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9/3/06 Dear Journal, I got chosen to be in the internship class this semester! I’m excited. All my friends are in it too. You had to pass all your classes with a C+ or higher and then be nominated to get into the class. We all knew who was going to get nominated. Of course, everyone from the smart sections got chosen. I’m really not surprised. My mom is really excited, though. She keeps going on about how great Bronx Lab School is and how and happy she is that “we” decided for me to repeat 8th grade so I wouldn’t have to go to our zone school. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t have wanted to go there either with the ghetto kids who don’t care about their education, teachers who don’t care about their jobs and all the gang violence after school. But seriously, after skipping a grade and still getting into the highest ranked secondary school in St. Lucia, 8th grade here is a joke. What needed to happen is the NYC public education system needs to stop being so ignorant and discriminatory, and stop automatically putting transfer *cough* immigrant *cough* students in zone schools. Although, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if we lived in a nice, White neighborhood. Then I would’ve been zoned into one of the well-funded schools with fancy tech labs and cool drama classes and well maintained sports facilities and no metal detectors. But, in any case she’s really excited about this internship thing. Me too. I feel like finally I’ll be doing something productive, something tangible, something that actually matters and affects people. And, it’s supposed to look good on my résumé and college applications. Rachel says
it will give us a competitive edge over our peers in the application process. I don’t know where I want to work yet. We’re supposed to do research and find someplace based on our interests. Shipnia did hers at the ACLU last year, maybe I’ll work there. That way I can make a difference AND it’ll look good on my résumé.
9/21/06 Dear Journal, I interviewed with King Downing today. He’s the director of the Racial Profiling Department of the Racial Justice segment of the ACLU. I had to send in a résumé (Rachel helped all of us work on ours), a transcript, and a 6-10 page writing sample. Since I haven’t written anything that long yet at Bronx Lab, I sent in a paper I wrote in 8th grade about the assassination of Pres. JFK. Mr. Downing (he said I could call him King!) told me he was really impressed with my writing and everything that I’ve accomplished so far. He said I was “a very talented young lady,” which made me feel really proud and really good about myself. He asked me what I wanted out of my internship experience. I told him I wanted to be involved. That I knew filing and paperwork were aspects of most internships, but I wanted more than that. I wanted to see what they were working on and to be involved. He said he admired my enthusiasm and promised to take me with him to public workshops and let me sit in on his meetings to observe. Then he took me around to meet the staff, introducing me as the new intern. They were all really nice and welcoming and made me feel really important. I know I don’t just want to be a papergirl or a secretary, so I’m actually really excited about this internship. I can meet all kinds of important people! Hell, I’m working for King freaking Downing! This is going to be AWESOME!!
10/3/06 Dear Journal, Today was my first day at the ACLU. I was really nervous, but it was so exciting too! My mom and I had gone shopping for some new work clothes. She said I would eventually but able to wear outfits that were a LITTLE more casual but not too casual since I WAS working in an office building. For my first day I wore a white, long sleeved, button up shirt, black slacks, and black leather shoes with a bit of a heel— enough to say I’m a female who cares about her appearance, but not too much that I wouldn’t look professional. She gave me a light summer scarf to wear over it, so that I wouldn’t look like “a caterer or a waitress”. This morning my mom helped me to get ready and “look presentable”. She permed and deep conditioned my hair over the weekend. I got a few scalp burns, but nothing too bad. She used a curling iron to style it, which gives my hair more volume than a flat iron, and she can add little bit of a curl at the ends. She made me wrap my hair really tightly at night and tie it up in a satin scarf, so that it would be smooth and pretty again when I woke up and took my hair down in the morning. By this morning, my hair was beautiful. I looked fabulous from head to toe and was ready to take on the world, let alone the ACLU. My excitement didn’t wane over the entire hour-long subway commute to Bowling Green. I brought a book to read for the ride, but I couldn’t read. I people watched instead. I felt really important sitting among the adults on the train heading to their own jobs downtown. I mostly red and yellow brick apartment buildings, most of them with
rooftops covered in graffiti. Then we go underground and into Manhattan. A lot of people switch trains at 149th, both coming on and getting off depending on whether they work on the east or west side. With each stop after that the train demographic shifts. The Black and Hispanic people that got on in the Bronx are mostly gone by the time I to Grand Central. They all get replaced by White people (and the occasional Asian person) in grey and navy blue suits and comb-overs or sleek gelled hairstyles. The women wear their hair down, mostly. They all look really uniform. When I get out at Bowling Green, it’s like a whole different world! It all looks a lot more modern. No one lives here. It’s all glass store fronts and office buildings and businesspeople bustling around, getting coffee on their way to work. I got a coffee too. I felt really sophisticated walking among them. I didn’t want to be late for my interview though, so I had to throw half of my coffee away when I found the building. It was HUGE. At least 50 floors up. It’s definitely going to be really cool working here.
11/16/06 Dear Journal, I freaking hate this internship. All I ever do is stuff envelopes. ALL DAY. Every morning I come in to my little isolated desk in the corner of the archives section of the department’s library—I guess that’s the only place they had a free desk and computer… I sign in on the ancient, yellow, Dell desktop computer and email David Blanding to let him know I’m there. It’s easier that way since my desk is two floors down from the department office. I report to David now because King is always on the road, away at conferences and workshops and business meetings and everything. He never actually tells me when or where he’s going. He definitely doesn’t offer to take me with him. David works under him. I’m not sure what his actual job title is but he seems to be King’s assistant or something. But anyway, David usually emails me back to tell me how many workshop packets they need made that day. Then I just sit and make them. I’ve even got a system down. I print out a hundred copies of each of the three sheets that go into the racial profiling packets. I fold the sheets in three so they’ll fit in the envelopes. Then I take one sheet from each pile, stack them with the open side alternating so that there won’t be a bulge on one side of the envelope and drop them in. Then I toss a “Know Your Rights” card in and close the envelope. I basically have my own one-man assembly line going. I don’t even have a lunch break. David stopped telling me when I was free to take a break, or even caring about me really, after the second week or so. I spend my days alone. I take my lunch to work with
me and eat it on the job. I can’t afford to buy lunch every day. Besides, I don’ even know if I’m allowed to leave anyway. Sometimes I go to the staff kitchen to heat things up. I’ve thought about staying there to eat but then the adults that actually work at the ACLU come in. They look at me funny. Usually they don’t say anything, but it’s always really awkward and weird and uncomfortable. I eat at my desk instead. I’ve taken to eating my breakfast at my desk too, since I have to leave home so early. I work from 9am, so I have to leave home by 7:50 to catch the 8am train. Sometimes I leave earlier to catch the last 5 express train so I don’t have to transfer later on. When I get downtown, I have a ton of time before work so I stand and chat with man who owns the breakfast truck outside the office building. He’s mad nice and he knows my order by heart now. Sometimes I chat with the security check guy. He doesn’t ask me to show my ID anymore, he just lets me in. He has a son my age that he hopes will do great things “like me” he says. He lives in a poor, Black neighborhood too. I can always count on him to give me a smile in the morning. Although, it must suck to have to leave your family and come in to work that early, every day…
11/24/06 Dear Journal, I talked to Shipnia today. She was telling me about her experience at the ACLU. She worked in the Women’s Rights Department and she told me that they had more or less ignored her too, but she had a great time anyway. She told me loved being downtown and how fun it was to go site-seeing and shopping. Sometimes she would even take 2 hour lunch break! She was shocked that I took lunch at my desk. She was like, “Girl, why you working so hard? You’re doing THEM a favor. You’re basically working for them for free.” She felt no guilt about showing up late and talking long breaks and leaving early some days. None of those things had ever even OCCURED to me to do. I guess nobody would really notice if left for a while… I just wish someone had told me I could take my lunch break whenever. How was I supposed to know?
12/22/06 Dear Journal, We had our internship project presentations today. My magazine came out perfectly. I used the work printers to make copies on their glossy paper. It was bound and everything. I had articles about high profile racial profiling incidents, celebrities and regular people. I had general information and puzzles at the back. I even did a cartoon strip. I was surprised King showed up. Both he and David were there to see me talk about my experience and my project. Afterwards King came to talk to me about my project. He thought my magazine was “really cool” and fun and innovative. He was like “we could even use something like this at our public education workshops!” Screw him. I was with them for three months stuffing freaking envelopes, when he promised that I would actually LEARN something. If he had kept up his end of the bargain, I would have been more than glad to work with them and maybe make an even better zine. But no, They didn’t even give me real work to do until I finally told Rachel I couldn’t take it anymore and she emailed them. I couldn’t care less what they think.