Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunset Boulevard

Took these pictures yesterday while I was at a park.

The Sunset Evolution




















Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Current Events: The Israel Palestine Situation

Okay so this whole Israel Palestine thing has been alllll over the news lately.

 
 

The news is great for keeping you updated on day to things and developments but they never really go in depth into how everything got all mixed up in the first place. Why is there all this beef between the Palestinians and the Israelis? What is Hamas? Why doesn't Hamas like Israel? Why is Hamas in Gaza? I will attempt to answer those very questions ladies and gentlemen.

I'm in a pretty unique spot where I'm neither Arab, Israeli or Jewish so I can give a very unbiased recap of events. I don't have a degree in this stuff (yet) and I'm no expert. I'm not going to be able to make anyone else an expert either but you will be an engaged citizen of the world with this background information that I have gathered from my high school honors World Cultures class (shout out to Mr.Ellis) and the lovely internet (only legit sources though, don't worry). 

So the Arab-Israeli conflict...

It's pretty complex and there's tons of blame to go around. Yeah there are some different religions but the problems stem more from landownership and power. There is no ultimate good guy or bad guy, which is why things probably seem so fuzzy. There's just a group of people who feel like they don't have a place in the world so they lash out and bad things happen (it's like teen angst times a bazillion on a much larger scale and the feelings are actually real). 

Palestinian- ethnic Arab who lives in Israel but thinks it should be Palestine and should be theirs

Someone's got to give first in this situation but no one will. Here’s the basic debate:

Israelis: Stop blowing things up and we'll give you (Palestinians) land

Palestinians: Give us land and we'll stop blowing things up

There's somewhat of an impasse as you can see...

How is the U.S. involved: Israel gets weapons from the U.S. so we get lumped into this situation. We also support them economically and played a big part in Israel's creation sooo... yeah.

A smidge of background information:

Diaspora --> Jews were kicked out of Israel in 70AD 

Covenant (a big part of the Jewish faith) --> if they're good, they will get returned to Israel some day

The Zionist Movement --> European Jews working toward the creation of Israel, they're wealthy, educated, and have connections but no ability to get this done

**There are Jews who are anti-Zionist (anti the creation of Israel), just because someone is Jewish doesn't mean they automatically support Israel

1878- Palestine was controlled by Turks, who are not Arab, obviously, they're Turkish. The Palestinians, who are Arab, did not like being ruled by Turks.

There were small Zionist colonies in Palestine but they were just small groups of Jews. 98% of the people who lived there were Palestinian, 2% were Jews.

1915- WWI the Arabs had an alliance with the British (the Turks fought with Germany so were fighting the British by proxy, the British exploited this for their own benefit)

The Brits convinced the Arabs to fight against the Turks with the understanding being; "You help us fight the Turks, when this war is over, you get a whole lot of land"

Plot twist: 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement (a secret agreement between the French and British)

Right in the middle of WWI they decided what's going to happen after the war, they split up the land. The Brits got modern Palestine and lied to the Arabs, they got nothing. 


Meanwhile: European Jews in England were still pushing for the creation of Israel 

1917 Balfour Declaration- (Excerpt) His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. 

Basically, its pledges in principle the creation of an Israeli state, in Palestine, as long as the Palestinians are not mistreated. If they follow those guidelines then hey, they're all for it!

The Palestinians are not jazzed about this declaration; they see the writing on the wall. This was not going to happen how they wanted it to. Desperate times, desperate measures; they begin to take up arms against small Jewish communities.

1918- WWI is over, the Brits now control modern day Palestine and there's a lot of Palestinians and a small amount of Jews and rising tension. The Brits don't want to be involved (it's a no win situation for them) they just want to wash their hands of it. 

1930's- More and more Jews start moving to Palestine (WWII is on the horizon so this makes sense)

The White Paper of 1939- A policy issued by the British that stopped Jewish immigration into Palestine 

The Holocaust 

End of WWII- okay let the Jews come to Palestine

British didn't want to deal with this anymore so they go to the United Nations and they come up with this:

1947 Partition Plan of Palestine


Jewish State = orange
Arab State= yellow

Jerusalem was a free zone/U.N. zone, no one controls it, it's religiously important to numerous religions so it's too sensitive. 

Plot Twist (yet again): the Arab State is not created right away; it would be created when the U.N. deemed the Palestinians were able to govern themselves.

"You'll get your land one day lil' buddy!" Because that's not patronizing or anything. 


1948- Israel created, and eventually there will be a Palestinian State 

The Brits finally leave ("Good luck guys because you all get along so well! Peace out!")

Israel exists for a day and 5 countries simultaneously invade them:

-The Syrian Army
-The Lebanese Army
-The Iraqi Army
-The Jordanian Army
-The Egyptian Army

They wanted to "drive the Jews into the sea", they wanted to get rid of them. Here was this Jewish state created right in the faces of Islamic countries without their agreement they were pissed. 

Israel beat the crap out of all of them (that's pretty badass). The Israelis were ready; they knew if they lost, they were done. 

Things get a little fuzzy here. 

The Palestinians say: They were driven out by Israeli security forces and now they're not allowed back. 

The Israelis say: The Palestinians left voluntarily because they thought Israel would be destroyed by the invasions and now they can't come back in because they're a security threat.

Palestinian Diaspora? A weird role reversal.

It's been 65 years and they're still in refugee camps, they're seriously not allowed back into Israel. None of the surrounding countries have offered citizenship to them; they don't want them in their country, they want them to go back to their own country but they can't. They were never absorbed by anyone they were just treated like crap.

Obviously there's a lot of frustration and eventually the Palestinians organize.

1964- the PLO is created led by Yasser Arafat

The PLO stands for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. 

Main goal: destroy Israel and create a Palestinian State. Terrorists. 

Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia support the PLO with weapons and other things to give Israel a hard time (it kills two birds with one stone for them, gets the Palestinians out of their country and gets rid of Israel).

Everybody picks on the Palestinians; they're the martyrs of the Arab world. 

*3 years later*

Israeli intelligence caught wind that surrounding countries were going to attack again.

So, instead of waiting for an attack to come, they flip the script.

1967- 6 Days War (Israel simultaneously attacks all 5 of their neighbors) (again, this is badass) Israel beats the crap out of everyone.

Consequences: Israel gets the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. 

They double the size of the country. In 6 days. That's insane. 

Fast forward to 1973- Yom Kippur War 
           
I'm not going to get into that too much but it caused an oil crisis in the U.S., and Egypt lost by a lot. Israel wins and creates motivation for Egypt to stop fighting Israel. It's a lot of weapons, loss of life, and it's just not worth it. Egypt begins to rethink its policy with Israel...

1978- Camp David Accords


Jimmy Carter mediated an agreement between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to stop beating the crap out of each other.

Terms: Egypt acknowledges the right Israel has to exist, and Israel gives Egypt back the Sinai Peninsula. 

Side Note: Anwar Sadat gets assassinated for this (making peace with the Israel) by his own soldiers... the Peace Makers always get killed by people on their own side. It's absolutely nutty. 

Back in Israel...

The majority of the population (the Palestinians) has no power. The minority (the Israelis) is calling all the shots. 

1980's- Intifada (Arabic for "shaking off" *uprising*) is a rebellion of Palestinians against Israeli Security forces (mostly young Palestinians)

It started because an Israeli truck ran over some Palestinians (Palestinians say it's on purpose, Israelis say it's an accident) it was just the straw that broke the camels back. They were segregated and living like animals and the Palestinians had had enough. It caused riots for weeks.

Palestinians would throw rocks, shoes, anything, but it led to the Israelis coming out with rubber bullets and tanks. It got really real really fast. 

It was average Palestinians fighting there were children fighting. It got the global communities attention; how bad must it be there if it's coming to this?

A lot of words have been thrown around trying to describe the situation, one of them being Apartheid. 

Just putting it out there, not all Jews or Israelis support Palestinians being treated badly. 

1994- Oslo Accords PLO (terrorist organization) leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime ministry Yitzhak Rabin met and came to this agreement:

1. PLO gives recognition to Israel (acknowledges their right to exist) and the PLO stops existing; it becomes the PNA (Palestinian National Authority) (no longer a terrorist group).

2. PNA gets some Palestinians back into Israel (including Yassir himself), and is able to set up a government.

3. Israel agrees they will plan and discuss creating a Palestinian state BUT the violence has to stop. 

Palestinians: get the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (called the world's largest open air prisons).

The only problem is... Yasser Arafat speaks for all Palestinians, but not all Palestinians agree with him. 

Enter Hamas, the "Islamic Resistance Movement". Hamas was created to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic State. It's a terrorist organization; they think Arafat is a sellout. 

Side note: a 17-year-old Jewish boy assassinates Yitzhak Rabin because he made peace with the enemy (Palestinians)

The Gaza Strip:

The living conditions kind of suck. 

A million and a half people, 75% in poverty, 50% are younger than 15, 46% unemployment. Israel has somewhat "grounded" them. 

There's no work in there so they have to go to Israel to work, but there's a huge wall around them. The Palestinians have to go through checkpoints everyday to get out. They check bags, make sure no one has weapons, and make sure nobody brings anything in, everyday. That's like airport security EVERYDAY. 

There seems to be some mistrust. 

(Armed) Israelis started building Jewish settlements in Gaza when that was supposed to be for Palestinians. 

2006- Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister of Israel) agreed to take out all Israeli settlements in Gaza. This was surprising because Sharon himself was not exactly pro-Palestinian. 

A lot of the Israelis did not want to leave the Gaza Strip. They had to send in Israeli security forces to physically pull them out. That's intense.

They believe God gave the Jewish people that land; it's the principle of it. They're not sharing it's ALL theirs. 

Palestinians burned the Jewish settlers houses on the first night they left. 

Most of the settles ended up just relocating to the West Bank where they made more Jewish Settlements. 

In principle the Palestinians have complete control over the Gaza Strip from now on. 

2007- The Palestinians have an election 

Fatah's (the dominant political party, was previously the Palestinian National Liberation Movement) main opposition was Hamas (which ran as a political party to gain control of the PNA)

Hamas won. They control the PNA (the Palestinian government). 

Mahmoud Abbas is the president of the PNA and a member of Fatah. He has to figure out how to work with Hamas (the election was to control the body of the PNA itself, Presidential elections are separate).

Israel was not too jazzed about this; they won't talk to the PNA with Hamas in power.

Tensions rise and Fatah and Hamas actually fought each other, they had a little war in Gaza.

But while Fatah and Hamas beat each other up, Israel beat them both up, and now Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah controls the West Bank.

Recently there's been a whole lot of violence, which you can read about here:








It's just an overall sucky situation :-(

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pretty Hurts

The perception of beauty is so weird when you think about it...



It's enough to make you crazy.

My friend Pearis is doing some big things lately, one of which includes a book about the effects of colorsim on the African American community's perception of beauty. She asked a bunch of girls, some lightskin, some darksin, to answer some questions for a book she's putting together. I put an excerpt from the section I wrote below, enjoy!

 I never knew what colorism was growing up. I’ve lived in a majority white community all my life, so either you were black or white, there was no in between. I remember in middle school this guy I had kind of liked telling me I would be pretty if I had lighter skin. I never really thought it affected me much but now looking back, that’s the one memory from middle school I can vividly recall. Once I was in high school, and was just leaving my awkward stage, there was another guy I kind of liked. He was tall, a senior (I was a lowly sophomore so this was like a HUGE deal), and was a captain on the basketball team. But he was lightskin. And I was darkskin. And apparently, to him, that made all the difference. I was pretty but just “pretty for a darkskin girl”. However, fast forward two years and I’m on my way to a great future and a college degree and he’s living in Philly with no college education and no future plans, so I mean, who’s the real loser in that situation?

I know so many girls where all they have is that they’re lightskin and it’s sad. There’s a girl I grew up with who has a black, although lighter skinned, mother, a black father, but swears she is mixed. And what’s terrible is that she doesn’t realize what she’s buying into, the ancestors that she’s ashamed of, or what her actions are doing to the girls who are going to come after her.

Colorsim affects beauty in the African-American community immensely. Have you ever noticed that every picture of Beyonce in magazines is lightened like 10 shades? Somewhere between slavery and now lighter skin became prettier. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t kind of buy into it. I have seen many a dark skin girl, myself included, go to great lengths to find “good lighting” for a picture or edit an instagram photo 3 or 4 times to lighten it. It’s like you want to fight it because you know it’s wrong, but then you don’t want to be ugly either, so you’re just stuck. I feel like personally I haven’t felt the colorism affects too badly because I live in a white community which I’m actually grateful for.  It’s either you’re white, or black, the white people don’t seem to understand or care about the whole lightskin darkskin thing; we’re all just black. I remember trying to explain it to some kids in my AP Lit. class and they were just perplexed, “So you mean there are lighter shades of being black? What’s lightskinning I don’t understand?”,  I was amazed. Whenever I’m in a black community or with black people the two comments I always get is “wow, you’re really pretty for a darkskin girl!” and “where did you get you’re weave from!?”, apparently the only way to be pretty or have long hair is to not be darkskin. That’s when it hit me that even though I’ve lived in a white community all my life, the most racist comments I ever got were from other black people. Now that’s just sad.

 It took some time but I actually do like my skin tone now. When I was younger, eh not so much, but now I wouldn’t change it for anything. I used to be that girl hiding from the sun in SPF 200 sunscreen trying to stay in my “winter shade” in the middle of August, but then I just got over it. I can’t even recall the exact moment; I think it was a series of moments. I kept getting compliments from white women on how beautiful my skin is and how many pretty my natural curls are and I realized, you what you’re right. That and a combination of getting older, broadening my spectrum of what beauty is, and meeting new people from new places with different ideas.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like for girls growing up now because when I was younger we didn’t even have instagram or twitter or any of that. Young girls just are bombarded these days with so many images of what they think defines pretty or beautiful and it just eats away at their self confidence. Boys are really not helping the situation either. This preference has emerged for lightskin girls from guys whose mothers are darkskin! Somehow they don’t seem to realize that by calling darkskin ugly that also includes their mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, and so on. Those guys will end up being the ones with shallow relationships based solely off of appearance, which isn’t worth anything anyway, so they’ll get there’s in the end. 


Stay beautiful!
-xoxo

Thursday, July 10, 2014

SoulPancake

Recently discovered YouTube had more than makeup tutorials and music videos. SoulPancake is pretty awesome :-)



My Farewell To Public School Education

My Mother's response upon my getting a 4 on my English Literature AP test (a 5 is a perfect score, that's the highest that can be achieve) *I also got a 4 on my English Language and Composition AP test*:

"Well it's not that good a score if your college only accepts 5's. That score doesn't do anything for us"

Since the school I'm going to is academically ranked so high, only perfect scores on the AP test are accepted to test out of their freshman english class.

...

"His grandmother and I are raising him. I worry about putting him into the public school system. I was a teacher for many years. I’ve seen so much confidence destroyed by the standardized system. Every human is born with natural curiosity. I’ve never seen a child who wasn’t inspired. But once you force someone to do anything, the inspired person is killed. I dropped out of school myself in 7th grade. So I know. I taught a GED course for years, so I’ve seen the end results over and over. I’ve seen so many kids who have complexes and insecurities because they were forced to do something they weren’t ready to do, and then they were blamed when they weren’t able to do it. What we call ‘education’ today is not organic. You can’t take something as complex as the human mind, compartmentalize it, and regiment its development so strictly."

"I was an English teacher. The demands of the system required that I give out grades, but I never felt good about it. How do you grade someone’s writing? Writing is about revision. It’s about access to self. If a student writes a poem, and it’s the best they can do at the moment, how are you supposed to compare that to the student sitting next to them? How are you supposed to give one a 90, and one an 85?"

*Stumbled across those while reading the blog http://www.humansofnewyork.com/ (check it out it's genius!!)*

We have such a broken education system and, as someone who went through the public school system, I can say from experience; it's brutal. My favorite class ever that I paid the most attention in, was the most involved in, with my favorite high school teacher ever (shout out to Mr.Ellis), I got a C in. Granted it was an honors class (Honors World Cultures), but still. In my yearbook Mr. Ellis wrote that I am "an exceptional human being" and even though I received one of my worst grades in that class, that's the class I learned the most in. 

I never fully understood how it can be tested that you learned something because, with written and standardized tests, all that's being tested is how well you memorize. For the last 12 years of my education my intelligence has been measured by how well I can regurgitate information. Parrots do that all the time, someone says something and they repeat it back. Does a good memory equate to intelligence?

Most students haven't really learned anything. They've drilled and hammered into their brain a given date, equation, name, whatever is needed, and then after it is tested completely forget all of it. 

I have no idea what anaphora, zeugma, or litotes is but I got a 100% on that literary terms test. 

By having a standard of intelligence based off of pure memory, not only are the people who have a bad memory yet are very intelligent getting screwed, we're also as a society not getting anywhere. 

All students are taught the same as if everyone learns the same. Sure there are slower paces for certain students but it's still the same style of teaching, just condescendingly slower. Everyone has different tastes of music, different tastes in food, in television, in clothes, in everything. Yet we're all taught the same.

School is taught the same way it was back in the 1600's. Just think about that for a second.

Sure they've added fancy gadgets, computers, tablets and such, but it's the same overall principle. A teacher gets up and talks at their students, then gives them a test on what they have said.

So much has changed in these last few hundreds years, how we communicate, how we interact, how we eat, transportation, jobs, society overall; yet why is education still the same?

There's been some leeway, things such as Khan Academy, but not nearly enough. 

The school system is designed to create copies of the same person. The same learner. Someone with a good memory who tests well.

School is weird in that it's hard to really do anything about it, you just have to get through it. In elementary school it's all such basic stuff and we, as students, are so young that we just kind of go with it. In middle school a clear gap emerges between the "gifted" and "average" students and you start to really pay attention to the standardized testing and realize hey, I really don't need to pay attention in class, I just need to memorize everything on the worksheet and I'll get an A+ in the class. Then in high school it hits you like a ton of bricks and you look back and say woah, I haven't learned a thing. So we bs our way through it, I mean college and the rest of our life by proxy is on the line, and then senior year when you hear about the changes they're making for next year, adding more standardized test, switching to block scheduling, things of that nature, and you're like "wow that's really not going to help the students learn anything" but we're so close to the end, we can see the greener pastures of college on the horizon, that we just let it be.

I didn't start noticing it until middle school but I would just brush it off and say it's only 3 years of my life suck it up, then in high school it's only 4 years of my life suck it up, but then you look back and it's like wow 12 years of my life and I don't know what I've learned. 

So you know what AP test, even though I got a "not that good" score of 4, which means I'm "Well qualified to receive college credit" instead of a 5 which is "Extremely well qualified to receive college credit", I'm okay with that. Because unlike some people; educators, high strung type A people, other students, parents, I realize that a test doesn't really mean that much and does not define my intelligence. Maybe they should teach that in school.