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Bronx Academy of Letters Newspaper / Magazine Hybrid | Spring Issue 2016


Comic by Jasherah Nalls

TABLE OF CONTENTS Our Teachers Most Embarrassing High School Moments — pg. 3 OpEd: Penny For My Thoughts? — pg. 4 Compassion in a Mixed Up World: Not All Muslims are ISIS — pg. 6 Interview: The Poetic Infectious Magic of Being Author Jason Reynolds — pg. 7 Best of English Class Literature Reviews — pg. 11 Media Reviews: TV & Music — pg. 12 Street Harassment is a Problem Everywhere — pg. 14 Interview: Life As A Teenage Girl, with Excellene Mensah — pg. 16 History: True or False? — pg. 17 Interview: The 411 on Global Warning: How Worried Should We Really Be — pg. 18 Interview: Kickin’ It With the Witch of Light, with La Bruja — pg. 20 Special Portfolio on Race & Media: Music — pg. 23 Special Portfolio on Race & Media: Connecting Slavery to the Media — pg. 24 Special Portfolio on Race & Media: Black Farmers Face Discrimination — pg. 25 Interview: The World Just Beyond Humanity’s Grasp, Talking Supernaturally with Ms. Caits — pg. 26 Personal Essay: A Better Place — pg. 27 Personal Essay: Winning the Battle — pg. 28 22 Interesting Fun Facts — pg. 29 A Brand New (Old School) Dinosaur — pg. 30 Insect Haikus — pg. 30 BAL Crossword Puzzle — pg. 31



HIGH SCHOOL MOMENTS! Compiled by Jasherah Nalls and Shania Russell


OpEd : Penny For My Thoughts? By Shania Russell

Penny for my thoughts? No thanks. What’s happening in my head is worth so much more than an outdated, worthless coin. Instead, we’ll focus on the pennies themselves — not because they deserve this much of anyone’s time, but because they are a problem that ought to be discussed. Complaining about them at least gives them one purpose for their prolonged existence.


True. People tend to donate in smaller amounts, but we’re talking dollar amounts. If you donate pennies to Save The Children, maybe reevaluate your humanity instead of my essay.



Everyday it is a wake up call to me to be compassionate to the opinion of others, even though I may very strongly disagree. 



11pm till 11am Party till you drop! August 25, 2015





BEST OF ENGLISH CLASS LITERATURE (Why these books are actually worth reading.)

Three Cups of Tea By David Oliver Relin & Greg Mortenson Reviewed by Christian Lee Rivera

The Great Gatsby By F. Scott-Fitzgerald Reviewed by Yarelys Encarnacion


Kindred By Octavia Butler Reviewed by Christian Lee Rivera

The Flash Reviewed by Shania Russell



Rihanna ANTI: Reviewed by Christian Lee Rivera



Harassment IS A


EVERYWHERE By Amera Attalah

Street harassment is large problem that makes woman feel helpless and weak. Men are seen as more dominant, which some woman see as taking away their equality. Street harassment may seem like a compliment to men, but it is a system that oppresses women.


“I thought I had gone deaf,” she explained. “ I thought I was dead.”


Life As A Teenage Girl An Interview with Excellene Mensah By Ashley Cordero



Can you tell which of these ridiculous facts are real? Answers on the bottom.

1. The Anglo-Zanzibar war was the shortest war, lasting only about 38 minutes. 2. Kim Jong Il wrote six operas. 3. Julius Caesar’s favorite meal was peacock. 4. Lord Byron kept a pet bear during college. 5. Atilla the Hun is related to Genghis Khan. 6. Roman Emperor Caligula made a horse a senator. 7. George lll smoked weed. 8. During the Middle Ages, animals were put on trial and often sentenced to death. 9. During the Dust Bowl, people used flour sacks to make clothes. In response, the flour industry made the sacks more colorful. 10. Being buried alive was so often in the 19th century that a safety coffin was created so that the “dead” could call for help. 11. Teddy Roosevelt rode mooses for fun. 12. A 19th century children’s medicine, “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup”, had morphine in it. 13. During the Ice Age, Britons used human craniums as cups. 14. Napoleon Bonaparte was once attacked by rabbits. 15. Albert Einstein failed math. 17

The 411 on Global Warming: How Worried Should We Really Be? Science class has us worried about the polar bears‌ but are the animals we really need to worry about actually ourselves? An interview with Jamie Munro of System Change Not Climate Change by Weldy Guzman.




Kickin ' It With The

Witch Of Light



If you were at our Writer's Forum, then you know Caridad de la Luz AKA La Bruja blew the roof off BAL. We were lucky to catch a few words with her before she flew off.


BAL STUDENT QUESTIONS: Q. Who else besides your grandma inspired you? A. Well I love Lauryn Hill. I was inspired by her lyrical content, her talent. Q. If you could describe yourself in one sentence what would it be? A. I am the witch of the light teaching the world to create from wrong to write. OTHER FUN FACTS: What is your favorite color? Yellow What college did you go to? Binghamton University What is your favorite quote? “Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly?” - Frida Kahlo



MUSIC BY ONAJAH JOSEPH Music is the vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. In no way does that definition mention musical segregation by race. Today’s society has propelled the idea of racial segregation into music. Through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, people often state that certain music is for white people and certain music is for nonwhite people. An example of this are the genres of folk music and hip-hop/rap. Back during slave times, folk music originated within the AfricanAmerican culture. Nowadays, 23

Caucasian people have been trying their hand at it. If a person of color attempts to, they are ridiculed for it and told they are “betraying their ethnicity,” when in fact, they are embracing it. However in today’s hiphop/rap community, the most well known rappers and artists are people of color. Any white person coming onto the scene becomes largely ridiculed based on skin tone alone. People chalk up their success to making it due to “white privilege” and luck. One major example of this instance is white Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea. Since being signed with Interscope records in 2010, Iggy has come up

@IGGYAZALEA it touched your spirit n took u up. We magnetized you! That’s what BRILLANCE does

in the hip-hop/rap scene, despite her white skin. Even so, her success has caused her some backlash from both her fan base and other artists. Despite well-known rapper T.I. (Tip Harris) being her boss, Iggy Azalea has feuded publicly with female rappers Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks, as well as hip-hop oldie, Snoop Dogg. Many people, from fans to other celebrities, have had lots to say about her life and the things she’s said and done. According to ET, Wendy Williams stated on her daytime talk show, “It just seems like black people don’t want the girl to win because she’s white…You’re a hater because she’s crossed over and you’re mad because she’s managed to make it,” she also added “You’re a hater ‘cause she got herself what looks like a black girl's butt and a black boyfriend, Nick Young. You need to stop that hate and get a life haters.” I for one, agree. She has implanted herself in a culture where they value some things she has, and they don’t think she deserves it.

@IGGYAZALEA now u are fulfilling your dreams… BUT! @IGGYAZALEA you have to take into account the HISTORY as you move underneath the banner of hiphop. As I said before @IGGYAZALEA hiphop is fun it’s vile it’s dance it’s traditional it’s light hearted but 1 thing it can never detach itself from @IGGYAZALEA is being a SOCIO-Political movement. U may ask why … Well That is one person, out of the many, who hasn’t just looked at skin tone alone in music. He respects her as a rapper despite everyone else saying otherwise, but also lets her know the history of rap and why she gets ridiculed. Straight hate with no explanation is one of the reasons there is segregation in music. Q-tip’s history lesson could also connect to Twice the First Time by Saul Williams. In lines 38- 59, Williams mentioned some black musicians throughout history such as Rakim, Coltrane, Betty Carter, and Biz Markie. There needs to be an end to the whole idea of music segregation. Let it not be based on skin tones, but on the quality of the person as a musician. More integration could be the first step in making this happen. Stop the ridicule on who can be in what genre based on the pigmentation of their skin. America is the land of freedom, why not let that show through music?

They judge her music and her life on the sole reason that she’s a white rapper. Many on social media have swayed towards rappers like Nicki Minaj not just for her skills as a rapper, but also because she is a person of color. The racial segregation has gotten to the point where, according to, Azealia Banks stated she feared that Iggy Azalea’s Grammy nomination was contributing to the erasure of hiphop’s blackness, and blackness in general. Banks then went on to say, “When they give these Grammys out, all it says to white kids is ‘You’re amazing, you’re great, you can do anything you put your mind to,’ she said. “And all it says to Black kids is ‘You don’t have ****, you don’t own ****, not even the **** you created for yourself.’ And it makes me upset.” Banks is basically saying that when white rappers such as Iggy Azalea and Macklemore get Grammy nominations, it gives other white kids the mentality that they can do anything. But to the black kids trying to make it, they won’t ever be good enough no matter what, because of their skin tone. Iggy had fired back with a series of tweets that could be found on, and those tweets led rapper Q-tip of the legendary 90’s group from Philadelphia, A Tribe Called Quest, to tweet himself, a lesson on the history of Hip-Hop to Iggy Azalea. A few are:


@IGGYAZALEA we weren’t at the time skilled musicians as kids. We had records, turntables, ideas and INGENUITY

Slavery is the idea of free labor, from one race who is of darker skin, and seen as inferior. However the idea of slavery has been around since the early colonial times, since 1619 and now still exists in certain ways in 2015. Are you shocked about it because you see African Americans being seen in the society as the loudest and strongest? Yes, but however the system is not set up for African Americans.

@IGGYAZALEA being natural chemist we took from whatever was availed to us and we created something mighty and special @IGGYAZALEA believe it or not young black n Latino lives specifically weren’t acknowledged in mainstream American culture unless Ofcourse.. @IGGYAZALEA the convo was abt gangs, being criminals or uneducated. And hey! Like I stated early our families were rushed our schools He continued on with tweets aimed at breaking the racial barrier in music:

Well, the idea of slavery really started with the forced migration of Africans, and as we all know, African Americans are all descendants of those Africans who’s right were taken and abused by the lighter skin (Caucasian man). The media — the information teller and story tellers — tells the information in a way that they want you to see it as, but is it the truth?

@IGGYAZALEA hiphop now was FOR EVERYBODY!! All of those who cld relate to the roots, the spirit, the history, the energy. It reached YOU


Let’s talk about what’s been going on since forever, but what we all know as current, the Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s incident where both African American males life were taken away by police officers. This has nothing to do with slavery, right? Wrong. None of these officers were pronounced guilty in the court of law. How does media tell the story? The media said that Mike, an 18 year old, fought back and that his DNA was on the officer after the case had died, but protesters “won’t let it all go.” Mr. Garner choked to death, was accused of selling cigarettes but witnesses claim that he was breaking up a fight. Who’s story is true? Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown are dead. Their stories are never going to be heard. Maybe our broken-hearted society, where lighter is seen as prettier, or better than dark, can make my above statements seem false. But I hope my evidence from real articles and videos can help you understand that is nothing stated is less than truth and facts.


Jim Crow laws were set to separate the African Americans from white people after slavery — basically segregation. Keeping the white people and blacks from sitting together on a bus, train, or trolley car might seem insignificant, but it was one more link in a system of segregation that had to be defended at all times lest it collapse that transit was a logical point of attack for the foes of segregation in the courtroom and on the buses themselves. (Quote from

At the turn of the last century, there were over 200,000 black farmers cultivating 15 million acres of land. But the federal government has made it impossible for many black farmers to purchase or maintain land.

The Jim Crow laws promoted the idea that blacks are inferior. Coming together with the whites would make them seem as if they are the same, and that was the main thing the Jim Crows law tried to prevent. How are these laws still taking place in the 2015? As the stated above evidence tells us how the system of segregation had to be defended at all times, and that’s what African Americans are going through right now. The laws to protect their rights are not there, the laws are to protect the whites from them and that’s what is happening with the Mike Brown case. The police officer, officer Wilson was not found guilty because that is just how the law is set up.

People that contributed to this factor were the president of the United States, who signed the settlement into law. Black farmers nationwide joined in a class action discrimination suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture bill signed by President Barack Obama approved by court in October 2011. Racism and discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are the primary reasons that the number of black farmers is declining. Through the decades people have been judge because their color not experience they have had in life like farmers. The effect of this discrimination has been the reduction in the number of AfricanAmerican farmers in the United States. Black farmers were denied government loans, emergency or disaster assistance, and other aid, many black farmers lost their farms and their homes. In an article about this discrimination, Adrian Sainz wrote, “The USDA said it denied the application filed in 1995 because James had inadequate education and didn’t have farming experience”. This proves my argument by people are being judged by their color and race; in my opinion knowing someone’s skin color does not necessarily tell you anything else about them. Another evidence that supports is from the same article is “James said he missed the deadline because he did not find out in time, but he still filed a late claim.” In others words this prove my claim by the organization that is controlled by white people is not trying to get the messages to the black farmers in time for they could miss their meeting and make them look disorganized but James didn’t give up he found other ways, like other farmers.

One sad thing about everything is that Black folks do not know how to hold each other down, in this society everybody is competing for something that is so worthless, which makes everybody see each other as enemies. There’s black-on-black crimes every single day, and there are police officers who refuse to investigate because in a neighborhood like South Side Chicago there’s a high rate of gang violence. Innocent lives are mistakenly taken and never get the justice they deserve because many of the crimes that happen are gang related. This society made it okay for that to happen. In slavery there were Africans who killed themselves as well. The only hope for African Americans is to stand together, because to have justice you have to be peaceful. In conclusion, the problems we face aren’t always about the system, even though that is the number one source of the injustice in our communities. However, society plays a major role in the injustice system as well, based on discrimination, stereotypes, etc. Society might not see their wrong, and if society does not realize their wrong and correct it, society can not win justice for our young and current generations. Change always begins with one’s self. So when we see dark as beautiful and superior — just as light, the system might also see dark beautiful and superior just as light.

In conclusion, his movement and association impacted society on a positive way because any black farmers across the nation experienced discrimination in their dealings with U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies in their states. This settlement also gave money/ to the affected black farmers but this for them was not enough, because pretending race doesn’t exist is not the same as creating equality.


The World Just Beyond Humanity’s Grasp


A Better Place




22 Interesting Fun Facts! Compiled By Christian Lee Rivera Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour. In the UK, it is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day! Pteronophobia is the fear of being tickled by feathers! When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red. A flock of crows is known as a murder. “Facebook Addiction Disorder” is a mental disorder identified by Psychologists. The average woman uses her height in lipstick every 5 years. 29th May is officially “Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day“. Cherophobia is the fear of fun. Human saliva has a boiling point three times that of regular water. If you lift a kangaroo’s tail off the ground it can’t hop. The person who invented the Frisbee was cremated and made into frisbees after he died! During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools. An eagle can kill a young deer and fly away with it. Polar bears can eat as many as 86 penguins in a single sitting. King Henry VIII slept with a gigantic axe beside him. Heart attacks are more likely to happen on a Monday. If you consistently produce gas for 6 years & 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb! There is a species of spider called the Hobo Spider. A toaster uses almost half as much energy as a full-sized oven. A baby spider is called a spiderling. You cannot snore and dream at the same time. 29

In September, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Orientation Center on the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History was closed to remove a Barosaurus model and replace it with a sauropod so new that it has not been given a scientific name yet.





THE RAVEN The Raven is The Bronx Academy of Letters newspaper/magazine. Throughout the year students meet to report on pressing issues in the world, as well as in the school community, mixing both opinion and journalism. Focusing on social issues, BAL life, media reviews, student surveys, fun and games, interviews with Writers Forum poets, personal essays, and more, The Raven has its pulse on what’s new, current and important in the lives of teens.


The Raven Spring 2016  
The Raven Spring 2016