Tag: social justice

January 30, 2013 / / activism

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.”

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

September 23, 2011 / / activism

staring at the computer in anger sucks. what are we going to do about this?
– Joel Reinstein, from Wednesday night’s open thread

By Arturo R. García

If there was one positive to come out of Wednesday night, it was the sight of all the people rallying on behalf of Troy Davis – not just in Georgia, but at the White House and the Supreme Court; in Europe; and online, where it became just a bit suspicious to some that Twitter seemingly did not recognize the #TroyDavis and #occupywallstreet hashtags. (One explanation I read Wednesday evening was, because there actually is a Troy Davis username on the service, it could not be a trending topic. No word yet on #occupywallstreet.)

But, as Joel mentioned above, the question for many going forward is, what now?
Read the Post Open Thread: What To Do Next

September 2, 2011 / / activism
April 7, 2011 / / diversity

by Guest Contributor Hugo Najera, originally published at AmericanPupusa


I am disappointed in the still inconsistent and unfinished definition of the “D” word applied by mainstream spaces and do-gooder change agents. The word is a bad choice to describe the ideal we seek, and the most incomplete to describe the cure my social anger. “Diversity” has been tainted before I got a chance to play for the team, it’s the jersey we wear on the court, and few in the team know this.

This problem came to light when I attended “New Models in Media and Activism” sponsored by Campus Progress. The event was a panel discussion with Amanda Terkel – Senior politics reporter for The Huffington Post, Amy Austin – Publisher for Washington City Paper, Latoya Peterson – Editor of Racialicious.com, and Melinda Wittstock – Founder, CEO, and Bureau Chief of Capitol News Connection about the intersection of women, activism, and social media. The 80+ attendees comprised of about 90% 20-something white females, a sprinkle of Black females, drips of white males, and one Latino Albino (guess). The panel provided good insight, suggestions, and anecdotes on their experiences and contexts, showing a spectrum of voices from Print, Web 1.0, 1.5 to 2.0 media. The event also provided examples of the ineptitude of many change agents to grasp what diversity means in real-world situations. One panelist painfully tried to keep up with the others by saying things like “Well, that’s why women are better at getting along because we communicate better than men, which is why diversity is important” and other lovely words of wisdom. Throughout the event, audience members and moderators mostly framed issues of diversity in simple terms like getting more African Americans and women in the media. A white male student from American University correlated diversity troubles at his school with what was happening in the media, as Black candidates who run for student government president never win, asking “how can we combat that so we can be more diverse?”

Such comments assume that diversity is measured only by the number of Blacks, women, and Latinos in the room, without considering the structural reframing, process, and competencies that can make the term usable. “Diversity” as shorthand for a tally of physical bodies and archetypes is one of the major issues this term faces for validity and understanding. This incomplete definition makes whites feel apart and not responsible, targeted groups into tokens who feel responsible for carrying the burden in get-togethers, and ultimately diminishing collective knowledge. And for those who accompany the word with action, process, and competency, it annoys us when others in the choir don’t sing with the entire range of notes true diversity asks for. Read the Post Elements of Diversity: How Change Agents, Activists, Advocates, and Other Do-Gooders Seem to Not Get It Right After 40 Years of Trying

October 26, 2009 / / asian-american

by Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate

[October 14th] was a very big day for America’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In conjunction with a Diwali celebration, President Obama signed an executive order that reestablished an advisory committee and a White House initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. The advisory committee was first established by President Clinton ten years ago, but was eliminated by President Bush in favour of a committee housed under the Department of Commerce that focused primarily on economic issues within the APIA community, ignoring other issues like healthcare, language and education.

Here is video of President Obama’s speech and the signing of the Executive Order:

What I really loved about the speech that President Obama gave was that it discussed the issues facing the Asian American community in language that really suggested familiarity with ongoing concerns. President Obama referenced the “model minority myth” and talked about high prevalence of specific diseases. These are problems that the APIA community has been dealing with for years, and I feel as if for the first time in a long time, they are finally receiving the national attention that our people merit.

Our AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, but they embody a rich diversity, and a story of striving and success that are uniquely American.

But focusing on all of these achievements doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s part of why we’re here. It’s tempting, given the strengths of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, for us to buy into the myth of the “model minority,” and to overlook the very real challenges that certain Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are facing: from health disparities like higher rates of diabetes and Hepatitis B; to educational disparities that still exist in some communities — high dropout rates, low college enrollment rates; to economic disparities — higher rates of poverty in some communities, and barriers to employment and workplace advancement in others. Read the Post President Obama Signs Executive Order on AAPIs