Black Women Deserve More in Hollywood

During her acceptance speech at the 2015 Emmy Awards, Viola Davis declared, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” Viola Davis had just become the first black woman to win the coveted award of Outstanding Leading Actress in a Television Drama. Although the Emmy’s have been celebrated for the past 67 years, it wasn’t until now that a black woman won this award, or even truly had a role that allowed her to win this award. Davis preached in her speech, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” Although Viola Davis received this award for a television role, the lack of representation of black women as complex and non-stereotypical roles is also prevalent in the film industry. When the nominations for the 86th Annual Academy Awards were announced on January 15th, 2015, many were disappointed to see the lack of diversity among the nominees. Many took their disappointment to social media and began a social awareness campaign under the hashtag, “#OscarsSoWhite.” In 2016, with even less racial diversity among the nominees and winners, the hashtag returned, but with more of a yearning for diversity. Hollywood stars such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee decided to protest the Oscars in order to bring awareness to the lack of diversity. They were highly criticized, even by other actors, such as Whoopi Goldberg, who thought that if they were looking to gain representation, they should make themselves seen at the Oscars. Regardless, the drama around an event, where the drama usually stays on the screen, brought the lack of recognition for black actors in Hollywood into the public eye. Black actresses all over Hollywood began to stand up for the opportunity for black actresses to escape the stereotypical archetypes and to begin playing “Oscar-worthy” roles. With the introduction of characters such as Annalise Keating, a very successful corrupt lawyer (played by Viola Davis), in How To Get Away With Murder  or Olivia Pope, a very prestigious crisis manager for a consulting firm (played by Kerry Washington), in Scandal on television, many have begun to push for the film industry to follow in this progressive trend. Yet, looking back, most of the successful recognized black actresses have received acclaim for playing weak archetypes. Although black women have gained more recognition for their work in Hollywood in recent years, they are usually recognized for specific archetypes promoting negative stereotypes. When looking at the eight powerful black actresses that have won acting Oscars, we see:

Hattie McDaniels: Gone With the Wind (1939) (Maid)
Oprah Winfrey: The Color Purple (1985) (Sassy black woman stereotype)
Whoopi Goldberg: Ghost (1990) (Sassy black woman stereotype)
Halle Berry: Monster’s Ball (2001) (Drug Dealer, Prostitute)
Jennifer Hudson: Dreamgirls (2006) (Sassy black woman stereotype)
Mo’Nique: Precious (2009) (Abusive Single Mother)
Octavia Spencer: The Help (2011) (Maid)
Lupita Nyong’o: 12 Years A Slave (2013) (Sex Figure, Slave)

Things are looking up though. With major motion pictures such as Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson as a NASA mathematician, getting good press, the Oscar season may not be #SoWhite any longer.

The Wizarding World

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the first book that transported me into another world. Prior to discovering the wizarding world, I had been an avid reader, devouring every book my strict grade school librarian allowed me to check out. After consuming every book in the 4th grade section — twice — I finally convinced my librarian to allow me to venture into the 5th and 6th grade section. The first book I chose was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The librarian reluctantly checked me out, muttering about how we really shouldn’t stock that series anyways. I felt so accomplished walking out of the cramped space, half taken-over by the dismal computer lab (which consisted of a table with six ancient desktop models), finally having been allowed to explore more books.

When I got home that day, I ran right up to my room and dove into the book. I was so disappointed reading the first chapter — it was so slow-moving and almost distractingly detailed. I pushed onward, however, determined to prove that I could finish a book from the 5th and 6th grade section. I made the right choice. Shortly thereafter I was transported through the Weasley’s chimney right into Diagon Alley. The unfamiliar wizarding world was breathtaking; pet owls, beautiful wooden wands, books that could bite, and an air of enchantment found nowhere else in the universe. Before I knew it, my mom was knocking on my door, calling me to dinner.

Harry Potter unlocked the door into innumerable alternate realities for me. The series will always hold a special place in my heart, bookmarked by the privilege of teaching me that all it takes to get away for a while is a good book… Or maybe a Hogwarts acceptance letter.

‘Tis the Season to be Brawly by Louis Schwartz

Whether you celebrate, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, or none of the above, I think that we can all agree that the holidays are a time for food and celebration. But one of the worst parts of the holiday season is FAMILY.

My family comes in from California and New York every year for Thanksgiving. My 3 cousins arrive (20, 18, and 14) and all the 14 year old wants to do is hang out with me for hours on hours at a time. I want to talk to my 18 year old cousin because she is my age, in high school, and we’re both going through the college application process right now (this could be another blog in itself). My 20-year old cousin, eh…he does his own thing with my grandparents and his friends who live in Cleveland.

Alright the California side of things; rich, snobby cousins who brag about everything that they’re doing and where they live every single time they come in. What I hear every single time the California side of the family comes in is, “We live in the same complex as Justin Bieber’s parents, but they’re higher up and there’s an extra gate up there.” Seriously all I think during this rant is 1) “Why do I even care about Justin Bieber’s parents” and 2) You’ve told me this every single time you come in.” I love my cousins because they’re my family but if I didn’t have to see them at all during a year I would choose not to.

New York side; My cousin who’s a junior in college, my uncle who just sits on the couch, and my Aunt who loves to rant about how good her cooking is to everyone. This year they came in and I wanted to spend time with my older cousin, but there’s one thing that stood in my way…MY JEWISH GRANDMOTHER. She wants to keep him cooped up in the house all day with him, cook for him, and keep him to herself with no outside contact with the outside world (ok maybe that’s a little bit exaggerated). Oh and my grandmother gets crazy too when we have family in town.

My grandmother; she’s been through a lot; losing her mother (my great-grandmother), selling her condo in Florida (one of the hardest decisions she’s had to make), moving out of the house she raised her kids in, and into an apartment, and two knee surgeries. The knee surgeries are the main things that drive me to write about her. When just me and my family are in town (which we are the whole year), she tells us that she is having a bad day and is in a lot of pain. But when the family comes in from out of town she puts on act and a smile and goes through here day in pain but not telling anyone. I know the reason she does it is because she doesn’t want them to worry but, sometimes they see past that and look deeper into what she’s doing. But there’s one thing good about my family during the holiday times this year…Politics are definitely not off the table.

The good thing about my family is that we all have the same political viewpoint. We are all very left wing liberals. So we all have the same views on the politics right now. Politics were a main topic at the Thanksgiving table and there were no arguments but there were agreeing opinions on certain topics (but I won’t go preaching my political viewpoint here).

All in all, I do love my family very much but spending time with them during the holidays is not my favorite past time. So as the holidays come and go this year just remember…”They’re only here for a week.”

Holiday Greeting Archetypes by Maria White

As the month of December skates towards the holidays, everyone’s homes suddenly become flooded with letters and greetings, looking more and more like Number 4 Privet Drive when Harry gets his Hogwarts letter(s). Yes not only are we entering  the season of snow and festivity, but also the season of holiday greeting cards. From sweet sentiments of grandparents to best wishes from an ambiguous relative, there is a whole range of holiday greetings.
Like handwriting, a holiday card can say a lot about a person. There are the printed holiday cards where it can be presumed hours were spent to get that perfect photo showcasing the splendor of their family. They send their typed wishes and secure their places as the professional, and efficient, Show Offs.
Sometimes families coordinate their outfits and wear ugly sweaters. They don’t just pose for their photos, they create a laughable scene. Their goal is to send laughter with their holiday greetings, they are the Jokers.
With handwritten and sweet messages, a new group is introduced as the Well-Wishers. After choosing a cute seasonal card, the Well Wishers painstakingly take the time to write a message to each and everyone on their list. Sweet sentiments of sincerity secure the Well Wishers as the premier holiday card senders.
The final group is the Never Sender. They spend hours creating a list of contacts and their addresses to send their cards to. A cute photo is taken in front of a festive scene and days later a hundred copies of the photo are made. The list and the photos sit waiting to be enveloped and mailed, gathering dust as the holidays pass by.  Weeks later the photos are found and more promises to send them are broken until finally they are placed into a drawer with other past family photos. The Never Senders begin the same cycle the next year and for years to come.
This holiday season be on the look out for the Show Offs, Jokers, Well Wishers, and the Never Senders in your mailbox. These are the holiday greeting archetypes. Yet as movies such as the Breakfast Club have taught us, we are more than just our labels and each one of us is a Show Off, a Joker, a Well Wisher, and a Never Sender.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire by Charlie Espy

A tall, lanky man walked into the hotel lobby. His intuitive brown eyes scanned the room, looking over every person in detail; judging them as if they were being tried for a heinous crime. His gaze fell on an old grandmotherly woman with gray hair staring at a chess board in the corner. There was nobody on the other side of the table and the board was set up, ready for a game. The man smiled a thin smile, more of a smirk than anything else, and strode over to the old woman. He stood over her, pushed his spectacles up his nose, and demanded: “would you like to play a game?” The old woman smiled kindly up at him and retorted, “Oh golly. That sure would be lovely, but what makes you think you would even get one piece from me?” The fire crackled merrily at the other end of the room, a stark contrast to the atmosphere between the two chess players. All conversation in the lobby abruptly halted. All eyes were on the two chess players. “Ha!” exclaimed the man; “my Alekhine’s gun will show you what’s what!” The woman scoffed. “You’ll never break through my anti-Sicilian defense.” The man looked down at her and calmly replied: “my rook lift will leave in ruins.” Suddenly, the manager of the hotel walked into the lobby. He saw the two players nearly at blows and groaned loudly. “I’m so tired of these chess nuts boasting in the open foyer,” and walked out the front door.

Charlie Espy  

Where to Start?

I hate starting essays. I don’t mind writing essays, but I hate starting them. I need to write a 700 word essay on what matters to me, and I have no idea where to start. It’s just such a daunting task! The thought of writing one is just so overwhelming, and it’s the same for any big assignment that I have. I’m not worried because I don’t think I can do it, I’m just overwhelmed because thinking about a 700 word essay when you have zero words- well it’s straight out of a nightmare! But thankfully writing an essay is not like a magic trick, an essay is not some rabbit that you can just pull out of a hat. Writing is a process! So fortunately I know that once I get past one stage of the process I’m on to the next and soon the essay is practically done! But I’m still stuck on stage 1: brainstorming. I either have too many ideas that my brain is swimming all over the place or I don’t have any whatsoever. The former can usually be remedied by the process of elimination, but the latter takes a bit more work. Recently I’ve been given some advice to help me jumpstart my brainstorming process:
Start with a note pad and write down 4 topics.
Then write 4 sentences for each one.
Then put it away until tomorrow.
Next day re-read it and whittle it to 2.
Hopefully these steps will help me sort out what to write about! And once I’ve figured that out, well, then it’s off to the races!
By: Kathleen

Arts Education: Always 2nd

In looking for a topic for this week’s blog post, I returned to something I had written last year, especially with Shaker’s production of Urinetown! quickly approaching. I wrote this in response to the district cutting many theatre classes due to lack of enrollment (15 kids minimum needed and yet my IB Music class has four?). Our school does not support the arts like they claim to, read below:
For the past three years, as a child who was never “gifted” in the core subjects, electives have allowed me to explore my own personal gifts in both music and theater. I am disheartened to hear of the possible cuts of some elective classes without a certain number of sign ups. Although I do understand the administration’s purpose for this proclamation, I want to urge you to see past the quantitative aspects of the dilemma and see the qualitative aspects.
For the past 12 years, I have gone through the Shaker school district and have received a truly special education. My education has been “special” because of not only the passionate teachers and the immense opportunities to find out what I’m passionate about, but also because I have been taught how to be a human being and not just a student (which I find to be the most important thing for modern education). At the end of eighth grade, I was faced with a decision. Would I follow my brothers’ footsteps and go to St. Ignatius, or would I stay in Shaker? In the end, it was not the academics that brought me to choose Shaker, but it was the abundant theatre arts classes, it was the idea that I could take a music theory class, that I could be in an intense and great choir program, it was the idea that I could be in SGORR, that I could take distinguished art and design classes, the idea that I could take journalism.
As someone who knows what they want to do with their life, it has been so helpful that I could have small, focused classes based on the subject I am interested in. A flaw of the modern education system is that when a child is not gifted in any of the core subjects, they are immediately written off as unintelligent (as much as teachers do not like to say so, it is true). When in reality these “unintelligent” kids could be very gifted in other areas, such as art, music, and theatre, but they are lost among the crowd because their talents are not fostered by the education system. The education system has failed these kids. Up until this point, Shaker has not failed these kids.
By cutting these elective options, Shaker loses those kids. Kids like me. I would love to talk to you about this more … I once again urge you to look at the qualitative aspects of the situation, rather than focusing on the quantitative aspects. Please don’t abandon what has made and should continue to make Shaker special.

A Night in Hungary

I spent the summer in a youth program called Szarvas in Hungary. This is a piece I wrote following it. I’d like to encourage students to take time to explore their personal development and education in a peer setting.

The clear view of the big dipper was shocking. There were no clouds, no lights, and suddenly the stars were on show. I didn’t even know I could recognize constellations. Over the next few weeks, there was even a string of three stars that I pretended was Orion’s belt, though I had no way of proving it.
The grass wasn’t dewy, but it was cooler than our tired bodies. It tickled our necks after a full day of walking around Budapest, and I was excited at the prospect of being driven around once Shabbat had been closed. We laid in clusters of two or three, listening to the overlapping chatter of teenagers who had all just met. Looking away from the stars, I could see the Danube, it’s bridge faithfully guarded by stone lions. Limos passed by with bachelorettes screaming out the sunroofs. Bus tours and taxi-bikes followed. In the busy city our bubble remained muffled from the outside world. There were eyebrows raised and laughter rang and 26 teenagers decided they were a family.
I was in the center of the circle, holding a twisted Havdalah candle. Hot, colored wax dripped onto my knuckles. I stood next to a beautiful girl I had only just met, and whose singing voice had been highly anticipated by those who knew her longer. As people locked arms and began to sing loudly, I was the only one who could hear her. Smiles spread across faces as if they were all of one wave. Skirts blew gently in a night breeze. Cinnamon and cloves in the palm of our hands overwhelmed the smells of an antique city. Hungarian beer, in the absence of kosher wine, was poured over the flame of the candle. The scent of an absent fire and yeast followed us as we trailed back to the bus. Smiles stayed, and arms remained locked, as if this moment would last the next two weeks. This new family kissed cheeks and embraced and said “shavua tov” to every person they could find. With their blessing I knew it would be a good week.
You can apply to the Szarvas fellowships at Other resources to find opportunities and scholarships for international programs include and
Hadas Marucs

The Shaker Bubble by Anabel McGuan

“We live in the Shaker Bubble.” It’s a commonly used phrase, and many — including myself — are guilty of using it. It’s often accompanied with sarcastic remarks about our perfectly blended salad bowl of ideas, backgrounds, beliefs, and ethnicities, or lack thereof. In light of recent events, I think it’s safe to say that our illusionary bubble has popped.

Shaker has problems, and it’s time for us to face them head-on. Obviously, sweeping things under the bed and pretending we’re all fine and dandy hasn’t been working out too well for us. These past weeks have been tumultuous at our school, from Trump protests to Twitter scandals, finally culminating with yesterday’s bomb threat, lockdown, and emergency evacuation.

I commend school authorities for their calm, organized handling of yesterday’s extremely trying situation. We need more of this. I hope this becomes a pattern of better managing crises, big or small. We need to acknowledge our issues and keep students, staff, and community informed.

As a district, we have our strengths, but confronting difficult situations has presented itself as a weakness. We have potential to be a strong, integrated, diverse community, but we have to first abandon our facade of already being so — we have plenty of kinks to first iron out.