Join me in a game. Let’s pretend we live in a society without the remnants of unbalanced power, poor economic strength and lacking resources. Virtually every component that once structured the experience of being Black in America is gone. Employment, wealth, education, housing accessibility, general mobility and healthcare services are available freely to everyone. There are no systemic barriers or disparities. Illegal firearms aren’t flooding certain neighborhoods. Children aren’t being killed after playing football. Moms aren’t shielding their children from the blasts of a semi-automatic rifle during a mass shooting in broad daylight. The term "first-gen" is used as a punchline to some of the funniest jokes. Every school is equipped with adequate resources to produce competent young people. We are living in bliss.
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My first assignment as an intern at the District Attorney’s Office was to attend a Pennsylvania Supreme Court hearing at City Hall. District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a "King’s Bench" petition seeking to have the death penalty ruled unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. That day, as I made my way down the humid hallways of the centuries-old courthouse, the idea of capital punishment becoming abolished became a real possibility to me.
The first time I met with my mentor, The Daily Pennsylvanian alumnus Mike Madden of The Washington Post last summer, admittedly, I was nervous. I was aware that I was different than most of the other interns: I was the only opinion columnist participating in the DP’s summer internship program, I was balancing full-time work, adjusting to being home constantly, and trying to entertain my two-year-old twins during each hour of the sun. Initially, I thought Mike would be living an entirely different life. However, after we met, I realized, along with a love for writing, we had much in common: He was also balancing work, life with a family, and the pandemic. Mike helped guide my writing and gave me insightful advice on how to balance my expectations. He shared his post-Penn experience with me. His perspective gave me a taste of what life after Penn might look like and what it meant to be an alumni member of the DP. Ultimately, having Mike as my mentor will be one of the highlights of my DP and Penn experience.
While at the Acme on campus, I repeatedly notice something important: at least a handful of elderly shoppers. They are often double-masked, wearing gloves, and trying to stay at least six feet away from other shoppers. They aren't hustling through the store searching for guacamole, the craft beer section, or fretting over which oat milk to buy — they are trying to safely obtain their necessities. Across Philadelphia, COVID-19 cases have slowed. However, on campus, concerns have steadily grown over Penn’s ability to enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines. Unlike the bulk of us, vulnerable community members are still trying to survive. They understand the risks the pandemic continues to demonstrate, yet many members of the Penn community have abandoned this notion. We have disregarded our neighbors and placed our entitlement above the lives of others. We need to acknowledge that the pandemic is not over — behaving like it is will only hurt our most vulnerable community members.
As a child, I would often ask my mom about my grandfather, a man I only ever met in my imagination. Most of the time, she provided a blanket statement that sounded something like “he hated everyone” to calm and protect my feelings about his personal thoughts. Born in Ukraine in 1943, my grandfather was a Nazi sympathizer. As an adult, I now see America has a Nazi problem. We consume Nazism through pop culture. We study it and search for answers through documentaries. We rationalize it in our families. Nazism has continuously festered in the United States and it expanded during the years of the Trump administration.
This time last year we were all oblivious to what 2020 had in store for the world. Prior to COVID-19’s wildfire-like spread, 2020 had a range of potential. However, slowly but surely as the year began to unravel, the pandemic’s toll on every element of life as we knew it became apparent. All planning went out the window; we left campus, the nonessential aspects of our daily lives transformed, and we adapted to participating in a mostly virtual student environment. Now that Penn is welcoming everyone back to campus, we are beginning to gain a piece of what we abruptly lost after spring break last year.
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.
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.