A Young Scientist’s Dream For His Country: Growing the Bio-Science Industry In Haiti

A story I wrote for Bon Sel Dayiti.

Johnny Métellus thinks big — a fitting personality trait of a class president and burgeoning Haitian bioscientist.

Métellus studies at the University of Notre Dame at Hinche, a Catholic university with eight campuses throughout Haiti. He’s one of sixteen students in the university’s first-ever biosciences program, which launched in 2012 in partnership with the McKenna Technical Institute.

In the past two years, he’s developed a favorite subject (microbiology), laboratory skills and an ambitious plan.

He calls it his water project — a combination of quality testing and low-cost water purification for Hinche and the surrounding community. He’ll open a lab to test the water and hire lab technicians and scientists from his old school.

“Anything I’m studying, I do with my whole soul,” he said. “I want to participate in the development of Haiti.”

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It Takes a Village: Selling Kinethics

Kinethics has come a long way since we first started in the basement of UNC’s School of Media and Journalism. We spun out of the university, incorporated and formed a board, and were accepted into Launch Chapel Hill, an award-winning accelerator program. Sometime in there, I graduated from college and went full time. Now, my team and I have decided to sell Kinethics.

With the help of incredible mentors, we learned a thousand lessons (both personal and professional,) launched an awesome new site, tested our assumptions and validated our product.

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Criminal Justice in the South

A story I wrote for State of the South.

In October 2015, President Obama headed to Charleston, W. Va., to launch a “criminal justice tour,” a high-profile spotlight on criminal justice reform across the country. It is significant that the tour started in the South, where the problems of America’s criminal justice system—racial inequity, harsh sentencing laws, and overcrowded prisons—are most visible and entrenched. In recent years, Southern states have joined the increasingly bipartisan effort to address prison overcrowding, high costs, and prisoner reintegration.

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For many in Zimbabwe, Cecil the lion tells only part of the story

A story I wrote for CNN. 

The killing of Cecil the lion by a U.S. dentist in Zimbabwe drew a swift and passionate backlash. A petition urging Walter Palmer’s extradition to Zimbabwe garnered more than 220,000 signatures. TV host Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional monologue condemning the killing. People sought to bring down Palmer’s dental practice through negative Yelp reviews and protests.

But some in Cecil’s native Zimbabwe and in the United States criticized the massive outrage over Cecil’s death and questioned why the loss of human lives didn’t seem to bring the same response.

When news of Cecil’s death first came out, many in Zimbabwe had never heard of the lion, said Fungai Machirori, a Zimbabwe-based journalist and social commentator.

“People expressed, ‘Will I look like a dumb person if I admit to not knowing anything about Cecil?’ ” she said.

“As time went on, the kind of international rhetoric that framed it as though the whole country was in mourning … that’s when the initial disconnect began for me.”

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Polaroids show iconic artists in New York

A story I wrote for CNN.

Andy Warhol, Madonna, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Glenn O’Brien, John Lurie — iconic symbols from a bygone New York City. One that was cheaper, grittier and pulsing with new music, art and powerful personalities.

Swiss photographer and director Edo Bertoglio lived in the hot core of the old Big Apple. From 1976 to 1989, he captured New York’s thriving artist community on his Polaroid camera.

Those shots make up the 140 photos in his new book, “New York Polaroids 1976-1989.” It is sort of a “personal diary,” chronicling Bertoglio’s surroundings and friends in intimate and passing moments, much like quick shots taken on phones today.

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Mexico’s hidden people

A story I wrote for CNN

An estimated 200,000 Africans were brought to Mexico under slavery, which ended in the country in 1829. Yet Afro-Mexicans remain a marginalized and often forgotten part of Mexico’s identity.

Photographer Mara Sanchez Renero first learned about Afro-Mexicans as a teenager, when she traveled to the Costa Chica region in southern Mexico. The black community there told her they were descendants of Africans shipwrecked off the Pacific coast in 1900.

But it wasn’t until she traveled back last year that she realized what little she knew. There, traditions and customs rooted in Africa — such as “La Danza del Diablos,” or the dance of the devils — have survived.

“I didn’t know there was that much African culture in Mexico,” Sanchez Renero said. “They didn’t teach me that in school.”

Sanchez Renero dug deeper into Afro-Mexican history and culture, ultimately deciding to tell the story of Afro-Mexicans through a series of photographs called “The Cimarron and Fandango.”

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