–– POETRY ––

Leading Us to Hate
By Chloe Tasso

It was April of 2019.
I was told that I had to go home.
Coronavirus was coming.

It is here.
The coronavirus.
I turn on the news;
Trump was there.

It was supposed to slow down at this point.
He said that.
It was a lie, of course.

It’s only temporary.
It would just disappear.
He said that.
A lie again.

The numbers of the virus are going down!
Going way down.
Once again, he said that.
The lies are larger each time he opens his mouth.

The CDC worked on the studies.
They wanted to protect the people,
Yet Trump’s power silenced them.
They faded out.

It was like the common flu.
He said that.
The virus that spread around the world
killed over 20,0000 people in the USA

The Chinese Virus.
He decided to rename it that.
His followers, of course, followed suit.

It was a gift from China;
He tweeted that.
A pandemic that no one could have

It was the fake news
That decided to ignore that the “United
States of America
Had the lowest fatality rate in the world.”
Of course, this country was doing so well.
He tweeted that.

If only he was not delusional.
If only he stepped up and actually took on
the role as our president.
But instead, we received
Donald Trump.

He spewed hate throughout the country,
And people took after him.
Hate occurred throughout our country
even more.
Because our leader,
Decided it was okay.

The coronavirus killed people.
But Donald Trump led people to believe it
was the Chinese virus.
His hate,
It killed people too.


The Last Day of School
March 13, 2020
By Courtney Hill

March thirteen twenty twenty
We got the good news.
An early spring break for us,
“One week off!”

We got on our buses
And went home.
A few days later we got a call,
“Another week off!”

Eventually, nobody
Got to go back to school
I met zoom and he
Helps me with school now

I get confused
Some of the time
About what is going on
Online and outside

The longer I learn
Through the screen
The longer students learn
Through the screen

The longer we stay this way,
We are losing
Our right
To the education we know

It has been two-hundred and
Forty-nine days
I don’t know if I remember
What my school looks like

People could have
Helped me go back
To school

“It’s hard to breathe with the mask on”


By Helene (Elle) Ullah

Some of us are focused on shielding our families
Others the health of the mind
Most of us worry about these things combined

Some are privileged and can hide at home
Others must work, must provide for their own
Some don’t care
For all the death and despair
Refusing to wear the masks that protect our air

Some are affected more than others
Some have lost their mothers
Fools believe that because they haven’t seen it with their own eyes
The numbers are all lies


By Paris Brown

the year of many strange things
the year that changed everything
the year students went home for break
then couldn’t return
the year of virtual learning
the year we never expected
but here we are
the year many students struggled
the year students dislike the most
the year of no college parties
but I think many ignored that
the year of a mental health crisis
the year students
loss access to plenty thing
show will we ever recoverhow will things be in the future
the year COVID changed everything


deadly hoax: a message to my hometown
By Mikayla Scheckler

247,000 deaths
247,000 lives stolen
247,000 human lives
many that could have been saved
saved with prevention
with a crumb of human decency

i now think of where i come from
a community where empathy is weakness
where the phrase “i can’t breathe” is made a mockery of
its words twisted into a different meaning
one to justify mouths free from cloth
this place where discomfort carries more weight
than human life

many of the same people that spout pro-life views
no, not pro-life
refuse to spare the lives of others
by doing something as simple as
wearing a mask
because humans already born
simply do not matter as much
as a fetus

and then i hear words sickening to my ears
laced with propaganda and politicized
to fit an agenda
“it’s a hoax”

“it will go away after the election”
“you’re taking away my rights”
all phrases i’ve heard to justify unjustifiable behaviors
some spewing from even my family members

what a sad time we live in
where those who choose to wear a mask
to stay inside
and i’m speaking from personal experience
are called “pussies” and “sheep”
for practicing human decency and empathy

to all the members of my community who still to this day
refuse to acknowledge the serious nature of this virus
i say this to you
536 of your neighbors,
your friends,
your family,
have been affected
some have died

but sure, ignore precautions
continue to go to bars and clubs on saturdays
and hang in your shitty garages with booze, cigarettes, and hate every
why does it have to be the death of someone you love
to open your eyes
when we’ve been telling you this the whole time

i only hope one day
you’ll finally listen


Dear 2021 Judson Tallandier II

Dear 2021

I ask that you help us

Your brother, 2020, hasn’t been too kind

He’s taken people close to me

He’s worsened a lot of lives

And he’s sickened a lot of my people

Now I ask you

Will you bring us more peace than he will?

–– Interviews & informaTion ––

COVID-19: Disparities Across Race
By Sead Nikšić

1.3 million deaths, 54.7 million people infected. The coronavirus has reshaped our way of life since fleeting rumors began to arise out of Wuhan that a serious virus was making the rounds. Despiteoriginal estimates, cases have begun skyrocketing again in the U.S. nearly a year after the first reported contraction. With 11.1 million cases and approximately 246,000 deaths, the U.S. is in the running for the slowest and most lackluster response. There are many factors that contribute to this, including an inept federal administration and a nation-wide “anti-mask” movement, however each of those alone could be the topic of a hefty Netflix mini-series. As a result, this investigation will focus on simply examining how the coronavirus affected different groups, and a discussion. It is widely knownthat COVID-19 disproportionately affects older peopleas well as males, so this analysis will be sorted by raceand socioeconomic status.

Non-Hispanic White

White people saw the lowest age adjusted*rate of hospitalizations at 106.2 per 100,000 people [1]. They also have the second highest medianannualincome of any race group at $68,145 [2].

Non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander

This group saw the secondlowest age adjusted rate of hospitalizations at 132.5 per 100,000 people [1]. Asian-Americans have the highest median annual income of any race at $81,133 [2].

Non-Hispanic Black

Black people have the third highest hospitalization rate at 412.2 per 100,000 people. That is 3.9 times the rate of white people [1]. This group has the lowest median annual income at $40,258 [2].

Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native

This group had the second highest overall hospitalization rate at 430.9 per 100,000 people, or 4.1 times the rate of white people [1]. They have the second lowest median income at $40,315 [2].

Hispanic or Latino

Hispanic and Latino people have the highest overall hospitalization rate at 444.6 per 100,000 people. That is 4.2 times higher than their white counterparts [1]. They are directly in the middle of all races for median annual income at $50,486 [2].

While not rigorous proof, the information collected seems to suggest a strong correlation between median annual income and rate of hospitalization, race independent. This makes sense, since our for-profit healthcare system massively penalizes people who have poor insurance coverage, or no insurance at all. Those people tend to be overwhelmingly in the lower socioeconomic strata. However, that isn’t to say that economic status is the only driving force behind this disparity. In fact, a study conducted by Adhikari et al in July found that, by observing COVID-19 statistics across 10 metropolitan areas, majority non-whitecounties had up to 9 times the amount of cases when compared toa white counterpart with the samemedian annual income. The study concluded that, because of this data, income disparities alone could not explain differences in COVID-19 contraction rates. However, they furthernote that due to a current lack of data, it is impossible to uncover causal mechanisms [3].

It is clear from the data that the impact of COVID-19 on lower income communities is significantly harsher than their higher-income counterparts, across race. However, that is not the whole story.It could be the effects of racial injusticethat are responsible for the difference–the same injustice that motivated millions of citizens to invoke their constitutional right to protestthis year. Either way, it is evident that the U.S. is far behind other countries in both its COVID response and its healthcare system, leaving millions of its citizens behind.

* Each age bracket is weighted with its relative proportion of the population. This is to ensure that if a certain population has a higher proportion of older folks, it can still be fairly compared to other populations.


[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html

[2] https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/2018/demo/p60-263/figure1.pdf

[3] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2768723?resultClick=3


Reflecting on an Interview With the Executive Director for the Center for Coalfield Justice By Connor Alcorn

Veronica Coptis is the current Executive Director for the Center for Coalfield Justice. She began working for social justice in South-Western Pennsylvania over a decade ago. Since becoming executive director, she has focused on a holistic strategy of simultaneously approaching environmental, economic, and racial justice. Interviewing her shed some light on how social justice has been impacted by COVID-19, as well as how it is adapting to it.

Before talking about COVID-19’s impacts on social justice organizations, it is important to first understand them and how they operate. According to Coptis, there are 2 main types of social justice organizations: Direct Service, and Social Change. Direct Service groups seek to mend damage caused by systemic problems, while Social Change groups seek to leverage the power of the people against the corrupt or inept in order to repair these systemic problems. Any organization should know what its mission is and remain rooted in that mission, but it should be flexible in how it pursues that mission, especially in the context of the pandemic.

The CCJ has been helping to direct & coordinate resources between various Direct Service groups despite being a Social Change organization. This is because Direct Service has become critically important during the pandemic, and many Direct Service groups lack the constituency, organization, and resources that the CCJ has. Thus, the CCJ –while not moving away from its mission of Social Change –has been helping Direct Service organizations in providing relief to as many people as possible.

Another change that social justice organizations have had to make is their methods of communication. Coptis’ model for interaction prior to the pandemic was to bring people from different backgrounds & viewpoints into the same room, find common ground between them, and then help them push for their collective benefit. However, with the pandemic, this has not been possible. Online meetings are a possibility, but not everyone in rural SWPA has access to the internet. Additionally, as many of the issues tackled by the CCJ are sensitive, it is important for everyone to appreciate the humanity in everyone else; over electronic communications, it is easier to dehumanize those who disagree with you, and thus it is harder to bring people together.

A more pressing issue is that of leadership. Coptis states that any strong leader should be thinking about who will replace them, and that it’s unhealthy for one person to remain in charge for too long. This ties into the CCJ’s strategy for bringing about social change; Leadership. No matter how large a social justice group is, it is impossible for one group to effectively advocate for millions of people simultaneously. Thus, it is important to develop leadership within the communities they help so that those communities can organize and advocate for themselves; without fostering leadership in a community, the CCJ would instead be weakening them by making them dependent on them. Fostering leadership also makes transitions of power easier, as any leader nearing their retirement will have a broad range of effective candidates to replace them. As Coptis says, “Anyone can become a leader if people invest in them.” However, the pandemic makes social investment more difficult –bothfor social justice groups and within communities. This has made it more difficult to cultivate new leadership to continue fighting for social justice.

This issue extends to recruitment in general. The CCJ has adapted the best they can, with a podcast, telephone campaigns, and more emphasis on remote communications, but regardless of these it is simply harder to effectively reach out to people in the midst of the pandemic. As far as social justice groupsare concerned, Coptis says, this is the single largest issue.

However, the largest issue for social justice, according to Coptis, is the lack of protest. This lack of protest leaves officials feeling less accountable to their constituents, and allows for underlying systemic issues to flourish without concern. One example is a committee member in Harrisburg testing positive for COVID-19 and continuing to attend meetings without a mask and without informing the other members of the committee –and few, if any, people responding to this because the pandemic is keeping us from organizing effectively. While making our political leadership feel less accountable to us, it also weakens institutions –the Department of Environmental Protection has not been able to properly conduct investigations or hold permit meetings. However, it is important that we do not villainize these institutions; they are trying their best amidst the pandemic.


Hopeful for the Future: How Local Scientists Could Create a COVID-19 Vaccine
By Emily Kunko

In early April, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced they had created a potential vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the deadly strain commonly known as COVID-19. The vaccine is designed to deliver antibodies to the recipient via a small patch that can be attached to the skin. The vaccine was tested successfully on mice, producing enough antibodies to neutralize the COVID-19 virus. Combined with this unique method of vaccination, the skin patch is also more convenient for medical offices to store. Due to the protein structure of the patch, the vaccine would not have to be refrigerated, a common requirement in other vaccinations. As of April, the application process for this potential vaccine.

This emerging vaccine would absolutely change the world for the better in unprecedented ways. If all goes well, this will not be the first time this happened to Pittsburgh either. Dr. Jonas Salk developed the inactivated polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Researchers like Salk began working to cure polio in the 1930s, with a successful vaccine developed by Salk in 1955. With the stress of a global pandemic breathing down the necks of virologists across the globe, the pressure to quickly develop a COVID vaccination has never been stronger. However, this has been no problem for Pittsburgh historically. Researchers, healthcare providers, and patients alike are looking to Pittsburgh’stop medical staff once again, remaining hopeful.