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Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Illegal Immigrants Barred From University

Posted by admin On August - 30 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

FREEDOM UNIVERSITY TO THE RESCUE

With the new school term set to begin, undocumented students, especially those in Georgia state are in a quandary with respect to the pursuit of higher education.  These undocumented immigrants have been barred from entering Georgia’s five most competitive schools. While they can still be admitted at other public colleges and universities, they will be charged higher fees, especially, for out-of-state residents.

Photo courtesy Inkity.com

The new policy was adopted last fall by the university system’s Board of Regents following concerns that  undocumented immigrants were overrunning Georgia state colleges and universities. Undocumented students fear that other states may follow the policy which could halt the academic aspiration of many who dream of pursuing professional careers.

These moves have sent a harsh message to undocumented immigrants indicating without reservation that they are indeed “outsiders” and “aliens.”  It also puts a damper on the notion that working hard in school can help to fulfill the American Dream.

With the new term barely a week away students and immigration advocates have embarked on a series of protests regarding Georgia’s new policy.  The five schools undocumented students are barred from are: University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University.

Following the introduction of the new policy five University of Georgia professors have created a program called Freedom University, to offer courses to undocumented students. The program consists of rigorous seminar courses that will be held once a week. The courses will be the same as those taught at top state institutions that the students are not allowed to attend or are unable to attend because of cuts in scholarship funds. The professors are offering this program on a voluntary basis and the classes will be held at a local community Latino center. They have also set up an Amazon.com wish list seeking donations of textbooks for students and gas cards so volunteers could help drive the students to and from classes.

The professors are currently seeking accreditation for the Freedom University so the courses taught could receive credits for a student wishing to attend another institution. The program is designed to expose students to a college environment and to challenge them intellectually. UGA history professor Pam Voekel, emphasizes that the program is not a “substitute for letting these students into UGA, Georgia State or the other schools,” but it’s meant “for people who, right now, don’t have another option.”

During a protest rally at UGA on Tuesday, 25-year-old Karl Kings, an illegal immigrant who was brought to the U.S. from Asia when he was a year old, said he does odd jobs because proof of eligibility was needed for more prominent jobs. He said he was filling out an application for Freedom University since he could not afford the fees for the other colleges.

Leeidy Solis,16, from Mexico, was  two years old when she was brought to the U.S. illegally by her parents.  She is now a high school senior in Athens and wants to become a veterinarian. She finds it hard to listen to her friends discuss where they’re applying to college because she’s not sure she will be able to become a college graduate. She hopes to one day get a grant or scholarship to pay for her education.

Freedom University hopes to take all qualified applicants in, unless space constraints force them to limit the number of students to be admitted.

Among the professors who will be teaching at Freedom University is Pulitzer Prize winning author and MIT professor Junot Diaz. He said “policies barring illegal immigrants from state schools are cruel and divisive.” In an email he wrote: “Whatever they ask of me. I’ll do everything and anything I can. This clearly is going to be a long fight.”

India Explodes on Madison Avenue

Posted by admin On August - 30 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Grand marshal of the 31st annual India Day Parade, Hindi film actress, Rani Mukherji looked out with pride at the thousands of colourful costume clad participants and the equally colourful spectators lining Madison Avenue in New York City and shouted, “I feel as if I’m in India today.”

India Day Parade Float (Courtesy FIA)

So did many others who had journeyed from all over New York and from other states to celebrate India Day with fellow immigrants in New York. It was a gala celebration attended by hundreds of specially invited guests, including president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo.

Mukherji was cheered and mobbed by fans when she arrived at the starting point on 38th Street, for the 10-block parade down Madison Avenue. Census estimated that more than 200,000 Indian immigrants reside in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The theme of this year’s celebration hosted by the Federation of Indian Associations was “My Earth, My Home.” It was chosen to create an awareness of the increasing environmental pollution resulting from  a proliferation of  industries in India.

Numerous colourful floats designed to reflect India’s rich and diverse culture proceeded down the avenue followed by thousands of people representing different Indian cultural groups and organisations in America. Outstanding were the members of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization. They were dressed as angels, in white, with wings rising above their backs to highlight their message of world peace and harmony among all cultures. A float with a canon represented a significant historical moment in India’s history: violence against the Sikhs in the 19th century while India was under British rule. Songs, dances and re-enactments of epics in India’s history enthralled spectators.

The parade was not without a hint of politics. Some spectators with banners and placards calling for the removal of corruption in India impacted the celebrations, said to be the biggest in the United States.

“We feel India now has one of the most corrupt governments ever,” said Atul Kumar, an official of the Jersey City, N.J.-based Bihar Society, a nonprofit organisation representing immigrants from the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

Shakespeare and Phagwa

Posted by admin On March - 20 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Phagwa will be celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago from Friday March 18 to Sunday March 20, 2011. It will also be celebrated in New York on Sunday March, 18.

Is Shakespeare’s Macbeth based on a Phagwa legend?

By Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Phagwa or Holi, the Festival of Harvest and Colour, is here!

It is signaled by the bloom of the large poui trees visible for miles because of their distinct bright yellow and mild pink colour. The bloom of the poui foresees Phagwa and the heart of the dry season when watermelons are harvested and sugarcane was cut not too many years ago.

Kumar Mahabir.

All over the world, Phagwa is celebrated with chowtal songs, music and dances. Added to the repertoire in Trinidad and Tobago are pichakaree songs on the theme of resistance and empowerment.  A variety of watercolours (abeer) are mixed and sprayed on participants, with the corresponding coloured powder (gulaal) smeared on their clothes and bodies. Phagwa is also a time when Hindus, who have studied the legend of Hiranya-kashipu and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, meditate on the deep similarities between the two stories. The similarities are too peculiar and numerous to dismiss as sheer coincidence.

Both Hiranya and Macbeth were over-ambitious kings who turned into tyrants. Each plotted the murder of someone once held dear and close to him. King Hiranya planned the murder of his own son, Prahalad. Similarly, General Macbeth murdered his king, Duncan, and usurped the throne.

Hiranya and Macbeth were both granted a boon of invincibility by supernatural beings.  Hiranya was promised by Lord Brahma that he would not be killed by man or animal; in the day or night; indoors or outside; and on earth or in space. Eventually, he was slain by the avatar, Narasimha, in the incarnation of a man with a lion’s head. Hiranya was defeated at twilight (when it is neither day nor night), on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor outside), and on the avatar’s lap (neither earth nor space).

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the tyrant king was assured by mystical creatures that he would not be killed by anyone born of woman, and until the forest of Birnam moved to the hill of Dunsinane. Eventually, Macbeth, was slain by Macduff, who was born by a Caesarean section. He was killed when soldiers camouflaged themselves with branches from the forest of Dunsinane.

Frithjof Schuon, the respected Swiss philosopher of religion, also notes the striking similarities between the legends of Hiranya and Macbeth. In the book Logic and Transcendence (1975), Schuon uses the story of Hiranya to illustrate the point that a prophecy cannot be entirely accurate, and, therefore, should not be taken literally. Schuon discusses the sequence of prophecy, false assurance, pride and “divine ruse” in the legend of Hiranya, and concludes that “Shakespeare took this subject or doctrine for his theme in Macbeth …”

In an article entitled “The Invisible Saraswattie” published in a peer-reviewed journal, Sasenarine Persaud (1996) contends that “… nowhere is the Indian influence more remarkable in Shakespeare than in one of his greatest tragedies, Macbeth.”

The story of Hiranya-kashipu is narrated in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, (also known as Śrīmad Bhāgavatam,or Bhāgavata), one of the sacred literary texts of Hinduism. The celebrated text contains mainly stories of devotees and their attachment to divine incarnations, particularly Lord Krishna and Lord Vishnu. Historical scholars generally agree that the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa was probably composed around 3100 BCE.

It is believed that Shakespeare wrote The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) sometime between 1603 and 1607. The source of the story is controversial. It is commonly considered to be based on historical accounts drawn from Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587). However, the outline of Macbeth bears little relation to real events associated with the Scottish king and Scottish history.

It seems that Shakespeare drew the outlines of Macbeth from the legend of Hiranya. There are a few of his other plays that show Indian influence. One is King Lear, apparently based on the Indian folktale “The King and his Seven Daughters,” published in my book Caribbean Indian Folktales (2005). Both stories open with a king summoning all his daughters to question their loyalty and love for him. The youngest, honest daughter does not flatter him like the others do. In shock and anger, the king banishes her without her inheritance from the kingdom. It is a mistake the king realises only at the end when they reunite.

A third example is The Merchant of Venice derived perhaps from in the Lalita-Vistara, the biography of Buddha, written in 100 AD. The “pound of flesh” motif in Lalita-Vistara reappears in this Shakespeare’s play.

In his article, “The Invisible Saraswattie,” Persaud provides details of trade between Europe and India dating from as early as 2000 BCE. Persaud developed the subject first introduced by A.L. Balsham in his monumental work, The

Wonder that was India (1979). This contact between the two places influenced economic, political, social, cultural and literary life in both societies. Europe’s most dramatic contact with India was the Greek invasion, starting with the conquest of Alexander the Great in 326 BCE. The romance of India attracted Europeans to the fabled land for thousands of years.  In 1492, it drove Christopher Columbus to set sail across the Atlantic to find a sea-route to the land of gold, silk, spices and stories.

The above article was sent to me by a colleague, Dr Kumar Mahabir, Assistant Professor School of Cognition, Learning and Education, University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT). I found it interesting and informative. I trust my readers will also.