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Science Academia Is Still Sexist As Hell

Science is not supposed to be about gender.

The purpose of science is to allow clarity in a world with very little understanding.

Unfortunately, many in prominent positions of American life have made it about gender.

In 2015, a reporter from Breitbart News published an article called, “Here’s why there ought to be a cap on women studying science and maths”.


We can laugh at the ridiculous concept of it, but science is still a sexist field.

Women are expected to fail because they supposedly cannot handle the competition from being in a predominately male field.

They are expected to either deal with sexism in the workplace, or leave.

Dr. Gillian Foulger works at Durham University in the U.K., and she worries that women are still treated the same way that she was in graduate school during the 1980’s.

Her graduate program gave women 1/10 of the spots that men had.

Students on a class trip to a science fair in 1985. Photo Credit: Chad Kainz/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Her teachers were supposed to be all female, and there were so few women in geology that many of her professors did not know new scientific concepts.

After she graduated, she was refused the same opportunities that men were getting, such as positions at geological societies and oil companies, despite the fact she excelled in university.

Foulger was forced to look for opportunities abroad, eventually becoming a volcanologist in Iceland.

There, she had to continuously deal with sexist and xenophobic stereotypes during her tenure.

Students in the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment record soil structure. Photo Credit: Dave Brenner/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

At one point, her male field assistant sexually harassed her.

“I had to lock my door at night to prevent him from breaking in and raping me,” she told me over the phone with little emotion.

It was, and still is, a fact that women are commonly sexually harassed during their time in academia.

“This is the sort of thing I have done for science, Hannah,” Foulger said to me as her voice hardened slightly. “I have done this because science is me. I love science. I don’t consider myself really ‘a woman’, or ‘a man’, or ‘a person’. I consider myself ‘a scientist’.”

She accepted the scorn and abuse from her male colleagues in order to further science.

The main argument of the Breitbart article is that the retention rate for women is low, so funding women in science is a waste of money.

The author is not wrong about the poor retention rate.

Women may earn more than 50% of the degrees in STEM PhD programs, but after graduate school, the numbers of women in science begin to decline rapidly.

In fact, women only make up 21% of full science professors and tend to make half of what their male counterparts make.

Dr. Foulger told me that women leave science because “the environment is stacked against women.”

She also said it is hostile to women.

“Women are not in positions where they can help those who are at a more junior level than themselves,” Foulger said. “So of course they drop out! They are forced out! Males expect women to drop out.”

If you also consider that married mothers are 35% less likely to get a tenure track position than married fathers, and 27% less likely to become tenured, you can probably guess why women feel like they cannot succeed in science.

Dr. Catherine Cardelús, an ecologist at Colgate University, has a similar perspective.

“The author [of the Breitbart article] does not look at the heart of the problem, which is that women do not have the support or infrastructure that they needed,” Cardelús said.

When Cardelús got her PhD in 2002, she was married with children to another professor, and she said that the men in her program expected her and the other women to fail.

Dr. Catherine Cardelús, is an ecologist at Colgate University. She claims that science is not welcoming to women. Photo Credit: Colgate University

Luckily she and one of her friends, who was also a mother, made a deal that they would not drop out of their program.

Despite the discrimination against them, the two women received their degrees and pursued success.

The best way to deal with discrimination in science is by creating representation.

“My presence alone as a woman in science teaching tells people that women can do it,” Dr. Cardelús said, leaning across the small wooden table in her office, her eyes full of defiance. “Everybody should be able to do what they want. There should not be barriers.”

Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince anyone to pursue a career in academia when the odds are already stacked against you.

A lot of the time, it is less emotionally draining to leave academia with a PhD and pursue opportunities in industry.

To compensate for the extra pressure women tend to feel in science, it is important to build a community.

While we can succeed alone, science is much more likely to move forward with everyone working towards a common goal—education and progress.

The best way to get more women in science is establishing a community of women from the beginning, and moving past stereotypes to allow women to take on more important roles.

We need to support our women and other oppressed groups as they pursue a career in science, because the inclusion of different perspectives will push science into the future.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: simpleinsomnia/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Is This South Africa’s Tiananmen Square Moment?

Bryce Swerhun had spent most of his time in Johannesburg safely away from the sounds of explosions near the University Of The Witwatersrand (Wits).

But something drew him to the campus on October 10 as scores of angry students gathered in a large protest for the elimination of college fees across the country.

What Swerhun, a Canadian who is in South Africa doing field work for his PhD program at City University of Hong Kong, saw there was nothing short of government sanctioned violence against young people on a scale rarely seen in liberal democracies.

Student organizers of the so called #FeesMustFall movement warned private security gathered on the steps of the Great Hall at the center of Wits’ campus that some among their number may start hurling stones at them unless they opened the doors to the building.

By the time Swerhun entered through the visitor gate and walked upon the scene, some protestors were indeed throwing stones at the security guards.

Then the police got involved.

“I saw the water cannon truck shoot up and spray the students below,” Swerhun said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Swerhun said that “several hundred” student protestors were in the area around the Great Hall at the height of the clashes and that police were being very heavy-handed in the way in which they were breaking up the group.

Tear gas canisters leaving trails of smoke as they hit the ground. Rubber bullets thumping through the air. People yelling. People running.

Through the chaos in front of the Great Hall, Swerhun said that he saw one scene that reminded him of the troubling racist past of South Africa.

A white police officer had a group of black protestors cornered while allowing other students to freely pass. When a group of white students walked behind the officer without being stopped, the cornered black students started to argue how unfair it was.

At a certain point, Swerhun decided that he had seen enough and that he wanted to get back to the safety of his hotel room.

He walked behind the Great Hall, where he spotted a church where some students seemed to be gathered.

He thought that he could escape from the campus by going through the church.

“The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”

What follows sounds like it is straight out of movie.

“There was a significant moment that reminded me of Tiananmen Square,” Swerhun said.

When he reached the church, most of the students in the area where gathered in a parking lot. There he saw a priest in white robes standing in the entrance.

“He [the priest] seemed to be making a statement, that he was there and it was a place of refuge,” Swerhun said.

But then a massive armored police vehicle started racing towards the church.

“It was moving at quite a speed and everyone is running away,” Swerhun said. “When I get behind a parked car, I see the priest put his arm and the vehicle backed up and left.”

Joy swept through the crowd but it was a short-lived feeling.

“Another armored vehicle came and started shooting rubber bullets at random, Swerhun said. “The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”

Swerhun said that the shooting of the priest had a profound impact on the people who witnessed it.

“Some people got really angry and I saw someone say ‘call up the people with the petrol bombs.'”

“This was nothing but a brutal show of state force,” Swerhun said. “Those police in the vehicle were not in any danger.”

The priest was then brought into the church were he was tended to by private paramedics.

Despite being shot in the face with at least one rubber bullet, he was able to walk out of the church to a waiting car.

While the violence has largely been ignored by the world’s media, it shouldn’t be.

The issue is unlikely to go away even though things are starting to calm down on the streets.

Sure Kamhunga, a political commentator who has a large Twitter following said in an interview with RISE NEWS that the government should do more to end the clashes.

“Meet the student body. Listen to their demands. Offer a solution that paves way for mutual understanding,” Kamhunga said in way of advice to President Jacob Zuma’s government. “Students have already proposed a funding model and that is a good start to reach a common understanding and solution.”

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

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.

What The Revolution Wrought: The Umbrella Movement Two Years On

By Joy Pamnani

HONG KONG-It’s been two years since Hong Kong people took to the streets to fight for genuine universal suffrage.

The protests drew global attention, as protestors expressed their demands in peaceful, artistic ways.

The movement seems to have worked in bringing about a different political reality in Hong Kong.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the major events throughout the protests, and changes in Hong Kong’s political scene since.

Political background in the 852

Hong Kong was ruled by the British in the 20th century, and got handed over to China in 1997.

The great difference between Hong Kong and the mainland’s political atmosphere at the time saw both sides reach a deal of “one country, two systems”, granting the city a semi-autonomous status.

That deal lasts until 2047.

Debate however, continues about liberties granted under the agreement. A hot topic being universal suffrage.

Read More: Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

According to Article 45 of the Basic Law, “the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government.”

Moreover, the article states “ the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

Media from around the world came to report on the growing Occupy movement in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Max/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Media from around the world came to report on the growing Occupy movement in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Max/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Controversy began in August 2014 when Beijing ruled out public nomination, saying Hong Kong voters would only be able to choose from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee.

The committee likely to contain pro-Beijing election candidates, saw democracy activists argue the announcement was a way for China the ability to screen out any candidates it disapproves of.

Criticism was ignited across the city.

Young people’s call for action

On September 22, 2014, a student class boycott was held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, at the same time some of Hong Kong’s top tycoons crossed the border to discuss politics with President Xi Jinping.

Students from more than 20 universities and colleges joined the movement.

During the week of 26 September, activist groups Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students, had staged protests outside government offices in Admiralty.

The Galvanizing Effect

As the protests escalated, police used pepper spray against the demonstrators.

Benny Tai, initiator of the Occupy Central movement, officially declared the start of Occupy Central at the central government offices.

Later that evening, police also used the tear gas in dismissing the protests.

The tear gas surprisingly proved galvanizing, drawing Hong Kongers from all walks of life to occupy streets for 79 days.


Protest elementals

During the days, activists blocked several traffic junctions, shutting down the city’s central business districts.

Aside from the Admiralty camp outside government offices, protestors occupied areas in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Canton Road.

The protest spirits were held high in the city, as the yellow ribbon symbol was seen across social media sites in the city.

Read More: What Are The Wukan Protests And Why Should Young People Care?

Many artists contributed to the protest’s peaceful forms of expression, from creating paintings of politicians, origami-inspired yellow umbrellas, and periodic tables defining Hong Kong core values.

Artists gathered to express political opinions of Hong Kong people

A periodic table defining Hong Kong’s core values.

Protestors even hung a banner on Lion Rock Tunnel, calling on CY Leung to step down

Subjects of debate

According to an article by the Australian news network ABC, ANZ economists sent out a research estimating the protests may have cost retailers $400 million, given occupation of roads at core business districts such as Tsim Sha Tsui.

Ordinary citizens fed up of the demonstrations formed an anti-Occupy group in an attempt to dismantle camps across core business districts in the city.

Another debate triggered was the role of police in the protests.

Read More: Was There Massive Voter Fraud In The Hong Kong LegCo Elections?

Throughout the protest, a viral video showing police beating up protestors went viral in the city, triggering a debate about police violence.

City opinion was divided on the issue, but those who supported the police wore blue ribbons.

A man was filmed being kicked and punched by seven police officers near government headquarters in Admiralty during the movement:

Yellow ribbon photos spread across social media sites in Hong Kong.

Political progress

Students managed to hold talks with the government, yet didn’t gain much ground through official channels.

Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and two other activists sought a meeting with China’s leaders to discuss the issue.

However, their visas were declared invalid after they tried to cross the border.

Clearing Camps

In later stages of the movement, camps began to be cleared off after the High Court stepped in.

In early December, three organizers of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement turned themselves in to the police for “participating in an unauthorized assembly”, calling their act a symbolic way to end the street protests.

They called for a shift in the movement’s focus to a long-term march towards democracy.

The three leaders were quickly released.

On 11 December, over 7,000 police arrived at the protest sites, and began making arrests.

The main camp was cleared out, thereby putting an end to the 79-day political movement.

Success of the movement

Despite securing international attention, the Umbrella Revolution failed to win concessions from Beijing.

As of now, Hong Kong isn’t seeing universal suffrage, and many believe the movement wasn’t successful in changing the longterm political agenda.

Some, however, disagree, on the grounds of the fact that political momentum was gained among the population.

“Even if we cannot change the system immediately, if the movement provided more momentum for the fight for democracy, then it’s not a failure,” Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy organizer said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

Two years on

Hong Kongers gathered to commemorate the second anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution last Wednesday (28 Sept).

Right before 6pm, protestors stood in silence to mark police firing tear gas on those who gathered early in the protest timelines.

Nathan Law is the youngest lawmaker at Hong Kong’s legislature Photo: Facebook/Nathan Law.

Nathan Law is the youngest lawmaker in Hong Kong’s legislature.
Photo: Facebook/Nathan Law.

Although the Umbrella Revolution isn’t occupying the streets of Hong Kong, its leaders have continued to persist in their democratic demands, as evidenced in the July 1st March and June 4th Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary gatherings celebrated every year.

In April 2015, the government formally announced a new voting system, but it failed to gather two-thirds vote at the Legislative Council because it had ignored calls for a more democratic process.

This would leave Hong Kong with the same political system that brought the current chief executive to power.

However, the city’s political scene saw hope after lawmaker elections were held last month.

Being the city’s first major elections since Occupy Central, the results spoke volumes for political sentiment.

A few Occupy politicians secured seats, including student leader Nathan Law, who participated in the protests and is Legco’s youngest ever lawmaker.

Law sees people voting for a democratic future, and with the trust and support of the public, he hopes to bring about political change in the future. “We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future,” Law said, in an interview with Hong Kong Free Press.

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.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Studio Incendo/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)


North Miami Police Have “No Specific Policies” For Dealing With People With Disabilities, FOIA Request Finds

A public records request from RISE NEWS has found that the North Miami police department does not any “specific policies” in terms of how its officers interact with people with disabilities, including autism.

We first requested the information on July 25th and were emailed the findings today.

The request was prompted by the police shooting of unarmed therapist Charles Kinsey three times in the leg in a North Miami street.

The officer who shot Kinsey, Jonathan Aledda was apparently aiming at Kinsey’s autistic patient according to the Miami-Dade police union president.

The shooting made national headlines and brought the issue of racial bias and violence against disabled people into the fore.

In responding to our request of any and all policies and procedures that the North Miami police department may have in dealing with people with disabilities, Major Franzia Brea said that “There are no specific policies regarding this topic.”

You can see for yourself:



Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 1.31.33 PM


While this new disclosure underscores the fact that North Miami has no specific policies dealing with people with disabilities, that doesn’t mean that their officers aren’t familiar with the issue.

North Miami police spokeswoman Natalie Buissereth told RISE NEWS that roughly 85% to 95% of North Miami officers have received Crisis Intervention Team Policing training (CIT).

CIT is often cited by police departments as a top local training method for officers to learn how to deal with people with mental illnesses.

Of course mental illness and developmental disability are two different things.

The CIT training only includes a small section (one page) about Autism and other developmental disabilities.


North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda.

While the CIT training may be lacking, at least it is something.

READ MORE: Unclear Whether Cop Who Shot Charles Kinsey, And Almost Shot Autistic Man Was Properly Trained

But it is not at all clear that Aledda even received CIT training.

His personnel jacket does not include information regarding the training.

“If you don’t see it, it’s not there,” Buissereth said of Aledda’s missing CIT training certificate in his personnel jacket.

While much of the focus of the shooting has rightly been focused on Charles Kinsey, perhaps we should start asking why our police officers aren’t being properly trained on how to deescalate situations with people who have disabilities.

READ MORE: Autistic Lives Matter Too

Do you have a news tip about excessive police force involving people with disabilities? Send us a news tip to [email protected] 

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.

Autistic Lives Matter Too

I’ve been pulled over before in North Miami with my autistic brother in the car.

My family grew up in North Miami.

I now live only about five minutes from North Miami.

But North Miami is not the place I thought it was.

North Miami is a dangerous place for black people and a dangerous place for people with disabilities.

Some will say that the shooting of Charles Kinsey was an isolated incident.

I think it is all we need to know.

The story, which is now an international news item goes like this.

Police are called by someone claiming that a man is carrying a gun, threatening to kill himself. The man is walking in the middle of a street in North Miami. The man is autistic and it is clear to see on the videotape.

A man named Charles Kinsey comes over to help the autistic man. Kinsey quickly realizes that the autistic man is just holding a toy truck- not a gun.

He is no threat to anybody and just needs to get back to his group home from which he has escaped from.

The rest of the details are still a bit fuzzy.

Police show up, pull out high-powered rifles and order the two men to lie down.

Kinsey complies, lies on his back and puts his hands high up in the sky.

The autistic man sits down next to Kinsey.

The rest of the story is well-known by now.

“All he has is a toy truck, a toy truck,” Kinsey is heard yelling at police in cellphone video. “I am a behavior therapist at a group home.”

The police then proceed to shoot Kinsey three times in the leg as he is lying down mere feet from the autistic man.

I became enraged when I first heard the news of the incident last night.

Then I became scared.


This could happen to my brother.

While I’ve always supported the Black Lives Matters movement, today is the first day that I really understand the totality of its importance.

Our police are the only people in the world that have the power to kill an American citizen if  force is justified. They have the legal writ to use violence. And we need them to have that right. But it also means that we need to hold them to an incredibly high standard.

We have to pay them better, we have to recruit better people into the force and we have to train the great people already in the force on how to identity people with developmental disabilities.

It is never ok to shoot an unarmed man who poises no direct threat to an officer, himself or another person.

And it is never ok to shoot an unarmed man who is mere feet away from a person with autism.

North Miami is not the place I thought it was and I’m scared to death for my brother, for my family, for potential aides that my brother may have and for myself.

This makes it plain as day that some officers in the North Miami Police Department do not have the training or the empathy needed to do their jobs.

But North Miami is also not unique.

Ethan Saylor was a 26-year-old man from Maryland. He also had down syndrome. And he was white.

Ethan was choked to death by off duty police officers after he refused to leave a movie theatre. He wasn’t violent. Have you ever met someone with down syndrome? He wasn’t a threat.

Saylor was described by people who knew him as a sweet, loving man with an innocent spirit.

He also loved the police more than just about anything.

He was so fascinated by cop shows and the idea of helping people that he once called 911 innocently just to ask them about their work.

Ethan Saylor believed that police officers were good people who had devoted his life to protect people like him.

And they killed him on the ground in a dirty movie theatre like an animal.

He cried out for his mother as his life was ripped from him.

“Ouch Mom, that hurts, don’t touch me, get off!” he said.

Then he died of asphyxiation. The cartilage in his throat was fractured, and he had bruises and abrasions all over his face and body. The cause of death was homicide.

I’ve always said I supported Black Lives Matter because of my “empathy.”

But fuck empathy.

This is about survival.

If we can’t protect black lives, then we sure as hell won’t be able to protect autistic ones.

America has a problem folks. And its worse than we thought.

Do you have a news tip about excessive police force involving people with disabilities? Send us a news tip to [email protected] 

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.

The Infamous Borgia Family Is Still Around And More Important Than You May Think

By Nate Nkumbu

Popes by natures are supposed to be holy men, ordained by God and the church to lead the Catholic faith.

Not every pope however follows those church rules.

One pope that was infamous for breaking rules was Pope Alexander VI.

Born Roderic Borgia, Pope Alexander VI was the leader of the papacy from 1492 to his death in 1503.

A controversial pope who had fathered children with many mistresses, Alexander VI’s name is now a stand in for all of the vice and nepotism that was once associated with the Catholic church.

He embraced the temporal role of the church and his family wielded real power in the affairs of war and politics.

Not exactly a Pope Peter lookalike.

One of Rome's few memorials of the first Borgia pope, Calixtus III, from the tail end of the fifteenth century. Photo Credit: Anthony Majanlahti/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

One of Rome’s few memorials of the first Borgia pope, Calixtus III, from the tail end of the fifteenth century. Photo Credit: Anthony Majanlahti/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

According to Lawrence Cunningham, a Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, while Alexander VI might have been a bad Pope to the Catholic Church, he was beloved and respected by people during his time.

“He was great patronage of the arts during the renaissance and commissioned the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael to work for the vatican and for him,” Cunningham said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “He was important to the new world as he corresponded with the Spanish crown about confirming the discovery.”

Interestingly enough, while often thought as a family only found in a history book, the Borgia’s are still around today.

Borgia’s children that he sired with his mistresses left a legacy of their own.

One of his children’s descendants, Rodrigo Borja Cevallos became president of Ecuador in 1988 at a time when Ecuador was suffering one it’s worst economic crisis.

There was not much Cevallos could do to fix the situation and he was ousted within four years.    

But still. How cool is that?

The Borgia family legacy isn’t just held to a descendant becoming president of Ecuador.

Cunningham said that his direct line had influenced The Renaissance and the rise of political realism in a major way.

“Pope Alexander’s daughter Lucrezia would become source for Machiavelli’s The Prince,” Cunningham said. “The Borgia family would have people become dukes, lords and so on. So Pope Alexander VI’s influence still exists to this day.”       

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: Sharat Ganapati/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Flower Project Inspires Women To Find Beauty Within Themselves

Lauren Laveria, a 22 year-old photographer based out of Melbourne, Florida, is creator of The Flower Project, a photo project dedicated to nude art, female empowerment, and sharing personal stories to help women feel more free in their lives. 

Each piece in the project features a girl who is naked and almost completely exposed, except for the flowers she is holding in her hands.

Every photograph is accompanied by a passage written by the model in the photo, telling an anecdote about their past or personal experience they have overcome, like they are writing in an open diary.


Laveria said about the project is “for girls who want to break free from their personal restraints.

“A lot of girls have done it just to face people who have told them that they’re worthless, they’re not worthy of even being loved and doing this helps these girls feel love for themselves,” Laveria said. 



The project started about a year ago when Laveria was working on a different photography project with two friends, a nude portrait that Laveria was excited to do but her friends felt nervous and unsure about it at first.

They were scared about the idea of being so exposed in a photo, but by the time the shoot was over the girls told Laveria how beautiful and comfortable in their bodies she had made them feel.

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Laveria also shared her own experience of posting a nude self-portrait of herself online, something she has done now on her birthday for the past three years.

She was scared at first to share it, but she ended up receiving words of encouragement that made her feel mature and confidant.

“After that I felt if I can help other girls feel this way and actually accept themselves for how they are than that is something I want to do,” Laveria said.


Since then Laveria has posted photographs and stories of one girl every week.

The Facebook page has close to 2,000 followers and is filled with nothing but love for these girls brave enough to share their stories with the world.

Laveria is truly creating a safe space for women to inspire, support, and love one another through encouragement and empowerment for each other.

“I really just want people to read the stories and relate them to their own lives and feel a lot better and realize there are a lot of things that they can do,” Laveria said. 

Year 1 of The Flower Project has finished, and Laveria is currently working on starting up Year 2.

To see her latest work you can follow The Flower Project on Facebook.

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.

Photo Credits: The Flower Project

“Dry Katrina”: In Memphis, Hundreds Of Families Are Being Forced Out Of The City’s Last Public Housing Units

By Courtney Anderson

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE- More than 700 families in the city of Memphis are at risk of losing their homes due to a mandatory relocation that some are equating to a manmade disaster.

This displacement comes from the mandatory relocation of residents from apartment buildings that were found to have housing code enforcement violations.

The residents were living in government subsidized housing units- the last such project in the city until the owner of the buildings lost HUD funding according to local paper The Commercial Appeal.

If they are made to relocate, many residents say that they will have nowhere to go.

But one organization in Memphis is working to provide assistance to residents in need.

For the better part of a year, The Mid South Peace and Justice Center (MSPJC), in Memphis, has been working on a renter’s rights collective to addresses the issues that led to the possible relocation of hundreds of Memphis citizens.

MSPJC director Bradley Watkins describes the collective as an effort to “engage in renter’s rights and training workshops on how tenants can form their own tenant associations,” in order to eventually create a network of organizations in Memphis—or “Memphis Tenant’s Union—” that work to protect the rights of tenants in the city.

In short, they are trying to stop what Watkins has dubbed as Memphis’s “Dry Katrina.” The nickname makes reference to the New Orleans housing crisis that followed Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago.

Watkins said there is no other organizations in Memphis of its kind and that tenants have been taking a “great risk standing up for their rights,” and that the residents who speak out “need more support than is often available.”

The Mid South Peace and Justice center began the collective by working with residents of low-income apartments Warren Apartments and Serenity Towers.

Both apartment complexes are owned by Rev. Richard Hamlet of Global Ministries Foundation in Memphis and subsidized by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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Watkins said he and members of the MSPJC saw many violations in both Warren Apartments, Serenity Towers and an apartment called Tulane, also owned by Hamlet.

Two weeks later, HUD notified Hamlet that Global Ministries Foundation had failed to correct the violations and that the tenants would have to be moved.

Recently, an inspection of Serenity Towers found massive bug infestations. Residents were told they would have to be moved, as well.

Watkins said that he felt the relocation was inevitable and that they were the result of “decades of systemic neglect on the part of the landlords.” To Watkins, it was only a matter of time.

“Honestly, we all have to ask: What did we expect to happen? Now our collective chickens have come home to roost,” Watkins said in a blog post.

Watkins said that these relocations have created a serious dilemma in the city of Memphis.

“The relocation of residents at Warren and Tulane, if not properly handled, could lead to a massive crisis in housing here in Memphis,” Watkins said. “This will affect thousands of families and they will need this community and this organization to stand with them in this.”

Jessica Johnson-Peterson was one of the residents who spoke up about the housing violations. She said some of her closest associates had come to her with complaints for years and that she felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to “be a voice for the community.”

Johnson-Peterson said that after a conversation with her husband and a resident named Cynthia Crawford, she typed a letter to Hamlet and then contacted Watkins at the MSPJC.

Johnson-Peterson said there are still many concerns not being addressed by HUD or by Global Ministries Foundation. She also said the new appointed receiver has expressed that he has no interest in working with tenants.

“It seems that being a criminal has more benefits than being a law-abiding citizen. The citizens that do their best with the resources, they are forced to live impoverished and the ones that compromise and give into the corruption more than thrive,” Johnson-Peterson said.

On March 11, 2016, Watkins posted an email he sent to Memphis city councilman Worth Morgan, members of the administration of Memphis mayor Jim Strickland and management at Memphis Code Enforcement onto the MSPJC Facebook page.

The post detailed a proposal that would create two initiatives between MSPJC and Memphis Code Enforcement. Both initiatives would have used Serenity Towers as a “pilot program.”

The initiatives listed included the creation of tenants associations that would be recognized by HUD and a program in which college interns who work with MSPJC would be paired with residents of Serenity Towers who have mobility issues.

In the meantime, the MSPJC is keeping track of HUD’s responses to the violations in Serenity Towers and Warren and Tulane Apartments.

The MSPJC Facebook page is consistently updated with local news articles about the apartment buildings and the tenants who called them home.

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: Guillaume Capron/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Miami TV: How Jenny Scordamaglia Used Her Body To Build A Media Empire

Miami is no stranger to pristine beaches, deep glowing suntans and beautiful, mostly half-naked people doing all kinds of things in public.

But one of the most interesting things to come out of this milieu is MiamiTV, an international online and television show based out of the city which was founded in 2007.

The show is described as an “entertainment channel covering the best events, festivals, parties around the world” on the show’s Facebook page.

With nearly 7,200 likes on their Facebook page, the show seems to be gaining popularity.

The popularity could largely be accredited to the show’s main host, Jenny Scordamaglia, who has had a history of hosting nearly 200 shows.

While being an engaging and interesting personality, the other thing the sets Scordamaglia apart from the bunch is that she is willing to broadcast in the buff, or at least close to it. 

She has helped build a sizable media brand by as the Miami New Times described it, perfecting the “nip-slip”.

As Terrence McCoy wrote for the New Times in 2014:

“The nip slip is the defining element of her on-camera presence. In appearance after appearance, she moves through gaggles of gawking bystanders, microphone in hand, nipples flashing like lighthouses in the night.”


Jenny Scordamaglia in the middle of conducting an interview for Miami TV. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

But while some may find that distasteful, Scordamaglia is unfazed by the type of content her company produces.

“Unlike most media, Miami TV focuses on real life people and events live as they happen, no script, no cuts, edits or blurs,” Scordamaglia told RISE NEWS in an interview. “The shows are done spontaneous at the moment with a refreshing reality of what would happen if the viewer is there as well. We focus in bringing viewers positive entertainment so that they can distress from their everyday stress and the negative news on TV.”

The show is close to her heart, being that it was a creation between her husband and herself.

“My husband and I built this 8 years ago and made it our dream work, which for us it’s really not work, it’s a hobby because we love what we do, we love communicating with people around the world and bringing a smile to their face,” Scordamaglia said. 

While being based out of Miami, the show reaches an international audience, with audience members in places like Spain, Mexico and Colombia. The show went international after experiencing local success in November 2009. 

WATCH: Miami TV In Action

The production team, along with producing MiamiTV, also hosts other shows, including Hoy Miami, Miami Caliente and Jenny Live, according to the main show website.

The experiences gained by Scordamaglia have stayed with her for the nearly eight years she’s been on the air.

“While I attending a business event in Miami a couple of years ago where without getting into names, a surrounding local Mayor was there and we weren’t filming, also my dress code was more business attire at that event,” Scordamaglia recalls. “When this person comes close to me and says ‘What happened to the real Jenny, where’s the cleavage?,’ smiling. So I then knew, we had made a signature image for Miami TV and had to keep it.”

Jenny Scordamaglia. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

Jenny Scordamaglia in the midst of a “nip slip” moment during an interview. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

As the show continued to gain traction and popularity, Scordamaglia kept giving what her audience wanted. 

“We had made 727 studio shows where people can interact live via a chat and give their opinions on the life subject we are speaking about,” Scordamaglia said. “This is our audience’s favorite show, they like to interact, they like to be heard and responded to, but we like to also balance it with over 600 outdoor events we have covered.”

Scordamaglia believes that the audience makes the show, and hopes to continue to grow her brand. Whatever that happens to be. 

“To me, it’s imminent to listen to our viewers because they made us grow and we keep attracting new viewers daily,” Scordamaglia said. “We don’t want to become just another corporation, we want to continue to keep it real and the comments that move me the most can be as simple as those that say thank you for brightening up my day, to some deeper life changing stories.”

So there you have it. The most Miami media company ever is actually doing pretty well and they don’t seem to care what the haters think.

——Here’s Something Completely Different: ——

The TV Weatherman Who Is Trying To Save Miami From Drowning

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Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it to [email protected]


South African Women Rise Up In Topless Protest To Fight Against Rape On Their College Campuses

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA- Two weeks ago, a list published on social media detailed 11 names of people accused of raping students at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.

The list was released, along with a set of demands by still unknown members of the Rhodes University student body.

Thousands of students protesting under the banner “Unashamed”, began their movement by placing posters on walls with quotes from Rhodes students, management and prosecutors.

The posters were intended to show the prevailing attitudes of those in and around Rhodes regarding rape and the rape culture that is being fostered in Rhodes and without a doubt, other South African universities.

The Unashamed movement, along with anti-rape organisation, Chapter 212 (which refers to Chapter 2(12) of the South African Constitution, which entails the freedom and security of the person,) began the anti-rape campaign in order to challenge the current systems in place for victims of rape and sexual assault in universities and the country.

Since the beginning of the campaign there have been protests on the Rhodes campus.

And while they intended to be peaceful, some students were injured after police fired stun grenades at them.  

Five students were arrested for “protesting on a public road.”

WATCH: Video of three of the arrested students

Heavy police presence have been a feature of protests on South African campuses since the #FeesMustFall movement began last year.

It seems then that the #RUReferenceList was released in order to coincide with the larger student campaign for reform and in order to protect women on campus from suspected rapists.

However, the release of the list has been controversial with some people calling for justice to be served, before anyone is outed in a public way.

The implication among young people in this country is that a few members of the movement have had defamation charges brought against them; this has caused further outrage because it seems as though university management is more concerned about the identities of rapists than the safety of women on campus.

The movement prompted protests on campuses across the country, with Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town placing posters, such as the ones in Rhodes, on their campuses.

But the most dramatic protest was held by the women of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Scores of students here partook in a topless protest in solidarity with the women of Rhodes.

Images of the protests at University of the Witwatersrand:

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It seems as though this is just the beginning of protests on campuses across South Africa, with the intention of bringing the serious issue of rape on university campuses to the forefront of discussion.

RISE NEWS will continue to cover this story as it develops in South Africa. 

Do you have a news tip? Send it to us at [email protected]

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.

Photo Credits: Lungani Gumede/ RISE NEWS.

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