Category: Youth Culture

Andrew Lam

Remembering A Broken Romance on Valentine's Day

By Andrew Lam, Feb 14, 2013 1:48 AM

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 What do you do when you graduate from Berkeley with a broken heart and a B.A. in biochemistry? You break your immigrant parents' hearts and become a writer.

In my freshman year at Berkeley I fell hopelessly in love; in the year after I graduated my heart shattered. While working at the cancer research laboratory on campus I took to writing, in part, in order to grieve. Daytime and I bombarded the mammary tissues of mice with various carcinogens to see how they grew; nights and I gave myself to memories, to heartbreak. I typed and typed. I got good at writing, bored with science, so I dropped the test tube and kept the proverbial pen.

Berkeley had indeed radicalized me. But I do not mean that in a political sense. No, the quiet, bookish, apolitical, obedient boy who didn't date in high school left his Vietnamese household and found sexual liberation in college, found carnal pleasure.

More important: I fell in love with "M." In "M's'' embrace and kisses, what I had thought important until then turned out to be trivial. My desire to please my chronically unhappy mother was trivial, good grades were trivial, the path toward medical school, too, was trivial. "M," whose smile made me tremble, who was all there was, stole me away from my familial sense of duty. I found a new country, a new home.

What I remember, too, was an incident during my freshman year that, over time, marked me. A studious Chinese student tried to jump from the Campanile. He was from my dorm unit. He wanted to kill himself because, well, so went the gossip, he had never gotten a B before, until chemistry or some such difficult class overwhelmed him. I remember the entire dorm talking about it. I might have been momentarily horrified. But I was too busy being in love to let it really register. I do, however, remember thinking, and not without a certain vanity, that he wouldn't have considered jumping had he discovered love instead.

Other bubbles are coming up randomly now from under the deep dark waters of my college life: Professor Noyce in organic chemistry dragging on his thin cigarette, the smoke twirling in the air as he draws the nicotine molecules. "Don't ever smoke," he admonishes his audience. "It's bad for you." My roommate, Tony, who plays trumpet in the band, coming home from the big game, '82, crying with happiness. The Bears have just trampled the Stanford Band to score that spectacular and bizarre turn- around in the last seconds. I am walking down Telegraph Avenue at two in the morning and the street cleaner is spinning like some lazy grazing animal and the mist is rising at my feet. The bells of the Campanile ring out one humid afternoon and for no reason at all, I drop my backpack and, while spectators look on, dance.

Above all, though, the salty scent of "M."

Then "M" was gone. And my heart was broken.

Wasn't it then that I began to write? Wasn't it then that I began to bleed myself into words?

Yet it was not the larger world, nor my Vietnamese refugee experience, nor the Vietnam War that I wanted to address. I wrote about my unhappiness. I tried to capture what it was like to lose someone who had been my preoccupation throughout my college life; who was, in fact, my life then. Yet I was too close to the subject, too hurt to do the story justice. But the raw emotions unearthed another set of older memories simmering underneath. When one loses someone one loves, with whom one shares a private life, a private language, a private world, one loses an entire country, one becomes an exile.

But hadn't I been exiled before?

I had. The brokenhearted adult slowly found himself going back further, recalling the undressed wounds of the distraught child who stood alone on the beach of Guam, the camp with its khaki-green tents flapping in the wind, the child missing his friends, his dogs, fretting about his father, whose fate he had no way of knowing, and wondering if he 'd ever see his homeland again.

My sadness opened a trapdoor to the past. A child forced to flee. The long line for food under a punishing sun. People weeping themselves to sleep. The family altar, where faded photographs of the dead stared out forlornly, the incense still burning but the living gone. A way of life stolen, a people scattered. I yearned for all my memories. I wrote some more. I began to go back.

Some years passed...

"These are Andrew Lam's awards," said my mother one after- noon to her friends when I was visiting and eavesdropping from upstairs. Sometimes my parents wouldn't say my Vietnamese name to their guests. "Andrew Lam" became someone else-- related but somewhat remote, and yet important. For visitors, especially if it was their first visit, there would be an obligatory walk by the bookcase before sitting down for tea. On it were the various trophies and awards and diplomas, but chief among them, Andrew Lam's journalism awards.

"My son the Berkeley radical" became my father's favorite phrase when he introduced me to his friends. "Parents give birth to children, God gives birth to their personalities" became my mother's oft-repeated phrase, as a way to explain her youngest son. I don't take offense. I take it that this was their way of accepting how things can turn out in America, which is to say, unpredictable and heartbreaking.
 
                            **
I can't remember for sure how long he stood up there, or how he was talked down, that studious Chinese boy from the dorm. I do remember that around that time they put up metal bars on the Campanile so that no one else could jump.

A few years ago, after having revisited the Berkeley campus, where I was invited to give a talk about my books, my writing life and about my various travels as an author and journalist, I had a dream. In it, it is me who finds himself atop the Campanile alone at sunset. I hesitate butI am not entirely afraid. I am not gripped by fear. Below, people are gathering. Before me: a beatific horizon. I leap. And soar high over the old campus before heading out to where sky kisses sea.

I haven't landed yet.
 



New America Media editor, Andrew Lam is the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora" (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a Pen American "Beyond the Margins" award, and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres" where the above essay was excerpted. His latest book, "Birds of Paradise Lost," a collection of short stories about Vietnamese immigrants struggling to rebuild their lives in the Bay Area after a painful exodus, was published March 01, 2013. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Veto SB 59! No guns in my children's schools!

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Dec 17, 2012 2:41 PM


The night before the school shooting in Connecticut, in a marathon late night session, lame duck Michigan legislature voted to allow concealed weapons at schools, daycares, churches, arenas, hospitals, etc.

Andrew Lam

Social Media's Reaction to Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

By Andrew Lam, Dec 14, 2012 4:55 PM

 I've been a writer and commentator for twenty years and have published from NY Times to Mother Jones to LA Magazine, but words failed me when I heard news of the horrific massacre that took place this morning in Newtown, Connecticut, leaving 28 people dead, 20 of them children.

The conversation on social media has been mostly about guns and gun control. So I am reposting what friends are posting on facebook...  


"Too many innocent people have died over the "right to keep and bear arms". The language of the second amendment states, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". Ok, so this right was intended for an individual or militia to aid the military in case of defense. I haven't seen one news story about this right being used in such a manner. Seems like one reason we preserve this right is because irrational fear by gun owners. Well, if the gun owner has such irrational fear, then we can also argue some mental instability and cognitive dissonance, which should disqualify them from ownership in the first place. Then we have those who preserve this right because it is an “American Tradition”. So what if it’s an American Tradition. Slavery, indentured servants, and women’s suffrage were all American Traditions that were abolished for clearly being against the greater good. It's time for a constitutional upgrade.."


"I think a moderate gun-owner's organization could poach membership from the NRA, and also pick up people who own guns but aren't NRA members. It might well lobby against cities' attempts to ban handguns, as clear violations of the 2nd amendment. It would NOT lobby against restrictions on assault rifles, or any other astonishingly sensible gun control measure."

"If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24-7 coverage. Do everything you can to not make the body-count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. DO localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week."

"There have been a ridiculous number of random public shootings this year-3 or 4 times the usual number. If I were a paranoid conspiracy theorist i would think that the government was staging these to take away guns from private citizens. Seriously, there has been a shooting every 15-30 days. Why so many more than in previous years?"

‎"If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

"Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that’s unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late."

‎"Guns don't attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again -- and again and again."

"More than mental health issues, more than a culture of violence, it's the type of weapon used that is the difference between life and death. Guns are extremely lethal, meant for killing. They should be under extreme regulation..."


"I'm seeing FB friends posting their shock at how this is possible in America -- that we're a better people, a better country than this.

I understand this reaction, but I think we also have to get real: As much as we want to think of the U.S. as exceptional -- and yes, there are many ways in which we are -- there are things about this nation, this nation we love and love to celebrate, that are horribly and INCOMPREHENSIBLY backwards.

One of them is our fucking obsession with guns, and the vast, vile lobbying industry that has sprung up around it. These are America, at our least beautiful. When will we simply say...enough?"

"I am saddened again by the american two gun society. i can hear the NRA already...its not guns that kill children, its children who kill children...or if all the teachers and students had freer access to guns, they would have nailed the shooter before he killed so many...i mourn these children and all the children who are falling though the cracks of our very violent two gun society, and endlessly warring world.."

"Twenty-two children injured [in China by a knife wielding assailant]. Versus, at current count, 18 little children and nine other people shot dead. That's the difference between a knife and a gun.

Guns don't attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again -- and again and again. You can look it up...

...For parents, siblings, and families whose lives have been forever changed (or ended), deepest sympathies. For us as a nation .... I don't know what to say."

Edgardo Cervano-Soto

In Soda Tax Debate, Who Endorses Health?

By Edgardo Cervano-Soto, Sep 17, 2012 2:33 PM


It is a guarantee that while watching television, a soda commercial featuring a celebrity, musician or athlete will run at least once. In fact, for many celebrities, having their likeness appear in soda commercials symbolizes the attainment of world-wide fame. Think of the Michael Jackson and Beyonce Pepsi commercials, or Coca-Cola’s commercials featuring Michael Jordan, and more recently athletes from the 2012 London Olympics.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

On Proms and Protocols-Figuring out the rules and creating new paths

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Jun 13, 2012 12:32 PM

It was after midnight when my girlfriend Margie posted her prom picture on Facebook. The comments came promptly, “Major hotness! Oh, Margie looks good too.” (Her prom date, obviously, still enjoying his white tuxedo and sky blue ruffled shirt.)


Valerie Klinker

Second Chance at Prom Night

By Valerie Klinker, May 25, 2012 11:47 AM


As a teenager in high school, I never went to prom. I didn’t know at the time just how much I would come to regret that decision.

Zoe Johnson

U.S. Government Not Doing Enough to Curb Climate Change

By Zoe Johnson, May 11, 2012 10:53 AM

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Last Spring, four young people – they are being represented legally by the law firm of Paul McClosky, a co-founder of Earth Day -- brought a lawsuit, Alec L. et. al vs. Lisa P. Jackson, et. al, against the U.S. Government charging them with not doing enough to curb climate change. On Friday, May 11, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins will hear arguments from the defendants – they include the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, Interior and Agriculture – who have filed a motion that the case be dismissed. If it is not, the litigation will be tried in a federal court.

The author, Zoe Johnson, is an 11th grader at The Urban School of San Francisco. She is a member of the iMatter movement and a Plaintiff in Alec v. Jackson, which advocates have dubbed the “Atmospheric Trust Litigation.”


Every day, I go to school, complain about homework, and think about my own future. But I also think about the future of our planet, and our environment. I don’t think that I should have to worry about whether our planet will still be inhabitable for my grandchildren, and their children when they are born, but I do. My generation, and every generation after us will have to live with the effects of climate change and, if the government does not regulate greenhouse gas emissions, things are only going to get worse. I refuse to sit back and watch it happen.

The public trust doctrine stipulates that the government cannot waste or destroy natural resources such as air and water. However, by not doing a better job of protecting these resources, that is exactly what our elected officials are doing.

The government needs to put a climate recovery plan in place as soon as possible, and at this point, the most direct and most efficient way to encourage that is through the federal courts -- which is why I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit with several other kids from across the country who believe the government must do more to protect the future of our planet.

On May 11th, 2012 the US District Court in Washington DC will hear all the reasons why the government and industry interests believe our lawsuit should be dismissed. If the judge rules in our favor, we will be able to make our case before the court that the federal government must put a nation-wide climate recovery plan in place. According to environmental scientist Dr. James Hansen, if we reduce emissions by a mere 6 percent every year, we can restore balance in the atmosphere.

Our future is at stake and the government has a legal obligation to protect the atmosphere and they are not doing enough. According to a March 2012 report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the majority (72 percent) of Americans, across party lines, say that global warming should be a priority for the President and Congress, and an even greater majority (92 percent) think that development of clean energy technologies should be on the government's list of priorities.

Please join me in telling our government that you are one of the majority of Americans who believe in protecting our environment now. Please support our lawsuit and tell the President and Congress to talk to the kids of the iMatter movement and to put a national climate recovery plan in place. We need the U.S. government to take action now, and act as if our future matters.



To send a letter to the President go to: www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

Sharee Lopez

No More Bullies!

By Sharee Lopez, Apr 26, 2012 12:05 PM


Growing up in the public school system, I witnessed my share of bullying. In a situation like this, you really do not know what to do. I was scared and I knew that if I told someone what I had seen, the bully would come after me.

Juan of Words

Raising a Bilingual Kid: Getting Your Kids to Buy into español

By Juan of Words, Apr 15, 2012 12:30 AM


Juan of Words

He tries. He really does. We all do. It’s become an entire family effort to maintain Edgar’s bilingual skills. Even more so to ensure he is fluent in Spanish. Inevitably, as much as we try to avoid it, we always end up talking to him in English instead of Spanish. It’s not that we don’t feel comfortable speaking in only español, pero cómo que the words come out easier in English.

Stephanie Espinoza

Students Compete for Attention of Swamped Counselors at Arvin H.S.

By Stephanie Espinoza, Apr 11, 2012 5:30 PM


Cynthia Gomez, 15, is a sophomore at Arvin High School in south Kern County. She shares one guidance counselor, Wendy Ward, with 552 other students in her class. Needless to say, gone are the days of just walking into the counselor’s office for some friendly advice. Getting guidance from Crider can take awhile, especially at critical times during the school year.

"When the school year starts or when the second semester begins, we’re not allowed to see our counselors (without an appointment)," says Cynthia. "There are so many students that need to make changes to their schedules, so we have to fill out a form."

This was a big problem for Cynthia during her freshman year.

"I was placed in a class I didn’t want to be in," she says. "I tried to fix it and went through the process and filled out the form.” It took three weeks for Cynthia to get a response.

Over time, Cynthia was able to establish a good relationship with her counselor, and the personal relationship has made a difference. "That problem for me hasn't really been there anymore since she knows who I am and she recognizes me." Cynthia's experience might be different today if she wasn't so persistent. "I feel that [my counselor] doesn't necessarily give me priority but… she'll look out for me and make sure I have the classes I need," says Cynthia. "I think if I didn't have that relationship, she would [still] put in the effort, but not as much as now."

But even with the communication improved, Cynthia feels that she is still not getting enough support. "I generally don't go in for much help besides my (class) schedule," she says. "It's too difficult to contact them for advice on college and other things. Recently, I went in to remind her that I wanted to be put in a class next year… I went everyday during lunch for almost a week, until I was able to find her," she adds. "It's bothersome because they tell us to look for them during lunch but they aren’t there."

Stephanie Espinoza is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.

Marisa Treviño

Young Latino Voters Listen to Classmates More Than Friends or Family

By Marisa Treviño, Mar 18, 2012 12:00 AM


LatinaLista

In the paper “Youth, Race and Voter Mobilization” released this week by the black youth project, the researchers cited many facts about political party mobilization efforts among young voters that weren’t fully realized. For example, in the 2008 election, it was widely believed that the Democratic party was outdoing the GOP when it came to mobilization initiatives among young voters but that wasn’t the case.

Andrew Lam

Lessons of Anime--How to Cope with Japan's Tragedy

By Andrew Lam, Mar 11, 2012 11:13 AM

It's been a year since the tsunami and earthquake created havoc and destroyed part of the Japanese coast and set the nuclear reactor in Fukushima to burn uncontrollably. This piece, written last year, is reposted here as it remains relevant.

Andrew Lam

--

In Japan’s most popular cultural genres known as manga (comic books) and anime (animation films and series), there’s a recurrent theme in which the country is routinely devastated. 
 
Tokyo, home to more than 30 million people, is destroyed so often in the Japanese collective imagination there’s an alternative version of the ultramodern mega-metropolis: one made of shattered concrete and glass debris.
 
Take the popular animated film Akira, for example. “Tokyo is destroyed by an apparent nuclear explosion, leading to the start of World War III.” So goes Wikipedia’s note on the world-famous manga series turned anime. 
 
Wikipedia goes on, “Thirty-one years after Tokyo's destruction, Neo-Tokyo, a new metropolis built on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay, is gripped by political strife, anti-government terrorism and gang violence.”
 
Or take Desert Punk: “After a global nuclear catastrophe Japan has been reduced to a desert and the surviving humans seek out a meager living in the hot sands,” goes the description of the anime series.
 
“A devastating war fought between two major nations with ultra-magnetic weapons far greater than anything seen earlier brings about total chaos and destruction throughout the world, resulting in several earthquakes and tidal waves,” begins the plot description of the anime Future Boy Conan, in which humanity is on the brink of extinction. 
 
The examples are endless, but you see the point: Nihilistic themes dominate Japanese narratives of itself. 
 
Now try this scenario: Japan has fallen apart. Its towns and villages devastated by such a massive earthquake that the earth’s axis itself is affected and by the subsequent tsunami, its nuclear reactors exposed, sending radiation into the atmosphere. Millions live without water and electricity. Millions more live in panic and fear as the tremors continue and radiation leaks into food and water and land. 
 
Japan is facing a crisis it hasn’t seen since World War II.
 
This, alas, is no scenario at all, but a reality. So, what purposes do these apocalyptic stories serve? And how does one watch these animes, now that their visions have become prophetically superimposed on the real world?
 
I write this as someone who was born into a world devastated by war. As a South Vietnamese soldier’s son – an army brat -- I witnessed much destruction and suffering at a very young age. I saw dead bodies strewn about in rice fields, burned out villages, maimed survivors, homeless refugees trudging along highways, and many begging on the streets of Saigon. 
 
As a teenager in America, I was enthralled by Bugs Bunny and Disney movies showing children laughing. In this world, evil is always conquered. The princess marries the prince, and everyone is guaranteed a happy ending. That is, I bought into the American optimism, bought my own ticket on the little train that could.
 
Now, however, as an adult, as a seasoned journalist who has witnessed tragedy after tragedy around the world, I find myself drawn back to the Far East, and increasingly drawn to Japanese manga and anime. I watch them religiously in middle age.
 
Why? Because many of these stories, albeit far more complex and enticing, are similar to the folktales my Vietnamese grandmother told. On those frightful nights when the bombs fell in villages and their reverberations shook the city, Grandma’s ancient stories with their ambiguous if flat-out unhappy endings were strangely soothing.
 
The princess died and her heart turns into a ruby, which was then carved into a teacup. The fisherman, her true love, came back and cried and his tear fell in the cup, which melted into blood.
 
Or she’d tell of a younger brother, who gave up his love for a beautiful woman so that his older one could marry her. The younger man went to the forest and died, turning into a betel tree. Then the older brother searched for him, died and turned into a limestone. The wife followed, and sat leaning on the tree, when she turned into a vine. When chewing betel nut together with the vine leaf and limestone, your spit will turn into the color of blood.
 
A few years ago in Japan, I interviewed professor Koike Kazuo, the celebrated author of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series. It is the story of a samurai who walked the path of death while pushing a small cart in which sat his little boy. Their entire clan had been massacred. 
 
The boy watches undaunted as his father stabs and slices their enemies. In the final episode, the boy’s father is killed by their ultimate nemesis, an old man who has masterminded their clan’s destruction. Undaunted, the little boy picks up his father’s spear and rushes to drive it through the old man, who, recognizing the boy’s samurai spirit, embraced him in death, calling him “Grandson of my heart.”
 
I asked Kazuo sensei why such a tragic ending would be considered children’s entertainment. He thought about this for a while before answering, “On the deepest level, serious mangas are about spiritual drama and love.”
 
This struck a chord in me. Despite the age of high-tech wizardry, manga/anime continue to distill an ancient ethos of the Far East; a shared cultural matrix between Japan and East Asia, in which fatalism informs the floating world. It teaches that life is precious, and spending time serving the greater good may be the only control one has in the face of unpredictable calamity and uncontrollable and often violent cosmos. 
 
When one lives life for the sake of others by protecting what one considers precious, then one will achieve his human/spiritual truth regardless of the outcome. 
 
Indeed, if American fairy tales are in the business of protecting children from the reality of a cold and belligerent world, Japanese fairy tales told through certain genre of mangas and animes are doing quite the opposite: preparing their charges for the day in which their normal and seemingly sunny life may be abruptly thrown into complete chaos and destruction. Thus, hidden behind those round eyed and perfect-faced cartoon characters are stories of human sufferings and survival rivaling the tragedy of Job.
 
No wonder these Japanese genres are rivaling the church of Disney, and anime continues to enthrall children and young adults across the globe. It is in part because they don’t belittle their viewers but treat them as adults to be.
 
Now, as I watch in horror the story of Japan in the aftermath of the huge earthquake and devastating tsunami, I see their points more clearly. My grandmother’s old fairy tales, with their countless wars and natural disasters, evolved over the millennia and merge with anime as warning, as an admonitory mythos, and as a way to prepare the next generation for cataclysm and grief.
 
Here’s another inspirational and true story with anime sensibility. The story, which has been widely distributed on the Internet and global media, is told by an immigrant in Fukushima, where the nuclear reactors continue to send radiation out of their broken roofs and walls.
 
A nine-year-old boy watched as the tsunami swept away his father from the balcony of his school. His sister and mother, too, were presumably swept away with their house near the beach. Yet, despite such losses, when given a bag of food, he went to the front of the food line and gave it back to the food distributors. He told the astonished man who gave him the food to nourish himself, “I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally.” 
 
The adult who told this story wept, “Who knew a boy in the third grade could teach me a lesson on how to be a human being at a time of such great suffering?” The boy, having no superpower, having lost his family, nevertheless becomes a kind of anime hero, someone who sacrifices for the greater good and achieves human truth.
 
A year after the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were destroyed by terrorist attacks, I visited Ground Zero. There were many visitors and gawkers about, and next to me were a few teenagers with their charming Midwest accents, snapping photos. As they surveyed the terrible destruction before them – shattered concrete and melted steel of what was once an ivory citadel -- one of them said, with reverence in his voice, “Man, this is, like, right out of Akira!” 
 
I watch anime nightly along with news of Japan’s unfolding devastation, and the story lines ring truer now. In this post 9/11 world, where war drones fly and preemptive strikes and revolutions are the norm, where ominous storms keep gathering and growing stronger -- if not at our shores then in our collective unconsciousness – and where the earth keeps trembling, it may very well be that those apocalyptic narratives are the very medicine that could assist us all. Adults and children alike, in Japan and elsewhere, now bear witness to the churning tides.
 

New America Media editor Andrew Lam is the author of East Eats West (Heyday Books, 2011), his new collection of 21 essays. His previous book, Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora won a Pen American award in 2006. 
 
Listen to his radio commentary here.

Jacob Simas

CA Youth Document Launch of Lady Gaga's New Foundation

By Jacob Simas, Mar 6, 2012 12:03 PM


Last week, Lady Gaga launched her new Born This Way Foundation with a massive kickoff at Harvard University in Cambridge. A number of celebrities turned up for the pop star’s big event -- Oprah Winfrey was on hand, so you know this was big – and hundreds of youth leaders were assembled from across the county, including four youth reporters from California representing New America Media.

The foundation, led by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta, was created last year with the objective “to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated.” Appearing unexpectedly at a youth forum at Harvard on the day before the actual launch, Gaga described the organization specifically as a “youth empowerment foundation,” drawing loud cheers from the young audience.

“I don’t believe I have the answers,” said Gaga. “I believe you do.” More cheers.

Gaga’s down to earth conversations with the youth and her rationale for wanting to start a foundation – building a more loving and accepting world is part of the foundation’s mission statement – come across as refreshingly straightforward, intelligent and genuine, in a world of celebrity that more often than not emphasizes conformity, consumerism and superficiality.

For an in-depth peek at the events, including written reports, photos, video coverage of Gaga’s speech to the youth delegates and a panel discussion that included Gaga, Oprah, Deepak Chopra and more, you can visit BornBraveCA, a youth-produced blog facilitated by The California Endowment and created to document the experience of California youth attending the launch of the Born This Way Foundation.

New America Media congratulates the four youth reporters who represented our organization so well in Cambridge: Edgardo Cervano-Soto from Richmond Pulse;Tony Aguilar from Coachella Unincorporated; Jaleesa Vickers from The kNOw Youth Media and Luis Pacheco from The kNOw Youth Media.


Denise Chan

Culture as Costume

By Denise Chan, Oct 31, 2011 4:00 PM

Once a year, on Halloween, people seize the opportunity to dress as something “they’re not.” Everywhere you turn, there seems to be a sudden increase in the number of enlarged animals and sexy nurses on the street, usually drunk, stumbling in the darkness. But without fail, you can pretty much bet on the fact that there will be a few individuals who cross the line into cultural offensiveness.

Kevin Weston

Nonprofit, Philanthropy and Business Leaders to Gather Oct. 12 for Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy's "State of the Race" Conference

By Kevin Weston, Oct 10, 2011 12:00 PM

2011 Community Impact Awards to Recognize Local Black Philanthropists

SAN FRANCISCO – Nonprofit, business and philanthropy leaders will gather on October 12, 2011, for the Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy’s “State of the Race” conference and awards reception, celebrating local black philanthropists and spotlighting solutions that can fuel employment, entrepreneurship and innovation for African Americans in the region.

Andrew Lam

"Feasting Meets Philanthropy" at OneVietnam's SF Street Eats Gala

By Andrew Lam, Aug 27, 2011 3:19 PM



Foodies, techies and their friends who want to eat well and help the organization that bills itself as the "Facebook" of the Vietnamese Diaspora will be heading to the San Francisco Ferry Building for SF Street Eats on Sept 18. The charity gala will support OneVietnam.org, a global online network for the Vietnamese community.

Spearheaded by Slanted Door chef and owner, Charles Phan, the upper floor of the posh building known for its gourmet food and weekend farmers markets, will be turned into a gallery of food and
drinks galore. Participants can sample international cuisine from well-known chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Michelin starred Ame, and ramen dishes from chef Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen. Many dishes will be from Vietnamese chefs -- spring rolls from chef Khai Duong from Ana Mandara's and Asian flavor (guava, shiraja, durian) chocolate from chocolatier Susan Lieu, for instance. Want a Vietnamese sandwich?

Try Vietnamese banh me from the Nom Nom truck, which was featured on food networks The "Great Food Truck Race.”

"Wine and dessert will also be in continuous supply and, in addition to the company of great guests, live entertainment will also be provided," notes OneVietnam's business director, Uyen Nguyen.
"Seriously, folks, this is where gourmand meets gourmet and feasting meets philanthropy."

For more info: go to http://go.onevietnam.org/streeteats/


Andrew Lam is author of East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.

Eming Piansay

College-Bound African-American Men to Be Honored

By Eming Piansay, Jun 15, 2011 10:32 AM

The San Francisco-based Mitchell Kapor Foundation is honoring a group of young male African-American students from the Bay Area as they head off to college, reports the San Francisco BayView. The event, which is being held at 5:30 tonight at the Oakland Museum of California, is part of the foundation’s College Bound Brotherhood program, which aims to increase the numbers of young black men from the Bay Area who are prepared for a college education.

Suzanne Manneh

Local Mexican Music Group Raises Funds for Music in Schools

By Suzanne Manneh, Jun 6, 2011 10:25 AM

The San Jose-based Grammy Award-winning Mexican music group Los Tigres del Norte will be playing a special concert June 16 at the San Jose State Event Center Arena to benefit arts and music programs in local schools, reports Univision

The concert is being organized by the Mexican Heritage Corporation of San Jose, which provides Mexican folklorico dance classes in San Jose schools and community centers.

Andrew Lam

Oakland Graffiti Pioneer to Create 10 Collaborative Murals Worldwide

By Andrew Lam, May 6, 2011 11:30 AM

 
A local graffiti muralist is commissioning artists to create 10 collaborative murals in 10 different cities around the world -- including one in Oakland -- reports ColorLines. The project, called Water Writes, will use street art to examine the global water crisis and its impact on communities. The murals are
being sponsored by Estria, a foundation started by local street art pioneer Estria Miyashiro, that is dedicated to bringing attention to human and environmental issues through art.

One mural has already been completed in Los Angeles. Other U.S. mural sites include Hawaii (Miyashiro’s home state) and Arizona, and the group is planning other murals in the Philippines, Gaza, El Salvador and Colombia.

In Oakland, Estria Foundation is partnering with young artists from Visual Element Program of the East Side Arts Alliance to create the mural.

The Oakland mural, which is still in progress at Broadway and 21st
Street, can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22336189@N07/5647060503/


Andrew Lam is author of "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres."

Andrew Lam

YouTube Co-Founder Honored by Northern California Asia Society

By Andrew Lam, May 3, 2011 11:49 AM

 
Steve Chen, who co-founded YouTube in 2005, is being honored by the Northern California Asia Society in San Francisco May 5 at the Four Seasons. According to Asianweek, Chen is “credited with developing the company’s massive data centers and helping build YouTube into a premier entertainment destination and one of the most popular Web sites on the Internet today.”

Another local Asian-American entrepreneur being honored by the Northern California Asia Society is Dr. Naren Gupta, co-founder and managing director of Nexus Venture Capital and SF Hep B Free. Nexus Venture Capital “invests in innovative companies to serve both the Indian and the global markets,” according to the Asia Society.

SF Hep Free, the Asia Society notes, “has put San Francisco at the forefront of the nation in fighting chronic hepatitis B, a disease that disproportionately affects Asian Pacific Islanders.”

The annual dinner is ASNC’s most prestigious event and largest fundraiser of the year, notes Asian Week, and is attended by more than 350 distinguished guests including leaders in business, academia, the diplomatic corps, and media. Featured speakers of past annual dinners have included Madeleine Albright, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Nobel Laureate and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

Mayor Ed Lee has been invited as keynote speaker to this year’s dinner.

Sponsorships begin at $5,000. Individual tickets are available for $275. 

Andrew Lam is author of "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres."

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