Category Archives: Multi-media

What Does The Easter Bunny Have To Do With The Resurrection Of Christ?

Like any Christian or Catholic would agree, Easter is a day of attending Sunday morning mass, getting together with family, having dinner at a preferably earlier time than usual, indulging in lots of candy and hollowed out milk chocolate Easter bunnies that the “Easter Bunny” left in a basket, and of course, to top off the festivities, participating in an Easter egg hunt comprised of hidden hardboiled eggs that were dyed with food coloring just a day or two beforehand.

There are even mass Easter egg hunts held for children in certain neighborhoods around New York City. Easter is supposed to be the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. Christians believe that Easter marks the day that Jesus Christ was resurrected after spending three days in his tomb.

In the Christian/Catholic world Easter is supposed to be one of the most holiest days of the year and I really don’t see much religious tradition that goes into Easter besides waking up a little earlier to attend Sunday morning mass. The resurrection of Jesus Christ seems to get overshadowed by American icons like the Easter Bunny and classic holiday materials like the Easter bonnet.

Dying Easter eggs is more of a tradition than actually reflecting on the death and resurrection of Christ. But I guess the same sort of analogy can be made for Christmas, an equally epic day on the Christian calendar that commemorates the birth of Christ. On Christmas, the birth of Christ gets overshadowed with figures like Santa Claus, traditions of putting up a decorated tree, and the joy of giving and receiving presents. Christians and Catholics take the meanings of these sacred holidays very seriously, but it doesn’t show at all through the way these holidays are celebrated. There are probably tons of Christians and Catholics that only attend mass on the day these holidays occur on as opposed to all-year round – I like to call those types of people “commercial” Christians and Catholics.

Maybe I’m coming down too hard on these different sects of religions, but coming from a Catholic-Italian family, I think have the right to make these observations. Even though the forty days of Lent is preparation for the commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, the true reasons for the existence of holidays like Easter and Christmas are usually never embraced outside of the classic holiday mass.

On the other hand, the eight-day festival of Passover that commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt is celebrated with strict religious tradition, value, and discipline. Passover is one of the best-known Jewish holidays and the Jewish people take the history behind Passover very seriously and it shows. The first and last days of the holiday are the days in which no work is permitted. On the first two nights of Passover a significant meal is held called a Seder. The Passover Seder is a ritual banquet, which reenacts the Exodus. Unlike Christian and Catholic traditions on holidays like Easter, everything that Passover represents is essentially brought to the dinner table of a Jewish family.

But, hey, apparently Christians do give meaning to famed Easter traditions like the Easter egg. The egg is supposed to represent a symbol for new life and resurrection.

Brooklyn College Offers Free Peer Tutoring

Brooklyn College's Learning Center located at 1300 Boylan Hall

What many Brooklyn College students don’t know is that there is a Learning Center located at 1300 Boylan Hall, representing the culmination of a 30-year effort on the part of Brooklyn College.

Although the Learning Center is visible from the central entrance of Boylan Hall, many students tend to miss it, which is unfortunate because the Learning Center is one of the campus-wide academic assets that offers free peer tutoring and general advice on coursework across the curriculum. The Center is also stocked with computers and useful reference materials.

The Learning Center is a vast space that can accommodate up to 200 students at once. The Center provides one-on-one or group hour-long sessions of tutoring in writing, ESL (English as a second language), core courses, and dozens of other courses including foreign languages, mathematics, economics, and accounting.

“We have an ever-expanding ESL population at this school, which I tell everyone is a complete misnomer because English really is not the second language for a lot of these students, it’s their third or forth in some cases and they have the biggest obstacles to overcome, obviously. But because they have those obstacles, it also seems to make them work harder,” said John Cottrell, one of the several Master Tutors at the Learning Center, who basically oversees everything relevant during tutoring sessions.

“We [the Master Tutors] do a lot of paper chasing, in a sense, and public relations, if you will, for lack of a better term,” he said. Sometimes the Master Tutors even fill in for the regular tutors if they are absent.

The Learning Center typically carries out 14,000 tutoring sessions involving 3,000 students every year and a study of the Learning Center found that these students remain in college longer, pass standardized test more quickly, and achieve a higher grade point average than non-users.

Most of the workforce at the Learning Center is made up of students, both undergraduate and graduate, who have excelled in the respective subjects that they tutor in. Tutors must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher in order to tutor in their respective subjects. Other tutors are also adjuncts, retirees, and even volunteers, who have been recommended by one of their professors.

Core tutors will either work with students one-on-one or in groups during scheduled hours, but the writing tutors strictly work with students one-on-one in order to brainstorm for a paper or work with a student to develop a concrete thesis statement. In order to see a writing tutor, it is best to schedule an appointment because walk-ins are not always guaranteed a session.

Under the latest director of the Learning Center, Richard Vento, new modifications have been made to the Center for the better.

John Cottrell works as a Master Tutor at the Learning Center

“To Rich’s credit, he can just come in and rearrange everything immediately,” said Cottrell.

Last year I worked as a volunteer tutor in writing at the Learning Center under Master Tutor John Cottrell, so I’ve experienced first hand what the environment of the Learning Center is like. It’s a useful resource and the tutors at the Learning Center are there to help, not to judge.

In my experience as a tutor, I’ve found that students often think that they can sit back for an hour and relax, while the tutor edits and further develops his or her paper, which is definitely not the how a tutoring session is supposed to go. The more a student puts in to a session, the more he or she is going to get out of the session. “I think the students who use the Learning Center to their advantage definitely benefit from it,” said Cottrell. Here are some useful tips I have devised in order to get the most out of your tutoring session experience.

If you want to inquire about the Learning Center, it’s open Monday through Thursday 10 AM to 7 PM and Friday 10 AM to 3 PM.

NYPD: Wrong Nine Times Out of Ten

There is no doubt about it that New York City police officials use the stereotypes of certain groups of people in order to determine whether or not those people pose a threat to society. And when you think about it in that way – it makes sense.

Many times police officials have to act on instinct and use their judgments in order to keep the city safe, but when it is completely blatant that the NYPD singles out and accuses, specifically, black and Latino people of having committed a crime or that they are about to commit a crime – there is a serious problem.

The phrase “stop and frisk” refers to the authority of a police officer to stop and search a person for concealed weapons without a warrant. The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy raises major concerns when it comes to racial profiling and basic privacy rights.

According to an analysis devised by the New York Civil Liberties Union more than two million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2010 – black and Latino communities were the vast majority of where these degrading searches take place.

Every year the police stops hundreds of thousands law abiding New Yorkers and nearly nine out of 10 times those people were completely innocent. According to NYCLU, in 2010, the police stopped 601,055 New Yorkers with less than probable cause. An outstanding 517,458 (86 percent) of those people were innocent, 317,642 (53 percent) of those people were black, 190,491 (32 percent) of those people were Latino, and 55,083 (nine percent) of those people were white. Do you see the pattern?

The problem seems to be that many of these “stop and frisks” are completely unconstitutional and a violation of basic human rights. With absolutely no probable cause NYPD officials get away every year illegally stopping, questioning, and humiliating hundreds of thousands of people – primarily blacks and Latinos, according to the numbers.

In order to justify such high and blatant numbers, police officials propose that they are just doing their job and acting under suspicion. I would agree with the stop and frisk policy if the NYPD was right nine out of 10 times instead of wrong nine out of 10 times. This policy is clearly based on racial profiling and there is no doubt about that.

It appears as though this “stop and frisk” policy just broadens on the notion of the “broken windows theory.” The broken windows theory is a criminological theory that was introduced 1982 article written by social scientists George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson and it was published in the Atlantic Magazine.

The central theme of the broken windows theory holds that when neighborhoods appear to be broken down or in a state of disarray, those neighborhoods will directly attract crime and anti-social behavior. The broken windows theory is not saying that broken down neighborhoods cause crime, but that they just attract crime. But the theory never really explicates on what causes the crime. And maybe this is why so many stop and frisks occur in underserved New York City neighborhoods like Brownsville and Bushwick where the majority of residents are of black and Latino decent.

It is interesting how the NYPD used the March 2, 2011 shooting in Bensonhurst, a Brooklyn neighborhood of primarily white decent, in order to exemplify the restraint of the NYPD. Derek Gallo, 33, fired eight shots from his Glock 9-millimeter pistol at the police – the police surprisingly did not return fire.

It’s times like these where one would think the NYPD has a right to return fire when they are blatantly being shot at. One to many times you hear stories of the NYPD blasting 40 bullets into a black man who was only pulling out his wallet, mistaking it for a gun.

Peter King Seeking To Root Out Muslim Radicals

Peter King, the New York Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has opened now-historic hearings into Islamic radicalization in America on Thursday, March 10, 2011.

King claims that it is because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that gives him such passionate drive in rooting out Islamic radicals among the Muslim-American population. This requires the participation and the cooperation of the entire Muslim-American community. King has grouped Islamic radicals together with the Muslim-American community, in turn, unfairly stereotyping an entire group of people, which is why many Americans view these hearings as unconstitutional.

However, if al Qaeda is recruiting alleged “homegrown” terrorists in the United States, something obviously has to be done in order to prevent this threat of national security. I just don’t  see exactly what Peter King’s hearings are going to do in order to prevent acts of terror. These hearings link the concept of terrorism directly to Muslim-Americans and even isolate this group of people from the rest of America. I don’t see how King is going to get the Muslim-American community to “cooperate with him” in rooting out Islamic radicals when he is essentially labeling and segregating an entire group of people and linking those people to the same types of people he is seeking to root out.

King told CNN, “I have no choice, I have to hold these hearings, these hearings are absolutely essential,” he said. “There are elements in that community that are being radicalized, and I believe that the leadership, the leaders of that community, do not face up to that reality. Too many cases are not cooperative, not willing to speak out and condemn this type of radicalization that is going on.”

Peter King’s actions have been compared to those of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunts and the Japanese internment camps during World War II, which I could see where people are coming from when they make these analogies, but I think that would be taking this situation to the most extreme point.

We live in a country that is forced to be politically correct – so politically correct that it seems that people do not even have the right to free speech anymore because when people say what they really want to, it automatically makes them bigots or racists, which are words many people have been using to describe Peter King.

King claims that the purpose of holding of these hearings about radicalization in the Muslim-American community is to alert the

New York Congressman Peter King

people of America that there has been a change in strategy by al Qaeda to recruit and radicalize Muslim-American in the United States and to generate support in the Muslim-American community in order to get more responsible leaders to come forward and cooperate with these efforts.

As a New Yorker who has experienced first hand the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I am as sensitive to the topic of terrorism as anyone, but I can’t help but see these hearings as a political ploy by congressman King. I honestly see them as a waste of time, because I don’t see anything positive or progressive that would come out of them. If anything, only negatives will come out of these hearings and it will only increase the tension between the Muslim-American community and rest of America. This country still has not learned that not all Muslims are terrorists. I’m not saying that this country should not be focused on the issue of alleged “homegrown” terrorists in the United States, but I don’t think these hearings involving the entire Muslim-American community are a tactful way to handle this crisis.

There should be hearings going on about issues such as, health care and access to education in the United States.

Bloomberg Fails His City

New York City snowstorm of 2010 stumps Mayor Bloomberg

The brutal New York City winter of 2010-2011 took a tremendous toll on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which lead many New Yorker’s to question his leadership skills or lack of them when approximately 18 to 24 inches of snow hit the pavement, completely putting the city at a halt for days.

“The world has not come to an end,” said Bloomberg. “The city is going fine. Broadway shows were full last night. There are lots of tourists here enjoying themselves. I think the message is that the city goes on.”

Well, maybe Bloomberg is right in saying that the city goes on for the tourists, but what about the taxpayers who fund the city whose streets were not plowed for days after the snow fell. Bloomberg announced that a reduced Department of Sanitation workforce manned 2,700 city plows, but the only streets that seemed to get plowed were major avenues and by no means was the plowing immediate.

This powerful blizzard with wind gusts at approximately 60 mph began on a Sunday and the plowing of major streets didn’t even begin until Tuesday. This massive snowstorm had the ability to shut down roads, airports, and mass transit systems, which stranded thousands of travelers for hours. But there is no doubt about it that it was the city to be blamed and not the snow. There is no excuse why it took days for the city streets to be plowed, which also constitutes as a severe hazard. Bloomberg told the people of New York to only call 911 for emergencies, but the whole city was in a state of emergency.

There were dozens of stalled and abandoned cars and buses all over the city, which did block some snowplows, but that alone was the city’s excuse as to why no streets were getting plowed. The fact is New York City knew this snowstorm was coming and Bloomberg decided to mobilize his efforts just hours before the snow fell. It astonishes me that New Yorker’s had to spend the night dirty, freezing subway cars because of snow on the tracks. This is New York City, we’ve had snowfalls before, and it should be apparent by now that New York City requires specific preparation and planning when a snowstorm is about to hit. This past winter’s snowstorm was not to be taken lightly, but it was, and the only person to blame for that is the man himself – Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

NYC: An Obstacle Course For Cyclists

I’ve been behind the wheel and I’ve been mounted up on a bicycle cascading through the busy city streets, so I have a pretty good idea of what a cyclist goes through as he/she dodges aggressive drivers, pot holes, and roadside debris, and what a frustrated driver goes through as he/she is forced to go five MPH behind a sauntering cyclist smack dab in the middle of the street.

There are rules of the road for cyclists and drivers alike and if those rules were followed by both, bicycling wouldn’t be so dangerous, because let’s face it, a car can kill someone on a bicycle and not the other way around.

The New York City Department of Health estimates that over a half million New Yorker’s ride bikes and the bike culture continues to boom in NYC. Many city streets do not have specific shoulders for bike lanes so this causes cyclists to bike alongside and cut in between automobiles – some of these cyclists do this without even wearing helmets and some of these cyclists ride in the night time without headlights or reflectors, making it hard for a driver to even see them.

Biking is certainly a major way to commute in NYC, but if there are no bike lanes it’s not really the bikers fault if they are cycling in the middle of a busy street – but it’s not so smart either. As a licensed driver, I’ve been stuck behind a casual biker many times and there is really nothing you can do about it. The driver is forced to go five MPH behind a biker and cause traffic for everyone else. These cyclists never show any signs of remorse that they are holding up a line of 10-15 cars. They’ll never turn around to see what’s going on behind them and they’ll never go up on the sidewalk to let the cars pass, but they can surely hear the horns of several different cars beeping simultaneously.

Bikers and motorists have practically the same responsibilities when it comes to the rules of the road, but the ones I personally find that do not obey these rules are the cyclists. Many times the cyclists don’t even follow their own rules. When there is a bike lane, the common rule is that the bikers bike the same way of the traffic. Sometimes there are bikers coming from all different directions in a narrow bike lane, which makes it dangerous for all bikers involved and dangerous for the motorists.

Many times bikers think that the streetlights don’t apply to them, but it’s important for a bike to yield when a red light is coming up – if not, this is how accidents happen.

Everyone on the road – whether you are biking, driving a car, skateboarding, running – should know the rules of the road and follow those rules. Riding a bike on the streets of NYC is not a leisure activity; it’s practically an obstacle course full of death traps. Know your roads and how to ride them.

Bike safety 101:

“How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?”

Muslim woman praying in a mosque.

There is no doubt about it that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the majority of the American populous’ view toward Arab Americans and Muslims severely changed for the worse, and this is true even more so in New York. Post 9/11 was worse a time than ever to be an Arab living in New York City.

If you were living in New York City as an Arab woman wearing a hijab or an Arab man with a long beard while the wounds of 9/11 were still fresh, you were looked at by everyone else as the enemy – as a terrorist. This is an unfortunate, but true statement. Racial profiling towards Arab Americans spiked up higher than ever before after 9/11, especially within the confines of airport security.

Although almost a decade has passed since that dreadful day that will forever be ingrained into the lives of all American citizens, the stereotypes of the Arab and Muslim race seem to still persist.

A USA Today poll from 2006 showed that 39% of Americans admit to holding prejudice’s against Muslims. In the 2007 spring issue of the Journal of Human Resources a study was shown displaying that the earnings of Arab and Muslim men dropped 10 percent after the 9/11 attacks.

In 2008, Moustafa Bayoumi, an Arab American and associate professor of English at Brooklyn College published “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem,” a book which depicts the stories of several Arab Americans and their struggle living in the USA post 9/11. This book was extremely controversial.

Moustafa Bayoumi, author of "How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?"

There is no doubt about it that being an Arab American living in the USA and especially in New York City is difficult since people of Arab and Muslim decent are linked directly to terrorism. Although the terrorists were of Muslim decent, Americans need to realize that not all Arabs and Muslims are in fact terrorists.

Some Americans believe it is wrong and disrespectful for Arab women to wear their traditional hijabs and some Americans are extremely uncomfortable and uneasy when they are about to get onto a plane and they see an Arab man on his knees praying, but unfortunately it is extremely difficult to change people’s minds and these are sad facets that Arab Americans are struggling to live with today. Sometimes those very prejudice’s call for Arab Americans to assimilate more with the American culture by abandoning their own traditions and norms just so they are not looked at as a terrorist.

It looks like it is going to take a long time for the prejudices held against Arabs to dissipate completely.