New App Means No More Lines for Lehman Students

By Shaiann Frazier

Students using the computers at the renovated IT Center that has freshly painted blue walls. All photos by Shaiann Frazier.

A new app, LehmanQ, has made it easier for students to access the IT Center and the Financial Aid office this fall. LehmanQ is a mobile scheduling tool that allows students to avoid the hassle of long lines beyond making online appointments with these offices from anywhere using their mobile phone, computer, or a nearby kiosk center. 

On the first day of classes, many students were pleasantly surprised to find the Lehman IT Center in Carman Hall with freshly painted blue walls and the new kiosk center for making appointments.

Likewise, students visiting the Financial Aid Office were happy to realize they could make appointments online rather than having to take a ticket and then wait for service. The previous system relied on an outdated system known as Qmatic, which resulted in students sometimes waiting for over an hour in long lines at the Financial Aid Office and the IT Center.

The new system, LehmanQ, is mobile friendly. Instead of going to a kiosk or using a nearby computer, students can download a free QR code reader from the App or Google Play Store, allowing them to make an appointment from their mobile device. Once an appointment is made, students receive text alerts notifying them about their wait time and place in line. At any time, students can cancel their appointment, request more wait time, and even update their text alerts to voice calls.

A current Lehman student using the kiosk center located outside of the Financial Office.

Lillian Rivera, 21, a speech pathology major said, “I think the new system is easier, and more efficient, and less time consuming, because in the summer you had to stay on the line. But at least with the app you can do it on your phone, do something else, and come back,” she said. “It saves more time and it’s less of a headache.”

Vera Senese, Director of the Financial Aid Office, explained that the change of systems was student-driven. “The students came up with the idea and reached out to Ronald Bergmann. They weren’t happy with the financial aid system,” she said. “I jumped at the idea of a new system. It was something that I wanted to do for two years.”

After being presented with various models from vendors, the system, “QLess,” was collaboratively chosen with the help of various Lehman departments and staff.  “The model QLess seemed to have most of what we needed,” Senese said. The name was subsequently changed to “LehmanQ.”

LehmanQ was first introduced into the IT Center in the Spring of 2018, where it helped nearly 5400 students, but it wasn’t implemented into the Financial Aid office until this August. The upgrade makes a great difference there, since approximately two-thirds of Lehman’s nearly 14,000 currently enrolled students -- 66 percent in 2017 – 2018, according to Senese -- received some form of financial aid.  

Students making online appointments at the Kiosk Center to receive assistance from the IT Help Desk.

Raul Rosario, 23, a digital design major said, “A lot of people come to the financial aid office. It’s not just sitting here as before with the tickets where you had to sit and wait for a long time. Now you can do other stuff while waiting.”  

Maria Garcia, the IT Center’s day shift supervisor, said, “Our goal is to help the students as much as we can. We want to mainly help the flow of students who go to the help desk,” she said, “It’s very helpful. The students just have to adjust and get used to it.”

Ediltrudys Ruiz, Assistant Vice President of the Division of Information Technology, said, “The model is to empower students. And to help them use their time effectively and efficiently, and for students to take advantage of the time we are putting back into their hands.”

Donald Taylor, 20, a transfer student and business administration major said, “I find that it’s easy, and I like how it texts you when you’re up next.”

Janelle Kirven, a Westchester native, and accounting major said, “I think it’s good because we can see where some of our school fees are being utilized regarding the school and them trying to modernize student engagement activity.” 

Lehman Women Embrace Natural Hair

By Kimberllee Mendez

From left to right: Drumgool, Newsome, and Milan show off their hair. Photos courtesy of Dominique Drumgool, Bre’Ann Newsome, and Amber A. Milan.

“A lot of people inspired me to go natural,” explained Bre’Ann Newsome, a junior at Lehman, on her choice to wear her natural hair.  “I had this friend who had a much looser curl pattern and she stopped straightening her hair,” Newsome said. “She used to come to my house all the time and she would tell me ‘oh you need to stop getting perms,’ and I’m like what do you know? Then seeing my cousins and my best friend embrace their natural hair made me want to do it to. Embrace what I have.”

For Newsome, who went natural in July of 2016, the transition was daunting but satisfying. “Before I went natural I always permed my hair and used harsh chemicals which I’ve done for 10 years. My hair has always been processed, I did all of it,” she said. The defining moment for her was when she had to wear short hair, although at first, she had trouble adjusting to it. 

“I realized my natural beauty is all I needed.”

- Dominique Drumgool, a Lehman alum

Newsome is not alone in her choice. According to curlcentric.com, the demand for organic hair products is rising, with sales amounting to more than $750 million between 2012 and 2017, while sales of hair relaxers has dropped by more than 25 percent in the same time period.

Lehman senior and music major Amber A. Milan, who has been natural for five years, was inspired by such products, through a salon that goes by the name DevaCurl.  “My aunt found this salon that specializes in my hair texture and any other natural curly and thick hair. So, the fact that a place like that exists took my breath away,” said Milan.  With DevaCurl, she found that she was able to use products that made her hair stay curly and stylish.

For Dominique Drumgool, a Lehman alum who has been natural for six years, it wasn’t a person who inspired her to go natural, but a diagnosis. “What made me go natural in 2012 was when I got diagnosed with alopecia areata, but it was not a severe case,” she said. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease which causes hair loss in the scalp area, face area, and also occurs in other parts of the body. “I wasn’t too happy about it, but it inspired me to start my journey to having natural healthy hair.” Drumgool finalized her decision when she tried a perm and found “it didn’t work out for me, so I decided on doing the big chop.” 

Drumgool’s time at Lehman, away from her mom who previously had taken care of her hair, also contributed to her managing her own hair.” “In college I basically understood my hair more. And how to take care of it,” she said. “So, I braid and style it on my own, and have a procedure for washing and overall taking care of it.” 

Ultimately Drumgool found a greater sense of autonomy and independence in her choice. “The moment I defined my hair and said to myself this is my hair now is when I realized I didn’t need my hair to be straightened, permed or pressed,” she said. “I realized my natural beauty is all I needed.” 

Lehman Student Wins Fight against Cancer

By Kimberllee Mendez

Reyes when she started growing back her hair. Photo courtesy of Elvia Reyes.

“You feel like the world is coming to an end,” recalled Lehman psychology major Elvia Reyes, of the day a doctor told her she had breast cancer. On average in the U.S., according to breastcancer.org, 12 percent of women, or 1 in 8, will develop invasive breast cancer. Reyes, 31, a financial aid advisor for Christine Valmy International School, was part of that 12 percent.

“Around October of 2016, I first noticed the lump in my breast,” said Reyes. “I was concerned and decided to call the doctor in December, but it wasn’t until February that I got an appointment.” To receive a diagnosis, a patient has to undergo a variety of examinations to create a pathology report. This report helps doctors determine a diagnosis, what stage the cancer is in, and whether a recovery process can begin. 

Elvia Reyes with her son when she started chemotherapy. Photo courtesy of Elvia Reyes.

“In March of 2017, I was meant only to have the biopsy report, but the doctors wanted to do more tests after learning my mother had breast cancer, too,” Reyes said, “but when I was tested for a gene where it could transmit from my mom, I was negative.” Her doctor told her to expect her tests results after one week, but she received them within a few days. 

“My cancer had already progressed to stage 2,” said Reyes. Tumors are generally categorized based on five stages of progression, from stage 0, a fixed tumor that will not spread throughout the whole body and can be easily removed, to stage 4, which means that the cancer has progressed and spread to other parts of the body.

Although anybody can get cancer, it is most common in women over age 50, according to the Susan G. Komen foundation. The website also states that in the U.S., fewer than 5 percent of women diagnosed with cancer are under 40, with the highest rate seen in women over 70. Reyes, however, was only 30 when she was diagnosed. “I was so young when my cancer developed, the doctors were surprised,” she said. 

When the doctors found out her tumor was stage 2, she immediately started treatment, which consisted of surgeries and two different types of chemotherapy. Side effects from chemo can include fatigue, early menopause, weight gain, and even heart problems -- according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- and can last even after the treatment is concluded. 

“When I was going through chemotherapy, I  knew I was going to lose my hair in the process, so I shaved my whole head,” said Reyes about starting treatment. She explained she was never discouraged through treatment, and always kept a positive mind. 

In May of 2018, after a year of chemo, a nurse told Reyes, “You are cured. No more treatment.” According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for stage 2 breast cancer is 93 percent. 

“When I went to my last treatment, I was relieved,” Reyes said, “but I still feel tired even now, with everything over and done.” She remains grateful for her family’s support, and the constant presence of her son and husband. “I was very fortunate to have my family by my side,” she said, “and they were my motivation.”

Professor McCabe Brings Jesus to Lehman

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

Jennifer McCabe’s headshot. Photo courtesy of Lehman College.

“Jesus Hopped the A Train” rolled into Lehman Oct. 17 thru 20, directed by veteran actor and assistant professor, Jennifer McCabe.  “As a director I get everything from my actors,” she said. “I am 100 percent an actor’s director.”  Having grown up in the theatre, McCabe explains it is a second family to her, and she brings the strength of that bond to her directing.

McCabe has over 30 years’ experience within theatre.  The child of thespians who lacked child care, she began watching her parents’ rehearsals at the age of two.

At 13, she joined their world, and began acting onstage while playing soccer for her school team. The latter would garner her a scholarship to college, where she slowly found that theatre was her love and motivating force.  To pursue it professionally she earned an MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. After graduation she worked for a majority of the playhouses on Theatre Row, and this motivated her to become an educator.

Junior Shantelle Watkins, theatre major and business minor, said of McCabe’s directing style, “She makes sure we have a full background. Her technique helps us analyze and go deeper.”  

Senior Christine D’Onofrio, a theatre major in the Adult Degree Program, said, “She makes us feel safe.  She is able to pull things out of us. In this play, the character work is so important, we give meaning to it with Prof. McCabe guidance.” Both agreed that McCabe has brought them and their classmates into the creative process, and made them molders of the drama.

McCabe explained the idea for the production came to her in conversation with Professor Richard DesRochers, Director of the Multimedia and Theatre programs, who encouraged her to direct it for the Fall 2018 semester. For her, the most memorable scene of her most recent play is Act 2, Scene 4. “This scene feels like the final countdown.  It is very tense, and every player helps to build that tension.” She hopes that this production sheds light on what it means to take responsibility and on the extent to which we have become desensitized and disillusioned in our society.  It addresses the state of the criminal justice system, faith and forgiveness.

McCabe advises anyone interested in pursuing an acting career to know that there are many ways to participate in theatre that will help students to become better actors.  “Theatre is collaborative!  Therefore, you have to know how to work well with others.  Stay educated on the subject and its trends and purpose in society.”

Annual Medieval Festival Brings the Met Cloisters to Life

By Brittany Aufiero

Kathleen Finnegan strums a Celtic melody on the harp. Photo by Brittany Aufiero.

Tens of thousands of medieval history enthusiasts from across the five boroughs flocked to Upper Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 30 to enjoy an afternoon of free festivities at Fort Tryon Park.  The sprawling forest was transformed into a market town straight out of a medieval fantasy world -- complete with crafts, vendors, and foods common to the Middle Ages.  Festival-goers embraced the theme, many of them choosing to dress in peasant robes or knightly armor, immersing themselves fully in the experience.  In the evening, the events concluded with a group of knights jousting on horseback on the tourney field.

Fort Tryon Park is home to The Met Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that specializes in European Gothic and medieval architecture.  The museum occupies four acres of land, and its castles and bridges are visible to all guests at the fair, adding to the authenticity of the event.

This year’s festival was jointly sponsored by the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation (WHIDC) and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  The WHIDC is a private and publicly supported not-for-profit corporation which has successfully kept the Medieval Festival alive in Upper Manhattan for over 34 years.  According to their website, for the past five years attendance at the event has averaged 60,000 people.  

For many businesses and performers in New York, the festival is an opportunity to advertise their crafts and services, and to bring awareness to the public about different cultural expressions of art in order to enrich communities.  One such business is UrbanGlass, which used their platform at the festival to bring attention to their outreach program, The Bead Project.  According to their flyer, the free program “was created in 1997 to serve economically disadvantaged women living in the New York Area.”

At another booth, Fordham University advertized their Center for Medieval Studies program.  Displaying replicas of manuscripts and handwritten texts from the Middle Ages, the school used the theme of the festival to highlight course offerings most likely to appeal to attendees.

Anatolia Fire Goddess of the Mystical Muses performs an illusion act. Photo by Brittany Aufiero.

One of the festival performers, Purna Shakti, is a member of the Mystical Muses, a belly dance duo which performs internationally and displays different forms of traditional dance from India and Egypt.  Hosting their show right outside the entrance to the Cloisters, the Muses drew inspiration from the folk dances such as tanoura -- which is derived from a spiritual Egyptian dance in which the performer wears a colorful, weighted skirt -- as well as Indian gypsy veil dances, in creating their routine.  Following each performance, they posed for photos and provided hands-on instruction to spectators.

Shakti, describing her experience as a performer at the festival, said, “We love to perform! The crowds are great, and it’s fun to be able to introduce them to new forms of dance that they may not have witnessed before.”  The Mystical Muses have performed at the Fort Tryon Medieval Festival for three years and expressed their wishes of returning next year.

Kathleen Finnegan, a harpist, celebrated her tenth year playing at the Fort Tryon Fair this September.  Though she travels to many different states throughout the U.S. to play, most of her time is spent in Florida and New York.  When asked whether she believes the yearly event makes a difference within the community she said, “I have had patrons of the fair, who didn’t come to the neighborhood in the past, tell me that they come at other times of year now because they see the beauty of the park and how much the [Cloisters] has to offer.” She added, “Of course, they use the businesses in the area several times a year because of that.”  

Through good food, dancing, music, and the arts, Fort Tryon’s Medieval Festival strengthens communities by supporting local businesses and exposing New Yorkers to traditions and practices that are foreign to them.  It is a hub of cultural exchange that looks to continue for many years to come.

Gaga Wows Audiences in ‘A Star Is Born’ Remake

By Michael Omoruan

The promotional poster for the film. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The film, “A Star is Born” tells a great, compelling story brought to life by its extraordinary cast and outstanding soundtrack. Released on Oct. 5, the movie was co-written, directed, and produced by Bradley Cooper, who also stars in this modern remake of the 1937 film which featured Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. In his updated version, Cooper, known for his lead roles in “American Sniper” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, plays a rock and roll superstar named Jackson Maine who stumbles upon Ally Campana (Lady Gaga), in a drag bar.  

Aside from cameo appearances in Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills” and “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” this film marks Gaga’s first starring role, alongside acting legends Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay. Maine and Ally develop feelings for one another as the film progresses and their chemistry builds. However, Maine has a problem with substance abuse which starts to cause conflict in their relationship. 

With little to no dialogue, Cooper is able to evoke emotion. In a scene with Rez, Campana’s agent, Maine is faced with a tough ultimatum and his internal conflict is evident. Cooper also sings well himself during the concert scenes, with his gruff, old timey rocker voice shifting to belt out vocals that shock the audience. Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Campana, whose nervous, uncertain nature seems relatable and realistic.

Cooper’s directorial debut also draws Oscar-caliber performances from the rest of his cast, which includes comedy legends Eddie Griffin and Dave Chappelle. They play old friends of Maine who show up in a crucial moment of the film. Chappelle’s character, Noodles, offers advice from his time in the spotlight to guide Maine on the right path, displaying great dramatic chops.  Sam Elliott plays Maine’s brother Bobby with just enough subtlety, sharing amazingly intimate scenes with both Cooper and Gaga. One of his lines summarizes a core theme of the film, “Music is essentially any note between twelve octaves… It’s the same story told over and over. All that the artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” 

In its realistic showcase of romantic relationships, while at times satirizing the entertainment industry, “A Star is Born” is comparable to 2016’s modern musical “La La Land,” which also has a great soundtrack. If you enjoy emotional, heartfelt romantic films, definitely check this one out at your local movie theater.

Fifth Lil Wayne Album Marks Artist’s Victory over Label Clout

By Matthew Mallary

Lil Wayne and Birdman perform at the 2009 BET Awards. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

New Orleans rapper and Young Money label head Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., a.k.a. Lil Wayne dropped “The Carter V” on Sept. 28, 2018. The fifth installment of the Carter series matters because it represents the end of a tumultuous legal battle between two titans of the hip-hop world, Wayne and label head Bryan Christopher Williams, or Birdman (a.k.a. Baby). The album had languished in production for four years. Now, after an incredibly fiery public beef between the two and an equally bitter legal battle, Wayne has emerged victorious, debuting at number 1 on the overall Billboard charts. 

The conflict goes back to 1991 when 9-year-old Wayne was already writing and recording verses. This intrigued Birdman, who started a record label, the now eponymous Cash Money Records, the same year. While Wayne progressed through several rap groups, eventually carving out a solo career as Cash Money’s marquee artist, Birdman was building the infrastructure. By 2008, Wayne was synonymous with hip-hop success, and crossovers with pop artists. That year, his album “Tha Carter III,” was named the top selling rap album of the year, and won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. 

This might seem like a happy ending to a tale of two people who struggled with poverty, crime, and the lure of gang culture. However, their very success led to the dissolution of their partnership and a new beginning for Lil Wayne. 

Their conflict stemmed from the fact that Wayne also founded his own label, Young Money Records, credited with discovering major artists like Drake and Nicki Minaj, two of the highest charting and selling artists of the last decade. Though he created it with Birdman’s blessing, the question of who owned the rights to both Drake and Nicki’s catalogue of high-charting songs eventually became a main point of controversy. In 2015, Wayne sued Birdman for these rights along with unpaid contract advances promised to Wayne and his Young Money artists. 

This suit delayed “Tha Carter V” which was originally slated to be released in 2014. With Birdman unwilling to release “Tha Carter V,” Wayne began to voice his displeasure with his boss in the media. Wayne told Rolling Stone magazine in 2014 that he “and his creativity were being held ‘prisoner…’” by Birdman and Cash Money Records. In 2015, Wayne took his grievances to the studio and the courtroom, suing Birdman and Cash Money Records for $51 million in damages. He also released the single, “Sorry 4 Tha Wait 2,” referring to his delayed album, both to hold over fans clamoring for more music and to send some shots Birdman’s way. 

In January of 2017, Birdman made a first push to reconcile with Wayne. He told hip-hip hop magazine XXL that “Tha Carter V” was “definitely coming out” and that “Wayne is one of the best artists ever to do the game, and I want to see him continue to do what he been doing, and I’m going to support whatever he’s doing.” 

Finally, in June of 2018, Wayne was released from his contract with Cash Money Records. According to Lil Wayne’s attorney Ron Sweeney in a statement given to Billboard, Wayne received a purported lump sum of $10 million, as well as the rights to his music. His lawyer said, “My client is happy. He is his own man, a man that owns his assets, his music and himself.”

Wayne references his dominance over the rap game on the third song, “Dedicate” where he raps, “I started this shit, they borrowed this shit/I thought of this shit, they thought it was it.” Wayne also brings along a cast of characters from the current rap game to provide guest verses on “Tha Carter V,” with heavy hitters Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, and the late XXXTentacion, who made waves in hip-hop in 2017-2018. 

Birdman and Wayne seem to have reconciled. They appeared together at Lil Wayne’s Lil Weezyana Fest in New Orleans, where Birdman gave an earnest apology.  This is victory for artists over their labels, who possess far more money and lawyers. This was also a personal victory for Wayne and his fans, who have waited 4 years an album release. Lil Wayne fans -- the drought is over, and Wheezy is going nowhere. 

Journalists Offer Advice to Lehman’s Aspiring Journalists

By Hector Bello

Enthusiastic MSNBC journalists Daniela Pierre-Bravo, Devyn Rafols-Nuñez, Lauren Coffelt and Leonor Ayala with Director of Student Life, Michael E. Sullivan after the panel discussion. Photo by Hector Bello.

Tell new stories and be unstoppable -- this was some of the advice that three MSNBC journalists had for Lehman students hoping to work in media. Daniela Pierre-Bravo, Devyn Rafols-Nuñez, Lauren Coffelt and Leonor Ayala visited Lehman on Oct. 11, where enthusiastic students flooded them with questions about diversity in the industry and strategies for getting entry level positions. 

“One of the most important things that journalism students should know is that they can create their own narratives. The question to a journalist should be what is something new that you can bring to the table,” said Daniela Pierre-Bravo, the booking producer for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s more about making your own story more than anything, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Even though there are obstacles, there is no way that you should not make it in the journalism industry.”

MSNBC associate producer for NBC Nightly News Devyn Rafols-Nuñez emphasized the importance of writing: “The opportunities for writers in MSNBC are huge! However, it’s more pushed to the digital side nowadays but it’s the same principle. The company just hired 50 new journalists only to write. You definitely need to know how to write as a journalist.” 

Founded in 1996, MSNBC also owns Telemundo, which is a strong platform for bilingual students at Lehman. However, according to the Pew Research Center, in the last decade, “newsroom employment declined 23 percent,” a trend which might cause anxiety in college students trying to succeed in the industry.

The Chair of the Journalism and Media Studies Department Thomas O’ Hanlon, who worked for NBC for several years, explained that the panel could help students overcome these worries. “Information is valuable. It’s a new field for people that are graduating from college and to have an inside perspective such as this…is a tremendously useful thing,” he said. “Journalism is a profession that is gradually evolving. It serves a vital function in our society. I think it is exciting that there are many new opportunities in journalism and I look forward to seeing our students rise to that opportunity.”     

Lehman student Natalia Quinones, 23, a film and TV studies major, said she found the panel, “very informative. As a student majoring in film and TV studies, I found it very useful to learn more about areas in my field. I am glad that Lehman did this panel because it helps people like me.” 

Director of Campus Life, Michael E. Sullivan said, “The goal was to bring people from the journalism and media fields and have them hear the stories, know what it’s required to make it in the industry and just know what it takes to be a journalist. It was a great event for prospective journalists and Lehman took full advantage.”

CCNY Campus Goes on Lockdown After Another High School Shooter Scare

By Emmet O’Boy

The Towers at CCNY rest just a day after the school went into lockdown. Photo by Emmet O’Boy.

On the afternoon of Oct. 18, students and residents of the CUNY City College of New York (CCNY)  Towers were told via email to stay indoors after students at the adjacent A. Randolph High School reported a possible shooter on campus. According to the New York City Police Department (NYPD)’s Twitter account, the male suspect, a student at the high school, had brought a toy gun onto the campus. After a female student reported seeing the gun, the NYPD was notified, and both campuses were sent into lockdown mode. 

“The thought of [a shooting] is actually scarier than the situation itself, as I felt numb,” said Joseph Dankman, a senior at the Grove School of Engineering at CCNY. Dankman was sitting in class when he was notified of the possible threat. He added that students remained calm throughout the lockdown. He told the Meridian, “God forbid something were to happen, I would have had my guard down.”

Although the scare proved to be a false alarm, it marks a worrying trend -- American students are all too familiar with the event of a school shooting. According to Cable News Network (CNN), in the first 21 weeks of 2018, there were 23 school shootings, averaging more than one per week. 

Despite these statistics, minors are still able to get their hands on weapons, real and fake. As of 2014, the Washington Post reported that there are 30 states where a child is still legally allowed to own or be in possession of a gun. With strong political views on both sides of the table, gun control continues to fuel debate across the U.S. Meanwhile, American students have to go to school every day facing the possibility that it may be their last. 

Dankman said, “People use [these incidents] to defend the Second Amendment, and it can even be used as an empathetic route to get votes.”

Dreamers Persist Against Threat of DACA Termination

By Perla Tolentino

Dreamers and DACA supporters march in an event organized by Antonio Alarcon to protest against the elimination decree. Photo courtesy of Lidiya Kan.

Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, has yet to reach a solution either in Congress or the nation’s courts. On Oct. 17, according to the AP, the Justice Department informed the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that if the court does not rule on the case by Oct. 31, it will request that the Supreme Court do so. DACA’s termination would result in the loss of jobs, education, and life plans for more than 800,000 dreamers whom the program guarantees the same rights as naturally born U.S. citizens. While their futures hang in the balance, CUNY Dreamers are redoubling their commitment to their goals and communities. 

“I feel extremely safe at Lehman and in NYC in general. I have been living here for four years and always feel comfortable talking about my status in class,” a female Lehman DACA recipient told the Meridian on the condition of anonymity. The student, an English and History double major, praised Lehman as “a great sanctuary school where I can be myself and not be scared about my status.” 

She also believes that Lehman should advocate more on behalf of DACA students, and offer them more opportunities such as financial aid, scholarships and funding for master’s or Ph.D.  programs. “We are hard-working Americans who know no other home but this one,” she said. “I really want DACA to get legalized, that will ensure that me, my sister and our friends can work, live and study without fear of deportation.” 

“DACA provides students with federal grants. It gives them a nation they can feel a part of,” said Lehman professor, John Paul Gonzalez, from the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies. “Most dreamers who graduate obtain degrees in challenging majors such as medicine and social work.” Describing DACA as one of the best opportunities ever created, he accused Trump of “playing political games. His whole plan is an act of racism.” 

According to data released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the program has seen the number of applicants drop by nearly half. Numbers from the fiscal year of 2018 show a total of 286,247 applicants, which is only 51.78 percent of last year’s total. One reason may be that according to the USCIS website, after Trump’s order to halt the program, only renewals would be able to remain in the U.S. 

“DACA provides students with federal grants. It gives them a nation they can feel a part of.”  

- Lehman Latin American and Latino Studies professor, John Paul Gonzalez

However, DACA recipients have won many victories, including that of 24-year-old activist and dreamer Antonio Alarcon. Alarcon has been in several documentaries and his work inspires many dreamers and immigrants to continue to fight with hope and dignity. Besides joining the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at Lehman from 2016 until 2018, Alarcon has been working to help immigrants since the age 14 as part of a non-profit organization called Make the Road. 

“I worked for ten years organizing events and coordinating funds to help immigrants,” Alarcon told the Meridian. “We helped them with college applications and lawyer representation for their immigration cases.” He also pointed out that Trump’s new Oct. 31 deadline would move the case to the jurisdiction of a more conservative Supreme Court. “Brett Kavanaugh, who is an anti-immigration conservative figure is now to decide for DACA as the new judge,” he said. 

Dreamers on DC, spreading a message of hope after Trump’s order to end DACA was made official. The protest was one of the many events organized by Antonio Alarcon as part of his community work to help immigrants fight for their rights and to defend the program. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Acá.

Meanwhile, Lehman seeks to keep enrolled DACA recipients informed about new updates and their possible benefits through weekly conferences held every Friday to aid dreamers, and address immigration barriers. Lehman also hosted a Constitution Day Event to educate students on laws used to fight for DACA on Sept. 18, 2018 at the Lovinger Theatre.

“Thanks God I’m in college,” said another DACA recipient and Lehman student who also requested anonymity, “but I have so many friends and family members who can’t go to college because we don’t get enough support.” The student, a 21-year-old Spanish major, also suggested other ways Lehman can support Dreamers. 

“Mostly everyone at Lehman is open-minded and I love that, but I think there are also people who might not want us dreamers here. Lehman should bring the Dream Team back permanently, and provide scholarships for us, since they are very hard to find in other places. DACA shouldn’t be the only thing we have. It is amazing to have it, but what about everyone else who doesn’t qualify and has big dreams?”

Lehman’s First Singles Mixer Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

By Shaiann Frazier

A Single Mixer’s picture frame made by coordinators of the event that attendees could take pictures with. Photo by Shaiann Frazier.

The line leading into the Faculty Dining Hall of the Music Building stretched around the hallway  as students waited with curious faces, hesitant smiles, and much excitement for the Singles Mixer Event to begin on Wednesday May 9. “I saw the flyers and I was thinking it would be great to meet new people and get to know the people around campus,” said Efren Vaquero, 20, a double major in computer science and graphic design. Vaquero added she was “looking for more friendships and connections. I’m not seeking relationships.” 

The Single Mixers event was sponsored by the Lehman Wellness Center and the Student Government Association. Its purpose was not only to bring singles together but to also make new friends and break down the barrier of first encounters and impressions. 

 “It was just an idea that sparked in my head about people on campus who are single and need to find someone,” explained Sheridan Dunne, 28, a P.E.E.R Educator for the Lehman Wellness Center, which helps students foster healthy and balanced lifestyles. “Especially students who are always complaining about not having friends, which helps with that by putting all these people together that share at least one thing in common,” Dunne added.

“We were only expecting 60 people because we didn’t know if people were going to be interested in something like that because it’s never been done on campus before,” said Nikita Shetty, 23, a coordinator of wellness education and health promotion at the center. “And then we got 207 people who showed up, but we had to turn away people because we didn’t have any more seats available.”  

Once each attendee reached the sign-in table, they were a given a number and goodie bag filled with condoms, candy, flyers related to health education awareness, and a raffle ticket. Participants were free to sit anywhere, with each table having four seats, two post-it notes which read “Stay,” and 20 questions meant for breaking the ice with someone you were meeting for the first time.

Scheduled to begin at three, the event started late due to the unexpectedly large turnout. But once everyone was seated, discussions opened about what to expect on a first date, bringing your own money during a date, and who should pay. The conversation became very heated and decisions were split over who would pay the bill. 

After this, the mixing began. Those seated near a post-it that read “Stay” had to remain sitting, while those who weren’t had to find someone to mingle with. They then had two minutes to talk. When the time was up, the original seated person would go to a new table and mingle with someone else. The mingling stopped when a person made it across the entire room and managed to talk to almost everyone.

If an individual had found someone who peaked their interest, they had the option of exchanging numbers, with blank cards left on the table for that purpose. Dimitrios Lefas, 21, an English major, said, “I only got one number. And the process of getting the number wasn’t scary or hard.” 

Kenya McDonald, 21, a business and marketing major, said she felt the energy in the room. “I could feel how eager a lot of guys were based off of them being extra enthusiastic.” McDonald added, “It’s just a vibe I picked up, to be honest.”

Some students claimed their presence was unintentional. Christina Johnson, 20, a social work major said it was an accident that she came to the event. “But now I’m hoping to meet new people and I guess mingle,” she said, “even if it’s not guys.”

Lehman physical therapy major James Morgan, 25, also said he was there by accident. “It’s more so that I was really hungry, so that’s what got me here,” he explained. However, he said he doesn’t have a problem with talking to people, and that “dating people in college is the best, it’s pretty dope.” 

The three-hour event ended with dinner, music and a raffle in which some participants won water bottles and sweatshirts. By this time, the uncertain faces had been replaced with laughter and smiles.

Ferdinand Essizewa, 20, a nursing major, was one of those smiling. He said he enjoyed the discussion because he got to see different points of view which made socializing easier. “I got one number which was really easy because I’m a charismatic person which helped a lot.”

 

First Nation Author Maps Her Path to Healing

By Mohammad T. Khan

“Heart Berries” by Teresa Marie Mailhot is a New York Times Bestseller. Photo courtesy of Symposium Books.

Canadian author Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, “Heart Berries” explores intersecting themes of family dysfunction, mental illness, maternal and erotic love, healing, and identity. The book powerfully shows how devastating abuse is across generations.

Raised on the Sea Bird Island Indian Reservation, Mailhot says her words are “too wrong and ugly to speak,” yet she balances brutal candor with poetic detail, especially in describing her love affair and eventual marriage to Casey, a creative writing professor and father of her third child.   

Mailhot links intergenerational family dysfunction to the socially marginalized status of Indians.  At turns troubled, intimate, empowered, defiant, and poetic, Mailhot’s non-linear account uses memory as a means of coming to terms with her own trauma and her identity as a woman and writer whose life has been haunted by the foreboding sense that “Indian women die early.”

The honest and affecting memoir recounts her coming of age, marriages and recovery from trauma. Mailhot marries at a very young age as the only means of escaping a legacy of abuse and crushing poverty, having aged out of the foster care system. She has two sons with her first husband, but her eldest son is taken away from her because of her mental illness. Mailhot moves to El Paso with her younger son, gets a GED and goes to college. There she begins an affair with creative writing professor Casey, who then withdraws from her mania and what seems to him excessive demands. When they break up, Mailhot ends up in a hospital. 

In the hospital, Mailhot is told that she has post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar II, and an eating disorder. Writing is offered there as a form of therapy, and she begins writing to Casey, which becomes part of the memoir. Although Casey is not committed to Mailhot, they resume their sexual relationship and she becomes pregnant. When she eventually marries Casey, the challenges of intimacy arouse memories of being sexually assaulted by her father, a trauma Mailhot understands she must confront. 

“I inherited black eyes and a grand, regal grief that your white women won’t own or carry. I don’t think you know how I felt, and I wondered what my grief looked like to you?” 

- Teresa Marie Mailhot, “Heart Berries”

In her writing, Mailhot effectively describes intergenerational dysfunction namely her neglectful mother and abusive alcoholic and abandoning father — and its impact. “None of us attended school frequently,” she writes of herself and her siblings. “All of us had substance abuse problems, which are still welcome over the very sober pain of remembering.” Her father’s abuse leads Mailhot to mistrust her partners. 

Her mother is loving but often neglectful. Mailhot describes how her mother once “lost” her while shopping, leaving her “accidentally locked in a bathroom stall in pitch black,” after an employee cleans and locks it when the shop closes. 

Far more destabilizing, her mother leaves Mailhot and her siblings for periods of up to three weeks, causing Mailhot to be put in foster care.  The abandonment leaves her insecure, and she carries this legacy of her parents’ abusive and neglectful behavior into her own life and pays a steep price for it. 

Mailhot also never loses sight of what it means to be an Indian in a white world. Nowhere is this collision more apparent than in her relationship with Casey: “White women have always made me feel inferior, but I don’t think you know how much. All you see is me killing ladybugs, or crying, or asking you what I did. You can’t know the spite of my feelings.” Mailhot sees judgment in Casey’s eyes: she’s brutal, she’s crazy, she’s the other. She struggles with feelings of inferiority, yet she also recognizes her worth as an Indian woman:  “I inherited black eyes and a grand, regal grief that your white women won’t own or carry. I don’t think you know how I felt, and I wondered what my grief looked like to you?” This paradox is central to the memoir. Mailhot does not flinch from exposing her feelings of intense vulnerability and anger. 

The heart berries of the title refer to healing lore in Native American culture and offer crucial hope. There is much illness and pain in the book, and everyone needs a healer, most of all Mailhot. “I knew I was not well. I thought of the first healer, who was just a boy. My friend Denise told me the story. She called him Heart Berry Boy, or O’dimin.” The title reflects the themes of illness and healing that run through the whole memoir, suggesting the possibility of healing for its author, and for First Nation people.   

‘A Quiet Place’ Makes Noise in the Box Office

By Francis Merencillo

Film poster for “A Quiet Place.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“A Quiet Place” is truly an astounding film, and definitely a must watch on your Saturday night movie list. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world infested by monsters that rely on sound to hunt their prey. A catchphrase in the trailer was, “if they can’t hear you, they can’t hunt you.”

Aside from the breath-holding thrill that it provides as blind creatures hunt an about-to-give-birth Evelyn Abbot (Emily Blunt), the movie also tackles issues that modern families face today. 

Central to these is the theme of grief, as the Abbot family deals with the death of one of their youngest children, Beau Abbot (Cade Woodward), who becomes a victim of the eyeless monsters that hunt humans. The film also shows the struggles that parents have with their children, and vice versa, where communication is difficult within the world of silence the Abbot family must live in to survive. 

Although “A Quiet Place” had an estimated budget of $17 million which is considerably less than an average movie production, the film earned more than $50 million during its opening weekend in the U.S alone. 

Director John Krasinski told Variety Magazine, “Honestly, that was mostly due to the insane amount of talent we had on our crew. We had an A-level group from top to bottom.”

The movie stars real life Hollywood couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as Lee and Evelyn Abbot, alongside Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe who play their children. Simmonds, who plays Regan Abbot, their deaf and headstrong daughter is deaf in real life. Krasinski said, “I found myself asking her all the time ‘is this right?’ and she would be like ‘maybe do it more like this?’ She was not intimidated at all.” 

Because the film is silent a majority of the time, “A Quiet Place” relies on ASL (American Sign Language) for most of its dialogue — and the cast had to learn it.

Simmonds told Now This News how her role made an impact in the deaf community. She hoped the story would inspire other directors to be more creative in their works and include not only deaf talents, but also other disabled actors as well. As an advocate for the deaf community, Simmonds wants to inspire individuals like herself, and show them that they can be whatever they aspire to be and, through perseverance, can achieve anything. 

Lehman Students Fear Their Rent Will Triple if HUD Bill Passes

By Juan Vasquez

Ben Carson during his 2016 Presidential Election. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A new bill from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calls for a threefold increase in rent for Americans least able to pay. Ben Carson, the Secretary of HUD, presented the bill on April 25. If passed, it will affect fifteen percent of people living in federally subsidized housing, according to the Washington Post. The paper also stated that Carson suggested changes in housing law that would make it easier for housing authorities to create work requirements that tenants be employed to receive such benefits. The proposal has some Lehman students worried it will hurt them or their peers and families if it becomes law. 

“I believe that raising the rent will limit the chance of students trying to graduate,” says Steven Gonzalez, a psychology major at Lehman. “I know quite a few people that have to take breaks just so they can focus on their jobs in order to pay for the classes they need, not mentioning the bills that they pay for housing.” 

English major Rhue Alice, a senior, told the Meridian “a lot of [students] would lose housing, and have to scramble for alternative living arrangements. I know a few people who in the past have had to drop out of school in order to work so they could live somewhere.” 

“A lot of [students] would lose housing, and have to scramble for alternative living arrangements.” 

- Rhue Alice, Lehman English major

According to the 2017 NYCHA Fact Sheet, over 204,000 Bronx residents rely on subsidized housing. And while rent under subsidized housing is capped at 30 percent of the household’s income, only 47 percent of those households actually earn income. This means that if any sort of rent increase were to come into place, more than half of those living in subsidized housing would not be able to afford to live in their homes. This bill has not yet reached the Senate.  

“If there is a need to gain more money, taking it from the those considered working class is a terrible idea,” computer science major Adrian Moore remarked. He also stated that “such a change would without a doubt affect the tenants who would have to work under a new system like that.”

Locals Fear New Kingsbridge Development Spells Gentrification

By Perla Tolentino

The ongoing construction site viewed from the 4 Train Kingsbridge Road subway station. All photos by Perla Tolentino.

Kingsbridge residents see a construction site at Jerome Ave and West 196th Street as one more sign of encroaching gentrification. According to a January article in The Real Deal New York Real Estate News, the project’s mastermind, Alan Bell, has reserved 40 of the apartments in the Kingsbridge project for the homeless. But locals fear they will end up priced out of both the building and the neighborhood, since the ongoing construction is close to the Kingsbridge armory renovation which is expected to send rents soaring. 

“When in one of the poorest counties of NY you begin to see sudden construction of buildings of such high price, you know the gentrification phenomena has already begun,” said Leonor Santana, a Lehman senior and business administration major. She believes that gentrification is occurring and that local rents will end up being so high that only wealthy people will be able to afford to live here. 

Official sources tell a different story. A spokesperson at C+C Apartment Management LLC, (one of the contacts listed outside the construction site) told the Meridian that all applications will be processed by Housing Connect under a lottery. The spokesperson confirmed rent prices for only low-income families which represent the 60 percent of the area median income and moderate-income families which represent 90 percent of area median income in New York. For the low-income, C+C Management confirmed, $860 for a studio apartment, $923 for one bedroom, $1,114 for two bedroom and $1,281 for a three bedroom apartment. For the moderate-income, confirmed rent prices are, $1,305 for a studio apartment, $1,399 for one bedroom, $1,686 for two bedroom and $1,940 for a three bedroom. C+C Management referred clients to the NYC Housing Preservation & Development website to understand their income types and qualifications before applying. They also said a 17-car parking garage will also be built.  

According to a Jan 2016 article by New York YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard), 30 percent of the apartments will be for homeless tenants, 55 percent for low-income families and the remaining fifteen percent for middle-income families with annual incomes ranging from $51,780 to $71,760. However, this range is significantly higher than the median income of Bronx residents as a whole, which was $35,302 in 2016 according to US Census Bureau data. 

An inside look at the construction of the building that will hold 137 apartments and a parking lot located under the Kingsbridge Road train station.

Research by The Furman Center, in collaboration with the NYU School of Law and Wagner School of Public Service, shows that Kingsbridge has seen a gradual increase in rent over the past 12 years, from $1,093 in 2006, to $1450 in 2017 of median gross rent, compared to Bronx rents overall between $1,600 and $2,800 citywide. The research also revealed that in 2016, 37.5 percent of tenants had to spend more than 50 percent of household income only on rent, and that only 6.4 percent of Kingsbridge Heights/Bedford residents own their own homes. This data indicates how the vast majority of locals in this community depend on affordable housing and suggests that apartments in the new Kingsbridge project may not be within reach of many.

“Only rich people will be able to pay that kind of rent if they construct the ice rink.” 

- Bryan Diaz, Lehman computer science major and Bronx resident

Mabel Rojas, a processor for the Department of Buildings, told the Meridian that while the project is “definitely residential,” with 137 apartment units, she is “not sure if [it is] low income because the owners are private, but they might sell to the city after.” [Full disclosure: Rojas is the sister of the managng editor.] Rojas also said that the 13-story building is mixed use so the ground floor will be used for business. “They paid over 40k to the city in fees, but the overall cost is not yet determined” Rojas added. 

Lehman students’ biggest concern is how long apartments in this building will stay “affordable,” and many told the Meridian that they doubt they will be. They also believe the project is another sign of the gentrification occurring throughout many Bronx communities. 

Bryan Diaz, a Lehman Computer Science major student who has lived in the Bronx for the past eight years, is convinced that the project is lucre-focused only. Like many locals, he believes developers are trying to cash in on the renovation of the Kingsbridge Armory, which is expected to bring more business to the area. “Knowing what is about to happen to the armory, they know constructing a building for rich people is more suitable,” he said. “They know only rich people will be able to pay that kind of rent if they construct the ice rink.” 

According to a March report by Norwood News, the Kingsbridge Armory will begin its long-delayed transformation between November 2018 and January 2019. Bell told Norwood News that the Kingsbridge apartment building has little to do with the armory project. The Real Deal New York Real Estate News also states that in 2010 Bell left the Hudson Company Inc., a market-rate development company he founded in 1986, to found a new affordable housing company named B&B Urban.  However, Bell has not yet mentioned having an action plan to block the increase of rent in the area, if the armory project actually happens. 

While it is impossible to foresee its impact for sure, many Lehman students remain pessimistic. Diaz believes that developers will transform the area by building hotels catering to future tourists. “Kingsbridge will become a totally different neighborhood,” he predicted. 

Lehman Food Bank Expands from Energy Bars to Seven Tons of Food

By Leonel Henriquez

The Lehman College Food Bank opened in 2017. Photo courtesy of Lehman College.

“To be clear, this is Suzette’s baby,” says Assistant Director of Campus Life (CL) David Charcape of CL’s Associate Director Suzette Ramsundar. The program Ramsundar fostered is the Lehman Food Bank. “She has done a lot to make this program a success,” Charcape said.

As Ramsundar tells it, the idea came to her at work. Hungry students would stop by her office and ask if she had any snacks, especially in the afternoons and evenings. She started keeping energy bars and other snacks in the cubby above her desk to give to anyone who asked. From these seeds, the food bank was born.  

“The most difficult part was at the beginning,” Ramsundar says of the struggle to get the program up and running. “Getting funding and then actually purchasing food to give out. We would get goods from the N.Y. Food Bank, BJ’s, Cosco and even the Morton William’s supermarket on Kingsbridge when we ran out of stuff.” 

From left to right: Shovaine Singh, Student Coordinator for Lehman Food Bank; David Charcape, Assistant Director of Campus Life; Suzette Ramsundar, Associate Director of Campus Life and Coordinator of the H.H.L. Leadership Development Center; Lilian Yang, Graduate Assistant of the H.H.L. Leadership Development Center. Photo by Leonel Henriquez.

The food bank celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 29. It runs on a volunteer staff of three and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in room 120 of the Student Life Building. It is only for students and currently serves about 40 appointments per week. 

“We serve students by appointment after they make one online at lehmanfoodbank.setmore.com” says senior  Shovaine V. Singh, the Food Bank Student Coordinator. “They schedule their own private fifteen-minute appointment. We want students to feel secure in a no-judgment zone.” 

Lehman alum Dr. Christopher Emdin says, “It is difficult for students to think about doing homework when they are hungry and concerned that they have little or no food at home.” This concern is double in the case of adult students at Lehman. 

“When you consider that adult students around age 27 have their own family and have to consider feeding their children as well, time at school means time not working,” says Singh. “So it creates a difficulty for students to study when they have this concern on their minds that they have hungry children at home.” 

The recent purchase of a refrigerator allows the pantry to expand beyond canned goods and dry items. It now keeps some perishables, as well as fruits and vegetables, most of which come from a partnership with Corbin Hills to supply fresh locally-grown produce. Lehman alum Carlos Ortiz, now with Goya, reached out and secured a pledge of a 14,000 pound food donation.

The food bank also provides recipes for the food items donated, as well as caloric information, nutritional value and portion size. It is also looking to hold culinary workshops. “We want every student who needs help to feel that they are welcome. Any student can get food, no questions asked,” says Ramsundar. “More importantly any one can donate as well and help a fellow student.” 

Bronx Residents and Lehman Students Criticize Kanye’s Pro-Trump Tweets

By Jorel Lonesome

Kanye West performing at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

“People viewed Kanye West as an outspoken visionary who rapped about racial issues in his songs, but he has done a complete three-sixty and turned into an ignorant sell out,” says Qianna Stratton, 30, Bronx resident and paraprofessional at P.S. 134 in Hollis, NY. Stratton along with many other Bronx residents objects to the 40-year-old rapper and producer’s recent provocative statements that caused a popular uproar. 

On April 25, West tweeted a photo of himself wearing a Donald-Trump-signed “Make America Great Again” hat alongside hip-hop music industry executive Lyor Cohen and the CEO of Universal, Lucian Grainge. West expressed his love for Trump in a series of tweets stating that he considers Trump “his brother.” West then tweeted about “free thought,” stating that he does not always necessarily agree with everything people do. “That’s what makes us individuals,” he said, “and we have the right to independent thought.”

Four days prior, West had tweeted his admiration of Candace Owens, a black activist and Trump supporter who believes black people have been brainwashed by the media to vote for democrats. “I love the way Candace Owens thinks,” West tweeted. The rapper also debated Hot 97’s Ebro Darden for 30 minutes, and continued expressing his support for Owens. A week later, in a TMZ interview on May 1, West told his interviewer, “when you hear about slavery for 400 years...for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” 

Since Kanye West’s seventh studio album in 2016, “The Life of Pablo,” little news had been centered around the celebrity until the Pro-Trump issue started. West’s upcoming album, titled “Love Everyone,” is currently set to be released on June 1, 2018, and many Bronx residents believe West will say anything controversial for media attention to stay relevant. 

Kanye West at Lollapalooza Chile in 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“He acts and what he does is an act. He feeds off controversy and likes the publicity,” said Ryan Esquivel, Bronx resident and program coordinator for The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU.

Some Lehman students think West’s mental breakdown during his career has affected his opinions. “Kanye has a lot of problems," said Sadou, inventory specialist at Best Buy, and student at Lehman. “I think it all began from the loss of his mother, which he can’t get over, and I think his opioid addiction and the people he hangs with has affected his thought process,” he continued. “Kanye is causing uproars on Twitter to promote his next album, but he doesn’t need to tweet by the minute about his love for Trump to get attention.”

West’s pro-Trump support has received backlash from African-American communities because the president has made racially charged comments and is associated with anti-black policies which have been documented for years.

“People viewed Kanye West as an outspoken visionary who rapped about racial issues in his songs, but he has done a complete three-sixty and turned into an ignorant sell out.”

- Qianna Stratton, 30, Bronx resident and paraprofessional at P.S. 134 in Hollis, NY

In a New York Times article “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List,” from Jan. 15, 2018, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick compiled racist remarks Trump made publicly. They state that “Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant, saying “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”

The article also states that according to the federal government, Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites. 

“Supporting Trump implies you agree with the things he’s done,” said Anna Spencer, 28, security guard at Allied Barton. “Kanye’s appreciation for Trump shows that he doesn’t care for the racist things Trump has said about African Americans during his career as a businessman and politician.”

Anaïs Marcelo, Bronx resident and store associate at Modell’s Sporting Goods in Pelham, NY, dislikes West. “With so many people saying his writing and producing is excellent, this is probably true. I don’t care for his style of music, and his public persona rubs me the wrong way,” she said.

“I think Kanye is an interesting artist,” said Lloyd Richards, Jr., music counselor and student at Lehman. “I don’t believe in what he said in terms of slavery being a choice on TMZ. I think he wants attention leading up to his album. He makes good music, but I just don’t agree with the things he says. Everyone has the right to his opinion, but Kanye does not state the facts about history.” 

Spring Break Service Trip Broadens Student’s Horizons

By Shaiann Frazier

Shanel Spence and Lehman L.I.F.E on first day of the trip before heading to the community of San Jose de Garcia in Nicaragua to volunteer. All photos courtesy of Shanel Spence.

“I’m more appreciative of the small things I took for granted. This experience humbled me,” reflected Shanel Spence, 22, a biology major and Lehman senior on her seven-day trip to Nicaragua. Born and raised in the Bronx by parents originally from Jamaica, Spence interns at Cavalry and Mount Sinai Hospitals with hopes of becoming a pediatrician. She also mentors incoming freshmen through Lehman’s SEEK Program which provides assistance to college students in need of academic and financial support.  

Spence with three doctors, Lucelia Quiroz (right), Dr. Karelia Torrez (middle) and pharmacist Carmen Pineda (far left) on the last day of volunteering in the community Santa Teresa in Nicaragua.

On Apr. 2, Spence boarded a plane to Nicaragua with 25 peers on another aid mission, this time to help people without access to adequate medical care. The trip happened in collaboration with an organization known as Global Brigades, an international non-profit organization that uses holistic models to meet communities’ health and economic goals. 

Shanel Spence on day three of volunteering before arriving to the community of Santa Teresa, in Nicaragua, for the first time.

Spence’s spring break trip to Nicaragua happened through a stroke of luck. “I actually planned to go to Florida,” she said. However, through Lehman Life, an organization that provides service opportunities to Lehman students, she was able to attend the trip.  To afford the journey she had to raise roughly 2,000 dollars to cover her expenses. “I didn’t have difficulty in raising the money,” she said, “because I had a lot of support and people who wanted to donate.”

Spence and her team volunteered in San Jose de Garcia and Santa Teresa, two communities in Nicaragua. There her day began at six in the morning, with breakfast by seven and a bus that left at eight for the “compounds,” which she first found overwhelming. “I was nervous, I didn’t know how to feel because it was a new experience for me.” 

Spence learning how to detect a UTI in female patients while shadowing one of the doctors, named Dr. Ramos. 

Spence was not used to the lack of basic services she found in that part of Nicaragua. There was little to no water or access to sufficiently sanitary bathrooms. “When I got there, it was a whole cultural shock for me. We had to use hand sanitizer every time we went to the bathroom. And at one point there was just a brick and wooden stall outside.”

Spence quickly learned how to appreciate how easy her life was compared to what locals were enduring. “It was a tough situation to adjust to, because where I come from I’m used to having hot and running water.” 

At the compounds, she worked with a team of eight doctors to assist roughly 400 patients. The compounds were divided into six sections: the GYN, physical therapy, the pharmacy, triage, consultation, and the dental area. “My favorite part was the triage because that’s where the most interactions with people happened,” said Spence. 

Her patients were a variety of ages with numerous ailments, the most common of which were UTI’s, meningitis, and hypertension. “Observing the GYN doctor changed my mind about what path I wanted to pursue in the medical field,” she explained.

Spence also developed an unexpected friendship with a 7-year-old girl who arrived at the compound for dental issues. “She was so mature for her age. I wondered to myself how does a little girl have such a good mindset. And then I realized that they’re raised differently,” said Spence. 

Spence’s day ended at five with dinner at the hotel, where she and her peers reflected on their day.  Spence made two close friends on the trip, “Binto and Alimata. We always checked on each other, [and] all of us who went on the trip together got a chance to learn about each other.” 

Spence with a young girl in the triage, who wanted to know how the sphygmomanometer works. And Spence allowing the young girl to test the instrument on her. 

When it was time to go back home, Spence said, “I was actually sad about leaving.” The trip made Spence want to revisit the compounds in the summer. She is also thinking about pursuing a career as a doctor serving similar communities. The youngest of two children, Spence will be the first college graduate in her family. After graduation, Spence plans to take a gap year to study for the MCATS and apply for medical school. 

“I appreciate what I have more than did I before,” she said. “These people don’t have much, but they still appreciate the life they have and they live. And I feel like we take that for granted every day.” 

Lehman Women See Their Dreams Through

By Kimberllee Mendez

Dream Come True painting by Deborah Nell.

Since she was five, Lehman senior Jennifer Ramirez’s dream has been “to have a career in music. It’s always been something that I hold close to my heart and soul, because I love it so much. It’s when I can put out all my hurt, pain, anger and happiness altogether and just let flow.” To get there, she is getting “an education that will lead me to where I need to go.”


According to The Lehman Value 2016, women make up 67 percent of the student body. 40.3 percent of them are the first person in their family to go to college. 55 percent are from the Bronx, where only 16.2 percent of residents have a college degree, according to statisticalatlas.com. However, numerous students told the Meridian that they are letting nothing stop them from achieving their goals.

Astrid Lorenzo, a Lehman senior, said she is not letting the hardships of being a Latina woman get in the way of what is important to her. She is meeting her goals, she explained, “by never limiting myself and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. How to make a dream a reality has everything to do with the right frame of mind, how clear the goal is.” 

Her dream, she added, “is to become an entertainer, writer and a girl boss.” She added, “I’m always keeping myself involved in all areas of arts and entertainment which includes modeling, music, acting, dancing, photography and even fashion design.” 

Other Lehman women found that networking and community outreach are keys to their success. To reach her dream of her career at a nonprofit, “that works to midget the effect of climate change and other social justices,” Lehman sophomore Nira Rahman is studying environmental science and interning at a nonprofit organization. “It’s giving me a lot of background on how a non-profit operates,” she said. “What I like best about it is that it brings me closer to the community and also closer to politicians.” 

Likewise, Lehman senior and journalism major Natalia Quinones has been interning with Bronxnet and applying for internships outside of school. “My plan,” she says, “is to find a job and apply everything I’ve learned in school and from the internships that have led me to a position I see myself doing long term.”

Having a role model in her family has also pushed her to achieve. Quinones is following in her mother’s footsteps by attending college. Her mother earned her associate degree in the Dominican Republic and was a teacher for eight years.

“I’m scared honestly about what’s going to happen after college,” Quinones said, “but I’m searching for jobs and internships. I just know I’ll find something. Just having a positive attitude and knowing that the American Dream is possible through hard work and dedication.” 

Other students have had to take a different path than the one their families envisioned for them. Shaine Perea, a junior at Lehman College, is the first of two children going to college and her family wanted her to be nurse since many of her family members are nurses. However, Perea found nursing wasn’t for her, and she fell in love with Recreational Therapy. When she told her parents about what she really wanted, they didn’t agree to it at first, but as time passed they knew they couldn’t force her to like a career she didn’t have a passion for. 

Perea says, “I plan on earning my bachelor’s in Therapeutic Recreation, and then take my CTRS exam to become certified, and also working in long term care facilities helping those in need, maintain and improve their physical, emotional and social well-being.” She also intends to go back to school to be a certified as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. 

“There are a lot of hardships in my path,” Lorenzo acknowledged. “Being a female, a minority while at the same time trying to get an education, handling a personal life, work, a social life, mental health and staying determined with the ever-changing times can be very difficult. But never impossible.” 

Show Asks Whether Time Is Running Out

By Mohammad T. Khan
 A photo from A Collaboration with Time-Deterioration series, by Robert Farber. Photo courtesy of Hexton Gallery.

A photo from A Collaboration with Time-Deterioration series, by Robert Farber. Photo courtesy of Hexton Gallery.

The exhibition “Tick Tock: Time in Contemporary Arts”, which opened at the Lehman College Art Gallery on Feb. 20, 2018, shows time from the perspective of different artists within multiple genres from the mid-nineteenth century to today. The exhibition presents a range of media, including oil-on-canvas, sculpture, photography, video, mixed construction and installations. The artists’ representations of the importance of time in our daily lives and even in our dreams provide the exhibition’s overarching theme. The show’s quality is inconsistent, especially because some of the work is controversial or experimental. Some of the pieces, such as “Sunday Afternoon,” by John Carlin and “blow up 273 -the long goodbye” by Kysa Johnson, were evocative, but many were unstimulating, such as Laurie Simmons, “Walking Pocket Watch II.” 

Two artists from the nineteenth century show how the experience of time changes as a person grows older. In “Boy with a Clock,” oil on panel, Carl Haag shows how a child experiences time. A little boy plays with a clock undisturbed by time constraints. In “Sunday Afternoon,” using oil on canvas, John Carlin depicts how the passage of time differs for three individuals. Through a scene from a rustic family’s everyday life, the picture shows how time progresses for people in different life stages. The young boy playing outside seems to be enjoying his time. For him time is going by slowly. The viewer gets an impression that for the woman in the house time in the moment is precious, because she is lost in a book. The old man in the home looks like his time went by too quickly. He is looking away from his family, perhaps reflecting on his past and his body language shows that he is not engaged in the present. Both artists have used an accessible representational style of painting typical of its time to show how time is experienced in our lives.  

The artist Robert Farber’s work shows that a person’s beauty fades over time. His “A Collaboration with Time-Deterioration Series” are two deteriorated archived fashion photographs of models from 1980 and 1981. The two photos smudged very badly as the photos deteriorated naturally over time.   At one time, the pictures probably looked nice. The picture in 1981 looks more attractive than the one in 1980. It looks very bright. The picture in 1980 looks hideous because, due to the photo’s deterioration, the woman’s face looks like a monster from a horror movie. This photo also looks darker than the one in 1981. Both, however, show that glamour and beauty, like the medium Farber used, are defenseless against time. 

Other artists explore the idea that time should not be wasted. Mary Engel has made a sculpture of a dog composed of watches, wire, mesh, and fabric in “Sleeping Watch Dog.” The dog seems to be relaxing, wasting its time by not doing its guard duty. Alexandra Forsyth Martinez has formed an open hand-blown hourglass out of white sand in the “First Instance (The Beginning).” The sand at the bottom of the hourglass demonstrates that time has run out. Its two companion pieces show an unexpected progression. In “Second Instance (The Middle)” and “Third Instance (The End).” Martinez adds black sand — using ashes — inviting us to reflect about time running out. The three hourglasses lead us to contemplate time itself differently and whether everything should be done before the deadline, considering we all become ashes in the end. Steven Spazuk’s “Ticking Bomb,” and “Stopping Time,” are made of soot on paper mounted on panel. “Stopping Time” shows an object sitting on the clock’s hands that causes time to stand still. “Ticking Bomb” conveys how important time is when a bomb is set to blow up, but also serves as a metaphor for time running out. This art is all highly conceptual. Their representations of time are confusing but thought provoking.

Each piece has its own unique way of commenting on time, and attempting to capture how each of us has a meaningful relationship to time. However, the exhibition did not address some concepts of time, such as prioritizing time management. Despite a few unimpressive pieces, this exhibition is likely to please most patrons, who are sure to enjoy the diversity of the art and the representations of time.