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HIP HOP CHAMPIONS DANCE TEAM WINS FIRST IN NATIONAL COMPETITION PAGE 5
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Melinda Katz Returns for Inauguration First Female District Attorney Talks Priorities at her Alma Mater Andreina Rodriguez Melinda Katz, the first female district attorney of Queens, held her inauguration amongst city and state officials, religious leaders and hundreds of attendees at her alma mater, St. John’s University in Carnesecca Arena on Jan. 6. “The inauguration was held at St. John’s University so I could ascend to the District Attorney’s Office in the same arena where I received my juris doctorate,” Katz said in a statement to the Torch. “I am very proud to be an alumna and it meant so much to me to share this event with the 1,000 people that joined us.” Throughout the inauguration, Katz broke down her priorities as district attorney, which included progressive policy changes. She was also introduced to the nine members of her executive team led by 26-year veteran of the Queens DA’s office, Chief Assistant Jennifer L. Naiburg. Katz joined many officials such as Rep. Greg Meeks, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Tish James and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who all gave remarks acknowledging Katz’s accomplishments and position that serves as a crucial moment for criminal justice reform, according to the Queens Cou-
PHOTO COURTESY/UNIVERSITY RELATIONS
Melinda Katz swears oath during her inauguration held in Carnesecca Arena.
rier. Elected officials praised Katz on her creation of the borough’s first Conviction Integrity Unit, which will examine cases and make recommendations for exoneration. According to Katz’s platform website, she stressed the issue of wrongful convictions
and the duty of the district attorney’s to ensure that justice is done. Katz put the policy into effect on day one of her tenure. She also put into effect the abandonment of the 180.80 waiver policy, which is a reform that allows defendants to plead a case before a grand jury five days after
an indictment. They also highlighted her promise to protect immigrant rights, keep ICE agents away from courthouses and limit hate crimes. Many acknowledged her history of public service as borough president, City Council member and assemblymember that has evidently prepared her for office. Despite the support Katz received from the audience, a dozen activists from Court Watch NYC, a collaborative project focused on accountability in courtrooms, and Our Progressive Future, an organization that supports activist youths in their communities, showed up to protest against Katz and her failure to pursue her goal of ending cash bail during her first day in office. Katz responded to critics by admitting the error and remaining committed to ending cash bail in all forms. “There’s a lot of naysayers and critics. There are those who say we’re not going far enough, there are those who are going too far,” Katz said. “I look forward to that challenge with the trust to do the right thing even though we know we can’t achieve it all in that single day.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Honored at Legacy Dinner Alicia Venter The Office of Multicultural Affairs held a Legacy Dinner, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 27, an event that has been held at the University for nearly three decades. Keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington discussed the importance of recognition of the work of others toward equality, the need to continually push for more equality and his “dream for humanity.” The dinner began with a welcome by Monique Jernigan, the executive director of Multicultural Affairs. She stressed the importance of the event and her appreciation for those who helped create the event, saying, “I want to also thank… all the student organizations who have been a part of making Black History Month, and especially tonight, possible.” After Jernigan’s introduction, senior Emem F. Essiem led the attendees in singing the first stanza of the Black National Anthem, which was then followed with a prayer by Rev. John J. Holliday, C.M., the University Chaplain. Afterwards, the attendees were invited to enjoy a catered meal Step Ya Game Up, SJU’s step team, performed after dinner, receiving a roaring round of applause. After this, Jernigan introduced Washington who walked onto the stage singing “If I can Help Somebody,” the song Mahalia Jackson sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. He thanked those in attendance, while also calling on them to recognize why they were really there. “Is it about being seen at the event, or it is re-
ally about the legacy?” he asked. TORCH PHOTO/ALICIA VENTER To ensure those in attendance engaged in the event, he had everyone stand and meet three people. To Washington, “There is too much that needs to be done in our communities for us to just show up at these things … for you to leave here and not have met anyone … would be a disgrace and dishonoring of his memory.” Washington’s speech focused on the importance of King’s message in today’s society, and how there is still work to be done. “The work did not start with me,” he said, “and it won’t end with me, so it is critical that we acknowledge the shoulders that we stand on.” The need for progression resonated throughout his speech, not only in terms of racial equality but in all forms, quoting King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice Remy A. Martin, St. John’s doctoral candidate, sings Whitney Houston’s “I Love the Lord.” everywhere.” To Larman, the best part of the dinner was come.” Washington’s closing remarks enThis event preludes the beginning of Black couraged involvement, stating “A wishbone Washington’s speech, she liked how he emwill never suffice where a backbone is re- phasized that “we as individuals can consis- History Month this February, where this tently continue the fight against all types of year’s theme is, “Blackish: Not Your Average quired.” Narrative.” Events during the month of FebWashington was met with a standing ova- discrimination.” Agiwa shared similar feelings. “The Rever- ruary include the recent “Red Table Talk” tion. He was followed by a gospel performance by doctoral candidate Remy A. Mar- end really touched on how important it is on Thursday, Feb. 6, held by the Office of tin, who sang “I Love the Lord” by Whitney to not forget the work that has been done Multicultural Affairs, which Jernigan stated before us.”She expressed her enjoyment of will be a discussion into “what it means to Houston. Freshman Kate Larman and senior Abiola his message on how to, “continue to push be black,” and the 30th annual Black and Agiwa were among the many students in at- forward for a vision of a more equitable fu- White Ball, held by Haraya, the Pan-African tendance, and both shared how they enjoyed ture and a future that is better for our chil- Students Coalition of St. John’s University, dren and is better for the people that are to which will be on Saturday, Feb. 29. the event.
Staten Island Campus Shuttle Cut Students: “They should’ve told us” Morgan C. Mullings Due to recent budget cuts at the University, eyes are on the Staten Island campus. It’s 27 miles away from the Queens campus, and though smaller, it has the same bustling student organizations, dining services, fraternities, sororities and fitness activities. But Staten Island students don’t hop on the F or E train to get to their Manhattan internship. There’s no Q30 to take them to Jamaica Ave on a Saturday. Students say the Staten Island Ferry is a lifeline for involved students. “If St. John’s is having financial problems, they could have been more considerate on what to cut out,” said Allan Rodriguez, a senior at the SI campus. “There have got to be other things we don’t need.” Access to shuttles from SI campus to the ferry has not been cut – but its schedule has, significantly. According to the Staten Island Advance, St. John’s shared a 7-day shuttle service with Wagner College, and announced to the student body via email Jan. 17 that they would replace it with their own. “During the fall and spring semesters, Wagner’s shuttle service runs 38 daily round trips to the ferry terminal with an additional three during the evening rush hour Monday to Friday when class is in session. A spokesman for Wagner confirmed that St. John’s had discontinued its contract for shuttle service,” the Advance published on Jan. 22. On weekdays, the shuttle will run from 7:10 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., and then from
4:10 p.m. to 7:40p.m. Weekend service will not be available. The alternative, Rodriguez says, is to just stay home. The Staten Island Ferry is free, and there is no train that connects Manhattan to the island. Those who don’t have cars take the bus, the LIRR or the MetroNorth to travel to other parts of New York, and they have their own fees. Even then, there is no direct service to Manhattan. “It does affect me because now I have to pay more [for] transit since the shuttle doesn’t work in that 6-hour gap,” he says. University spokesperson Brian Browne told the Advance, “The Staten Island Campus shuttle service — provided as a courtesy to St. John’s students — continues to operate on a modified schedule to serve students during peak travel times and to maximize resources to provide the most efficient services to all of our students.” Enrollment is rising at the SI campus, despite the lower net tuition revenue that has placed the University in a compromising financial position. “Without question, St. John’s University is not considering the sale of our Staten Island Campus, Browne told the Torch. In recent years, the campus has experienced increased first-year student enrollment.” But students fear that recent changes signal a neglect of the student body. “It’s very inconsiderate not to talk to students about making changes. Students were promised we’d have a shuttle before coming into St. John’s,” Jenny Lau, a junior at the Staten Island said.
Freshman Elizabeth Petrillo says, “They should’ve told us before the break. People plan their schedules around the shuttle cause they travel into Manhattan.” An open forum with Student Government Inc. at the SI campus revealed more student concerns. According to The Bolt, SI’s student radio station, lack of service “goes hand in hand with there being no MTA bus service running either, meaning students are now stuck on campus with little means of travel apart from Uber or Lyft which are costly alternatives. Coinciding with this is that the campus operates on a limited schedule over the weekends, with limited cafeteria hours, library hours and gymnasium hours, leaving students with little to do on weekends.” The Torch was not able to reach SI SGI at the time of publication. After reaching out to Resident Assistants on the SI campus for comment, the Torch learned that Resident Assistants are not al-
lowed to publicly comment on University issues, per their employment contracts. “This seemed like a rash decision,” Rodriguez says. There is also a shuttle to the Queens campus. Once in the morning, and another in the evening, on weekdays only.
Stanford Professor Offers Solutions to Racial Bias Quotes King Jr: “a shadow cast by that which we do not see” Michael Yacik
dreadlocked, her husband bald (as well as a good four inches taller). She laughed as she Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, a social psychol- recalled thinking, “I’m gonna have to have ogist and professor at Stanford University, a talk with my 5-year-old about how not spoke to a packed D’Angelo Center ball- all black people look alike.” room Tuesday, February 4 about implicit The laughter made a sudden exit when bias—the kind of bias we aren’t conscious- she recounted her son’s next question, one ly aware of having, yet still manages to in- he couldn’t explain why he asked: “Is he fluence our actions. She shared her studies going to rob the plane?” on how this bias has manifested itself in the Eberhardt conducted studies to see the fields of criminal justice, education and the effect of these associations on the educaworkplace. Her research on the topic is the tion system and found that black students subject of her 2019 book “Biased.” were more likely to be suspended or even According to a 2019 Pew Research poll, expelled for the same offenses as white 6 out of 10 Americans ones. view race relations in Her research the country as “genfound this same erally bad.” “How did bias stretching into Although racial we get to this point?” the workplace. She bias can touch our Eberhardt asked the aunoted an increasing lives in so many dience. To her, much trend of “whitened ways,we’re of this problem is owed resumes,” wherenot doomed not just to outright racin applicants alter to be under its grip. ism, but to more subtle their names or even biases, adding, “you their achievements don’t have to be an - Dr. Jennifer L . Eberhardt to appear less black ‘old-fashioned racist’ to to increase their be biased.” chances of getting a callback. Eberhardt says stereotypes and biases, “Although racial bias can touch our lives particularly the unfair association of blacks in so many ways, we’re not doomed to be with crime, are impressed upon us from a under its grip,” Eberhardt said, noting that young age. She was able to crack up the the ugliest effects of these unconscious biaudience by telling the story of her then ases often emerge in split-second decisions. 5-year-old son who, upon seeing the only For Eberhardt, simply slowing down and black man on a plane with them, said, comprehending situations fully can pre“that looks like daddy”—the passenger
TORCH PHOTO/MICHAEL YACIK
Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt talks implicit racial bias at D’Angelo Center
vent such incidents. Using this approach, she worked with the Oakland Police Department to reduce police stops by over 10,000 in one year—with stops of blacks further reduced by 43 percent. She found this approach likewise helpful in education, one study finding that having just one teacher with implicit bias training increased students’ trust in all of their teachers. The lecture closed with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., reflecting the often elusive nature of implicit racial bias: “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by
that which we do not see.” She received a standing ovation. Her speech resonated with several education workers in the audience. Senior Mikayla Lawrence, who tutors young children, enjoyed Eberhardt’s discussion of education, saying she wants to be “not only a tutor,” but “that one person” a child can trust. A Department of Education worker said, “I learned that while there’s work to be done, there has been a lot of work done.” They agreed with “slowing down” instead of acting impulsively as a solution to bias.
IRC Presents “Black Table Talk”
Haraya and NAACP partner to embrace the black community Sophie Williams It’s Black History Month and many orgs have been organizing events to celebrate. The Inclusivity Resource Center in collaboration with Haraya and NAACP hosted a Black Table Talk on Feb. 6. The inspiration for their Black Table Talk came from Jada Pinkett Smith’s web television talk show Red Table Talk where 3 different generations come together to discuss a variety of hot topics. The conversational panelist included: Johnathan Moore, Regibella Deporvel, SGI secretary Nnaemeka Ifeajekqu, Community Service Chair Samantha Moore and Hawkins Hawkins. They covered several topics like the definition of blackness, navigating life as a black person, being ‘black enough’, getting lost in the white noise, self-awareness, accountability, white supremacy and being united on campus. When discussing the definition of blackness, each panelists had their own personal definition, but all agreed that understanding where we come from is the way we define who we are and who we want to be. Ifeajekqu said, “When I think about blackness, I
think about myself. Not only my skin color but my background, the way I was brought up. The experience is indescribable. I can’t think about anything but myself and my brothers and sisters.” The panel continued to discuss how if people are intimidated than educationng and becoming aware of black culture is the best route when intimidation is the issue. “In reality, we are all the same, we all exist, we are all people.” Navigating life as a black person was discussed to many lengths. One route of the conversation was on the slang “straighten up” and what it meant to them. There is a “double soul that we have to live in as black folk...straighten up is coming from a deep sense of love that was once feared,” said Jonathan Moore The panel said that as a black person it is important to hold themselves accountable and sometimes being strict is a necessity to stay alive. The conversation was centered around family and how accountability is the most important to ensure one day does not become the last day their parent’s see them. While there is a sense of responsibility, there is also a great deal of pride. Johnathan Moore went on to say, “In order to be black
you have to represent a certain level of wildness, a certain level of lack of discipline...We come from royalty, we come from kings and queens. Black is unity...Black is every single color in one.” However, the feeling of being not ‘black enough’ was also a hot topic. Hawkins talked about her own struggles with this and how it came down to “not being black enough for the black kids and not being white enough for the white kids.” But the panel mentioned how regardless of a person’s struggle in feeling ‘black enough’ they must embrace their culture by knowing their history and background. The panel also had advice for self-confidence and awareness. Samantha Moore discussed how “putting salt in someone else’s sugar will not make your sugar sweeter.” Moore then went on to say, “You are happy. You’re glowing. I just want people to stop convincing other people of stuff they don’t believe.” The panel then spoke on how black people must keep those around them accountable. Johnathan Moore circled back to unity when saying, “Energy is only transfer. Black males have to take corrective action to their other brothers instead of turning the other way. I encourage us, all of us to not
turn the cheek to one another when you’re doing wrong. Let’s correct ourselves before someone out there corrects ourselves.” Lastly, when asked about feeding into white supremacy, Deporvel noted, “There is a time and a place for everything. It is about where you are and how you present yourself. We need to stop using the black card.” then Samantha, who agreed with Deporvel, responded by saying, “Anybody can wear sweatpants. We have to stop claiming those narratives. It is about professionalism.” The event was interactive between the audience and panelists. It ended on a strong note with the final words from panelist Hawkins who said, “This life is hard and it’s even harder being black. If you are not properly equipped up here then you are not going to be able to get through it.” If you are interested in other Black History Month events there are several coming up. On Feb. 27 there will be a viewing and discussion on the film “Queen and Slim” and on Feb. 29 Haraya is hosting their annual Black and White ball; tickets are now on sale and can be purchased through campus concierge.
Dance team takes national championship by storm Jennalynn Fung St. John’s Dance Team became national champions on Jan. 19, claiming first place for their incredible Hip Hop routine at the 2020 UCA & UDA College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championship in Orlando, Florida. They also made University history by competing in the finals with their jazz routine, placing seventh out of twelve, an equally tremendous achievement. But the dance team has even greater goals for next year, building on what they learned and accomplished from this season. Christine McCarton, the head coach of the dance team, has led St. John’s to win two hip hop titles in the last five seasons, the first one awarded in 2016. St. John’s has consistently placed within the top-ten in hip hop at all of their previous competitions, indicative of how disciplined, talented and cohesive this team is. Anya Vernon, a senior, said that the team “wouldn’t be where it is today without Christy and the choreographers.” In addition to their leadership, it is the boundless adoration they receive from the audience every time they perform at MSG that has led them to success. “The leadership we have today and the support from our peers gives us the energy to power through and perform.” For most of the athletes on the dance team, a family member or relative is what spurred their involvement in dance. With time, however, each dancer found a reason for themselves to continue pursuing the art. Emma Rios, a senior on the team, says that dance not only strengthened her as a person but gave her a support group. “All of us are like one big family. We spend so much time together, see each other basically every day, and have to trust one another. The only way we’re able to pull off so many difficult moves is our trust and confidence in each other,” Rios said, looking at her teammates with pride. “The best part was when we finished the routine and walked off the stage. We were crying because we knew we had accomplished everything we had been working towards, and had proved to ourselves what this team was capable of,” Rios continued.
“We don’t ever have to worry that someone else isn’t going hours.” to give it their all,” Ashley Nicholson, a junior, remarked. For every Carnesecca and Madison Square Garden game, “That’s how it was at the end of our hip-hop routine. We they’re getting ready and doing makeup for two hours, didn’t do that well at the end of our semis [semifinals], so performing during half-time at basketball games and cheerwe all knew we needed to step it up for the finals. At the ing on the sidelines before going home. That doesn’t even end of dance, I think we all knew that we had given that include the school work they have on top of it all, plus the performance every ounce of energy we could.” prevalence of injuries. Their routine was revolutionary, unlike anything that It is the team’s constant striving for greatness that makes had ever been performed at nationals before. The dancers, their success so much sweeter. The moment the team adorned with sparkly makeup realized that they won was not only and bold outfits, held silver life-changing but a testament to how silks in their arms as they much time and love they devoted to the executed acrobatic moves routine and to one another. Moreover, flawlessly and with the same “The leadership we this competition was the final one for professionalism as perforhave today and the the seniors on the dance team, making mances in Cirque du Soleil. As support from our peers this victory both the perfect finale and Lady Gaga’s iconic pop song gives us the energy to a bittersweet end to their time at St. “Born This Way” blasted in the Vernon enthusiastically said, “I’m power through and John’s. speakers above, the dance team excited to finally get that championship perform.” shook the audience to their ring!” core. “I am incredibly proud of our team Anya Vernon this year. They have put countless hours Hailey Behl, a junior, revealed that at the end of their in since the summer to make their winning routine, “everyone, not just us, was screaming, cry- dreams of winning a national championship a reality,” said ing and cheering when we finished. It probably had to do Coach Christine McCarton. “Their performance in the final with the nature and message of our routine as well, as it was round of competition was electric. We are so pleased to be based off of Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way,’” Behl said. “Our bringing another championship to St. John’s.” amazing choreographers in Florida always put together such When it comes to the next year, the team hopes they can meaningful messages in conjunction with the routine.” keep the national title with yet another strikingly impressive When the dance team performs, the audience only sees routine and earnest message that encourages the audience to flawless grace and fluidity, but there is no doubt that behind think about social and cultural issues. every turn, leap and gleaming smile, there is a sheer amount For students who hope to join the nationally-acclaimed of will power and grit through the pain. To be a dancer is to dance team at St. John’s, the dancers had some words of transform some of the most difficult moves into messages advice. Prospective members should be humble and ready that resonate with every person in the audience. Few people to learn new things. ever catch a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes or “It’s really the familial dynamic of this team that has have an understanding of what it means to be training and carried us so far,” Vernon affirmed. “When I first joined the practicing for hours on end. team, I wasn’t the most confident dancer, but my teamRios says that dance is not a seasonal sport and they have mates helped me grow as a person and athlete. We want to to perform throughout the year, even during breaks. “Right do the same for the next group. We all have something we before the competition we probably devoted about 120 can learn from another person.”
TORCH PHOTO/SPENCER CLINTON
Alum Podcast Takes Listeners ‘Behind the Board’ Dayra Santana
where,” White explains, describing why talking to producers can be more interesting than talking to the artists themselves at times. “I’ll use Jay-Z as an example – you love the song… but you wanna know how Timbaland made that beat, and you never find out until you see something on Jay-Z 10 years later and they say how they came up with the beat.” “That story is always more interesting than the other story you probably heard about the song.” The podcast is not just a platform for anecdotes about being in the studio with famous artists, but also a place where aspiring producers can find tips for perfecting their craft.
become a producer, I would have wanted tips and tricks. The show isn’t just about what happened in the studio, that’s a part of it,” White said. Have you ever wondered what went into the creation of your “But then it got to the point where I started asking, ‘what favorite album? You may know the meaning behind the lyris the sustainability of becoming a producer? Can you really ics or the anecdote that inspired the song as a whole, but have a life or career as a producer? How do you pay your inwhat was it like for the producer sitting behind the soundsurance? Do you have health insurance? How are you really board in the studio? getting by month to month?’” St. John’s alum Varonica White, who goes by V.White on “[We] look at it on a bigger scale so that people know that air, gets the scoop behind creating hit records and hip-hop Soundcloud is not the only way, Youtube is not the only beats on her podcast, “Behind the Board.” way. They’ve said writing camps are a great way to get startThe podcast had its beginning when White met her ed, they also tell you the best instruments co-producer, Lu Comer, in a journalism class in PHOTO COURTESY/LU COMER to start working with, tools to start working St. John’s Hall during their undergraduate years. with, what are some of the best instruments White and Comer bonded over shared interests, for your budget, lots of tips. That’s really and Comer soon told White that while she was what the shows about.” a great writer she may be better suited for interWhite graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s viewing and talking because of her personality. in English and describes the connections she “He told me he had this show in mind and made in her college years, “College in genwanted me to be the host of it. At the time eral is a great place for networking, because [Comer was] working at The Source and had a now I have friends that work in all different lot of leeway to certain artists. He was able to set types of companies. They work in PR, marup a lot of good interviews.” keting, they work at Roc Nation, they work They began working out of a radio station in anywhere.” Dumbo, Brooklyn and released the first season White also recalls her time at St. John’s of the podcast on Soundcloud in 2016. and memorably graduating alongside rapper “Once we wrapped it up and relistened to it J. Cole. and kind of saw the audience for it we kind of “Whenever he’s in town, we always just realized that it’d be pretty good if we could congo to a suite in the Barclays and watch the tinue on with the second season and put it on show from there and it’s literally like we’re iTunes,” said White. in Marillac again,” White said. “It’s all of White always had an affinity for music, growthe people we came up with, we’re all just in ing up interested in all genres but specifically different places and ended up doing pretty R&B and hip-hop. As a hip-hop fan she has good for ourselves.” been able to hear the backstories behind some of Varonica White interviews music producers on her podcast “Behind the Board.” White is currently working on the podcast’s her favorite records, including clearing up the ursecond season, talking to various artists inban-legend behind rapper DMX’s come-up in an interview with producer Dame Grease and insight into the “It’s not just about what happens when you’re recording or cluding: Wyclef Jean, Chase N Cashe, A Truth Musik, Nate Williams, Kofi Black and M Slago. While White and her making of Lil Kim’s, “La Bella Mafia,” an album that White making a song,” White said. “We really started it as a platform for people like ourselves. team are producing the second season you can listen to the herself was a huge fan of. “I feel like you can find an interview on an artist any- I don’t want to become a producer, but if I had wanted to first season of Behind the Board on Soundcloud.
Muslim Student Association Wins MSA Showdown Shaolin Barid
The weekend of Jan. 25, 2020 marked the St. John’s Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) remarkable victory in the New York MSA Showdown hosted at NYU Tandon in Brooklyn. Participants based their submissions on the theme “Breaking Barriers: Daring to Dream,” as they went on to compete for their first title. Muslim college students in America often face challenges that burden them with their own identity. The theme for the competition was enlisted as a way to share obstacles Muslim students generally face in regards to their race, religion and class by using their creative abilities to showcase their personal journeys of overcoming those obstacles. The MSA Showdown provides a collaborative space for MSA’s at universities along the east coast to showcase their talent, incorporating such a profound theme in various categories that included photography, Quran, product development, social justice campaign pitch, stand-up comedy, a fashion collection and short film, as well as several other categories. This weekend-long event allowed participants to attend various speeches, watch multiple competitions and gather around to learn more about Islam and the overall management between being a full-time student and a Muslim. The MSA Showdown serves as a platform for all Muslim college students to emulate the unity of the religion by means of celebration and connection within brotherhood and sisterhood. It was created in hopes of utilizing the support between students for the purposes of building
PHOTO COURTESY/NUSRAT NASIR each other up while discovering and sharing talents and skills worth noting. MSA Showdown winners of each category are granted prizes that effectively enhance creative skills in accordance with their respective wins. Winners of the short film category have the opportunity to be advised by chairman Sikandar Atiq of The Mosquers Film Festival, widely known to host international film festivals dedicated to educate and entertain audiences about the Muslim experience. Winners for 2D art, creative writing and photography will have their work published in Aftab Magazine, a literary outlet for the voices of Muslims and minorities. Stand-up Comedy, Brothers Nasheed and Spoken Word winners will get to perform at the St. John’s MSA members win big at their first New York Showdown. itors Ali Mian and Mohammed Wasi, to be placed in first Performing Arts Mosaic. Fashion Collection winners will have the opportunity to meet with CEO and second place respectively. This also led to St. John’s overall MSA Showdown win for this year. Melanie Al Turk of Haute Hijab, a renowned Muslim The St. John’s MSA Community Service Chair Nusrat Fashion company. Winners of the Sister Nasheed category Nasir explained her experience at the NY MSA Showwill have an opportunity to have a one-on-one mentoring down: “Being a part of the St. John’s Ummah team for session with New Jersey based hip-hop artist Boshia RaeNY MSA Showdown was one of the most incredible and Jean. developing experiences. It led me to tap into my creativity The SJU MSA placed first in six competitions which that I did not realize I had before. The passion, the laughinclude Sisters Quran Level 1, Photography, Stand-Up ter and the immense energy from our team (fondly known Comedy, Short Film, Sisters Nasheed and Brothers as Johnnies) are qualities I will always cherish. The people Improv. The SJU MSA also placed within the top 5 for 9 competitions, making way for the overall top two compet- who comprise this team are truly irreplaceable.”
Ignite: Raising Women’s Political Voices Sophie Williams Politics on a college campus can be a hard topic to tackle. However, the new organization Ignite is sparking the conversation and promoting a campus with open, respectful dialogue. Ignite discusses things like “women’s politics, equal pay. Stuff that everybody talks about but kind of brushes over.” President Meghan O’Donnell and Vice President Grace Burchell are both passionate about government and politics. This passion motivated them to bring Ignite onto the St. John’s campus. Ignite is a national non-profit organization composed of young women and the next generation of political leaders. Both O’Donnell and Burchell saw a need on campus for not only more involvement in politics, but also for a place where women can find their voice. “I feel like on campus politics is not openly spoken about. People of course have their opinions but it’s not a massive presence on campus...we just want to bring a new space on campus to openly discuss policy issues, the news, and the world.” O’Donnell and Burchell were in a class on feminist politics together last year where they noticed the issue on women speaking up in a classroom. “We found that it is kind of hard to speak in classrooms when the [in the] majority there are not a lot of girls necessarily in a class … in feminism politics, there were only like three guys in the class, so all of the girls felt comfortable in talking because they didn’t feel pressured in being perfect or not knowing enough and not having the confidence that they do know enough.” Burchell said. “We saw on campus there wasn’t a space necessarily that had a non-partisan, kind of political women’s empowerment club.” O’Donnell said. It was in that same class where they saw Ignite mentioned in their textbook. From then on they worked to open a chapter at St. John’s and also become recognized by SGI. O’Donnell is a senior government and politics major with a gender sexuality studies minor. Burchell is a senior psychology major with a triple minor of international studies, french and government and politics. Both women do everything they can to cultivate a better political environment on campus. O’Donnell, who is from Ireland, shocks many when people ask her about her involvement in politics.
“So I can’t vote, which is the biggest laugh ever. I can’t even vote in my home country. If you live outside of Ireland for more than 18 months consecutively then you can’t vote. A reason why I am passionate about politics is not just because I’ve grown up here for a long time, but in my home country I see things and I want them to be changed … if women do not get involved in politics, as senators or congresswomen things will never change. It will only get worse.” O’Donnell went on to say, “I am so passionate and people are like, ‘I don’t care to vote.’ I’m just like, I literally have no right to vote. In the sense I’m voiceless on a national level and the only thing I can use my voice for is through this … Ignite definitely gave me that voice and [I] also understand the power that it comes with.” Ignite was recognized as a non-advisory org this past November. The national Ignite office sends each chapter a resource tool kit to start and keep the org thriving on their campus. Chapters are also paired with a fellow, who is in charge of chapters in their state. The fellow connects them with local politicians/leaders to speak at events, and also creates meetings and networking events. Anyone who wants to seek change can talk to their state fellow who will report to the President at the headquarters in San Francisco. There is even a national conference in DC where every chapter can attend. O’Donnell and Burchell saw women who do not know what to do with their ambitions. Ignite provides a support system which cultivates motivation and confidence for women to go after their ambitions while finding their voice. “With Ignite, we say listen you are good enough as you are and you have the tools and we will give you extra tools if you need them.” Something many students may not know is that Ignite is a non-partisan org – no matter what party you fall in, Ignite is open for everyone. “We want to re-emphasize again it is okay to have your opinions, but it is being respectful and understanding … your opinions are your opinions. We don’t want to be preachy, that is a big thing. We don’t want to bring in people who are going to yell and scream or are going to say ‘this is the only way.’” Both women reflected on the mood on campus before and after the 2016 election: “Before the elections, it was kind of all buzz on who is going to win. Then
PHOTO COURTESY/GRACE BURCHELL
Ignite is a new, non-partisan organization on campus.
2016, the day after the election, it was the strangest feeling on campus that has ever happened. It was a very kind of somber mood and then after that people don’t really speak about it anymore. It was just kind of like anger toward each other.” A campus can feel very enclosed but now Ignite “[makes] sure that every member is as comfortable as they can [be]. Of course you can voice your own opinions, but you have to learn how to respect each other’s opinions.” While O’Donnell and Burchell are entering their last semester, they still have high hopes for Ignite and the future it has on campus. “I would love to see more programs from St. John’s that have to do with women in roles or the lack of, in regards to women in politics and leadership roles in general,” O’Donnell said. “We hope to have a larger presence in years to come.” While the org is focused on women becoming more socially and politically involved, men can get involved too. Burchell said, “It is equally as important...you need the other 50 percent to support you as well.” It has been “a year in the making” for both women and they hope even after they graduate Ignite will be a place where politics can be openly discussed and give women their voice.
Alum Wins Award for Enchanting Poetry Book Andriena Rodriguez Many who live in the United States are brought up in households where their families speak a different language. Some speak the language fluently, while others are more comfortable with English. Nicolás Cabrera, a St. John’s alum, took his knowledge of both English and Spanish and laid it out in a colorful poetry book. Dedicated to his Neomexicano (Hispanics of New Mexico) grandparents, Luis E. Montiel and María Dolores Cortez, Cabrera’s book, “Ecos Neomexicanos: Poesía de la Tierra del Encanto,” which translates to “Neomexican Echoes: Poetry of the Land of Enchantment,” recently won the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Spanish language category. It has also won first place in the 2015 National Federation of Press Women communications contest. Cabrera decided it best to separate the book into two sections, English and Spanish, so that more people are open to reading it. “I used my bilingual skills to tell stories in two languages, such as my grandfather who worked as a bracero, or seasonal farm worker, or the excitement of making bizcochitos for Christmas,” Cabrera said.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the historic Los Griegos neighborhood, Cabrera learned both English and Spanish from his parents. When they met, his father, Juan Manuel Cabrera knew more Spanish while his mother, María Montiel knew more English but they knew enough of each language to communicate with one another. “They were able to still fall in love even though there was a language barrier there,” Cabrera said. This background built the bilingual dynamic that he eventually sought out for his book. The Spanish language embodies special significance for Cabrera. He even taught the language at a high school. “At home we always spoke Spanish because we felt it was important to keep the language of our ancestors alive,” Cabrera said. “And so after a few career changes, I was a former high school Spanish teacher for a number of years.” Cabrera has always felt as though he found beauty and potential stories in unusual places. He was always inspired to write about his personal family experiences and stories mainly related back to New Mexico and its people, culture, scenery and landscapes. “I just felt it was important to put those stories down on paper,” Cabrera said. “I
have been just jotting down verses in poems, on paper and on my laptop for years now.” In “Ecos Neomexicanos,’’ Cabrera writes a story about wild mint peppermint growing in his great aunt’s backyard that recalls memories of his childhood. “The poem describes that experience of touching the wild peppermint and being able to really take that childhood memory and create a poem about it [and] put into a verse,” Cabrera said. “So that’s what I would do. That’s where I draw my inspiration.” “El agua fría y blanca ya regresó, En una silla de ruedas, mi bisabuela se sentó. Todavía hincado a la planta continué a tocar, “Es yerbabuena, la mejor que podemos sembrar”. “The cold and white water had now returned, My great-grandmother sat in a wheelchair. Still kneeling, I kept touching the plant, “It’s the yerbabuena, the best we can sow.” Cabrera’s high school friend, editor and publisher for the Judith Literary Press, David Michael Belczyk, encouraged him to create the book after reading his poems and released three printings under the publishing house. “He said, well, maybe you should think about putting them together and develop-
ing a poetry collection,” Cabrera said. “And then that’s kind of how the idea of the book started.” At St. John’s, Cabrera received a master of Science in Library and Information Science, with the intent of pursuing a career as a librarian. Throughout his time at St. John’s, he worked closely with the University Writing Center in St. Augustine Library to help edit his poems. “They helped me edit early drafts back in the fall of 2017,” Cabrera said. “I don’t remember the year, but I did go to the Writing Center and they did help me with editing some of the poems. And that was before I had gotten the book offer, so I was just trying to polish some of my work.” For Cabrera, writing is not easy. He reminds aspiring writers to keep working hard until they get to their goal. “You have to keep writing, the more you write, the better your skills in writing become, ‘’ Cabrera said. “There’s going to be a lot of rejection when you try to get pieces published, but you have to keep going because one day when something finally does get published, maybe a poem here or a collection of poetry or a novel or something that sense of satisfaction, [that] accomplishment is, it’s worth it.”
Flames of the Torch
97TH MANAGING BOARD Morgan C. Mullings/ EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Dayra Santana/ MANAGING EDITOR Jillian Ortiz/ BUSINESS MANAGER Andreina Rodriguez
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ABOUT THE TORCH The Torch is the official, independent student newspaper of St. John’s University. The Torch is written, edited, designed and produced by students of the University. The Torch is published on most Wednesdays, with approximately 20 issues throughout the academic year. Copies are distributed for free on campus and through mail subscriptions.
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Staff Editorial: A New Year At the Torch After winter break, the Torch came back hosting bi-weekly fundraising events, swinging with a multitude of articles – like movie nights and book sales. Make but they were not in print. This semester sure to follow us on our social media we are taking an online first approach, platforms to keep up with our fundraisgetting articles in weekly and posting ing efforts. them online immediately instead of In addition to that we’d really like to waiting for print. We will only be releas- encourage pitches, tips and letters from ing four print issues in our online first writers. Some of our best stories from approach. Many of those online stories the past month were tips and pitches will make it into the print issue, with from anonymous students and alum – additional reporting and stories: this is- we are always looking forward to hearsue, March 18, April 1, and April 23. ing from you all. For example, our As we continue to post handfuls of sto- Staten Island story in this issue, and the ries online each hiring pause story week, we will also from last semesbe introducing an ter were produced email newsletter in conjunction to keep our readwith anonymous One of our primary goals tips from the St. ership up to date on the work of all this semester is to John’s communiour contributing ty. Without you, fundraise to alleviate this we wouldn’t be writers and faculty members. This to report on debt for future e-boards. able shift is mainly the most importbecause it costs ant happenings on upwards of $600 each campus. to print our weekly newspaper that we distribute all over campus. Over the past In other news, we have also elected a several eboards, our debt has accumu- new managing editor, Dayra Santana, lated and one of our primary goals this to replace our former managing editor, semester is to fundraise to alleviate this Amanda Negretti. Negretti graduated debt for future e-boards. this past fall and was a dedicated manIf you would like to donate and keep ager to the entire team. Santana will be the Torch in print, please visit our go- working alongside our EIC with her fundme page (gofundme.com/save-the- managerial duties of making sure the torch). You can also Venmo or Cashapp print issue is looking its best, and that our Editor-in-Chief at @morgancmull- each online article is moving through ings. All donations, even small ones, the editing process smoothly. We look mean a lot to us, and to independent forward to seeing her thrive in this new journalism as a whole. We will also be role.
Destinee Tyler Scott
Yes, Valentine’s Day may come off as a day full of high expectations and over-the-top romantic gestures, but it is still a day that celebrates love. Whether that be a small or big love, a dramatic or easy love — or even selflove, the day is like a toast to your love journey. Even though my love journey has never been easy or straightforward, I’ve always been that girl who wears pink and red from head-to-toe on Valentine’s Day. Between the chocolate truffle heart boxes to romantic candlelight dinners, there’s nothing about the day that I don’t love. Valentine’s Day is meant to be a reminder that you are loved and you are cared about. It is true that everyone should take the time to recognize the love in their life every day, but Valentine’s Day is a day to honor your overall journey and where you are now.
Valentine’s Day is a money-making strategy for businesses, like flower shops and restaurants, that we should not indulge. People spend an absurd amount of money on flowers, chocolates, restaurant dates and other extravagant gifts for their partners to express their love, all of which are unnecessary and very materialistic. Mass media only adds to this headache by profiting from manipulative advertisements. Why should there be a designated day in our lives to express our feelings for someone? Let your partner feel your love often, not just one day a year as a formality. Pick any day of the week and make it a date night. Indulge every day because life is short and waiting for the “right moment” — which does not exist — is a waste. Valentine’s Day singles out single people and puts more pressure on someone who might be proposing. It creates — emotional and financial — that exploits human sentimentality.
Where Are The Black Professors? SJU’s Faculty Diversity Problem Destinee Tyler Scott
At the beginning of every semester over the past four years, I’ve found myself wondering whether I would have another black professor. Not six, not five, not even three; just one — one black professor that I could racially relate to. But as I’m three weeks into my last semester of undergrad, I’ve realized that there are no semesters left to continue wondering. And I would have to face the fact that out of the 40 professors that I had over the years, only one was black, and I will never forget her. Do you remember touring St. John’s University’s Queen’s campus for the first time? The Student Ambassador telling you the history of the college and showing you all the buildings and places to eat. Well, the one thing they highlighted which sold me as a prospective student was their claims to continue making diversity among students and faculty a main priority. SJU even has a university inclusivity statement dedicated to this mission — and an Equity and Inclusion Council whose tasks include “recruit[ing] and retain[ing] faculty, administrators and staff
from historically underrepresented groups” to “foster[ing] a more inclusive campus climate.” You would think diversity would be the least of SJU’s problems because of all the committees and promises. But those committees and promises only seem to serve one purpose: to just exist. As of fall 2018, St. John’s University Office of Institutional Research reported that only 29 percent of SJU’s full-time faculty were people
own reasoning for leaving, at least two seemed to point to an issue they had with the lack of diversity among faculty. This led me to believe that if professors themselves have issues with the lack of diversity, then should “where are the black professors” even be a question? It’s clear that SJU has a diversity problem amongst its faculty. And every time I’m in a classroom, I’m reminded of this problem. I understand SJU’s effort, but what is effort without results? It’s 2020; diversity is more important than ever and people need to see themselves represented in their communities. There’s absolutely no excuse for another student to go It’s clear that SJU has a through their entire undergrad without having diversity problem amongst more than one black professor. its faculty. And every time Last year on behalf of SJU, St. John’s PresiI’m in a classroom, I’m dent Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw said that the reminded of this problem. hiring process also depends on the support of “the student body to encourage diversifying the campus in terms of both gender and race.” Well, despite SJU’s hiring freeze, as someone of color. But as highlighted in the Torch last semester, “Few Faculty Members of Color,” the who is a part of the student body, I am encourdiversity among faculty dropped when three aging more efforts toward hiring black profesprofessors quit. And although each had their sors. Now it’s your move.
Is It Just As “Simple” As A Plague? Yueran Yu
How can I not take action when there are people suffering, regardless of whether or not I am familiar with them, and just hope that nothing unexpected will happen to me? How can I naively believe that the time I spend with my family, my daily provisions and everything else I have, comes easily? I was born and raised in Wuhan for 16 years — yes, the place where this coronavirus outbreak originated. Rather than pointing out all the hidden or exposed inhumane sufferings and chaos, I want to share God’s truth behind all of these. “For His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) The origin of the “Black Death” in Europe in the 1300s was similar to the coronavirus. Both came from human consuming unholy food God categorized in Leviticus 11 (ex. rats and bats) and many other hidden sins. According to an article posted on History.com, without advanced techonology or professional doctors, the plague wiped out 1/3 of Europe population. However, within four months, the rate suddenly dropped to 0.1% when the villagers of Oberammergau repented before
God and cried out for mercy. The villagers kept their promise with God and will be holding the 42nd “The Passion Play Village” in 2020. Who has something as omnipotent as God to save him from all harm? But if we are willing to ask God for help, and sincerely repent deep inside our hearts, He can make danger and calamity beyond us and our home.
These disasters are just loving warnings from our merciful God. He isn’t trying to destroy us but awaken us, won’t he leave the 99 to look for the 1?
For months, I have heard countless reactions from victims and bystanders. I totally understand because I might have acted the same before I became a Christian. I don’t know who to seek help from, I don’t know who to blame … I strive to protect myself. However, my whole life was transformed once I encountered God. He wants to be your protection too.
Since the beginning of 2020 catastrophes such as the sudden death of superstars, flu, locust famine, war and wildfire. These catastrophes, once written in black and white, unfold before our eyes. Don’t be astonished when you find all the answers in the Bible. Knowing God is this real, how should you respond? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Do not wait for God’s wrath to execute judgment. These disasters are just loving warnings from our merciful God. He isn’t trying to destroy us, but awaken us; won’t He leave the 99 to look for the 1? (also check out I Peter 4:17 and II Peter 3:9). We are all sinners. II Timothy said end time sinner are lovers of ourselves and money, rebellious, proud, unholy, without love, unforgiving... Brothers and sisters, this message isn’t to scare you but to save you. I am simply trying my best to deliver God’s messages accurately and pray that you will personal encounter Him. Starting today, restore your relationship with God, not only to bring blessings and eternal life to yourself, but to your friends and families, and even those strangers in need. All glory to you, God! May you establish an eternal relationship with God! God is love and he won’t withhold his discipline!
Three Heel Clicks for “The Wiz” Haraya revives classic to the Little Theatre Grace Greer This past weekend, Haraya (Pan-African Students’ Coalition), St. John’s Performing Arts and dozens of students and alumni put on a four-show production of “The Wiz,” a modernized retelling of the 1900 musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” in the context of African American culture. The only thing better than seeing this production Jan. 30 was seeing it again on Feb.1 when the show was sold out and the theatre was packed with people excited to see a stunning performance. “It was important to me that we made this play happen because it has been a tradition of Haraya for years and we felt like we needed to bring it back. I personally have never been a part of any play production, and I am so blessed that this was my first one,” Armani Monteiro, president of Haraya, said. Ethan Burrell, a freshman Government and Politics major, played several parts including Uncle Henry, an Emerald City Citizen and a Munchkin. “Being in The Wiz was a great way to connect to my community for Black History Month. I feel blessed to have experienced the sense of family that we created through our shared hard work and passion,” said Burrell. The ever-talented E’mani Johnson (pictured on the right) played the part of the Lion, a demanding and inspirational role. “The Wiz holds a special place in my heart because the story taught me that with confidence, I can achieve anything. Playing the role of the Lion was definitely challenging because while my character struggled finding courage within herself, I was struggling with the same things on a personal level. But during this rehearsal process, while also finding confidence in my character, I gained confidence in myself as well,” Johnson said. Marcos Cariño practically stole the show as the Royal Gatekeeper. He had nothing less than an inspiring experience with “The Wiz.” “To me, this show means more than I can describe. It’s an iconic piece of work, especially for black culture. It’s soulful, vibrant and beautiful. I believe we really created something special, something magical with this show. Our Director, Juson Williams, pushed us, encouraged us and believed in us,” Cariño said. “The show seemed to be received very well by the audiences, and we hope that we gave them an experience, a story and a lesson that will stick with them.” With only a month of production and rehearsal, “The Wiz” came to a close on Feb. 1. To think that the glittery costumes of Glinda, the Tin Man and the patchwork costume for the Scarecrow were put together in just a few weeks is an incredible feat, and the set was no exception. The various sets transformed not only the stage, but the story, making it even more dynamic and exciting to watch. Selling out a show is practically unheard of for The Little Theatre, but it is only appropriate that it happened for one as fantastic and magical as this one.
PHOTO COURTESY/ HARAYA
H.E.R. Releases New Soulful Single “Sometimes” Maria Keddis Just in time for the Grammys, H.E.R. released her newest single, “Sometimes,” on Jan. 26. The soulful tune has influences of pop/rock and carries elements of R&B and gospel that bring an old school vibe in a time where traditional R&B hasn’t necessarily been on top. H.E.R.’s vocals never fail to amaze the masses; her range and control are unmatched. The overall composition of the song provides a vulnerability that isn’t too overwhelming, but communicates the right kind of emotion. The lyrics resonate deeply because they ring true; lines such as “sometimes things don’t go your way,” make the song very relatable. The lyrics from the first verse to the pre-chorus, “that’s just the game and I respect it,” bring empowerment and build up hand in hand with the beat, making it catchy and satisfying.
The contrast of the melancholic lyrics and the upbeat melody provide a wholesome vibe to the song and make it stand out. H.E.R. addresses herself in this song and how she feels instead of focusing on love and romanticism like many other R&B songs. This song has become another addition to the great collection of R&B that H.E.R. has been releasing since her debut album in 2017. In addition to that, her flawless performance of “Sometimes” at the Grammys offered a rich live experience of the song. H.E.R. outdid herself yet again with another hit single that listeners can relate to and appreciate because she meshes genres while still preserving the real R&B sound. She also released another single on Feb. 5 titled “Comfortable,” which contrary to “Sometimes,” portrays H.E.R. ’s signature mellow sound.
PHOTO COURTESY/ YOUTUBE H.E.R.
H.E.R. performs her new single, “Sometimes,” live at the 62nd Grammy Awards.
AN ALL-STAR ON AND OFF THE COURT WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN Brooke Mosca Basketball fans, players and coaches across the globe had their worlds turned upside down with the tragic death of the legendary basketball star, Kobe Bryant, on Jan. 26. Bryant came into the NBA at 17 years old, nicknamed Black Mamba, and went on to have an accolade-filled career with the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 consecutive seasons. Amongst countless accomplishments throughout his career, Bryant won five NBA titles, was an 18-time NBA all-star with four MVP performances, and was the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 points. Just four years into his retirement, Bryant’s life was taken too soon in a horrific helicopter crash. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were headed to a youth basketball event at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. Seven others were aboard the aircraft, including college basketball coach John Altobelli, as well as his wife and daughter. Although the cause of the crash has yet to be confirmed, reports questioned whether it was related to foggy weather conditions. Upon the chopper’s wreck, the vehicle burst into flames. During his NBA career and his retirement, Bryant supported over half a dozen charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer. Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, also started their own foundation, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which provides opportunities for less fortunate children to stay active by participating in sports. Bryant’s ability to manage his athletic endeavors, charitable works and primary role as a father illustrate his radiant love and kindness. Fans around the world were distraught at the death of not only an athletic phenomenon, but also a philanthropist, dedicated family man and complicated public figure. To pay their respects to both Kobe and Gianna Bryant, a small group of St. John’s students gathered outside of Taffner Field House at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, for a prayer vigil hosted by Haraya. Flickering flames from a collection of prayer candles illuminated a poster board with a photo collage of the father and daughter. The event lasted for about 30 minutes, but the memorial remained outside of Taffner for several days following the service. Bryant, his daughter and the other helicopter passengers will truly be missed and remembered forever.
“I THINK WHY SO MANY PEOPLE RELATED TO HIM WAS BECAUSE HE GAVE ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF HIMSELF WITH EVERYTHING HE DID…ON THE BASKETBALL COURT, WITH HIS FAMILY, AND WITH HELPING OTHERS. I THINK PEOPLE SAW HIM AS ALMOST A MEMBER OF THEIR FAMILIES; THAT’S WHY IT AFFECTED SO MANY PEOPLE WHEN HE PASSED AWAY. ” – THOMAS CARMONDY, FRESHMAN “IT’S CRAZY BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A BIG SUPERSTAR, AND NOW HE’S GONE. IT MAKES YOU GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE.” – MATTHEW HALPIN, FRESHMAN “KOBE’S DEATH MADE ME REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT FAMILY IS.” – HAILEY POMARA, FRESHMAN “HE WAS A GREAT MAN, WHO DID EVERYTHING FOR HIS FAMILY. HE WAS EVERYTHING TO HIS KIDS, AND HIS KIDS WERE EVERYTHING TO HIM. HIS DEATH WAS DEVASTATING BECAUSE IT SHOWED THAT ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.” – FRANK MENNONA, FRESHMAN
torchonline.com TORCH DESIGN/ JENNA WOO
Celebrating Black History Month Through Film Jewel Antoine It’s the first Black History Month of the decade and for the entire month of February, remarkable black icons, historic figures and civil rights activists will be rightfully acknowledged and praised. Black History Month is a time to highlight the unique struggles, triumphs and history of the African American population. It is the perfect time to learn something new or pay attention to a story or an issue that you haven’t been exposed to. Below are my top five films that you should watch this month to help you celebrate and appreciate black stories.
"Jewel's Catch One" Dir. by C. Fitz (available on Netflix) This documentary tells the story of the well-known Los Angeles nightclub, Catch One, and its owner, Jewel Thais-Williams. Thais-Williams tells the story of how she was able to open Catch One and turn it into one of the most notable nightclubs in Los Angeles. Thais-Williams and the community within Catch One serve as a pillar in both Black and LGBTQ+ communities. Catch One served as a haven during the AIDS crisis and was home to a lot of important aspects of black and LGBTQ+ culture such as drag culture, voguing and music. She managed to keep the club open for four decades, despite facing significant racism, homophobia and hate. Thais-Williams is a national example of how endurance, resilience and kindness are all that we need to be of service to others.
PHOTO COURTESY/ YOUTUBE MOVIECLIPS TRAILERS
"If Beale Street Could Talk"
"What Happened, Miss Simone?"
Dir. by Barry Jenkins (available on Hulu)
Dir. by Liz Garbus (available on Netflix)
Set in early 1970s Harlem, the film follows the story of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) who is trying to clear her lover’s name (Stephan James) after he is wrongfully convicted of a crime. Based on a James Baldwin novel of the same name, the film manages to capture the hopelessness and pain that the family experiences as a result of a racist society and criminal justice system while still making way for the couple’s turbulent yet persistent love story. Jenkins paints this tragic story against beautiful scenery and emphasizes the value of love in the face of hardship.
This documentary chronicles the life of Nina Simone, American soul singer and civil rights activist. Garbus uses archival audio and film to recount the life, thoughts and achievements of Simone while also highlighting her struggle to navigate life in America as a black woman. The film includes fond memories from her friends, ex-husband and daughter. The documentary is narrated by Simone’s own words, which adds another layer of authenticity to the film. We get the opportunity to see Simone through her own eyes and words, with several of her hit songs serving as the documentary’s soundtrack.
"Paris is Burning" Dir. by Jennie Livingston (available on Netflix) “Paris is Burning” is a 1990 documentary about the ballroom and drag scene in New York City. Livingston chronicles the ins and outs of ballroom culture in NYC after seeing two young men voguing in Washington Heights. She attends her first ball –– to film it for a class assignment –– and she meets Venus Xtravaganza, the famous “Princess of Drag.” Livingston explores the world of drag and presents it as an expression of race, gender, one’s dreams, identity and sense of fashion. The black and Latino populations in the film are presented as a wide range of sexualities, identities and gender presentations, all of which culminate in the ballroom.
PHOTO COURTESY/ YOUTUBE YOUTUBE MOVIES
"For Colored Girls" Dir. by Tyler Perry (available on Hulu) This Tyler Perry film is originally adapted from Ntozake Shange’s 1975 original choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” It follows the story of a group of black women –– most of whom live in a Harlem apartment –– and tackles difficult issues such as sexual assault and domestic violence head-on. The film uses poetry from the original work and tells the unique stories of women who have had to endure the world as black women –– and how they gain strength by sticking together.
PHOTO COURTESY/ YOUTUBE OUT AT THE MOVIES
(From left to right) “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “For Colored Girls” and “Jewel’s Catch One.”
Exposing the Twisted Reality of Morning Television Aniston and Witherspoon produce new television drama Sophie Williams Michael Scott, Rachel Green and Elle Woods. The actors behind these iconic television and movie characters have come together in a project of their own. “The Morning Show” is a new television series through Apple TV’s streaming service Apple TV+. On the radar for many TV watchers due to its Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston both hold the main leads in the show, and are also credited with being executive producers of the series. Following the heels of the “#MeToo” movement, “The Morning Show” is the twisted reality of early-morning news and sheds light on sexual abuse within the workplace. While “The Morning Show” is a television drama, it takes content from history and incorporates it in the storyline. It allows the fictional characters to take on characteristics of
controversial early morning television hosts. For example, Steve Carell’s character, Mitch Kessler, has some scenes which allude to former Today Show host Matt Lauer’s sexual misconduct. Carell’s role is the driving force in addressing social issues. He represents men in the media who have taken advantage of their title and used it to manipulate women. It is clever to say the least, considering at first glance it seems to be an actual morning show, not a TV drama. Aniston’s character, Alex Levy, is far from her characters played in the past. She takes on a new challenge and has to portray a character who is engulfed in the inner workings of her job and finds herself hiding from her marriage issues and feelings for former co-star Mitch Kessler. Kessler and Levy were the morning news’ power couple, until Kessler was suddenly fired for accusations of sexual harassment, released by the New York Times. Witherspoon’s character, Bradely Jackson, has more depth than most of her past roles but also still contains the same
spunk seen in a lot of Witherspoon’s films. Jackson is –– at first –– the perspective from the outside and once hired on “The Morning Show,” sees the ethical issues within a large TV platform. Levy and Jackson go toe-to-toe, more often than not but find that they both have more flaws than they first believe; much like the television business they thought they knew. “The Morning Show” is scandalous, entertaining, hard hitting and graphic. Some viewers may find scenes disturbing –– that is the point, the viewer must feel disturbed to understand the reality of the situation –– of judgment, sexual misconduct and risk women face when reporting. While “The Morning Show” is a full blown drama with crazy cliffhangers, the message of sexual violence in the workplace and misuse of authority pulls through. “The Morning Show” helps to uncover the concealed distortions in the world of news media, while also fighting for a less negligent world.
Men’s Basketball Struggles in Conference Play Sean Okula The math is easy. Move a two, carry a three, and the Johnnies might have a tournament résumé. Late miscalculations have cost the Red Storm early in conference play. Two wins over bottom-dwelling DePaul are keeping the Johnnies afloat in a crowded Big East. Off what looked like a signature win over ranked Arizona, St. John’s was rolling into their first conference showdown with Butler. Seven wins in a row garnered support on a few AP ballots. They received four votes in the Week 8 poll, then remained idle as the schedule prescribed over Christmas and the following week. Whether the 10 day layoff had any substantial effect on the Johnnies is speculative, but the proof could lie simply in the first half results at Carnesecca on New Year’s Eve. Butler took a 37-16 lead into halftime and opened it as wide as 23 points early in the second half before the Red Storm woke up. More accurately, Butler fell into a deep sleep. The Bulldogs didn’t score for nine minutes, leaving the Red Storm with no choice but to crawl back. Despite a solidbut-less-than-torrid 53% shooting display over the run, St. John’s took their first lead of the game with 6:49 remaining. From there, it was a simple matter of who missed last. The Johnnies built their advantage as high as five with 3:08 remaining. They wouldn’t make another basket. Christian David drilled a three-pointer to put the Bulldogs ahead by their winning margin of two with less than a minute to go.
Rasheem Dunn drove to the basket with the clock near 15 seconds, and flailed in traffic to attract the attention of a referee. No foul was called, and when St. John’s fought for one last chance after a jump ball gave them possession, Dunn lost the handle on his way to the hoop. “We got to learn how to finish,” head coach Mike Anderson said after the 60-58 loss. “We were right there against a very good, very experienced basketball team.” When St. John’s is going right, they’re taking advantage of the athleticism that lines the roster, creating opportunities and taking chances. Following two more losses, including a blowout at Georgetown, DePaul came to Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11 as the only other team without an intraconference win. They stalled early on, trading mostly miss for miss. DePaul built a six point lead, but Dunn entered off the bench and stopped any Blue Demon momentum. First, he scored on back-to-back possessions to narrow the gap. Then he headed a full court press that controlled the direction of the half. St. John’s started on a 10-0 run that put them ahead for good after stretching their defense into the backcourt. They forced five turnovers in a five minute stretch, and accentuated the half on a seamless cross court connection leading to a Nick Rutherford score as time expired. Despite officials’ best efforts (the two teams combined for 27 fouls in the second half ), the game did eventually end. Dunn had the best game of his brief St. John’s career with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Julian Champag-
nie added 11 on 4-4 shooting in the 74-67 victory. After coming on the short end of a tight battle with Providence on the road, the Red Storm carried a lead late against now tenthranked Seton Hall at MSG. Up as many as 14 early in the second half, the Pirates cut the margin down to two with 14 minutes left. The lead changed hands nine times down the stretch until the Pirates took it for good with 1:11 to go. There was no such drama on Jan. 28 at the Garden. After splitting a road trip at Marquette and DePaul, the Johnnies came no closer to upsetting eighth-ranked Villanova than a 13-6 lead at the 14:56 mark of the first half. Ten minutes later, the Wildcats were up nine and the Red Storm never pulled it back within six in a 79-59 loss. The crescendo came on Super Bowl Sunday. Wins in the bottom of the conference are going to be currency this late in the season, and St. John’s is going to need to horde them with four ranked opponents still on the schedule. Anderson mixed up the lineup when Georgetown came to MSG that Sunday afternoon. Mustapha Heron scored just three in the loss to Villanova. He still played his shaf 24 minutes, but they came off the bench for Greg Williams, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this season. Heron tied for the team high with 16 points. He missed his first three shots before hitting back-to-back three pointers to put the Johnnies up in the middle of the first half. The score bounced back-and-forth for the first 12 minutes, until the Red Storm ripped
off an 11-2 scoring run. They took a nine point lead into halftime, and stretched it as high as 17 in the second half. Just as they had done the spoiling in the months prior, it was the Johnnies turn to be spoiled. The Hoyas chipped away, never pulling off a run of more than six points nor taking the lead in the first 19 minutes of the half. Still in front, Heron and Dunn missed a combined three shots in the final 60 seconds to leave the door open. Jagan Mosely dished to Omer Yertseven for the winning score with 10 seconds left. It was the Hoyas first lead since the nine minute mark in the first half. Most recently, the Johnnies could not get the stop they needed against the high-powered offense of Creighton. They could hardly get a stop at all, with the Blue Jays shooting over 60% as a team. St. John’s faced double digit deficits in both halves, pulled it within two on both occasions, then slipped back into obscurity in the face of extended Creighton runs. Marcellus Earlington made 10 of his 17 shots for 25 points, easily a new career high, in the loss. St. John’s sits above only the Blue Demons in the conference standings. There are eight teams above them, the middle seven separated by three games. A single basket decided losses to two ranked conference opponents. “We’ve had some tough games,” Anderson said after the Seton Hall loss. “We haven’t been out of a game, except in the Georgetown game.” “I like the way this team responds to some tough losses,” he added.
An Unsettling Weekend for Women’s Basketball Sydney Denham A weekend home ends in two setbacks for the St. John’s Women’s Basketball team, when they struggled in matchups against their Big East opponents DePaul and Marquette. On Feb. 7, the Johnnies welcomed the DePaul Blue Devils to Carnesecca. In the first quarter, the show started slow for the Red Storm. They trailed DePaul for about six minutes. However, Kadaja Bailey’s block late in the first quarter turned around that energy for the Johnnies. They offensively went on an 8-0 run with a big help from Quadashah Hoppie . The Red Storm ended the first quarter up by one over the Blue Demons. St. John’s strong lead began early in the second quarter. They were able to continue their offensive run, going on a 12-0 advancement. At half, Hoppie led the team in scoring 14 points. Bailey led the team in total rebounds and registered as many as four blocks throughout the game. The Red Storm was up at half with a score of 35-28. The beginning of the third quarter brought
a strong offensive wave for the Johnnies. At some time in this quarter, the Red Storm held a 16 point lead over the Blue Demons. In the final two minutes, however, DePaul was able to put up seven points. This allowed their deficit to decrease to only nine points going into the fourth, with a score of 49-40. The energy in Carnesecca was soaring during the fourth quarter. DePaul opened up a full-court press to keep the tension high on offense and defense. Bailey had her fourth block of the night with about five minutes left in the game. The Red Storm only had a two-point lead when Hoppie pulled back for yet another threepoint shot. It was good to carry the Johnnies up by four with just over four minutes to go. DePaul tied the game up with about two minutes left. After Leilani Correa broke the tie with two points, the Blue Demons followed up with a three and two free throws. From there, DePaul held the lead, ending the game with a score of DePaul 71 to St. John’s 65. “I thought we played really well for a better part of the night,” Coach Joe Tartamella
said after the game. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t play well in the fourth quarter, which has been a problem a few times.” Hoppie led the game with 27 points, reaching a career-high in scoring. Correa completed her first double-double with the Red Storm. Bailey registered a team-high 11 rebounds in the game. For a quick turnaround, the Women’s Basketball team took the court of Carnesecca once again on Sunday afternoon, welcoming Marquette. Freshman Emma Nolan opened up this match-up by putting nine points on the board with three pointers. During this quarter, two free throws brought Senior Alissa Alston to her 1,000th career point. Both teams held on strong offensively, ending the quarter with a score tied at 20. During the second quarter, the Johnnies struggled defensively. Although they were putting up shots, Marquette was putting up more. Despite the difficulty, the Red Storm was able to pull back and end the half with a tie at 32. At halftime, Nolan led the team with her
nine points from the first four minutes of play. Alisha Kebbe led with five rebounds. The third and fourth quarters for the Red Storm brought low offense from both teams. The third, especially brought the Golden Eagles to an 11-2 run over the Johnnies. In the final ten minutes of the game, Hoppie and Correa managed to cut down the team’s deficit to just six points. With a score of 5044, this was the closest the Johnnies came to catching up. The Marquette Golden Eagles pulled off a double-digit lead to win the game with a score of 67-57. Bouncing back from these two setbacks at home, the Women’s Basketball team resumes play with their final two-game road stretch. They will head to Creighton on Feb. 14 for a 7 pm tip-off in Omaha, Nebraska. “Hopefully the road will help us lock in and focus,” Coach Tartamella said. “We have been in situations like this before overtime, but this team certainly has the capability of playing against anybody.”
Anderson Sprints Her Way To Stardom Brendan Murray
The St. John’s Track and Field team has a star on their hands in Leah Anderson who is putting her name on the map of athletes on campus. The Torch had the opportunity to catch up with Anderson and discuss her season so far. “I definitely had an evolution phase coming off my sophomore year, I had a lot of learning to do over the summer,” Anderson said. “The start of the year has shown how much I have grown.” During Anderson’s sophomore season she captured gold or silver metals in six consecutive meets and won the top mark in the outdoor season Big East championships at 53.10 seconds. She also competed in the NCAA preliminaries, finishing 42nd in the 200 meter dash and 28th in the 400 meter dash. Andeson, a junior sprinter from Mount Vernon, NY is making noise throughout the Track and Field community. She has been awarded Big East Track athlete of the week on two separate occasions this year. “It’s kind of my norm,” Anderson said. “I try my best and people tend to see that.” Anderson was awarded her first Big
East Track Athlete of the week with her performance at the Penn 8 Team Select event on January 24. At the event Anderson set a personal record at the time in the 60 meter dash of 7.56 seconds, good enough for first place for the day. Anderson finished in the Penn 8 Team select last season finished with two second place finishes which also earned her Big East Track Athlete of the week. Anderson’s time was good enough to rank her with the best time for the event in the Big East and finishing with a top 100 time in the country. She was also able to secure a top 10 time in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Next up for Anderson was the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge where her consistency was on display once again. Anderson finished in second place in the 400 meter dash with a time of 54.52 seconds, good enough for second place on the day. Her time ranks 28th in the nation and puts her back on top of the Big East leaderboard. The Johnnies were able to secure first place in the Metropolitan Indoor Championship with a boost from Anderson. She ran again in the 60 meter
dash and again secured a first place finish with a time of 7.52 seconds, breaking her personal record set only a week before. “60 meter dash isn’t really my event,” Anderson said. “Since I run 400s which require alot of strength the 60 meter was pretty easy.” Anderson has demonstrated consistency throughout this season early on and puts coaching as one of the top reasons for consistency. “Great coaching, great friends, a lot of hard work,” Anderson said. “Getting up, doing my breakfast and lunch, staying consistent with the little things and the bigger things will fall into Place.” Coach Jim Hurt is one of Anderson’s biggest supporters and for her he is one of the main reasons she is where she is today. “Obviously letting me run for St. John’s,” Anderson said. “Keeping up on my health and helping me through a lot of traumatic experiences that I have been through and just helping Me.” Anderson’s St. John’s career hasn’t been all positive things but this year it is all coming together for her. “A lot of down, a lot of being sent home but definitely a huge learning
experience,” Anderson said. “It keeps me disciplined to have something to work toward. An eye opener for what my goals are.” While the team and their performance is firmly in focus for Anderson she has some goal and ideas of where she would like to be this summer. “Olympics is a big one for me this year,” Anderson said “I have to hit certain standards in order to make the trials and actually go to the olympics.” Anderson is also looking forward to competing in the NCAA and the Big East meets this Year. “One more goal this year is to go to the NCAA this year, go back and actually win it last year wasn’t a big success so I would like to go back and actually win it this year.” For the fans the rest of the season Anderson expects the team to perform their best in the remaining meets. “A lot more wins and the Big East is coming up,” Anderson said. “I’m hoping for a great performance in Boston next week. I really want us to win.” The Red Storm have six more events left on the season. Three more before the Big East tournament on March 1st followed up by the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships March 6th through the 8th.
SPORTS February 12, 2020 | VOLUME 97, ISSUE 12
Changing of The Guard
From St. John's to CBS Sports BLANKMEYER STEPS DOWN TORCHPHOTO/NICK BELLO
Sean Okula Much like the weather outside, mid-winter in the baseball world usually means a halt to all life. Transactions and changes are curtailed for the pageantry of a new season, as was on display late last month when St. John’s put on its annual Bullpen Winter Banquet. But behind the masquerade, there was some disruption to the usual January monotony. In fact, one needed to look no further than the stage in the Edison Ballroom to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar role. After 24 years as head coach of the Red Storm, Ed Blankmeyer stepped down to take a position in the New York Mets organization on Jan. 6. With less than six weeks to the start of the season, St. John’s stayed in-house and named longtime assistant and recruiting coordinator Mike Hampton the interim head coach on Jan. 9. It is a coaching change in name and title, but it doesn’t come with the cultural and philosophical overhaul that one might expect from a regular transition. Hampton had worked with Blankmeyer since the start of the millennium, shaping the rosters that the recently departed head coach led to more than 1,300 wins. “It doesn’t mean I throw my stamp on it,” Hampton said of his new role. “We’ve done things, for the last almost twenty years since
I’ve been here, a certain way and we’ve had a lot of success.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he added. “He knows what to do,” Blankmeyer said. “I just handed off the keys to the car, so to speak.” Stability has been the focus during the transition. Blankmeyer expressed his hope that the school would retain his coaching staff, including pitching coach George Brown and assistant coach Danny Bethea, Hampton said. Both will stick around, and Bethea was promoted from a volunteer to a full-time assistant. If not for cohesion, staff holdover was important for a roster that thought it was going to play for Blankmeyer. Upending everything the team worked on in the fall with a new regime weeks before first pitch would have backed players into a corner. While their options would have been limited, some might have felt betrayed if administration looked more to make a splash with an external hire than support the roster. Instead they have the support of the same voices that “I think that the younger players were a little bit more surprised than the older kids,” Hampton said. “But I think that the transition has been fairly simple. I’ve been here.” “I think knowing the players and what they can and can’t do, seeing how they’ve developed over the years is important in decision-making,” he added.
What happens after this year is still unclear. Hampton is the head coach on an interim basis convinced them to come to St. John’s in the first place. The university promised to conduct a “thorough national search of both internal and external candidates” in the same press release that named him successor. Fair or not, it makes this season something of an audition for the fulltime gig. “I don’t think about it,” he said. “My job as an assistant and my job as head coach is to win as many games as possible.” “Whatever happens, happens,” he added. Settling into a new role of his own, Blankmeyer expressed confidence in the direction of his old program. He had been approached by professional teams before, but his foray into the professional ranks was in part contingent on leaving the Red Storm in good hands. “Change was necessary,” he said. “I wanted to do something like this for a while. I wanted to get my family’s blessing. I wanted to make sure the program at St. John’s is strong, which I know it is.” “I wanted the challenge,” he added. Blankmeyer sees his role as primarily developmental. He will first work in Florida at extended spring training before coming north in the summer to manage the short season single-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Some of the players he has in extended
spring ball will come with him to Brooklyn. But he’ll also receive new draftees, getting their first taste of professional baseball. While he might see a player in extended spring for a couple of months, those from the draft have hardly any time at all to not only adjust to minor league life, but carve out their spot on a roster. “What you do is try to get as much information as you possibly can from the scouts that have drafted them,” he said. “Then you plug them in according to what the organization wants to do with them.” “It’s a collaboration,” he added. While he might cede some control to organization highrollers, the core of his team will remain the same. Blankmeyer stresses development first and foremost, but not at the expense of success as a team. “You’re looking to play good baseball,” he said. “You play good baseball, a lot of the times it translates to winning baseball.” Excited as he is about the future, he said the people, administrators, coaches and players alike, are what he will miss most about St. John’s. Luckily, campus is just a strenuous drive (or a very long subway ride) away. Blankmeyer has already been in regular contact with his successor. “He’s always going to be a Johnnie himself,” Hampton said. “He’s only a phone call away. We’re always going to be friends and stay in touch.”