Tag Archives: Communities

America Runs on Diversity: GUAA Winner

Being the child of immigrants colors your experience in the Land of the Free. From navigating between different cultures to confronting whitewashing and racism, teenagers used the ‘Growing Up Asian in America‘ contest to pay tribute to their cultural roots. Read fourth grader Ella Dattamajumdar’s essay, America Runs On Diversity, where she discusses the inextricable relationship between America and its immigrant communities. This essay has been paired with, artwork contest winner, America Is Not Complete Without Us, created by sixth-grader An Ly. 

America runs on Dunkin’ is the punchline of one of my favorite foods, but I say that America runs on Diversity. It takes all sorts to make this world, whether it’s doughnuts, dal, dumplings or daikon! Cuisines of the world bring us together. Not just cuisines but diverse perspectives too. I believe that everybody should have a voice because one word can change the world. Everyone has their own opinion or unique perspective, if famous people didn’t speak up they would have never achieved great things and become who they are today.

For example, if Asian American, Jerry Yang did not put his ideas to action we would never have Yahoo. For my essay I am using Google and Microsoft Word which are headed by Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella. I admire Senator Kamala Harris who was raised by an Indian American mother. They are so many successful Asian Americans who have made America proud. I find Nina Davuluri who is the first Asian American woman to win Miss America very inspiring. At the Miss America contest talent round she performed a Bollywood dance. A lot of people were upset and said hurtful comments when she won Miss America as she looked different compared to the past winners.

I feel that being American is a state of mind, it is based on a common set of values and beliefs and not based on how we look, the color of our skin, what we eat, how we speak or where our grandparents come from. Just look around the Silicon Valley — every time I drive around with my family we are always debating what to eat — Biryani, Pho Soup, Sushi, Pad Thai, Tacos, or Steak. We need all kinds of nutrients to nourish our brains whether it is food or diverse perspectives. I dream of being an Asian American leader who is proud of her heritage and can make America proud because America truly runs on diversity.

Image: The artwork, entitled, America Is Not Complete Without Us, was created by sixth-grader An Ly. 

Essay: American Runs on Diversity was written by fourth-grader Ella Dattamajumdar

Governor Newsom Announces Quarterly “On the Record” Column to Reach Diverse Communities

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a historic media collaboration with California Black Media, Ethnic Media Services, ImpreMedia, Univision, and LGBTQ outlets Bay Area Reporter and the Los Angeles Blade to contribute an original quarterly column on timely public policy issues impacting Californians across the state. The quarterly “On the Record with Gavin Newsom” column will be translated into at least six languages and distributed quarterly starting in December. Each column will be posted for public access on the Governor’s website and published online or in print in the over 50 participating media outlets. Any media outlet is welcome to pull the column from the Governor’s website to publish in their outlet.

“California is proud to be the most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy,” said Governor Newsom. “All Californians deserve to know that their government is working for them, especially in rural and Inland communities that have long felt that they do not truly have a voice in Sacramento. We look forward to collaborating with our media partners—and inviting others who might be interested in partnering—to bring our California for All message to communities across our state.”

This announcement builds on Governor Newsom’s commitment to working with community, ethnic and diverse media outlets. Throughout his first year in office, the Governor and his senior staff have participated in several telebriefing media calls and meetings on a host of issues ranging from the death penalty to public charge to the 2020 Census.

“The idea for the column grew out of a two year effort by representatives of Black, Latino, Asian and Native media to educate state legislators and decision makers about the sector’s role and to forge a multi-ethnic media advocacy voice,” said Sandy Close who directs Ethnic Media Services, a nonprofit media consulting organization.

Regina Brown Wilson, director of California Black Media, says the column “couldn’t come at a more critical time. In this information era dominated by high tech platforms, Governor Newsom is sending an important signal that government needs high touch communicators embedded in and trusted by their local communities.”

Gabriel Lerner, veteran editor of ImpreMedia’s La Opinion, underscored the need for consistent outreach by the Governor as an antidote to the growing fear and distrust of government among immigrant audiences in the wake of Trump administration anti-immigrant measures. “Every new announcement from the White House creates a relentless campaign of terror. The column is one small but important counter-voice that all immigrants need to hear,” Lerner said.

“Establishing a direct and consistent way of communication with the people of California is essential to have an informed, engaged, and prosperous community,” said Marco Flores, Vice President of News for Univision Los Angeles.

Francis Espiritu, longtime publisher of Philippine News Today, a national Filipino news outlet headquartered in the Bay Area, was one of numerous Asian media leaders who joined the collaborative effort. He says he is eager to run the column to inform audiences about the Governor’s policy objectives and to reassure them that “the state has our back.”

Native media are also a key part of the collaboration. Joe Orozco, who directs the Hoopa reservation based KIDE radio in northern Eureka, says the isolation and diversity of tribal lands makes communications an even greater challenge. He hopes the column represents an effort to make communication two-way. “We want to tell our story as well,” said Orozco.

The partnership includes the LGBTQ publications Bay Area Reporter and Los Angeles Blade.

“The Bay Area Reporter looks forward to the quarterly columns by Governor Gavin Newsom. As one of the oldest LGBT newspapers in the country, we think our readers will enjoy learning about issues the governor writes about. California is in a state of constant change, and we believe our readers will be interested to hear directly from San Francisco’s former mayor through his columns on how he plans to address myriad issues statewide,” said Cynthia Laird, News Editor with the Bay Area Reporter.


Save 2020 Census

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services. 

The best response to White House efforts to disenfranchise ethnic communities is for them to stand up and be counted in the upcoming 2020 census, a wide spectrum of experts and civil rights advocates agrees.

It’s a simple strategy to counteract myriad steps the Trump administration has taken to subvert an accurate count of everybody in the country – a count mandated by the constitution every 10 years through the decennial census.

“This is one of the most significant civil rights issues facing us today,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a media telebriefing on April 5 hosted by major civil rights groups.

Data from the decennial count determine everything from how many congressional representatives a state gets to how much money the government allocates for schools, hospitals and transportation needs – and much more.

“Communities of color are at risk of being undercounted and left behind,” Gupta said. “The stakes are too high to remain on the sidelines.”

Cuts in funding have already disrupted efforts to improve the accuracy of the data collection.  As things stand now, Gupta said, the agency will face a shortfall of $933.5 million from what it needs to keep 2020 preparations on track.

Amplifying concerns, on March 26  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition of a new question about respondent’s citizenship status, despite opposition from six former Census Bureau officials, two former Commerce Secretaries and experts in the field.

The timing of Ross’ proposed question is unprecedented. It comes too late to allow the Census Bureau to conduct the careful testing it typically performs prior to making such significant changes.

“We know that adding this question on citizenship status will cause participation in the census to plummet,” Gupta said.  She called the decision “deeply flawed…a failure of leadership and a capitulation to President Trump’s nativist agenda.”

“This is a tactic to scare people away from participation in the census,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund.  “The purpose is very clear: the administration does not want Latinos to be counted.”

Vargas noted that Latinos, at almost 58 million, are the nation’s second largest population group – almost 18 percent of the total population.

“Already we had expressed our concerns about what an online census would mean to the ability of all people to be counted,” he said, referring to the 2020 census’ reliance on digital participation.  Most at risk for an undercount are very young children. In 2010, an estimated 1 million very young children went uncounted, of whom 400,000 were Latino.

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, called the changes “a thinly veiled, back-door effort to suppress” the representation of non-white Americans in official consideration.  “The prospect of an epic undercount of African Americans and all people of color in the 2020 Census is becoming more of a reality each day.”

The African American community has always been undercounted, Morial noted, starting with the 1790 Census when slaves were considered three-fifths of a person.  In 2010, African Americans were undercounted by more than 2 percent, and African American children by 6.5 percent. By contrast, whites were overcounted – by 1 percent in 2000 and again by 1 percent in 2010.

Morial also noted that last month’s decision to continue what he called a “prison based gerrymandering” policy – counting prisoners where they are incarcerated rather than where they come from – will further ensure a geographic miscount.

“I have no doubt that had it been left to Census Bureau professionals, that decision would have been reversed. But when the administration came in, politics prevailed.”

John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, pointed out that decisions to cut the number of census workers and offices by 50 percent will undermine outreach to the very communities the census has struggled to reach in the past, and trim the followup efforts to reach those who don’t respond to the initial survey.

Asian Americans were identified by the 2010 census as the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation, increasing by 46 percent since 2000, Yang said.  Some 80 percent of Asian Americans either immigrants or children of immigrants, putting them at high risk for an undercount.

Pointing to widespread fears among immigrant communities of exposing vulnerable family information, Yang emphasized that the Census bureau has the most stringent confidentiality rules of any government agency.  Even that, he warned, may not be enough to ensure participation in today’s charged political climate. Responding to a reporter’s question, he agreed that the confidentiality protocols were adopted following revelations that the census during World War II helped identify Japanese Americans for internment.

“How do we explain that the best way to fight back, the best way to have a voice in policy discourse, is to be counted,” NALEO’s Vargas challenged.  Noting that “there is a great amount of fear in Latino communities and in immigrant communities across the country,” Vargas said the advocates’ task now is to turn that fear into empowerment.   “We will not cower in fear and not be counted…we will be the ones to defend American democracy.”

“The fight to save the census is not over, by any stretch,” Gupta said. She cited lawsuits already filed by the state of California against Ross’ proposed citizenship question, another by a group of states led by New York, and efforts by the Conference of for oversight hearings followed by legislation in Congress.

“Together we can make sure the Census is fully funded and the decision to add the question on citizenship is overturned,” she said.

 Mark Hedin is a reporter with the San Francisco Study Center


Immigrant Rights Activists See Turning Point For All Americans

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

Warning that the country is heading down a white nationalist, nativist path, four immigrant rights advocates issued a call to action just hours before the U.S. Senate rejected all four proposals to change U.S. immigration policy, and a second federal court found the president’s “Muslim ban” unconstitutional.

The advocates spoke at a national telebriefing for ethnic media sponsored by Ready California, a collaborative cross-sector effort led by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

“We’ve all learned to expect the unexpected,” said Sameera Hafiz, an attorney and senior policy strategist for the ILRC in Washington, DC.  “The reason we’re here is because of Trump’s decision in September to rescind the DACA program and throw the lives of close to 800,000 young people into chaos and uncertainty.

“But while the Senate was ostensibly debating the future of the DACA program,” Hafiz argued,  “the reality is that any (proposed) DACA proposals go hand in hand with eliminating the diversity visa program, severely curtailing the family immigration program and expansive border enforcement measures – far beyond what we think about when we think about border security.”

“And while we’ve been focused in DC on the legislative side, we’ve been distracted from what the administration is already doing.” Hafiz cited attacks on jurisdictions with sanctuary policies and other enforcement actions against Dreamers, mothers and activists.

Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), agreed that what is underway is an attack on legal immigration itself which she called “a white nationalist agenda (whereby) certain individuals are not qualified to come into the United States based on their country of birth and their religion.”

On average, Salas noted, “our clients being deported from Los Angeles had been in the country more than 25 years. With the crippling of various legal channels like the Central American minors program, the separation of children from parents, the ending of diversity vistas, “the list goes on,” she said –“we’re destroying people’s lives.”

“This is not just about the immigrant community any more. It’s about what kind of country we want and who we are, as Americans.”

Zahra Billoo,  executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a civil rights attorney, hailed the decision by the Fourth Circuit which joined a chorus of courts across the country who have said that the Muslim ban is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, she noted, “Whether you are from Iran or Somalia, it does not matter what your story is, you cannot come to the US.”   Billoo quoted a Georgetown University estimate that 60000 people had been impacted in their efforts to get an education or see their families.

“We’re optimistic,” she said, but cautioned that what’s legal doesn’t always align with what’s moral.  “The court in the past has allowed many unjust things, such as the Japanese internment.”

Adoubou Traore, director of the African Advocacy Network which provides legal counsel for immigrants of the African diaspora, highlighted the dramatic growth of the African immigrant community, from 816,000 in 1980 to more than 4 million in 2016,  Largely faceless and voiceless, this population has borne the brunt of every new restrictive immigration measure, from the Muslim ban to the removal of Temporary Protective Status (TPS).   As immigrants and as Blacks, “we are the only group that has been named racially, and coming from countries that have been named in ways that I don’t even want to repeat, but we all heard it.”

Asked about the future of the immigrant rights movement, Salas noted the “tremendous mobilization by immigrant youth and this will only increase as people mobilize around the March 5 Congressional deadline for a solution on DACA.  

“But this is a call to the broader immigrant community and Americans in general,” Salas emphasized.

“We need to stand up not just to be in solidarity with immigrants and refugees, and our brothers and sisters from the Muslim community. We need to stand up as Americans, as a country saying this is not who we are or what our values are.  I think this is what’s missing.”