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Exploring the Artistic Depths of the James Watrous Gallery

by Camila Cruz, age 16

At Simpson Street Free Press, we are always on the lookout for art. Recently, student reporters from Simpson Street took a trip to see the James Watrous Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts. Just like writing, art is a form of discipline and expression. Both of these draw out individual imagination and creativity to convey meanings that reach deeper than the surface.

So, on a bright and sunny summer day, our reporters arrived at the Overture Center at 4:30 p.m. and made our way up to the gallery. The James Watrous Gallery is located on the third floor, where one of the gallery staff greeted us at the entrance and gave us an overview of gallery highlights and ongoing exhibits.

The Watrous Gallery is a program of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. The gallery showcases the work of local artists and, more generally, artists from Wisconsin. We had the opportunity to view featured collections by Colin Matthes and Alison Gates, which were on display from April 28 to July 23. [Read More]

From Bronx "Breaks" to L.A. Rap: The History of Hip-Hop

by Zayn Khalid, age 12

Hip-hop was created nearly fifty years ago. Many of us listen to hip-hop every day, yet many people don’t know its history.

It all started back in 1973 when, “DJ Kool Herc” threw a party for his sister in their apartment building on Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx, New York. He played a type of music called “breaks'', which included some drums, funky percussion, and bass put together. This was where hip-hop was born.

Being a DJ in hip-hop was all about moving your finger back and forth on the vinyl and being creative with it. Later it evolved. People started putting rhyming couplets, which are two-lined poems, in front of the music, then to triplets, three-lined poems, and then to multiple rhyming lines. However, people in Harlem and the Bronx did not believe that rap would ever be a real genre. That changed in 1979 when producer Sylvia Robinson gathered three kids and recorded rhymes over a beat that turned into the famous hit ”Rapper's Delight'' by Sugarhill Gang, which sold millions of copies. The lyrics in that song were stolen from lyrics they heard at parties. This angered many in the community because Sugarhill became known for something the community was already doing. [Read More]

How Early Jazz Developed in New Orleans

by Aissata Bah, age 12

There are many opinions of what is important in jazz history, specifically in New Orleans. The musical genre contains history that takes roots in colonization, slavery and much more.

New Orleans was founded as part of the French Louisiana colony in 1718. The territories were given up to Spain, but returned back to France in 1803. At the same time they were returned, Thomas Jefferson bought the territory in the Louisiana Purchase, meaning that New Orleans became part of the United States. People who could speak English began migrating to the area and extended the boundaries of the city. The massive amount of free and enslaved Black people in the area had brought elements of the blues, spirituals and rural dances to the rise of jazz music, since the early 18th century.

The region had a mix of French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cultural heritage. The residents had an appreciation of good food, wine, music, dance, and also celebrating the many cultures and languages within the city. [Read More]

Germany's Fairytale Castle Come to Life

by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 14

Neuschwanstein is a castle that is located in Germany, which took 17 years to construct. It took 15 men to carve the king's bed and it took them 4 ½ years to finish. Neuschwanstein was a fairytale brought to life.

King Ludwig, who was known as “the Mad King”, developed an obsession with German mythology. In 1861, a performance by Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin left the King enchanted. When he succeeded to the throne three years later at the age of 18, his first act was to summon Wagner. Once Wagner made money, Ludwig would become his patron.

Meanwhile, King Ludwig would create fancy fairy tales with the everyday story of ancient German knights and make money out of them. Wagner recreated the German legend on stage and showed the struggles of God between good and evil. Ludwig was named Mad King because he was seen as a man with no reality. [Read More]

The Tragic Story of Beautiful Egyptian Goddess Isis

by Emily Rodriguez Lima, age 13

Hieroglyphics depict tragically beautiful tales of the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt such as Isis, whose myth brims with mystical magic, selfless healing, lethal wars, and even brooding beheadings. Historians uncovered her story through pyramid stones that date back to the 2350 and 2100 BCE period.

As the main deity in rites concerning the afterlife, Isis solely specialized in curing and reviving ill gods and goddesses. Soon after, she extended her powers to all of Egypt and began healing commoners. Her work, praised and glorified by citizens, exceeded the grapevines of Egypt, and gained her fame in Ancient Rome, Afghanistan, and Far England!

Courtesy of the sun god Ra, the hieroglyphics revealed Isis to have had three siblings named Osiris, Seth, and Nepthys, who were also deities. Because of societal conventions, Isis was married off to her brother, Osiris. She embodied the traditional role of supporting and catering to her husband, along with teaching women the fundamentals of how to bake, brew beer, and weave. Meanwhile, Seth, overcrowded with jealousy, had secretly arranged a plan to kill Osiris in pursuit of ruling Egypt. All the while, Isis was pregnant. [Read More]

Unraveling the Mythological Legacy of Poseidon

by Dani Garduno, age 12

Many know Poseidon as ruler of the oceans, however, there is a lot more to his legacy. Greek mythology is based on Greek gods and goddesses, which include Hera, Hades, Athena, Zeus, Hermes, Persephone, and many more.

Poseidon is the god of the seas and floods, as well as the god of storms. Some might even call him the bringer of earthquakes and destruction. He is a key figure in the battle over Olympus and for total control over the universe against the Titans.

Greek mythology illustrates Poseidon as a mature and bearded man holding a trident. He is frequently sculpted riding his golden chariot and being pulled by some hippocamps (half-horse, half-serpent sea creatures), dolphins, seahorses, fish, and other marine animals. Perhaps the most celebrated representation of Poseidon is his bronze statue measuring two meters in height (6.5 feet). This was located in a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Artemisium in Greece. [Read More]

Why do Horses Appear in so Many Myths?

by Ian Kosharek, age 11

Horses are not only interesting creatures, but they have also been featured throughout history in various stories across many countries.

For example, Greece has the famous Trojan horse, a story about a giant wooden horse that was rolled into the city of Tory. The Trojans thought it was a surrendering gift but they were wrong. The Greeks rolled the horse into the castle. After which soldiers broke out of the horse and won the war. However, Greece is not the only place with horse stories; other places like the Middle East, India, China, Britain, the Roman Empire, and Norse land also have stories.

Along with stories, there are also myths about horses. One myth is that horses are color blind. In reality, they mostly see blue and green but find red and yellow hard to recognize. In contrast, their night vision is amazing. People also say that horses sleep standing up but they actually sleep lying down and like to rest standing up. [Read More]

Monaco: The Enchanting Playground of Wealth and Luxury

by Anissa Attidekou, age 13

Monaco is a small independent country located on the French Riviera in Europe. It is renowned for its ability to provide a luxurious lifestyle, stunning scenery, and status as a tax haven. Monaco has a long and storied history, and it is one of the most talked-about countries in the world.

Although Monaco is close to the French, the country has its own currency and government. The principality has been a powerful and wealthy nation since the 13th century. It’s been ruled by the Grimaldi family for 700 years.

Monaco has a population of about 38,400 people. The reason Monaco has such a small population is because getting citizenship there would take about 10 years if you are lucky enough to have it approved. Thanks to its small size, Monaco doesn’t have a capital either, making the country even more exciting to learn about. [Read More]

J. Cole: From Trailer Parks to Platinum Records - A Rap Legend's Journey

by Zayn Khalid, age 13

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, also known as J. Cole, is considered by many to be one of the best rappers of all time. Cole uses rap and his platform to preach about racism, poverty, single-parent households, political corruption, and drug abuse.

Cole was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on Jan. 28, 1985, on a U.S. Army base. His father was an African-American soldier stationed there at the time. Cole's mother was a white postal worker. His dad left when Cole was a baby. Cole’s mother moved Cole and his brother, Zach, to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where they grew up often living in trailer parks. It was during this time that Cole fell in love with rap.

Cole began playing the violin in an orchestra and taught himself how to rap and produce music. Cole held part-time jobs while still working on his artistic craft. Cole attended St. John's University in New York and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2002 with a communications degree. [Read More]

Secrets of the Ice: Archaeologists Discover Ancient Arrowhead inside a Melting Glacier

by Camila Cruz, age 15

As glaciers begin to melt, archaeologists in Scandinavia are discovering artifacts that help them learn more about the past. Recently, researchers found a well-preserved 1,500-year-old arrow, in what they believe is an ancient hunting ground.

The archaeologists who discovered the arrow are part of “Secrets Of The Ice”, a group of scientists and glacial archaeologists in Norway who explore and pinpoint glaciers. This arrow is not just any arrow. Not only is it believed to be older than the Vikings that inhabited the land from roughly 800-1100 AD, but it is also extremely well preserved.

The arrow was found between two rocks in Norway in an area where ancient people likely hunted reindeer. The archeologists think that the arrow was lost in the snow when one of the hunters missed a shot. Archaeologists believe the arrow was frozen into a glacier, and when the glacier melted it made its way down to where it was found. The fletching which helps stabilize the arrow while it’s flying is gone, but the arrowhead is still attached to the shaft, which is a unique discovery. [Read More]

The Legend of Persephone

by Dani Garduño Martinez, age 11

Greek Mythology has inspired many ideas and ways of thinking in our world. Many people looked to and are still inspired by mythological characters to explain experiences in our everyday lives. In this particular story, the Ancient Greeks explained the changing seasons through the story of a goddess being kidnapped by the devil himself.

Persephone is the goddess of spring and vegetation; she also plays the role of the queen of the Underworld. Demeter is the mother of Persephone and goddess of vegetation and grain. Hades is the god and king of the Underworld. Lastly, Helios is the god who sees everything. All of these gods and goddesses play a key role in this story and Greek mythology.

One day while Persephone was picking flowers in the meadows, Hades walked by and instantly fell in love with her. Hades, out of pure instinct, grabbed Persephone, put her on his chariot against her will, and rode away to a place that connected the Underworld and the Earth. [Read More]

Plants: Poultice or Poison?

by Juan Esteban Palma, age 10

It is important for humans to understand that some plants have medicinal properties and have been utilized for centuries to heal wounds or maintain well-being. In ancient times, healing plants were grown in special gardens and used to heal injuries. Today, there are still many plants used for medicine or other needs.

The cosmetic industry is one place we see the use of plants. Specifically, many plants have pleasing smells and soothing oils that can help with skin problems. Two plants that are commonly used in today’s cosmetics are jojoba and aloe vera. They are usually found in dry places and are known to moisturize and soften skin.

Along with cosmetics, plants are often used to treat illness. In China, the ginseng root has been used for nearly 5,000 years. This powdered root has a stimulant effect that helps recover from illness. Ginseng is grown commercially and is sold throughout the world. Another example of medicinal use of plants comes from the oils harvested from the beans of castor oil plants. These oils have been used to clean the immune system since Ancient Egypt. However, these plants contain one of the most potent poisons known: ricin. Eating one ricin bean is enough to kill a human. [Read More]

Super Mario Bros. Movie is a Blockbuster Success

by Amare Smith, age 19

The Super Mario Bros. Movie has been one of the greatest movies of 2023. It was planned by Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario, and was animated by Illumination Studios. Two plumbers named Mario and Luigi (who are brothers) accidentally go down a pipe leading them to separate areas of a different universe. To rescue Luigi, Mario needs help from Toad and Princess Peach.

The movie is still showing in theaters, but there are other ways you can watch it. You can use Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, or other streaming services, such as Peacock. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and in 4K. You could also get the “Power Up Edition” version of the movie, but since it is a limited edition, there is a chance that it could sell out quickly.

The movie grossed $1.3 billion around the world. The directors of the movie are Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who also made “Teen Titans Go.” [Read More]

Akodessewa Fetish Market; Famous Voodoo Exchange

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

Lomé, the capital city of Togo, hosts the biggest voodoo market named the Akodessewa Fetish Market.

Products used for voodoo rituals, healing sessions, and sacrifices can be purchased at the voodoo market. Some of the products sold are human skulls, alligator parts, goats, monkey heads, and leopard skins and heads. Charms that could help with diseases modern medicine cannot fix, as well as talismans that bring good fortunes and get rid of harmful curses can also be found at the market. Visitors can also come across voodoo priests that will bless and heal them.

Haiti is known for the religion of voodoo, so many people assume it was founded there. But in reality, it originated in Benin’s Benin, West Africa. Voodoo is now the official religion in surrounding areas of Benin. In Togo, the word is spelled “Voodoo”, in Benin it is “Vodoun”, while the most well-known version is Haiti's “Voodoo”. While these names all sound similar and have stemmed from the original version of the Benin religion, they have developed into their own practices and traditions. [Read More]

Movie Review: The Right to Read

by Kadjata Bah, age 18

A new documentary film called The Right to Read adds to growing national debates about literacy and the science of reading. This timely and compelling film is streaming for free until March 9, 2023.

Directed by Jenny Mackenzie and produced by LeVar Burton, the film follows a long-time activist, a teacher, and two families as they navigate the future of education.

Kareem Weaver is an Oakland-based activist with the NAACP. He is an experienced educator, and his mission is to create a world where 95% of children can read. Working with Sabrina Causey, a rookie first grade teacher in Oakland, the two make a case for a new curriculum for their students based in the science of reading. [Read More]

Do You Want a Pony as a Pet?

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

Many years ago, people used all different kinds of ponies to haul carts or to farm. Today, ponies are often enjoyed as pets.

Fell ponies were used for mining, traveling, farming, and pulling carts. These ponies are usually strong and carry humans for long distances. Their height can reach up to 60 inches. These ponies are more popular among kids than adults.

Welsh mountain ponies originated from Wales in the United Kingdom. Their life span is about 35 years and they weigh nearly 500 pounds. These ponies are known to be the most beautiful ponies in the world because of their black or dark brown fur with white markings. They have also been useful for sports like jumping and driving. [Read More]

New Nigerian Music Genre Makes its Way to the Mainstream

by Aissata Bah, age 12

A new musical genre, Afrobeat, is reaching the music charts. Making its way from Lagos, Nigeria, it continues growing off its successes.

Afrobeat has a clear, distinct sound that many people recognize. It is characterized by its complex rhythms, heavy percussion, repeating vocals and pidgin English. The genre has upbeat, fun, energetic melodies that get people dancing around the world.

One of the most recognizable Afrobeat artists is Wizkid, also known as Starboy. He became known internationally by the song, “One Dance,” a song in which he was featured. But it goes further than that. He debuted an album, “Star Boy,” in 2011 and soon became the first Nigerian musician to get over a million followers on Twitter in 2014. One of Nigeria’s leading female Afrobeat singers, Tiwa Savage, had struggled gaining popularity due to the genre being a heavily male-dominated music scene. However, she is one of the most prominent artists in Afrobeat today, winning Best African Act of the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards. With his debut album “Omo Baba Omolo,” the artist Davido quickly rose to popularity in 2011. [Read More]

Who Created These Mysterious Pillars in Ireland? — by Jonah Smith, age 14

Strange pillars reside in County Antrim, Ireland. They have an unusual shape that appears to be man made. These tightly wedged pillars descend in tiers, in a staircase all the way down to the sea. These columns are mostly hexagonal, though the number of sides these structures have may vary. Although their shape implies that they are manufactured, the complete opposite is true. [Read More]

Puss in Boots Sequel Set to Air Late 2022 — by Amare Smith, age 18

In 2011, the Puss in Boots movie was released. It was a spinoff of the hit movie “Shrek.” Since the film's release, many films have been made and displayed on Netflix. Ten years later, Puss in Boots finally has its sequel! The sequel will center around Puss getting his nine lives back after losing eight. To get his lives back, he must go on a journey to find a genie to grant him a wish. [Read More]

How K-Pop Dominated the Music Scene — by Aissata Bah, age 12

BTS is not your usual boy band like One Direction or Backstreet Boys. BTS is a K-pop group that sings most of their songs in Korean. This expansive genre trails back to the mid-20th century. [Read More]

Science Fiction Writer, Octavia Butler, Recognized by NASA — by Elim Eyobed, age 11

Who is your favorite writer? Hemingway? Shakespeare? Well, one great writer you may have never heard of is Octavia E. Butler. Butler was an esteemed African American author who was recently recognized by NASA for her groundbreaking talents. NASA scientists even named a Mars landing site after her. [Read More]

Learn the Tragic Story Behind the Monstrous Medusa

by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

Medusa: the most common thought would be a hideous woman with snakes for hair. Believe it or not, Medusa was not always like this. Her story is a long and heartbreaking one.

There is no clarification in Greek mythology on when Medusa was born. Medusa was one of three sisters known as the Gorgons. Medusa was the only mortal of the three sisters. Medusa’s sisters were Stheno and Euryale. According to Greek sources, they were all children of the sea deities: Phorkys and his sister, Keto. Before Medusa turned into the ugly snake-for-hair monster, she was actually a very beautiful priestess. She was just as beautiful as Athena – Goddess of war and wisdom. Many even believed she was prettier. Athena often overheard the mortals talking about Medusa, eventually she grew envious of her, but she never acted on the jealousy she had for Medusa. Men wanted Medusa to be their wife. Women were resentful of her. But Medusa paid no attention to the emotions being thrown at her. She wanted to remain a virgin like the Goddess Athena. Medusa also worked as a priestess in Athena’s temple. [Read More]

The History behind Famous Iconic Cartoon Hello Kitty — by Sol-Saray, age 10

Many of you may know Hello Kitty, but can you really call yourself a fan if you do not know her history? [Read More]

Behind Prince, the Dynamic Pop Legend — by Elim Eyobed, age 11

If you live and breathe air, you have definitely heard of Prince. His album, “1999”, almost singled him out as one of the greatest musicians of all time. Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7, 1958. His father, John Nelson, was a jazz pianist, and Mattie Nelson, his mother, was a vocalist. His life at home was not stable, so at the age of 12, he left and was adopted by the Anderson family. [Read More]

Athena: Ancient Greek Goddess of War — by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

Athena (or Athene) is the goddess of war and daughter of Zeus. Athena has always been a well-respected goddess in Greek mythology. This is because she has always had a strong presence and fierce aura, which can be a main reason why Athena is the goddess of war. [Read More]

El nuevo género musical nigeriano se hace camino hacia la corriente principal — por Aissata Bah, 12 años de edad; traducida por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

Un nuevo género musical, Afrobeat, está llegando a las listas musicales. Desde Lagos, Nigeria, continúa creciendo a partir de sus éxitos. Afrobeat tiene un sonido claro y distintivo que muchas personas reconocen. Se caracteriza por sus ritmos complejos, mucha percusión, voces repetidas e inglés pidgin. El género tiene melodías alegres, divertidas y enérgicas que se bailan la gente de alrededor del mundo. [Read More]

The History Behind Zodiac Signs — by Emily Bautista, age 13

Zodiac signs are a topic of mystery for many people. Many people do not know how they came to be or what they are used for. [Read More]

Ghost Towns and Glaciers: The Legend of Kennicot — by Anissa Attidekou, age 13

Despite the fact that ghost stories can be scary, they are always interesting. The tale of this ghostly Alaskan glacier might give you a chill, but it will also get you hooked with its unique story. [Read More]