On the afternoon of Oct. 26, 2020 Philadelphia Police shot and killed Walter Wallace, Jr. not too far from our campus. Per Mr. Wallace’s family, he suffered from mental health problems. Video footage of the incident clearly displays a person in mental distress. Since watching the unnecessary force that led to Mr. Wallace’s death, I have continued to visualize Walter Wallace Jr.’s mother attempting to protect her son from being shot by the police. The images are haunting. As the mother of twin three-year-old boys, I cannot fathom what it would be like to have one of my Black sons gone or imagine celebrating their shared birthday with one of them in the ground. With Walter Wallace Jr.’s passing, his mother must consume that dreadful reality. I do not fear many things in life, but like a great portion of parents, the thought of losing one of my children is at the front line of my fears. Watching Walter Wallace Jr. be killed by police, in front of his mother, during a mental health crisis, will forever remain heartbreaking.
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An authentic and passionate tone takes over former Vice President Joe Biden’s voice every time he talks about his family. As a man that has endured deep loss, his choice to not veil his unconditional love for the people dearest to his heart is admirable. This praiseworthy trait was on complete display during the first United States presidential debate, when former Vice President Biden stood up to President Donald Trump’s verbal attack on his son Hunter Biden. Former Vice President Biden openly stated how proud he was for his son for overcoming a drug addiction. The elder Biden is right to be proud of his son Hunter’s triumph — we all should take note of his transparency and decency.
Jessica Gooding | We need a mandatory course that teaches us the history and impact of white supremacy
Last week, while slicing a vibrant assortment of bell peppers, zucchini and mushrooms for a stir fry, I listened to Jenny S. Martinez, Dean of Stanford Law School, speak about the importance of the rule of law and the role the U.S. legal system has continually exercised in upholding systemic and structural racism. A few times during the conversation, I was taken aback by Dean Martinez’s candid words regarding racism in America. Her comments were refreshingly stimulating — finally, America’s reckoning with its full history has pervaded into some of the most elite spaces on the planet. This is what moving forward looks like.
Class begins in 18 days. However, on Tuesday, Penn boldly reneged on its original plan to bring thousands of students to campus.
The scariest movie I’ve ever watched is Twister. It's a thriller about natural disasters, and it continues to frighten me. Watching tornadoes rip through homes and the powerlessness of humans in the face of nature is humbling. This week, Tropical Storm Isaias brought two tornadoes and ravished Pennsylvania. One of them traveled from Northeast Philadelphia to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, ripping up trees and tossing cars effortlessly. In Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River engorged, and brought extreme flooding to my Philly neighborhood of Manayunk; I had to take a different route on my morning walk to avoid submerged cars and buildings. Science tells us that storms are getting stronger. This week, Isaias illuminated that reality.
As a child, I went to work with my dad often. He was a racehorse trainer, and we spent countless hours together inside the stables. I would gather carrots by the bunches to feed to my horse pals, while my dad catered to each of the animals’ daily needs in anticipation of their next race. At the end of the day, as we were leaving, I would waive goodbye to all his co-workers and friends as we drove away. My father never waved goodbye to anyone, he only ever held his closed fist firmly in the air.
The biggest challenge of my childhood occurred when my family moved from the suburbs of Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Northeast Philadelphia. I was nine years old. The biggest hurdle was not getting used to our new home or neighborhood, but rather adjusting to my new school. As a newly registered School District of Philadelphia pupil, the standards that I was accustomed to went out the window. My new reality was an overpacked classroom that lacked air conditioning, a teacher stretched too thin to embrace students’ individuality, an abundance of unhappy classmates, questionable lunches, supply shortages, and long walks home — because there were no yellow school buses.
Harvard graduate Claira Janover recently went viral after using an analogy on TikTok where she threatens to “stab” anyone who says “all lives matter” to emphasize the disproportionate reality of saying “all lives matter” in comparison to “Black Lives Matter.” She received an abundance of backlash, with some labeling her TikTok video as hate speech. She has also been unacceptably harassed and racially profiled. Her dedication to the Black Lives Matter movement has led her to proudly stand by her use of the violent analogy.
Under most circumstances, running into a friend while scarfing down a batch of spicy tofu meatballs from Magic Carpet food truck on my way to class would be somewhat embarrassing – but not at Penn. That split-second interaction, while passing each other on Spruce Street, is accompanied by understanding and enthusiasm. We get each other. There is no need to justify my hurry.
The average high school food fight scene in movies is pop culture royalty. We all love the triumphant moment a burger flies across the room. However, the spontaneous food fight at my high school didn’t quite play out the same. On the sidelines of the sandwich and milk throwing, I observed what was happening, without direct involvement or distraction. Within a few minutes, I noticed a swarm of police vehicles heading towards our school.
The words “Another year older? Fake news!” were written in cursive on top of my vanilla birthday cake topped with extra rainbow sprinkles. While enjoying a slice, I noticed a new email. At a glance, I realized it was concerning an article I wrote last year, the one examining the George Whitefield statue in the Quad. Since its publishing, the article has been the subject of numerous emails from readers across the country. Many of them supported the statue while others did not. The email on my birthday came from a man in Georgia. He asked why Mr. Whitefield’s statue was on Penn’s campus and not located at the orphanage Mr. Whitefield founded in Savannah, Georgia in 1740.
Last semester, I stopped by the then Penn Book Center each time I had a few minutes to spare before my Penn and Slavery Project class with Dr. Kathleen Brown began across the street. My eyes lit up each time the perfectly wrapped books I purchased were handed to me. I could not stop buying books, partly because I enjoyed looking at the perfect bundle wrapped in pink, orange, green, and blue lined paper, and partly because I was proud of the way the Penn community joined together to support the store when PBC was facing closure last April.
Six years ago my friend was accepted to Morehouse School of Medicine. I was excited to visit him in Atlanta and stop by my cousin Michael’s Murrell’s Cafe. Eventually, time got ahead of me and I never made it to Atlanta.
A tiny American flag pin was the first thing I noticed my grandmother wearing when I looked at the photo in her obituary. As I read the few words compiled together to paint a portrait of her entire life, I quickly noticed that my mother’s name was excluded in the list of her children. I did not grow up knowing my mother’s white parents. I’ve heard stories. One of them involved my mother being forced to hide in a closet to conceal me, her half-Black newborn baby, from my grandfather, after he arrived home early and unexpectedly during my mother’s visit.
The spring semester ended only two weeks ago, and since closing that unique chapter, I’ve spent a lot of time catching up on my to-do list. Near the top was to submit my Pennsylvania mail-in ballot application. A few nights ago, I answered some personal questions, filled in the blanks, and moments later, my application was finished. The following morning I received an email notification that the application had been approved. With this approval, I no longer had to worry about heading to the polls and putting myself and my loved ones at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19.
The batteries in the scale on my bathroom floor stopped working sometime in January. While flaunting my floral mask and waiting in my local checkout line recently, I grabbed the AAA batteries I needed for my scale to illuminate again. When I got home, my scale revealed I was up eight pounds. I wasn’t surprised. My normal physical activities had been slashed throughout quarantine. My sportiness barely resembled the exertion to which I had been previously accustomed. The notification my scale provided wasn’t what bothered me. Obsessing over a weight goal is not a healthy approach to self-care. What did bother me was not feeling great, physically.
Looking back, the chaos of this past spring semester has been impactful. COVID-19 relentlessly slithered its way into everyone’s personal, professional, and academic lives. As Governor Tom Wolf recently announced, Philadelphia county will begin to phase out of stay-at-home status and shift from the red to yellow phase on June 5th. With the storm of finals finally over and grades posted, I am beginning to reflect on how hard it was to be a stay-at-home parent and a full-time student in quarantine.
A few weeks ago, Penn announced that it would provide housing credits to students based on their family contribution. However, for highly aided students, that announcement meant little to nothing because highly aided students do not have significant family contributions. At first glance, it makes sense that Penn shouldn’t be obligated to pay a credit to a student whose family didn’t pay a hefty contribution towards their housing. Upon further reflection, however, it became obvious that first-generation low-income students continue to face housing insecurities and homelessness. Highly aided students are vulnerable and in absolute need of housing credits, regardless of their family’s underlying income or lack thereof. Therefore, they should not be penalized for lack of familial contribution and should be entitled to housing credit.
It seems like just yesterday I was strolling down Locust Walk, eating a freshly made s’mores sandwich while watching courageous friends quickly zip down the 18-foot slide that was festively set up on College Green. Thriving at Penn had organized the Valentine’s Day of Play event to promote “social wellness”; the distinctions between that day and the days we are currently wrapped up in are quite disturbing.
Every now and then, I think how chaotic class would be if I showed up with my twin two-year-old sons in tow.