Nine Apps to Help You Ace Student Life

By Deirra Francis Stevenson

Students rely on their smartphones. Photo courtesy of

In just seven years, access to digital devices has risen substantially, with 77 percent of Americans using smart phones in 2017, according to a Pew Research Center report, up from just 35 percent in 2011. Smartphone use is nearly universal among younger adults, the report adds, with 92 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds now owning one. We asked Lehman students what apps they find indispensible to navigate their lives both on and off campus. 

Dropbox, an all-purpose storage and transfer app, syncs your files to its cloud the moment they’re uploaded, as well as all future changes. “Dropbox is a great way to transfer files to others,” says Lehman student John Rodriguez. “If you forget your phone or document at home, it’s in the cloud and can easily be accessed through an internet connection.” The versatile app serves a variety of devices from Windows desktop to Mac laptop and Android phone. 

During those long nights when you’re stuck on an online quiz or a hard to answer textbook question, Quizlet makes relentless studying a little less overwhelming. Whether it’s robotics or Shakespeare, this flashcard app is a lifesaver, helping students with both studying for tests and homework assignments. 

LinkedIn is a networking platform for working professionals. It lets you create an account and upload your resume to showcase your skills and job training.  “Instead of just saving connections you’ve met throughout your professional life, actively engage with contacts by liking, sharing, and commenting on their activity,” states

Banking mobile apps, Zelle and Venmo, come in handy when students have limited time to find the bank of their choice. Zelle is easy to use because of its three choices: send, request, and split money. However, if the recipient doesn’t already have Zelle it will become a task to activate the sending option, though most banks do offer it. Venmo likewise can be used to split a bill, pay back friends, or purchase products and services. The app is free if you send money from your Venmo balance, debit card or bank account, while a 3 percent fee is added for credit cards. Receiving money and making purchases, however, is free. 

Whether you attend college far from home or around the block, safety can be a major concern. An app that makes friends and family as well as students feel safer is SafeTrek, an emergency signaling app. If you feel in danger and there is either no time to make a phone call or you don’t know your exact location, you can open SafeTrek, depress and hold a button, and if you don’t enter a pin number in 10 seconds, the app sends your location and an alarm signal to the police. Jashera Nalls, an Africana Studies major at Lehman who walks to the bus station late nights after class, told the Meridian, “I take precautions such as talking on the phone with my dad and carrying pepper spray. What about if something happens and my dad can’t get to me fast enough? An App that has a buddy system until I’m home would be great.” 

For students running late or just looking for alternatives to public transportation, Uber and Lyft are convenient solutions. “The option to share rides makes the cost lower than an already reasonable price,” says Lehman student Jocelyn Carson. “You have the option of sharing a ride with another passenger whose destination is along your route.  I use Lyft for my early Saturday class when trains aren’t running their usual schedule.”

The everyday challenges of student life can take a toll. To help students relieve stress, psychologists and educators created a mindfulness meditation app called Smiling Mind. It’s a great energizer bunny for the mind that helps users create a balance between mental health and their studies. “It helps that this app is free,” says Lehman film major Shanese Latiya. “I listen to it during in the morning after my alarm wakes me up or during a crowded train ride in the day. In this day and age people are consumed with social media first thing in the morning, but for me, Smiling Mind helps to focus on living my best life rather than what others are doing.” 

Lehman Students Find Self-Expression in Bold Hair Colors

By Deirdre Fanzo

Dyed hair and the positive feedback it draws from others can greatly increase people’s confidence and self-esteem, argues Masey White in USA Today College. While a conservative viewpoint might tie colorful hair to a lack of professionalism, today’s reality is that dyed hair is an expression of personality that does not detract from a person’s work ethic. “My expression of my individuality is not something that affects my work ethic or skills,” White asserts. This notion is clearly shared by many members of the Lehman community, who use colorful hair to express themselves.

Hayong Lau photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. All photographs by Deirdre Fanzo.

Business Administration major Hayong Lau dyes her hair a soft purple, almost periwinkle color. She told the Meridian that her hair color expresses that she is “just crazy and I don’t care.” She added, “I just want to have fun.”

 Jasmine Joseph photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. 

Jasmine Joseph photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. 

Jasmine Joseph is an English and Africana Studies double major, whose hair is currently a deep, vibrant shade of red. She says she wants the color of her hair to express that “I just don’t care about what other people think.”

Waverliey Torres photographed in the Lehman College Underground Radio club room.

Waverliery Torres is a biology major and a member of the Lehman College Underground Radio. Her hair resembles the sunset and is a colorful combination of orange, blonde, and pink. Torres stated, “I’m a very artistic person… I enjoy color combinations. I don’t think hair should be boring…I believe your hair should be a creative outlet.”

Abirami Rajeev photographed during an overnight class trip to the Washington DC area. 

Math major Abirami Rajeev told the Meridian that she has dyed her hair many different colors. Right now, it is a dark green shade. Abi stated that she originally started dying her hair because she desired something that was “a little different. Now, it’s more expressing my general state of mind.” She added, “I associate green with nature and serenity and it’s a part of my life I’m trying to get more in touch with. Plus, I just love the color green.”

‘Devilman Crybaby’ Delivers a Hellish Reincarnation of a Classic Manga

By Juan Vasquez

Cover of “Devilman Crybaby.”
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

At its core, Netflix’s new “Devilman Crybaby” is a bloody, perverse, visceral masterpiece that appeals to the ear and eye. A 2018 reboot of the classic anime-nasty “Devilman,” originally released in 1972, this modernized take directed by Masaaki Yuasa is filled with freestyle hip-hop, drugs, graphic sex, and gore. 

The plot follows Akira Fudo on his quest to save humankind from demons. With some help from his friend Ryo Asuka, Akira merges with a demon and becomes the titular Devilman as he visits a drug filled, sex crazed nightclub.

The shining gem of this new “Devilman Crybaby” is how faithfully it adapts the original manga while introducing a modern twist and a few plot alterations. One such change is the addition of a track team subplot. While I must admit that the subplot seems like a weird addition to the dark, ultraviolent world of Japanese Manga artist Go Nagai, I came to like it and was shocked to see how it added to the plot and setting. Similarly stunning is the more savage killing of a certain main character. While the death in manga was certainly gruesome and leaves quite the mark with you, “Devilman Crybaby” kicks this up to an eleven. 

The animation quality is also a cut above your average anime production. The animators at Science Saru clearly put a lot of effort into “Devilman Crybaby.” While there was one scene that may have been animated in Flash, creating a downgrade in animation quality, the studio made sure that this limited OVA (Original Video Animation) series was a feast for the eyes. 

This leads to my one criticism of the series: this is not an anime that you can watch with your family. There is a ton of graphic sex, graphic death scenes, casual nudity, and enough diabolical themes to shake a stick at. If you are planning to watch this anime in public or with sensitive friends and family, my one piece of advice would be: don’t. 

While viewers may want to advise the utmost discretion while watching this series, Devilman Crybaby is not to be missed.   

Bronxites Tackle Discrimination in XFL Revival

By Jorel Lonesome

XFL logo. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Vince McMahon is relaunching his ill-fated Xtreme Football League (XFL), and many Bronx residents object to its new discriminatory rules and what some see as McMahon taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook. 

“I think this is just his Donald Trump maneuver where Vince persuades the masses to get people interested then over time he’ll walk away from it,” said Bronx resident Raquel Brahmbhatt, 29, cashier at Gamestop on Greenwich St in Manhattan. Brahmbhatt believes that McMahon and Trump have similar approaches to gaining an audience for their shows. “Right now he’s a salesman, a clever businessman. So right now he’ll say whatever gets people’s attention.”

This will be the second time McMahon tries to get his extreme league off the ground. The original XFL debuted—and then failed—in 2001 as a joint venture between WWE and NBC. XFL’s gimmicks included fewer rules, rougher play, scantily clad cheerleaders, cross promotion with pro wrestling superstars, and innovative use of technologies during games, including player microphones and aerial cameras. However, fans quickly soured on the poor quality of games and focus on eccentric personalities. 

On Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, McMahon, the chairman and chief executive of WWE, announced his plan to relaunch the XFL. The reboot will be owned by McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment, a separate company from WWE. As he continues to revive the XFL, he will remain in his current position with WWE. This updated XFL will have eight teams, 40-man active rosters and a 10-week regular season schedule followed by playoffs. Its quicker, “family-friendly” version of football will limit games to about two hours. 

However, McMahon also created new standards this time around, including a ban on players displaying their “politics” during games, a policy many Bronxites say is unfair, especially the rule against kneeling during the national anthem. In the XFL, players must stand for the national anthem, a practice McMahon sees as an opportunity to gain NFL fans who have expressed dissatisfaction over the ongoing player protests against racial injustice.

“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon told ESPN. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.” McMahon also stated that he will not allow players with criminal records to join the league.  

Some Bronx residents and workers argue this is opportunism and that it’s going too far. “Vince McMahon can always change the rules around,” said Bronxite Stephen O’Hara, 41, a retail sales associate at Home Depot in New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York. “I think he will reject players with criminal records that involve assault and domestic violence charges. The DUI and marijuana charges shouldn’t rule someone out. Violence, on the other hand, is a different story. I personally don’t want to see athletes that beat their wives, making thousands or millions of dollars for games that they play.”

Bronx residents also see McMahon’s decision to ban athletes that have criminal records from the XFL as hypocritical since the WWE chairman allows wrestlers with a rap sheet to work for him. “It’s contradictory of Vince McMahon to be annoyed at NFL players for having ‘politics’ interfere with the games and then have rules that are basically ‘no politics unless they’re mine,’” said Bronx resident Nicolás Cruz, 28, a cashier at Hot Topic in Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Brooklyn. “With that rule applied to WWE there’d be almost zero wrestlers on the roster. Wrestler Scott Hall was arrested years ago for choking out his girlfriend after falling into a drunken rage. Hall shot a man with his own gun and admitted that he killed him.” 

Fellow Bronxite Daniel Weeks, 33, a volunteer at National Parks Conservation Association in New York City, agreed. “Wrestler Randy Orton might be one of the top stars of the WWE right now, but he has been suspended by the company for violating their wellness policy,” said Weeks. “Randy got arrested for going AWOL many times in the Marine Corps, and disobeyed orders from a commanding officer. He went to military prison for it.”

Kevin Draper argues in the New York Times that “McMahon is following, President Trump’s lead on politics as well as showmanship.” He points out that “Trump, who has denounced N.F.L. players’ protesting racial injustice by refusing to stand during the anthem, has long been involved with the McMahons and W.W.E. Linda McMahon, Vince’s wife, was appointed by Trump to run the Small Business Administration on Feb. 14th, 2017.” 

“Trump has also hosted wrestling events at his properties,” Draper adds, “and has been involved in the showmanship, once shaving McMahon’s head in the middle of a ring. Trump was also involved in an alternative professional league in the 1980s, owning the New Jersey Generals of the short-lived United States Football League.”

While Draper states that McMahon had not consulted with Trump about the XFL, he notes that McMahon’s “ban on politics during games would extend to the president’s positions.” 

Bronx native Nathan Daniels, 26, a Remote Computer Programmer at Euro-Pro Operating LLC in Boston, MA, agrees that McMahon is backing Trump’s positions. “I think Vince McMahon’s ideas or rules for the XFL are linked to his relationship with President Donald Trump,” Daniels said.  “McMahon and Donald Trump worked together for years. Trump was a part of WWE’s main event storyline at WrestleMania 23 ‘The Battle of the Billionaires story arc.”  

It remains to be seen whether McMahon’s new XFL venture will gain more traction than the original version. McMahon expects the XFL League to start play in 2020, according to the New York Times.

MTA Moves Lehman Students at a Snail’s Pace—at Best

By Hector Bello

Lehman College students exiting the 4 train at Bedford Park Station. Photo by Hector Bello.

Lehman students have not seen any relief in subway delays and service suspensions, despite an MTA announcement in July of 2017 that promised improvements. This hits many Lehman students hard, as the MTA’s dysfunction often penalizes them as they try to get to class on time. 

Danny Rodriguez told the Meridian that he has, “found it challenging to explain to professors why he’s late to class because the subway delays excuse is too commonly used.” Since most professors include a class policy that penalizes students for arriving late, Rodriguez is not the only with this problem.

The Meridian conducted a poll of twenty-three Lehman College students which showed that 84 percent travel to school via mass transit, and that 47 percent have had to explain to their professors the reason for lateness. Nursing major Trinidad Rodriguez says, “I spent almost two years trying to explain [to] my professor why I was late.” Our survey also revealed that 39 percent of students reported being late several times a week because of train delays.    

Lehman’s absence and lateness policy states that students can be absent twice with no penalty. But after their first two absences, students’ grades can be affected, and this in turn can also affect their eligibility for financial aid benefits. 

Doctor Sarah Ohmer, a Lehman professor of Latin American Studies and African Studies, says that after the first two absences, “you start losing five points for every time that you miss class. If you have three tardies that equals one absence. So, if you’re on that subway that is late then it will not affect your grade until it happens several times, then you have to be accountable for lateness.”       

37 percent of students surveyed also consider train delays when choosing their classes. Some do not schedule morning classes because they fear they may not make it on time due to the MTA’s dysfunctional system. Those that do told the Meridian that they must schedule extra time for their trip to school. “For afternoon classes I don’t really care about the train schedule but for morning classes I give myself maybe an hour and a half to make it to school,” says biology major Valentina Castellon.    

“If I bike to school, it will take me less time to make it to school than if I take the MTA.” 

- Business Administration major Michael New

However, one insider was at least optimistic about future improvements. David Alvarado, a contractor for the MTA, said the chance of delays, “depends [on] which train you take. While I find the four-train to be always crowded and in delay, the D-line takes me wherever I need to go fast and efficiently.” He added that many of the delays can be attributed to the advanced age of the trains. “Every time that the train is delayed it is being maintained. You cannot compare a hundred-years-old train with trains such as the one in France or China that are only forty years old … The older the train is, the more maintenance it needs.”

Alvarado noted that Joseph J. Lhota, the new MTA director, “has worked in train systems in Europe and Asia… [And] he plans to bring the same efficiency here to the United States. Let us pray that he improves train traffic in the city.”

Until these improvements happen, though, students are left paying the price—and looking for alternatives. Business administration major Michael New says, “If I bike to school, it will take me less time to make it to school than if I take the MTA.” 

Parkland Shooting Leaves Lehman Students Doubting Campus Safety

By Hector Bello

Unguarded entrance to Lehman. Photo by Hector Bello

“If it can happen in Florida, then it can happen over here in any college in New York too,” said Lehman Biology major Carelitza Fernandez about the shooting in Parkland Florida. Fernandez explained that her fear increased following this Feb. 14 incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 students. “Of course, I am concerned that something similar can happen in our school,” she continued, “because on average there are at least two school shootings a week in the U.S.” 

Many blame the high rate of shootings on the lack of laws regulating gun sales. Even for people that need psychiatric help it is easy to acquire semi-automatic weapons.  According to, “As much as 40 percent of all gun sales are undocumented private party sales that do not require a background check (aka the “gun show loophole.”)

 Along with renewing the national debate on gun control, the Parkland shooting had many Lehman students feeling unsafe, especially since at Lehman only two out of the six entrances are guarded. “It is absurd how anyone could walk through Lehman,” said Lehman business major Jesus Hernandez, “The question is, is our school prepared for an emergency like that? I feel like we should be more cautious and raise awareness. Yes, I am concerned. I believe that we should have an action plan in case of an emergency.”     

Although she noted that the campus entrance she uses is guarded, Lehman nursing major Angelica Olivares seconded her sense of potential threat for “other people like women in the night time…it is dangerous and it should be guarded. To be honest, yes, every day I am concerned because anything can happen on this campus.” 

Lehman computer science major Alex Mayi expressed mistrust of safety mechanisms in general. “You know, sometimes campus security officers are not so efficient when dealing with things like guns and rifles,” he explained. He added, “I know that gun laws in New York State are a little bit better and can protect us a lot more, but it is definitely still a threat and something that we should be constantly vigilant about and make drills for it to keep our campus safe.” 

Lehman Students Denounce Lack of DACA Deal

By Shaiann Frazier

Protestors stand with DACA. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Nearly two weeks after the Trump administration’s legislative deadline passed, the future of over 700,000 immigrants remains in limbo, and Lehman students continue to demand their renewed protection under legislation known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The White House had designated March 5 as the deadline to reach a bipartisan deal on the bill, but two federal judges, in California and New York, issued injuctions on January 10 and February 13 respectively that block this deadline. While this gives those covered by DACA more time to apply for extensions, it also leaves them worried about their future in America. 

Tapanga Perry, 18, a freshmen and nursing major at Lehman, said, “I feel that people’s DACA shouldn’t be taken away because everybody has the right to live the American dream. And it wouldn’t be right to send people back.”

DACA was an executive order created by former President Barack Obama back in 2012. It allowed undocumented immigrants to legally reside in the US for two years without the fear of deportation. Under this order, immigrants received background checks and were given two-year renewable permits that allowed them to receive an education, secure legal jobs, and obtain valid driver licenses. 

To be protected under DACA, immigrants had to be between 15 and 31 years old when submitting their request, and to have been residing here since before June 15, 2007 as mandated by the Department of Homeland Security. This past September, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, and gave Congress six months to negotiate a deal that would keep those under DACA free from deportation and protect border security. As the March 5 deadline came and went, neither Republicans nor Democrats managed to come up with a passable bill.

Both parties proposed bills that ensure the pathway to citizenship for most immigrants, but Trump rejected them. A bill needs at least 60 affirmative votes in the Senate to pass, as well as an affirmative majority vote in the House before it reaches the president’s desk, where he may still veto it.

“The fact that a deal hasn’t been reached saddens me because I feel that [DACA] is an opportunity for people to be able to advance in their lives and get a better education.” 

- Frances Latalladi, 42, a Lehman senior and journalism major

As the law now stands, those under DACA will continue to reside in the U.S. until their work permits have expired. New applicants who applied before September 5, along with renewal applicants that were processed before October 5, can remain in the U.S. Now that the issue will be taken up in the court system, those who couldn’t make the deadline have a temporary reprieve, but must still live in fear for their long-term future.

George Abraham, 22, a junior and business administration major at Lehman said, “It’s depressing, these are families you’re talking about who are being treated like they have no values. There’s no remorse.”

According to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, 983 undocumented immigrants protected under DACA could lose their protected status every day, and nearly 30,000 people could be deported each month for the next two years if Congress fails to reach a deal.

The most vulnerable group under DACA are the “dreamers,” a term used to refer to people covered under the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2001, which offered legal status to undocumented immigrants in return for attending college or joining the military.

According to a report from the Migration Policy Institute in 2014, over 241,000 DACA immigrants were enrolled in college, and nearly 57,000 of them had already earned a bachelor’s degree. 

Frances Latalladi, 42, a Lehman senior and journalism major, stressed how vital this opportunity is for many Dreamers. “The fact that a deal hasn’t been reached saddens me,” she said, “because I feel that [DACA] is an opportunity for people to be able to advance in their lives and get a better education.”

Bryan Diaz, 21, a computer science major at Lehman, agreed. “I feel like there’s many [dreamers] that need an opportunity in life,” he said. “And by getting deported they are being deprived of it.”

Michael Anti, 22, a computer science major at Lehman who was born in Ghana, also questioned the logic of the Trump administration. “I have a friend who’s under DACA and he’s a nice person,” he said. “And I don’t see why they would want to deport somebody like him, he’s contributing to society, he has a goal, and he wants to do something good.”

Lehman College Mourns the Loss of Yoryi Dume

By Deirdre Fanzo

Students and faculty write their final thoughts to Yoryi on a board dedicated to his memory. Picture courtesy of the Office of Prestigious Awards. 

On the afternoon of Jan. 31st, Joseph Magdaleno notified the Lehman community via email that Yoryi Dume, a senior at Lehman, had passed away over the winter break. The email did not disclose a cause of death. This news came as a terrible shock to students and faculty members, many of whom had forged close relationships with the young scholar. 

“The amount of love he had for people is shared throughout. We all loved him as deeply as he loved us.” 

- Hilliary Frank, a Lehman chemistry major

Dume entered Lehman in the fall semester of 2014 as a member of the Lehman Scholar’s Program, a demanding program that requires its students to take on a rigorous course load and maintain a high GPA. Dume was an enthusiastic student who had no trouble with these requirements. He approached his studies with determination and set the bar high for the other students in his classes. 

Dume spent much of his time in Lehman’s Office of Prestigious Awards (OPA) where, according to its director, Professor Augustine, “he was a very good mentor to many people. Yoryi was like everybody’s big brother. He had big dreams.” It was under Augustine’s mentorship that Dume applied for his very first scholarship, which he was ultimately awarded. Dume had hoped to attend Duke University for graduate school where he would have continued to pursue an education in Latin American Studies. 

Dume also spent time studying abroad in Brazil. He fostered a great love for Latin American Studies, and his time in Brazil allowed him to celebrate this passion. According to Augustine, “Travel was where [Yoryi] found his happiest moments.” 

Memorial service for Yoryi Dume. Picture courtesy of Jennifer Mackenzie.

On Feb. 1, faculty and students gathered in the OPA for a memorial for Dume. The following day, a separate memorial service was held in the Student Life Building. In the OPA, those who had gathered wrote letters to Dume, which were placed in a box that now holds a place of honor in the office. His professors and peers also shared thoughts, memories, and anecdotes of their times together with him, and there was not a dry eye in the room. 

Students Helina Owusu-Sekyere, a biology major, and Hilliary Frank, a chemistry major, knew Dume closely through time spent together at the OPA. Owusu-Sekyere said he “was a wonderful person. He was very determined.” Frank and Augustine both emphasized that “he was always there for you.” Frank added, “The amount of love he had for people is shared throughout. We all loved him as deeply as he loved us.” 

For Lehman Students, Plastic Is the New Christmas Green

By Leah Liceaga

A Christmas tree lot ready for the holiday season. Photo courtesy of

“To me you’re taking away from nature every time you cut down one of those trees just to have it in your home, or anywhere else,” Christine Auiles, a Lehman English major, explained of her choice to get an artificial tree for Christmas. “They last longer, it’s more durable, [and] you can put it away until you need it.” She added that she does not feel it is necessary to have a live tree at home for Christmas when it will only last a couple of days.

For many Lehman students, like Auiles this holiday season, going for plastic was the greener and more affordable choice. According to Diffen, a website that makes comparison that people worldwide can add to and update, the price of a mid-sized artificial tree can average $100, while a real tree of the same size costs $40 to $50. A fake tree is ultimately better in the long run. The artificial tree will also last up to ten years and require less care than a real tree, which would have to be replaced every year.

Home Depot charges anywhere from $70 to over $200 for an artificial tree, depending on size and appearance -- for example, a tree covered in fake snow or already outfitted with Christmas lights would cost more than a simple artificial tree. While the real trees Home Depot sells are cheaper in the short term, over a period of years, buying multiple real trees becomes costlier than buying one artificial one.

“We got a fake tree,” Sandra Matos, a Lehman English major said of her Christmas tree choice this year. “The prices were better, and we needed one quickly.”

For other students, the issue was not price but durability. Lehman College junior, Laura Leonardo, said her family “used to get real [trees] when I was younger, but my family started getting fake ones when I got older because we got too busy to really care about Christmas like that…a fake tree, and reusing it seemed more practical.”

Buying a plastic tree gets around another problem that has increased in recent years -- a shortage of trees. Due to the recession in 2008, many people who grew Christmas trees either went out of business or had to decrease how many they grew. Since trees take a decade or so to grow, there was a shortage of Christmas trees this year.

“There is a touch of an undersupply," Doug Hundley, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association told Newsweek. Drought in the Pacific Northwest also shares blame for the shortage. GWD Forestry -- a company that offers direct investment into sustainably managed agroforestry plantations internationally -- predicted the recent droughts and wildfires in North Carolina and Oregon could keep the tree shortage going until the year 2025. It also noted that the amount of Christmas trees being planted across the country has dropped dramatically; falling from 5.6 million in 2010 to 3.7 million in 2015.

Once the holiday season is over, real Christmas trees are usually thrown out, though some are recycled. From Jan. 2 through 13 of 2018, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) collected real Christmas trees left at the curb and turned them into mulch to be used for the city’s parks, community gardens, and institutions. They also encouraged those with gardens to use as much of the tree as possible for mulch. The remainder of the tree could be taken to MulchFest at city parks to be chipped, or left for the DSNY to collect.

Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ Aims High but Falters on Gun Control

By Jorel Lonesome
 Logo of Marvel’s “The Punisher.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Logo of Marvel’s “The Punisher.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Las Vegas Shooting on the night of Oct. 1, 2017 left the upcoming Netflix series “The Punisher” at the center of much controversy. Following the shooting, which left 58 dead and at least 527 wounded, Netflix and Marvel canceled the preview panel for the upcoming series at New York Comic Con and delayed the release of the show until a month later.

The show as it was finally released wants to be more than just another absurd action fantasy. What distinguishes it from other gun-saturated franchises is that it aims to be grounded in real-world 21st century American issues, and whether vigilante justice is ever justified. Though it attempts to critique the consequences of vigilante justice, and tries to include a debate about gun control, it does not provide the right conversation about central issues in the current national conversation. While the writers attempt to address gun violence in America, they fail to capitalize on the issue, and the series largely fails at questioning the violence portrayed in some of its episodes. Despite this weakness, however, “The Punisher” is an excellent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sharing continuity with the films and other television series of the franchise.

Its weakness on gun control is evident in episode 9, “Front Toward Enemy,” which tries to introduce a debate about Americans’ right to bear arms, but ultimately lacks the credibility to make the overall message meaningful.  The plot has the character Lewis Wilson (Daniel Webber), a young veteran who has difficulty readjusting to civilian society, eventually resort to terrorist actions, planting some bombs throughout the city as part of his pro-gun, anti-government agenda. Following this is a debate on character Ricky Langtry’s (Dov Davidoff) radio talk show between Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and pro-gun-control Senator Stan Ori (Rick Holmes.) This debate is the weakest part of this episode. Senator Ori wants more gun-control laws, a stance that Karen, who carries a gun for protection, opposes. Rather than let the characters have a genuine debate about aspects of the issue, the show reduces Karen and Ori’s positions to a basic pro- vs. anti-gun debate.

The problem with this framing is that their debate isn’t the argument people are having in the real world. Politicians aren’t asking to abolish the Second Amendment. They want to close loopholes in background checks to prevent troubled people from purchasing weapons. They’re also asking for practical gun laws such as banning semiautomatic weapons and attachments such as the bump stocks that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to fire 90 shots in ten seconds.

The series tries to be cleverly ironic when Ori stresses he’s totally against guns, but hires Anvil, a governmental security company of armed guards, to carry guns protect him from retaliation by Lewis. Still, disarming trained security guards isn’t what the actual gun debate is about in America. The thought of mainstream politicians trying to take away everyone’s guns is illegal, given how often that conspiracy theory is used as a topic in anti-gun-control propaganda. “The Punisher” doesn’t need to address the issue of gun ownership. Ultimately, it only adds social commentary without tackling the actual debate.

Similarly, the series fails to resolve its depiction of Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) and his crusade of vigilante justice with any significant challenges to his violent worldview. Supporting characters, Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) encourage Frank’s vigilantism. Likewise, despite her loyalty to the law, Homeland Security Agent Dinah Madani’s (Amber Rose Revah) shows sympathy for Frank after he saves her from a car accident, though she remains suspicious that Frank is not that different from Lewis. Meanwhile, Karen supports Frank’s habits. “We must not tolerate those who use violence to communicate,” Karen writes in her featured article about Lewis, but this very critique of violence being used to solve problems isn’t a message that Frank seems to understand.

Aside from the gun control issues, however, “The Punisher” series triumphs and remains strong. Frank is an unstoppable force, and when it comes to the people he cares about, he will give up his sole mission in an instant. If you want to see intense action and drama, this is one of the best shows on Netflix to watch.

What Tops at Anime NYC

By Juan Vasquez

The first annual Anime convention hit New York City last Nov. 17-19. Held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, it featured some eye-opening participants who collectively made for a jubilant overall success. Here is what topped out at Anime NYC.

The Cosplayers

 It is never a convention without cosplayers! Many of them went all out, even when compared to the extravagant works seen at New York Comic Con. Despite Anime NYC being an anime-oriented con, many of the cosplayers came from all four corners of the pop culture world.

The Vendors

Anime NYC had a few dozen vendors, each of them offering unique items of interest to the con-goers.

The Creators

Conventions like Anime NYC give a voice to up-and-coming content creators. Many of the artists at Anime NYC were largely indie artists and manga (Japanese, or in this case, Japanese-style comic).

New Tax Laws Will Hit Lehman Students Hard

By Thomas Behnke

The proposed tax bill would take away interest deduction on all student loans. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“It’s not fair,” Erica Mejia, a Lehman senior, said. “My family made just too much [for me] to qualify for aid, so it’s all on me. It’s bad enough we have to go into debt to get an education. Now even the little breaks are being taken away.”

Mejia was lamenting the passage of the Trump administration’s wildly unpopular tax plan, passed by the Republican Senate in the early hours of the morning on Dec. 2. Experts say the bill will make students’ lives harder and their pockets emptier. While it raises taxes for the middle- and lower-classes, it gives substantial breaks to large corporations and the wealthiest in the nation.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will add over a trillion dollars to the deficit.

Particularly hard on students are provisions within the bill that eliminate any deductions on student loan interest. According to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), “Seven in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower.” The site lists New York student debt as slightly below the national average ($27,842). The Department of Education’s Federal Student Loan page lists interest on federal loans ranging from four to seven percent. Interest paid over the life of a loan --  typically 10 years -- can be from $4000 to over $11,000.

A Quinnipiac poll reports nationwide approval of the tax plan at just 29 percent. Lehman students voiced their disapproval of it as well.

“How are we supposed to pay these loans when they are raising our taxes, and eliminating deductions?” Meija said. “I’m going to have a degree, but I’m not making a hundred grand out of the gate.”

“I don’t think this administration is interested in public education at all,” Jose Areas, a Lehman sophomore, said. “They aren’t interested in people who aren’t like them, who don’t have the means.”  Areas’ brother is currently paying off over $45,000 in loans and is working as a commercial mover.  “He worked full-time and went to school, too. He got his degree and, really what he should be doing is internships, but three months after he graduated, bang, there’s a bill in the mail. He can’t afford not to get paid.”

Citizens protest GOP tax bill. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Forbes Magazine reported CBO statistics for the tax bill. By 2019, people earning less than $30,000 will be paying almost $10,000 more toward the budget deficit in either increased taxes or decreased services. The bill has provisions in it to end mandatory health insurance requirements, which the CBO reports will ultimately cause insurance premiums to skyrocket.

Gabriel Garcia, a junior at Lehman put it succinctly, “I’m graduating in 2019. Last election was the first one I could vote in. I didn’t have a say in the mismanagement of the government’s money. I didn’t give millions of dollars to corporations who ran to the Bahamas with their profits. I know I have to pay back my loans, but how am I responsible for the rest of the government’s debts?”

Bronx Success Story Ends in Tragedy

By Zoe Fanzo

Lowell Hawthorne, Golden Krust founder and CEO. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“He was the quintessential Lehman student -- determined and dedicated to his family and community,” President José Luis Cruz said in a statement mourning the loss of Lowell Hawthorne, founder and CEO of Golden Krust Bakery & Grill, and a 2016 Lehman graduate. He also called Hawthorne “an icon of the Bronx, the borough in which he launched his extraordinarily successful company.”

Hawthorne, 57, committed suicide on Dec. 2 inside his Golden Krust Bakery and warehouse in the Bronx. The New York Post reported that Hawthorne had evaded millions of dollars in taxes and feared the implications of a federal investigation. According to a family member, in the hours before his suicide Hawthorne was exhibiting strange behavior and “talking to himself.”

Born in Jamaica, Hawthorne came to the Bronx in 1981 and studied at Bronx Community College, later working as an accountant with the New York Police Department. In 1989, he opened the first Golden Krust Bakery on Gun Hill Road, using money that his family pooled together after he was refused a bank loan.  When he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, he served as a student speaker at the commencement ceremony. Today, his fast-food empire has more than 120 locations in the U.S., selling its beef patties to more than 20,000 supermarkets, various school systems, the penal system, and the U.S. military.

The death of Hawthorne and the tragic ending to his Bronx success story has the Lehman community reeling.

“I always react when I hear about suicide, especially because of the lack of access to help. Mental illness is so important to talk about and represent, but there are so many cultural and racial stigmas that it should be repressed or remain unspoken,” said Lehman senior Mena McCarthy, an English literature major, and chemistry and biology double minor, in reaction to Hawthorne’s suicide.

Al Alston, a friend of Hawthorne and owner of a Golden Krust Bakery in Queens stated that his death was “more than unexpected -- it's out of character,” according to the New York Post. Alston described Hawthorne as “an upbeat guy,” and called his passing a “tragic loss.”    

The Golden Krust company released a statement the day following his death, affirming, “Our hearts are broken, and we are struggling to process our grief over this tremendous loss. Lowell was a visionary, entrepreneur, community champion, and above all a committed father, family man, friend and man of faith.”

Lehman Students Anguished by Libyan Slave Trade

By Shaiann Frazier

West African migrants are prime targets for Libyan slave traders. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“As an African, I feel those who have been taken into slavery are my brothers and sisters,” said Felix Mwake, 32, a teacher at Lehman’s Child Care Center. Mwake, who was born and raised in Kenya, was referring to the slave trade in Libya, where migrants and refugees -- mostly young people from sub-Saharan countries -- are being sold as farm laborers via the same smugglers who brought them illegally into the country.

After CNN footage surfaced in November showing two young Nigerian men being sold as farm laborers for $400 a piece in the city of Tripoli, many reacted with disbelief. For Americans, these slave auctions are reminiscent of those that plagued the Americas centuries ago, when Africans were taken from their homeland and forced into slave labor.

However, many Lehman students told the Meridian that they are deeply distressed, but not surprised, by the news of this new slave market. Tashana Allen, 23, a political science major, said, “What is going on in Libya is very heartbreaking. To see that many West Africans are not only hoping for a better life, but are willing to journey across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, then to be denied their right to life is beyond devastating.”

As a result of increasing cooperation between the EU and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) inTripoli, the number of migrant arrivals in Europe has dropped dramatically. From August to October, arrivals in Italy, the main entry point, have dropped by more than 8 percent. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of migrants getting trapped in Libya, where they are exposed to human rights abuses. In a report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,500 refugees and migrants died in the beginning of 2017 compared to the 3,262 refugees who had died the previous year. The report also stated that the rate of mortality would be one death for every 50 people who make it to Italy.

In a 2016 report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the likelihood of dying en route between Libya and Italy was one in 23. Currently, 47,000 migrants have reached Italy from countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, and Gambia.

According to a report published in August of 2017 by the IOM, migrants from Niger are the most represented nationality, with 59,000 en route to Libya. Migrants from Chad are close behind, numbering 49,000.  All of them face the possibility of being auctioned off into forced labor.

Many commentators blame the current slave trade in Libya to the violent ousting of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and the instability that followed his death. In October of 2011 he was killed following the NATO bombing of Libya. Fleeing from poverty and violence, many traveled the route to Libya in hopes of a better life. According to a 2017 report released by the IOM, 91 percent of sub-Saharan Africans who left their home countries did so for economic reasons.

Lehman student Safiatou Diallo, 21, a computer science major also said, “I’m not surprised…. North Africans have always been racist to Black Africans.”

However, once migrants are freed either by paying off smugglers or through UN organizations that help previously enslaved migrants, they are placed in refugee camps or detention centers. These centers are facilitated under deplorable conditions with many dying from malnutrition and disease. They are often run by corrupt militia groups who subject the migrants to routine beatings, sometimes even resulting in death, in exchange for money. A 2017 report published by Amnesty International said that of the 72 refugee camps, 30 camps had been facilitated by armed groups of criminal gangs.

Lehman students agreed that the issue deserves more public attention in the US. Genaro Perez, 21, a Lehman student and anthropology major said, “I think the issue should be talked about more and ironically maybe we [the U.S] or the UN should get involved. “It’s definitely a large humanitarian issue and one that we should not allow to flourish.”

Anel Vicente, 31, a early childhood teacher at Lehman’s child daycare who is also a minister at the House of Prayer in Times Square, also felt the impact close to home. “It affects me indirectly because a lot of the people that I have friendships or relationships with even the people that I minister are impacted by this. How do we make this stop [the Slave Trade] so that it never actually happens again?”

Mwake concurred, saying, “African leaders …need to go into Libya, stop this, get those who are already esnslaved, bring them back to their countries and give them opportunities.”

Having Her Cake and Eating It Too: A Black Entrepreneur’s Path to Success

By Zayna Palmer
 Luquana McGriff. Photo courtesy of A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.

Luquana McGriff. Photo courtesy of A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.

“My grandma used to always bake, she would make cakes and create different kinds of designs. I thought this was fabulous and it inspired me to bake as well,” recalls 35-year-old Luquana McGriff, now CEO of her own company, A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.  Inspired by her grandmother, McGriff founded the business in Jan. 2016, in Brooklyn, where she was born and raised. 

It is a now a well-known boutique- and dessert-catering company that creates the most original and delicious desserts for any event. McGriff, who has no formal culinary training, has been baking since she was a child and likewise taught herself new techniques that would help to make her company successful. She says, “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I had the drive for it. I didn’t know what business I wanted to start at first, but I knew I wanted to work for myself and become a CEO for my own company.” With a B.A. in social work, McGriff has a passion to help others, to work with people and satisfy their needs. 

She was encouraged to start her business through the positive feedback from her family. “I love baking and I began to make cupcakes for family events,” she explains. “My family said that I could turn my baking into a business. I started to go to business classes and tried to learn what will be the next step of selling my products.” 

Now amazed to have her own store, McGriff knew that one day this would happen. “I always wanted to be successful,” she says.  McGriff used many strategies to build her brand, from hiring help to seeking a competitive position. “In my store, red velvet is a top seller and I didn’t know what would go best with red velvet. I tried to find my niche in this competitive market. I found out more about my products through my customers. I promoted my business on social media and on my website. I received a ton of feedback from my clients and customers.” She is still branding herself and working to gain many more customers. 

Her mission is to make original desserts, “something that you can’t get anywhere else,” and she adds items and flavors into her baking that she hopes would make her customers happy, declaring, “You are your biggest critic. I always strive to have the best products and make people happy when they taste my desserts. I knew in order to do better, I have to be better. I refine my craft and find different things to do that would make my business grow.” 

Her advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to actively seek knowledge. “Research what business that you want to get into and find a mentor or volunteer in that field. Get someone to teach you the way before you spend money on something that you don’t want to do. Go after your dreams and your passions and everything will fall into place,” she says. For her the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur are the drive to work hard, a clear goal, and doing something new every day. “You have to want it more than anything else. When you get knocked down, you have to get back up. Have the passion to never give up and no one will have your vision, only you will.”

A New Conversation about an Old Problem: Lehman Students Push Back Against Sexual Harassment

By Shaiann Frazier

Lehman students took a public part in this conversation on Oct. 19, when post-it notes were displayed on a board outside the Lehman bookstore along with the message “Keep Moving Forward.” Photo by Shaiann Frazier.

“Catcalling makes you question your worth,” said Kuiana Prince, 23, a senior and multimedia performing arts major. Catcallers, she said, should “Try a different approach in going about it instead of going after a lady or guy like some kind of pet.”

Prince’s experience of harassment is all too common, as a groundswell in media and social attention to the topic has proven. Lehman students took a public part in this conversation on Oct. 19, when pink, purple, and blue post-it notes were displayed on a white board outside the Lehman bookstore along with the message, “Keep Moving Forward.” Dozens of Lehman students wrote and posted notes expressing their thoughts about being victims of violence and sexual harassment. 

Sponsored by the Counseling Center, the “Go Purple” event was inspired by the recent Twitter #metoo. Originally created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, founder of youth organization Just Be Inc., the campaign was revived this October by actress Alyssa Milano, for victims of sexual assault and harassment. The Lehman event aimed to bring supportive attention to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and street harassment. Members of the Counseling Center created the board titled “Messages of Hope” where any Lehman student could write a personal note to someone who had been a victim of violence in which they a received a note in return. 

Keeauna Jacobs, 22, a senior and student engagement coordinator at the Counseling Center said, “Girls come to the Counseling Center far more often than you think whether it be harassment in their neighborhood or in the Lehman neighborhood.”

“Catcalling,” defined as whistling, shouting, or otherwise sexualizing a woman passing by, is evidently common in New York. “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” a 2014 short documentary directed by Rob Bliss and created by anti-harassment organization Hollaback!, shows a montage of ten hours of footage of Shoshana Roberts silently walking the streets alone while being harassed. The video was viewed over 40 million times. 

Hollaback!, the company that distributed the video, also conducted a study in which they found that over 84 percent of women will experience some form of street harassment before the age of 17. This harassment does not only occur on the streets but also happens on public transportation. According to a 2016 report released by the Wall Street Journal, sexual offenses on New York City subways had gone up 50 percent compared to the previous year. 

Lehman students who spoke to the Meridian said they’ve changed their behavior in an effort to avoid catcalling. Leda Obergh, 19, a sophomore and film major said, “I don’t want to dress up as I want to because I may appear sexually attractive to men but that’s not my intention.” She added, “I usually wear my headphones, so I don’t have to listen to what men say to me on the street.”

Shanel Spence, 22, a senior and biology major, also actively avoids men on the street. “One thing that I do for sure is that I cross the street when I see a group of guys or I walk in the opposite direction.”

Leticia Hernandez, 24, a junior and recreational major also took a similar stance. “Usually I start walking faster just so they don’t get close to me,” she said. “Or sometimes I give them a look to back away.”

Women are not the only victims of harassment, a 2012 study released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the percentage of males who experienced sexual harassment had increased from 16.1 percent to 17.8 percent. Although the findings could not conclude why the number of reports had increased in men, a possible contributing factor was that more men began to come forward and speak out. Numerous studies have shown that men don’t report incidents of sexual harassment due to shame and embarrassment.

Gregory Reyes, 18, a Lehman student who works at the front desk in the APEX said, “When a guy gets catcalled people just look at him like it’s a joke and it’s not as derogatory as when it happens to a woman.”

Lian Kizner, 19, a junior, dance and sociology major agreed. “I have experienced it and it’s really annoying,” she said. “Guys don’t have the authority to make a girl feel [bad] like that when they’re just walking down the street trying to get home.”

Michael Buckley, associate professor of the philosophy department at Lehman, advocated for more training for all Lehman students. “I am glad to know that Lehman requires some of its students to take workshops or online courses [about sexual harassment],” he said, “but I think the policy should be extended to every student and given several times throughout their time at Lehman like it is for faculty and staff.”

Lehman Students Hack Their Way Toward Success

By Zayna Palmer

“We want to hire CUNY grads and undergrads to become full-time interns or employees in the near future,” said Buzzfeed Tech Recruiter Nicolette Nelson, 29. Buzzfeed is just one of the prospective employers that came to Lehman’s fourth annual Hackathon on the lookout for diverse interns among future CUNY grads. Nelson explained that Buzzfeed, which participated in the Hackathon as both mentor and judge, has a mission to offer opportunities to more diverse people and get more women working in top management positions. The goal for this Hackathon, she added, is “to find out what students need from employers and what employers need from students. We’re here to find out how the market is changing for students of diversity.”

The Lehman Hackathon, which was held November 10-11, exists to foster just such opportunities. “We understand that the proximity between job locations and where students live can be quite difficult, so we implement these events for local students to attend and network with sponsors and mentor that can hire students for jobs and internships,” said Rosemarie Encarnacion, a Lehman junior. She is also a help desk analyst and Civic Technology Fellow at Lehman. The National Society of Black Engineers primary mission, she added, is to “make sure that every student in the community has the opportunity to exercise their skills with teammates so they could fully integrate themselves into building product software, hardware, and mobile programs.” 

The Hackathon helps disadvantaged students as well as those with disabilities to find the right path towards their careers by providing them with professional advice, assistance and employment opportunities in the tech industry. The event, co-sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is open to CUNY and SUNY students. Its focus is to highlight, support and encourage talent from all backgrounds and to help strengthen the community. Encarnacion states that it also aims to “Bring students to an environment where they connect with the sponsors, teams and fellow students with similar and/or different skills to build projects using hardware. The Hackathon is for Blacks and Hispanics, but anyone who is a student or graduate from CUNY schools is invited.”  

Rafael Gonzalez, 21, a Lehman mathematics Professor and a participant in this year’s Hackathon, said his mission is to “train and expose students to the industry of computer science and engineering for minority groups for many of our Lehman graduates.” He believes that through it, every student can get the opportunity to be mentored and to network in the industry as well as get internships and full-time jobs in fields they enjoy. Rafael wants every student to have fun and test their skills because the Hackathon is also very competitive. “It is a great way to ask questions and find out what jobs you are looking for” he said. This year, NSBE and SHPE were able to increase diversity to bring in more sponsors for the Hackathon. 

Rodney Perez, a full-time technology analyst for JPMorgan Chase, “The challenge is about bringing students in, [to] increase the capabilities and capacity to invent new ideas for the company.” Perez added that the company, which participated in the Hackathon, believes in giving back to the community.

Students agreed that the Hackathon is a good opportunity to network and get projects completed, along with having a team to provide mutual growth, learn technical skills, and build community between employers and students. Daniel Encarnacion a Lehman sophomore studying computer science and Hackathon treasurer said that it is a great chance “to have everyone demo their projects to sponsors that could offer employment in the tech industry and promote a program that speaks on diversity and reach out to those who are disadvantaged.” 

Lehman Students Challenge Colorism in the Entertainment Industry

By Deirra Francis

Rutina Wesley speaking at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Colorism limits opportunities for women of color in film and TV, and Lehman students won’t stand for it. “Roles for younger women of lighter skin tone typecast [them] as this sex symbol,” Lehman student, filmmaker and actress Valerie Baptist told the Meridian, while darker-skinned women, are “strategically” sidelined as “the handy-dandy sidekick, a darker-toned woman dumbed down in her beauty by the makeup artist in order not to outshine.”

Dr. Mark Christian, chair of Africana studies and cultural theorist, agreed. “There is a double standard within the entertainment industry. Black men are sex symbols while black women of darker skin tone aren’t.” On the other hand, he added, “Black women of lighter skin tone are portrayed as the top of the pyramid hierarchy of the group--high-class, sexy and smart.”

“The only way to represent people of color is to have more directors of color.” 

- Octavia Maybabk, Lehman sociology major

In the face of this discrimination, Lehman students who aspire to make their careers in the entertainment industry feel frustrated. Denied the opportunity to show their talent on the basis of their skin color, many now aspire to change these double standards. 

Christian noted that colorism is nothing new. “The prejudices people have attached to skin tones stem from the deep-rooted racism in our history. On top of the after-effects of slavery, we have been bombarded with images on television and film of this stereotype.” 

These racist portrayals date back to the beginning of mass advertising--and they haven’t changed much. In the 1920s, an ad for the N.K. Fairbank Company featured a white child asking a black child, “why doesn’t your mamma wash you with Fairy soap?” Almost a hundred years later, a Dove ad released Oct. 9, 2017 showed a black woman removing her brown shirt to reveal a white woman underneath in a lighter shirt. Likewise, SheaMoisture commercials supposedly celebrate diversity but manage to exclude representation of a big part of their darker-skinned base clientele who have “kinky” hair texture, featuring mainly women with straight or fine hair. 

Christian pointed out that within the entertainment industry, this discrimination has privileged women who look “ethnically ambiguous--people with an off-white skin tone who appear to be of mixed race. The more we tune into our favorite shows and movies,” he said, “the more variety of black women we see. However, the ugly face of colorism continues to resurface.” 

This shows up in the way that many productions cast ethnically ambiguous women in the role of black women, perpetuating a stereotype. Notoriously, in 2012, Zoe Saldana was casted as Nina Simone in the movie “Nina.” A prosthetic nose and dark makeup were applied to Saldana, but the Latina actress still failed to resemble the appearance of the legend. This distortion shows how black women are excluded even from playing themselves.

In mid-July, the star of the hit TV show “Everybody Hates Chris,” Iman Hakim, tweeted “so I’m not even being considered to audition for a role because I am ‘too dark.’” 

This chronic discrimination has drawn widespread demands for a change from viewers and actors alike. Many Lehman students told the Meridian they see a shift in social values taking place. “I definitely think people are talking about it more,” said Lehman alumna Nadia Floyd ’17. “I do think progress is being made, not only in the entertainment industry. On television we’re seeing the emergence of dark-skinned black girls. This discourse is occurring in classrooms even more, not only amongst black students but Latino (non-gender specific) students have spoken up about it as well.” Floyd, who wrote her English honors thesis on colorism and patriarchy, said, “It’s refreshing to see this! We still have a way to go, of course, but yeah, there has been a growing cultural awareness towards colorism.” 

A Lehman panel on “Colorism in Africa and the African Diaspora” that took place on Nov. 9 in the Lovinger Theatre inspired many in the audience to demand change. 

Lehman student Erachie Brown pointed out that access to social media can also help anti-racist messages reach millions of people, so the tools now exist to debunk the negative connotations assigned to darker-skinned African-American women. “The knowledge we’ve gained in production helps us to create our own platform of film and series that we are interested in watching,” Brown explained. “Our position is to cast the Taraji P. Hensons, Tiffany Hadishes, Nicole Beharies, and Rutina Wesleys of the world.”

Other Lehman students noted that some directors are already making waves in the entertainment industry with their positive representations of black women, citing Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, and Issa Raye as examples. Duvernay is the first Black woman both to win the Best Director Prize at the 2012 Sundance for her featured film “Middle of Nowhere” and to be nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary “13th.” She was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for best Director for the movie “Selma” in 2014. Rhimes is best known as the creator, head writer, executive producer for shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” Raye follows in their footsteps as a director, writer, and actress creating the webseries “Awkward Black Girl’ which later turned into the hit HBO show “Insecure.” 

Octavia Maybabk, an African sociology student at Lehman said change is needed and a new generation of directors is key. “The only way to represent people of color is to have more directors of color,” she said. 

Lehman Students Are Spellbound by Magic: The Gathering

By Juan Vasquez

A game of Magic: The Gathering. Photo by Juan Vasquez.

“I didn’t know what Magic was, I only ever heard about it in passing,” said Kat Anne Fornier, a novice player and Lehman student. “Then one day I watched a chaos match, which was really confusing and I wasn’t feeling it.” Though she felt intimidated at first, after other players guided her, she said, “it was actually really fun...I don’t even remember if I won or lost but by the end of it I wanted to enter the Magic community and have my own deck.”

Created in 1994 by Richard Garfield, Ph.D., Magic: The Gathering is a pastime that has drawn many Lehman students into a world of dueling wizards attempting to do each other in. The rules are simple--reduce your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0. Players use 60-card decks filled with monsters, spells, and lands that aid the player and hinder their opponent. While there are more ways to win--reducing an opponent’s deck to zero cards, using cards that create certain win conditions when activated, etc.--this is the most common win condition. 

Players find the game helps them get away from the rigors of college life and regain a sense of calm. Fornier notes that playing is “extremely stress reducing…a lot of laughter comes out of the games, and…all the laughter means dopamine, which is kinda like a runner’s high without the exercise.”

Many players credit the Magic: The Gathering community as being a safe and supportive community. Andrew Negron, an avid Magic player and Lehman student says, “I enjoy the players help each other get better by assisting new players with getting cards and learning new skills, which makes the game even more enjoyable.” Negron adds “It is very fun so I believe it’s a very relaxing game that helps you make new friends and strengthen bonds with current friends that also play.” 

Yet to most Magic players, the real enjoyment is going to victory with a deck that they put hours of research, development, and construction into. Frederick Kemeh, a Lehman Student and longtime Magic player, said, “It’s always rewarding, making a successful deck and winning with said deck, but it takes time of planning and preparation. That, however, is fun for its own right.”