[Guest Blog] Open Letter to NSU Housing

Welcome to my first guest blog! The below letter was written by Kadeem Hall, a student leader at Nova Southeastern University. While fulfilling his requirements as a summer housing assistant to decorate boards in the hallways of the dorms, he decided to use his position to advocate for a largely devastating social issue. He decorated a board to say “Black Lives Matter,” with corresponding words and images that depict the importance of the movement. Very quickly after, the school told him to take the decorations down because they are not relatable to the students present. This is absolutely appalling.

 

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Courtesy of Kadeem Hall

 

Black lives DO matter. Black people comprise nearly half of the total incarceration rate in the U.S. and are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white people. There are multiple cases of cops killing innocent black people–in fact, just in the past week there were two new cases of this. [side note: I highly recommend watching “13th” on Netflix for a more thorough grasp of this terrible phenomena]

When it comes to raising awareness on issues such as this, it is up to college students. For years, children are taught they have the power to change the world with a single voice. They are praised for standing up for those who can’t. But when the matter arises in an educational institution, it refuses to take a stance on important matters because it is too controversial and the school can only thrive off external funds from donors who are generally conservative.

I highly suggest reading Kadeem’s letter below. Share it with your peers and comment below to make it known that we cannot and will not stand for racial injustice.

Hello all.

Thank you. For your time, your concern, and your efforts. You’re here for a reason and whatever that reason, I am thankful. I want for you to take a peek into my story and use it to empower yourself and all things positive.

June 19th, 2017

In so many ways, I’ve prided myself on you. That’s MY school. But I see now where it is necessary to have a serious talk with you. This in no way is a critique to claim that you have no strengths because you are a mighty institution. I’ve grown here. Learned here. I’ve been on TV here. I’ve become a next level leader here. I’ve impressed my family here. Made the world of connections here. I’m your BSU President, Writing Fellow, President’s 64 Member, Razor’s Edge Leadership Scholar, and Summer Housing Assistant. I literally, like, love you. However, my problem is not how you provide any opportunities for me, but how you stand by me and support me when I need you.

Now, no surprise here, I’ve chosen to spend my second consecutive summer with you. Like I told you, I literally, like, love you. As a part of me being here, you required me to decorate seven boards with information relevant to young newcomers. Two were decorated with information about our campus and local businesses, one had information about myself, 3 others were left with what the Winter RA’s created, and one had the message “Black Lives Matter” displayed across it. Fifteen days after it was finished, and 12 days after its due date, you called me into the housing office and among other concerns, stated that this is not what was asked of me.

You told me that this is not what NSU wants to offer younger campers. That it is not relevant to the information I was asked to display, or to their experience here. You told me that for these campers, we are not trying to display what is relevant in the world, just information.

How frightening it is that these statements are considered a norm here and allowable.

How is it that at a University campus, we would encourage anything but the publicizing of such ideas and information? We pride ourselves on having a minority majority, but NSU you need to realize that having us here isn’t enough. Why is it noteworthy to have a minority majority population? Because of the systematic and social disadvantages that minorities face within this country. You show that you want to provide an opportunity for all who are able, regardless of background. Now, I applaud your focus on getting us here, but. You must ensure that we are not just another tool for enrollment. You must support us. You must dedicate resources to us. You must focus on us. Please make sure that you don’t just put us in your brochures and ignore our realities.

You tell me that I am a stronger employee and have always been seen as one, but that a message that confronts a serious problem that faces minorities, need be removed. When it is time to discuss students who lead boldly and bring a good name to hard work at NSU, I am honored that I am part of the conversation. But when I portray the message that reinforces the importance of Black Lives, it is seen as outside of the scope of what was asked. I am here to push that idea back into the dangerous corner that it escaped from. At this University, attention to the issues that put minorities in any questionable position should be yelled. Boldly. Students should be congratulated for this message being displayed.

As you applaud me for the skill that I offer and thank me for the benefits that those skills bring you, you tear me down when I respect the history and love that is myself. Less than one full month after being named Undergraduate Student President of The Year, the very message that the organization that I lead promotes was seen as unrelated to campers, resulting in its need to be taken down. It makes me question if you appreciate me and my voice, or what it does for you and your reputation. I want NSU to define policy and have a firm stance on what it is we will portray and allow. Students are assigned floors as Residential Assistants and Summer Housing Assistants. It should be expected that they express ideas, history, and national movements, especially ones that relate to minority issues. It would be odd if they didn’t.

At the end of the day, I wanted to feel understood. I will continue to fight. We need a Minority Office. BSU will continue to grow. I want NSU to begin to appreciate this message in all respects because black lives will always matter. Housing, I truly feel like a piece of me came down with my board. I saw myself as a vital piece to my team and to the campers that I could impact while here, so I took my board down while holding onto the promise that it could be reposted in the fall. NSU benchmarks against seven Universities, Emory, Temple, and Vanderbilt University being three of those. Each of these three have public structures (Like walls in the middle of a field that solely say “white people. do something.”) or statements that support Black Lives Matter purposes and initiatives. The University of Vermont, Illinois State University, and Northwestern University all have, at some point, erected a Black Lives Matter flag on their main campuses. I hold a pride higher than no other to be a Shark. So, NSU, I patiently wait on the day in which we drop this idea of conservatism in a comfortable corner, and begin embracing fighting for what’s right, and challenging systematic and social norms that oppress the majority of your population.

– Fins Up, Kadeem Hall.

See his post on Medium. Have any suggestions or comments? Post ’em below. 

The difference between journalism and fake news

Alright people, it is time to get to the bottom of this “fake news” pandemic. While everyone is throwing the term around like a boiling hot potato, nobody seems to understand what fake news truly is. Sure, it is easy to deduce that, obviously, someone is lying in his or her reporting and misconstruing information to create a set of “alternative facts.” What often goes unrealized, however, is that fake news is not journalism, and true journalists do not produce alternative facts.

The constant bashing of well-represented and esteemed media outlets needs to stop. Dubbing media outlets like CNN and the New York Times as fake is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Companies such as these are known for pushing the envelope and searching for stories that matter and that people should be aware of. The only reason this inaccurate term came to life is because of individuals not wanting the public to realize the truth about what is happening behind closed doors. Essentially, the whole purpose for its birth was to make people doubt any and all information from highly-credited sources. To those throwing the fake news manifesto at these outlets, it is a matter of silencing organizations on the truth, not slaying corruption.

Now, don’t be fooled, there ARE fake news outlets out there. Companies like Breitbart, American News, Disclose TV, and World Truth TV purposely create content meant to deceive people into believing a certain point of view. They don’t write well-rounded and balanced arguments and do not display the very morale that journalism was founded upon.

For those who may not realize it, journalism was created to provide a well-established, balanced and honest voice for the masses. It is founded on the belief that any information that serves the common interest of the majority of people deserves to be shared. After all, we have Freedom of the Press; we have the freedom to investigate, to learn, to listen and to share the truth and nothing but the truth to all people with standards of ethical reasoning. Any outlet or individual who publishes content that is not fact-checked, balanced and as accurate as possible is not a true journalism organization or a journalist.

There is no room for deception in the truth and that is no alternative fact.

A letter to…everyone 

Today was one of the scariest and most rewarding days of my life. I’ve always hated public speaking and it never fails to make me feel so small in a room that is so big. But today was different. Today I felt like I mattered, like my voice did have an impact, no matter how small, and I am eternally thankful for that opportunity. 

Never be afraid to dive into the unknown and do something that completely terrifies you, you might just learn from it. See my speech below! 

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for allowing me to be in the presence of such strong leadership and female empowerment. Just from looking around the room, I see so many people who are clearly committed to bettering themselves, the world, and the future of feminism. None of you are the same color. None of you have the same features. None of you come from the same background. But there is something that all of you do have in common, and that’s the ability to change the world.Now, I want all of you to close your eyes. In fact, lay your head down on the table or place your hands over your eyes so you truly can’t see anything. I want you to think about a time when you chose silence. When you witnessed something wrong and you stood by. Maybe it was racism while you were in line at the gas station. Maybe it was one of your girlfriends who’s significant other was blatantly abusive. Or maybe it was a friend talking about how the girl who was raped should have known better than to drink and wear a skimpy outfit when she went downtown.

Open your eyes and look around. Most of the people in this room have chosen silence at some point in their lives, myself included. And I want you to think back on that moment you just recollected. What if all of these people who surround you right now were there and they all chose silence. What if all of these dozens of people were watching something happen they know is despicable and chose to stand by. Now, what if they all chose to speak up.

Far too often, little girls are raised to become women who stand idly by. Parents teach their daughters that to be beautiful is to be reserved. That to find happiness is to be submissive. And that to be successful is to settle for second instead of striving for first.

There is a good chance that many of you in this room were raised on those beliefs, or who have a loved one who was raised with that mindset. But all the women in this room need to know that you are so much more than an aesthetic pleasure, and all the men in this room need to affirm that message to the women in their lives. Today, all those thoughts and all those voices that say “Don’t be so dramatic” and “You’re only one person; it won’t make a difference.” That “Other women have it worse,” and “Well, you shouldn’t have worn that.” That “You can’t expect people to take you seriously,” and, “You shouldn’t come across as so bitchy when you’re leading the meeting,” all end. Those voices are no longer relevant.

Because you see, beauty is not a measure of your complacency and is not determined by your ability to be seen and not heard. Beauty is confidence and bold is beautiful.

Women should not be forced into silence, no matter what that silence is for. Women should not be so afraid of losing their jobs that they refuse to demand the same pay as their male colleagues. Women do not deserve to be treated as objects just because they are comfortable in their skin and are proud of everything that their bodies have gone through and represent. No woman should ever be told she is less of a woman because she chooses to strive for a career, desires to stay at home, breastfeeds her infant in public, or chooses to have an abortion.

A 15-year-old girl was shot on her way home from school because she refused to stop advocating to a female’s right to education in Pakistan. Malala survived and continues to speak on behalf of women. A well-known actress used her status to push a movement that inspires men to become part of the feminist movement. Emma Watson turned #HeForShe into the critical lesson that feminism is about equality for men and women, not about promoting women over men. A senator chooses to continue fighting against the standard in politics and voices her beliefs even when others tell her to stay silent. Senator Warren continues to fight against political and financial corruption and has become one of the biggest proponents of women’s rights in U.S. politics.

These women and their accomplishments are not difficult to come by. They were able to make such incredible changes through determination and refusing to listen to the negative voices in their lives. Every single person in this room is strong. Every one of you is beautiful. And every one of you has the ability to prove that, as Hillary Clinton said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”

Now, I want all of you to close your eyes again. Think about that situation I asked you to think of before, when you stood by and stayed silent as you witnessed harm. This time, I want you to imagine that you didn’t stand by. Imagine you spoke up and you told the person making the racist comment that the U.S. is founded upon diversity and that without diversity, we would never have freedom. Imagine telling your best friend’s significant other that he or she will no longer speak to your friend that way because now, she is not alone, and two is bigger than one. Imagine telling that friend who ridiculed the rape victim that anything that isn’t “yes,” is “no” and a woman’s clothes do not speak. Her voice does.

Open your eyes. Your voice does make a difference. Your opinion does matter. Your boldness is beautiful. Being bold proves that you have not only earned respect, but that you deserve it solely for being a vessel of humanity.

Today is the day you can make change. One voice can create a movement and can propel a generation’s future to bring them endless possibilities. You are all multi-talented, diverse, intricate human beings, whose mere existences are the boldest of statements within life itself. This is the time to push the agenda that women are just as strong, just as bold, and just as powerful as men. We work 10 times harder and march 10 times longer than men to prove that we deserve equality. Now, we must carry that tradition of badassery with us wherever we go. Be bold and be brave, and you will remain beautiful in all of your endeavors.

See my speech here: https://www.facebook.com/licohen94/videos/10155189944655984/

Embrace the Challenge

Not all the opportunities that arise instantly fill you with joy. Sometimes, opportunities make you feel anxious, scared, and may even seem impossible. The funny thing about those opportunities, however, is that those are the ones that change you forever.

I have never been great at public speaking. I tense up, my face turns the color of a fresh tomato, and I somehow manage to develop a stutter and an interminable eye twitch. But when I was offered the chance to be the keynote speaker at my university’s International Women’s Day Colloquium, I couldn’t turn down the chance.

This speech is going to be one of the single most challenging moments of my life, but fulfilling this task is the opportunity of a lifetime. If it doesn’t challenge you, then it doesn’t change you, and I am at the point in my life where I am challenging myself to be open to change.

With graduating college in a few months and seeing everything that’s happening in the world around me, it’s more important now than ever before to choose to be a voice. I am choosing to share my voice–no matter how stuttered it will sound–to get the message across that this is the time to be bold. Regretting yesterday is no longer the answer and procrastinating until tomorrow is no longer the solution.

So, this Wednesday marks the first day of my embrace to change. From now on, no stone shall go unturned and no opportunity shall not be seized. Everyone says that any individual can change the world, but far too many forget to include themselves in that equation.

Bold is beautiful.

CLICK HERE for more info on the colloquium.

Because equality matters

In a few weeks, I’ll start my drive to Washington, D.C. to join some incredible family members at the Women’s March on Washington. For those who haven’t heard about this movement, I highly suggest looking it up because it’s truly incredible. Hundreds of thousands of us our gathering together to show that despite the new president and his cabinet, we will not stand for inequality and injustice.

The people Trump placed in his cabinet are notorious misogynists, racists, homophobic men who have the unfortunate track record of minimizing the importance of everyone who is not a white male. Trump’s presidency is a testament to the significance of rape culture, hate culture, and an overall demeaning culture that people have accepted far too easily. This is not now, nor will it ever be, OK.

So I’m going to go march. I’m going to chant. I’m going to get excited and angry and motivated to cause change, and so should everyone else who believes in equality because this march is not just for women, it’s for everyone.

To try and get some extra gas/food money for the trip (because let’s be real, I’m still a college student with basically no excess money) I made some designs on RedBubble for everyone to check out. If you like one and want to purchase one of the products–great! That’ll make me super happy. If not, that’s OK, too, because now you know to look up the Women’s March on Washington and (hopefully) get involved.