observer THE OFFICIAL STUDENT NEWSPAPER OF ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE
THE STUDENT VOICE
H SPECIAL ISSUE H Student Government Association
Election Results By Christie Marie Avila Staff Writer
Photo credit: Stuart F. Richards | Iconic Images
Newly elected SGA President Landia Lane co-hosting the Mr. & Miss ECC Pageant.
After several weeks of tirelessly handing out flyers and speaking to the Essex County College student body and staff members, two winners have been declared. The Student Government Association (SGA) candidates anxiously awaited to see the final results that would determine who would be elected SGA President and Vice President for the year 2012. Landia Lane, a former SGA Senator was elected President and Victoria Pollaro was elected Vice President by their student body and will gladly accept and honor this position during the inauguration. The location and date for the inauguration has yet to be announced. Many of us may wonder, what are the responsibilities of the SGA President. The President is a liaison between the student body and the college administration. He or she is required to attend all SGA meetings and keep the student body informed of new policies and procedures
enacted by the school. An elected President should embody our collegeâ€™s motto and values. ECC's four main values are teaching and learning, excellence and accountability, community, and last but not least, diversity and success. Ultimately, both newly elected President and Vice President must have excellent interpersonal skills that allow them to navigate and articulate the needs of various constituents. Essex County College has decided to drastically change the way ballots are collected by incorporating online voting. Before the year 2000, elections were held using paper ballots and voting machines. Voting online has made it easier for students to vote in the comfort of their home or even on their phones. Luckily, this has increased the number of student votes since its inception and hopefully it will continue to increase. Online voting concluded April 6 2012 was closed for continued on page 2
H SPECIAL ISSUE H Mr. & Miss Essex County College
Pageant Winners By Quin Powell and Tsahai General
Photo credit: Wintella Powell
For the month of April, ECC has held a great deal of memorable events that has brought the student body closer together. Now thanks to those in charge of our student activities, two lucky students now have the honor of representing our school as Mr. and Mrs. ECC. There were a total of eight wonderful candidates, for the pageant, who had to take part in three categories- formal, business, and work attire. There were also five judges to judge these contestants. These judges include Beverly Hanks, former student and faculty member; Haris Bilal, from NY; Alexis Forbes, program coordinator (SLAO); Claudia Batson, from Newark; and Priscilla Meme, a Kean University student. The pageant was held on Friday, April 13th, in the Mary Birch Hall. The attendance was moderate with an audience of about 100. After the passing through the three categories, the contestants had to choose a number out of a hat and when asked, give their best answer continued on page 4
Also inside this issue...
Six Flags Media Day - page 4
A Concrete Canoe? - page 5
Miss ECC Jennifer Obonna and Mr. ECC Juan Flores.
Raymond Spencer - page 7
Illustration by Sono - page 8
Essex County College 303 University Ave. Newark, NJ 07102
Cindy Bernard - page 5
SGA ELECTION RESULTS
continued from page 1
the SGA Elections and a few days later, the winners were announced. Many of you may have heard Landia's campaign motto ,“The Change We Need and The Voice We Deserve.” She strongly believes that the students should always be the main priority and should always be heard. She has reassured her student body that she will continue to fight for our student rights by addressing our concerns, supporting our ideas, and ensuring our voices are never ignored. The Essex County Student body is expect-
ing to see major changes this upcoming year. The newly elected President and Vice President plan on increasing political awareness, implementing programs that will help students graduate at a faster pace, improving our college's technology, lowering the cost of cafeteria food, and lowering the cost of textbooks. Secondly, with the help of their SGA team, they plan on implementing new programs that would decrease the tuition rate of students while improving career placement services at Essex County College. They also want to help create programs that will assist students find jobs and internships aligned
with their majors. Aside from working diligently to represent their constituents, they must meet these ambitious goals as a way to improve our college. The Essex County Student body is expecting to see major changes this upcoming year. Many of us are questioning whether or not to believe campaign rhetoric and trust that the SGA will follow through with the goals they have promised us from the start. Once the student body sees changes being made they will be satisfied, but until then, words and flyers offer only promises.
Q&A with Essex County College’s 2011-2012 SGA Vice President, Onika Barker By Christie Marie Avila Staff Writer
Outgoing SGA Vice President Onika Barker was elected during 2011 and worked with the SGA team to fulfill her study body’s expectations. Her responsibilities as an SGA Vice President were to sit and participate during all meetings if the President is absent, chair the Inter Club Council (ICC) meetings, and lastly if the President cannot fulfill his or her duties the Vice President can act on their behalf. Q: Before choosing to run for Vice President, what was the main reason that motivated you to do so? A: I am very passionate and motivated to helping ECC student body and the school—Student Government Association gave me the avenue. I appreciate ECC and enjoy attending college here. Plus, SGA is a wonderful organization for students who want to be involved. Being apart of such a phenomenal organization, where I am able to give back in any way that I can makes me proud. Making a difference in other student’s lives has been very rewarding for me. Q: As VP, what have you done to boost ECC graduation rate? A: Throughout the semester I have worked hand in hand with my SGA team to create many academic programs such as Educational forums that we held at the beginning of the fall semester. Students were able to attend and were motivated and inspired and even learned about the importance of graduating from ECC. We are also working to create more weekend programs to keep students active and engaged throughout the weekends, which we believe will boost the ECC graduation rate. Q: What were your past goals on lowering the cost of textbooks and food prices? A: To lower the cost of textbooks at ECC, the current SGA team (2011-2012) has proposed a “Textbook Rental Plan.” The plan would give students the opportunity to recycle their old books to obtain new books at a lower cost to them. In regards to lower food price this has to be negotiated by college officials who negotiate the contract with the Metropolitan food service. Base on recollection the contract should end soon and this should give better leveraging in the negotiation to the college officials to lower the food price. In the same breath students also complain about the lack of debit card usages in the café and this can also be brought up in the negotiation. Q: Aside from the changes listed above, what are some other changes you would like to see ? A: Sadly, this semester is my last but one change I would like to implement is the parking situation. This change can be addressed by adding two more floors to the current parking deck. The parking deck has the capacity to hold two more levels. The new SGA team will take a close look at all of the students concerns and make sure these changes are implemented. Q: What are your thoughts on the newly elected President and Vice President of Essex County College? A: I believe that the new elected Vice President is a good person. I have not had the opportunity to start working with her but when I do I hope she does her best in her tenure. Landia has been elected senator for SGA one semester now and the time I spend working with her was fine. Alton has been one of the best SGA presidents that I have ever known/worked with and Landia have a far way to go to continue the SGA legacy. I wish her the best when she gets into office July 1st, 2012 and I do hope she continue to work hard as he did throughout his tenure. Q: Lastly, What are some pointers you would give out to a fellow student who plans on running for SGA Vice President in the future? A: Some pointers I would give to other students who do decided that they want to run for SGA Vice President is to be confident, stick to your words, be strong, stand up for what you believe is right and do not be discouraged. But most importantly, always be a team player. Being a SGA VP is not easy, there are many stumbling blocks that you may have to hit out of the way to get to where you would like to be, but you have to be strong and have that courage. Lastly, always be yourself, an original is always better than a copy.
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ECC Facing Budget Cuts
“We are in dire straits” - President Abdullah at SGA Open Forum
Photo credit: Daniel King
ECC President Edythe Abdullah speaks at recent SGA open forum. By Ben Potesky Staff Writer
The Student Government Association held another in a series of open forums in the ECC cafeteria where all students were free to ask questions and talk to the members of the SGA about their various gripes and concerns. Not only were all of the student members of the SGA in attendance, but ECC president Edythe Abdullah was there answering questions and addressing the students as well. “We live in a time filled with hate and anger. I hope for civility in this discussion,” President Abdullah told the crowd. “All of us on the staff want to make a difference for the students, but the honest truth is we are in dire straits.” President Abdullah explained, referring to the massive budget cuts that have recently been placed on ECC by the state. President Abdullah continued to say that she is recommending to the board that “We should keep tuition at its current rate despite budget cuts.” A large applause from the crowd immediately followed. After the President’s introduction it was time for students to ask their long awaited questions. The very first question asked was asked came from Jessica Ferreira, biology / pre-med major. “Enrollment services is slow, rude and inconvenient” she said. “As a student who is transferring, I have found the process of transferring extremely difficult and time consuming because of the extreme lack of organization in enrollment services,” she continued. President Abdullah responded with an announcement of a new center that is being opened by the school. This new center will be called the “Welcome Center” and its purpose will be to make it easier for students to schedule classes, transfer credits, and provide a friendly, helpful environment for all students. President Abdullah continued to encourage students to tell her or the SGA of any instance when a staff member is rude to a student. More questions soon followed. One question was asked that is on the mind of the many students here at ECC: “What is being done about the parking situation, and is it possible to get rid of the meters on the street and replace them with stickers like the ones used for the parking garage?” a student asked president Abdullah. She responded by saying that while she and the staff would love to be able to get rid of the meters, unfortunately, the City of Newark owns the meters and there is little the school can currently do. Another student asked if the college is planning on building another parking garage. President Abdullah told the student, “It costs $14-18,000 for ECC to build a single parking space.” So needless to say, ECC does not have the money to build more parking spaces, and the parking situation is not improving with the current budget anytime soon. Lev Zilbermintz, ECCO News Editor, asked, “What is being done about the lack of accessibility for handicapped students?” Zlibermintz referred to the broken elevators and lack of ramps for people using wheelchairs. “We are currently working on fixing the elevators, adding new handicapped friendly entrances, and within two months ECC will be synced with Google maps so that all handicapped students will be able to easily find their way around the school using their cell phones.”
Communication and New Media Technology Shows Their Skills in Multimedia Exhibit
The Communication and New Media Technology programs hosted a multimedia exhibit featuring student videos, films and digital art Wednesday, April 4th in the second floor art gallery on ECC's main campus. The exhibit included videos created by CMS 110 and 210 students covering local events, personalities and news in the greater Newark metropolitan area. Radio students displayed their DJ skills and New Media Technology students demonstrated their considerable design skills with a rotating projection exhibit. The ECC student newspaper was on display, as well as outstanding student research in the field of Black film in the Oscar Micheaux reading room exhibit, which saw considerable traffic. Overall, more than 200 people experienced the brilliance of ECC digital media students through the exhibit, with notable figures such as Executive Dean Phil Linfante, Dean of Faculty Jill Stein and Newark Councilman Ras Baraka in attendance. The exhibit was spearheaded by Professors Shelagh Patterson and Jennifer Wager, director of the Communication and New Media Technology programs, with a team of student interns. The Star-Ledger and American University's J-LAB program provided generous support for the event.
Newark Mayor Corey Booker Saves Woman From Fire By Lev D. Zilbermints News Editor
Newark Mayor Cory Booker saved his next-door neighbor from a fire on April 12, 2012. He suffered second-degree burns on his hand and was treated for smoke inhalation. According to the Star-Ledger, the fire started in a twostory building on Hawthorne Avenue in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood of Newark. Booker lives nearby, and the fire started right next to his home. Upon arriving, Booker saw that the building adjacent to his house was in flames, and the residents were nowhere to be seen. The mayor then heard screams from a woman trapped inside the burning building, and rushed to her rescue, with this security guards following him. Alex Rodriguez, one of the mayor's security guards, tried to stop the mayor from going inside the burning building. However, Rodriguez relented once Booker ordered him to stand down. According to Booker, "Now we actually got into a fight because his [Rodriguez's] job is to protect me", Booker told the press. Rodriguez said that when he saw the mayor going into the burning house, his job as a security guard was finished. "Once he went in I said, Oh my goodness, this is it." Rodriguez, 39 told the Star-Ledger. Rodriguez and other security detail members also helped people get out of the burning house. Booker described his daring rescue trip in detail. The mayor said the second floor was engulfed in flames and smoke, with hot embers falling all around him. "I suddenly had the realization that I can't find this woman. I look behind me and see the flames and I think, "I am not going to get out of here. Suddenly I was at peace with the fact that I was going to jump out the window," said Booker. He described hearing the woman scream from her bed. After "grabbing and whipping her" out of bed, the mayor, according to his own account, punched his way through the flames and smoke to safety. The mayor said that he felt very religious in the fiery life-and-death situation. Booker was treated at University Hospital in Newark, while the woman was treated at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. Booker was discharged from the hospital the following day, while the woman was resting in stable condition, press reports said.
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ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE OBSERVER
Student Life Mr. & Miss
Essex County College
Juan Flores and Jennifer Obonna
continued from page 1
Photo credits: Wintella Powell
to the question posed. Afterwards, there was a 15 minute intermission with music and the judges then delegated for 30 minutes. The decision was made that Jennifer Obonna would be crowned Miss ECC and Juan Flores was to be crowned Mr. ECC. The winners were both supported by the Fashion Entertainment Board and both their Dress and Tux were provided by the FEB. Juan Flores was also supported by the EOF department. If the winners weren’t capable of fulfilling their duties as Mr. and Miss ECC, then the runnerups, Onika Barker and Landia Lane, were to step up. ECCO had the privilege to interview Jennifer Obonna. This was actually her first pageant, which she has always wanted to do. Obanna states that she remembers when she was a little girl that she had looked up to Vanessa Williams because Williams believed any girl could win. Obonna wants to be a positive role model and believes that good dreams have no limits. She made sure to thank God “for all things are possible,” her mother, and Mr. Halloway, for all his work. She also thanks everyone who made this possible: Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Sloan, Burke, and ECC and its Fashion Entertainment Board! The pageant turned out to be a great success not only in representing ECC’s school spirit but in raising the spirits of the winning contestants.
Six Flags Media Day By Tsahai General
Journalism students from the New Jersey area had the pleasure of attending Six Flags Media Day. The day included an opening presentation and the opportunity to interview the crew and the construction workers regarding the upcoming new rides. Six Flags has debut five new rides for 2012. While inside of a small auditorium the students watched a slide show introducing the new SkyScreamer, in the newly themed Adventure Alley, and three family rides called Déjà Vu, Air Jumbo, and Fender Benders.
Hurricane Harbor also has a new water ride which is considered to be the first of its kind. The new water ride is called King Cobra, a racing tube slide where the riders race to the finish, which is actually located in the mouth of the Cobra. The park has also extended Fright Fest to 6 weeks instead of 5 weeks due to its growing popularity. Arnold Malsbury, Director, has worked at Six Flags Great Adventure for 39 years. He loves his job in maintenance, construction, and installation. Malsbury began explaining to ECCO the process of installing the SkyScreamer. In order to begin the installation, you have to clear the area and open it up. Malsbury explained that the construction of a ride first began deep underground. The footing below the SkyScreamer is 50x50x3, which is about 77 yards of concrete. Then the pier cap is raised about 7 feet, which is another 88 yards of concrete. The embedment piece is set before the beams are put in place in order to hold the ride steady. The ride itself is raised by cables, and then there are motors and wheels which rotate the rides 32 seats, at 46 miles per hour. This ride is 24 stories high and Malsbury insists that it will be a “nice ride.” The height requirement is 44 inches according to Andrew Miller, Malsbury’s manager.Miller has been working for this Six Flags for 6 years. Malsbury had brought him from the Six Flags in Houston, Texas. Miller informed ECCO that this SkyScreamer is also in St.Louis, Missouri and Montreal. Interestingly enough, Malsbury has been at Great Adventure since 1973, since the park had first opened up. He has taken part in the installation of every ride in Great Adventure and informed ECCO that his favorite ride is the Nitro. When asked by photographer, Daniel King, if any of their initials were carved in any of the rides, Malsbury declined with a laugh, “No, no… our initials are there when people see us doing our daily or monthly inspections.” The weather was perfect on April 17, 2012, and Media day turned out to be quite an experience. Many different schools were there by the bus load, but they were surprisingly mainly high schools, for example Toms River and Madigan High School. ECCO also had the opportunity to speak to the men working on the new Déjà vu. Sadly they could not tell much about the Déjà vu because they didn’t work for the park. On the other hand, these workers informed ECCO, without hesitation, that they were the “crazy mother…” who do the hard work at the craziest of heights. ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE OBSERVER
Essex County College Pride Day 2012 By Tsahai General and Patrice Wright
Photo credit: Wintella Powell
ECC Pride Day, a balloon filled, cotton candy sweet, and overall extremely festive event took place recently outside of Essex County College's main campus. The area outside the main entrance filled with students just as fast as the popcorn popped. Many of the schools clubs were out and recruiting. They made certain that their tables caught the eyes of any passerby willing to join. Each club handed out flyers and the Hip Hop club even displayed some freestyling. The clubs also took part in a contest for the most attractive table. Third place was awarded to the Short Films Club; Daniel Koo was more than excited for their club recognition and the awarded two hours FREE in the game room. The second place prize of a pizza party was awarded to the Hip Hop Club. Lastly, the first place prize was awarded to the CAB Club, Campus Activities Board; the prize was T-Shirts for the winning club. The weather was warm as the chefs grilled and the students lined up. A live DJ, DJ Dynamite, played music for the crowd to enjoy. Free food was offered to ECC students with their school IDs. The lines were extremely long and everyone looked quite content. Nyree Blenman hinted that the staff, serving food, was openly rude. “Maybe the aggravation was due to rude students,” she stated sarcastically. The sun was high and the weather was more than favorable, and a Wii console was provided for any students who wanted to play in the cafeteria. Though due to the weather, the vast majority of students, faculty, and staff remained outside. The excitement and fun rapidly increased when a live band took the stage. Interestingly enough, for their college performance, the band “Straight Nasty” was required to change their name to “Naight Strasty.” Naight Strasty felt as though the event was a good turn out. The students should be proud, after all because the lead
singer, Guitaro, is a student at ECC. The band began as an ordinary house band, playing the same venue at Pianos Bar and Grill in Bloomfield for 10 months straight until they became recognized. They are now each sponsored by different sponsors such as Monster Energy Drink, Gretch Drums and Shure Microphones just to name a few. Band member Alan Chaput was proud to brag about the energy levels increasing as they played. When asked about whether they felt their genre of music fit the audience, Dan and Alan pointed out that they fit in easily because they play Jazz, Reggae, Hip Hop, Blues, Rock, and even polka! Alan did admit that at first the crowd did shouted, “That’s all you got? That’s it?”But it was only at first. Over time that became their MO because it forced them to be the “bombastic force of nature…and sound…and fun and excitement they now are!” stated Dan and Alan simultaneously. The event no doubt raised school spirit, which has been lacking at Essex County College. All the clubs strongly represented themselves and the students were extremely engaged in the activities. The air brushed tattoos were a hit and the photo booth allowed school friends to take pictures to commemorate the day.
A Concrete Canoe? By Christian Blair Editor-in-Chief
This Pride Day, you had a chance to see a seemingly miraculous demonstration by our engineering students and faculty. The engineering team, headed by Professor Alkis Dimopoulos, displayed a 12 foot long canoe fabricated from concrete that actually floated on water. Weighing in at roughly 600 lbs, the canoe took 35 students about six weeks to construct. What’s next, you ask? Next year the engineering department is planning to build a solar powered model vehicle!
The Roving Photographer By Wintella Powell Photo Editor
Cindy Bernard is a sophomore Communications major at ECC. Like many fresh students, she was unsure of what major interested her most. At first she was a major in Computer Information Systems. However, Cindy’s first love is writing so she decided to change her major to Communications. Cindy says attending ECC has completely changed her life. In the first few weeks of TV Production class, the professor gave an assignment to the class to write about and photograph the Fortress of Solitude, a comic book store located in Newark. You may have seen ECCO’s coverage, with the Communications department in a previous issue. Cindy was a part of that effort. She was assigned to collect “B roll”, which meant that she collected a lot of material with a smaller camera. By the following week, Cindy was assigned a role as director and she was hesitant at first due to the incredibly responsibility involved. As time passed., her confidence grew and really likes being a director now. As for her future, Cindy is very intersetd in becoming a crime scene photographer.
Photo credit: Wintella Powell
Did You Know?
ECC Communications major, Cindy Bernard
ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE OBSERVER
The word ‘uncopyrightable’ is the only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating any letter.
OBSERVER The Student Voice of Essex County College Essex County College 303 University Ave. Newark, NJ 07102 firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-in-Chief Christian Blair News Editor Lev D. Zilbermints Features Editor Tsahai General Copy Editor Juniel Spruiel Photo Editor Wintella Powell
I almost got stuck on the only working elevator! By Lev D. Zilbermints News Editor
Broken elevators, lack of signs for handicapped people, badly kept restrooms...These are just some of the problems currently facing Essex County College students. As these students are the college's customers, the question begs to be asked: What is student money being used for? Consider the problem of bad elevator maintenance. At the time of writing, March 14, 2012, one of the elevators on the second floor of the Main Campus has been out of order for three weeks. The second elevator often gets crammed with people trying to make it to class or whatever. It is not uncommon for the elevator to arrive at the second floor already packed to the limit. These people waiting have to wait even longer. Wait, there are the stairs here, right? Cool. But what happens if someone is using a wheelchair or crutches? Then that person is forced to use the elevator. So where is the money going? Why is the elevator not being fixed? Dig this: I almost got stuck on the only working elevator! Next, why is it that there has not been any signs posted for disabled people to direct them to handicapped bathrooms? I spoke with a number of students over the past few months about this issue. Many said that lack of signage makes them travel around the building looking for a handicapped-accesible bathroom. As the situation stands now, many bathroom stalls are too small for wheelchairs to fit in. The doors are not automated either, which makes it difficult for wheelchair users to maneuver. Finally, many students I have spoken with, complained of poorly maintained restrooms. Students should take responsibility for keeping the restrooms orderly. For example, in the men's rooms, some users do not even flush the toilet! Then you have toilet paper and trash all over the floor, creating the impression of a pigsty. As for ladies' rooms, my contacts tell me it is similar. At least that's what they said. Being a man, I am forbidden to go into the ladies rooms. Where is the student money going? What is the Student Government Association doing about these issues?
Staff Writers Christie Marie Avila Daniel King Collis Marrow Ben Potesky Patrice Wright Illustrator Sono Arima Layout Design Editor Christian Blair
SGA Open Forum: ECC Facing Budget Cuts Don’t miss Ben Potesky’s coverage on page 3
Public Safety & Corruption By Collis Marrow Staff Writer
Humanities Faculty Co-Advisors Eileen DeFreece Jennifer Wager
On March 9 2011, Nazair Bey, a senior corrections officers at Bayside Correctional Facility in Leesburg, New Jersey, was arrested and placed on unpaid leave for smuggling narcotics into the prison. The initial response seemed did not seem commiserate to what other offenders would have probably received. Bey, who was indicted on charges of distribution, conspiracy, official misconduct and drug possession was placed on unpaid leave. This matter interested me so much that I began searching for data If you would like to advertise, exposing police corruption and the judicial system’s disorganization. Law enforcement officers are placed please request a rate card: in positions of power to protect U.S. citizens and uphold U.S. law. When police officers indulge in corrupt email@example.com acts, the citizens of America, especially minorities, tend to lose trust in the judicial system. In November of 2011, Sgt. Ronald Watts, 48, and Officer Kallat Muhammad, 47, of the Chicago Police Department, were arrested and charged with theft of government funds. They allegedly intercepted and took $5,000 in government money from an F.B.I. sting operation involving a homeless man. The officers were unknowingly being recorded by the F.B.I. when the sting was in progress. Police corruption has been a major problem in the United States. It has been proven that some police officers withhold or lose evidence to help their "brothers in blue" , in addition to proven claims of brutality, bribery, torture and murder. Another case in U.S. history pertaining to police corruption was the case of New York Officers Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. They were moles inside the New York Police Departments and members of the Lucchese crime family. In 2006, Eppolito and Caracappa were convicted of racketeering, obstruction of justice, extortion and eight counts of murder and conspiracy. Joseph Miedzianowski was a Chicago officer, who was both an officer and drug kingpin for most of his 22 years on the police force. Miedzianowski would ultimately be convicted on counts of drug conspiracy and racketeering in 2001. One of the most infamous police corruption cases was that of David Mack and Rafael Perez who were a part of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Rampart Division. Both men also worked with Death Row Records and were members of the Bloods street gang. Mack received the LAPD Medal Of Honor for killing a drug dealer who allegedly pulled a gun on him. Mack was later convicted of robbing a bank and was implicated in the Notorious BIG murder. Perez stole 8 pounds of cocaine from a LAPD evidence locker. These unethical acts have been existing for centuries. I wonder if the state and county officers are becoming insubordinate because of their wages. It is hard to believe this idea because Bayside’s Nazair Bey received $75,000 annually. This is a typical case of abuse of power because the same individuals who judge citizens in society are the same ones who oppress them. The true victims are the tax- paying citizens in America. When the social institutions and judicial branches fail to protect each ethnicity regardless of class, religion or creed, thoughts of civil disobedience among civilians eventually start to rise. Given time, these can evolve into radicalism.
CORRE C T IO N S
In the April issue we pointed you to an editorial on page 4. Unfortunatley, the editorial was on page 6. This was not an April Fool’s Day joke. In the April issue we claimed there was an alligator roaming the halls who had escaped from a secret government lab in the basement of ECC. This was an April Fool’s Day joke.
Did You Know? Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers were all all invented by women.
Communications Professor Jennifer Wager poses with the finest newsapaper in town.
ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE OBSERVER
Slavery by Another Name:
Suppressed American History Revealed By Eileen De Freece, Ph D ECCO Advisor
One of the most devastating blows that African Americans have endured after emancipation from hundreds of years of slavery has been the terroristic regime of forced slavery and peonage that flourished in the South after the Civil War until well into the 20th century. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, the disturbing documentary film, Slavery by Another Name reveals horrifying details regarding the deliberate “criminalization of black life” by 19th century white law enforcement, which created a very profitable arrangement for former slaveholders and businessmen who invested in the prison system. This was achieved by over-exaggerating African American criminality using trivial and vague offenses in order to arrest them and force them to labor against their will in horrendous conditions. For instance, white officials, often former slave holders, systematically arrested blacks for “violating” vagrancy laws (lacking proof of employment); blacks could also be arrested for spitting in public, speaking loudly in front of white women, walking by train tracks, or for being “uppity.” In fact, Pig Laws were frequently used to arrest blacks since stealing a pig (worth $1) could mean five years of hard labor in a coal mine. Authorities allowed former slave owners to discipline these prisoners, leaving the white court system to discipline white offenders. Clearly, these capitalists--the true criminals--had profited for many, many years from free labor during slavery and no doubt wanted to continue in that vein at the expense of black people’s lives. This extension of slavery developed into a convict–leasing system that proved very profitable to former slave holders and investors because it created a source of profit that was new revenue never before experienced. Free from union dispute problems, it was a “straight, simple, exploitative system of brutality” that often meant death for those imprisoned. “They died by large numbers,” mostly worked to death, one historian remarked. The film noted that black men were sold in the new industrial South to large corporations, such as United States Steel, the largest corporation in the world, and Milner Coal and Rail Road Mines that was owned by John T. Milner, known as the father of the industrial South; he was referred to as “a supreme racist and a despotic man” by one of the many historians that contributed to this important historical record, including Pete Daniels, Talitha LeFlouria, Khalil Muhammad, and David Levering Lewis, to name a few. This brutal system was instrumental in embedding the negative stereotype that the Negro race is a criminal race, especially when one examines the statistics of Negro convicts beginning in 1874 when the convict-leasing system began showing huge profits. According to Douglas A. Blackmon, author of the book Slavery by Another Name, it was a common saying in the South that the African American was “ill equipped for freedom” and it was believed that blacks did not deserve equal rights because they were considered inferior intellectually, racially, and morally to whites; and there was an overall disrespect of black people’s humanity that allowed the federal government to not only look away at these crimes against humanity, but to adopt these terrible practices. Prison documents reveal a horrifying, shameful story. A memorable prisoner, Ezekial Archy (Zeke) created a historical record of his experiences through a series of letters written by the 25 year old that were discovered. He was one of hundreds of convicts being worked in Alabama in the Milner Coal and Railroad mines. His letters detail the dangers of working in the coal mines, including rampant diseases, violent explosions, physical and mental abuse, and death. Zeke relates the cruelty of the man he toiled for, former slave owner J. W. Comer who, “hit men 100-160 times with a 10 prong strap then said they were not whipped. He’d go off after an escaped man one day, and dig his grave on the same day,” he says. Prisoners in photographs from the era are shown wearing striped garments reminiscent of the Nazi death camps. Actor Raymond Spencer brings Ezekial Archy to life in the film as viewers experience Zeke’s hardship, seeing him toiling, sweating, and suffering under this harsh system, yet, he is also seen writing in what little free time he has, documenting and critiquing the daily goings-on of his life and the lives of others living under the cruel convict-leasing system. Like the slave narratives, Zeke’s letters uncover little known facts and details about what thousands of African Americans endured in this diabolical system. In fact, boys younger than 16 were also used in this system, as well as women who were forced to work in brick yards and turpentine camps. One can only imagine the hardships women suffered in these camps. Apparently, arrests were also common when whites needed the cotton to be picked. This situation made every black person in the post-Reconstruction South a target. By 1890, statistics reveal how blacks were over-represented in the prison system with 18,000 incarcerated. According to the historian James Grossman, blacks “faced forced labor and violence into the 20th century.” The various descendents and their stories represented in the film proved to be quite powerful as were the 30,000 pages of letters from family members of prisoners who were encouraged by President Theodore Roosevelt’s authorized investigation into peonage in 1901, a system that was outlawed by the U.S. government. But by the early 20th century, the convict-leasing system was deeply rooted. After World War I, chain gangs and share cropping--another form of forced labor--made upward mobility impossible for African Americans. It was not until 1941 that forced labor (slavery) and peonage technically ended in the U. S. Sadly, there were 9,000 prisoners known to have died while incarcerated in these forced labor camps. As we move swiftly into the second decade of the 21st century, we find many people concerned to learn that African Americans are over-represented in America’s prison system today. In fact, New Jersey is planning to build new prisons to alleviate current overcrowding. One can only wonder, is there a connection?
An Interview with Raymond Spencer On a chilly, rainy Saturday afternoon, I found myself laughing while sitting across from actor, author, filmmaker and ECC student Raymond Spencer. We were sitting in a well-known East Orange diner, in an isolated booth waiting for our hot coffee to arrive while Spencer studied the much-mauled menu searching for pie a la mode. The handsome 44 year-old Spencer, who looks much younger, seemed like a boy in his grey University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt hoodie, a neon green pen dangling from the hood’s drawstrings. After awhile, he reluctantly settled for butter pecan ice cream and apple pie since the diner was out of traditional pie al a mode. I had come to interview Raymond Spencer about his memorable, remarkable role as Ezekial Archy portrayed in the documentary film, Slavery by Another Name. Remembering the February viewing of the film at ECC and Spencer’s part in the discussion that followed, I asked why the project was so important to him. He looked up thoughtfully from his dessert plate, his intense and expressive eyes staring into space for a moment. Finally, he said, “It was important to get involved with Slavery by Another Name because of the historical aspect. Once I started to read the material, the importance of the project became magnified. When I got the role I was thrilled; I’m a kid, and being an actor allows me to be a kid. I can get shot and not really die. I get to play like a kid and get paid for it. But it’s also a challenge. Most people think actors are good liars, but they are really not liars because they are living someone else’s reality.” Recalling his early acting career, the trained stage and screen actor admitted to feeling nervous before a performance. “I always get nervous, but an actor learns how to use this nervousness to his or her benefit,” Spencer said between bites of pie and ice cream. He explained how his acting career began in the 1990’s. By 1998, Spencer began auditioning out of Backstage Raymond Spencer newspaper, before he became a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). One job he landed found him on cable TV in a situation comedy called “Thunderbox,” a series about the boxing world. Spencer played the part of Wardee Mack, “a rich guy that owned Thunderbox,” Spencer said. “It was the first time I had all my expenses covered. This was hot,” Spencer told me with a widening grin. After ordering a turkey burger and fries, Spencer discussed his casting agency, Winsome Sinclair Casting Associates, who did the casting for the Biggie Smalls movie. However, Spencer also pursues acting work on his own and through “word of mouth.” I asked Spencer what he considered to be his ultimate dream or accomplishment. He dragged some fries through a puddle of ketchup on his plate and munched them slowly, chewing thoughtfully before responding. One of the highlights of Spencer’s life is the love he feels for his family. For instance, he takes care of his continued on page 8
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Illustration: Sono Arima
RAYMOND SPENCER continued from page 7
88-year-old grandmother, Pearl Triplett, who lives with him in East Orange, NJ where he was raised. When he viewed the film with his family, he noticed how his grandmother was filled with pride, he told me later. But his main concern is with the new generation of children, like his own daughter and a host of nieces and nephews that are special in his life. “I want to be a better example for others, but especially for the children,” he commented. He remembered speaking to a group of men at the ECC organization called Fathers Now “because our kids are dying.” “I want to make a significant contribution” to life, Spencer emphasized passionately. He realized that to be an effective person, he had to improve himself in order to reach for a higher place and discover a better self. Spencer knows that getting a college education is one way he can attain that “higher place” he seeks. He said happily, “I’m having a great experience as a student.” Currently in his third semester at ECC, Spencer recently declared himself as a Communication major and he is looking forward to working with Professor Jennifer Wager, the college’s Communication and New Media Technology program director. Presently, he is having a good time as an ECC student, and he is serious about his academics. “Students at ECC are the future,” he remarked, expressing how impressed he is with the college, students, and dedicated faculty. “I’m happy to learn,” he said, smiling. As he picked over his turkey burger, Spencer admitted that he is a very sensitive person. “I cry,” he said. In fact, when Slavery by Another Name was shown at ECC in February, Spencer cried quietly in the dark “because I realized that I was a slave by hanging in the streets, going to jail--it’s crazy. Today slavery is dressed up, attractive. Drugs and that lifestyle can send you back to jail multiple times. Now that’s slavery,” he said, shaking his head.
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