Youth Radio

Who Represents Me?

black leadersThe 2004 presidential campaign is off and running and the candidates say their goals are to articulate the issues that most concern the voters. For Youth Radio’s Nzinga Moore that translates to mean "the issues that most concern middle aged people and older." Nzinga is 21, and wonders why her vote doesn't seem to be important enough to be courted.

Who represents me? I’m 21, black, a college graduate, and a rock musician. And I’m losing faith in politics. And there’s nothing to suggest that politicians are interested in winning that faith back.

In the days of Jesse Jackson’s presidential run, I was only seven. But I remember people saying how important it was, because it was the first time in the history of the United States that a black man ran for president.

Now, the big blue button that says Jesse for President sits in a junk drawer in my house, and I’ve tucked away my enthusiasm for politics with it. My first vote was in 2000...the same time we had the biggest election scandal of our history.

This was the first time I felt wronged by the American system. For me, growing up so many years after the Civil Rights Movement, I rarely understood the fuss my dad made with his friends, sitting in the living room watching TV, and screaming at the politicians. Now I know why. I can relate to feeling like politics is a losing battle for people like me.

For example, I’m used to hearing how politicians are dropping in on the Bible Belt states, tiny Northeastern towns, and even saying hi to Mayor Willie Brown in San Francisco. But no one comes to my town, Oakland, to talk about issues that are important to the community here.

In Oakland, the homicide rate is skyrocketing, and things are only getting worse at the poorest schools as funding evaporates. Luckily for me, I made it through college, but the scary thing is, I know no one on my block will have the same luck, or be so inspired.

I feel like there’s no real focus on improving education here. Maybe it’s a way to keep people from my neighborhood uninformed and un-empowered, which means no one knows how to question the politicians who distribute resources.

But I am questioning the entire process of electoral politics. I’m barely paying attention to the upcoming election, because I think it’s a joke.

But even if I were going to vote, there’s no candidate who really excites me and makes me hopeful. Looking at the top black political leaders doesn’t inspire. They’re doing their own thing. I’m so not into a reverend figure as a savior…that’s a stereotypical black role that’s been passed on…from Martin Luther King, to Jesse, to Al Sharpton. I don’t want to see the Oval Office turn into the church house. And neither do any of my friends.

And then there are people like Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and even FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who represent money and power…things I don’t have much of at this point.

I know that I am extremely different in a lot of ways. And I’m just one small demographic. But I think if there’s someone who can show me that they’re really, I mean really, here for people like me, then you might get my vote.

And if there are any presidential candidates willing to take the challenge, I’d like to invite you to sit down and discuss politics with me. And since I love music so much, maybe we’ll cap off the discussion with a record…lets say the Dixie Chicks? Just kidding…

Nzinga Moore is an Associate Producer with Youth Radio.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

New York TimesEvery single day that we wake up, we can expect the unexpected. However similar our days will be, in every one of them we will see, do or have a new experience. Whether it's meeting someone new, trying new food, or hearing a new song, no one day will repeat itself, and nothing is for certain. Regardless of how structured we try to make our lives, there are very few things we can depend on happening every day, but when one of those rare things, one of the few things in life that we depend on, betrays us, it can leave a person, a city, and even a nation in total darkness.

I will start off by saying yes, by all means, Jayson Blair, the former reporter for the New York Times was doing the wrong thing by fabricating his articles, filling them with exaggerated and fake accounts, and pretending to travel the country to get his stories. Lying in a profession where the basic criterion is to seek out the truth is ridiculous, especially when you are printing those lies in such a prestigious and world-renowned paper. It is for the best that Blair has resigned and ended his career as a journalist.

However, hearing and reading media outlets like Newsweek tear him up and credit his lack of journalistic integrity to being a nutcase and a nervous wreck bothered me a little. Why? Because honestly, I'm very surprised we don't hear about this sort of thing happening more often.

When news of the scandal broke a couple weeks ago, the first question that jumped into everyone's head was, how did this unpopular and awkward intern with all of these personal problems (he was said to be drunk quite frequently and had a passion for cocaine) and a reputation for stealing story ideas climb so high in the ranks of the journalism world?

Blair is black, and some people were quick to credit his ascent to affirmative action and his editors' desire for a more diverse reporting staff. Yes, in some ways, that may have been true, but in my opinion, that is only a small part of the real story.

As it was reported in an article in the May 26, 2003 issue of Newsweek, Blair did a lot of brown-nosing to get to where he was. He did whatever necessary to please those in authoritative positions, and did just enough spotty work to get by. In a sense he didn't prepare for or earn the serious assignments that were suddenly thrust into his lap, so when Jayson Blair was faced with covering some of the heaviest stories in the country in the past two years, he was already neck deep in hot water. And before his young career had even begun, it was taking long strides toward crashing and burning.

But why? Why would such a promising young reporter, a high school news editor from Virginia, with such a passion and a love for journalism, deny himself a chance to develop his craft, and brown-nose his way to a high-stress and chaotic position? It couldn't have been the money since the guy lived in an apartment filled with broken furniture and rotting food, which his landlord labeled "a real filth." It couldn't have been the fame, because despite the constant appearance of your name in print, people hardly ever remember the author of a story no matter how great it is.

Why would someone steal stories and suck up to superiors just to catapult themselves into an extremely high-pressure situation? Simple. For the same reason that students all over the world go online and steal essays, notes, and plagiarize for school: just to get by.

Everyday we see this same thing happening on a lesser scale, and think nothing of it. You can log on to the Internet and find an essay or book report in seconds, change the author's name, print it up and turn it into your teacher with nothing but your guilt to hold you down. It happens all the time in schools across the nation, and no one makes even the tiniest fuss.

The students, like Jayson Blair, are also in a sense denying themselves a chance to learn and develop useful and important skills. But there is a distinct difference between guys like Blair and the average student. Students don't choose to attend school, or take classes, or write essays on subjects they could not care less about; they are forced to do these things. Jayson Blair was doing his dream job.

So in the end, as silly as it sounds, Jayson Blair was a victim of not following his dream. His greatest sin wasn't the betrayal of the national public, but forgetting he was doing what he loved. He wasn't working for himself, for his own pleasure, or for the readers of the world, he was simply at the mercy of a deadline and a demanding job he couldn't handle. And while plenty of people in the world don't like their jobs, you can never stop working for yourself, or you too might end up in the darkness.

Mike Oseroff is a sophomore at Berkeley High School.

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