Writing

Here are some published articles, seen in the New York TimesNewsweekCBSSports.com and other platforms.

  • Congolese See No End To President’s Final Term

    Congolese See No End To President's Final Term

    ***As seen in The New York Times***

    KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — To take the political pulse of this sprawling, mineral-rich country, head to the busiest stretch of Lumumba Boulevard, one of the capital’s main roads. On weekdays, a large crowd gathers here to peer at the newspapers posted on an eight-foot-high wall and loudly trade opinions on the news of the day.

    Recently, the shouting has been about President Joseph Kabila’s plan to carve the country’s 11 provinces into 26, which many Congolese see as a ploy to delay the coming presidential election and allow Mr. Kabila to “slide,” as people here say, into a third term.

    “We already know these are political maneuvers,” said Theo Balsomi, an unemployed college graduate, as he jostled with others to get a look at the newspapers on a recent afternoon. “Knowing the reality of our country, we have lived through many regimes. We won’t allow Mr. Kabila to slide for even a second. The whole population would oppose that.”

    Mandated in 2006, the plan to split the provinces lay dormant until the president revived it in March. The new provinces have been named, but elections for governors and other leaders have yet to be held.

    Before voting for a new president in 2016, the Democratic Republic of Congo must go through a series of elections on the local and provincial levels. Mayors, village chiefs and councils must be named, and deputies and governors need to be elected in the provinces. The longer this process takes, the more likely the presidential race will be postponed.

    Under Congo’s Constitution, the president is limited to two terms. However, delays in the packed electoral calendar, which is already months behind schedule, are stoking fears that a postponed presidential election ...

    Read More

  • Dreaming In Kibera

    Dreaming In Kibera

    ***As seen in the New York Times***



    With the spotlight shining down on her 4-foot-something frame, 10-year-old Eunice Akoth stepped into character.

    “Every mighty king was once a crying baby! Every great tree was once a tiny seed! Every tall building was once in paper! And so I dream my dream!” she yelled.

    Taking wide, confident strides across the stage, and punctuating every other word with a fist pump, Eunice captivated the audience at the Women In The World Summit on Friday. Her declaration was a response to her life growing up in Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum, sprawling across Nairobi, Kenya.

    “Most of the kids in Kibera are raped, some are neglected by their parents, some are homeless,” she said, fighting back tears after the performance. “Most of them have dreams, but they don’t know how they can achieve them, so I had to write a poem that tells them that they can achieve their dreams.”

    Eunice is a sixth-grader at Kibera’s all-girls school, the first of its kind, co-founded by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner Odede. The husband and wife team behind the Shining Hope For Communities foundation—which pairs free education with health care, clean water, and other social services—accompanied Akoth to the Summit.

    “I heard about this amazing community organizer, really bringing people together and helping them change their own realities,” Jessica said, “and I was just so inspired by that.”

    Back in 2007, Jessica traveled to Kenya as a study-abroad student, drawn in by the work Odede was doing in his hometown. She saw how much he valued education, even scouring the streets for newspapers as a run-away at the age of 10 to teach himself how to read. Jessica joined Odede’s SHOFCO organization, which he founded in 2004, after saving 20 cents to buy a soccer ...

    Read More

  • “One Richmond”

    One Richmond

    *As seen on CBSSports.com*

    The story begins here, where the glaring overhead lights bounce off the giant red spider down at center court. The Richmond Spiders women's basketball team trots out, a mélange of braids, ponytails and curls bobbing in unison in front of 7,200 empty seats. It's a late-October preseason practice at the Robins Center arena, and this is where the healing happens.

    Here, a scolding about a missed defensive assignment is a reminder of the right now, a fixture in the normal. Five months ago, this tight-knit family's fabric was torn, when two of its core members -- associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis -- embarked on a hot-air balloon ride and never came home. The wounds are fresh. The upcoming basketball season is long. Every second spent on the court is an act of resilience.
    ***
    "She really loved this place," says Joe Doyle, smiling as he walks around his younger sister Ginny's house, a 15-minute drive from the University of Richmond campus. Joe and his mother are now trying to sell the home, and gathering Ginny's belongings forces him down memory



    lane.

    Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1970s, they learned how to shoot hoops on the corner, where the basket was a metal rim bolted to a plywood backboard hanging from a telephone pole. Ginny always won, routinely embarrassing the neighborhood boys. She eventually chose to play college ball at George Washington, and then transferred to Richmond.

    Joe pops in an old tape: grainy footage of big hair, bulging shoulder pads, and Ginny challenging former CBS analyst Billy Packer in a free-throw shooting contest in 1992. At the time, Ginny's streak of 66 straight from the line was an NCAA record for ...

    Read More

  • Emmanuel Mudiay has decided to play overseas. (USATSI)

    Mudiay Family: 'No Truth' To Skipping SMU Over Eligibility

    *As seen on CBSSports.com*

    With the college basketball world struggling to make sense of his bombshell decision, Emmanuel Mudiay is in the gym, shielded from the noise. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound point guard is working out with his trainer and preparing his body for next season, despite the giant question mark regarding where he'll be playing.

    This is according to his older brother Steph Mudiay, who has been Emmanuel's mouthpiece since the younger Mudiay announced his intentions for the near future in a statement Monday.

    One of the country's top recruits -- and already a top prospect in the 2015 NBA Draft -- Mudiay said he wanted to financially provide for his mother. His decision to backtrack on his commitment to SMU and instead play professionally overseas has sparked questions about the true motives behind his sudden change of heart. At the forefront are multiple reports speculating that Mudiay's move could be a way to bypass a looming NCAA investigation into his eligibility.

    “There's no truth to that,” Steph said in a phone interview, adding that “rumors” about Emmanuel's NCAA eligibility have been circling since the All-American starred at Dallas' Prime



    Prep Academy. “People have been speculating that anyway. Two years ago, there was an incident about eligibility issues and there were a lot of questions about whether the school was qualified or not. So I think it just went from there.” Steph said.

    The charter school -- which was co-founded by Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders in 2012 and could soon be shut down -- failed to fully meet the NCAA's academic requirements. After individual reviews, the NCAA ruled some former Prime Prep players ineligible. Others, like Monmouth freshman guard Micah Seaborn, were cleared to play college ball. Emmanuel was admitted to SMU and scheduled to enroll in August ...

    Read More

  • Rocinha is Rio de Janeiro's largest favela, or slum, located in the city's South Zone. (Marwa H. Helal photo)

    Watching Mexico-Brazil from Rio's largest 'favela'

    *As seen on CBSSports.com*

    You wore the wrong shoes. Climbing up and down the narrow, wet and steep walkway that connects the many parts of Rocinha -- Rio de Janeiro's largest favela -- requires a sure grip, not the wood-sole kicks you opted for today.

    Being careful to not fall and break your face, you follow Isadora Machado, your makeshift tour guide. She's a member of Midia NINJA, a citizen journalism/activist group that drew international attention for the images of the huge Brazil protests they beamed around the world via social media during last year's Confederations Cup. Isadora's team invited you to come watch Brazil face Mexico here, in a tight-knit community of soccer fans who can't be in Fortaleza, where the match is being played. You accepted, because you'd really like to see how this city within the city does Game Day.



    You marvel at the neighborhood's stacked houses -- piled on a hill along a mountain, one squeezed on top of the other, making a landslide a very scary scenario. The latest census puts

    Rocinha's population at slightly more than 69,000, but research estimates say the number could be as high as 300,000. It has schools, clinics, theaters and a rich cultural side reflective of its diverse inhabitants. It has also earned a reputation for being one of Brazil's most dangerous favelas, ruled by drug gangs.

    You were dropped off in a Fiat near Rocinha's higher entrance 20 minutes ago. Rio's Police Pacification Unit officers were there, with their guns showing and their heads on a swivel. Their role is to rid the neighborhood of drug gangs and other criminals. They've been accused of killing innocent locals, though, and their relationship with residents is often tense. You smile at one of the armed men as you make your way in, but ...

    Read More

  • Congo’s Female Basketball Players Shine on American Courts

    Congo’s Female Basketball Players Shine on American Courts

    *As seen in Newsweek*

    From a distance, she looks like a walking tower. Her slim, six-foot-four frame casts a shadow twice as large, moving in giant strides under a scorching Arizona sun. On most days, Emilie Muanandibu is accompanied by Lisette Longomo, a six-foot tower in her own right. Today, they’re heading to their basketball coach’s house to cook fufu na mbisi.


    “When we took this walk in the summer, people would stop and ask us if we needed a ride,” Muanandibu said. “No one could understand why we were walking in such heat.”

    The pleasure at the other end of this self-inflicted pain is worth it, though. Eating fufu, a mixture of corn flour and grains, with mbisi, sautéed or grilled fish, beats the monotony of cafeteria food at Arizona Western College. Once or twice a month, the two Congolese players on the Lady Matadors basketball team indulge in this traditional meal and reminisce.

    “There are no barriers when it comes to fufu. Regardless of where you are you can eat it,” Longomo said through a mouthful.

    A little more than a year ago, eating fufu meant toiling in her mother’s kitchen in Limete, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The run-down, concrete basketball court where she met Muanandibu was a short walk away. To escape the pitfalls of life in war-torn Congo, the tweens joined basketball club Hatari and began spending most of their time outside of the classroom honing their hoops skills.


    In August 2011, Longomo and Muanandibu became two of AWC Head Coach Patrick Cunningham’s chosen few. After seeing videos of the pair on YouTube, the women’s basketball coach added them to his list of international recruits, making them the second and third Congolese ...

    Read More

  • World Cup fans en route to Arena Corinthians. (Marwa H. Helal photo)

    Protests linger, excitement high as World Cup begins in Brazil

    *As seen on CBSSports.com*



    SAO PAULO -- Standing near the exit of the Arena Corinthians metro station in Sao Paulo, drowning in a sea of dancing yellow and green jerseys, with fireworks and cornetas blaring, it is easy to forget that the months and weeks leading up to this day were marred by often deadly protests and civil unrest.



    The 2014 World Cup kicked off as planned Thursday afternoon, with the 170,000 extra security forces making their presence felt and keeping any anti-FIFA demonstrations at a distance.

    A few hours before kickoff and only three miles away from the stadium, police helicopters hovered above a group of nearly 300 protestors, armed with blow horns and anti-World Cup signs. The military on the ground stifled any



    attempts to march down Melo Freire, the straight-shoot route to Arena Corinthians, the site of the opener for the 32-team international soccer tournament.



    Here, the fireworks were replaced by the explosion of tear gas bombs the military threw to disperse the crowd. Guards marched towards protesters, and rubber bullets pelted those not willing to clear the area.

    “We'll continue to fight, regardless, against this government's reckless spending and injustice,” said Callo Costa, as police ordered protesters to move or be moved by force. “Cup or not, we'll continue to fight against the loss of respect and the loss of dignity we deserve."

    On certain streets, armed military forces outnumbered the demonstrators. The opening-day protests were a far cry



    from those that preceded the $11.3-billion event, the most expensive World Cup in FIFA history.

    Groups that planned to take to the streets on opening day – like the Homeless Workers Movement representing the thousands of families that occupied a lot ...

    Read More

  • Lionel Messi's No. 10 jersey is sold alongside Neymar Jr.'s No.10 in Rio de Janeiro. (Sarah M. Kazadi photo)

    World Cup: Argentina gets started; rivalry with host Brazil omnipresent

    *As seen on CBSSports.com*


    RIO DE JANEIRO -- Neymar Jr.'s No. 10 jersey is everywhere. It's at the market, sold next to giant Brazilian flags. It's at the restaurant, as the default uniform for waiters. It's at the soccer fields that decorate the inner city, on the backs of young Neymars dreaming big. It's impossible to miss, sort of like the other No. 10 jersey vying for attention on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

    Lionel Messi's sky blue and white striped shirt is at Copacabana Beach. It's on the metro, in the hotel lobby and at the bar down the street. Thousands of Argentinian fans have flocked to Rio and other World Cup host cities to watch this No. 10 try to add soccer's most prized trophy to his resume.



    Argentina is second only to the United States in World Cup tickets bought outside of Brazil, totaling just over 61,000 at the start of the tournament, according to FIFA. In Latin America, Argentinians bought more seats than any other group besides Brazilians. Some fans embarked on a 36-hour bus ride to cheer on their national team in the land of its biggest soccer rival.

    "It sounds a little bit crazy, but it's normal to us," said Nicolas Salto, who journeyed from Buenos Aires on a minibus with 50 other fans to reach Rio Thursday afternoon.

    Salto and nearly 79,000 ticket-holders will be in the stands when Argentina and Bosnia kickoff World Cup play at the renovated Maracana Stadium on Sunday night. Though Argentinian fans will be out in full force, locals could try to remind Messi and his team how far they are from home, like they did during a pre-World Cup practice. Brazilian fans booed as Argentina took the pitch, offering ...

    Read More

  • The Lotto

    The Lotto

    As seen in the *Amsterdam News*
    Working the night shift at Wendy’s and earning $7.25 an hour was never part of the dream. Not for an aspiring attorney, less than a year away from a law degree when luck struck and sent him 6,380 miles from home.

    Today, Olivier Wetshi rents a room in a four-bedroom apartment in Corona, Queens. There’s a map of the New York City subway system hanging off the wall, and it doesn’t take more than two giant steps to get to the other side of the room.

    “I left Kinshasa for my education, my future. I’m only doing this to have the money to pay my schooling, then I’ll be back on track,” said Wetshi.

    Before sweltering in the kitchen at Wendy’s, the 24-year-old was delivering sandwiches for a restaurant in midtown Manhattan. Before that, he was a customer service aide at a discount store in The Bronx. The odd jobs are starkly different from his role as a field officer for a human rights organization, his last post in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Wetshi moved to the United States last June, one of 2,575 Congolese to be relocated to the U.S. last year through the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program administered by the Department of State. From early October to early November every year, the program, dubbed “the green card lottery,” accepts electronic applications from nearly 20 million dreamers envisioning a future in the U.S. Anyone can win, a notion that has drawn criticism from lawmakers hoping to end the program, calling it a gateway for terrorists. Nearly 7,000 Congolese immigrants have won since 1992, and their luck has spurred a dramatic growth in the number of applications from the DRC in the last few ...

    Read More

  • On The Brink, Harlem Small Biz Looks For Plan B

    On The Brink, Harlem Small Biz Looks For Plan B

    Maybe it's the three empty barber chairs that haven't been used in months.

    Or the rent that is due soon.

    Or his daughter, whose picture stands out among the old Yankees photos decorating the shop.

    Whatever it is, Tony Garcia can't tell exactly why he hasn't found time to paint recently. Life has been keeping him busy, he says, glancing up at an image of a midnight sky cradling the moon and stars. Most of his artwork, hanging on the worn white wall over the waiting area in his barbershop, dates back to 2009.

    "I pay my bills first, before I do anything else, and lately all I've been able to do is pay the bills," says the licensed barber, "Hopefully things will get a little better."

    Garcia, a father of two, has paid the bills by using clippers as tools to craft hair into fades, ceasers or afros for nearly 14 years. As owner of Tone's Barbershop on 125th Street, he is one of East Harlem's long-standing small businessmen who've managed to stay afloat amidst a swift wave of cultural and economic change. But the rising property values and the emergence of competing businesses over the last 10 years are placing his shop's future in jeopardy.

    "The radical change in Harlem is the magic word called gentrification," said Harlem historian Andi Owens, founder of the Genesis II Museum of International Black Culture. He explains that Harlem's makeover -- from new corporate businesses to housing and charter schools -- has drawn higher income residents to the neighborhood.

    Census data shows that there are 433 whites living in the four-block radius surrounding Tone's Barbershop, a 38 percent increase from 2000. The Asian population has also increased, but blacks and Hispanics are still the vast ...

    Read More

  • Column: Why You Don’t Care About Brittney Griner

    Column: Why You Don't Care About Brittney Griner

    Prologue: I am not a raging feminist and this is not a rant. Enjoy!

    Forty and zero. Forty wins and not a single loss. It’s the mark of a flawless college basketball season, in which 40 opponents challenged you and crumbled, one after another, under the weight of your perfection. It means that you’re just too damn good.

    Winning 40 games and being undefeated in a season had never been done before the 2012 NCAA women’s tournament in Denver. That’s when Brittney Griner and the Baylor University Lady Bears hoisted the championship trophy under a shower of confetti, breaking the 39-0 record while barely breaking a sweat. With her performance throughout the season – capped off by the 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks she collected in the big game – Griner catapulted into the discussion for the best female basketball player EVER.

    But you don’t care. You didn’t care then and you don’t care now. Nobody cares about how talented Griner is. The only thing that mattered after the Lady Bears made history was how deep the team’s star player’s voice was during the postgame interview.

    The Twitterverse, the new standard for assessing public opinion, erupted with countless tweets questioning if Griner was really a woman and wondering how big her penis had to be for her to sound and look like that. The most derogatory tweets were from male users.

    If you were watching the game, which you probably weren’t, you would have been thinking the same exact thing. And you know what? It’s not entirely your fault. It’s not entirely your fault that you didn’t know much about Brittney Griner when you started reading this. It’s not entirely your fault that the first thing you’ll think when you see her will have ...

    Read More