Media Manipulation of King

By Kerly Suffren and Alexander Jackson
Photos by Peterson Mettellus

(Feb 2000) Martin Luther King Jr high school has been the focus of the media. Many of the school’s students were upset about this representation. “They blew this whole thing out of proportion,” said Luis Frazier, a sophomore student at Martin Luther King.

We learned the media slanted its reporting. HarlemLive found out through many interviews the real facts and how the conflicts went down. 

Three episodes happened in recent weeks. One was a fire in the auditorium that was caused by an electrical malfunction. Another was based on a somewhat explicit article read by a young student. However this article had been read for several years without incident or attention. Finally, the incident that drew most of the media’s attention was a sexual act in one of the school’s bathrooms involving three girls and four guys. This was reported to be gang related. In fact, although there was a self described gang member present, the ‘event’ was not in any way gang related.

Natasha Bartlett, a junior, said “I feel … the media is … doing a very bad job … They are portraying our school to be worse than it really is. When they come to interview people, they don’t interview the people who know about the school . They interview the freshmen and the people that don’t really know [what’s happening].” Natasha said she has always felt safe at King. Many students echoed these thoughts saying they also felt safe. 

“The things the public hears in the news, we do not experience that at all in school. There aren’t any gangs members roaming the school like the media said. In fact, many of us are unaware of gangs being in our school. This school is a perfectly safe place although some things did happen [recently].” The media shouldn’t judge our school based on a few incidents,” said Alexander Jackson.

As a student of King, I notice the media never talks about the academic achievement at King. The incidents could have happened in any other school. Despite those incidents, many of us feel that our high school is a wonderful place to be. We have terrific teachers and school safety officers who are dedicated to giving us the best education and security possible. We consider our school to be a community, a family, and a diverse cultural environment. Many of the students in the school know each other and we interact positively on a daily basis. The students, despite the put-downs, should not feel uncomfortable to let the world know that we attend MLK.

But the media’s representation of our school does affect us. Many of us hate the thought that our high school is considered one of the worst when, really, that’s not the case. If no one is bothering you, then there’s nothing to worry about. “They say that 213 incidents occurred in the school last year. I’ve been in here for 3 years and that information seems incorrect,” said Mercedes Morgan, a junior.

By the media saying that the incident that occurred in the bathroom was gang related only brings more pressure on us, and more police officers have been stationed at King. The press often makes a big deal about little things that happen. When a fire broke out in the auditorium recently, the next day’s New York Post had a headline, “Horror High School.” That is ridiculous. 

“It was very unfortunate what happened, but the main concern is for the school to be safe and for my students [to be able to] learn. It is the job of the administration to provide a safe environment for the safety of students and teachers. I became a teacher to provide those needs and I’ll do my best 100% to do so,” said my gym teacher Mr. Marini.

Believe it or not the media does affect us and the way people think about our school. It’s unfair to us and to the teachers that work so hard. Read Peterson’s own thoughts on the Media Hype

Editor’s note: Although MLK high school is located at Amsterdam and 66 St , in Manhattan (not physically in Harlem) most of its students are Harlem residents.

Sports as an Outlet

by Alicia Crosby

Starting out in a new school could be a trying experience for anyone. People usually find one outlet or another to help them adjust to the transition. When I started out at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services (H.P.H.S.), that outlet was sports. At my school, like many others, the athletic program is one of the first things you hear about when you enter high school. Deciding to play sports was probably one of the smartest decisions that I ever made. Not only am I doing something that may help me in the future, specifically college, I was able to meet people that I might not have otherwise, including two of my best friends (also Lady Vipers).

Now participating in the athletic program at Health Professions is not all about fraternizing. Much is expected on your behalf. In addition to conducting in a manner that is considered becoming for a student-athlete, you must remember that is just what you are, a student-athlete. Your grades come before anything else. You could be looked upon as the next Allen Iverson, Barry Bonds or Sheryl Swoops. Yet, if your academics aren’t in order, you won’t even get the chance to warm the bench. When you are on the team and your grades drop, I can assure you that you will be severely reprimanded by your coach. I had to find this out the hard way. Don’t get me wrong, even though you will receive a stern talking to by your coach, they are incredibly supportive. I know my basketball coach (who serves as the athletic director at my school), Mr. Benerofe, is the first person to come to your aid if you need help with schoolwork. In my opinion he’s the best coach anyone could ask for, he’s there for us whenever we need him. Conduct, a major factor in the profile of a student-athlete at H.P.H.S, is also important. If you are unable to uphold yourself in a way that is suitable for a Viper/ Lady Viper, “riding the pine” may not even be an option for you.

Whether you decide to play volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball, softball or run track, you should make sure that you have your priorities in check when looking to become a Viper. An extraordinary amount of time and dedication is involved. Sometimes it means giving up weekends and vacations to practice if necessary. But trust me its worth it. If you’re willing to devote yourself to the game and all of the sacrifices and responsibilities that are associated with it, grades and such, then the athletic program at H.P.H.S may be for you. If not, then I would suggest another activity but due to the lack of student activities at Health your other options are student government, school leadership team and a few scattered undertakings which all have high requirements.

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: 

Description of the 10 Rikers Island Jails

Creative Kids Publishes The Franconian

Introducing The Franconian, produced by HarlemLIVE

Where did we get the name? Franconia, a place in Germany, is etched in stone over the doorway. It is currently hidden by scaffolding.  We made it a noun by adding an ’n’. However, we’re open to a name change based on feedback.  Many of the area’s pre-war buildings have names. Take a look. 

Creative Kids of HarlemLIVEbegan with the help of a former school teacher and youth living in our building, 19 – 25  St Nicholas 

This is a trial run of our newsletter. We’re welcoming anyone  to contribute to this occasional publication produced by the building’s youth.

Feel free to suggest or offer any stories. recipes, poems, artwork, adventures, for future issues

Suggestions can be directed to Djeneba Ballo of the 5th Floor or Abdoulaye and Muhammed Diop of the 3rd floor.

Creative Kids

Editor: Djeneba Ballo

Contributors: Abdoulaye and Muhammed Diop and Mamady, Mawa, and Aboulaye Ballo.

What’s Up with the Cat Downstairs?

In spring 2013, an outgoing tenant abandoned a female kitten to the basement. For many weeks, it hid in the shadows. Then she timidly befriended the super and other tenants.  Not long after that, a large grey alley cat made friends with her, too, and by summer’s end, she was a very young mother.

After successfully nursing three females and one male for two months with the help of the super and tenants, the mother was taken to get her shots and spayed.  

Attention was given to make sure the kittens were people friendly. The super’s daughter and a former tenant each adopted one of the females, while the other two found homes with the help of a posting on the website, Craigslist.   

 The proud mother cat now patrols her territory, greeting those doing laundry and doing her part in keeping mice away. The occurrence of mice dropped dramatically once she took up residence downstairs 2 ½ years ago. 

Feel free to say hi. She’s very friendly. She was never given a name. Try “Here Kitty, Kitty.” 

Scaffolding, Fresh Paint, New Store Front

2015 – A change in the building’s management over a year ago brought about several developments. Scaffolding was put up last fall. Many apartments changed hands. The halls went from white and green to shades of brown and beige around Labor Day. What looks like a fancy coffee shop in the corner store front, is actually a real estate broker. The hair salon is gone.

Ballo Family’s West African Summer

by Djeneba and Mamady Ballo

 This summer, we went with our mother and older sister, Mawa, to the west African country, Cote D’Ivoire. Our parents were born and raised there. 

On our way to Cote D‘Ivoire , we were so nervous. I, Djeneba hadn’t been there for 13 years. I kept asking myself if my relatives would remember me and if they would like me. 

Once we got there it was a total shock, We were expecting there to be no supermarkets, that we’d be staying in an apartment, and to only have outdoor showers. Instead we stayed in a beautiful house that had a shower, supermarkets, and much more.  

What really shocked us was the cultural differences and how, wherever we went, people treated us like we always lived there. Even if they did not know you, they were willing to help you.

We learned a lot about the government and the school systems.  

This trip was fun. We got to know more about our family, and met some we never knew. The Ivory Coast is a very special place to us. The stereotype that all the people are poor is not true. 

Overall we had an amazing time learning and understanding the world better.