‘Quest:’ A portrait of an American family


‘Quest:’ A portrait of an American family

By Dominique Smack Tillman

Growing up at the intersection of 32nd and Norris streets was anything but ordinary. My neighborhood streets were usually crowded with block parties, loud music, and kids.

These streets were the same blocks where I heard the ringing of shots and mothers crying as gun violence claimed the lives of innocent youth. It was anything but the typical American story, but it was what I identified as home.

I suppose that’s why the film documentary “Quest” moved me in a way that I hadn’t expected. After watching this documentary on Jan. 27 at The Media Fellowship House, I was overcome with strong emotions as I absorbed the story of the Rainey family’s journey dealing with healing, hope, love and music.

Film director, Jonathan Olshefski, said the film took nearly a decade to cultivate. Olshefski tells intimate stories that honor the complexity of his subjects by employing a production process that emphasizes collaboration, dialogue, and relationship.

This unique way of storytelling is used to amplify their voices and reflect their points of view in an artful way. Olshefski does a great job capturing the intense and real time story of the Rainey family, and it helped me to form a greater appreciation for the neighborhood I always called home.

In short, I felt like I was a part of this family’s story. The film begins with a glimpse of the nuptials of Chris and Christina Rainey and then moves into the life that the two have built with one another.

As the storyline unfolds, other characters are introduced with their own personal stories to tell.

A look into the everyday life of Christina Rainey, referred to in the film as Ma Rainey, shows her rising as the matriarch of the family.

In addition to her characteristics of strength and resilience, the film also captures the strong personalities of other characters, such as Christopher “Quest”

Rainey’s hopefulness and compassion in challenging situations, or Patricia Rainey who had to rise up from her circumstances and bring normalcy back into her teenage life.

The film does an excellent job showing the struggles of a typical mother in the North Philadelphia neighborhood fighting for refuge in a modernday war zone.

As the story unfolds, tragedy strikes the family in several ways when Ma Rainey’s oldest son, William, a single parent, is diagnosed with cancer while trying to balance the everyday life of raising his son.

The film demonstrates how the Rainey family rises up to face challenges and problems in a community where divorce is prevalent and single-parent homes are far too common.

After the film introduces Patricia Rainey, the youngest child of Chris and Ma Rainey, the film transitions to tell the narrative from the child’s eyes.

The bond between Chris and PJ through music and basketball could be vividly felt through the visual interpretation of the documentary: the short walks to the bus stop, the intimate conversations, and the love between the two all strongly represent the beauty of father- daughter relationships. When PJ Rainey is struck by a stray bullet while playing basketball at a local playground, the film takes on a dimmer tone. “Daddy, I’m sorry for getting shot,” PJ said.

This powerful statement caused sympathy and remorse to fall over the audience. The unfortunate incident displays how the Rainey family deals with such a tragedy in a community where little is being done about the widespread gun violence.

However, it doesn’t prevent the outpouring of love and support from the community as they collectively fight to make the streets a safer place.

Throughout the nearly twohour documentary, the effects of music in the community are astounding as the film takes a more light-hearted tone.

“Quest” reveals how the Rainey family fills empty voids and the need for unity by building a personal recording studio in the family’s basement. The way the music’s rigid beats and raw lyrics moves through those basement walls brought back vivid memories of how I personally used music to escape from the outside world some days.

The film shows how Quest Studios provides local rappers and songwriters a safe haven to come together to get away from the violence and drugs to make music.

The studio is a space to create original music and content while fighting against becoming another street statistic. Local rappers Price, Ron Geez, and Harry, are among the individuals that found an escape from North Philly streets in Quest Studios.

Today, you can find the Quest family continuously hosting their Freestyle Friday rap battles in Quest Studios every first Friday of the month. As for PJ, she has adjusted miraculously and has a heavy hand in music producing beats with her father and following the family’s tradition for the love of music.

In a Live Q&A immediately following the screening, Olshefski, PJ, and Christopher Rainey stood and answered questions about how the family dealt with the different experiences that played into compiling this intimate and raw story.

Olshefski discussed the bond that was developed between himself and the Rainey family over the decade long process and how his different skills and styles played into showing the family’s very intimate story.

“Quest” was shot in a unique cinematic style that is ideal for documentary style filmmaking and stresses unbiased realism. This style of shooting helped to bring a rawness to the screen that was welcomed by the audience as evidenced by moments of shared laughter and sinister silences.

Moreover, I greatly related to this story because it was an intimate journey that hit so close to home. Familiar settings, feelings, and emotions arose on the screen and festered inside of me as I took in this powerful and intimate portrait of one American family’s journey.

Needless to say, “Quest” does a brilliant job shedding light on the everyday American story of love, life and music.

The Media Fellowship House, located on Jackson Street in Media, hosts a variety of events. “Quest” was just one of many Sundance Film Festival and independent film documentaries shown at this location. Upcoming events can be found at mediafellowshiphouse.org
Contact Dominique Smack at communitarian@mail.dccc.

Rising costs of cable tv lead to a rise in streaming service success

Streaming video servicesNetflix can't chill

Rising costs of cable tv lead to a rise in streaming service success

By Shane Soderland

Barclay Hotel desk clerk, Ian Gallagher, has owned an “Amazon Firestick” for three years. Before this, Gallagher subscribed to cable tv and recently touted his grievances with their service.

Late Friday nights, Gallagher said he frequently found himself struggling to find something to watch from Comcast’s large catalogue of channels.

“I don’t watch that many shows anyways,” Gallagher said. “I usually have TV on as background noise, but [Comcast] pissed me off. They would raise your bill a bit and not tell you about it until it came in the mail.”

Gallagher is one of many to own a streaming device, but not the only one in search of a substitute to cable. Streaming services can serve as an alternative to cable, but each service faces competition within their respective industries.

Over-the-top (OTT) is a categorical term for streaming services — these services allow consumers to sidestep the need for cable subscriptions.

According to a current Parks Associate’s press release, “OTT Video Services: Disruptive Globalization estimates approximately 200 million households had at least one OTT service at home at the end of 2018.”

The press release went on to say, “OTT services will accelerate their global expansion over the next five years, with more than 310 million connected households having at least one OTT service by 2024.”

Netflix says it will be raising their single monthly subscription cost from $8 to $9 — and their HD service will jump from $11 to $13. In response to Netflix, Hulu announced days later that they would reduce the cost of ad-supported service to $5.99, $2 down from its original $7.99 monthly rate.

“With Apple also widely expected to join the video streaming fray, the competition for programming is enabling top directors, writers and actors to charge more for their talents,” wrote AP reporter Michael Liedtke. “That has intensified financial pressure on Netflix, which hasn’t been bringing in enough money to pay for all its programming and other business expenses.”

On the other hand, broadband companies provide similar services with variable price increases. In mid-November, Comcast revealed their plans for the service going into 2019: customers will pay approximately 3.3 percent per month for cable, telephone, and Web services.

Recently, AT& T unveiled that their subsidiary DirecTV would be raising its price on most of their provided packages to $8 a month, up from $1 monthly.

Dish revealed they would be bumping the cost of English-language video bundles up from $3 to $5 a month.  Industry experts, tracking their sustainability and profitability, have analyzed these services.

Parks Associates, a company that specializes in market studies, obtains information on consumer products via discussion, trend evaluation and focus groups. According to a recent Parks Associate’s press release, “Currently 13 percent of U.S. broadband households are cord cutters, 7 percent are cord shavers, and 4 percent are cord nevers.”

DCCC geology major, Matt Cross, expressed his feelings about the timeliness of cable services. Cross said that cable services were outdated and that streaming services provided an opportunity for the consumer to pay for channels that they want to watch.

“YouTube does a subscription option where you can pick one channel that you watch or you’re interested in,” Cross said. “You can watch anything on that channel — just as you would live TV, but you don’t have to pay the extra fees of other channels like you would with cable.”

A DCCC journalism major, Michael Hamill, felt streaming would overtake cable in the near future and cited cable as a soon-to-be forgotten relic of the past.

“I think it’s going to go out of business soon,” Hamill said. “The world we’re living in, technology is quickly evolving and 50 years from now [nobody’s] going to know what cable is.”

Isis Lester, a corporate escalations associate for Comcast, voiced her thoughts on the issue. “In reference to the cost of streaming, it’s [beneficial] to consumers because you’re paying far less than you would with cable,” Lester said. “It’s astronomical what these companies charge, almost a car note I see people paying.”

Lester went on to describe her relationship with Comcast and future plans for streaming services. “I only watch it because I get a discount from the cable company I work for,” Lester said. “I am considering Sling [TV] because one of my clients said she had it and loved it. So, I will probably try Sling next.” Gallagher, Cross, Hamill, and Lester said they have issues with cable services, but are optimistic about the future of home entertainment.

According to Market Research Future’s press release, “The global video streaming market is expected to grow at approximately $82 billion by 2023, at 17 percent of compound annual growth rate between 2017 and 2023.”

With the announcement of new streaming platforms, such as, AT&T’s WarnerMedia service, Disney+, and more, are set to launch later this year into next. Experts say the outlook for streaming services is expansive and competitive.

Contact Shane Soderland at communitarian@mail.dccc. edu.

Students experiment with online science labs

A portable telescope in the DCCC astronomy observatory. Photo by David M. Delloso Jr.

Online Laboratory 1aaOnline Laboratory 2

Students experiment with online science labs images provided by David M. Delloso Jr.

Students experiment with online science labs

By David M. Delloso Jr. 

In the days of yesteryear, collegiate institutions had science laboratories for students on campus.

Today, students may have more than one resource for completing science labs and courses, thanks to virtual laboratories and simulations.

Website and app development companies, like Pearson Education, Inc., have created interactive online laboratory software to be purchased by students at the cost of traditional textbooks, around $100. Teachers can then assign the artificially generated experiments and grade accordingly.

DCCC has used this technology to expand their curriculums. The technology allows students who wish to stay home to complete their science requirements at their convenience.

Still, some wonder: Although certainly more convenient and accessible, are the online labs really as effective as learning the skills taught in the real laboratories?

Daniel Childers, a DCCC professor of physical sciences who has taught at the college for 26 years, admits he has adapted to teaching online courses; he also acknowledges there is a benefit to online laboratory apps.

“For some students that are highly motivated to learn on their own, it is an easier course than coming here to DCCC,” Childers explained.

Yet, Childers believes some students miss out on learning tangible skills and team building abilities when they are removed from doing physical lab work in DCCC science classrooms.

“The lab is as important as anything else in the course,” Childers said. “Laboratories are the learning environment. [The lecture] is just where you learn the ideas.”

According to Childers, faculty at DCCC are continually improving and polishing on-campus lessons, online classes and hybrid courses. The courses are planned and developed by DCCC, but the technology is not.

For classes, such as the one-credit, two-hour course ESS 103 – Introduction to Astronomy Laboratory, the accessibility of online apps, like Stellarium, allows students to do nighttime sky observations at any time.

Without the program, students would have to use the Marple Campus observatory for their telescopic laboratory work. However, some students say DCCC Catalog course descriptions do not always make it clear that students will need a specific computer to run virtual laboratory programs associated with a course.

For instance, the ESS 103 course description on DCCC’s website reads: “This laboratory course introduces students to astronomical observations through the use of telescopes and star charts to study objects in the night sky…. Observations of the night sky with telescopes and the unaided eye will be conducted. Students will explore the constellations, moon, planets, and other objects of our universe.”

The description does not mention that the course includes a virtual lab instead of an on-site lab. Furthermore, not every student registering for the course may have read the following statement on DCCC’s website regarding requirements for online learning, such as the “ability to install plugins and related minor software upgrades (as/if needed).” Brock Danunnzio, a third-year student at DCCC, experienced semester long issues associated with the app, Stellarium, when enrolled in the astronomy lab.

Danunnzio uses a Google computer for his school work, but the app was not compatible with the browsers provided. He believes getting support with troubleshooting is an issue for both teachers and students.

“The computer I had did not offer the program for [Stellarium],” Danunnzio explained. “The problem was Stellarium doesn’t have its own call desk, so I took my problems to the professor, but she routed me to another call center. It was a never ending cycle of ‘This should work’.”

In some cases, DCCC students have failed or nearly failed their courses over these unresolved issues, despite the encourging words from Stellarium’s own website, which claim the product “…shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope.”

Fortunately for Danunnzio, he and his professor resolved the issue of the unreliable tech support by coordinating a redo on his lab work. If Danunnzio had not had the accessibility to a friend’s compatible computer, he believes he may have failed the course.

Other students also had mixed feelings about virtual science laboratories. Joanna Scali, a former DCCC student now attending West Chester University, said she would have benefited more from using the college’s on campus observatory when she was taking the astronomy lab course last fall.

“I believe most students, like myself, are visual learners,” Scali said. “As a visual learner, I think labs, especially, should be kept in the physical classroom due to the lack of hands-on participation online.”

Danunnzio and Scali both passed their courses, but agreed the lab work would have been easier and more efficient if done in person because the online laboratory was their only problematic issue. They seldom had issues understanding the lectures.

Childers and some students hope that by voicing their experiences they can help the college to create a more well-rounded and better science curriculum.

For now, it seems that although some experts may agree that online laboratories offer easy access, there will always be some students and professors who prefer the real thing. Contact David M. Delloso Jr. at communitarian@mail. dccc.edu

LatinX Student Association welcomes all students

By Gabriela Escaleras

LatinX Student Association Photo 2
The co-president of the LatinX Student Association, Eddet Alfaro, explains to students the activities the club will be organizing and participating in. Photo by Gabriela Escaleras

LatinX Student Association is back this semester and participated in the Spring Expo Club on Jan. 30 and 31 at DCCC’s Marple Campus from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The president, Gary Hernandez, a computer science major, and the co-president, Eddet Alfaro, a general studies major, welcomed all students who want to explore and learn about Latin culture with some flyers and candies.

According to Hernandez, one of the activities the organization plans to do this semester is to keep supporting the “Dream Today” scholarship.

A scholarship that benefits first-generation college students or immigrant students who do not qualify for financial aid.

“We have many plans this semester including collaborating with other clubs for fundraisers, a movie night event, and other fun events,” Alfaro explained.

The organization also wants to continue doing community service. “Last semester we did a collaboration with the Social Work Club and Women in STEM and we collected hygiene items to donate to the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County,” Hernandez said.

In addition, Hernandez said they want to showcase the Latin culture by playing Latin games, teaching Latin history, sharing Latin food, and teaching Spanish to students.

Both Hernandez and Alfaro said they got involved in this club because they were part of the mentoring program and were invited to be part of the team. Since then, they have been working to keep the Latin culture alive.

“Being involved on campus makes the college life experience better and gives the student the opportunity to enhance their interpersonal skills and build long-life friendships,” Alfaro explained.

The Latin organization was founded in Spring 2013 under the name of “Latin Flavor Club.” By Spring 2018, the new members had changed the name to “LatinX Student Association.” Hernandez explained this change was made because new members desired to make this club more their own and more inviting.

Allyson Gleason, Director of Campus Life, explained students wanted to make the club more transparent that when people saw the information, they felt welcomed to the club.

“It was a great change for the students to make because it is more inclusive and easier for people to understand what they are doing and make it easier to identify with the group,” Gleason added. “Sometimes clubs choose club names that don’t necessarily always impart what their mission is or what they are doing, so then sometimes people miss the opportunity to be involved.”

Officers from the club invite all students to participate in their meetings held on Thursdays from 11:10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Room 2167 on Marple Campus.

“The mission statement is to unify cultures,” Alfaro said. “LatinX Student Association is open to everyone who wants to experience the Latin culture and wants to practice Spanish with native speakers.”

Contact Gabriela Escaleras at communitarian@mail.dccc. edu

Local TSA agent impacted by the longest government shutdown.

by Keona Bonamy

During the government shutdown, Diamond Warren worked as many shifts as she could at the Philadelphia International Airport as a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) without pay.

When needed, Warren, 23, also worked as an Uber driver for extra income. “It’s hard because I haven’t been paid in over a month,” said Warren, who earns $18 per hour at the airport.

Although Warren went to most of her shifts at the airport, she said it was humiliating to work 40 hours per week but still need assistance from different charity organizations, such as Philabundance, a nonprofit food bank.

“At the end of the day it was a great feeling to get all of that help, but I shouldn’t have Local TSA agent impacted by the longest to need it,” Warren said. “The stuff that everybody donated should have gone to people who needed it, like people who are homeless or people who don’t have jobs.”

Warren has more than $1,500 in bills each month and, under normal circumstances, she can afford them, she explained. However, the shutdown forced her to put her car loan into a three-month deferment plan, and she had to ask other bill collectors for more time before late fees started to hit her account.

Warren was just one of 800,000 federal government employees affected by the government shutdown. President Donald Trump’s decision to shut down the government was not the first time this happened; however this shutdown was the longest in the history of the United States.

Trump issued an executive order on “Providing for the Closing of Executive Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government on December 24, 2018.”

The executive order was published on Dec. 18 on the White House’s website. The executive order mandated that federal government employees would be dismissed from work. The order also stated that the heads of certain agencies can determine which offices and organizations must still report to work “for reasons of national security, defense, or other public need,” Trump said.

The shutdown resulted when Trump’s funding for an additional method of border control was not approved by Congress.

Trump is asking for more than $5 billion in federal funds to build a wall at Mexico’s border.

“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most continued from front page government shutdown dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”

There were many negotiations made and presented to Trump in order to reopen the government.

“We have been negotiating,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “The White House seems to move the goalposts. Every time they come with a proposal, they walk away from it. Pretty soon these goal posts won’t even be in the stadium.” Pelosi expressed that the Democrats believe the wall would misspend taxpayers’ money.

Meanwhile, the Democrats continued to negotiate to help reopen the government. As a result of the shutdown, all federal employees were either furloughed or required to work without pay.

In addition to 800,000 federal workers, the shutdown also affected nine different executive departments: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice, and Homeland Security.

According to experts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, government shutdowns are completely legal. So Trump is permitted to shut the government down for as long as he sees fit. Although Warren hopes the government does not shut down again, she anticipates it.

There has been a lot of conversation at her job as to why the government has reopened suddenly, and employees have concluded that it is because of the upcoming Super Bowl, she said.

“The Super Bowl is in Atlanta, one of the biggest and busiest airports in the United States, and I know they would not want any issues with security,” Warren said. “They do not want security to be affected because of call-outs and no shows.”

Many passengers attending The Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 3, will have to fly into The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, by measure of total passengers, according to Airport Council International, an organization whose purpose is to advance the interests of airports and create the professional experience in airport management and operations.

Although every sector of the government is now open, Warren, like many other federal government employees, worries it will close again if negotiations do not favor funding a wall, according to Trump.

“In the future I would hope to see more maturity from the president,” Warren said. “There should be better systems in place to prevent stuff like this from happening.”


Contact Keona Bonamy at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu