Stoneman Douglas Graduates Respond To School Shooting

guns-in-our-lives

by Erik Garcia

Claire McCue, a professor of social work at Hunter College in New York City, was in a Manhattan coffee shop using her laptop when she saw her hometown high school all over the national news. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, had never been in the national spotlight before. Claire, who has family and friends at the school, feared the worst.

Claire borrowed headphones from another customer in the coffee shop and nervously watched a livestream of the Coral Springs Police Department responding to a shooting reported at Douglas High School. She worried about friends and people she knew.

Claire called her close friend, Allison, who has twin daughters at the school. Allison was already rushing to the school to see if her girls were all right. “It was horrifying to see the school under those circumstances,” Claire recounted. “My nephew Joe lost his friend. Knowing the first responders personally…it was all just paralyzing.” Allison’s girls, it turned out, were not harmed.

Many Douglas High School graduates, myself included, and parents of current students had experiences like Claire’s on the day of the shooting. “Parkland is a small town,” explains Valerie Siegel, a Douglas graduate now living in Atlanta, GA. “Many of us have friends that still live in the area and have kids or other family members at Douglas.”

Douglas High School graduates are troubled by the shooting but also hopeful that the current generation of Douglas students will accomplish something positive in the wake of the tragedy. “I was pretty devastated when I heard about it,” says Brian Bromberg, a director of creative content at Nickelodeon in New York City. Brian grew up in South Florida near Douglas High School, and, like many Douglas graduates, Brian says that he was shocked and upset by the shooting but feels hopeful as he sees current Douglas students leading the national discourse on gun violence.

“A lot of people who were affected are kids of former classmates of mine,” Brian explains. “I know of two kids who are traumatized by it. I know two of the kids that were shot—I know their parents. But, it’s very encouraging how the kids are reacting. They haven’t had enough experience with politics yet to feel like nothing’s going to change. They’re going to get more done than our generation did.”

The day after the shooting, Douglas graduates from all over the U.S. rallied to support their alma mater. Details are being kept private to avoid publicity. The extended Douglas family admires and supports the efforts of current Douglas students to get existing firearm regulations modified and new regulations enacted. Within weeks of the shooting, prompted by the lobbying of Douglas students, the Florida Legislature passed modest gun control legislation that increased the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and expanded background checks, but stopped short of banning assault weapons. Banning assault rifles is one of the demands of the 17 Voices movement, led by Douglas students, formed in the wake of the shooting.

Stuart Siegel is a Douglas graduate now living in Ajo, Arizona where he is director of the Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center. “I felt saddened and shocked,” Stuart explained, “but also numbness due to the number of shootings that there have been, and how the rhetoric seems to get us nowhere, and how we just seem to be aggressive and divided. But, I’m impressed by the way that the current students are handling it—getting national attention repeatedly, leading the national discussion on gun control and violence in a way that I’ve never seen before. I’m cynical about the political process, but I’m hopeful that whatever energy is stirred up right now will continue to bear fruit.”

Valerie Siegel, who works with the Homebuilder’s Association in Atlanta, knew one of the Douglas shooting victims, assistant football coach Aaron Feis. “Coach was two years younger than me,” Valerie explained. “My friends are extremely affected by his death. My friend’s nieces and daughter were in the building. I hate that people feel unsafe in that building now. I don’t know how to think about any of it. Those kids are amazing, though. They’re going to change the world.”

Gun Violence Hits Soldier In Brooklyn

guns-in-our-lives
Soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Army photo by Specialist Noelle Wiehe

 

by Tamara Johnson

“It all happened so fast. The guy was coming in our direction and we just ran. I didn’t even know I was hit,” Curtis J recalled.  Curtis was shot in the face while waiting for his mother outside a grocery store in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in December 2015.

The U.S. Army chief warrant officer had come home for a short visit and took his mother shopping, never imagining that someone would shoot at him. “I felt the bullet bouncing around in my mouth so I kept it closed tight. The bullet was hot.”

Curtis asked us not to use his full name. But his story is one of many that show how guns affect life in our communities. Curtis suffered extensive damage to his tongue and lost several teeth as a result of the shooting. The shooter turned himself in after he realized that he shot someone he knew and the Army told Curtis that he can’t visit his old neighborhood and remain on active duty.

“Growing up, you didn’t see [guns] like that.  Having them was one thing but using them was another thing,” he said. The suspect intended to rob Curtis and made off with the black SUV that belonged to Curtis’s mother. “He was just looking for someone to rob. He knew me, but he didn’t know it was me until the next day.”

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, the discussion of guns and violence hits close home for many. According to the New York attorney general’s analysis of ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) reports between 2010 and 2015, there were 52,195 crime guns recovered in New York alone. Ninety percent of those guns were recovered in New York City, Long Island, Rochester, Lower Hudson Valley, Capital Region, Syracuse, and Buffalo. Despite these statistics, only 14 percent of the guns originated in New York. That means 86 percent were purchased out of state.

Military members take mandatory military weapons training, and Curtis points out that most are aware of the harm that guns can do. He laughed when asked about the role of guns in work life. He said, “We are professionals at our jobs, we don’t just handle weapons. I’m an aviation pilot.”

For him the shooting caused a personal struggle. “I used to have a gun outside of work. Getting shot made me paranoid,” he said.  “Afterward, I found comfort in my mind instead of my weapon… [guns] make the weak powerful and the strong weak.”

 

Get Fit For Free

by Karla Escobar,

Tired of paying $30.00 dollars or more for a gym subscription? Well, The City College of New York Wingate Fitness Center gives you the opportunity to exercise for free. It’s open to all students and faculty, but the best part is you just have to show your student ID to join, nothing more.

The fitness center, located on the third floor of Wingate Hall, opens Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM and Fridays 8:00AM to 4:00 PM. On its busiest day 500 students may work out there, and on a slow day about 300.

The Fitness Center has a variety of equipment to help you achieve your fitness goals. Fitness and Strength Coordinator Scott Losche says, “Every student should really take advantage of it.” He says even if you haven’t worked out before and don’t know how to use the equipment, fill out a form and they will get in contact with you to assign you a free instructor.

City College student Christine A. said, “Gyms now are $20.00 dollars a month or more… so for me it is very convenient to come here. Because I’m not a morning person, I come after my classes and I don’t like to do it between because I don’t like to rush for class.”

Faculty member Midgalis Sanchez said, “I come during my lunch hour, I like to take advantage of it because it’s free.”

The Wingate Fitness Center differs from gyms at other schools. “Most CUNY schools you have to pay, especially for faculty,” Losche said.  He explained that staffers want make the gym even better. They hope to open on Saturdays and Sundays and upgrade equipment. These changes may have some effect on fees. When asked if changes may cause faculty members to pay a fee, he said, “That’s one of the balloons that are floating up.”

If you want more information about the Wingate Fitness Center you can visit them or call them at 212-650-6595.

 

 

 

 

Easy to Make Mistakes, So Verify

The Parkland shooting shows us how easily you can make a mistake and report things that are untrue in the rush to get a story out quickly.

Two things stand out:

  1. The false report that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 and wounded 14 others at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, was connected to a white supremacist group.
  2. There have been 18 school shootings since January 1st, 2018.

Let’s tackle the first false report.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that follows hate groups, wrote on its blog the day after the shooting that Cruz was associated with a Jacksonville, Florida, white supremacist group, Republic of Florida (ROF). The ADL had previously been contacted by someone who described himself as the leader of the group.

The ADL told Politico it picked up the information on 4chan, a bulletin board where self-described ROF members claimed Cruz was one of them.  News organizations picked the story up and people on 4chan kept it going. One of the users described it as “prime trolling opportunity,” and the discussions involved fooling reporters and feeding them the story that Cruz was with ROF.

The same kinds of conversations between these trolls about the false connection showed up on Discord, a gamers’ app that attracts neo-Nazis, about a concerted effort to fool reporters.

Politico posted these exchanges from the bulletin boards:

“On the Discord chat, a user called Curbstomp suggested sharing generic photos of ROF and claiming they depicted Cruz.

“I have an idea . . . We can just take a pic of masked ROF members and claim one of them is Cruz,” Curbstomp wrote.

Members of the Discord chat swapped potential photos.

Others joined the chorus on 4chan, interspersing jokes with purported confirmations.

“I can confirm this guy was trying to enact a race war and got kicked out of ROF,” wrote another poster.”

Reporters from AP and ABC contacted the trolls and supposed members of the group and went with the story.

But shortly after the first report, on Thursday, February 15, 2018, the Broward County sheriff said it wasn’t true.

How do you verify a claim that someone is in a hate group?

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups. Contact them and ask.

The FBI monitors hate crimes. Some local law enforcement agencies do too. Contact them and ask.

ProPublica, a non-profit news organization, began Documenting Hate, a project that collects data from journalists from more than 130 news organizations as well as independent journalists, local law enforcement, community groups and civil rights groups to try to get a clear picture of what is happening in America

The Anti-Defamation League has been a reliable source in the past.

The bottom line is that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter are good sources for leads and ways to connect with people. But you have to be extremely careful, because we know that people in chat rooms, on social media, and trolls are determined to spread false information and use reporters to to do it.  Take your time. Report only what you know.

 

 

2. Mistaken numbers about school shootings.

PolitiFact traced the first error to surface to a tweet from ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield.

In the rest of the world, there have been 18 school shootings in the last twenty years. In the U.S., there have been 18 school shootings since January 1.

It picked up 130,000 likes on Twitter.

Greenfield apparently picked up the statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The number of 18 does not mean that there were 18 incidents of someone going into a school and shooting students, as Cruz allegedly did.

Instead the number includes a man committing suicide in a school parking lot and a student unintentionally firing an instructor’s gun. You can see the full list here.

If we use careful language, we would not classify many as school shootings.

Checking Facts:

PolitiFact checks claims of politicians, reporters and others in the news.

FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center

Snopes.org was founded in 1994 to research urban legends. It has become a go-to source for checking out internet rumors.

Open Secrets.org, part of The Center for Responsive Politics, follows political contributions and money spent on lobbying. It followed where the National Rifle Association (NRA)  money went in the 2016 election.

 

Sunlight Foundation shines the light on government and government officials using public records, technology and information from civic groups and journalists,

See Through New York, a project of the Empire Center, shows you salaries of every public employee in New York State as well as pension information.

 

PSC-CUNY Protest For New Contract

PSC-CUNY teachers demonstrate for higher pay.

by, Michael C. Bohn, Sr.

 

December 4, 2017

They came armed with protest signs instead of red pens. Several hundred City University of New York (CUNY) professors came out to demand better pay and working conditions. They give the CUNY administration a failing grade for its unwillingness to support professors who teach more than 500,000 students.

The Professional Staff Congress or PSC/CUNY, the union representing more than 27,000 faculty and staff and the CUNY Research Foundation, rallied in front of the CUNY Graduate Center at Fifth Avenue at 34 Street on December 4, 2017. From there they marched 15 blocks south to Baruch College where the CUNY Board of Trustees was meeting.

Led by their bullhorn toting union president, Barbara Bowen, these seemingly mild mannered academics and support staff chanted, “What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? We want it now,” as they marched.

PSC-CUNY protest 3

Members of other unions including Local One, I.A.S.T.E., the stage hand workers union, DC 37, representing city workers, librarians, and the Union of Clerical and Technical Staff at New York University as well as SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, joined the march to show union solidarity

The PSC/CUNY contract expired on November 30th. That freezes the pay-rate until a new contract can be agreed upon. This is particularly tough for part-time professors known as adjuncts who typically teach two classes each semester, “We teach two-thirds of a full course load and get one-third of the pay,” said Adjunct Professor David Hohl. He has had part-time status at Baruch College for seventeen years and says he earns $26,000 a year.

The union claims that 12,000 part-time adjuncts, earning $27,000 a year or less, teach more than half the courses. In a news release PSC CUNY said, “CUNY is the single most successful university in the country enabling poor and working-class graduates to achieve long-term economic security. Yet leading professors consistently turn down positions at CUNY and many current professors leave because the salaries are so uncompetitive.”

Peter Consenstein, professor of French at BMCC and the Graduate Center said, “We serve as a pipeline into better jobs and the middle class. We work our butts off.”

The pay freeze worries full as well as part-time professors, and others covered by the contract, because of the rising cost of living. The last time their contract expired it took six years to negotiate a new one. “We are not waiting six years for a new contract,” said Scott Sheidlower, staff librarian at York College in Queens.

Paula Whitlock a full-time, tenured professor of Computer and Information Science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) said the protest and demands are important for everyone. “Either we all rise together or we all fall together,” she said.

CUNY’s reliance on part-time adjuncts reflects a practice in the corporate world where companies rely heavily on free-lance employees who don’t get the full package of benefits. The union claims underfunding by New York State and New City keeps salaries low and hampers CUNY’s mission.

“CUNY is often a political pawn in the bigger political game. When that happens students are disregarded as unimportant.” said Professor Peter Consenstein.

Supporters can follow on Twitter with the following hashtags, #7KCUNY, #FAIRPAY4ALL, and #NO6YEARWAIT.

 

 

 

 

 

CCNY Fights To Keep Dreamers Safe

Photo by Julia Katsman, A CCNY Dream Team poster to spread the word

by Julia Katsman

The clock ticks as young people wait for Congress to act and create a new DACA program. President Trump announced that he would give Congress six months to pass legislation to preserve DACA before it gets terminated. In the meantime, at The City College of New York, there’s an effort to help students whose legal status is threatened.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program former President Obama created in 2012. It offers undocumented immigrants two years of amnesty and the right to get a Social Security number, to work, and to go to college. Eight hundred thousand young people could lose their legal status if the program is permanently withdrawn.

These people now wait in fear of the decision to come. Will the benefits of the DACA program be terminated? Or will Congress come up with a fair way to provide Dreamers with similar benefits?

CCNY opposes the repeal of DACA. According to Interim President Vince Boudreau, there are three ways that CCNY is currently trying to give aid. The first way is through protest—both in person and in the written word. Students and faculty will hold assemblies, and spread the word outside the campus. The second way that CCNY is trying to help is by applying pressure on elected officials. The plan is to create massive public resistance against the termination of DACA rights. The third way is to offer protection, encouragement, and support to the Dreamers.

Boudreau said, “If at any time an immigration official enters our buildings or calls one of our phone lines—inquires in any way after any of our students–every single one of us must respond only by referring the inquiry to Executive Counsel to the President, Paul Occhiogrosso.” In addition, the campus offers help via the City College Immigration Center.

Students also created after-class clubs in support of Dreamers. One of these clubs is called the CCNY Dream Team. The team is dedicated to the cultivation of relationships to empower and educate different immigrant groups within the CCNY community.

The founder of the CCNY Dream Team explained,“The main purpose of this club is to give undocumented students and their allies a safe haven to meet, discuss issues that are affecting the CCNY community and advocate for fair immigration policies. The team works to educate the student body, faculty and staff about issues affecting the immigrant community at City College and inform students of opportunities, such as scholarships and internships.”

The City College hopes that DACA students will feel safe and supported by the campus community.

 

DACA And A Young Mother

by Laura Aquino

What will happen to my baby? This is our country. I don’t know Ecuador like that, last time I was there I was only six years old,” Esther said. The twenty-three-year-old mother, and Dreamer, worries about what will happen.

On September 5th, 2017, President Donald J. Trump rescinded the DACA program. Trump announced his administration would give Congress six months to come up with a law to protect the young immigrants from deportation. If Congress fails to come up with a solution, Esther and 800,000 immigrants in the DACA program will lose their authorization to work and to receive an education.

Back in 2012, Barack Obama issued an executive order that became known as DACA. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an American immigration policy that allows undocumented immigrants who enter the United States as minors to receive legal status.

“My parents, like many others, came to the U.S seeking  a better future for their kids. I have lived here for as long as I can remember. I grew up under the American culture. Now I have to go back to an unknown country?” Esther asked.

As tears escaped from her eyes, Esther wonders how this will turn out for her and her daughter.

“I have a sixteen-month-old baby girl who was born here. What will to happen to her? Would she have to go live in Ecuador? Are they taking her away from me?  I just hope the Congress comes up with a solution because uncertainness is keeping me awake at night. I work hard and I will soon graduate from college and its scares the hell out me that my parent’s sacrifices were in vain and mine and my daughter’s future are taken away from our hands, just like that.”

 

 

Life In Limbo

A-Face-of-DACA
Dreamers Protest DACA Repeal, photo by Rhododendrites, Creative Commons 4.0 License Courtesy Wikimedia

 

By Elihu Fleury

Tom’s parents left Bangledesh and brought him to the United States when he was five. They wanted him to have a better life than they had growing up. They settled in Elmhurst, Queens where he made friends, went to  elementary school and Newtown High School. He doesn’t want his real name used, but he wants his story told because he’s upset about President Trump’s sudden withdrawal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

He always thought of himself as a legitimate American. “I didn’t know that I was an ‘illegal’ until the age of 14”, he said. “It’s hard to explain the feeling.”

As soon as President Obama created DACA in 2012, Tom applied. He  got a Social Security number and a permit to work.  He immediately got a job and developed a strong work ethic that earned good reviews from his supervisors.

DACA gave him a real sense of freedom and security, and allowed him to follow his passions including weight lifting. His regular routine includes work, study, friends and exercise. In other words, he lives a typical New York life.

“I don’t know any other country but the United States,” Tom complained bitterly. “It’s my home, not Bangladesh. I grew up here, I met my best friends here, I went to my first concert here, I had my first kiss. None of that in Bangladesh.”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) gave him hope. DACA guarantees work permits and deportation relief to  immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

President Trump plan to repeal it threatens the future of 800,000 Dreamers like Tom.

Dreamers and other protested all across the country. Their colleges supported them. Some offered sanctuary and advice to protect them from immigration agents. 15 state governments filed a joint lawsuit to prevent the DACA rollback. California filed its own lawsuit because about 30 percent of DACA residents live there.  Six Dreamers in San Francisco also filed a lawsuit, saying that the repeal “was motivated by unconstitutional bias against Mexicans and Latinos.”

Tom felt more immediate effects. He had an interview for a job as a teller at a Manhattan bank before Trump announced the end of DACA.  He almost didn’t go.  “Because of the now dead DACA, I was very unenthusiastic about the interview and had to force myself to pretend that I cared about the interview,” he said.

He got the job.  But his DACA eligibility expires soon and he doesn’t know what he’ll do.

In fact, his immigration status affects his motivation to finish college. “I’m so close to graduating, but once I do and can’t work, then what was the point?”, he explains.  He continues to worry and says, “Normally I would be very motivated that all of my hard work paid off, and I had an opportunity for a position I’ve wanted for the longest time, but now it’s really hard for me to care.”

Tom seems like a confident 22 year-old-man, but inside he shares the turmoil experienced by other Dreamers. He fears deportation and thinks about it constantly.

It makes him angry.  “ICE can suck it,” he almost spat. “They treat immigrants and ‘illegals’ like trash, not humans”. He pointed out that he has no criminal record  and “I don’t plan on having a record so I hope I don’t get deported. I plan on working for as long as I can, either at the bank or any other job I hope to get.”

Glimmers of hope exist. In the past few weeks, Mr. Trump began working with Democrats on a deal to preserve DACA. Yet nothing concrete has happened.

For Tom, a solution can’t come soon enough. “If I do end up getting deported, that would really suck,” he said, ”and that’s the most ‘PG’ way I can put it”.

 

 

 

Death of a Dream

 

DACA-Stories-CCNY-Journalism-Students

by Michael C. Bohn

“I learned how to ride a bike here. I went to school here. My first kiss was here!” Twenty-year-old DACA recipient and City College freshman Jose Martinez laughed.  “I was born in El Salvador but the United States is my home.”

For many, citizenship is more than a legal document.

“It’s things like that that are so simple, but truly the experience of being an American… it just so happens my passport doesn’t say I’m an American and my birth certificate doesn’t say I was born in America, but I feel just as proud of America as you do.”

Jose had come on a sunny afternoon to the crowded, windowless, one-room office of the CCNY Immigration Center seeking information. (https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/we-are-one-ccny/city-college-immigration-center)

Enzo Soderini, Senior Paralegal, helps the students and projected warmth and compassion. A steady stream of worried young Dreamers needed his help.  “We are very busy,” he confided.

Many who have received DACA( https://www.uscis.gov/)status are still fearful, reluctant to speak, but Jose was eager to tell his story, grateful to anyone would listen.

“Once that program came out it was kind of like we came out of a dark tunnel because we were hidden in the shadows. And it made me believe that the American Dream still exists. So now that DACA is coming to an end very soon I feel like I have to go back to where I was and I don’t wanna be back to that stage any more, back into the shadows.”

On September 5th, 2017, President Trump, citing the need for Congress to act on the issue, had Attorney General Jeff Sessions deliver the news that DACA would end, phased out over the next two-and-a-half years.

President Obama issued an Executive Order in 2012 creating DACA after Congress failed to act on immigration reform. While it is only one piece of the debate, it was an attempt to address one of least controversial portions of the immigration debate. Most Republicans, Democrats and Americans agree that those too young to have had any part in their presence here should not be penalized, and should be given a path toward citizenship.  

Eight hundred thousand so-called Dreamers are currently enrolled in the program, and nearly 42,000 in New York State alone.

They are everywhere. Sitting next to you in class or at work. It could be the nice young man selling you shoes, as Jose does when he is not in school holding down five classes this semester. “I’m just grateful that people are interested in my experience,” he said.

Jose arrived here from El Salvador with his mother in 2001 when he was three years old. “If DACA ends he could be forced to live in a country that he does not remember. “My heart and mind will be here in America but my body will be there,” he said.

Jose is an American history buff. He is a fan of founding fathers Ben Franklin and fellow immigrant Alexander Hamilton. He has faith in the ideals expressed by the founding fathers, ideas that fueled hopes for freedom around the world. Young Dreamers like Jose, raised in this country, and fed those same ideals, now wait, and hope their dream will come true.

“I just renewed my DACA on August 18th.  That gives me two years and a couple months.”

Ironically, it may be capitalism and the free market fundamentals that save DACA for the Dreamers. “Owners of business, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix – they all support us.  So, it makes me happy that we have the support and that hopefully something will get done.  I still believe in the American Dream,” he smiles.