2011 JACL Scholarships — Get your App in!!

February 18, 2011 at 12:47 am | Posted in Events, Ford Fellow, JACL, JACL Blog, Young Professionals, Youth | Leave a comment
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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
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 ncwnp@jacl.org

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New Ways To Fight For Social Justice

February 21, 2009 at 8:14 am | Posted in Ford Fellow, Youth | Leave a comment

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.

Not Fun and Games

February 5, 2009 at 5:51 am | Posted in Ford Fellow | Leave a comment

Yesterday a photo of teen pop star Miley Cyrus and her friends pulling back their eyes was made public. This photo marks yet another group of individuals who probably didn’t think before they made the gesture–remember the Spanish Basketball Team? Comments left on articles reporting the photo and press releases denouncing such actions, cited similar reasons for why Miley Cyrus and her friends should not be “punished”: they are just kids having fun, doing what everyone else is doing.

On any other subject, I would stay more neutral and ask thought-provoking questions. However, on this subject, I am putting my opinion on the table.

Personally, I’m tired of these reasons. It makes me sick to think that people out there seriously believe that these things are okay.

Fun and games” is not a valid reason to denigrate a group of people for a physical trait over which they do not have control. Being young and thoughtless doesn’t make it okay to participate in such racial gestures. Sure, 16-year-olds do a lot of stupid things: underage drinking, speeding, jumping into freezing lakes and rivers, sitting on rooftops, etc.

Should she apologize? Um, yes!

She’s a public figure, a role model of sorts. If her fans see her participate in this behavior, they may think it is okay for them to do it. OR if her Asian American fans see this, they’ll feel like they stick out, like they don’t belong. Does anyone remember the controversy over her scandalous photos last year? How many parents were mad at that? She’s just being a kid, right? YES, there are 16-year-olds that you and I know who take stupid pictures like that and often, they get reprimanded for it. Why should Miley Cyrus be any exception? If anything, she should feel more responsibility to uphold a positive image for young girls.

Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t make it right. Speaking to your common sense, just because everyone else is jumping off a bridge, would you too? What if everyone was smoking pot, would you take a hit? Or beating up a poor kid because of his or her skin color? What about denying admission or aid to a group of people because they are “model minority” or because every other higher education institution is also doing it?

Maybe other people do not understand because they have not experienced it – so let me tell you about my experience. As a child, I remember being harassed by my “fellow” classmates who pulled back their eyes and called “ching, chong, chink” to my face. These experiences hurt – I wished my eyes had a double fold and were not almond-shaped. I wished that I wasn’t Chinese so that no one would make fun of me. Growing up, I never saw any Asian representation in teen magazines and saw, on multiple occasions, random people pulling their eyes back at me. These experiences caused personal identity issues, lower self-esteem and almost a sense of self-hatred. Of course, I don’t think that I am unique in this experience. (Note: Good thing I didn’t see any of the Spice Girls pulling back their eyes…otherwise, who knows where I would be.)

It still makes my blood boil when people blatantly say that whoever is upset needs to “get over it.” To that, I respond: YOU get over it. YOU who have had the privilege to live a life represented by the majority and the popular. YOU who think that minority experiences are invalid because in America we are all Americans. YOU who think that pulling back your eyes is equated to being “stoned.” YOU get over it and see that these experiences are not acceptable – these gestures are not tolerated.

Call to action: I read some comments that basically said “I’m Asian (or part-Asian) and I’m not offended.” Well, great – good for you that you didn’t have to experience such harassment. But speak for yourself and not for the entire group. Realize that individuals in your generation and generations before you have suffered severe consequences from these thoughtless actions. Speak for them that this is not okay, even if it doesn’t personally offend you.

Freedom of Speech? Or Freedom of Some Speech?

January 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow, hate crimes | Leave a comment

Does your campus have a hate crimes policy? Are hate crimes even recognized in your state? If so, do you know what the policy actually entails?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d know that the University of North Carolina System has formed a commission to study and review student codes of conduct as they relate to hate crimes. This commission, consisting of students, faculty, and staff from the 10 UNC campuses, formed after four North Carolina State University (NCSU) students spray-painted racist graffiti on campus the night now-President Barack Obama won the presidential election. The bottom line in the debate is whether or not the school, by law, can punish the students; that is, are the remarks protected as free speech by the First Amendment?

The panel held a public forum in mid-January and heard from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. On January 26, the NAACP said that the UNC system should adopt a policy for hate speech. This policy would define how the UNC system would investigate these incidences, as well as the penalties that would ensue. The commission returns in February and has until March to decide whether or not to adopt a hate speech policy.

It should be simple, right? Not really.

This definitely isn’t the first time that officials, in any profession, have debated about how much speech the First Amendment really protects.

Logically speaking, individuals who make hateful remarks often refer to the First Amendment when they are questioned. Remember the column written by a student at the University of Colorado-Boulder last spring? Or how about that one piece that AsianWeek published over a year ago? While these are clearly press-related, what kinds of standards are in place that governs this type of speech? Should speech always be protected under the First Amendment regardless of content? Or should the First Amendment be amended to protect freedom of certain speech?

At NCSU, the graffiti threatened the life of the then President-elect. This type of language is not just offensive but hostile and frightening. Should this be protected under the First Amendment? What about when someone walks by you and screams “Chinaman/Jap/Gook, go back to your own country?” This isn’t particularly life-threatening, but it still embodies similar ignorance and intolerance.

Take a moment and ponder this debate. What are your thoughts? How would you respond? What are alternatives to attacking this problem? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Intolerance of Religious Symbols

December 20, 2008 at 1:52 am | Posted in Ford Fellow | Leave a comment

N.C Mission Rejects Charity Over Turban ” read the title of a November 21 US news article on cbsnews.com.

Wait…what?

In short, a man and his wife were asked to leave a mission in North Carolina after he refused to remove his turban–which is required by the Sikh faith–before entering the building. They wanted to see where their annual donations were going and decided to visit the mission. The building has a large sign that outlines the mission’s policy regarding headwear. The in-take director and executive director of the facility said that the man became argumentative after being asked to remove his turban; he was then asked to leave.

An Associated Press article posted on December 17 is titled: “GA judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf .”

Hold on…back up.

A Muslim woman who refused to remove her head scarf at a court security checkpoint was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail by a local judge. The judge said she violated a court policy that prohibits people from wearing headgear in court. The woman was freed unexpectedly following the involvement of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

You haven’t heard anything yet: “Sikh family accuses deputies of abuse, taunts ” was the title of a December 5 article in the Houston Chronicle.

A Sikh family returns home to find that their house has been robbed. Like any other human being, they called the police, hoping they would document the scene, track down the perpetrator, and receive some piece of mind. Upon arriving at the residence, the deputy became hostile and inquisitive and asked for IDs from the family members. After noticing that one of the family members was carrying a Kirpan, a small ceremonial knife mandated by the Sikh faith, he “freaked out.” The confusion multiplied when the deputy pointed a taser to the woman and started handcuffing other family members, even holding one of them in the back of the sheriff’s car. More deputies arrived, but none investigated the robbery, until a supervisor arrived and ordered the deputies to release the family members.

These incidences are maddening. I remember growing up in school, and wondering why kids were able to miss class because of religious observances when I didn’t have any of my own. I realized that it was part of the community and we should respect that. Reading these articles hints at the intolerance possessed by too many individuals in this society.

In a country that witnesses people getting up early on Sunday mornings and wearing their best outfits to church for the sake of adhering to and respecting their faith; that considers Christmas a national holiday where nearly every establishment is closed; that has Easter sale specials painted on every TV ad and newspaper, you’d think that we would be fine with turbans, head scarves, and ceremonial knives for religions that do not have a national holiday or special deals. Especially with the peak of the holiday season next week, I urge everyone to go beyond tolerance and exercise a higher sense of understanding

TIME OUT!

December 6, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow | Leave a comment

Study after study states that Asian Americans maintain a higher stress level compared to other groups. However, it seems that this holiday season brings stress to everyone. The American Psychological Association (APA) issued a press release Thursday regarding a new poll that found more than 8 out of 10 people anticipate a stressful holiday season. This poll also found that the economic crisis is impacting women and families the most. What were these sources of stress? In order, they were money (82%), the economy (82%), and work (69%).

Women are more likely than men to worry about having enough money to purchase gifts. About a quarter of the respondents are feeling pressure to purchase gifts. In households with children, these stressors are even more likely.

With the economy in shambles, it seems like folks are having a real love-hate relationship with the holidays. But as APA’s executive director for professional practice states, “It is important to put things in perspective and realize that materialism is not the focus of your holiday.” The press release goes onto provide some ideas to prevent stress, such as taking time for yourself, volunteering and creating realistic expectations.

These ideas shouldn’t be practiced just during a straining holiday season, but throughout the year as well. The number-one suggestion was to take time for yourself. I can’t say how many times you hear that from mentors as an undergraduate: take time for yourself. Often, as involved, young adults, we want to be like the Energizer bunny (machines even!) and turn out product after product, and show up at event after event while living, breathing and drinking caffeine.

My question to you is: how can you change the world if you can’t take care of yourself? How can you prioritize other important issues if you don’t prioritize yourself?

Your work is important, but realize that your work can’t be done if you are keeling over in pain from not eating in the last 10 hours or dozing off at the wheel because you haven’t slept in days. Lead by example, practice what you preach, or pick your own cliché to follow. Bottom line, give a gift to yourself this season: time.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

November 27, 2008 at 5:45 am | Posted in Ford Fellow, hate crimes | Leave a comment

While taking one step forward and two steps back, may seem like a great way to enjoy your surroundings, the same cannot be said about the current state of rising hate crimes after President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory. As part of my role as the Ford Fellow, I track hate crimes regularly over the Web. However, it doesn’t take a hate crime fighter like myself to see that hate incidents and crimes have been on the rise. It is ironic that Obama’s victory is seen as a turning point in history, when it occurs against such a horrifying backdrop.

Continue Reading One Step Forward, Two Steps Back…

Love You Long Time?

November 19, 2008 at 11:51 am | Posted in Ford Fellow | Leave a comment

The other day, while perusing AngryAsianMan.com, I found a Web site called yellowfeverclothing.com. I winced at the name of that Web site. Too often do I, as an Asian American woman, hear the terms “yellow fever” or “yellow plague,” signifying a strong sexual obsession or preference for Asian women by an individual who is not Asian or Asian American. (BTW: Yellow fever is actually a severe viral disease that is often fatal.) While it may also signify an obsession with anything “Asian,” such as manga or anime, or an obsession with Asian men, these terms hit home hardest for Asian and Asian American women.

Going with my natural instinct, I decided to enter this Web site with the smallest amount of hope that this Web site was not what I assumed it to be. I was, of course, 100% correct.

This Web site is the home to dozens of grossly overpriced, dehumanizing T-shirts that not only reduce Asian women to an object but profit from stereotypical images and sexual innuendos.

Instantly, mental images and repressed emotions spewed forth into my mind, reminding me of experiences when I was objectified: walking to the local mall and someone screaming, “Me love you long time,” out of a car window; toting groceries home when a truck honks and whistles at me; feeling like I can’t wear a tank top and shorts on a 100-degree day for fear of getting mentally undressed by the individual behind the store counter; taking mail to the post office when a passing individual makes a kissy face at you. How did I react? I didn’t.

Needless to say, it surprises me that people can sleep at night knowing that the bed they sleep on was purchased with profits from products that further strips a group of individuals of their human characteristics and reduces them to sexual objects. These items go on to influence the greater public, which then affects us as individuals.

Continue Reading Love You Long Time?…

For Better or For Worse

November 6, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow, politics | Leave a comment

800px-wedding_ringsHistory was made Tuesday night when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. Whether this represents breaking racial boundaries set by individuals long gone from this earth or if it represents forward movement toward a stronger nation and future, the 2008 Election is one to be remembered.

Despite the positive change in the presidency, some things changed for the worse.

As I scanned the online edition of the Chicago Tribune as part of my morning ritual, I came across the headline “California bans same-sex marriage.” I felt sick. I could only imagine long-time same-sex partners who were happy to be married feeling worse than me.

I remember back in May when same-sex marriage was legalized – all the hype and hope that surrounded the historic event. And now, those same couples who were legally married must face the possibility of having those unions revoked.

What I don’t understand is how something that so many individuals view as sacred can be given and taken away so easily. Some logic and arguments just do not make sense. For example, you have individuals saying that if Prop 8 was not passed, children will learn about gay marriage in school and turn gay. So is that the same if children learn about Asian American issues, they will turn into Asian Americans? Or if children learn about the atrocities committed by the United States, they will also commit their own? OK maybe the last one was a stretch.

Point being: I don’t believe that people who are gay have a choice in who they love.

If given the choice between being able to enjoy the sanctity of marriage and acceptance by your peers, and being condemned by every religious leader under the sun and hiding your love for another, you would choose to be condemned? You would rather spend your life with someone of the “right” gender and hide your true feelings?

If marriage is so sacred, why is the divorce rate so high in the United States? I am deeply saddened and disgusted that our country would rather pass out marriage certificates to individuals who don’t even see themselves with their partners forever than to individuals who have fought battle after battle to be together. Can we honestly say that Britney Spears and her 24-hour marriage to some guy, whose name we have all forgotten, deserved a marriage certificate but a union between George Takei and his long-time partner Brad Altman doesn’t? Please, give me a break.

The importance of rejecting Proposition 8 does not lie in Bible verses or come from the mouths of religious leaders: it stems from the fact that in a country where so much emphasis is placed on the meaning of marriage and the joining of two individuals for life, it is hard to fathom that you will never have that opportunity because of the gender of the one you love.

As someone told me recently, love doesn’t need to make sense. Who are we, as individuals, to say, at the end of the day, who can or can’t do something?

A Word to other APA Youths

November 2, 2008 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow, Youth | Leave a comment

Last Thursday, at approximately 10:35 a.m. after waiting an hour and a half outside of a local library, I participated in my first presidential election through early voting in Chicago. Words to describe how I felt: fantastic, empowered, stoked! It was a great feeling to have after missing the last election because I was simply too young to vote.

But even though I did my civic duty, I’m only part of the larger Asian American political equation.

A recent UCLA study looked at the civic engagement patterns of Asian American college students, since the 1970s. Researchers found that Asian American students are actively participating in public service. Many students volunteer, participate in service learning courses and student government, vote, and demonstrate at the local, state and national levels. For more than three decades, Asian Americans have been developing a stronger, influential role in the political process by running for office, coordinating campaigns and supporting candidates at all levels.

Continue Reading A Word to other APA Youths…

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