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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Spark Science Program at Brown University

A lot of us say we want to be doctors or lawyers or businesspeople, but we really have no idea what steps and hard work are actually involved in becoming those professionals. For example, I sometimes think I would like to be a doctor, especially one who deals with tropical diseases. But, prior to going to the SPARK Program this summer at Brown University, I have to say I knew next to nothing about what body of knowledge a doctor might have to master nor did I know any basic human anatomy.

Spark is a summer science program for middle school students. This program is run by and hosted at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Spark is designed for students who love science and want the challenge of exploring one scientific concept in a rigorous, but noncompetitive environment. Each student takes one course for one week. I took Understanding the Human Body; An Exploration of Anatomy. I dissected a sheep’s heart and brain, a chicken’s wing and the body of a cat. From the photographs, you can see me and my friends are having a blast.

Other courses one can take are Forces of Nature: Hurricanes, Global Warming, and the Science of Weather, Hello from Mars , Species Survival Plan: The Fight to Save the American Burying Beetle, From Brain to Sensation, The Laboratory Detective, Designing Mobile Machines: Robot Rover Derby, Nanotechnology: The Small Wonder from Atom to Space, So You Want to be a Scientist? and Where Rivers Meet the Sea: Ecology of Narragansett Bay .
To learn more about the Spark Program at Brown University ,visit its website

Sunday, August 23, 2009

National Liberty Museum's Young Heroes Award-2009

By Sojourner Ahebee

In the National Liberty Museum, there is this incredible piece of glass sculpture called The Flame of Liberty created by Dale Chihuly . It stands 20-feet tall and it soars, with its orange-red appendages ,through the museum seemingly spreading the important message of the National Liberty Museum-that liberty is beautiful and fragile and that people of all ages must work together to create and maintain something as gorgeous and affirming as peace and liberty.

Too few adults, organizations and businesses recognize the amazing work young people are doing to improve their communities. This cannot be said of the National Liberty Museum. For the past nine years, it has presented the Annual Heroes Award to young people who have according to the museum staff “reached beyond themselves with compassion, commitment and service. Qualifying achievements include volunteer work, civic involvement, promoting appreciation for diversity, conflict resolution, mentoring and other leadership roles.”

On Auguste 13, 2009, 26 young people, ages 11-18, were honored to receive the National Liberty Museum’s Young Heroes Award. This year I was included in this number because of what I seek to do with this blog; that is to inform young people about great opportunities and to share ideas. I was also honored for the greeting cards I make to inform my community about the accomplishments of other phenomenal people.

But that afternoon was amazing for me not because I was one of the honorees, selected from hundreds of applicants, but because I was in the company of so many young people striving to make their communities safer, healthier and more informed about various local and world issues.

Some of the honorees raised thousands of dollars for various health projects that support those challenged by breast cancer and epilepsy. Others raised awareness in their community about such issues as the genocide in Darfur. Others tutored, feed the hungry, did peer mediation to name a few things. Though we were all winners, one of the 26 honorees, Van Morn, was recognized for his exceptional work. To read more about him click on this link. He received a laptop computer and $1000.00

The award ceremony was sponsored by TD Bank. I would like to thank Nick Ospa, Gwen Borowsky, Kevin Orangers and all the staff of the National Liberty Museum. I thank Mona Washington extra for nominating me. But, my biggest applause goes to my fellow honorees. Here are their names:

Just Do It Committee Jeffrey Urbano
Kara McDonald Ashley Myers
Kelli Thompson Ayana Choeun
Mahir Shah and Sam Udotong
Mike Ruane and Erika Rech Atasha Jordan
Danzeill Martin Brianna Gibbs
Brionna Merritt Daniel J. Gaffney
Amanda O’Neil Betsaleel Severe
Iesha Moore TJ Lonergan
Dominic Mancuso Demetrius Terrell
Erica Marie Mendez Sadia Qureshi
Minyung Cheong Nick Hammond
E. Gunnar Burgin Van Morn

The National Liberty Museum
321 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19109

What a Man, What a Man, What a Man-Malcolm X

Tonight on WHYY, TV 12, I watched the Malcolm X movie directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington. I didn’t know much about Malcolm before seeing this film, but it really opened my eyes about this period in history. This is a must see film. Tomorrow, I ‘m getting a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Who ever said that American History is boring?

I wish all my Muslim friends a blessed
Here is a link to Mr. Ossie Davis' Eulogy for Malcolm X. This is so moving.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saving The World's Women

Despite the fact that it looks like newspapers, the kind you can hold in your hands, are on their way out, my grandmother reads all her local papers daily. At 79 years old, she can’t imagine reading her news online. When my mother and uncles were young, my grandmother would buy the Philadelphia Bulletin just for one journalist-his name was Claude Lewis. She would also buy the Philadelphia Daily News because of another journalist named Chuck Stone. These two journalists were African-American and they gave my grandmother an example for her to show her three children how words can influence change and how ideas can influence behavior.

My mother remembers vividly reading, as a 9 or 10 year-old, Claude Lewis’ columns. She said thought they came out every Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday in the Philadelphia Bulletin. Her mother insisted that her children read each column. My grandmother, a migrant from the South, was so proud of the fact that these men were African-American and real examples of success for her children to consider.

Nicholas Kristoff, of the New York Times, is a journalist my mother likes me to read. He consistently writes about people, places and problems that most other journalists and newspapers could care less about. I know I am and my readers will change the world for the better, but first we have to know what is happening in it.

Read this article by Mr. Kristoff. It’s about the need to uplift women if we are going to improve the lives of most people of the world. What I really like about this article is that Mr. Kristoff shows examples of women who have empowered themselves with the help of others. Here is the link to the Women’s Crusade; Saving the World's Women.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An Ode to Liberty by Sojourner Ahebee

* Paintings by Kehinde Wiley-

An Ode to Liberty
By Sojourner Ahebee

I have a brother and he is brown
My mother tells her son that the world is his oyster
Lay claim to all around you, she begs
And he smiles and believes in dreams that can’t be scaled down.

As he gets older, like now, like 10 years old
My brother, who is brown, tall like the Sahara Desert on stilts,
Handsome like the Grand Canyon in a rainstorm
Has only the weapons of a violin and a painter’s brush
And a bedroom plastered with heroes to calm his fears of the things foretold.

Maybe not his fortune, doesn’t have to be
But the wails of a mother tied to the wails of another
Linking hundreds of death cries over lost sons,
Released in one year, cascading through one city
Can spook a little brown boy thinking about living.

I had a friend and he made me wonder about the world
He had crawled through airless tunnels,
Crossed deserts that froze his night tears and rode in trucks with no breath
To arrive here in Our city.

We’d playfully argue
About what makes the best tamales-cornhusk or banana leaves-
And as he cleaned my mother’s car, I played Lila Downs for him
To purposely make him homesick.

We arrived at the carwash one Sunday after praising God and giving thanks
Looking for Cesar,
Not just to clean our car,
But for him to teach us our colors and how to be polite in the language of his home.
He is dead, he coughed himself to death.
Too afraid to seek a helping hand to soothe the fire in his chest.


I invited Alex, a Main Line girl,
To the central branch of the library,
To show off one of the treasures of my urban splendor
But her father said no
Too many homeless men encircling the square
But my mom said they were once young boys
Full of sass and young hope
Until some war ate their souls,
Made them need more than blood in their veins.

I have a stick; it’s more like a wand
I use to tickled Liberty, to play with it
To woo it from its safe havens
And to beg for it to come where I am and spread some love

An Ode to Liberty

Monday, August 17, 2009

Race:Are We So Different? at the Franklin Institute

This whole concept of race as it is expressed in the United States has been a confusing one for me and my brother. My first seven years were spent in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire which was a crossroads of Africa; everyone came through there as well as Asian and European people. There didn’t seem to be this urgent need to classified and separate people racially or ethnically.

I went to the International Community School of Abidjan. Its students represented more than 70 nationalities. When I first came to the United States and I went to a “neighborhood school” that was almost exclusively African-American, my first reaction was where were the people of color from other places-not where were the white children… Anyway , I say this to tell you about an exhibition at the Franklin Institute called Race: Are We So Different? There will be a special panel discussion about race in the United States this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Franklin Institute.

SPECIAL EVENT!Can Or Should America Be Color Blind?Wednesday, August 19, 20097:00PM - Franklin Theater. Participate in a talk with the former president of the American Anthropological Association, professor and biological anthropologist Dr. Alan Goodman, who played a key role in the development and design of The Franklin Institute's current traveling exhibition RACE. Goodman will take on the meanings of race at a time when we debate whether America can or should be color blind—from racial profiling to economic, education and health care disparities. His introductory talk will be followed by a lively panel discussion from noted academics and community activists including Asian community leader John Chin and criminal attorney Michael Coard. Admission to the event is free, advance registration is required. Please call 215.448.1254.

Visit the EXHIBIT WEBSITE for more information about the experience and other educational resources. Here's the link.

Here is more information from the Franklin Institute about the exhibition:

The exhibit encourages visitors of all ages to explore the science, history, and everyday impact of race and racism, and will be highlighted by special programming events that aim to more fully connect with the community. Free to all visitors with a Sci‐Pass admission to the museum, the RACE exhibit runs from now through September 7.

“Race and education remain the two central challenges facing Philadelphia. This exhibit allows us to educate on the topic of race—with the discussion grounded in the cutting‐edge science of our day,” said Dennis Wint, President & CEO of The Franklin Institute. “Race is not only an exhibit, it is a conversation. We are committed to building programming and activities around the exhibit that challenge diverse conversations about race in meaningful ways.”

RACE: Three perspectives on a wide‐reaching topic ‐‐From the scientific understanding that humankind cannot be divided into ‘races’ to how American history,economic interest and popular culture have played a role in shaping our understanding of race, RACE: Are We So Different creates a compelling opportunity to explore one of the most controversial topics in American culture today. The RACE exhibit addresses these topics through three interwoven sections that tell a moving story of science with deep and lasting social impact.

• Science: Visitors will discover that human beings are more alike than any other living species, and no one gene or set of genes can support the idea of race.
• History: Ideas about race have been around for hundreds of years, and they have changed over time. This section of RACE explores the origins of the term ‘race’ and the journey of racism in the United States.
• Everyday experience: Though race may not be a real biological concept, it certainly is real both socially and culturally. In this section of the exhibit, visitors will explore the personal experiences of race in our schools, neighborhoods, health care systems, sports and entertainment industries, and more.
The Franklin’s “Out of Africa” task force, an in‐house committee which is dedicated to creating dialogue about race through the museum, will be creating a series of special programming events around the exhibition, ranging from workshops to panel discussions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Great Books Summer Program

Sorry for the long silence, but I have been involved in some amazing summer programs I’m excited to tell you about. Today I will share some information about the Great Books Summer Program, which I participated. I love books and ideas and it was so awesome to be exclusively around other kids my age who love reading and exploring ideas as well.

The Great Books Summer Program not only exposes students to the best of world literature , but it also teaches you how to analyze literature and articulately discuss it and how to tie the ideas expressed in books to your life and the larger world. For example, before I arrived at Amherst College for this program, the biggest news event was the Iranian Elections and the protests that followed. Well, I didn’t have sense of Iran or its history. At Great Books, I read Persepolis, a book by Marjane Satrapi about her childhood during the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Islamic Revolution. A whole other world opened up to me. I am driven about discovering and understanding more of it. I read works by Nadine Gordimer , Bessie Head , and Kurt Vonnegut to name a few.

In addition to all the great books I read and the new friends I made, I fell in love with the town of Amherst and Amherst College. Here is the link to an article that appeared last month in the Wall Street Journal about the Great Books Summer Program.

Here is the link to the Great Books Summer Program. I hope to see you there next summer.