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Blog Post Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Seeing Hope

On April 18, more than 200 friends of The Opportunity Agenda came together at the Creative Change Awards to reconnect, laugh, reflect, learn, celebrate, conspire, and get down.

They walked away with new ideas and a renewed sense of possibility (and with their very own racism decoder rings and copies of Greg Jobin-Leeds and AgitArte’s incredible new book, When We Fight We Win). The event marked a decade of accomplishments for The Opportunity Agenda, and provided a window into the organization’s vision for the next 10 years.

Apr 26 2016
Page Creative Change at the People's Climate March

The Climate Ribbon

The Climate Ribbon, an art installation and ritual project that was incubated at the 2014 Creative Change retreat, moved thousands of hearts and minds at the end of the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21. Creative Change alumni artist and organizer Gan Golan and creative interventionist Andrew Boyd led a team of advocates, artists and activists to construct a peaceful circle of thousands of colorful ribbons – each one inscribed with what we can’t bear losing to climate change. 

Sep 24 2014
Blog Post From Fear to Action: Celebrating the Tree that Grew from Creative Change


What happens when artists and activists unite to battle climate change?

The Climate Ribbon at the People's Climate March

From the civil rights movement to protecting the environment, we’ve seen how artists and cultural visionaries are among our nation’s greatest social justice leaders, not merely supporters of causes or movements. The giant Tree of Life, a symbolic centerpiece for the largest climate-related mobilization in U.S. history, grew from a seed of an idea planted in the mountains of Utah this summer.

The tree’s growth highlights how the powerful combination of arts, culture, and social justice organizing generates a new way of thinking about shared challenges and the impacts of injustice—forging a vision for change that goes beyond traditional issue campaigns.

Sep 19 2014
Blog Post When Art is the Change: A Look at Native Philanthropy

Attendees of the Seventh Generation Fund-sponsored "'Empower Your Story' Digital Media Training & Workshop," february 2013. Photo courtesy of Working Narratives. 

This blog was originally posted by Working Narratives 

“For many Indigenous peoples the world is dreamed, told or sung into being. The act of creativity is the act of creation,” says Betsy Richards, who leads the Creative Change program of the Opportunity Agenda, and was previously the program officer for Media, Arts and Culture at the Ford Foundation, where she funded Native American and place-based cultural communities. “Culture and creativity are at the center of ourselves and our societies, rather than being entertainment that we consume at the end of our day.”

Nov 21 2013
Page The Opportunity Agenda Is Pleased to Introduce our New Fellow, Tracy Van Slyke

The Opportunity Agenda Is Pleased to Introduce Our New Fellow, Tracy Van Slyke

Download this information (PDF)

Nov 19 2013
Blog Post Selling for Your Time

Zakeia Tyson-Cross shares her thoughts on pop culture in the following poem: 

Can I have your attention?
Just for one moment
I have a point to stress
A product for you to see
It’s made with the best synthetic materials
Often passed as organically natural
If you eat or drink it
You will instantly become hooked
Like a junkie looking for its last fix
It may devastate your system over a period of time
Cause you to develop erratic cells
To form more violent ones
Make your youth look depressingly old and worn
But you will get your monies worth
And I will capitalize ….

Jul 24 2013
Page Creative Change Retreat 2013

Creative Change 2013: A Retreat at Sundance at the Intersection of Arts, Activism and Social Justice

DOWNLOAD: 2013 Creative Change Retreat Program (PDF)

See photos of some of our 2013 participants 

May 6 2013
Blog Post Dad, I’m Home!: What Does It Mean to Be a Stay-at-Home Dad?

Photo courtesy by tienvijftien (CC BY 2.0)  

In the 1950s, stereotypical housewives, like June Cleaver, of Leave It To Beaver and Margaret Anderson of Father Knows Best, may have brought immense joy and laughter in the households of many, and perhaps, in many women, a longing to be as flawless as they were. The two cleaned, cooked, and mended with complete delight all while maintaining their composure, beauty, and subservience to the wise father. Since the 1950’s the typical role of a stay-at-home mom has significantly changed. Today, our social trends have shifted and men are taking on nontraditional roles, such as becoming a full time caregiver and tackling everyday household chores while women bring home the “bacon.” An exploration of traditional and nontraditional gender roles of parenting may help redefine stereotypical roles that are perpetuated by various media conglomerates, and move us toward greater acceptance of gender roles that defy our long held core values and beliefs about the role of men and women.

Apr 30 2013
Blog Post Creative Change, Immigrant Justice & The Butterfly: Artists Rise Above and Transform the Narrative

A vibrant Monarch butterfly with two faces in its wings connects across human and artificial borders, calling out to us, “Migration is Beautiful.”

Artist/Activist and Creative Change alumni Favianna Rodriguez and Julio Salgado (along with artists such as Cesar Maxit and Melanie Cervantes) are using the butterfly image as a vital metaphor of the possibilities inherent in the Immigrant Justice movement. As ABC News/Univision stated in its recent piece Hopeful,'Unapologetic' Art Rebrands the Immigration Movement , these artists are deploying the butterfly to help us understand that “Migration is natural, borders are not.” 

Mar 28 2013
Blog Post Is Ignorance Bliss? The Use of Degrading Lyrics to Sell

When you think of the illustrious, beautiful, and talented Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, what comes to mind? Well… I’m sure the term “bitch” doesn’t resonate with you. Her latest controversial song “Bow Down/I Been On”, produced by Hit Boy has jolted the airwaves. In her song, Beyoncé explicitly asserts “This is my Sh__t, bow down B—es.” It is a far stretch from her fourth, studio album and debut single “Run the World.” And we must not forget her popular feminist salute, “If I Were A Boy,” which debuted on her third solo studio album. This raises a question: Are pejorative verbal tactics acceptable to increase record sales and to gain amiability from impressionable fans? The B-word implies a strong hatred for women; we should use no explicit words that will get our point across while avoiding demeaning terms that are insulting to females.

Mar 26 2013
Blog Post Creative Change: Grow with the Flow!

This article was originally published by ARTSblog. Please visit ARTSblog's Blog Salon, a series of posts by guest bloggers. 

In the arts & social justice world, a plan for expanding impact is more than good business, it’s our roadmap for changing the world.

Infrastructure and funding for arts-for-change projects may be nascent, but as Jeff Chang and Brian Komar remind us in Culture Before Politics, creativity is the “most renewable, sustainable, and boundless of resources” with which we can capture the American imagination and plant seeds of social transformation.

Dec 3 2012
Blog Post The Negative Influence of Reality TV on Teenage Girls


Many of us may have conversed around the water cooler about the provocative behavior that is displayed on some reality TV shows. It’s like junk food: we love it and we know it’s bad for us, but we—and our children—watch anyway. You might say that it’s a parent’s duty to steer a child in the right direction; however, with loads of technology available at our fingertips on a variety of devices, it can be next to impossible to shield a child from junk TV. Reality TV is popular entertainment that may be having an impact on teenage girls, making it seem that the impertinent verbal exchanges and sometimes violent confrontations displayed heavily on reality TV shows such as Basketball Wives and Real Housewives of Atlanta are normal and desirable forms of behavior.

May 2 2012
Blog Post When Social Media and Cause Engagement for Minorities Come Together


Photo by john_a_ward

The use of communications during the struggle for social justice in the United States is far from being a novelty. News spread quickly by word of mouth when black college students started a host of nonviolent sit-ins in several states almost 50 years ago, as The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson noted. Today, civil rights activists, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, have found in social media a powerful channel to voice their support for a cause and generate cause engagement, according to a latest study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

Sep 7 2011
Blog Post A Courageous and Compassionate Voice Leaves Us

Last week, Hazel Dickens, who dedicated her life to using song to give voice to the voiceless, died at the age of 75.  Dickens’ voice was wholly her own, bearing all the traces of her hardscrabble mountain upbringing, and her passing is a great loss to American culture as well as the movement to expand to create full and equal opportunity.

Apr 27 2011
Blog Post Kicking Up a Storm on Immigration

Farewell World Cup.

You will be sorely missed, although as as European I only have to wait two years instead of four to see my national team, Engalnd, once again spectacularly fail to deliver. Congratulations Spain, and moreover, congratulations to the many immigrants who put in jaw-dropping performances for their adopted countries, despite - in many instances - anti-immigrant rhetoric stirring political waters back home.

Jul 19 2010
Blog Post YouTube and WITNESS Use Video to Promote Human Rights

Recently YouTube partnered with WITNESS, an international group that uses video to promote human rights, to begin a series of blog posts that will demonstrate and explore how film has become an integral facet of the worldwide human rights initiative.

Jun 21 2010
Page Video and Pictures from Our Immigration Arts + Culture Events

Photos from the Events

Immigration: Arts, Culture & Media 2010 (New York)

May 12 2010

Page Immigrants in America, A Hollywood Perspective

A panel of Hollywood notables recently took the stage with immigration advocates, at The Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, to discuss the challenges in telling accurate, compelling immigrant stories in movies and television.

May 12 2010
Blog Post Counting Cultural Diversity

Last Friday, April 16 2010, was the final deadline for Americans to return their census forms. Although final mail participation rates – the percentage of forms mailed back by households excluding those returned by the postal service for being undeliverable – will not be available until early May, they will be eagerly anticipated by the Census Bureau and likely to cause either significant celebration or upset.

Apr 20 2010
Blog Post Housing is a Human Right
  • The Facing South blog has provided us with an update on the impending demolition of public housing developments in New Orleans. According to Monday's Times-Picayune, a city committee has refused to approve the demolition of
    one of the four public housing complexes slated for destruction by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The matter will now go before the city council. At Monday's meeting, protesters were seen holding banners that said "Housing is a human
  • Prometheus 6 has also posted a wealth of information on the housing crisis in New Orleans. As the public housing battle rages on, bloggers are referring to a 2005 Washington Post article which reported that Representative Baker of Baton Rouge was overhead saying "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Additionally, there's a new video out on YouTube which does a great job of illustrating the housing conflict:

  • Jack and Jill Politics also mentions that the organization Color of Change (known for their work with the Jena 6) has posted an online petition to support a Senate bill that would reopen housing in New Orleans, guarantee a right to return for public housing residents, and provide housing assistance to renters. Curiously, Louisiana Senator Vitter is responsible for blocking this bill.
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog posted a great article on the work that the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic is doing to improve conditions for children living in the Hutto immigrant detention center.  Other than last week's holiday toy drive, the clinic has filed a series of lawsuits to ensure that children are housed in "the least restrictive conditions possible" and that the facilities meet certain basic standards in their care and treatment.
  • And in today's pop culture news, from the LA Times blogs, a popular character in children's books will be featured in a new television series that will also educate kids about immigration issues:

After a three-decade-long hiatus, Paddington Bear
will return to children's lit only to find he's not as welcome as he
was in 1958. In a new set of stories by 81-year-old Paddington creator
Michael Bond, the refugee bear will face questioning by British
immigration authorities. But Bond promises that all will turn out well
in the end for Paddington who is, of course, a model immigrant,
regardless of his legal status.

Dec 12 2007
Blog Post Congress Approves of Giving a Second Chance, While New York Reviews Disenfranchisement Policies
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted about last week's House vote on the Second Chance Act, legislation that aims to address the needs of individuals reintegrating into the community after time spent in prison. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 347-62, and it is expected that the Senate will consider the same legislation before the end of the year.  Based in the spirit of redemption, the idea that we all deserve the support we need to make a new start,

"H.R. 1593 would provide grants to States and local areas to create or
strengthen the systems that help adults and youth transition into the
community when they are released from incarceration by providing drug
addiction and mental health treatment services, job training and
education opportunities, housing and other necessary services."

  • The same blog also covered a recent report by the Brennan Center on felony disenfranchisment in New York state which found that "87% of those currently disenfranchised in New York are Latino and African American."  The state's sentencing structure is currently under review for its early Nineteenth Century laws that still effectively deny the right to vote to people of color.
  • Also, a successful doctor and his entrepreneur wife are facing sudden deportation proceedings in Pennsylvania after a small error was found in the documents they used to apply for American citizenship. Although Pedro and Salvacion Servano have been in the US legally for twenty-five years, and have come to embody the American Dream in their family life and contributions to their community, they are currently fighting to appeal the mandate that they report to ICE the day after Thanksgiving in order to initiate deportation proceedings to the Philippines.
  • Finally, the Immigrants in USA Blog featured two articles on the value of a multilingual society. Statesman.com wrote about the tensions involved when a California school district announced its intentions to provide bilingual education to all students, and mercurynews.com published an opinion piece on the value of learning English but not losing the language of one's cultural heritage. Given that "many folks pay thousands of dollars to acquire a second language," linguistic diversity is an undeniable advantage to our community and our economy in an increasingly interconnected world.
Nov 19 2007
Blog Post 'Reckless Optimism': People Really Are Able to Turn Their Lives Around
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted an interesting New York Times article
    on an innovative program providing prenatal care for homeless women in
    San Francisco. With nineteen years as a non-profit agency, and a staff
    of fifty-three people, half of whom have been homeless in the past, the
    program is a model of the core value of redemption, or the idea that we all deserve the support needed for a new start:

"The Homeless Prenatal Program has evolved from its original mission
of helping destitute women give birth to and then keep healthy babies
to become a resource dedicated to stabilizing entire families. It
offers what this particular woman excitedly described here as 'a
plethora of services' for mental health, housing and substance abuse
problems. It combines those with an array of alternative health
approaches not usually available to the poor, like yoga, massage and
chiropractic treatments.

'People call me a reckless optimist, and you have to be to do this
kind of work,' said Martha Ryan, founder and executive director of the
Homeless Prenatal Program. 'But I see enough success. I see people
really able to turn their lives around, and I see their children be
able to move forward and have a different life.'”

  • The Huffington Post has a great piece up by Sally Kohn of the Movement Vision Lab on the writers' strike. Speaking of the absence of the community frame in television or film media, Kohn praises the writers for joining together but contributes a larger cultural analysis of what has shaped our values of individualism:

"If you turn on your TV today or sit for a matinee at your local
cineplex, you'd wonder whether it's an entirely different crop of folks
holding the pens behind the scenes. After all, much of the shows and
movies they write promote extreme greed, competition and the notion
that we have to pull ourselves up from our individual bootstraps ---
NOT that we're all in it together, in solidarity. While most of us in
real life, like the striking writers, have learned that we can't
succeed without the help of others around us, most reality TV shows from American Idol to Survivor tell us that the only way to the top is fierce competition against one another.  Meanwhile shows like Desperate Housewives
tell us that selfishness is good and there's no such thing as too much
greed and status --- mind you, the same greed that is keeping the
Hollywood execs from sharing the wealth with writers. And in countless
movies, writers resort to racist and homophobic 'humor' that helps
further divide our country rather than unite us together."

  • The DMI Blog has written about the Coalition to Raise the Minimum Standards at New York City Jails, a multi-organizational campaign that achieved a number of victories this year as "the Board of Corrections (BOC) proposed a number of changes to the
    Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities" which cover rules and regulations for city jails. Author Ezekiel Edwards reports that while the BOC was not swayed on every issue of importance to prisoners and their families, significant progress was made in preserving and improving conditions of incarceration: "As a result of the Coalition's relentless efforts, the BOC voted
    against the 'overcrowding' policy, against putting those in need of
    protection in 23-hour solitary confinement, and against reducing
    Spanish translation services." 

  • Feministe has a new post entitled 'Housing is a Human Right' which provides information on upcoming protests against the fact that all public housing units in New Orleans are slated for demolition after a recent federal court ruling. The Facing South blog has also posted about the controvery over the formaldehyde-laced trailers provided as temporary housing -- while Gulf Area families have been living in the trailers, FEMA has cautioned its own employees against entering them.
  • Finally, Latina Lista has reported on a DailyKos post by the author of the Migra Matters blog called 'A progressive plan for immigration reform,' referring to the resource as "the most insightful, certainly most thorough and step-by-step approach into fully understanding the immigration issue." Given his opinion that immigration is the new topic du jour, author Duke1676 prefaces his summary with "I figured it might be a good time post up a diary that sums up
    everything I've learned in my past three years here posting on
    immigration issues." With some 454 comments by readers, it's worth a read.
Nov 13 2007
Blog Post WITNESS Launches 'The Hub' For Human Rights Media
  • In exciting new media news, human rights organization WITNESS has just launched The Hub, a global platform for human rights media and action or "a YouTube for human rights."  According to the website:

"The Hub is a grassroots-driven, participatory media website that
enables anyone anywhere in the world with access to the internet to
upload, share, discuss and take action around human rights-related
media and resources. Through the Hub, organizations, networks and
groups around the world are able to bring their human rights stories
and campaigns to global attention.

The Hub has three main areas: See It – where you can view and interact with human rights media uploaded by the Hub community; Share It – where you can create and join groups or discussions that coincide with your interests or expertise; and Take Action – where you can get involved to make a difference,  and activate other users around your campaigns and events.

The Hub is a project of WITNESS.
WITNESS uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the
world to human rights violations. We empower people to transform
personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting
public engagement and policy change."

  • Another favorite bit of news this week is that the FBI has apparently been tracking sales of Middle Eastern food in San Francisco grocery stores in hopes that it will lead to terrorist communities. So far there have been no reports of falafel consumption leading to arrests.
  • Immigration News Daily has written about a study just released by the University of Florida which claims that news laws intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants are actually having the opposite effect.  Based on interviews with a community of Brazilian immigrants, the report has concluded that "restrictions to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States
    are having the perverse effect of encouraging those who are already
    here to stay by any means necessary." It is time for the US to abandon these policies of isolation in order to engage in comprehensive immigration reform that will create a fair and just system to provide everyone in America the opportunities needed to achieve their full potential.
  • The 'Just News' and ImmigrationProf blogs both touched upon a case in Arizona in which an undocumented high school student was found in posession of marijuana, his school called the cops who then called the border patrol, and the student's entire family was deported.  After significant protest by fellow students, "the Tucson police has changed its policy: no longer will they call the
    Border Patrol to schools or churches, though they will share
    information." In addition, immigration law  professor Kevin Johnson discusses official agency policies surrounding arrests at school:

"The Border Patrol has a policy saying that Border Patrol agents, who
work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, must have written approval
from a supervisor before conducting any enforcement-related activity at
schools or places of worship. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—which falls under a different
branch of the U.S. Homeland Security Department than Border Patrol—has
a policy that 'arresting fugitives at schools, hospitals, or places of
worship is strongly discouraged, unless the alien poses an immediate
threat to national security or the community.'"

It's reassuring that the Tucson community has been able to bring about the procedural changes they felt were necessary to ensure that their schools will be a safe and secure learning environment.

  • Bloggernista posted about yesterday's vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the House by a vote of 235-184.  While this vote is important and historic for its extension of fair workplace practices to lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities, Pam's House Blend guest author Autumn Sandeen has declared that she is "not celebrating" given the bill's failure to include 'real or perceived gender identity' in the list of protected identities.
Nov 8 2007
Blog Post The Whole Story on Race

Opportunity in America is a two-way street. Each of us has a
responsibility to do our best, pursuing whatever pathways to success
are available to us. And our society has a responsibility to keep those
pathways open and accessible to everyone, irrespective of race, gender,
or other aspects of what we look like or where we come from.

That balance of personal responsibility and self-help on one hand,
while demanding fairness and equity on the other, has always been
crucial to the African-American quest for opportunity. That's why
Malcolm X and the Million Man March continue to occupy such important
places in the black consciousness, and why civil rights organizations
like the NAACP and the National Urban League continue to promote educational and self-help programs along with advocacy and anti-discrimination efforts.

Given that reality, it's disappointing that the media coverage of Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint's new book, Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, seems to be telling only half the story when it comes to the state of black America.

  • There has been a good amount of discussion in the past couple weeks about the election of Piyush "Bobby" Jindal as the next governor of Louisiana, as Jindal is not only the first governor of color since Reconstruction but is the child of Indian Immigrants.  While blogs such as RaceWire have asked valid questions about Jindal's politics, arguing that his policies are culturally self-effacing and will prove damaging to people of color, other immigration blogs such as the Immigrants in USA Blog have praised Jindal's election as a sign of progress in the process of accepting and integrating immigrants into our communities, as well as demonstrating the opportunities for success in our country. Jindal is quoted by ABC News as saying: "My mom and dad came to this country in pursuit of the American dream.
    And guess what happened. They found the American dream to be alive and
    well right here in Louisiana."
  • The Border Line and LA Times report that presidential candidate Bill Richardson recently spoke on the need to change our policies towards Latin America. As a Latino and former ambassador the the UN, Richardson advocated for both improved diplomatic relations and comprehensive immigration reform that will allow for a pathway to citizenship in order to enable the same sort of mobility that provided Bobby Jindal to opportunity to assume the Louisiana governorship.  Along the same topic, Migra Matters has just published a piece on the need to examine how our trade policies such as NAFTA are driving the very migration into the United States that many Americans are fighting.
Oct 26 2007
Blog Post Race and Human Rights in Pop Culture
  • There have been a series of posts about costume options as Halloween approaches -- according to the Angry Asian Man, you can even be your favorite Asian stereotype, from a 'sexy giesha' to 'oriental delight.'  The (misspelled?) geisha costume is even described as 'accented with spicy oriental designs and a fancyfan.' While respect for cultural diversity is critical in ensuring the strength of our communities, the advertising around these costumes is based in prolonging not only an image of the submissive female but feeding unfavorable generalizations based on race.
  • The Consumerist has advised us that popular grocery store chain Trader Joe's has decided to cave to consumer pressure and ban all single-ingredient products originating in China. The post states, "Though the announcement - the first of its kind among major retailers -
    will not make consumers any safer, it is the most pernicious indication
    yet of consumers skepticism towards foreign goods."
  • There are two movies coming out of note to the human rights community, both to do with the cultureand techniques of detention after 9/11.  There has been a lot of buzz about Rendition, a film concerning the American practice of extraordinary rendition, or removing terrorism suspects to foreign soil to allow for 'enhanced interrogation' practices or torture.  On the humorous end, spring 2008 will see the release of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
  • Television network CW has just started a new series called Aliens in America, which tells the story of a Wisconsin family that decides to host an exchange student from Pakistan. The Louisville Courier-Journal says of the new series:

"Aliens in America" isn't preachy, and there are no overt references in
the opener to bigotry and discrimination, but the subtle undertows are
always present. The show is a fresh and new approach to
touchy topics, but it's done more for laughs than sermonizing....The comedy isn't really about Raja at all. It's about us. "Aliens in America" uses a funhouse mirror
to reflect the way too many of us see someone who doesn't look, dress
or pray like us, and it does it in an amusing and maybe even thoughtful

  • Finally, Racialicious is helping to sponsor a cool new media initiative known as 10Questions, in which people are encouraged to create, submit and vote on video questions, ten of which will be presented to the presidential candidates for their responses.  Also in the veign of playing  out racial stereotypes, a recent video was posted with the question "Should we ban American Indian Mascots?" Feel free to go throw in your two cents with a comment!
Oct 23 2007
Blog Post Equality in Immigration, Schools, and the Workplace
  • One piece of not-so-good news and then we're on to a happier day: The 'Just News' Blog and the LA Times report that a lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU to "stop immigration authorities from forcibly drugging deportees in
    order to send them back to their home countries on commercial airlines."  It seems this process may be quite widespread, as at least fifty-two people are known to have been drugged over a period of seven months, the majority of which had never shown any signs of psychiatric illness. ACLU attorney Ahilan T. Arulanantham aptly sums up the situation: "It's both medically
    inappropriate and shocking that the government believes it can treat
    immigrants like animals and shoot them up with powerful anti-psychotic
    drugs that can be fatal -- without a doctor's examination or court
    oversight." This type of practice does not support the equality and mobility that our country values; hopefully the lawsuit and media attention will bring an end to these stories of human rights denied.
  • Next, The Border Line and The New York Times have reported on a school district in Union City, New Jersey using iPods in class to help students with limited English proficiency learn to sing along to English-language music, working on their grammar and vocabulary in the process. This innovative style of teaching has been accelarating the students' move out of bilingual classes. NYU sociology professor Pedro Noguera agrees: “You
    know the No. 1 complaint about school is that it’s boring because the
    traditional way it’s taught relies on passive learning....It’s not interactive enough.”  It's great to see new media being used as an educational tool; while there is much value in cultural and linguistic diversity in our community, improved English skills will undeniably advance options for higher education and eventually work among our youth.
  • The ACSBlog reported on yesterday's Supreme Court decision that upheld the ability of parents of children with disabilities to be reimbursed for private school tuition even if their child never received public special education services.  When public schools do not offer appropriate programming for children with disabilities, children with special needs should have the opportunity to go elsewhere rather than first being forced to struggle in a public school setting.
  • Wrapping up, today is 'National Coming Out Day.'  The Human Rights Campaign has been promoting the event with a YouTube video contest, and Pam's House Blend has posted a video of her own along with notes on how to get involved in working for equal rights or even how to "come out" as a straight ally.  Bloggernista is doing a series of posts today on LGBT people of color and their coming out experiences. These discussions are particularly important this fall as Congress is considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to extend fair workplace protections to LBGT Americans.  Government policies that safeguard employment are critical to upholding the shared value of security, that all people must have access to the means to provide for their own basic needs and those of their family.
Oct 11 2007
Blog Post On Being a Kid: Health Care, Photo-Ops, and Video Games
  • Latina Lista just wrote a piece entitled "It's Been a Bad Week to Be an Immigrant Child in the U.S.A.," citing the recent upsets of the SCHIP veto plus the shelving of the DREAM Act and the Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act (ICHIA).  Additionally, Irving, Texas has seen about 90 immigrant children pulled out of school in the past month, while the nearby city council of Farmers Branch has demanded that the school district provide it with the names and addresses of all enrolled students, a move of which many are suspicious.  The post then ties all these are happenings together with a great use of the opportunity frame: "As a country, we can't afford to abandon any child. Why? Because there's potential in their destiny, and that's worth caring about every time."  Every child deserves the chance to succeed, and this requires that the child have a basic level of good health, education, and security.
  • Unfortunately, the examples of the neglect of a child's potential don't stop there.  A recent study by the University of Maryland reveals that families caring for foster children receive "far less than what middle-income families spend to raise their children."  At its core, foster care is a progressive societal mechanism meant to provide greater opportunities for children that are at risk. With 500,000 children in foster care nationwide, a lack of financial resources for foster families will certainly curtail the options of many.
  • Back to the SCHIP debate, another video has been released, this one by the Campaign for America's Future. Posted on YouTube as "Kids Warn Conservatives: No More Photo Ops," the footage urges Congress to override Bush's veto by questioning the use of children as a media tactic without regard to their well-being.  Looking at the comments on the YouTube page, it seems like many are in favor of the attack ad format of the video, which is framed as a cute and cheeky threat to politicians. Others question the heavy-handed use of the actor in the video, wondering how this use of a child in public media is different from that of politicians.  What do we think about this?  Is the video effective way to frame the argument for increased health coverage?
  • Briefly, a middle school in South Carolina has been in the news for its
    assignment to students to re-imagine plantation life, to the point of
    rationalizing and romanticizing slavery.  Too Sense's post "They Were Just Trying To Show Both Sides Of The Debate" is entertaining and insightful, as author dnA expresses concern for the black kids attending the school.
  • Iced_4
    On the other side of the educational spectrum, we're eagerly awaiting next month's release of ICED! I Can End Deportation, a downloadable video game being developed by Breakthrough, an organization that works in the US and India to build human rights culture through new media.  After presenting the project at the Games for Change conference, Breakthrough has received a surprising amount of mainstream media attention. Executive Director Mallika Dutt was even interviewed on Fox News about the game, whose name is a play on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICED! has been designed as a fun educational tool to illustrate the human rights violations inherent in immigration policies introduced in 1996.  Players get to role-play the experiences of five characters, each based on true case studies such as a student on a temporary visa or a permanent resident, and they make a series of moral choices which may bring them into contact with immigration agents seeking to arrest them.  There are also periodic myth/fact questions built into the game about immigration laws, which if answered correctly affect a player's score, level of risk, freedom, or health. If a player makes the wrong decisions they land in a detention center, where they endure inhumane living conditions and separation from their families as they await a random outcome.  Like the well-known Darfur is Dying, the detention process is anything but a game for thousands of people. But here's hoping that ICED! will be able to increase public awareness of deportation as a critical human rights issue, such that Americans begin to push harder for fair and equitable reform.
Oct 5 2007
Blog Post Bush Vetoes, Spitzer Sues over Children's Health
  • This just in: President Bush has indeed vetoed the SCHIP legislation that recently passed through Congress seeking to expand funding for children's health care.  While the Senate had passed the bill with enough of a margin to override a veto, the House fell short. Representatives will be reconsidering their votes as our nation continutes to reflect on the values of individualism or community support. These values have tangible effects on the health of millions of children.
  • Yesterday, New York's Governor Eliot Sptizer announced that he is filing suit against the Bush administration over its new eligibility rules for children insured through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  The new guidelines refuse federal funding for states to insure children whose parents earn more than 250% of the povery line, which will force some states to cancel the enrollment of children already in the program. A number of states are on board with Spitzer, including New Hampshire, and New Jersey has filed a similar suit. Spitzer has posted his argument on the Huffington Post, saying of Bush's casual commentary that everyone has access to health care in the emergency room that "this politics of 'not my problem'...has led to the health crisis we have today."
  • Also on the SCHIP debate, Families USA has just released a new ad campaign entitled "Bush vs. Kids," showing a series of children talking about how nice and sweet they think the president is, overlayed with text about how Bush is doing his best to cut health care for 10 million children.

  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has gotten a lot of media attention lately, between the launch of his new memoir and an interview on CBS '60 Minutes.'  The only African American member of the Supreme Court, Thomas has been controversial for his opposition to affirmative action policies and other progressive social reforms as well as his alleged sexual harassment of former employee Anita Hill.  Blogger Keith Boykin refers to Thomas as the "most dangerous black man in America," not dangerous to white America but to African Americans for his "record of disregard for the poor and minorities."
  • A federal judge in San Francisco again extended the ban against the mailing of the "no-match" letters by the Social Security administration.  President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security have mandated that employers receiving the 141,000 letters about discrencies in 8.7 million worker records sort out the mismatches within 90 days, fire their employees, or risk prosecution for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The judge has indicated that he is disinclined to allow the letters to be sent, arguing that known inaccuracies in the federal database would cause irreparable harm to American businesses and to workers.
  • As the 2010 census approaches, people are beginning to discuss its effects on and the effects of undocumented immigrants.  On one hand, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it has no intention of discontinuing raids during the census in the interest of obtaining more accurate records.  More recently, the there has been talk on the issue of whether or not to include undocumented workers in the count as it affects the reallotment of representation in the US House of Representatives.  Different states would gain or lose a voice in each case, although the means of defining how many are undocumented will likely be challenging given immigrants' general fear and distrust of government officials.
  • Lastly, Culture Kitchen has published a thought-provoking piece entitled Why I Hate Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from September 15th through October 15th. Latina blogger Liza outlines her dislike of the word 'hispanic' and the way it leads people to make unfounded assumptions about the history, culture and linguistic background of Latin Americans.
Oct 3 2007
Blog Post Southsourcing: Immigration Issues Solved

The ever-brilliant (and accidental framing expert) Stephen Colbert solves the immigration issues in one fell swoop in last night's edition of "The Word:"

Sep 13 2007
Blog Post Fear of a Black Princess

Alan Jenkin's new piece at Tom Paine is now live.  In this latest essay, Alan expresses hope and dread over Disney's decision to finally feature an African American princess in one of their films.

There’s an old joke, retold by Woody Allen in the film "Annie Hall,"
in which two elderly women are having dinner at a Catskill mountain
resort. One of the women says, "Boy, the food at this place is really
terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."
I had a similar reaction when I heard last week that Disney would soon
be releasing its first film to feature an African-American “princess”:
It’s about time; and I kind of wish they wouldn’t.

As the father of two young girls, I’m immersed in princess-land and,
for that matter, everything Disney—from the excruciating "High School
Musical" I and II to the mildly redeeming Cheetah Girls franchise. And
as the father of two young African-American girls, the effort to find
positive role models in whom they can see themselves and who have
resonance in their world is both exhausting and frustrating.

Sep 12 2007
Blog Post Radio Kill the Immigration Bill
  • Via Think Progress, a new study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that Talk Radio played a significant part in killing Immigration Reform.  In the second quarter, Immigration was the #1 topic on conservative talk radio.

    If media attention translates into political pressure, the argument
    that talk radio helped kill the immigration bill in Congress has some
    support in the data. Thanks to energetic opposition from Rush Limbaugh,
    Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage, immigration
    was the biggest topic, at 16%, on conservative talk radio in the second
    quarter. (Liberal radio hosts were much quieter.) In the media overall
    immigration was the fourth-biggest story of the quarter, tripling its
    level from the first three months of the year.

  • Republic of T alerts us to an interesting project dedicated to ensuring accurate and up to date information on hate crimes in Wikipedia.  For many, Wikipedia is a first-source on topics with which we are unfamiliar.  Terrance's project is an interesting way to influence the debate online.  It's particularly interesting in the flurry of activity we've seen lately by corporations, government agencies, and even news organizations to distort the information on Wikipedia for financial or political gain.
  • Bush is planning to enact strict rules on the SCHIP program that will deny millions of children health care coverage.
  • The Washington Post has an interesting article today on the rift in black churches over gay unions.
  • To the surprise of no one, Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo is exploiting the recent shootings in Newark to drive up anti-immigrant sentiment.
  • Jack and Jill  Politics has an interesting piece asking if Russell Simmons and Diddy can be further drawn into supporting progressive causes.
Aug 21 2007
Blog Post Opportunity in Images: Take Two

Earlier this year, we teamed up with students in the Masters in Media Studies program at the New School University here in New York.  As part of a media production class, we became the "client" and the students became graphic designers, tasked with creating images representing the core values of community, equality, and human rights apply to one of three initiatives: Immigration reform, health care equity, and the 2008 election.

Here's a sample of some of the great work they produced.  These images are creative commons licensed (Attribution), and the name of the designer can be found in the description.  We encourage everyone to Remix and Reuse them in your own work.  You can find the full set of images here.

Fernanda-OAGraphic-Larger OA_Buttons_2008Elections_ OA1 OA_Healthcare_1_notext_Braudaway

This is the second time we've worked with students at the New School on creating images illustrative of our Opportunity FrameYou can find past work here.

May 14 2007
Blog Post Finding Redemption in Popular Culture

In his bi-weekly column over at Tom Paine, Alan Jenkins finds the value of redemption, and lessons we can all learn about forgiveness and justice, in his analysis of Spider Man 3.

May 9 2007
Blog Post God Grew Tired of Us

Next time you head to the movies you must check the powerful and inspiring film, God Grew Tired Of Us.   It will be released in NYC and around the country this week.  It explores American opportunity through a unique lens, following the lives of Sudanese refugees from the war in Southern Sudan to resettlement in the United States.  It highlights how these men try to retain their culture while seizing opportunity in America -- earning a living, going to school, and providing for families back home.  It investigates American culture and the American dream, and explores the pros and cons of life in the Unites States.   

Here’s a trailer for the movie:  and a summary from the website:  “Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, GOD GREW TIRED OF US explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who leave their homeland, triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and move to America, where they build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind.  Orphaned by a tumultuous civil war and traveling barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert, John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Blor were among the 25,000 “Lost Boys” (ages 3 to 13) who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers. Named by a journalist after Peter Pan’s posse of orphans who protected and provided for each other, the “Lost Boys” traveled together for five years and against all odds crossed into the UN’s refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. A journey’s end for some, it was only the beginning for John, Daniel and Panther, who along with 3800 other young survivors, were selected to re-settle in the United States.”

For another interesting take on opportunity (and the barriers to it) in America and the Lost Boys, the book What is the What by David Eggers is a must read.  It is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, and at 400+ pages, the book provides a nuanced account of the history of the Lost Boys and life after resettlement in America.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the conflict in Sudan and join efforts to help out, The International Crisis Group website has a short list of recommendations, including writing to your elected representatives and writing to media urging more coverage of the situation.

Jan 8 2007
Blog Post No Child Left Behind Failing Students (and The Wire Blogging)

I am a huge fan of HBO's The Wire. I think it's quite possibly one of the best shows on television, and it is certainly the best show in recent memory to tackle  the interrelated problems that plague our major metropolitan areas. 

In the course of four seasons, it has painted a complex portrait of the city of Baltimore through its depictions of the rival (and strikingly similar) bureaucracies of the drug trade and the police department, the decline of the middle class dock workers and unions, and the municipal political system. 

In its current season (still airing), The Wire is tackling the failure of the school system, with a particular focus on the (negative) effects of the No Child Left Behind Act.  So it was no surprise to me when I came across this headline in The New York Times today:

Schools Slow at Closing Gaps Between Races:

When President Bush signed his sweeping education law a year into his
presidency, it set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close
the test-score gaps between minority and white students that have
persisted since standardized testing began.

Now, as Congress prepares to consider reauthorizing the law next year,
researchers and a half-dozen recent studies, including three issued
last week, are reporting little progress toward that goal.


Henry L. Johnson, an assistant secretary of education, said: “I don’t
dispute that looking at some comparisons we see that these gaps are not
closing — or not as fast as they ought to. But it’s also accurate to
say that when taken as a whole, student performance is improving. The
presumption that we won’t get to 100 percent proficiency from here
presumes that everything is static. To reach the 100 percent by 2014,
we’ll all have to work faster and smarter.”

The question is, what exactly does "faster and smarter" look like?  This season on The Wire, we've seen how the school system fails students by "teaching the test" and ignoring the specific needs of individual students.  The most telling line, perhaps, comes during an administrative meeting on how to "teach the test" when Prez - the retired cop turned teacher -  asks a veteran teacher "what is this supposed to measure?"  Her response - "Us.  This isn't about the students, it's about grading us."

If we dump more money and time into just teaching the test - juking the stats, as Prez calls it - to make the schools look better in an attempt to garner more resources, we're never going to make serious progress and close the achievement gaps (depicted right.  click to enlarge the image). 

The current administration, though, doesn't want to hear that:

“There are good results of No Child Left Behind across the nation,”
Mr. Bush said last month at a school in North Carolina. “We have an
achievement gap in America that is — that I don’t like and you
shouldn’t like.”

“The gap is closing,” he said.

researchers behind the reports issued last week in Washington, D.C.,
New York and California were far more pessimistic, though.


“The Bush administration wants to hang a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner
over N.C.L.B., but a fair assessment is that progress thus far in
closing achievement gaps is disappointing,” Mr. Weiner said. He pointed
to financing and teacher assignment systems that lead to schools with
mostly poor and minority students getting less money, offering fewer
advanced courses and having weaker teachers.

We have an idea of what works - actual teaching instead of "teaching to the test" - but we're not putting the resources behind successful programs that are attentive to individual student needs:

Suggestions abound for ways to narrow the score gaps faster. Since
scholars have documented that minority children enter kindergarten with
weaker reading skills than white children, some experts advocate
increased public financing for early education programs.

No Child
Left Behind provides money for tutoring in schools where students are
not succeeding, but critics say it does not provide sufficient
financing to help states and districts turn the schools themselves

Other types of programs have proven successful as well, but these successes are few and far between, and typically don't receive proper funding from cash-strapped schools, relying instead of volunteer work from teachers, faith organizations, and the community.

With a new congress coming in, and NCLB up for review, hopefully we'll get a real investigation into the efficacy of this program that will result in more funding to the programs that work and less emphasis on a test that's more about teacher performance than enhancing student's abilities.

This is an issue of vital importance to the future of our country and the future of the children we are failing - who are mostly children of color and those from low-income communities.  We're robbing them of their shot at the American Dream.  It's a shame that, on such a critical issue, the most intelligent debate is coming from a TV show rather than our elected officials.

Nov 20 2006
Blog Post Seeds of Tolerance

Short video is an amazing tool.  It touches people in a completely different way than news articles, reports, or lectures, and it allows social justice groups to reach outside their base of members to a larger audience.

CurrentTV and the Third Millenium Foundation are showing how short video can be used to raise awareness about an issue.  The two groups have joined together to promote tolerance in the United States through Seeds of Tolerance - an innovative video contest that received almost 400 submissions.  A panel of guest judges have narrowed the field to 6, and you are invited to go and vote for the winner (who will receive a grand prize of $100,000, as well as a $15,000 donation to a charity of their choice).

This is really smart.  The prizes and the exposure that is available through distribution on Current TV make the project attractive to highly skilled videographers and cultural creatives, and the charity donation keeps with the social justice vibe of the core audience.  CurrentTV distribution also guarantees that high-quality submissions will gain an audience beyond that activist core.

I don't know about the 374 losing submissions, but the 6 semifinalists are outstanding and range in topic from the sex-trafficking industry to our nation's prison-industrial system in all its complexities.  They are all worth 5 minutes of your time. 

As for CurrentTV and Third Millenium - they get to see a number of positive results:

  • greater awareness of a variety of social justice issues among CurrentTV viewers and internet visitors.
  • A (increased in the case of CurrentTV) stable of cultural creatives with social justice leanings that can be contacted for future projects.
  • A collection of high-quality videos that can be used to promote similar projects to funders and members
  • Buzz and higher traffic from word of mouth about the contest

This is a pretty cost and time-intensive project.  There are easier (and cheaper) ways for nonprofits to reap the benefits of video production.  Some non profits are using short video and YouTube to chronicle the work that they are doing.  Others are opting out of video and embracing Flickr as a medium for creative contests to drive interest in their topic.

If you're interested in finding out more about how short video, video sharing, and photo sharing can help increase the efficacy of your work, I'd recommend visiting the Non Profit Technology Enterprise Network, or becoming a reader of NetSquared.

We're dipping our toes in these waters ourself, so please check out (and subscribe to!) our Flickr and YouTube pages.

Nov 17 2006
Blog Post Eyes on the Prize Re-release

As many of you probably know, PBS recently  re-released Eyes on the Prize - probably the most important documentary about the civil rights movement.  Eyes on the Prize had been unavailable for almost two decades due to copyright issues with some of the music and footage contained in the film (which is why I don't have a lot of great YouTube footage to show you).  You can find out more about that here, or by watching the video on the left.

As part of the re-release, PBS invited a number of civil rights activist to reflect on the film and the progress that we've made in America - and just as often failed to make - since the events depicted in the film.

One interviewee was our own Alan Jenkins, who weighed in on the inspirational power that the movement has and its continuing relevance at home and abroad:

The African American civil rights movement has inspired a lot of
other groups that have suffered injustices. One example that we saw
recently was the immigrant rights demonstrations around the country.
Immigrants' assertion that "we too are America" was inspiring, and very
much in the spirit of the civil rights movement. In addition, there's
been, since the late Sixties, a powerful Latino civil rights movement,
that included the farm workers' movement, and includes organizations
like the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, patterned on the NAACP's
Legal Defense Fund. The women's rights movement was inspired in part by
the African American civil rights movement. Certainly the immigrant
rights movement, and the gay rights movement as well. Those are just a
few examples. Dynamic people in those communities have led the
movements, but the African American civil rights movement provides a
powerful template for activism.

The impact of the civil rights movement has spread throughout the world. I've met with people in India -- Dalits, who are the former "untouchable" caste. What's exciting is that Martin Luther King learned nonviolent strategies from Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, so it's kind of a full circle. When I traveled to India I met activists who were singing "We Shall Overcome"
-- the touchstone song of the American civil rights movement -- in
Hindi, and talked about how they had gotten inspiration from the
American civil rights movement for their own struggle to achieve rights
in Indian society. And there are many more examples worldwide.

You can read the rest of his thoughts, as well as those of 11 other activists, here.

Nov 16 2006
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