On the High Road Blog
I'd first like to start by saying that I do not know much about environmentalism. I know the basic issues, the fact that if we don't get our carbon emissions to net zero soon, we could face some harsh consequences. I know that our little actions matter, but so do the actions of governments who have the power to surge forward and take the lead on these issues (although they often fail to do so). I also know that the rich profit from anti-sustainability matters (e.g.
Growing up, I didn't have the best of everything. Although, I never had to worry about where my next meal would come from or if I would have a roof over my head come nightfall. This was because my parents made sacrifices. They did everything in their power to make sure that me and my little sisters were taken care of. Sadly, many of my friends weren’t in the same situation. My community is so food insecure that breakfast and lunch was free for all students and the doors of the school left unlocked until late at night to ensure students had a place of refuge.
Akeelah in the Bee taught me about word etymology. Considering the film is more an inspirational drama than it is an educational guide, I am thus not thoroughly versed on the in-depth analysis of the origins of linguistic discipline. I often find myself curious about the phenomenon of individual words containing a multitude of seemingly disparate definitions. And so, upon researching the term equity, once again, my curiosity was piqued.
I think about racial bias and microaggressions a lot. Its annoying.
Is my response to the question
Why do politics matter?
I have absolutely no idea.
So that is the problem
And equally the point.
You would think
That if politics were so important
They would then be more accessible
Politics would be taught
In your average school
Elementary. Middle. High
Private. Charter. Public.
Bred to feed, only allowed to breath for another’s need.
Why do you struggle so hard to leave?
Leave this place that can so easily be replaced
Leave the place that kept you in a cage,
Why do you struggle?
Let it go.
Slip into the peace of the unknown.
But, no you fight
You fight to show your worth
They fire to show their girth
Politics is the forefront of where change happens through policymaking. In my opinion, the government, at least in America, still stands strong because citizens and people in the country still have a glimmer of hope and belief that the government will and is serving the public good. And I am one of those citizens that still have that glimmer of hope.
As an Asian American immigrant with a green card, I have no legal right to vote. As a child, I didn't think this mattered, why would one person's vote out of the 329 million people make any difference? None of my parents nor grandparents voted, either because they also weren't citizens or because they simply didn't care. What's the difference between one white man and another white man when they both don't speak your language and don't care about your community?
Every night, my father comes home at 10:30PM, a rancid stench radiating from him as he strips off his white uniform spotted with icterine sweat stains. Submerging his clothes, he winces as his calloused hands touch the lukewarm water. There is a lack of elegance and pride in his actions—once youthful and joyous, he is now a broken man. He is just one of the many workers at the Wonton factory whose conditions are uncomfortable at best and treacherous at worse. The white haze of flour impairs the vision of workers as they carry hundreds of pounds of noodles on their bent backs.
At the Western NY Area Labor Federation, I get to stand on the shoulders of giants as I enter a movement much older and larger than myself: the labor movement.
To be honest, I personally have never understood exactly what the term “equity” means. I have heard it used in so many different contexts, but have never been able to determine a solid definition. It seemed as if equity was just a spin-off of equality, but after some research I found this to be quite untrue.
This piece was created by famous street artist Banksy in 2005 in Jerusalem. Banksy’s work usually has some political or social message attached - this one being peace over war.
My organization, Say Yes to Education Buffalo, is addressing equity through education. However, they’re just not saying “Every child should have access to a great education!” They ask, “What are the specialized needs of children in this school that prevent them from having a great education?"
Coming to Cornell this past year from my high school was a very interesting transition. I went to a practically all white, all girls private school with an outrageously wealthy demographic. I was surrounded by privilege on the daily and was hyper aware of my minority status. I was at my school for 8 years and despite these differences I found my place in this Greenwich, Connecticut bubble.
The work above is attributed to a poet by the name of Juvenal. He lived in the Roman Empire and wrote in the late first and early second century AD. I choose to use it because I have taken inspiration from it for as long as I can remember. Despite its age, I believe the poem is still a culture changer because members of contemporary society look to the past, specifically to ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, for wisdom to guide future action.
Thinking back on my time in school, so many of my memories involve politics and civic engagement. To me, politics matter because they make up so many of these memories, both positive and negative. They matter because I care about what is going to happen to where I live and go to school. When I think of politics and civic engagement, I think of…
I chose to use a piece from John Hollow Horn, as it sparks thoughts of both the past and the present for me. I am reminded of what my native ancestors persevered through on this soil, and I am also reminded of what that same soil is encountering due to our actions today. Both of these instances symbolize a sort of tipping point that can represent the end of what we have known.
We cannot look at the environmental crisis without considering the institutional rules and regulations that have caused it and the government and corporate decisions that decide who it impacts first. Our institutional systems made the effects of climate change, polluted air and water, and hazardous living conditions a distant issue in the minds of many, particularly white wealthy people. This is an issue that is affecting the polar bears, or some poor third-world countries; not my community, so why should I care about it?
We see it everywhere don't we- litter on the streets, toxic fumes, dirty water and bad air quality where people of color in America reside. Poverty and pollution are almost synonymous.
According to Robert D. Bullard, “Environmental racism refers to any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color. It also includes exclusionary and restrictive practices that limit participation by people of color in decision-making boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. Environmental racism exists within local zoning boards as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency”. 1
Beyond being eloquent, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that we, the people, are all “... caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” is also, of course, extremely accurate. His words speak to the extent to which we all rely on each other, for better or worse. We depend on others' viewpoints and perspectives in order to figure out who we are. This is a problematic habit, but the default for much of society. Can we even be who we want to be if others do not see us how we want?
I’m struck by the disparities in civic education between my personal experience and that of basically the rest of New York State. As I've read lesson plans and researched civic education, I’ve been thinking about a comment from my supervisor. He said that only about 24% of high school seniors in Buffalo can name the three branches of government.
It wasn't until the 2016 election that I became part of a movement. I was extremely frustrated with the political climate and decided that I needed to choose an issue I was passionate about, and focus all my effort on making a difference for that group of people. Cincinnati has a large population of refugees. There was a Students Together Assisting Refugees Club (STAR) at my high school, so I joined. I started tutoring a group of students every week at The Academy of World Languages elementary school. But that wasn't enough.
As I sit and reflect upon my experience on the High Road, I can't help but think about how we live in a time where false realities and false securities are the only way that we interpret truth. Truth; our system isn't broken, it functions the way it was created to function. Truth; a community can be aided to its detriment. Truth; education is just as important as action. Lie; our system needs to be fixed by people with privilege taking action. This week in a meeting with John Washington, the co-director of organizing at PUSH Buffalo, he said something profound.
At the beginning of this week, Lou-Jean said, “you can be a problem solver without being weighed down by the problems". Initially, this statement did not make much sense to me. But after my first week of the High Road Fellowship, I understand what she means—you can work through problems or work to remedy problems, without being focused on the negative aspects. With a positive attitude, you can make changes that better lives and make the best of a situation.
The biggest surprise of this week has been its speed. I expected the majority of this first week to be spent preparing for the rest of the summer.
So, this week we survived. I'd thus like to start this post by saying congratulations to us. Through a new metro system and, for many us, a city we've never been to or explored, congrats—we made it. This week has in this way been akin to O-Week, but rather than getting lost trying to find Ives, we got lost trying to get home from our (very spread out) jobs.
When I spoke to my supervisor at Open Buffalo for the first time, I asked: “How do you persuade people to care about your initiatives?" All the stories I saw on the news and my interactions with local government at home, told me that we are in a period of record levels of governmental stagnation. I expected more of the same in Buffalo.
“Woe, Woe, Buffalo” opens up an October 2007 article in The Economist. The opinion piece uses arguments from Harvard economist Edward Glaeser to make the case that the city is beyond the point of saving, and the government should stop trying.
Following decades of disinvestment, the advent of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Buffalo Billion were welcome news for the region, promising a wealth of potential for economic resurgence. Yet, in 2014 alone, the regional economy could have been $4 billion stronger had racial income gaps been eliminated. Continued exclusion from the development process would only exacerbate inequalities in health, education, access to jobs and services, and wealth, and further limit Buffalo’s growth potential.
Sitting down at my wooden desk at the WNY Area Labor Federation, surrounded by posters exclaiming “Stop the War on Workers” and “Good Jobs for America Now,” soundtracked by EDM music from the gym across the hall, I begin to reflect on my first month as an intern at the WNY ALF.
Hello! My name is Melissa Gao, I’m from Syracuse, NY, I’m a rising sophomore in the ILR School, and I’m working at Young Audiences of Western New York this summer.
When my friends asked what I would be doing this summer and where I would be, their initial reactions were-- “But why Buffalo?” And to be frank, I did not exactly have a good answer for them. All I knew was that Buffalo would be a new city for me (Through first-hand experience, I now know that there are plenty of local markets, food, festivals, concerts, and sites to explore). As far as a typical internship goes, I did not want to spend my summer sitting at a desk from 9 to 5, and then go home and not have to think critically about my work.
My experience in Buffalo over the past few weeks gave me insight on the ways different organizations collaborate to continue their social impact in the community. Different groups make a long lasting effect on the livelihood of the city’s residents because of the interpersonal relationships they are forming with one another. Without these relationships formed through collaborations, each organization would not reach their goal as efficiently.
First of all, I would like to say that I am having a great time in Buffalo. It has been an energizing experience both on a personal and professional level.
Before this summer if you were to ask me what I thought of Buffalo the first thing that would come to mind would be buffalo wings and its proximity to Niagara Falls, and while I have yet to experience either one of those things, I have since come to realize that Buffalo is so much more.
I’ve always loved a good story. From my first days learning the Indian classical dance form whose name literally translates to “story” in Hindi, I developed a passion for stories, the people who tell them, and the people they portray. In many ways, this passion is what has driven me through high school, university, and beyond. I had always been an avid reader, but in high school I specifically tailored my extracurriculars to revolve around storytelling by publishing my school’s literary journal and newspaper each year.
Being a part of the High Road program has given me hands-on experience that provided me with clarity for the future. This year, I am working with Jericho Road in their ESL Initiative, teaching immigrants and refugees English as a second language. Since I was in secondary school, I had a passion for teaching. Although I couldn’t actually teach in a classroom without a degree, I would spend most of my time after school pretending to be a teaching by tutoring my peers. There was a thrill about watching someone understand a concept after you explained it to them.
My work this summer is with the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, or WEDI. This remarkable organization provides business assistance, education, and community development for the West Side of Buffalo. Their most well-known undertaking is their operation of the West Side Bazaar. This is a business incubator in which nearly twenty small businesses, most of them run by refugees and immigrants, share a space where they receive support for WEDI while providing a vibrant atmosphere for the West Side community.
Buffalo has been my home for almost fourteen years now. I still remember when I first arrived here from Puerto Rico, and instantly feeling like I belonged. Growing up in a predominantly hispanic part of Buffalo, the West Side, a part of home was always present here. Believe it or not, Buffalo felt so much like home that I did not miss “La Isla del Encanto” one bit. Buffalo gave me a breath of fresh air while maintaining that Puerto Rican culture I grew to love. I will forever be grateful to this city for opening my eyes to real people and real situations.
For most of the last several decades, the story of Buffalo’s economy has been one of loss. Thousands of good-paying jobs were lost in industries like manufacturing, causing a subsequent loss in population. Something else was lost, too. After being a hub of innovation for most of its history (thank Buffalonians for air conditioners, internal pacemakers, and Buffalo wings!), Buffalo lost some of its entrepreneurial spirit. But with the help of several new initiatives, this spirit is coming back.
My time with the High Road Fellowship has been a transcendent experience. I have been placed at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT), an organization that specializes in the provision of arts education for high school aged students and professional workforce development training for adults. BCAT is a young nonprofit that has built itself upon the Bill Strickland philosophy of environment shaping mindset.
Coming to Buffalo for the summer, I wasn’t totally sure what exactly I was getting myself into. I was drawn to the High Roads program because I found it the best way to finally scratch the social sector itch I have had, truly, as long as I can remember. So many of the placements and projects peaked my interest that I was excited not only to experience my summer, but the summers of my peers.
I am a rising junior Global and Public Health Science major in the College of Human Ecology. For the eight-week summer High Road Fellowship through Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) in Buffalo, New York I am working at the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York (LDA of WNY) on the LEAD716 project.
I am thrilled to be a part of the High Road Fellowship this summer. Cornell’s work in Buffalo was actually a large reason I chose to apply to Cornell nearly two years ago. Although I live in a suburb outside of the city, I am deeply invested in Buffalo’s growth and future. The summer before my senior year of high school I had the incredible opportunity to participate in Mayor Byron Brown’s Urban Fellow Internship Program. I was introduced not only to the inner workings of the city’s government, but also to the whole Buffalo community, which I believe to be like no other.
My name is John Sullivan Baker, I’m from Toledo, Ohio, and I’ve been working for the Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank that partners with nearly 300 community organizations to advocate for evidence-based public policy intended to make Buffalo more prosperous and socially equitable.
Before every Friday panel discussion and each Wednesday dinner conversation, Megan Connelly, our High Road Fellowship director, proudly states, “Buffalo’s greatest asset is our people.” These words set the tone of discussion and generate a slightly quieter silence as people reflect. My first four weeks on the high road have been about engaging and understanding the meaning of an “asset” and its relation to value.
Coming to Buffalo this summer has been quite the learning experience. I was born in Houston, Texas and currently live in one of the many Houston suburbs. The Houston metropolitan area is HUGE and there are over five million people that live here. Therefore, I am used to being in a city that is well-established and constantly moving and growing.