With liberty and justice for all?

Kaepernick protests influence students to not stand for the pledge

Has America lost sight of true patriotism?

Students around the country are remaining seated during the pledge of allegiance. This can be attributed to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem during playoffs. The Fanscotian believes that no student should be denied their First Amendment rights, and should be able to respectfully express themselves without borders.

The First Amendment of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

To summarize, the First Amendment denies the government the power to create legislation that limits the expression or creation of religions, free speech, information provided by the press, and the ability to protest in groups or address governmental concerns and to assemble.

The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education’s current policy concerning the pledge of allegiance requires each school to conduct the pledge on a daily basis in their opening exercises, although it allows students to be exempted if the pledge conflicts with their conscience. Our district provides students with a choice.  

Some school districts, however, are not as lenient as the SPF school district. Leilani Thomas, a student from Lower Lake, California, was penalized for refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance. As punishment, her teacher lowered her grades. Thomas has been sitting for the pledge since second grade,but  it was not until this past September that her high school expressed a problem with her silent protest.



artwork by Sydney Mills

Similar to Thomas, 15 year-old Shemar Cooper, a student from Chicago, faced off  with a teacher who attempted to force him out of his seat when he refused to stand for the pledge while voicing the opinion that “America sucks,” and “doesn’t support black people.”

SPFHS students refuse to stand for the pledge for their own unique reasons. Some agree with Kaepernick, who expresses that he does not “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Other students decide not to sit, simply because they demonstrate apathy to the pledge.

I think protests are a good way to bring a change in the country,” president of the Black Student Union Kenyela Horn said. “Because when many people protest, that is when many people start to listen.”                                                                                         

A recurring question in considering these student protests is whether it is patriotic or not to stand. “Patriotism, in my definition, is showing pride for your country or what you believe in, and identifying and working to resolve problems as well to make your country better,” a student said when asked to define patriotism in an anonymous survey given to homeroom classes.

The same student cited Kaepernick and his kneeling protest as an example of patriotism.

Some would say that Kaepernick’s protests are harmful to American patriotism.  “Many critics say that his protest is ‘disgraceful’ and ‘disrespectful,’” Black Student Union advisor Tashira Wheeler said. “I feel that Mr. Kaepernick has a right to his beliefs and his right to protest.”

American patriotism encompasses the idea that all Americans have the natural right to voice their opinions. Students who were inspired by Kaepernick’s protest have the right to follow suit and do so without facing consequences for sitting down for what they believe in. Opponents of the protests should try to understand where protesters are coming from and respect their opinion.

Black Lives DO Matter: The Important Voice of Young People

How social media has bolstered the black lives matter movement

by McKella Sylvester

What began as a simple hashtag by three black women frustrated by the killings of black men by white police officers has become a movement that has captured the attention of the 2016 presidential race.

It began with a Facebook posting in 2013 by Alicia Garza expressing anger about racial violence. It inspired Patrisse Cullors to create the Black Lives Matter hashtag and with help from Opal Tometi, the movement exploded on social media and attracted a new generation of young activists.


A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Iesha Evans, shown above, looks peacefully ahead of herself as two policeman in protest gear takes her into custody. (Credits to Jonathan Bachman)


“#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society,” according to the Black Lives Matter website. “It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”

The movement has been successful largely because online activism has become popular among a growing number of young people. Millennials and Generation Z have become spokespeople for their generation and have people listen to them.

Even the Presidential candidates are responding to that Black Lives Matter call to action. During the Democratic primary, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made it part of their campaign platforms. Republican candidate Donald Trump has given the ‘All Lives Matter’ response to protesters who showed up to his rallies.

The current popular movement has similarities to the civil rights movement. In the 1950s, a grass-roots movement was sparked in part by the death of Emmett Till in the Jim Crow South. The 14-year-old was killed and mutilated after allegedly flirting with a white woman.

The movement by young men and women of Till’s generation aimed to acquire basic human rights for black people. This is similar to what young people today in Black Lives Matter are doing in response to institutional racism and police brutality.

Today’s are generally more accepting of people, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. However, statistics show that teenagers believe there is a race problem in this country.

According to a 2015 study by Newsweek, 82 percent of American teenagers view racial discrimination as a problem for their generation. This is nearly double the findings in a 1966 Newsweek poll that found that 44 percent of American teens felt that way about race relations   at the height of the civil rights movement.

Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of the man charged with killing him, George Zimmerman.

After seeing the unjust court decision of Zimmerman being found innocent, I was completely disgusted and outraged,” said BLM member Kenyela Horn, an incoming senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and president of the Black Student Union.  “I was especially outraged at the fact that Trayvon Martin was only 17 years old when he was shot and killed after being racially profiled.”

Like the multiple waves of black liberation throughout history, Black Lives Matter has amassed a large following, primarily comprised of young people. What is so significant this time around, is the effect social media has on activism.

Social media, which is commonly used amongst young people, has also played a large role in how the media and the public engage with the reality of police violence. This has helped to  change the conversation surrounding race in America.



A group of white protesters stand up for black lives at a protest rally. (Credits to Nubian Planet)


Tumblr, for example, is a blogging platform popular amongst young people and has a prevalent activist community. Kamri Grose, 17, of Philadelphia, has a Tumblr blog that has recently become popular due to her acclaimed poem, ‘Not His Type.’

‘Not His Type’ discusses the harsh realities young black girls experience in the dating world. It explores the Eurocentric standards of beauty and stereotypes about black women.

“When I wrote my poem “Not His Type”, I honestly did not expect for it to get that big. I thought it would get around 10 notes and then it would just float around the internet. But when I got 13K notes on that poem along with 1.5K tumblr followers, I really realized that I was doing something right,” said Grose in an email interview.

With the success on social media, Grose’s online activism has found a way to appear in her day-to-day life.  “Any time we are given projects or essays I try to incorporate anything about black culture in it. I want my white classmates to know that I’m aware and conscious of their prejudice and racism every chance I get,” she said.

The reality of race relations for black American teenagers is harsh. A 2015 Newsweek study  reported that a staggering 91 percent of black youth said that racial discrimination is a problem for their generation. Approximately four in ten black adults strongly supported Black Lives Matter and were more inclined to do so than whites and Hispanics, according to a Gallup survey.

“Most people know me from my viral poem ‘Not His Type’, so I used the success from that poem as a platform to encourage black people,” Grose said.

Whatever side of the issue people find themselves, social media has likely played a part in forming their opinion.

Teenagers, says Horn, can “be the voice and bring up situations of injustice in other school clubs, voice opinions on social media and more. I believe these are the first steps, and they are important to becoming involved in the community and working to make a change in the world.”

Note: Thank you for reading this article. Unfortunately, since wordpress wants me to pay to upload video files, I’ve figured that it would be more worthwhile to post it on Youtube and give you the link for free. Enjoy!


Hugh Boyd Workshop Blog: Day 2

websiteby McKella Sylvester

So today was the second day of the 2016 Hugh N. Boyd Journalism Workshop and what we did was continuing our interviews with each other and drafting our stories.

I focused on receiving and applying advice from the assistant director of the program, Melissa McCornick, who gave me a lot of incite on how I should structure my piece and go about connecting it to the central theme of the workshop.

This year’s theme focuses on teens and how they see the world through their eyes. With my topic in mind, it was difficult to relate my article back to the theme. But, with careful guidance and strategic planning, I finally have a clear idea of how my story is going to turn out.

I had also worked on the digital component to the print project as well. I started to search for videos available on YouTube and saving them as potential footage to accompany the written piece. Hopefully the software is available on my laptop to edit movies since I do not want to go through the pain of logging onto the computers in the School of Communication.

Seriously, Rutgers University should make their internet less of a hassle to use. Like, if I wanted a hassle, I would’ve used textbooks and a flash drive.

And to conclude this blog post, today marks the 75th birthday of Emmett Till. Till was a 14 year-old black teen who was killed by three white men after he allegedly flirted with a white woman back in Jim Crow Mississippi. Since my article mentions Till, today’s date, July 25th, is significant.

The political discourse of America is a mess; not exactly my favorite topic, but it is a  topic that needs discussion from both sides of the line. It is unacceptable for apathy to occur when a child was murdered in cold blood because he had more melanin. It is just plain unacceptable that racial violence is the norm in a mixed culture that the United States is known for.

It’s plainly simple, as Americans, we should not accept this. Remember Emmett Till and remember all of the victims of racial violence.

Check out the workshop’s official website!