Friday, February 24, 2017

Here's to 'La La Land,' a dream of a movie

From the La La Land official Facebook page
By Madeleine Deisen
MARIETTA, Georgia, U.S.A. – La La Land is nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
But what about La La Land has enchanted critics and moviegoers alike?
On a surface level, this movie is just fun to watch. The sets and costumes are vibrant, colorful, and eye-catching. The dance numbers are lively and gorgeous, and I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack for weeks.
La La Land is the perfect balance between old-fashioned and modern. The character Sebastian, (Ryan Gosling,) dreams of opening a traditional jazz club. Just like Sebastian, La La Land brings Old Hollywood to modern times, but instead of resenting contemporary influences, like Sebastian does, La La Land embraces the combination of old and new.
Its movie influences include Gene Kelly’s An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain. Despite the familiarity of classic movies, La La Land remains new and exciting.
This movie is also full of joy. I do not mean to say the movie is one-dimensional or only cheerful, because the characters do question their purpose, relationships, and identity in compelling ways. But while watching La La Land, I felt the happiness the creators must have felt while making this magnificent movie.
La La Land’s deeper meaning, to me, is a call to hold on to your dreams. Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian learn that the only way to achieve fulfilling success is by not compromising their dreams or themselves for jobs that may be easier or more comfortable. Instead, their path to success is through performing as their truest, idealistic, dreaming selves.
While Mia and Sebastian’s romance is delightful, their romances with their dreams are more enthralling and memorable. Most of all, La La Land is a toast to the dreamer in all of us.
As Mia sings in her audition, “Here’s to the fools who dream.” It is a reminder to pursue the vocation that lights your heart on fire and a celebration of the beauty that can create, and also a recognition of the sacrifices that are necessary for dreams to come true.
If you’re looking for an entertaining, lovely and inspiring movie, La La Land is the one for you. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Want to know what's even more enthralling and memorable
than a romantic blockbuster movie?
Making an impact on young lives through contributions
to Youth Journalism International.
Thank you for helping dreams come true.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trans youth deserve human rights

By O.D. Wright
NASHVILLE, Tennessee, U.S.A. – President Donald Trump this week rescinded federal guidelines concerning transgender rights. That means that the government no long is encouraging school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
I would say that this is revolting, but that is not a word strong enough to describe my feelings. Not only are we putting our most vulnerable young citizens at risk of harassment, assault, and bullying, we also are taking away a piece of their freedom and humanity.
Discrimination in bathrooms isn’t new to America. We’ve fought to make bathrooms accessible to all races, to women, and to people with disabilities. As a nation we raised our voices and fought for equality, now it’s time for us to fight again.
While I try to string together sentences to describe the ache in my chest, the word I settle on is ‘why?’
Why in the 20th century are we watching the government commit an injustice towards people too young to stand up for what they deserve? Why is the Trump administration redacting a guideline that brought us one step closer to ending discrimination against those who are transgender?
And, why is something as comprehensible as transgender rights inscrutable to the people who run our nation?
Although I have a very strong opinion on this subject, I do understand where the confusion lies. It’s a confusion based on misunderstanding, a confusion birthed from people too blinded by their beliefs, uneducated in the matter, or firm in closed-mindedness.
I do not discriminate with these people who disagree with my position. As I fight for the rights of transgender people, I acknowledge the rights of speech for all – and believe a healthy debate is a beautiful thing, a necessity to make our democracy work.
The number one argument against transgender bathrooms is that by opening the doors to any gender, we are opening the doors to allow predators into a private place for women. That would be an absolute monstrosity, but luckily, there is no evidence to support the claim.
In North Carolina, lawmakers passed HB2, a law that says that in publicly owned places, people must use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth gender. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights organizations filed suit against the state, saying there is no statistical evidence of violence to justify the ‘Bathroom Law.’
The real risk of violence comes from the new law and that dangers it poses for transgender youth. Imagine the reaction if a mid-transition trans boy walked into a women’s bathroom, clothed in his masculinity. Most women would feel fear and discomfort, and respond by harassing or assaulting the boy.
The real danger is misapprehension. To correlate predators and transgender youth is opening up a can of worms that allows the continuation of harassment toward these children, and feeds dysphoria and misunderstanding.
If a male predator wants to go into a bathroom to assault a woman – breaking the law in the process – why would he let the ‘Bathroom Law’ stop him?
No, it’s not about transgender youth being predators. It’s more about the fear of any form of masculinity in female spaces and the fear of those who differ from society’s norms. It’s the misconstruction of what being transgender actually is.
It’s not about a male in a dress. It’s about a person born with the wrong body, whose intent is not to hurt, but to be who they were born to be.
Another argument is the idea that transgender bathrooms are not important. Here’s the thing: when we take away the rights of trans people to use the bathroom where they are most comfortable, we also take away their dignity.
We spread confusion instead of facts.
By saying, “Transgender youths aren’t really the gender they identify with, therefore they don’t belong in the bathroom of their choice,” we take away the truth of what being transgender really is.
Another problem with the ‘Bathroom law” is that it allows the government to take away basic rights. If we let them regulate something as simple as using the bathroom, what comes next? By sitting by and doing nothing, we are watching as these youths are stripped of their basic human rights, and as their voices are drowned out by the yelling in Congress.
When one of us is stripped of our freedom, we are all stripped of our freedom. America was built by our founding fathers standing up for what they believed in, by patriots fighting a valiant battle to escape oppression.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to join that fight again. I, for one, refuse to allow subjugation of my fellow citizens. I am an American, and I believe in liberty and justice for all.
No matter what bathroom you use, you can support the young writers
and artists of YJI with a tax-deductible donation.
Thank you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gambian democracy brings economic relief

Abdoulie Jammeh /
New Gambian President Adama Barrow waves to the crowd at the ceremonial swearing in event at Independence Stadium.
By Lama Jallow
Senior Reporter
SERREKUNDA, The Gambia – Citizens here are happy to welcome the nation’s new president, Adama Barrow, and merchants are hopeful that the change will mean better relations with neighboring Senegal.
Ousainou Sallah of Senegal, operates a shop in the large regional market in Serrekunda and spoke about when the border between the two nations was closed under former President Yahya Jammeh.
"It was not just about business but safety,” Sallah said. “Peace which can determine free movement of goods and people, too, and if that is not there, then both countries will be at risk of endangering their citizens."
Geography plays a role.

Google maps
The country of Senegal borders The Gambia on all sides except for an Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Lama Jallow /
Gambian Momodou Baldeh
standing next to his shop in
the Serrekunda market.
"Senegal surrounds almost all parts of The Gambia except the coast and most of our goods are from there, said Momodou Baldeh, a Gambian who owns a shop in the same market. “So our governments must understand that we cannot be in a state of that kind. We are the same people and we can't live without each other."
President Adama Barrow defeated Jammeh in a December 1 election, sparking joy in the streets. But the nation grew tense when the longtime ruler refused to leave last month when it came time for Barrow to take office.
Barrow fled to Senegal and was sworn in as president at the Gambian embassy and Jammeh finally left after African leaders intervened and troops from the Economic Community of West African states entered Gambia to remove him by force.
After Barrow took the oath of office at a low-key event in Senegal due to the political instability in Gambia, people packed a stadium to celebrate their country’s 52nd year of independence and witness the ceremonial swearing in of the new president.
Lama Jallow /
The crowd outside the stadium, where posters
of the new president hang outside.
African heads of state and other friends of The Gambia attended the Feb. 18 ceremony to witness the birth of a new nation after 22 years of dictatorship under Jammeh, who has since left the country.
President Macky Sall of Senegal, who along with the international community, played a major role in helping The Gambia remain stable during the difficult days after the election, spoke strongly of the need for a better relationship between the two countries.
“We are the same people, and we remain the same people,” Sall said.
Lamin K. Darboe, a school teacher at Sanchaba Sulay Jobe Primary, went to the ceremony at Independence Stadium in the Westfield section of the city of Serrekunda.
“The tyranny is gone, the dictator is gone,” said Darboe.
In his speech to the people at the Independence Day ceremony last week, talked about the need for unity, the economy and the desperations of Gambians to see a better nation.
“This is a victory for democracy,” he said.
Abdoulie Jammeh /
President Adama Barrow (in white) toward the right of the frame, rides into the stadium waving to the crowd.

Barrow elaborated on the challenges his government will face.
“We have inherited an economy in decline,” said Barrow. He promised to convince investors to invest in the country especially in the technology sector, to introduce free primary education and reinforce the judiciary.
Though the national election divided the country along ethnic lines, Barrow condemned tribalism.
“All the tribes are equal and it’s one Gambia, one nation,” strongly condemning any form of tribalism. "Long live the republic. Long live the Gambian people. Forward ever, backward never."

Abdoulie Jammeh /
Gambian Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang at 
the ceremony.
After his historic upset over Jammeh, Barrow is reversing other decisions by the former leader. Barrow has freed political prisoners and returned The Gambia to the International Criminal Court. And the process is underway for Gambia to re-enter the Commonwealth after the former president cut ties last fall.
After more than two decades of dictatorship under Jammeh, the freedom Gambians so yearned for has arrived in a peaceful way.  Gambians in the Diaspora are already coming back home after some years in exile. Among them are journalists, musicians and politicians.
Democracy appears to be good for business and family stability, too, according to the two shopkeepers from the Serrekunda market.
Lama Jallow /
Ousainou Salla of Senegal, 
in the foreground, at his shop
in the market in The Gambia.
"My business, for example, was at risk, and if I am at risk, then my family is,” said Salla.
Baldeh said, "I hope and pray such things will not happen again. It was really tough for Gambians in particular, especially those who are poor.”
Those people couldn’t afford to keep paying expensive prices on goods, Baldeh said, and the prices kept on increasing every day.
With the closed border, Salla said he couldn’t send a good amount of money to help his family back in Senegal.
“I know it had bad effects on many families, too, from both countries,” said Salla. “So it's not in any way good to see these two countries in bad terms. We are far from that."
Baldeh praised the new leader.
"Barrow started well with the Senegalese government and I hope this will be a relationship that will stay forever," Baldeh said.
Abdoulie Jammeh /
The Gambian flag flies at 
Independence Stadium.
With the election behind them, Gambians are expecting more from a different government that will support democracy and build a better Gambia. They want to see employment opportunities to stop Gambian youth from leaving for Europe on dangerous journeys over the Mediterranean Sea in search of work.
Whether Barrow and his cabinet can meet their expectations won’t be clear right away, but the new leader set a limit of just three years before Gambia’s next presidential election.
You can celebrate democracy by supporting the student writers and artists of YJI. Thanks for standing on the side of youth and truth!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

YJI statement on immigration policy

A core principle of Youth Journalism International’s mission statement is that it “fosters cross-cultural understanding.” Understanding starts with open minds and hearts, not fences and walls. In furtherance of its mission, and in recognition of the value of diversity, YJI is proud to count Muslims among its current students and alumni. As an organization, YJI stands against any immigration policy which by implication or operation discriminates against Muslims or any other group. Such a policy stands in opposition to our mission statement. It only further deepens divides in our country and society, and darkens the shining beacon that the United States has been as a symbol of liberty and freedom.

Unanimously adopted, YJI Board of Directors, Feb. 16, 2017

You can stand on the side of youth and truth. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support the diverse group of student writers and artists at this nonprofit. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The bells of St. Valentine ring with love

Mary Ngozi /
The market in Nsukka, Nigeria.
By Mary Ngozi
Junior Reporter
NSUKKA, Nigeria – The Valentine's Day bell rung loudly as the priest wished all the congregation happy Valentine's Day.
He stressed the unfailing love of God for all creation and repeated the message to always live love, touch love and see love in all humans.
The bell continued to ring as I reached the market, where happy Valentine's Day greetings could be heard. I offered Valentine’s wishes to every customer and the bell didn't stop when I received a lovely rose from a dear friend.
From my heart I want to ring my own Valentine's bell to my brothers and sisters in need – the  oppressed, depressed, poor and sick.
My bell sings “I love you” to prisoners, the handicapped, the orphans, the homeless, the sick, the cheated, the wounded, the lost ones. It urges strength to those who are tired of life, to not give up because it is not over yet.
To all living, I love you.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Share the love you have with students worldwide by making a
tax-deductible gift to Youth Journalism International!
St. Valentine would approve.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Women are finally playing by Aussie rules

Alyce Collett /
A moment at the Melbourne vs. Brisbane Women's Australian Football League game on Sunday.

By Alyce Collett
MELBOURNE, Australia – The national Women's Australian Football League made history over the weekend with the inaugural rounds taking place on the continent.
This may not seem historic at first, but when you consider the history and sacrifices that were made to get to this point, you realize how significant it is.
Let me give you a little history lesson to begin with. Although the men’s Australian Football League has existed in one form or another for 159 years, women have never had these opportunities. Until now.
The journey to a national league for women began in 2013, when the first exhibition match of the best female footballers from across the country took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Two teams representing two of the Victorian clubs from the Australian Football League faced off in that match.
Since then, the support for women’s footy and for a national league has grown. Finally, two years ago, the Australian Football League Commission did something about it and announced that there would finally be a national competition.
The original goal was to have a league by 2020, but Gillon McLachlan, the chief executive officer of the Australian Football League, announced that the goal had been changed to 2017.
In mid-2016, the first announcement about the structure of the new competition was made, with the naming the eight clubs that would be competing in the inaugural season. Further steps, such as the draft and fixture release, came in the subsequent months and it all culminated in the first round of matches this past weekend.
The first game was on Friday, and was between two clubs that have been rivals for a long time in the men’s competition, Carlton Blues and Collingwood Magpies. Collingwood was never in the match, though, as the Blues side dominated from the outset.
They were originally going to play the match at Collingwood’s home ground, but when the Australian Football League realized that a bigger than capacity crowd was expected, they moved the match to Carlton’s home ground, which is larger.
This proved to be a good move, as it became a lock-out crowd early on in the evening, which means they had to physically lock the gates and not let any more spectators inside. Even so, there were still long lines of people trying to get into the ground. This is a testament to both clubs and the interest in the new competition.
Saturday saw two matches take place, one in the Western suburbs of Melbourne and the other in the heart of Adelaide. In Adelaide, a smaller but still healthy crowd of 9,000 saw the home side the Adelaide Crows register a comfortable win over their less fancied opposition, the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
The Giants were never in the match, not even registering a goal on the scoreboard until well into the second half.
Meanwhile, game three of the weekend saw a match between two teams that began the match as flag favorites, Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs. Like in the previous two matches, the Bulldogs on the home side dominated, beating Fremantle comfortably. This game saw a near capacity crowd, which continued the trend from the previous matches.
Sunday‘s one match rounded out the weekend, and it took place in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions. In wet conditions, it was the Lions who took the four points in an upset. The game actually had to be delayed just before half time due to a lightning storm, and the Demons were looking like the more dominant side before the interruption. After the interruption, the Lions dominated and ran away with the match, taking a 15 point win.
So as you can see, the first round of the new women’s football season was a roaring success. The crowds were massive, the television ratings were very high – on par with the men’s matches – and the matches were good quality contests.
The scores weren’t high, but there are many factors, such as nerves, that probably affected the scores. There’s a good chance that the scores will increase as the season goes on.
You can score big points by making a tax-deductible gift in support of Youth Journalism International's student writers and artists. Thanks for being generous.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

'T2 Trainspotting' is a dangerous, tender trip down memory lane

From the official Facebook page for T2 Trainspotting
T2 Trainspotting is out now in theaters in the UK and will be on screens in the U.S. next month.

By Beth Criado-Band
Junior Reporter
EDINBURGH, Scotland, U.K. – Walking into the cinema, I saw a number of lone, late-30-to 40-somethings already in their seats for T2 Trainspotting, the sequel to Trainspotting, the 1996 film on Scotland’s drug scene.
The trailer for looked as energetic as the first film, I reminded myself.
But as the pre-movie advertisements started screening, the doubts about this sequel to my favorite film had already been cast. Did I really want to revisit these characters now they’re old?
Those doubts were thrown out the window within the first few minutes of the film. T2 is almost as outrageous as Trainspotting, filled with the same amount of profanity, sex, violence, drugs and drama as the original, without trying too hard.
Director Danny Boyle focused on making sure that T2 was relevant, and unique from the original. It made an attempt to put the action in the present day, but there weren’t a lot of references to contemporary events. For example, there was no mentioning of Brexit or even the Scottish independence movement, though the Scottish government didn’t exist when the original film came out.
This is all especially strange when Mark (Ewan McGregor) and Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) receive £100,000 in funding from the EU for their sauna/brothel business venture.
It did make reference to legal highs (though they’ve past their peak in the UK), and different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) in the updated “Choose Life” rant, though that came off as a bit cheesy.
The persistent references to the original film also grew tiresome. On certain occasions, it worked well – such as the scene in the club where Mark gags at the sight of a dirty toilet. But other times, the audience could make the visual or audible connection without needing flashbacks.
Recreating moments didn’t make sense or add to the story. The most notable example of this was the scene where Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is chasing Mark, trying to kill him, in a multi-story car park. Mark – while running for his life – stops after falling off the car to laugh at the driver; recreating a shot from the first film.
But the inclusion of the shot made no sense, and I was internally screaming at Mark to just keep running, rather than basking in the nostalgia of the moment.
Lastly, although Diane (Kelly Macdonald) features in the trailer, she doesn’t add to the story at all. She makes a minor appearance, for less than five minutes, representing Simon for his blackmailing and cocaine possession court case. Despite her brilliance, Diane is reduced to a minor part of a subplot that doesn’t get furthered, or even mentioned again after the meeting.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it. It’s not the fast-paced, edgy, youthful piece of genius that Trainspotting was, but I enjoyed the nostalgia. The characters have aged, having grown up into ‘proper adults.’ Maybe not for the best – Simon became more bitter and arrogant, and Begbie more unstable and violent – but it’s understandable given the way the last 20 years have treated them.
Simon manages to sum up the film with: “Nostalgia, that’s why you’re here. You’re a tourist in your own youth.” He says this in a scene to Mark, scornfully, but I have no issue with nostalgia. Perhaps it didn’t have the best storyline, but the character development, their relationships and drama were entirely worth it.
T2 turned out to be exciting and dangerous, but also tender and emotional. There were times when I laughed, cried, and cried laughing. It might not have been perfect, but it certainly was touching.

T2 Trainspotting came out in UK cinemas on January 27, and U.S. cinemas will have it March 17.
You can support the talented young writers and artists of Youth Journalism International with your tax-deductible contribution. Thank you for being generous!