Lufus Philip
Arriving 30 minutes ahead of time to set up, JP licks welcomed me with a calm setting. Right after walking out of the bathroom at JP Licks I looked straight ahead, and suddenly this figure appeared right in front of me. She wore casual clothing which complimented her short black hair. Through her glasses, my eyes met hers. With a firm sense of belief and furrowed eyebrows, she asked if I was the person she was meeting. At first glance, I saw a woman who's able to approach others that she may not know in a way that welcomes them. She embodied extreme confidence that everyone can benefit from.
Neema Avashia, a middle school teacher at the McCormack, was born and raised in Virginia to immigrant Indian parents. As a child, she grew up in a tight-knit Indian community.  Moving to Boston, the place she currently resides in, was a new environment and experience for her. She started her journey here to attend a teaching program called the Boston Teaching Residency which put a twist on things. 
“Instead of going to a university and learning how to be a teacher by sitting in a college classroom, you actually were in school every day,” she said. “So you did the whole school year with a mentor teacher, and then you took classes at night.”
What sparked Avashia’s interest in teaching is a very heartwarming story.  At first Avashia did not see herself as a teacher until she was in college and was tutoring at an elementary school where she taught a kid how to properly write his name. Avashia stated “ And I was like, wait a minute, that kid's gonna do that for the rest of his life. And there was something about that, that felt really powerful.”
But even if you realize what you want to become and are passionate about, there isn't always support from your family. And in the beginning that’s how it was for Avashia. Her parents are immigrants who pushed the idea of Avashia having  a job that doesn't necessarily involve teaching kids but produces a high income. Avashia said, “And I think they kind of have this expectation that like, both my sister and I would go into careers that were very, high paying or  high powered. And I think they were really worried that if I became a teacher, it was almost like taking a step backwards.” 
Avashia has been teaching at the McCormack for 16 years. She has been able to prove to her parents who weren't fond of her becoming a teacher that teaching really makes an impact on communities and the kids that come from them. 
As a teacher Avashia is able to code switch from being a teacher to being a student to achieve different goals. As a student Avashia thinks “Okay, I need to listen really hard and ask lots of questions and kind of be a student, and not assume that I understand anything and not assume that I know anything, but just be like, teach me, teach me everything you can teach me help me learn, what it's like to be you what it's like to live the life you live.”
There isn't a single soul alive or gone that hasn't dealt with personal life struggles. Like everyone else in the world Avashia has fought through her fair share of challenges. Avashia faced the challenge of struggling to maintain relationships with people due to political circumstances.
Avashia says “I think, since Trump's election, it's been a lot harder, because it sort of feels like people who I love and who I grew up with, a lot of them voted for someone who basically is against me.”

This placed Avashia in sort of a dilemma. “Like one is like it made me sort of doubt my relationship with those people and be like, wait a minute, if they think these things how could they have cared for me or been close to me?” 
She felt as though the government's verbal attacks on her people were endorsed by some of her friends. That lead her to feel like an exception among her peers back home. Paving the way for Avashia to keep a bit of a distance between her and Virgina. 
“I was supposed to go back a couple weeks ago, and I didn't go because I sort of felt like I couldn't. I didn't know how I was gonna face people there and not think about who they elected or who they voted for the whole time. I couldn't get it out of my head.” Avashia isn't able to see herself in Virginia anymore to the point where returning would only hurt her internally. 
After all the questioning was done Avashia kindly agreed to take a picture. After that, one of the most memorable things was our high five. It was quick and simple but that high five made us seem more like friends rather interviewee and interviewer. It was a deeper connection rather than me just performing a job requirement.
“I wish that there was a way to like, not mess up in the beginning,”  Avashia said. “ But what I know about teaching is it's a kind of thing that , you're always messing up and  you learn from your mess ups and you get better.”
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I once had a conversation with my teacher where she complimented my hair and explained how she missed my braids that I previously had. During this conversation she jokingly brought up a conversation she had with another student and how that student said that my teacher should get box braids and do her “edges.” My teacher’s response to that was, “I’m white, cultural appropriation!” My teacher didn’t hesitate in giving this response because she knew that by getting braids it was essentially another way of taking a part of a culture that wasn’t her own — a culture whose history she knows little to nothing about. My teacher’s mindset isn’t one that everyone has and the question we have to ask is, why? Why is something so vividly wrong like cultural appropriation still happening? 
Cultural appropriation is a very complex term. The definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture, and it doesn’t always fit every instance due to double standards that lie within the idea. A double standard is essentially when a set of rules don’t apply to specific people or often times groups of people. 
Last year during Couture Fashion Week in Paris, fashion designer Zuhair Murad, was accused of cultural appropriation. Murad sent his models down the runway wearing head garments imitating Native American culture. According to the Huffington Post, his set included “large painted poles arranged to look like teepees without coverings.” The teepee more commonly known to Native Americans as “tipi” means “they dwell.” It was a place where family dwellings would take place and sometimes even used for ceremonial purposes and the headgarmets, or headdresses, also hold a lot of importance to Native American culture. 
For Murad, a Lebonsese fashion designer, to take two aspects of a culture that hold a lot of meaning and use them for popularity is incredibly rude. How ignorant do you have to be to send models in lingerie down the runway wearing something that is very valuable and has meaning to another culture? That simply shows his lack of respect for the group’s culture he is appropriating. Murad did credit Native Americans, as he got his inspiration from that culture, but it was all a little too late because he gave credit after he had received backlash for culture appropriating to begin with. When asked about cultural appropriation, LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant for the Huffington Post said, “It [giving credit] shouldn’t be an afterthought.”
I completely agree with this statement because you shouldn’t first have to receive hate or negative attention for appropriating someone else’s culture to then give credit to the culture. You give credit where credit is due and it’s crystal clear that Murad gave credit to combat all the negative attention, and it’s completely absurd to me that he was let off the hook so easily. Now, I’m not saying throw the man in jail and ruin his life, I’m saying that what he did was such a big slap in the face to Native Americans. 
This isn’t the first time a person with fame has used another group’s culture as a way to get attraction or publicity. Similarly, last year Kim Kardashian made headlines after she posted on her instagram story that she had gotten Bo Derek braids. In the video, Kardashian wore what is commonly known as cornrows. She credited the style to a white woman, Derek, who she had seen wearing the braids in the movie “10.” Derek is not the creator of the hairstyle as these braids go back centuries. According to Byrdie, braids were worn by African American women and men to indicate their tribe. Each hairstyle was very intricate and important. Kardashian is giving credit to a white woman who, quite honestly, was appropriating culture to begin with. Of course, when Derek did this for a movie in 1979 cultural appropriation didn’t really have much meaning, and maybe didn’t even exist, but Kim did this last year and it wasn’t her first time doing it. She also wore braids back in 2013, similarly crediting Derek. The first time Kardashian did this she messed up, but everyone messes up sometimes. However, to do it again after she received backlash the first time is almost as if she’s telling the world, “Yes, I’m cultural appropriating, yes I know it’s wrong, but who cares?” Changing the color of your braids from black to blonde does not mean you aren’t cultural appropriating, Kim. 
Although Kardashian received a lot of backlash, mainly from the African American community she received many compliments for her hairstyle. People recognized the appropriation as a trend, and people said she raised the standard for the beauty community and what it means. But why is it okay for Kardashian to appropriate another culture while people within that culture who do the same thing are stereotyped and criticized? Time and time again we’ve seen African Americans targeted for the hairstyles that they wear. According to People, two years ago a high school in Kentucky received a lot of negative attention because they banned hairstyles such as cornrows, afros longer than two-inches, dreadlocks, and more. As you read the list the hairstyles seem to be more and more oriented towards the African American students. Why is something so minor as a hairstyle being called into question at a school? They don’t affect anything at all. However, Kardashian can wear hairstyles like this, post it on her instagram, get some hate, but overall have a very positive response? The high school lifted the ban, said People, after parents complained and it made headlines. It shouldn’t have to be that way at all. It shouldn’t have to take people telling you that something is clearly discriminatory for you to change it. As a school you should strive for an environment where everyone feels included, students and staff. That’s as if someone commits murder, is given the death penalty, and only after being punished realizes that what they did was wrong. Murdering the person was wrong to begin with and getting called out for it wasn’t what made it wrong. You should be able to differentiate wrong from right regardless of potential consequences. 
Likewise in 2015, actress Zendaya Coleman attended the Oscars wearing dreadlocks. Some people weren’t fans of the hairstyle, but others were more adamant about publicly sharing their unwanted and ignorant comments on it. Giuliana Rancic, an American-Italian reporter, made a snarky remark on E! Fashion Police about the stars hairstyle stating that she [Coleman]  probably, “smells like patchouli oil or weed” this was obviously a racially-motivated comment and Coleman had a lot to say on her twitter to Rancic. It’s incredibly disheartening that a 40-year-old felt the need to comment on an 18-year-old’s hair in a negative light. If someone like Derek or Kardashian wore their hair like Coleman’s on the red carpet, would Rancic have a snarky comment? Or would she think the hairstyle was “cute” ? Would these two actresses probably smell of patchouli oil or weed, as well? Probably not. We’ve invested time into creating ideas and beliefs, but they’re always twisted. What’s meant to aid in stopping an existing issue simply creates another unwanted and unnecessary issue. I personally believe that the idea of cultural appropriation was created to prevent others from using aspects of a culture in a negative light and to bring positivity and acceptance to different cultures that are either underrepresented or disrespected. Thus far, cultural appropriation has not been like that at all. People are bringing in their own prejudices into the definition, therefore completely destroying it. Cultural appropriation has become such a complex and, some may argue, problematic ideology, but we have to think of why it’s seen in this light. It wasn’t created to be a complicated concept that doesn’t have a clear and concise definition. Why does the definition have to be ambiguous when cultural appropriation is so clearly wrong?
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“Yesterday” is a movie of love, fame, and of course, The Beatles. It captures a theme that many movies have previously tried to convey: love is worth more than fame and fortune. Though I liked how the initial story was formulated and all, some parts were disappointing. Being a huge fan of The Beatles myself, I will admit that I was a little critical when watching it. But in being so, I did unearth some aspects others would have just overlooked, good and bad.     
The story starts with the main character, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), finishing up a performance at a bar. For ten years now, he has had a pretty miserable musical career, touring various music venues. After his manager, and best friend, Ellie (Lily James), lands him a gig at a big music concert venue in which he plays for about 10 people, he decides to put his musical career to an end, despite Ellie’s disappointment.
That very night, Ellie drops him off where he locked his bike and he heads home. But on his way there, all of a sudden, through a montage of lights going out, the world loses all power. Next thing you know he’s been hit by a bus. He later wakes up at a hospital where Ellie is promptly waiting for him. When he is released from the hospital, his friends throw a party for him in which they give him a new guitar, since his was broken in the crash. They then quite literally beg for a song. He responds by playing the hit Beatles song, “Yesterday.”  As he finishes, they ask how he wrote such a beautiful song (gee, I wonder). He then goes Alex Jones level crazy, as he cannot believe that his friends have never heard the song “Yesterday.”
It may seem cliché, but from here the movie’s premise is created. I’ve heard skeptics question the natural aspect of this, asking questions like, “Why did he pick a Beatles song when he was asked?” To that, all I have to say is that for a musician heavily influenced by the Beatles, it only makes sense.
Before I continue, let’s just revisit the fact that in this movie, The Beatles never existed. You would think that the world would be quite different without them, but somehow it isn’t at all. Not only were The Beatles erased, but also Coca-Cola, cigarettes, the band Oasis, and Harry Potter. As if The Beatles weren’t enough for the world to lose, some magical force just expecto patronum-ed four more important parts of popular culture. And I’m certain that the movie missed other stuff that was lost. These facts scared me initially, and for the first 30 minutes (once these things disappeared), I was wondering, “How did this happen?” Nonetheless, I was intrigued. 
As for Jack’s rise to fame, it seemed pretty realistic, as far as claims of fame go. At first, his fame was “slow and steady,” but then he was catapulted into glory after appearing at an Ed Sheeran concert. Once Jack became famous, however, my disappointment started to rise. Not only does Jack kiss Ellie in his hotel room, he almost lets her go back to London, but, of course, takes part in a cliché “running to the train to catch the girl” scene that ends with Ellie telling him she can’t be a part of his life. 
In an attempt to win Ellie back, he plans to tell the truth about the songs during a concert. He admits to plagiarism and his love for Ellie, while her face is literally taking up the entire jumbotron behind him, and the audience is happy with him for posting his songs online for free. However, this reaction just seems unrealistic. I mean, I know ghostwriters are becoming a bigger thing now (thanks, Em), but this would be like hearing that Drake didn’t write “God’s Plan.” Ellie forgives Jack and they get back together, which made it seem like copying songs was a good thing. Other than that, the ending was nice and Jack continued to spread the love of The Beatles. It really was a “happy ever after in the marketplace... Ob la di, Ob la da...”
Overall, the acting in the movie was pretty good. The characters appeared to show emotions at a reasonable level, and some of the clear over-exaggeration actually helped to make the story relatable. The singing was a little different, in that I wasn’t particularly impressed by Himesh’s singing capability. Though a part of me is just comparing him to the original singers, and no one can copy God’s work perfectly, nonetheless The Beatles. 
As for the camera work, I actually found that the angles and shots were quite unique and interesting. They were definitely different, but that presented an unusual experience that I favored. 
The cliché aspects of the story were something about the movie that I did not like. Some moments in this movie were just ripped out of one of those 70s romantic novels that smell like libraries. These could have been avoided, but then at the same time, what would replace them? If you like that stuff, though, you’ll like that part of the movie, but I didn’t.  
The character development is an attribute that critics keep an eye out for, primarily because it makes the movie seem more natural. Humans change a little bit every day,  so it’s only normal that the characters change in a movie like this one. The love between the characters progressed naturally, and the effect that they had on each other did the same. 
For the story as a whole, it was a pleasant one. Disregarding all of the painful cliché moments it had, its message of how powerful love can be — no, is — had people leaving the theater with a smile on their face and a better taste for music. 
Although “Yesterday” is in no sight of an Academy Award (at least in my eyes), it was not horrible. If you like The Beatles, I encourage you to check it out for yourself. And if you do, we all know what you’ll be listening to that night. 
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I went in for a handshake, but instead Deborah A. Bondzie went in for a hug. I was a little taken back because the person that I met in that Starbucks was not the person I had prepared to interview. Her website was so professional and well laid out, it made her seem like a serious person. She offered to buy me something to eat. I politely declined. She asked me questions about myself like what my hobbies and interests were, if I had any siblings. It truly felt like two people just talking. 
Bondzie is an African American lawyer. Her family immigrated to the United States from Haiti. They lived in Brooklyn, New York, where Bondzie was then born. She has a younger brother and two sisters. She attended Tufts University for undergrad where she got a bachelor’s degree in child development and community health. She got her master’s in 2007 in urban and environmental policy and planning in child development. Bondzie has been a certified lawyer for seven years and has been running her own law firm as well. 
Bondzie’s family was a big part of her deciding to become a lawyer. “Growing up, I would have family members who needed help with different immigration documents, they would ask me for their assistance,'' she said, but she wasn’t certified then. Bondzie also conducted parenting classes where she was frequently asked for help with legal documents, “and I'd have to remind them that I wasn’t a lawyer, but in so doing that sort of inspired me to pursue a law degree, because I realized that I could be helpful…” 
She went to Suffolk University Law school. During that time the country was experiencing an economic crash, banks were underwater and people were struggling to pay off their mortgages, Bondzie tells me. Because of this, she wanted to learn a little bit of everything in law school. That way she would be prepared to help anyone who needed assistance. 
“My strategy was to learn a little bit of everything. So that once I graduated from law school, I would be able to hit the ground running, so to speak, and be able to work in different law fields, legal fields, if that's necessary.”
She also has her own practice. But starting it wasn’t something she always knew she wanted. “I worked at other companies. So I worked at Oracle, I've worked at American tower and I worked for a nonprofit organization for medical legal partnership.”   
Her work experience at other firms and her colleagues were her motivations in starting her own firm. “My colleagues who had started their own practice inspired me to start my own. And so I took a leap of faith.”
Bondzie’s parents are from Haiti, making her an African American lawyer. She explained, “I know people have their prejudices, but I don’t approach my cases necessarily thinking about other people's prejudices.” Instead, she says she approaches her cases, “by familiarizing myself with what's going on, doing the legal research necessary to prepare my arguments, conferencing the matter with all parties involved and then properly defending my clients.”
She talks about how she keeps herself motivated and how to deal with tough decisions in the day to day. It’s about persisting on equally good and bad days. “And so will doubt and fear creep in to your mind after making the decision? Yes. But then you want to remind yourself why you made the decision you made, and stay inspired. I think it's really more about allowing your inspiration and motivation to outweigh any doubts or fears that may try to sneak into you.” 
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I began to volunteer at the Jason Roberts Challenger League two years ago. On my first day, I vividly remember being very apprehensive about the next hour and a half.  You see, while I did have experience working with kids—I had worked at the YMCA the two summers prior—I did not have experience interacting with children with special needs, and it intimidated me.
Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disability that can significantly impact the social, communicative and behavioral skills of the autistic person. In 2014, the Autism Society conducted a study that shows that about 1% of people around the world, 3.5 million of which live in America, are on this spectrum.
Down syndrome, otherwise known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by having a partial or complete extra copy of chromosome 21, resulting in one more chromosome than is usually found in our genetic code.  According to a study done in 2008 by the CDC, around 1 in every 1,200 people in the U.S. had Down syndrome. 
Both disorders are serious, life-altering disabilities that drastically change the lives of children and their families.  Now imagine being told that your child is being diagnosed with DS-ASD: both Down syndrome and autism.
This is the reality of many of the families that sign their kids up for the Jason Roberts Challenger League. The JRCL is a baseball league that services children with special needs, and gives them a place where they have the opportunity to be active, have fun and feel welcomed.
Now I know I’m not alone in this feeling.  Often, we look at people with autism and Down syndrome and other disabilities, and we see something that scares us, because they’re us, but not “us.” Sometimes they don’t have some of the core abilities that make humans so unique, like speech.  They can put us on edge, just like the depths of the deep blue ocean or the vacuum of space: an irrational fear of something that is so close to us, yet so unknown.
But it shouldn’t be that way.
I know now because I have spent a significant amount of time around people with these special needs, that they are some of the easiest people to interact with on the planet.  As an example, this spring one of the kids asked me when my birthday was, and I told him: June 28, 2002.  He asked me, “So you’re turning 17?” and I said “Yes, yes I am,” and he wished me a happy birthday as we were about to start the game.  An hour later, as the game ends and I’m beginning to walk away from the field, five or six other kids came up to me and wished me a happy birthday, because they were either told it was my birthday or overheard the original conversation.  When I said thank you, they all started grinning, and one of them even offered me a hug.  
The amount of joy they got out of simply being kind to someone was—and is every time I witness one of these acts of pure kindness—heartwarming.  They are caring, funny and kind, and just as deserving of our respect, time and understanding as the rest of humanity. The only problem is, they often require a lot more of these things than an average person.
The position I hold as a volunteer at the JRCL is a special “buddy.” I work with kids that need people to support them.  At the JRCL, there are all sorts of levels of special needs. Some of the kids have high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome and do not need to be heavily supported, whereas some of the kids with more severe cases are non-verbal, meaning they cannot speak and instead communicate with sounds and gestures.
Additionally, when describing them as “kids,” I don’t necessarily mean that they are still under the age of eighteen—which many of them are—but many of them aren’t.  This year is the league’s 25th year, and a few of the kids have been there for all 25 years.  Some of them are well beyond their teen years, but every single person there in a baseball uniform acts like a kid, which is one of the reasons that raising and supporting a child with severe autism or down syndrome it’s a lifelong commitment for parents. 
It may be very time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less rewarding.  In that same Autism Society study, they found that in the U.S., the average lifespan cost to support someone with an intellectual disability is $2.4 million, whereas it’s just under half that for someone without an intellectual disability.  This is especially startling when you realize that the average life expectancy for someone with autism is significantly lower than those without an intellectual disability.  The British Journal of Psychiatry recently found that in Sweden, the average life expectancy for those with autism sits at around 40-54 years of age depending on the severity of their ASD diagnosis, opposed to the normal 70 years for the general population.
However, not all cases of autism are as severe as the cases of the kids I work with at the JRCL.  Autism is a spectrum, meaning that the range of how impacted the person is, varies greatly and many people who are on the spectrum you wouldn’t know they were upon meeting them.  I have several friends with Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism, and they are some of my closest friends and some of the brightest people I know.
That being said, what is the main issue?  It has to do with the societal view of who is normal, and the stigma that comes with being “different.”  There’s no arguing that autism and Down syndrome make those who have them different from most people who don’t, but that isn’t a bad thing. They have things taken from them, but the stuff that was taken away gets redistributed somewhere else.  A kid with autism who has poor social skills may be extremely gifted intellectually or have a particular set of skills that serves them well in mathematics, or memorization.  For example, one of the things I’ve found out is that all of the kids I’ve worked with have lost their innate sense of bias: they look at a person, and they see a person, without harboring preconceived notions or judgments.  No more, no less.  If you’re a human, they treat you as such.
Most of us aren’t accustomed to working with this group of people, and so we feel nervous when we encounter them. I know I certainly was before I started working at the JRCL. But I do think the time and effort that goes into getting to know this absolutely incredible group of people is worth it.
It brightens my day every time I go to that baseball diamond because I know that whatever little bit of happiness I bring to their lives, is impacting someone who may not have much else.
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