Tuesday, December 30, 2008
New York School for Chinese Is a Magnet for Black PupilsBy YILU ZHAO
November 2, 2002. New York Times, pg. A1
| [more articles about Shuang Wen Academy]|
Paul and Denise Gamble have never been to China, and they were never particularly interested in its language or culture. Yet their two school-age children attend Shuang Wen Academy, a public school on the Lower East Side where much of the day is spent learning Mandarin.
Their children are part of an unexpected phenomenon at the four-year-old school: while most are children of Chinese immigrants, almost 10 percent of the students are black, and many of them come from the outer reaches of the city, enduring long trips for the chance to attend a school that has developed a reputation for excellence.
''When I tell my friends that my children are in a bilingual school learning Mandarin, some are shocked,'' Ms. Gamble said. ''Some think I'm crazy. Some ask, 'Why would you do that?' Well, I just want my children to have a good education.''
Shuang Wen is one of more than 150 small public schools established in the late 1990's as an alternative to larger, impersonal public schools. The school, whose name means dual language in Chinese, has many teachers who believe in dual-language education, and its goal is to teach students Mandarin and Chinese culture.
Although only two of the school's first class of 45 students were not of Chinese descent, Shuang Wen gradually gained a reputation among some of the city's black middle-class parents for being nurturing yet rigorous. In last spring's citywide third-grade math and English tests, Shuang Wen ranked third in math and 23rd in English among the city's almost 1,000 elementary schools.
Now, before the start of every school year, more and more black parents arrive at the office of the principal, Ling-Ling Chou, seeking admission for their children to the prekindergarten class -- which is based on interviews with prospective students and their parents. They are undeterred by the fact that their children will be among the few non-Asians in the school, or that Mandarin is famously difficult to master. Chinese instruction runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m. daily. All subjects, however, are taught in both languages.
Shuang Wen is housed in a corner space in Public School 134, at East Broadway and Grand Street, and blacks are not the only non-Chinese among its 245 students. But the 23 black students are by far the largest non-Chinese group, outnumbering the 11 whites and 8 Hispanics.
As an alternative school, Shuang Wen admits students from all five boroughs, and many of the black children live an hour or more away. There are no school buses serving them, and parents have to drop off and pick up their children.
For Ms. Gamble, a supervisor for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, the trip from her family's brick house in Cambria Heights, Queens, starts at 6:45 a.m. Often, her car is stuck in traffic jams.
To the Gambles and other black parents, the sacrifice -- long days for the children and a difficult trip for the adults -- is worth it.
''The long hours and the challenging curriculum are good preparation for the future,'' Mr. Gamble said, ''when they go to college, when they go to graduate school.''
But not all the black parents' friends agree.
''People would ask me, 'Why Chinese? Why not French? Why not Spanish?' '' said Bridgitte Fouche-Channer, another black parent whose daughter is in second grade and whose son is in kindergarten at Shuang Wen. ''I would ask them, 'Why not Chinese?' ''
Sometimes, friends would even accuse the parents of betraying their heritage. Ms. Gamble had a ready answer.
''My children know their heritage,'' she said. ''They know they are African-Americans of West Indian descent. They are not Chinese, nor are they pretending to be Chinese.
''Call me a snob. Call me what you want. I just want my children to have a good, solid education.''
Ruth Smith, a lawyer who had considered sending her daughter to private school, remarked, ''If I had sent my child to a private school, she would be in the minority anyway, since that school would be mostly white.''
The Gambles have decided to send their third child, Patrick, 2, who can already sing ''Happy Birthday'' in Mandarin, to Shuang Wen in two years.
Like many of the black parents of Shuang Wen students, Ms. Gamble, Ms. Fouche-Channer and Ms. Smith are from the West Indies, and that is not a coincidence, they said.
''Shuang Wen reminded us of the kind of schools we know from home,'' said Ms. Fouche-Channer, explaining that schools in Trinidad, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are often strict and orderly, like Shuang Wen is.
The Chinese parents are generally enthusiastic about the school's ethnic mix.
''The black kids are really nice, and they showed my kids the way when they were new at the school,'' Christine Chuah, who has two children at Shuang Wen, said in Chinese. ''They are seriously interested in learning Chinese, and we like that.''
The teachers, mostly Chinese-Americans or recent immigrants from Taiwan and China, have embraced the non-Asian children as well, offering them extra help with Mandarin.
When Paul Michael, 8, the oldest Gamble child, started at Shuang Wen in second grade last fall, his parents and the school's teachers worried about whether he could catch up with his classmates, who had studied Chinese for two years. But his teacher, Li Ron Wu, had faith in him.
''Ms. Wu said, 'You can do it, Paul Michael. You can do it, Paul Michael. You will do it, Paul Michael.' '' Ms. Gamble said. ''And he did it.'' Now, his Chinese is on par with his classmates.
Mrs. Smith, whose daughter, Iliana, 5, is in kindergarten, said that every day, as soon as she gets home, she asks to do her homework. Ms. Gamble said her children even ask to go to school on days when they are sick. Ms. Fouche-Channer said her daughter, Addis, a second grader, reads beyond her bedtime frequently.
''They love their school,'' said Ms. Fouche-Channer, whose younger child, Makonnen, is in kindergarten at Shuang Wen. ''That's the only way to describe it.''
With its academic success, Shuang Wen has become a desirable alternative not only to neighborhood public schools, but also, for some parents, to the city's elite private schools.
Lydell Carter, a senior program officer with New Visions for Public Schools, an organization that has financed some of the city's alternative schools, including Shuang Wen, is a firm believer in early bilingual education. He transferred his son, Jelani, into the school's fourth grade from Friends Seminary, a well-known private school.
Non-Asian children who started at Shuang Wen in the early grades appear to speak Mandarin as well as children of Chinese descent do, frequently without any trace of an American accent. And in classrooms, in the dining hall and on the playground, the non-Asian students and their immigrant classmates mingle easily, holding hands, arguing with and teasing one another, seemingly unaware of their racial difference.
And a few black and Chinese families have become close. Joshua Foote, a black third grader, regularly calls Jennifer Shyue and her parents for help with Chinese homework, and the families sent the two children to a Chinese camp in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., last summer.
Occasionally, however, some Chinese children will flaunt their higher marks in Mandarin tests to their non-Asian peers. Some black parents have also complained that the school did not take note of Black History Month.
But Gabrielle Gamble, a first grader, sees all the children at the school as her friends, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
At school one day, her teacher assigned her to be a buddy and guide for Linda Lin, a shy new classmate from Fujian Province in China.
In the lunchroom, Gabrielle tried to shield Linda from the rambunctious boys while keeping her company.
''What do you like to do?'' Gabrielle asked, earnestly, in Mandarin.
Linda, who was blushing, shook her head.
''Do you like food? Do you like toys?'' Gabrielle asked, again, in Mandarin.
Again, Linda simply stared at her.
Gabrielle looked away, sighed, and concluded, in English, ''She doesn't like talking. But I will keep talking to her.''
By the end of the day, Linda still wasn't talking. But, at least, she was smiling back at Gabrielle.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
BEIJING, July 11 -- Nearly 600 years ago, 20 Chinese sailors swam ashore an island off Kenya's east coast, having escaped from a shipwreck.
They went on to marry local women and convert to Islam.
Now a 19-year-old girl who claims to be one of their descendants has come to China to study, having been given a scholarship by the Chinese Government.
Mwamaka Sharifu, from Lamu island in Kenya, will begin her studies in September.
She says she is a descendant of sailors travelling with Chinese explorer Zheng He (1371-1435) in the Ming Dynasty.
Sharifu's story has attracted a lot of attention, as this year is the 600th anniversary of Zheng's first major voyage around the Indian Ocean. Some scholars believe Zheng is the first man to travel a direct sea route linking the Indian Ocean with the West.
Countless exhibitions, books and documentaries began coming out in China about his adventures. Sharifu was invited to China and arrived on July 1.
"I feel proud and happy to be part of it," she said. "I am looking forward to studying in China."
Sharifu said she admires Zheng's courage and adventurous spirit. "I was born as brave as my ancestors," she said. "It is rare for girls in my Muslim village to go so far to study, to such a big and different country."
"My mum and dad were worried about me. But I told them I will be fine in my home country."
Born to a poor family, Sharifu's father, Sharifu Lali, a fisherman, 55, and her mother Baraka Badi Shee, a housewife, 53, couldn't support her university education.
"The scholarship will change my life and the lives of the rest of my family," she said. "I believe that through hard work - a characteristic of the Chinese - I can make a better living."
Having already been to Shanghai, Taicang and Nanjing in Jiangsu Province, Sharifu appeared quiet when arriving in Beijing on Friday, where she will tour the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square.
"China is far better than I thought. It is so beautiful and well-planned," she said.
"Beijing is a big city," Sharifu added. "But Taicang city will always be a special place for me as it is said it is where my ancestors came from."
Located in East China's Jiangsu Province, Taicang is where Zheng set sail from.
Legend in Lamu Island says two of the Chinese ships struck rocks off the eastern coast of Kenya and 20 sailors swam ashore. However, local tribes said they could only stay if they could kill a big python in the village.
One sailor - a master swordsman - lured the python out of the cave and killed it. The Chinese sailors stayed, married local women and converted to Islam.
The heritage of Chinese descendants in the African village has been passed on from generation to generation, not by written records but by oral tradition.
"My grandma said some Chinese sailors came to Kenya by way of the Indian Ocean. Most of them died after a storm at sea but some survived," Sharifu recalled.
Now, only six people on the island of 7,500 people are known as Chinese descendants. They are Sharifu, her mother, her two sisters and two younger brothers. However, despite Chinese porcelain being unearthed on the island and the existence of Chinese folklore there, it is not known if the group really are descendants of Zheng's sailors.
Sharifu said that in 2002 some Chinese experts came to her home and cut some of her mother's hair for DNA tests in China. Later, she said, they told her mother that she was a Chinese descendant.
The teenager was calm when being questioned about her Chinese blood, saying that people have a right to doubt her. "Asking questions will help people know more about me. And I am convinced that I am a true Chinese descendant."
Sharifu's story was put under the spotlight after she wrote a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Kenya last year, expressing her wish to pursue a higher education in China.
"I want to learn traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) so that I can treat my people in Kenya after graduation," she explained.
The Muslim girl wore a grey silk scarf around her neck.
"When I was in Kenya, I used to wear the scarf on my head. But now I keep it lower, because I think people here like to see me."
(Source: China Daily)
Monday, December 29, 2008
"Hello. Please do not be surprised this message is not spam mailing. You probably will be very surprised that I write you a letter. But yesterday, I was surprised, too, when my e-mail address, came a letter, which said about love, about the feelings among people. The main motto of this letter was the phrase «Looking for love and you
will be happy». I liked the letter. In the list of e-mail address, I saw your e-mail and decided to write to you. Perhaps you are looking for love? Maybe this letter - the fate? I do not know how the man who sent me the letter, hear my personal e-mail. But I think it is not important. The most important thing is that now I can write you a letter. You know, I want you to learn more. But first, I want to tell a little about me. My name is Sona. I'm from Armenia. I am 27 years old. I have never been married and have no children. I am pretty, quiet, kind and sociable girl. I would be interested to talk with you and know you closer. I compose their communication with the primary objective - creating serious relationships. Relations without
deception, without any games. I want to find this man who can love and respect me. I hope that you just want to find their love? I believe in romantic relationships, appearance and age is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that people know how to love and respect on this! I have different hobbies and interests, among them - sports, cooking, reading, music. Of particular interest to me a matter
of housekeeping, cleaning the house. I like to experiment in the kitchen. I love animals. I am leading a healthy lifestyle. I do not smoke nor drink alcohol. My new friend, can you tell me about you? I want you to learn more. The following letters, I will tell you about me, in more detail.
I give you my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course, I will send you a lot of my photos, of whom you know my
life. In my photo showing all the moments of my life - joy, muse, and
even in some sad moments. I eagerly await your response will be. I
really want you to learn more. Please do not forget about me. Your new
friend from Armenia, Sona."
Sent to me from an address from a person named Jarrett LAY. Apparently the spammers have figured out not everyone responds to "male enhancement" and general porno spam.
Friday, December 26, 2008
More and more I'm experiencing what everybody else has and understanding the hype.
*this is the second time I've used this in the past hour. Seems like there must be a limit.
Extra: During a promotional job, I went to the Labyrinth Theatre with someone and Philip S. Hoffman walked into a rehearsal room behind me.
More extra: The gentleman that plays the skycap who greets The Colonel and Charles at the airport on their way to New York directed a piece in the last show I worked on.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
About 40 mins earlier, the founder of a 40-yr-old theater company told me that I'd just performed "10 times better" in a reading that I had in a full production at said theater company a few weeks ago.
Take it all for what you will.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Guess mama nature was as stunned as the rest of us.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
and type "alek wek" into the search bar next to the address bar,
you will see that the third suggestion that comes up
(which more/less means that it means it is the third most common phrase searched on google using the terms you've entered)
is "alek wek ugly".
Friday, December 05, 2008
(from Chicago Tribune)Suit contesting Barack Obama's citizenship heads to U.S. Supreme Court today
Justices will decide whether to consider the case
- By James Janega |Tribune reporter
- 6:30 AM CST, December 5, 2008
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider today whether to take up a lawsuit challenging President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship, a continuation of a New Jersey case embraced by some opponents of Obama's election.
The meeting of justices will coincide with a vigil by the filer's supporters in Washington on the steps of the nation's highest court.
The suit originally sought to stay the election, and was filed on behalf of Leo Donofrio against New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells.
Legal experts say the appeal has little chance of succeeding, despite appearing on the court's schedule. Legal records show it is only the tip of an iceberg of nationwide efforts seeking to derail Obama's election over accusations that he either wasn't born a U.S. citizen or that he later renounced his citizenship in Indonesia.
The Obama campaign has maintained that he was born in Hawaii, has an authentic birth certificate, and is a "natural-born" U.S. citizen. Hawaiian officials agree.
Among those filing lawsuits is Alan Keyes, who lost to Obama in the 2004 Illinois Senate race. Keyes' suit seeks to halt certification of votes in California. Another suit by a Kentucky man seeks to have a federal judge review Obama's original birth certificate, which Hawaiian officials say is locked in a state vault.
Other suits have been filed by Andy Martin, whose case was dismissed in Hawaii, and by an Ohio man whose case also was dismissed. Five more suits, all later dismissed, were filed in Hawaii by a person who is currently suing the "Peoples Association of Human, Animals Conceived God/s and Religions, John McCain [and] USA Govt." The plaintiff previously sought to sue Wikipedia and "All News Media."
The most famous case questioning Obama's citizenship was filed in Pennsylvania in August on behalf of Philip J. Berg and sought to enjoin the Democratic National Committee from nominating Obama. The U.S. Supreme Court denied an application for an injunction and hasn't scheduled a conference on other aspects of the case. Earlier, a federal judge rejected it for "lack of standing"—ruling that Berg had no legal right to sue. In cases like this, judges sometimes believe the matter is best left to political institutions, such as the Electoral College or Congress, said legal scholar Eugene Volokh of the University of California at Los Angeles.
The remaining case with the highest profile is Donofrio vs. Wells. Because it was referred by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to other justices for conference, it gained undue importance for people unschooled in how the court works, Volokh said.
Many petitioners seeking stays of pending events have their cases distributed to the full court, he said. Of those, Volokh found that 782 were denied in the last eight years while just 60 were heard—and not all of those ultimately were successful.
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