Tampa March For Our Lives draws thousands of protesters

Thousands of people gathered at Kiley Gardens in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on March 24 as part of a national protest against gun violence called March For Our Lives.

The march comes as a response to the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. Over 700 March For Our Lives protests happened worldwide, with about 800,000 people marching in Washington, D.C., alone.

According to the March For Our Lives website, its primary demands include universal background checks, a searchable database for the ATF and the ban of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

Thousands of students gathered in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa, Florida, to advocate for stricter gun control. Photo by Maria Laura Lugo.

Susana Matta Valdivieso, a 17-year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke at the Tampa march.

“We are all here because we support this movement, this revolution that will not end until our cities, our towns, our workplaces, our schools and our nation is safe,” Matta Valdivieso said. “As citizens of the U.S. we depend on our Congress to make laws and policies to keep us safe. But when they fail to do so, it is our duty to take action.”

Matta Valdivieso isn’t the only student worried about her safety. Sickles High School student Elizabeth Collins is also concerned about the possibility of gun violence at school.

“Every day I come to school and I worry that someone is going to come and shoot us,” said Collins. “It’s a possibility for every person in America that someone is going to kill you because of a gun, because there are no gun laws. Every politician has a job to protect the people, and they’re not doing anything.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also spoke at the march in support of the protest. He called on people to be more politically active to help achieve their goals.

“If you want bump stocks banned, then I need you,” said Buckhorn. “If you want assault weapons out of the hands of people who don’t deserve them or don’t need them, I need you, so march on. If you want a waiting period, if you want background checks, then I need you, so march on.”

Brianna Aguasvivas, another student from Sickles High School, agrees that young people will be the ones to make a difference. He also believes that the recent gun violence in schools will lead to an increase in voter registration.

“Politicians should be scared because there’s a lot of kids who are either 18 or just under 18 that by the next election will be registered to vote,” said Aguasvivas. “We will be voting them out.”

 

The next step, according to the March For Our Lives committee, is to register people to vote so that they can vote for candidates who support stricter gun control.

For more information about the March For Our Lives movement, visit: https://marchforourlives.com/home/.

67-year-old yoga instructor promotes a healthy lifestyle

Healthy living is a concept many are concerned with. Organic items fill the shelves and gluten-free products seem to come out of nowhere. For 67-year-old June Kittay, a healthy lifestyle involves more than just healthy eating.

“I did 25 minutes on the treadmill, then I lifted weights and I did a few yoga poses,” Kittay said about her morning exercise routine.

Her lifestyle wasn’t always as healthy. In her 20’s, she was an elementary school teacher with very dangerous habits. The effects of these habits became clear after some years.

“I existed during the week on a pack of cigarettes a day and two liters of diet soda. Fast forward 40 years later, I have osteoporosis. That’s what happens when you don’t take care of your body,” Kittay said.

A car accident motivated Kittay to bring awareness to the importance of health and fitness.

“I went into a seated fitness class and I said this is what I want to do when I grow up! So that’s what happened. I became a fitness instructor in 2004 and I’ve been doing it ever since. And I love it. I wish so many other people would do it,” Kittay said.

To keep up her promise to the community, Kittay teaches a “Yoga in the Gardens” class in the Botanical Gardens at the University of South Florida. USF student Jasmine Ehney has been a recurring visitor to the classes.

“I really like how she emphasizes nature, mindfulness and how to appreciate the trees and the earth. Things that we don’t usually notice,”  Ehney said.

The class is held every Friday at 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students and visitors can come to the class free of cost.

USF student organizes International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held annually on Jan. 27. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of millions of Jews from Auschwitz. It is a day to remember those who died unjustly by Nazi forces and celebrate those who survived.

This year, the University of South Florida commemorated this day by holding a concert in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Zachary Konick is a second-year music composition graduate student at USF. He is also the organizer of the concert. His Jewish heritage remains a catalyst in his wish to give back to the Jewish community.

“I haven’t always been too involved in my Jewish background, unfortunately. I go to temple for service, here and there, but I haven’t been as involved as I might have wanted to be,” said Konick. “Doing this was kind of a way to get back into my Jewish heritage a little bit more. To reconnect with this a little bit more.”

Konick, as a composer, wanted to bring a piece of his art to the stage. His piece “Kaddish” is derived from “The Mourner’s Kaddish,” a Jewish prayer that talks about death.

Throughout the composition, a juxtaposition of the Israeli national anthem and his grandmother Rosette’s voice can be heard. These elements enhance the musical value of the piece and solidify Konick’s desire to honor his grandma.

“I wanted to give something to my nana, who is a Holocaust survivor. I wanted to give something to her before she leaves from this planet,” said Konick. “My piece is dedicated to her for that reason.”

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USF graduate student Zachary Konick composed the piece “Kaddish” which was derived from the Jewish prayer, “The Mourner’s Kaddish.” Photo by Maria Laura Lugo.

Francis Schwartz is the featured composer for the concert. He is a Sarasota resident who graces the world with his “music theater” compositions, as he likes to describe his music.

Invited artists are performing four of his original compositions during the concert. These include “On the State of Children,” “Auschwitz,” “Caligula” and “The Grey Road.” Schwartz considers his music a way to combat injustice around the world.

“I’m very much aware of injustice being practiced all over the world. Discrimination, hatred. This is something that I have combatted ever since I was a little boy. Ever since I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that people hate each other and discriminate against each other for reasons of race, ethnic origin, color or sexual orientation,” said Schwartz. “It’s a very complex thing. We are masters of hate. I try through my music to unravel that very tightly knit ball of hate.”

The compositions are brought to life with the dynamism of the dancers. Carolina Garcia Zerpa and Itarah Godbolt are two of the dancers invited to grace the stage of the concert. Despite not having direct Jewish connections, they consider it important to use their art to bring awareness to events like these.

“Anyway that I can use my instrument, my body, my art form of dance to add expression or bring awareness, add another dimension or dynamic to another artist’s work and what they’re doing. That is my connection. I’m always willing and wanting to do that,” said Godbolt. “We’re also not just artists. We are people and we are activists and we have experiences. There are many ways to express that through art. When you bring all of that together is just magnifies and brings back to life another way to share those experiences”

In light of the recent events around the world, Konick considers that this concert signifies a way to unify cultures and ethnicities.

“This concert isn’t just about Jewish heritage. It’s really important to me that this concert is about unity as well, given all the tensions politically and socially in the US lately and throughout the world,” said Konick. “We really want to strike home that this concert is about coming together and fighting about persecution of any kind”