Books, Music, Movies, Youth Issues, Random Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Huffington Post

Op-Ed: 11 Year Old Transgender Girl’s Letter to President Obama

leave a comment »

I was making my usual rounds through the Huffington Post this morning when this article caught my eye. The words “eleven year old transgender” interested me because this was a person that was a part of an identity that I and most of the United States are struggling to understand. I have known about the transgender community for a few years now and have come to tolerate it through research, particularly through personal testimonies about what it is like to be a young transgender person.

To have someone as young as Sadie write such a heartfelt letter is amazing. The last personal testimony I read was in a book entitled The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Other Identities. I read this book  a few years ago, not recently. It wasn’t until I tried looking for more writing like this that I realized how rare it was. Besides Sadie’s letter, the only other recent personal testimony I’ve read by a young person from the GLBTQ community was the one by Richard Blanco, the 2013  Presidental Inaugration poet.

Besides the personal testimonies, I’ve also tried to understand the transgender identity through young adult fiction. Since I still don’t know the subject matter too well, I’ve been unsure of what to read because I’m not sure if what I’m reading accurately represents the transgender identity. However, a book I’ve recently reviewed entitled Beauty Queens has a transgender character that is very realistic because she expresses feelings similar to Sadie’s. 

Even though I still don’t understand the transgender identity as well as I would like, I know that it is important for letters like Sadie’s to be read and understood. For those like Sadie, it sends a message that they are not alone. For the rest of us, it sends a message that shows Sadie’s humanity, which still exists in all of us no matter how we identify ourselves.

It is clear to me  is that if Obama didn’t address the transgender community, he needs to read Sadie’s letter and act on it as soon as possible. While the GLBTQ community may have different identities, they both share the same enemies: prejudice and discrimination. Most people should know by now that these things have tragic consequences, including suicide and homicide. When I saw Sadie’s letter, I thought of another transgender person named Brandon Teena. I wish Sadie the best of luck and hope that she will continue to live life to the fullest and not have it cut short like Brandon’s was.

Written by Serena Zola

January 24, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Does Music Have a Color?

leave a comment »

Next Monday, January 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday that is supposed to celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think that it is also a day to take time out and think about how we can honor Dr. King’s dream of equality through not only civil rights, but through things we enjoy everyday. For instance, music.

Last summer, I came across an article on the Huffington Post entitled, “Does Music Have a Color?” The article discusses a social project that involves interviewing black and white residents of Brooklyn in order to see if music truly has a particular color. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dad once.

We were talking about music and I asked if he knew that I listened to rock music most of the time. He replied, “Yeah. I listen to some white music sometimes too.”

That reply disturbed me. Why should rock music be considered “white music”? Furthermore, why any of the music my dad listened to (i.e. blues, funk, old school r&b) be considered “black music”? Is it because rock musicians are mostly white and blues, funk, and r & b musicians are mostly black?

The thing that bothers me about the social project mentioned in the Huffington Post article is that only black and white people are interviewed. I understand that it is easier to just interview two races, but it is a flaw when it comes to its purpose. In order to truly answer the question we must take the musician, the everyday music listener, and every race possible into account.

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Japanese singer named Mika Nakashima show up on my online J-rock station. Japanese rock and japanese pop is considered the norm for most contemporary japanese musicians. Only, Nakashima wasn’t singing J-rock or even J-pop music. She was singing a jazz song  called “Love Addict”. I thought “A Japanese singer doing jazz?” for about thirty seconds, then just enjoyed the music. The singer and the music sounded so good, nothing else mattered.

A thing I think would have made the social project more interesting is the age demographic. If it had been done among young people ages thirteen through eighteen, I think the answers would have been more black and white. I feel this way because of my personal experience with music as a teen.

At that time, I felt like I had to listen to what my black peers were listening to because I was black. This consisted of hip-hop and contemporary r & b music. From sixth grade through ninth grade, I did that in order to feel accepted. It made me feel so fake, because I couldn’t personally connect to the music and yet I felt like I had to listen to the music because I was black.

Eventually, I met a Hispanic girl who introduced me to alternative rock music and soundtrack music and I fell in love with both genres. I also realized that this was a girl who liked these genres enough to tell others about them and not care what they think. If she could do that, then why couldn’t I?

When it comes to listening to the music, your race and the musician’s race shouldn’t matter. When it comes to appreciating the music, it is okay to take race into account somewhat.

I take pride in knowing that rock music would not have existed without black musicians like Chuck Berry, BB King, and Little Richard. Without them, The Beatles may have never been formed. However,  just because I take pride in this, doesn’t mean I get snobby about it. I don’t listen to the Beatles cover a Chuck Berry song and say, “The Beatles are trying to steal from Chuck Berry.”  Like it or not, I listen to what original songs the Beatles have created before I judge them.

To sum up everything, let me borrow a few words from Dr. King. Let the musicians not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their music. Let the listeners not be judged by the color of their skin or music taste, but by the content of their character.

Written by Serena Zola

January 14, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading?

with 9 comments

This week, I was happy to read an article that defends reading for pleasure. It was reprinted on the Huffington Post from Youth Communication. The article was written by a fifteen year old named Anthony Turner.

I wish I had been able to find someone like Anthony among my black peers when I was in high school.  Like Anthony, I was teased for enjoying reading in high school. Unlike him though, I couldn’t take pride in what I loved because I felt alone and that I didn’t have a place to belong. Fortunately, I managed to identify with literary characters like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Ponyboy Curtis from the teen fiction book The Outsiders.

In the article, Anthony mentions that black youth culture prizes guys who are athletes and musicians. A similar value is placed on black women. Instead of intelligence, black youth culture values women’s looks and how provocative they are.

While the same thing can be said of men and women of almost any race, Anthony mentions that black and Hispanic men have the lowest graduation rates. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 37 percent of Hispanic female students and 40 percent of black female students drop out of high school.

How sad is it that a good chunk of young minorities become nothing more than a statistic?

There are two things that cause reading to be disdained: the lack of a good family rearing and the influence of the mass media, especially entertainment media. A less minor reason is that the right book isn’t being read.

As a black female, I am grateful that my parents showed me the value of an education and instilled in me a love of reading. In fact, my mother told me that she read while I was still in her womb. Not sure if it’s true, but it paid off.

With the influence of the media, some minority youth are brainwashed into selling themselves short. If you don’t do what is considered cool or popular, then you are considered lame. Even worse, some minority youth are asked by their peers and others, “Why don’t you act more Hispanic?” or “Why don’t you act more black?”

I was asked the latter question indirectly. Despite the angst I felt with that and being teased, I rebelled against the status quo and kept reading for pleasure and being myself.

What most of my peers didn’t know is that I only liked reading for pleasure when I could choose the books I wanted to read. I hated reading the majority of books that were assigned to us in high school. Thanks to the library and a cool teacher who introduced me to teen fiction in middle school, I found material that I enjoyed.

Now in college, I have gained pride in being a bibliophile and share that pride with others by blogging. I hope Anthony Hall’s pride never fades and continues to grow.

If more young people like me and Anthony can develop the courage and resilience to become knowledgable and follow their passions no matter what, then this world will become smarter, more unique, and awesome.

Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Op Ed: How Pop Music Can Be More Unique

with 5 comments

A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post entitled “Pop Music Too Loud And All The Same: Official“. I don’t know about the too loud part, but I’ve thought most pop music sounded all the same since high school.

Anyway, the article got me thinking about how pop music can be more unique:

1. Don’t be Cookie Cutter; Be You

One of the reasons Pink is my favorite pop musician is that I admire her for having the courage to find her own sound and tell people she was going to do her music her way. And what better way to do it than with the song “Don’t Let Me Get Me”? A song with a similar message is Avril Lavinge’s “Nobody’s Fool”, which is from her debut album Let Go. Like Pink, Avril Lavinge has left her own mark in the music industry with this song and many others.

2.  Use love, sex, and relationship lyrics sparingly

Ok, I know these things make the world go round. However, as human beings, we have other emotions and things we experience. It wouldn’t hurt if more pop musicians wrote about the world around them. Even Michael Jackson, for all his dance songs, literally wrote about the world in  songs like “Earth Song”.

3. Don’t be afraid to go deep

Sometimes, the most powerful songs end up being inspired by personal experiences. Take the song “I’m Ok” by Christina Aguilera. Any fan (or person willing do some research) will know that this song is based on Christina’s childhood. While it might not be as famous as the song “Beautiful”, it is still a song worth acknowledging.

4. Make a creative music video

While the song may be fine by itself, a great music video can bring it to life. If you don’t like the song, then maybe the music video will make you appreciate it a little. A recent example is for Pink’s new song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” I don’t like the song due to my personal taste, but the music video made me feel better about it.


Don’t Let Me Get Me-

Nobody’s Fool-

Earth Song-

I’m Ok-

Blow Me One Last Kiss-

Written by Serena Zola

August 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Op-Ed: Should YA Books Have Movie-Style Ratings??

with 2 comments

Normally, I don’t post twice in one week but when something gets me fired up I have an urge to write. Earlier this afternoon, I was on the Huffington Post when I came across this article entitled, “Should YA Books Be Given Ratings?

As a former grade school student and an aspiring YA author, I am against these proposed ratings. One important reason is that YA books are in schools for required reading and pleasure reading. One example is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

When I first read this book, I was in 7th grade. I can remember reaching the climax of the book. Suddenly, my teacher said, “Ok class, we’ll stop here.” I could feel the disappointment all around me. I was feeling it inside me too. “Can we read one more chapter?” a voice asked. It reminded me of a little kid asking a mom for another treat.

Then I, along with the rest of the class, spoke our support as one. “Can we please?” Please?!” We were so ecstatic about the book, we were almost hopping like kangaroos. My teacher just smiled, laughed, and said, “Okay.” The class and I cheered and we resumed reading.

Two years after that memorable moment, I started high school. From then on, there were no more memorable moments because we were no longer reading material that engaged us and related to us.  Instead of reading young adult books, we were reading classic works like Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby.

The only bright side for me and some of my classmates came when we had to do book reports. During this time, I explored the YA section of the school library. Not all of the books I chose to read were good, but there were a few I enjoyed. Some of these books included the Hazelwood High Trilogy and the fantasy series the Daughters of the Moon.

At this point, I was aspiring to become a YA author. By the time I graduated, I had read plenty of YA books. As time passed, I started to hear about banned YA books and learned that YA writers target certain age groups when they write their works. It is for this reason that I understand why people would want these ratings. After all, a book written with sixteen year old situations would not be appropriate for a thirteen year old.

However, ratings shouldn’t be used to guide pubescent and adolescents. This is something parents should do. If it concerns them, then they should ask their kid why they want to read the book. If the reason is valid, then parents should say, “Let me read the book with you.” or “I’ll read the book, too.” If you need an excuse, say something along the lines of, “If you find it interesting, maybe I will too.” By reading what their kid reads, the parent can discuss the book with their kid as they read and provide guidance if necessary.

As previously stated, kids are exposed to YA books as early as middle school. This is also the point where kids pull away from their parents and start searching for who they are. With a parent’s a loose yet firm grip, the kids will be fine.

Written by Serena Zola

May 24, 2012 at 2:28 PM

%d bloggers like this: