Students rally against racism

More than 100 students rallied outside New York’s Columbia University’s Teachers College and marched in support of professor Madonna G. Constantine on Oct. 11, after a noose was found hanging on her office door.

“I am upset that the Teachers College community has been exposed to such an unbelievably vile incident,” she said, “and I would like us to stay strong in the face of such a blatant act of racism.”

Constantine is African American, a professor of psychology and education who specializes in race, racial identity and multiculturalism. She also conducts research on mental health issues of people of color and immigrants.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice joined the investigation of the incident, which is being conducted by the Hate Crime Task Force of the New York Police Department. “People think that I and other Black scholars are studying issues of race because we’re black and because it’s personal,” Constantine told The New York Times. “But if I’m studying racism, that’s not about me, right, that’s about white people, who have certain types of attitudes about people of color, and so forth.”

Susan H. Fuhrman, president of the college, met with 600 students and faculty and said she would work to retain and recruit more minority faculty members, and offer students more scholarships.

Teen forced to leave U.S. with immigrant parents

The Boston Globe recently featured a story about David Arias, 16, whose parents are originally from Columbia. David was born in the United States and lived his whole life in East Boston. He is your average teenager who loves to play video games and watch science fiction movies and aspires to become a musician one day.

David hoped to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. His idols are Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Dr. Dre. He was a good student at one of the city’s best high schools and played in two bands.

All that changed dramatically when his father Gustavo was taken into custody and ordered deported to Columbia, leaving the family separated for almost a year. Gustavo left Columbia in 1989, fleeing for his life from a decades-old war there.

David’s parents sought a better life in the U.S. His mother cleaned houses. Gustavo worked as a janitor and became a community leader in Boston. He had applied for asylum when he arrived in the U.S., but was denied in 1990 after he missed a court hearing he says he never knew about.

After two decades in the U.S., Gustavo feared that the crackdown on undocumented workers was intensifying and immigration raids seemed to be on the rise in Boston. So Gustavo tried to move the family to Canada last year, but was not allowed in and was apprehended on the way back to the U.S.

Today, David is living in Cali, Columbia, with his parents and his 5-year-old brother, who is also a U.S. citizen. He is surrounded by family he has never met before and finds it difficult adjusting to his new surroundings. Cali has a population four times that of Boston, is notorious for drug-and gang-related violence and had more than 1,500 homicides last year, while Boston had 74. David told the Boston Globe that kids in America are really lucky. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think they know how lucky they are,” he said.

Lets talk about sex

Emily Rooke, 15, is a high school student from South Eugene, Ore., and is an outspoken leader of REVolution, a Planned Parenthood (PP) youth action council that advocates sex education.

“High school students are sexually active,” said Rooke to The Register-Guard newspaper. “The problem is that they’re really uncomfortable talking about it. It’s a hard subject.”

REV currently has 15 teen members from around the area and meets twice a month, providing feedback to PP staff. Rooke says kids are starting to have sex as young as 10.

“Sex education needs to start in elementary school,” she said. “As much as people might not like to think about it, kids are having sex young, and they need to be making decisions based on correct information, not just myths from their friends.”

Shannon Kilduff coordinates the youth education programs of PP and says it’s important to support young people in having healthy relationships and making smart decisions about sex. “Their voice is so critical,” said Kilduff. “There are things that they identify as needs that we would never figure out on our own,” she added.

What’s Really Good focuses on youth and student issues and is compiled by Pepe Lozano (plozano @pww.org).

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