Battling Trolls, Fears, and Other Things that Make Us Not Want to Talk about Immigration

Step/Flickr CC by 2.0

Step/Flickr CC by 2.0

I’ll be at Yale University on November 11 to give a talk and discussion in American Studies.

It’s been two years since I’ve joined Public Radio International to build digital content and find ways to use social media to make news better. On a macro-level, I’ve grown a large network of people who use Twitter and Facebook to do amazing things. There are people using the medium to share stories about their lives in intensely personal and engaging ways. On a day-to-day level, though, this job has also exposed me to enough hate speech to last a lifetime.

What makes the Internet a space for critical thinking and real debate? How can social networks both isolate and broaden horizons? And what role can (and should) scholars and journalists play in this new media economy? At Yale, I’ll make the case for engaging with trolls on the Internet. If you have any insights or stories about your experience I’d love to hear it.

Posted in United States | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Obama really the ‘Deporter-in-Chief’?

For Prerna Lal, how deportation data is parsed and explained is personal. She was once an undocumented immigrant herself, and for her, the deportation statistics represent people’s lives.

“There’s political motivations behind the numbers game,” says Lal. “We can cut the numbers either way, but the fact remains that the actual number of deportations is 2 million. These are people who are hard-working members of our community — mothers, brothers, members of our family.”…

During the Obama administration, there have been an estimated 2 million deportations, about 400,000 each year from 2009 to 2012. The New York Times, using a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained data that shows that about two-thirds of these cases involved people with minor or no criminal records.

Compare this to data from 1975 through 1996, when the average number of deportations per year was about 30,000, according to Department of Homeland Security data. As new laws were passed that increased the range of deportable offenses, the number of deportations increased to more than 250,000 per year from 1997 through 2012.

Read on at PRI.org.

Posted in United States | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“We have no ‘Tio Warbucks'”

Here’s how many entrepreneurs start their companies: They begin by financing themselves, burning through savings or working for little pay. Then they go to friends and families for small investments to get up and running. Their third and fourth rounds of funding often come from angel investors or venture capitalists.

It’s called boot-strapping and it’s a time-honored tradition for entrepreneurs who attend the mega South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, held every March in Austin, Texas. But Rebecca Gonzales, a marketing and technology entrepreneur in Austin, says this funding model often puts women and minorities at a disadvantage.

“When we get in front of the angel groups, and if we get in front of a VC, we’ve already missed those two rounds of funding and feedback,” Gonzales says. “We have no ‘Tío Warbucks’.”

Read on a Public Radio International.

Posted in United States | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On hiya (shame) and balut (duck embryo)

Much to think about from this interview I had with Filipnia restaurateur Nicole Ponseca. Why do immigrants in the United States feel so strongly about their cuisines?

 

The bar at Jeepney.

The bar at Jeepney, a Filipino gastropub in the East Village of New York City. “Sarap” on the wall means “delicious” in Tagalog. Credit: Noah Fecks/Jeepney

 

One of the most visible ways that cultures mingle in America is through food. So it’s no wonder that when PRI’s The World asked, as part of our Global Nation coverage, why Filipino cuisine hasn’t spread like Thai or Chinese in this country, the reaction was strong.

We heard from Nicole Ponseca, who is on a mission to bring Filipino food to the American masses. She has created two New York City Filipino restaurants: Maharlika and its gastropub cousinJeepney. Both opened in 2012, five blocks apart from each other in New York City’s East Village.

“I’m doubtful that Filipino food will be on every corner, like Chinese or Thai food in New York,” Ponseca says. “But I’m curious about how other chefs will interpret Filipino food, who aren’t Filipino at all.”

Read on at PRI.

Posted in United States | Leave a comment

Are volunteer programs empowering — or exploitative?

Giving time to a cause you believe in can be extremely rewarding. As Demba Kandeh, a volunteer worker in the Gambia, explained, “Volunteering is a beautiful thing.”

But when do volunteer programs empower and when do they exploit? Does building this kind of workforce benefit communities? Would essential services simply not be provided if it weren’t for volunteers, as several people told Amy Costello in her investigation of volunteer health workers in Senegal. With help in part from the Global Voices community of bloggers, we found perspectives from around the globe.

Laura Morris, 28, an editor in Paris, spent five months as a volunteer for a small NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and seven months as a volunteer for an organization that provides care for the elderly in London. Morris says she understood why the Cambodian organization did not pay her — she was the only foreigner there, and they could not have afforded the salary — but she thinks that the London nonprofit simply took advantage of a tough job market and gave her work that should have been performed by a paid employee.

“I volunteered for it, so it was my decision to work with them, but I was also asked to do work that I absolutely should have been paid for, that was much higher than entry-level,” Morris says.

Read and hear more of the discussion, including seven more perspectives, at PRI.org.

Posted in world | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gene Luen Yang on Relying on Stories, Creating Boxers & Saints

It’s not that the concept of Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints is complex: two volumes tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion from two perspectives.

But within this simple structure, Yang’s graphic novels build a compelling story around a war of identity, set 100 years ago in China. It combines mysticism with the very concrete ways that people decide who they are, in this case a leader in a secret fighting society and a Chinese Christian convert. It has the remarkable effect of allowing readers to explore how stories — saints and spirits — can shape physical events — the blood, gore and battles of history.

A book like this, both approachable and profound, could not come at a better moment. When you can imagine China’s history with foreigners this way, it becomes very difficult to oversimplify the mix of views Chinese people might have today about their spectacular entrance onto the world stage.

Read the interview in the Los Angeles Review of Book’s China Blog.

Posted in China | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to Consider When You Are Considering Donating

As part of PRI’s The World’s investigative project Tracking Charity, we recently held an online chat with experts in the realm of giving. Our question: How do you know a good charity when you see it?

It’s not an easy question to answer, particularly when you are focusing on organizations that work in developing countries while securing donations from people in the United States. Here are some takeaways from the chat and a few additional perspectives that might help donors think through where they put their dollars.

Read the Q&A at The World.

Posted in world | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A textured look at modern China

Had the good fortune to talk about Chinese Characters, the book of essays about everyday life in China that I co-edited with Jeff Wasserstrom, with Lisa Napoli on KCRW in Los Angeles. Here’s our chat:

Lisa wrote in the Which Way, LA blog: “There’s lots of news each day from and about China, but it’s rare that any of the broad brushstrokes we read and hear in the news introduce us to real people grappling with real issues.” Couldn’t agree more.

Posted in Asia, China | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Ends Trade Privileges to Bangladesh Following Garment Factory Disasters

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the US will end trade privileges with Bangladesh over concerns for safety and working conditions in factories.

The US will suspend Bangladesh from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which will increase tariffs on certain goods. The move, in response to recent garment factory disasters, will not directly affect the garment industry because they were not eligible for duty cuts under GSP.

The collapse of a Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka on April 24 left over 1,100 people dead. A factory fire in November 2012 killed over 100 people.

Read on at PRI’s The World.

Posted in Asia, Bangladesh, United States | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guerrilla film project changes boundaries of movie-going

A Drive-By Cinema screening (courtesy of the Pacific Arts Movement)

A Drive-By Cinema screening (courtesy of the Pacific Arts Movement)

The cargo in Pacific Arts Movement’s overhauled moving truck is a motley assortment: In front, a Wi-Fi hotspot, charger, chemical compounds and grease remover, a pack of cigarettes and DVDs. In the back there are three white lab coats, a coffee table and two rugs, a small white parasol, orange safety cones, and a generator (plus a custom-made padded box to muffle the sound of the generator).

Bryce Griffin, who holds the title “Electronics Wizard,” drinks a can of Monster before taking the wheel.

“It’s actually really physical and kind of mentally draining. I’m climbing up on the truck and jumping around and it’s crunch time to get everything set up before the time we’re supposed to start,” he said. “And the stress doesn’t really go away once we actually start because at any second everything can turn off I have to get it running again.”

Griffin is part of a small team called Drive-By Cinema. It’s a new initiative of the Pacific Arts Movement, a 12-year-old nonprofit arts organization best known for producing the San Diego Asian Film Festival. The truck is a hollowed out, painted-over U-Haul, tricked out to create cinematic experiences in unlikely places. Screens can go on any side of the truck—including on top where a modified scrap piece of sail becomes a two-sided projection screen so people can see films from either side of the street where the truck is parked.

Read on at Public Radio International.

 

Posted in California | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment