Postcards from New York 2017

March 20, 2017 – A tour through Brooklyn brings important discussion

By Narain Dubey

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I am walking from Dumbo Kitchen with a chicken sandwich in hand, my coat tied on my waist. I move with a skip in my step, excited for the day to come. As we cross Grand Street, though, my feet stop beneath me. The tall skyscrapers and jaw-dropping architecture of New York City is brought to an abrupt halt. Instead, the streets are surrounded by dilapidated brick buildings. We had just entered a forgotten neighborhood: Vinegar Hill, in Brooklyn, New York.

Our meeting was with Faraji Hannah-Jones, at P.S. 307, a public school in Northern Brooklyn. The school was clean and renovated. However, Faraji explained to us that while the city had done great work to remodel the school, key issues remained unchanged: gentrification, and racism.

Faraji’s talk took us through the neighborhood, where he told stories of how the increase in development was pushing families out. He told us about families that didn’t even wait for the area to begin gentrifying – with the first talk of change, they packed their bags and fled to New Jersey.

A tour of Brooklyn, which I had thought would be simple and quick, had become an important discussion.

He told us that most white families chose to avoid P.S. 307, because despite top of the line materials and high-level teachers, the heavily African-American demographic was a deterrent: The under-enrolled P.S. 307 was still considered a “bad school”.

I was shaken.

Almost instantaneously, I thought of home. Jefferson High School in Portland was facing the same low numbers as P.S. 307 was, and their demographics were twin-like. New apartments were popping up all around the city, pushing locals out.

It became apparent to me then that everything Faraji had explained to us – racism, property development, and poverty – was not singular to Brooklyn. Across the country, I was witnessing two worlds collide.

For me, this was a moment of inspiration and epiphany. It was a call to action. Gentrification is alive in Portland, Oregon, and around the country. I wasn’t blind to it, but I didn’t address it, either. I knew that I had discovered an opportunity to start making a change, and having an impact.

My whole experience with Faraji showed me that this New York trip, while complete with fun and team bonding, was so much more than a vacation. This trip, and our discussion about the gentrification of Brooklyn has opened my eyes to the responsibility we have as student journalists: to bring to light issues that are often shoved under the rug.

Writing and discussion has the ability to incite change, and this conversation with Faraji solidified the idea that we at Grant Magazine have the ability, and the duty, to make a difference.

To learn more about gentrification, visit grantmagazine.com/losing-alberta-gentrification

March 18, 2017 – Thank You Eddie

By Blu Midyett

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The moment had finally come: after fasting from breakfast and daydreaming for weeks, the Katz’s Delicatessen lunch had arrived. When the class walked in we were met with a frenzy of yelling men trying to organize the food counter line, dish bussers shoving through the crowd and a mass of hungry and anxious people only comparable to the center of Times Square at its busiest hour. But for the esteemed pastrami sandwich that the shop had to offer, it was worth it.

I walked up to the counter and a man in his 60’s or so wearing thin-wired glasses and a black ‘Katz’s Delicatessen’ hat on his head, asked me what I wanted. I promptly told him that I would have a pastrami sandwich and a side of matzo ball soup, worried that any hesitation would be met with swift condemnation. He took a slab of hot black meat and sliced off four small pieces, revealing the succulent red inside, only to throw them away. The real Katz’s secret was in this inner layer where the juiciest and most appetizing part of the pastrami hides away. I watched with gleaming eyes as he piled over two inches of meat on to a slice of rye bread and placed another slice with mustard on top, the two thin pieces looking like a cute garnish to a plate of meat. He threw some pickles on a separate plate and then held them up, smiled at me, and asked if I could take his picture. At first surprised that he had even noticed the camera dangling from my neck, I complied. “I’m writing a book about everything that happens here and I need some pictures for it … you could be famous one day,” he told me. I snapped photo after photo as he posed with my food. Before I could leave he wrote down his phone number, his email and his Facebook name “Eddie ‘Ruben’ Romero”.  “Send those to me, and don’t you forget!” he said to me as I was walking off.

The food went down quickly, but the image of Eddie’s smiling face asking for a picture did not. His cordial politeness was a pleasant reminder that New York City wasn’t just all cut and dry. Even when I snapped more photos and the security yelled at me to go back to my table, Eddie looked up and asked if everything was okay. After four visits to the Big Apple I’d become quite used to the angry New Yorker behavior, but Eddie was a nice break from it. I learned that New York can have a gentle side and that gives me just the slightest bit of hope that I might find some more of that if I ever moved here in the future. Thanks Eddie, I won’t forget.

March 17, 2017 – A Different Perspective

By Momoko Baker

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As I step foot onto The Staten Island Ferry, I take a sigh of relief. After a long and busy day accepting a Gold Crown Award at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and attending journalism workshops, the ride gave us a chance to cool off.

This trip is my first time in the city that never sleeps. As someone who has never seen a city so big and bustling, I was overwhelmed by the scale. Even on the third day of the trip, the feeling of amazement never vanished. Looking up from below, the tops of skyscrapers were almost impossible to see, something I had never experienced before.

Watching the New York skyline grow smaller and smaller as we pulled away from the dock left me in awe. The skyscrapers that I had been craning my neck to see now spanned all across the horizon, covering more land than I could’ve imagined. Lights shone bright from the tall buildings, offering more light than even the stars.

Prior to the New York trip, most of my classmates knew me as a shy person, but the trip brought us closer together and gave me a sense of comfort among the group. The ferry ride gave me a chance to come out of my shell and really bond with my peers.

I remember when me and a few other Grant Magazine photographers made photos together inside the ferry, and discussed camera settings. Talking about our common interests and passions formed closer bonds between us that will hopefully carry on past this trip.

Seeing the city from this new perspective reinforced my idea that this was truly the city that never sleeps.  

March 17, 2017 – Going For The Gold

By Sarah Hamilton| Photo by Finn Hawley-Blue

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After a day of workshops on the Columbia University campus, the Grant Magazine staff and I filed into the Alfred Lerner Hall auditorium. This is our fourth year competing in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Scholastic Crown Awards, and so far we’ve brought home gold three times. The work we do in Grant Magazine isn’t about receiving awards, but it always feels great to be recognized. The awards were given for the 2015-16 school year, and I was eager to see how the CSPA would receive the controversial topics we covered last year, from the N-Word to transgender issues. I hoped that we would be awarded for taking a stand and challenging norms. We took our seats and the room, filled with other student journalists from all around the country, came to a quiet.

CSPA Assistant Director Antonio Rodriguez took to the podium and began presenting the winners. When he got to the “G”s, we looked around at each other nervously. “To Grant Magazine, the hybrid news magazine of Grant High School…”

I hold my breath.

“… A gold crown.”

The staff erupted with cheers, and I immediately felt a sense of relief. As I posed for a picture with the award with last years editors, some of whom are now freshmen in college in New York City, I could feel how powerful the team we’ve built over the years has become. But amidst all of this, there was still something missing.

Three weeks ago our adviser, Dave Austin, stepped down from the magazine to focus on his new job at the City of Portland. Every year on Grant Magazine presents new challenges, and with them opportunities to grow – but none of us expected this change.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from Dave’s mentorship, it’s to keep moving and never allow yourself to be held down. Now, more than ever, Grant Magazine will be lead entirely by students. And because of the lessons the Dave has taught us and the profound talent and thoughtfulness I’ve seen this staff display, I know we will rise to the occasion.

March 16, 2017 – Inspiration from the 38th: Visiting The New Yorker

By Isabel Lickey | Photo by Finn Hawley-Blue

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It took three elevators to bring all 22 staff members of Grant Magazine, and our four chaperones, to the 38th floor of the One World Trade Center, otherwise known as the The New Yorker office.

Sarah Larson, their roving cultural correspondent, greeted us warmly, setting the tone for the rest of the visit. She lead us on a brief tour of the office, decorated with old The New Yorker covers, and brightly lit by the floor-to-wall windows.

We settled into the conference room where, for the next two hours, journalists, videographers, editors, podcasters, and copy editors gave us tips about journalism.

Sitting there, I couldn’t help but feel encouraged. It was a whirlwind, and by the time we left, almost three hours after we arrived, I was exhausted, but brimming with excitement. To see professional journalists at the top of their field talk about how they got to where they were made me confident that journalism is a career path I can follow.

More than listening to the staffers, seeing them writing, and editing, and designing inspired me to strive to their level. Their commitment and love for their job was hard to go unnoticed.

Journalism seems to be an unreachable career, but seeing those professional staffers made it seem like a goal, not a dream.

March 16, 2017 – From Teammates to Family

By Mackie Mallison

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On our second night in New York, as we set off for dinner, I could feel the group finally start to settle in with each other. Smiles were wider, people were laughing amongst each other and the usual high tension of the team was nowhere to be seen.

During the hour-long journey to Chez Lucienne, a French restaurant located in Harlem, unexpected friendships started to form. I watched as people who usually only communicated through Grant Magazine work cracked jokes and confided in one another. This is always the part of the trip that I enjoy the most – seeing new relationships being born.

Sitting down at the long table placed in the middle of the restaurant I came in thinking it was time to wind down from a long day of traveling around the city, but it was the exact opposite. Whether it was Georgia vlogging her dinner or Finn drawing a portrait of Kana on the paper lying on top of the table, by the end everyone was in a state of laughter. We weren’t just a team anymore, we were beginning to become a family.

Before this turning point in the trip, I could look to my left and see one group of people, closed off from the group of people closed off to my right. Up until this trip, the majority of Grant Magazine staff interactions were work-related. I found it awkward at first when I would try to go up to a teammate I rarely talked to and grasped to find topics to talk about that were aside from the work that we do. We would do late night excursions like our occasional Hotcake House runs as a team but hadn’t gotten to know each other on a deeper level yet. This is just the beginning of the trip. I can’t wait to see where this family goes.

March 15, 2017 – The Arrival

By Sydney Jones | Photo by Mako Barmon

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“Let’s hear it for New York…New York, New York!”

We belt out the words to Alicia Key’s Empire State of Mind as the coach bus drives down the freeway toward New York City. The 22 other Grant Mag staffers and I are staying in the city for the next week at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. It’s my first time in the Big Apple, and I couldn’t be more excited.

The chaperones sit up front talking as everyone looks towards the city and Dylan Palmer sings out his best Whitney Houston-esque high notes.

My emotions are everywhere after the long travel day filled with layovers and flight delays, but anticipation takes over as I laugh along to jokes and crane my neck, hoping to get my first glance of New York out the window.

The first time we pass Times Square on the bus I stare at all the lights, buildings and late night energy, surrounded in snow, that I didn’t know could come together in such an exhilarating yet chaotic combination.

As we go through our evening, getting into our hotel rooms and meeting back up before getting burgers at Shake Shack, my excitement continues to rise. But I realize the place isn’t what has me most excited. While I’m thrilled to be in New York City, it doesn’t compare to the amazing group of staff members I get to experience the trip with

I know our time in New York this year will bring us all closer than ever before. I look forward to this trip as a huge opportunity and consider myself beyond lucky to have these intelligent and fun people by my side through it all.