December 2020 - Issue 7

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A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA The Beauty and Dreams of a Black Girl Taken Too Soon

Many Americans remember the gruesome video of LAPD officers brutalizing Rodney King as one of the first viral footage of police brutality. But that attack wasn’t the only filmed assault that catalyzed L.A.’s 1992 riots. Just thirteen days after Rodney was beaten, a 15-year-old Black girl was shot to death in a South Central Los Angeles convenience store.

That girl was Latasha Harlins.


Soon Ja Du, the Empire Liquor Market store owner, accused Harlins of shoplifting, and eventually murdered her over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. Harlins placed the juice in her backpack and then approached the counter, money in hand, to pay for her purchase; she committed no crime. To Du and the many others who have Black blood on their hands, being Black was enough of a crime, punishable by death. In Sophia Nahli Allison’s recent Netflix documentary, A Love Song for Latasha, she doesn’t just focus on the tragedy of Latasha’s death. Rather, Allison focuses on the life that Latasha lived and the life she could’ve lived, had she not been taken from this world too soon. The film focuses on her hopes and dreams, and the beauty and pain that comes with being a Black woman in America. Allison utilizes experimental reenactments to re-create the memories of two of the women closest to Latasha, her best friend Tybie O’Bard, and her cousin Shinese Harlins. She opens up the film with a content Black girl floating peacefully in a community pool as Ty reminisces her first encounter with Latasha. Her anecdote of Latasha jumping in the pool fully clothed to save her from neighborhood bullies symbolizes her late friend’s courageous character. Allison’s deployment of dreamlike retellings of Latasha’s days spent hitting up the local burger place with her cousin and picking out brightly colored juice bottles at the convenience store, reminds us of just how much life Latasha had ahead of her.

Empire Liquor Market Store in Los Angeles drawing by Kang Seung Lee

She was a bright and talented young girl who helped take care of her siblings and neighborhood, loved basketball, and had dreams of being an attorney one day. Allison highlights the beauty of young Black women in a way that mainstream media tends to ignore. While the film’s goal is to humanize Latasha, it does not shy away from the dark reality of her death. The film transitions from brightly colored reenactments to dark animated shapes and patterns, as Shinese and Ty tearfully describe the day that Latasha was murdered. Though Allison doesn’t show the actual footage of her death, the intense, animated flashes of angry scribbles and static is enough to make viewers understand the pain her loved ones felt having to watch it repeatedly.

The end of the film finally shows Ty walking on the beach discussing who Latasha would've been today. It also depicts Shinese reciting a poem written by Latasha that Shinese describes as “a clarification” of the loving and bright person she was. Allison further displays ethereal clips of young Black girls with pastel flowers as Ty describes the confidence and strength that carried Latasha.

A Love Song for Latasha is a heartbreaking, yet artistic and moving retelling of Latasha Harlins’ life. Allison’s focus on her dreams and bright spirit, as well as the life that Latasha could’ve lived, reminds us to never forget the full legacies of the many young Black women taken from us too soon. As the media too often buries our stories, only telling the tragic endings as was done to Latasha, we must remember the beauty and grace that we as Black women embody throughout our entire lives. Lives that do not deserve to be stolen.

Screencap from the "Love Song for Latasha Harlings" Movie

Covid-19 has caused a lot of damage. And low-income communities are paying for it. By: Yasmeen Sallam

With a staggering number of 7.92 million people currently infected with COVID-19 in the US and almost 37 million people worldwide, including the President of the United States, this pandemic is unlike anything the world has ever seen before. According to statistics, the pandemic is not affecting everyone the same. Out of those reported case numbers, a Johns Hopkins study found that 62 black Americans out of 10,000 individuals are likely to be infected by COVID-19 compared to 23 white, nonHispanic individuals out of 10,000. It means that African Americans are being affected twice the amount that their white counterparts are. The same study shows that 73 Latino individuals out of 10,000 individuals are likely to get COVID-19, which is more than three times possible.

essential jobs which cannot be performed from home.” The same study also suggests that Black and Latino individuals are more likely to be more severely impacted and hospitalized from COVID19 because “Black and Latino Americans who contract the virus are more likely to suffer from pre-existing conditions, increasing the risk of severe illness. Overrepresented among the uninsured, they tend to delay seeking treatment and are sicker than white patients when they finally do.”

Populations are also experiencing more disparities from COVID-19 infections that require hospital visits. According to a CDC COVID-19 Hospitalization and Death by Race/Ethnicity surveillance, American Indian or Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic persons are 5.3x more likely to be hospitalized compared to white, non-Hispanic persons. Hispanic or Latino persons are 4.6x higher to be hospitalized compared to white, non-Hispanic persons. Black or African American, Non-Hispanic Persons are 4.7x more likely to be hospitalized than white, non-Hispanic persons.A Johns Hopkins study suggests that this might be happening because “Black and Latino Americans are more likely to live in crowded housing conditions and to work in

Testing locations are often in or around clinics, pharmacies, and health centers, which sometimes end up miles away from these low-income communities. The reason that testing locations are around health centers is typically for the convenience of the health professionals who are trained to test individuals and also because it’s also where the equipment is. In California, “cities and counties often failed to tell low-income communities where they were. Other barriers also emerged: such as requiring clients to set up an account in advance, and show an ID — often a problem for undocumented immigrants.”

Another way the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affected is the lack of available and accessible testing.

Getty Images

The lack of testing in rising cases in low-income communities potentially offers more widespread infection routes that impact everyone. It also poses an opportunity for systematic flaws, like deep-rooted health care issues, to become more apparent. This common theme of disproportionate health outcomes and treatment is termed ~structural racism~, which according to the New England Journal of Medicine, “refers to the system of discriminatory policies that assign privilege and power based on race” and there are so many issues with this. According to an article by New England Journal of Medicine, “These systems affect health through a variety of pathways, including social deprivation from reduced access to employment, housing, and education.” which is discussed as severely more impactful to underrepresented communities during COVID-19 because “structural racism confers a host of social risks, including food insecurity, housing instability, and limited access to transportation.” Throughout COVID-19, underrepresented minorities are more likely to be impacted by the effects of COVID-19 because they are more likely to experience homelessness, more likely not to seek health treatment, and are less likely to input perspective because of the statistics that say they are less likely to vote.

Which is what we are seeing now. This unique structural racism and limited access to care are potential reasons why the US has a higher case and death rate for COVID-19 than any other country in the world. According to the same article by the New England Journal of Medicine, “we can change the fabric of structural racism and social risk that leads to disparities in health.” Essentially what the article states is that the American people have to change policies, reinvest in low-income neighborhoods, increase economic empowerment, be consistent in health literacy, and address social risk factors. Despite these statistics and situations, certain groups of people and non-profit organizations have gathered their skills and resources and decided to make a change. One Tent Health, a non-profit organization started by college students providing free HIV testing in pop-up tents all over DC became approved to provide free COVID-19 testing in pop-up tents for everyone, everywhere in Washington, DC. One Tent Health plans to offer COVID-19 testing, HIV testing, and voter registration. This is not only helpful to all the people in DC who don’t know anything about how to get help and where to get help but also, it positively impacts the rate of COVID-19 for the entire DC population. In an interview with the CEO, Mackenzie Copley, he mentioned his excitement for the impact he believes that these tests will bring to these communities.

When asking Mackenzie Copley what his hopes of offering free Covid-19 testing to all of DC will accomplish? He replied, “We want to give people peace of mind...I want people to know that they can be able to see their grandmas.” Dr. Ala Stanford is a surgeon from Philadelphia who successfully “recruited a group of healthcare workers, stood in the cold and rain with them outside Miller Memorial Baptist Church in North Philly, and conducted additional testing on more than 130 people.” All of the surgeons and contributors in Philadelphia have managed to “issue Philadelphia’s residents more than 7,000 tests” to this day.

These disproportionality rates, these recurring issues as we’ve seen are not the first and unfortunately, not the last. The efforts from these organizations are helping with the cases and individuals are taking charge to change the face of this pandemic which provides hope. Like the famous James Baldwin says “something does not have to have a face to be changed but in order for something to be changed, it has to be faced.”

Dear PWI; the burden is not ours By: Jasmine Dean

As I reflect on my short time at AU thus far, I reminisce on my naive mindset a year ago during my freshman year over this idea that I could solve racism and create diverse, safe spaces within many of the student organizations across campus. Now, it has been a year and I sit here exhausted, realizing how idealistic I was. This semester and my short-lived experience in a predominantly white student media organization have been my breaking point. I have learned that my presence, my words, and my grievances have not been enough. Yet I am not alone, as this experience is not unique to me, but has been the experience of many students of color across campus.

But I have also learned that it’s not that WE are not enough because this burden should not be ours to bear.

After stepping down from my position as staff editor from AWOL, I was overcome with guilt. I felt defeated, like a quitter, and that I had given up too easily. After all, I aired out my grievances and shared my racial trauma in front of the entire eboard, and I believe that some within the organization will dedicate themselves to creating a better environment. However, a few apologies among the top ranks of the group remained half-hearted — You know, the “I’m sorry you felt dismissed” and not the “I’m sorry I dismissed you”. The “this is by no means an explanation of my actions, but [proceeds with an explanation]”. This was enough to show me that the burden of creating a welcoming newsroom would continue to be on my fellow staff members of color and me. That the THREE of us would have to continue carrying this burden of “solving racism” by airing out our life experiences to educate our white peers on why they’re being racist. After a lifetime of fearing confrontation, I finally built up the courage to stick up not only for myself, but others. But this still was not enough. And notably, the majority of the white senior staff did not step down and they remain in their positions of power to this day, including two of my closest friends who had first handedly witnessed my demise due to the racism I had continuously faced for months.

They demonstrated to me that they were unwilling to sacrifice the power and privilege associated with their whiteness, yet here I was being forced to leave an organization I had invested twice as much as my white counterparts to get where I was for my own well-being and sanity. And yet AWOL and the possessive investment of whiteness demonstrated is not an anomaly at American University, but a part of a deeper issue here of racism particularly within the student organizations. If you look inside many student media organizations like AWOL, you will only see a handful of people of color and even fewer on their eboards. We see this in the social Greek organizations, where systemic racism sparked the abolish Greek life movement which began with students of color airing out their trauma to even start this call towards abolition. We see this with several other clubs including AU Democrats and AUSG among others, where when only racism was exposed on social media did their e-board members step down or did these groups publicly apologize. We have yet to hear of any tangible progress towards reconciliation made from most predominantly white organizations, however. And representation should not be an issue, given that nearly 40% of the student body is non-white. The list could go on and on, but the point is that almost every non-cultural student organization is plagued with racism, prejudice, and microaggressions.

Oftentimes, these issues are only exposed when it is too late or when white members want to save face. These organizations pride themselves on progressive values and subversiveness, but fail to recognize racism and the lack of diversity within. They put the blame completely on larger systemic issues, yet fail to recognize that they are actors in this system. That they won’t tangibly address these issues, because it will directly threaten their power, their possessive investment in their whiteness. My fellow Black and Brown students of color and I are tired This should not be the reality, especially given that we are facing a deadly pandemic that affects our communities at alarmingly higher rates due to systemic racism. We’re experiencing a national reconciliation for racial justice that directly affects us, our families, and our communities. We have to navigate a virtual college experience on a campus that has a long, track record of racism. We continue to put in twice the effort yet we continue to face twice the obstacles, and often our work rarely gets credited or recognized. Student organizations should be rewarding, bonding experiences, not stress-inducers amid an already tumultuous semester I no longer want to put myself in these spaces to be paraded as the person who

handles all issues of race; I am not an expert, non-white communities are not monolithic, and I am not to be used for anyone else’s emotional labor. And believe me— I am proud to be a member of the BIPOC community at AU. We continue to uplift each other despite having all the weight of the world on our backs, and we continue to build a blossoming community. But I want my community, my nonwhite peers, and myself to be able to walk into any organization or space on campus and not question our place there. These spaces however do not exist yet. We shouldn’t have to question if we’re going to be tokenized, listened to, spoken above, silenced, or policed. White students— YOU helped create this system and it continues to be upheld on a microcosmic level at this university. Our success, our callingout, and frankly our EXISTENCE, is a direct threat to your power. Divest in your privilege that your whiteness grants you. Something has to change. And it can no longer be at the expense of our pain and emotional labor. This burden can no longer be on us.

6 black owned businesses you can support from home By: Festicia Bovell


atira lyons label

From satin and velvet durags, scarfs, satin lined beanies, turbans and swimwear, Atira Lyons Label is a one stop shop for all luxury headwear and swimwear needs. She is also the first Black woman to open the first ever luxury durag store on Melrose Avenue. Visit @atiralyonslabel on Instagram and make a purchase on Ny'z accessory shop


Looking for unique and sustainable accessories to add to your collection? NY’Z Accessory Shop has got you covered. This Los Angeles based accessory shop is owned and operated by a Black woman and offers long-lasting, tarnish resistant, and hypoallergenic accessories including necklaces, nose rings, anklets and much more!


legendary rootz

Legendary Rootz is a Black-owned apparel shop focused on celebrating Black culture and history. You can find empowering sweaters, mugs, tshirts, planners, and more on their website

forvr mood


FORVR Mood is a lifestyle brand founded by Nigerian-American beauty content creator, US Army veteran, and makeup artist Jackie Aina. Providing candles, silk pillowcases and headbands, FORVR Mood is for those of us who want to enjoy luxury self care without breaking the bank.


yo soy afrolatina

Created to represent and celebrate the Afro Latinx community, Yo Soy Afro Latina is an online shop providing sweaters, tote bags, mugs, phone cases and much more! Find the best accessories for you on

taliah waajid


Looking for new products to add to your natural hair routine? Check out Taliah Waajid natural hair products. This Black-owned hair care line provides leave-in conditioners, gels and styling creams for all curly hair types.

Keep Her Soul, Hear Me Cry By: Njari Mbaekwe hear my cry hear my cry i cry for you black woman because no one else will i cry for you black woman because they will forget i cry for you because they will erase you when you’re on the frontlines fighting for your people, knowing that they may not fight for you remember this: i smell like love i feel like the love you wish you had i sound like the essence of passion and if you can imagine what god’s imagination looks like, i look like that this black girl feels pain like thunder fire and passion like lightning bolts and heart attacks she feels joy rarely and spontaneously she knows too much at too young and if you believe in the good of the world, she wishes she could know that intimately black girls break ya heart black girls we like some art i pray her soul the lord to keep babygirl is crafted from the stars i pray the lord her soul to keep god please protect her heart when you remember this, remember that you have been crafted by the master.your purpose is not to be forgottennot forgotten but elevated, loved, appreciated.

your erasure was all too convenient, and so will mine in this fight Breonna Taylor, i say this to you, as we fight for justice for George Floyd, we fight with the understanding that your purpose was not to be forgotten. say her name as loud as you say his name!say her name as loud as you say his name!

"Reluctant Aye Aye"




My Black is Beautiful

Some may say I’m ugly for the color of my skin

I come from the richest soil from the ground and within

I am the queen of harvest and good fruit

The ground I walk on is nothing but smooth

And my dirty brown skin

Which you say looks like mud

Is fertile soil and anointing this earth Bringing food to all who want and need

You leave nothing but a cactus and tumbleweeds

So this soil this great soil that brings good fortune and goods

Is my skin and my skin alone

You’re just jealous cause you can’t tan on your own

And that’s why when you call me ugly I do not bat an eye

Cause my Black Is Beautiful, no doubt in those words