Kwami Coleman

Reporter / Writer

(2001) Hey, my name is Kwami Coleman. I’m a Harlem native and presently a senior at LaGuardia High School for Music, Art and the Performing Arts as an instrumental music major, studying piano. I’m one of the two pianists for the senior jazz band at school. Outside of school, I enjoy reading various works of literature and writing various styles of work. Even more so, I enjoy listening a vast array of musical types. Other than all that, I just like havin’ a good time, with friends or just lounging by myself. I hope to contribute my background in music as well as a different voice from the Harlem community.

Seul Shakee

My name is Seul Shahkee. It means the only peaceful warrior. Originally from da DR but grew up in east Brooklyn.  I am a very athletic person. I play Bball like almost everyday. And swim as much as I can. I like to do a lot of stuff for fun! Besides sports, I like to go to the movies. Go bike riding or just chill and wild out. In some of my free and bored time, I like to go on the net and chat wit my peepz.  “Life iz CrAzY”  I have a very complex personality. I am not afraid to try out anything new. I may hesitate a little, but I am definitely not afraid! I am very friendly, . I like all types of music especially Rap, Hip-Hop and R&B. I always keep an open mind at all times. I have my good qualities and bad ones. Sometimes I act crazy, sometimes I am calm and quiet. But, at anytime you catch me, I am always fun to be with. Want to find out more about SkillZ or maybe just holla back and Spread sum luv? You can holla at me on AOL/AIM. My Screen Name is DangSkillZ

Nkrumah Tinsley

Hi my name is Nkrumah Tinsley; I’m from Harlem, New York. I’m not really sure what I want to say so I’ll just tell ya the basics. I was born 04-05-82 in the middle of a snowstorm. My hobbies are sports, music, and computers. Even though I’m pretty lazy, I like to move around a lot. That’s part of the reason why whenever I go looking for a job I always try to get one where I’ll be mobile; even if I’m moving boxes, at least I’m not confined to a cubicle. I also want to co-own if not own, a night club in New York City. Working at HarlemLive is just one way of me exploring my interests in life.

Fairusa Ibrahim

Reporter / Writer

Fairusa Ibrahim

(1997) Hi I’m Fairusa Ibrahim and I am a junior at George Washington High School. I was born in Accra the capital of Ghana. Ghana is a country in west Africa. It is always hot. Man, that sun use to be so hot over there I would feel like an egg frying in a pan. Ghana is a beautiful place to visit. You can dress anyway you want to depending on the weather conditions. My friend’s and I use to go to the beach to have fun. The water was clean and clear and the seafoods were fresh and affordable. Ghana is a country full of different ethnic groups and every ethnic group has a festival. I came to the United States a couple of years ago. My favorite sport is tennis. I am planning on going to college after I graduate from high school. I want to be either a pilot or a doctor. I recently joined HarlemLive and I am enjoying it. It is interesting and exciting. I am looking forward to working with the members and staff of HarlemLive. I encourage everybody to join.

Ajah Omari Smith

Reporter / Writer

Ajah Omari Smith

(2002) What’s up? My name is Ajah Omari Smith and I was born in 1984, in the U.S Virgin Islands (on island of St. Thomas). I moved to New York City with my mother and my sister. Growing up in a big city was a major adjustment for me coming from a much smaller place like St. Thomas. I am a very shy and quiet person, yet on some occasions I will not be shy and quiet, if I choose not to be. Otherwise as far as my personality goes, I am a nice person and friendly, to a certain extent. I am 5′ 7″ and I pl ay varsity basketball for my high school team, Central Park East Secondary School. I have been playing varsity basketball for my school since I was a freshman. I have been the point guard for most of the time but I am being turned into shooting guard because I have become a more effective scoring threat. Besides playing basketball in my spare time, I like to chill with my friends and play a variety of other sports. As far as my future goes I am almost done with high school and I plan to attend college and major in marine biology, (mainly because I was born on an island and I like the water and the things in it). Besides just being a regular college student I want to play basketball for the school that I attend. Hopefully after I get out of college I will get a job in Marine biology and from this I want to build a successful career as a Marine biologist.

Chris Kidd Johnson

Reporter / Writer

(2000) What’s up, my name is Chris Kidd – Johnson I was born and raised in Harlem. I attend Frederick Douglass Academy on 148th & 7th ave. When I grow up I hope to own my own business like my grandparents. Whatever I do in life I hope to enjoy it. I enjoy all kinds of sports such as basketball. Of course my favorite type of music is rap. I think the hottest rapper out right now is Jay-Z, no one else is on his level. But of course the greatest rappers of all time ares B.I.G and Tupac, may they both R.I.P. My major influences in life are my Mother and Father. They taught me just about everything I know in life. They have been there through thick and thin. May God bless and watch over my family and friends. Anything or anyone I left out, blame it on the head not the heart.

Death Was On Her Face

by Ismael Alverez

They say there are two things in life you cannot hide from, death and taxes. Well, I learned that death is a very real thing at a very early age. I grew up in Astoria, Queens, New York. I lived in the Queens Bridge and Ravenswood projects. To me it seemed like I was the only light skin Hispanic kid in an all black community. Like many kids I knew, I grew up without a father. Mommy was also dad. We were very poor. I lived with my mom and my two older sisters. When I was about six years old, my mother found out she had breast cancer. Through some time and with the proper treatment, the doctors removed the cancer and she was cured.

My mother, Noemi Colon was a fighter. She always did things just to make my sisters and I happy. She worked crazy hours to put food on the table and put my sisters and I through private school. When I was about ten years old, my mom called a big family meeting. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins were there. My mother announced that she got cancer again. I was young, so I really didn’t’t know what was going on at the time. I just knew that mommy had to go away to the hospital again.

My mother fought the disease, in and out of the hospital for many years. At thirteen, I knew what was happening to my mother. By this time, she was very sick. She had been in the hospital for a year straight. Death was on her face, but in my mind mommy would never die. She would always be there for me. I din’t’t go to the hospital to see her for some time. I could not bear to see my mom with tubes up her nose, not being able to talk. My older sister would go everyday. They would tell me that mom was asking for me and I would always say, “ I’ll go tomorrow.”

This one day I remember like it was yesterday. I was going to pick up my friend from school and on my way there I saw my sister Marina heading towards the train station. She told me “Izzy, I’m going to see mommy. She has been asking about you. You should come with me now to see her, plus it’s your turn to watch her.” Something inside me told me I should go, but instead, I told my sister I already had plans and that I promise I’d go the next day. That day I went out with my friends and got home late. As soon as I got home I went straight o bed. Around three or four in the morning my other sister Christina woke me up. 

When I woke up I saw Christina and a friend of the family in the living room where I always slept. Christina had tears in her eyes. He then said, “We have to go to the hospital. Mommy is dead.” I was half asleep, so I was like OK let’s go. I didn’t’t realize what was going on at that moment.

When I got to the hospital, we went straight to room 401. I walked in and I saw my family there around the bed. When they saw me, they all cleared away from the bed so I can see her. When I saw my mom motionless, that’s when it hit me. “Oh my God. My mom was dead.” 

They said I passed out, but I don’t remember that. I just remember going to the bed, kissing her, trying to wake her up, holding her, and touching her. Her body was warm, I remember, I cried and didn’t’t want to leave her.

The funeral was the next day. We had an open casket for two days. I didn’t’t cry at all at that time. The third day after her death, we buried her. I remember standing there at the ceremony not hearing a word the pastor was saying, just focusing on the casket and thinking of how things were going to be different. When they started to lower her body into the hole, that’s when I broke down. It was like my heart was being lowered with her. It was the worse feeling I ever had. My knees were weak,, I was tired and had my adrenaline rushing at the same time. Tears left my eyes like never before. I got a headache from so much crying. I should have gone that night to see mommy. I could have said good-bye, but I was selfish and didn’t.

After that day I grew emotionless to death. Nothing else mattered to me anymore. I saw people I loved die, but it did not affect me. My attitude now is that people come and people go. You just have to do what you have to do in order to make your time on Earth pleasant. 

Ismael Alvarez


(2004) Hello my name is Ismael (Izzy) Alvarez, also known as Da Prodigal. I live in Queens New York.. I’m half Puerto Rican and half Dominican, I guess that’s the best of both worlds. I like to spend a lot of time writing music and getting better at my MC skills. I’m also a family man. When everything fades away and your left alone all you have left is family. I’m 17 years. I was born January 31st,1985. I like to hang out with friends, play ball and regular stuff kids my age would do. I go to city-as-school. I grew up in a single parent home, like most people my father was not there. My mom passed away April 21st ,1998, I now live with friends of hers and been living there since she died. My plans for the future is to graduate high school and go to college, hopefully go into music production.

Coming To America

by Fairusa Ibrahim

When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to come to America. 

My parents and two siblings were already there. At first, I thought I would come sooner. My father was there before I was even born. I was thinking it’s going to be years before I get to America – the land of prosperity and possibilities. A land where every soul is dying to go. Yes, that land is America. 

My mother came to the U.S when I was six years old and returned to Ghana after two years then came back to the U.S. My father returned to Ghana from the U.S. when I was ten years old and took my oldest sister and brother. My other sister and I were left with curiosity. We were told that we would join the rest of the family very shortly. Very shortly to me was a month or so. I waited and waited but nobody came to get me. 

“Where is this land?” I asked myself. Why is it that everybody who came from that land looks fresh and nice? “Why do they smell like rich folks?” I asked. I would also go there one day and come back just like them. I began to develop so many questions in my head. What has happened to them? Are they still alive? Have they forgotten about us? I know my mother would not forget about me. But why hasn’t she come to get me?

I recall the day my mother went to the United States. I was six years old and didn’t know what was going on. I went to the airport and watched her board the airplane. I began to cry. I cried all week knowing I would not see my mother for a long while. At this thought I said to myself, “What is this thing named airplane? Why does it take my family away and not bring them back?” If I could only find a way to drive that airplane away, I would.I always thought America was up in the sky because the airplane goes up and doesn’t come back. I sat for years waiting for my family to come and take me wherever they were. 

Sometimes, when I was younger, I would look up at the sky and talk to it, thinking my parents were up there watching and listening to me. I used to get confused about one thing: If God is up there (as I was told) and my family is up there, then this means that my family is with God and I know that the only people with God are dead people. “My parents are not dead,” I said, “Then why are they with God?” These questions kept bothering me but I spoke nothing about them. 

After 3 years, I lost hope in coming to America. My hopes died and all I wanted was for my family to came and visit me. I missed my family and I wanted to see them so badly. When I was 14 years old, I was told that my mother was coming to visit us. I was so excited that I couldn’t eat for the whole day. I couldn’t wait for that day to come. I felt like turning the clock forward but I had to be patient and eventually the day came. 

My mother was exiting from the airplane but I didn’t know who she was. 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?”. Nobody paid any attention to me. They all ran to hug a woman who just came out of the arrivals.

I realized that woman was my mother. I also ran and hugged her. All I heard her saying was “Where is Fairusa? Where is my Fairusa?” I was in front of her but my mother didn’t recognize me either. Of course she would not recognize me. She left me when I was six and came back to see me when I was only 8 years old. I am now 14 years old. “I am Fairusa,” I said. She looked at me rigorously and said, “Oh my God, it is really you. You’ve grown up to be a beautiful young lady.” We spent quality times together and before she left , she said to my sister and I that we would be joining them soon. 

“How soon?” I asked because it was obvious that our parents’ meaning of soon was different from my meaning of soon. “In about a year,” she said. At that point I said to myself that I would never get to America. One year to me felt like ten years. 

City of Love

by Cameron Cook

Sometimes, you just need a change of mind. Change of scenery, people, mind-set. So, in 1992, my mother made a life-altering decision; it was time to move to a foreign country. The choice was relatively visceral; it would be St. Lucia, a small island in the West Indies. To move from my mother’s birthplace of Chicago, Illinois, we just threw a dart at a map (literally), sold all of our furniture to buy plane tickets, and left the country. My father had died when I was three years old, and my brother was one and a half in my hometown of Los Angeles, California; nothing was really binding us to the United States. 

Unfortunately, tropical promises of “Endless Summers” get old pretty fast, and before long France seemed like an interesting place to park our bohemian lifestyle for a while. I could go on for pages about my St. Lucian experiences, battling with oversized insects and eating enough chicken and rice for at least three lifetimes, but that is not the point of this piece. Another day perhaps. 

I first stepped foot on French soil in September 1995, in Nice. We had moved to a studio apartment for a few months in the near-by town of Cannes, where my aunt lived. She and my cousin were the only French people I knew at the time. 

Quasi-immediately, I was submerged into a totally different way of life: I turned on the TV, and didn’t understand a damn word, went to the shopping center, didn’t understand a damn word. It wasn’t only the language… I was perplexed by the average Frenchman’s in-born power to be constantly blasé; the slightest bump in the road of their carefully mapped out existence, and I thought they would spontaneously combust with anger. The food also, was quite a challenge (even though, I must say that escargot has become one of my favorite dishes). You know that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta tells Samuel L. Jackson about his recent trip to Europe? Well, you actually can buy wine and beer at Mc Donald’s, and a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese is a “Royal with Cheese”. 

Want to know more about France? Check out the French Information Center

School was also a big huddle to over-come, of course. Since I hardly spoke a word of French upon my arrival, I had to repeat the 5th grade, an experience that proved itself highly positive, yet humbling, in a certain way, being a year older than everyone, on top of not speaking their language. But I learn quickly, thankfully, and graduated elementary school that summer with a somewhat perfect knowledge of the French language. 

I spent five long, border lining tedious years in Cannes. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a seventy-year-old retired shoe salesman, it’s probably the happening place to spend your twilight years, but as a young teenager, complete with puberty-caused insecurities and raging hormones, Cannes, with its Mediterranean way of life, inexistent night-life, two movie theaters, three record stores, one concert hall and Beverly Hills 90210 teen mentality, sheer boredom not fitting in were huge issues for me and my little circle of friends. Was it due to the very widespread French elitism, or just the same senseless drudge that every young person goes through during those delicate years? Maybe I’ll never know.

So, after Cannes lost its charm, my family and I headed north, to the flourishing capital of Paris. As soon as I stepped out of the cramped, red, typically French four seated car (did I mention we drove eight hours across country, four people and a cat? Thank God for Discmans…) I knew I had found my element. Paris is one of the most astonishing cities on the planet: the convenience of a big metropolitan, yet it still manages to preserve a little bit of quaintness. First of all, the city is among the most beautiful in Europe, if not in the world (try walking along the Seine at night, watching the bateaux-mouches go by) and little by little, Paris’ beauty can’t help but to rub off on you… soon, you find yourself prancing about Les Champs Elysees, the town’s grandest boulevard, just for the hell of it; walking around The Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero neighborhood that surrounds it, checking out parks and art houses; spending literally entire days at Beaubourg, my personal favorite place in Paris, buying postcards of your favorite photographers (in my case, Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe) and hanging around the museum there (I once spent five hours in an exposition on Surrealism, one of my favorite modern art movements). School was still somewhat of an issue, even though, as the French school system requires of every student, I had chosen a major in the 10th grade (you have the option of either Literature and Arts-what I took, obviously- Science and Economy) and my class was full of what I considered “my” people: the punks, the Goths, the rejects. The last years of high school are especially difficult in France; the work level is equivalent to that of a college sophomore in the USA. But I had found an environment that I could call my own, far away from the preppy, selfish mindset of Cannes. The work was hard, but the play made it all worthwhile.

Alas, my time in Paris was shorter than I would have liked: only two years, from 2000 to this summer, July 2002. Even though I now live in NYC, but sometimes I get a little homesick. Yes, even though I am an American citizen, I consider France the closest thing to a homeland that I have had the pleasure to experience. I plan to go back there soon, maybe have an apartment in Paris, live there for a while. As the French say on July 14th, their independence day, my independence day, in a way, Vive la France!

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