Friday, January 6, 2017

Never Be Mine by Maverick Deen

This is the first rap song from boxer Muhammad Deen, 17, a student at Victory Collegiate High School. We think Deen has a bright future, whether he chooses to pursue fighting, writing, or music!

Deen writes:

During the course of life, some discover the key to unlock their talent. This talent isn't specific to a skill. Rather, it's a natural part of your personality that allows you to excel at certain things.

I, Muhammad Deen, had a talent for poetry, so it was evident that rap (rhythm and poetry) and boxing, often referred as "poetry in motion," would be my love in life. Talent for poetry isn't just about writing; it's about seeing the poetic elements in everything in life.

Being Pakistani with Indian roots, my cultural music was an integral part of me. Growing up, I listened to various Pakistani and Indian artists, while my western musical influences included Eminem, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Nirvana, Nas, Tupac, Immortal Technique, Prince and Linkin Park.

Seeing every genre as a different color, allowing my words to be different brushes, I made my first song, "Never Be Mine," about unrequited love. I incorporated hip hop, rock and blues with a live instrumentation.

Photo: Richard Wade
With boxing, the canvas parallel exists, with different punches, feints, angles and other things creating a painting. Boxing is misconstrued to be a violent and barbaric sport. However, it is only a reflection of who we are. The decisions you make during a fight show how you react in life. With poetry being in my soul, of course the love for music and boxing is in me too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Slavery to the American Dream

Our condolences to beautiful Aaliyah and family on the loss of her mother.

Here's a great college paper Aaliyah worked on in our tutoring center:

In this paper I will discuss John Locke’s views on government and society and how they connect with two major problems in the U.S today: our slavery to the American Dream and the hypocrisy of our law makers. Even though Locke was writing in the 17th century, his ideas about society and government can help us with the things that we still struggle with today.

In chapter four, "Of Slavery" Locke says,”The liberty of man, in society, is to be under no other legislative power; but that established, by consent, in the commonwealth; not under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact, according to the trust put in it.” This means that the laws made must be agreed upon by everyone, and we shouldn’t have to follow any other people’s rules.

Once I read this part of the chapter, the first thing that popped into my mind was the American Dream, which is a rule that was made up and that we all did not agree upon. The American Dream is an unrealistic hope of what life your life should look like. For example, that every American family should have a Mom, a Dad who works a high-paying office job, two kids – one boy and one girl – and a big house with a white picket fence and a dog. This is a very hard goal to achieve due to the fact that life has different plans for everyone and certain things happen, like death, that don't allow the American Dream family to be possible.

 The American Dream separates us into two groups, the haves and the have nots. If you are able to obtain the Dream, you are a part of the haves, and if you cannot achieve the Dream, you are a part of the have nots. This allows the haves to feel superior and leaves the have nots feeling inferior. It's a modern way of slavery without the chains and the constant beating.

The government puts out this idea of what the perfect family and life should be so we can work for unobtainable goals to keep us busy enough that we won't be able to see the major issues we face. This allows the government to keep us as slaves without us even noticing. It keeps us doing what they want us to do, which keeps many of us from being truly happy. This isn’t the kind of law that we should follow under Locke’s definition of what the liberty of a man is.

In chapter seven, "Of Political or Civil Society,” Locke describes the difference between slaves and servants. John Locke says about servants, "For a free man makes himself a servant to another, by selling him, for a certain time, the service he undertakes to do, in exchanges for wages he is to receive.” But slaves are people who, “are by the right of nature subjected to the absolute dominion and arbitrary power of their master.” I feel that working for low wages is equal to being a slave.

Some people might say, "What's wrong with someone working and getting paid for the job he or she has done?” The problem is that many people work and don't get paid the right or fair amount of money.

A McDonald’s cashier makes 8 dollars an hour. Some people might not see it as a problem because the cashiers didn’t go to school. However, in America it is impossible to live on 8 dollars an hour. Many of these workers have children, which means they have to rely on sources of public assistance, a form of government help to get by. This is a form of slavery and oppression, because someone working for this amount of money cannot support their family without help, help that can be taken away or changed without warning. This is an example of being under the “arbitrary power of a master.” 

Another thing about this help is that, most of the time, it isn't even enough to really help the person. This is also a way of keeping the have nots from being able to move up the social ladder. If someone with a family working for 8 dollars an hour wants to make more money, they would have to go to school, which would be impossible because of the hours they work. This is just one of the many ways the government keeps the masters as masters and the slaves as slaves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized

Thanks to boxer Athol Dempster, soon to graduate from Baruch, for sharing this excellent paper with us. It's a close reading of a poem blogged by rapper Lupe Fiasco a day after the death of Gil Scot Heron.

Athol Dempster
English 3201

“R.I.P. Gil-Scott Heron” by Lupe Fiasco is a tribute poem to famous artist, poet and author Gil-Scott Heron. The lines and stanzas are a play on or allusion to Heron’s classic piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Fiasco further memorializes Heron’s work by writing this poem in a similar style, with a similar message, in homage to such an iconic individual. The poem begins with the lines “Idiot boxes of the world unite! To fight off the effects of intelligence, replace smart quotes with fart jokes, substitute sense with scenes from Martin, let the baby's bathe in that glow and learn all manner of things they don't really need to know!” These lines are very impactful and they speak to the changes happening in television and the adverse effects this is having on young minds. Fiasco reiterates the central theme that the revolution will not be televised because television will not be revolutionized. He does so in order to awaken the minds clouded by media and commercialism. The poem uses repetition as one of its main stylistic choices to highlight the message. It continues to state “The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized!” meaning nothing is going to change on T.V.  

In the poem, he advances this idea when he states “by this one-eyed monster most of the world was raised and by this hero most of the world was saved, and to this master most of the world is slaves, it factors your fears with actors and cheers from a live studio audience pushing you to engage in a heroic act of thoughtlessness for the grand prize of a little bread, fleeting fame in the circus and every thought in yo head.” This line speaks to the idea that television is raising society’s children. What is portrayed on television is being accepted as the norms, or reality. For example, the negative stigma of African Americans on reality programming is what is becoming the role model to young children who watch it. Upon closer analysis, one may notice, on television, that the black male commonly gets typecast as the aggressor who fails to make contributions to society. As a result of this stigma, the only time the media ever really has a conversation centered on a black male, it is negative. For example, when rapper Kanye West says or does something ridiculous; Ray Rice or another professional athlete has drug, weapon, or domestic abuse charge; or a local black male is murdered or commits some type of crime.

The poem has no structured rhyme scheme. However, the stanza breaks help add to the rhythm and develop the serious tone of the poem. Fiasco uses several examples of figurative language that add depth to his poem. Fiasco uses personification when he writes “'ain't no changing me' said my flat screen TV." Giving the television the ability to speak further perpetuates the idea that television, in its current state, is fixed and will not change. Meaning the types of shows, branding, and consumerist brainwash will continue. Fiasco believes that this is society’s demise, because he states “so there will be no revolution or paradoxically ironic televised public execution of the entire worldwide televising institution."

The entire poem makes references to popular culture throughout. For example, in the third stanza he says “Small claims Court drama, teenage baby mamas, Osama watching Osama, Celebrity Endorsed indoor saunas.” This quote in many ways is true because our society has become so media dependent. If you really take time to reflect, you may notice more people know what is going on with celebrities than with individuals within their own community. I am embarrassed but honest with myself when I say I’m more up to date of the goings on in the lives of characters on “Love and Hip Hop” than I am about the current battle regarding immigration or the presidential debates. Even though both are exposed through the media, like many others, I naturally gravitate to things that I find more entertaining. So I am consciously making the decision to watch people portray themselves, in many instances, as classless, undereducated, materialistic members of society. As a result, I’ve noticed, unfortunately, how much these shows inform and educate the masses about American society.

Fiasco uses his talent as a rapper to create in the reader a sense of awareness that is a powerful weapon in the battle with media. The poem enables the reader to understand that the world will continue to be uniformed unless we take heed to his words. Fiasco’s use of the elements of repetition, structure, personification and symbolism are what make this an incredible poetic piece. This poem is a protest against the ongoing assault on young minds on a daily basis. So many of today’s youth are imprisoned by technology, and unless something is done to stop this, it will only get worse. Lupe Fiasco ends with “cuz you see my dear friends the television will not be revolutionized but what about the revolution that should taking place inside of you?” This line is a cry for social awareness. He wants readers to resonate with the idea that media should not be in control and that we have to make an individual, conscious effort to not fall into its trap. The idea that we are hypnotized by the “idiot box” has to end by us deprogramming ourselves, re-evaluating who we are, and gaining a more conscious state of mind. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Five Atlas Cops and Kids Boxers in Olympic Trials

(Left to right: Nkosi, Nick, Coach Aureliano Sosa, Africa, Shu Shu)

The Atlas Cops and Kids boxing team had a stellar showing in Memphis this October at the US women’s Olympic Trials and men’s qualifying tournament. Four of our young men will advance to the men’s Olympic Trials in Reno, Nevada. 

Nick Scaturchio, 108 pounds, won a gold medal in his first tournament without headgear. His excellent defensive movement and fast hands led to three straight wins. Little Nikki, 17, commutes to our gym all the way from Hartsdale, New York, where he attends West Hill High School. He is proud of his Calabrese heritage, fighting under the ring nickname “The Italian Assassin.” 

Bruce "Shu Shu" Carrington, Jr, 132 pounds, won a silver medal in Memphis with a brave and elegant performance spanning six fights in six nights. Shu Shu, 18, is a proud native of Brownsville and a graduate of Teacher’s Prep High School. Last year, boxing took a back seat to grieving after the tragic death by gun violence of his brother Michael, but Shu Shu dug deep and refocused on training. He is a model of sportsmanship outside the ring, making friends everywhere he goes.

Richardson "Africa" Hitchins, 141 pounds, won a silver medal, fighting six times in six days in the deepest division of the tournament. “Africa,” 18, is a devoted student of boxing with a voracious hunger to learn and win. When he isn’t boxing himself, he assists trainer Aureliano Sosa in giving pads, and his voice is the loudest in the crowd, cheering on his teammates.

Nkosi "Big Black" Solomon, super heavyweight, won a silver in boxing’s showcase division. At 6’4” and 240 pounds, Nkosi is a gentle giant, eloquent and sensitive outside the ring. But he let out his beast in Memphis, thrilling the crowd with three hard-fought wars. Nkosi graduated from Sheepshead Bay High School, where he was a standout in football.

Christina Cruz, 112 pounds, took bronze at the women’s Trials, losing two very close fights to reigning world champion Marlen Esparza. Christina’s slick, technical boxing has converted many skeptics into fans of women’s boxing. She has won a record nine New York Daily News Golden Gloves titles, a world championships bronze, and was the first US woman to box in the Pan American Games. 

After the loss, Christina quoted Theodore Roosevelt: 

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Best Thing About Being a Boxer

My name is Nyisha Goodluck. I’m 21 years old, and I’m a female boxer from Atlas Cops & Kids. Almost every time when I’m on my way to the gym, strangers notice my equipment, and they always ask what’s my reason to be a fighter. 

For a long time I hung out with a lot of negative people who had little to no respect for anyone but themselves. I’ve never really fit into the “cool” groups, because I was way too shy and lacked confidence. One time the “bad guys” tried to belittle me, and I held my ground. They couldn’t beat me, so they apologized and kissed my butt until I finally agreed to be cool with them. We’d get into a lot of fights just off of bad rep, but we were all good kids dealing with our own troubles and insecurities. Being tough made me feel like an alpha; I’d fight if we pretend argued and the other person mentioned “yo’ mama.” Being tough even when I was nervous brought me a new confidence. I felt invincible. I fell in love with the feeling of being the better fighter before things even got real.

I found Cops & Kids through a friend who was an amateur boxer with his own gym. I walked into Cops & Kids with plans on staying in shape and sharp (as a Street Fighter) so that if I was tested on the block I’d be able to do damage. My first day training I met so many champs I knew that this was exactly where I wanted to be. I also realized how out of shape I was because after a day of training I puked all over the girls’ bathroom. I hated the feeling. 

The very next day I quit smoking cold turkey, and I stopped hanging out on the streets. Everything became work, gym, training. Sosa, Sarah, Quiro, and Wayne invested a year of their time building me into a real hard working fighter. 

Now I rarely hang out with my old crew, and I have never returned to my old habits. Every day I sit down when alone reflecting on everything I’ve been through in the past and thinking on where I want to be in the future. Becoming a pro fighter never crossed my mind until my coach Sarah set me up with some sparring with WBC champion Heather “The Heat” Hardy. Although I got my ass kicked, I found out my purpose. 

I won my first fight at a club show held by Gleasons Gym by a unanimous 3-0 decision. I was ready, and I didn’t really feel nervous. My mom was there, and I was more anxious and worried about looking good for her and a few supporters I had met randomly through social media. I almost had my first TKO, but my opponent Jalena Hay was extremely tough, and she fought through that beating. There was no question about it: She had earned my respect. When the referee held my hand up high and the crowd screamed in applause as if they’d known me for years, it was a feeling I wanted to embrace forever. It was completely indescribable but the best feeling in my whole life. 

As much as I enjoy the feeling of winning, being a champion is never solely based on being a winner. This was one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my amateur career. After a three-bout winning streak, I took my first loss to amateur boxer Andrea Tosto from Gleason’s Gym in the finals for the New York Boxing Tournament. I did not feel like she was the better fighter, but she outworked me and the judges were aware of that. I lost by a split decision, but I showed a tremendous amount of “good sportsmanship” and even asked to set up sparring in the future. I then took two more losses, one in the semifinals at the Ringside World Championships and another at a club show to an opponent whom I had already defeated. I became very discouraged and disappointed in myself. What I feared most was getting in the ring and losing again for the same reason: poor conditioning. 

I kept getting tired in the ring and outboxed, so I worked hard on the qualities and traits that make a boxer more effective in the ring day in and day out. I changed up my training routines. I took my strength and conditioning training to the next level. I sparred nearly every day and began running twice a day, and believe me when I mention that it took every ounce of power in me. Finally, my coach Sosa told me that it was time to get busy. I had previously been turning down fights he tried setting up for me. I dug down deep and told myself it was time. 

I had developed a new strand of confidence and took it with me into the Metro Championships. I faced the girl I had taken my first loss to and straight annihilated her. Of course, the referee made us shake hands after the bout. I tried to speak to her afterwards, and let’s just say she wasn’t as nice as I was when I first lost to her. It was then I had this strong moment of honesty with myself, and I realized God wanted me to experience those losses, because no champion is a champion if she can’t behave as one in both victory and defeat. The best thing about being a boxer is that you can never lose, you just learn.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Men Don't Cry

Meet Chiquito: puncher, poet, beautiful soul.

Chiquito found Atlas Cops and Kids through Coach Aureliano Sosa, who helped him take his aggressive boxing to the next level. Last year he won the Daily News Golden Gloves in the 132-pound novice class. He makes his professional debut soon in a ring near you.

More importantly, Chiquito won the battle of the books, graduating this year from Applied Communications in Queens. It wasn't easy; Chiquito isn't much of a bookworm, despite his excellence in verse. He got through high school on heart and ambition.

"There are only two things I'm afraid of," says Chiquito. "My mother and failure."

When Chiquito was seven, his mother left Puebla and came to the USA to make a better life for her family. It was five years before she was able to come back for her son. This prose poem recounts their meeting.

      Men Don't Cry 
      I'll never forget that day. The day I saw her again. It was in the airport. Terminal 2, Mexico City. After five years of missing her, she was finally there again. My mom, the woman who gave me life. She had come to America when I was almost seven years old, but she couldn't take me with her, so I had to stay. For five years, my family told me I had the saddest eyes. And now the day was here.
     I saw her from a distance, sitting on a bench waiting for me. There were three suitcases at her feet and she wore jeans and a black shirt. Suddenly she looked up, saw me, and a smile spread across her face. I slowly ran to her and pulled her body into mine. Tears came out of both our eyes, but as she wiped my tears and kissed me, she told me in a soft, loving tone, "No llores! Ya estoy aqui. Ya eres un hombre y los hombres no lloran." We were together again and I was already a man. "You are a man now and men don't cry."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How Boxing Changed My Life

Josh,  age 15

     I was with one of my friends from my old high school Clara Barton. We decided to  get high and then go to this boxing gym that he’d been telling me about because he saw that I had handwraps. So we went by one of my bro’s houses from my old neighborhood to buy some cannabis ( a.k.a “weed”) to smoke and reach a different state of mind. After we were as high as kites, we flew straight to the gym. Inside the gym, the atmosphere just felt so intense, almost to the point where it was overwhelming.

     Now, before this fateful day, everything was terrible. It all started late in my 9th grade year. In the ninth grade I was in the gifted program in Clara Barton, named the “Gateway Program.” Clara Barton High School is already known to have very difficult classes to pass and the gateway classes are twice as intricate. So to get in there and stay in there, you know I had to have been book smart. But that was as far as it went for my smarts, because close to the end of the school year I started to welcome the worse possible company: slackers. 

     The first time I smoked it was with a few of my slacker “friends.” To say the least, it was one of the best experiences I ever had; I just felt a burst of energy. I even thought I was teleporting. I was wondering where this miraculous plant had been my whole life. From the first joint I was hooked; by the last I was addicted. 

     From that day on, I smoked at least three days a week, slowly isolating myself from my gateway peers and quickly rolling over to the “cool side.” Not every experience with cannabis was as good as my first, but I continued to smoke it no matter if I had thrown up the previous time or not. Sometimes I would tell myself, “I'm done smoking, because last time was terrible,” but I just couldn't stop. This is when I realized I was basically addicted to cannabis.

     Sometimes I would tell myself that I smoked because of all the stress my dad put me under –– he always wanted to get in physical altercations with me –– and also to relieve myself from the stress from the tremendous amount of work in the Gateway Program, but that wasn’t really the case. I had just fallen under the influence and was looking for reasons to make me not feel guilty. 

     I started to lose motivation to do work and become a sloth. Never felt like doing anything besides smoking. I would make up any lie to tell my Father or stepmother so I could get a couple bucks, just for it to go up in smoke within a few minutes. I never was able to save for anything I wanted, because as I soon as I got money is as soon as it vanished.

     I would tell myself, “You have to make a change,” but for that whole summer I continued to smoke my brain cells to ashes.

     As 10th grade went on, I only invited more bad company in my life and more cannabis. I started failing two classes at one point, and the rest of the classes that I did pass, I passed with very mediocre grades. I started to skip school sometimes to go smoke with “friends.”  (I have since learned the real definition of friends is people who are going to help you get better, not drag you down.) Sometimes I would go in school super high, smelling like cannabis; as soon as I would enter my classroom, everyone would know I was high. 

     One time I was high in Spanish class when I felt something off about my body. I jumped up and dashed out of the classroom without permission. I tried to reach a bathroom, but as soon as I got in the staircase, I threw up just about everything I had eaten that morning. Continuing to run down the stairs, I threw up what I had eaten the previous day, and then one last time before I could even make it to the bathroom. Even treacherous experiences like this weren't enough to make me stop: I was addicted. 

     When I would go in school sober, most of the time I would have to help my “friends” fight the “opps” (opposition), which earned me suspension after suspension. Missing school due to suspensions was killing my grades, but I couldn't change my lifestyle, due to the weak mind I had. After each suspension, I had to watch my back every trip to class to make sure no one ran up behind me trying to knock me out. There was a brawl in Clara Barton High School not too long ago that led to the stabbing of two students, and I was part of this brawl. Despite knowing that one of my “friends” almost killed a student and blinded another, I still wasn't able to change my life.

     About two months after this tragic occurrence, one of my friends decided to take me to a boxing gym named Atlas Cops & Kids. Ever since the day I entered the gym I was changed. The first day I entered was the last day I smoked. 

     I don't feel as enticed to fight as I used to, because I know the damage that I can do to someone without even getting a scratch on me. I've been focusing on my schoolwork with no distractions besides boxing. Nowadays I don't have time to do anything but box and train my body, so that keeps me away from bad influences. Within four months of being in the gym, I was able to gain a decent physique, so I was no longer disgusted by how skinny I was. I was also finally able to save up money for things I wanted: boxing equipment, of course. 

     Throughout my life, many people would tell me I'm “destined to have a bright future” or “destined for greatness,” but my previous lifestyle was clouding those visions. Now with boxing I can see a silver lining in the darkness. From the first moment I stepped in the ring, nerves skyrocketing, it felt right. I sparred a third year boxer named Eli. He wasn't that dedicated to boxing, but after three years you're going to be a decent fighter. Throughout the first round, I was trying my best to hit him, but his head movement was too good. During the 30-second break, I had some time to catch myself up, so I'd be ready for the next round. In the second round, I probably landed about two or three punches, while he knocked my skull around like a bobble-head toy. That only encouraged me to hit him even more. In the third round I came in gasping for breath as I tried to land a few punches to give him a dose of his own medicine, but it was worse than the second round. Even though I didn't put on a great performance my first time in the ring and got a minor headache, I fell in love with the sport even more. That loss encouraged me to come to the gym even more and train until I could go in the ring and show Eli up.

     Now my motivation to box is past just wanting to beat Eli. I’m doing it because I love it. Doing it because it's what I'm best at, doing it because I want to make my mother proud to call me her son, doing it because I want to be able to take care of my family, doing it because I want to start a family of my own and take care of them. But, most of all, I do it because I know it's my calling. 

     I believe everyone on the planet has something they were born good at, but not everyone is able to discover it in time. I thank God that He introduced me to boxing at the time He did, because this is what I was born to do. I absolutely know it, no doubts in the back of my mind or the bottom of my heart. It saved me from going down the wrong path. My heart is the shape of a boxing glove and my brain is the shape of a fist.

     Although my life isn't optimum yet, it's headed there fast if I stick to what I do best: boxing. This is how boxing changed my life. I didn't speak much on my change, because I want the rest of the story to write itself. Because I am definitely going to be a big part of boxing’s future.

     My first day in the gym I was hooked; by the end of the week, I was addicted.