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Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago

Jewish Enough to Feel the Difference Under Trump

December 10, 2018 - 11:55am

Although the American cycle of mass shootings began to feel predictable long ago, I still haven’t numbed to it. When I got the notification that 11 people had been killed at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, my stomach clenched, the world got hazier, and I felt disconnected from reality: all too familiar reactions by now. But days later, when the sensation refused to subside, I realized something was different. I felt connected to this tragedy as a Jew in a way that I hadn’t felt as a high school student after Parkland or as a concertgoer after Las Vegas.

I was surprised by this feeling, since I am entirely secular. I could count on two hands the times I’ve been to synagogue, mostly for friends’ bar mitzvahs. My family lights candles on a menorah across the room from our Christmas tree. At Seder dinners, we skim through the Haggadah to get to politics. I am Jewish by name, features and family history.

While growing up in the US as a Jew hasn’t made me feel non-white, at the same time, I know Jews are hated targets of white supremacists. I’ve lived mostly in Berkeley, California, the son of two professors, in a social bubble where Jewish integration is complete. Some of my friends are white, and some of them are Jewish, but we go about our lives with many of the same privileges.

I’ve also grown up partly in Paris, France. Despite my French passport and family ties, I don’t feel quite as white in France. Although France has a history of republicanism–emphasizing civic duty and individual liberty—still, for many, “being French” means generations of French people in your family history and a last name like Beaulieu or Chevalier. I remember that in Paris, in fifth grade, I had a friend whose father was a Holocaust denier. At dinner my friend’s father announced that if people were truly deported from France to death camps, they weren’t really French, but foreigners (he meant Jews, both French- and foreign-born, casually referring to my own family members who had been sent to to their deaths).

Of course, anti-Semitism exists in the U.S., too. My grandmother’s family came to America after World War II. When her parents tried to rent an apartment in Minneapolis, the landlady apologetically told them that she couldn’t rent to them, since her sister was unwell and living downstairs — presumably because Jewish refugees carried diseases.  

But my grandmother climbed the academic ladder, helping to set the stage for my life in Berkeley, and now as a student at Harvard. The US has traditionally made space for this possibility: outsiders—though only certain outsiders at certain times—have had children and grandchildren who felt like insiders. Harvard’s new president, Lawrence Bacow, has said that his mother arrived in the US as a 19-year-old Auschwitz survivor, the only one in her town to survive. “Where else,” he asked, “can one go in one generation from off the boat with literally nothing to enjoying the kind of life and opportunity that I and my family have been fortunate to enjoy?” Now, he went on to say, we must defend the things that made that possible, including a humanitarian openness to immigrants.  Many people, I know, never had the opportunity to become insiders in America. But it was possible for some, who have a responsibility work to make it possible for more.

And yet, instead we’re building walls, putting up razor-wire, and sending troops to the border to defend us against exhausted, famished refugees.

Shortly before the Pittsburgh massacre, the shooter tweeted about HIAS, a Jewish organization that helps refugees, and about the caravan of migrants crawling towards the US border. The Tree of Life Synagogue works with HIAS. Extreme-right groups and authoritarian governments tend to tout conspiracy theories about this connection between Jews and refugees, especially focusing on the billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Trump, energized by the midterms, joined these conspiracy theorists, railing against Soros, accusing him of funding the migrant caravan and resistance to Brett Kavanaugh.

Perhaps I feel connected with Pittsburgh because it is a reminder that, even as a non-practicing Jew, I am — as my great-grandmother put it — “Jewish enough for Hitler.” I am Jewish enough for his current admirers, too. But my dismay extends beyond concerns for the Jewish people. There is also a more universal worry: what is happening to our democracy, in the wake of these racially motivated attacks? Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister during the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, observed: “History has shown us that the reawakening of anti-Semitism is a symptom of a crisis of democracy.”

A resurgence of anti-Semitism in the US is scary to me as a Jew. Recognizing it as heralding the collapse of a humane, democratic international order is scary to me as an inhabitant of the world.

The post Jewish Enough to Feel the Difference Under Trump appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Four States Where You Can Go To College For Free

December 10, 2018 - 11:38am

Student loans suck. Americans owe a staggering $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve. But in the last couple of years, individual states have been stepping in to help fill the void with “College Promise” programs and other types of community and state college scholarships.

That means that if you’re a resident of California or a handful of other states, you might be able to go to college for free, and avoid taking on student debt yourself. Yay, free money!

Here are a few of the states where you can attend college for free:

California

Thanks to a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year and budget approval, the state of California is now offering a free year of college at all of its 114 community colleges to California residents who are recent high school graduates.

California’s “College Promise Grants” are separate from Cal Grants and vary regionally throughout the state. (More information about them is available here.) For example, as of August 27th, Contra Costa Community Colleges are offering free tuition to incoming “first-time, full-time” students through its FT3 initiative.

To be eligible for the tuition waiver, applicants must be taking at least 12 units, maintain a 2.0 GPA, complete an application for the program as an application for federal student aid (either through the FAFSA or the California Dream Act), create an educational plan, and be in their first year of college ever. The program encompasses all three of the community colleges in Contra Costa’s district: Contra Costa College, Los Medanos College and Diablo Valley College.

Another California program, called Free City, is available for San Francisco residents. The program is available for both full and part-time students through City College of San Francisco, though it’s not applicable for summer classes.

Maryland

In May, Maryland passed a bill that will fully cover community college tuition for all full-time students from families who make under $125,000/year. The only requirement is that students must maintain a 2.7 GPA and attend college within two years of leaving high school. The law will go into effect in 2019.

This makes Maryland the most recent participant of the 16 states that run College Promise programs for their eligible residents, including Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Missouri and Hawaii.

New York

Through the Excelsior scholarship, New York now offers free tuition to residents at any two or four-year public college or university in the state. The scholarship grants up to $5,500 to full-time students with household incomes ranging up to $100,000 (that limit rises to $125,000 in 2019.) Excelsior currently assists just over 20,000 students, although research indicates that requiring recipients to complete 30 credits a year in order to be eligible currently poses a major barrier to the growth of the program.

Tennessee

Tennessee now offers two free tuition programs to its residents designed to address the needs of different demographics of students: Tennessee Promise is for recent high school graduates and Tennessee Reconnect is for independent adults who are returning to school. Both programs are “last dollar” tuition programs, meaning they kick in to pay fees that are not covered by other federal and state grants.

The Tennessee Promise Program provides two free years of tuition, in addition to mentoring services, to all graduating high school seniors in Tennessee. In order to maintain the scholarship, students must attend regular meetings with a mentor, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete eight hours of community service per school term. Tennessee Promise has been available since 2015.

Tennessee Reconnect, which came into effect this year, is aimed at an older demographic, targeting adults who previously left school and are looking to start or finish their first college degree. To be eligible, applicants must complete the FAFSA, be independent students, and enroll at least part-time (or six instruction hours per week) in college.

The post Four States Where You Can Go To College For Free appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

I Captured the Migrant Caravan First-Hand Through Mexico

December 7, 2018 - 6:48pm

Jair Cabrera is a photojournalist in Mexico. The article and photo captions below were translated to English from the original Spanish by Peter Eversoll.

A migrant runs desperately to catch up with a truck heading north on Nov. 11, 2018. Many migrants from the caravan walked most of the way from Central America to central Mexico. However, for the remaining 1,700 miles to the border, getting a ride on a truck was a matter of survival for some. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

Oct. 19 is a date that marks a “before and after” for Central American immigration. That’s the day a migrant caravan composed of thousands of people from different parts of Central America entered Mexico. Many of the migrants saw the massive size of their caravan as an opportunity for a safer trip — a way to avoid the possible violence, robberies and extortion they could face if they took the trip alone.

Migrants hurry to jump on a truck to get a ride north to the U.S. border on Nov. 11, 2018. Because of the need for transportation, vehicles were adapted to carry people for the long journey – the truck pictured is usually used to move livestock. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

I grew up in Iztapalapa, in the eastern part of Mexico City. In my neighborhood, daily life is marked by a lack of opportunities and a high rate of violence, which has caused many people to flee. Since I was little, I’ve lived with migration constantly in front of me: close friends and family have had to leave to find a better life for themselves. This has sparked my interest in the topic, because the migrants I photograph reflect the people I know who have migrated, too.

Children and their families are loaded onto trucks on Nov. 11, 2018. For many, the risks outweigh the threats back home in Honduras, making this a journey of survival. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

I traveled with the migrant caravan for a week. During this journey, the Central American migrants transformed spaces in order to survive and to continue north. I watched as trailers and trucks, normally used for merchandise or animals, were adapted to carry people across an entire country.

In Mexico City, a sports complex was turned into a shelter with enormous tents set up as dormitories and cisterns for bathing. In one corner of the shelter, some migrants set up a salon, making money by cutting hair and doing eyebrows.

Gerson earns his way cutting hair in one of the shelters set up in Mexico City on Dec. 7, 2018. Originally from Honduras, he felt unsafe there, especially after his brother was murdered. (Photo: Jair Cabrera) In Mexico City, migrants shelter in a soccer stadium on Nov. 28, 2018. The caravan spent a week here, letting migrants catch up, rest and organize resources for the long journey ahead towards Tijuana. (Photo: Jair Cabrera) Dozens of migrants are piled into a truck — this one usually used to transport cars — for the long drive north on Nov. 11, 2018. The trip from Mexico City to Tijuana takes between 36 to 48 hours. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

After having spent a week traveling with them, I, too, decided to arrive in Tijuana. I’ve always been struck by its status as a border city. Just walking down the street, you hear so many stories and dialects, reaffirming that this is a city full of immigrants who were able to adapt to a new place.

A baseball stadium in Tijuana converted to an improvised migrant camp is home to hundreds of people on Nov. 28, 2018. There was a desperate feeling among the migrants waiting to cross into the United States in search of political asylum. (Photo: Jair Cabrera) In Tijuana, a woman carries her child across the flooded camp where dozens of families are staying on Nov. 30, 2018, just a few yards away from the border wall that separates their dreams from their reality. Extensive rain created chaos and provoked a humanitarian crisis. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

During my current stay, I met a group of young people (six guys and one woman with her 3-year-old daughter) who had been traveling together since entering Mexico, and I listened to their stories. On Tuesday morning, I went to the shelter where they were staying and they told me that they were going to jump the border fence, so I decided to spend the whole day with them.

A young man takes shelter from a downpour on Nov. 29, 2018. The rain in Tijuana took an emotional toll on the migrants of the caravan. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

The moment had come for them to take off and we walked a couple of hours to find the perfect spot to cross. There was no time to say goodbye, and they crossed. I watched them through a hole in the fence as the border patrol caught them and loaded them on to a truck. I have no idea what happened to them. It makes me so sad to think of the thousands of migrants who cross borders every day without knowing what’s in store for them.

After reaching Tijuana, a group of migrants attempts to cross the border on Dec. 4, 2018. Here, a man helps a young girl jump the fence. (Photo: Jair Cabrera) Dozens of migrants in Tijuana pray for safe passage to the United States so they can turn their American Dream into a reality on Nov. 27, 2018. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

To see more of Jair Cabrera’s photos, check out his Instagram

The post I Captured the Migrant Caravan First-Hand Through Mexico appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Hijabs, Burkinis and More: Explore the Diversity of Muslim Fashion

December 6, 2018 - 2:03pm

Tour the San Francisco de Young Museum’s stunning Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit, with pieces ranging from a headscarf labeled “Feminist” to Nike sportswear. Sasha Shahinfar, a member of the de Young’s Teen Advisory Board, gives an inside look at key garments, as well as exhibition galleries designed by Hariri & Hariri Architecture.

Pieces Shahinfar highlights include a “Feminist” headscarf by Nourka, a “US Constitution and First Amendment” flight jacket by Céline Semaan Vernon for Slow Factory, and a wedding ensemble by Shakeel’s Boutique.

The Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit runs until Jan. 6, 2019.

Learn more about the exhibit and how you can visit.

The post Hijabs, Burkinis and More: Explore the Diversity of Muslim Fashion appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

TikTok’s Blowing Up – but Will It Implode?

December 6, 2018 - 11:51am

The latest and greatest social media app, TikTok, has emerged from one of the cringiest corners of the web, and it’s quickly becoming home to an entirely new ecosystem of memes, viral challenges and internet celebrities.

The music-focused, short-video-sharing app was first introduced back in 2017 when its predecessor, Musical.ly, was purchased by Chinese company Bytedance. Bytedance combined Musical.ly with its Chinese counterpart, Douyin, and TikTok was born.

Today, TikTok has become a global phenomenon, with most of its 130 million users in China. While users in the U.S. have been slower to adopt the platform, TikTok’s unique culture and steadily growing audience could mean big changes are ahead for the more established social and video platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

“The app overall is an amazing platform to really see what people can do with just a few seconds. The comedy aspect of the app is something that I really enjoy,” said Kevin Carrieres, an 18-year-old from Arizona and established TikTok influencer.

Kevin Carriers, who goes by kjcproductions, is an established TikTok influencer.

“Honestly I have nothing bad to say about TikTok,” said Cristain Rodriguez, one half of the TikTok-famous brotherly comedy duo, TheRodriguezTwins. “No other platform has helped us the way TikTok has.”

A video from comedy duo The Rodriguez Twins.

Those who haven’t had much experience with the app are most likely to encounter TikTok’s short, choppy videos — often featuring dancing, lip syncing and other incorporations of popular music — and the app’s signature cringe-factor.

In a piece for The Atlantic, social media reporter Taylor Lorenz went so far as to describe TikTok content as being “so painful and embarrassing that a viewer can’t help but laugh.”

TikTok is often compared to Vine, the much-beloved six-second video app that was shut down in 2016.

Rodriguez, who was recruited to create content on TikTok thanks in large part to his and his brother’s Vine fame, said the comparison isn’t entirely fair because TikTok also offers a robust live-streaming feature in addition to the main video feeds.

The two apps do have one major similarity, in that both feature strict video length restrictions: TikTok videos must be under a minute. But TikTok’s unique culture and ever-changing selection of memes has established it as something far-flung from Vine and the more mainstream apps like Instagram or Snapchat.

Unlike on any of those platforms, the videos on TikTok are surprisingly — almost eerily — homogenous. A scroll through the public posts will quickly reveal that there are only a handful of popular video styles (often inspired by hashtags or challenges) at one time, and it often feels as though everyone on the app is participating in them.

For example, a recently popular challenge includes the subject using rubber bands or a nerf gun to knock down paper signs to the beat of a song, revealing a funny joke or a surprise in the process. No one community on TikTok — not the furries, the fitness nuts, the military fanatics or the makeup gurus — was too cool to not post its take on this newest challenge.

A TikTok user participates in a recent challenge. 

At first glance, this phenomenon could give a newcomer the impression that there’s a lack of creativity on the app, but rather, this reporter would argue that the uniformity creates a sense of harmony throughout the platform — unity, even — that is entirely missing from the more crowded social apps.

That unity is incredibly refreshing and encouraging to see online, especially after the cringe-factor has worn off, and is a big selling point for users.

In a recent edition of the Axios Media Trends Newsletter, Sara Fischer wrote, “Mainstream social media apps have grown so big that users are flocking to a less crowded and commercialized place, where they can focus on creating silly and fun original videos, without worrying about the stress that comes with widely sharing them on massive networks.”

At the same time, however, TikTok’s relatively small user base is on the rise.

TikTok saw a 67 percent increase in daily active users over six months in 2018, according to data gathered by Apptopia, and was recently ranked in the top five most popular apps in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

And larger platforms are already making moves in an effort to imitate TikTok’s success. Facebook launched a copycat app, called Lasso, no doubt trying to tap TikTok’s famously young audience.

It’s unclear whether a larger platform will replicate TikTok’s best features and ruin its growth before the app itself becomes too crowded and defeats its own purpose, but it’s not a stretch to say that regardless of its future, the super cringey, surprisingly fun app has already made a lasting impact on the social media landscape.

The post TikTok’s Blowing Up – but Will It Implode? appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Special: Rick and Morty Composer Ryan Elder

December 6, 2018 - 12:27am

Rick and Morty Composer Ryan Elder is the world’s first “African dream pop” artist.

Music producer of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, Ryan Elder, gives YR Media’s Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner the backstories behind the psychedelic tracks heard throughout the show, including fan favorites like “Get Schwifty” and “The Rick Dance”! He gives an inside look into music-making producing (yes, it involves a lot of WTF moments) and admits to some of his REAL nerdy hobbies outside of the studio. Oh yeah, did we mention he’s the pioneer of African dream pop?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 6 – Nerd ISH).

Merk: How much acid do you have to be trippin’ on to compose scores for a show that feels like an acid trip itself?

Ryan: It’s definitely a headspace you got to get into. But other than coffee, I’m generally fairly unmedicated when I work on the show.

Nyge: I know Justin [Roiland], the voice of Rick, does a little method acting sometimes. Like in season 2 when he actually got drunk in the studio to do drunk Rick.

Ryan: He said the only thing that can get him to do those burps right is light beer. So…if he’s doing a lot of burps, he’s drinking a lot of light beer.

Merk: There’s an episode where Rick himself is actually trippin’ on something. He dances with a bunch of people from all sorts of universes. He’s jammin’ to a bop you made called “The Rick Dance.” What’s your priority when it comes to composing music like that for specific episodes?

Ryan: I asked Justin and Dan [Harmon], what does “The Rick Dance” sound like in your heads? And Justin was like, “Watch this YouTube video of the ‘Do The Urkel‘ from Family Matters.” I’m like, “Okay. Let’s check out the Urkel.” It’s got this kind of old school hip-hop beat and a cheesy little chorus. I asked my friend Lauren Hillman to sing the vocals on it.

Merk: You also composed something that a lot of us young’uns were like OMG! What kind of throwback vibes does Disney’s The Wizards of Waverly Place theme song give you?

Ryan: When did I write that? That was in the mid-2000s probably. Every so often you start writing a cue or a song that almost writes itself. When I sent it off to Disney, I really felt like, “This one is going to be good, they’re going to like this one.” And it worked out.

Nyge: What do you nerd out about?

Ryan: I once played on the “Magic: The Gathering” Pro Tour. I also now play one-day long versions of the TV show Survivor. I have friends who will host these survivor games at the park and we all vote each other out. And it’s pretty fun!

Nyge: What are some requests you’ve gotten that really stick out in your mind?

Ryan: There’s a scene where Beth’s co-worker puts some music on. He’s like, “Hey, do you like that? That’s African dream pop.” And that’s all I got. I had the words African dream pop and that’s it. I called up Dan and Justin was like, “What is African dream pop?” “Oh, you know, it’s African dream pop.” So, my first step was listening to a lot of African music and then listening to a lot of dream pop and finding a way to overlap and then create the one and only song in the genre of African dream pop.

Nyge: What’s the story behind that theme music of Rick and Morty?

Ryan: I’ve worked with [Justin over the years] on several pitches and we were pitching another animated show called Dog World to another network, but it was more for kids, on a planet where dogs have evolved from men. He wanted a piece of music that had a really dramatic, energetic, adventurous, sci-fi kind of build to it that exploded at the end. So, I wrote this piece and he fell in love with it. Dog World unfortunately didn’t go anywhere. Fortunately for Rick and Morty, we still had the music.

Nyge: One of my favorite musical moments on Rick and Morty was the famous song “Get Schwifty“. I can’t help but wonder where that came from.

Ryan: That’s all Justin. He’s an improvisational genius and the story behind that song is actually really interesting. [Adult Swim] made a little flash game during season 1 of Rick and Morty. In the game, you control Morty and go around into Summer’s bedroom and find her iPod that has three songs, one of which is “Get Schwifty”. The writers just loved these crazy songs so they’re like, “Let’s just write a whole episode around these crazy songs from Summer’s iPod.”

Merk: Based on what you know about our show Adult ISH, if you had to write a theme song for our show, what would it sound like?

Ryan: Fun, for sure. Got to be up-tempo. Maybe a little danceable. I think I would do some old school hip-hop. You guys seem like you are vibing on that. I would start there. Maybe I’d give you an alternate version that’s a little more modern and let you decide between the two. Yeah, number one, it’s got to be fun. Got to be a little bit unhinged.

The post Special: Rick and Morty Composer Ryan Elder appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Tracking the Rise of Anti-Semitism

December 5, 2018 - 11:20am

The attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue this past October was a rude awakening for many Americans, who were unaware of such virulent anti-Semitism in the U.S. It’s been over a month since Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue and murdered 11 people there. Even as that particular event begins to feel more remote, the reminder that overt acts of anti-Semitism and hate exist in the US still feels very present.

YR Media’s Oliver Riskin-Kutz spoke with Lecia Brooks, the outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, about the current trends in hate and anti-Semitism, and what we can do to reverse them.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

ORK: This shooting took many by surprise. Prior to the shooting, had anti-Semitism already been on the rise in America?

LB: The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has been tracking an increase in the number of anti-Semitic hate incidents and crimes for the past two years — but there’s been an increase for about 10 years, in this country and globally. This attack is not an anomaly, except in that it was a mass murder.

Anti-Semitic acts are usually verbal rhetoric, like the trope of Jews being responsible for anything that goes wrong, as we’re seeing now with the migrant caravan. But we’ve seen an increase in acts too: bomb threats being called into over 100 Jewish day schools two years ago, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries that started immediately after that and still continues, up through [recently] when a group at a junior prom in Wisconsin took a photo doing a Hitler salute. And people are saying that [an incident like the prom photo] really doesn’t matter, when of course it does.

ORK: What effect does the Internet have on the spread of anti-Semitism? Are people recruited over the Internet?

LB: The Internet is great at spreading information. Unfortunately, still too many people believe that everything they read on the Internet is true. Google search algorithms are such that if you were to search for proof that Jews control everything, or are behind a “white genocide,” all you’d need to do is [type in] that affirmative statement and you’d get information that only validates what you already thought.

Bowers was a frequent poster on a site called Gab. There are also other sites, like the Daily Stormer or Stormfront, places where people can feed their racism and anti-Semitism and find people who think like them. Research shows that people who visit these websites tend to feel marginalized — people who already believe that an increase in populations of color and immigrant populations is putting them on the losing end of society.

ORK: What is the SPLC doing to fight this rise in anti-Semitism?

LB: The SPLC is educating policymakers, influencers, and educators about the existence of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. With our research and publishing, we hope to shine a light on these bad actors and show folks that there is indeed a connection between white supremacy and anti-Semitism. People don’t necessarily link them, but with the massacre at the Tree of Life, people are beginning to see the connection.

Anti-Semitism is connected to other kinds of hate. We identified 954 hate groups in 2017, of which at least 85% are white supremacist. And white supremacist groups are also anti-Semitic, because they’re in a tradition of Aryan purity, meaning Jews are not white in their mind. We want people to rise up against that and push back against normalizing biased, bigoted, and anti-Semitic thoughts and actions. That’s why we publish.

ORK: What effect has the Trump presidency had on the rise of anti-Semitism and hate?

LB: The President entered his 2016 campaign on a platform of hate. He began by demonizing Mexicans, and then Muslims. “Make America Great Again” was and continues to be read, as “Make America White Again.” I’m not saying that the President has expressed anti-Semitic thoughts, but he doesn’t speak out against them.

In the Tree of Life example, he didn’t take a strong stand against the terrible act. He also promotes a white nationalist agenda with his-anti immigrant and anti-Muslim policies, which tends to fuel far extreme-right and white nationalist movements. They feel like they have a leader in the White House. He needs to reject that, but he does not. The desires of the white nationalist and white supremacist movements are being actualized by policies that come out of the federal government.

ORK: Do you think any recent changes in national politics, like the House of Representatives turning blue, could have an effect on this rise?

LB:  Any administration should have a check on power. It’s not good for our democracy to have all three branches of government controlled by one party or one leader. There’s been no check on Trump’s policies to date.

We hope that will change when the new Congress is sworn in. It may provide a cover for those in the Republican Party who wanted to speak but didn’t, for fear of being marginalized by the president. I feel confident that the newly elected officials will begin to speak out, and demand that the president speak out more against the rise in hate and extremism in our country.

ORK: What can ordinary citizens do to help check the rise of hate?

LB: Each of us has a responsibility to speak out against hate, bias and bigotry. The hateful rhetoric that we hear every day becomes normal when we allow it to. We’ve all seen stories of hateful acts carried out against Latinx people, or Jews, or Muslims. We have to speak loudly and firmly against these acts. For all our criticism and critique of President Trump, it really is up to us to push back against the hate and reject it.

The post Tracking the Rise of Anti-Semitism appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Momma I Made It: Bumblebee Actor Jorge Lendeborg Jr.

December 4, 2018 - 4:21pm

Bumblebee Actor Jorge Lendeborg Jr. is Mr. Miyagi and a DC fan (#sorrynotsorry Marvel).

Nyge Turner calls for backup in a mini ‘Agree To Disagree’ where YR Media’s Merk Nguyen argues DC dominates over Marvel. Who comes in and saves his day? Actor Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (The Land, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Love, Simon) who’s been glowin’ up on the silver screen. The fellow 22-year-old messes around with the Adult ISH co-hosts and gets into his G.O.A.T. animes. Jorge talks about his upcoming projects (Bumblebee, Alita: Battle Angel) and says if he could go back in time, he’d pull a Mr. Miyagi on his younger self.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 6 – Nerd ISH).

Nyge: First question: Marvel or DC? Merk is tripping for thinking DC is better.

Jorge: Look…I remember seeing Tobey Maguire be Spiderman and that was like the end-all, be-all. I was like, “This is the coolest shit I’ve ever seen.” So I’m gonna have to go Marvel.

Nyge: Yea that’s what I’m talking about! I knew I liked you.

Merk: No. No. No. DC came before Marvel — DC was like the OG number one pioneer of superhero comics. Marvel is great. But I’m all about the underdog. And hey, you never know Jorge — you could get a casting call for a DC movie.

Jorge: Nah, I’m going to burn all the bridges right now. Marvel all the way. Freakin Iron Man had a drinking problem. I’m like 12 [saying], “Why is this guy so sad?” 

Nyge: What is an acting role you really wanted but you but you didn’t get?

Jorge: The new Mid90s movie. That movie was my life! I’ve been skateboarding for five years. I was definitely pretty bummed for like a hot minute with that one.

Nyge: I hope this doesn’t come off offensively at all. When you first see your name, I thought it was Jorge (pronounced Horhey). But you pronounce it George. Do you get that a lot?

Jorge: Yeah all the time. Why would that be offensive?

Nyge: You never know.

Jorge: Thank you. Respect. Respect. I get it. When I was in kindergarten, people would ask me, “Do we call you Jorge or George?” I was like, “Oh I like George.” So, since everyone gave me the option, I was like “George.” But now I’m all famous and sh*t, people are like, “Is it Jorge?” 

Merk: We’re asking people what they geek out about. So what’s your fix, man?

Jorge: Anime. My Hero Academia is destroying. I also like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Devilman Crybaby, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo…Ya’ll asked and I’m gonna give you the deep, deep. I don’t really watch TV. I watch anime.

Nyge: You a dubs or subs (subtitles) person?

Jorge: Everything subbed. But I don’t mind a good dub. Also, it feels like you get more lost in the anime with subs because they are way more intense in Japanese. Like, “Ahhhhhh! It’s a fight sequence! Where are we going? The sky is purple. He’s knocked out! Where am I!?” 

Merk: So you’re in Bumblebee, the new Transformers movie that comes out this month. The CGI looks fly from what I’ve seen in the trailers, but I’ve always wondered what it’s like shooting those kinds of scenes. Do you just have to go off your imagination, or is someone actually there?

Jorge: We had a guy on stilts who was up in the air like 10, 12 feet wide and he would stand in and do the blocking for where Bumblebee would be. We do that one time for rehearsal. Then, there’d be nobody there.

Jorge: Next year, you’re going to be in Alita: Battle Angel. That’s the cyberpunk action movie based off of Yukito Kishiro’s manga. What’s something you want people to know about it without giving anything away?

Jorge: What I want people to know is [this]: I know the anime community has been failed many, many times with their animated adaptations. But there was so much care [with this movie]. I want people to know that James Cameron had hundreds and hundreds of pages of notes going into this…I want people to know that this is anime adaption done right.

Jorge: I’d be super Mr. Miyagi. I wouldn’t say anything. I’d be like, “Hey guy, figure it out. Bye!”

Nyge: If you could tell your less adult-ish self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jorge: I’d be super Mr. Miyagi. I wouldn’t say anything. I’d be like, “Hey guy, figure it out. Bye!”

The post Momma I Made It: Bumblebee Actor Jorge Lendeborg Jr. appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

ET Ep 7: Cosmonaut

December 4, 2018 - 3:55pm
Extra Terrestrial is part of YR Media’s Sonic Sphere. Produced by Michael Diaz. Graphics by Julia Tello.

The post ET Ep 7: Cosmonaut appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Adult ISH: Nerd ISH

December 4, 2018 - 3:00pm

Rick and Morty composer Ryan Elder spills the backstories behind fan favorites like “Get Schwifty” and “African Dream Pop.” DIY-obsessed YouTuber Lauren Riihimaki (LaurDIY) did not make her mason jar chandelier (gasp!). Bumblebee Actor Jorge Lendeborg Jr. is Mr. Miyagi and a DC fan (#sorrynotsorry, Marvel).

The post Adult ISH: Nerd ISH appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Race and Community Loss from a Teen Poet’s Perspective

December 4, 2018 - 2:04pm

Leila Mottley, 16, is the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. She talked with YR Media about what inspired her to write her poem, “Love Poem to Oakland.”

The poem offers a look at the changes Mottley sees in Oakland. Watch the video to hear Leila’s perspective on what it means to live in a city that’s becoming more and more expensive.

RELATED: Meet The Teen Poet Whose Love Letter Is a Call To Action

To hear Leila read her poem, check out this video:

For more about the Youth Poet Laureate Program: https://www.oaklandlibrary.org/teens/events-programs/youth-poet-laureate-program

The post Race and Community Loss from a Teen Poet’s Perspective appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Witness Describes Conditions for Migrants on US-Mexico Border

December 4, 2018 - 11:12am

Mexican authorities have moved thousands of migrants from a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, to a new facility farther away from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Leticia Guzman works with a nonprofit called Border Angels and has traveled between California and Mexico to bring the migrants donations. The migrants are part of a large caravan that traveled to Tijuana from Central America.

Listen to Leticia describe the conditions in the now closed Benito Juarez shelter.

This weekend Guzman was at the old shelter, located in Tijuana’s Benito Juarez stadium, and said there were still some migrants inside. She said Mexican police kept people from entering with donations.

“They stopped me,” Guzman said of the police. “They didn’t let me go inside. They said, ‘We are no longer taking donations for people.’”

Guzman said hundreds of people were still sleeping outside the old shelter. She worried that the new shelter, called El Barretal and located about 11 miles away, may be “dangerous.”

“It is in a pretty rural area,” she explained. Migrants “don’t know how to make their way around there, they don’t know who’s on their side, who’s not on their side.”

The post Witness Describes Conditions for Migrants on US-Mexico Border appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

#Goals: LaurDIY

December 3, 2018 - 4:28pm

What’s trending? YouTuber LaurDIY says mason jar chandeliers and being your best self online.

YR Media’s Merk Nguyen has got a naked room that needs serious decorating and Nyge Turner is hungry for a blue check on Twitter. So, who the heck is going to help the two reach their social media and decor goals? None other than do-it-yourself YouTuber LaurDIY (a.k.a. Lauren Riihimaki)! She’s been shamelessly geeking over craft kits since 5ever ago and is now makin’ bank showing the world her D.I.Y. projects. Basically, living her ‘90s kid dreams (and ours too). Lauren also shares some tips on how to get to verification / ultimate subscriber status. Hint: be yourself.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 6 – Nerd ISH).

Merk: Were you a DIY nerd your whole life?

Lauren: Oh my gosh, yes. I went through all the DIY kits from the early 1990s. Bless my parents! They still have all my “professional” DIY crafts.

Nyge: A DIY closet? We never had a craft closet in the Turner household.

Lauren: I think they just took a closet and booted out my dad’s clothes and let me put all my craft supplies in there.

Merk: When did you realize you could make a living doing this kind of thing?

Lauren: I kind of fell into it by accident. I was in university studying a boring program in Toronto and started a blog as a creative outlet. Eventually that transitioned to a YouTube channel [and one day I] got an email saying I could monetize my content.

Merk: You’ve got high energy in your videos, but who is Lauren off camera?

Lauren: Obviously you can’t be that high energy all the time. I definitely have a calmer attitude. But for the most part, I’m a pretty upbeat and positive person. That translates and [my fans] know it’s genuine.

Nyge: What was your first big DIY project ever?

Lauren: I was like 10 and made this entire Bikini Bottom city. There was the pineapple, Squidward’s house, Patrick’s rock. I’m so sad [my parents] didn’t keep it.

Merk: Well that’s goals right there and perfect for what we’re about to go into. We find experts to help us reach our dreams and you’re here to help us with our #DIYgoals. We’re also going into double-geek mode with #SocialMediaGoals.

Nyge: Can you handle this pressure?

Lauren: I mean my hands are a little clammy, but let’s do it!

Merk: So, my room’s naked. I really don’t have any photos of my loved ones from back home [since I moved], but I’ve got plenty on my phone. What are a couple cheap, crafty ways for me to get a little photo cray?

Lauren: I just ordered a strand [of twinkle lights] for $15 off Amazon. You can get some cute little clips, then get some photos printed, and hang them from the twinkle lights. Pharmacies and Costco do photo prints for really cheap.

Nyge: Walgreens has an app that I used one time in my DIY. I just hopped on the app and picked out the photos on my camera roll and had them printed.

Merk: Note to self…

Nyge: When you live on your own for the first time, you realize all these things you didn’t ever know you needed. What are some DIY items you can use for everyday living?

Lauren: Mason jars are the easiest and trendiest. You can put literally anything in a mason jar and it looks cooler. It’s a good way to see what’s in there but also hold your stuff. They’re paintable, you can tie ribbon around them. You can literally do anything with them and they always look cute.

Nyge: When do you think everybody will be like, “Oh, you’re still on mason jars, bro?”

Lauren: I just bought a chandelier with mason jars on it, so hopefully not anytime soon!

Nyge: You’ve got more than eight million followers on YouTube. What are some tips on making a channel that people actually watch?

Lauren: The first thing is just being yourself. I know that sounds cheesy, but it truly is such a personality-driven website. Anyone can do a cooking recipe video, but it’s only different because it’s you.

Merk: Moving on with our #SocialMediaGoals. Which platform would you say is the one we all need to be on to really feel connected to each other?

Lauren: There’s pros and cons to every one and they all serve different purposes. I’d say Twitter and Instagram are tied for me. Twitter I think is more of like a conversation. Instagram is more of like an art space.

Nyge: If you don’t exist on social media but want to get in the game, where do you even begin gaining followers?

Lauren: I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. So many people are trying to get into the space that’s really oversaturated, but I think it’s just finding what you’re passionate about, building a brand for yourself, and making everything cohesive.

Nyge: Then there’s this infamous mysterious world of verification. You have a blue check. How does that even happen?

Lauren: I woke up one day and I was like, “I’m verified. Sweet!” I didn’t submit myself for anything, but I know now there’s a submission situation.

Nyge: I really don’t even want a huge amount of money or followers. If I just have a blue check, everybody automatically has to respect what I say. I tweet something and they’re like, “He has a blue check. He’s obviously saying something powerful.”

Lauren: I’m not going to lie. There’s definitely some perks. Like on Twitter, there’s a different tab that’s “verified”. So you’ll see an interaction with someone else who’s verified whether you follow them or not.

The post #Goals: LaurDIY appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

We Literally Redrew Our Community (and You Can Too)

December 3, 2018 - 2:26pm

By Ricardo Perez, Imani Jones, Tiffany Gresseau, Tatiana Cruz, Carissa Wu, Myles Smith

All over the country, gentrification takes many forms, like rising rents, $4 coffee shops overrun with hipsters, flipped homes with reclaimed wood fences designed to keep neighbors out. Where we live in Jersey City, less than 30 minutes outside New York, we see it in the empty storefronts that line our once-thriving business district.

As teenagers in Jersey City, we hang out a lot on Monticello Avenue, and it seems like the street has become a graveyard for small businesses. Former banks, restaurants, and bodegas with empty windows gather dust and graffiti as they wait to be filled by rich outsiders. The few mom-and-pop shops left on Monticello are dilapidated.

While the community is changing for better in many ways, such as cutting gang violence and drugs, we risk losing the small, locally-run business culture that made Monticello so great in the first place.

What if the people growing up here got to pick what goes into all these empty shops? Rather than sit around and dream, a bunch of us decided to get together and draw what our community would look like, if we were in charge. We even imagined the back-stories behind the new businesses we want to see. Slide right for the before-and-after.

Jitaku and Kibaku- 90 Monticello Avenue

We need diversity in food and other healthy dietary choices in an area where the only options are fried chicken restaurants and fast-food spots. New, affordable restaurants could expose us to new cultures and customs. One business we imagine is an affordable, artistic Japanese spot.

“Move over Panda Express! Jitaku and Kibaku is the next big Asian food restaurant. Jitaku and Kibaku Imari are twins who came to America in 2007. The brothers always dreamed of founding their own restaurant and sharing Japanese culture with the world. Jitaku incorporates Japanese street food recipes into his dishes while maintaining their nutrition, while his artist-brother Kibaku hand-picked the unique Japanese decor, showcasing the work of obscure Japanese artists. For $5.99, enjoy a sushi platter of California, spicy tuna, and salmon rolls!”

My Island-109 Monticello Avenue

We’d love to see this spot turn into an immigrant-run business, reflecting the people who came to this country escaping persecution and hardship. In addition to the shops run by Hispanic and Chinese immigrants along Monticello, we’d also like to see entrepreneurs of other ethnicities get time to shine.

“Jamal was a chef at storm shelters in the Caribbean during the 2010 magnitude-7 earthquake in Haiti. It was during this catastrophe that he met his current wife Jasmine, a Haitian caterer who lost her home. Jasmine came back with Jamal, and the two dreamed of opening their own restaurants in the inner city. My Island combines age-old Caribbean recipes to ensure the best Caribbean experience in the entire planet! The restaurant’s signature dish is the Caribbean Combo, a meal that includes a meat dish, a side, and a home-brewed exotic fruit juice; all for five dollars! Meals include papaya juice, conch fritters, potatoes and plantains, jerk chicken, roti, and curry chicken.”

Sweet Cravings-142 Monticello Avenue.

It’s hot here in Jersey City, and unless you happen to be near a roving ice cream truck, there’s nowhere to get a sweet-tooth fix. We like the idea of having a place to cool off and grab an affordable cone without turning to fast food or a chain. Plus it’s an easy hop from the local high schools.

“This mom-and-pop shop satisfies your sweet tooth with a by-the-pound candy bar featuring the most iconic sweets and nostalgic flavors. Over the summer, look out for our fresh ice cream and self-serve frozen yogurt. For $3.99, you can get a large cone of Mary’s Mix, the owner’s special. Pick a selection of toppings to be blended into your favorite ice cream, creating endless flavor and fun!”

MonticelloActive! – 108 Monticello Avenue

Next up: an affordable gym for people in the community who want to maintain fitness and stay active all year around.

Are you tired of gyms that lock you into a contract and offer nothing but dull machines? MonticelloActive makes exercise fun. We engage our members with a top-of-the-line rock climbing cardio workout and an Olympic-grade obstacle course inspired by the likes of America Ninja Warrior and Wipeout. You never have to worry about our courses being repetitive, as we change the layouts monthly.

A one-hour pass to MonticelloActive is $2, and $1 for students with a valid ID. With a $25-per-month membership for adults and $10 for teens, you can record your best course completion times and compete with other athletes for the top spot on our leaderboard! Inclusion in our HighFive leaderboard gives athletes major discounts on our products. And there’s even a juice bar!”

LazerRaver-92 Monticello Avenue

There are no arcades, laser-tag businesses or karaoke spaces in the area. Basically, the only options for teens are sitting around the house, watching Netflix, sleeping, and gaming. We imagine a business that would get teens out of the house in a supervised, healthy environment, where we could socialize in a healthy way with other teens. We’d also like to see a business that caters to all ages — kids and parents alike.

“Experience the high-skill, high-thrill intensity of LazerRaver tag. Live through a half-hour adrenaline rush of action and excitement as you play the most diverse laser tag experience in the Tri-state area! You can choose the standard free-for-all game type or our Capture-the-Flag mode to take your team to victory! In our Deathmatch mode, you have 50 Life Points as opposed to the standard 20. Lose all of them and you’re out for the rest of the game! Pick among eight different classes, all with different weapon types and strategies that will keep you coming back again and again! In addition to our regularly updated arena, characters, and game types, we host birthday parties for upwards to 20 competitors, plus discounts on birthday cakes and pizza. Afterward, enjoy our retro gaming arcade and late-night karaoke festivals. LazerRaver is an unforgettable experience for all ages!”

Plants & Paws – 91 Monticello Avenue

Instead of seeing stray animals on the streets, we’d like to see a business that helps animals find homes. We also need more places for middle schoolers and teens to earn community service hours for our resumes, jobs, and colleges.

“Tyler is an animal rights activist. He opened his first gardening store, Tyler’s Terrace, but was wanted to interact more with the young demographic. His daughter was an animal enthusiast who aspired to open an animal shelter in the inner city. The two joined forces to create Plants & Paws, a community garden and animal shelter whose number one goal is to serve the community. Plants & Paws donates all its crops and foods to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The community garden is staffed by volunteers, giving the youth of the neighborhood a fruitful hobby. At the animal shelter, kids can care for the animals and advertise the adoption program. Plants & Paws takes pride in hiring teens to better the community.”

Is your community gentrifying? Let us know if you want to redraw your neighborhood. Check out our pitching tool and then send yours to us here

YR partnered with Jersey Art Exchange (JAX) on this project. JAX is a neighborhood-based nonprofit established to fulfill arts, cultural and educational needs in Jersey City.

Illustrators: Carissa Wu, Tiffany Gresseau, Tatiana Cruz
Writers & Photographers: Ricardo Perez, Imani Jones, Myles Smith

The post We Literally Redrew Our Community (and You Can Too) appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Can You Teach AI to Dance?

December 3, 2018 - 11:03am

In the same way a dog wags its tail or a flower explodes in full bloom, we express who we are through dance. But what qualities in music make us want to get up and move? It’s an instinct that feels profoundly personal and distinctly human. Besides, what motivates one person to put their hands up isn’t necessarily going to have the same effect on another.

This makes quantifying “danceability,” or the likelihood for a song to urge us onto the dance floor, seem like an impossible challenge. So when Spotify developers decided to construct an algorithm—a set of predefined steps—to decipher which song is the best candidate for a good jam, they really had their work cut out for them.

Artificial Intelligence*, or AI, is any system that mimics human intelligence by recognizing past patterns in human behavior and makes decisions that follow these patterns. The goal is to have an algorithm that would make decisions as a human would—an especially complicated task when applied to something as intimate, dynamic, diverse and culturally specific as taste in music.

The specifics of the AI algorithms powering Spotify’s danceability rating remain shrouded in some mystery, shielded from view by corporate non-disclosure agreements. (Spotify employees declined our interview requests.) However, through a series of blog posts from former interns and employees, it’s known that back in 2014, Spotify announced its acquisition of a small Somerville, Massachusetts-based start-up called The Echo Nest. This startup was one of the first to make use of physical audio attributes like the beats per minute (BPM), tempo, and timbre of a music file to predict certain characteristics for a song, such as “danceability.” It’s likely that this was part of the foundation for Spotify’s current danceability score, which, based on elements including “rhythm stability, beat strength, and overall regularity,” rates tracks on a scale of least to most danceable.

But, how reliable is this algorithm? Can a computer really determine something as fluidly defined as danceability? The developers at YR weren’t so sure… So YR designed a tool to help you compare your own danceability ratings to the AI-powered scores from Spotify. Our awesome six-song playlist is courtesy of the up-and-coming producer Edel, from YR’s music team. Rate all six, and you’ll find out how your tastes line up to algorithm—or don’t.

What’s Danceable? Your Turn! *But wait, how does AI actually work? 

Here’s the deal. AI is any method that automates a decision-making process in order to improve efficiency and result in more data-driven outcomes. Machine learning is a particular kind of AI that happens when computers are trained to “learn” to make certain decisions by observing many past examples of that decision being made either well, or poorly. Say for example, we want an algorithm to be able to make a decision on whether or not an image is of a dog. It will first need to get educated on what a dog looks like, by being shown many labeled examples of dog and non-dog photos. At this point, after having seen enough examples of dog images, it begins to set up some fixed rules about which features of the image are good clues that indicate it is looking at a dog. For instance, it may notice that seeing a floppy ear or fur-like texture or brown color in the image usually means it is looking at a dog.

Once the algorithm graduates from training, it is deployed in the real world, where it needs to make decisions on images it’s never seen before, and use the assumptions it has learned in training to classify new, unfamiliar images. Note that if it learned that all dogs are brown and is presented with only images of black Labradors after training, the algorithm won’t be able to adopt its assumptions to adjust to that change. This means the assumptions of how features influence its labels, or outcomes, are fixed, and do not change over time. That is, unless we decide to re-train the algorithm, sending it back to learn about new examples with the desired label and feature pairing. The examples we use to train AI algorithms are thus incredibly important and really influence the decisions the algorithm will make in the real world.

Which is why even for a playful concept, like danceability, it’s good to pay attention to how any piece of AI is trained. In the case of Spotify, The Echo Nest technology was initially developed at least in part based on ratings provided by a “passionate group of musicians and music lovers,” some associated with the elite conservatory, Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Their passions and opinions may have played an early role in establishing standards that trained a platform for tens of millions of songs.

“We built this project because we wanted to question the opinion of Spotify’s algorithm,” said 16-year-old Mila Sutphin, one of the developers who created the YR interactive. “Spotify has immense influence on people’s music taste, and if Spotify is telling people what is danceable, it starts to limit the range of music taste.”

YR producer Kuya Rodriguez waxed philosophical on this point. “Music to me is a conversation,” he said. “Whether it be with vocals, with instruments, with sounds [or] atmosphere. Dancing is a response to that conversation, and I believe one of the purest forms of expression.”

It’s difficult to imagine an algorithm that could truly understand that all-too-human expression. And that, perhaps, is a good thing.

INTERACTIVE CREDITS:
  • Shanya Williams
  • Tree Moses
  • Elisabeth Guta
  • Mila Sutphin
  • Dante Brundage
  • Edel
  • Radamés Ajna + Asha Richardson


The post Can You Teach AI to Dance? appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

We Got Our Own Dance Music – Mix: Only If You Dance

December 3, 2018 - 10:52am
My “only if you dance” mix was a chance for me to show my interest in House music. I’ve always had a sweet spot for this specific genre because it always made me want to dance. Plus the way House music is made, it bounces at the same rate of your heart and I feel like that’s the science behind why it makes you move.

The post We Got Our Own Dance Music – Mix: Only If You Dance appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Life After the Fire

December 2, 2018 - 8:00am

Hearing about all the horrible fires in California is reminding me of what it felt like when the house I grew up in burned down.

I was a sophomore in high school when the fire happened.  My family was forced to move out, with little money.

As a teenager, I needed personal space. I needed time to listen to music in peace. Really, I just needed to be alone — and that wasn’t easy. We were stuck in one hotel room with two beds shared among four people and a dog. I spent a lot of time at friends’ houses or wandering around hotels. After a while, my family started to separate. My mom and I moved into a nice house and my grandma moved in with her sister.

While my friends thought growing up is reaching a certain age, or hitting puberty, for me, the fire is what ended my childhood. I learned that things can be taken away from me without warning. So I value time with my family even more than before. Because the fire could have taken any one of us. Still, it changed my family forever, and I do grieve what we have lost.

The post Life After the Fire appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Meet The Teen Poet Whose Love Letter Is a Call to Action

November 29, 2018 - 5:53pm

Leila Mottley, a native Oakland writer, is the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. The Youth Poet Laureate program was founded by the Oakland Public Library and other community organizations and is a citywide effort to celebrate literacy through poetry.

Mottley’s poem, “Love Poem to Oakland,” offers a look at the changes she sees in her city. Watch the video to see Leila read her poem and to experience the Oakland sights and sounds she references.

For more about the Youth Poet Laureate Program: https://www.oaklandlibrary.org/teens/events-programs/youth-poet-laureate-program

The post Meet The Teen Poet Whose Love Letter Is a Call to Action appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

#GOALS: Actor Marcus Scribner

November 29, 2018 - 5:25pm

Black-ish Actor Marcus Scribner goes hard on camo and the HBCU vs. PWI debate.

Actor Marcus Scribner, aka Junior from Black-ish, is now an almost adult on the TV Screen and IRL. YR Media’s Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner make him dance with questions about interracial dating and historically black colleges and universities.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 5 – Race ISH).

Nyge: Could you describe what you’re wearing right now?

Merk: Is it an original Marcus design?

Marcus: It’s original Marcus by Marcus. I’ve got on camo pants. Some nice camo green Pumas. Then, we’ve got this nice camo green and navy denim blue button-up top which is very weird describing it. But if you saw it, you’d be like, “Oh it works!”

Nyge: Okay, so camo on camo on camo.

Merk: Where’d Marcus go? He’s so camouflaged.

Marcus: Yeah, exactly. You guys couldn’t even find me in the studio [in Los Angeles] if you were here. But green is my color. I love green.

Nyge: But real talk though, are there any similarities between you and your character in real life?

Marcus: Not as much as a lot of people tend to believe. I’m definitely a nerd. I love video games, comic books, superheroes, anime, all the such. But then there [are] a lot of differences between me and Junior. In fact, I feel Junior’s extremely gullible and he lets people push him around and sometimes I’m like, “Come on, Junior! Get out! Do something!” And I’m like, “Oh yeah. It’s a character.” Junior’s also very flexi with the colors. I feel like my style’s a little more chill and reserved. I go with the beiges, the wine reds. You know what I mean? 

Merk: The chardonnays.

Marcus: The chardonnay, the concord grape.

Nyge: Can chardonnay be red?

Marcus: Can it? I don’t even know about alcohol. I’m 18.

Nyge: I feel like I’m your old uncle….like, “Shoot! Look at Junior!” Anyways, now it’s time for you to win the Nobel Peace Prize on our advice segment called GOALS.

Merk: And since we’re talking about race ISH, let’s start with interracial dating or friendships. So I’m thinking about the episode where Junior brings home a white girlfriend. Your TV mom doesn’t know how to feel about it. I’ve had a similar experience, but I want to know from you. What are some tips you have about introducing someone new to your folks that might not come from the same background as you?

Marcus: I think it’s really important obviously to let them know that you’re happy. It’s not about skin color. It’s really about the person and the connection that you share with them. If you’re happy and your parents can’t accept that, tough luck.

Nyge: I remember I was in high school and I brought this girlfriend home. She was Mexican and Dominican and my mom was like, “Oh…Hi…” And I just remember my mom was talking to me like I was like two years old. She was just like, “Oh, so…do you like black women?” Yes I do!

Marcus: Yeah. It’s definitely a conversation starter.

Nyge: On the episode Black Math on Black-ish, Junior gets accepted to Stanford University and Howard University, which is an historically black college, or HBCU. Then Dre [your dad in the show] isn’t really feeling it because you aren’t even considering going to Howard. Then Dre takes you on a campus tour that ultimately ends up going wrong because it makes it seem like HBCUs don’t really prepare you for “real life”. Long story short, Twitter went off and everybody was so upset because HBCU students felt misrepresented.

So what I want to know, if you could break it down for people in the same situation about to go into college, what are some of the pros and cons or misconceptions about HBCUs versus non-HBCUs? Or PWIs, predominantly white institutions.

Marcus: What I want to get straight off the bat is I feel like a lot of people misinterpreted the episode. I think it was definitely Dre’s perspective that he thought HBCUs don’t prepare you for the real world from what he previously experienced. I think we tried to make it obvious from going on the tour of Howard that Junior was really enjoying his experience.

One of Dre’s past employers was like, ” What’d you learn at your HBCU? Black math?” “No! I learned math, homie!”  Believe it or not, there are black people with different views than you. We’re not all the same. Mind blowing, right? 

There are definite benefits to both. At an HBCU, you get to experience your culture with other like-minded black individuals. That definitely cultivates a different experience, and anybody who says that HBCUs don’t prepare you for the real world — [that] is probably the dumbest statement I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Everybody is there to learn. Just touching on one of the moments in our episode, one of Dre’s past employers was like, “What’d you learn at your HBCU? Black math?” “No! I learned math, homie!”  Believe it or not, there are black people with different views than you. We’re not all the same. Mind blowing, right?

Again, it’s really what you feel is right for you. Make the decision that’s smart for you.

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Categories: Blog

5 Songs Off Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard You Need to Listen to

November 29, 2018 - 1:49pm

It’s been two years since Anderson .Paak’s last project, Malibu, and fans have been itching for more ever since. Executive produced by Dr. Dre, Oxnard notes the evolution of Anderson .Paak, the album contains a unique sonic experience incorporating definitive elements of funk, disco, jazz, and gospel. Engulfing listeners with warm percussion, plush-sounding choirs, and .Paak’s signature raspy voice. The album includes guest appearances from Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, J. Cole, and many more. The album’s lead single, “Tints,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, is only a glimpse of the sound .Paak chooses to orchestrate this album with. Running at almost an hour long, we put together a list of our favorite records from .Paak’s latest, Oxnard.

The Chase (feat. Kadhja Bonet)

The opening track features Kadhja Bonet’s soothing jazz-derived harmonies then swiftly transitions into an uptempo 70’s-inspired jazz record. A solid intro that sets the scene for the rest of .Paak’s funky renaissance album.

Tints (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

This song is a certified classic, Anderson .Paak graced us with the talents of many stars on Oxnard and Kendrick is probably the most exciting one. Kendrick adds reassurance with a brief feature, bringing about a shift in feeling, it’s almost as if Kendrick is personally hyping you up. This song is special because if you’re from the Bay Area, you know how relatable it is to constantly see tinted windows mobbin’ around the city.

6 Summers

“6 Summers” is a hymn for the streets. Augmented with a catchy hook and fast-paced rhythm, “6 Summers” covers controversial topics like gun control, politics, and Trump’s love child. Lyrically, it’s one of the strongest tracks on the album and .Paak boasts that it’s going to “bang for at least six summers,” and it probably will. It has a timeless sound to it, and lyrics that will continue to incite listeners even after the very first listen.

Saviers Road

9th Wonder pays tribute to the Latino culture that dominates Southern California. It features old-school Tito Puente-type soft guitar riffs, and a dope-sounding keyboard that transitions to a nice, old-school hip-hop kick drum. This song made me realize that the world needs an Anderson .Paak and Kali Uchis collab in the future.

Brother’s Keeper (feat. Pusha T)

This track stands out for many reasons but mostly because of its funk-like approach. This song sounds like a soundtrack for the streets of the Bronx in 1977. Anderson .Paak and Pusha T rap about what it means to be “your brother’s keeper,” over a hypnotic bassline that makes it feels like it’s a crime to be sitting while this song plays.

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