Monday, July 22, 2019

Marx and the Middle Class

Congratulations to Terrence, who just finished his B.A. in Criminal Justice at John Jay!



"This wasn’t an easy road lord knows idk what was worse taking punches in the head or studying long nights!! I fought for a change where I can articulate on why I love the sport of boxing it PUSHES ME through my Anger, frustrations, but still remain humble and smile at individuals in my worst mode, positive energy was my angel, I got the tasks done  ✅

We are very proud of Terrence for all he has accomplished. Here's a powerful essay we recently helped him polish up as a writing sample for one of the jobs he's applying to as a new graduate.


***
Karl Marx once called the middle class "petty bourgeoisie" or "petty capitalists" because he believed that the middle class largely neglect lower class struggles. The phrase, "The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer" ties back to the role of the petty capitalist. Marx realized that the middle class individuals separated the means of production from the labor force when they created small businesses.

Marx is trying to imply that owners will control the means of production and as regular employers they will always stay above the poverty line, as opposed to sharing within the society so that poorer people can rise above the poverty line. For example, the word “capitalist” defined in my own perspective means that the owner will purchase cheap merchandise, make a percentage and then sell it for the highest price. So the owner would be getting a profit off of what he is selling because he bought it for a lot cheaper than he sold it, which still applies to many things in modern society. Warehouse bulk buying is very popular, and even now many businesses will buy bulk for cheap and sell in their own stores for much more. 

I strongly agree with Marx’s theory that this is defined as  petty capitalism. All members of society contribute to society; we all pay taxes even if we only work a minimum wage job. The taxes are contributed to the hospitals, public schools, firefighters, etc. Why is it that the more business the middle class creates, the less tax they pay? What the lower class is struggling for is equal pay, better benefits and just to feel like everyone else. 

In “Appropriation in the State of Nature: Self-ownership and labor,” John Locke made a strong argument when he stated, “Everyman has a property in his own Person.” This states that nobody has any right to himself but himself; “the labor of his body, and the work of his hands.” There should be no right for the government to take someone else’s possession or property; the hands that create the labor should not be taken advantage of by any means necessary. A majority of citizens do not realize that you are your own human being, which makes you your own property. Why should an individual take an involuntarily stand to limit their freedom or property? A poverty line is unacceptable in the state that is supposedly called, “The land of the free.” 

According to feedingamerica.org more than “45.3 million people, which is equivalent to 14.5 percent of citizens, were in poverty in the year of 2013.” We are talking about families – daughters, sons, fathers, all  facing the poverty line. In addition, American food assistance, such as food stamps and National School lunch programs, is equivalent to the percentage of poverty. 

What do we have to say for ourselves? Is it in our human rights to let such a tragic situation occur? Candidates such as presidents or governors play a major role in this society and the future for our lower class citizens. For example, the government controls our banks and funds. As bad as that sounds, it’s very true. What can we do about it? We live in a capitalist society and I don’t think there’s much that will ever change that. 

Education plays an important role in overcoming poverty. When a child grows up in a negative environment he/she tends to misbehave or doesn’t learn proper edicts such as knowing the meaning of the word “polite.” A majority of people fail to realize that without politeness, people can easily judge what type of family you grew up in and what base you stand between wealthy, rich, or poor. Most affluent people reinforce their class status simply by the way they behave around other human beings, the way they eat and better yet, the most important skill, communicating. These things all tie back to education. It is crucial for young children to get locked into education and manners young or they will all fall into the system and lose control of their lives. This is when people fall into drugs, gangs, and many other bad habits. These children seek these things when they get older because they know no better and were not taught properly. We need to educate the young people of this world. 

When a parent can’t afford to send their children to a good school, how will the children know how to read and write? How will they know how to interact with other students? As opposed to a wealthy kid who has every access in life to resources that will help them. 

Let’s talk poverty in urban areas or communities. If a kid is eager to attend school, how will that one specific kid make it out of the negative environment? I believe that kids in these communities will most likely not fully pursue their education. Perhaps they will think, ok, one solution is selling drugs. In reality selling drugs is more dangerous than anything in the world. Another scenario, let’s say the teenage boy finds a part-time job just to survive and is getting 8 dollars an hour just to save up for college tuition. That’s excluding Metrocard fees and textbooks. Kids often resort to drug trafficking because it gives them many times the amount they would make at a minimum wage job. It’s not the right mindset, but at the same time the government isn’t helping the cause. 

I‘ve recently read a book called “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. The author had two fathers. Yes, I know, who has two fathers? Not biological. His biological one was the poor father. The rich father was his friend’s dad, whose name was Mike. Kiyosaki did an experiment on both fathers. The poor father had different types of degrees, more than the rich one, but he was struggling with bills and needed help financially. Even though he was educated, he wasn’t educated financially. As opposed to the rich dad, who had no college degree, but owned a company that paid for everything that he desired. If the rich dad realized what world we live in, maybe he wouldn’t be so selfish. This also goes to show that it’s not always a college degree that gets you where you want to be. Most times it’s not what you know but who you know. Why not contribute and give a hand? 

The word "gentrification" irritates me when I see it advertised on subways. Let me elaborate on that powerful word. A rich company decides one day that they want to build a ten-story building in a community and without any consent evicts family, friends, daughters, cousins, of course doing all that following the right law. This destroys the community, creating more money for the rich and sending the lower classes into  shelters. It just sickens me that with so much power people can manipulate and just leave a family out on the street. 

Many veterans are living in poverty. How could someone who’s fought for America get placed in a shelter? Think about the scenario. You come home from the military, your contract has expired, and you have no family or close friends. While everyone outside is celebrating Veterans Day, you as a young adult between the ages of 20-27 find it difficult to get work. Considering the fact that you have been serving the great land of America, why is it that you have to struggle to survive for food and housing? 

In San Diego, young active duty and veteran families have been swelling the ranks of the poor. Of San Diego citizens who were serving in the military, 10% are unable to earn the wages they desired, coming to “about 117,000 active duty military, and of those, 85,000 are considered to be junior enlisted, those in the lower six pay grades, E1-E6. Half these young military enlisted members in San Diego are married and have children.” In other words, these are family members who have kids, and can barely support their family or make a decent living. An average military veteran makes approximately $30,000 a year. I was stunned to read this figure; I expected more funds for the workers who are putting their lives out there every day, including the ones that go to different countries and fight, “for the freedom of land.” 

Similarly, the poverty line always threatens inmates when they are released from jail. When they are released from prison, what chances will they get to look for a job or housing? When an inmate is out of jail he or she often ends up returning back to prison. This is called “recidivism.” Society punishes those who commit a crime so that they make sure that they have no opportunity whatsoever. They internalize the prison mindset and get stuck. Once they are released into the real word, it is very difficult for them to find jobs. Some commit a new crime to send them back to prison. According to the bjs.gov, “An estimated 67.5% of prisoners released in 1994 were rearrested within 3 years.” When prisoners are released from prison without housing or support, they seek hope in prison life because it is all they know. The prison is their home and they see this as the only place they can actually live happily. 

In this society that we live in, the capitalist bourgeois tend to press down on people that are striving. Let’s put this in a scenario: Two criminals who have committed the same crime, let’s say drug possession. One comes from a wealthy family who has an abundance of money to buy legal defense, as opposed to the other criminal, who has no sort of income. Why is it that society choses to let the one criminal go free because of a wealthy income while the poor criminal is rotting in jail? I despise the notion that America is imbalanced when it comes to justice. In addition, the family of the non-wealthy criminal is now struggling to make ends meet. When he is released after serving his time, now he has a felony on his record and perhaps can’t get a job with any benefits. 

Do you want to know the real reason why economic injustice outrages me? When I was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I grew up without anything. In Port-au-Prince, poverty skyrocketed back in 1994. I struggled, seeing my grandmother going out just for me not to starve. I hated the fact that I was young and starving. 

It took my family seven years to get me to America. I was extremely excited because I was in the “Land of Opportunity,” but it sadly broke my heart to see my fellow Americans sleeping on the streets, picking out of the garbage. My first experience when I was in America traumatized me, but of course I didn’t speak my mind because I was just a young man. Who would listen to an immigrant with a heavy accent? 

As I have educated myself, I’ve realized how unjust America is. I learned about capitalism, communism, and the different groups who are striving while the people above are just relaxing somewhere luxurious. My outrage didn’t stop me. That anger turned into striving, making me hungry for success. I was grateful to not fall into the matrix, by which I mean people who are migrating into America thinking it’s all fun and joy, people amazingly happy about jobs that have no health care or  benefits. Once they educate themselves, they are are going to realize America is NOT the land of freedom. That is why I am in favor of what Karl Marx once called the middle class: "petty bourgeoisie" or "petty capitalists." 

***

Hunger and Poverty Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2015, from http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and- poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact- sheet.html?gclid=CjwKEAjw7YWrBRCThIyogcGymQsSJAAmz_ndseYif0LPu_84POvfo1h9K GT_eG9CaBb3Z4Dh_e4HrhoCCaXw_wcB 
Membership. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2015, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109074/chapters/How-Poverty-Affects-Behavior-and- Academic-Performance.aspx 
Online Library of Liberty. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2015, from http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/locke-on-property-a-bibliographical-essay-by-karen-vaughn#lf- essay006lev1sec01 
Recidivism. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/recidivism.cfm 
Too many military, veteran families struggling financially. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/nov/12/military-families-financial-poverty/ 
        


Friday, June 28, 2019

Super Rallo - A Story by Julio Santiago

Julio, 13, and I translated this from the Spanish using Google translate.



Once upon a time there was a superhero. Yes, a superhero, but when he was born, he was just a regular person. When he was ten years old, he started to play video games. When he was thirteen, he was bored with video games, and his mother told him, "Son, come eat!"

When she saw that he was sad in a proper way, she said, "What happened?"

And her son told her, "I don't want to go to school."

And his mother said, "Here in New York, all the kids have to go. I'm sorry, son, but we are leaving on vacation tomorrow."

"Mama, I love you."

"Me too. I love you."

"Ha ha ha! How funny you are, Mama. I will see you at 5:30."

Then his mother left for work. Her husband's name was Eric. The name of the mother was Giselle. The son was named Julio and his sister was Daniela. Daniela loved dolls and stuffed animals. Julio loved the TV show The Worst Witch. Giselle loved to read, and so did Eric, but he also had a laboratory. When Julio was thirteen years years old, he was a kid who was bored by everything.

His family was in Brooklyn. Julio and Daniela were from Colombia and then they left to live in New York. After a while, Julio decided that he did not like the cold weather in winter. But when his family arrived, they said "Let's see when winter starts."

And he said, "I have never been scared of the cold before."

All the kids at school laughed because they already knew what winter was like in New York all their life.

His mother said, "You'll get used to it."

Julio said, "It's all good."

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Listening to Four Women


Congratulations to our boxer/scholar Jordan for getting an A+ on this outstanding essay in his English class at BMCC!



Slavery is such a complex topic that some people think they understand it but don’t. Others shy away from it because it’s too sensitive. The effects of slavery were harsh and terrible on the African American men and women who went through it. Those effects varied from person to person, whether that may be physical or emotional, and that same pain and consciousness has carried on through the generations, lasting until today. 

 In an interview, DJ Vlad spoke with African American actor and director Bill Dukes about the legacy of slavery. Duke mentions Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi’s Super Genes, a book about genetic inheritance. Chopras and Tanzi conducted an experiment on a deer, in which the deer experienced trauma from an electrical fence. Later on, that same deer would go on to have offspring. Oddly enough, although they never experienced the electrical shock themselves, those offspring never went towards the fence. While humans and deer are two different species, our genetics work the same way. African Americans still feel the trauma and effects of slavery over a century later. 

African American singer Nina Simone created a song named “Four Women” that elaborates on such effects left behind by slavery. The song was released as part of her Wild is the Wind album in 1966, during times of harsh civil unrest between blacks and whites. She sings about four different types of black women, each with a different skin tone, and the effects slavery has had on them  Aunt Sarah, Saffronia, Sweet Thing and Peaches are the characters Simone creates. She sings each in the first person, allowing us to feel what they go through either directly or indirectly from the effect of slavery.  The song is a message, a cry, as well as an act of resistance. When combined, the vocals of Simone and notes of the piano give off a sad and uneasy feeling to listeners. I believe that to fully understand and digest this song, one has to listen on the expressive plane.

 Composer Aaron Copland explains this in more detail in his piece “How We Listen. He states, “My own belief is that all music has an expressive power, some more and some less, but that all music has a certain meaning behind the notes, and that meaning behind the notes constitutes, after all what is the piece saying, what is the piece about.” This essentially means that to listen on the expressive plane, a listener has to recognize that each word and tone has a surface meaning, as well as deeper meanings. In terms of “Four Women,” when listening to it, one has to understand the depth of the effects slavery has had on African Americans in order to know why Simone sings with such sadness, passion and anger.

Simone starts off her song by describing Aunt Sarah, a black, dark-skinned woman with long arms, wooly hair and a strong back, “strong enough to take the pain inflicted again and again.” When Simone sings this part of her song, her pace is slow, slow enough that the listener can feel the pain behind each word. Her tone is filled with melancholy and sorrow. Altogether, she embodies a portrayal of what seems to be an African American slave women going through the hardships of slavery. Aunt Sarah’s long arms, black skin and wooly or nappy hair are all characteristics that were and still are seen as ugly for black women. In the case of skin color, black people have always been mocked and teased for their dark complexion ever since Europeans brought enslaved Africans over to the early colonies. That same mentality never went away, and has even carried on into the minds of black people themselves in the form of colorism. In a BBC article, Cherry Wilson talks about how there is colorism in Hollywood and a lack of dark-skinned women in pop culture. She quotes actress Lupita Nyong'o who would get teased for her dark skin color and would wish she woke up light-skinned: "Every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before."

The next woman Simone sings about is Saffronia. She describes her as a yellow-skinned women with long hair. She is stuck between two worlds: her father is rich and white and he forced himself on her mother one night. Simone sings this verse with the same tone and pace as the previous one, keeping that same resonating feeling of sadness in her voice. Saffronia is a light-skinned women who feels stuck between two identities, black and white, as a result of her white father raping her black mother. White slave masters raping their female slaves was a common occurrence back in the times of slavery. Although that doesn’t happen any more, the feeling of being stuck between two worlds because of your ethnicity still persists in society. Former United States President Barack Obama found himself faced with the same disparity. In his memoir he writes, “I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning.” His memoir was only published about two decades ago, and he is one of the most important and successful African American men in history. This just goes to show that anybody can be a victim of this effect.

Simone’s third verse tells the sad story of Sweet Thing. Simone describes her as a woman with fine hair, tan skin and lips the color of wine. In addition, Simone also hints that Sweet Thing is a sex worker/prostitute when Simone sings “Whose little Girl Am I? Anyone Who has Money To Buy.” Prostitution has always taken place in the U.S. since before slavery of African American women. However, the direct correlation between the two only occurred afterward. This is evident in the late rapper Tupac Shakur’s song “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” in which he talks about a true story of 12-year-old girl forced to sell herself because of her social conditions.

The last woman Simone sings about is Peaches. In this part of her song she does something different to her tone and pace. As well, the piano changes key into a deeper and faster sound. Listening to this last part is what really cements Simone’s power in the song. She describes Peaches as a brown-skinned woman whose parents were slaves. Because of that, she’s bitter, her manner is tough, and her life is rough. Peaches says that she’ll kill any mother that she sees. Each line describing Peaches that Simone sings is delivered with five times more passion and gruffness than before, discarding the tone of sadness and replacing it with anger. I believe Simone does all of this for two reasons. The first is to embody the character Peaches correctly in correlation to her history. The second is to leave the listener with a uneasy feeling. Listening to this part for the first time left me feeling shocked and overwhelmed.

Slavery of African Americans is something that has never ended, because it has left a hereditary scar within black people that may or may not ever heal. Nina Simone’s song “Four Women” gives examples of the effects of slavery that resonate within society and within people. Only a great artist like Nina Simone could capture such a complex topic, and we have to be great listeners in order to understand it, listening on the expressive plane and understanding the deeper meanings. Otherwise it’s rather pointless. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Serving Her Country: Jelicia Allen


We caught up with one of Atlas Cops and Kids' most successful grads, Jelicia Allen, from her post in Virginia, where she is attached to the USS George Washington, four years into her five-year contract with the Navy. 

What inspired you to join the Navy?

What inspired me to join the Navy was the environment that I grew up in. I was born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and I knew that I wanted change and to do something different that separated me from my peers, so I thought joining the military will help me do that, and it did. 

How did Cops and Kids help you achieve your goal?
        
Cops and Kids helped me achieve my goal by helping me everyday mentally and physically. I had a goal to drop weight. Coach Quiro, Coach Maria, and Coach Sarah helped me to do so. Going to the gym helped me to stay focused. I was tutoring everyday for the ASVAB, going over math because that was my weakness. Mentally, the gym helped because I had lost a lot of belongings at a time during Hurricane Sandy. Cops and Kids helped me mentally to keep pushing forward despite the storm (literally). Finally, when I lost my mother suddenly right before leaving for boot camp, Cops and Kids definitely helped me then also with encouraging words, extending arms, and just simply showing up to my mother's funeral. 


What was boot camp like?

Boot camp was different. I wasn’t expecting it to mentally push me the way it did. I went in with a “New York attitude,” thinking it wouldn’t phase me, but slowly and surely I found out real quick. My RDC’s were very strict and didn’t play. It definitely opened my eyes and pushed me to the limit, facing different scenarios that never in a million years I thought I could face.

What have you learned from your travels?

I've learned about the world from my travels, the different cultures and the different people in each country, how they differ from the States. I went to England, Bahrain, Dubai, Singapore, and Hawaii. It was a great experience.


Tell us about the work you do. What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?

My job in the Navy is an aviation ordnanceman. We deal with assembling and disassembling bombs. My favorite thing about it is that it’s cool, tough, and the AO community is deep. It’s a lot of us: one big family. The least favorite part of my job is not being able to say what I really want to say at times, holding your tongue when something frustrates you, and also dealing with different types of leadership.

Shortly after you enlisted, your mother passed away suddenly. How were you able to deal with this loss and still stay focused on your goals?

Sometimes I don’t even know how I even dealt with a situation so difficult. I still amaze myself to this day. I took it real hard. I became angry, sad, and distant with everyone. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and asked God to guide me. I just thought of all the things my mother told me and how she raised me and the advice she instilled in me. I used it to fuel me each and every day without her. I had to wise up and do what was right and be there for my little sister to help the both of us. I also had people that I met in the military that I became real close with, and they too helped my journey to stay focused.


What advice do you have for other young people considering joining the armed forces?

I would say to do a lot of research, and if it’s something you really want to do, you have to push forward and actually put your mind to it. STAY FOCUSED. NO DISTRACTIONS AND NO NEGATIVITY. Remember why you're doing it to begin with and let it stick with you always.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

I would like to tell the readers that no matter what circumstance you may face, there’s a reason for everything. You might not see it now, but you have to keep pressing. Always remember: Struggle builds character, and never forget where you came from. Stay blessed.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Amadou's College Application Essay


The community I've been living in since I was two years old isn’t the best. A lot of people in my community have this “If you live in the hood, you're going to die in the hood” mentality. A lot of crimes and gun violence happen daily. Being a witness and victim of these traumatic experiences motivates me to get out of my neighborhood and be someone that both of my younger siblings look up to. 

When I was twelve, I was walking to the recreational center to watch my friend’s basketball game, when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two older men having a huge commotion at the end of the block. They were arguing about a bet, because one guy owed the other money. The argument was so bad that you could see both men's facial expressions changing dramatically, veins popping at the top of their foreheads, voices so loud they had the whole neighborhood’s attention. 

The next thing I knew, one of the guys pulled a sharp object out of his jacket pocket and stabbed the other guy in the ribs in broad daylight! The man rushed out of the crime scene, never to be seen again. After witnessing that moment, my body was so petrified my mind wasn't thinking straight. The man was on the concrete covered in blood, mouthing, “Help me,” while everybody just walked by, ignoring him. 

After witnessing something so traumatic, I was motivated to start doing something in my life and start focusing more on school. Around that time, my first sibling was born, leading me to strive even harder. I didn't want my brother witnessing something like I had at a very young age. 

My first year of high school was very challenging. I lost track of my goals and started hanging out with the neighborhood kids, getting into fights with rival gang members. I was failing a lot of my classes and even went to summer school. All this changed during my sophomore year of high school. I had to take my grades more seriously, because I was in jeopardy of not even having enough credits to graduate. A lot was expected from me and from my siblings. I come from a very religious Muslim household, and my mother knew I was better than this. I didn't want to be another African-American teenage dropout. 

Like the great Malcolm X once said, Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. This relates to me because I am already preparing for my future. I am taking AP Computer Science classes and a Computer Science internship to prepare me to work in the technology field. I am also taking boxing for self-defense and to keep me out of the kind of trouble from the streets that I witnessed when I was twelve years old. 

Coding and boxing have improved me mentally and physically. I have finally found things that I have a passion for. Coding is challenging when we are learning about Javascript and algorithms, and boxing is challenging when I am sparring with someone more experienced than me. Two or three years ago, I would never have expected to have a fondness for these activities. 


As I am now currently at the last year of high school, a lot has changed for me. These past four years, I have grown into a young, educated African American man. Just because you live in the streets doesn't mean you have to live there forever! People have to get that misconception out of their heads. All human beings have a lot of potential that they can realize just by hard work and dedication to something that they really love. These traumatic experiences did have a positive impact on me because they shaped me into who I am today: a champion. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Atlas Cops and Kids Boxers in Hollywood, on Broadway, and in Wooster Group Summer Institute

To be a great boxer, you have to be an entertainer. Atlas Cops and Kids connects youth with diverse opportunities for advancement, including film, television, theater, and music.



Christopher "Lil Bhopp" Colbert, Jr., undefeated pro featherweight, poses on the red carpet at the L.A. Film Festival. Bhopp stars in Jay Bulger's new Netflix documentary "Counterpunch," which also features trainer Aureliano Sosa, and the hip hop of Julian Sosa.

Bhopp is now in rehearsal for a role in Equalizer 2, starring Denzel Washington.



Park Hill boxer Justice Barrios (right) poses with instructor Christopher Stevenson and award-winning actor Kate Valk at the Wooster Group Summer Institute, a free summer theater program co-founded by Valk and Ariana Scott Truman.

Kids in the Summer Institute encounter a text and study a physical discipline – this summer it was the film "Rebel Without a Cause" and swing dancing – and then work together to develop and perform an ensemble piece in the experimental tradition of the Wooster Group.


"We are exposing the kids to process," explains Truman. "How do you work together and not be worried about risks, not be afraid of failure, throw yourself wholeheartedly into experimentation?"

"Justice is a magical kid. So gracious and mature. Even though boxing is a solitary sport, it's instilled him with a sense of community."


Flatbush Gardens boxer Muhammed Deen just returned from a life-changing summer exchange program in New Zealand. Deen always wins Atlas Cops and Kids' $50 prize for his academic averages and was nominated for the prestigious Posse Foundation Scholarship. This spring, he performed his spoken word on Broadway before a sold-out performance of the blockbuster "Hamilton."


Monday, May 1, 2017

Overcoming Failure

Thanks to boxer/scholar Ethan Munoz for this excellent essay, which won him scholarship money for college.



Overcoming Failure

“And your winner by split decision is…..coming out of the blue corner!” 

I stood in the ring, in front of an audience of around 75 people, my red tank top drenched in sweat, my head bowed in disappointment, and my body slouched from exhaustion. The words pierced through me like a sword. I had lost. But how? I’d been running, sparring, and spending countless hours in the gym. I threw a million punches, and in the last round I dished out a right hand so hard that the referee gave my opponent a standing eight count. But somehow, I lost. After receiving a mediocre bronze medal, I made my way to the locker room where my twin brother rushed in after me and stared at me for a few seconds. We both balled up in tears. Despite the fact that I was the one who actually fought, the pain was mutual. It was my first fight, and I lost.

The pain from losing wore off right away. After all, it's all just a learning experience, right? Plus it was only my first fight, in which I actually did exceptionally well, considering it was my opponent’s twelfth bout. In fact, several spectators from the audience told me that they believed that I should have won. My father told me not to worry because you can’t win all the time. Losing that fight gave me a surge of motivation that caused me to work even harder. 

I lived in the gym after that fight. Every single day I spent at least two hours working hard, sweating to the point that I could barely keep my eyes open because the blinding sweat would trickle into my eyes. I ran like a horse in the park at least three miles every other day. I hated running in the winter, because the thin air made me feel like an elephant was sitting down on my chest every time I breathed. However, I had to keep my speed up or I would freeze. I sparred several rounds a week, and sometimes I would leave the ring with a bloody nose, a bruised limb or a scratched-up back. My body was crying. I had heard about stabbings and rapes that occurred in the park I ran in, and my family members warned me to be careful because strange people roam the park at night. However, I still continued to run in the park daily with nothing but one thing on my mind: victory. After about two weeks, I walked into the gym and my trainer shocked me with a last minute offer, “Hey Ethan, do you want to fight this Friday!?”

My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. Was I ready to fight again... Already? On such short notice?

“Yes!” I excitedly agreed. 

Before I knew it, it was Friday night and I was in the ring once again. The bell rang, and the war began. This time I threw what felt like a billion punches, and I rushed my opponent like a football player. I can’t remember what my opponent did, but it was clearly ineffective. The adrenaline was speeding through my veins like cars on a highway. After the fight was finally over, I hugged my opponent out of respect and bowed my head while standing in the middle of the ring. Than I heard it:

“Your winner is…coming out of the red corner from Atlas Cops and Kids Boxing Gym!”


The referee raised my hand as I leaped for joy. I had failed in my first fight because I wasn’t working hard enough. Through this, I realized that victory comes only through diligence.