A Kid’s-Eye View of Harlem

Published in the NYTimes, 1998

Angel Colon, 15, is the old man of HarlemLIVE, an online magazine put together by a volunteer staff of 40 or more Harlem teen-agers who write about life in their neighborhood. He began working on the magazine, when it was mere ink and paper, when he was 11.”I don’t like to write,” Angel said. “But if I have something to say, I’ll force myself to do it.”

Angel Colon, talking to NYTIMES reporter.

Now a 10th grader at the Manhattan Center of Mathematics/Science in East Harlem, he started learning computer skills in the sixth grade because he liked computer graphics. Kerly Suffern, 16, an 11th grader at Martin Luther King Jr. High School on the Upper West Side, also writes for the magazine. “I love to write,” he said. “It’s nice for the public to find out what we’re about, that kids in Harlem we’re not as bad as people think.” Richard Calton, 38, a former public-school teacher, founded the magazine three years ago at P.S. 206 in East Harlem. In 1995 he left his job to learn more about computer-based education at Columbia University’s Institute for Learning Technologies. The institute has donated 11 computers and office space for the students to continue HarlemLIVE on the Web.

WHAT YOU SEE In a section called “Off the Head” — Harlem kid slang for off-the-cuff or from-the-heart pronouncements — Fairusa Ibrahim, 14, writes about coming to America from Ghana, where her parents left her and another sister when Fairusa was 6. “We were told that we would join the rest of the family very shortly,” she wrote. “Very shortly to me was a month or so. I waited and waited but nobody came to get me.”Eight years later, when her mother reunited all of the family in New York, it was even more wrenching. “What is this thing named airplane? Why does it take my family away and not bring them back?” she remembered thinking. Her mother got off the plane, but she did not recognize Fairusa, and Fairusa did not recognize her. “Can you believe it? I didn’t recognize my own mother!! She had completely changed from the last time I saw her. I kept asking, ‘Where is my mother? Where is she?

‘”In another section, Kerly reviews a novel called “Friends and Lovers” by Jerome Dickie about romantic issues between black men and women. “The settings are set somewhere out in L.A., where two fine sistas and two fine brothas hook up and started their special love affair,” he writes. “The context and literature is very realistic and easy to relate to, the descriptions of the scenes are raw, just like the way we talk.”

Staff members also contribute descriptions of themselves. Angel, whose mother volunteers with HarlemLIVE, writes: “Evelyn Colon is my mother. She is also with HarlemLIVE. My mother is who I want to be like even though there is nothing wrong with my father. My mother is a teacher.”

LINKS Seventeen, including Harlem Overheard, another Harlem youth publication.

WHAT YOU GET Students telling about their families, friends and neighborhood, in their own voices. “I want to have a lot of little Harlem Lives so other kids can write about their neighborhoods,” Kerly said. 

AOL Time Warner Paves The Way For HarlemLive

by Jonathan Kui 

First, HarlemLive would like to thank AOL Time Warner for their generosity. After receiving a 25,000 grant from AOL Time Warner , staff members of HarlemLive paid a visit to AOL Time Warner’s representatives. Throughout the day, we prepared our arguments for why HarlemLive was a wise investment, and our supervisor, Richard Calton, reassured us of our positions within the meeting. Although Rich guaranteed he wouldn’t say much at the meeting, he seemed to be the most nervous/talkative out of everyone.

After the initial anxiety and awkwardness, the crew relaxed. Everybody did their part and it went just as planned, if not better. The representatives were surprisingly “down to earth” and their personality helped us feel at ease. It was up to the AOL Time Warner representatives to pave the way for us. We entered knowing where we were coming from, and we left knowing where we were going; conclusively, we left knowing a little bit of our future.

All in all, the meeting was a success. HarlemLive left with a better knowledge of what to do in the future, and AOL Time Warner left with a better understanding of HarlemLive. We reassured the representatives they made a wise choice in teaming up with a media organization like HL. From now, we can only grow and get better with AOL Time Warner’s assistance.

Jail, A Harsh Reality for A Lot of Teens

It’s not often one gets to enter a high security prison only to get out hours later. That’s what HarlemLive did recently when we went to present our program to some all male high school classes at Rikers Island in New York City. 

HarlemLive has traveled around the globe showing other communities the power of the web in creating outlets for expression and the journalism process which expands the youth’s view of their world. For the last five years, HarlemLive has provided a teen centered program unprecedented in New York City. Our young people have traveled to Sweden, Rome, and Washington, DC to accept awards for their success at producing a domestic and international award winning state-of-the-art news and cultural web magazine

What made this visit a surprise to us is that we bumped into a couple people we knew. 

While we sat in the principal’s office, many of the guys were filing past on their way to lunch. Through the window to the hallway, one 18 year old teen did a double take as he recognized HarlemLive teen spokesperson, Melvin Johnson. Both grew up in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. He was incarcerated for being present at the scene of a gang assault. 

The incarceration has changed his attitude about wanting to stay in gangs. What really hit him was his younger brother asking when he was, “going to grow up and start being a real older brother,” who could serve as a role model to his younger siblings. 

After chatting with the young inmate, we got a chance to speak to the principal, Frank Dody. Dody came to work many years ago as a one year stint but stayed on seeing how much in need the teens were of caring adults. There are 10 prisons on Rikers Island housing up to 17,000 inmates. Of the 10, there are 4 that house adolescents and teens. HarlemLive was visiting the Adolescent Reception and Detention Center (ARDC). It houses adolescents who have yet to be sentenced. “They could be here for a day or several months,” said Mr. Dody. 

At the ARDC, most of the teens that are not deemed to be dangerous to the others live in large dorm areas that sleep 50 inmates with individual cots separated by a small locker. There is at least one fight a day, usually about “who’s in charge”, among the youth.

In the classrooms, there are 15 male students to a class. We noticed that the teachers were all male but that many of the security guards in the halls were female. Our visit stirred some excitement as Melvin Johnson, Danya Steele, and Justin Young walked through the halls to the first of three classes. 

Pressed against one of the plexiglass windows that allowed the guards to peer into the classrooms was a young teen. It was a teen who was part of the Urban Youth Bike Corp, with whom HL has collaborated. While most alumni of the UYBC are now attending college, this young man chose a different path and was convicted for two armed robberies. 

The prison personnel allowed the teen to attend some of the classes with the HarlemLive editors as they made their presentations. He was even able to speak to the director of the UYBC by using HL’s cell phone. It seemed our visit and the fact he knew us helped increase his stature with his fellow classmates and teachers. 

We spoke to the teens about HarlemLive possibly working with the teachers and providing an outlet for them to publish their poetry, stories and artwork. Melvin spoke of how his life changed once he chose to work with HarlemLive, a choice that lead to an increase in his skills and self esteem and away from the scene on the streets. Some of the teens acted in the normal classroom atmosphere of “let’s perform for the visitors” while many of the other teens seemed to be extremely quiet and reserved. 

We’re hoping that our message made it to at least one teen and that they find a program or place where they can find their niche in life, where they’ll know they can be a valued and productive member in their community, and aybe even a “real older brother,” to their siblings and friends. 

Sites to view: 

NYC government’s Department of Correction web pages: http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/doc/home.html 

Description of the 10 Rikers Island Jails http://www.correctionhistory.org/html/chronicl/nycdoc/html/jailist1.html

Paper Cuts?

Date posted:12-19-01

by Justin Young

Since December, HarlemLive has been volunteering at the 86th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) Barnes&Noble Bookstore. In an effort to raise money for the organization, .HarlemLive has been wrapping books for donations. Other groups involved in this program are: the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York State, the East Harlem Tutorial Program, and the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center.

Relatively new to the gift wrapping profession, the HL staff had a hard time adjusting to the rigorous task of wrapping, cutting, and taping. The ability to build and maintain a website that includes animation, video, artwork, and not to mention compelling stories, does not necessarily require the all-too-simple skills of folding in flaps and carefully aligning the edges. But despite all the paper cuts, books of abnormal size and the occasional gift brought in from another store(!), the HL youth and advisors pressed on.

HL students have devoted their weekends (i.e. cartoons and Cheerios) to the cause of raising more money for their growing enterprise. The money will help pay for HL Stationary, train fare, Reporters Notebooks and office supplies. HL students worked with a diligence motivated by keeping their valued after-school program afloat. 

Justin’s Take
After devoting an entire weekend to wrapping books, I have gained a level of humility never beforeachieved by this lowly kid from the Bronx. I have experienced the customers — their moods, quirks and sometimes odd behavior. I have experienced the customers’ children — their screaming, playing, and mouth-gaping fascination with scotch tape. But it was all taken with a grain of salt, and by the end of the day I could truly say that I enjoyed myself. I got the opportunity to mingle with new and interesting people (don’t forget their kids). I got to experience my first paper cut, and do it all with a sense of meaning and purpose.

Hey, you know what? I think I’ll do it again. I, along with several other HL members, will be trying our hand one more time at gift wrapping this weekend the 22nd and 23rd. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. We will be trying our best to satisfy all your wrapping needs

Come out and meet us!! Get a book wrapped!

HarlemLive would like to thank Oneika Mays, Frances Kelly, and Deborah Williams for allowing us the opportunity to work and fundraise in their store

More Than a Paycheck

Date posted:7/28/06

by Seshat Mack

In the heart of Harlem, on the third floor of a building on 125th street, work is being done. I look to my left, and see a member of HarlemLIVE diligently working, balancing a laptop on his lap as he creates a PowerPoint presentation on the desktop in front of him. I look to my right, and see a HarlemLIVE reporter editing her interviews with the aid of a seasoned reporter and cameraman. The aura of exertion, of creativity, of learning in itself, is ever-present as journalists work to meet their deadlines, cameramen work to edit their video, and everyone thinks of new topics to interest their readers. At HarlemLIVE, we see adolescents think and act like adults. Instead of aimlessly roaming the streets, teenagers have a chance to develop, enhance, and hone their skills. Is it fair – is it moral? – To take this opportunity, this chance for growth, away from Harlem teenagers because of a minor insignificance in the aesthetics of our building?
HarlemLIVE employees work hard. Why should we be stopped from working, from bettering ourselves and our communities, because of a hole outside our working area? This hole does not jeopardize our safety; this hole does not disturb us; it never crossed our minds until we were told that we couldn’t work here because of it. By telling us that we can’t work at HarlemLIVE, you are, in essence, depriving us of, possibly, one of the greatest experiences of our lives. You are sending us back to the streets; showing us a glimpse of what could be, then slamming the door of opportunity in our faces.

The HarlemLIVE employees that you are attempting to release from the program are putting up a fight. Have you wondered why? Have you wondered why we don’t want to leave? Could it be possible that we want more than a paycheck this summer? We want to stay because we found something more than a job. We found an experience . . . a place where we can do what we like, where we learn and are encouraged to learn, where we learn to grow up and take responsibility. To take HarlemLIVE away from us is an action that should rest on your conscience, because you’re taking away from us the contentment and familial feel that are present . . . . the essence of HarlemLIVE.

Shelise Roberts next to the cracked plaster.

OPEN CALL for RECRUITS!

Hey Everyone!

Written by Editors

photos by Jason Taylor

HLWorks/At Work 

June 3, 2002

Here’s a little letter to those interested in joining the HarlemLive staff! On Sunday, June 2nd, editors Danya Steele, Justin Young, Jason Taylor, Clinfton Taylor, and a few other HL staff members headed down to Central Park to participate in the annual “Teen Volunteer Fair,” an event juxtaposed with celebrity appearances, prizes, and information on a variety of benefial organizations. We recruited a bunch of great prospects from this event; however if you missed us, it’s still not too late!

HarlemLIVE, in case you haven’t noticed is an online magazine created, edited, and produced by NYC TEENS and abroad. We are journalists, photographers, web designers, videographers, editors, public speakers, and just all around a group of ambitious, creative, and energetic young people who look to make an IMPACT on the scene of contemporary media.

What Makes HL Different?

As most of you have already been told, HarlemLIVE is different from other “youth organizations” in that we are actually a YOUTH ORGANIZATION, meaning FUELED and MANAGED by the YOUTH!!! Most other youth orgs are actually run by adults when you pay attention; the teens are merely pawns in a chess game. They don’t manage, control, or completely produce — anything. That is the very opposite here at HarlemLive. The utter creative freedom you have to express yourself in any way positively imaginable is wonderful. But then again, I suppose you’d have to come in yourself to see. 

Can I Get Community Service Hours? Paid?

Yes, you can. During the summer, our staff gets paid through SYEP (Summer Youth Employment Program) and during the school year, you get community service hours, so no matter what time of year it is, you’re always benefiting from something substantial. Besides this, the contacts, experience, and freedom of creative expression are just extraordinary. You’ll barely even notice you’re volunteering!

So When Do I Start?

This upcoming Monday, June 3rd, we’ll be holding our monthly staff meeting for the month of June. We hold these meetings every first Monday of a new month, and if you’re interested in joining, come on down! It would be fantastic chance for you to come by and meet the staff, get acquainted, get a feel of the place, etc. If you can’t make it to this staff meeting, we’ll be holding an orientation on Saturday, June 8th @ 5pm. Please email us back to let us know which one you can make!

Cya Soon!

Editors

********** 

HL Address:

301 W. 125th st. & 8th Ave.

3rd Floor

New York, NY 10026

Transportation: 

Trains: 2,3,A,B,C,D,1,9 to 125th…

Buses: M60, 100, 101 & BX15

© Copyright HarlemLive® 2002 All Rights Reserved

Brief Description of HarlemLIVE

HarlemLive’s operating philosophy is to provide youth with an environment of trust, creative license, and technological tools for documenting and expressing their realities. The online journal is the tangible outcome of their work. It is an evolving vehicle for learning and sharing perspectives on important issues of the day. Producing the journal drives the students to consider the world around them and their place in it, with new eyes, as they participate in telling their own stories. 

Angel Colon interviewing

Sending the students out on stories where they meet a wide range of people engaged in various professions, broadens youths’ outlook and understanding of what possibilities and opportunities exist. And, by using cutting-edge information technologies to publish and broadcast their stories to the world, they gain valuable skills that have helped scores of HarlemLive graduates get jobs and admission to colleges. 

The online journal, with a diverse and global readership is a recognized website by the Daily News, USA Today, Parade, The New York Times and Yahoo!. The site was honored at the 1999 Computerworld Smithsonian Awards in Washington, D.C. and it took first place in the Media and Culture category in the 1999 Global Bangemann Challenge, an international information technology competition held in Stockholm, Sweden. HarlemLive was also featured on the CNN news programs, Newsstand and DotCom. 

The site receives letters of praise from readers located in countries as far away as Nigeria, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Brazil. The students have made presentations in Washington, Stockholm, Senegal, Costa Rica, California, and various Universities and High Schools across the country. 

HarlemLIVE receives some in kind support from the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College. However, we receive minimal direct financial support. In order to ensure continued success, HarlemLive seeks funding from the private sector. 

HarlemLive is a pioneer in the effort to bridge the digital divide. We ask for your support to allow us to empower inner city youth.

Here at HarlemLIVE

by Kevin Benoit

Sept 2005 – Here at HarlemLIVE “we gets busy,” figuratively speaking that is. Sure HarlemLIVE is the site you click on to get all the latest news in the community, around the city and around the globe, but inside the office there are tons of stories everyday. 

By now if you are checking out the site you know that HarlemLIVE is a youth run online publication. We are an award winning journalism program that includes news articles, investigative stories, opinion pieces, personal essays, poetry, photography and video documentaries. The students organize events, conduct workshops and sit on panels, increasing their networking and public speaking abilities.
HarlemLIVE is a year round program where young adults ages 13-21 volunteer their free time to do something that is positive and fun. Over the course of the summer students come out in packs because of their newly found free time. Schools out leaving students with a void for that mental stimulation that they love and can’t get enough of. HarlemLIVE provides that stimulation for the everyday teen and it also provides them, with something positive to do with their time.

This summer most of the staff has come via Summer Youth Employment. Almost 30 students entered this program at the beginning of July all getting paid to do something fun and exciting. We also accepted another 8-10 students who came in as volunteers making the opening to our summer a very promising one. 

Every summer we have our Youth Media Challenge where we split the staff into teams where they compete against each other for prizes and chances to fill up open slots of our executive staff. The students learn everything that we do throughout the year getting a crash course in how to run an online magazine. Usually we have three teams and that is successful but this year after some of the staff members realized that HarlemLIVE was not the organization for them or after we realized that they were not the staff for HarlemLIVE the three teams were broken down to just two. So all summer Keeping It Real Entertainment (KIRE) and Supernova battled head to head. Both teams were lead by long time staff members, KIRE led by Jessica Batson who joined the staff in May and Supernova led by Tracey Casseus who joined the staff in October of 2004. As leaders they learned that taking responsibility for the bad as well as the good is not always fun. They learned how to really run an online publication. We taught them well if I can say so myself.

The teams were put through the regular competition with a few twists and turns along the way and a few improvements to match the new technology in the world. They did the flyer contest-a competition to see who could pas out the most flyers in the least amount of time-they tried to write as much stories as possible, put together the best video, and even developed the best blogs and pod casts, 
All the participants can tell you that the competition started out shaky but it ended with a bang. The competition culminated with our annual award ceremony at Bloomberg’s Headquarters. At the ceremony we announce the winning team, we give out awards to individual achievers and we announce the editors for the fall year. This year’s all around best individual achiever was Iyanna Garry. She won awards for best poem, best blogger, best essay and best health story. Steven Martinez was the winner for best story while Troy Robateau was the winner for best video. 

The winning team for the competition was Supernova coming off a lackadaisical performance for the first two weeks. Somehow they managed to get their selves back in the competition and in the end they gave their selves a chance to win it all. 

The new leaders for the fall and the immediate future were all people who made outstanding contributions throughout the summer. Our new Entertainment Editor, Keisean Marshall, wanted to meet Beyoncé when he joined HarlemLIVE-and he still wants to-but with HarlemLIVE he is so much closer to reaching his goal. 
Our new Video Director, Ranale Todman completed two videos over the summer and he showed that he gained the most out of the program and was willing to give the most back into it. Over the summer we somehow got twins on board a pair of outgoing young females from the Bronx. It turned out that they love marketing and after testing them out with on e of our open mics they proved that they are young marketing gurus in the making. Dejinay and Denaira Reid are out new Marketing Directors. Our new Health Editor, Tracey Casseus had been working on developing a template for the health page even before the summer began, but it was her strategy, dependability and ability to follow through that landed her the position. Iyana Garry became our lead writer because when you are that talented you deserve acknowledgement. Since then we have made her editor of the Community section as well as the Life in the City section. It’s only right being that she lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan, goes to school in the Bronx and spent all summer doing slideshows on Queens. Our newest Editor In Chief is Jessica Batson the leader for Keeping It Real Entertainment. When she joined in May Richard Calton said that she had potential to be the next leader and his prediction proved to be true. She is also the editor of Current Events and Politics. Mera Beckford is still out Managing Editor because no one can do that job as wonderfully as she can. As for me I have been promoted to Publisher of HarlemLIVE. That just means I am still the dedicated head male here. Look for some changes in these positions soon.
I asked some of the staff members about their feelings toward HarlemLIVE and the summer experience and here’s what they had to say. 

Tyrell Carlton, the longest serving member of HarlemLIVE that was placed on a team was the co-leader for team Supernova. He was also on last years winning team, Vertigo. He feels that he is a good luck charm and he is thinking about doing it again next year that way he can have a three-peat and maybe he’ll even be team leader. He says that the most interesting part of HarlemLIVE is “meeting new people and going on interesting stories.”

Jessica Henderson has learned that HarlemLIVE can be bigger than all your expectations. She was the co-leader for Keeping It Real Entertainment and she was a big part to keeping her team focused. “HarlemLIVE is more than I expected. I thought I was going to be a simple journalist. This is more important than I thought. Her greatest experience so far: Meeting Al Sharpton. She asked him if his hair was real.

Jasmine Hamm the youngest staff member this summer is entering freshman year of High School this September. Her growth over the summer was a joy to watch. “I love the experience,” she says. “It provides a lot that will benefit me in my future. I do stories, photography and I’m jumping into video as well.”HarlemLIVE recently did a presentation at the Apple Store. Members of the new look executive staff as well as alumni and members of the Board of Directors all took part in the presentation. The purpose was to inform other people and groups how we use technology and how it has benefited the organization. The presentation was a great experience for all of those involved especially those who hadn’t done much public speaking in the past.

In other news Tracey Casseus, our new health editor is working on our health page. It will soon be added to the HarlemLIVE website. The colors are different and it will standout but it looks very good. The page is being developed by HarlemLIVE alumni Justin Young.

Another breakthrough in the HarlemLIVE office is the monthly open mic series. Back in May we did our first Poetry Slam Series. It lasted a period of four weeks throughout May and June. The response was so huge and the events wee so successful that we had to go on and do another one. The turnout continued to increase so we just had to do it on a recurring basis. So the first Saturday of every month it goes down. Poets, singers, and performers from all over the city come out to perform at our office space.

A Day in the Life of Being a Leader

by Eddie Aung

I have been in HarlemLive for nearly two years. But before this summer, I had no idea what the real responsibility meant. Being a group leader can be the hardest job on earth; especially when the success of your whole group depends on your performance. Let me give you a little a short tour of a group leader’s one day life in HarlemLive. Yeah…… It’s just a short tour….

I bet that everyone has thought of what they are doing or where they are going to. Well, that is one of the daily jobs of mine and I want to say that it also should be one of the practices that a group leader should possess. A group leader should most of the time be thinking about something that pertains to the success of his group. 

Ideas are not hard to come up with, the hard part is to turn those ideas into stories and ask your group to actually go out and make those ideas come true. The whole group will have a meeting and everyone will be throwing ideas at each other and it will seem like the meeting was a success. Everyone including the leader learned something new after the meeting and believe that the group members will try hard to turn the ideas into actual stories. Well, you see…., only fairy tales end with a happy ending. 

Most of the problems start from the fact that not all of the people are motivated. So even an experienced group leader “MUST” have Plan B because there is a possibility that something might go wrong such as one of the group members not making an important phone call, missing a scheduled story, or just sitting on a chair and staring at a computer screen Instant Messaging their friends. 

My strategy to overcome those difficulties is to actually do some of the scheduling on my own and be ready with a story on days when there are no stories. I always keep track of what my group members are doing. Stories are important in an organization such as HarlemLive, but not all the members in my groups are writers or reporters. What I do is keep them busy with the work they are interested in. If someone likes to edit video. If someone likes mopping, well, that’s what they will to do. 

Since there are a lot of things going on and there are not enough people to cover all the necessities, I have to assign each person to take care of two different types of jobs such as a writer might take a journalism class or photography workshops. This put a certain amount of pressure on some group members especially when they are new. About 90% of the staff in HarlemLive for this year’s Summer Program are new. There is the trouble there. Some people think that taking care of two things is hard and some think that having two stories on one day is a lot. Well, what can you say? You are the group leader; you have to listen to your group because those are the people that make you the group leader. 

There are times when I feel like a lot of the things that I planned are not going as well as they should be. Managing a group is like a rubber band. If you pull it too hard, it will snap. If you don’t pull hard enough, you will it will not stretch as far as you would like it. You really have to understand people. A good group is the group where all the team members work together and know what they are doing. This will not guarantee that the group will have the most rewards because any group can reach its goals just by depending on a couple of good and hardworking people in the group. 

That is not what I expect from my group. So I try to teach my group to work together. And trust me, that is really hard because you are trying to combine a bunch of minds asking them to reach a certain destination. Everyone wants to choose his own path. 

Most of my hardest moments as being a leader is when my group members do not do things right. It is hard to keep track of what everybody is doing every time. When I don’t know what someone is doing, it is hard for me to plan ahead. Trying to find out what is going on in the group and planning ahead is really challenging for me, especially when things do go as I had expected. Finding right people for the right work is a hard thing for me. However, I’m happy with my position because you have a chance to learn and interact with people. They report to you what is happening and they share their ideas with you which I believe is a great thing. Even though sometimes I feel like there is a big rock on my shoulder, that feeling disappears when I see my group members working.

A Great Respect for Religion

by Nicole Farrow

I’ve never been a religious person, nor have I ever had the desire to be religious. I believe that religion is like a paradox. I simply cannot bring myself to believe that Jesus treads water or that Job managed to endure all those cruel and horrendous trials and still keep his faith. Religion allows one to test the grounds of the spiritual and physical realms. However, if this theory is valid, why do so many people believe in it and base their lives around it? 

I’ve never had an interest in becoming religious, at least not until I visited Vatican City in Rome, Italy. It was overwhelming to experience the love and faith of all the followers in the church, and in a way I felt as though I belonged. The artwork and the beauty of the church made me feel guilty for not believing as devoutly as the pious followers believe. I felt serenity as I walked passed the ancient and historic artwork. I was able to just sit back and absorb the experience and reflect on where I am now and where I am going to be. As I looked around, I saw that people have found peace through religion, and I wondered whether I would be able to find that type of peace if I were religious. 

However, religion is only effective if the person is a true believer, and I am not. I don’t find many aspects of religion unbelievable, and I don’t agree with many of the implications of the Bible. There are too many references that degrade women and blacks, and this prevents me from deeply involving myself in it. People have a tendency to neglect that aspect of religion. Certain followers pick and choose which aspects they want to believe, and that is something that I am not able to do. I cannot neglect one part of something and then embrace the other. I am in no way shunning or demeaning religion anyway, and I have full respect for all people who practice Catholicism. I am just stating the reasons why I personally cannot practice Catholicism. 

However, I must admit that Vatican City did allow me to understand why people believe and why people are so adamant about their religion. Vatican City really opened my eyes and allowed me to explore an aspect of life that I had never explored before. I confronted many of questions, and problems and I realized the power and the influence of religion. I¹m not saying that from now on I¹m going to go to church every Sunday, or even go to church at all, but I¹m definitely going to have a greater respect for Catholicism and for those who practice it.