Tag Archives: business

David Phan’s Suicide Sparks Grief, Anger, And A Call For Justice

By Guest Contributor Terry K. Park, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

David Phan at age seven, at Arches National Park. Courtesy of the Phan family.

After their son took his own life on November 29th, David Phan’s family received two boxes. One box, sent by Bennion Junior High, was filled with generic pamphlets on how to deal with suicide-related grief. The other box, given by current and former classmates, contained over 600 letters expressing their support and sorrow for the loss of their child. These letters, according to family advocate Steven Ha, paint a portrait of a 14-year-old who, despite being a victim of bullying himself, protected other victims of bullying. At a December 20th briefing for local Asian American activists at the offices of the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, Ha read out loud one such letter from a former classmate:

“Dear Phan family. Your son David is a life saver. I’m going to miss him…This kid is amazing, has a great personality…I’ve never met someone who could make me smile when I’m deeply sad. He saved my sister’s life. She was going to kill herself, but you [David] talked her out of it. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a sister because of him, your son…I will not forget you [David]. I am letting balloons go in the air to honor you. I’m so lucky to have met him. He always made everyone smile…If someone was sad, he’d ask if they need a hug. He was the hero of the school. If only I was still there, I would’ve made sure this wouldn’t have happened.”

Tragically, it did. And now a Vietnamese American family grieves for the loss of their son and seeks answers. The answers given by Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsely in the immediate wake of David’s suicide were not only insufficient but struck the Phan family and supporters as defensive, insensitive, and even illegal. “David,” said Horsely, faced “significant personal challenges on multiple fronts” for which he supposedly received support for from a guidance counselor. And despite a report of bullying several years ago, “[David] never reported any further bullying concerns and, on the contrary, reported that things were going well.”

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Excerpt: Adrienne K. Updates The Paul Frank Controversy

There were some hints in the email that this wasn’t going to be my typical dismissive conversation (they want to learn from their mistake?! They’ve taken steps to address the situation?!), so I was already feeling better about the whole thing going into the call. Mr. Dekel also reached out to Jessica Metcalfe (of Beyond Buckskin), so we decided to have a conference call with the three of us. Unfortunately, Ms. Beyond Buckskin is in Canada for a visit, and her phone was being mean and wouldn’t let her call in. So I talked to Mr. Dekel on my own (but then immediately filled in Jessica afterward, don’t worry). She’s going to be following up with him next week when she’s back home.

The phone call went so much better than I could have even imagined. Elie was gracious, sincere, and kind from the beginning, and truly apologetic. He took full responsibility for the event, and said he wanted to make sure that this was something that never happened again, and wanted to learn more so he could educate his staff and colleagues. We talked about the history of representations of Native people in the US, and I even got into the issues of power and privilege at play–and the whole time, he actually listened, and understood. Such a refreshing experience.

- From Native Appropriations, 9/14/12

New York Magazine Deems Naturally Curly A Bad Investment For No Reason

Kevin Roose, over at New York Magazine, decided to launch a column called “Dumb Money: Exposing Silicon Valley’s Stupidest Investments.” He writes:

But Silicon Valley, like any other industry, has its share of truly dumb ideas. For every start-up that changes the world and makes its founders rich, a thousand die quick, anonymous deaths.

Some of tech’s clunkers never get off the ground, but others manage to get big, high-profile investments despite having no redeeming qualities whatsoever. (For example, what kind of genius decided to throw $1.2 million at NaturallyCurly, the “leading social network and community for people with wavy, curly and kinky hair?”)

Roose provides no actual evidence as to why NaturallyCurly is a bad investment. He doesn’t cite a thing – not their traffic numbers, no advertising sales, and no discussion of the exponential growth in the market they offer. But why should he? NaturallyCurly doesn’t fit the pattern – and Roose’s casual dismal underscores exactly why minorities, women of color in particular, have such a hard time breaking into the consciousness of the tech world. Continue reading

America’s Food Sweatshops and the Workers of Color Who Feed Us

By Guest Contributor Yvonne Yen Liu, cross-posted from Colorlines

Juan Baten came to this country from Guatemala seven years ago in search of a better life. A bus in Cabral, Guatemala, hit his father so Baten left home at the age of 15, to make the journey north. He made his way to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he found work in a tortilla factory in an industrial corridor along the Brooklyn-Queens border. He worked six days a week, nine hours a day, from five in the evening until two in the morning, operating the machines that churned out tortillas. The $7.25 per hour he earned was sent back to his family in Guatemala, supporting his four brothers.

Baten also found love. Seven months ago, his common law wife Rosario Ramirez gave birth to daughter, Daisy Stefanie. They dreamed of a day when they could move their family back to Guatemala.

However, one Sunday, Baten’s arm got stuck in the blades of a dough-mixing machine and he was crushed to death. The 22-year-old dad’s story splashed across the pages of the New York tabloids, and his death led to investigations by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state Department of Labor. The Workers Compensation Board discovered that the factory owner was not offering worker’s compensation to his employees and issued a stop-work order. The factory is now closed, pending payment of insurance and fines by the owner, according to news reports.

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Quotable: On The Academy Award Nominations

No doubt the Oscars’ overlooking of black industry players this year will come in for sharp criticism, accompanied by hand-wringing and amorphous pledges to do better. Yet the ensuing platitudes are likely to omit a very important detail: with a few notable exceptions, 2010 was a figurative wasteland for black cinema.

By no means should this imply that quality black films do not exist — plenty do, and the industry is replete with examples of excellent movies with black actors and directors at the helm. The principal problem is that for every emotional Eve’s Bayou or Precious, there’s a proportionately farcical Soul Plane or a Lottery Ticket. In short, much of what is considered marketable fare in Hollywood skews toward the comedic or romantic variety with an urban (and often buffoonish) flavor. While many laudable and noteworthy independent black films (such as the little-seen Night Catches Us) do get made, they often debut to minuscule audiences, virtually non-existent industry buzz and sharply limited distribution. Many have talented yet unknown actors and directors that lack name recognition and track record that brings in audiences. Suffice to say, most well-made black movies are hard-pressed to find financial success and mainstream accolades.

It’s not difficult to fathom why. A thoughtful 2009 New York Times article accurately detailed the state of contemporary black cinema and what continues to hamper its development. Despite the commercial and critical successes of Mr. Washington, Ms. Berry and especially Will Smith — all of whom have enjoyed a variety of roles that steadfastly defy stereotyping — Hollywood continues to view black moviegoers through a woefully circumscribed prism. To them, black movies are less mainstream products than they are niche. And let’s be frank: the overwhelming majority of black consumers give them ample reason for doing so.

- Javier E. David, The Grio

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Where is the Black Julia Roberts? Part 1: Top Actresses 2000-2010

By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual

The “black actress” stepped into the spotlight last year, as Nia Long called out Beyoncé Knowles and other singers for taking roles; Tyler Perry released yet another film starring newcomer Taraji P. Henson; and Precious gave its stars, especially Mo’Nique, a chance to shine.

The November 5 release of Perry’s For Colored Girls puts the issue of black women in cinema back into the national conversation — even if it fails to redeem Tyler Perry. So I decided to posit an answer to the question: where are all the black leading ladies? Below: 1) why this question?, 2) a list, 3) the state of the black leading lady, and 4) how I came up with the current crop.

I. Where is the Black Julia Roberts? One Route to an Answer

Easier asked than answered! The question is really more provocation than anything. At a certain point, comparison between races is irrelevant: is Will Smith the “white” anyone? He’s Will Smith! The question, however, does open up an interesting discussion. Julia Roberts, like Meryl Streep, can do a lot: from Duplicity and Eat Pray Love to, now, August: Osage County. Roberts can choose her roles and she almost always plays the lead. What black actress could do the same, now or in the near future? The real issue leads us to ask: of the potential black leading ladies today, who is on top, who isn’t panning out, and why?

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6 Things To Know About The Black Rock Audience

By Guest Contributor Rob Fields, cross-posted from Black As Love

It was close to a year ago when I started research that would begin to answer the question, “so, who exactly is the audience for black rock?”  Of course, the unspoken part of that question was the assumption that this was and continues to be, something fringe.  But we know that’s hardly the case.  In fact, the audience for black rock and black alternative music is growing, and that growth is powered by an ongoing cultural shift.

I won’t bore you with the demographic recap of those who took the survey (50/50 male/female split; 76% African American), as you can read it in the executive summary below.  What’s most interesting to me is the psychographic—or attitudinal stuff—that the research uncovered.  After all, attitudes drive actions.

These attitudes are important to note for another reason: It speaks to the need/opportunity for broader institutional and, yes, corporate, support for black rock and black alternative music.  There’s still the belief out there that

  1. Black folks are monolithic and;
  2. We can all be reached by using hip hop.

The first supposition has never been true.  As for the second, hip hop, particularly in its commercial form, is easily a shadow of what it could have been.  Moreover, by virtue of its inclination for entertainment over substance, it has abdicated any right to say that it’s representative of black folks.

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