Posts tagged with "Cassandra Yany"

Netflix – Cuties

By Cassandra Yany

One of Netflix’s newest films, Cuties, has garnered much attention and backlash since its Sep. 9 release on the streaming platform. The coming-of-age film depicts a young girl as she tries to navigate her life as a pre-teen growing up in a Muslim family living in Paris.

Many critics have spoken out against the film, which currently holds the no. 7 spot in Netflix’s ‘Top 10,’ for its depiction of 11-year-old girls dancing and behaving in an indecent manner. According to the New York Times, the movie was first deemed controversial in the U.S. in August when Netflix released the promotional artwork. The original marketing for the film displayed an image of four young girls in skimpy dance costumes posing provocatively.

This, along with the trailer, prompted opposers to start petitions online and call for the removal of the film from Netflix’s catalog. Netflix apologized and changed the artwork for the film to a more innocent photo of the same four characters walking down the street with shopping bags, donning bras and underwear over their clothes.

Last week’s release of the film has sparked conversation once again amongst parents, politicians and others, causing #CancelNetflix to trend on Twitter. Lina Nealon, the Director of Corporate and Strategic Initiatives at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has spoken out against the film saying “While we commend Director Maïmouna Doucouré for exposing the very real threats to young girls having unfettered access to social media and the internet, we cannot condone the hypersexualization and exploitation of the young actresses themselves in order to make her point.” She called for Netflix to cut the “sexually-exploitive” scenes from the film, or remove the film from the platform altogether.

On Friday, Hawaii Rep. Tulse Gabbard tweeted, “@Netflix child porn ‘Cuties’ will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children… Netflix you are now complicit.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz penned a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr Friday calling for the Department of Justice to start an investigation into the production and distribution of the film to “determine whether Netflix, any of its executives, or anyone involved in the making of ‘Cuties’ violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.”

Cruz wrote that “the film routinely fetishizes and sexualizes these pre-adolescent girls as they perform dances simulating sexual conduct in revealing clothing, including at least one scene with partial nudity” falsely claiming that there’s a scene exposing a “minor’s bare breast.” The Associated Press reported that one of Cruz’s representatives, Lauren Aronson, said that the senator has not seen the film.

According to the Washington Times, some critics are even calling on the Obama’s— who have a production deal with Netflix— to take action against the film. Deadline stated that “The reality appears to have been lost in the storm, and the truth is very few of the people reacting so strongly will have actually seen the film.”

Netflix told USA TODAY “‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. It’s an award winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up— and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”

Director Maïmouna Doucouré defends the film, saying that it works to shed light on these issues so they can be fixed. Cuties first premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23, where it won the Directing Jury Award for the dramatic film category. According to the New York Times, the movie did not stir up much conversation in France after its theatrical release (as Mignnonnes in French) in August.

Deadline reports that Doucouré did not see the promotional material prior to when it was circulated on the internet. She said that she received death threats as the outrage grew over these images. She told the news site that the film is not apologetic about the hypersexualization of children, but instead is her “…personal story as well as the story of many children who have to navigate between a liberal western culture and a conservative culture at home.”

Cuties was Doucouré’s feature directorial debut. Similar to the film’s main character, Amy, Doucouré is of Senegalese descent and grew up in a Muslim culture in Paris. In an interview at Sundance, she said she first had the idea for the movie after attending a neighborhood gathering in Paris where she saw a group of 11-year-old girls doing a stage performance of a “sensual” dance. She was shocked to see girls that age dance like that in short clothing. “We can’t continue to close our eyes about that,” she told the interviewer.

Doucouré researched for a year and a half, meeting with hundreds of pre-teens who told her their stories. She learned about their ideas of femininity, and how their self image is affected by the emphasis of social media in today’s society. According to IndieWire, the young actresses’ parents were on board with the project to spread awareness of the issue, and there was a psychologist working with the girls throughout filming who is still helping them throughout the release process.

The film is centered around Amy, an 11-year-old girl who has recently moved to a housing development in a poor suburb of Paris with her Senegalese, observant Muslim family. She looks out for her brothers, takes care of responsibilities around the house, and is in the process of being taught how to ‘be a woman’ by  her aunt.

One day after prayer, Amy walks by the laundry room and sees a girl her age dancing to music playing from her phone. In a subsequent scene, Amy is seen trying to straighten her hair with a clothing iron, burning part of it off as a result. 

Amy learns that her father, who is still in Senegal, has taken a second wife and will be coming to Paris soon to have the wedding. Her mother, Mariam, tries to hide her reaction to the news, but Amy sees her grow upset and take her frustrations out on herself. This is where Amy’s behavior begins to shift; she starts to reject her culture and identity, and instead tries to conform to fit in with the other girls at school. 

At school, Amy is teased for her clothes and lack of fashion sense, so she begins to wear her younger brother’s t-shirt to match the crop tops that her classmates wear. After seeing a group of girls her age dancing after school, Amy steals her cousin’s iPhone to learn how to dance, herself. She comes across their social media accounts and begins taking selfies, imitating what she sees on their profiles. 

Amy finds herself a spot in the girls’ friend group and dance troupe, and as a result, begins to neglect her responsibilities at home. Amy starts to show more self expression, wearing her hair natural rather than pulling it back. She also begins to explore the internet more, finding videos of almost-naked women dancing rather suggestively and moving their bodies in ways that an 11-year-old probably shouldn’t be watching. 

Taking what she found online, Amy practices dancing with her friends and teaches them how to twerk. This is where the movie begins to make viewers slightly uneasy. It was jarring to see these young, innocent girls tainted by this inappropriate content and doing dance moves that they didn’t understand the implications of. It appears that this was the intention of director Doucouré, as she stated in an interview with Netflix that the film is “…a mirror of today’s society; a mirror sometimes difficult to look into and accept but still so true.”

Some of the scenes, frankly, are very disturbing to watch. These include the girls dancing provocatively for two older male workers at a laser tag facility so that they wouldn’t get in trouble for sneaking in, as well as Amy beginning to undress for her cousin once he found she had stolen his iPhone in an attempt to smooth over the situation. Perhaps the most disturbing scene is when Amy takes a picture of her genitals to post on her social media profile so that people at school would think she’s mature. While there was no nudity shown in this scene, the implied action was horrifying to watch. 

At the end of the film, Amy performs with her dance troupe at a local competition. Dressed in revealing outfits, they dance immodestly in front of a crowd of people who quickly seem unsettled. (This is the scene from which the original promotional photos were taken.) Toward the end of the song, Amy freezes as she begins to think about her mom, then runs off the stage crying. She goes home where she asks her mom not to attend her father’s wedding. Her mom continues to get ready for the event, but tells Amy that she doesn’t have to go.

Instead of going to the wedding, Amy steps outside and begins jumping rope. This scene depicts a mixture of her two identities: she is wearing jeans and a crop top with her hair down, but is surrounded by people of her culture dressed in traditional garments. After suppressing her family’s background for a majority of the movie, Amy is finally able to find the balance where her multiple cultures intersect in order to be her honest self. 

After watching Cuties, it is evident that it is not meant to promote this behavior among young girls, but instead provide commentary on what is happening today and warn the adults who see the movie. The harsh reality is that more pre-adolescents are exposed to this type of content than we think. Any child who has access to a smart device and social platforms have the potential to see a video not meant for them. Take TikTok for example: racy dances to Cardi B and Meg Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” as well as a recent trend where women make “thirst traps” to Beyoncé’s “Rocket” are some of the most popular videos on the app right now. Young TikTok users can easily see creators on their For You Page enjoying themselves while engaging in these trends, causing the young viewer to want to do the same.

When speaking to Deadline, Doucouré said, “What happens is young girls see images of women being objectified, and the more the woman becomes an object, the more followers and like she has— they see that as a role model and try to imitate these women, but they’re not old enough to know what they’re doing.” In a separate interview, she posed the question, “Isn’t the objectification of a woman’s body that we often see in our Western culture not another kind of oppression?”

Overall, Cuties shows the dangers of uncensored media for young children and displays how impressionable they can be. It also shows the journey of Amy’s self-discovery and learning how to blend her multiple cultures in order to shape her identity. Unfortunately, the risqué nature of the film overshadows the storyline and the message is lost for a number of audience members.

In various articles, Doucouré is quoted discussing the meaning of the film in the broad context of femininity and what it means for young girls to enter womanhood in this digital age. During her aforementioned interview with Netflix, she stated “The real question of Cuties is can we, as women, truly choose who we want to be, beyond the role models that are imposed upon us by society?”

Kaelen Felix illustrates Demi Lovato and Marshmello for 360 MAGAZINE

Marshmello Sports Premiere Apparel

By Cassandra Yany

Marshmello sported a Premiere Apparel Tie Dye Hoodie to promote his new song and music video with Demi Lovato. The electronic music artist and pop singer took to Instagram on Thursday to share the release of their track “OK Not To Be OK” and the accompanying music video. In the photos, Marshmello is wearing a tie-dye hoodie by the LA brand Premiere Apparel.

The color-infused “Rain Forest Hoodie” pairs perfectly with the DJ’s electronic sound, and is one of the brand’s many tie-dye signature styles. Premiere Apparel creates clothing with colorful, mesmerizing designs and comfortable fits. 

Marshmello and Lovato teamed up with the non-profit movement Hope For The Day for this collaboration. The pair are working with the organization— whose motto is “It’s OK Not To Be OK”— to start a conversation about mental health and eliminate the stigmas and judgment that go along with it. While promoting the song, Lovato shared a message via Instagram on Thursday, which was also Suicide Prevention Day, expressing her struggles with mental health and encouraging her followers to check in with themselves and loved ones.

About Premiere Apparel

California grown and LA-Based uni-sex brand Premiere Apparel has a vision of reinventing lifestyle. Creating go-to comfy fits to traditional yet innovative looks as well as environmental manufacturing friendly. 

Premiere Apparel is a unisex streetwear premium brand that combines modern essentials with innovative wash techniques to create comfy go-to basics that make a statement. They believe in true essentials designed from life inspired color palettes that satisfy the soul.

Whether it’s your favorite weekend tee or that cozy sweatshirt for a cool night, Premiere Apparel offers well-made items for everyday people and their ever changing lifestyles. Fewer well designed pieces that are made to last and can go anywhere. They manufacture basics from the highest quality materials, using American-made materials and American labor.

Nicole Salazar illustrates new Rolls-Royce for 360 MAGAZINE.

Rolls-Royce Reveals New Ghost

By Cassandra Yany

Rolls-Royce revealed the design for its New Ghost on Tuesday. CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös described the Ghost as “the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce yet.” The first Goodwood Ghost, released in 2009, was the company’s most successful product in its 116-year history.

The automobile company released the launch film in which Müller-Ötvös shares the importance of refinement and simplicity in producing the new Ghost. The six-minute video showcases the appearance of the car, highlighting the small, unique details. Müller-Ötvös said that a client-first approach played a huge role in the car’s conception.

A team of specialists, engineers and craftspeople used research of Ghost clients’ interests, opinions and taste patterns to develop a new model that meets the preferences of these drivers. The style of the Ghost was created using the ‘Post Opulence’ philosophy, which designer Henry Cloke says is “about simplicity. [It’s] about something that doesn’t shout at you, but it whispers.”

The new Ghost has been termed “future-focused with a minimal aesthetic.” Engineers worked to combine dynamic highlights from the portfolio of numerous types of cars into one vehicle. It was formulated to remove as much energy transfer as possible from the road into the body of the car to create a smooth ride. The car was built with sound absorbing materials to reduce the level of noise inside the car. A soft undertone was created for the driver and passengers to hear a single, subtle note while on the road. Media screens fold out from behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats, providing entertainment for those sitting in the back seats.   

Behind the grill of the car are lights that provide a subtle glow below the Rolls-Royce logo, between the “laser” headlights. The interior contains wood accents, and was intended to promote a relaxing and serene driving experience. The dashboard features hundreds of illuminated stars surrounding the Ghost nameplate, and the headliner is adorned with star-like lights.

The new Ghost has all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering, and was constructed to drive easy, regardless of road conditions. It was built on Rolls-Royce aluminum spaceframe architecture, which was adapted to make way for advances in this model. The Planar system increases agility through three elements:

  • The Wishbone Damper unit above the front suspension assembly creates a secure and effortless ride.
  • The Flagbearer system uses cameras to read the road and prepare the suspension system for any upcoming changes in the road surface.
  • Last, the Satellite Aided Transmission uses GPS data to pre-select the optimum gear for approaching corners.

The new Ghost is equipped with a 6.75-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine. The doors open and close electrically for an easy entrance and exit. Engineering Lead, Jonathan Simms, said the team “pushed [their] architecture even further and created a car even more dynamic, even more luxurious and, most of all, even more effortlessly usable.”

Additionally, Rolls-Royce released a podcast series explaining the aesthetic and engineering of the new Ghost. The sleek, luxury car is expected to retail around $322,500, with the first deliveries anticipated for early next year.

Vaughn lowery, 360 magazine, rolls-royce, new ghost
Vaughn lowery, 360 magazine, rolls-royce, new ghost
Vaughn lowery, 360 magazine, rolls-royce, new ghost
Vaughn lowery, 360 magazine, rolls-royce, new ghost
360 MAGAZINE, ALLISON CHRISTENSEN, ILLUSTRATIONS, APPLE

This Week’s Top Stories

By Cassandra Yany

Here are the some of top stories in beauty, entertainment and tech so far this week:

Apple Announces Sep. 15 Apple Event

Apple announced Tuesday that they will be hosting an event on Wednesday September 15 at 10 am PDT.  The ‘Time Flies’ event will take place virtually from Apple Park, the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, CA. It is speculated that the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6 will be revealed at the event next week. According to AppleInsider, there is also word of a possible new iPad or Apple Silicon MacBook. 

While some expect the new iPhone to be revealed next week, others say that the announcement will come a few weeks later, due to delays caused by COVID-19. According to The Verge, There will be four iPhone 12 models released this year: two iPhone 12’s that will be sold at a lower price point, and two iPhone Pro’s. These will include a 6.7-inch iPhone Pro, making it the largest iPhone to date. CNET reports that the new model will be the first iPhone to run on 5G. The new Apple Watch will allegedly feature added monitoring blood oxygen levels, updated sleep tracking, and a faster processor.

Selena Gomez launches Rare Beauty, Broken Hearts Gallery to Hit Theaters Friday

This week has been very eventful for artist Selena Gomez. On Thursday Sep. 3, she launched her makeup line Rare Beauty, which shares the same name as her most recent album that was released early this year. The line includes 20 makeup products and accessories, available in a variety of shades and colors. Items can be purchased on the Rare Beauty website, as well as online and in stores at Sephora.

Along with the makeup line, Rare Beauty also established the Rare Impact Fund to support the mental health of the brand’s community, employees and partners. One percent of all sales and funds from partners will go toward increasing access to mental health resources. The brand shared their mission via Instagram “to shape conversations around beauty, self-acceptance, and mental health.”

Broken Hearts Gallery, a film executive produced by Gomez, will be released in theaters on Friday Sep. 10. The movie features actors Dacre Montgomery of “Stranger Things” and Geraldine Viswanathan of “Blockers” (2018) and “Hala” (2019) as the two leads. Gomez took to Instagram on Monday to share a special trailer of the film and encourage those who see it in movie theaters to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

These projects come just weeks after the release of Gomez’s collaboration with Blackpink, the virtual premiere of This Is The Year— a film she produced alongside former Disney Channel co-star David Henrie, who directed the film— and the release of her HBO Max show “Selena + Chef.”

McDonald’s x Cactus Jack Collab

McDonald’s launched its collaboration with Travis Scott on Tuesday. The fast food chain has added the “Cactus Jack” meal to their menu for $6. The meal does not come with a Happy Meal toy, but does include a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce, medium fries with BBQ dipping sauce and a medium Sprite with extra ice— Scott’s go-to order. McDonald’s employees will be sporting new uniforms for the partnership, and the restaurant and rapper have also released merchandise to mark the event. The items are sold on Scott’s website and include t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, sweatpants and other accessories and household items containing his name and the restaurant logo.

Travis Scott visited a McDonald’s location in Downey City, CA to celebrate the launch, causing chaos amongst the large crowd, as seen in videos fans posted on Twitter. Scott went live on Instagram to share the experience with his followers. On Wednesday, Scott served customers the meal from the drive-thru window at a McDonald’s in Texas, as seen in a video posted by the TikTok account RAP. As part of the month-long collab, the artist and fast food chain will be exploring ways to support different charities and organizations. The partnership will run until Oct. 4. This is Mcdonald’s first collaboration with a big celebrity since they featured a Michael Jordan-themed meal on their menu in 1992.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, Independence Day Drink

2020 Labor Day Celebrations

By Cassandra Yany

In the face of COVID-19, Labor Day weekend looked very different his year. Absent were the large family cookouts and pool parties, or the big end-of-summer beach crowds. Many cities even had to omit public fireworks to prevent mass gatherings. Though the long weekend did not bring the celebrations we’re used to, there were still plenty of safe ways to enjoy the holiday.

Virtual events allow you to take part in more activities in different locations than you would have been able to physically. Made in America, a festival started by Jay-Z in 2012, was set to take place in Philadelphia this past weekend. On July 1, festival organizers announced that it would be rescheduled to Labor Day weekend 2021. They said in a statement “Collectively, we are fighting parallel pandemics, COVID-19, systemic racism and police brutality. Now is the time to protect the health of our artists, fans, partners and community as well as focus on our support for organizations and individuals fighting for social justice and equality in our country.”

This year’s lineup went unannounced, but last year’s festival was headlined by Travis Scott and Cardi B. Since the physical festival was canceled, a livestream showcasing the best performances took place on the music streaming service TIDAL throughout the weekend. The virtual festival included sets from Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Lizzo, Coldplay, Rihanna and many other chart-topping artists.

Nationally, a Labor Day virtual race was held by The Best Races for runners to run anywhere on their own time and submit their results. Participants who registered for the full package received a personal coach who was available Monday through Friday to provide help and answer questions during training, and provided encouragement and support on the day of the race.

Runners across the country were able to choose the distance of the race they wanted to participate in. Depending on what package they signed up for, they received a certificate of completion and digital medal, a 3-inch medal sent to their homes, a printable custom bib, a custom digital photo card that contains the race results, a digital running journal, a t-shirt, optional course maps and an optional pen pal program. 

Based in Portland, the Oregon Labor Movement held a statewide virtual Labor Day celebration and call to action on Monday. The organizers brought light to issues taking place in the state saying, “Working Oregonians are facing three crises at once: a deadly global pandemic, an economic free fall, and long-standing institutional racism.”

The event began at noon and featured talks from Oregon’s labor leaders, elected officials, and working Oregon citizens regarding their desire for change and their pursuit toward justice for workers. This event came after Portland’s rise to national prominence for their Black Lives Matter demonstrations and federal agents entering the city in recent months.

A number of virtual events were held in Los Angeles this past weekend, as well. HomeState, the LA-based Texas Kitchen, held its first Margarita Showdown in 2019, but had to move it online this year due to the pandemic and social distancing measures. The virtual event took place Saturday via livestream. Margarita makers in the area competed to see whose drink was the best.

Voters received eight bottled margaritas, along with limes and garnishing salt to try the different submissions from the safety of their homes. The winner chosen was El Compadre, a local Mexcian restaurant. The event was hosted by comedian Cristela Alonzo, and featured musical performances by Chicano Batman, Spoon, Questlove, Fred Armisen, Local Natives and Angela Muñoz. All proceeds from the event benefit the organization No Us Without You! and the Watts Empowerment Center.

The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories in Santa Monica hosted a virtual Labor Day Pies class on Sunday. In the class, participants were taught how to make a s’mores pie and key lime pie. Registration for the class included access to the Zoom video meeting, as well as the recipe and shopping list. Recipes can also be found on Gourmandise’s Instagram.

Some cities were able to hold in-person events following social distancing guidelines. Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, located in the Seaport District, upheld its tradition of free admission on Labor Day. The museum is typically closed on Mondays, but was open from 10 am to 5 pm for guests who reserved tickets. 

Monday was the last day for guests to see the exhibits Tschabalala Self: Out of Body and Carolina Caycedo: Cosmotarrayas. Also on display were the Sterling Ruby, Nina Chanel Abney and Beyond Infinity: Contemporary Art after Kusama exhibits. The ICA has increased cleaning and follows Massachusetts COVID guidelines by requiring all staff and visitors to wear face coverings, and allowing a restricted number of guests each hour. Spaces that don’t allow physical distancing are temporarily closed, and exhibition labels and printed materials have been made available online to reduce touch surfaces.


In New York City, a Labor Day Paint in the Park event was held in Central Park. The two-hour socially distant class was led by a master artist who gave step-by-step painting instructions. Participants were required to wear masks and sit six feet apart. Admission included a pre-sketched canvas and painting supplies, and parties were encouraged to bring food and drinks to snack on during the class.

For those who wanted to enjoy the holiday by relaxing at home with their favorite movie or TV show, a number of stores had sales to mark the end of summer. There were countless deals that shoppers could take advantage of to celebrate their work.
Many workers have faced great adversity within the past eight months, some losing their positions and having to move quickly to find a new one, and others doing their job in a way they never thought they would have to. Whether you stayed in or got out of the house for some socially-distant fun, Monday was definitely a day worth celebrating.

Pillow Pops by Shani Moran

By Cassandra Yany

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many of us confined to our houses or apartments, causing home improvements and redecorating to become a popular quarantine activity. Whether you’re reimagining a bedroom, living room or lounge space, throw pillows are a household essential.

The Pillow Pops by Shani Moran make a space cozy while introducing a sophisticated look. The curated collections from the Beverly Hills-based company make it easy for anyone to effortlessly redecorate their space. There are five pillows in each set that follow the same color scheme. Pillows are available in a variety of fabrics and shades to cater to everyone’s personal space and style. Each collection contains multiple textures and patterns. The pillows can be bought together or individually, as well as with or without trim based on your preference.

These pillow collections can enhance a room and serve as statement pieces, or can be understated to provide an extra bit of color and comfort. A hidden zip enclosure allows the pillow covers to be swapped for specific occasions or seasons, creating an affordable and versatile design. The pillows arrive in a luxurious box for a lavish experience while staying safe and shopping from home. The online store even has an interactive feature where you can customize the color of the sofa on which the pillows are displayed to see how they will appear in your home. 

According to the Pillow Pops website, the brand is committed to using ecological and hypoallergenic textiles. They are dedicated to fighting against child labor and human exploitation, and donate ten percent of their profits to dismpowered communities across the globe.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak for 360 MAGAZINE.

360 Magazine Marches on Washington

By Cassandra Yany × Armon Hayes, Vaughn Lowery

Recently, our team journeyed to Washington, D.C. for the National Action Network’s Commitment March. The August 28 march marked 57 years since the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have A Dream” speech. According to the National Action Network’s website, the goal of the march was to advocate for comprehensive police accountability reform, promote participation in the Census and motivate voters to cast their ballots in the upcoming Presidential election.

The National Action Network was founded by Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991. With nearly 100 chapters nationwide, the civil rights organization works in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. to achieve “one standard of justice, decency, and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, criminal record, economic status, gender, gender expression or sexuality.”

The trip from New York to Washington, D.C. was made easy by taking Amtrak’s Acela service. Despite the higher price point, the Acela is newer and less crowded than regional trains. The express train eliminated the burden of tolls and stopped in only a few cities, arriving in D.C. after about three and a half hours. It can be stressful to travel right now, so it was a relief to see how clean the train was. The quiet car, basic free wifi and outlets on board provided the perfect environment to research and write articles on our tablets. We utilized our extra time to discuss with one another and prepare for our coverage of the march and our days in D.C.

The café offered coffee and various snack options, and the sliding glass doors made it easy for us to walk through the cars. The reclining seats were comfortable and allowed us to rest before our trip. There were also sections of four seats for those traveling in a larger group. Each passenger could bring two personal items weighing up to 25 pounds, and two carry-on bags weighing up to 50 pounds at no additional cost. Amtrak is currently offering reduced fares for two to six tickets purchased together where riders can save eight to 45 percent.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak story for 360 MAGAZINE

Luckily, we were able to call Amtrak in advance to ensure we could carry on our folding bicycles. With limited parking available in the city, electric bikes served as a great mode of transportation for many protesters. E-bikes such as the DYU Smart Bike and a custom scooter from Good Vibe Gliders were an affordable alternative to renting a car, and made covering and participating in the march much easier.

The Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks started early Friday morning. Participants marched through the National Mall, many carrying signs remembering those whose lives have been lost in acts of police violence. Others displayed “Black Lives Matter” on flags, shirts and masks.

Some participants created street art during the event, voicing their support through their work. At one point, a number of demonstrators stood together in the Reflecting Pool in front of the Washington Monument. Marchers reached the section of 16 Street NW that has become known as “Black Lives Matter Plaza” around 3:30 PM before dispersing for the day.

Organizers of the march upheld COVID-19 guidelines and regulations. The National Action Network placed multiple signs throughout the National Mall encouraging social distancing, and took marchers’ temperatures as they entered the area. Face masks were distributed to people who did not have one, and visitors from high-risk areas were urged to join virtually from their homes. There was also a testing booth on site, as reported by WUSA 9.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak story for 360 MAGAZINE

The march was co-convened by Sharpton and Martin Luther King III. Among the thousands of attendees who gathered on the National Mall were the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Jacob Blake. Many members of these families gave speeches at the Lincoln Memorial, along with lawmakers from across the country. These congressmen and women pushed for legislation that would address cases of racial injustice.

Though she was not present, Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris shared her message to marchers via Twitter. In her speech, which was played at the event, she said, “…if we work together, to challenge every instinct our nation has to return to the status quo, and combine the wisdom of long time warriors for justice, with the creative energy of the young leaders today, we have an opportunity to make history, right here and right now.”

Yolanda Renee King took the stage to address the crowd, standing where her grandfather had led March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In a video posted by CNN she said, “We stand and march for love and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream.” She then led a chant of “Show me what democracy looks like; This is what democracy looks like!”

Friday was also the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder. The 14-year-old was lynched and thrown off a bridge while visiting family in Mississippi. He was abducted after “allegedly whistling at a white woman,” according to ABC 7 Chicago, and his body was found mutilated in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s family never received justice, as the two men responsible for his death were both acquitted. Till’s murder helped to spark the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Civil rights leader and former congressman John Lewis wrote that “Emmett Till was [his] George Floyd” in a New York Times essay that was published on the day of Lewis’ funeral.

The trip provided a meaningful experience to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as time to see local relatives. 360 President Vaughn Lowery visited his uncle Leroy Lowery, the former executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, who raised over $120 million for the Stone of Hope.

Leroy Lowery is the son of the late Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights leader who helped Martin Luther King, Jr. establish the Southern Christina Leadership Conference, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Leroy Lowery attended the march with his father in 1963 and stated on Friday, “to see that we have to march [again] 57 years later is deflating.”

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak story for 360 MAGAZINE