The Genocide of the Rohingya Muslims

By Marieme Jiddou, Class of 2019

Mohiuddin Mohamad-Yusof.

Mohiuddin Mohamad-Yusof sat in a midtown Manhattan cafe in February, wearing a black suit, red tie and baseball cap, casually drinking a cup of coffee. Mr. Mohamad-Yusof’s cap, however, didn’t have the symbols for the New York Mets or Yankees. Instead, it had the letters, WRO.

Mr. Mohamad-Yusof is the president of World Rohingya Organization, or WRO, and talked about the crisis currently happening in his own country, Myanmar that is located in Southeast Asia. Mr. Mohamad-Yusof claims that he was the first ever Rohingya Muslim refugee who came to the United States in 1999. He has since created the WRO, which he said gathers donations to help Rohingya Muslims back in his homeland and Bangladesh refugee camps.

The Rohingya Muslims are natives to Myanmar, and have lived in the predominantly Buddhist country, formerly known as Burma, for centuries, according to CNN. Since 1948 the religious and ethnic group has been persecuted against in their own country, because the Myanmar government refuses to see them as citizens.

“It’s not just a simple conflict, it took centuries for it boil up to where it is now,” Mr. Mohamad-Yusof said.

After Myanmar gained its independence from Britain in 1948 an act called Union Citizenship was passed defining which ethnic groups had the right to citizenship. From Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups, only the Rohingya Muslims were denied citizenship, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR. But, the Rohingya Muslims, who had lived in Myanmar for at least two generations, were allowed to apply for identity cards. But these identity cards didn’t provide them with education, medical access, or jobs, unlike the citizens of Myanmar.

Laws in Myanmar continued to change, affecting the Rohingya Muslims.

In 1982 another citizenship law was passed. This law had three levels of citizenship. The most basic was giving evidence that a person’s family had lived in the country prior to 1948. Many Rohingya Muslims did not have access to such paperwork, or if they did, the government denied them.

Under those citizenship laws Rohingya Muslims were once again not recognized as an ethnic group. Although it allowed Rohingya Muslims to apply for citizenship, the ethnic group never received the proper paperwork and were officially made stateless, according to CNN.  

Many viewed this as a persecution method, said Mr. Mohamad-Yusof. This led many Rohingya Muslims to migrate to neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Thailand and Indonesia, according to CFR.

Rohingya Muslims continue to flee their home. Recently, also due to the violent breakouts in Myanmar, many Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh. As of April 26, 693,000 crossed the border into a part of Bangladesh called Cox’s Bazar, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA.  

“Even in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh army are raping the females, and they cannot say anything about it,” Mr. Mohamad-Yusof said. He spoke in detail about the struggles of young Rohingya women and how they have been traumatized by seeing their own family members being shot and killed when trying to flee Myanmar. However, their troubles don’t end there as they are often trafficked to bordering countries like India.

“Renewed violence, including reported rape, murder, and arson in 2017, triggered a massive exodus of Rohingya amid charges of ethnic cleansing against Myanmar’s security forces,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations. “Those forces claimed they carried out a campaign to reinstate stability in the western region of Myanmar.”

The Myanmar government along with Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, which is the equivalent to a prime minister, plays an important role in the conflict. When asked about the issue of their country, Ms. Suu Kyi has called the Rohingya Muslims “terrorists,” according to CNN.

Ms. Suu Kyi has also denied accusations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya Muslims, or that an ethnic cleansing is happening, CNN has reported.

Besides the Myanmar government being blamed, many politicians and activists believe the United Nations has failed this ethnic group, said Mr.Mohamed-Yusof. The United Nations has interviewed many Rohingya Muslims, who described their current living conditions and trauma, including torture, rape, and killings by the Myanmar military, as well as in Bangladesh, he said. Yet, the United Nations did not intervene with this ethnic cleansing, he added.

The United Nations and our partners continue to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh to coordinate the humanitarian response and to ensure that refugees are protected in line with international standards, and to provide desperately needed support including food, shelter, health care and water,” according OCHA’s website.

Mr. Mohamad-Yusof has considered why this conflict began in the first place.

“What caused this issue is greed. They (Myanmar government) wanted our lands and in order to do that they need to dispose of us,” he said in the midtown cafe.

As the crisis has continued for years, Mr. Mohamad-Yusof fears they may never be a resolution.

“I believe we are already too late. A lot of our population has been wiped out already. But I do believe if we unite the Buriaminese and the Rohingyas we could protect our people,” he said.  

Mr.Mohamaed-Yusof, who is currently living in the U.S., still tries to gather donations to send to refugee camps in Bangladesh. Mr. Mohamad-Yusof said that any amount of donations helps the ethnic group. Every year, he visits Rohingya Muslims and their families living in the U.S., and continues to help them.

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If He Can Do It, So Can You!

By Marieme Jiddou, Class of 2019

Juan Rosa, known for his epic trips to colleges, love for students, amazing snacks and Media pride, is an alumni of the George Washington Educational Campus! He first started going to GWEC in 1999 when it was one school. When the schools broke into four, he attended the School for International Business and Finance, now called College Academy. Juan described himself as being very excited and happy to start his education on the campus. Juan was in the second graduating class of the four schools, and graduated in 2003.

Even though Juan was excited to start at the GWEC his parents had their doubts. GWEC gang violence was no secret to most who’ve lived in the Washington Heights neighborhood and Juan’s parents were no different. But they realized they’d rather have their child closer in case of an emergency.  

Juan came to the United States at the age of 10. He struggled with English but still wanted to be a teacher. That dream soon died out due to the influence of his environment.

Attending the High School for International Business and Finance, Juan was exposed to many business related courses and clubs. He participated in an organization called Virtual Enterprises, where students would be in an office-like setting and were able to travel within the country to Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to meet officials, and to countries such as Austria and France to present their businesses.

Juan was also affiliated with Catholic Charities and NJROTC at the time. Even though he admitted to only joining NJROTC to get out of gym, he later fell in love with the marching and the history that was taught through the course.

After graduation, Juan pursued political science as his major. He later decided on business, and completely forgot about teaching because he felt that business had more “structure” and “order.” Juan did a lot of charity work, working in business related jobs, daycare, summer camp and City Hall.

Later in life, Juan bumped into one of his older bosses who convinced him to take a job as part of Catholic Charities at Media and Communications. He started working for Media in March 2015, and has accomplished many goals for the school. As person who is experienced in many work fields, Juan’s advice is always to give the best of you in everything you do.

When asked about future dreams, Juan said he wanted to complete the television studio, where, “students of all ages and academic performance would be able to come in and use the studio and move forward in life.”

Another big dream for Juan is to change the educational system. He described his time at Media as eye opening. “As much of a joy as you guys are, you are also a lesson,” Juan said. He is convinced that the educational system looks only at a school, and not what’s within it. Media students have caused this enlightenment.

As a student who started Media around the same time as Juan, I can say I appreciate everything Juan has done in my three years of school. He took us on memorable trips that I will never forget, taught lessons we would never have learned in a classroom, and prepared us for the college process.

 

The Education of Margot Sanchez

Lilliam Rivera the author of The Education Of Margot Sanchez visited the High School for Media and Communications in March, as a part of the school’s “What it Takes” lecture series.

Rivera’s debut young adult (YA) book The Education Of Margot Sanchez is about a young teenage girl who is desperately trying to fit into her expensive private school, obnoxious friends, a dysfunctional family, all while making the bad choice of stealing her father’s credit card which she must repay through a summer of working in her family supermarket, states the author’s website.

Rivera opened the event with a presentation about her life and what paved the path to her writing career. She explained that reading was embedded into her family’s tradition as she grew up which nourished her love for books. However, Rivera noticed that most books she read were not relatable to her life, ethnicity, or issues.

The author and young mother informed us, that growing up her father had already set expectations and goals for her, however, none of these goals interested her or her passions.

“There was no such thing as writing or being a writer. All of these things are meant for people who have money or white people. Definitely not hard working Puerto Ricans. We are meant to work hard and that meant not to go into the arts. That meant to not write,” Rivera explained.

Rivera then shared her life and college experiences, explaining the struggle of living alone in college without any family. “There were moments where I didn’t even have enough money to buy lunch,” Rivera said. This did not break the author’s spirit however.

She strongly believed she needed to write books that would relate to people of color and their issues. “I didn’t see any Latina or person of color, so I felt like my story didn’t count.” Rivera expressed that when reading a book as a young child and teen she never saw people of her ethnicity writing, which led her to want to see more people like her and the ones in her community  on book covers. That is why the cover of “The Education Of Margot Sanchez” is a teen of color and the main character Margot is a young Latina.

After the short introduction of her life, Rivera read a short excerpt from her book and expanded on the character Margot.

Rivera then opened up the floor to questions. Students were motivated to ask questions about the book and her personal life and took the opportunity to ask questions such as, “Was this book based off your experiences?” Rivera explained that some parts were based off of her life but she also wanted everyone to be able to connect with Margot and the 21st century issues represented in the book by making the setting of the story New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world.

Rivera also expanded on the question by sharing how specifically the setting was in the Bronx. “The Bronx is often viewed as a bad place, but there are people who are falling in love in the Bronx, making families and art!” Rivera stated. She wanted to shine a light on the fact that the Bronx was a beautiful part of the city that holds a lot of memories and occasions which caused cheers from the crowd of students.

Rivera shared how important it was for her to hold the launch party for her book in the Bronx because it “inspired my book and story.”

After many questions from students, Rivera shared news of her second YA book she’s writing. “This book will be all about girl power, it’ll be about badass gangs made of girls running the streets. Of course I don’t support gangs, however this gang feels more like a family. It’ll be coming out soon and I think you guys will love it,” Rivera announced that the book will be coming out on the fall of 2018.

At the close of the lecture, Media students took a group picture with Rivera with The Education Of Margot Sanchez pins pinned on their clothes. The pins were a warm gift from Rivera to each of the students.

Peace In the Streets

The United Nations visited the George Washington Educational Campus to begin their “Peace In The Streets Global Film Festival” in February 2018.

According to the organization’s website, UN Peacemaker Corps mission is to create peace and tolerance among the youth.

The event drew a large crowd of people from all four schools. Principals, Assistant Principals, teachers and most importantly students. The event began with the organization’s Chairman and President of the UN Peacemaker Corps Carole Sumner Krechman speaking.

Krechman expanded on what they hope to achieve with this campaign. “You are our future,” she addressed the campus students. “We want the youth to use words not violence!” she stated.

The event organizers then shared videos created by teens about the injustice and conflicts they feel should be confronted from previous film festivals. Videos focused on different topics such as homosexuality, stereotypes, religion and world hunger.

Executive Director Suzanne Harvey then took the floor. Harvey spoke about the importance of youth taking leadership roles to resolve conflicts and making a “peaceful, compassionate, safe and tolerant” world to live in.

After the event ended I sat down with Krechman, she explained her story with teens which inspired her to start the campaign in the first place. “I owned a bowling alley where teens had a lot of fun but outside of the alley their lives were a mess!”

Krechman shared that the teens who visited her bowling alley had many issues such as transportation, acceptance from society and family issues, which led her to create the campaign and film festival to give them a voice.

The global film festival is now open for the 2018 year. Teens are given a chance to shoot an inspiring video to show their solution to world conflicts and the winner gets their video shown all around the world and on UN websites. For more information about the contest and previous winners go to

This is an amazing opportunity, for our generation who is already interested in the media world to have an opportunity to showcase their solutions for  world conflicts.

The Arts That Will Change the Heights

The NYCDOE Community School District 6 office presented the 4th Annual UNITED @ THE PALACE arts showcase at the United Palace in Washington Heights, NY on May 25th. According to Community School District 6, the district held a student wide arts showcase that serves as a platform to amplify young people’s voices by displaying the talents of the students in the Northern Manhattan community.

Comprised of 40 schools in Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood; District 6 has approximately 18,000 Pre-K through 12th grade students. This year’s UNITED @ THE PALACE showcase included 21 diverse acts (including pre-show performances) of children and teens from the district’s schools representing grades K-12.

This UNITED @ THE PALACE arts showcase is “an opportunity that we are creating as a district to put arts back in schools,” stated District 6 Superintendent Manuel Ramirez. Over 3,000 people were expected to attend the event, claimed Mr. Ramirez.

When asked why arts are important to the Washington Heights community, Mr. Ramirez said he has confidence that the arts will enhance the students’ “academic performance, teamwork, moral skills and their perseverance and focus.”

Zulaika Velazquez, the Artistic Director of GWEC, believes students who are engaged in the arts are able to “stretch their minds beyond the boundaries of the printed text or the rules of what is provable.”

Confirming Mr. Ramirez’ and Ms.Velazquez’ words, before the show begun the young people acted upon the responsibility of entertaining 3,000 plus people. In each school’s group, students demonstrated a great amount of leadership and commitment as they practiced. They communicated to each other through the frustrations of being in such a big production. Ana Made, a junior at the High School for Media and Communications and volunteer working backstage, described the children, as “dependable because they knew what to do on stage and off stage.”

Once the doors of the palace were open, hundreds of guests consisting of parents, friends, teachers, school leaders, and elected officials Senator Marisol Alcantara, Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez attended the event.

From beginning to end, the audience was amazed and in awe. The acts consisted of singing, dancing, poetry, cheerleading, instrumental music and amazing remakes of film and popular pop songs. Students of all ages passionately danced and sang across the stage. Some students did stunts that made the crowd scream with delight and others used art to teach the audience of the importance of different cultures.

“Our student performers and group leaders did a spectacular job and delivered on high expectations with a seamless run of show,” stated District 6 Family Support Coordinator Cimary Hernandez.

Ms. Hernandez shared that the main directors of the event were herself, Ms.Velazquez, Community Education Council (CEC) 6 Administrative Assistant  Porfirio Figueroa, and Superintendent Manuel Ramirez.

In addition to the performances, awards were also given out to the finalists of the UNITED @ THE PALACE art competition and the NYCDOE Big Apple Award. Henry Whopschall, an 8th grader who attends P.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs, won 1st place in the district wide art competition. Ms. Raya Sam, a math teacher at the Hamilton Grange Middle School, won the Big Apple Award.

Throughout the event many people praised how great the show was and how proud they were; including Assistant Principal and district 6 parent Emel Topbas-Mejia. “It was a magical event and seeing the talents of our young people brings our community great pride,” shared Ms. Topbas-Mejia.

The arts provide a way for students to express themselves freely in our northern Manhattan community. This event will create a chain reaction throughout the community as more students become interested in the arts.

The Power of the People

“I might be just one person but I think just one person participating makes a difference.” This is the power of the people.

From Spongebob memes to walk outs and marches, the younger generation has been very vocal about gun regulations. Using various social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat to point out the issue of how easy it is to be able to own an assault weapon.

Without the interference of adults, many teenagers planned a walkout on March 14 in the memory of the February 14th shooting victims.

Students from different regions of the country walked out of their school for 17 minutes, some made posters, inspirational speeches, and some were silent to show respect to the deceased.

On March 24th, the March for Our Lives gathered teens to Washington D.C.. Thanks to Catholic Charities, 95 people from Media and Communications including students, staff, parents and community members were able to experience the march. Elizabeth Payero, a guidance counselor at Media, described the march as “powerful” and “positive.”

“The march was amazing because it sent the strong message that young people had the power to have a voice and make a change to gun laws,” Payero said.

Juniors Nile Garcia and Alex Florian also attended the march to voice their opinions. Florian said, “I don’t want guns to vanish, I just want better gun laws.”

Garcia said, just like his sign, he wants “Gun Reform Now!”

Besides the young marchers, the event also had young orators on the stage motivating the participants to take action.

“In my opinion MLK granddaughter’s speech was really powerful and eye opening,” said Garcia.

The granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is Yolanda Renee King. In her speech, she shared, “Spread the word. Have you heard? All across the nation. We are going to be a great generation.”

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Media students and community participants join the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. (Jaylene Then/Class of 2018)

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The George Washington Educational Campus community show their support for ending gun violence. (Jaylene Then/Class of 2018)

All American Boys

All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Published on September 29, 2015

Published by Simon & Schuster

 

All American Boys is a novel about the prejudice and police brutality inflicted on African Americans, the book is written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

The book is shown in the point of view of two characters, Rashad Butler and Quinn. Rashad is a black teen who had to experience police brutality for simply being black. Quinn is a white teen who saw Rashad being brutally beaten almost to death by a police officer.

As the story develops, the audience sees how both characters struggle with why this is happening and how it involves both of their races. Quinn comes to the realization, that he is not just a bystander just because of his skin color and Rashad realizes he is not just another black teen feeling threatened by the police. These two different, but very similar, characters crash as they fight for the same cause: to hold the police officers accountable for abusing their power.

I love this book because the authors made sure that they were using the right language for their audience. The authors related this book to the younger generation through the  slang words they used, the book is completely uncensored and realistic.

I also love this book because although it showed cops in a negative light, it also shows the struggles cops have to go through to do their jobs without justifying their abuse of power. This book is also great because it not only talks about abuse of power but also the everyday stereotypes we as a society go through and the ones we put on others.

I recommend this book for people who want to understand all sides of the story, from the African American, the Caucasian, and the cop’s point of view.

 

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