FEATURE ARTICLE-”THE BEST FIGHT I EVER HAD” A BOXER’S RESPONSE TO RACISM

Racism is the discrimination against someone of a different race based off of the belief that one’s race is superior. Racism is a prominent issue plaguing society and Mr Perera, a 43 year old London resident originally from Sri Lanka, is no stranger to this type of prejudice.  Mr Perera’s story was one that I could truly take away a lot from. Not only did he share a look into the harsh reality of the world but also shared some useful advice when it comes to making rational decisions.

The first time Mr Perera had experienced a severe form of racism was during his first year of college in 1993. He was studying in Portland and at this particular point of time racist behaviour was much more prevalent than it is today. Mr Perera had gone to a “shady” bar, as he had described, along with his college boxing team and two coaches. At the bar there was a small group of older white men who were looking at him with revulsion, quite clearly because of his race. One of the men went ahead and said to him “I am going to kick out your teeth you black b*stard!” It was at this moment exactly that Mr Perera’s eyes were opened to the biased and unjustified behaviour of those who believed that they were of a higher caliber than him because of their race.

Although terrified on the inside Mr Perera tried to put on a brave front and let out a cheeky comment- “I’m black?” he exclaimed. This led to the men erupting in laughter. Even though they were laughing at him, his sense of humour was able to temporarily diffuse the tense atmosphere. Unfortunately, the situation escalated once again in a matter of seconds when the same man said “Let’s step outside” implying that he wanted to fight. Luckily, Mr Perera’s teammates came to his rescue and both their large number and daunting appearance succeeded in intimidating the group of older white men, forcing them to leave.

While Mr Perera was lucky to have escaped unscathed from the incident, he admitted to have been greatly pained by what had happened.“It hurts, it genuinely hurts” he recounted. In hindsight Mr Perera believes that he was quite overconfident in his college days and didn’t realise what a dangerous turn it could have taken. Based on his personal experience, Mr Perera strongly urged us not to resort to physical retaliation. As much as you want to stand up for yourself he advised us to not do so as it could end up horribly wrong. “It’s not worth it” he explained, and went on to tell us that money is replaceable but life isn’t. He acknowledged that he himself had been guilty of this and that he had been provoked into making rash decisions that ended up doing more harm than good. He emphasised the importance of letting go of one’s ego when it comes to such situations- you must make practical decisions. Mr Perera reminded us that life isn’t a movie and that despite the number of victorious heroes in the movies we love, there is a dangerous precedent set about violence. “You don’t win fights” he stated matter of factly. He drew attention to the fact that you can never be sure as to when the fight actually ends- it may come back to haunt you in a horrible way. Mr Perera shared a devastating incident that took place where in he had experienced exactly this. He had found it necessary to get involved when a boy his age was causing trouble to an older woman. In the moment it had seemed like he had ‘won’, but it was only when his father had returned home from work with broken glasses and scratches all over his fingers that he realised that there was no winning in such situations. The boy had taken out his anger on his father instead. In his closing comments, Mr Perera urged us to make smarter decisions by letting go of our overconfidence and pride, two common sources for making mistakes. Most importantly, he wanted us to never forget that our safety comes first.

 

 

 

Growing up in Apartheid South Africa

“I still can’t believe I lived in a place where everything is segregated by race.”

I was lucky enough to attend a very informative talk about a woman who grew up in Apartheid South Africa and how that impacted her as a person.

She explained how Native Africans not only experienced physical brutality but also were considered inferior to others. She believes that she wasn’t impacted by the issue as others because she was white. She was more privileged resource and education wise.

Other countries wanted to support the Anti-Apartheid Movement and so they began to boycott the country. South Africans weren’t allowed into certain countries and a lot of pressure was exerted upon the government in order to ease the laws.

When she was younger she didn’t realise how much of an issue this was and wasn’t really exposed to the struggles people were facing. But, when she was 14 years old she learnt of the situation in South Africa and as a Christian she strongly believes that everyone is created equally by God. She explained how this lead to constant arguments with her family as they didn’t want to her to get involved with this matter. She said that many people were empathetic towards those who were struggling but but, didn’t do anything in order to better the situation. She shared how she felt “I feel very strongly about injustice, I feel very strongly about fairness and I feel very strongly about bystanders.”

She seems to have an extremely strong stance on simply being a bystander- she believes that they play an equally big role in the injustice that is taking place. What struck me about this was the previous talk with Mr Perera during which he advised us to not fight back because you never know how it might end. I realise that a balance between both is essential when encountering such situations. You don’t want to be a bystander but, at the same time you must make practical decisions when trying to help.

She also shared with us how she was an active member of an Anti Apartheid organisation at university (National University of African Youth). She shared with us one of her shocking encounters with someone form the secret police who was asking her weird questions while she was at a cafe.

Although times have changed she believes that prejudice still exists and that “it isn’t totally rosy yet.”

Hopefully there will be a time where the colour of our skin doesn’t matter and the way that we are as people determines the way that we are treated and the course of our life.

Surviving the Marathon Des Sables: a 140 km race over 6 days in the Sahara desert

Mr Ken Stirrat had participated in the Marathon Des Sables- one of the most challenging and strenuous races. It consisted of 900 runners with over 45 different nationalities and lasted 6 days (240 km). Mr Stirrat explained that the main reason why he wanted to partake in the marathon was because he wanted to challenge himself in order to prove to himself that he could do it and also so that he could enjoy magnificent sceneries and landscapes which the Sahara desert had in bounty.

Mr Stirrat explained how he had prepared for the long and tiring journey ahead of him by watching his diet, which consisted of eating a lot of leafy vegetables. Mr Stirrat stated that he had hamstring and back problems and had never run more than 10 km which made him lack some confidence. He also touched upon how he had access to amazing training grounds in when he was living in Oman (1999) and in Dubai (2008). This greatly perked my interest as I have spent a lot of my childhood in the Middle East and this brought back some amazing memories I have of the wonderful landscapes and nature.

He informed us about the fact that he had to pack a lot of clothes, equipment and food- specifically nuts as they contain a lot of protein. He also specified how salt tablets were essential for magnesium and in order to balance the water and salt levels (too much water could lead too death).

Mr Stirrat spoke about his progression as well as mental and physical state over each day of the marathon. He spoke about how he had ended up carrying too many things and had to discard them as it was becoming too heavy for him. On the first day he had managed to cover a distance of 38 km and on the second day he had travelled 42 km. Unfortunately, the third day was disastrous as he hadn’t consumed enough food and water. He was exhausted and he just laid under a tree for ten minutes. He explained how those 10 minutes seemed like an eternity and how he felt a feeling of hopelessness wash over him- he wanted to give up. Luckily one of his friends took him to the checkpoint which was 10 km away (Mr Stirrat had covered 38 km on his own). I was extremely touched by the strong bond that Mr Stirrat and his friend had formed in such a short time as he had just met him. Mr Stirrat said that the “medical facilities were phenomenal.” He took some rest and was perfectly healthy and prepared for day 4 during which he travelled 80 km!

I am sure many of us were able to relate to the feeling of hopelessness and the urge to give up and so his journey was truly inspirational. It really gave me hope and I was able to look at this entire marathon from a larger perspective- that of life. Like in the marathon there will be many beautiful moments and many wonderful relationships would be built but, at the same time there will be hardships and hurdles along the way but, there will always be something to learn from those experiences.

He also shared with us what the most essential thing to possess in order to be able to complete the marathon and that was PMA (Positive Mental Approach).

Mr Stirrat shared with us his biggest take away from this experience “The power of the mind is amazing- the things it can make you do….”

Mr Stirrat inspired us all by using his experience in the Marathon Des Sables as one to prove that we can accomplish anything that we put our minds to.

 

 

Helping to Protect the Most Vulnerable: my time with Save the Children and UNICEF

Fiona Herbert is a child protecting consultant and is a qualified psychotherapist with a background in social service. She did a philosophy course and worked in a mental/ psychiatric ward. She was living in Dubai and wasn’t particularly loving the work that she was doing. Her husband then got a job in Kenya which led them to move there. She worked in child protection and helped with policies and procedures in regards to abuse (sexual, neglect etc).

She explained how much she enjoyed her job and loves working with people. She talked about how working with people has always been interesting and unexpected. “Every child’s life you that you can impact positively, then it’s worth it.” That has always been the main driving force for her to get into child protection.

UNICEF teamed up with a NGO in order to reach the locals. Fiona was able to train them to see signs and symptoms of neglect and at what point does it turn into abuse. One of her goals was to strengthen the relationships between the agencies that were working with children this is because of one of the cases that she was faced with where a 12 year old girl was sexually abused by a man and his friends. She was traumatised and would have to constantly retell and go through the very same trauma every time she would have to talk about it to each agency.

She believes that she is an advocate for that child- that is the mindset with which see proceeds onto each case, with an end goal of protecting the child. She also acknowledges the fact that child abuse isn’t always intentional, some people just have horrible life situations.

It was a very different perspective for me when she sympathised and looked at the situations of underprivileged families. It is extremely inspiring to me how she is someone who cares so deeply for the safety of a child and is someone who handles sensitive cases with great care.

She explained that local NGO’s don’t have enough money or resources and this is a constant battle that they are facing. They don’t have enough money to go and check up on the children.

The terrorist issues pushed her out of Kenya and she came to Singapore along with her family. She chose to work at a school as she missed doing some direct work and missed working one on one. Another factor that was quite appealing that there would be enough resources that were being provided. She enjoys the school environment as everyone works as a team and she doesn’t feel as though she is the only one helping a child. Working as a team provides the support and strength that would be lacking if she was working alone where she wouldn’t really be sure as to whether the child is completely safe or not. She hopes to form a transparent and strong relationship with the kids she is working with and hopes to protect and provide them with a safe a stable environment.

”The best fight I ever had” a Boxer’s response to racism.

Mr Perera gives of an aura of extreme happiness and anyone who would meet him would deem him to be a joyous individual. But, listening to him talk about a very sensitive topic made me realise that he has been through a lot of tough times in life. As ironic as it may seem; he is someone who has overcome his pain and has moved forward in life with the help of humour. He showed us a vulnerable side to himself- of course interlaced with comedy, and shared with us some valuable life experiences.

He spoke to us about how comedy was a source of comfort to him and it had proven to be a very effective weapon when it came to getting out of tricky situations. Mr Perera spoke about his experience back when he was a first year college student in a boxing team. He retold the incident that took place in the south of England- Portland where he went to a bar with his boxing team and coaches. The incident took place at around 1993 and 1994 which was a period of time during which racism was quite common.

Back then Mr Perera was a skinny young man with long hair. As he was trying to get a drink he was being stopped by a group of bulky white men. Mr Perera recalled how they looked at him like he was a “cockroach”. They later on went to say “I am going to kick out your teeth you black bastard.” The men clearly wanted to fight and said “Let’s step outside” so that they wouldn’t be interrupted by the bouncers. Mr Perera figured that he would have only three possible solutions at this point of time; He could let his boxing team come over, punch the man and hope for the best or throw out a cheeky comment and wait for his friends.

He decided to opt for the third option and went ahead and asked “I’m Black?” This caused the men to laugh. Mr Perera decided to use self depreciating humour in order to diffuse the tension in that situation. One of his friends came in and said “Everything alright?” His entire boxing team created a ring around them- not forgetting the fact that many of them were muscular and bald with lots of tattoos and piercings.

Mr Perera explained that humour is a wonderful way to create a positive environment. He explained that as much as this entire situation is one that he can laugh at now it could have taken quite a dangerous turn. He confessed that even though on the outside he seemed quite confident and brave he was actually very scared. He explained how this incident did affect him- “It hurts, It genuinely hurts.”

It was at around this point that I realised the pain he was feeling at that very moment. No one deserves to be spoken to like that and that just isn’t the way to treat someone. But, I must say that this talk with Mr Perera was one of the most eye opening as I could relate a lot to it. Imagining myself in Mr Perera’s position- I cannot imagine what I would do with the anger I would be feeling at that moment. I would have definitely made a very rash decision that could have done more worse than good. Mr Perera’s story also made me realise something… there is a part of me that is egoistic. A part of me that is offended at someone looking down upon me, a part of me that feels the need to show to the rest of the world how wrong that person is. If I wasn’t that egoistic it wouldn’t be that hard for me to let it go. It wouldn’t hurt my pride to walk away.

Not only did he open my eyes to another part of myself but he also gave us all some very valuable advice when he explained that “A real fight could go so wrong.” When asked if there was any advice he would give himself at that time it would be to “Shut up and walk away.” He explained that standing up for yourself could lead to more trouble than good. This is real life not a movie and there was one thing everyone took away that day. “You don’t win fights” he advised us to throw away our ego and pride and make practical decisions in our own interest. Money is replaceable but our life isn’t.

Feature Article- Omer and his Cousin with Autism

Autism is often times looked at as a shortcoming or defect by society but, grade 9 student Omer thinks otherwise. He shares with us the positive side of this so called ‘disability’.

Omer’s 7 year old cousin was diagnosed at the tender age of two with “a severe case of Autism” as Omer had stated. According to Omer’s explanation those with Autism tend to be socially awkward and don’t like attention. Omer explained how interacting with his cousin was initially quite a challenge as he would get easily frightened when in the presence of those he cannot recognise and because it took him quite some time to comprehend Omer’s intentions.

Never the less, Omer explained that his cousin attends daily “one on one therapy sessions” and small improvements can be seen every time Omer visits him. Omer stated that his cousin has become more comfortable when it comes to holding up conversations with him.

Omer also informed us about the various talents and hobbies his cousin possesses. He explained that his cousin is very good at Math and English and builds intricate Lego structures. He fondly recalled his encounters with his cousin just this December break and explained to us that when trying to connect with his cousin brother he must be in his comfort zone and must have some time to get used to your presence.

When asked if their relationship had developed because of this Omer enthusiastically replied saying “Of course! We are much more closer and comfortable with each other.”

Omer has showcased Autism in a different light- a much more positive one. One filled with love and hope.

Feature Articles – Group Two

What are feature articles?

A feature article is when the main article focuses on a specific person, incident or place in detail.

The focus of the information (facts or opinions)?

BBC– This article mainly focuses upon stating facts regarding the story of Kosal Khiev’s life and the decisions he made. Although the article is predominantly made up of facts they have carefully stated only a selective group of them in order to paint an image on what kind of a person he is. They also effectively gain the sympathy of the readers by shining light on his difficult childhood and the struggles he faced as a child (feeling lonely). They also bring to the reader’s attention the fact that he lacked a father figure while growing up and how his mother had only a piece of her husband’s fractured skull to bury. They also kind of try to underplay the severity of his crime by stating that the people who were shot during the shootout weren’t actually killed. The journalist (Helier Cheung) uses facts.

Aljazeera– This feature article by Christopher Shay clearly showcases his opinion on Kosal Kiev- he believes that Khiev was a man with a traumatic childhood which led him o make bad decisions. But, that according to the journalist doesn’t necessarily make him a bad man. Although he never once openly states his opinion it is very clear about where his sympathy lies through this piece of writing. Shay did so by focusing on the personal struggles and hardships Khiev faced during his time in prison (specifically during his solitary confinement). Shay wrote about how Khiev managed to find himself once again and how he was able to turn around his life with the help of poetry. He even made it seem as though Khiev’s deportation was unfair as he was raised I the US for his entire life and had already served his complete prison time. Finally Shay uses Khiev’s story as an example of what Cambodian immigrants go through when living in America. He draws the reader’s attention and garners their sympathy by showcasing how the Cambodian Americans are constantly living in the fear of being deported. Overall Shay definitely states his opinion and that clearly influences the reader’s opinion on Khiev’s story and he does so effectively by backing up his points with certain facts.

NBC-This feature article written by Sahra Vang Nguyen provides information which have a good mix between facts and opinions. Nguyen doesn’t take sides but provides her sympathy for where it is due. Unlike the other two feature articles she admits that Khiev had made some bad decisions which led to him facing severe consequences. Whether he deserved these consequences or not- she doesn’t state her opinion instead showcases Khiev’s opinion on his sentence and how he believes that it was unfair. At the same time she counteracts his statement on his sentence being too severe with his statements were he expresses his feeling of guilt and how he regrets his decisions which balance the reader on their opinions of Khiev. Unlike the other two feature articles there are no clear rights or wrongs. The facts are just stated. Even when it comes to drawing sympathy, Nyugen doesn’t use any special wording but, just simply states the struggles of his life- which she doesn’t even label as struggles. Instead she just simply states as a part of his life. Whether the reader feels sympathetic towards him totally depends on the individual themselves. By the end of this feature article the opinion the reader has is completely their own. Nyugen just stated facts and added in opinions and they both ended up balancing each other out leaving the reader without a clear choice to make. Therefore the reader is forced to make a decision on their own based on the unbiased information provided by the journalist.

How do journalists try to engage us?

The journalists do so by trying to garner the sympathy of readers or by trying to make the story seem like something that could happen to a normal person. In the case of Kosal Khiev the journalists also try to make the mistake he made seem quite simple everyone makes bad decisions but, his just ended up turning his life upside down.

How do the articles compare in angle and bias?

Each journalist has a different intention when writing these articles. It is quite clear in the articles on Kosal Khiev as you can tell that some of them are trying to put him under a positive light or showcasing his decisions as terrible- sometimes they even showcase no intentions. At the end of the day they want to achieve something whether it be swaying the reader’s mind or aiding them in making their decisions these feature articles are great influencers on people’s opinions.

Priyanka- English Reflection

This term has been extremely productive as I have learnt a lot of new things. I have learnt how to write a commentary and organise and structure my ideas into a good essay. I have also learnt how to analyse poems and how to look into the poetry techniques used by the poet and the possible reasons behind them being used. I have also learnt about narratives and descriptive writing. I am now aware of the important role the different perspectives play. I am also able to make subtle descriptions and inferences of simple objects. I need to work on my essays as my commentary is pretty strong but i am unable to look into the poem deeper. I need to make relations that aren’t as basic.

NYAA Report for November

Fine arts

I was required to do an art project that had me showcase my identity. As it as a more open ended assignment I was allowed to use whatever art medium that I wanted to and could unleash my creativity to its fullest. I worked on my acrylic techniques as well as detailed symbols. I have also been struggling with using acrylic paint on canvas and so took the opportunity to work on an artwork that required me too use these techniques. This is also my very first painting on a large canvas. I am trying a different style to what I usually paint. This time I went for a more old and worn look. As a result I was introduced to techniques like layering and am creating a lot of depth (shadows) using different shades of paint (towards the lighter side).

Sonos

I have also signed up for an activity called ‘Sonos’ which is a high school choir. It is a great way for me to learn ad practice different genres of music (musicals) than what usually opt for. It is also a great way or me to work on finding my tone when singing with a group. In ‘Sonos’ we are looking for different songs that we can perform for the concert in December. We are practicing two songs at the moment and learning different techniques that we can add in such as noodling and a lot of harmonising.We are also working on our overall voice as a collective group and also our backing vocals (humming). We have also decided to sing a song from the musical AIDA. I have never sung a song from a musical before and the singing style is very different but, the performance is coming together and I am trying different voice ranges for this performance (higher than usual) as I am able to use some of the techniques I learnt from my recent ITP lessons. Now we re all just practicing and learning the lyrics as well as remembering and adding in new harmonies and backing vocals as well as solos.

ITP

I have just started taking ITP lessons and have had two so far. The reason I took these lessons was to help my singing grow technically and having some individual time will greatly help me better my skills. In these two lessons I have started to get a way better understanding of my voice and its range. I have been working on my breathing techniques and bringing in my own individuality to my singing. It has also been very insightful as I am seeing improvements in my singing abilities in such a short time just by utilising the right techniques.

Global Perspectives – Identity

Coming into Grade 9 completely unaware of what to expect from Global Perspectives I can now confidently say that I was pleasantly surprised. I expected it to consist of a lot of essay writing and research but, i was fortunately proven wrong. It is amazing how much I have grown to like this subject over the course of just one term. I have developed a very special connection with it and truly enjoy how I can freely express myself.

Our first unit this year was identity which really got me digging deeper. Initially I thought there wasn’t much to do and that I was already quite well informed about myself but, over the course of this unit I realised that there is a lot about me that I am unaware of. I discovered different aspects of my identity and got to know what the people around me thought of me as (through the Johari window). I would have never had an opportunity to genuinely study my identity and my personality in such depth.

The final assignment for the end of the term was to make a mandala showcasing our sun and shadow qualities and writing an essay where we analyse each symbol on the mandala. This was a really great to summarise my identity and put together everything I had learned this term. I was able to understand the factors that made me who I am such as, my family and the people around me. I was also able to find parts me that both the people around me and I agree on. This assignment also led me to find some amazing symbols that I could really connect too. These symbols in fact, gave me a better understanding of each of my qualities and helped me to draw similarities between the symbol, quality and myself.

Overall I believe I had quite a productive term in Global Perspectives and have gotten a basic idea of the format of the course. It involves a lot of discussion and intellectual thinking. It opens us up to new and different points of views and allows us to sometimes come to a joint consensus. I have really gotten a deeper understanding of myself this term and hope to expand my knowledge on the world around me through the rest of the course.