Religion and Justice

24 Jul

Another post about the Zimmerman case. Joy -__-

But anyway, in the wake of the not guilty verdict, I witnessed an incredible amount of people react instantly with something along the lines of “Zimmerman may be free now, but GOD is the judge and the jury,” and that made me extremely uncomfortable. Especially the fact that I witnessed a lot of Black people saying things like that, and Black people are treated the worst by the criminal justice system in the USA. I’m guessing their point was that even though Zimmerman is free, he will eventually be punished for killing Trayvon Martin in the afterlife.

I think one reason why this made me so uncomfortable is because it seems as though these people are somehow okay with Zimmerman escaping Earthly justice, because they just know that he has another thing coming (see: karma). I’m not okay with that. I’m not okay with child killers being able to walk freely just because I believe that God will punish him. I want earthly justice. And I feel like the people responding to the verdict in that way are not in any way, pressed to go out and change the status quo, because they know that God’s got it. And I think that is what unsettles me the most. The idea that people are using God as a crutch and a reason to be unmotivated to change anything. I feel as though people are relying on faith and karma too much and are not going to work to change the way things are. It comes across to me as “Oh, it’s okay that this bad person did a bad thing and was not punished for it, because he will be eventually.” I want punishment NOW, and I want to be able to witness it.

Another thing that struck me about this case is the fact that George Zimmerman stated that it was in God’s plan for him to follow and kill Trayvon Martin, and when I bring this up I am met with outrage and instances of “That is not MY God.” But, how can you know? It seems that God has been on Zimmerman’s side this entire side, with him initially not being charged, and eventually being found not guilty. What reason do people have to believe that God really has a punishment for Zimmerman waiting for him when he dies? I am sure that both the Martin family and the Zimmerman family prayed for a favorable verdict, and it seems that God answered the Zimmerman family’s prayers, doesn’t it?

This was not an organized post, just something that’s been on my mind.

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Boycotting Florida

23 Jul

In light of recent events, many performers have decided to boycott the entire state of Florida, and refuse to perform until a certain Stand Your Ground law is repealed. The Trayvon Martin incident has ignited people to speak out about the controversial law that has been on Florida’s books since 2005. During the actual trial, the Zimmerman defense team did not use Stand Your Ground in their argument, but Judge Debra Nelson did include it in the jury’s instructions, causing many people to blame it for Zimmerman’s being found not guilty.

As a result, Stevie Wonder stated in a concert soon after the verdict that he would refuse to perform in Florida or any state that has a SYG law until it is repealed, and other artists have followed in his footsteps, and I’ve also seen many not-famous people say that they will refrain from traveling to Florida until the law is abolished. I just want to make a few points regarding this idea and possibly suggest other ways to express indignation with the justice system.

To begin, Florida is far from the only state with a SYG law. As the map below shows, nearly half of the states have some sort of law stating that you have no duty to retreat and can use deadly force if you feel threatened.

Stand Your Ground States

I don’t see people calling for a boycott of every single one of those states, and I understand that they want to make an example out of Florida, but I think people should realize that Florida is not a special case, and the Zimmerman case only got a lot of attention because the Martin family forced the media to get involved. Here’s a cool interactive list of Stand Your Ground cases in Florida and how they turned out, and I’m sure not many people have heard of any of those cases. I’m saying all of this to say, the Martin case was not the first of its kind, and to make Florida out to be the bad guy is not constructive.

It is no surprise that Florida is one of the top tourism destinations in the world, and a boycott of travels to Florida would certainly wreak havoc on the state’s economy. However, I do not think a boycott of Florida’s tourism industry would have the influence that people are anticipating. When industries/companies suffer, the people at the bottom are the most likely to be affected, rather than those in charge. So, a boycott of the tourism industry would possibly have drastic effects on the women who clean up your hotel rooms and make your beds, and the people of color that work in the food service at all of your favorite amusement parks. In other words, not the legislators who introduced the law in the first place. A boycott on Florida’s tourism industry is misplaced, in my opinion.

Next, I understand that harping on Florida has been the thing since the 2000 election mishap, but I am tired of Florida getting a bad reputation for everything. Florida is not the only state with unjust laws, and frankly, the entire state and all the people in it are not to blame for the outcome of one court case. People were similarly outraged in 2011 when Troy Davis was executed in Georgia, but there were no calls for a ban of the entire state (and Georgia is about to unfairly execute another Black man). It was recently discovered that more than 100 women in a California prison had unauthorized sterilizations performed on them, but people are not nearly as outraged about that (I also understand that the stories in the media that get coverage and that are blown up is incredibly calculated, and I’m just a news snob so I know about these things while others, who may have heard about the Zimmerman case, do not). My point here is that egregious things do not happen solely in Florida, and an overhaul of the entire criminal justice system is needed to weed out discrepancies and inconsistencies.

There are more direct ways to guide your efforts to bring attention to SYG and other unjust laws and court cases, and I want to mention them. The Dream Defenders, a group of college students in Florida, are camping out in the capitol building in Tallahassee, demanding to meet with Governor Rick Scott in order for him to call a special session of the legislature to remove the SYG law. You can donate to them here and read more about their progress and other initiatives here. In addition, Cece McDonald and Marissa Alexander are two Black women who are currently in jail for defending themselves in a life-threatening situation (the fact that these cases are only gaining ground and becoming popular recently because of comparisons to the Zimmerman case is another post for another time), and more people need to know their stories. They each have support sites, as well as Facebook support pages and donation pages.

In essence, my main point is that a boycott of the entire state of Florida is incredibly misguided, vague, and short-sighted. I think it became a popular idea because everyone loves to hate Florida, it’s easy to do if you have no connections to the state, and people love to feel like they are doing something big. In all, I do not think that a boycott will be very effective because it will not hit the right people where it hurts, rather it will have negative effects on those who have nothing to do with making the laws. I think people should focus on the actual law and specific instances where it is being applied, rather than blame the entire state, just because the Zimmerman case happened to occur here.

It’s A New Day :)

23 Jul

I have a lot of feelings. And I’m going to write about them.

I’ve decided I really need an outlet, other than Twitter, to express my ideas and I have this blog just sitting here…so why not! I tweet a lot about race, gender, class, education, stereotypes, and just social norms and issues in general, and I think it would be better received on here, and I can also compose my thoughts better.

With that being said, I am going to commit to one post a week, whether it be commentary on a social issue, my thoughts on a news story, or my photography. The online/blogging community is powerful and I want to be a part of it!

30 Nov

Journalists as Government’s Check & Balance

16 Nov

“Journalism is the only profession explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, because journalists are supposed to be the check and balance on government. We’re supposed to be holding those in power accountable. We’re not supposed to be their megaphone. That’s what the corporate media have become.” –Amy Goodman

I found that quote on Tumblr, and it really stood out to me and made me think about the role of journalists and the press in the current era. In my history of journalism class, I am basically studying what the role of the press is and how that role has evolved from the establishment of our nation to today. Is the press supposed to report the truth? The entire truth? Is it supposed to keep up public morale, if that means omitting some information? All of this is taken into account when deciding what to publish.

This quote exemplifies what the press would be if it were perfect, but it is far from perfect, and everyone knows that. News is supposed to be an objective, reliable source of information, but with scandals that have plagued our government for years, we know that this is not true. The first amendment protects journalists from governmental consequences if they portray the government in a negative light, but the first amendment also allows the press to publish essentially whatever it wants, as long as it is true. This includes telling lies of omission, and withholding information from the public.

I have recently become disgusted with the lack of attention the media has given towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the media’s infatuation with the David Petraeus scandal. Some people may argue that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not as big a deal as the Petraeus scandal because one is domestic and one is international, but I have seen absolutely no coverage of the IP conflict without having to search for it, while the Petraeus scandal is shoved in my face every single day.

Can the media be held accountable for this? I think so. Will the media be held accountable for this? I don’t think so. America has an infatuation with itself, and everything else is put on the back burner. The most news I’ve heard about the conflict is from Facebook friends, on both sides of the issue, making posts about it.

This topic obviously has a lot of layers, and I’ve only just scratched the surface on a few of them, but I said all of that to say this:

As journalists, it is our job to hold the government accountable, but I think as citizens, it is our job to hold to press accountable and demand that they report the truth and the entire truth.

2012 Presidential Election!

8 Nov

Tuesday was Election Day in America! The president, Barack Obama, was running for re-election against the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney beat out a number of other viable candidates to represent the Republican Party, like former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Texas governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann, and Herman Cain.

I supported Barack Obama from the beginning, and when it was announced that Mitt Romney would be his opponent, I was confident that President Obama would have no problem defeating him. However, as Election Day grew closer and more polls of registered voters appeared, I grew nervous that it might not be as easy as I thought it would be.

On Election Day, I was working on an assignment for The Miami Planet, an online environmental publication produced by students and faculty at the University of Miami. For my assignment, I went to the polls and interviewed people waiting in line about their views on the issues this election, and possibly who they were voting for. I interviewed people at the Bank United Center (BUC), which is where most UM students were assigned to vote. The story I wrote is meant to be a vignette, or just a glimpse into some people’s lives that happened to be waiting in line. My story can be found here!

In addition to writing, I also took pictures at the BUC, and at a watch party I attended, hosted by United Black Students, of which I am the historian. Here are some of the photos I took on Election Day:

Courtney Grant, a potential voter, eats a slice of pizza and peruses a potential ballot handed to him by a poll volunteer, as he passes the time while he waits to vote on Election Day.

Stephanie Rivas, a 26 year old volunteer for Get Out and Vote, volunteers on Election Day at the Bank United Center and makes cups of popcorn for those waiting in line.

Members of the UM College Republicans and Democrats organizations set up tables outside of the Bank United Center on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, Florida, on Election Day.

On Election Night, CNN announces that President Barack Obama will be re-elected to a second term.

Members of the UM club United Black Students react to the news that President Obama will be serving a second term.

On Election Night, Jasmin Phillips expresses her disdain for the Republican Party candidate, Mitt Romney, with a blunt t-shirt.

I hope you enjoyed those photos!!

On an unrelated note, I took some photos at the University of Miami Spin-A-Thon that took place on Saturday November 3, at the Herbert Wellness Center at the University of Miami. Participants rode exercise bikes to raise money for UM’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. This spin-a-thon was smaller version of the Dolphin Cycling Challenge, a fundraising effort that takes place throughout Miami-Dade County, and participants ride real bicycles over two days and finish at Sun Life Stadium. Some of my pictures were published for Distraction Magazine, a publication at the University of Miami, and is a magazine published by students for students. My featured photos can be found here.

Portfolio!

30 Oct

I’m not sure where to start on uploading some of my photography, so I think I’ll begin with some of the photos I’ve put in my portfolio, and then I’ll update as I take more pictures.

The chapel on the campus of Duke University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

While traveling to different college campuses in the summer of 2010, before my senior year, I visited Duke University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and I took this photo.

The football team of my high school, King High School

This photo was taken of the King High School football team during a pre-game warmup in their 2010 season. This game was against the Freedom High School Patriots, and the Lions won.

These is a photo of my closest friends from high school, during winter break in 2011.

During my first winter break of college, December 2011, my high school class organized a picnic in the park as a get-together for our class. It was a nice reunion, since the last time we had all seen each other was graduation in May.

T'Keyah Gadson won the Miss Black & Gold Scholarship pageant in 2012.

The Eta Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., holds a scholarship pageant every year, titled Miss Black & Gold. In 2012, a sophomore named T’Keyah Gadson was given the title after competing in swimwear, talent, evening wear, and question-and-answer segments.

One of UM's Bhangra teams competes in a talent show

The Tau Rho chapter of Delta Sigma Theta’s People’s Choice Awards talent show featured a multitude of acts, including this Indian dance team. The Bhangra team performs at many shows, including talent shows and homecoming competitions.

UM's volleyball team competes against Virginia Tech

During the volleyball season of 2011, the University of Miami’s volleyball team competes against Virginia Tech in a home game at the Knight Sports Center at the University of Miami.

Like I said, this is only a sampling of my portfolio, so I look forward to hearing comments and critiques about my photography, and I will be uploading more pictures as I take them!!