Sunfest 2017: Where Music Meets the Waterfront – OUTLOUD Multimedia

 

In the quaint downtown of West Palm Beach, where the streets are embellished by a variety of shops and restaurants, a vibrant music and arts festival comes to life every year in the first week of May. The five-day affair brings people together from all over the state to share their passion for food, art, and most importantly, music. And this year, the festival was bigger than ever.

Source: Sunfest 2017: Where Music Meets the Waterfront – OUTLOUD Multimedia

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Damien Rice in Concert is Magic

On November 8th of last year, I had the pleasure of seeing Irish folk artist, Damien Rice, in concert. When I found out that he would be coming to Miami for the first time, I had just finished obsessing over his third album release, “My Favorite Faded Fantasy.” After a 7 year hiatus, he had come back lyrically and musically stronger than ever before. And thankfully I was able to witness it.

A few days after, I decided to write about my experience but never got around to posting it. When I came across it again, I thought it would be appropriate to post it today, exactly a year since the concert:

Damien Rice knows how to captivate his audience. As the lights dimmed, the sound of laughter and chit chat quickly faded. Damien stepped out of the darkness and into the spotlight of the stage, greeted the crowd, and began to sing.

Right then and there, I was enchanted.

It was just him and his guitar. That’s all. Yet he managed to echo the heartbreaks, grief, and pain of hundreds. He would begin a song with a soft melody and end up bent double, viciously strumming—no, beating the guitar. The lights would suddenly go out disorienting us for a second, leaving us holding on to chord of the last song yet yearning for the next.

Often between songs he would tell a story. He jokingly told the audience about how growing up a Catholic boy made him a guilt-ridden man as a prelude to the opening of “9 Crimes.” He also shared the story of a man who thought he had a chance with a woman he fancied. After taking a few sips of wine, he slurred the lyrics of “Cheers Darling.”

But it was “Volcano” that showed the artistic and creative genius Damien was and still is. He made us a part of his performance by dividing the theater into sections, each with a different verse. At his cue, my voice joined the chorus-like sound of the many who sung along. Damien then proceeded to sing his line, his voice rising above ours.

And in that moment, it was just the audience, Damien, and his music. Nothing else mattered except for the undeniable string that connected us all to one another. 

Wake Me Up When November Ends

On November first, I submitted my first official college application. And later that week I submitted another, then another, then another. And now the wait has officially begun. I still have a lot more applications to go — safety schools, scholarships, regular decision applications—yet it’s so hard to believe that I’m at the point in my life where I’m making decisions for myself, decisions that can possibly change the course of the rest of my life.

Part of me is ready for it, but another part isn’t.

I’m ready to grow up into the person I’ve always wanted to be with the help of my dream colleges, but part of me wants to remain young, naive, and full of teenage bliss.

Nonetheless, the moment that I’ve been waiting for (my first college acceptance) is right around the corner and, quite frankly, I can’t wait. The first week of December is when I start to hear back from colleges, and I’ve never wanted November to end so soon.

This month-long wait is both a blessing and a curse.

I am giddy, excited, and hopeful but the pessimism and worries still weigh heavy on my shoulders. It’s going to be a rough month full of anxiety, self-doubt, and long nights of fighting away my sleep depriving thoughts of what-ifs.

November is going to be all about preparing emotionally for what may come in the future— whether I’ve planned for it or not. It is a month for self-reflection and deciding what I truly want to for myself. Yet, no matter what the outcome may be, I am confident that I’ll make the best of it.

Journalism Day at FIU: Calvin Hughes Shares His Wisdom

Under the humid East St. Louis sun, a young Calvin Hughes spent afternoons dribbling around the community basketball court, working on his jump shots and perfecting free-throws. Nothing could fathom his determination, for basketball, he believed, was the passport out of a rough neighborhood.

Today, Calvin Hughes is a news anchor on WPLG Local 10, in Miami, Florida. An emmy award-winning journalist, Hughes continues to be determined and hardworking amidst an ever-changing career. Because of his extensive knowledge in the field’s past, present, and future, he was invited to address an audience of young, aspiring journalists as a keynote speaker for Florida Scholastic Press Association’s (FSPA) 44th Annual Journalism Day at Florida International University (FIU) on Oct.14.

He emphasized the importance of developing strong communication skills: “At some point in your life, you will be called upon,” he said, warning the audience that one day, their speaking and writing skills will be tested. Hughes knows first-hand the importance of obtaining effective communication skills in the field of journalism. When he couldn’t obtain a scholarship through his basketball aspirations, Hughes sought fulfillment elsewhere. A teacher who noticed his unique way of telling stories in his writing suggested dabbling with journalism.

He joined the school newspaper, but quickly realized that his basketball slang and street talk wouldn’t cut it.

For hours on end, he’d take the local newspaper and read out loud. He was relentless and eager to perfect his speaking skills. “I had to completely transform the way I spoke. I practiced working on my diction…Just like I worked on my jump shot,” he said, now a seasoned reporter with a confident, booming voice.

Hughes has had a lot of experience with adapting to change, coincidentally the Journalism Day’s theme for the year. He experienced a culture shock when he transitioned from small town reporting as a recent college graduate to covering international news in the diverse city of Miami, Florida.

“In Miami, you have to be concerned about what’s going on … everywhere,” he said.

Not only did he have to adjust to a new city, but also to a new age of technology. He witnessed the field of journalism confront a new generation that receives news from social media networks. His role as a news anchor, in response, changed. He would no longer break the news; instead his job developed into fact checking and serving as the “journalism police.”

He realized that journalism is a transforming market and pointed out that this year’s coverage of the presidential election is an example why: Both presidential candidates announced their bid for presidency on Twitter. Baffled, Hughes looked unto the young audience before him and said, “Your generation has challenged my generation. We’re still trying to figure you out.”

Ultimately, Calvin Hughes has learned over the course of his career that journalism demands a quick adaptation to change. But he reminded those present on Journalism Day that although the field is transforming, one thing will always remain the same: Journalists’ adamant pursuit of the truth.

“The truth is being compromised,” he said. “It’s up to your generation that the future of communication lives on.”

New Theme, New Me

As my final year of high school approaches — three days to be exact — I’ve felt the need to take a step back and re-evaluate how I live my life. The past three years have been a series of worrying about college, stress eating, and going to sleep at 1 a.m. to meet deadlines.

I don’t want to live like that anymore. I don’t want to drown under the weight of the high expectations I set for myself. It’s not healthy. I want to live a well-balanced life where I feel comfortable with who I am and where I’m heading — wherever that may be.

That’s why I decided that this year will be different (or so I hope). This year I will try to put myself first: Eat (somewhat) healthy, drink more water, and feel comfortable in my own skin. I want to start treating myself to the little joys of life, even if that means I have to set aside my homework to spend a day with family and friends.

Ultimately, I want to be at peace. And I will try to share this experience of changing my lifestyle on my blog (the good, the bad, and the ugly). But first, a new blog theme to set the tone.

Allow Me to Catch You Up

It’s quite ironic how my blog has been silent as of late when my life has been the absolute opposite! So far 2016 has been one of the best and worst years of my life. It was the worst because the stress of my school life and my home life was becoming way too much for me to handle. And yet I am here, typing away, and ready to conquer the world. Judging by what I’ve been up to this summer, I’m off to a good start. Allow me to keep you up to date, shall we?

New York, New York: I didn’t go to the last day of school because I was on a plane to New York! I spent approximately a week there exploring a world unknown to me, which turned out to be an amazing experience. I’ve always wanted to travel the whole world and experience different cultures, but little did I know I simply had to walk through three different neighborhoods in New York. I fell in love with this city over a matter of hours. I can’t wait to go back.

Yale University: My next stop after New York was New Haven, Connecticut where I attended a conference for College Prep Scholars at Yale University. It was a one day event, but it was amazing. It was amazing that I was even invited there to begin with.  I never thought that I would be good enough to even become a College Prep Scholar, let alone sit in one of Yale’s classrooms.  I spoke with admissions officers of Yale and multiple other colleges and it just made everything so real. I could possibly be a student at one of these colleges a year from now!

Girls Who Code: In addition to becoming a College Prep Scholar, I also got accepted into the Girls Who Code 7 week summer immersion program. Now, I know how that sounds. Doesn’t this girl want to become a journalist? Why the heck is she learning to code. Well, my friend. There’s a reason to my madness. Many people say that journalism is dying when in reality it is evolving. We get our news from the internet, so wouldn’t it be great if I could program a new way to tell stories? Hence why I’m learning to code, but it is NOT easy. I am not very science oriented so it’s been a struggle!

 

Twenty One Pilots: Luck was definitely by my side when a friend from my Girls Who Code summer program approached me with relatively cheap tickets to see Twenty One Pilots. I thought they were regular seats until I found out what GA1 stood for–the pit. The pit is on ground level where crazy fans can push their way to the front. When my friend and I went, it was every man–every woman– for themselves. I slowly weaved to the front, and got an amazing view! The concert sure was life changing. It converted me to hardcore fan and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.

New Responsibilities: Right before school ended, editor positions were announced for my school newspaper. I had been anticipating that moment since I started the journalism program at my school, hence I worked tirelessly to get there—so tirelessly that I once finished writing an article on a dying phone in the parking lot of Magic Kingdom. When the moment of truth came around, I wasn’t sure how I would handle the news. Fortunately, the news was good because I became the new managing editor of the newspaper! I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy job, but I was ready to become a leader and create a publication that the staff and I could be proud of.

AP Biology Musings

It has only been three years, yet I feel like I have been in high school forever—a painful, agonizing eternity. And what’s worse than sitting in a desk day after day, wishing and hoping to leave this purgatory? Finally getting to leave, cap and gown in hand, only to have the rest of our lives pass us by in a heart beat…

“You! Explain to the class what the electron transport train is.”

And just like that, I’m back in this godforsaken chair.  I clear my throat and proceed to answer Mr. Sullivan’s question. Erm, demand.

“Uh. A chain that transports electrons?”

With a furrow of the brows, Mr. Sullivan turns to the person sitting next me. As if on cue, Pepper fluffs her hair as she explains in full detail about something that I will probably never encounter again in my life—at least not as an English major. Satisfied that one person in the class has been paying attention, Mr. Sullivan turns back to the board where his doodles of indecipherable biological processes awaited him. And I…returned to my journal.

From Watch Dogs to Lap Dogs, Journalists Made Trump

While waiting in line at Walgreen’s, I glanced at a rack of newspapers beside me. Blaring in bold, red letters the name Trump dominated the front page headline on almost every newspaper publication. I was–to say the least–disgusted. I’m sure there are bigger and much more important things going on in the world, or at least in the presidential race, than Trump’s excessive need to prove to American voters that he can indeed pull nonsense out of the deepest crevices of his being. Yet, I found myself gravitating towards the newspapers and grabbing (and I say this shamefully) multiple publications. I flipped through the pages, and scoffed at Trump’s idiocy. Did he really say that? Is he being for real? What’s next?

For a while, I wasn’t fazed by Trump. Nobody would vote, much less support, such a bigot. Right? Right!? Well I was wrong. We all were. What started off as a means to poke some fun out of politics through Trump Gifs and articles about his outrageous statements turned into an uncontrollable force that evidently played into his favor. Trump got more media coverage than any other presidential candidate. He got free publicity! This is all thanks to journalists and media outlets succumbing to giving the American people what they wanted to read–Entertainment.

Sure, one could say that it’s the average Americans’ fault for being so passionate about criticizing T.V personalities, but we wouldn’t know of these T.V personalities if the media didn’t feed them to us. The truth of the matter is, the media tells the public what to care about. And thanks to the headlines I saw in Walgreen’s, we’ve been told to care about Trump–a lot.

What’s even worse is that the media covered much of Trump’s ramblings without effectively fact checking and shaming him for it, leaving the general public to think that Trump is a straightforward, no BS kind of man. Trump supporters are infatuated with the idea of a businessman running the country. In hopes that the economy could improve under his administration (let’s hope he doesn’t get that far), people struggling financially–particularly the middle class–are convinced that Trump is the answer. What they don’t know is that Trump has had many bankruptcies and failed investments. The media failed to inform them that.

New York Times columnist,  Nikolas Kristoff, said, “We were lap dogs, not watchdogs.” And he is right. The media failed us. Let’s just hope that journalists and news outlets will learn from their mistake and go back to being watchdogs.

 

What Haunts Me

The red carpet path, down the aisle, towards the one

is where I fear I’ll walk alone.

The absence of an absent father, a daughter of none.

White, wedding gowns.  Wet with tears.

Droplets of regret. Longing for love.

Who will walk me down the aisle?

My uncle, my cousin, my brother? Perhaps, my mother.

But not even she can fill the you-shaped hole

in my chest.