Last week, the White House issued a report on wireless broadband that should be required reading for anyone concerned about long-term prosperity. It begins noting that “the evidence is clear that the wireless industry is an important source of investment and employment.”
But then it lays down the warning: Without new airwaves to handle our surging wireless needs, this growth is threatened.
Look at the impact: The White House itself estimated two years ago that every dollar invested in wireless deployment can result in as much as $7 to $10 higher GDP.
That’s the crucial backdrop for legislation that President Obama recently signed calling for the first auction of wireless spectrum since 2008. It’s also why these auctions must take place quickly with minimal government regulation.
We don’t want a repeat of the last time the Federal Communications Commission hosted a wireless auction. In 2008, the FCC insisted on imposing onerous conditions on a major portion of the spectrum.
The result was as easy to see as it was depressing. Corporate bidders stayed away and taxpayers lost billions of dollars in lost revenue to the government.
The growth of Americans’ wireless usage in recent years has been stunning. Four years ago, our most popular mobile phone was the Motorola Razr. Today, smartphones dominate and that has spurred huge growth for the US software industry.
Mobile app growth probably won’t revitalize shuttered textile mills or furniture factories, but the U.S. does have a global advantage in areas such as software development. The impact on the software industry is obvious. Beyond that, our wireless growth also sustains jobs in finance, marketing, advertising and many other areas associated with the wireless industry.
However, this opportunity for growth is hampered by an acute spectrum shortage. Our current airwaves are reaching a saturation point. Tens of millions of new smartphone and tablet users stream music, download videos, play games and do all sorts of other great things over the mobile web. Pretty soon, all this data will overwhelm the available wireless spectrum. That’s why Congress and the Administration must move quickly.
They need to agree on a clean set of auctions rules that let all qualified bidders make offers. Further, they need to resist the temptation to place regulations on any auction, as these would only create delay, uncertainty and less revenue for the U.S. Treasury.
We need all the stimulus we can get. Having the federal government move faster on wireless auctions is a good place to start.
National Executive Director
Seabrook is a small town in a farming district of southern New Jersey. Near the end of World War II, Charles F. Seabrook and his sons ran a frozen food business with 20,000 acres under cultivation, and they faced a labor shortage because of the war. To find workers, they recruited people from the camps along with other displaced persons to become crop pickers and workers for their food processing plants. In 1944 and 1945, about 2,500 people of Japanese descend had migrated to Seabrook. Thus, the birth of the JACL Seabrook Chapter.
The Seabrook Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) continues its rich heritage by holding an annual Keirokai event, which they have been doing for over sixty years. The dinner is held to honor the Japanese Americans in the area who are 65 years and older. The oldest male at this year’s event was Mr. Hank Furushima, and the oldest female was Mrs. Mitsuko Omura. They take a group photo of the attendees each year and have photos going back to the late 1940’s.
The Japanese Americans in Seabrook adapted well to the surrounding culture and area while maintaining their traditions and heritage. A museum begun by Japanese American residents in 1994, the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, helps preserve their identity and provides a platform for telling the Japanese American story. The museum is staffed by volunteers and has been directed by John Fuyuume, who grew up in Pasadena, California, where his parents grew vegetables and owned a family grocery store. His family was incarcerated in 1942 at Gila River, Arizona, where they stayed until relocating to Seabrook in 1944.
Fuyuume with his wife Setsuko, whose family also lived in Seabrook, moved to Philadelphia from Seabrook a few years ago to a retirement area where they joined Setsuko’s sisters and brother in law, Eiko and Bunji Ikeda, Chizujo Sakata, and Miyoko Wong. They all attended the Keirokai event.
Floyd Mori, National Executive Director of the JACL, and his wife Irene were attending a JACL Eastern District Council meeting at Medford Leas, New Jersey, when John Fuyuume, who is a former Seabrook Chapter President, mentioned that the Seabrook Chapter would hold their Keirokai later that day. Fuyuume was representing Seabrook Chapter since the chapter co-presidents, Sharon Yoshida and Lenore Wurtzel, were busy preparing for the event of which Linda Ono was chair. Floyd and Irene Mori attended the Keirokai where they talked with former residents of the Poston, Gila River, and Topaz camps who had made those homes in Seabrook after the war.
The Keirokai is held at the Seabrook Buddhist Temple, which was founded in 1945. Entertainment was provided by the Minyo (folk) Dancers and the Hoh Daiko Drummers taiko group. The Minyo dance group began in 1975 under the direction of Sunkie Oye. They were formed as part of a cultural presentation by members of the Seabrook Japanese American community at the 1975 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. The taiko group in Seabrook began in 1991.
Door prizes and favors were provided by the Seabrook JACL chapter board and members as well as local merchants. All the attendees received gifts and had a good time, ending the event with Bingo.
By Alexa Wong, JACL intern
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plans to build Park51, a combined mosque and community center, became the focus of much debate this past summer as many objected to its location two blocks from “Ground Zero.” Sponsored by the nonprofit organization Cordoba Initiative and modeled after Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y, Park51 would encourage “interfaith dialogue” and include a 9/11 memorial and contemplation area. On August 3, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the proposed site of Park51 as fit for construction. Still, controversy has endured – particularly visible in anti‐mosque protests and politicians aiming for support. Those who support Park51 stress the importance of adherence to constitutional ideals, while critics of the center argue that its location is the largest problem. It is evident that the American public possesses significantly differing interpretations of 9/11, Islam, freedom of religion, Muslim Americans and, ultimately, what it means to live in the United States of America.
A common claim made by critics is that the memory of 9/11 still remains an open wound for the U.S., that Ground Zero is a “sacred” site, and that the Cordoba Initiative’s choice of location is insensitive. Among those against Park51 are Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and the Anti‐Defamation League. In a poll conducted by CNN, 68 percent of adult Americans oppose Park51. Voters who were white, over 50 years old, and from rural areas were most likely to vote against the center’s construction. But at the same time, votes transcended other demographics: men and women alike of varying social strata and education levels across the nation oppose the center more than they favor it. For many Americans, Park51’s construction is too soon for families of 9/11 victims and brings unnecessary hurt. Thus, Cordoba Initiative’s plans become an issue of whether sensitivity takes precedence over legal rights. With construction at the site approved and Obama’s declaration of Imam Rauf’s rights to build, critics resort to questioning the legitimacy of Cordoba Initiative and Rauf’s motives.
Another argument made by those opposed to Park51 is that Islamic extremism is something to be feared even in American communities. Al‐Qaeda terrorist Anwar al‐Awlaki, formerly a prayer leader at the Dar al‐Hijrah Islamic Center and mosque in Virginia, reportedly inspired at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. The King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles has been associated with 9/11 terrorists, and Masjid Taiba in Hamburg was recently banned by German
authorities for its links to 9/11 (National Review). At a Muslim‐ American convention in Chicago this past December, several speakers expressed “frankly anti‐Semitic” views. Organizers of the event report that they did not plan for such declarations of hate and will not ask the speakers to return; yet, says columnist Cathy Young, Islam – as is the case with other religions – harbors a number of radical followers who cannot be ignored (Real Clear Politics). Add this to the fact that the nation remembers that nearly 3,000 people of all cultural backgrounds perished on 9/11 because of Islamic extremists, and it is not difficult to understand why people might feel uncomfortable with a mosque and community
center two blocks from Ground Zero. While they might concede the right of Muslims to practice Islam, and while they might not intend to be intolerant, some cannot help but see Park51 as a symbol of Muslim supremacy and as an offensive political statement.
But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, numerous Jewish groups, 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and others all have several reasons for backing Park51. Imam Rauf has pitched the idea of an Islamic center for more than a decade because Masjid al‐Farah, a mosque at which Rauf was an imam for nearly 30 years, regularly experiences an overflow of people who sought a place for prayer. Similarly, Masjid Manhattan, located four blocks from Ground Zero, often turns congregants away due to a lack of space. What’s more, the Pentagon, also struck by 9/11 attacks, opened an interfaith chapel in 2002 where Muslims gather Monday through Friday, “drawing no complaints” (Newsvine). Why should we treat Park51 any differently? In fact, Imam Rauf hopes that Park51’s location – where a piece of wreckage fell through the roof on 9/11 and where Muslims have already prayed throughout the past year – will serve as a “potent symbol to counter religious extremism” (New York Times). Rauf practices moderate Islam and his Masjid al‐Farah is considered one of the most progressive mosques in the city. This, says journalist Fareed Zakaria, is what we need: “Victory in the war on terror will be won when a moderate, mainstream version of Islam…fully triumphs over the world view of Osama bin Laden” (Newsweek). To reject the construction of Park51 is to sustain anti‐Muslim sentiment around the country and send the message to Islamic extremists that the U.S. neither defends nor practices the freedoms it preaches and believes in – the very rights terrorists sought to attack in 9/11.
What concerns me to a greater degree is the number of people who forget the Constitution’s emphasis on granting freedoms and rights for all. A Siena College poll reports that among those who oppose the mosque, only half agree that Cordoba Initiative possesses the constitutional right to build it (Yahoo! News). Amidst these poll results, protests over Park51, and the case of the taxi driver in New York City who was stabbed recently for being Muslim, I observe a rather disturbing trend. Muslim‐Americans are increasingly viewed as “unwelcome strangers” in their own country. How many more times will people in America alienate ethnicities that are not among the majority? The makeup of our country will never be static – and I believe that a deep discomfort with that fact is what drives a fair number of people to oppose the constitutionality of Park51 and commit hate crimes. The media is at least partly responsible for this fueling of anti‐Muslim sentiment. Besides coining the misleading term “Ground Zero Mosque” – and besides overreporting the controversy for weeks to the point of international coverage – mass media has separated “Ground Zero” from New York City and crafted it into a symbol of terror on American soil. We must realize that it is wrong and deplorable that when many people think of Park51, an image of 9/11 terrorists comes to mind. Peace between nations and the end of prejudice do not begin with prejudice, and they do not begin with negative coverage of groups by the media. It is up to us to not be swayed by media biases and instead take charge of how we act and perceive others in our own communities.
In April 1944, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia strongly protested the establishment of New York City’s first hostel for Japanese‐American evacuees approved by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Located a mile from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the New York Japanese American Hostel was feared to “turn [Japanese‐Americans] loose” on the city (New York Times). Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the ACLU, and numerous Christian groups advocated for detained Nisei and their families, and the hostel opened the following month. Work in hotels and other organizations began to open up for Japanese Americans and by the end of the war, the WRA helped roughly 2,000 citizens who were removed from their West Coast homes relocate to New York City. In the face of war, it is too easy to let discrimination take over and place the blame on others who are in no way responsible. The protests over the hostel and Park51 are such instances. Regretfully, regardless of whether Cordoba Initiative proceeds with construction and regardless of how near or far it is from “Ground Zero,” prejudice against Muslim‐Americans has no definite ending. But
if our nation believes we can do better, we must begin by no longer reinterpreting our emotions over 9/11 and, instead, start defining what we want to see in the future for our country.
In responding to the recent murder of an elderly Vietnamese man in St. Louis, Missouri, the national JACL pointed out the possibility that the victim may have been targeted because of his race.
On April 18, Hoang Nguyen and his wife were approached by four individuals, when, according to court documents, it is alleged that Elex Levell Murphy punched Mr. Nguyen in the head, causing him to fall and strike his head on the pavement, when a second male suspect began kicking Mr. Nguyen in the body, fracturing his ribs. Court documents further state that Murphy then hit Mrs. Nguyen in the eye, fracturing her socket. Murphy was charged with murder and the remaining suspects remain at large. Murphy characterized the incident as a “Knock Out” game, which involves unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders.
In a letter to Daniel Isom, the St. Louis police chief, JACL Midwest Director Bill Yoshino raised the concern that the Nguyens may have been singled out because of their race or national origin where hate crime charges would also apply. Yoshino said, “Oftentimes, Asian Americans are seen as vulnerable because they are perceived in a stereotypic manner to be unaggressive and non-threatening.” A request was made to broaden the investigation to include the racial motive.
On May 2, Isom responded that the department is taking the situation seriously and aggressively investigating every lead. As to the hate motivation, Isom stated, “we are confident this was a random act of violence on an older couple walking alone in an alley where they were vulnerable” pointing out that similar incidents of this nature have taken place in other parts of the city and outlying areas.
As a result of this crime, Yoshino has also been in contact with Karen Aroesty from the St. Louis Anti-Defamation League who invited the St. Louis JACL to become a member of their U.S. Attorneys Hate Crimes Task Force. Yoshino also had a phone conversation with Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP to discuss concerns related to inter-group tensions arising from the incident. Finally, Yoshino also spoke with Rita Valenciano with the Community Relations unit of the Department of Justice in Kansas City who wanted to meet with representatives of the Asian American community in St. Louis.
Tags: API, Asian, Asian American, Awards, Chinese, College, Freshman, JA, JACL, Japan, Japanese, Japanese American, Japantown, Korean, Little Tokyo, OCA, Scholarships, Student Aid, Students, Tuition, Youth
JACL National is kicking off its Scholarship Program for the 2011 academic year. At the national level, JACL offers over 30 awards, with an annual total of over $60,000 in scholarships.
JACL Membership, which is required for applications, is open to anyone of any ethnic group. Membership dues can be paid online or with the application.
The 2011 National JACL Scholarship Program informational brochure and applications are posted on the JACL website at: http://bit.ly/JACL_Scholarships
Awards are available in the following categories: Freshman, Undergraduate, Graduate, Law, Creative & Performing Arts, and Financial Aid.
Freshman Applications are to be submitted to the applicant’s local JACL Chapter by March 1, 2011. The chapters shall then review the applications and forward the “outstanding” ones to National by April 1, 2011.
All other National JACL Scholarship applications
The deadline for these applications is April 1, 2011. These are to be sent directly by the applicants to: National JACL Scholarship Program, c/o Portland JACL, P.O. Box 86310, Portland, OR 97286.
For additional information regarding the JACL National Scholarship Program, please contact Patty Wada at (415) 345-1075 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By John Ota
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Chevron Corporation’s multi-million dollar “Human Energy” advertising campaign touts how much Chevron values people. Chevron’s website promotes the “Chevron Way” – the company’s commitment to complying with the law and placing “the highest priority on the health and safety of our workforce.
The reality for John Suzuki, who worked at Chevron for over 35 years, was much different. An award-winning patent liaison in Chevron’s Law Department in Richmond, CA, Suzuki was forced to take early retirement this month rather than risk his health by returning to work under a supervisor who harassed and threatened him, and called him a “stupid Jap.”
Suzuki wanted to continue working at Chevron, but the company refused his doctors’ directives that he must be moved to a different department or else he would be at high risk of having a heart attack.
“Stupid Jap” Slur
The doctors had diagnosed Suzuki as being at high risk of another heart attack after he had at least two episodes of severe chest pains following incidents in which his supervisor, Alan Klaassen harassed him by yelling at him, making false accusations and threatening him.
After one such incident in January 2008, Suzuki went to his doctor, who told him that he had to reduce his workload or else he might have a heart attack. When Suzuki told Klaassen and a manager, Frank Turner, what his doctor said, Klaassen and Turner laughed at Suzuki.
Things came to a head in August 2009 when Klaassen again yelled at Suzuki, waved his fist in his face, threatened him and falsely blamed him for problems in the work. Klaassen also called Suzuki a “stupid Jap.”
Use of racial slurs by supervisors on the job violates federal and state anti-discrimination laws and laws prohibiting hostile and abusive work environments. As one federal appeals court noted in 1993, “Perhaps no single act can more quickly ‘alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment’ . . . than the use of an [unambiguous] racial epithet . . . by a supervisor….”
Following the August 2009 incident, Suzuki again suffered severe chest pains. His doctors put him on medical leave and have been treating him since then. They told Chevron that he could return to work only when he was taken out of his hostile work environment and moved to a different department.
Chevron categorically refused to consider moving Suzuki to a different department. If Suzuki did not return to his department and his supervisor Klaassen, he faced termination, Chevron told him.
Suzuki got an attorney, John Ota of Alameda, CA, who pointed out to Chevron that under California law, the company must separate Suzuki from Klaassen, at the very least until Chevron did a fair and thorough investigation of Suzuki’s charges that Klaassen had insulted him with a racial epithet and otherwise created a hostile work environment.
Investigation or Cover-up?
Demanding that Suzuki return to work under Klaassen before Chevron had even investigated the matter assumed that Klaassen would be cleared, Ota noted, an indication that Chevron had no intention of conducting a fair and objective investigation as required by law.
Chevron refused to budge. Faced with termination and the possible resulting loss of his retirement benefits, Suzuki reluctantly chose early retirement on February 1.
Meanwhile, Japanese American and Asian American organizations, disturbed about Suzuki’s situation, began contacting Chevron to express their concerns.
Richard Konda, Executive Director of Asian Law Alliance in San Jose wrote Chevron on January 12, stating that it was “highly inappropriate and insensitive” for Chevron to demand that Suzuki return to work under Klaassen before completing its investigation.
Patty Wada, Regional Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District, said in a January 22 letter that she was appalled to hear that Suzuki had been subjected to racial slurs by his supervisor.
Under pressure, Chevron hired an outside Japanese American attorney, Susan Kumagai, to investigate Suzuki’s charges. On her website, Kumagai describes herself as a specialist in “representing management” against discrimination charges.
Suzuki asked Kumagai and Chevron how many such investigations Kumagai had done in the past and in how many of those investigations, if any, she had concluded that a hostile work environment existed. Neither Kumagai nor Chevron responded to these questions.
Not surprisingly, Kumagai conducted a quick investigation and concluded that none of Suzuki’s charges could be substantiated. Chevron informed Suzuki of these results on February 16, but refused to provide him with a copy of Kumagai’s report.
In her hasty effort, Kumagai failed to even talk to some witnesses Suzuki said could confirm that he told them about Klaassen’s racial slur soon after it happened. Because in this, as in many other harassment cases, there were no witnesses to the actual harassment, such corroborating witnesses are often crucial to verifying the victim’s account of what happened.
The failure to interview corroborating witnesses, hiring as the investigator an attorney who defends management for a living, and Chevron’s refusal to provide Suzuki with a copy of the investigation report – these are all “signs pointing to a cover-up,” not a fair and objective investigation, says Ota.
Letter Writing Efforts
Suzuki is continuing to ask organizations to write Chevron on his behalf. What is important to him, he says, is “the principle of the matter – racial remarks like this cannot be tolerated.”
The points he wants organizations to make in their letters to Chevron are first, that Chevron conduct a fair and thorough investigation of his charges, an investigation by someone who has a history of doing evenhanded investigations, not by a management defense attorney.
Second, Suzuki wants Chevron to provide him with Kumagai’s investigation report, and also to provide the report when a fair and thorough investigation is completed.
Last, Suzuki asks that Chevron fire Klaassen if it finds that Klaassen did call Suzuki a “stupid Jap” and that Suzuki be allowed to return to work at Chevron in a different department.
Leaders of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR) in Los Angeles wrote to Chevron on February 10. Paul Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Northern California sent Chevron a letter on February 19.
Other organizations in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco have also agreed to write to Chevron.
Those interested in contacting Chevron should write to: John S. Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Chevron Corp., 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA 94583.
By JACL Press Office
When Floyd Mori, National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), met David Sakai at a function, Floyd was interested in David’s printing business because the JACL had some printing needs. Floyd also invited David to join the JACL and provided a membership application.
David, of Bowie, Maryland, and his son in law, Paul Kaup, Senior Account Executive for the company of which David is owner, President, and CEO, came to the JACL office to discuss printing. At the end of the meeting, David asked for more explanation of the various membership categories of the JACL and promptly joined the JACL Millennium Club. A third generation Japanese American from Connecticut, David said he has not had a lot of interaction with other Japanese Americans in the past besides relatives and he wanted to get involved with the JACL.
A champion table tennis player who continues to play and compete even in his sixties, David has played table tennis competitively for over forty years. He won at the 1964 U.S. Open and became the #2 U.S. Junior at the U.S. Open in 1965. He says he has competed in every U.S. Open and National Table Tennis Championship in the last 36 years, and stated: “I’ve lost more matches than anyone in history and probably won more matches than anyone as well.” He was inducted into the U.S.A. Table Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004.
David was Vice-President of a newly formed Players Association and was among a number of players who boycotted and picketed the 1976 Philadelphia U.S. Open tournament. Their point was to emphasize that there had to be a start at professional players playing for substantial sums of money in order for the sport to grow. Six months later much more prize money was offered to the players. David has been Sponsorship Agent for the United States Table Tennis Association (USTTA) and has been the USTTA Coaching Committee Chair.
In 1981 David began working for Moore Business Forms and became an award-winning salesman. He continued with his table tennis and captained a U.S.A. Men’s Team at the 1982 U.S. Open. He started his own printing business and became a successful businessman, but he kept up with his table tennis.
David and his wife Donna met through table tennis. They won the mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open in 1977. They eventually married and have stopped playing competitively together. David continues to practice almost everyday to stay in top form and competes in approximately 35 tournaments each year. Donna was inducted before David into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, where they also have a home.
The Committee of 100 national, non-partisan, non-profit membership organizations composed of American citizens of Chinese descent, released important findings on Monday, revealing substantive perception disparities between the general population and Chinese Americans. See the press release, fact sheet, and full report here
The survey had four key conclusions:
- The general population really does not know that much about Asian Americans, let alone ethnic-specific groups (i.e., a substantial majority of the general population believes that there are far more Asians in the United States than in reality).
- A lack of education and cultural exposure is a key underlying factor for prejudicial views.
- More interactions with diverse communities improve public attitudes (i.e., more than a quarter of the general population report they never or rarely interact with Asian Americans).
- Negative attitudes toward Asian Americans correlate with negative attitudes toward other racial groups such as African Americans and Hispanic Americans.
So what does this mean? What do we do? Well, as much as these findings are alarming and saddening, the Committee of 100 Survey left me with some action items to share with you.
First, what do you do when there is a lack of knowledge? You bring the knowledge. As the population continues to grow, policymakers and the general population need to increase their awareness to make good decisions that affect all Americans. How can we help increase their knowledge? Participate in the 2010 Census so that there is an accurate count of Asian Americans. Fight for Asian American Studies courses on your campus. Host Asian Pacific American Heritage month activities with your organizations. Post accurate information about Asian Americans on your Web site. Correct inaccurate representations and respond to clearly ignorant incidences. There are many active things we can do to ensure that accurate information about Asian Americans is out there.
Second, put your best foot forward. With more than a quarter of the general population reporting that they never or rarely interact with Asian Americans, Asian Americans need to increase their visibility through participating in local activities, increasing philanthropy, and enhancing their voices in government. However, increasing visibility isn’t just putting any foot forward, but your best foot. If the 25 percent of people who never or rarely interact with you, and they see you doing something you shouldn’t be doing, what do you think that they’ll remember? Treat any interaction with respect and don’t burn any bridges. It only takes one bad experience to set a lifetime of expectations.
Last, and probably one of the most important and least recognized tip, bridge minority communities. “Power in numbers” or “the more the merrier,” whichever idiom you pick, remember the survey showed that negative attitudes toward Asian Americans correlate with negative attitudes toward other racial groups. Other findings in the survey showed that more prejudiced respondents are also less tolerant of gay marriage, free speech, and equal rights. So, remember that fight towards equity isn’t just one group’s fight. Band together and stay together.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
By Mai Suzuki, JACL Intern
The cherry trees were presented as a gift from Japan in 1912 and are symbolic of Japanese flowering trees and a lasting friendship between people in the United States and Japan. On Saturday, March 28, 2009, the opening ceremony of the National Cherry Blossom Festival was held at the National Building Museum. This two-week petal party takes place around the Tidal Basin, which is a spectacular sight lined with beautiful cherry trees, and all over town in Washington, D.C. to mark the beginning of the celebration of cherry blossoms and the commencement of spring in Washington, D.C.
Days of student sit-ins and large protests are not long gone but are few and far between. While we often associate fighting for social justice and civil rights with images from the Civil Rights era, images of homemade posters and signs, folks walking hand-in-hand, groups of unarmed civilians faced with billy clubs, tear gas and shields, we are now well into a new era of expression and protest.
Especially with the latest presidential election—where hip-hop artists and spoken-word poets invaded television screens and your personal computers—it is obvious that there are new ways to fight social justice. The mass media has taken on a new turn, where messages are no longer most-effectively delivered through television or radio, but through the Internet.
Take, for example, the “Yes We Can” video released onto Youtube in early 2008. The video has over 1.3 million views and is a conglomeration of different voices found across Hollywood, and likely America. The voices range from that of Will.I.Am, John Legend, and Kate Walsh from “Private Practice;” there’s even a message communicated in American Sign Language.
While music has long been used as a way to move people (think Bob Dylan), spoken word has taken up popularity with shows like Def-Jam and poets utilizing the free World Wide Web to get their art form and message across the globe. Look at Kelly Tsai’s video, “Black White Whatever,” which addresses the necessity of breaking from the usual black-white binary used to discuss race relations in the US.
Or what about the movie “V for Vendetta,” starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, based on the graphic novel? It’s not just a movie where you can see Natalie Portman shave her head, but it’s also a movie that calls upon citizens to evaluate their individual roles in society. Of course, you may have missed that message if you only thought that the movie was simply a movie—nothing more, nothing less.
Our generation is not simply drawn to media that challenges us to think about this, that, and the other related to our status in society and in the world–we demand it. We crave for spoken word poets like Talib Kweli, hip-hop artists like Common, actors and actresses, directors and filmmakers, theatre groups like Second City, to name a few.
Surely performance art is not everyone’s forte, but it does scream the message that you need to find where you fit in, where you can best fight for social justice. Not everyone is able to pick up a microphone and move a nation, but there is something that you are good at that will contribute to the cause.
Into technology? Help non-profits utilize the Internet, Excel, and other programs to become more efficient, effective, and relevant.
Like to cook? Volunteer at a soup kitchen or look for groups like “Cooking with Kids” to give some time to growing minds and tummies.
See yourself being in school forever? Participate in research, look for faculty members that inspire you to use your academics for the betterment of society, and become one of the professors who has that crazy adjunct-tenure position.
Bottom line – there is a place for you. That place is doing what you do best with the purpose of “doing good.” If you are still having trouble, let’s chat.