During his time in the Philippines, one boy’s reaction really stuck with Mark:
“My most vivid memory of one particular child’s reaction was a simple smile… He was 12 years old, and so shy, and rarely made eye contact with anybody. He had no shoes on his feet and looked extremely rough and callused.
“During his haircut, he looked upset the entire time and didn’t look up once, until the cut was complete. One man in the shop said, ‘Now you look like you’re from NYC!’ He looked up and cracked the most unforgettable smile.”
This experience stuck with Mark, who decided to continue the tradition when he returned home to NYC.
Editor’s note: As part of a writing class I took this summer, I had to do a group project addressing a social issue within our society.
Part of that assignment was writing an essay that promotes activism to address the issue.The research inspired me, so I decided to share that essay with you. Hope you enjoy!
Knowledge, and the desire to use it to better our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone else. This is what has made our species so great.
Fire, the wheel, internal plumbing, electricity, refrigeration. All of these creations were the result of intelligent people with an insatiable drive to solve major problems that affected everyone within their communities.
As the world progressed into the modern era, more and more of these advancements came from the realm of medicine. For thousands of years, smallpox was a scourge that regularly plagued populations all over the world.
In the 19th century, the disease was killing 400,000 Europeans every year. In the 20th century, it accounted for an estimated 300 million deaths worldwide.
Now, consider this: the vaccine for smallpox was discovered, by a man named William Jenner, in 1796. However, it took more than 160 years for the World Health Assembly to pass a worldwide resolution to eradicate the disease in 1959, and another 20 years for the disease to be completely eradicated.
There hasn’t been a single documented death from smallpox since 1980, but it took nearly 200 years to make that happen.
Our modern world is no different. Every year, 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases, half of that being children 5 years old or younger.
Other preventable diseases, like diarrhea and pneumonia, claim the lives of another 2 million children who are simply too poor to afford things like clean water and basic treatment.
If you’re keeping track, that’s 3.5 million children dying every year from basic problems that we solved ages ago. Another way to think of it: imagine every kid enrolled in public school in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston dying this year. Imagine, just for a second, all the human potential that we are losing along with these children.
I know you may be thinking that it’s somewhat inevitable that developing countries lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to new vaccines, treatments or procedures, so chew on this for a second: out of a list of 18 developed countries, the United States was at the very bottom when it came to deaths from preventable causes.
For people under the age of 75, these preventable causes account for 23% of total deaths for men and 32% of total deaths for women.
How many more people are we going to let die simply because they lack access to resources that are so plentiful that they are taken for granted by the rest of us?
We have to always remember that the position of privilege we find ourselves in only exists because someone at some point in history fought for our right to good healthcare.
So now, it is our responsibility, our duty, to use this position of privilege to extend this same basic human right to health to the countless people still living without it, not only in our country but across the globe.
This Fourth of July weekend saw joy, laughter, fellowship and fun. It also saw another rash of murders in the streets of Chicago.
The 3-day weekend starting on the 4th saw eight murders in Chicago. Two more have already been reported for today.
While this weekend was slightly more violent than others, it is definitely not an aberration. Easter weekend this year saw 45 separate shootings in Chicago. The weekend before that, there were 35 shootings in 36 hours.
In recent years, Chicago’s violence has the nickname “Chiraq”. Since the start of this year, the city has has seen 196 murders. That’s more than four times as many American fatalities as the 46 so far in Afghanistan and Iraq this year.
The homicides this weekend were a result of multiple shootings at Independence Day celebrations around the city which left another 60 people injured.
Murder totals in Chicago actually peaked at 943 in 1992, and steadily declined in the decade that followed. But that number spiked again in 2012, which saw 521 murders. The majority of these murders were related to gang activity and the increasingly lucrative drug trade in Chicago.
To combat the rise in violence, Chicago dispatched hundreds of extra police into particularly dangerous neighborhoods, and reached out to community leaders for support.
“We will keep building on our strategy, putting more officers on the street in summer months, proactively intervening in gang conflicts, partnering with community leaders,”
said Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a recent statement.
It seems to be working. Last year, Chicago tallied 415 murders, the lowest that number has been since 1965. And as of June 30, Chicago had experienced nine fewer homicides than in that same period last year.
But these rates are still much higher than most cities. By comparison, New York City (which has three times more residents than Chicago) only had 350 murders in 2013.
So why is the murder rate so high? Many people would point to high rates of poverty, but Chicago actually has lower poverty rates than other major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
Poor schools also play a major part in the crime, but Chicago actually has a higher percentage of high school graduates over the age of 25 than New York City, Los Angeles or Houston.
There is no one reason for the violence in Chicago, but there are a few other major factors that have contributed to it. One of these factors is depopulation and gang fragmentation.
In the 80s and early 90s, the majority of the homicides in Chicago centered around low-income government-subsidized housing projects like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes.
Starting in the late 90s, the city carried out an aggressive campaign to demolish these high-rises as part of a plan to reduce crime. However, this just displaced tens of thousands of residents, exacerbating the issues of poverty they faced while simply spreading the criminals who had been sharing the buildings with them out to new neighborhoods.
The demolition of these centralized crime hubs has also led to a fragmentation of the gangs in Chicago. During the early 90s, much of the drug trade was controlled by Larry Hoover, who was head of the Gangster’s Disciples street gang.
This gang (which controlled a number of Chicago’s subsidized high-rises) was no stranger to violence, but it also had a very strict hierarchy that maintained unity and order amongst its gang members.
The arrest of drug lords like Hoover and the destruction of their headquarters created a power vacuum that broke Chicago’s gangs into countless smaller “sets”, which now battle amongst themselves for turf, power and money.
But maybe the biggest reason for Chicago’s high crime rates is the lack of jobs. Despite the fact that Chicago has higher levels of education than other large cities like New York, Houston and Los Angeles, it still has a much higher rate of unemployment (13.7%) than these other cities.
The gang violence exacerbates this problem by driving potential employers out of the inner cities, leaving only a handful of low-paying jobs to the residents who remain. This de-population also reduces property values which in turn further limits the public funds (ie. taxes) available to help fight crime and improve conditions.
Whatever the reasons are, the reality is inarguable: Chicago has a serious violence problem, and the fact that it doesn’t get the media airtime that Iraq, Al Qaeda ad ISIS do won’t change the fact that for every soldier we have lost overseas this year, we’ve lost another four youth in Chicago.
North Brother Island is 20 acre-patch of land in the middle of the East River in New York City. It’s located next to New York’s Riker’s Island Prison, putting it just east of Harlem.
Since the last inhabitants left in 1963, nature has been slowly reclaiming the island. Check out some recent pictures of North Brother Island (taken by photographer Christopher Payne) below. Click an image to enlarge.
The island has an interesting history. It was uninhabited until 1885, when Riverside Hospital was constructed on the island as a quarantine facility for smallpox and other contagious diseases.
In the 1940s, the facility was converted into a housing center for war veterans and their families, but by 1951 most of the families had moved elsewhere because of the inconveniences of having to ferry back and forth between the island.
So for it’s last 10 years of operation, the building was converted into a drug rehabilitation center. It has been uninhabited since 1963.
Read more about the history of the island from The Smithsonian here.
The New York City Police Department decided it would be a good PR move to utilize social media to generate support for the department. So, they encouraged people who had pictures with NYPD officers to tweet them using the hashtag #myNYPD.
Naturally, everybody immediately started posting pictures of police brutality by the NYPD, focusing on the controversial “stop and frisk” policy put in place by now former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Here’s some of the tweets:
During the month of September, an average of 22,163 children stayed in municipal (government-funded) shelters each night in New York City. If you’re a sceptic like me, your first thought was probably, “There are way more people living in New York City now than there were during the depression so there’s probably a lower percentage of homeless children now.”
So I did a little more research and found that in 1930 there were actually more children (~2,782,000) aged 1-19 living in New York City than there are now (~2,171,000). Using these figures, the child homelessness rate in New York City is actually almost 22% higher now than it was during the height of the Depression. Looking at a more recent scale, there are almost two and a half times as many homeless children in the city now than in the year 2000.
Also remember that these figures only take into account homeless people staying in municipal shelters and doesn’t account for homeless people sleeping on the streets or in other public and private shelters.
Some charts on child homelessness in New York City (click to enlarge):