Black Panther Has Reached the Top of the Charts

By Zayna Palmer

Poster for Black Panther. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The first film in superhero history to ever have an all-black cast, Black Panther, is one of the most powerfully invigorating movies of all time. By giving the Marvel template a twist using African culture, director Ryan Coogler has created a masterpiece. It is especially great to see diverse casting in a Marvel Studios production because it appeals to black audiences and it gives a different aspect to the action genre. The film has also been extremely successful at the box office. In just over a month since its release on Feb. 16, it had grossed over 1.2 billion dollars as of Mar. 24.

Starring Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman and Angela Bassett, Black Panther focuses on the relationship between a father and son, and citizens fighting to protect a nation. The film’s hero, named T’Challa, does whatever it takes to protect his homeland Wakanda, while he faces danger from the villain Erik Killmonger, who wants to take his throne as king.

Lupita Nyong’o and Chadwick Boseman appear in promotional posters for Black Panther. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The Black Panther soundtrack is also impressive, featuring luminaries including Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd and SZA. Musician Ludwig Göransson, who created the amazing instrumentals in the movie, traveled to Africa and used a field recorder to capture music for the film. He wrote down the meanings of songs and bought instruments to create traditional African music. He even traveled to Senegal to visit singer and guitarist Baaba Maal, who was also featured in the film. 

In addition, the scenery of the movie was beautiful, such as the forest in Wakanda. It reminds me of Senegal due to the instrumentals of the music and the beautiful waters. The characters wore a traditional woven African print, called Kente, and the gold rings that were worn around the necks of the Dora Milaje were inspired by the tribe of South Africa.

Overall, Black Panther is a terrific film because it has a black superhero as the main character.

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.”

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.” 

After Charlottesville Lehman Students Want an End to Racist Violence

By Zayna Palmer

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following racist violence at a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville Va. that led to the killing of one protestor, Lehman students feel endangered by this event because they do not feel safe. Students are terrified for their future and they do not know what to expect. They want to see these threats addressed here in the Bronx as well, where two Confederate statues have long been part of the Bronx Community College Hall of Fame for Great Americans. These Confederate statues are being permanently removed after a protest of CUNY students.

The Charlottesville killing happened on August 12, 2017, the day after a march in which white nationalists protested the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, rammed his car into anti-racist protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many others who were protesting one of the largest white supremacist gatherings in U.S. history. Thirty-five people were injured during this event, and at least three men arrested.

“Embracing differences includes creating space where all people feel respected, welcomed, and valued.”

– BCC President Thomas A. Isekenegbe

For Sharon Lee, a junior and English major at Lehman, the news was a wake-up call that domestic terrorism is on the rise. At first she was terrified, and she remains certain it was a hate crime based on racism. “As a college student, I am worried about the future and there are many problems that need resolutions before it’s too late,” she said.

Marisol Cotrgy, a Lehman senior and English major, also believes that racism remains an urgent national problem that demands a solution. “Racism isn’t over, there’s always been racism all over the country,” she said. “A way to stop terrorism and hate crimes is to call our congressmen to tell them that they have to fix this. Everyone can make a difference and it is from us who has the power to do so.”

Olivia Thompson, a junior and marketing major, felt “disgusted” when she saw the videos of the Charlottesville attacks, which she viewed as both terrorism and a hate crime, and more vulnerable to racist violence.

Thompson also believes that Donald Trump did not take immediate enough action after hearing about the attacks, since his first response was a Tweet. She thinks that we are reliving similar experiences to those that occurred when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive. “After he passed away, nothing has changed, generation after generation, our society has gotten worse. I am very disturbed about the community that I live in today because white supremacy is now being supported and as an African-American female, I do not feel safe when I am outside.” Thompson views Trump as untrustworthy because he doesn’t take immediate action in office and there are no improvements.

Closer to home, many CUNY students have protested the inclusion of two Confederate statues, the busts of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, at Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans. On Aug. 17, 2017 Thomas A. Isekenegbe, president of BCC stated, “Embracing differences includes creating space where all people feel respected, welcomed, and valued. To that end, we will be removing and replacing these statues.”

Susan Powell, a graduate student at BCC, agreed that “these busts need to be taken down.” She added that, “It isn’t right to celebrate Confederate war criminals. As a nation, we must all come together as one because we are all created equal. We should also have leaders who brought change against racism and slavery in the hall of fame because it will generate positivity into the community.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio also believes that these men do not deserve a spotlight because there are many other great Americans, and these two Confederates do not belong in the hall.

Blogger Megan Brewer, from the Bronx, agreed that these statues should not stay in the Bronx but rather in museums, because “it is a more appropriate place for these historical figures.”

Another blogger, Frank Morales, also from the Bronx, concurred. “They can also be quite offensive because of what these men represent. They both committed treason against the United States to keep slavery alive.” Both Megan and Frank’s statements matter because they are both entitled to their own opinions and they are given equal rights as a citizen in the United States. They both agree that these men should be removed from the hall of fame because of what they represent in this society.

What I Would Tell My Younger Self

By Zayna Palmer



Photo courtesy of Zayna Palmer.

You are a smart girl, born and raised in the Bronx. It is fine that you keep many things to yourself and are an introvert, because it shows that you’re comfortable with your own company.

You are very beautiful, and you shouldn’t care about how others judge you based on the way you look. Let go of the negative comments that people have said about you throughout high school because they are irrelevant. You have the power to do many things because you are very talented and creative. You drew amazing things in your art notebook, and you create unique quotes which can inspire others. Walk with your head high and your shoulders back because confidence is everything. The world would love to see your lovely smile more often and not a sad face due to overthinking things that aren’t true, such as assuming you won’t pass that big exam or you will stutter when presenting a project. Just relax and breathe, you got this.

Things take time. Stop rushing and chasing people you don’t need because you waste your time that way, especially with the people who never cared about you to begin with. Chasing people has been one of your biggest regrets because you never got to realize who you truly are as a person and you would put all of your happiness on someone else, which led to you trapping yourself in your room and crying all night.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. God created you to be you, not her. Love yourself and keep your family first, because they’ve never let you down, not once. You often put friends before family, which resulted in guilt.

You’ve picked yourself back up and realized that family is all that you have and you wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In order to be great, you have to overcome the most difficult challenges, such as doing things you’ve never done. I’m proud of you because you’ve learned to go out there and do things on your own without depending on anyone else, such as going to the Metropolitan Museum for a school project. It’s great to do things on your own because it shows that you are independent. Speak up and say how you feel, otherwise no one else will know. Your voice always counts so don’t hide it, let someone know what’s bothering you and why you stayed in the house all day and didn’t want to come out. Dance to the rhythm of your own drum and stay in your lane, just like your mom always told

you. Forgive and move on, because holding grudges is the same thing as holding anger. You have a whole life ahead of you, so do what makes you happy whether it be dancing, singing in the shower, or even playing dress up. Your most meaningful lesson was to grow and become the mature adult that you are now. Look at you, in college and aiming for the top. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Most importantly, believe that you serve an extraordinary God who is greater than all things.


Zayna Palmer