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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

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Anyone who said NY was dead after Covid-19 arrived wasn’t a New Yorker to begin with

A pride colored heart is seen on a subway car near a person wearing a mask as the city moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 25, 2020 in New York City.
A pride colored heart is seen on a subway car near a person wearing a mask as the city moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 25, 2020 in New York City.
Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

There’s one way to put even the mellowest New Yorker into a fit of rage: insinuating, in any way, that New York City is dead.

Last March, grief overtook the city I’ve lived in my entire life. Although the events of 9/11 caused me PTSD due to the trauma of almost losing my dad twice in the Twin Towers (first in the 1993 bombing, and then in 2001), the uncertainty we experienced for months in New York City was a new danger that no one in our lifetime had lived through. And as the nation surpasses 500,000 lives lost to…


Hope you’ve got an appetite for an extended metaphor

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Gentrification is the kind of thing you know when you see it, and that’s not nearly as dodgy as it sounds. A 2019 study released by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) shows that almost half of U.S. gentrification happens in only a handful of cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Yet the process grafts so easily onto any given area that in nearly any city, investment in one neighborhood can be a harbinger of evictions to come in another.

Gentrification is a rat king of developers, city officials, community elitism, and…


Many blame classism for housing displacement, but gentrification is racist at its core

Photo: courtesy of author

I’m a native San Franciscan. Born and raised in Frisco (that nickname never bothered me) or the Sco (that’s that new shit) or whatever you wanna call it, I’ve seen its metamorphosis over the years from seemingly free-spirited inclusive hippie haven to near-exclusive capitalist wannabe utopia.

While this shift is not exclusive to the city I grew up in, it is most pronounced here. Like cancer, the change has been gradual; like cancer, that change has not been for the better.

At first, the transformation was hard to detect. People and businesses that had been around as long as I…


This summer, my neighbors didn’t call the cops — they looked after one another

Photo courtesy of the author

I live right on the border of Chicago’s Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods. Uptown is a rare spot of relative racial diversity in Chicago’s otherwise hyper-segregated map; from the ’50s to the early ’80s, it was a Southern migration hub, a place where Black, hillbilly, Latinx, and Native people rubbed elbows with one another.

As the descendant of white northern Appalachians, and Tennessean melungeons, I appreciated inhabiting a neighborhood where people who shared all my lines of ancestry had converged. …


Corner Store Chronicles

The sisters who’ve carried on the store their parents built, Cardenas Grocery, adapt and adapt in a community that often forgets them

Illustration: Derrick Dent

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s “Corner Store Chronicles” series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.

In 1949, it was just a fruit stand window.

Linda Cardenas is standing near the same window over seven decades later…


Corner Store Chronicles

This San Pablo market and liquor store is vital to the immigrant community it serves

Illustration: Derrick Dent

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s Corner Store Chronicles series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.

I can’t see him smiling beneath his face mask, but I know Yusuf is happy.

The enthusiastic 23-year-old Yemeni immigrant works…


Corner Store Chronicles

When Carver Neighborhood Market was vandalized earlier this year, patrons rallied to support the grocer that offers fresh produce in one of Atlanta’s food deserts

Illustration: Derrick Dent

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s “Corner Store Chronicles” series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.

Days after protests broke out in June over the death of Rayshard Brooks, South Atlanta’s Carver Neighborhood Market became one of…


Post-pandemic, will we still be able to create a vibe?

The reality of the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly sunk in now. The first couple of weeks felt like a bad dream. Now it’s Groundhog Day every day.

It was a little weird for me when things started to evaporate. I was taping a show with Jamie Foxx in L.A. called Beat Shazam. We’re doing the live audience, the whole thing, and finished that show on March 5. While I was there taping the show, I started getting cancellation emails — CNN, T-Mobile — all my corporate events began to cancel.

We finished shooting the show on a Thursday, and Jamie…


Just because something doesn’t use an offensive mascot doesn’t mean it can’t reinforce a broken system

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Washington D.C.’s pro football team. Aunt Jemima pancake products. Eskimo Pies. They’re all examples of the everyday racism that bombards people of color from the supermarket to the playing field. They’re also all iconic American products that both corporations and consumers finally agree are ready for a rebrand.

But what about the far more subtle streams of everyday racism that course through our homes, our workplaces, and the outside world? These instances may be far subtler than a mascot or an offensive term, but are no less pervasive — and no less deserving of cultural reckoning.

For me, this reckoning…


I’m sleep-deprived. You’re selfish. Whoever’s behind this is playing us both.

Photo: Stephen Mature/Getty Images

Dear every single soul responsible for the fireworks display that has gone on for weeks in New York and other major cities nationwide: Why do you hate me?

It’s not as if I’m not used to bored people passing the time with fireworks. This is the time of year when in many parts of this nation, cheap fireworks become readily available — theoretically to mark the Fourth of July, but usually just to make a bunch of noise. It’s not so much about national pride as it is simply blowing shit up because you have the means to do so…

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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

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