North Star News has taught me the importance and power of journalism. Before I came to the class, I thought that the power of writing for a newspaper was that you could express your personal views. I have learned that the importance of unbiased truthful reporting of facts. Now I struggle with keeping to the facts and allowing the readers to form their own ideas and interpretation of those facts.

I will be starting my journalism career at a time when media is constantly under attack by the President.  This has taught me the importance of journalists going the extra mile to provide the public with honest information which is critical for the functioning of a democratic society. Journalist need to be willing to push boundaries to the point of being uncomforatable so that people can know the truth. Being an unbiased truth-seeking journalist is a way to be radical in this time.

North Star News has taught me not only how to write articles, but also how to work with a team, meet deadlines, and tell people’s stories. I will bring all of the skills acquired here whereever I go next. Since I plan on going into journalism, this has given me hands-on experience working for a real newspaper.

“OKAY, LADIES, NOW LET’S GET IN FORMATION”: WOMAN’S MARCH FROM THE SCENE OF THE ACTION

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Over half a million people of all genders gathered in DC on Saturday, Jan. 21 to proclaim to the new president of the United States that women are watching to make sure their rights are not being infringed upon and are ready to fight.

The march started with a rally, where well-known speakers conveyed the message of gender equality, including Scarlett Johansson, Gloria Steinem and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Gardner; still, the message of the rally was delivered  by the crowd of lesser known marchers.

After the rally, hundreds of thousands of protesters against Trump marched through the Mall carrying homemade signs and sharing creative chants. The march moved very slowly, as many waited hours to begin moving, but everyone was friendly and waited their turn. While this, sounds claustrophobic and unsafe in theory, it felt like the exact opposite for many in the crowd. Hillary Tulley, a science teacher at North, said that hours into the march she suddenly remembered that she had valuables in pockets that might get stolen, but when she checked they were not. When she realized that around this crowd of people she felt the safest she has ever felt in her life, she began to cry. The lack of ulterior motives and the focus on the protest was moving to all.

There were many criticisms leveled against the march. One frequently heard comment was that the march consisted predominantly of middle-aged white women, especially as white women have always been in the spotlight of feminism. Additionally, these feminists usually do not advocate for the rights of those of all races, socioeconomic status, or sexes. Another critique heard at the march was that it was not trans-inclusive. Many signs focused on women having specific body parts which disregarded women with different types of bodies.  Miriam Berkson, junior, commented on this.

“Looking around both at the march and on my travels to the march, it was evident that this march was predominately white. Of course, white women are included in the feminist movement, but I wish the march had been more intersectional, meaning more women and men of color, and more trans women attending, feeling as though they could be included in this movement. After all, people of color have been marching for multiple centuries, this is kinda their thing,” Berkson said.

Aside from these criticisms, the rally was about bringing a multitude of activist movements with various concerns together to help each other. This rally modeled the interconnection of the world’s problems and taught that by advocating for one cause you are advancing multiple agendas. Maggie Lavengood, junior,  said, “To me, the women’s march on Washington felt incredibly special because it was an opportunity for me to represent all the people who were not privileged enough to be there. I hope that by being there and helping bring their issues to light, I could do justice to the historical and current struggles of women of every background. The groundbreaking visibility that this historic march, and those all around the globe, gained felt like an immensely symbolic step forward for all people in disenfranchised circumstances.”

This coming together showed the world the power of the collective. Huge events like this let others know that people are not going to sit around while the powerful oppresses minorities. While a question may be raised as to whether this was a one-time event, its message for the world that the time for activism has arrived. If millions of women across the country and the world are ready to stand together in solidarity, there is no telling what this group of people can achieve. This march has put a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘injustice anywhere is a threat justice everywhere.’

Featured image captured by Miriam Berkson 


SOUP AT SIX: A NEW OUTLOOK ON SOUP KITCHENS

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Soup at Six was started in 1983 by a group of six people operating out of the basement of a church on Clark Street north of Main. Relying on donations for its funding, the volunteers who run the kitchen work diligently every Tuesday to feed all who are in need. However, this soup kitchen has something special that sets it apart from its competitors in Evanston.

Erica Hall, the woman who runs the kitchen, is a retired chef from Belize. First thing every Tuesday morning she prepares an enormous feast for the guests that will come to eat that night. She is warm and friendly to all new visitors and volunteers. When asked why she has dedicated her energy to running the soup kitchen, Hall said, “I’ve fed people all my life; it’s what I love to do.” She prides herself on Soup on Six being the best soup kitchen in the area because of the high quality of the food, which she is happy to eat herself.  Because of Hall’s dedication, the guests really notice and appreciate the care that goes into the food.

You can see the profound impact of this soup kitchen through the volunteer Terry Hammond. Thirteen years ago, Hammond was homeless as a result of medical issues and became a regular visitor to the soup kitchen. He was cared for by all of the volunteers and decided to become a volunteer himself. Now, every week he rides the Metra from the Southside of Chicago to Evanston so he can help serve. Hammond said, “What makes this place special is the volunteers. They make this a wonderful environment that supports the neighborhood. They never turn anyone away.”

One of the most outstanding volunteers at the soup kitchen is Bob. He is a tough man who drives a colossal pickup truck and goes camping every weekend, but he lives according to the philosophy that people have an obligation to help others. He understands that these homeless people are not only hungry for food, but also hungry for someone to care about them. He said, “Soup at Six is an organization with a meaningful purpose. This kitchen is not just a fly-by-night operation, it is helping people out for the long run.” He explained that just feeding the people isn’t enough. By getting to know them, he can get to the root of their problems, and then find help for them.

He notices people every week that have strange habits that others might overlook. One guest, Javier, asks for hot sauce every week. One may think that Javier just likes spicy food, but Bob understands that Javier likes to have something given to him for once; he feels cared for. This small gesture may seem trivial but Bob notices how much it means to the guests.

Another guest, Paulette, once came with poems she had written. Bob sat with her and read all of them. Listening to her made Paulette feel like someone cared for her. Bob’s consideration for all people makes him an admirable person. Everyone should care for the marginalized as much as he does.

Soup at Six is a special place because it provides more than just delicious food for the homeless; it provides an environment that gives support to all the visitors. In a world where the homeless are commonly overlooked, it is increasingly important to have places like this where they are given dignity and cared for. Everyone can learn a lesson from how this soup kitchen is run. While providing nourishment for people in need is good, caring for others is something that everyone needs to strive to do.

Featured image credits to Jasmine Gong 


A BIG HUG FOR SUBURBAN CHICAGO HIGH SCHOOL IMMIGRANTS

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The 1982 Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe states that no school  can require any student to show citizenship documentation and is required provide an education regardless of a person’s immigration status. Niles North provides protection for undocumented students in our community. We provide advisory pamphlets on how to address ICE raids and brought the ACLU to explain how to survive in this precarious time. Niles North provided this support in response to January 27, 2017 executive order temporarily banning people from seven Muslim countries.  Sharing this information was intended to reduce fear in the immigrant community in Skokie.

There has been opposition to the school’s support of our undocumented immigrants from  Breitbart News. They weighed in on their disapproval of our Immigrant Rights Club. In an article written by a local resident published on Breitbart News’ blog, the Niles North administration was criticized for aiding students in the club by distributing information about defending immigrants from deportation. Pollak, the writer of the article, wrote, “school officials apparently refuse to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.” He later said. “It is not clear why the school decided to distribute the materials for the students, rather than merely allowing the students to distribute the materials themselves independently.”

Currently the media has been displaying immigrants in a bad light, or as President Trump says, “They are bad hombres.” Immigrants are not going to leave this country so we need to provide an education for their children so they can succeed and contribute to life in America.  Denying them education will only result in them becoming Trump’s negative stereotype.

Stephanie Camba, a Niles North graduate, and activist in LA, said, “I found out I was undocumented in my sophomore year when my sister applied to DePaul. She was stunned and abandoned her application and ended up at a community college. I was told not to talk about my immigration status. But I built a broad base of support from my friends in social justice clubs.” She later went on to say, “My awakening was when I was at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign and I met people who agree with what the Breitbart article. You have to realize that its actual families that don’t receive fair treatment when people label them as ‘others.’”

A range from 5-15% of the US population have been immigrants at any time, dating back to 1900, according to migrationpolicy.org. These millions of people, not Dunkin’ Donuts, run our country. Without immigrants, America would fall apart. According to Pia Orrenius, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, about 40 percent of America’s Ph.D. scientists and engineers were born in another country, but America also relies on the labor of immigrants. We need them to demonstrate the greatness of America, the power of the American Dream, that anyone, coming from any background, can accomplish great things. In order for that to happen, we need to keep them safe in school and protect them from the government intruding on their education.

Max Levavi, senior, said, “The American education system should be designed to give every American an equal opportunity to succeed, but this system is failing because the government doesn’t equally allocate its resources, making it more difficult for immigrants and most disenfranchised youth to succeed. Immigrants come here to improve their lives and contribute to America, but the school system as well other institutions are failing them.”

Camba said, “Currently the American education system is designed to make people accept their place in society. But it should be about knowledge transfer, to learn from each other. The barrier we have about learning about each other is a barrier that comes from within, people who don’t acknowledge and accept their history as immigrants themselves are the people who refuse to accept other’s experiences.”

In these times we need to fight for each other’s rights, or we will all go down individually. If this country stands in the way of educating its most motivated Americans, then America needs to be re-educated on the effects of its policies. The best way for our immigrants to build up America and make it great is through our education system.  Umar Zahiruddin, senior, said, “America as a nation is a fusion of other countries and cultures, the more countries we bring to our community the more American we can become.”


CHICAGO’S ICONIC PARKITECT: ERNEST WONG

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“The commonality that all great cities have are its public spaces” said Ernest Wong.

Wong, of Site Design Group, designs innovative and creative parks across Chicago. He follows in the footsteps of his dad who was an architect trained by Mies Van de Rohe of Bauhaus and founder of the architecture school at IIT. These parks are in such diverse locations as Streeterville, the West Loop, the Near West Side, Belmont-Cragin, Chinatown, and Bridgeport. His parks are enjoyed and loved by the rich and the poor, and by Hispanic, Black, Asian, and White Chicagoans.

Each of Wong’s parks employs recurring themes to create unique environments. Wong uses elevation changes to create intimate spaces in public settings. Wong said “The experience of going down is really important to us.  Chicago is so flat that we try to give it more topography and a different experience than the rest of the city.” Dramatic grade changes are also used to create amazing views of the downtown skyline, giving his parks the iconic Chicago feel of a movie set or fashion model shoot. Recycled unwanted materials are used to both model a conservationist ethic and to create texture and character. He employs old sidewalks to construct steps to create organic amphitheaters; repurposes old concrete foundations used as benches or to give the feel of an ancient ruin. Another feature he loves to incorporate is water. While some of Wong’s parks literally have a water feature, like a border on the Chicago River, or have sculptural arches that spray water on a hot day; others simulate water, like at the Dorchester+Housing Collaborative in Greater Grand Crossing, where he uses smooth black stones to give the impression of the calming waters of a stream.

One of Wong’s most unforgettable and beloved parks is Palmisano Park. On the edge of Bridgeport, Wong was given the assignment to repurpose an old quarry with a 40-foot deep pit and a 60-foot high scrap hill. Wong said, “We took a space that had been damaged by man made equipment, and we wanted to make sure it got restored.” Wong transformed this spent industrial blight into a magical world.  Visitors can descend a stainless steel walkway through a prairie, past waterfalls, down to the bottom of the quarry, which has been turned into a fish-stocked pond.  One can walk or lounge along the shore, or directly on top of the water on steel dock. From there, one can then ascend a tremendous hill, upon reaching the top, lie on the grass surrounded by submerged Buddist heads, enjoy an amazing view of the skyline. “This park is about discovery at any given point you have no idea of what is on the other side,” said Wong.

Another memorable park is Ping Tom Park in Chinatown. That made an appearance in the final episode in season six of the Amazing Race, which no one was able to find.  This park runs along the Chicago River. The park has dramatic paths around small hills that create a comfortable, human scale, environment while showcasing industrial bridges, the skyline, old factories and the river. There are even intimate spaces under a bypass to do tai chi or boxing. Wong said, “In doing Ping Tong park I discovered my Chinese heritage, through learning how classic Chinese parks are built.”

My favorite Park is called Park 574. Despite this park’s uninspired name, it is designed for lots of fun and contains interesting parts that are enjoyed by all. It has a playground built into the side of a 50-foot hill with long slides, things to climb on, and a zip line. On the other side of the hill, there are places to relax and sit with friends and family. This cute park located on the Near West Side is an amazing place that gives the community kids a wonderful place to enjoy.

Wong’s parks are special because they are built as dramatic yet blank canvases that all communities in Chicago can shape to their needs and enjoy. His parks are iconic and reflect the greatness of Chicago. Wong has been commissioned to be the landscape architect for the Obama Library in Jackson Park. When I asked for information about this new park he said,”One thing ingrained in the project is the connection to the neighborhood and the people’s history.” and I am positive that he will use this opportunity to demonstrate the uniqueness of Chicago to the world.


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THOUSANDS CHANT “NO BAN, NO WALL” AT AIRPORTS THIS WEEKEND

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Since the recent Presidential election, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets. The protests this past weekend took a slightly different turn as thousands across the country flooded international airports to protest the chaos caused by the unilateral Presidential action of banning refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

This executive order outraged many, so starting on Saturday at JFK airport, protesters shut down airports across the country. In Chicago on Saturday night, the road to get into the International Terminal at O’Hare was blocked by people practicing civil disobedience.

This protest was unlike many recent protests in another way: the passion of the leaders of the Arab American Action Network was palpable. Each chant was so enthusiastic that mosh pits formed in the middle of the street. Even when police officers threatened to arrest the protesters for being inside the airport on Sunday night the enthusiasm was not dampened. Marchers continued demonstrating outside the door of the terminal. Police confiscated the sound system of one group of protesters, and in response, the crowds of people increased the volume of their voices. The police confined the protesters within a cage of fences, but this did not constrict them either. They marched back and forth within the small fenced in areas and let the police know that they were still determined to march.

Some opposed the protests, feeling that shutting down international airports is not a constructive way to convey a message to the President and that working with legal defense organizations and letter writing would have been more productive.  Marcus Williams, junior, said, “I think that disrupting international airports only fuels the negative view conservatives have about protesters. I also feel that it is not effective politically. While everyone should have the right to protest, I believe that the airport protests may have gone a bit overboard considering that there has been an influx of immigration and our systems to ensure American safety is at best faulty.”

This executive order was particularly poignant to Jews across the country who saw in this ban echoes of the Holocaust. The survivors’ admonition to “Never Forget” has sparked a spirit among Jews to combat situations in the world which could lead to another genocide. The Chicagoland Jewish community attributes nefarious intent to the executive order barring refugees. In every direction in the protest, there were signs saying, “Jews in support of Immigrants” and “Never Again.”  Particularly striking was the fact that the Jewish community came out to support Muslims denied entrance into the United States, despite the Jewish and Muslim communities often finding themselves at odds over Middle East issues.

The President of the Niles North Hebrew Honor Society, Spencer Schwartz, senior, commented, “During the Holocaust, many Jewish refugees were denied entry into the United States, mostly out of irrational fears that they were Nazi spies or some other anti-Semitic reasoning. These claims were false and the denial of entry to the US cost many Jewish refugees their lives. Today, the parallel is obvious. People are, once again, being persecuted because of their religion and are, once again, being denied access to America.”

Along with the Jewish community, Black Lives Matter Chicago also came out to support the cause. The protesters took up Black Lives Matter chants demonstrating that an inter-sectional movement has been created since Trump was elected. People from all different groups are coming together to defend each other.

The mass protests show that Americans are willing to stand up for the rights of others to enter this country and to protect the safety of those coming from war torn countries. This ban will expire in 120 days, and the future for endangered refugees is uncertain.