Memoir of 2017 (A Long Deserved Follow Up)

It has been nearly a year since the incident that somewhat exposed the institutional racism of my now former high school, Woodrow Wilson.  What I neglected to inform many was how my final months at Woodrow Wilson unfolded; at last I’ll share my first hand experience of being the target of an entire administration and then some.  Following the initial “shock’ as I like to call it, which drew attention from organizations ranging from the Charleston Gazette all the way to The Washington Post.  Everyday was a learning process after it was publicized across the state, when I initially wrote the article that so to speak, set off the “shock” I was under no impression it would reach the masses it did.

Days and weeks following were made up of repeated interviews and more than frequent visits to the offices of each administrator.  In all honesty I cannot tally the number of times I walked into the office and had a table of staff waiting for me, with a different topic daily.  Teachers in fact began treating me altogether differently some better  some worse; ones that were appalled by my punishment, others quietly in favor.  I was constantly under some sort of surveillance by the administration, every move I made rather it was with the media or within my respective classes was monitored like a lab rat.  The growing concern of the media and activists caused the administration to be more on edge than they have been in all there years in that school.  One specific incident was after the article was published and the punishment was issued, I was called into one of the administrators office to discuss what I had done.  Accepting my punishment was the least I could do, I had the entire school under a firestorm the exposing them in such a way they had never anticipated, but then it took a rather sharp turn.

Later I had learned that this particular administrator was a former coach and knew the assailants on a first name basis, that I inquired about respectfully I must add.  This was not the first run in that these same assailants got off without any punishment at all therefore I grew suspicious.  I resentfully inquired about his relationship with these students, immediately I was scolded for implying a conflict of interest, this continued for quite awhile before a police officer was called into the room (a very unnecessary move by the said administrator).  Followed by this was the call in of even more administrators, their tactic being power in numbers to intimidate a single voice that had found a flaw in their system.  This meeting persisted for hours just as every other meeting did,  I grew weary of the same argument and the same tactic used by the administrators over and over.  This caused me to begin missing school, to avoid the sheer scrutiny by every administrator, their tactic had slowly began to sink in as I grew exhausted of fighting the case.  My initial punishment was to be locked in an in school suspension room for days with the assailants actually, this prompted harsh legal action from my lawyer.  The punishment being highly unethical not to mention a complete obvious blunder by the ones who conceived it.  Many staff members and the administrators carried a vendetta against me (many do to this day) which they used everything in their power in attempts to silence or scrutinize my cause at every chance.  By the time it was time to deal with the punishment I was given, I prompted the current principal at the time of the lawsuit they would be facing as it was in the works of the ACLU at the time; this was my only defense tactic.  To employ and expose their innermost fear of having their school scrutinized and reprimanded for the maltreatment of minorities.

The personal vendettas carried by particular staff members began impacting my close friends, ones that were well qualified for organizations such as National Honor Society were swiftly denied access solely based on their association with me.  This I say with a great deal of confidence, as the requirements were not only fulfilled, they were exceeded yet they were denied and scrutinized based on association.  Not only scrutinized, public scrutinized, certain staff had begun to call out my close friends and humiliate them in a classroom setting.  Other incidents included remarks such as quote “He is a terrible influence” or “Stay away for your own good”, some being said in private, some in front of an entire class.  Six of my close friends were pulled aside privately and were explicitly told to avoid me at all costs, I wish this weren’t true, but the vendettas began to sink deeper and deeper.

I held the lawsuit, I held it over the head of every administrator that dared scrutinize me or attempt to silence my cause; the toughest part was holding it under my belt for four months until I got my diploma.  During one interview with an administrator I won’t release the name of began sharing their background with me.  Every session and I mean every time I stepped foot into those offices I had a recorder on, I was not going to be harassed without proof.  During this recollection by said administrator, a startling phrase arose – “My grandparents said the N word and I did not see them as racist people”, this shook me quite frankly, as it would anyone.   That this racism and bias rooted so deep into the heart of the administration, that they themselves could not see a person referring to an African American as the “N word” as racist.

Let us jump ahead a few months shall we?  Graduation day was surreal for me, months of relentless harassment were to be ceased.  Leaving Woodrow Wilson High School indefinitely was a feat for me, one that was well fought.  As I walked to across the stage and glanced at every single administrator I thought “It’s over, I’m finally free”, almost as if I had been imprisoned for those handful of months.  Immediately following my graduation, I contacted my lawyers, the leverage I had that I desperately needed to be treated in remotely any sense of decency by the administration, was no longer needed.

Currently I’m a Biology major attending West Virginia University, and I cannot complain one bit.  Besides the load of work every now and then, it is diverse.  Every class, every study hall, everywhere is full of different people from different places all under one roof uniting them together under one university.  Here and there I will still get a message or email from a student of WWHS asking how to approach unjust treatment, or even residents of my hometown of Beckley inquiring about lecturing a seminar on this subject; I try my best to help them in any way I can.  So that as little have to experience that I did in those handful of months at WWHS.

-Best Regards,

Zulkifl Jafary


Being a Minority In a Southern West Virginia Public School

February 15 2017, as I walked to my 5th period class, I was behind a group of individuals, who usually attempt to tease or harass me, but today was different. As I walked I heard a fairly loud voice go “Hey suicide bomber!”, shocked I continued walking and nearly made it to the door without any confrontation. However I heard a sarcastic chanting of the words “ Allah Hu Akbar” followed by more racial remarks. I rushed to turn around and confront the individual, as I did a series of pushes ensued before it was split up by an administrator. I walk into the office of the administrator and began explaining what had happened, also mentioning that this was not the first instance of religious discrimination I had endured within the walls of their school, but certainly a notable one. One thing that has resonated wth me is, what if I and a group of fellow Muslims were to yell the words “Suicide bomber” and “Allahuakbar” in a public school? One word- prosecution.

The year before during a Model United Nations session, my cousin and I had chose to represent Pakistan, it being our family’s culture and heritage. As the session proceeded we were abruptly halted by a loud voice coming from behind us “Why are these two even in here? They’re the terrorists!”, the room silenced in shock; the teacher had called us terrorists in front of an entire Model United Nations session. After the situation subsided, I thought it would certainly be the last incident of that severity I would have to endure before I graduated, I was wrong.

In a school with a 0.5% (8/1344) Muslim population (yes half a percent), why is there nothing being done to ensure minorities like these their safety and security when they walk into the jurisdiction of Woodrow Wilson High School? It seems to me that religious harassment is a recurring problem at WWHS, but why have there been no initiatives to secure us minorities during a time of extreme racial tension? The problem persists, after every negative incident in the name of Islam circulates in the media, we don’t go the following day in the actual fear of a hateful response. After every religious harassment, we miss school, again in fear of an unsolicited retaliation.

And you may ask what did I get? Two days suspension (might I add my record was clean before that day), for standing up for my religion to a group of kids who found it funny to collectively disrespect it. The others, well none would admit to it besides one, so it was not written off as religious harassment, but simply “disrespectful conduct”. We received the same punishment: suspension.

(Later did I find out that one of the persons handling my case had direct ties to these students. The three offenders were called in and questioned, as well as two of their friends who were not present during the incident. A total of five against me, I inquired if said administrator had called in the witness I named, I was ignored and it was disregarded.  I inquired with my witness the following day; he was never called in for questioning (he is also a fellow Muslim). The administrator stated only one confessed and the others had denied what each other had done, of course if you only call in the offenders’ close group of friends they will all support what one other says.  A strong conflict of interest if you were to ask me.)

West Virginia & Tesla Motors

West Virginia & Tesla Motors

What most West Virginians do not know is the famed electric car company Tesla, almost made a rather large appearance here in the Appalachians nearly a year ago.  Former Senate President  William P. Cole III, also known as Bill Cole, alongside former Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill to prevent Tesla’s entry into West Virginia.

Certainly a shock to many of the West Virginians that actually knew about it, that the  (at the time) governor of their state turned away a company that could have came in and produced many jobs to serve customers in the surrounding states.  The most interesting aspect is Bill Cole is rather well known in Kentucky and West Virginia, for you guessed it, automotive sales.  Former Governor Tomblin said himself “I have a lot of friends who are car dealers, and maybe they would like to protect their turf, but at the same time, it’s just another business.” , raises a few questions doesn’t it?  Many states have banned direct Tesla sales, therefore forcing you to go through a third party dealership.  Many say it’s for quote “the consumers protection” when the only ones who it really protects is the owners of the car dealerships, a car manufacturer cutting out the third party and selling directly to the consumer is for the most part unheard of.

Are these laws simply protecting car dealerships?  Tesla’s latest model unveiled on March 31, 2016, had reservations that could produce potential sales up to US $14 billion.  To most of us it seems these laws are simply in place to protect any other car manufacturer from coming in and doing the same thing Tesla is doing, cutting out the middle man.

Metaphorically if every car manufacturer were to come in and do the same, it would indeed put many car dealerships out of business.  The source of the issue is that the manufacturer can consistently undercut the dealerships’ set prices.  But wait, wouldn’t that save the consumer money in purchasing a new vehicle?  So is this ban to protect us, the consumer, or the large dealerships that mediate car sales?

McDowell County & Senator Bernie Sanders

McDowell County, West Virginia; a town with a poverty rate of 34.5% and the highest rate of drug induced deaths out of any county in the United States. Senator Bernie Sanders initially visited Five Loaves & Two Fishes Food Bank in May of 2016 during his campaign trail, to discuss job creation and the opioid epidemic plaguing McDowell county. Sanders was scheduled to reappear in McDowell county on February 13, but was abruptly cancelled by a state government official the day before. Considering the raging epidemic as well as the increasing poverty rate in McDowell county, what prompted this state official to cancel Senator sanders from speaking about solutions to poverty?

Was it the pure intimidation of a former democratic candidate speaking in a county which since 2012, has been heavily republican?  Sharing his solutions which would most likely contradict the the nearly 70% republican population of West Virginia? Despite the political differences one would think allowing a heavily influential politician in to attempt to aide a community in need wouldn’t be a problem, apparently it seems to be, since a high ranking state official cancelled the event.

Sanders claims he won’t be “intimidated” by officials and will continue to fight to help the people of McDowell county, disregarding political affiliation, any person(s) willing to aide a county in the level of distress as McDowell should be allowed to voice his/her possible solutions to the public.

Does Your School Lunch Feel Rushed?

Does Your School Lunch Feel Rushed?

According to the West Virginia State Board Policy 4321.1 (2005) requires schools to provide a minimum of 10 minutes for breakfast and 20 minutes for lunch; meanwhile the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) states that the FNS encourages schools to provide sufficient lunch periods that are long enough to give all students enough time to be served and to eat their lunches. Our key words here being “all students”, how many students actually receive 20 minutes to eat his or her lunch?  This begged the question of how Woodrow Wilson High School (WWHS) with a population of approximately 1,400 students manage to give every student 20 minutes to consume their lunch in only two lunch periods?  Here’s the catch, they don’t. With nearly 700 students in each lunch period, a school of that size cannot guarantee every student an adequate amount of time to eat their lunch.

At this point you may be asking “So what if they have to eat fast?”, well allow me to elaborate.  First of all weight gain; our brain and stomach work together to control how much we eat, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.  Per say a student falls towards the end of the lunch line and has less than that time, they eat calories too quickly for their bodies to register they’re full hence overeating.  As of 2016 West Virginia’s adult obesity rate is currently 35.6 percent, up from 23.9 percent in 2000, could this habit formed in the school system be a factor in the rising obesity rate?
Secondly according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine eating too quickly can cause indigestion.  Resulting in any of the following: heartburn, bloating, feeling of being overly full, and excessive burping.

So I’d like to ask you, do you have at least twenty minutes to eat at school, work, or home?

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