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Some time has passed since my season as an adult kickball player has come to a close and I’ve had a week to reflect on my experiences.
Kickball, a game that is supposed to be fun and played amongst school age children has become a phenomenon of sorts for the 20-something crowd who pine for the nostalgia of their own childhood.
I decided to join a team in a league with some friends to see what the hype was about and to stay active, if even once a week (there are only so many hours a day one can binge watch tv).
I had zero expectations going in to the season and I was only hoping to have some fun, be goofy and enjoy my time.
Little did I know that the random strangers who were on my team with my friends and I took this game way too seriously.
We are all grown adults with big boy and big girl jobs that we clock in and out of each and every day, yet the idea of kicking a ball and winning turned them back in to the school yard children they once were.
I realized in that first game, when a teammate and team captain who had placed me in right field (because he took one look and me and assumed I had no athletic skill without any prior conversation) screamed across the field asking if “I was awake out there.”
It was in that moment that I was brought back to my childhood when I first experienced being teased for lack of athletic prowess or skill.
It was in that moment that I once again felt my manhood had been called in to question, being treated as if I was like one of the many girls on the team who they also assumed had no physical skill on the field.
I flash backed to those times in the school yard when I chose to sit out from playing with the other boys who played the recreational games at recess because I didn’t want to be shamed or made to feel lesser as a male because I was not as athletically inclined as they were.
My interest and desire to “be the best” in sports never existed.
It was meant to be fun, to be spectated on, and because of my views I often times found myself on the outs with those who I shared the same genetic makeup as.
My frame, my build and my stature have always indicated to others merely from my perception alone at first that I am not to be taken seriously, that I am not into sports and that I am just a joke.
As the years have gone by I have more than come to terms with not being the sporting type but that little bit of insecurity always existed, even if it was so far buried.
The five weeks I played on the kickball team I was subjected to those same insecurities I had as a young boy, a teenage male, and an adult male by the other males on the team who didn’t value me as an equal because I had not played kickball bi-weekly since the incarnation of these adult leagues.
I was told to “bunt like the girls” because they thought I couldn’t kick.
Week by week I attempted to try to prove them wrong.
There were weeks where it just wasn’t my week and I was okay with that but it was those five weeks when I realized how idiotic the whole thing was.
I was letting people who take kickball seriously get under my skin when I realized that it was so minute and unimportant in the grander scheme of life.
The idea of what a man is has changed drastically over the years and it’s because of these new roles and non-conforming ideas of what “men” and “women” are that I felt okay that I wasn’t an athletic specimen.
It’s okay to not be physically inclined to kick a ball far out in the outfield that won’t be a pop up fly.
It is because of my experience on this Co-Ed adult kickball league that made me think about my future children and who they will become.
No longer does gender conforming roles guide how children are raised and no longer are stereotypes acceptable.
Our value as a person should not be based on how much or how less we equal up to our gender identity.
Next time you think about putting someone down because they’re not performing by what society’s standards expect of them because of their gender, remember that they have insecurities just like you and that their interests vary from yours and they should be respected.
There is a fine line between a joke and an insult.
Think before you speak and before you pass judgement on those who you don’t know.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: James/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)Post Views: 262
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This story is part of the “My Story” series by The Young Leaders.
It was a sunny morning in Haiti on January 12, 2010 – the first day of school after winter break.
Lying on my bed, I looked at the trees dancing on the ceiling.
The neighboring rooster crowed as I finally rose, put my knees on the floor and began to pray.
My mother, as always, was cooking eggs.
She spoke to me about education: “Son, you have to do well in school to succeed in life. Life and education are a competition. Please son, do not embarrass me. Avoid the wrong crowd. Promise me that good things will happen. Make your family proud wherever you go.”
As she spoke, I wondered why she told me these things.
At the time, I wasn’t mature enough to understand, so I agreed just to make her happy.
A few minutes later, I arrived at school. Already, I had fallen in with the wrong crowd, paid no attention in class, and decided not to do my homework.
After school on that day, I played marbles with friends until one of the elders in the community saw me playing and scolded me to go home and do my homework.
I listened to the elder and went home.
When I got there, my mother asked me, “Where were you?”
I replied, “Outside,” as she shook her head, obviously worried about that I was not following her instructions.
One hour later, the earth started trembling.
I heard a noise like boulders falling from the sky.
Our television and bookshelves fell to the floor.
I was terrified and thought my life would end.
We tried running away from the house, but the ground was shaking intensely.
I didn’t know what was happening.
I thought about all the advice my mother had given me.
I heard people screaming from outside, running everywhere and trying to save others stuck under demolished houses.
When I got out of the house looking around, I realized my mother and I could have been in the same position.
After the 7.0 shock-wave, my mother, my sister and I walked on the street and saw the catastrophe. Roughly 300,000 people were killed in the event and 1.5 million were displaced.
People had lost their families and everything they owned.
We were too afraid to sleep in the house, scared it would collapse.
We had no choice but to sleep on the street. The streets became beds for everyone when it’s was night-time. Aftershocks shook the ground every five minutes.
A week later, my father came from New York to get my sister and me.
I had never imagined myself leaving Haiti but there was no other choice.
I cried, and hugged my mother tightly.
In tears, I said, “Mother I’m sorry for everything. I will succeed; I will learn English and make you proud.”
My dad smiled.
I realized I would do everything in my power to make my parents proud. That moment would drive me for years to come.
When I came to America, I was ready to excel in school.
I knew no English, and communicating in school was extremely hard.
I started reading and writing to improve my English skills.
I knew I wanted to attend college.
I started working harder in classes, coming to school early every morning to study subjects that I needed to give closed attention, so I would not fall behind students who took their English for granted.
I challenged myself to become better in school by practicing for the SAT on my own and doing extra work in class.
It paid off. By the time high school came, I was in the English Honors class and the National Honor Society.
I started an acting program in high school named DreamYard Art Center. I began acting in plays with the goal of becoming an actor and a director.
I want to continue being successful and I plan on working very hard to accomplish my goals.
These goals have already helped me to achieve things I never imagine I would have achieved, such as acting in front of 300 people.
These skills will continue to help me as I pursue my education.
I am currently a junior studying Social Work at CUNY York College.
My goal after achieving my bachelor in social work is to go for my master in education policy.
I want to start my career as a school counselor, however I would like to elevate myself as a principal as time progresses.
After my studies, I want to build a school and an art program like DreamYard Art Center in Haiti for children.
My purpose in pursuing higher education is to succeed in ways victims of the January 2010 Haiti Earthquake only dreamed about, since they never had a chance to make their dreams a reality.
When I succeed, my goal is to start an art program in Haiti for teens that want to pursue their dreams.
This terrible tragedy led me onto the right path and made me focus on my education.
But Haiti is still in my heart. And I’m going back home.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.Post Views: 224
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By Bea Sampaio
Less than two weeks after the nation’s largest mass shooting took place at an Orlando gay nightclub, Pedro AMOS was approached by an old friend to commission an art piece for the victims of the attack.
The friend in question was Roxana Rauseo, manager of the Wynwood Yard, and the aim of the project was to memorialize the identities of those lost on June 12th by creating a giant public mural located on the back wall of O Cinema’s building.
AMOS, whose artist owned and operated company had recently been named The Miami’s New Times best graffiti guide, called upon colleagues Luis Valle and Jona Cerwinske to aid in the mural’s initial construction.
All three of them donated their free time in order to finish the painting as soon as possible, a process that meant trading alternating shifts amid the oppressive Florida heat with little supervision and a lot of donated paint.
The mural itself, scenically located across from the The Wynwood Yard’s own urban garden, depicts the full names of every person killed during the night of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
Those names, 49 in total, were purposely rendered in the same six colors that typically make up the rainbow LGBT flag.
AMOS describes the experience of receiving the notecards from Rauseo bearing the identities of the dead, later admitting he still cannot bring himself to throw the papers away even after the project had already finished.
“I was all like work, work, work and trying to organize everyone and put everything together but [then] she gave me all these cards and it was really heavy to get all that, it really made it all real. And then you’ll be painting [a name] and this girl would come and say ‘Oh my god, my mother worked with him.”’
Construction of the mural was often marred by inclement weather and a host of technical mishaps, eventually stalling completion of the painting an extra four days over what was initially scheduled.
Problems with a donated forklift meant that Valle had to fill in a majority of a giant, multicolored heart using only a paint roller and a very sore back (his efforts were later compensated with a complementary massage at The Standard).
Regardless of the conditions, many locals still stopped to gather on Thursday night and hold a prayer vigil for those lost in the Pulse shooting, even bringing bouquets of flowers and lighting candles in order to honor the dead.
“I was up on a ladder and I’m painting and everybody came around during the vigil and I had my back turned. I turned around and I realized everybody was there with their cameras and it was a moment that just kind of hit me, you know?” Valle said.
The Nicaraguan-born artist had previously painted a memorial piece in New York as part of a fundraising effort for a deceased person, but had never attempted anything on this particular scale before the events in Orlando occurred.
The commemorative mural comes as a result of the devastating mass shooting that took place in in Central Florida earlier this month, one that resulted in the collective deaths and injuries of 102 individuals when a lone shooter, Omar Mateen, opened fire inside of a popular nightclub.
“I thought it was bigger than an LGBT community problem. I thought it was a world problem. I thought it was a failure on behalf of all humans. It’s disgusting and it rocks everyone, gay straight Latino, black, white, to their core. It’s just a terrible scenario.” AMOS said at one point, alluding to a speech he gave to expectant attendees on the night of the Wynwood vigil.
Maybe so, but both the location of the attack as well as the hateful rhetoric spouted by its perpetrator would suggest otherwise.
LGBT activists and civilians alike have fought for decades to create safe spaces within the queer community.
For better or worse, their struggles have always been the subject of punditry and social scrutiny, a fact further evidenced by the controversy surrounding the recent reactions that conservative Florida legislators maintained in the wake of the Pulse shooting.
It’s not surprising that the deaths of these individuals would be politicized in the wake of this tragedy, not when we know that discriminatory laws already politicized many aspects of their lives to begin with.
Still, if there’s anything to glean from the memorial in question it’s the cathartic role, however modest, that public art can play in the wake of these tragedies.
The swiftness with which the different facets of Wynwood life responded to the events in Orlando reflects the collective empathy expressed by local entrepreneurs, artists, managers, and volunteers for the LGBT community as a whole.
More importantly, these kinds of displays have the potential to galvanize residents against incidents of homophobia, pressuring otherwise reluctant allies to openly express support. It’s also viscerally, laudably beautiful to look at, a kaleidoscope of vibrant images framed by the urban greenery surrounding it.
“As artists, we have the ability to make a difference and [either] do something about this or at least put a voice out there.” Valle said at one point during the interview, “It’s the least we can do for something so horrible.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.Post Views: 343
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