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She’s a Witch

By Inika Harkrishnan

Graphics by Rachel

In the spring of 1692, legal failings, mass paranoia, and Puritan doctrines came together in colonial Massachusetts, and gave birth to one of the most grueling moments in American history.

The Witch Craze in Europe

The ‘Witch Craze’ began in Europe around the 13th century and lasted until nearly the end of the 18th century. Around 110,000 people in Europe had been tried, and between 40,000 to 60,000 were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft. With the publishing of the Malleus Maleficarum, ‘methods’ to identify witches and devil worshippers became widespread. These often brought the accused close to death through torture, guaranteeing relief in exchange of a confession. No matter their innocence and how ridiculous the charges against them may have been, thousands gave in and admitted to practicing witchcraft. These confessions fueled the mass hysteria that blazed through Europe and diabolized thousands of innocent people.

The Salem Witch Trials begin in a small village in Massachusetts against the backdrop of social divide fueled by two families: The Putnams and the Porters.

Through the influence of the Putnams, Samuel Parris became the pastor of the congregational church. He moved to Salem along with his three children, niece, and wife.

One of Parris’ daughters, Betty, his niece Abigail, and their friend Ann Putnam began displaying increasingly strange behavior, including fits, odd sounds, complaints of biting sensations and throwing objects. (The inputs of modern science have led many to believe that these were a result of convulsive ergotism that may have been caused by spoilt rye). Such fits spread to other young girls in the village, and unable to find a medical reason for this, William Griggs (the local doctor) blamed witchcraft.

Upon being pressured by Samuel Parris, the girls identified the perpetrators of their illness as Tituba, a slave brought to Salem by Parris, Sarah Goode, a choleric beggar, and Sarah Osborne, who had been suspected of an affair with a servant. The women were social outcasts and protested their blamelessness at the beginning. However, after being badgered and out of fear, Tibia confessed to having made a deal with the devil in exchange for her powers.

She described visions such as black dogs, red cats, yellow birds; animals thought to be familiars of Satan and claimed that a ‘Black Man’ approached her to sign her name in his book. She said that the book contained the names of Goode, Osborne and seven others whose names she couldn’t see. Goode and Osborne were accused by Tituba of being the witches responsible for Betty and Abigail’s afflictions.

This confirmed the suspicions of witchcraft and the existence of other undiscovered witches too. Thus began the series of prosecutions in which over 200 people were accused and over 20 met their death. The accused were forced to defend themselves without counsel and assumed guilty unless proven otherwise. The most incriminating of all was spectral evidence which was accepted by the court from ‘victims’. These victims complained of dreams and visions of the accused torturing and attacking them. Even as the trials proceeded, the victims contorted, writhed, and yelled due to the supposed effect of these specters.

The court spared those who confessed to their crimes and those who protested their innocence were sent to their death. Bridget Bishop was the first to be convicted and was hung by her neck at the Gallow Hills. Soon after Bridget’s prosecution, others were sentenced to death for their crimes. Osborne died in jail and Goode was hanged at the gallows. Sarah Goode’s four-year-old daughter Dorothy’s innocent words were strung into a confession of witchcraft too.

An overwhelming majority of the prosecuted persons were women, and the men that faced trial were often accused due to their affiliation with women who were suspected of witchcraft. The criminal justice system at the time labelled these innocent women as witches for being poor, vulnerable, unruly, and not conforming to their societal role. The Puritan hatred for such women escalated local grievances to crimes worthy of death sentences and targeted a powerless minority.

These women were casualties of a society created and controlled by powerful men. A society that continues to exist today and continues to call formidable women witches.

A quick look at societal expectations for women today and how they relate to conformity…

Sources

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/unraveling-mysteries-tituba-salem-witch-trials-180956960/

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Articles

The Danger and Prevalence of Gay Conversion Therapy

Trigger Warning: The following article details gay conversion therapy and may not be suitable for all audiences.

The History of Gay Conversion Therapy

The first documented case of gay conversion therapy, sometimes called “reparative therapy” was in 1899 when a German psychiatrist used electroshock therapy coupled with hypnosis to turn a gay man straight. He believed that through this method he could make gay men have a life-long desire for women. What he didn’t know at the time is that he would cause the first wave in a series of dangerous attempts to change gay men and women into heterosexuals.

Conversion Therapy Today

Today, gay conversion therapy comes in many forms and is approached in numerous different ways, but at the core of gay conversion is the belief that one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression can effectively be changed. Despite popular belief, religious institutions are not the only ones who believe in conversion therapies. According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health, 3% of youth who underwent conversion therapy received therapy through a healthcare professional, while 5% found help outside of a religious leader.

Conversion therapy methods range from talk-sessions which may contribute homosexuality to a disease or the result of childhood abuse, to aversive conditioning. Aversive conditioning is when an unpleasant stimulus (such as electric shock or physical abuse) is used as punishment to stop undesirable behavior, in this case, homosexuality. There are many other forms of conversion therapies which you can learn more about here.

Source: thetrevorproject.org

What You Need To Know

Since 1973, the American Psychological Association has NOT classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. This declassification has been supported by all other major health professional organizations. The APA has also stated that because homosexuality is not a mental disorder, it cannot be cured nor does it need to be (APA.org).

“No credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective does sexual orientation need to be changed.” – The American Psychiatric Association

Infographic by Rakshitha Raghunandan

What can we do to help protect members of the LGBTQ+ and transgender communities?

  1. Educate yourself on LGBTQ+ and transgender vocabulary, issues faced by survivors of conversion therapy, and ways you can aid in putting an end to conversion therapy. Below you can find some resources to get you started on your learning.
  2. Speak up about this issue in your everyday conversations and on social media if you can. Be sure to have all the facts of conversion therapy’s ineffectiveness and dangerous impacts. Ensure you are well researched so you do not contribute to the spread of false information.
  3. Join the Trevor Project’s “50 Bills 50 States” campaign which is the largest campaign in the world which aims to protect LGBTQ+ youth from the dangers of conversion therapy. They work with you to connect with LGBTQ+ equality groups in your area and help you contact state legislators to pass bills that will protect LGBTQ+ youth from conversion therapy. Join here.

Resources to Check Out:

50 Bills 50 States Campaign

2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

Guide on How to Cover Conversion Therapy in the Media

The Human Rights Committee’s Glossary of LGBTQ+ Terms

U.S. Map of Conversion Therapy Laws

Sources Used in This Article:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy

https://www.glaad.org/conversiontherapy?response_type=embed

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Suicide-Mental-Health

https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/conversion_therapy

https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-56496423

https://www.apa.org/about/policy/sexual-orientation

https://www.glaad.org/conversiontherapy

https://www.dropbox.com/s/nw2rfw8g9b81330/Conversion%20therapy%20media%20guide%20final.pdf?dl=0

This article was written and researched by Tiffany Leveille

Graphics made by Rakshitha Raghunandan

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Articles

Body Image During the Pandemic

Most people compare their bodies and hold them up to society’s expectations. This stems from a lot of negativity, especially if a person doesn’t reach the unattainable standard the media portrays. It brings about several issues that chip away at a person both physically and mentally since they perceive their appearance to be inferior to society’s standards of an ideal body. This misperception of one’s own body due to society’s unrealistic body image ideals is called body dysmorphia.

Body image issues and eating disorders are not only about food, which is why they’re recognized as psychiatric disorders. People typically develop them to deal with a deeper issue or another psychological condition, such as anxiety or depression. In today’s climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of hopelessness and despair have hit an all-time high and have led to an increase in cases of eating disorders.

Many eating disorders stem from having BDD the desire for control. Here are a few common eating disorders:

Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia is a psychological eating disorder in which a person consumes large quantities of food in one sitting. During these binges, they have no sense of control over their eating. Afterward, they try inappropriate ways to lose weight, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Fasting
  • Enemas
  • Excessive use of laxatives and diuretics
  • Compulsive exercising

Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight (typically), an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted weight perception. No matter how much weight is lost, the person continues to fear weight gain. To avoid this they may:

  • severely restrict the amount of food they eat
  • control calorie intake by vomiting after eating
  • misuse laxatives, diet aids, diuretics, or enemas
  • exercise excessively


Some people with anorexia binge and purge, similar to individuals with bulimia, but people with anorexia generally struggle with abnormally low body weight, while individuals with bulimia are typically normal to above-average weight.

Binge Eating Disorder
People with BED may eat a lot of food in a short amount of time, even if they aren’t hungry because of emotional stress. They feel a sense of relief during a binge, but after have feelings of guilt, shame, and psychological distress.
Someone with BED may:

  • Eat very rapidly
  • Eat large amounts without feeling hungry
  • Eat alone due to feelings of shame or embarrassment

The pandemic has affected many people mentally and physically, especially concerning body image issues. Anxiety and body shaming go hand in hand. For many, eating disorders and body issues became a huge part of their lives due to bullying and body shaming. According to a report from NPR, “62% of people in the U.S. with anorexia experienced a worsening of symptoms as the pandemic hit. A third of Americans with binge-eating disorder reported an increase in bingeing episodes.”

After the analysis of a few studies conducted as well as a survey of our own, it was found that Covid-19 related stress and anxiety have caused numerous body image issues among men and women. For example, the research survey, led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), involved 506 UK adults with an average age of 34.

The study found that “Amongst women, the feeling of anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19 was associated with a greater desire for thinness. It also noted that anxiety was significantly associated with body dissatisfaction.” Among the male participants, anxiety and stress were associated with a greater desire for muscle definition and body fat dissatisfaction.

Aku, a writer for In the Write, conducted her own brief survey to get an idea of the body image issues teens and young adults are facing today. Although this survey only serves to provide a general overview of the body image issues faced today, the responses demonstrate a significant drop in self-esteem for most people who were already suffering and created many issues for those who weren’t. Twenty respondents of the survey shared their experience with the pandemic’s connection to their body image. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Self-esteem is something I suffer from a lot only when it comes to body image issues. This last year has made me reevaluate the way I think about myself, and it is something I am working on” -Lekhika

“Society already body shames you, and the pandemic only made that worse. I felt the need to make sure that when everything was resolved, I had to look the same way I did before the pandemic started, and that made it difficult for me.”
-Anonymous

Eating disorders are thriving during the pandemic. Hotline calls to the National Eating Disorders Association are up 70-80% in recent months. It’s a lethal threat. Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis — outranked only by opioid use disorder (NPR).

Increasing amounts of stress and adverse effects due to the pandemic and social isolation have exacerbated eating disorders’ risk and symptoms. Recognizing the signs of ED’s and evaluating the source of stress and anxiety can help individuals understand themselves better and seek help.

Mental hygiene is just as important as physical hygiene, so don’t forget to take care of your mental health.


This article was written by Shoeb Khan and Akanksha Pai.

Edited by Amirah Khan and Tiffany Leveille.

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/09/08/908994616/eating-disorders-thrive-in-anxious-times-and-pose-a-lethal-threat

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7300468/

https://www.biomedcentral.com/collections/eating-disorders-covid-19

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-eating-disorders

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/aru-cal102220.php

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Articles

Celebrating the Foods of the Middle East

This month in America is Arab-American Heritage Month, where Arab-Americans and their contributions to society are celebrated. The Arab world consists of twenty-two countries including some in North Africa. You can find a full list here.

To celebrate Arab-American Heritage month today, I want to share a little about my family’s history. My great-grandparents came to America from Syria and Lebanon in the early half of the twentieth century before eventually having eight children together. One of those children would become my grandfather we called Jido. Jido, and his wife whom we called Teta, passed their love of Lebanese food down to each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. From kibbeh, to grape leaves, to hushweh (Lebanese meat and rice), they ensured that Lebanese food was passed down to the younger generation to enjoy.

Growing up, some of my favorite family memories are attending our monthly birthday celebrations. Because my family was so large, there were always numerous birthdays each month, so we combined them into one big celebration once a month. During these parties, Teta, Jido, aunts, uncles, and cousins all came together to celebrate the honorary guests and eat all sorts of amazing Lebanese food. In honor of Arab-American Heritage Month, I wanted to share some of my personal favorite Middle Eastern foods with you.

Grape Leaves

Seasoned beef and rice wrapped in a grape leaf. This dish is characterized by its sour taste and tender filling. Grape leaves are named after the grape leaves that grow on vines and are picked to hold the meat and rice. Some countries simply fill the leaves with rice and call it dolma. This is my absolute favorite Lebanese food.

Source: Cooking Channel
Source: Elle Republic

Tabbouleh

This salad is made with bulgur, mint, parsley, tomatoes, and diced cucumber with an olive oil and lemon dressing. This fresh salad can be served as a side dish or appetizer.

Hummus

One of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes, hummus is made of pureed chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon. Can be served with pita bread or pita chips. Sometimes garnished with pine nuts or paprika and served with bread.

Source: Fed and Fit
Source: Sandya’s Kitchen

Falafel

A crispy on the outside, soft on the inside ball of ground chickpeas seasoned with an assortment of spices. Falafel can be fried or baked but is traditionally eaten in a pita bread sandwich and topped with tahini or hummus. Can be eaten with a pickled turnip, also known as the pickle of the middle east.

Kofta

Seasoned lamb combined with chopped onion and parsley. Usually rolled into balls or made into kofta kebabs. My family enjoys making them into patties and eating them with toum and Lebanese rice.

Source: Well Fed Soul
Source: Cooking Classy

Couscous

Couscous is a rice-like pasta made from semolina and wheat flour from the durum plant. Traditionally, it is steamed three times before serving. Couscous is known for its versatility, as it can be eaten in a variety of different ways. In some countries, couscous is eaten with the hands.   

Pistachio Baklava (Baklawa)

Ground pistachios sandwiched between layers of phyllo dough, covered in a simple syrup. Usually served as a dessert cut into diamonds or squares, but in some places, are rolled into finger-shaped rolls and called baklava fingers. In certain Arab countries, baklava is made with other nuts such as cashews or walnuts.

Source: Foodhall

Thank you for reading about some of my favorite Middle Eastern foods! I hope you enjoyed and that you get the chance to taste some of these if you haven’t already. I encourage you this month to learn more about Arab cultures, foods, and traditions and the amazing Arab men and women both in and outside of America.

Article Contributors: Victoria Leveille and Tiffany Leveille

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Articles

Alone in ‘the Hole’

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people worldwide have been left with no choice but to take refuge in their homes and self-isolate. For some, this meant months of online school or teleworking- detached from friends, teachers, and co-workers. For others, quarantine meant months without seeing their families. Across the globe, physically isolated from each other, many teens and adults have experienced increased feelings of anxiety and depression. One thing is sure: the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the dangerous impacts of isolation. It has shown us how quickly the world becomes dark when we’re separated from all sources of light: friends, family, and significant others. Separated from the world that sits directly outside your door, depression, and anxiety can easily creep in.  

This is the harsh reality that those living in solitary confinement must face every day.   

If it was hard for you to sit in your house, where you most likely had access to a television, phones, a kitchen, a comfortable bed, and even a backyard, imagine the struggle of sitting inside a box for twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day. You can’t see the people in the box next to you or touch them. The only person you may notice is the prison guard delivering your meals. You may not see the sun for days, potentially longer. Rats, mice, and other varmints crawl across the floor and sometimes over your own body when you sleep. This is life for an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children living in the American prison system. 

The History of Solitary Confinement in America

Solitary confinement in the United States was introduced in the late 1700s by the Quakers as an attempt to improve prison conditions. They inaugurated this experiment in hopes that it would increase the rate of successful rehabilitations. They thought that confining a person in solitude would allow them to break free from the evil environmental influences that caused them to commit their crimes. Of course, this was not the case, and instead, it introduced solitary confinement to a country that would later hold the most inmates in solitary confinement in the world.

Graphics by Rachel H.

The Health Impacts of Solitary Confinement 

Research regarding the long-term health effects of solitary confinement is still ongoing, but numerous studies have found that solitary confinement causes psychological distress.

Mental Health Impacts:

  • Anxiety and depression  
  • Panic attacks  
  • Hypersensitivity to light and sounds 
  • Increased rates of self-harm and suicide  

Physical Health Impacts:  

  • Fatigue  
  • Insomnia 
  • Muscle and joint pain due to inactivity 
  • Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight 

So, does solitary confinement prevent recidivism?  

If solitary confinement has such drastic adverse health and psychological impacts, is it at least successful? Success is often measured by the former convict’s ability to find and keep a job and not commit the same (or any offense) again. But data from numerous sources illuminate the alarming truth: 

A majority of those released from solitary confinement are reincarcerated.  

According to a PBS article from 2017, 61% of solitary confinement inmates were rearrested, compared to 49% of general population inmates who were rearrested.

A more recent study conducted in 2019 found a shockingly similar result. Of the 229,274 people released from incarceration in North Carolina between 2000 to 2015, those who were placed in solitary confinement were more likely to die within the first year of release from an opioid overdose, suicide, or homicide death. The study concluded that “Restrictive housing is associated with a higher likelihood of reincarceration and all-cause mortality, including deaths related to opioid overdose, suicide, and homicide.” 

These statistics illustrate the ineffectiveness of solitary confinement. The same program that supporters claim “scare” inmates into reform increases their risk of becoming reincarcerated.  

Building solitary confinement units is also two to three times more expensive than building conventional prison cells.  

Why is this?  

Being rereleased into the world comes with many challenges for those who have lived in solitary confinement for years. Some offenders released from solitary have stated they could not recognize people’s faces, while others were frightened by humans. The truth is, solitary confinement makes living anywhere else nearly impossible. After living in a box for years where sunlight, fresh air, and human interaction are nonexistent, convicts lose all ability to function in any other environment.  

Alternatives to Solitary Confinement 

Twenty-nine states have now introduced laws to ban or restrict solitary confinement, while some have reformed the “prison segregation” system. In 2007, in Parchman, Mississippi, state officials reformed their system to allow inmates outside their units a couple of hours a day. Inmates, through rehabilitation programs, were allowed to work their way up to greater privileges, such as using the basketball courts installed for this reform program. The result: out of more than a thousand inmates in solitary units, only 300 remained after the reform. Eventually, so many inmates were removed from solitary confinement units that Unit 32 was officially closed in 2010. This saved the state of Mississippi more than five million dollars.  

Illinois, Maine, and Colorado have also taken action to acquire successful solitary confinement reform. What these states prove is that safety does not have to be compromised in order to reform solitary confinement practices in America and that there are safer, cheaper, more effective alternatives to solitary confinement.

Read more about solitary confinement from Solitary Watch and the ACLU, or check out our sources below and let us know what you think about solitary confinement by filling out the poll below.

Written and researched by Tiffany Leveille

Edited by Amirah Khan


Sources:

Alone, in ‘the hole’

Association of Restrictive Housing During Incarceration With Mortality After Release

Does Solitary Confinement Make Inmates More Likely to Reoffend?

EFFECTS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ON THE WELL BEING OF PRISONS INMATES

END THE OVERUSE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT              

How the US Became the World Leader in Solitary Confinement

Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity

STOP SOLITARY – RECENT STATE REFORMS TO LIMIT THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

The Effects of Solitary Confinement on the Brain

The risks of social isolation

What are the effects of solitary confinement on health?

Categories
Creative Writing

Last Night Dishes

Poetry by Zara Rahman

Graphics by Rakshitha Raghunandan

Last Night Dishes

swirling in a cooking pot,
tinted broth and lemon wedge bones
corrode into corpses
it was the making of marble memories
sharpening knives under stove light
cutting ripe tomatoes
peeling the emerald cucumbers
our charcoal-skinned moon-eyed faces
have been here once
and will feel the burst of
citrus again
our chamber bellies will dictate
when we awake
lineage says meal prep needs a
walnut-wrinkled brain
to create food for thought
worth cooking about
so know when the sun blooms
dawn calls on to the garden vegetables to
stand out
when everything becomes sour
midnight meals
will no longer stop
us from eating the night away
and will leave us to scrub the sins
of what is left
so we roll up our sleeves
discard the skeletons rotting from our midnight feast
and do the dishes


Heads versus Apples

I once almost ate a crescent-curved bulging maggot.
it was squirming and tunneling into the browning flesh of an apple
trying to escape my picket-fenced teeth
fated to damn its wretched body to denture and apple orchard hell.


Ha! Grandma exclaims,
I once almost stepped on a bloody bloated head
he wasn’t squirming; however, the maggots were tunneling
they feasted early dinner on mo(u)rning flesh before heaven took him home
before a rickshaw swerved him into swamp gutters
before the military returned to claim their prize on a sharpened stick
I was just a teenager
when bhai called me to pick out
bulging maggots
from the bullet hole hotels in his shoulder
I had to help since
the doctors died to become dimples in the crescent moon
so I had to mix curries on a wooden stove just like the one right here
and my eyes leaked just like they do now and

Alright alright Grandma, I get what you mean
heads beat apples;
maggots belong in hell


Where’s Your Homework?

Alien abducted for special occasions
Bird poop splattered math equations
Cyborg robots burned the pages
Dentist appointment lasted ages
Excuses? I never make them!
Fishing bait for catching lunch
Gusty wind took away the bunch
Haunting ghost possessed my work
Indian elephants went berserk
Jumped out of a plane with a parachute
Kid in class screamed, “There’s a substitute!”
Lilac flowers wilted all over
My magic genie had a hangover
Neptune’s planet gave me a cold
Octopus inked it bold
Parisian snails slid across my notes
Quest for elongate anecdotes
Ripe tomatoes needed plucking
Snakes wrapped around my wrists, restricting
Trees broke promise to sprout answers
Urban metal, diverting dancers
Volcanic eruption swallowed report
Weekends are too short
X-ray declared writer’s block
Yeah I was busy with all sorts!
Zero correct from A to Z, cut short?
I hope my teacher believes me

Categories
Articles

The Productivity Obsession

Article written by Rakshitha Raghunandan and Madhumitha K.

Edited by Amirah Khan

We all seem obsessed with productivity or the idea of getting things done. For almost everyone, regardless of profession or identity, the concept of productivity is relevant. We see so many books, articles, and videos supposedly teaching us how to be more productive. Firstly, what is productivity? Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of a person completing a task. It essentially means a person’s ability to get important things done consistently.

The fact that there is a wide prevalence of productivity obsession is evident. A few people are deemed “productivity icons” – CEOs, millionaires, tech geniuses, etc – and people want to know what their schedule is like and what their secret to success is. They might say things like waking up incredibly early, planning out every second of their day, extreme fasting, and wearing the same clothes to reduce decision fatigue. These are unrealistic and even irrational for the average individual. Similarly, there has been an increase in “motivational” content on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. While these are helpful and motivating to some people, it can cause others to set unrealistic expectations and compare themselves. These so-called “productivity tips” might not work for everyone depending on their lifestyle, personality, workload, energy or motivation levels, and various other factors.

Especially at the beginning of the global pandemic, the way all of us view productivity changed significantly. A lot of our plans and schedules were abruptly interrupted because of it. At first, some might have seen it as a way to be super productive and get a lot of things done, while others might have seen it as a way to take a long-needed break.

With the closing down of all educational institutions across the world, schools have shifted to online schooling, bringing too many motivational, technical and social problems. Especially for students, the shift to online education was an extreme change, and not everyone can cope with it. Students are given the same amount, if not more, of workload despite it being unprecedented and confusing times. We are expected to maintain optimum levels of productivity and be on time with our deadlines and obligations. After all, it’s not like we’ve got anything else to do, right?

Wrong!

The fact that we are facing a pandemic and are cut off from our social circles, the horrible times and events we are going through, and various other personal issues one might be facing are all detrimental to one’s mental health. It is practically impossible to get motivated enough to sit down and work on a simple assignment or even tend to personal hygiene.
The real issue is having the motivation and focus required to study and work from home. With the lack of an authority figure physically present, it’s entirely easy to get distracted and get sucked into endless hours of scrolling on social media.

As days went by, our tendency to be productive and our levels of motivation all started to fade. As students, what we thought would be a two-week-long break from homework and assignments ended up as one of the most challenging times students could face during their schooling. After years of being trained in a formal environment such as a classroom, changing immediately to a laptop screen is not an easy task. To better understand this whole situation, let us view it with the help of an example. Imagine you’ve been trained to swim in a small paddle pool for a certain number of years. Suddenly, one day, to your surprise, you’ve been asked to swim in an ocean. Would you consider it an easy jump?

To gain more insight into how this one year has been for students, we spoke to a group of high school students ages 17-18. Here’s what they had to say:

“I was excited to try out online classes for the first time because I was always intrigued by the whole thing. But as time passed, it started becoming more of a chore, and I honestly started hating the whole experience, knowing that I was losing out on my last year of school.”

“I don’t exactly have a stable family situation at home. Going to school used to be an escape from it all. Now that I’m stuck at home, it’s affected me a lot.”

“With college applications, it’s made online school a whole lot harder. Finding a balance hasn’t been easy, and I’m still struggling.”

On the other hand, working professionals and parents don’t have it any easier. This pandemic has seen a massive loss in jobs and has created financial debts for many. Employees have to now suddenly work from home, which demanded a lot of adjustment and effort or took in an enormous workload if they were a healthcare worker or rendered jobless. Parents had to create a balance between catering to their job and catering to their kid’s needs. Lines between work and home life easily blur. In the midst of this all, people had to find a way to make time for themselves; after a while, staring at a screen becomes boring, and the stress that comes with it is dangerous.

Now that it’s been a year of unpredictable changes, if there is anything we need to remember, it’s okay not to be productive! Despite what you see on social media, you don’t need to prove how effective you can be.

In a global crisis, where being productive during stressful times dominates the internet, it is easy to feel as if you didn’t do enough to make the most of a time of isolation. It is essential to know that there is no set standard for getting done when you are bound to your home. Those who took time to relax over the months did something just as incredible as those who deep-cleaned their closets and became dedicated to physical fitness. In one way or the other, they let their minds and bodies rest. Being able to have the time to take a step back and evaluate mental wellbeing is a gift, and there should be no guilt for spending the whole quarantine lounging around the house with your eyes glued to a laptop screen. If you felt that during quarantine, you could unwind, let go or breathe easy, you did more than enough.

If you haven’t been able to keep up with your work goals, it’s okay!

If you haven’t been able to follow a workout schedule, it’s okay!

If you haven’t been able to try out new things as much as you’ve wanted to, it’s okay!

Just because someone else could practice a new skill does not mean you should do it too. During these terrible months, you should never be too hard on yourself. The big picture is that this is a scary time for all of us. With the pandemic thrown in our lives, the main aim of lockdowns being enforced globally was to stay safe, though the whole narrative now has been spun around being productive at home. We all lead different lives with different reasons for other things. This pandemic is an unusual situation, and as each day unfolds, we face uncertainty and new challenges in different realms. If we’ve been staying healthy up until today, that in itself is a blessing in disguise. Allow yourself to breathe, take a break, and acknowledge the emotions you’re supposed to feel. Pandemic or not, we have worth despite our achievements and success. Use this time to focus on your wellbeing and your loved ones as well.

With a few months into 2021, it’s vital to take a step back and make sure you aren’t allowing too much to be put on your plate. Know that it is okay to take time to relax and be gracious to yourself and others, and be proud of yourself for taking it too slow these last few months. It isn’t selfish to say “no” to others to focus on yourself and your own mental, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing during these trying times.

Remember, it’s okay not to be productive.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Dark Burden

By Frances Allison Dumont

Age 17

I walked off the L train one day after school, drained but talking to a close male friend. My friend Alix, a 5’7, brown-skinned man, was going on about some girls he was interested in. On our way to get sandwiches from the corner store, he said, “Black b- words are just too loud and ghetto.” I was a little taken aback because I’m a black girl. However, I wouldn’t typically be described as loud and ghetto. 

“Do you think I act that way?” I turned to him and asked. I already knew what he was going to say, but I wanted him to see the fault in generalizing a whole group of women.  

“No, you’re different,” he replied. Now I knew the point he was going to make after calling me different. However, I still wanted him to specify what he meant by that. 

“What do you mean different?” I asked with curiosity in my voice. 

“Well, you’re not like those really black girls, you know the dark- skin ratchet ones at school, you’re like caramel and classy,” he replied. 

I was weirded out by this statement because he had to mention the color of their skin as if it was negative, but I wasn’t shocked that he would say something like that. As he has made it known that he preferred tan Latinas, he fails to realize they have a similar narrative that black girls do. I proceed to point out that fact to him, but he denies it having anything to do with colorism. This was nothing new to me because the school that we attended was majority black and Hispanic. The difference between how the black girls were treated vs. the treatment of the Hispanic girls was noticeable. The black girls were always side-eyed and just regarded as entertainment to the student body. 

I then had a flashback moment where I remembered a conversation I had with a male friend at the youth group. I recalled asking him why so many black guys our age care about how light a woman is. He told me that many dark guys go for a fairer complexion so that the baby could be light-skinned. Also, some guys just think light-skin girls are naturally cuter. I then felt that it made sense that it was less of an issue with women but more of a self-hatred thing for many black men. My mind then snapped back to the real-time conversation I was having. 

“Would you like if someone thought of your beautiful mother or cousins like that just because they’re dark, I bet you wouldn’t,” I replied. 

Before he could answer, the cook calls out that our chopped cheese sandwiches were ready. I immediately remembered how hungry I was once the delightful smell of ground beef with cheese and jalapeños hit my nose. We then collected our sandwiches and walked towards the bus stop across the street. 

“You’re right, but it’s true for a lot of black girls. Ask most guys, and they’ll tell you the same thing,” he replied defensively. 

“Look, you can like what you like. But there’s no need to put down women who don’t fit your preference, especially since you’re judging them on the shade of black that their skin is. Also, stop referring to black girls as the b-word. That’s really disrespectful,” I replied sternly. He looked a bit amused but also a little hurt by how bluntly I called him out on his colorism, but I knew he was still going to think the same way. However, I was still a little disappointed in him, mostly because I thought he was more mature and raised better than that.

 He conceded by saying, “Alright, alright, I get that I shouldn’t generalize. I see your point, especially since I’d be tight if it was the other way around,” he responded. Satisfied with his answer, I pulled out the strawberry sour power straws that I bought and began to eat them and just hoped that the bus would come faster because it was getting quite late. We then started a new conversation about our schools’ mediocre social and academic environment. After what felt like forever, our bus had come, and we were on our way to our homes.

Categories
Creative Writing

Land of Love

Land of Love

By Sanjana Sunilkumar

Clutch my hands and don’t let go,
Feel my breath and make me glow
Push my hair behind my ear,
And let me know, are we the perfect pair?

I see a world through your hazel eyes
Do tell me, is it paradise?
Looking at you, my heart feels light,
As you wrap me up in this hug so tight.

You make me blush, you make me warm,
As you touch my face with your tender palm.
I just can’t say how I feel right now,
So, is this what they call as love?

Buried in your tight embrace,
Is really when I find solace
The world is nothing when I have you,
And the whole of me is just for you.

Oh look, the stars are smiling,
And look, the trees are dancing!
Come let’s flee to the land of love,
Under the sea, to the land of love.

Sanjana is a 14-year-old South Indian girl who is a passionate poet and loves writing cliffhangers.

Categories
Creative Writing

Stripped Skin

Stripped Skin

by Safiya Khan

my black sisters and brothers cannot strip out of their skin
and peel it off like a bodycon suit

they cannot lift their blackness off
the way I can lift my hijab
put it in my drawer and
disassociate from all the stereotypes about my faith.

thrown into the cauldron,
they have no choice but to fight the war,
not just the battle.

their allies can come and leave fleetingly,
but they must remain.

so I dig a hole in the ground,
step with both feet in it,
pat the dirt dry around me,
and root my place in the plight along with them.

just as I stand up for myself,
I will stand up for all
forever and always.