Tears are part of telling the story

By Sabine Kaupp.

The light gets dark in the little cinema of the Newseum in Washington, DC. The only things appearing on screen are three numbers: 9/11. But everybody knows what this means. Continue reading

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Trayvon Martin should still be alive: Why we have not overcome racism

A man wearing a t-shirt remembering Trayvon Martin on the day of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington © Lilly Maier

A man wearing a t-shirt remembering Trayvon Martin on the day of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington    © Lilly Maier

By Sophia Lindsey.

The acquittal of George Zimmerman left thousands of people heartbroken. Minutes after the verdict was spoken, haunting images from outside the court room in Florida began to flood our news channels. Men and women stood in disbelief, as tears of hurt and anger rushed down their faces. Some spoke to reporters, their voices unsteady, lamenting not only the injustice of this particular case, but also a deeper fear of what its outcome implied: That a white man can shoot a black teenager without there being any consequences, and that race still matters. It can even determine whether you live or die.

The emotional reactions to both the Trayvon Martin killing and the verdict that followed clearly show that racism is still a big issue – even as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and America is being led by a black president. Some have argued that the jury could not have ruled differently: After all, Zimmerman’s as well as Martin’s injuries backed up Zimmerman’s version of the night’s events, and in the end, there simply wasn’t enough evidence under Florida law for a conviction. While this is certainly a valid argument, its supporters are completely missing the point: If Trayvon Martin had been white, he would probably still be with us today.

I feel confident making this statement. Because while we may never know what exactly happened the night Martin was shot, there are some strong indications as to why it happened. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, was the one who sought out Martin, not the other way around. The black teenager in the gray hoodie looked “suspicious,” Zimmerman said during the 911 call he issued, later adding: “These assholes always get away.” We know for certain that Zimmerman followed Martin, even though an officer had advised him not to do so. We also know that Martin was not armed. The 17-year-old was on his way home. These are facts. No amount of debating will change them.

Thinking of this case and the discussion it sparked makes other facts come to mind. Like the fact that the likelihood of going to prison in your lifetime is seven times higher if you are a black male than if you are a white male. You are also more likely to be sentenced to death: In 2003, more than 40 percent of the country’s death row inmates were black, even though they account for only 12 percent of the national population. Or the fact that the poverty rate for blacks is more than twice as high as the poverty rate for whites. And even the fact that a simple Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple and their young daughter can spark such harsh and hurtful racist remarks on Youtube that the company feels the need to disable the comments completely.

While statistics are shocking but easily forgotten, it is the personal attacks aimed at the little girl in the video, including references to “racial genocide” and “mongrels”, which continue to haunt me. We may dream of a colorblind society or a colorblind justice system, but in reality it is often skin color itself that renders us blind.

When the backlash against the video was at its peak, Christopher Colbert, the father of the six-year-old actress in the Cheerios commercial, spoke up: “I was really excited to have this type of reaction so we could see where we still stand in America,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. He did not say where. He didn’t have to. Because even though according to Census data, one out of ten couples in America is interracial, he was on TV for the sole reason that he was black and had a child with a white woman. That really says it all.

I still remember the day that George Zimmerman was acquitted. I was driving through the city on my way to work. The car radio was on. When they announced the news, I was so shocked I missed my exit. As I kept driving, trying to figure out where to go, the news reporter’s voice echoed in my mind. I kept thinking: Trayvon Martin should still be alive. And suddenly, I felt very lost.

We Cannot Allow the Use of Chemical Weapons

By Lilly Maier.

syHundreds and hundreds of bodies are lined up on a cold stone floor- men, women, and children. One can see that they were hastily covered by disorderly wrapped jackets and blankets, which do not manage to hide their pale, lifeless faces.

The scene I am describing took place 70 years ago in Auschwitz, in Treblinka and in Sobibor. Over three million people were killed in the Nazi’s death camps, in total about 6.5 million Jews died in the Holocaust, but the same scene, the same atrocities, could also be a description of pictures taken just two weeks ago just outside of Damascus in Syria.

Over 1,400 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the alleged nerve gas attack on August, 21, among them at least 426 children. The aftermath was documented in more than 100 amateur videos and leaves the question how the international community should react to it.

I work at the Concentration Camp Memorial Site in Dachau, Germany, and I have spent hours and hours talking to Jewish Holocaust survivors – the main reason they are still alive today is because Britain, France, Russia and the United States decided to stop Nazi Germany. At one point, they realized that Hitler and his followers had crossed a “red line” and that they needed to be stopped. A “red line” much like the one President Obama has been talking about in reference to the use of chemical weapons in the civil war in Syria.

I do not know if bombing Syria is the right answer, and if it is, I do not know if the U.S. is the right one to carry out the bombing. What I do know is this: The Western world cannot allow anyone to use weapons of mass destruction! No person, no organization and no nation, be it Syria, be it Iran, or be it international terrorists. This world, our world, has survived the Nazi’s gas chambers and the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the deaths of millions would be in vain, if we had not learned our lesson.

Those who say, that the US government has no right to condemn the use of weapons of mass destruction because they used them themselves 70 years ago, are hypocritical. And while it is true, that once before the US and its allies started a war based on the premise of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, that were afterwards never been found, the situation in Syria is different. This time, we do not have pictures from alleged factories or the testimony of a single source. We have pictures of women and children who are already dead and we have footage of men foaming from their mouths. While the UN still has not officially presented their report after last week’s investigations, several intelligence agencies including the CIA, the British JIC, and the German BND are sure that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used sarin gas in an attack on civilians.

I consider myself a pacifist, but this is not a question about pacifism, it is not a question about war or no war. The war in Syria has been going on for two-and-a-half years and a point has been reached where we cannot ignore it anymore. President Bashar al-Assad or whoever ordered these attacks must be arrested and charged with crimes against humanity at The Hague – just like Hermann Göring and twenty other leaders of the Third Reich were brought to justice in the Nuremberg Trials.

“Hi honey, I forgot to duck”

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What presidents did and hid: The “Secrets and Scandals” tour uncovers their best kept misfortunes and misbehaviors.

By Sophia Lindsey and Lilly Maier.

The Secretary of the Treasury embezzles federal money and uses it to pay off his mistress’s husband, and his biggest rival leaks it to the press. What sounds like a scene from the new season of ABC’s Scandal actually took place more than two hundred years ago. The Secretary was Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, his arch nemesis was Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State. Huddled together in front of the White House on “the most expensive grass you will ever sit on,” as tour guide Erin shares with her listeners, about thirty people lean in to hear more of the missteps and misfortunes of yesterdays greatest leaders.

They have come to experience a two-hour walking tour that explores the “Secrets and Scandals” of our nation’s capitol. While DC by Foot also offers ordinary history tours on Capitol Hill or Arlington Cemetery, this one stands out. Appealing to our need for gossip, the tour intends to de-mystify the American presidents and bring out their more human sides. “Guys, ready to talk some trash?” exclaims Erin, a young energetic woman in her mid-thirties, donning a bright orange shirt with the company’s logo on it and a surprising amount of sun lotion, considering the late hour.

To the distinct sound of protesters chanting “No war in Syria” in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Erin shares insights into the Secret Service – or the “Men in Black”, as a little boy in a red shirt calls them: The paperwork to found the Secret Service was lying on President Lincoln’s desk while he was sitting in Ford’s Theatre waiting to be shot, and President Roosevelt was actually driven to give his famous Infamy Speech in Al Capone’s car that the Secret Service had previously confiscated.

As the sun sets, Erin leads the crowd to a somewhat inconspicuous house, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Her listeners know by now not to expect great and mystical tales of presidential heroes from the past. Instead, they learn that this is “the ugliest building in Washington, DC” – at least according to President Truman. Erin, who came up with the idea for this specific tour, enriches her presentation with several quotes and colorful language, referring to Founding Father Jefferson as “TJ” and calling the history book version of the burning of Washington in 1814 a “bunch of bull-faced lies”.

Erin knows what visitors are interested in, as she used to be one herself not too long ago. In 2011, she attended the “Lincoln Assassination Tour”, when DC by Foot founder, Eddie, spontaneously invited her to join the team. The company offers up to seven tours a day, showing around school classes as well as tourists. The tours are free, operating on a pay-what-you-like model. “We believe that everybody should be able to learn about this great city of Washington D.C., regardless of your budget,” the company’s philosophy reads on its website. The concept sure is lucrative: While most visitors pay between five and ten dollars, some go as far as to give sixty.

After two hours of tales of first ladies who committed bigamy, duels involving vice-presidents and Dolley Madison’s famous letters (“the first American PR campaign ever”), Erin goes on to talk about two would-be presidential assassinations. While President Truman’s aspiring murderers emphasized that it was “nothing personal”, President Reagan was more concerned about his thousand dollar suit being ruined than just being shot at. He only stopped arguing with ER personnel to greet his wife, Nancy: “Hi honey, I forgot to duck.”

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

The Tenley Times reporters' view of the Lincoln Memorial on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington © Lilly Maier

The Tenley Times reporters’ view of the Lincoln Memorial on the day of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington © Lilly Maier


On August 28, 2013, thousands of people poured onto the Washington Mall to hear a long list of prominent speakers. Rainbows of umbrellas covered the space as the crowd lifted them against the sporadic uncorking of the clouds. No amount of rain would keep these people home; they were witnessing history.

By Marie Loiseau and Audrey Arnal.

Intense comradery reigned at this gathering marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Movement in which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The crowd was huge and immensely diverse. All gathered around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to listen to over twenty speakers and performers demand equality for all humans.

Liberation and equality for all persons – that was the main message. There was emphasis on racial equality, of course, as speakers remembered and quoted Dr. King’s dream; however, all variations of humans were represented. Dr. Eliza Byard, Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), as well as Fred Maahs, the Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), spoke out about equality for all.

“For many millions of people with disabilities, the American dream remains out of reach,” said Maahs. “We have seen a lot of progress, but, like all civil rights movements, the disability rights movement has much more to do.”

In addition to the speakers, there were multiple musical performances scattered throughout the event, including jazz by Reverend Shirley Caesar, pop by Identity4Pop, blues by Marvin and Carvin Winans, and “Amazing Grace” by LeAnn Rimes. The unity among the crowd grew to the music. People were holding hands; they were swaying, belting lyrics along with those on stage. One could hear frequents shouts of “Amen!” erupting from somewhere close. As Rimes performed “Amazing Grace,” her voice ringing out over everyone present, individuals could feel the truth in Senator John Lewis’ words: “We are one people. We are one family. We are one house. We all live in the same house.”

Other speakers included Jamie Foxx, Oprah Winfrey, Reverend Bernice King, Martin Luther King the 3rd, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama.

In impassioned speeches, Presidents Carter and Clinton pointed out America’s unfinished work and Clinton asked everyone within the country to keep fighting against racism and prejudices, saying: “It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back.”

The former Presidents were joined on the steps by Dr King’s family: his sister Christine King Farris, his son Martin Luther King the Third, his daughter Reverend Bernice King who may have given one of the most strongest speech of the afternoon, and his closest friend Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the last living speaker of the 1963 March on Washington.

At 3 p.m., the exact time Dr. King delivered his poignant speech fifty years ago, his family rang a bell from Birmingham, Alabama, where four young Black girls were killed in 1963; bells from churches all over the United States started ringing, commemorating this hopeful moment.

After Rep. Lewis’ emotional speech, President Obama joined him on stage, and the crowd started holding its breath.

President Obama urged everyone to keep fighting for equality and harmony within the United States. A half-century to the day Dr. King called for justice, the first African American President paid tribute to his legacy to the African American community as well as to other minorities, but added that economic justice has still some way to go before America looks like the equal country Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt of. The unemployment rate African Americans and Latinos face remains too high, wealth disparities between minorities seem unchanging, and a real progress has to be made. The dream is still far from realized but there is no place for complaining or giving up.

The President called for a change, a change that can only appear if everyone works together, hand in hand, towards a common aim. America needs courage and President Obama knows his country have the means to keep fighting for its rights. “America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up,” he said facing a hopeful, passionate and lively crowd.

At the Lincoln Memorial, everyone was sure of something – they will keep marching and they won’t give up, they will break those doors that prevent them to live in a fair country, they will have the courage to make a change and to create the harmonious and equal America they dream of.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS EVENT AND PLACE IN THE CITY

Since its founding on July 16, 1790, Washington DC has been home to the most significant historic events of the United States of America. Discovering the nation’s capital means understanding years of American history. A symbol of justice, progress and hope, Washington DC has always been seen as one of the most powerful politic cities in the world. This is where global policy is shaped and where national and international decisions are made every day.

The federal capital has always had a significant meaning for the African American community. The American Civil Rights Movement flowered here, and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom echoes in every mind around the city as a symbol of hope and equality for all the African American people.

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people marched to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. Martin Luther King deliver his powerful and impassioned “I Have a Dream” speech about equality, harmony and freedom.

Exactly five decades after, more than 20,000 people marched from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The Memorial has become, over the last decades, a symbolic venue for the Civil Rights Movement. Surrounded on three sides by water, the monument remains in every mind as the symbol of justice and progress. On the eighteen steps of the Memorial, below Lincoln’s incredible statue, is engraved an inscription commemorating Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Washington DC is the federal capital of the most powerful country in the world. There is no other place like this city, and there is always something new to discover. However, is there a better way to soak up the atmosphere of Washington than attending a political and historic event? Taking part of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom happens only once in a lifetime and everyone at the Lincoln Memorial knew that. This hopeful and impassioned commemoration will forever be etched in the participants’ memories, and each will continue to move forward to make this country a better place. On August 28, 2013, Washington DC shared a message of hope, harmony, courage and justice, and we were there to witness it.

To bomb, or not to bomb: that is the question.


By Marie Loiseau.

Isyria-flagn December 2005 I sat on my plush sectional, watching Bewitched. There came a ring on the home phone, because people had landlines back then, but I don’t even remember hearing it. I don’t remember hearing my mom answer it, either – or her yelling for, and passing the phone off to, my dad. I remember him crying. I remember him yelling. And I remember his fist, with an utterly nonviolent history, striking and passing through our kitchen wall. His lifelong best friend was dead, killed in an Afghanistan car-bombing. I stood staring at the hole in the wall. The war had literally hit home.

This could have been avoided. Forty year-old Brent Adams did not have to die and leave behind his wife and four year-old son. But that is what war does: it steals life. There have been more than 3,200 coalition deaths, in and around Afghanistan. Over 2,100 of those were people from the United States. Why is this murdering, this game of killing, the go-to option for international problem-solving? And why do United States leaders feel so eager to get involved?

This question is quite relevant, as President Barack Obama –the man many (myself included) considered the Peaceful Option when at the polls in 2008 and 2012- is back and forth regarding the current horrors in Syria. Should we stand back and let the use of chemical weapons go unpunished? Or do we stand up and fight for the Syrian victims, totally exhausting our military forces and digging ourselves deeper into an ever-growing deficit?

Of course I think the use of chemical weapons on civilians is unethical and horrifying. However, why is it the United States that feels it must step up and throw the punishing punch? We’ve already thrust our nose- quite violently- in foreign affairs too many times. We should learn from our current (yes, our other problems are still on-going… If you’ve forgotten…) issues and avoid this situation. How many people need to die before we learn to avoid the violence?

And have I mentioned that the United States is broke? We’re beyond broke, actually. The total for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is estimated to be at least $3.2-4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office has forecast that the annual deficit will be $670 billion when the budget year ends Sept. 30. This is way below last year’s $1.09 trillion, and would mark the first year that the gap between spending and revenue has been below $1 trillion since 2008. We have a spending problem, obviously.

But if we must spend so much, we should prioritize the problems existing in our own country. As I look around, I see so many issues that need fixing, right here at home. Our public education system is going down the toilet, higher education is climbing further from reach for too many citizens, and the Pennsylvania roads remain abundantly pot-holed (to name a few things). We should not embark on another war, another killing and spending spree. We need to smooth the wrinkles within our own country, which is far from perfect and cannot yet call itself a role model nation.