Throughout this month, cities across the United States have seen a change in leadership at, not only a national level but also at the local level as many counties and cities also held elections for local government positions. Local government is often responsible for parks, police and fire departments, public transportation, and housing services, playing a large role in shaping the life of community members and the maintenance of the city or county.
– Anahi Terrazas, Co-Editor
The Los Angeles Tenants Union seeks to advocate for the rights of all renters in the city of Los Angeles. At local chapter meetings, renters (or anyone who does not own their own home) voice their concerns and hardships and ask what can be done to remedy their situation. At every meeting, struggling families meet people who have had similar experiences and will almost always find answers to their most pressing questions.
Los Angeles neighborhood councils give ordinary citizens the chance to play a part in local government. As a board member of a neighborhood council, people can collaborate with fellow community members to take part in a variety of community-geared activities, such as working to fund events with the goal of increasing community civic engagement or even introducing ideas for legislative action at a city or state level. I am on two local councils in Los Angeles, and they have given me great insight into the everyday problems that people experience within my community.
I am on the board of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council as a student representative, and I am a contributing member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union’s Beverly and Vermont branch. I joined both of these councils to learn more about the unique difficulties experienced by members of my community and also to identify different ways that I could help my community.
The most pressing issue on most people’s minds is almost always homelessness. In fact, this topic is often brought up by international students during conversation groups. They tell me how surprised, concerned, and even shocked they are to see the prevalence of homelessness in LA.
Unprecedented times call for unique actions. Oftentimes it is easy to forget that history is not a thing of the past, but rather something that is being created every day. A large and powerful university such as USC has a significant influence on its community, and that community spans from on campus inhabitants to the Los Angeles population to the United States as a whole. Students and faculty have a choice, as part of a major institution, to make their voice be heard through the variety of platforms, privileges, and opportunities through which USC has afforded us with.
When we observe discrimination, particularly in a time where information is so easily accessible, it is imperative that we educate ourselves and raise awareness for others. The voices of the Black Lives Matter movement and families across the country who have experienced losses similar to those of George Floyd’s family need to be heard. The death of George Floyd, as well as the economic consequences of COVID-19 occurring at the same time, have made it clear that certain members of our community, especially minorities and low-income families, are not being granted the rights that our country is founded on. As a part of the USC community, the USC American Language Institute recognizes these problems and leaders in some of our programs have stepped forward and written their own thoughts and reflections on the matter at hand.
The American Language Institute bridges an important gap on USC’s campus: the gap between domestic and international students. As students in the United States, it is important that all members of the USC community remain open and informed about the history that still plagues America to this very day. Three students have written about this movement, not only in the context of America and USC, but in the context of other minorities (particularly Asian Americans) who also play a significant role in shaping America’s history. We have united these voices, and below you will find three articles: Yellow Peril: What Black Lives Matter Means To Us by Tina Wang, Black Lives Matter: What Is It? by Kaitlin Foo, and Privilege in the Light of COVID-19by Sarah Ta. Through these voices we hope you find inspiration and knowledge to help shape your own role in the history that is being made around us at every moment. The USC American Language Institute embraces our international community with open arms as well as the community at large, and we hope you will find some of your questions answered through these articles.
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
YELLOW PERIL: WHAT BLACK LIVES MATTER MEANS TO US
By Tina Wang
As I am sitting here on a Wednesday morning writing this article, I am filled with disappointment and sadness for what has been occurring in this country. For those who are not aware, protests and riots have consumed the nation in the past week over the recent death of an African American man, George Floyd. On May 25, George Floyd was detained by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a local store owner reported suspicions that Floyd was attempting to purchase a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. In the ensuing encounter, Officer Derek Michael Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while Floyd proclaimed, “I can’t breathe,” and “Don’t kill me.” After those eight minutes, he suffocated. Recorded on video tape, for 2 minutes and 53 seconds after the victim became unresponsive, Chauvin maintained his knelt position. George Floyd later passed away, and several different autopsies have produced different results, some claiming that his death was due to pre-existing heart conditions, and other independent studies stating that his death was a direct result of homicide by asphyxiation. The video of this encounter quickly surfaced on the internet and spread like wildfire throughout the country, with people nationwide crying “Black Lives Matter” and demanding that justice be served to the officers who were involved in his death. Because of national outrage, former officer Chauvin’s charge with third-degree murder was updated this afternoon to second-degree, and three other officers involved were charged for aiding in murder.
It’s that time of year again. We’ve pushed through finals, labored on final projects, completed all of our assignments for the semester just in time to…sit at home. So this isn’t exactly the beginning of the summer that we all had planned. With events being rescheduled, trips being postponed, and internships and jobs being canceled or modified, many people are at a loss as to what they can occupy their time with for the next month or so. It is very easy to fall into a trap of sitting around, watching Netflix and scrolling on your phone for hours, but at the end of the day that won’t make you feel better about staying at home. What will make you feel better is engaging in activities that will either pull you away from a screen or which are productive and/or creative. I have listed below a few ideas, some large and some small, for activities and goals to work on during this sometimes frustrating time period.
Establish a Workout Routine
Creating a workout routine is an easy way to get out of the house and stay active during quarantine. For some people, not having access to a gym is upsetting, and for some, it has made little to no difference in their daily lives. I would encourage everyone, however, to create some sort of small but consistent workout routine to implement into your day. If you choose to work out around the same time every day, you have suddenly added some structure to your day that mimics the structure of normal daily activity, and it can lift your spirits significantly. Even if your workout consists of just taking a jog around your neighborhood, it gives you a chance to get some fresh air. Plus, it will make relaxing and watching your favorite show feel more acceptable because you spent part of your day going out and doing something.
Learn to Cook Something New
This is an activity that not only eliminates the time you spend in front of a screen, but is rewarding because it leads to a final product: food! It doesn’t matter what level your cooking skills are at, there are recipes all over the Internet for everyone from beginners to master chefs. While cooking can be laborious sometimes, it is an activity with endless possibilities that can be catered to your specific tastes. The best part is, once you learn a new recipe and try it a couple of times, you will have something new to cook or bake for your friends and family once quarantine is over!
We all love music. We also all know the feeling of looking for that perfect song to match your mood while walking to class or work and then failing to find it. Making playlists takes a surprisingly long amount of time, and finding new music is equally time consuming. Making new playlists, naming them, and choosing a cover photo for them can be quite fun. It also feels highly productive because it is a way to organize something that you spend a lot of time with. I would personally recommend using Spotify to create playlists, and one of my favorite ways to find new music is by searching up playlists by the mood I’m in or going on Youtube and watching videos where people share the music they are listening to currently. This is a never-ending task that can be a lot of fun.
Edit Your Resume, Cover Letter Template or LinkedIn Profile
This suggestion is probably the least fun but also probably the most productive. Editing your professional documents and profiles is a detailed and time-consuming process, one which we push to the side a lot of the time during the busy school year or work day. Now there is no excuse to keep neglecting this task. There is always more editing that can be done, and perfecting these documents can be very helpful before returning to class and work. There are innumerous resources that can give suggestions on how to make edits, and there is no better time than now to make use of them.
Read a Book
Forgot you can do that outside of school? Sometimes we all do. Most students spend a lot of time reading materials for classes, and sometimes those readings are books but sometimes they are textbooks or documents. Regardless, so much reading can sometimes take up the time we could normally use to read for fun. Now is the perfect time to crack open a good book on a topic you’re interested in. Curling up with a good book inside or outside can pull you away from all of the distractions of social media and the internet, and can make you feel like you did something creative and productive during the day. It doesn’t really matter what you read, just engaging with a material outside of technology can be rewarding.
Play a Card Game or Board Game
If you are quarantining with family, a roommate, or a friend, playing some type of strategy game can be a great way to engage your mind in a challenging task. Oftentimes we forget about the board games we have stored away at home, and playing a game can be a great way to bond with the people around you at this time. If you don’t have any games at home, a deck of cards is very inexpensive and can be found at your local Target or on Amazon. There are dozens of card games, and learning how to play one of them is a fun skill to have. Some games that are quick to learn but challenging to play that I would recommend are Cheat, James Bond, Egyptian Ratscrew, or Slapjack. You can find tutorials for these anywhere online.
Start a Film or Show Review Club
This last suggestion is a great way to transform the time you already might be spending watching Netflix into a social activity. Get a group of people together and decide on a list of movies or episodes of a TV show to watch, and then schedule a meeting time via Zoom to watch the show or movie at the same time and then talk about it after. If it is too hard to coordinate a time to watch an entire film together, then just schedule a time to talk about it together so everyone can watch the film when it is convenient for them. This way, you have something social to look forward to even while you are just sitting at home relaxing.
While these can be difficult and trying times, taking advantage of the time spent at home can help you to adopt a new way of thinking about the whole situation. Many of us may never get an extended period of time spent at home like for a long time after quarantine is over, so spending time with family, relaxing, and learning new things can make this time more enjoyable than you might think. Stay safe!
Natalie Grace Sipula is a Philosophy, Politics, and Law major with a Spanish minor and plans to pursue a career in law or research science. She is a rising sophomore from Cleveland, OH and is a Presidential Scholar studying in Thematic Option. Natalie is an active member of Phi Alpha Delta (Director of Recruitment) and QuestBridge Scholars. Growing up she was dedicated to theatre, including studying and performing at Cleveland Play House. She graduated high school as a Global Scholar, Mock Trial state competitor, and Varsity Cross Country team member. She is a volunteer camp counselor with Mi Pueblo Culture Camp in Cleveland. Since arriving in Los Angeles she has enjoyed volunteering with City of Angels Pit Bull Rescue and in her free time enjoys reading Russian and ancient Greek literature.
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction