Jennifer Johnson Adeyemi

Half a Book

schoolbookOn September 11, 2001, our country became united in fighting terrorism. When the nation was told about the threat of "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, we approved President Bush's attack on Saddam Hussein. We were told repeatedly that Saddam was a threat to our national security, and that we were eradicating the threat of terrorism.

It is almost a year later and no "weapons of mass destruction" have been found. With many casualties among both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, people are questioning whether or not military occupation is necessary.

The war is going to last much longer than we were initially told. It is very expensive and Americans are being asked to make many unforeseen sacrifices such as deep cuts into social programs. With many states and the federal government facing deficits, and with $87 billion allocated for Iraq, many people have changed their mind on supporting the war.

The cost of making Iraq a democratic nation is infringing on the educational system in America. Money does not grow on trees and many school districts, colleges and universities will receive less funding this year.

Students at my school have become cynical about the military because they believe that the government is using the war as an excuse to not fund education. Some school districts have a shortage of supplies, textbooks, and proper teaching staff. At the public school I attend, students use a trigonometry book that is literally cut in half. How can this help students with learning? How can we be given half a book in a nation as rich as America?

At my school students oppose the war because of what it stands for. We view the war on terrorism as a war of corporate greed, destruction, death, and power -- it's another money grab for the rich corporations and their shareholders. Corporations will receive 20.3 billion dollars to rebuild Iraq (New York Times, October 16, 2003). And as of last fall, Halliburton, the company at which Vice President Dick Cheney used to be CEO, had received two billion dollars (NCTimes.com, September 30, 2003). That's money that should be going to our nation's schools.

In addition, many corporations, including Halliburton, have found numerous loopholes that help them avoid paying taxes ("Pigs in the Trough" by Arianna Huffington). If corporations paid their fair share of taxes, many districts could afford better equipment, supplies and teachers. I think the stockholders and the executives should fight on the front lines themselves -- or at the very least send their children to fight in this war.

The money allocated ($87 billion) to fight the war on terrorism cannot be justified, because my school and many others throughout the nation lack basic necessities. My fellow students and I feel the money should have been invested in students like us, who are the future taxpayers of America.

During the 2002-2003 school year my school district started sending the military vital information about juniors and seniors such as our phone number, e-mail address, home address, age, sex and race -- information that is obtained from the emergency cards that students submit at the beginning of the school year.

The district also sent waiver forms to students' homes, where they could opt to have the schools not send information to the military. Failure to respond to this form could cause your information to be sent to the government. I am alarmed this year because the form has come to my home twice. Does this mean the school district lost the original form? What are precautions to insure they do not make a mistake on sending the wrong information?

My friends and I declined to have our vital information sent because we don't feel that the government has done enough for our school, therefore, we do not want to help the government. Why should we risk our lives to defend a nation that will not even buy us proper books to learn?

Jennifer Johnson Adeyemi is a staff writer at WireTap.

Scary Movie 3

scary movie 3I recently saw "Scary Movie 3" and I just wanted to puke in the theater. To me, the success of the trilogy proves that the moral values of society have eroded. In all three movies, the premise was to make a satire from specific scenes of horror movies. Dark humor and grossness replace the horror and fright in the reproductions of the scary scenes.

"Scary Movie 3" was directed by David Zucker and based on characters from the Wayans brothers. The Wayans brothers' slapstick comedy has adult and gross-out themes, and the plot of the movie is dumb and senseless (even the Farelly Brothers have a moral theme in "Shallow Hal!"). The average teen would be better off saving their money to buy a video game and watching a re-run of a Jerry Seinfeld episode. How difficult is it to create humor that everyone can enjoy?

There was an A-list of recognizable celebrities who made cameo appearances throughout the movie -- obviously the Wayans brothers have friends who assisted them with the movie. But what happened to their funny parts? Maybe they should watch "Zoolander" and see how to make a cameo appearance.

As I was watching this movie in the theater, I was yelling, screaming, and shaking my head in pure disgust of what was happening on the screen. I found out later though, that "Scary Movie 3" made $50 million its first weekend. Clearly, gross is profitable when marketing to teens. However, bad taste is bad taste no matter what celebrity is in the movie. "Scary Movie 3" was so bad that I wanted to ask for my money back.

Jennifer Johnson Adeyemi is a staff writer at WireTap.

Californians for Justice

californians for justiceMarisol Melendez works with Californians for Justice (CFJ), a group that does advocacy work around education, poverty, and prisons issues. They deal with diversity in California's schools, the rights of low income people, education, and ballot propositions. They run campaigns to inform people of political issues and how they will be affected. Their most recent campaign was against Proposition 54, which would have made it illegal for the government to keep track of racial data (the proposition didn't pass on October 7th during the California re-call election). In the past they worked against Proposition 209, a ban on affirmative action in the University of California system.

At 15 years old, Marisol was a pro at being interviewed. I felt like I was talking to a good friend because we connected like we were on the same level. Marisol goes to a small high school called Far West in Oakland, California, where she was born and raised.

WireTap: What is the Californians for Justice mission?

Marisol:
In my opinion I feel that our mission is to focus on education and equal rights.

WT: What got you interested in this organization?











marisol
Marisol at a Prop. 54 presentation at CFJ.



M:
Well I got into it just by Carmen [the adult leader of CFJ] pushing me. What really made me stick through it was just to see the hard work and determination, like [the campaign against] the Exit Exam. They did not stop until they got at least a two-year delay, and so what drove me to stay with CFJ was their determination for what they [believed in].

Editor's note: The Exit Exam is a state mandated test that all Californians starting with the class of 2006 must pass to graduate from a public high school.

WT: How long have you been involved with the organization?

M:
About a year now. It will be a year, in January.

WT: What is the history of CFJ?

M:
Well, it was founded in 1995. We have other offices in Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and Oakland. In the history of CFJ we have done campaigns for affirmative action [and] Prop 209. We have done campaigns for equality education recently, and we are focusing more on low income [people], and people of color. We help the people who need help instead of helping [those] who have access to resources and can help themselves.

WT: Who do you serve?

M:
[People of] all culture and backgrounds.

WT: Why do you think Californians for Justice needed to delay the California High School Exit Exam? With the 2-year delay victory, why does CFJ feel that it should be longer? Two years is a lot of time to teach teens the basic skills needed to pass the test.

M:
It's not a long time. Because if you think about it, I mean two years -- that's good, [but] we want to extend it further, because there is no way you can get quality in education [that fast].

We need more books, we need more resources, we need more money. Like McClymonds and Skyline are ["the good schools" in Oakland], and they are still not good schools.

Piedmont is the richest city in the East Bay, therefore these students are passing the Exit Exam when other schools aren't. That's saying something. This is just one example of disparity that many school districts must respond to with so many budget cuts. As a result, I don't think two years will give us enough time to fix all of that.











marisol
At the CFJ offices.



WT: What do you think about the small schools movement in Oakland? Do you think Oakland's community organizers have done a good job with the small schools movement?

M:
After experiencing my time in small schools, yes it is. Some of them could do better, but some of them are really good. [Small schools] focus on each and every student, and they focus on education.

WT: Do you think there is something wrong with California's public education system? If so, do you think CFJ can help reform it?

M:
There is definitely something wrong with our education system. I do feel that CFJ can help. I mean they have already got the two-year delay, and they are so determined and they are such great people that they can strive for what they [believe in]. Through all their campaigns, they [have] people doing outreach and helping out in the community and our cities. They are really trying hard to bring everyone together.

WT: With the money people donate to CFJ, where does it go?

M:
It goes to our campaign; it goes to paying for buses we need to pick up people, it pays for posters to get the word out with different campaigns and proposition that are coming out... It goes to us fighting for a better education.

WT: Do you think that CFJ has gotten the word out to low income people about who it serves and issues that affect them, and gotten more people registered to vote?

M:
Yeah definitely!

WT: What skills or tactics do you need to achieve your goal?

M:
You need leadership tactics, and you need to understand how to work with different types of people, and you know, where people are coming from. Everyone has different points of view I think, and you need to learn to support them and how to really get the word out.

WT: Do you feel that there is anything in this interview that I touched too lightly on, or did not talk enough about? If so what do you want to talk about?

M:
When I joined CFJ I was just going there, because Carmen kind of introduced me and some of my friends, so I went to one of the meetings because I had nothing else to do. But going to the meetings I realized that this was a pretty strong organization -- and I was not really into politics or anything. But they really opened my eyes.

Now when I watch the news, like who was going to be our new governor, and look at the new propositions it makes me think. It gives you an open mind on things I would not have thought of before, but it was really a good experience for me.

To find out more about CFJ check out their website: www.caljustice.org.

Jennifer Johnson Adeyemi is a staff writer at WireTap.

Haunted

haunted bookMove over Harry Potter! I recently finished reading a thriller and it's a gold mine for young adults and adults alike. “Haunted” is the fifth book in the Mediator series written by Meg Cabot and was released earlier this year.

The Mediator series is about the connection Sue, a high school student, has with the living world and the dead. She is a mediator between the dead world and the living world, which is where the series gets its name. In book four, Sue goes to the place between the living and dead world and learns what to expect from her powers, how to use them, and what she can do. The Father at her school helps Sue out a lot with questions she can’t answer about being a mediator.

Sue can see and talk to dead people (spirits and ghosts), but with this amazing gift comes a huge price. She met someone that has the same powers she has, and he tried to kill her in the last book. Now he is back in book five with surprises. In "Haunted," Sue also falls in love with a ghost named Jesse who died in the early 1800s. From then on the plot becomes more twisted, and a bit scary.

Sue is trying to find out what being a mediator means, which causes her to do research about the past. Finding out that the first mediators were from Egypt, Sue reads up on the country and has vivid dreams. “Haunted” brings to life the Egyptian tombs with such beautiful and lavish colors, that I felt like I was walking through the tombs and could see the drawings on the wall. I fell in love with a place I have never seen. Meg Cabot's story is completely fictional with some real elements such as the clothes they wore in the 1800s, how they treated women, and the Egyptian tombs. The way she incorporates these aspects into the story is pretty amazing to me.

I absolutely loved “Haunted.” It is packed with laughs, fun, and excitement. I had a hard time putting it down. I read half the book in one night, and the next night I stayed up all night to finish it. If you are looking for love, laughs, drama, and friends that stick by you, then this is the book for you.

“Haunted” is worth every penny! For $16.89 (check you local book stores) it’s a good holiday buy that the whole family will love. It’s one to read over and over again! Number Six in the series is due out in March and I can’t wait!

Jennifer Johnson Adeyemi is a staff writer at WireTap.
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