A 2,200 word final feature story for my journalism class.
There’s a painting outside of the Montgomery County Executive’s office in Rockville, Maryland of a beloved local landmark. The average visitor to the county seat would pass it by without giving it a second glance. But a closer look reveals a glimpse into the heart and soul of Montgomery County.
“This painting is a symbol of how Montgomery County should be,” Isiah “Ike” Leggett said as he proudly pointed to the artwork he had commissioned. The painting depicts a band playing outside of the Strathmore in Bethesda. An Asian woman plays the flute; a black man plays the trombone; a white man plays the violin.
“The players come from diverse backgrounds and play different instruments, each with different abilities, all contributing in some way,” Leggett continued. “They come together to play a single song.”
Montgomery County has garnered a reputation as one of the most diverse counties in the nation. Here, in this county located just outside of central Maryland, residents see diversity as a source of local pride. Neighborhoods line their yards with signs welcoming immigrants and refugees in multiple languages. Houses of worship fly rainbow-colored flags and banners with ‘Black Lives Matter.’
Yet, Jewish communities in the county have become the target of religiously motivated hate crimes. Just two days after the election, on November 11, swastikas were found spray-painted in the boys’ bathroom at Westland Middle School in Bethesda. An anti-semitic note was left for a Jewish family in Rockville after they hung a ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner on their property in January. Bomb threats were reported at two Jewish community centers in Rockville. The anti-semitic incidents continue with no end in sight with messages and drawings found across Montgomery County, from Gaithersburg to Bethesda.
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I almost missed out on my dream job because of $400 in medical debt. After receiving a job offer, I agreed to undergo a credit check as part of a routine background investigation.
My credit report showed two debts from visits to urgent care centers. When my mom lost her job, I was unable to afford health insurance for two and a half years — pushing me into medical debt.
I never imagined that my debts would affect my job prospects. But the hiring manager told me I had to show that the debts had been paid or removed from my credit report before they could move forward with my approval.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act permits employers to make employment decisions based on the credit history of job applicants. Under the 1970 law, employers must first obtain written permission from job applicants or current employees to conduct a credit check. Employers then must notify job applicants or current employees if they take “adverse action” against them based on their credit report.
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If you were raised in an upper — or middle — class family and your parents went to college, think about what your family and school counselors told you about college growing up.
You were likely told to start preparing for your college application in your junior year of high school, take advanced classes and participate in extracurricular activities to boost your resume. You may have been told that if you worked hard enough, you could go to any college you wanted.
Students like myself who grew up in lower-income families with parents that never attended college are often not expected to go to college and are thus unprepared.
We often do not know how to write a good personal statement or apply for financial aid until we fill out the application by ourselves. Without proper guidance and access to resources, low-income, first-generation students like myself not only face barriers to college, but often do not realize that college is an option for them. But persistence and a strong support system, like the Georgetown Scholarship Program, enable us to overcome these obstacles, even if we never expected ourselves to be here.
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I was born and raised in a working-class family in Chickasaw, Alabama, a small shipbuilding company town just outside of the port hub of Mobile.
My father dropped out of school before the ninth grade and immediately went to work as a sandblaster at a naval shipyard. My mother worked several odd jobs throughout her life, notably as a textile factory worker, a waitress at the Waffle House, and a cashier at Wal-Mart.
Then there was my grandfather. He worked 41 years at the International Paper Company and was a life long member of the United Paperworkers International Union.
One of my fondest childhood memories was staying over at my grandparents’ house on the weekend. Or, as I lovingly called them, Memaw and Papaw. I remember wearing Papaw’s over sized ‘Proud to be Union’ t-shirt as we stayed up late together eating popcorn and watching reruns of Matlock.
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Last week a 13-year-old boy in Trussville took his own life after battling with depression and anxiety. Jay Griffin, a seventh grader at Trussville Middle School, was transgender.
Jay’s mother, Erin Georgia, said she began realizing her son was born in the wrong body half way through the sixth grade. “There was a transition from long hair, and he started dressing differently,” she told AL.com in an interview.
Jay was an advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and volunteered at the Magic City Acceptance Center in Birmingham, a group dedicated to providing “a safe, supportive and affirming space for LBGTQ youth, young adults and their allies.” In lieu of sending flowers, Jay’s parents asked family and friends to donate to the Magic City Acceptance Center in his honor.
As Jay was struggling to express his own gender identity, he was unable to find the support he needed in his hometown of Trussville. “He didn’t feel validated or accepted in our community,” his mother Erin said.
“You really need a safe space of allies and advocates and people that are like you. That’s where they hear their true voices. There are no local community safe spaces that I know of, and we’ve looked. That was part of Jay’s struggle.”
Read more on AL.com
Fifty-two years ago today civil rights activists, led by John Lewis, marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to demand the right to vote, only to be dragged to the ground and brutally beaten by white Alabama state troopers. The blood that flowed is how the day became known as Bloody Sunday.
The Selma to Montgomery marches of March 1965 were in part sparked by the tragic death of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson the month before. Jackson was fatally shot by a white Alabama state trooper after participating in a demonstration calling for the release of James Orange who had been arrested for enlisting minors to participate in voter registration drives in Alabama.
At the time of the Selma campaign, less than one percent of eligible black voters in Montgomery County were registered to vote. Black voters seeking to gain access to the ballot box were blocked by discriminatory literacy tests and poll taxes. Those who sought to organize were intimidated by white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Council.
Read more on Medium.com