Tuesday, February 28, 2017

AAPI transgender activists fight Trump rollback

Janet Mock on her Instagram

OUTSIDE of Caitlyn Jenner, two of the most visible transgender women in the U.S. today are a Hawaii-born journalist and an internationally famous model, who is an immigrant from the Phiilippines.

When the Trump administration rolled back federal mandates for the use of school bathrooms for transgender people, Janet Mock and Geena Rocero had to act. They had to speak out.

Mock's medium was the New York Times where she published an oped stating recalling her experience in school.

"I was a black and Native Hawaiian trans girl from a single-parent home. I was not naïve," Mock wrote. "I knew that struggle was part of my coming of age, so I wore a smile every day as part of my armor. I didn’t want anyone to see that I was in pain, that I felt like I did not belong and that my body, my clothing, my being was wrong.
"When trans students are told that they cannot use public facilities, it doesn’t only block them from the toilet — it also blocks them from public life," wrote Mock, whose mother is Hawaiian. "It tells them with every sneer, every blocked door, that we do not want to see them, that they should go hide and that ultimately they do not belong. When schools become hostile environments, students cannot turn to them. Instead they are pushed out. And without an education, it makes it that much more difficult to find a job, support themselves and survive.

"That is the situation the Trump administration is creating. Despite the culture of fear, ignorance and intolerance that permeates our country right now, I am here to tell each and every student that you belong, and that nothing — absolutely nothing — is wrong with you." 

The day the current administration announced the 180-degree policy shift, Geena Rocero took to the streets and joined the rally Thursday night at New York City's Stonewall Inn, a historically important site in  the gay rights movement

Geena Rocero at theh New York protest.

"I stand here with all of you, as a VERY PROUD Transgender Woman of color, an immigrant born and raised in the Philippines," Rocero said.

"No amount of Hate, No amount of ignorance will diminished our will to honor the beauty, the diversity, the hope of your trans youth.

"In this very moment, in this powerful gathering, in this historic place," she continued. "History has tried to erase us! I asked you to look at each other, recognize the power in our family, because they will NEVER, EVER ERASE the CIVIL RIGHTS that we deserve. LOVE will win! "

Despite Trump's campaign promise to support the rights of the LGBTQ community, the former Olympic athelete Jenner was perhaps the most surprised by the turnaround from the candidate whom she strongly supported in 2016. 

Using this administration's favorite form of communication, Jenner tweeted:

"I have a message for President Trump from well, one Republican to another. This is a disaster. And you can still fix it. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community," she said, holding up her hand like a mock telephone. "Call me."

On Thursday after the policy reversal was signed, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter urging the State Education Department “to issue a directive to all school districts making it clear that – regardless of Washington’s action – the rights and protections that had been extended to all students in New York remain unchanged under state law.

“In New York, whether you are gay, straight or transgender, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people – and we will continue to enforce our laws and stand united against those who seek to drive us apart,” Cuomo said.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that in light of action by the Trump administration to roll back federal guidelines, he has signed an executive order ensuring that the rights of transgender students 
continue uninterrupted.
California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, issued a strident press release on Wednesday vowing that the Golden State will protect the “rights of transgender students.”

“All students deserve a safe and supportive school environment. California will continue to work to provide that environment for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students regardless of any misguided directives by the federal government and the Trump administration,” Torlakson said.

“... California students will continue to have their civil rights protected,” he said. “In California we move forward, not backward.”

“Every child deserves to attend school without fear of discrimination, no matter where they are in the country," said 
Sasha W, Organizing Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. "This a continuation of the administration’s attack on trans people – trans and gender nonconforming people were affected by the Muslim ban, by the escalation of this country’s deportation machine, and by the increase of power in the hands of police. This administration shamelessly continues to enact policies that simply do not work and that make our communities feel more unsafe in this country.”
In the NYTimes, Mock concluded: "I know first hand how utterly vital it is for young people -- for all of us actually -- to be met with nods, applause, and open doors. It’s even more urgent for marginalized students, regardless of their ability, race, class, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation or gender expression and/or identities.

"To young trans folk (and all the people who love them) I just want you to remember that this is your school too. You deserve to be there just as much as any other student. You deserve equal access, affirmation and an education, and you must recognize and I know you know, that you are powerful. You have agency and voice. Use it to organize, combat against ignorance and resist.

"You belong, and nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is wrong with you."
Janet Mock is the author of “Redefining Realness” and the forthcoming book “Surpassing Certainty: What My 20s Taught Me.

Geena Rocero is the founder of Gender Proud, whose work supports transgender communities and their legal rights around the world.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Korean American film maker wins Spirit Award's for best movie

Spa Night stars Joe Seo

“I'M GOING TO BARF,” Andrew Ahn said to laughter after winning an Independent Spirit Award for best film budgeted for under $500,000.

The award is named for John Cassavetes, an actor, screenwriter and director who is considered by many the pioneer of American Independent Film.

A gay Korean/American filmmaker, Ahn won for Spa Night which debuted at Sundance and opened the Asian American International Film Festival in New York.

“This is so meaningful that this award is going to a film about a Korean American immigrant family, about queer Korean/American people,” said Ahn. “Now more than ever its so important that we support stories told by and about communities that are marginalized. That we tell story about immigrants, women, people of color, trans and queer folks.”

The story is centered around a young man who takes a job in a spa to help his struggling parents pay the bills. It is at the spa that David, played by Andrew Seo, explored his gay identity within the context of a conservative Korean/American family.

“Film is such a powerful tool,” said Ahh while clutching his Spirit Award. “Humanizing these communities so we can’t be pushed aside, labeled as other. We are part of this great country. and we are undeniable.”

Spa Night has been honored with numerous awards including best breakout performance for Seo from Sundance and best performance from Outfest. Ahn also won by Outfest for best narrative feature prize.

"I have to thank my parents for understanding that their gay Korean American son is their son," said Ahn.

Vietnamese American State Senator removed from Senate chamber

Sen. Janet Nguyen was speaking before she was escorted out of the California Senate chambers.


CALIFORNIA Sen. Janet Nguyen is being treated as a hero by the GOP after she was removed from the state Senate floor for continuing to criticize the late state Sen. Tom Hayden, reports the Mercury News

Republican Sen. Nguyen spoke during a portion of the session Thursday that was reserved to memorialize victims of the Vietnam War, when she refused to stop criticizing the late lawmaker who died in October for his leadership in the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement.

As Nguyen was giving her speech on Thursday, Majority Leader Bill Monning said she was speaking out of order, when her microphone was shut off. She continued to speak as the presiding Democrat, Sen. Ricardo Lara, repeatedly told her to take her seat, after which he ordered security to remove her. When security began to gently nudge her towards the door, she dodged them and attempted to continue her speech.

“What happened 48 hours ago was as shocking to me as it was for everybody,” Nguyen said Saturday. “I was doing my duty to represent my constituency. If we can’t allow my constituency, a million of them, to be heard, where can that be protected?” 

Nguyen wrote an article for the OC Register defending her right to free speech.

The Vietnamese/American politician now represents some regions of Long Beach and Orange County, which includes Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. Some war refugees blame the U.S. anti-Vietnam War movement for undermining the efforts of U.S. forces in the war and for contributing to North Vietnam’s victory.

Nguyen, the first Vietnamese/American woman elected to the California Legislature, lived in South Vietnam and fled with her family as a child when the North Vietnamese government took over.

According to a written copy of her speech, Nguyen planned to say that Hayden “sided with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family.” Hayden helped organize protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, later becoming a left-leaning legislator and statesman.

Democrats said Nguyen violated rules with her criticism, claiming she could have made those same comments if she had waited and made a motion later during the session. “She got exactly what she wanted, which wasn’t to speak. She wanted to create a scene for her district,” said Dan Reeves, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León. De León said the rules were already explained to Nguyen and her staff prior and that he will be conducting an internal review of the situation.

Some Republicans defended her actions. “I very seldom get enraged, and I am deeply enraged at this moment,” said Republican Minority Leader Jean Fuller, as several of Nguyen’s fellow Republicans claimed she was being unfairly silenced.

The Oscars: More AAPI appearances than expected

Auli'i Carvalho wasn't fazed by one of the flags representing the moving ocean, brushed her hair as she was singing.

SIXTEEN-YEAR OLD Auli'i Cravalho showed how much a pro she is when a banner hit her in the head while singing 
"How Far I'll Go," which was nominated for Best Song for the Academy Awards.

Fortunately, the banner barely grazed her, slightly missing up her hair, but the Hawaiian/American, who provided the voice for Moana in the animated film of the same name, kept on smiling and singing as if nothing happened.

The song didn't win (the award went to "City of Stars" from La La Land) but the teenager's performance and natural good looks was a breath of fresh air in an auditorium full of movie industry big wigs, big names, silicon implants, nose jobs and face lifts. Considering the ovation she received from the audience and the fact it was the first time the world saw her live (not in animated form), that last night, a star was born. I wouldn't be surprised if she shows up onstage in a Lin-Manuel Miranda production.

I loved the "real" look she expressed as she was receiving a standing ovation. It was a combination look of relief and "I-told-you-I-could-do-it."

After Auli'i Cravalho's performance, she gave this look to someone in the audience.

The flag incident wasn't the only goof-up on the show watched by millions across the globe. The biggest mistake occurred at the end of the show.

While naming the winner of the Best Picture, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land. Midway through the thank you speeches, it was announced that there was a mistake. The real winner was Moonlight. The La La Land crew was gracious in handing over their Oscars to the the Moonlight actors, director and producers.

It's a good thing that I wasn't playing the drinking game during the Oscars telecast last night. You know, every time an Asian appeared, drink a shot of scotch. With the number of Asian appearances, I might be so incapacitated that I wouldn't be able to write this post.

Newlyweds Patrick and Eulery were interviewed by emcee Jimmy Kimmel.
Besides Auli'i, there was a surprising number of AAPI folks representing during the show than expected. It was as if the camera people were told to zoom in on people of color in order to  beat back #OscarsSoWhite that's haunted the awards show the last two years: the wife of an awards winner; Patrick and Yulree, the anonymous honeymooning couple who were in a tour group that was surprised when they walked into the middle of the Oscar telecast, introduced to the star-filled audience and got to meet and shake hands with some of the biggest names in the movies.

Dwayne Johnson, looking dapper in his tux, introduced his Moana co-star, Auli'i Carvalho. 
It was good to see Jackie Chan introduced and get some screen time and a round of applause for wining an honorary Oscar in an earlier, separate ceremony. 

Filipino/American Hailee Steinfeld looked stunning wearing a Ralph & Russo creation as she gave out the Oscars for best animated features with actor Gael Garcia Bernal. Zootopia beat out Moana.
John Cho was funny and charming, Hailee Steinfeld was beautiful, Riz Ahmed looked like James Bond and Dev Patel looked at ease on stage as the AAPI actors introduced or presented awards.

Illustrator Tyrus Wong was among the people honored in the Memoriam segment.

Emcee Jimmy Kimmel found Sunny Pawar, the young star of Lion, in the audience. Sunny is so adorable, he continues to capture the hearts of Hollywood.

Then there were the four anonymous Chinese fans in a clip explaining (in a Chinese dialect) why they like the movies (perhaps a nod to the emerging audience in China).

Anonymous Chinese fan.
John Legend performed "City of Stars," the Oscar-winning song from La La Land,  and wherever the singer performs, his wife, model Chrissy Teigen is not far away. The camera loves Teigen and often pans over to her as her husband sings.

Unfortunately, someone got a picture of her (see below) during the awarding of the Best Actor category near the end of the show -- which went to Casey Affleck's work in Manchester -- and posted it online. Uh ... perhaps Teigen's apparent slumber can best be explained by the fact that she was spotted making her way to the bar prior to the show. 

More likely, though, as any mother to an infant can understand; sometimes the exhausting work of being a mother catches up to you at the most unexpected time.

Chrissy Teigen, center, was found napping in the long, long awards show.
All in all, it was a fairly enjoyable show. The goof-ups added a bit of unrehearsed action that added to the entertainment.

At least we didn't have any crude anti-Asian jokes coming from Kimmel or any of the presenters although Kimmel was chided for making fun of Yulree's name. I think there was a pretty good blowback against those jokes that marred last year's Oscar telecast and it shows the value of speaking out and the power of social media.

Let's see: That would have been 13 shots of scotch, in case you're counting. Enough to put anyone over.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this post misspelled Yulree's name.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

American Samoa's long-time congressman passes away

ONE OF the elder statesman for Asian/American and Pacific Islanders was praised for his commitment to his constituents in American Samoa after he passed away Wednesday.

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega
Eni F.H. Faleomavaega passed away in Utah. He is survived by his wife and five children.

Faleomavaega served as the U.S. Rep. from American Samoa from 1989 to 2015. He was previously the Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa from 1985 to 1989.

He served as an Infantry captain in the War in Southeast Asia. He studied at Brigham Young University and earned law degrees at the University of Houston and the University of California at Berkeley.

"It is with pleasure that I say that life with Eni was far from dull," his wife, Hinanui Hunkin, told The Associated Press via email from Provo on Wednesday night. "I am so grateful for the trust that the people of American Samoa, for so many years, placed in him as their servant. I love and miss you, American Samoa."

Born in Vailoatai Village on the U.S. territory, Faleomavaega graduated from Kahuku High School in Hawaii in 1962. He then earned a bachelor of arts in political science and history from Brigham Young University in Utah in 1966.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Congressman Eni Faleomavaega – a true patriot, leader, and friend," said Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

"Throughout his distinguished military and public service career, Eni dedicated his life to putting country above self. As one of the founding members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, as well as the longest serving delegate to represent American Samoa in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was a strong champion for his constituents and the broader Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

“During his time in Congress, he worked to secure critical funding to improve America Samoa’s infrastructure, health care system, and schools. As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, he also worked tireless to cultivate stronger U.S. relations throughout the Asia-Pacific region and to highlight the strategic role of our U.S. territories in the Pacific.

“I always enjoyed working with Eni, and will never forget his unwavering dedication to advancing the rights of his constituents and all Americans. His leadership will truly be missed.”

Oscars Best Song: Will 'Moana' upset 'La La Land?'

Don't miss the performance of Auli'i Cravalho singing "How Far I Go" from Moana.
THE ODDS ON favorite at this year's Academy Awards airing tonight (Feb. 26) is La La Land's "City of Stars" in the best song category but don't be surprised if the song from Moana pulls off an upset. 

Disney has brought out the big guns to give the song "How Far I'll Go" from Moana a chance against favorite "City of Stars." Award-winning song writer Lin-Manuel Miranda will be performing with the 16-year old Auli'i Cravalho, who did the voice and singing for the animated title character of the Disney film Moana.

During rehearsal, the fresh-faced vocal powerhouse surprised onlookers and earned a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of her performance.

While the performance will channel the island feel of Moana, the Hawaiian teenager thinks it will also transcend the film: “It’s distinctly Moana, and at the same time it’s something where people will think, ‘Wow, that is a stunning piece.’”

If his song wins, Miranda will be the youngest performer to win the trifecta of the Tony, the Grammy and the Oscar. He earned the Tony and Grammy for Broadway musical hit Hamilton, which he wrote and starred in.
Auli'i is of course rooting for “How Far I’ll Go” to go all the way and win for best original song -- “It’s such an exciting time for Lin-Manuel, he’s right there and has almost got that EGOT” -- but says she’s also a fan of “City of Stars,” and looks forward to hearing John Legend’s rendition. She also mentions that she's a fan of Sting (who will perform his song “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story and Justin Timberlake.

As she speaks, glimmers of her character Moana shine through -- her excitement and passion for all that lies ahead is evident in every word.

“I could have never imagined that at 16 years old I would be having such amazing experiences like this,” she says. “I’ve been able to travel around the world and really share what Moana is about. The moral of our story is figuring out who you are, and listening to that voice deep down inside you, and I have been able to connect to that so much. [Moana] has that call for more, and I think for everyone -- no matter if you’re a teenager like me or someone who is in the prime of their lives -- there’s always going to be that call.”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#HollywoodSoWhite: Report says Hollywood has mostly a black & white view of America

THE 89th ACADEMY AWARDS airs Sunday (Feb. 26) with a different look. This year's awards show might give the appearance of progress in diversity with black actors nominated in every acting category and two black-themed movies nominated for Best Picture. But don't talk about progress to Asian and Latino actors, directors, producers and writers. There's only one Asian nominated in the acting categories and zero Latinos.

Compared to the last couple of years that gave rise to the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign last year, the 2017 Academy Award nominations are definitely more colorful. 

But before Hollywood begins to pat itself on the back, the UCLA’s fourth annual Hollywood Diversity Report reveals that despite the increase of nominees of color, the exclusion of people of color and women, Hollywood has a ways to go.
The annual report, published by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, does note that women have made some strides in Hollywood in the past year, and that several television shows featuring diverse casts have been successful. But it also finds that racial minorities and women remain severely underrepresented in film and television hiring.

Despite the Oscar nomination of Dev Patel for Best Supporting Actor in Lion and Auli'i Cravalho singing "How Far I'll Go" from Moana, Asian and Asian/American presence will be missing. In an effort to showcase the diversity of the movie industry, you'll see some AAPI presenters such as Dwayne Johnson and Riz Ahmed, but essentially, we're rendered invisible, once again.

The only Asian to be nominated for an Oscar, Dev Patel is a
long shot to win an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category.
“While there have been some improvements, especially in television, the numbers remain disheartening across the board,” said Darnell Hunt, the report’s lead author and director of the Bunche Center. “At the heart of it is the fact that Hollywood is simply not structured to make the most of today’s market realities.”

People of color made some progress in five of the 11 categories (lead performers in films, lead performers in broadcast scripted shows, lead performers in broadcast reality shows, lead performers in digital scripted shows and creators of broadcast scripted shows). Minorities lost ground in four of the 11 job categories (film directors, film writers, lead actors in cable scripted shows and creators of digital scripted programs) and held ground in the other two (creators of cable scripted shows and lead performers in cable reality and other programs).

Minorities make up 40 percent of the U.S. population but only 13.6 percent of lead actors in theatrical films and 10.1 percent of Hollywood directors.

On TV, hit shows like “Empire” and “Fresh Off the Boat” gave a diversity boost in 2014–15.“In terms of sophistication of content, television might be considered to be in something of a golden age,” said Hunt, who also is chair of the UCLA sociology department. “But in terms of representation and opportunity, we still have a long way to go. White men are still dominant, and women and people of color struggle to get the opportunities to succeed.”

Ana-Christina Ramón, the report’s co-author and assistant director of the Bunche Center, said the lack of diversity has a societal impact that extends far beyond the entertainment industry.

“Authentic storytelling humanizes those who are often depicted as stereotypes or not worthy of being depicted at all,” she said. “Representation matters to the little girl who has yet to dream of who she will become and to the grandmother who has never seen someone like herself on screen.”

The report’s authors also point out that the lack of diversity in Hollywood also has a clear economic impact. Bunche Center research has consistently found that film and television content that is more diverse tends to be more successful — both among white and minority audiences — and delivers a better financial return on investment.

“Less-diverse product underperforms in the marketplace, and yet it still dominates,” Ramón said. “This makes no financial sense.”

Hunt said audiences are only becoming more diverse, and they’ve demonstrated that they search for stories that reflect our more diverse world — factors that will be critical for Hollywood’s long-term success.

Lately, Hollywood has been trying to get into the enormous Chinese market that could surpass the U.S. market this year. Chinese investors have been making inroads in Hollywood by buying studios and investing in coproductions.

Given Chinese audiences' increasing appetite for movies like The Great Wall with the internationally bankable Matt Damon in the lead role, it "feels like a missed opportunity" that Hollywood isn't developing bankable Asian/American stars for this market, Hunt told USA Today.

Part of the problem is that studios have historically been focused on Europe, where U.S. films have been distributed since the beginning of the movie industry, but represents "a relatively small part of the world's population," Hunt says. 

"This whole idea that Hollywood has perpetuated for years that people of color don't travel overseas as leads is pretty much an artifact. ... The rest of the world wants to see diversity because the rest of the world is diverse."

By next year -- or more likely in 2018 -- AAPIs will have a better chance of garnering an Oscar nomination with all-Asian casts slated for the live-action Mulan and Crazy Rich Asians that are slated for production this year. Whether or not these two films will be critically acclaimed remains to be seen but you can bet Hollywood will be eyeing the box office receipts when these movies finally make it to the big screen. If the movies are hits, you can be sure there will be more opportunities for AAPI in front of, and behind, the camera.

“When a business is overlooking the desires of its customer base, it is serving them poorly and leaving money on the table,” Hunt said. “For a variety of reasons, studios, networks and talent agencies — the institutions that decide what films and shows will get made and how they are promoted — have to diversify so they are no longer demographically and culturally out of step with their audiences.”

“Those changes will not only make our culture richer," said 
Ramón. "They will make the industry richer as well.”


Friday, February 24, 2017

Two men from India shot in apparent hate attack; one killed

Shooting victims Alok Madasani, left, and Srinivas Kuchibhotia.

TWO ENGINEERS from India were shot in a Kansas bar Wednesday night (Feb. 22) after a man who mistook them as Middle Eastern, allegedly told them to "get out of my country."

One man died, the second man was wounded and a third bar patron was wounded when he confronted the suspected shooter, Adam W. Purinton, 51

The body of the man who was slain, Srinivas Kuchibhotia, will be transported to the city of Hyderabad, India, where his family lives, said Sushma Swararaj, India's external affairs minister.

Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, was treated for his wounds and released from the hospital. Another bar patron, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, remained in the hospital while he recovers.

The two men from India were both engineers on the aviation systems team at the technology company Garmin.

According to witnesses, Madasani and Kuchibhotia were drinking in Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas, when Puritan began harassing them. Puriton's actions were so bad that he reportedly was kicked out of the bar. Upon his return he opened fire. 

Purinton fled the bar but appeared at another bar In Clinton, Mo. later in the evening. He asked the bartender for a place to hide because he had just shot two Middle Eastern men. The bartender called police and Purinton was arrested.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced in a press conference Thursday that Purinton will be charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

He was joined by federal law enforcement officials who said that they are investigating in conjunction with Olathe police to determine if the shooting was a bias-motivated hate crime in violation of the victims’ civil rights.

A GoFundMe page set up for the victims identified the man who was killed as Srinivas Kuchibhotla. According to the page, which was set up by a friend, the shooter had been drunk and "hurling racial slurs" before the attack. By Friday (Feb. 24) morning, the page had raised $260,000

"Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone," the page reads. "He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He was brilliant, well-mannered and simply an outstanding human being. His wife, Sunayana, and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses."

The Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday called for prosecutors to file hate crime charges against Purinton at both the state and federal level.

“Because of the alleged bias motive for this deadly attack, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to consider filing hate crime charges in order to send a strong message that violence targeting religious or ethnic minorities will not be tolerated,” said CAIR-Kansas Board Chair Moussa Elbayoumy
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced the charges against Purinton during a press conference at Olathe police headquarters.
He was joined by federal law enforcement officials who said that they are investigating in conjunction with Olathe police to determine if the shooting was a bias-motivated hate crime in violation of the victims’ civil rights.
At least one witness reportedly heard the man yell “get out of my country” shortly before shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani. The man fled on foot. A manhunt ensued. Five hours later, Purinton reportedly told a bartender at a bar in an Applebee’s in Clinton, Mo., that he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men, The Star has learned.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article134459444.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article134459444.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Muslims raise funds to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery

A hundred gravestones were toppled at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, part of a rash of anti-Semitic acts last week.

By Louis Chan

A CROWD SOURCE campaign launched by members of the Muslim/American community on Launch Good to repair a vandalized Jewish/American cemetery has raised $124,000 in two days, surpassing the original goal of $20,000.
More than 100 gravestones were vandalized at the historic Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in a suburb of St. Louis over the weekend. This happened not long after bomb threats at dozens of Jewish Community Centers in the United States.

“Muslim/Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish/American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery,” wrote the organizers on Launch Good. “We also extend our deepest condolences to all those who have been affected and to the Jewish community at large.”

The campaign is being lead by Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy.

“While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community," stated the website. 

"We are also inspired by the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, 'Is it not a human soul?'”

“This is really a human issue,” said El-Messidi. “But out of this horrible election cycle, something beautiful has come out of it and [Muslims and Jews have] bonded together to support each other and stand up to this hate. Politics can get in the way of our basic humanity; I hope this breaks through all those walls, no pun intended, to help bring us closer together.” (Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)

The Atlantic: Muslim aide says why she left the Trump White House

Ruman Ahmed

IN 2011 Ruman Ahmed got a job of a lifetime. Straight out of college, she joined the Obama administration. "My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for," she writes in a piece in The Atlantic. "I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman -- I was the hijabi in the West Wing -- and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included."

The 2015-2016 presidential campaign changed the climate of the country, says Ahmed, the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh. She felt the Muslim/American community was under attack.

As Obama left and Trump's people began moving into the White House, since she wasn't a presidential appointee, Ahmed felt her job with the National Security Council wasn't in jeopardy. She thought she could work with the incoming administration, as her peers had done with previous administrations, regardless of party affiliation.

She lasted eight days. When the President signed the executive order banning and restricting travel from seven Muslim-dominated countries and stopped accepting refugees, she felt she had to leave.

She told her boss, Michael Anton, who came in with Trump, why she was leaving: 

"I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.:

Anton looked at her and said nothing.

It turns out that Anton wrote an article under a pseudonym on behalf of the Trump campaign that was widely disseminated among conservative websites. In the article he wrote that Islam is an inherently violent religion that is “incompatible with the modern West,” defended the World War II-era America First Committee, which included anti-Semites, as “unfairly maligned,” and called diversity “a source of weakness, tension and disunion.”

The article is also interesting because it gives us a glimpse of how the Trump White House was operating in an environment of chaos. The Monday after the inauguration, "I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise. The diverse White House I had worked in became a monochromatic and male bastion."

"This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism," Ahmed writes.

Ruman Ahmed was part of the National Security staff that advised President Obama.

I wonder how many government employees are facing the same dilemma that confronted Ahmed and how many are arriving at the same conclusion.

Certainly, the underreported "revolt" within the government runs deep. Some workers have chosen to go underground and work from within the government. With alternative websites springing up set up by disgruntled government employees who have been told to stop using social media to share information about climate change, scientific and medical research and breakthroughs, I suspect the feeling of distrust against Trump and his political appointees runs deeper than we think.

Ahmed's resignation is only the tip of the iceberg.

America is far from perfect. There is much that still needs to be done, to fight for -- but we have to admit, the country has made mighty strides in the past 60-70 years during which we learned to take care of our elderly, ensured that retirees are not living in poverty and that all people have access to affordable health care. However, as the Trump administration begins to flex its muscle - the Muslim ban is only the start and The Wall has taken on metaphorical status - and we see the progress we've made in civil rights, equality and opportunities being attacked or undermined, we all need to ask ourselves the questions: Where do I stand? What can I do to express my outrage; to change things; to make a positive difference?

As Ahmed concludes in her article:

"Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a 'weakness' is dangerous. It is false.

"People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true –– American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of justice and equality."


American Girl adds more diversity to its lineup of dolls


WHAT'S UNUSUAL about the picture above? If you look closely, you’ll notice Logan, American Girl’s first boy doll.

Logan has joined the new Tenney’s series led by Tenney Grant, a Nashville rising star. She’ll be joined by Logan Everett, an 18-inch doll with short brown hair, gray eyes, and an original outfit, as well as his very own rhythmic drum set.

Also joining the set of dolls will be a Pacific Islander doll and a Korean/American doll.

Look closer at the picture and you’ll notice Nanea, a Hawaiian. Nanea is a historical doll who lives in Hawaii during World War II.

Nanea’s stories teach the value of kokua ― a Hawaiian word that represents selflessness and helping others. She’ll be in stores this fall.

Also joining the line up is Z. Yang, a Korean/American doll who’s a filmmaker. Love that she’s Korean and love even more that’s she’s an Asian/American doll in a non-traditional career.

Super-fans of American Girl will recognize Z Yang, as the star of American Girl’s YouTube series #AGZCREW, which has been running since 2015.

She uses her “creativity to connect with others,” the American Girl website says, “and her stories remind girls that everyone has a unique perspective to share ― even if it’s not perfect.” Z will be available in stores this Spring.

“We do an enormous amount of research with girls and their parents, and the one thing we’ve heard loud and clear is a desire for more – specifically more characters and stories from today,” said Julie Parks in a statement to Syracuse.com.

The dolls aren’t cheap. They sell for $115 each.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

1.65 million, or 1 in 7 Asian/Americans are undocumented

WHILE MOST of the media reports about Donald Trump's pending plans to deport undocumented immigrants, most of the attention has been on those people who entered the U.S. over its southern border.

Little focus has been on immigrants from Asia, the largest source of immigrants in recent years, surpassing the number of immigrants coming from Latin American countries.

The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) and and the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) have published estimates of the Asian undocumented population in the United States for 2014. The total number of Asian undocumented ranges from the Institute's1.46 million to the Center's 1.65 million. The blog putting those numbers together was written by
 Karthick Ramakrishnan and Sono Shah for AAPI Data and released last week.

According to those agencies, Asian undocumented immigrants account for about 14 percent of the total undocumented population in the United States. Another way to look at it is about 1 out of every 7 Asian immigrants is undocumented. 

It's important to note that the figures cited by CMS and MPI are from 2014 data. In the closing years of the Obama administration, the disparity between unauthorized immigration from Asia and Latin America grew even wider. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the number of undocumented people has grown beyond the numbers shown in the accompanying graph.
RELATED: Trump's plans for deporting undocumented immigrants
The figures released by AAPI Data are significantly higher than earlier estimates of 900,000 undocumented Asians.

In most states, Asians make up relatively small portions of their total undocumented population. Estimates show Hawaii, Alaska and New Hampshire as the only states which Asians make up more than 40 percent of the state undocumented population.

The percentage of California's undocumented population is only. 12.75 percent but the state has most undocumented Asian immigrants with 385,000.

The U.S. undocumented population has fallen below 11 million for the first time since 2004, according to a CMS report released last month. The report says the total U.S. undocumented population continued to decline in 2014, and has fallen by more than a million since 2008;

“Despite the claims of an ever-rising, out-of-control US undocumented population,” said Donald Kerwin, CMS’s Executive Director, “the number of undocumented has fallen each year since 2008. In addition, the number and percentage of foreign-born persons with legal status has increased. These trends should be applauded by partisans on all sides of the immigration debate.”