Crying out to you

Today, the police released the video that showed a police officer shooting  Laquan McDonald on October of 2014. Like some writers, I refuse to say the police officer’s name because I find it unfair to give them fame for something that should not have occured. This particular police officer shot and killed McDonald with 16 gun shots. This isn’t the first video in recent news showcasing police officers’ injustices towards the African American community.  Beyond police brutality, my African American brothers and sisters are fighting all along college campuses for a voice: a voice of reason, inclusion, and safety. I’m referring to Mizzou, to Dominican, to U of I, to Yale, and to many many more. These are students that are fighting for justice.

Today, we live in a world that does not know how to be inclusive to people with a different ethnicity, a world that does not know how to treat people with the same respect. We are not living in a community. And this is NOT what God had envisioned for the world when he created us.

Who am I to be speaking on this topic? I am not an African-American. But I stand in solidarity with them. As I mentioned before, we have a new vision of what the church looks like. The new church includes people of color, people with different perspectives standing side by side to worship His holy name.

I stand in solidarity to my fellow community members. But I am waiting for the rest of the world to acknowledge the importance and beauty of difference. God is not solely calling myself, He is calling all of us to support our community members, to educate ourselves in their struggles to be respected. To have equality among people is not a goal for the next ten years, this is a necessity for today.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2, NIV

 

Lord,

I pray for my African American brothers and sisters. As a part of a bigger community, we cry out to you as we stand to witness the injustices done to our community. I pray that we may continue to seek you during these hardships and that we, as people, learn to stand together in an inclusive community and in solidarity.

Amen.

 

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Bondye bon- God is good

For those that do not know, I went to Haiti nearly four weeks ago. I’ve been putting off writing about my adventure because I have no idea how to form coherent phrases that describe what I witnessed and experienced. None of it were bad, on the contrary, I would like to say the perspective I carry are different. I am still Bianca but now I am more passionate.

While I can probably write an entire book, I will only share with you a letter I wrote to the donors that assisted me on this amazing service trip to Haiti:

To everyone from the Global Service Foundation,

My name is Bianca. Before the trip, I was a Sociology major and Spanish minor. But after the trip, I have also acquired a minor in Social Justice and Civic Engagement.

Before I begin with the story about my decision and journey to Haiti, I want to start off this letter by thanking each and every single person in this great organization. You have opened my eyes and essentially opened my mind and heart. The relationships that I built, the lives that we touched and touched us personally, I will never forget. Haiti, my first travel abroad trip, I will never regret, but rather cherish in my heart and be my motivation for other service that I plan to do throughout the course of my life.

During the fall semester, I had intentions of traveling to Cuba with Dominican University. But just as soon as I got accepted into the program, the program got canceled. I remember I had talked to my English professor during a session that I was upset about this. I essentially told her that I had desires of traveling and although Cuba wasn’t a service trip, service was something that I wanted to experience as a part of Dominican. That day, she recommended to me to think about and apply to the Haiti trip. A couple of days later, I found myself in the office of the trip coordinator, talking to her about the trip. And the next thing I knew, I was signing the agreement and assuring my seat on the plane Haiti bound.

You might be asking yourselves, why I ended up traveling to Haiti, out of all places. I know that I got endless calls from my family members asking me this question when I told them that I would be spending my first college spring break in Haiti doing service. But it’s quite simple: I wanted to go beyond the walls of tourism. I wanted to know Haitians by their true nature. I wanted to get first hand experiences to the daily lives of the people there. And I got more than I bargained for.

The following weeks, were not so much a blur, but they were hectic in preparation for the trip to Haiti. We read the book, Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer, gathered donations, and got our passports, transportations and suitcases ready. I had not been on a plane for over six years and not really been outside the United States, besides Mexico for family, so this was a big deal.

In Haiti we went to the Iron Market, where I learned to bargain with people and saw so many beautiful things that Haitians had created. I learned that a large amount of the population dedicate their lives being street vendors. During the trip, we familiarized ourselves with an organization called ASAPH. The girls that attended this school taught us to dance some traditional folk music, and most of them braided our hair. Well excluding me, my hair is too short to do anything to it. Then we held malnourished babies at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Babies and that was when it was hard for me to do service. The cries of the kids that wanted to be held and fed, the confused expressions that their faces held when their parents left after visiting their children, it was unbearable. I wanted to care for all of them and I realized quickly that I couldn’t. I think this was the moment that I realized that my service in Haiti was limited. I can only help so much. But the little I had to give was enough to change their beautiful lives even if it were for a mere hours. After this, we worked in Wings of Hope where I saw only God’s grace and love working in each and every single one of their lives. This organization represented hope.

As I describe to you all the big events that we as a group were able to participate in, I begin to realize that words fall short in describing what I experienced in Haiti. And one of the several things that I have learned during this trip is that people have to come and see for themselves what Haiti is all about. Only that way will all the misconceptions of Haiti drift away and be replaced by all the hope and love that these places and people have shown us.

What are my plans after this? I have a strong desire to go back to Haiti. If for some reason returning becomes impossible, then I want to continue serving. Whether that is in a different country or in my community here in Chicago, I want to continue working in service for others. Long term goals of mine are to get my master’s degree in Social Work so that I become specialized in helping people. But I know with certainty now that this is the career path that I want to pursue.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you because I am now a part of the Haitian family.

Bianca I. Mena

A glimpse of the real world experience

The excitement of high school has begun so long ago. Stepping into my high school the first day of my senior year, I was ready for it to be the last. I have gotten most of my required classes out of the way and been accepted to all the colleges on my list. I was ready to leave my mommy’s nest and fly. My parents of course thought I was far from that.

A few weeks ago, as my family and I had our dinner, I talked to them about Prom. As I was focusing on the material things such as the dress, the shoes, the hair and of course the date, my parents were thinking only of the money. The only thing that they bothered to ask about was the price of the ticket. Shying away from the question, I swallowed another bite of the taco on my plate. But my parents wouldn’t have it. They persisted and I gave in. I admitted to them the cost of one ticket alone and they were FLABBERGASTED. That conversation quickly turned from a jolly conversation to a sour lecture. My parents wanted me to get what is so hard to do in this economy, what many people are struggling to do, they wanted me to get a JOB.

This economy has been in a recession for how long? I thought if adults were being laid off, what were the chances of me, a senior just about to graduate from high school, getting a job.

Now, just to be upfront about it, I did not, or have not yet landed a job. That, of course, would be a miracle. But I was able to take time and prepare for one. For a few weeks I searched and searched for a part time job that wouldn’t interfere with my academic life. (Because although I was in desperate need for a job, my education is always a priority.)

When I finally found a door that could lead to many opportunities, I realized, yet again, how unprepared I was. Of course, in my English class, I had sketched up what my resume would look like, it was still not something that I wanted to present to the company that I was applying to.

And this is some of what I learned,

Depending on the job that you are applying to, you are expected to turn in a resume that would “wow” the person that is hiring you. For me, my teacher suggested that I go with a resume that had my name in BOLD BLACK CAPITAL LETTERS across the top of the page so that they can distinguish me among other resumes from the pile.

What seemed to work the best as well, is to investigate the job that you are applying to and SUBTLY include that to your own resume. If you are applying to a job as a receptionist, it would be nice to see that there are specific skills listed on your resume that are in that field. If you have fast typing skills, write that. If you have at least minimal knowledge of the functions of a computer, write that. If you are a very talkative or very communicative person, write that. There are simple skills that we may not realize we possess but can genuinely be the difference between you and the next person on the list.

On interview day,

Whether or not the office tells you, there is a dress code to any job that you are applying to. As I looked it up, there were three categories, business casual, business professional, and fashion designer. First impressions are everything and you want to make sure that you get that just right. After that, all you have to do is talk about yourself and the strengths that you can bring to support the company or wherever it is you are applying to.

During the interview,

Don’t be scared. I know I was, walking into the office not knowing what exactly to expect. It will not be your fault if one of the workers or even the person that is hiring you has a bad day. You cannot take it personally. The best thing to do is smile and listen to everything that the person is trying to tell you.

At the end of the interview, it is always good to ask a few questions to the person that is hiring you to let them know that you are invested and interested in becoming a part of their community within the workplace. NEVER ask about salary or of getting a raise but ask about the job that you may be placed in or any questions at all pertaining to the company.

And finally, after the interview, it is always nice to make sure that they have everything that they need to call you back if they want you for the position. Make sure they have a copy of your resume or give them a new copy with revisions already fixed and a reference page to anyone that would be willing to say good stuff about you. (Don’t let it be your family.)

Having an insight to reality, is difficult to wrap your head around. Looking for a job or applying for whatever it is needs time and focus from the applicant to make it the best that they can. It will be difficult to transition from being taught to applying those skills in the real world. But an advantage to me, I have four more years of education before the real work begins.

Day of the Dead

“No es tiempo de llorar. Es tiempo para celebrar,” translated Ms. Zuniga said, “It is not a time for sadness but a time to celebrate.” Ms Zuniga, an AP Spanish Language Teacher started out her class in reference to the Day of the Dead celebration, Nov 1.

While many American children, as well as other countries that have now adopted the Halloween festivities, were knocking from house to house in search of the richest candies, several other families were in preparation of the Day of the Dead.

“No coopera para mi calavera?” roughly translated to “Will you donate to my skull?”

Zuniga reminisced back to when she was a young child living in Mexico. During the Day of the Dead, she walked around the streets of Mexico with her sister asking for some money with a picture of a skull in a box in hopes to collect donations from her neighbors.

Along with her adventures in collecting money instead of candy, she spoke of her experience with her aunt as she prepared the altar for the dead. The altar was essentially a place to highlight the deceased. Cempasuchitl, or flor de la muerte, (flower of the dead, named after its smell of dead flesh) is one of the most common flower decorations used in the altar. It was believed that these flowers helped guide the souls of the dead into the home and seek their proper altar. Along with the flowers, el pan de muerto (bread of the dead) is also an essential detail included in the altar. Differing between the creativity and religion of others, some families could buy the candy skulls, candles of different saints, or even host Rosemarie’s prayers.

Through the people’s beliefs they were to present the deceased’s favorite food and leave it out nice and prepared for the night. It was believed that the soul of the deceased would come during the time that everyone was all asleep when they would arrive at the house and enjoy their prepared altar.

The next day, when the soul of the deceased had had its chance to enjoy another meal on Earth, the food was then eaten by its family. The bread, especially made for the occasion, could also then be shared to neighbors and family members because the bread is too big for a single household to eat.

Being able to emphasize the traditions of an individual gives a chance to the person to highlight their culture in a new and creative way. Ms Zuniga, spoke of her heritage without difficulties and embraced the background in which she had for a long time grown up in. Whether it was a chance to collect money or a chance to see the altar of the deceased come into effect, Ms Zuniga witnessed it all for the Day of the Dead and continues to honor her family members that are no longer full of life.

Just as Zuniga said walking into her seventh period classroom, “It is not a time of sadness, it is a time of complete celebration.”

Meet Reporter: Bianca I. Mena

My name is Bianca Ivette Mena. I am a 17 year old teenage Latina from the south side of Chicago. I’m a high school journalist trying to get my name noticed in the hundreds of people living in the windy city. Currently, I hold positions for Features and Online editor for The Warrior newspaper staff at Lane Tech High School. I am the second of five children and I aspire to become a social worker some day. I am strongly involved in Young Life, a Christian youth group, and Key club, a community service group. I am a big Harry Potter fan and enjoy watching How I Met Your Mother and Ugly Betty reruns on the tv. I have never been into sports nor politics but I love being up to date on everything that is going on around the world. I love writing and reading feature stories that will catch the reader’s attention and hopefully change the lives of the readers.