Idea

A Trip To Old Overtown To Understand Today’s Problems

By Troy Duffie

We’re going on an extraordinary trip.  But don’t prepare to travel because it doesn’t require a car, train, or any conventional transportation device. It only requires your mind for we’re going on a trip back in time.

The winds pick up as we travel back to Miami circa 1950, a few years after the end of World War Two. We’re moving quickly past fishing boats and the Jungle Queen tour boat at Pier 5, past the Bayfront Park Bandshell, and even past the Olympia Theatre, finally stopping in “Colored Town”.

You may hear the sweet soft echoes of Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald as you make your way down NW 2nd Avenue. You should feel the summer breeze on you cheeks, and savor the smell of fresh fruit in the air.

The crowd you see off in the distance is being let out of the Lyric Theater after watching the latest performance of the hottest play in town. If you turn westward, you may see three buildings hanging above the small houses between NW 2nd Avenue and NW 3rd Avenue. Those buildings are home to St. John Baptist, Mt. Zion Baptist, and Greater Bethel AME, the three churches that anchor this community.

This is the legacy of our nation’s urban policy. This is the legacy of poor race relations in Miami and in America. 

Wind begins to pick up speed as we move forward through time. You slowly, then with some consistent pace begin to see houses disappear. Construction trucks pile in, trees are cleared and the earliest version of I-95 is built where those houses were.

As you turn your face northward on northwest second avenue boards go on business windows, buildings are torn down, and frustration rests on the faces of those who’ve called this place home for years.

The wind picks up speed as we move faster towards the present and when you open your eyes again, what you saw on our trip twenty minutes ago is gone.

It’s been replaced with apartment buildings, homelessness, and poverty. The land that held culture and hosted Joe Louis, WEB Du Bois, and Zora Neale Hurston, has been reduced to dirt, sidewalk, and abandoned buildings.

What you see is modern-day Overtown. A land who’s pride was carved out by urban renewal and the interstate that looms over its residents. This is the legacy of our nation’s urban policy.

This is the legacy of poor race relations in Miami and in America. Communities of color are not inherently poor, or crime infested.

They simply aren’t aided the way they should be. So let’s make that effort to stand up for those communities and give everyone a fair shake.

Let’s make the effort to find ways to “improve” our cities without trucking out people of color. Let’s find a way to expand our skyline without destroying history and culture that spans 40+ years.

Let’s attempt to make communities of color better by improving education, attracting small businesses, and creating resources before we attempt to gentrify.

Let’s adjust this broken urban policy so situations like the one in Baltimore are unlikely to happen across America. Miami’s history can serve as a guide to solve this problem.

Troy Duffie is a Miami native who is a student at Howard University. He is also an ordained minister in Overtown.

Cover Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar/Flickr

My Mom Was Killed By A Man With A Gun And It Didn’t Have To Happen

By Angie Bartelt

Raw emotion can be hard to humanize when seeing it on the faces of our leadership, especially during such a partisan time in America.

Time and time again we watch as these men and women deliver news to their people that something terrible has happened with straight faces.

Terrorism, outbreaks of deadly viruses, and mass shootings are reported in the world everyday and we watch with exhaustion- and often frustrations, as world leaders respond.

It is especially disconcerting when we do see our commander-in-chief, brought to tears on national television while professing the need for common sense gun regulation. President Obama spoke of the deaths of those worshipping in Charleston, the college students in Santa Barbara, and the first graders in Newtown.

As a fellow human being, I can clearly understand why the thought of twenty children being murdered under my watch and my administration could have, at least once, brought me to tears.

When we witness death from firearms everyday, it is hard to look at the problem and not want to hunt out a solution.

In 2001, my mother was murdered with a gun by her ex-husband on the front steps of our apartment.

She had been stalked and assaulted multiple times throughout the year prior. He would beat her to a pulp in front of myself, my brother, and our younger cousins. He broke in through our back door and held a knife to her throat, again in front of us children.

Even after exhausting the use of a restraining order and witness protection, she still wasn’t safe.

There was no hesitation when it came to her decision to alert the proper authorities when her life had been threatened, but the laws relating to domestic violence in 2001 failed her and my family.

According to a statistical report by the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence in 2012, abused victims are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.

According to a statistical report by the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence in 2012, abused victims are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.

I remember being a small child and seeing my stepfather’s home a few years before the murder.

He had many guns of all sizes, and it never crossed my adolescent brain to question why someone who, by that point, I knew was a gang member could have so many weapons at his disposal.

It was never a question to him, when he owned that many firearms and even a silencer, how he could most easily take my mother’s life.

In 2001, my mother’s murder was cut and dry. An ex-member of the Hells Angels who had access to illegal guns could surely hunt down a single mother in her last semester of college.

But in 2016, I hope that this can be prevented.

The data shows that prohibiting the purchases of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order is associated with a reduction in the number of intimate partner homicides.

In 2014, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB-1014, a bill to allow concerned family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO).

The GVRO will temporarily prohibit the individual from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in the individual’s possession.

With this as an example of common sense law, the lives of endangered Americans can be spared.

The statistics go on in regards to the all too-often problem of victims who are being threatened or violated by a partner, more often than not when a firearm is present.

Again, abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if their abuser owns a firearm.

Some more facts from the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence:

“A recent survey of female domestic violence shelter residents in California found that more than one-third (36.7%) reported having been threatened or harmed with a firearm.

“In nearly two-thirds (64.5%) of the households that contained a firearm, the intimate partner had used the firearm against the victim, usually threatening to shoot or kill the victim.”

Shockingly, women who suffer from domestic violence are eight times more likely to be killed if there is a firearm in the home.

These women, like my mother, flee to protect themselves and their children, but that is not always the final solution.

Guns create a problem bigger than the need for self-defense. Whether or not the gun in the home is meant for protection, the truth is that instead of being used as a safety tool, guns are being used by abusers to harm or kill women more than they have saved them.

As a direct victim of the worst scenario of domestic violence, I urge you to fight for the lives of our families, friends, and fellow mankind.

As a direct victim of the worst scenario of domestic violence, I urge you to fight for the lives of our families, friends, and fellow mankind.

The most common weapon men use to kill women is a gun.

This is a fact. This is not a random quote that crossed the internet. It is something you won’t hear out of the mouths of any of the Republican presidential candidates, but this ruins, and often ends, lives.

This is not just my story. This is millions of families in our country, not just the ones we see on the news. This epidemic of gun violence used against women is a fight bigger than women rights.

This is about human rights and human lives.

The president’s tears should not be on the forefront of the debate as to why common sense gun regulation is necessary in 2016 America.

Instead, we need to be talking about the ways in which these kinds of regulations, from improving tracing of lost or stolen firearms to proper background checks, can work in a bipartisan legislation to make our country safer and protect our women and children.

As a person whose entire perspective on life was shattered by gun violence as a child, I urge anyone who sees common sense gun control as negative to reconsider.

Take a moment and think about what your life would have been like if a criminal with a gun took your mother’s life.

I urge you to think about the children in our country going through that at this very moment.

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Angie Bartelt (bottom right) with her mother. Photo Credit: Angie Bartelt

According to the Brady Campaign, every day 31 people in this country are murdered with a gun.

That means that since my mother’s murder, 169,725 people have been murdered, with women being five times more likely the victim of this heinous crime.

I beg of anyone to reconsider their views on gun regulation for our mothers.

How many more people have to lose their mother like I did?

How many more people have to lose their sister, father, daughter, son, cousin, uncle, aunt, or friend?

How long will it be before it won’t be weird for me to say I lost my mother to gun violence because it has become normal? I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone.

I hope you feel the same.

Cover Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Why Miley Cyrus Is America

“Miley Cyrus represents everything that is wrong with America.”

This is a sentence you have probably heard or even spoken yourself. But the people who believe this believe it for the wrong reasons.

Frequent marijuana use is not what is wrong with America. Nude concerts are not what is wrong with America. Obscene gestures are not what is wrong with America.

What is wrong with America is the defensive attitude that comes out when someone asks it to shut up for five minutes and let marginalized individuals speak for themselves.

In the past, Miley has called herself “empowering to women,” and I think deep down she does want to empower and to see a more accepting world, just as deep down America wants to live up to its reputation as the land of the free.

But the problem with Miley’s mission, and America’s, lies within her belief that she can fix the world’s intolerance on her terms, without actually listening to those she is attempting to empower.

Miley has spent the last three years not giving a single fuck. It started in 2012 when she chopped off her long brunette locks and began rocking a platinum pixie cut, and has since escalated into everything from excessive tongue use to posing nude for Candy magazine.

She has received equal parts hate and love for her lack of concern with public opinion on her looks, attitude and behavior.

Photo Credit Credit: Clint Catalyst/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit Credit: Clint Catalyst/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Not giving a fuck can be empowering. In a time where government spying and posting every thought online for 1,000 of your friends to analyze is considered the norm, “worrying about yourself” is a foreign concept. So when you choose not to let unfair judgment of your character affect how you live your life, that is, without a doubt, empowering.

But there is such a thing as fair judgment, something Miley has often faced, particularly for her appropriation of POC culture and her use of the LGBTQ+ community as a prop for her brand.

Last summer, when Nicki Minaj called out the MTV Video Music Awards on Twitter for their lack of recognition for her record-breaking Anaconda video, as compared with their celebration of Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood video, Swift fired back at Minaj for “pit[ting] women against each other.”

When Minaj – and the rest of Twitter — explained to Swift that this wasn’t about bringing her down, it was about dismantling a system stacked against people of color, the pop star issued an apology and admitted that she misunderstood. It was not a perfect example of accountability for problematic behavior, but it was progress.

Miley, on the other hand, when asked about the “beef” between the two, accused Nicki Minaj of making “[the issue] about [her]self,” and suggested that next time the artist approach race issues “with love” to get her point across.

This is America’s problem. Too many people claim to empower, when what they are really doing is overpowering.

Rather than listen to a woman who also faces criticism for everything from obscenity to sexuality, Miley, a self-proclaimed feminist, decided to speak over Minaj and tell her how to best handle the issues she is facing. How can one claim to be empowering while refusing to uplift the voices of those they want to empower?

Empowering a group of people means embracing and caring about both the positive and negative parts of their culture. It means for every time you twerk with your friends in the club, you should be listening to a woman of color talk about the way she is fetishized. For every funny Grindr story you listen to from your gay friend, you should be educating yourself on bi-erasure.

And for every joint you smoke, you should be reading the statistics on imprisonment rates for minor drug offenses and how this practice serves as a systemic genocide of young men of color.

This is America’s problem. Too many people claim to empower, when what they are really doing is overpowering. So next time you see Miley on your TV or computer screen and you ask yourself “What the hell is she doing?” know that she is doing exactly what America is doing: bringing marginalized communities onto her platform, only to cut their mics.

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

An American In Paris: Her First Day In The City Of Light Came On November 13

By Taylor Neuman

When planning for a weekend excursion to Paris you expect nothing less but sight-seeing, eating delicious French cuisine, touring the finest art museums, going out and enjoying everything the City of Light has to offer; but this wasn’t the case for me.

On Friday, Nov. 13 I traveled to Paris for an amazing weekend with my study abroad program.

When we got there we immediately ate at this tiny little French café a little ways from our hotel, walked around a bit to get a feel of the area we were in and then came back to get ready for our tour of the Louvre.

We took a big bus to the Louvre. It was absolutely amazing just like everyone had told me, and I was incredibly excited to finally see the Mona Lisa in person.

After about an hour and a half tour, we were all ready to get dinner around the area. Some of us talked about what each other had planned for the night.

Some planned on going to the Germany vs. France game, some planned on seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night and some planned on going out and enjoying the nightlife.

A group of my friends and I decided to go to this really tasty crepe place pretty close to the Louvre for dinner, we had planned to meet some friends afterwards at the Eiffel Tower but instead we decided to head back to the hotel and see the Eiffel Tower the next day.

Since we were pretty far from our hotel we decided to take the metro back to our destination.

After waiting for sometime for everyone to get their metro passes we waited patiently for the train to come. Then we hopped on and sat around talking about how excited we were for the night ahead.

 I never thought I would experience Paris this way, the weather was cold and gray and you could feel the sadness that swept throughout the city that day.

After one stop we realized that three police officers had jumped onto the metro.

Over the intercom they started saying something in French, none of us know French so we disregarded it and continued to enjoy ourselves as usual, agreeing that we would just get off the next stop open. When we got off we still had a 15 minute walk back to our hotel. We walked and walked and finally we started to notice police and ambulances flying by one by one, it seemed like it was never going to stop.

We just figured it had something to do with the soccer game, or maybe a bad car accident, we never thought anything more than that. We continued on our path with nothing more than our plans for the night in mind.

People walk in Paris during a winter night. Photo Credit: August Brill/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

People walk in Paris during a winter night in 2012. Photo Credit: August Brill/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

We finally arrived to the hotel to find our lobby flooded with people on their phones, crying and watching television.

Immediately I knew something was wrong, I looked at the TV and it was all in French but the only word I could make out was “explosion.”

All of a sudden my heart felt like it was going to fall out of my chest; I didn’t even know how to react. I asked someone what had happened, and they said “terrorist attack,” and what was even worse was that it was only 5-10 minutes away from our hotel, and where we had walked around earlier that day.

The first thing I thought of was calling my parents to tell them what had happened because they didn’t know.

I told them I was safe and that everything was going to be ok, but they immediately panicked.

My friends and I felt so unsafe so we hid ourselves in our hotel room for the rest of the night watching TV and not knowing how to respond to the situation. We didn’t know if we were going to be the next victims, all we saw was the number of deaths and injuries keep rising and we knew it was getting really bad.

All we wanted to know is if all of our friends that went to the soccer game, out to eat, and to the Eiffel Tower were okay. We all fell asleep after finding out everyone from our program made it back to the hotel safe but the feeling of uncertainty still hung over our heads.

The next morning I woke up to the television on and all I could see was 129 dead. I almost threw up.

All of our organized trips were canceled and the president issued a state of emergency so it was almost impossible to go out and see the city. It hit 3 o’clock and all of us were in a state of shock, our group advisors had told us they only wanted us to go in small groups across the street to grab food.

We were eventually allowed to go around sight-seeing but we weren’t allowed to go on public transportation or in big groups so we went to the Eiffel Tower. Security was extremely tight everywhere and there was an overwhelming amount of military personnel and police guarding the streets.

I never thought I would experience Paris this way, the weather was cold and gray and you could feel the sadness that swept throughout the city that day.

We went to go visit the sites where the terrorist attacks occurred and it was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do.

Hundreds of people flooded the streets holding flowers in their hands, tears running down their faces, and lighting candles to remember the victims.

It was something I had never experienced before, a feeling I will never forget.

Taylor Neuman is a writer for Rise News. She is also a student at the University of Alabama who is studying abroad in Europe this semester. 

Cover Photo Credit: Cristian Bortes/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Millennial View: Americans Should Give Iran A Chance To Make Progress

By Elnaz Moghangard

Flooding my Twitter trail and buzzing in my ears is all this noise about Iran. From celebratory photos of Tehran’s streets following the news of a historic nuclear deal to fearful anti-Iran speech to cultural icebreakers like Shahs of Sunset -there is an effort to show the world the “real” image of Iran.

I have seen a surge of articles capturing the beautiful landscapes, the savory cuisine and most importantly — the humanity of the Iranian people. With the help of Anthony Bourdain and HONY’s Brandon Stanton, I feel confident that the world gets to see a glimpse into an Iran that has until now been overshadowed by political tensions.

I actually cried staring at a cover of an Olsen twins Christmas album -wishing I looked like them.

As a millennial Iranian-American, I too find myself constantly learning about my own roots. I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Atlanta, but I spent many summers visiting the land my parents called home ages ago. Just as the international community struggles to understand their feelings towards Iran, I have grown up watching my peers do the same.

Why do women wear headscarves? What does our culture stand for? Why can’t the two halves of my identity get along? When I was in middle school, I had a tendency to reject the parts of me that were Iranian, because I felt that my parents’ traditions did not always align with mine. I wanted to be a “real” American. I’m pretty sure one time in sixth grade, I actually cried staring at a cover of an Olsen twins Christmas album -wishing I looked like them.

Looking back, I think I just wanted to be Mary-Kate Olsen, because I thought she was, you know, super cool. But, this battle between my American lifestyle and Iranian heritage still remained nestled in my mind.

I remember my trip to Tehran when I was a teenager. My mom had been taking me to visit so our family could see us, but this was my first time understanding my surroundings. Walking around the bazaars, everyone took just one look at me, and they knew I was not from there. The man selling corns bathing in saltwater called out to my family in Farsi, “Our American friends! Come, come, welcome!” I was taken by surprise.

How did he know? I looked just like the stereotype -black hair, thick eyebrows, everything. 

What was even more surprising was how genuinely excited he was to speak with us, because we were from the United States. This warmth was what I always associated with my visits.

The last time I checked, there are kids bumping Kanye, rocking espadrilles and posting selfies from Tehran to ATL — a reflection of global pop culture.

When I think of Iran, I think of drinking chai while overlooking Tehran’s city lights, fresh cantaloupe smoothies and the ice cream cones -swirls on swirls on swirls. I think of couples flirting in the park, the smiles of children playing soccer in the neighborhood and business professionals racing back and forth like true New Yorkers.

If all this sounds cliché, it is because — it is. And that is what I have learned the most about my relationship with Iran -that the “real” Iran is really like anywhere. It is a state of contradictions with a history of dark shadows and modern day challenges. I care for Iran too much to pretend that it is a place without flaws.

But, I also believe it is a state with an ever evolving culture, vibrant citizen body and progressive hope — a civilization with roots in poetry, philosophy and the arts. And from the looks of Instagram and Facebook, I’m not sure if that same man selling corn could again distinguish me from today’s Iranian youth. The last time I checked, there are kids bumping Kanye, rocking espadrilles and posting selfies from Tehran to ATL — a reflection of global pop culture.

To explain what is the real Iran is like trying to explain what exactly is the real America. There is no standard definition, and as a proud Iranian-American, I think there’s room for improvement and appreciation for both.

Let’s give pro-peace a chance to find out how the two can grow together.

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- editor@risenews.net. 

Cover Photo Credit: Chris Marchant/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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