16 Beacon Students on Family Politics, Values, Social Media Activism, and the College Admissions Scandal: A Beacon Beat Roundtable

The Beacon Beat has formally decided to begin hosting “roundtable discussions” between members of both the newspaper staff and the public on specific topical issues. Below is a transcription of a conversation that occurred on March 13th. The transcription has been edited for clarity and grammar. Initially, the topic of discussion was “Family Politics vs. Family Values.”

Participants: Daniel Arturi, Camilla Bauman, Mollie Butler, Linus Coersmeier, Cynthia Enofe, Adrian Flynn, Anne Isman, Phoebe Kamber, Esme Laster, Tali Lebowitsch, Maya Levine, Jude Messler, Ariella Moses, Tali Rosen, Maxine Slater, Sophie Steinberg, Henry Wheeler-Klainberg

Sophie Steinberg (Senior): Today we are having a discussion within The Beacon Beat about family values, politics, and ethics and how they influence your own thinking, decision-making and political views. To begin, my name is Sophie. I’m a senior, and as the moderator of this discussion I will read out questions to get us started. So the first question is: What is the difference between family values and family politics? This could be different opinions or practices your family has.

Jude Messler (Senior): At least in my family, we have a moral code that’s all about honesty and less about policy. So my parents are both independents and neither of them voted for Trump in the last election. So in that sense of “who they vote for,” I don’t really know. I just know what they teach me about how to act, and how to treat people of all different backgrounds. So I think that the way they have taught me to life is basically comes from their own values.

Adrian Flynn (Junior): In the same way, my parents don’t tell me which party or person to support, but through their own values, there is a sense of what kind of morals I should support, stand for, and what I want to see represented in politics. It does lean toward certain parties, but nothing specifically.

Daniel Arturi (Freshman): I think it’s hard to separate family values and family politics because if one of your family traditions, which is apart of family values, is that you go hunting– it’s hard to separate that from family politics.

Maya Levine (Freshman): But I think that your family’s values and how they align with your politics is kind of a “practice what you preach” type of thing. If you support a certain group, and if they live in New York, they’re probably Democrats. They might just be doing that because it’s “the norm” and that’s what you’re expected to do. How your family values align with that shows how much you care about it. So if you support a candidate who is very environmentally-conscious, and then in your own home you compost or have solar panels, it goes to show that how your family aligns with their vote shows how invested they are in that policy.

Linus Coersmeier (Freshman): Both my parents are German and I feel like there’s a stigma around socialism in America in that it has “something to do with Communism” or is unamerican. I wouldn’t say that they’re straying away from the norm, but they have a different viewpoint, which is something I have had access too.

Sophie: In America we have a linear, universal idea of where our political spectrum is. But I think it changes depending on where you are. New York versus the Midwest, but especially in America versus Europe. I think that the translation and blurring of the political lines is good. While my family doesn’t explicitly say that “there are more ways to think about things,” there political differences within a certain umbrella of liberalism is hopefully impressed upon me so that I know that politics are not as polarizing.

Daniel: Diving into the second question (Do you share the same political views as your parents, and do you guys belong to the political group?), my mother is Brazilian and her parents were revolutionaries against the Brazilian military dictatorship and they were full on Communists. Obviously, Brazil is not a communist country but they fought for this ideal society and eventually they got, not a dictatorship, and I would argue that anything that’s not a dictatorship is better, and they got a capitalist society. They grudgingly accepted that, so they raised my mother with their ideals. And she is socialist, which I interpret as the next rung down, and now she’s living here in the United States, which is capitalist, and she’s not campaigning for Communism or Socialism. So I think that as live in a different environment you’re forced to adapt, and it’s easier to adapt than to fight against, you lean towards the political alignment of your surroundings.

Sophie: I even see that at Beacon. Coming into my freshman year, I didn’t know a lot about Feminism. And when I think about my views on sexism and feminism today, that is due in part to my environment, things I was taught, and the people around me. There is such a political awareness in almost every classroom.

Maya: Especially in America, where the parties are so black and white, you are very much dedicated to that. In other countries, in you are raised in a “liberal” household there is more room for differing opinions. In America, you have to be one or the other. I think that it breeds two results: either you hold heartedly believe and agree, passionately with you parents and community (which happens often in New York), or, alternatively, you stray completely from your parent’s/environment’s views because it is so impressed upon you.

Sophie: For those that don’t know, the second question was, do you share the same political views as your parents, and do you guys belong to the political group? I know that I always presume that everyone belongs to the same political group as your parents. Because I live in new York and go to a liberal school, I assume that people’s views are a product of the environment they grew up in. However, I have read stories on the news about people who live in very polarizing environments, or they’re the lone liberal in a very red community, and I think that’s something that we don’t acknowledge who are straying away. I agree with Maya that there is little to no “inbetween.” You either agree or you don’t.

Anne Isman (Senior): Well I disagree with that. Based on what Maya just said, it’s an American ideal to be either one way or the other, so by saying that there is not room for error, it’s only reinforcing that idea of a black and white political atmosphere.

Esme Laster (Junior): Going off of what Sophie said, I think so many people identify with their parents’ politics and that makes sense to me because I feel that people’s political associations often correlates to their socioeconomic status. I think that it makes sense that they align with their parents.

Tali Lebowitsch (Sophomore): To build off, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s also a privilege that comes with being able to choose what political party you side with because not everyone has that freedom. You might have the privilege to chose that because you have benefitted from other values in the past.

Sophie: I also think it’s really hard to disagree with your parents sometimes because you may face extreme backlash or physical consequences.

Camilla Bauman (Sophomore): Going back to the first question about values, I feel like if your family has very ingrained values that you have been around starting from when you were born, it is very hard to disagree with them.

Adrian: However, the ability to critically think is also influenced by your household. Do your parents or guardians endow you with the ability to challenge what is being said? So, even though there is the idea that you can be surrounded by like-minded people, are you the kind of person who has been raised to fall in line with that or to challenge those ideas?

Esme: I don’t really think that’s how critical thinking works. I feel that parents can impress certain values or ways of thinking about things, but I learned to think critically in school and based on the people I surround myself with, like my friends.

Adrian: But critical thinking doesn’t mean to just disagree, it means to not take everything at “face value.”

Esme: Yeah that’s what I was saying.

Cynthia Enofe (Senior): I think that actually goes against what Tali said about privilege and having the simple option to “choose” what you think, whereas some minority groups or families don’t grow up with the idea of “option.” They’re taught, “this is how things work,” and you just have to work within the system. You have to be taken out of your comfort zone and placed in this privileged environment where you have to realize, “Ok, I have a voice regardless of my status or who I am,” so I don’t think that Critical Thinking is the correct term.

Adrian: But realizing that you have a voice stems from how your parents raise you.

Sophie: But I think that Cynthia brings up a good point, some people, even if they’re raised in a “critical thinking household,” are taught to have opinions but that they might not be heard or fully come across to society. I feel like the suppression of vocalizing opinions probably does affect family politics. Maybe your family will discuss it less or value politics less because they don’t get to share their opinions.

Maya: I interpreted what Adrian said as the ability to be raised within a politically-aligned household and still be able to recognize the flaws within that party and the “good” and “bad” that comes with every political group. Like I can still be raised in a Democratic household but still be able to see the flaws within the Democratic system because my parents raised me to think critically about everyone with the lens of “What are they doing right?” and “What are they doing wrong?” I think that it’s an important aspect of our society.

Jude: I don’t think that Cynthia was criticizing Adrian’s point, I think she was saying that we have to recognize that there is a large population that doesn’t have the privilege of “thinking outside the box.” I know from my own experience that if you say something that goes against this mass mentality, the common understanding of a certain issue, you’re wrong. That’s where I’ve felt that some parents do raise you to think critically, but not critically of them.

Cynthia: Shifting back to the first question, I would say that my family and I are inherently grouped into the same political affiliation but I think that the real difference comes with age. My parents are immigrants and they have this mentality that, yes, the American Dream is still possible, whereas I know that that mentality is flawed. They always say that “if you work hard you can do this, “ but I don’t know if you guys heard about the whole college scandal, but people are essentially paying to go to college. And my parents come to me and say, “If you get good grades, you can make it, “ but I’m just like, “Dad, it’s not going to work out.”

Sophie: Quickly before we move on, by a show of hands, how many of you were NOT surprised by the college admissions scandal? I was like, I already knew that.

Anne: It’s a lot of money to pay to a school. They’re paying to get in, they’re paying the tuition it’s ridiculous.

Camilla: With Lori Loughlin and her daughter, Olivia Jade, I assumed that there was some sort of discrepancy going on there, but I didn’t realize that she had paid the proctor to change the daughter’s SAT scores.

Jude: For me, the whole idea of people bribing a someone to get into college was not surprising. For me, what was most surprising, was the video of Olivia Jade talking about how she didn’t even want to go to college. That’s what I found most disgusting because she couldn’t appreciate the level of privilege that she had where she could buy her way into one of the top schools in the country.

Esme: Going off of what Cynthia said about the American Dream, this is not that similar, but I think that your family’s conception of “American Democracy” also affects how you identify politically. I know that some families think about democracy as “playing the system” as opposed to voting for your own beliefs or what’s best for American society, so I think that really influences who we believe in and how we make decisions.

Daniel: Beyond the rejection of people thinking critically or plain disagreeing with people around them, in a community, if I see someone with a “Make America Great Again” hat, I am not going to say, “This is just another member of our community.” I am going to say something. I was once in a Dunkin’ Donuts and my friends and I saw someone in a MAGA hat, and one of my friends was like, “I don’t like your hat,” and this full-grown man starts fully yelling in our face. He even called the cops on us for just saying that we didn’t like his hat and arguing with him. This is not a person that I view as “another member of the country.” And I know that this is a flaw in myself and I have this prejudice against this person, but I have it because I wish to reject him from my community.

Adrian: To get back to your point, Cynthia, that’s a great example of how you were raised with the ability to make your own judgments which is essentially what I’m saying, that you don’t always see things for as they are.

Phoebe Kamber (Junior): I just wanted to say that there are extremes at either end. Living in NYC, most people are very liberal but you can still have conversations where there are disagreements, but I think in certain areas, that’s not the case. I think this goes back to why people have the same political affiliations as their parents because whether or not they live in households where it’s ok to question what’s happening, when you get older, you have the opportunity to form your own opinions, especially in college. My grandparents are Republican and my Mom grew up with similar understandings of politics, but when she grew up and left for college she started getting more exposure to other, new ideas.

Tali L: In response to Daniel’s example, and how we respond to opposite views, I would just like to say that while of course we should be respectful, I think that if someone is a Trump supporter, there are certain assumptions you can make about them, and you should be allowed to judge them based on that. I think that’s okay because if you support what he stands for, there are certain judgements you can make.

Sophie: I also feel that the MAGA hat, in general, is a very polarizing thing. I think that the person who wears that hat knows that they will illicit some sort of reaction, polite or not. I think they know “something’s coming,” and I’m not trying to say that that individual was asking for an argument, but there are certain preconditions that come will political apparel. People can see their views and immediately disagree.

Jude: I also want to address what Daniel said. For me, it’s harder because I come from two very different families. My dad’s family is a very liberal, East Coast, Jewish family and my mom comes from an extended family of Hispanic immigrants from Nicaragua who are heavily Catholic and heavily conservative and so it’s hard for me to make the distinction. I know there are people out there who support policies that are racist and sexist, but at the same time, are helping my grandmother have a home and a place to live. So I have trouble with those conflicting personal and political views when it comes to how to feel about someone. That has influenced me to believe that with Trump supporters, I don’t like their policies and I probably don’t like them either but I’m just not going to attack them.

Tali Rosen (Sophomore): But we do see the hat, and we can infer the policies that they believe in and at Beacon, from my own experience, I know that if I ask a question that doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the all liberal, all-left views all the time, and you just ask the question, then people assume your political beliefs and put you in a certain category. It makes it hard to figure out your political identity and your own political views when you have to chose your words so carefully so that you don’t seem like you’re doing anything wrong.

Maya: Just going back to Jude’s comment about religious experiences shaping politics, I feel that it’s really difficult because you can’t deny someone their personal experiences, but you can disagree with their politics. For example, my grandmother, her mother and her family were in the Holocaust and she had family that died. So whenever she travels, she will go to the Jewish memorial or museum there. And because of that, she harbors some very anti-Palestinian and therefore, anti-Muslim sentiments because she feels so strongly that it’s the Jewish people’s right to have a state. I can’t deny her personal experience or everything that went wrong in the Holocaust, which are awful things, but at the same time she will make racist comments when we are in public regarding the Muslim people around us, and I can’t handle that. You can’t deny people their experiences but at the same time, you’re allowed to disagree.

Cynthia: Going off of that and the experiences people are sharing about coming into contact with the opposing party, I feel that we should also take into account the large and increasing population of individuals who chose to not participate in politics at all. They just don’t vote anymore because they’re too afraid to associate with one political party and to be “this or that” because they don’t want that identity.

Henry Wheeler-Klainbe (Freshman): I wanted to go back to question 2 and the story of Daniel’s grandparents in Brazil and their adapting views, because I think it’s interesting how views pass down through generations. On the Jewish side of the family, my grandmother was a counselor at the sleepaway I currently go to, and my mom went to my camp, and the camp is very socialist. We learn about socialism and obviously the camp has impacted my life and my political views and it’s generational.

Linus: Because my parents are German, and all my family is pretty much German, I feel like I have this privilege and ignorance of not knowing what it’s really like to be living in a government or society that’s awful and is doing awful things and is broken, and you can argue that it’s like that here in America, but obviously not like the extent of the Holocaust in Germany. For that reason, when I’m having a discussion with my parents or a debate, a lot of the times I reach the conclusion that I don’t want to argue for the sake of arguing. At the same time, having parents whose relatives were in a society that did such horrible things, it does matter that you have your own voice and are involved in politics, even if I feel that I can’t change anything, or that nothing bad is going to happen, but it does and it has happened and it can happen again.

Sophie: About the arguing for the sake of arguing, whenever I call out my mom about certain micro-aggressive things, because she may be ignorant to certain things due to her age or where she grew up, she will listen to a certain extent and maybe say, “Ok, I get it, whatever,” but I know she doesn’t fully understand what I’m saying or where I’m coming from. It’s something I have to work on when it comes to following up with “No, you don’t understand” or “You should care about this” but it’s hard because they’re your parents and you don’t want to piss them off. At the same time, I think your parents often assume that you’re all on the same page and get annoyed about any discrepancies.

Cynthia: This makes me wonder about when we’re older and when we have kids like, how would you react or would you be open to the fact that your kid has different political views? What if your kid came out saying, “I’m a Trump supporter” or “I’m a Hillary supporter,” how would you react? I feel like we would all have a burning rage towards that.

Henry: Adding onto Sophie, sometimes, if I don’t agree with something my mom says, she will be dismissive because I’m a child, and she thinks that I don’t understand as much as she does and I might not, but obviously I understand some things that she doesn’t.

Maxine Slater (Senior): Adding on, I think that there’s also a huge generational distinction in the sense that the trauma that my parents have witnessed, not their own trauma, but the trauma of others has affected their political thinking. I have older parents and they grew up going to segregated schools, and so racism was a much more blatant thing than it is today, so they can’t understand concepts like micro-aggressions or more covert forms of oppression. So I think that trying to connect those traumas, and relate those experiences to them, is something that I’ve had to do and tried to do in most conversations about politics.

Anne: In terms of the political conversations I have with my parents, I respect my parents and I know that both of them are smarter than I am because they’re more well-read about these things. When I was younger and had opinions, I always had to back it up with evidence, it was never an empty statement and in a way, it’s nice to have someone challenge you even if they agree with you. The practice of supporting an argument with something meaningful and true has helped me know when to speak up about my views or when to refrain and wait for others to speak before talking.

Jude: In my relationship with my parents, there’s more of a generational divide. They still have some respect or faith in the system or the American institution and if things are wrong, they believe it will be fixed.

Tali R: My dad, especially after I started going to Beacon, has been coming to me with the other side, even if he disagrees with it, because he feels that it’s important. Even the fact that we have to read the New York Times every night, says something. He also used to work in journalism so he encourages me to pay attention to how it’s covered and knowing when to ask questions has been helpful.

Daniel: I also think that it’s important to acknowledge that while all of these discussions our important, within our communities or our families, at least with my family, there are points where you just let it go and it’s a conversation without deep questions and moral dilemmas. If you think like that all the time it’s tiring. We can’t have round table discussions all the time.

Anne: At the end of the day, people’s political views and opinions are really no one else’s business. I mean, you can say “Oh I love Hillary” or “I think Climate Change is important” but it doesn’t really matter unless you act on it. By saying your opinion all the time, and especially at Beacon, shoving it down people’s throat, it doesn’t matter unless there’s action.

Maxine: I somewhat disagree with that. Again, the ability to be apolitical is also a privilege by virtue of gender, race, or location. Sometimes their very being is a political matter and it isn’t a choice.

Anne: I agree with that as well.

Esme: I was just going to comment on what Anne was saying, because I feel like the publicization of people’s opinions on social media or the idea that our political opinions are our own business has really changed.

Sophie: I think that posting about politics on social media is really tricky. I am someone who does post about my views, but sometimes I face criticism online as a result. One good example is that yesterday, in reference to the college admissions scandal, I posted something about how privileged people use their privilege to push mediocracy forward. One example is Jared Kushner. He went Harvard but was only admitted after his Dad made a $2.5 million dollar donation and a lot of reports claim that his high school grades were not that great or “Harvard worthy.” And so I reposted a tweet about how many poor people and POC will work extra hard, most of the time, not getting the results they want because of their financial decisions. And on Instagram I captioned this with “@ people who ED.” Then someone swiped up and said, “Yes I agree, but you can’t get mad at people for doing Early Decision. If they have that privilege, they should use it.” And my argument to that would be that the whole system is messed up and Early Decision’s very existence is classist and undermines the process by excluding the poor. However, I ended up taking it down, even if I didn’t really want to, because I questioned whether or not I should even be posting this in the first place, which is something I have to think about. If I can’t handle people disagreeing with me, should I even be posting at all? Or should I respect people’s wishes?

Ariella Moses (Sophomore): I think it’s also interesting to take into account how a singular post can only contain a  certain amount of information, and whatever that information is, can be biased or geared towards one lens, and posting it influences the notion that to share your views on social media is action enough, and that’s the downside to it.

Sophie: I agree, it’s totally not enough.

Maxine: I think social media can give a false sense of gratification. People can use a hashtag to promote a political message and then they think they’re apart of a movement.

Sophie: It’s an interesting dichotomy. You get so much information from your phone but sharing your views on social media, it’s fake. It’s not something you would say in real life. In real life, it has little to no impact most times.

Jude: I also feel like a lot of people who march in the Women’s March or Climate March, they’re great, but like what do these people do after? After it’s over, how many people go home and take action? The percentage is probably very low.

Camilla: Going back to the social media thing, I feel like a lot of people use it to give the impression that they’re woke or whatever but after that it’s like, what are you doing? Posting about it is not doing anything. I mean, it’s good that you went but what are you actually doing to enact change?

Cynthia: I agree with that. I feel like a lot of people, especially at Beacon, well it’s not your fault. But we live in a capitalist society so naturally we do things for the college resume. We want to get involved in these things like the Women’s March to look impressive on paper. But it’s like, people are making real differences, it’s about the gratification and feeling like you’re contributing to change.

Ariella: To add on, it gets even more problematic when people engage in the idea that they’re doing something for their own status as if it will make people view them in a certain way which further feeds into the values that the people who DO care are trying to counteract with action. It takes the action and the activism further back. It contributes to a negative cycle.

Maxine: That’s actually often referred to as “Slacktivism,” which is really interesting and there was recently an article about it.

Mollie Butler (Senior): I agree in the sense that we are just doing these marches and nothing is really happening after the fact and I think that we live in an extremely liberal bubble. But if we are just discussing it or going to the movement, nothing is going to happen. We have learned within in our society that change is really hard and not always possible. A lot of the times, especially with extended family, they will discourage me or my cousins from doing anything because we’re “younger and don’t know anything.” I think growing up with that kind of mentality has suppressed certain values because my family impresses the idea that I don’t know anything about the world and I haven’t been “out there.”

Daniel: Personally, I think that we are all in the same place on the “ladder of political influence,” and I would say that it’s a pretty low rung. We all have little to no influence on how laws are voted on, but what we do have influence on is social media presence (although everyone loves to say that it does nothing and is probably not super effective) and marching. And it’s not like “if 50,000 people come out to march today, then the law will be change,” but it’s all we can do and I don’t think it’s fair to say that marching and protesting in the streets is useless. It’s unfair to all the people that have marched in American history and around the world. It does make a difference and it does help and honestly, it’s all we can do. We can write articles about it or start groups but those are the limits we have as the youth and as normal citizens who don’t have any political power.

Sophie: I agree with you Daniel and while I will say that I have been at marches and movements where there is a lot of inaction, and I do believe that there is such a thing as ineffective marching, but we cannot discredit the success that it has had. The mere presence of a march or of a strike can have so much impact on a school or people who hear about. We are lucky that our school supports us when we walk out, but a lot of the time that is all we can do. Personally, I try and write about things and “practice what I preach” but it is also hard to go beyond that. I can’t take off from school to lobby and there are sometimes when marches and posting are ineffective or not the best method of activism, but they’re often the only things we can do.

Cynthia: Personally, I’m not trying to disagree with you guys. To a certain degree, I do believe that marches are somewhat effective in achieving your goals. But I do feel that if you want real change, and you really truly want real change, it comes with sacrifice. And if you’re not willing to sacrifice your school, your education, miss a test, go out in a rain, march everyday, miss a week of day. Real change comes with sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing your privilege or whatever that means. It’s doing more than doing a couple of marches, walking out one day, or writing about it online to feel better about your white guilt, but actually doing and sacrificing something.

Daniel: Have you ever gone for a week in the rain marching?

Cynthia: I’m just saying that if you truly care about change in our society you will make those sacrifices. I’m not trying to discredit you.

Ariella: Similar to the point that was just made, I’m remembering last year, before the walkout, there were people in my Biology class that were frustrated that the teacher wasn’t excusing them from missing the test. But that in itself made me upset because the whole point of a walkout is that you are sacrificing something, and if you can’t realize that the only way to work against our society and its flaws, you have to go against the institution that you are told to succumb to.

Jude: I agree with what Cynthia was saying. I think that two hours on a Friday marching from Columbus Circle to Central Park South doesn’t mean anything unless you stick with it. I think you can stick with it by continuing to march, but it needs to be a continuous thing, not a one time thing. It’s not just once a year. How many people at those marches do you think participate in some form of activism every week?

Tali R: I’m not sexist but I think that the Women’s March is flawed in the way that they run things, even in the way that their website is set up. If you look at what they stand for and their goals, there are too many things. It’s trying to end all suffering ever and that is a goal, but it’s not one that is necessarily solved by one Women’s March once a year. They shouldn’t try and label themselves as the solution. There’s also anti-semitism going on inside the group and as a Jewish person, that is something I deal with, but it’s not a solution for change. It’s a statement that garners attention and people, but doesn’t do anything.

Esme: I was just going to say that marching occasionally doesn’t make much change, but the idea of organizing and having a goal for change is really empowering and should motivate more change than it does, but I think those ideas are really important.

Linus: I think that marching does something. Politicians can see what’s happening and what the people care about, and if they’re not corrupt which a lot are or too many are, then they will care because it is a democracy and they will want to help and make legislation according to the people. I don’t think that you shouldn’t make sacrifices and if you have the opportunity to march, you should. Essentially, the most power an average American has is voting, where you go to a voting station and if there’s a long line that sucks but it’s one day. It’s not like you have to cut off your arm to vote. We live in a flawed society, but we don’t live in an anarchy so I don’t think we should degrade the good things that people are doing.

Jude: Again, I know that this a democracy, but people marching doesn’t affect the decisions or the outlooks of Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell and at the end of the day, while voting is important, it doesn’t always have the power to change everything.

BSU Cares: How Social Media and Hard Work Fueled a Successful Coat Drive

By Ruby Paarlberg & Sophie Steinberg

During mid-winter break, as students were waiting on airport lines and sleeping in, BSU members were promoting their upcoming “BSU Cares Coat Drive” all over Instagram. When we got back to school, Beacon’s Black Student Union, otherwise known as BSU, began a coat drive in the lobby. Their efforts culminated in a school-wide effort to support those in need which garnered over 70 items of clothing.

BSU is an amazing club that provides a space for Black students at Beacon to join forces to discuss race at Beacon as well as celebrate Black culture and pride. In addition to their weekly meetings, the club hosts an annual Black History Show, which is often the highlight of February at Beacon. As a whole, their work and presence at Beacon helps create a safe space for black students and serves as inspiration for other social justice clubs and student unions.

Even though BSU hosts numerous events and community discussions, Club Leader Oumy Souane said that BSU tries to do charity work every year. Another club leader and senior Naiima Miller had the idea while talking to her mother. When she tried to throw away an old coat, her mother “suggested that they hosted a coat drive instead.” Collectively, the club realized that hosting a coat drive would be a relatively simple and easy way to help those in need as people “always have extra things that they can give away.”

Coats and clothing from the drive are being donated to the Covenant House which is a center for homeless and at-risk youth that offers “housing and support services to young people in need.” Founded in New York, the Covenant House has expanded to 31 cities across America and houses, on average, 1,920 youth every night. They also have a location called the Covenant House Casa Alianza in Nicaragua that helps prevent sex-trafficking and works to raise kids out of poverty. BSU’s work is contributing to a global non-profit right around the corner on West 41st Street.

    Specifically, The Covenant House’s direct work with teenagers was a perfect example of the “bubble” in which Beacon exists. Most kids at Beacon walk to school thoroughly bundled up in recent twenty-degree weather without a second thought, but BSU wanted to encourage Beacon students to use their privilege for a cause that was relevant to our generation and New York City as a whole. Naiima noted that there “are kids down the street that don’t have a coat or a house to go home to. They’re out there, in this 23 degree weather.” She also mentions that our coats, being teenage-sized, would not have “fit a 5 year-old” so the choice to work with The Covenant House was also practical.

Coat Drives are often overlooked, but during the winter time, they are especially important. Many New Yorkers have to brave consecutive winters without winter coats. BSU’s Coat Drive will truly make a difference and give more people a much-needed way to stay warm. Furthermore, efforts to aid the homeless are often most profound in the form of drives for necessary, and hardly accessible, items such as baby products, clothes, food, and tampons and pads. Club leader Oumy Souane says that as “teenagers going through the college process, we have grades to worry about, so if we can make somebody’s life a little bit easier, why shouldn’t we do it?”

In addition to BSU, the organization, New York Cares, ran their 30th annual coat drive this year. New York Cares is a nonprofit organization that manages volunteers citywide. This incredible program has an average of “65,000 volunteers in service each year.” The hundreds of thousands of winter coats collected in this annual Coat Drive are distributed to “public schools, religious institutions, and transitional housing shelters – all of which serve some of our city’s most vulnerable populations.” Every year New York City endures harsh winters and efforts from both New York Cares and BSU to collect and donate coats are admirable and necessary.

All around, the Coat Drive was a group effort, with much of its presence being owed to social media. The drive was first made known by BSU member InstaStories and even went on to be reposted by other Beacon students. Senior and club member Fatou Ndiaye said it was “empowering to see how we could really make a change and get things done” as members put up posters all over the school. Oumy says that social media was integral to spreading their message as people used the poster graphic on their Instagram to let people know. The poster seemed to go “viral” amongst Beacon students. She continues, noting that they would love to make the BSU Cares Coat Drive an annual event as they wish to “set the trend for the future of the club.” As coats are often taken for granted as basic necessities, Oumy believes that “there is always something you can do to help your community” and that it is not that hard to “do the research and have ideas” on ways to contribute.

BSU’s work is a perfect example of the good Beacon students can do when they put all hands on deck, online and in real life. Their success shows that social media can be a helpful tool for clubs, with fundraising and community service especially. At the end of our interview, Fatou, Naiima, and Oumy all agree that a perfect way to sign off of their discussion would be with the hashtag, “#MakeTheWorldaWarmerPlace,” and BSU is doing just that.

8 Affordable, Sustainable, and Fashionable Online Stores to Update Your Wardrobe

By Sophie Steinberg

As fast-fashion dominates the styles of most of America, I have found myself gravitating towards smaller businesses that offer the same prices for far better clothes. Many modern online clothing stores are small operations that cultivate a following and appreciation through social media and Instagram. More often than not, their clothes are either handmade or thrifted in America and do not rely on factories for production. I have found comfort in knowing exactly who is making, selling, and inspiring my wardrobe. I would describe my personal style as a mixture of 1970’s chic and grunge (with a few basics in the mix) and recently, I have been intrigued by the following websites…

1. Courtyard LA

Courtyard LA is a online vintage clothing store with a few original pieces. Based in Los Angeles, as you could probably garner from the name, the store resells vintage sweaters, shirts, Levi’s jeans, and more. The owner also put forth her own collection on the site which includes beautiful poet blouses and graphic tees. Prices range from $24 to $165 with a majority of their items falling in the $30-$60 category.

2. Shop Tunnel Vision

Shop Tunnel Vision is an online vintage store that sells clothes for “Deadbeat Lowlife Weirdos,” but don’t let that scare you. The impressive online store includes a blog, original artwork, vintage clothes by decade, links to their Spotify playlists and Tumblr accounts, and plenty of clothing. Sometimes everyone needs a little 2000s diva or goth in their lives. They sell everything from jewelry to down coats, all sourced in the LA area. The business is run by Madeline Pendleton, who is a designer, illustrator, buyer, and owner of the shop. I am so amazed by their site and I am so lucky to have had the privilege of interviewing Madeline who has single-handedly built such an impressive online retailer.

The Beacon Beat: How did this company come about? What did it start out as?

Madeline Pendleton: Tunnel Vision was started in 2012 by me, Madeline, and a business partner I had at the time who left the company in 2013 to pursue her own brand. We started the store as an online store with the intention of selling ethical and recycled clothing to an audience that traditionally would favor more destructive clothing production methods, like fast fashion or big box clothing chains.

TBB: How do you remain sustainable? And what are some challenges you face within that?

MP: We started out wanting to use local production methods only, with our house brand sewer being one of our friends’ moms who was being mistreated by a local factory here in Los Angeles and quit to pursue working for herself. However, as the brand has grown, we have found it increasingly difficult to be both profitable and produce locally. This has led us to branch out and seek overseas production methods that are also eco-conscious and socially responsible. As a result, we work with brands like Bella and Canvas, who makes the blanks we screen print a lot of our products on. They own their own factory overseas with a commitment to ethical production methods. We’ve also partnered with overseas jewelry manufacturers who insure ethical product standards. It is always difficult, though, trying to give our customers prices they are comfortable with, without exploiting laborers. Sometimes, I worry that the fashion industry has gone so far into the side of cheap unfair labor that it’s impossible to exist as a business without it. But, we hold onto our principles as best we can, and it is always a challenge trying to find the balance.

TBB: What do you look for in a piece of clothing when you’re thrifting?

MP: We source our vintage from a variety of places, but we don’t really “thrift”. A lot of our product is purchased by-the-pound at local outlets for clothing that cannot be sold at thrift stores, actually. We literally dig in giant piles or boxes or bins of clothing trying to find the best of the best hidden in there. Sometimes, the bins smell horrible. Sometimes, they are inexplicably wet. Sometimes, there are literal rodents in them. But we always rescue great garments that would otherwise be thrown away and just need a little TLC. These are mostly garments with minor damages that can be repaired, or garments that are out of style or out of date — which is great for a vintage look and works really well for us. We also rely on local rag houses. We look for pieces that are fashionable now and still have some life left in them while telling a story. Fashion is cyclical, and it’s great to find a piece from the original era contemporary fashion references.

TBB: Who is your ideal customer?

MP: Our ideal customer is someone who loves the look of vintage clothes, but has a higher shopping expectation that a Depop or eBay or thrift shop customer, for example. We are looking to target middle class customers who would otherwise be shopping at big box fast fashion retailers, and our goal is to convert them into secondhand customers by presenting the clothing in a shopping manner to which they are accustomed — on a professional website styled with fashion-forward and contemporary accessories.

TBB: Is there one special item/shoe/print/article of clothing that you have been dying to find?

MP: We are always on the lookout for vintage chunky boots and shoes! It is so hard to find them, though, especially in good condition. Even deadstock shoes from other eras are often made from non-leather materials, which means that they peel from sitting even unworn for years. A good shoe is the elusive hard-to-find gem of vintage sourcing.

https://shoptunnelvision.com

3. LA with Love Intimates

LA With Love is a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in handmade and affordable lingerie. Their prices are very reasonable considering lingerie can be expensive. They sell swimsuits, bodysuits, nightgowns, bras, and underwear. Their prices range from $17-$80 with most items being priced somewhere in the middle. The company’s designs are a 2019 take on lingerie while using classics materials and styles.

https://lawithlove.us

4. Shop Daizy Lemonade

This is an Instagram based shop that makes sales through direct messaging and PayPal. The owner recently acquired an appointment-only space for styling vintage clothes. They have a very impressive collection of dresses, tops, and shoes from as early as the 1950’s. Most of her items are anywhere from $17-$50 and dresses are usually around $35. I love Daizy Lemonade because they sell a lot of items in a wide size range. Sometimes online shops only sell clothes that are around the owner’s size, but Daizy Lemonade ensures that everyone feels represented and is able to buy clothes. I’m a Medium-Large for most items and bottoms so it was great to see that the shop was selling very fashionable pants and skirts that I could actually wear.

@shopdaizylemonade on Instagram

5. Tots Apparel

Tots Apparel is a smaller company, in comparison to the other stores on this list because it is owned, designed, and operated by a college student! Unfortunately, the student is taking a break to focus on her studies and creative process until this spring, so head on over to the shop while you can! Tots Apparel combines sportswear and classic prints with the modern Crop Top. Most of the pieces are reworked or altered items from thrift stores and some include the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s Jeans, and Adidas. Among my favorite pieces are her Distressed Levi’s Bralettes and her Neon Green zebra-print crop tops.  The designer, listed on the site as “Baby J” started off selling the clothes she wanted to get rid of in her closet but now the website sells 90’s-inspired items internationally. Based in DC and Atlanta, the store is a great example of the power of the internet, a great sense of style, and originality. All of the items are under $35.

https://www.totsapparel.com

6. Spaced Out Mama

“Spaced Out Mama” is the name of an Etsy and Depop-based thrift store that specializes in 1970s vintage items. Based in Ohio, the owner, Crystal, posts very colorfully stylized photographs of the “new” items in her shop which is how the store originally caught my eye. If your a fan of “That ‘70’s Show” or you love Joni Mitchell, you should definitely check out her Etsy. The shop has everything from vintage dresses, jeans, sweaters, shoes, jumpsuits, and a sale section! Most of the clothing is very colorful and there are many dresses and tops with bold prints. Everything is over the top in the best way! Her items range from $10-$200 with most pieces being priced around $70 or $80. If you feel like having a vintage splurge, this is the place for you

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SpacedOutMama?ref=l2-shop-header-avatar

OR

@spacedoutmama on Depop

7. WANTS (We Are Not The Same)

WANTS is a relatively new online store that specializes in gorgeous accessories and unique and modern business-casual clothing. I found them on Instagram through a model who was wearing their tops. Upon further investigation, I saw that even singer Jorja Smith sports their beautiful blazers! The name of their brand is an acronym for “We Are Not The Same” as the brand encourages individuality and breaking from mainstream fashion. They strongly believe that “everyone should be able to express their style without having to break the bank to do so.” They also only sell a limited number of each item so that you’ll never be caught dead wearing the same thing as someone. Their items range from $30 to $200, but most of their tops and pants are between $40 and $80. They also have an amazing sale section and tend to markdown their pieces. My personal recommendation would be the “Pink Puffed Sleeves Blouse” which is ON SALE for $60.

https://wantsonline.com

8. Shop Hot Lava

Shop Hot Lava is an online store that only features around 70 items but each piece is different yet cohesive. The shop specializes in fun graphic tees, bold pants, and kooky prints. I stumbled on the small shop through one of my favorite models, Lulu Bonfils, who you can find at @louisvuittoncrocs. She sported their Checkerboard Denim Pants that come in a wide range of sizes. I love the style of their clothes because it features simple cuts with really interesting patterns and execution. I have a feeling that if they were to be picked up by another online retailer they would become huge. Their name alone “Hot Lava” makes for awesome t-shirts and frankly, it’s just fun to say.  Their prices range from $17 to $88 dollars with pants being their more expensive items. Check them out before their stuff goes to Urban Outfitters!! Run!

https://shophotlava.com

Spotlight on Beacon Artists: Sam Spiders

By Sophie Steinberg

Senior Sam Sheridan, known to most on Instagram as “Sam Spiders”, is a musician, photographer, artist, fashion lover, and avid hair-dyer. She is a multi-faceted artist, as she can play a variety of instruments, produce her own tracks, and has an photography studio in her room. As a member of the Art Honors cohort at Beacon, Sam also produces visual art, some of which will be featured in Beacon’s Winter Art show. You can find her art on the fourth floor and her recently released an EP, “Spider,” on all music platforms.

The Beacon Beat’s Editor-in-Chief Sophie Steinberg and close friend of Sam’s, sat down with her to discuss her art and music.

The Beacon Beat: What are some things or people that inspire you as an artist?

Sam Spiders: Bright colors, I like Karen Oh, Cindy Sherman, Kusama. I’m inspired by my own work, and trying to make it evolve helps me move it forward. Of course the artists around me and New York City in general inspire me as well.

The Beacon Beat: What’s your style as a musician? As a photographer?

Sam Spiders: I think I have a unique eye in the way I edit my photos. I like vibrant colors, shapes, and symbols within images. As a musician, I am trying to do more pop music, but a slightly new take on it. I want to do things that other people haven’t done before. Musically, I don’t really know if I’m inspired by anyone.

The Beacon Beat: What about Bikini Kill?

Sam: Bikini Kill? Not for my music, but definitely for my artistic expression and inspiration. Kathleen Hanna made me want to make my first rock band when I was like 8.

The Beacon Beat: Billie Eilish? (Jokingingly).

Sam: (Laughs). No, not Billie Eilish, but she’s cool.

The Beacon Beat: Can you tell me about your hair and your outfit right now?

Sam: My hair? Well, I’m wearing Air Maxs, they’re pretty basic. These jeans are UNIF, which is kind of gross. I got this belt for $4 and I’m wearing two shirts on top of my jeans. And my hair… I kind of messed it up yesterday, but I like it. It’s pretty damaged right now but I’m taking care of it.

The BB: What color is your hair right now?

Sam: It’s like a light blue teal kind of, and my roots are platinum blonde for some reason. But it’s kinda cool though.

The BB: What are you looking forward to most about second semester in your Senior Year?

Sam:In second semester, there’s just so much more free time to work on stuff, and I’m really excited. I’m gonna make a bunch more new music and I’m trying to make a video. I’m just looking forward to having more time to focus on the things that I’ve been putting off because of portfolio and college-related work.

The BB: Can you explain your stage name?

Sam: My name is Sam Spiders because it sounds better than my real name. I want to change it legally.

Check out Sam’s EP: https://open.spotify.com/album/1bAFB6qGAuOSPoNqt3Xa25?si=qJBe7FlPQOi2iH781xz6Kg

A Modern Tale: Why Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” Feels More Relatable Than Ever

By Sophie Steinberg

The show opens with a couple speeding away from the authorities, with their daughter in tow. The car crashes along the side of the road, leaving the family with no choice but to run into the surrounding forrest. Questions immediately fill the viewer’s head– where are they going? Why?

Based on the 1985 book, by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, on Hulu, has just finished up its second season of exploring a totalitarian government in the former United States, in which successful childbirth and pregnancy are becoming rare. To solve this crisis, the government rounds up all the remaining fertile women and assigns them to the homes of powerful men, where they will be ritually raped until they become pregnant, they’re known as “handmaids.” The show follows one woman, Offred, as she navigates the new state of her world and her life as a Handmaiden, with a supporting cast of strong female leads. At first glance, it’s the representation women need on TV: a strong group fighting to be considered equal and human in hopes of a better world, but the story itself has other goals. The show aims to analyze the patriarchy through the lens of an extreme political government where women cannot even read, and a group of white men hold nearly all the power– sound familiar?

Originally, the shows eerily recognizable atmosphere made me scared to watch it. I was aware of its collective Emmy buzz, and the demonstrations it had inspired, such as the recent protest at the Kavanaugh hearings in which women dressed up as handmaids, but something steered me away from diving into their fictional world. Was it too real? I had no desire to be further depressed by a dystopian story, when my news cycle was growing scarier and scarier. I didn’t want another reminder of the control men like Kavanaugh had over my body when hearings for a Supreme Court nominee who has been accused of sexual assault were in full swing.

The show has been deemed “alternatively frustrating and thrilling” by a critic at The AV Club, as the story captivates its viewers while simultaneously leaving them in a stupor of fear, a sensation I wanted to avoid. The New York Times says the show’s dystopian society “controls women by elevating them, fetishizing motherhood, praising femininity, but defining it in terms of service to men and children.” My previous basic understanding of the Handmaid’s position as sex slaves to powerful men, scared the hell out of me. How could I watch women being degraded for pleasure, while many survivors coming forward were experiencing it daily?

But last month, during the 70th annual Emmy awards, I watched every category become dominated by the cast and the crew of The Handmaid’s Tale. As I saw the nomination videos for “Best Supporting Actress in a Drama,” Alexis Bledel’s reel took me by surprise. Her character, Ofglen, was wearing “normal clothes” in the clip, not a handmaid’s iconic red cloak and white bonnet. Why? What else did the show explore? I became dumbfounded, and quickly developed small spurs of FOMO. The magnitude of the show’s impact, even at a revered Hollywood event, began to sink in as I became mad at myself for avoiding it.

That night, around 11:30pm, I logged into Hulu and began to watch. I was surprised to find myself relating to the show as its story of female perseverance became a personal inspiration. The structure of Atwood’s world felt as real as it did fake as I came to love each character and the way they were portrayed. Instead of hiding from the show’s alternate reality, I ran towards it, at full speed.

I believe the show portrays the potential future of our current political climate. Atwood once referred to her work as “speculative fiction” meaning that one day, there could be policy that forces women to give their bodies and children to their oppressors. Given the public rise and promotion of men who have been accused, and are most likely guilty, of sexual assault, I would not be surprised if the rape of designated women became the norm. The show is a tale of warning, of what things could be like in 30 years if we don’t change the way our society views sex and women. As the show makes a conscious effort to create deep portraits and characterizations of its female protagonists, I realize that those traits should be naturally woven into any story or television, regardless of the message.

Offred’s incredible journey is one of survival and grit, as she struggles to have basic equal rights at the hands of predatory men, something women fighting to be heard understand. There’s a reason the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport blew up on Twitter, and there’s a reason for the Walkout that took place on September 24th, which expressed support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of Kavanaugh’s accusers: women and men need a place to share their stories of assault, and The Handmaid’s Tale takes it upon itself to shove them right in your face. In a world where people like Judge Kavanaugh can be appointed as one of the most powerful positions in the country, The Handmaid’s Tale is a must-watch, not necessarily for its quality or its awards, but for yourself. Wake up.

Consumer vs. Conscience: The Schadenfreude of Disney World

By Sophie Steinberg

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A side view of the Magic Kingdom Castle.

Cold and exhausted after going on soaking river rapids, I began to make my way over a to another part of the Animal Kingdom park. I had just waited over an hour for a 10-minute ride that left me drenched. My trip to Disney World had been thrilling in theory, but I had no idea how much of my time here would be spent simply waiting. While crossing a mostly-plaster “wooden” bridge, I noticed a little button sitting on the railing. I pushed the button immediately, hoping for a “Disney surprise” (maybe Cinderella would pop out of tree) when suddenly, a giant water cannon turned on and sprayed various line-waiters and riders beneath the bridge. I was stunned. Then I pressed the button again. And again. When my father caught up to me and saw me soaking tourists, all of whom were unaware of the angsty teenager behind the water raining down on them, he uttered one word: “Schadenfreude.”

Have you ever felt excited when the know-it-all in your class gets a bad grade or when your least favorite teacher falls ill, and wondered why?

Here I was, staying in the “most magical place on earth,” and I couldn’t help but act like a villain. Simply put, it was schadenfreude: according to Merriam-Webster, schadenfreude is the “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.” The prefix, “schaden,” means harm and the suffix, “freude,” means joy. The word literally translates “harm-joy.”

As my time in Disney World continued, I began to notice the feeling more frequently. When I had Fastpass, a special ticket that allows you to go on an expedited line for a ride, I found myself vindictively looking down upon those in the regular line. Yet when forced to wait in the regular line myself as savvier park-goers went ahead, I felt demeaned. I also envied the people staying at fancier resorts when their bus stops were conveniently located right outside the park, and mine was a quarter of a mile away. I constantly craved a sense of superiority. And the more I analyzed every guest’s status, itinerary, and hotel, the more I came to see Disney World as a microcosm of the class rivalry beyond the park’s walls.

On Disney World’s website, one finds four types of resorts: Value Resorts, Moderate Resort, Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villa Resorts. The Value Resorts range from $110-$180 dollars a night, while the Deluxe Villas range from $503-$1,420 a night. Resorts often categorize visitors by designating the type and location of their theme park transportation. Resorts are also used to make dinner and theater reservations, occasionally determining your seating in these locations.

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Left: A view of Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom.

Right: A statue of Disney’s founder, Walt Disney, and his creation, Mickey Mouse.

Disney World also attracts visitors from across the country and globe. During my stay, I encountered millennials from London, families from Arkansas and West Virginia, and high school class trips from Springfield, Illinois to northern Florida. An international phenomenon, the theme park welcomes people of many different backgrounds, which leaves room for ethnocentric judgement. When asked to describe Disney’s social atmosphere, one of my friends said, “You [have] people from North Dakota with eight kids, and normal families from London or New York that think, what the f**k?” I immediately recalled how upon arrival at Disney World, the staff asked families where they were from. Following everyone’s response, some of the staff shared covert expressions. People judged both each other and each other’s proximity to the park. Disney World’s accessibility is an asset in Hollywood, but in Central Florida it seemed to breed a schadenfreudic response.  

However, Disney World’s financial influence and strategy is not limited to its guests. The theme park dominates industry and employment in Orlando, Florida and surrounding towns. Disney World is the largest “single-site” employer in the country with over 49,000 employees; this translates into 12.1% of the Florida state workforce. The company’s economic reign, like its theme park, has both benefits and downsides for local residents. While boosting the Central Florida economy, Disney also forces Florida to accommodate its needs. Constant construction and road renovations are needed to manage the millions of tourists that pass through Disney each year. Local airports and other important stores are also forced to expand their staff and services to sustain the number of park visitors.

My mother described showing me and my siblings Disney movies like “buying into a product” or a “contract.” Now, I can understand her point. Disney toys, experiences, and theme parks are packaged into a child’s love for a movie. My favorite princess, Tiana, was a staple in our childhood home. I had figurine sets, kitchenware, and video games modeled after the 2010 movie “Princess and the Frog,” one of the last cartoon-animated movies that Disney produced. My love for the movie fueled new consumerism; my family was on the hook for whatever Disney could make.

As a child, I praised and exalted every Disney creation, but when I went to Disney World as a teenager, I saw manipulation in every attraction. It upset me that my childhood memories could be part of such malevolent marketing. Every experience in the park was tainted: Were the cartoon villains really bad or just misunderstood? Was I awful for cheering when they failed? Maybe corporate Disney was looking down, from its ivory tower, upon consumers spending thousands of dollars to feel like “the good guy,” while they stood laughing like “the bad.” I realized that the schadenfreude of Disney went beyond Ursula taking over Ariel’s wedding to Prince Eric in “The Little Mermaid.” I was too happy to see the waiting time for the river rapids ride extend to 120 minutes for those behind me.

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A stained glass window depicting Belle and her Prince from the movie, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Back in the Animal Kingdom on the “wooden” bridge, my father had a turn pushing the button and promptly decided that spraying the people below “was a little too funny.” As we walked away, I saw a little girl discover the button and the tourists were faced again with the unrelenting water cannon. She too, looked overcome with schadenfreude.

BSU Hosts Beacon’s Third Annual Black History Show

By Ilana Cohen & Sophie Steinberg

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The Black Student Union hosted Beacon’s third annual Black History Show last Friday, March 16th.

On Friday, March 16th, students crowded into Beacon’s auditorium for the Black Student Union’s third annual Black History Show. With a total of 300 tickets sold, the audience included not only Beacon students but also many administration and faculty members, including Principal Lacey, Assistant Principal Mitchell, AP Biology teacher Ms. Diran, English teachers Ms. Willett and Ms. Heintz, and History teachers Mr. Miller and Mr. Moscow. Around 4:45pm, the show’s hosts, Aida Sawadogo and Bernice Almonte, greeted their audience with an introduction to the show. Promoting the mission of BSU, the show was meant “to provide a safe space for people of color to actively engage in intersectional issues, while also promoting activism as a collective.”

The show began with a performance of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by Bernice, Clementina Aboagye, Azalías Hernández Sánchez, and the members of BSU. From there came a variety of student acts, ranging from skits and song to spoken word and dance–including Step routines, West African dance, and hip hop. In total, the show ran for about two hours and 15 minutes from 4:30-6:45pm with a 10-minute intermission around 5:50-6:00pm.

After the Black National Anthem, the show continued with a skit put on by several freshman in which an elderly woman attempted to bring a modern-day black teenager to “Black Utopia.” The teenager did not know “where she was from,” revealing a disconnect from her cultural heritage and identity. This theme of identity came up again when a dance troop sporting traditional West African wraps took to the stage to perform a West African dance. Shortly after, Senior Hamly Tavarez performed two hip hop routines. Audience members chanted along to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” bouncing up and down in their seats as Hamly dominated the stage.  

Later, Senior Nicole Onwuka performed the critically-acclaimed song “Don’t Touch My Hair” by Solange Knowles. The media company “Mic” describes the song as a political “anthem reclaiming black autonomy.” Nicole sang passionately and moved gracefully, expressing Solange’s message of pride and self-agency. The audience was wowed again when freshman Clementina Aboagye belted out a moving rendition of a Whitney Houston song.

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Students Hawa Jalloh and Peri LeBlanc read “To Be Black and Woman and Alive.”

There were also several spoken word performances, such as Delores Copeland’s “Being Black in America in 2018” and Aaliyah Daniels’ powerful poem about being seen as both human and black. The spoken word pieces touched on a variety of social justice issues, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the experiences of black women in America. Another poem by Senior Elissia Harris spoke about the importance of natural hair and embracing her identity. Two acts also used spoken word by the poet Crystal Valentine, whose work calls out cultural appropriation and depicts black self-love. Shasha Keaton and Jaela Williams read Valentine’s poem about the appropriation of black culture by Kylie Jenner and white media. Peri LeBlanc and Hawa Jalloh read another Valentine poem entitled “To Be Black and Woman and Alive” that Valentine co-wrote with poet Aliyah Jihad.

Every symbolic and engaging act captivated the show’s audience. Junior Ella Fruchter found it “incredible to witness the talents of so many individuals in a student-organized event.” She was also “impressed with everyone who was so vulnerable and strong at the same time.”

Another audience member, Emily Lucas, said, “it was amazing how [the show was] able to transition through comedy and serious acts while still bringing attention to serious issues.”

Known for its level of interaction with the audience, the Black History Show had an intentional craft underpinning its light-hearted atmosphere and showcase style. Many of the acts ended with students raising their fists, representing the Black Power movement, and the stage was often backlit with a blazing red screen that illuminated the performers’ figures when the stage lights turned off between acts. The choices of song and dance reflected a blend of historical and modern music, connecting the struggle for racial equality and freedom from centuries-ago Western colonialism in Africa to the 1960s civil rights era and modern-day protest. Aida and Bernice’s transitions between acts were simultaneously comedic and analytical, livening up the audience while also conveying acts’ significance within the broader context of the show and to them personally.  

For Aida, this year’s Black History Show was particularly timely, coinciding with the growing national student movement for gun reform: “As a leader of BSU and an active participant in the [March 14th] walkout it got me thinking a lot about the ways in which movements can be perpetrated through different media.”

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BSU co-leader and Black History Show organizer Aida Sawadogo (second from the right) pictured with fellow Beacon students holding a sign for the #Enough National School Walkout on March 14th.

Events like the Black History Show are what truly make me feel like a part of the Beacon community,” explains senior and performer Divine Ndombo. “Every performance was symbolic and meaningful, and seeing people of color bring those messages of…what it means to be black in America forward is so important.”

Performer Hawa Jallow viewed the show as an impressive display of “what a group of students who want to feel empowered can do all together!”

In reflecting on the show, Aida expressed gratitude for her BSU co-leader Oumy Souane, BSU advisor Ms. Reyes-Lamon, the show’s sound technician Dawson Holliman, and the show’s light technician Elijah Clarke. She noted the impressive involvement of the freshmen and junior classes in putting the show together, and the show’s success in honoring the mission of BSU.

The Black History Show ended with a reprise of the “Black Utopia” skit featured in the first act. However, this time the teenager returned from “Black Utopia” and recruited her modern-day friend to join her. Reprising this skit imparted an empowering message of cultural belonging and found identity. It was a fitting end for an immersive and engaging show that truly touched its audience members.

#Enough: Beacon Walkout Honored Victims of the Parkland Shooting

***Beacon students, contribute to the conversation and coverage of the March 14th walkout here: https://goo.gl/forms/dcsok7RNQOYo39E93You can share pictures, footage, and thoughts on your experience. Responses may be quoted and any submitted media will be credited if published.

Written by Sophie Steinberg

At 9:57am on March 14th, 2018, Beacon students gathered in the lobby to participate in a 17-minute long walkout in honor of the 17 students and faculty members who lost their lives in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. Beacon students of all grades left through the 44th street exit, with Student Government members lining the stairwell to distribute orange Mission Statements, stickers, and pins to students on their way out. 

 

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Photo by Boo Elliott

 

Last month, on February 14th, an armed shooter walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 17 students and teachers and injuring an additional 17 people. Those killed were Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang. The shooting has since inspired the nation to focus on gun violence prevention and laws promoting gun control. As of March 8, 2018, there had been 14 school shootings since the beginning of 2018. Increased media coverage and the exceptional activism of the Parkland school shooting survivors have brought Gun Violence Prevention to the epicenter of modern-day politics and policy. The Women’s March along with the Parkland school shooting survivors—namely, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and Sarah Chadwick—organized two walkouts (one on March 14th and another on April 20th, which is the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting), as well as a “March for Our Lives” taking place in Washington, D.C. with sister marches across the country on March 24th, 2018.

At Beacon, students linked arms and headed out onto the street where Beacon staff were standing underneath the awning in support. Organizers of the walkout told participants to wear orange and black in support of the walkout. Additionally, there were orange slips on paper on Beacon’s ID turnstiles listing the schedule and Mission Statement for the walkout. The last line of the Mission Statement read, “We are the generation determined to end gun violence and we stand united.” On the other side of the street, students, parents, and faculty from the Elias Howe elementary school, PS 51, were rallying around the national school walkout as well. Law enforcement was also present around the block. Spectators from nearby apartments and Beacon teachers gazed down upon the large group of students sporting protest signs and orange shirts. Some onlookers recorded the event and took pictures from above.

The student body nearly spilled across the street as cars were unable to drive through. In the middle of the street, a circle of student speakers stood ready to condemn gun violence and call for legislative action. They were accompanied by some cameramen and photographers from various news outlets. Most of the speakers wore orange clothing, such as orange bandanas or sweatshirts, and they hailed from different school clubs and political groups. The walkout began when 17 students read the names of all 17 shooting victims. Cardboard posters with pictures of the victims were also held up.

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Photo by Boo Elliott

Directly afterward, a 2-minute period of silence began. Students were also asked to hold up the orange Mission Statements throughout the moment of silence. The silence was intended to honor those who were killed in the school shooting and to serve as a reminder of the tragedy that follows this pertinent political issue. Most of the participants remained silent throughout the 2 minutes.

After the 2 minutes of silence, lead organizers of Beacon’s walkout spoke to the purpose of the event, standing on a crate from the school’s black box theater and speaking into a megaphone. First, Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon Beat and Model UN leader Ilana Cohen read the following: “We, the students of Beacon, stand in solidarity with the families of Parkland, Florida in mourning the 17 lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th. We stand behind the students fighting to end gun violence; it is time to pass common sense gun reform and hold our policymakers accountable. We have a right to safety in our schools and we urge Congress to take action so that we will never have to fear a tragedy like Parkland again.” Her words emphasized the united force of students standing behind those affected by the Parkland shooting. Solidarity and accountability were primary focuses of the walkout.

Next, senior Divine Soona Ndombo spoke: “We stand with the millions of marginalized youth whose stories never make it to the front cover, and we offer ourselves as allies. We are determined to face the gun violence that disproportionately affects black and latino girls and boys and we refuse to ignore the lack of action on the part of our communities and our government in addressing these issues.” Ndombo highlighted the #BlackLivesMatter movement that is ingrained within the effort for gun control. She also spoke of Beacon’s support of marginalized groups, such as the latinx and black communities.

Lastly, Model UN member Arielle Geismar read the last part of the mission statement. She said, “We will not back down because we are tired of fearing for our lives in the place we should feel the safest. To our allies in Parkland, and to students across the nation, we stand with and love you, and we will not stop fighting for you. And to the policymakers that have remained silent, prepare yourselves. We are the generation to end gun violence.” Geismar enforced a “call to action” that hesitant and NRA-supporting lawmakers must fear. She wrapped up the speeches with a motivational statement that appeals to the young activists at Beacon and promotes the idea of concrete change in Generation Z’s lifetime.

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Photo by Leah Blakeley

“We have had enough,” were the words that sparked the powerful chants throughout the crowd. Students yelled with passion “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The NRA has got to go, and we call BS.” Within the short amount of time, these chants allowed for the echoing of ideologies students were fighting for. The chants helped express their frustration. In unison, students joined in, chanting, “Never Again” along with the harmonious chant, “If we don’t get it- shut it down,” all in an effort to speak the truth about the movement and gun violence.

As students began to head back to their F Band classes, there was an optimistic feeling in the air. Students felt apart of a historic movement and were impressed with the spirit and organization of the walkout. One junior, Leila Henry, said she “felt that the walkout was really well organized,” and was “most impressed by the moment of silence and how seriously people took it.” Another student, Kate Pamplin, echoed her thoughts by saying that she “thought the walkout was really effective,” and felt that honoring the Parkland victims “humanized things.” Henry was also happy about the support the walkout received from teachers and faculty. She said that the school endorsement “was really cool,” and enthusiastically recalled looking up to see multiple teachers, including some of her own, “recording the walkout and showing support.” History teacher Kevin Jacobs also expressed encouragement toward the student walkout. He believes that the walkout was “well organized” and that “we [have] to build on it.”

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Photo by Leah Blakeley

Beacon’s participation in the #Enough National School Walkout marked impressive milestones in participation, unity, and support. The fight to end gun violence continues on March 24th and April 20th. See you there.

Upcoming events & actions to support gun reform:

3/24 March for Our Lives (with Moms Demand Action), 10 am – 6pm

@DC (Pennsylvania Avenue btw 3rd St and 12th St NW) // NYC (West 72nd Street) 

*Students can sign up to go to DC with the Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer’s office here: https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSesYZj2PLD7S9k76C…/viewform

4/20 National School Walkout: NYC Says Enough Student Rally, 11 am

@Washington Square Park

*Students can sign up to help facilitate peer voter registration during the rally with the Youth Progressive Policy Group here: https://goo.gl/forms/X1CvzgGtqYcFwiLv1

The “Money Bubble”: Beacon’s Lack of Economic Diversity  

By Sophie Steinberg

Photography by Boo Elliott

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Beacon’s spacious hallways are flooded with Canada Goose Jackets, Nike sneakers, Supreme shirts, and Fjallraven Kanken backpacks. Our high school, located in a new building that the Department of Education (DOE) purchased and refurbished for $45 million dollars, is home to the children of actresses, prominent lawyers, real estate moguls, artists, filmmakers, and Wall Street brokers. As students roam the hallways sporting flashy outfits and chatting about their latest vacations, the school seems to be filled with the offspring of New York City’s upper-middle class.

Although Beacon takes pride in its racial diversity, with 51% of the school population being people of color, many students and teachers alike are concerned about the limited effort to admit students of varied economic backgrounds. Beacon History and Economics teacher Lev Moscow would like to see more of “an effort to bring lower income students into not only this school, but others that have [similar] means.”

According to the Center for New York City Affairs, Beacon has an “Economic Need Index” of .26/1 and the DOE considers its admissions “skewed toward high incomes.” Bard High School and the NYC Lab School have similar statuses. Moscow considers “preferential options to the poor” a “driving ethos in life,” meaning that the school should be consciously trying to provide more opportunities for lower-income students.

Today, New York City is more expensive than ever; the average New Yorker spends around 50% of their income on housing. Neighborhood rent prices have risen exponentially in trendy areas such as Williamsburg, Soho, and Dumbo. An apartment at Gotham West, down the block from our 44th Street building, rents a one-bedroom apartment for $4,075 a month. The average household income in Hell’s Kitchen, Beacon’s home, is $125,000.  

“[Beacon]’s such a bubble where rich people feel bad because others are richer and that’s just gross,” says junior Giulia Cox. Students and faculty alike recognize the school’s toxic “money bubble.”

Clothing in particular demonstrates Beacon’s affluent financial makeup. Cox notes, “The average Beacon outfit is easily upward of 100 dollars.” She listed Urban Outfitters and Supreme as popular brands among students, for whom appearance can reflect socioeconomic status. As junior Sam Sheridan says, “Gucci sneakers ($580) are everywhere” and it often feels like “everyone at Beacon is rich.” In many high schools, fashion affects social standing, leaving kids who cannot afford name brands behind. Sheridan says that “if you dress badly, you aren’t cool, which is unfair for those who can’t afford to keep up.” One fashion website, thecut.com, poses the question, “What better way to delineate the difference between the haves and the have-nots than through fashion?”

At Beacon, “keeping up” socially includes spending money on food daily. Popular items such as iced coffee from Lenny’s and poké from Red Poké are “so out of reach for many lower-income students,” Sheridan reports. Another junior, Shorena Giorgadze, thinks that “children who have the security of wealth and a sense of comfort have the benefit of less anxiety and stress.” She adds that at Beacon, “we see trends beginning with the need for certain items, whether it’s clothing or upcoming Gov Ball tickets ($105-$305). Either way, wealth has a direct correlation with the social status a child holds.”  

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Yet the social exclusion of poorer students is not limited to Beacon. Moscow explains how often, “there seems to be this idea that life is a game which is won by whoever has accumulated the most stuff. Do I see that here [at Beacon]? Yes. Do I see that everywhere in New York City? Yes.” When the materialism ingrained in city culture is reflected in schools, poorer students can feel marginalized. Giorgadze also believes that “when a child has economic problems at home they’re bound to come to school with anxiety.” Being lower-middle class or even middle class can sometimes feel like a burden at Beacon, where it seems to Cox that “no one appreciates what they have.”

The social anxiety driven by Beacon’s lack of economic diversity is also “shown in a major way through the college process,” Moscow says. Beacon is known for its competitive academics and success in the college process. The graduating class of 2017 went to many prestigious colleges, such as Princeton and Cornell. Moscow has always felt “a little uncomfortable on acceptance day when everyone wears their college’s sweatshirt.” While he agrees that “[students] have worked really hard to get into these good schools,” he believes this day is another opportunity for Beacon students to “flash name brands.” With some universities charging up to $75,000 in yearly tuition, private colleges are not always a reality for students from lower-income backgrounds. Students who turn down other acceptances for the city’s more affordable CUNYs may “feel embarrassed by it,” even though Moscow admits that “getting into a CUNY is no easy feat.” The “prestigious” colleges Beacon students apply to reflect the high number of students who can afford to attend.

Some students feel that the level of Beacon’s economic diversity is hard to determine. Junior Lauren Hay says, “It is difficult to tell where Beacon students stand economically because every family…has different economic priorities…Having expensive clothes does not always necessarily mean that a student is extremely rich…and vice versa.” Junior Emily Lucas feels that “by saying everyone is rich it is disregarding those who aren’t and furthering the idea that only the rich people are important, which is a really f**ked up thing about Beacon because it can feel like that type of environment.” Moscow views Beacon as a microcosm of larger society, reflecting “a toxic environment created by the rich.”

However, there are students of different socioeconomic backgrounds at Beacon; 24% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced price-lunch. If nearly a quarter of Beacon lives outside the “money bubble,” why doesn’t it seem that way? To qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (before lunch was made universally free in NYC) a household had to earn between $15,301-$21,775 a year, an income bracket that is underrepresented at Beacon in comparison to schools around the city, as 75% of all New York City students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Moscow believes that the issue of income inequality could be helped by “recognizing that in life the playing field is rarely level. We might think about offering support and comfort to the most vulnerable, rather than to those who are already most comfortable.” To this end, Moscow suggests that “it could be possible to include income as one factor in admissions.” For example, a school could give extra ‘weight’ to students with low-income backgrounds or based on their parent’s educational attainment. Having been a student at Beacon himself, Moscow said “the school did seem to have far more lower-income students” when it first opened but he didn’t “know why that was.” At the outset, Beacon was an up-and-coming school that relied on the district to fill seats, yet this is no longer its reality.

As Beacon continues to gain popularity and improve its facilities, Beacon’s economic diversity may only decline. Students’ social and style habits are becoming more and more money-based. Moscow says that “kids everywhere feel compelled to pressure their parents to buy name brand clothes or expensive phones.” The “money bubble” that surrounds Beacon seems to be ubiquitous as kids everywhere feel “pressured” to keep up with their richer peers. This constant race to prove personal wealth, which can ostracize lower-income students, will not end unless the school and student body work together to ‘pop the bubble.’

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Commuter Diaries: Beacon Students’ Most Memorable Subway Experiences

By Ruby Paarlberg

Photography by Boo Elliott

Every weekday, 5.7 million New Yorkers ride the subway. Are you one of them?

Most Beacon students rely on the subway, whether they take it two or twenty-five stops. Every subway ride is a unique experience and for many, there is one commute-specific moment that stands out. When I asked Beacon students to reveal their most memorable subway experiences, I was surprised by the range of stories I heard.

Matthew Breitman, a sophomore, described two equally memorable subway moments. One of them was observing “a man in wooden shoes who was eating popcorn off of the subway floor.” His other moment was seeing Maggie Gyllenhaal, a famous actress, on the 3 train. These striking moments illustrate the broad range of subway experiences one student can have.

A tenth grader, Olivia Morrow, described being on the train when “a man brought a bird onto the subway car with him.” I heard a similarly odd story from sophomore Saniah Arnold, who told me that there was “poop smeared on the seat” of her subway car. Sophomore Nina Navarro told me her subway car once looked like it was “trailed with blood.” But for those living in the city, no matter how gross the subway is, it is an essential form of transportation.

Other students reported experiences which were not too gross or out of the ordinary, but were quite scary. Sophomore Uma Rao-Labrecque reported an incident in which a drunk man was holding a knife. Although the man did not threaten to injure anyone on the train, he started swaying with the knife in his hand. Meanwhile, sophomore Kate Jeffrey described a much more violent scene on the subway; she “saw somebody deck another guy in the face.” The victim of the punch started “bleeding everywhere and [she saw that] his tooth had been knocked out.” This incident was called to the attention of local police and the train stopped “for like twenty minutes.” Another sophomore, Ella Reuther, described a time when she “was trapped in the train for forty minutes because the doors did not open at West 4th Street. People were yelling and banging on the windows.” As these students experienced, the subway is not always a safe place. New Yorkers have to constantly be alert so that if they see something, they can say something.

A couple of Beacon students have noticed odd interactions between people on their trains. Bianca told me a conversation she had with a man who told her “his whole life story, and started pointing at this guy and said that used to be me.” Annie Taylor, a tenth grader, recalled seeing a girl “that was falling asleep with an Arizona iced tea bottle open and [she] spilled it in the person next to her’s purse.” Sophomore Aayusha Duwadi described a tense interaction between two people on her train car: “There was this time when a guy was hanging off one of the poles and when he tried to spin, [he] kicked some lady in the face and she kept saying that she would sue him and as she was exiting, her coat got stuck in the doorway and she fell.”

There is no doubt that the train can be disgusting and frustrating and scary, but some of the sweetest moments can occur on the subway, too. Sophomore Madison Targum once saw “an older man with a full red pizza delivery bag hand out food to those in need.” Also, junior Sophie Steinberg reported her “hands-down best train ride.” She was riding the train on her birthday when a mariachi band sang “Happy Birthday” to her. Moments like these give New Yorkers a greater appreciation for the subway and all of its quirks.

Scary, gross, strange, or sweet as it may be, the subway remains a staple of life in New York City.

About Time: Confronting Decades of Sexual Assault in Hollywood

By Sophie Steinberg

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In the last few weeks, the sexual assault epidemic in Hollywood has shaken the country, but should you be surprised? The entertainment business, with its recent onslaught of career-ruining sexual harassment and assault allegations, seems to fit into the increasingly alt-right atmosphere of America. In the past year, movies and TV haven’t had the privilege of being apolitical, as they incorporate Trump’s regime into storylines and messages. Now, Harvey Weinstein and others are about to get the same treatment. While liberals have started to pull back the “political curtain” from our dark-times government, Hollywood has tried to do the same.

Many journalists and celebrities had heard stories of assault for decades, but only began reporting on them when Trump entered the West Wing. Accusations of assault by Trump and his open sexism towards women have been both troubling and empowering for his presidency. His vulgar behavior has gone without consequence, as he holds arguably the most powerful position in the world, and when liberal Hollywood wasn’t able to take him down, they sought justice in other areas. In early fall, when Ronan Farrow released the New Yorker article naming Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator, the floodgates of Sunset Boulevard were opened. Victims of sexual harassment, assault, and groping in the entertainment industry have begun to speak up. Empowered by the overwhelming evidence, men and women alike feel comfortable sharing their own stories and realizing that they’re not alone.

Today the names Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Kevin Spacey are synonymous with the term “sexual misconduct.” In the last few months, reporting on sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood has increased exponentially. Over 34 men in Hollywood have been accused of sexual misconduct–all experiencing deserved fallout and for some, police investigations. Other offenders include Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Ed Westwick, and Roy Price. The media has given a platform to victims and finally released incriminating evidence that had been swept under the rug for years.

Actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Angelina Jolie have shared their own experiences with Weinstein. Many give detailed accounts of being violently raped and harassed by Weinstein as young actors, as well the producer making numerous unwanted sexual advances. Now, most of Hollywood looks at Weinstein with disgust as actors join forces to condemn his actions. Weinstein has been removed from the Academy and has lost multiple projects as a result of his behavior. Similarly, Kevin Spacey, who actor Anthony Rapp accused of making a sexual advance towards him at age 14, has been removed from upcoming movies and had his Netflix show, “House of Cards,” suspended.

With the sudden outpour of revelations from our stars, the media and public alike are forced to reconcile the horrifying actions of formerly beloved celebrities. For many, the news stories and accounts are surreal and burdensome. Movies are forms of escapism, creating worlds where people can remove themselves from everyday life. Today, the business is anything but an escape. The dark period of the Trump Administration is almost too Hollywood–with our president being straight out of 1984 and foreign leaders resembling Marvel superhero villains. Now, movies starring Kevin Spacey or comedy done by Louis C.K. are difficult to watch, considering the wrongdoings of their stars.

Famed screenwriter Anthony Burgess once said, “It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.” Until recently, victim-shaming and the stigma around discussing harassment in the workplace were absent from the news. The harsh reality of assault in Hollywood has forced the nation to confront the troubling topic of sexual harassment. No longer dismissed by fellow actors or executives, the survival stories of both women and men in Hollywood are finally being heard.

In the age of the Trump Administration, Hollywood has pursued justice by blacklisting sexual predators, but the concept of assault is not new. Assault is pervasive–even in the White House! Some stories of harassment and misconduct date back decades. Gwyneth Paltrow described her experiences being sexually harassed as a 22-year-old. Rose McGowan has spoken out about Hollywood assault for years, although until now, she had been largely silenced. Her feminist views and blunt perspective of Hollywood was raw and scary to both the media and the public. It took not just an epidemic for people to believe her, but a presidential administration. Our current day-to-day politics have galvanized women and the entertainment industry to take action and hold powerful predators accountable.

Social media has also contributed to the deluge of sexual misconduct stories. Celebrities such as Uma Thurman took to Instagram to express their disgust with the scenario. She wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, “Except you Harvey, and all your wicked conspirators.” Furthermore, many survivors of sexual assault are using #MeToo to share their stories. Actress Alyssa Milano urged women to use the hashtag when expressing their trauma, as the ability to join an online community of survivors has created a new sense of safety.

Hollywood has had to re-evaluate its standards as women are finally allowed to speak up. Now, with its ugliest side being exposed, Hollywood has even more work to do. Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men are only starting to be held accountable for their actions, but that cannot compensate for what survivors of their violative behavior have experienced. Survivors in Hollywood and around the world need to feel heard, comforted, and understood by the public. The ability to share shouldn’t be a privilege–it should be a right. At a time of national political turmoil and pervasive sexism, there is a silver lining: we won’t let the term “sexual misconduct” be taken lightly, as justice will be served for those who used to define it.

By the Students, For the Students: An Inside Look at Beacon’s Student Government

By Sophie Steinberg

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The importance of student government is often overlooked, and it is mischaracterized in TV shows and movies as a popularity contest. However, recent issues — racial tensions, sexism, high stress levels, and last year’s dress code controversy among them — have made it clear that some form of student representation is needed at Beacon.

Mr. Van Pelt was new to the school last year and was surprised that such a progressive school lacked a strong student government. Ms. Ratcliffe and Mr. Van Pelt helped to launch the new organization, which allows students to contribute to the leadership of our school, while also teaching them about activism and civics. Although many schools rely on a traditional representative government, Beacon’s Student Government is set up as an after-school club.  It serves as a forum for student concerns, rather than as a group of elected decision makers. Thus, Beacon’s student government is open to everyone.

The club’s decision not to elect a specific President or other formal officers is another Beacon-specific innovation geared toward avoiding a superficial, unhelpful student government. Mr. Van Pelt was worried that holding elections “might result in people voting for their friends… or that it won’t accurately represent the makeup of the student body.” Instead, he is encouraging students to create a government that people want to be a part of, and which serves all students.

According to the club’s members, each meeting features a discussion based on prominent issues raised by the student body. There is also discussion of what it means to be a representative body and how to best address student concerns. Members can also bring their personal ideas or pet issues to the table, and address prevalent concerns among the students and faculty. Mr. Van Pelt encouraged the club’s founders to include representation from students of every race, religion, and sexual orientation. This commitment to inclusivity and diversity should provide a wide range of voices and perspectives so that the government best serves every member of the Beacon community.  Mr. Van Pelt’s goal is to make the student government self-sustaining so that it can operate without a faculty advisory to lead the meetings.

However, the real challenge is finding a committed group of students who are willing to consistently attend meetings. Most of the student government members so far are interested in politics and social justice, and use the club as a platform for their voices. Mr. Van Pelt hopes that even students who are not interested in joining express their concerns to members of the student government as the club becomes more active in the school.

In order to succeed in representing the Beacon student population, student feedback is crucial. To that end, the club has placed a suggestion box near the common area on the fourth floor. While Mr. Van Pelt confirms that there have been at least 50 suggestions submitted so far, one member — who chose to remain anonymous — said the “response has been underwhelming.”  That club member believes that “people would be more aware if the club had a figurehead” in the form of a President. In the meantime, the club continues to encourage students to fill out an online survey –for which the link is provided below — so that they can gain more information about student concerns and preferences. After the survey closes, the club will analyze the results and put their insights to use in their role as student advocates.  Finally, the student government hopes to publish the data as part of a dialogue between the club and the wider Beacon community.

In the future, Mr. Van Pelt hopes to bring in various activists to speak to the club and conduct workshops on organization and advocacy. The club may be just getting off the ground, but it is already on its way to making a difference in student life.

Student Government survey is live at beaconsg.weebly.com.

Go out with a Kiss: A Review of the B’DAT Production of Stop Kiss

By Sophie Steinberg

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As the lights brighten inside the Black Box, the audience is not in a high school anymore–we are in an West Village apartment in the 1990s. We watch, holding our breath, as two young women come to terms with their identities and the hateful world that they live in. Diana Son’s Stop Kiss was performed two weeks ago in Beacon’s Black Box theatre. Jo Ann Cimato, the head of Beacon’s drama program, directed the three performances with a small cast of B’DAT actors in a tender production about two women who fall in love without even realizing that they are gay.

Initially, the fall B’DAT production was set to be Romeo and Juliet, but with a transgender Romeo. While the concept was unique, B’DAT was faced with a low turnout for auditions and concern about a cis actor playing a trans Romeo. Ultimately, the staff decided to change directions. Cimato and her production team searched for an equally bold idea. “We were faced with a very short deadline and we had to get the show up early,” Cimato recalls. In her director’s note for Stop Kiss, she describes the importance of producing a “gay play” after a student mentioned her reluctance to do a show with an LGBTQ storyline. “He didn’t so much as say ‘You’re closeted’ but he did say you don’t really do anything about it.”

Stop Kiss is drastically different from B’DAT’s last production “Lysistrata Jones,” which was an upbeat musical in a high school setting. The smaller stage and realistic tone of Stop Kiss helped make the experience more intimate, while the juxtaposition of the two key settings in the play–the apartment and the Hospital–helped to clarify the time jumps and ease the transitions. This choice allowed the ensemble to move fluidly throughout the set and quickly shift the focuses of the scenes.

The show begins with violence and ends with a kiss. The two leads, Callie (played by Emma Callahan) and Sara (played by Lucie Hopkins) meet in New York City. Sara is new in town and Callie offers to show her the ropes. As they spend more time together, their sexual tension grows and it becomes harder for them to hide their romantic feelings. Both Sara and Callie have trouble admitting their emotions as they withdraw from their respective heterosexual relationships. Each scene has high stakes with an emotional conflict dominating center stage. The lighting focused in on the characters speaking and alternative rock was played throughout each transition, which often served to highlight a change in Callie’s attitude and contributed to the mood of the scene.

The play’s leads were spectacular and made the story exceedingly believable. In particular, Emma Callahan rose to the occasion in this extremely challenging role. Her performance was complimented by Lucie Hopkins as their characters changed throughout play. Cimato describes both their performances as “breath-taking.” In his first time on the Beacon Stage, Shane Bray convincingly played George, a friend-with-benefits who is slow to process Callie’s sexuality.

This production showed that even in a hateful world, love thrives. The Beacon Community was ecstatic to see such a progressive play that features some of the most important issues in our country today. Despite the widespread homophobia of their time, the characters’ love takes precedent. Many embraced the production as we enter an unsettling period of American History under a new president-elect; Stop Kiss illustrates that love really can trump hate.