One Face, Unity, and Silence by Barna Akkas

ONE FACE

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Out of the thousands of protesters in Times Square this child caught my attention, because he is a Palestinian child; however, he resembles the face of any ordinary child in the United States. This child is not suffering, but the faces that are similar to his are the faces of children who are suffering in Gaza. Millions of children just like him look innocent and are unaware of the events that are occurring around them. The children’s innocence has now been stripped away by the warlike nature that persists each day in Palestine, or at least what is left of Palestine.

UNITY

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This photo represents a moment of unification between an Israeli child and a Palestinian child. These two children are probably unaware of what is happening in Gaza, but what they may know is that there is no reason to dispute with another young human. They are human. That’s what is being forgotten. If they are in fact of Palestinian or Israeli descent, then we need to pause and realize that these people are also made up of skin and bones just like everyone else.

Something can be learned from these two children photographed because in their eyes they are both equals.

SILENCED

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The whole world seems to be shying away from what is really at fault here. Palestinians are having their basic human rights stripped and demolished. If this were the case in the United States, then there would be riots and significant media coverage of the situation. Palestinian children will now grow up with a sense of fear, hopelessness, and distrust in themselves and the governmental system that was supposed to help them initially. For a few moments the rest of the world is sitting, watching, and discussing the issue. After these few moments are up, the rest of the world will carry on with their normal lives and forget about the issue at hand. This is disappointing. It is one thing to go out and protest, but it is another thing to get the matter at hand to be impacted by change. It is time to be heard; it is time to speak up and advocate for the silent voices of the Palestinians.

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About the Author,

Barna Akkas

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Barna lives in a world of wonderment and desire to cultivate all of the good and all of the knowledge that there is know. She lives to understand the origin of things, and her six-word memoir is just that, “An open book with missing chapters.” She lives her life to fill these missing pages with experiences, laughter, and ideas worth remembering.

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THE RELAUNCH: #IAMSEEK PHOTO CAMPAIGN by Melissa Kong

“I Too, Am, Harvard” is an inspiring project by one student who highlighted the stories and voices of 63 black Harvard students. Similarly, this photo campaign is a platform for John Jay College SEEK students to voice their stories about negative or stereotypical remarks made against them.

Our voices in our classes sometimes go unheard by our professors, and our educational abilities among non-SEEK students are often times questioned.

This campaign represents our voices. We are standing up and saying WE ARE SEEK.

We are not stupid. We are proud of who we are and what we have done–despite what so many have said to us otherwise.

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When I first developed the idea of a photo campaign on the behalf of SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge), I was on a mission to find John Jay College SEEK students who shared a similar experience to me when I first entered college.

I thought that these students would come to me, because word of mouth in the student body has always worked towards my benefit. But I quickly realized that in order to get students to open up and tell me their stories, I had to go to them first and tell them my own story.

People questioned my IQ level and assumed that I was broke because I spent all my money on Jordan’s, drugs, and alcohol. Just like the photograph of my friend above, my experience in SEEK consisted of negative perspectives and misinformed opinions about a group of individuals that the naysayers knew nothing about.

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Please note this specific photograph above does not represent all of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York’s (CUNY) faculty and staff. SEEK students have been mentored and supported by many professors. But sometimes we still feel labeled and misunderstood by the ones who are supposed to be helping us the most.

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Translation* The SEEK Program is for students with lower academic standards.” – Friend.

This is a common perception of SEEK students. But did you know that SEEK is a higher education opportunity program at the senior (four-year) colleges of CUNY? John Jay is one of those senior colleges.

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The program originally began at CUNY in 1965 and was signed into law by the New York State legislature in 1966. It was established to provide students who demonstrated academic and financial disadvantages access to a pathway to higher education.

Yes, sometimes we have less money, but that doesn’t mean you should call us poor. And yes, sometimes we have struggled academically, but that doesn’t mean we are stupid.

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We are students like Kevin Lwango.

Lwango emigrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although he is fluent in French and Lingala, when he first came to the United States, he did not speak a word of English. But he fought to learn the English language and quickly overcame this barrier.

Lwango was one of the very fortunate SEEK students who did not experience any negative or stereotypical remarks made against him as a SEEK student. He stands in the photograph above as evidence of an immigrant from the Congo, a Black male. And he, too, is SEEK.

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Translation* “But SEEK? Isn’t it for poor people? You’re just begging them for money.” – Friend.

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Slang is informal use of jargon that is vulgar or socially taboo. Sometimes SEEK students bear the brunt of someone’s slang.

Even though SEEK student Manuel (Manny) Castillo, works part-time and is striving for success in every area of his life, he was insulted by a fellow classmate.

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She said to him, “You’re a SEEK student? You’re That Hoe Over There.

She incorrectly used the word “thot” in the process of trying to be clever, but instead she simply lowered others’ perception of her own intelligence level.

The slang word “thot” is often used negatively towards women to describe their promiscuous ways. Why would anyone apply that to a SEEK student?

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Yes, some of us, like Lwango, were born outside the U.S., but many of us were born right here in New York City. Does it really matter where we come from?

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Despite such odds against us, we in SEEK are committed to personal growth, academic excellence, professional development, and to changing our world we live in one step at a time.

We are SEEK. We are not stupid. And we, too, have honors.

We are recognized by our college and beyond for our academic dedication, for our community service, and for our efforts to make the world more just.

Below are the honors and achievements that only those SEEK students highlighted in this photo essay have gained.

1 = John Jay College SEEK Alumna

11 = Full-time or Part-time Jobs

8 = Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society

1 = John Jay Presidential Intern

1 = John Jay Student Council Representative

1 = John Jay Vera Fellow

2 = Pinkerton Community Fellows

2 = NASPA Undergraduate Fellow Program

3 = Ronald E. McNair Scholars

1 = Student Athlete

9 = Membership in One or More Clubs at John Jay

3 = Peer Ambassadors

1 = Peer Counselor

3 = SEEK Peer Mentors

3 = Urban Male Initiative Peer Advocate Mentors

16 = Urban Male Initiative Students

2 = Study Abroad Students

$20,000 = Total Amount of Scholarship Money Won

WE ARE SEEK.

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John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York

SEEK Students Breaking Barriers

VIDEO #IAMSEEK COMING SOON SPRING 2015

A special thank you to Professor Sara Whitestone in English, Dr. Monika Son in SEEK, and Nic White in the Writing Center of John Jay College for their words of encouragement, advice, and for being my cheerleaders throughout this process.

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About the Author,

Melissa Kong

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You can find Melissa Kong making sandwiches for the homeless on a school night or sitting next to a Humans of New York stranger on the crowded 2 train, peacefully jamming to the latest tunes as a temporary reprieve from the chaos of reality. Kong is an Asian-American writer who loves Law & Order re-runs, a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese, and sweetened ice tea. She is in search of the next big adventure and is driven to find her own voice through personal and journalistic narrative writing. She hopes to inspiring others to have the courage to write.

The Uncorrupted Enlightenment by Fifi Youssef

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Three winters, two summers, gone, yet I swear I still remember every little detail from those twelve hours. I can still hear everything from the passengers arguing over their seat numbers to everyone applauding the pilot after takeoff and then again at landing. I remember seeing the TV monitors set on the game Bejeweled, or some on animated kickboxing games, and others on the movie, The Heat. The light scented vapors from the tea and the overpowering aroma of black instant roasted coffee seemed to still be lingering around me. Everything felt surreal as if I had painted this picture in my mind.

I had a feeling this trip was going to be unlike any other. I had been having a strange gut feeling and butterflies in my stomach. I convinced myself these feelings were no more than just nervousness and anxiety since I haven’t seen my family and homeland in so many years. After boarding the plane and fighting over my window seat with some stubborn lady who seemed to be in her late thirties (yet, dressed as if she was still 18), I got comfortable, rolled up the window blind, and waited. I’ve always had a weird connection to the window seat. Once I’m up in the sky, I get this sense of being at home–a place where I can’t be judged over my thoughts. While everyone wastes their twelve hours sleeping, I sit and stare out my window.

Waiting for about an hour, the clock finally hit 7:00pm, and we began defying gravity. It was then when everything changed and I began to understand that strange gut feeling I’ve been having. The world I thought I understood became a blur. The individual I thought I was changed. Living within the sunset rather than living under it challenged everything I thought I knew. The flight I thought I remembered became a picture I thought I’d never believe. All the little details I remembered had now vanished. They vanished into the light gold rays reflecting onto the pureness of the white, cotton, bulbous clouds that were placed so unaccountably perfectly.

Living suspended in a place that seems to remain unnamed, untouched, and uncorrupted within the world I thought I knew changed everything. It made me question everything I never thought of questioning. It created a wider scope of thinking for me. It seemed as if my mind was imprisoned for all these years, and this was the perfect time for it to escape.

How can we live in such a toxic world, yet this–THIS could still be so inexplicably beautiful and pure?

 

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About the Author,

Fifi Youssef

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Fifi youssef is a crazy, outgoing, coffee lover. She is a published writer and dreams of becoming a legal writing professor. Fifi is a huge lipstick junkie and a fashionista. She believes that whether it’s her image, her writing, or even her cooking everything must be at its finest. Fifi is making her way to becoming the next Egyptian woman to bring change and justice to the world with her writing one piece at a time.

Welcome Home by Angela Joseph-Pauline

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This mailbox stands at attention on the side of a mountain in Vauclin, Martinique. It guards my matriarchal grandmother, Mami Medelice, however I feel that it also watches over the other parts of my family who call the island home. I took this picture after having dropped off Mami Medelice in a taxi that was to take her to the pharmacy. When I turned to walk back up the long driveway I noticed just how beautiful this mailbox was. Since Mami Medelice had insisted I take a picture of her walking into the Taxi, to send to my mother, I already had my phone out. I simply had to raise my hand to capture the scene in front of me. As I studied the photo, on my way back up the driveway, I thought about all the names on the mailbox.

The first two names are the people that built the foundation for this part of the family, my grandparents. My grandfather made this mailbox with his bare hands. They had eight children, half girls the other half boys, and they cemented into them everyday that laughter is the only way to make it through life without letting the hardships control them. These children then passed that laughter on to their own offspring. My mother would remind me of this whenever I took life too seriously. She’d say, “My parents taught us that if you don’t laugh in this life, you’ll always be crying. So Angela, don’t worry. Be happy.” Then she would walk away singing to herself amused at her own saying.

As the months passed after my vacation had ended, I went about my life not thinking about the picture at all. I was working, and school had started, leaving any thoughts outside of these two things nearly impossible. The mailbox picture cannonballed back into my mind at a time when I was desperately looking for a way to connect my familial background and myself. My patriarchal grandmother, Mami Anita, had just died, and I became obsessed with feeling closer to a part of my family that I only see every six or seven years.

The last time I visited her at her house in the capital of Martinique, Mami Anita was barely lucid. There was a family-wide denial of my grandmother’s worsening condition. She had been showing signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia, or another form of memory deterioration, but the family refused to believe it and since Dr. Thomas (who has been our physician for generations) didn’t want to break their hearts. Before I came to visit I had been hearing about my grandmother’s weird acts from a distance and found it more than probable that she had memory issues. But the denial of the family in Martinique was so deep rooted that when she completely stopped eating, they believed that they could pray her back to full health instead of preparing for the inevitable.

When I visited the island the December before her death, my aunt had finally convinced Mami Anita to leave her bed and come down to sit in the living room. She was sitting in her special chair, and I was sitting on the couch reading. I was determined to get through the whole Harry Potter series during my last two weeks on the island. Mami had been staring at me for a long time, but I figured she was zoned out. Eventually she looked at me and said, “My girl, aren’t you hot with all that hair on your head?” The question caught me off guard, but I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Non Mami, I’m not. I put it up in a ponytail when it gets too hot. See?” I replied, putting my hair in a ponytail to show her.

“Oh,” she said, “Whose child are you again?”

“I’m your son Joachim’s daughter.” I said my smile fading.

It was the first of many little conversations about my hair, the heat, and whose child I was. We never had any long conversations. I couldn’t bring myself to ask her if she remembered me as a child running up and down the stairs. If she remembered fighting with me to finish my food. Or even if she remembered me sitting at her feet playing with my Lego set as she was watching her shows. I knew the answer and I didn’t think I wanted to hear it vocalized. Those weren’t things I wanted to think about in the limited amount of time that I had with her. I knew then that this would probably be the last time that I would see her alive.

When it was time for me to head back to Mami Medelice’s (my other grandmother’s) house I hugged Mami Anita with as much love as I could muster. The ride back up the mountain was filled with quiet tears and loud memories. I knew I would, most likely, never see her again and I was having a very hard time coping with this very real possibility. We arrived at Mami Medelice’s house just in time for lunch, but afterwards I found myself sitting on a rock directly in front of the mailbox looking at its armor and paying attention to the surroundings of its post. I listened to the breeze as it pushed its way through the flowers and the leaves around it. I was able to clear my mind and focus on the happiness that it seemed to filter in. I observed the pink tint that lined most of the plants around the edges of their leaves. A purple plant seemed like it was painted, but in reality, it wasn’t. I began to remember again, but this time I was able with a smile. I remembered how much Mami Anita loved her grandchildren. I remembered that she had lived her ninety-four years filled with family that loved her. I let the mailbox take the sad thoughts and memories that I had been carrying and in its place a sense of acceptance was uncovered. Sitting in front of that mailbox that represented one grandmother and her family, I took my first step in coping with my other grandmother’s illness.

A few months later I was informed that Mami Anita had completely stopped eating. Prior to that she had been on an all liquid diet, but she later she seemed to not only be unable to swallow but unwilling to as well. The family prayed for a full recovery, but I, on the other hand, knew that she was ready to go, and no one was going to stop her. Within a month Mami Anita was gone. After hearing the news of her passing, my mind wandered back to the mailbox.

I remember how when I had been sitting by the mailbox and  it had begun to get dark, I decided to make my way inside. As I passed the mailbox on my way up the driveway, I stripped off any negative feelings or issues that I was carrying. I entered a place where positivity and laughter took precedence. As I walked further away from the mailbox, I imagined my grandfather wielding the steel beam onto the bottom of the box whistling as he worked, making a guardian to watch over his future family. The pride that he must have had as he first showed my Mami Medelice the progress he had made on the house, including the mailbox that they could finally call their own.

Mami Medelice was at the end of the driveway, waiting for me to come to dinner. She had a smile on her lips and was lightly teasing me for taking so long to come back inside, “I thought you were never coming back. Go sit down at the table. Dinner is waiting for you.” We ate in a comfortable silence knowing that our mailbox protector was out front, turning away any negativity. After dinner I began to walk into my room, but Mami Medelice stopped me and said, “I’m happy you found your way back to the house. I thought I would have had to send  someone out to find you.” After a moment I responded, “Don’t worry Mami. I’ll always find my way back to family.”

This old mailbox has been around for generations. And although the plants have grown around it, it still holds its post at the side of that mountains, allowing new names to be added to it, standing at attention, watching and waiting for us each to come back. It holds the memories that I would never want to forget. Its continuous presence has allowed me to re-associate the difficult last days of my other grandmother’s death with positive memories of the time I spent with her. This simple mailbox with the names of so many of my loved ones is my connection to a world that seems so far away. It is the connection to my only living grandparent, and I am not yet ready to give that up. As the new generation of the family is arriving, the only thing I can think to tell them is to remember that you always have a place to come home to. The Mailbox is our home.

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About the Author,

Angela Joseph-pauline

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Angela Joseph-Pauline, who responds quicker to Angie, is a French-American writer who attempts to paint her world as pink as she possibly can. She can usually be found with a laugh on her lips and a dance on her hips at some family function or another. She is currently attempting to finish her degree,  and hopes to be the wall decoration and not the deodorant, in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Years from now you’ll most likely find her as the next Cake Boss.

Boys Will Be Boys by Raymond Collazo

I was sitting awkwardly in the passenger seat. Our truck didn’t have enough room for us to move around in and the Kevlar plates in my combat vest were poking my ribs. I couldn’t move much because the truck was already crammed with computers, radios, weapons and other gadgets. To make matters worse, the air conditioner wasn’t working properly and it was spewing stagnant air into my face from its sand imbued air vents. It’s like the truck was trying to smother me, occasionally sputtering sand into my mouth and face. Being over seven thousand two hundred feet above sea level didn’t help, but the truck restricted my breathing more than anything.

If only I switched seats with my gunner at that point. I thought he had the best seat in the truck. He sat in the turret with the wind blowing in his face, holding onto his weapon with one hand, chillin’. He was the most vulnerable, but at least he got to move around and be cool.

Who knew driving up and down the Kandahar-Ghazni Highway would be so boring at times? It allowed me too much time to think. Time to think about the immense heat, my leg falling asleep from the cramped space, what we were going to find and if we were going to be attacked. We were doing the same thing we did every mission, checking the Highway for IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device) and I was packed like a sardine in the canned sauna with four other soldiers.

The five of us would usually poke fun at one another, or talk about what we were going to do when we got back, but we were tired. We were tired of the monotony, unbearable heat, and restrictions that were being imposed on us. Uniformity was the rule for everything, “do as we say”, “follow our lead”, and “speak when spoken to”. Anyone who did otherwise would be in the spotlight.

After about a month of being in Afghanistan, we were ordered to not bring any cellphones, cameras or any other electronic devices. The leadership thought the devices would hinder us from being attentive. Someone got in trouble for posting sensitive information and pictures on social media. Thanks, Man! I tried to go on mission without it but I couldn’t do it, so I chose to not follow that order and bring my iPhone anyway.

It’s not like I had anyone checking up on me in the vehicle, I was in charge. All I had to do when there wasn’t any action was pay attention to my surroundings, the radio, my soldiers (which were already in the truck with me) and the navigation on the computer screen. I needed something to help keep me awake on missions that would sometimes take days to complete. The constant anticipation of something happening was overwhelming and the cure was listening to the sounds of Nas, AC/DC and Daft Punk, to name a few. Music helped me maintain my vigilance. I was able to be more alert and it eased the anxiety and tensions of war I had within.

On our way north that day we received information from military analysts about suspicious activity taking place on a farm near a village. That was something we weren’t used to. Most of the time we drove north, then back south or vice versa and called it a day. Change of plans! We were to drive into an unknown village. That had an unknown amount of inhabitants. For unknown reasons, other than “suspicious activity.” Even though it was out of the norm to go off road and into a random village, I was confident and prepared. At least that’s what Nas’ song “You’re da Man” was portraying to me.

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Our massive trucks barely fit the small dirt road in the village. The houses were made out of mud, and there were people hanging outside of them looking at the cold colossal contraptions we were driving. Being the last truck to go through the village put me at the edge of my uncomfortable seat, causing my knees to hit the computer screen. I had scenes from other war movies taking place in my mind. What if we get stuck behind, what if the people start attacking, what if we get blown up?

I had to think positive, but at the same time I had to prepare myself mentally for anything to happen. Some of the younger Afghan men would wave, but most of them stood there with their arms folded behind their back, eerily looking at us without moving. The village elders and older men would glare at us with colored beards, or maybe they were scared and didn’t know how to react.

None of the other vehicles were making any human contact, so we followed suit with their robotic approach through the village. While passing the men, I couldn’t help but wonder what they were thinking and if they were possibly concocting some devise to attack us. I told my gunner to keep an eye on them, just in case. They could have been part of the suspicious activity for all I knew. My gunner acknowledged and moved his turret to the side a bit. That’s when we saw a group of girls.

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They were the only females my truck encountered and quite possibly the only ones that were out that day. They looked extremely innocent and I wasn’t sure if the oldest one was a big sister, a mother or a cousin but she was guarding the younger girls. She was holding onto their hands and from her body actions it appeared she was telling them not to stray away from her. I watched them stand barefoot, looking at us in awe while we drove by. I don’t know what it was about the females, but they didn’t worry me. I know they could’ve just as easily strapped themselves with suicide bombs, but I sensed fear in their eyes more than anything.

The rest of the convoy made its way through the village, except us. We were at a halt in between the last two houses. There was a group of six young boys standing near the side of the road by tall grass. They were hesitant to make contact with anyone. It seemed as if they wanted something, but no other vehicles paid them any mind, which made me cautious as well. I wondered what their young minds were possibly trying to make of the situation. If they were thinking about what was going on, who we were and what the gigantic machines were doing in their home. Then again, I thought that moment could be the end of us. What if these kids had bombs strapped to their chest and would run into the vehicle, or if the other guys would ambush us with rocket propelled grenades?

My heart was beating fast, but I don’t know if it was from my frustration of not having enough room to stretch, the heat and the stagnant air blowing in my face or if I was getting agitated from the anticipation I was building in my head of a battle scene. It didn’t look like we would be moving anytime soon, and the kids were standing right by the truck. I didn’t know what they wanted or if something was going to happen.

“Hey Patterson, do you see anything weird about these kids?” I asked my gunner.

“No, they look like normal kids.”

“What about the people in the village?”

“They’re going about their business, the girls went back inside. I don’t see anything strange from up here. Why?”

“I’m getting annoyed not being able to do anything in the truck and I gotta do something.” My leg was making me squirm from those tingly sensations it gets when it falls asleep. It didn’t even hurt anymore and I felt delirious at that point.

“Wanna stretch out a bit? I got you covered.”

He must have seen me uncontrollably fidgeting when he said that. I rushed to open the door, unlatching the lock and pushing the heavy door with all my strength. As soon as I heaved the door open, I was blasted in the face by a gust of fresh air. I took a deep breath and inhaled the clean oxygen that found its way into the vehicle. My lungs felt like they had just been infused with some minty fresh coolness, but the sight I was witnessing was possibly more refreshing than the breeze. Patterson was throwing down extra food supplies from the truck, causing the kids to jump up and down with joy. The air that instantly filled their lungs escaped with laughter.

The commotion must have woken up Williams and Ward. I heard the confused gorilla noises they always made throughout the deployment from the back of the truck, followed by the door behind me flying open. They started making faces and hollering noises at the boys, then threw some of the candy they received from their care packages out of the door. The boys jumped and laughed seeing the friendly life forms in the giant machine that cast an even bigger shadow. The fear or worries any of them had, evaporated when they felt the vibrancy we emitted.

We were stuck in a droning way of being; closed off, cold, and stagnant because we didn’t want to do anything wrong or deviate off the monotonous path we were on. With that event we broke out of the robotic stasis. Opening the door was like opening my heart. It allowed us to have human-to-human contact and express ourselves in an amiable manner regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or any other social barriers. These kids were ecstatic about the simple and necessary things of life. Simple caring, loving human interaction during war can create an immense sense of joy in people’s hearts. Maybe that’s what’s necessary in life in general.

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About the Author,

Raymond Collazo

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The various roles Raymond Collazo played in his life full of escapades have provided him with a great deal of knowledge. Each role; from soldier to student and traveler to entrepreneur, has taught him more than he expected. With the wisdom he accumulated from these experiences, a burning desire to assist humanity was invigorated within. Ray has deep passions for music, poetry, storytelling and film. With his writings he hopes to inspire others unravel mysteries of the universe, create change in a flawed government system and live in harmony.

A Commuter’s Perspective by Aimee Estrada

It is still dark when I leave my house, surrounded by a frozen, slumbering world. It’s February. I’ve been commuting only since August. I’m not yet anesthetized to this journey, not completely.

For nearly two hours I ride in a silent, somnolent car, watching the world wake up around me. I’m not a morning person, so I usually sit in the Quiet Car beside blurry-eyed commuters napping or staring out the windows. The lunar landscape of the frozen Hudson is mesmerizing, irregular and beautiful.

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When we arrive at Grand Central Station, I join the flood of people streaming out of the train, onto the platform, and up the station ramp. There is an unspoken order to the chaos. The train empties row by row as if someone’s stern grandmother is directing traffic.

Approximately 456,000 people commute into New York City daily via three of the busiest commuter rail lines in the country. Metro North transports an estimated 131,000 people from upstate New York and Connecticut, approximately 150,000 travel in on Long Island Rail Road, while another 175,000 commute via New Jersey Transit each day (American Public Transportation Association).

I am one of countless many.

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This becomes even more apparent as I join the organized chaos in the main concourse and in the subway passages. An estimated 3.7 million people ride the New York City subway system every day. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be one of them, to be lost in a crowd that size. The closest I’ve come to describing the experience to my suburban friends and family is to compare it to the malls at Christmastime, only sped up, like one of those nature documentaries with the time-elapsed camera.

I grew up 60 miles from Manhattan and have taken the train countless times. I’ve ridden the subway before, but it’s a very different experience during rush hour.

My senses are overloaded, bombarded by overwhelming stimuli as I rush through the station to “Get your Metro.” Jehovah Witness poster boards read “What does the Bible really teach?” The AM New Yorker is shoved into my hands. Glass-blowers and musicians set up for the day. I hurry past, slowed only by turnstiles as I swipe my Metro card to the sound of endless beeps. “Reveille,” “Amazing Grace,” and “I Dreamed a Dream” are serenaded in stereo to the backdrop of countless footsteps. A melodic tone, “Be safe. Never go onto the tracks for any reason. If you drop something, please notify the police, an MTA employee, or use the customer assistance line found….” “¡Buenos días! доброе утро. Excusez-moi. 對不起.” The cool, damp air hits my face as I rush across the platform, past the iconic tile walls. “Stand clear of the closing doors on track 1. The next train will arrive on track 3.” The crowd presses into me, forcing me further into the subway car where I smell the sultry, arid scent of humanity—slightly salty and putrid.

At Times Square I pour into the station, one of many moving against the current of commuters. Crowds intersect in the underground passages like schools of fish converging into one another. I push past the surging crowd, like a salmon swimming upstream, and slip into the packed 1 train, standing clear of the closing doors behind me.

I arrive at my stop and walk out into the sunlight and the bitter cold at Columbus Circle. The metal globe reminds me of the Daily Planet and I have to smile. This is the real Metropolis.

In the afternoon I repeat the process, in reverse. It is the same, but different. The atmosphere is different. In the morning, everything is somewhat subdued. Now, high school kids shout and push each other, lovers meet at the end of a long day with a quick kiss, a hand on the small of a back, hands clasped as they hurry home. Musicians and dancers perform to blurry-eyed commuters. Everyone moves a little faster, talks a little louder. Everything is more animated, more alive. We are all going home.

aimee times square musician

We hurry past the unfortunate few, the panhandlers and beggars, with their sad stories and melancholy songs. We try to look away and ignore what we see. We pop our ear buds in and turn up the volume. “I am homeless and out of work right now. I humbly ask for your help.” Someone chants in an almost melodic voice. We hear the same story over and over again. Same story, different face.

We avert our eyes away from the homeless sleeping on the station floor. It’s too hard to look at, so we convince ourselves that we can’t help them all, or that they don’t really need our help, and may really be better off than us. We convince ourselves of anything to make it easier not to see.

Eventually, we become anesthetized to it all. The sameness, the monotony, the repetition.

As I stand here, taking the pictures for this essay, I feel the looks. Part curiosity, mostly exasperation. I can almost hear their thoughts:

“Silly tourist.”

“Look at her, taking pictures of the ceiling.”

“Get out of my way!”

“Why is she taking a picture of that?”

aimee homeless at grandcentral with shoppers

I’ve had the same unkind thoughts myself and I realize, suddenly, that I’m becoming one of them. I’ve grown accustomed to hurrying past the beauty, the mundane, and the ugliness. I have stopped seeing.

Is that why we despise the initiated so? Because they still see what we can no longer?

I’ve heard it said many times that we should try to view the world through the eyes of a child, because they see the most purely—that we should slow down and enjoy the beauty around us. Life is too fleeting otherwise.

I contemplate this as I travel home and see the beauty all around me.

In everything.

aimee NYC skyline reflection

Works Cited

American Public Transportation Association. “Transit Ridership Report–Third Quarter 2013.” 19 November 2013. American Public Transportation Association. pdf. 8 Fevruary 2014. <http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2013-q3-ridership-APTA.pdf&gt;.

 

girl

 About the Author,

Aimee Estrada

aimee personal

Aimee Estrada is an observer, wanderer, and writer who believes the journey is more important than the destination. She tried almost every major before finally finding forensic financial analysis and writing, where her curiosity and obsession with details is put to good use. She grew up in Beacon, New York before it was trendy, knowing Pete Seeger as “that old guy who played the banjo at my elementary school.” She lives with her husband and car-obsessed son in a work-in-progress farmhouse with a backyard full of deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, and the occasional bear.

 

Love in Abundance by Jordy Frias

Questions can infiltrate into the human brain about the creation of earth. Creation itself speaks volumes from its complexity and beauty. But, it must have a source of frame, an origin, a designer; a designer whose intelligence surpasses that which the human mind lacks the ability to comprehend. Rejection is the outcome of a denying heart in the concept of a creator.

jordy1My mind had pondered on a particular question: Is there more to life than the “day-to-day” living with our hope in materialistic objects of inevitable decay? WHAT WAS IT! What should be the motive by which we, today, exist? The answer . . . It is the reason why He came. The world needed saving and this was given 2,000 years ago.

With vivid memories I recollect of myself questioning my existence as I lay, resting, on my bed most mornings. The sound of a siren, that annoying sound from the iPhone alarm options, is what I awoke to with the custom of attending school. Education, without a shadow of doubt, was substance I desired, but of course it was also expected by the social structure.

jordy2

I contemplated the vicious cycle of life:

–       Being conceived would be the beginning to long, trial encountering, challenging journeys we will soon endeavor on.

–       We eventually grow, with the influence of seeking an education.

–       Then, we hope to have a family and our hard work to pay off, but it seems like an unreachable goal with an economic crisis as our surrounding. In 1990 fifty-four cents once was equivalent to the buying power of a 2014-dollar bill. Our hope is supposed to be based on our achievements, but if 2.59% is the annual inflation rate throughout this period, our hope is diminished for any potential chance of growth.

–       Finally, we age, our years catch up to us, and our fragile hearts give into our mortal bodies. But is that all what life offers? Life should be more meaningful than this! Have you felt this way before? Have you ever contemplated the true purpose of life?

jordy3

The satisfaction we seek will never reach its full potential as long as our hope lies on finite concepts.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”

But, one may say; how can I believe in something I cannot see? How can I feel secure in trusting this God I cannot hear? The evidence–of knowing our hope and trust will not fail–in God surrounds us.

From the existence of the trees, agriculture, and other human resources we depend upon, we see God’s craftsmanship. We see His concern for us; for YOU. We can hope and believe that jordy4life is offering more than what we have at tangle reach. I acknowledge the grace–unmerited favor of God–not because I place an imaginary figure in my mind to look to, no! But because God is love and this is love; not that we loved God but He loved us FIRST!

God gave Him to us; He offered love in abundance, in an unconditional manner. Life is more than a “day-to-day” living. It brings us to have a purpose and our eyes fixed on the hope that is Christ Jesus.

 

guy

About the Author,

Jordy Frias

Jordy Frias attended Borough Manhattan Community College and is a current student John Jay College of Criminal Justice where he majors in English. As a writer, his parents have read his work. As someone with with a love for kids, he strives to his goal of being an elementary school teacher. As an eater, platanoes, lasagna, salmon, and totones are foods that he enjoys. Although funny at times, Jordy has mastered the skill of being corny. Jordy is a family man, loves his girlfriend, and is a sincere, fervent follower of Christ Jesus.