Vaccination Misinformation: Making an informed decision on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the start of COVID-19’s reign of terror in the U.S. there has been controversy regarding the best course of action to address the illness and eradicate it from the country. The response of some was to protest mask mandates and stay at home orders while others stocked food and toilet paper in preparation for plenty of time indoors.

As the dangers of the virus became more apparent, early testing and development began for a vaccine. Once again opposing sides emerged: some rejecting the idea of using such a novel medication, and others who celebrated, searching for the first appointment they could find. The U.S. has now reached a stage in vaccine distribution where appointments can be made for all persons 16 and older, not only those suffering from chronic illnesses or in essential job fields. With newfound accessibility comes the question if one really should utilize this immunization or not.

What seems to be most concerning for many of those questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine is how quickly it was created when other vaccines and medications can traditionally take years to manufacture. It is true that this vaccine was developed quickly, but this is not at all a testament product’s reliability. When an event like a pandemic occurs, searching for a solution becomes essential. Paperwork and funding for research was fast-tracked for the COVID-19 vaccine due to the emergent nature of the situation, greatly speeding up the entire process; however, rigorous testing and clinical trials of the vaccine were not neglected in the slightest.

Side effects of the vaccine are still being closely monitored as vaccine distribution continues. As one may have seen in the news, six recent recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine developed blood clots as a side effect, killing one woman. This news was frightening, and the FDA immediately halted the use of this brand.  Nevertheless, it is important to note that these six cases emerged out of a pool of 6.8 million recipients of the same vaccine, making this side effect apparent less than 0.00009% of the time. The FDA was able to acknowledge this fact, review the side effects once more, and weigh the risk against the benefits for this vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson brand has since been reapproved for distribution.

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, such as a lack of effective indepth research conducted in the development stage, or common and dire side effects of the shot, or even that the vaccine itself could contain a microchip. In a time like this it is very important to your own research to make an informed decision. The Mayo Clinic is a great resource with a straightforward fact sheet about the vaccine. Here you can find plenty of information about each kind of vaccine, including how each works once inside the body. The CDC also houses plenty of information about vaccine clinical trials and safety.

After conducting my own research of the new vaccines I have decided to be vaccinated. I trust the recommendations of many doctors and researchers that this vaccine is safe and effective and will protect me and those around me from the continued spread of COVID-19.

Visit the PA and CDC official websites to start your own research and/or make an appointment.

Sources: cdc.gov, pa.gov

An Open Letter to Lil Nas X: A reflection on how the artist’s new song and music video is affecting queer communities.

Congratulations to you! I’m so glad to see your new song doing so well. Of course, we both know not everyone is as excited. It’s nice to see that you remain unbothered by the backlash, and can simply enjoy the art you’ve created.

I must admit, if Satan shoes or your music video had been released a few years ago, I would’ve been more than a little wary. I’m sure my high school would have even put together some kind of lecture addressing the impurity and danger of it all.

Like you, I grew up in the church, and in the closet. I was good at being a Christian too. I was even a school chaplain and worship leader for a while. And yet, where my friends could talk with me about difficulties in their faith, I knew if I shared how I struggled the response would be different.

During this time in my life, I sought help from a teacher at school. He became a mentor of mine, and in little to no time I was spending lunch periods with him to study how to stop my feelings of “same sex attraction”. This same man would shortly become the very man to tell me if I died any time soon I was probably not going to Heaven.

I’ve separated myself from the Christian faith at this point, but not before I had developed an incapacitating fear of Hell.

The work that you are doing through your music and platform is so important, and it’s obvious that you are aware of this. You know just how common it is for queer people of all ages to battle with this fear of God and damnation, and you found a way to change the narrative.

Your reclaiming of Hell is perceived by so many Christians as a testament to the dangerous and wicked lifestyle that comes along with queerness. However, your video has shown me the power that grows from accepting and loving who you are.

In a less than three minute video, you’ve made a powerful statement. Rejecting the paradise that is held over the heads of too many struggling queer folks is a reminder that shame is not the only option. Happiness, confidence, and fulfillment is attainable when we recognize that queerness is not a mistake,
is not dirty or shameful, and does not have to be dictated by those who find it to be such.

Thank you for using your voice to encourage our community in a real and necessary way.

An ‘Epidemic of Violence’: Trans women are violated at an alarming rate in Philadelphia and across the nation.

Early Saturday, March 20th a few Philadelphia police officers responded to reports of a fight. Upon their arrival a bloodied woman in ripped clothes fell at their feet. This woman had been victimized with attempted sexual assault and multiple stab wounds. She was brought to the hospital sustaining these critical injuries.

Trans women in Philadelphia are suffering an “epidemic of violence,” according to authorities. This statement was made after the events that occurred September of last year when a 29-year-old Black trans woman named Mia Green was found shot in the neck. Her body was found in the passenger seat of her alleged killer’s vehicle when he was stopped for driving through a stop sign. The police escorted the driver to the hospital where Green was pronounced dead.

Months before these events, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, another trans woman of color, was murdered. Her body was found dismembered in the Schuylkill River. Both State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta and Mayor Kenney recognized Rem’mie’s death for the tragedy it was, while many others of the city took to the streets to protest anti-LGBTQIA+ violence.

This violence seen in Philadelphia is the same violence that many trans people face every day across the nation. Specifically trans people of color are one of the most discriminated against groups in the country. In the U.S., Black transgender people have been recorded with an extremely high unemployment rate of 26%. This percentage is two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population. Additionally, 41% of Black trans respondents of the same study said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives; more than five times the rate of the general U.S. population. Startlingly, 49% of all Black trans respondents had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

Statistics such as these reveal exactly what has been recognized recently in Philadelphia: trans people are dying at an alarming rate. Trans women of color are especially vulnerable, as statistics show they have an average life expectancy of 30-35 years. All trans people are withheld opportunities and necessities in most spaces. Hate crimes against transgender people are some of the most common kinds of these crimes, but are also some of the least visible in the media.

Many Philadelphians have been encouraged to see city authorities, as well as leadership such as Mayor Kenney, speak out against this epidemic of anti-trans violence. However, it is likely that Philadelphia and the nation will continue to mourn the tragic deaths of their trans community members unless a real effort is made to protect and value trans lives.

To support trans women in Philadelphia visit the Trans Justice Funding Project online at transjusticefundingproject.org.

Sources: NBC, NBC Philadelphia, Philly Voice

She Believes: Inspiring change in the women’s sports realm.

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has been making headlines for years now. In 2015, besides already accruing four Olympic gold medals, they became the first women’s team to win three separate World Cup Championships in 1991, 1999, and 2015. Four years later the USWNT beat their own record with a fourth championship title win against the Netherlands.

Still, beyond the record breaking, some of those on the USWNT additionally hoped to break a few glass ceilings around the same time. In 2015 the USWNT player’s association and the U.S. Soccer Federation had a legal dispute over the team’s contracts; perhaps jump-starting the following years of lawsuits.

In 2016 a group of prominent players, including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Becky Sauerbrunn, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the USSF for unequal pay and treatment compared to that offered to the national men’s team. USSF responded to this complaint by claiming support for the women’s team, and that the discrepancies in team salaries were due to pay structure rather than preferential treatment.

Due to unsatisfying responses such as these the Equal Pay lawsuit is still in progress today. While progress has majorly slowed in response to
the COVID-19 pandemic, support for the player’s association has only grown. At this point nearly 30 players have come together in efforts to reveal the institutionalized gender discrimination going on within the USSF.

Meanwhile, the federation began to change their narrative as the trials went on. Where they originally claimed support for the women’s team, stating only pay structure to blame, comments have since been made describing how men’s and women’s soccer require different skill sets and abilities. Currently, the USSF continues to use the defense that men are simply stronger and faster than women, making them better soccer players. Interestingly enough the U.S. national soccer teams themselves are very obviously not exemplary of this argument as the USMNT holds zero championship titles compared to the USWNT’s four.

The Equal Pay lawsuit remains an inspiring conflict currently within the U.S. soccer world. Overall the primary message of the women on this team is that women are no less capable than men in any capacity, and thus if successful in their arenas, should be paid accordingly. This is a strong, solid message for the USWNT fan base, which is understandably largely populated by young girls.

Alongside the legal efforts, the USWNT has also begun annually hosting the SheBelieves Cup – a tournament dedicated to encouraging young girls to strive for greatness. Since its inception in 2017 the USWNT has won this tournament three times.

Ultimately, the U.S. Women’s National Team has proven itself to be an exemplary team regardless of gender, and has additionally recognized their responsibility to use their success in a way that will better the experience of those strong women to come.

Sources: ESPN, SB Nation, USSoccer

Image Description: Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn sport their “Equal Play Equal Pay” shirts.

Trans Womanhood: Ballroom culture, motherhood, and honor in film.

In 2018 tv producer Ryan Murphy, the man who brought us “Glee” and “American Horror Story”, set out to tell a different kind of narrative than one might have expected. The show “POSE” was created to explore the vibrant history of queer people of color in New York City during the 80’s. This show faces head-0n the struggles of trans women of color, as well as the legacy and culture of the queer ballroom scene, but most importantly shows how womanhood cannot be strictly defined by society. The trans women in this show exemplify how sisterhood, motherhood, and womanhood can be embodied, no matter how one’s culture may try to exclude her.

After the Stonewall Riots in the late 60’s, a protest lead by trans women, ballroom culture grew even greater among queer people of color. Where ballroom had originally been established by white gay men, and excluded most others in the queer community, Black queens created their own ballroom culture that became a home for all identities. They were set up to be inclusive, safe spaces for all involved.

“POSE” is able to show this history and impact through the story of Blanca Evangelista, a trans woman who starts her journey as a house mother. House mothers were women of the ballroom scene who would house, feed, and care for some of the younger participants who might have run away from or been kicked out of their biological homes. Played by trans star, MJ Rodriguez, Blanca is a strong, powerful, protective mother. She keeps her children in line and encourages them towards success along the way. Blanca is a true example of a mother, and not simply within the ballroom.

Since the beginning of history, trans women have been neglected as sisters, mothers, and women. “POSE” should stand as an example of how trans women truly need to be recognized. Blanca and the women she is surrounded by each exemplify womanhood at its core. This women’s history month it is vital to recognize all the women who have continuously been excluded from this honor.

Image description: Blanca Evangelista, played by trans actress MJ Rodriguez, embodies motherhood and femininity in the show “Pose”.

Halftime Show History Crossword

Across:
2. Who performed the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show?
6. Which performer in 2004 suffered one of the most famous wardrobe malfunctions ever?
9. Which artist was asked if they were okay to perform in the rain, and replied, “Can you make it rain harder?”
10. Which member of the Beatles headlined the halftime show in 2005?
11. Which leading man paid tribute with his band to those lost on 9/11 during their halftime performance?
12. Which jazz legend performed in an Indiana Jones themed halftime show?

Down:
1. Which artist arguably changed the culture of all following halftime shows in 1993?
3. Who holds the record for most viewers during their halftime performance?
4. Who ziplined into the stadium for their 2017 halftime performance?
5. What kinds of musicians were originally recruited to perform the halftime show before celebrity artists were sought out?
7. Who made their second appearance as a halftime performer alongside Bruno Mars and Coldplay?
8. Who was the first artist to appear at the halftime show on three separate occasions?

Find answers at https://crosswordlabs.com/view/halftime-show-history

 

The Art of Horror Film: A look into the art of everything frightening.

When I was little, my mom and I would frequently visit a local bookstore whenever she dragged me along on her errands. I remember this store fondly, and how I would always pick out my books quickly in order to have enough time to run to the back and peek at the Stephen King novels I would never be allowed to take home. Remembering these trips reminds me of how early I was drawn to the horror genre. But why?

This was never a question I was able to answer when my parents tried to keep me from watching the scary movies I wanted to watch. What is it about the horror genre that is so intriguing to me, and why is it so intensely avoided by others? While accepting that some people simply have different tastes in the media they consume, I’ve also come to the understanding that not everyone sees the beauty in creating horror.

From my perspective, the art of horror is in the details. Horror films specifically have an ability to create hidden story lines amidst the thrill and mystery of the main attractions. Director Stanley Kubrick is known for intertwining these kinds of details in his works. The 1980 film depiction of Stephen King’s, “The Shining,” is an infamous example of this.

Though author, King, and director, Kubrick, did not exactly agree on the film’s adaptation, it is no secret that both the novel and movie are classics within their respective horror realms. Kubrick set the standard for future horror films with this work, partially due to his attention to detail throughout the full two hours and 26 minutes.

From set design, to camera angles, to sound production, to countless takes of each individual scene, Kubrick aimed to shock with every element. He took his time to create his vision, and he succeeded. This kind of passion has been noted and praised by fans for decades because ultimately it does justice to the horror world.

Too many horror films grasp at simple tropes and sloppy gore to achieve shock factor without really focusing on the duty of creating a genuinely well rounded horror film. While this leaves room for incredible successes to break new ground – as seen from the recent horror director mastermind, Jordan Peele (“Get Out,” “Us”), and complete genre bending genius, Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite,” “Snowpiercer”) – it also creates a genre that can be easily devalued.

My hope is that the horror genre will continue to develop artistically to reveal the true nature of these works and the incredible detail needed to sustain them, and that the appreciation and accolades of horror as a whole will spread to new audiences.

A Love Letter to my Sunshine: Web editor SJ Wise writes a love letter to their long time love.

Hi Sunshine,

Just over two years ago I first saw you sitting two desks away from me in class. I was mesmerized by you. I couldn’t help being distracted by you; your beauty, your thoughts, your laugh. I knew nothing about you, not even your name, and I was amazed by you.

My friend would make jokes during class just to get you to look our way and make me flustered. He did a good job at embarrassing me in front of you. Some might think he did too good a job, seeing as I avoided you for most of the following semester.

Regardless of my efforts to crush from a distance, I couldn’t help myself when I learned you might’ve felt similarly. I felt like the luckiest person alive. I’ve felt that way ever since.
Two years later, and I get to spend nearly every day with you. What a dream! From road trips, to beach trips, from quarantines, to state park adventuring, every moment I’ve spent with you has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.

This Valentine’s day I am looking forward to celebrating you, and us, and the love and joy and memories we’ve gotten to share. I’m glad there is a holiday that allows me to fully express the depth of my love for you without looking like a crazy person.

Thank you for being the incredible person you are. Thank you for loving and supporting me in all the ways you do. Thank you for being the girl of my dreams and the love of my life. I cannot wait to spend all my Valentine’s Days with you.

All my love, S

Nationwide Vaccination Efforts and the Philly Fighting Covid Scandal

The COVID-19 virus first made its debut on U.S. soil just about a year ago. As this anniversary passes, the U.S. finds itself in the early stages of vaccine deployment and administration. While vaccination efforts around the world have been met with difficulties, the U.S. has been uniquely disorganized in its vaccination process.

NBC reports that the U.S. vaccination rollout process has been specifically affected by the nation’s non-centralized healthcare system, as well as the early disbanding of the National Security Council for global health and discharging top biosecurity advisors under President Trump. Vaccines arrived in the U.S. quickly during the last months of Trump’s administration, yet this lack of preparation hindered their distribution.

The recent inauguration of President Joe Biden came with claims of a more effective federal rollout strategy, but few noteworthy changes have been seen thus far. As of January 31, all 50 states are reporting shortages of the vaccine to the degree that states are found competing with one another to receive the supplies they lack.

The Philadelphia area has seen its own difficulties with vaccine administration. An organization called Philly Fighting Covid (PFC) was created by a number of graduate students in the Philadelphia area, led by Andrei Doroshin – a 22 year old student with no background in healthcare. This non-profit was able to gain more traction than some previously established groups such as the Black Doctors Covid-19 Consortium, which have been successfully conducting outreach to marginalized communities for months prior.

Months before vaccines were available to the U.S., Doroshin shared his plans for a Philadelphia vaccination center capable of vaccinating up to 1.5 million people. These in-depth and far-reaching plans presented by PFC gained traction well before the organization was established. Hopes were high for this burgeoning non-profit’s potential; high enough that PFC was granted part of the city’s vaccine allotment.

Upon opening the facility for vaccination, Doroshin revamped PFC into a for-profit business called Vax Populi. From this point on it became apparent that the organization’s plans were not as achievable, or even as organized, as Doroshin originally presented them to be. Most notably, the organization was found to be turning away numerous patients with confirmed vaccination appointments for seemingly no reason. In addition to these negligent operations, Doroshin was seen taking vaccines from the facility and putting them in his personal bag to vaccinate friends and family.

Doroshin additionally failed to fulfill numerous promises he had made to other organizations and Mayor Kenney. Kenney was hopeful for PFC to aid in equitable practices of vaccine distribution. Previously Philadelphia recorded only 12% of those vaccinated were Black, despite having a 44% Black population. Doroshin withdrew testing sites with numerous POC led organizations, and failed to provide the proper patient demographic data as requested by Mayor Kenney due to an alleged computer glitch.

Philadelphia’s disorganization in vaccine distribution is deeply reflective of the struggles occurring nationwide.

Delaware County, PA vaccinations are currently available for healthcare professionals and those with medical conditions as listed in the phase 1A group. Unfortunately, students will not be eligible for vaccination until a later phase.

Sources: NBC, NPR

Nationwide Protests Continue Amid Breonna Taylor Case Ruling

On Wednesday, September 23, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron released the ruling on 26 year old Breonna Taylor’s murder. Cameron claimed that after thorough investigation, one of the three involved officers, Brett Hankison, will be facing three counts of wanton endangerment of the first degree. This indictment was given six months following the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. 

This ruling neglects to include officers Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove who both shot into Breonna Taylor’s apartment alongside Hankison. Additionally, while Hankison was removed from the Louisville police department in June, Mattingly and Cosgrove remain on the force.

First-degree wanton endangerment is considered a Class D felony, punishable with fines of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison. This charge is comparable to pointing a gun at someone or receiving a DUI. The charge fails to include any punishment for the killing of Breonna Taylor, and as many have observed, appears to be in response only to the danger her neighbors were placed in when the shooting occurred. If found guilty for all three charges, Hankison faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Cameron’s statement around 1:00pm was immediately received with intense backlash from the Louisville, Kentucky community. Protests broke out in direct response to the ruling by 2:00pm and continued into the night even after police confrontation. 

Hankison was released from jail on the 23rd after posting a $15,000 bail. Comparatively, as protests have continued across the country multiple participants in Lancaster, PA have been arrested and given a set bail of $1,000,000.

Protests for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement have been going on around the globe since May, originally in response to the murder of 46 year old George Floyd. These protests quickly became headline news as rioting and looting broke out in many locations. Even as coverage of the ongoing demonstrations has become less prominent, the protests and controversy surrounding them continue.

The majority of these nationwide protests have become entirely peaceful; however, police involvement has led to a series of violent outcomes. Video footage from protesters show the use of tear gas, and rubber bullets at dangerously close range. On numerous occasions police have attempted to disperse crowds by driving their cars through the crowded streets.

The efforts of the police have led to the retaliation of protesters as well. Many officers have reported rocks, bricks, and tear gas canisters being thrown back at them. On Thursday in Louisville, KY two officers were shot at the protests responding to Attorney General Cameron’s charges for the Taylor case.

Along with protesters and heavy police presence, counter protesters have also come together in response to the BLM movement. This has resulted in an insurgence of white supremacist groups among these counter protesters.

Protests in Philadelphia were well-attended, spreading a strong message of solidarity and support of the national conversation on Black Lives Matter, as well as advocating for justice in their own city. A protest in June ended with a 6:30pm curfew and extreme force from the police. Multiple protesters were arrested for blocking Vine Street Expressway. In addition, some participants returning to their homes in Fishtown found a group of white supremacists wielding baseball bats and threatening physical injury. Philadelphia police officers who were present did not attempt to remove this group. 

Protests have since continued in Philadelphia to this past weekend, showing unwavering commitment to the cause. There is expected to be a resurgence of protests upon the charging of Mattingly in the Breonna Taylor case. The protests this weekend are specifically focused on justice for Breonna Taylor, while adding to the list of injustices protested in this summer’s resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.