aware of one tree in particular: the manchineel tree. Known to grow near coastal beaches, it is a poisonous tree that grows a deceiving fruit that looks edible, but could lead you to your short-timed death! 
Don’t wear camouflage 
When you get to Barbados, it's best that you keep your camouflage clothing at home! It’s the Bajan Law that you can’t wear camo clothing because it's only reserved for the Barbados Defense Force. This isn’t limited to just green camo, any color camouflage can get you detained!
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everything we do is a crime,
it’s been like that for a whole lifetime.

black is a color no one wants to see,
police are shooting so “quietly.”

once we die, no one hears a sound
whites on the news but blacks are nowhere to be found.

making it to 18 is a blessing,
in the life we’re living everyone’s stressing.

police make their way out of a crime,
whereas if blacks did they’d be facing time.

murder is a small six-letter word,
but we have to yell just to be heard.

tears running down mommas’ faces,
“those police took my baby now they need to be put in their places”

you have to stretch to make life out here livable, 
hoodrats on every corner yelling “we need a miracle”

working hard is something we all do,
we have to budge into places you guys just walk through.

no one cares enough,
everyone’s living alone.

you all persist, cuffs around our wrists,
while families are missed.
 
your fist in my lip,
remind me of when you guys used to whip.

if you put a c in front of opp you’ll know the biggest threat
 but the sad part is, you all have your own mindset.

a jail cell is where most of us are held,
behind bars, serving time, the judge compelled.

lack of opportunity has broke our unity,
defined our identity
and marginalized minorities.

black lives matter caused a whole lot of chatter,
so all lives matter 
was rathered.

sirens wailing,
blacks are failing.

i can’t believe you’d all have the tendency,
the answer is not white supremacy.

take a look in your rear-view, and all you see is the color
blue.

“keep your hands visible and make no sudden moves,”
police make the calls then say we’re all fools.

whites reach for the stars,
while blacks remain behind bars.

right before dinner some families pray,
wishing that they’ll live to see another day.

being black can sometimes get hard,
carrying the burden of all whites wanting you dead in a graveyard.

by the second more lives are being lost,
and those officers need to pay the cost.

if you flipped the script you’ll see what life is like,
waking up to a world where everyday you have to fight.

our ancestors were slaves,
beaten and abused
i’m conveyed that we’ll always lose.

what did they do to earn so much disrespect,
we’re always the number one suspects.

we all bleed the same blood,
so why can’t we all just equally love?

up to this day,
racism continues
i hope in the future this doesn’t cause any issues.

black. 
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Free Write
The body of a woman
My body, My power 
That’s what they say anyways 
Beauty like a sunflower 
No matter how much we weigh. 

Beautiful from our head to our toes 
Including our mismatched curves 
What we wear is a form of expression, a way of life, and showing growth
It does not matter what you think you deserve 

I can’t control the uncontrollable 
Like the size of my chest or the size of my figure 
Your opinions are disposable, unlovable, unknowable 
They should be reconsidered, ‘cause they just make you sound bitter.

I won’t dress to make you happy 
OR do what you want me to do 
If I don’t want to do my hair, who cares if it’s nappy! 
But I live in a society where none of these messages get through. 

The way I sit is none of your business
Whether my legs are crossed or not 
If I’m taking up space, I’m sorry but I’m not asking for your forgiveness. 
I’m not the woman of your imagination, But of course, that’s something you never thought. 

My body, My power
So I’m going to do what I want and wear what I please 
Through every day and every hour 
I am a woman, who else agrees?
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