Creating a Safe Space for Women in Mexico City

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In Mexico City, all is not calm. The women of Punto Gozadera, a lesbian feminist restaurant and cultural space, are raging. Case in point: a sign above the door reading “If you touch one of us, you touch all of us.” The sentiment isn’t just a show of feel-good sisterhood; it’s a battle cry to combat the alarming reality of violence against women here. Six women are murdered in Mexico every day, and lesbian and transgender women say they are targets.

In 2009, Mexico City became the first Latin American jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage, but as many LGBT people know, the signing of the legislation is merely a first step toward equal protection.

Sometimes, even our smallest forms of resistance can change the lives of others.

Mephista, DJ and co-owner of Punto Gozadera

OZY dove headfirst into the tight-knit Punto Gozadera community, one built by women for women, with art, music and programming about women.

Meet the people who pass through the space and those who stay: Mephista, a DJ and co-owner of Punto Gozadera; Mirna Roldán, the space’s cultural curator; rappers Nakury (from Costa Rica) and Rebeca Lane (from Guatemala); and many more. 

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Mirna Roldán, cultural curator of Punto Gozadera

Source Hannah Cauhépé

 

Sample the Sweet Sounds of Summer

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OZY Fest 2017, which takes place on July 22 in Central Park, will be a feast in many forms. We’re talking mental nourishment from the likes of Katie Couric and Malcolm Gladwell and satisfying sustenance with chef Eddie Huang. But OZY Fest is also about the music or, as we like to call it, soul food. For a sampling of the tasty sounds on offer at this year’s fest, feed your ears with these five artists:

Yuna

Her vocals will cover your cochleas like satin and transport you to instant zen as you float among lush beats. But don’t think for a second she’s soft. The Malaysian-born, Los Angeles-based singer’s lyrics make nudges like, “Know you didn’t think that I could be this cruel / I don’t need to be mean, but I’m just gonna ignore you.” Yuna’s musical journey, which started 10 years ago in her bedroom, has taken her from Myspace playlists to collaborations with Usher, Jhené Aiko and Tokimonsta. The collabs don’t just take place in the studio, though — scarves are another focal point of her talent. In fact, she dropped a line last fall. 

Jason Derulo

Known for his infectious vocals — like that infamous tag you can’t help but sing — Jason Derulo’s energy is contagious. In an era when live instrumental hooks rule the hip-hop industry, let it be known that “Wiggle,” his 2014 ballad to the backside, sampled the recorder before the Migos knew where Portland was. While his songs dance across both sweet and dirty talk, Derulo isn’t worried if you don’t speak the same language, because, according to him, “Your booty don’t need explaining.” When he’s not posing shirtless for a cover shoot, the 27-year-old is busy burning up the charts with singles. His most recent, “Swalla,” features Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign.

 

Zara Larsson

While the “So Good” singer may have seen only 19 trips around the sun, she’s hardly a novice. After winning Sweden’s version of Britain’s Got Talent at age 10, Larsson climbed the charts to become the princess of Scandi-pop. Her 2017 debut album has already racked up six singles, and collabs have her kicking it with Clean Bandit and Ty Dolla $ign. If sound were a drink, Larsson’s would be rosé: sweet, indulgent and pairs well with summer. 

Kamau

With influences ranging from Lauryn Hill to the Mulan soundtrack to the Afrikan school in which he was raised, Kamau’s crunchy beatbox gibberish cascades across rich drum patterns. To see him perform is to be engulfed by crisp syntax, roaring beats and vocal throws. The Brooklyn artist works frequently with No Wyld and Lion Babe, and he can be heard on Issa Rae’s Insecure. If his Twitter hints prove true, fans can expect a new album, TheKAMAU-CASSETTE: ŭRTH GōLD, to drop soon.

Talib Kweli

The OG of the lineup, Talib Kweli has been dropping knowledge for more than 20 years. Often a face of the “conscious rap” scene, the New York native is known for creating music that breathes social and political truths. Kweli has worked with everyone from Kanye West and Mary J. Blige to Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams. And although it’s been two decades since he first started spitting, he’s not done yet. In fact, in today’s electronic-influenced hip-hop climate, Kweli’s intricate, authentic lyrics might just provide you with the escape from reality you need.

How These Rural Towns are Getting Kids Into College

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It seems the whole town of Chehalis, in western Washington, has turned up for the W.F. West High School graduation. Cars overflow, spilling into nearby residential streets while parents pack into bleachers beneath colorful banners hanging from the gym’s rafters. The biggest achievement? More than two-fifths of these graduates have won college scholarships — no small thing for a tiny rural district. Students march in to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” determined educators having paved their way toward a college diploma. 

This first step toward college, however, doesn’t necessarily spell SUCCESS. There is a boom in high-paying, high-tech jobs in Seattle — named the fastest-growing major U.S. city last year in a census data analysis by the Seattle Times — yet two-thirds of Washington high school grads are not earning college degrees, and thus not qualifying for those high-flying city jobs. In response, high schools in rural districts like Chehalis are retooling to focus on teacher retraining, and college guidance and acceptance through budget-friendly means as well as follow-through support, all while tracking stats to prove they’re moving forward. 

There’s a lot here that blows holes in both the left and the right’s arguments

J. Vander Stoep, board member, Chehalis Foundation

Nationally, an emphasis on collegiate pursuits has led to a rethinking of K–12 education, which in turn has generated creative solutions like dual-credit aviation courses in rural Kentucky and “early colleges” in New York, where students leave high school with associate degrees. Everything is on the table, from demolishing demoralizing classrooms to teaching physics with a skateboard. “We’re familiar with the category of high school, category of college,” says Stephen Tremaine, vice president of Bard Early Colleges, and yet “too often we’re confused by anything that blurs the lines between the two.” That’s changing though, with educators increasingly measuring six-year success rates to examine how many students earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, says Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network. “The metric has been around for a while, but its usage on the high school level is rapidly expanding. It gets back to that question: What is the ultimate responsibility of a high school?” 

 

Asking that very question has changed everything for the Chehalis school district in recent years. The impetus came when Orin Smith, the former CEO of Starbucks, decided he wanted to help his alma mater. But Smith had a question: Although W.F. West High School was known for an award-winning STEM program, how many of the students actually went on to earn college degrees? Administrators didn’t know, so with help from the Chehalis Foundation, a local education nonprofit, they commissioned a study to provide an answer. The finding shocked them: Despite a high school graduation rate that hovered consistently around 82 percent, only about 20 percent of their students earned four-year degrees within six years. 

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Orin Smith, former CEO of Starbucks and graduate of W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Washington.

Source Ron Wurzer/Getty

In response, Chehalis set an ambitious goal of reaching 60 percent college diploma attainment by 2024 — a shift that “spurred a systemic change in the school district,” says assistant superintendent Mary Lou Bissett. Before, only about 38 percent of students were graduating with all the credits necessary to apply for college; this year, more than half did, thanks to educators who adjusted course loads. The district spent three years reteaching its teachers, emphasizing a collaborative approach with students over command-and-control. Lectures are replaced with question-and-answer sessions and group discussion, fostering debate rather than note-taking. “The goal of the Chehalis school district [before] was to get them their cap and gown,” says Chehalis Foundation board member J. Vander Stoep. “Now it’s a college- and career-focused school district.”  

That might not be an easy shift for school districts without benefactors. After all, the Chehalis Foundation commissioned the study that prompted the district’s reformation — helped by $1 million in donations from Smith and others — and is paying half of the salary of a nearby Centralia College counselor, who is personally guiding nearly 100 Chehalis graduates toward attaining degrees. And while there are signs of early success — more than four-fifths of the graduating class is headed to some postsecondary institution — it’s still “a pretty short period of time,” notes Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell. “There are very few silver bullets in education.” 

Still, many changes made at Chehalis are affordable for all districts, regardless of funding — measures like simply marking every teacher’s nameplate with the college they attended or giving seniors 25 minutes a day to work on college and career planning. Nearby Onalaska, a waning logging town, saw all 43 of its graduates accepted to college after implementing a daily 50-minute class for seniors. Simply raising awareness “is a significant factor,” says Cook, considering that only 54 percent of high school seniors complete the free federal aid FAFSA application nationally, according to a 2016 survey by her organization. “The remaining 46 percent are not the millionaires of the country,” she says, noting that many who are eligible do not apply. In Chehalis, the middle school guidance counselor now hounds every eighth-grader to sign up for Washington’s need-based tuition scholarship, College Bound. In recent years, every eligible student has signed up for the scholarship, Vander Stoep says, compared to 17 percent just a few years ago.

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The Chehalis Foundation supports programs designed to help students in the local school district become career or college ready.

Source Chehalis Foundation/Facebook

The public-private partnership model, like working with the Chehalis Foundation, is “not only replicable,” Lake says, but becoming more common. Nationally, nonprofits are already involved in helping schools offer arts education. In Los Angeles, for instance, 130 schools reported they provided arts instruction with help from about 50 outside groups, according to a 2015 Los Angeles Times analysis. Those are less common outside the arts, but could prove a model that cuts through the public-charter debate. 

“There’s a lot here that blows holes in both the left and the right’s arguments,” says Vander Stoep, adding that schools must demonstrate value first, like Chehalis did with its STEM program, before raising funds. “That’s the chicken and the egg here: The district has to offer something exceptional. It can’t just be, ‘We’re keeping the doors barely open and hoping our kids stay alive another day — will you help us?’”

Your Mob Read of the Summer

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Organized-crime historian Neil Clark had read accounts of Eddie McGrath in books about New York City’s Irish Mob, but there was never much information about him. Intrigued, he started researching and filing Freedom of Information Act requests and got back a bunch of stuff on the old waterfront gangs. Amazed at what they contained, especially the stories about McGrath and John “Cockeye” Dunn, two Irish gangsters that history has largely forgotten, Clark knew he had to document their tale. 

“They’d been involved in a large and bloody gang war in the mid-1930s, with dozens of unsolved murders, cementing their place as the criminal overlords of the West Side,” says Clark. The FOIA papers became the foundation of Clark’s riveting new biography, Dock Boss: Eddie McGrath and the West Side Waterfront, which chronicles McGrath’s rise and fall in the criminal underworld. The book, which Clark researched for five years, gives a vivid and unflinching look at the gangster’s life, taking readers back to the times of smoky West Side taverns, gangland murders and the longshoremen rebellion on the docks.

The docks were a hard world where tough men worked. To gain their respect, McGrath had to be fearsome.

Originally from the Lower East Side, McGrath fell in with Dunn and the other Irish West Siders during a stint in Sing Sing for burglary. McGrath and Dunn became so powerful “because they established their rackets solely on the West Side docks, which were still an Irish stronghold at the time,” Clark says. The docks were a hard world where tough men worked. To gain their respect, McGrath had to be fearsome — which meant having a reputation as a stone-cold killer. The body count included a rival who was shot while sleeping in the same house as his entire family, an innocent woman executed for being present when her mobster boyfriend was gunned down and a suspected snitch stabbed to death in prison. “They had their fingers in every pie along the waterfront, from legitimate businesses to traditional crimes such as gambling, theft and loansharking,” Clark says. 

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The West Side docks, where McGrath established his reputation.

Source  Courtesy of Seth Ferranti

Part of what made McGrath so successful, the book concludes, was that he was the ultimate diplomat. He counted Joe Adonis, Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello as friends and remained an influence on the West Side and within the International Longshoremen’s Association until the late 1960s. But he was driven out of New York City following the conviction of his partner “Cockeye” Dunn for killing a longshoreman. On top of that, the government, the media and the police all began to take an interest in the pervasive lawlessness that dominated the waterfront. But they couldn’t pin anything on McGrath. Clark attributes McGrath’s longevity to employing tactics like using a street boss as a buffer — an innovative technique that McGrath started using long before it became an accepted practice in Mafia and gang circles. 

 

A gangster before his time, McGrath reigned for close to four decades, seemingly unmolested. Clark’s book captures the essence of his story, while also transporting the reader to the docks and waterfront where he ruled. Documentary-like in this aspect, it’s a thrilling read about a dock boss who pulled strings from the shadows, avoiding the limelight — and would have been only a footnote in the annals of gangster lore if not for Clark’s masterful exposé. 

Dock Boss: Eddie McGrath and the West Side Waterfront releases on July 1, 2017.

The Socialite Who Hid in a Dingy Hotel Room for 24 Years

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Margaret Kilkenny, a chambermaid at the Herald Square Hotel in New York City, knew not to turn down the beds in suites 551-552. The only signs of life she’d seen come from those rooms were pale withered hands that reached through a small crack in the door occasionally to collect clean linens and a few groceries. So Kilkenny was more than a little surprised when the door to the suite opened on May 5, 1931, and a raspy voice yelled, “Maid, come here! My sister is sick.”

The demand came from 93-year-old Ida Wood, a millionaire socialite from New Orleans who had disappeared from high society 24 years earlier. Her story, dubbed “The Recluse of Herald Square” by the press, made headlines and captivated the nation in the early 1930s.

In the days after first reaching out for help, a parade of lawyers, undertakers, purported relatives and hotel staff filtered through suites 551-552. They discovered that the millionairess, once touted in the papers for her fragile beauty, was now stooped and withered, and sported a wild bramble of gray matted hair. She had been living there with her sisters Mary and Emma in near isolation for more than two decades. The rooms were almost entirely filled with refuse; the doctor who came to examine Mary could barely find a place to stand amid piles of old magazines, boxes, suitcases, strange collections of newspaper clippings and bits of cloth. 

She knew that the only way for a woman to climb the social ladder was through marriage, and so immediately set out to find herself a rich husband.

The sisters didn’t just hoard objects — hidden among the junk was Ida’s entire fortune. Roughly 1 million dollars in cash and jewelry were found in cardboard boxes, trunks and Cracker Jack boxes, and $500,000 was found in an oilskin bag that Ida hid under her skirt.

After her own death in March 1932, more than a thousand people came forward claiming to be the rightful heirs of Wood’s fortune. Like archaeologists on a dig, investigators pieced together Wood’s life from the piles of objects found in the suites. Birth certificates, letters, deeds, bills and receipts revealed Wood’s true identity: Ellen Walsh, a poor Irish immigrant who grew up, not on a plantation in New Orleans, but in an impoverished area of Massachusetts.

 

Her “hoarding dilemma emerged from avoiding her biggest fears,” says Renee Winters, author of The Hoarding Impulse: Suffocation of the Soul, referring to the millionaire’s past lies, secrecy and fear of being discovered as a liar. As the years after her death passed, Wood’s grand deception unraveled, making headlines and telling a story that was truly stranger than fiction. And the deception didn’t end with the public: Emma spent her entire life thinking she was the daughter of Ida and Ben Wood when she was, in fact, Ida’s youngest sister.

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An overview of Herald Square in the 1920s.

Source Library of Congress/Getty

Wood had arrived in New York back in 1857, at the tender age of 19. With high cheekbones, a cascade of chestnut hair and captivating eyes, she was a striking and petite beauty. The “Empire City,” as it was called then, was like a wonderland for the young woman, who set her sights on the blinding opulence of the West Side elite. She knew that the only way for a woman to climb the social ladder was through marriage, and so immediately set out to find herself a rich husband. She scoured the gossip columns for eligible bachelors, finally settling upon the owner of the Daily News newspaper and brother to the mayor, 37-year-old Ben Wood.

Her first letter to Ben, dated May 28, 1857, was found among her belongings. In it she writes of having heard his former loves speak highly of him, and she offers to “contract an agreeable intimacy with you,” noting her good looks. The quirky but romantic pitch worked: “Ida” and Ben met, fell madly in love and embarked on a 10-year affair culminating in marriage in 1867. The half-century that the couple spent together before Ben’s death in 1900 was rose-tinted and opulent. Ben showered Ida with the finest jewels, furs, frocks and negligees. They took extravagant trips all over America and Europe; Ida even danced with the Prince of Wales at his New York debut ball in 1860 and met Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

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A playbill for The Recluse of Herald Square.

Source Macmillan/Amazon

After Ben died, however, Ida became the editor of the Daily News, where she failed fantastically. She fired half of the writers and, rather than reporting current events, insisted that the paper focus on human interest pieces. Tellingly, Wood had a fascination with features about recluses. She finally sold the paper in 1901 for $340,000, and spent the next few years cruising through the Mediterranean and traveling through Europe with Mary and Emma.

During one of her brief returns to New York in 1907, Wood ran into a banker friend on Fifth Avenue who told her that he was concerned about the country’s financial situation. This awoke the impoverished child within, and, in a frenzy, she withdrew all of her money from the bank, placed it in a mesh sack and moved into the Herald Square Hotel with her sisters.  

There, the three women, having lived the good life for so long, slowly retreated into the twilight of reclusion as the 20th century raged outside. Their isolation prevented them from ever hearing a radio broadcast, seeing a motion picture with sound or hearing the roar of an airplane overhead. Walled off from the rest of the world, insulated by junk, Wood and her secrets about her humble beginnings remained safe.

Why Teens Are Giving Up on Laptops

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YOUTHS! Always with their fidget spinners and their Snapchat and their Instagramming. Or to translate it into slightly less curmudgeonly language: This is a digital generation of cyborgs who store their memories in pocket computers and must always be staring into one screen or another. Or must they?

A recent survey found that 25 percent of American teens think they could go a month or more without using a laptop.

Could you go a month without a laptop? For many adults, the laptop is the touchstone digital device. Sure, it’s not in your pocket, but it’s where you return when you need to create instead of consume, see someone’s face properly on a video chat, tap out spreadsheets, respond to apartment listings.

Teenagers, though, don’t need to do any of that — and when asked what technology devices they could live without, perhaps they didn’t think of what they write college essays on, but on how they talk to their friends, store selfies and log in to their private Twitter accounts (that’s where the real angst comes out, y’all). After all, the same survey showed that 71 percent of those ages 13-17 couldn’t go a week without a smartphone — 38 percent couldn’t go a single day.

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Source Eva Rodriguez/OZY

Research published earlier this year in Psychological Science found that teenagers’ well-being increases with screen time, up to a tipping point — and that tipping point differs by device: Teens could use a laptop for more than four hours a day before their well-being started dropping, while a smartphone’s usefulness maxed out after less than two hours — though those associations were weak, and the study concluded that digital engagement on the whole isn’t bad for teens. Dr. Amy Bleakley, a senior research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, says there’s no scientific indication that certain ways of consuming media are worse for teens. It’s the content, not the device, that determines such effects. 

 

So what does this mean for the future? Does this uncanny ability to function without a laptop mean these teens will turn into young adults who simply don’t need one, that the end of the laptop era is fast approaching, that one day the Macbook Air will turn to dust in our hands? Scientific answer: Eh, maybe. “It’s hard to say what will be obsolete or not as teens become young adults because digital technology is changing so rapidly,” Bleakley says. “However, teens’ media needs and gratifications do shift as they mature.” Perhaps the laptop may just live to see another generation. Or not.

This ‘Mini Mike Tyson’ Takes No Prisoners

Gervonta Davis

Like a lion toying with its wounded prey, Gervonta “Tank” Davis knows when to finish a wobbly Liam Walsh. A furious combination — left hook, right uppercut — yanks the Englishman off the ropes, sending him staggering toward the middle of the ring.

Now.

An overhand left — more John Henry sledgehammer than jab, leaves the previously undefeated contender crumpled on the mat in London’s Copper Box Arena. Three seconds later, when the referee stops the fight, one question hangs in the air: Has boxing’s next knockout king arrived?

Davis, 22, burst on the mainstream boxing scene with a January 2017 knockout of Jose Pedraza, then the International Boxing Federation junior lightweight champ. Davis (18-0, 17 KOs) followed the impressive title debut with the third-round KO of Walsh. Now, IBF belt in hand, the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Davis is being mentioned in the same breath as some of boxing’s best. His muscle-bound build and crippling power conjure another nickname too — “mini Mike Tyson.” Like Tyson in the 1980s, Davis can captivate an American boxing public starved for a slick knockout artist. Davis’ boss — retired legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. — has promised not to rush his protégé on the road to title unification, but every brutal knockout vaults Tank further toward high-profile clashes and life-altering spoils.

If he lands a clean shot, he already knows where the next punches are going.

Kay Koroma, trainer

“Tank was relentless,” says Kay Koroma, trainer at Alexandria Boxing Club in Virginia and Team USA, remembering his first run-in with a 10-year-old Davis. “He didn’t care who was in front of him, he was going to fight.”

Davis’ humble beginnings parallel that of many in the sport. In West Baltimore, evading violence and drugs was a daily challenge. But as Richardson Hitchins, Davis’ teammate at Mayweather Promotions, puts it, the hurdles Davis has overcome provide the young champ with perspective. “Most people don’t really know true struggle,” Hitchins says. “But you can tell by the way Tank speaks, he comes from nothing.” 

 

Where Davis comes from, precisely, is Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester community, made famous by HBO’s The Wire, and then infamous by the death of Freddie Gray. After being taken from his drug-abusing parents around the age of 4, Davis shuffled between foster care and relatives’ homes. At 7, he walked into Upton Boxing Center, the legendary dive where Calvin Ford — inspiration for The Wire’s Dennis “Cutty” Wise — spends countless hours training Baltimore’s youth, and never looked back. “[Davis and Ford] have great chemistry,” Koroma tells OZY. “Coach Ford already had a bunch of older fighters, so he coached Tank at a faster pace than other kids.”

Ford’s coaching and Davis’ tenacity paid off in hundreds of amateur wins, two USA Boxing Junior Olympic titles, one National Golden Gloves gold medal and one frustration: In 2012, Davis fell months shy of the 18-year-old cutoff for Olympic boxing athletes. With a record of 206-15 and little interest in waiting for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Davis turned pro in 2013. Little did he know that in two short years, his idol would take a personal interest in his career. 

In 2015, Davis boasted a 10-0 ledger, but he was still relatively unknown. Although his bruising fight style is far different from the defense-first tactics that made Mayweather an undefeated, five-division champion, the man called “Money” recognized a talent he could guide to stardom. Mayweather signed Davis to Mayweather Promotions and began his tutelage. Today, those lessons are trickling down the ranks. “Gervonta has taught the younger guys like me a lot,” says Hitchins, 19. “How to prepare and understanding the business side of boxing, he learned that all from Floyd.”

Even in his two most recent bouts, when some wondered if his potential could outlast larger, more experienced fighters, Davis flashed a ring presence his opponents clearly lack — there’s no shortage of confidence on Team Mayweather. But as his career progresses, Davis will need to prove he can win on more than strength. Those who know him believe that won’t be a problem. “[Davis] has a lot of tricks up his sleeve,” says Koroma. “People underestimate him, but when they step in the ring, they see he has good foot movement, good defense.” Plus, Davis’ power is complemented by terrific anticipation. “If he lands a clean shot,” Koroma says, “he already knows where the next punches are going.” 

Still, there are no guarantees in the fickle world of boxing. Davis’ swift ascent to becoming the youngest active world champion has been dazzling, but one bad loss could trigger a steep plummet. As ESPN boxing analyst and International Boxing Hall of Famer Nigel Collins notes, caution must be paid when assessing a fighter in his early stage. “Davis appears to have a very bright future, but I try not to jump to conclusions,” Collins says. “I’ve seen way too many [boxers] fall apart when the competition gets tougher.”

It’s a funny concept, this idea that a fighter could be champion without facing world-class competition, but such is the wacky world of boxing. The greatest champions are those who “unify” titles — simultaneously controlling belts from multiple major boxing federations. Currently, Davis is the IBF champion at 130 pounds, but the World Boxing Organization, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles are held by other fighters. The target on Davis’ back grows with each KO notched. Top-ranked WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko will surely request a unification, but, as Mayweather told reporters after his protégé’s title defense in London, Davis’ long-term success is his chief concern. “This kid is still young, so we’re going to take our time,” said Mayweather. 

For now, it looks like Tank is picking up steam.

Aaron Burr: From Founding Father to Founding Banker

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OZY and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative methods to help the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.

In the opening song of the Broadway show Hamilton, Aaron Burr, the third vice president of the U.S., sings, “And me? I’m the damn fool that shot him.” He’s referring to the fatal shot he fired at Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and the first secretary of the Treasury, during a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey, on July 11, 1804. Hamilton died the next day.

Just a few blocks from the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where Hamilton is performed and the cast nod to this pivotal moment in history, is the headquarters of JPMorgan Chase — where the set of dueling pistols used by the real Burr and Hamilton are on display. Why? Because Aaron Burr wasn’t just a Founding Father of this country but also a founding father of one of its leading banks — JPMorgan Chase’s predecessor bank, the Manhattan Company. Originally chartered to provide fresh water to the city, the Manhattan Company also saw help from Hamilton, founder of the original (and now-defunct) Bank of New York. Unbeknownst to Hamilton, Burr had maneuvered a provision within the water company’s charter that would allow the Manhattan Company to be involved in banking operations. 

The establishment of the Bank of the Manhattan Company represented the end of Hamilton’s banking monopoly in New York City and was a serious blow both to his business and his political interests. This marked the beginning of the rivalry that led to one of the most famous personal conflicts in American history.

Burr was “highly ambitious, as was Hamilton,” says Joanne Freeman, a professor of history at Yale University and author of Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic. “As the new republic came to life in the 1790s and a prestigious national stage came to the fore, both men were jostling for political advantage in New York City.”  

At that time in history, the Constitution stipulated that each of the 138 members of the Electoral College cast two votes for president, which allowed electors to cast one vote for a favorite son and a second for a candidate who stood a more practical chance of winning. Thus the parties — the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans — each nominated two candidates for the presidency. 

The Democratic-Republicans chose Thomas Jefferson and Burr as their candidates. The two men earned so many Electoral College votes each that they knocked out both Federalist candidates, incumbent John Adams and South Carolina’s Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, from the running. However, Burr and Jefferson each received the same amount of electoral votes, so members of the House of Representatives were left to determine the winner. “Ultimately, they ended up on opposite sides of the period’s main political divide, with Burr siding with Jeffersonian Republicans and Hamilton a die-hard Federalist,” Freeman says.

The Constitution stipulated that if the candidates tied, or none received a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives would vote to decide the presidency. The candidate with the most electoral votes would become president and the runner-up candidate would become vice president.

The Federalists, summarily defeated, had to decide which Democratic-Republican candidate to support. Some urged the party to throw its support to Burr, believing that, as a native of mercantile New York City, he would be friendlier than Jefferson to the Federalist economic program. Others insisted that the party should support Jefferson, as he was clearly the popular choice. However, Burr’s rival, Hamilton, vocalized his support for Jefferson and his disapproval of Burr. In the end, Jefferson secured the presidency and Burr became vice president. Burr was incensed, convinced that Hamilton had manipulated the vote in Jefferson’s favor.

Hamilton made it his ‘religious duty’ — as he put it — to oppose Burr’s career.

 Joanne Freeman, history professor, Yale University

Hamilton saw Burr as “pure ambition and nothing else, and thus, as someone who was dangerous to the new nation,” Freeman says. In fact, “Hamilton made it his ‘religious duty’ — as he put it — to oppose Burr’s career.”

Hamilton would again help thwart Burr’s political aspirations during his 1804 gubernatorial campaign in New York. Hamilton perpetrated a slander campaign that cost Burr the governorship. Soon after, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton’s shot missed Burr, and Burr wounded Hamilton fatally.

Did Burr intend to kill Hamilton? “Probably not,” Freeman says. “Generally speaking, duels were about proving that you were willing to die for your honor and reputation, not about killing.” Most duels ended without a fatality, and ultimately, Freeman says, “it was both his and Hamilton’s bad luck that there was bloodshed.”

“Aaron Burr has come down through history as a villain, but he’s more complex than that,” Freeman argues. “Of course, he did do some highly problematic things during his lifetime, but he was a skilled and creative politician, as well as — something rare in early America — someone with an interest in women’s rights.” She also points to Burr’s presiding over the Senate during his vice presidency.

Burr passed away on Staten Island, in 1836, just two years after a debilitating stroke left him immobile.

In 1955, Burr’s the Manhattan Company merged with Chase National Bank to form the Chase Manhattan Bank, making it the earliest of the predecessor institutions that currently form JPMorgan Chase. More than six decades later, the dueling pistols on display at JPMorgan Chase’s headquarters continue to symbolize one of the most famous personal duels in American history. 

The Statue of Liberty Was Herself an Early Immigrant to America

Statue of Liberty

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The Statue of Liberty has stood as a beacon of everything that’s good about America since it was officially unveiled to the public in 1886. Indeed, millions of immigrants got their first glimpse of Lady Liberty as they arrived in droves to Ellis Island, the first step on their path to becoming an American citizen; in all, between 1892 and 1954, more than twelve million immigrants passed through the Island. Though many regard the Statue as American as apple pie and the Pledge of Allegiance, the truth is that its association with immigration didn’t enter the popular culture until fifty years after the Statue first arrived.

The French Connection

Edouard de Laboulaye, a French lawyer and author, came up with the idea for the Statue in 1865. “The Statue was originally designed to celebrate French-American relations and liberty under a republican form of government,” says Vincent J. Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, and Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts/Boston. De Laboulaye also intended the statue to commemorate the end of slavery in America in 1865.

So he commissioned the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi to create a 305-foot-tall statue with reinforced interior steel beams and copper exterior. It was a revolutionary design for the time, allowing people to climb right up into the crown and torch from the inside of the sculpture,. The deal was that the French would pay for the sculpture and the Americans would foot the bill for the pedestal in New York Harbor.

In 1876 Bartholdi shipped the completed torch to be displayed in Manhattan. But the rest of Lady Liberty almost didn’t make it over because fundraising for the pedestal was at a standstill. The mid-1870s were a financially challenging time for many Americans due to an economic depression that was in its fourth year. The fundraising committee appealed to New York’s wealthy community for help, but there were few takers, with many would-be investors citing their own economic woes.

Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of The New York World, was himself a recent immigrant from Hungary, and he knew what the Statue would represent to others like him. So he launched a campaign of his own, pledging to publish the names of everyone who donated to the fund in his newspaper, even if they only gave a few pennies. It worked: the pedestal was ready in 1885, and the rest of Lady Liberty landed in New York Harbor in 1886. The statue was unveiled in late 1886 just as immigrants began flooding into the country to escape political upheaval and poverty in their native lands.

“As immigrants entered Ellis Island and saw the statue, they began to associate it with freedom and the United States,” says Professor Cannato.

Famous First Words

Most Americans instantly recognize this phrase: 

Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

These words are from “The New Colossus,” which poet Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 for an auction to raise money for the pedestal fund. However, the poem didn’t appear on the statue itself until a bronze plaque was installed to the base in 1903, sixteen years after Lazarus’s death.

Surprisingly, native-born Americans didn’t associate the Statue with immigration until five decades later. In the late 1930s, Slovenian-American writer Louis Adamic had become alarmed that immigration had slowed to a trickle due to quotas that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had imposed as World War Two threatened from abroad. Adamic began a one-person campaign to spread the message of Lazarus’s poem, traveling around the country giving speeches to help Americans realize the small and large contributions that immigrants have made to the history and culture of the United States.

That message still resonates strongly today. In 2016, over 4.5 million people visited the Statue, setting a record. Visitors drawn to the Statue recognize that its history and presence represents the rich diversity that permeates the United States to this day.

JPMorgan Chase celebrates the Statue alongside Americans new and old. After all, a few of the company’s predecessors helped bring this iconic monument to freedom into fruition by helping with pedestal fundraising. Among them was William L. Strong, founder of The New York Security & Trust Co. which later merged with The Liberty National Bank and eventually became part of JPMorgan Chase & Co.