I’m excited to see a Chinese mayor in City Hall,” says Wang (he declined to give his first name), who has lived in the city for over 40 years.
It’s a sentiment shared by others in the community, including Steven Chiu, a longtime political analyst and columnist with the World Journal, one of the largest Chinese newspapers in the country. He says that given San Francisco’s relative prominence as a major metropolitan area, having a Chinese mayor will “help to more effectively communicate the needs of the Chinese community to the state and federal government.”
Others are less concerned about the mayor’s ethnic or racial background, noting that Chinese have enjoyed considerable representation in government for some time now, and that many Chinese have long since embraced their American identities.
Helen Chen, who immigrated from China with her parents 40 years ago, says that back when Chinese representation was all but invisible, she would “often vote along ethnic lines.” But today, with a number of Chinese Americans holding high offices in the city and state, she says what’s more important is the candidate’s “values and political platform.”
Along with Mayor Lee and State Senator Leland Yee, who represents San Francisco’s District 8 and who came in fifth in the race for mayor, three of the city’s 11 supervisors are Chinese American, as are two of the seven school board members. On the national level are Energy Secretary Steven Chu and former Governor of Washington Gary Locke, who now serves as U.S. ambassador to China.
“Chinese have been in San Francisco for 160 years,” notes Sue Lee, director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, “but it’s only within the last few decades that they began to have a presence in local government.”
With Ed Lee’s expected victory, she says, City Hall will likely be more attuned to the needs of the community, adding that it could also draw the attention of investors in China, with potentially huge benefits for the local business community.
Still, she says most Chinese voters expect a mayor who does not advocate for a specific group, but rather “leads the entire city.” In that sense, Tuesday’s election results “send a strong message that Chinese Americans have become part of the city’s mainstream.”
Social justice organizations in the Bay Area are joining forces with the Occupy movements in Oakland and San Francisco.
Local nonprofits that have been advocating for the eradication of economic inequities in various sectors of society for years are finding that the Occupy movements are presenting a unique opening to engage in dialogue across socioeconomic lines on the widespread wealth disparity in the country.
“Organizations like ours that have been doing base-building work and community organizing work have a lot in common with those protestors,” said María Poblet, executive director of Causa Justa, which works to promote low-income tenants’ rights in Oakland and San Francisco.
“In fact, some of us are those protestors,” she added. “So there’s a great opportunity there to get even more concrete on what we’re asking for and use our collective strength to win some gains for our community, ‘cause we want both to build a long-term movement and transform our society.”
Poblet said that her organization was one of those behind last week’s general strike in Oakland.
The relationship forming between the Occupiers and community groups, however, seems to be symbiotic in nature.
Poblet said members of Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco have been supportive of Causa Justa’s three-year-old campaign against Wells Fargo.
“We found a lot of the protestors have joined us in demanding from Wells Fargo a few key things,” she said. Those key demands on Wells Fargo, she added, include a moratorium on foreclosures, reinvestment in poor communities and an end to predatory lending practices including payday loans.
Community-based organizations are also participating in the Occupy movements by defending the first amendment rights of the movement’s members.
“There was a police raid about two weeks ago and we saw that as a threat to first amendment speech, so we actually came out with a strong statement in support of the encampment,” said Timmy Lu, an operations coordinator for Asian Pacific Environmental Network, a nonprofit in Oakland that advocates for environmental justice in low-income communities.
At a tender age, Victor Palafox would revel in the brief daily reunions with his father, but he recalls growing angry with himself for falling asleep. That happened often, while he waited the senior Palafox to return home from working shifts of 12 hours or more in Mexico City.
One day the youthful Palafox’s anger gave way to fear as he watched his father pack a few belongings and “a bit of money,” as he prepared to cross the border into the United States to risk securing a better economic future. “I was young, but I knew that might be the last time I ever saw him,” he said.
The family was reunited years later in America and eventually prospered. Like many immigrants, documented or not, Palafox, now 19, calls the U.S. “my country.” He adds, “I fell in love with the South.”
That love is no longer perceived as mutual, not in Alabama at least, and most certainly not among families who face stark choices as a result of HB 56. Enacted in June, the law is deemed to be the most restrictive state legislation targeting undocumented immigrants.
“We brag about Alabama having the meanest and toughest immigration law in the country,” said Bernard Simelton, Sr., president, NAACP Alabama State Conference. He pledged his organization would “challenge the law in the courts and the streets and at the ballot box.”
Palafox and Simelton joined other panelists from the region’s ethnic media to recount the city’s rich civil rights history and the impact of HB 56 on the daily lives of residents. The symposium, held earlier in November, explored how diverse media outlets could best educate the state’s population.
Hosted by New America Media at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the gathering included representatives of Birmingham–area news organizations from African American, Chinese, Latino and South Asian communities, as well as other local media and guests from as far as Mobile on the Gulf Coast.
Palafox spoke on behalf of Alabama Dreamers for the Future, a multiethnic, youth-led organization formed earlier this year to promote enlightened immigration policies and oppose the bill.
He and other panelists described witnessing immigrants packing their belongings to leave the state after Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed the law. The GOP’s majority in both houses of Alabama’s legislature drafted and passed HB 56.
However, because undocumented people may reside in households with relatives holding American citizenship, “We have U.S. citizens that we are driving out of our state,” said Rev. Angie Wright, of Greater Birmingham Ministries.
Wright posed the dilemma facing families with mixed legal status among their members, who are forced to ask themselves, “Do we leave? Do we leave together? Do we stay?”
Away from the media glare, however, girls, women and boys are quietly and helplessly violated in the privacy of darkened living rooms and bedrooms every single day across America. The crime scene may be a rural shack or a palatial suburban compound. The crime, however, is depressingly similar, often involving profoundly frustrated men, who try to find in sexual assault a sense of power that they desperately lack.
The frustration is an obvious byproduct of a common mindset that so consistently and loudly celebrates money, power and fame, leaving the majority of people with abiding feelings of inadequacy.
Beyond private homes, a pandemic of sexual abuse also infests educational institutions, places of worship and work. Countless priests, coaches, teachers, policemen, prison guards and bosses routinely harm their victims, often with complete impunity.
The powers of the U.S. Constitution have been used during the past several decades to protect American people of color in schools and workplaces, aboard buses and at lunch counters. Statutes have also been used to make significant strides toward providing parity and protection for women and those in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.
Yet the same laws are also respectful of a privacy, which offers the opportunity for sexual assault with children as the primary targets.
Legislating and enforcing private conduct are both difficult and inadvisable. Today an institutional tangle reaches from the federal level down to every neighborhood, involving armies of legislatures, prosecutors, law enforcement authorities, teachers, counselors and physicians who are entrusted with protecting the vulnerable from sexual assault.
Phone lines to report crime and to seek help abound and sex offenders are required to register in the communities where they live.
Yet only a small minority of criminals are stopped, let alone brought to justice.
On Sunday TLC will premiere “All-American Muslim”, a reality TV show that follows the lives of five American Muslim families in Dearborn, the Michigan town that’s home to one of the nation’s largest Muslim communities. The show’s purported aim is to help dispel misrepresentations of Muslim American. And while we’re hoping it’s all that it’s cracked up to be, there’s plenty of reason to be weary about it.
It’s being produced by Shed Media, the company that’s also responsible for drama-filled shows like “The Real Housewives of New York City” and “Basketball Wives.” Neither series represents women in a positive light, to put it lightly.
But there’s a chance that this show could be different.
Namely, Dearborn-native Mike Mosallam is involved in the show’s development. Mosallam is Muslim and works as the director of film initiatives for Michigan’s Wayne County. So let’s hope there’s a balance and we actually get what TLC promises: “A powerful new eight-part series that goes inside the rarely seen world of American Muslims to uncover a unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world.”
In head-to-head ballot tests, President Obama retains a decisive edge over his potential Republican challengers among Hispanics. The President out-polls former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain by 2-to-1 margins, rivaling his margin of victory over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. However, the survey shows that the Republican candidates remain largely unknown. Nearly half of all Hispanic voters felt they were not sufficiently familiar to offer an opinion of Gov. Romney, 37 percent could offer no view on Gov. Perry and 53 percent for Herman Cain.
This suggests the possibility of fluidity in the support of Hispanic voters over the course of the campaign, which is further evidenced by the generic Congressional ballot test, in which nearly one-quarter of Hispanic voters remains undecided.
The survey finds that like voters everywhere, the issue of the economy is paramount. When asked which was the most important issue in determining who to vote for in an election, 65 percent said the economy, compared to 23 percent who said immigration, with education and health care polling at 16 percent and 12 percent respectively. Respondents also indicated support for policies broadly favored by Republicans, with 42 percent support for extending tax cuts to everyone regardless of income.
Despite their vows of loyalty and a long, often tragic record of conflict, rival gang members of the Crips and the Bloods have joined forces to support Occupy Atlanta.
The unexpected détente was first noted in an article by Tim Franzen, a participant in the protests calling for economic fairness and justice, posted on the website of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization.
Sherrod Britton, 29, a member of the Bloods, first met Shabaka Addae Guillory, 20, who wears Crip blue, during a freestyle rap session at Occupy Atlanta. And a light went on for Guillory.
“I saw him in the park, saw his colors,” Guillory told Franzen. “There was no mean mug or rivalry because we realized that what’s happening here is so much bigger then gang rivalry.”
Britton initially attended the protests out of curiosity. His purpose has since clarified. “I feel strongly that we have the right to jobs, health care and affordable higher education, ” he said.
As they spent time together and shared their thoughts, the pair realized they had more in common than not, and they have developed a bond of solidarity.
Mesa, Arizona voters got their say in a historical election that resulted in the recall of Republican Senator Russell Pearce, also known as the architect of SB 1070.
Pearce conceded defeat in a brief press conference in the City of Mesa surrounded by politicians, friends and controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“If being recalled is the cost of keeping ones promises, then so be it,” said Pearce.
His opponent, Republican Jerry Lewis, expressed surprised. “I think people were tired of the vitriolic politics,” he said.
Pearce will be required to step down immediately from office once the results are made official. His recall marks the success of a new strategy of political organizing in Arizona that brought together a diverse array of voters representing various religious and political affiliations.
“This is an exciting time for Arizona, we are in a new direction. We are saying no to the extreme divisive politics of Russell Pearce,” said Randy Parraz, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA), the group that started the recall over 10 months ago.
CBA collected over 10,000 valid signatures to force a special election to recall Pearce, who ascended to the role of Senate President after crafting one of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the country.
While SB 1070, which was partially enjoined in the courts, wasn’t the main focus of the recall, it did much to motivate voters to join the movement.
Pearce has been in office for 10 years. Like many of his constituents, he is a member of the Mormon Church and first gained national notoriety as an immigration hardliner for his support of Prop. 200, a ballot initiative denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants that was passed by state voters in 2004.
With no other issue on the ballot, election officials weren’t expecting a high turn out. But by election day, they said they had received over 15,000 mail-in ballots from Mesa voters.
They could have been anybody — a talented musician, a farm worker, an unemployed teacher, a desperate parent, a son or daughter looking to feed their mother, brothers and sisters. Whoever they are, their identities are now shrouded beneath the saline terrain that surrounds the town of Holtville, just west of Arizona and less than an hour from the Mexican border.
Most of the John and Jane Does buried here were found dead, their bodies strewn across the desert hills of Imperial Valley, or along the All American Canal that feeds a sprawling agricultural expanse extending from El Centro, California, to Mexicali, Mexico. No one knows who they are and few seem to really care.
November 2 marks the Mexican holiday known as Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, when families traditionally gather to honor those who have gone before. This year a handful of immigrant rights activists and community members gathered at Holtville’s Terrace Park Cemetery, near the site of dozens of unmarked graves, to celebrate, and to mourn.
Partially obscured by a six-foot wall are rows and rows – 49 to be exact – of crosses with simple, mud-colored bricks delineating the final resting place for these would-be migrants.
“None of the people buried here expected to end up like this,” says Enrique Morones, head of the non-profit organization Border Angels.
Founded in 1986, the organization provides humanitarian assistance to migrants living in the canyons of North San Diego County. For several years it has also helped recruit volunteers as part of a campaign to leave bottles of water in areas identified as crossing points for undocumented immigrants.
“Most undocumented migrants are not aware of the perils of the desert. They are also easy prey for unscrupulous smugglers that rob them and then leave them lost on their own in a place where north and south are indistinguishable,” adds Morones, as he leaves a few gallons of water off at a strategic point marked by a blanket hanging from a small shrubby tree, known as a huizache.
“No one can survive more than two hours under 115 degree heat during the summer,” explains Border Patrol Officer Adrian Corona. “Winter is equally dangerous,” he says, adding that the mountainous terrain is especially treacherous at night and brutally hot in the day. Most don’t make the trip, he says.
Under high heat and no water, the body enters into a state of shock, with the vital organs gradually shutting down. People in this state will experience hallucinations – also described as the “oasis effect” – before collapsing in a delirium.
The coyotes, meanwhile, who are essentially paid guides for migrants looking to head north, will often warn fellow travelers not to stop for those showing signs of dehydration. Since most border trips are made at night, it’s common practice for coyotes to abandon stragglers.
For Native elders who grew up in rural Alaska, the desire to die at home runs deep. But taking care of elders in rugged and isolated villages is a complicated task. And for many, aging in place is not an option.
Reporter Shaleece Haas traveled to Eagle on the Upper Yukon to find out what’s at stake for Native elders in need of long-term care. She produced this article for the Alaska Public Radio Network under the MetLife Foundation Fellowship in Aging, in conjunction with New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.
Zarine Tarayan, program director of Felices Dias (Happy Days) Adult Day Health Care Center in South Los Angeles, is not happy these days. Ever since she found out that the state’s budget crisis may force the center to close its doors, she’s been worrying not only about the health of the more than 100 seniors they serve, but about 25 employees with a families to support.
“What worries me the most is the safety of the elderly because we know that many will not survive long without proper care in their homes.” Tarayan said. “But at the same time I worry about my employees and their families because everyone will be affected, not only them.” With the shut-down of the state’s Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program scheduled for December 1, not only will the health of more than 38,000 elderly and disabled people be affected, but more than 6,000 Californians could be thrown out of work, increasing the unemployment lines right before the Christmas holiday season.
In California, there are about 310 ADHC centers with at least 20 employed staff members each. The programs are largely funded by California’s Medicaid program, called MediCal, for low income people.
Despite her credentials and master’s degree in psychology, Tarayan is worried for herself, too, because she has four children to feed and is the only one who takes care of them.
“I never thought we could be in this situation. Not in America,” explained the director, who emphasized that it does not seem to matter how educated people may be. To get a job now is a challenge for everyone.
Among the professionals and employees of the center who could be out of work are psychologists, therapists, drivers, certified nurses, social workers and other service employees.
A federal district court will hold a hearing on the ADHC center closures this month.
Caribbean Americans, African Americans and other minority groups are also fighting to get their share of the resources and a stronger political voice through Congressional representatives of their choice. However, the ability to make choices means being active participants in the state’s redistricting process, said Leon Russell, Vice Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP.
“Redistricting in and of itself is about power, control, and influence… Since time immemorial when folks were drawing district lines, when they were determining where and how to distribute power, they have done it in order to enhance their own ability to control,” said the NAACP executive. “And so you draw lines that benefit your particular group, whether it’s a particular party, whether it’s you as an individual .You do so to maintain your power.”
“It would criminalize women, put their health in danger and outlaw many forms of birth control,” said Derrick Johnson, state president for the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, which has come out against Initiative 26. “If a woman has a miscarriage for any reason, she could be charged with involuntary manslaughter,” he said.
Asked to explain, Johnson posited the following hypothetical situations. “Let’s say a woman slips and falls while riding a horse. The fertilized egg inside of her, which she may not even know about, is miscarried. Was she negligent in riding a horse? How about driving a car or playing a sport or even going to work?”
While Mississippi’s Initiative 26 targets the state’s female population, Alabama’s HB 56 is a 71 page comprehensive effort to scare immigrants and their families into leaving the state. It has provisions that require police to detain people they think are undocumented, make it a felony for any immigrant to enter into a contract with the state for any service (including home water service), and deny undocumented immigrants the right to go to court to enforce any contract.
Most of the attention around the law has focused on a provision that has been temporarily blocked but would require parents to provide proof of their own as well as their child’s immigration status when registering for school. Critics have pointed out the provision, as well as other parts of the law, is in violation of the Constitution.
But this article isn’t really about the details of either Initiative 26 or HB 56. You can find an excellent analysis of the negative impacts of Mississippi’s “personhood initiative” here and of Alabama’s anti-immigrant H.B. 56 law here.
According to the new data, more people overall are in poverty than under the official measure, both as a percentage of the population and in raw numbers. But among specific age groups, differences emerge. For children, the new measure lowers the poverty rate by more than 4 percentage points. Among elders, the poverty rate rises by almost 7 percentage points.
“In the past we’ve certainly seen that story that the elderly are not as poor as children. But it’s often because the benefits that are not included in the official measure are targeted at families with children,” Short said.
Seniors tend to have incomes just above the official poverty line, Short said, while households with children are more likely to be below the official poverty measure. The supplemental measure counts benefits that lift children up, and counts expenses that drop seniors into poverty.
Because so many seniors are living on the precipice of poverty, “anything you subtract from their income is likely to bring them below the line,” she adds.
The main drain on seniors’ income is medical costs. Once they are subtracted from their income, the poverty rate for seniors skyrockets.
Without counting out-of-pocket medical costs, merely 8.6 percent of elders are in poverty. But once those costs are factored in, the poverty rate for seniors rises to 15.9 percent.
That’s because the new measure doesn’t do much to change how much money older adults are taking in, since the federal poverty line already accounts for Social Security benefits. The income seniors have doesn’t change much under the supplemental calculations, but the demands on their income are more clearly reflected.
For households with children, the new measure generally lifts their income significantly, while only slightly raising their expenses. Low-income families can get thousands of dollars through the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is counted under the supplemental measure, but not under the official poverty calculations.
Without the credit, 22.4 percent of children are living in poverty, according to the new data. With the credit, that number drops to 18.2 percent. Food stamps also have a big impact for children: Without the food assistance, the poverty rate for children rises by 3 percent.
There are racial and regional differences as well. The poverty rates for non-Hispanic whites, Asians and Hispanics are all higher under the supplemental measure than under the official poverty rates, while those for blacks are lower. The poverty levels in the Northeast and West rise under the supplemental measure and fall in the South and West.