The democratic revolution in media has created dramatic communication opportunities.   Blogs and social networking platforms allow for the creation of communication networks that are simultaneously broad and deep.  YouTube and Flickr deliver powerful still and moving images without the cost of paid media.  Google Maps can be used to demonstrate the tangible ways that inequality affects individual communities. 

We partner with advocates to build their capacity to participate in the new media landscape.  This includes trainings, content creation, and the development of new tools tailored to the specific needs of the social justice community.  By communicating with the next generation of voters and activists in the space where they get their information and form their opinions, we can invest them in the movement to expand opportunity. 

Type Title
Communications Mapping: Health Care that Works One Pager (2006)

Read about our first online mapping project, Healthcarethatworks.org.  This tool tracks the closure of hospitals across the city of New York and shows the racial and economic makeup of the affected neighborhoods.

HCTW_1.png

Video Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing Torture

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, appears on MSNBC to discuss America's use of torture.  For more thoughts by Alan on torture, click here.

Video Video: Brian Talks About Equality

 A well-established African American contractor talks about how, even in his success, he still confronts bias.  We are reminded that equality must be protected if we are truly a land of opportunity.

Video Video: Lily Talks About Education

A Bronx elementary school teacher talks about her students and the importance of public education.

Video Video: Two New Yorkers

 A third-generation Italian-American and first-generation Chinese immigrant talk about health care and a living wage.

Video Video: Desireena Talks About Community

 A Filipina-American media producer talks about the support she receives from the gay community, and why strong, supportive communities are a key to opportunity.

Research Media Analysis: Immigration in African American, Latino and Online Media (2007)

This report builds on a 2006 scan of public opinion and media coverage of immigration.  Also contained in this report are three additional analyses of immigration in the public discourse. 

Podcast Strategies for Advancing a Pro-Immigrant Message on the Web

The following webinar was presented by The Opportunity Agenda on April 16, 2009.

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)

Page Mapping Social Justice

More information on our mapping projects, Health Care That Works, and Map4Change.

Page Promoting Health Opportunity in New York

In New York, we worked to show how health care resource decisions were impacting low-income and communities of color.  A central tool was the healthcarethatworks.org website, which shows where hospitals have closed over time in New York City.

Page 1000 Voices

The Opportunity Agenda's partner, Creative Counsel, and The Fledgling Fund are co-presenting the 1000 Voices Archive—a curated, national collection of video stories created by filmmakers and communities across the country.

1000Voices.png

Page The Opportunity Agenda YouTube Channel

Check out our channel on YouTube.  See video clips that show the state of opportunity—or lack thereof—in America. We feature man on the street interviews, produced video spots, mini documentaries, and other videos that we encourage people to share with their friends, and hope that social justice advocates will use in their work.

youTube.png

Blog Post Social Media, Opportunity, and Time 100

EgyptFacebook.jpg

Photo by Philippe Martin

Most recently, Time magazine revealed yet another list of the world’s most influential people in the world, and this time Wael Ghonim, a Google executive from Egypt, is at the helm of this selected group thanks to his active participation during the revolts against the Hosni Mubarak regime by way of social media tools—primarily Facebook. What’s more, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made the cut for this list (his second mention in a row on this publication after being selected “Person of the Year” in 2010). Finally, Google’s CEO Larry Page was also included.

Blog Post Nonprofit Technology: Social Network Sites and Immigration Reform

This past summer, The Opportunity Agenda conducted a scan (PDF) to determine the state of immigration advocacy on the social web, looking specifically at the following: blogs that frequently cover politics and reach a mass audience, Twitter, YouTube, and the two largest social networking sites (Facebook and MySpace). This research built on a similar scan we conducted in 2007.

Blog Post Nonprofit Technology: Blogging for Immigration Reform in 2009

This past summer, The Opportunity Agenda conducted a scan (PDF) to determine the state of immigration advocacy on the social web, looking specifically at the following: blogs that frequently cover politics and reach a mass audience, Twitter, YouTube, and the two largest social networking sites (Facebook and MySpace). This research built on a similar scan we conducted in 2007.

Blog Post Possible Internet Regulations Threaten Opportunity

As reported Oct. 22 on NPR, current efforts by telecom providers threaten access to information and applications on the Internet. Possible changes by the Federal Communications Commission highlight these efforts, which pertain to what power internet service providers have in restricting access that conflicts with their own interest.

Blog Post Nonprofit Tech: Facebook Demographics

The last big news from Facebook was that, were it considered a country, its population would be larger than that of all the countries in the world, save China, India, the United States, and Indonesia. (It stands at 200 million.)

Blog Post Nonprofit Tech: Getting Started

A lot of nonprofits are still just starting their outreach on the web.  When someone from these groups needs a quick, short answer on where best to simply get started, I invariably direct them to Google for Non-Profits.

Launched approximately a year ago, Google opened up a one-stop shop featuring an array of tools.  Beginners will have heard of many of the tools (e.g. YouTube) but the site serves as a reminder that these tools can be harnessed for nonprofit communications and advocacy. 

Blog Post Nonprofit Tech: Do It Yourself Social Networking

Last last week, the one millionth site was created on the social network Ning. For individuals and organizations (including nonprofits) for whom Facebook is not giving them exactly what they need, there's Ning, which allows users to build their own social network.

Blog Post Twitter, Congress, and You

Thinking Twitter had finally hit the mainstream, as evidenced by Nightline doing a feature on it, I recently wrote in this space a brief summary on what Twitter actually is. Since then, I feel like Twitter—or more accurately, talk of Twitter—has been everywhere.

Blog Post Twitter for Nonprofits?

When Nightline covers a topic, it's safe to say it's hit the mainstream.  Therefore, Twitter, on Nightline this past Wednesday has reached the public consciousness, albeit tepidly. 

Blog Post Hollywood on Immigration: We're All in it Together

The recently-released trailer for the upcoming film Crossing Over illustrates the power of values-based messaging.

Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    Detention Watch Network has created a new interactive map that is now accessible on their website.  The map is a comprehensive tracking system that allows users to view the locations of detention centers, community organizations, ICE offices and immigration courts across the United States.

•    A T Don Hutto Blog posting discusses the recent American Immigration Lawyers Association position paper on alternatives to detention for immigrants.  The paper, which argues that the Department of Homeland Security should shift its focus from raids and electronic monitoring of immigrant populations to community-based, non-restrictive measures, can be accessed here.

•    Some updates on recent ICE raids: a posting on Standing FIRM links to a New York Times report that two Agriprocessor employers have been arrested.  Their arrests were connected to last month’s ICE raid in Postville, Iowa; they were the first non “rank and file” workers to be targeted. Scott Frotman, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, pointed out that the arrest of these supervisors does not show the full extent of the company’s violations of workers rights:

What about the allegations of worker abuse? Does anyone really believe that these low-level supervisors acted alone without the knowledge, or even the direction, of the Rubashkins and other senior management?

In addition, the same Times story is reporting that last week five senior managers at Action Rags USA were arrested.  Their arrests are connected to the ICE raid on the Houston Plant in late June. 

•    In response to these recent government crackdowns on employers of illegal immigrants, business owners have begun to speak out in opposition to tough anti-immigration measures.  A July 6 article that appeared in the New York Times claims that employers have begun fighting the government policies in state and local courts:

Business groups have resisted measures that would revoke the licenses of employers of illegal immigrants. They are proposing alternatives that would revise federal rules for verifying the identity documents of new hires and would expand programs to bring legal immigrant laborers.

•    A story that appeared in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle discusses the positive results of the city’s 1989 immigration sanctuary law.  The law bars local officials, including police officers, from questioning residents about their immigration status.  The Chronicle also points out that San Francisco is not alone in enacting sanctuary measures:

San Francisco is among scores of cities in California and around the country with sanctuary laws, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Several states also have such policies.

A recent posting on The State of Opportunity also called attention to a California superior court decision upholding the Los Angeles Police Department’s of neither arresting people based on their immigration status nor asking about one’s immigration status during interviews. 

Blog Post Lifting up the 4th of July

Fireworks on the 4th of July always make me cry.  I'm not afraid to say it.  There's something about it, all the senses are activated as an idea--what once was the dream of a few revolutionaries--plays itself out in vivid colors and explosive bursts right before you.

This year, my wife and I planted ourselves on the stone path between Pier 17 and Pier 11, right in front of one of the Macy's barges, lucking out that this year they decided to move them further down the East River, making the end of Wall Street a perfect location to watch the fireworks.  What made the event more impressive was the rich diversity that surrounded us, reminding me why New York City is such a special place to experience the 4th of July. 

For many of the families around us, America was as new as it was for Abigail Adams and her family, as she watched the cannon balls fly over Boston Harbor while her husband was away.  Opportunity and freedom were new on the horizon, like the flash of powder ignited in the distance seconds before the sky explodes with life.  Hearing families share their excitement in Korean, Russian, French, Spanish and Mandarin seemed fitting, as we all huddled along the Manhattan shoreline between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of liberty.  The 4th of July is full of traditions, and I think I've found a new place to celebrate for years to come.      

Another great thing I gravitated toward this weekend was the new web site, 1,000 Voices Archive a project of the Creative Council.  This web site is a perfect mirror into the American experience, presenting videos of Americans who have been touched by communities.  It's a wonderful snapshot into the diversity of our nation, both in ethnicity and experience.  Strongly recommend it for those looking to continue celebrating this holiday weekend.  It gives a real feel of America and has a bunch of engaging tools that allow us to become involved in the America that is more than ideas and fire works.

Blog Post Undocumented Immigrant Honored in Arizona
  • Latina Lista wrote about yesterday's ceremony in Arizona to honor Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes, the man who saved the eight-year-old boy who spent a night in the desert after his mother died in a car accident. Given that Cordova gave up his opportunity to find work in order to ensure the boy's safety, "U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. wants to reward Manuel for his
    selfless act of kindness with a special visa that would allow him to
    come to work in the US."  Grijalva's aide Ruben Reyes admitted the chances of having a such visa issued are slim, but spoke of the importance of recognizing Cordova's generosity:

"We think he actually brings another tone into the
discussion of immigration. Unfortunately the discussion of immigration
is (mostly) negative but with his acts of heroism it counters so many
of the other negative aspects," Reyes said. "It brings a face of
dignity, humanity and a bond that the two countries can share and he's
a shining example of that."

Author

There is no doubt Manuel is that and so much more when you compare
him to the critics of illegal immigrants in this country whose rhetoric
is violent and hate-filled.

Yet, if Rep. Grijalva really wanted to help Manuel, why not award
the man enough money to help him do something constructive in his
hometown so that he doesn't have to leave his own children again?

Grijalva already knows the chances for a special visa are next to
nil for passage. So, basically the Congressman is dangling another
false hope in front of Manuel to give the appearance of helping him
when in reality, he's not.

And in the end, Manuel will still have disappointment and poverty — along with, a certificate of heroism.

  • The Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog reposted a New York Times article on 'Brazilians Giving Up Their American Dream.'  Hundreds of middle-class Brazilians who had immigrated to the US years ago in search of social and economic security are now choosing to return to Brazil.  For undocumented Brazilians, life has become too difficult to justify the risk of staying, when they are unable to obtain driver's licenses and there is no comprehensive immigration reform in sight.  As the American dollar loses value and Brazil's economy is booming, it seems only logical to follow the job opportunities back to the Southern hemisphere.
  • Too Sense has given us an update on the Jena Six case: While it looks like the six students will all be accepting plea bargain agreements, the victim of the beating has just brought suit against "the adults accused of beating him, the families of the juveniles
    allegedly involved and the board of the school where the attack
    occurred."
  • Prometheus 6 linked to a Birmingham News article about the local school district's decision to acquire and distribute 15,000 of the new $200 XO laptops which were created to increase computer access in the developing world. According to they city's mayor Larry Langford, "We live in a digital age, so it is important that all our children
    have equal access to technology and are able to integrate it into all
    aspects of their lives...we are proud that Birmingham
    is on its way to eliminating the so-called 'digital divide' and to
    ensuring that our children have state-of-the-art tools for education." While the laptops are available for purchase in the US (for every laptop bought, another goes to a child in a developing country), this is the first reported large-scale purchase for use within the country -- and one which highlights inequalities in access to technology within our nation.
  • The Huffington Post has reported on today's Supreme Court hearing on "whether the detainees at Guantánamo have habeas corpus rights - a
    cornerstone of civilization and a principle established 800 years ago
    in England, giving prisoners the right to challenge the basis of their
    detention in court."  The ACSBlog is also covering the case, which is a matter concerning basic human rights in America.
Blog Post Heartland Forum Highlights Support for Community Values
  • As mentioned previously, this Saturday saw the Heartland Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, an opportunity to talk with candidates about 'real issues facing real people in our communities' with attention to our values and policies of interconnection. You can watch a webcast of the forum on the Center for Community Change's Movement Vision Lab blog. Additionally, The Huffington Post linked to a Des Moines Register article on the event, and Adam Bink over at Open Left liveblogged summaries of statements made by each of the participating candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, and Kucinich.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted a Texas Observer article about the challenges faced in the expansion of drug courts in Texas.  While courts geared towards rehabilitation and redemption (rather than simply inflicting prison time) are much more effective than traditional courts in helping people overcome addiction, court practices vary widely according to the judge on the stand.

"Bennett and Leon Grizzard are the two judges who oversee Travis County's drug diversion court. They steer addicts into a court-supervised treatment program instead of prison. In the past decade, drug courts like the one in Travis County have successfully handled nonviolent defendants with drug and alcohol addictions—if success is defined as increasing public safety at the least cost to the taxpayer. People who complete drug-court programs rarely tumble back into substance abuse. According to four drug-court judges surveyed, about 10 percent of program graduates commit new crimes—a recidivism rate roughly one-fifth that of traditional probation routines. That means drug courts can ease the strain on overcrowded prisons and save taxpayer money. A study of the Dallas drug court by Southern Methodist University showed that every government dollar spent on diversion courts saved taxpayers more than $9.

Though criminal justice reform groups have advocated drug courts for years, Texas until recently lagged behind the rest of the country.

...

But as drug courts become more widespread, it appears that—like the narcotics they were created to fight—the courts can be abused. State and federal governments have instituted few regulations and set up no oversight. Judges have wide latitude to decide people's fates. In the hands of the right judges, the drug court model performs marvelously. Other judges appear to have trouble reconciling their punitive role with this new therapeutic one. The U.S. Department of Justice designed a set of guidelines and best practices—but they're the criminal justice equivalent of blueprints without building codes. The guidelines suggest that judges receive ongoing training and partner with treatment programs and community groups.

Because drug courts grow mostly from the local level, there is little standardization. Texas law broadly defines a drug court, but places hardly any restrictions on what judges can do. There is no oversight specifically for the drug courts. A recent case in Houston demonstrates the potential risks behind the courts' expansion. Judge K. Michael Mayes of Montgomery County is facing a federal lawsuit by a defendant who claims his treatment in Mayes' drug court was arbitrary and violated his rights to due process."

  • Firedoglake has written a post on a bill under consideration in the Senate known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.  This Democratically-authored legislation, which has already passed the House by a large margin, has many progressives questioning its vague definition of 'ideologically-based violence,' arguing that this law would be a step towards a fascist state in which citizens can by prosecuted for 'thought crimes.' We must remember that democracy in America is dependent upon our ability to raise our voices, on our rights to free speech and fair elections.  Any law that seeks to contradict our capacity to participate fully in our communities is a violation of our human rights.
  • In a related story, the Latina Lista blog has been the subject of a recent spam attack, bad enough that the site's commenting feature has temporarily been disabled.  Offering "Anything and Everything from a Latina Perspective," the blog often discusses issues of immigration, American history and culture.
Blog Post Framing the Immigration Debate
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has revisited a 2006 essay by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson about the language we use when discussing immigration.  Here's the abstract on the Rockridge Institute's website:

"Framing is at the center of the recent immigration debate. Simply
framing it as about “immigration” has shaped its politics, defining
what count as “problems” and constraining the debate to a narrow set of
issues. The language is telling. The linguistic framing is remarkable:
frames for illegal immigrant, illegal alien, illegals, undocumented
workers, undocumented immigrants, guest workers, temporary workers,
amnesty, and border security. These linguistic expressions are anything
but neutral. Each framing defines the problem in its own way, and hence
constrains the solutions needed to address that problem. The purpose of
this paper is twofold. First, we will analyze the framing used in the
public debate. Second, we suggest some alternative framing to highlight
important concerns left out of the current debate. Our point is to show
that the relevant issues go far beyond what is being discussed, and
that acceptance of the current framing impoverishes the discussion."

  • In other immigration news, Burger King is under fire for its refusal to join McDonald's and Taco Bell in an agreement to pay historically-underpaid migrant workers in Florida an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked. Also, a federal court in Canada ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging the Safe Third Country Agreement, which had designated the US as a
    "safe third country" for asylum-seekers, meaning "if they make it to the
    U.S. before entering Canada can be returned there."  The court found that "the United States fails to comply with Convention on Torture or Article 33
    of the Refugee Convention and [therefore] the U.S./Canada safe third country
    agreement was flawed as there was no ongoing meaningful review mechanism."
  • The DMI Blog points to this week's New York Times coverage of the successes of a re-entry program in Brooklyn which offers counseling, drug testing, and work and training programs to former inmates.  Re-entry programs not only support the value of redemption, or the right to a second chance, but they are also effective in helping people reintegrate into the community and remain there.  According to a recent study of the comAlert program,

"ComAlert graduates are less likely be
re-arrested after leaving prison and much more likely to be employed
than either program dropouts or members of the control group.
Participants who complete the Doe Fund work-training component do even
better. They have an employment rate of about 90 percent, somewhat
higher than the ComAlert graduates generally and several times higher
than the control group."

  • Finally, Jack and Jill Politics offers further analysis of inequities in Wednesday's CNN/YouTube Republican debate, as compared with its Democratic counterpart:

Of 34 total questions aired, 24 were from white men (including 2 cartoon versions) in the GOP debate.
That's 71%. For the Dem debate, counting was a little more challenging
since one video aired combined video submissions from several people.
Still I'd estimate 22 of 38 questions aired were from white men (I did
not count the snowman as white because snow does not have an ethnicity)
or 58%.

Further, there were 8 questions shown that featured African-Americans during the Democratic debate and a measly 2 in the GOP debate. Hmm.

Also, strikingly -- astonishingly, no questions whatsoever during the GOP debate on:

Healthcare in America
Katrina
Climate Change or Environment
Darfur
Iraq Troop Withdrawal
Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Resurgence of the Taliban
Racial Profiling
Voting Machines and Voting Rights
The Failure to Capture Osama bin Laden

Blog Post As Elections Near, We Need to Hear Candidates Debate Community Values
  • The Huffington Post offers an introduction to last night's CNN/YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates, noting that "people from across the country submitted more than 3,500 videos posing
    questions" to the candidates, of which 40 were selected to be broadcast during the debates.  The Opportunity Agenda was among those submitting questions, with four videos created for the purposes of promoting community values in our nation's political debate.  Mike Connery has written two posts about the debate over at Future Majority, the first offering a comprehensive summary of the event and the second publicizing the fact that CNN did not coordinate with YouTube at all in order to select the forty questions that were aired.  By single-handedly shaping the content of the debate, CNN was able to bypass the debate's original intention, that of providing a voice to a diverse group of Americans.
  • In other event news, the Heartland Presidential Form will be held this Saturday December 1 in Des Moines, Iowa, only weeks before the Iowa caucus.  Five of the Democratic presidential candidates will be in attendance at the forum, the focus of which will not be on specific issues but on progressive vision and values.  According to the website:

The Iowa Heartland Presidential Forum is part of a new nationwide Campaign for Community Values
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Center for Community
Change is - and hundreds of grassroots partner groups - are
coordinating this groundbreaking effort to challenge the "go it alone"
mentality that has dominated politics and build a new politics for the
common good.

'Tis the season for presidential politics, and with it, the debate over what values propel voters to the ballot box.

A
recent debate in Florida claimed to represent and display the interests
of so-called "values voters." The dissection of the nation's "moral
values" took up a good bit of ink following the 2004 elections. And
we're all familiar with the "family values" that guided policy
throughout the '80s and '90s. But in all this talk of values, why are
so many core American values consistently missing?

Instead of concentrating on people's individual moral decisions, or
their family life, we should focus on our collective values, the ways
we can move forward together and the policies that work toward the
common good. We need to reintroduce to the debate the ideals of
equality, opportunity and fairness. And we need to acknowledge that our
individual stories and circumstances add up to a national community
best positioned to solve our problems together. In short, we should be
talking about our community values.

Blog Post Spitzer Drops Plan to Provide Drivers Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants
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.
Blog Post Writers Guild Fighting for Fair Pay While TV Networks Threaten To Cut Jobs
  • There has been a lot of discussion on The Huffington Post about the Writers Guild of America strike that started on Monday, as TV networks and screenwriters failed to reach an agreement before the end of their previous contract. Union members are essentially demanding that networks begin to distribute profits from new media airings of their work, but have made little headway in negotiations on the issue. In a move that will endanger the financial security of many Americans, some networks are now threatening large-scale firings of their employees. According to an opinion in the LA Times:

"A day after Hollywood's writers went out on strike, the major studios
are hitting back with plans to suspend scores of long-term deals with
television production companies, jeopardizing the jobs of hundreds of
rank-and-file employees whose names never appear in the credits.

Assistants, development executives and production managers will soon be
out of work, joining their better-paid bosses who opted to sacrifice
paychecks as members of the Writers Guild of America. At some studios,
the first wave of letters are going out today, hitting writer-producers
whose companies don't currently have shows in production."

  • Migra Matters has done an interesting post on the results of yesterday's election in Virginia, where the Republican party had chosen to make an immigration crackdown its biggest campaign selling point.  Curiously, the Democrats appear to have gained control of the state Senate, leading the author to advise us with respect to upcoming national elections: "If the Republicans were looking at immigrant-bashing as a silver bullet
    to stem the national tide against them, surely tonight's results in
    Virginia will should give them second thoughts."
  • The House of Representatives has begun debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a measure to extend federal workplace protections to those targeted for their sexual orientation.  Pam's House Blend discusses the fact that a coalition of civil and gay rights organizations announced their support yesterday for the current version of the bill which does not include the same protections for transgender individuals, thus leaving the LGBT community divided.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog featured an editorial in today's New York Times about the Second Chance Act, a bill which has had bipartisan support in Congress since 2004 but has yet to move through the legislature. The Times describes the need for the government policies to support redemption, or the idea that we all deserve a second chance:

"If past patterns hold true, more than half of
the 650,000 prisoners released this year will be back behind bars by
2010. With the prison population exploding and the price of
incarceration now topping $60 billion a year, states are rightly
focusing on ways to reduce recidivism. Congress can give these efforts
a boost by passing the Second Chance Act, which would provide crucial
help to people who have paid their debts to society....

The Second Chance Act would add to what the country knows about the
re-entry process by establishing a federal re-entry task force, along
with a national resource center to collect and disseminate information
about proven programs....  The programs necessary to help former
prisoners find a place in society do not exist in most communities.
The Second Chance Act would help to create those programs by providing
money, training, technical assistance — and a Congressional stamp of
approval."

  • Last up, blogger Sudy is working on a video project to "feature, support, and highlight the work done by feminists of color."  She's included a preview of the video on her site which has been cross-posted by Vox et Machina.

Blog Post San Francisco Hospital Closure Will Deny Health Care Access to Underserved Communities
  • The Happening Here blog has a new post up on a newly-announced hospital closure in San Francisco's Mission District.  While a hearing will be held next week on the plan to shut down St. Luke's Hospital, author Janinsanfran notes:

"Opponents of the closure quickly discovered unearthed evidence that the impact
of CPMC's plan would be to dump most of their Black, Brown and charity
care patients. CPMC wants to build yet another North of Market Street
hospital on Cathedral Hill, while leaving the South of Market area
entirely to the care of the over-crowded, under-funded county hospital."

Decreasing access to medical care for communities of color and low-income communities is a reality in New York City as well, as illustrated by our google map mash up Health Care That Works. This process continues despite the fact that the majority of New Yorkers agree that health care is a human right.

  • Feministing has blogged about a recent Kansas City ruling on women's access to contraception, in a lawsuit in which women had alleged discrimination because AT&T refused to provide health insurance coverage for birth control for female employees. The appellate court ruled that "contraception was not 'related to' pregnancy for purposes of the law" and therefore AT&T's actions did not comprise discrimination.
  • The Facing South blog has posted about the recent introduction of the Gulf Civil Works bill in Congress, legislation aimed at addressing the problem that "there are still about 100,000 fewer jobs in the Gulf than there was pre-Katrina." In the spirit of the New Deal construction works, the program would create these jobs working on much-needed public infrastructure projects. According to Stephen Bradberry,
    head state organizer of ACORN Louisiana, the region’s largest
    association of low and middle income families,

“Communities across the Gulf Coast suffer from crumbling roads and
water systems, ill constructed flood protection, and closed police
stations, fire house, schools and hospitals...We have an opportunity
to jumpstart the recovery by empowering communities with the resources
they need to lead.”

  • Finally, Ezra Klein has written an insightful piece on Affluence vs. Security.  Discussing whether or not American living standards are getting better or worse, Klein says:

"I haven't quite worked this theory out yet, but my sense is that economic status has been cleaved free of economic security.
So the sort of goods that signal affluence -- iPods and iPhones and
laptop computers and plasma televisions -- are becoming much cheaper,
more broadly accessible, and thus more widely owned. Lots of people,
particularly young people, can thus claim economic status. The
trappings of our wealth are all around us.

Yet economic security is quite a bit further from reach. It's
impossible for me to imagine how I'll ever buy a home. Further
education for me and eventual education for my kids are far beyond what
my salary seems able to bear. And let's not get into health care. Point
being: The affluence I can easily purchase into my 20s seems liable to
crash right into the security I discover is out of reach in my 30s.

Meanwhile, from where I sit, the American Dream is a pretty weak force.
White picket fences aren't the culturally transmitted vision of
prosperity. Electronics are. Awesome stuff
is. We're seeking goods, not security. And we can buy goods. Which
makes us feel prosperous. And if you feel prosperous, if you consider
yourself affluent, you can't merge that self-conception with economic
insecurity, and thus it's hard to consider yourself part of a coalition
in need of economic reform, or more advantageous public policy. By
offering status without security, folks lose the class discontent that
would turn them into a constituency for the security. And so they don't
get it."

Do we agree that true economic security remains elusive for our younger generations? What can we do to bolster the American Dream, to promote policies that will create opportunities and stability for everyone in America?

Blog Post Human Rights and New Media in America
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has written a post featuring the new Guantánamo Testimonials Project,
    a project of
    the University of California, Davis Center for the Study of Human
    Rights in the Americas (CSHRA). The goal of the project is to collect and make available testimonies
    of detainees' experiences at Guantánamo and includes statements by "prisoners, FBI Agents, interrogators, prosecution
    and defense lawyers, military physicians, a chaplain, a marine, a CIA
    asset, and others. "
  • Yesterday saw an article in The Huffington Post entitled Dangerous Toys are a Human Rights Issue.  Author David Nassar discusses the connections between this controversial issue and a lack of protections for workers:

"These dangerous toys aren't putting just our children at risk:
they also endanger the lives of the factory workers who make them.

The
same forces that make manufacturers cut corners on paint and plastic
also make manufacturers cut corners on labor costs. Working long hours
in appalling conditions - often with toxic chemicals and no protection
- laborers in China bear the true cost of America's low price toys.
Stores like Wal-Mart demand bottom dollar costs, but the costs come
back not only to us and our children, but to entire communities
overseas. Today's news stories regarding children making clothing for
the Gap, Inc. in India's factories are another harsh reminder of that
truth.

Last week's Congressional hearing on toy safety and working
conditions in China's factories highlighted the fact that without
ensuring the safety of employees in supplier factories, it is
challenging at best to ensure the safety of the products that come out
of those factories and ultimately the safety of our children."

  • Regarding education policy, the last few days have seen discussion of high schools functioning as 'dropout factories' (with one in ten American high schools seeing less than 60% of their original class finishing school) and the importance of the federal Head Start preschool program in increasing graduation rates (while also cutting crime rates). Others have discussed new legislation to help control college costs for American youth, while high-achieving immigrants in favor of the DREAM Act have expressed worries such as "I always worried that immigration (officers) would come if I didn't excel." It is important to continue these dialogues concerning the human rights issues of where we as a nation can do better in ensuring that our young people have the opportunities they need to achieve their full potential.

Finally, the DMI Blog has posted on an innovative new media project of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, their just-launched website TheMiddleClass.org. The website is meant to function as "a dynamic site that will update throughout the year as members of Congress vote on legislation of significance to the current and aspiring middle class." Speaking of its democratizing role of holding politicians accountable to the voice of their constituents by reporting on legislation in an interactive fashion, the site says:

"For each bill, we begin with a brief description of the legislation,
information about its status in the legislative process, and an
analysis of its impact on the middle class. But themiddleclass.org also
provides more extensive context: you’ll find informative online video
about each piece of legislation, quotations from experts speaking out
on the issue, and hard-hitting numbers from DMI’s Injustice Index. We
look beyond the bill to what more could be done to address the issues
as stake. And we provide links to further resources.

We also provide information on how each member of the U.S. Senate
and House of Representatives voted on the legislation. You can look at
how every member voted on a particular bill, or how your own
representative voted. You can search for legislation by issue area or
keyword and look for legislators by name, state, or entering your zip
code. And you can check out the grades we assign each member of
Congress based on their votes."

Blog Post DREAM Act Vote Today in Senate
  • The DREAM Act legislation which would provide undocumented students the means to stay in the country legally if they attend college or join the military is up for a vote today in the Senate. The Border Line reports that it remains unclear if enough Senators will come out in support of the bill, measure which would provide many students who arrived in the US legally as young children with access to federal funding for continue their education in hope of giving back to their communities.

As the wildfires continue to rage in Southern California, Immigration News Daily has posted that about fifty undocumented immigrants have turned themselves into border patrol agents out of fear for their safety. Various bloggers such as Prometheus 6 are starting to draw comparisons between the immense devastation of the wildfires and that of Hurricane Katrina, and how the socio-economic status of the displaced populations has affected the care and attention each received.

RaceWire has done a piece about Blackwater's new bid to get involved with security on the US-Mexico border.  Author Seth Wessler explains how problematic this situation would be, despite apparent bipartisan support in Congress:

"Given Blackwater’s 'shoot first' policy, enacted with bloody clarity in Iraq and on the streets of New Orleans after Katrina,
the plans to expand to the border region do not bode well. With
vigilante groups like the Minutemen already taking their racist,
nationalist stance to the front lines, guns in hand, the addition of
Blackwater to the scene would only mean more dead immigrants with less
accountability.

In a political climate where the rhetoric on immigration employs the
lexicon of war, the possibility of Blackwater’s entry into the border
security scene seems to fit the frame. As if it were not enough that
the United States is building a wall along
the border and the the total number of deportations has increased by
over 400% in the past ten years, the border itself may be handed over
to private firms whose interests could not be less in line with the
common good."

  • The Unapologetic Mexican has joined the ranks of those reporting on a coalition of major newspapers and television networks who are petitioning to gain access to Jena Six member Mychal Bell's sealed criminal trial.  Bell's lawyer seems to agree that the media presence may help temper further questionable rulings by District Attorney Reed Walters, and that the case has been publicized enough to date that Americans have a right to know what is going on.

The Republic of T is spreading the news about the just-announced date of next July's 'Blogging While Brown' conference.  In a blogosphere in which people of color remain the minority, it is tremendously important for bloggers of color to organize themselves in order to maximize potential to publicize issues of import such as the Jena Six case.

Feministing posts that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke this past weekend about the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, about how she doesn't forsee the ruling being overturned in the next few years.  She added, however, that if it were overturned, abortion would always be available to 'women of means' who could afford to travel to other states, but "would have a devastating impact on poor women."
Blog Post Race and Human Rights in Pop Culture

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
way.

  • 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!
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.
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.
Blog Post The Revolution Is Digitized
  • Big news today concerns an incident at a high school in California in which a young black woman had her wrist broken by a school security guard for failing to clean up a piece of her birthday cake that fell on the floor.  16-year-old Pleajhai Mervin was subsequently arrested, along with her mother who complained (and was fired from her school district job) and the fellow students who used their cellphones to videotape the struggle. There are many things wrong with this footage, from excessive violence in our schools to unjust racial profiling. With respect to the way in which this story has been disseminated in the media, the blogger Oh No a WoC PhD notes that "YouTube may be one way in which the revolution is in fact digitized."  With increased access to technology comes more power to force reporting and increase public awareness to fight social injustice.

Also related to new media, Racialicious alerts us to a lawsuit pending against Virgin Mobile over the unauthorized use of a photograph posted on Flickr.  A friend of Asian-American Alison Chang posted photos of his teenaged group of friends, one of which then appeared on billboards in Australia, taken out of context in a way that advertises a "perpetual foreigner" stereotype. A recent report by the Justice Policy Institute entitled "Employment, Wages and Public Safety" reveals that increased employment and wages are associated with positive public safety outcomes. In short, increasing security via economic well-being decreases the crime rate.  This report is one in a series that link public safety with various types of opportunities, from education to housing and drug treatment. Finally, the last few weeks have seen a number of racially-motivated incidents in New York, from a noose hung in a police station on Long Island to swastikas painted on synangogues during the Jewish holidays in Brookyln.  The continued use of these symbols to provoke fear and submission among specific ethnic or cultural groups is devastating.  At such times it's helpful to refer to the ethical framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to illustrate where we have gone wrong. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, Article I proclaims:

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Article II goes on:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

At their core, hate crimes violate the equality we value, a concept that is held globally as one of our most basic human rights. Unfortunately, many Americans do not consider human rights to be relevant to their day-to-day reality.  We tend to think of human rights as an issue in Latin America or in Myanmar, not at home.  What the above incidents make clear, though, is that defending human rights is just as important and necessary a task within the US -- and not just in New Orleans or in Jena, Louisiana, but in everyone's backyard.

Blog Post Webcasts of Clinton Global Initiative Talk of the Need to Increase Opportunity
  • This Friday saw the end of the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Conference in New York.  The CGI is "a non-partisan catalyst for action bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges," from issues of education and health to global warming. Webcasts of the event have been have been posted on the site, and Blogher has published a number of posts about the meeting, the most recent of which discussed the importance of maternal health and education.  Here's a striking example of the discussion from the event:

"Gene Sperling talked about education being the silent crisis because there is no moment when the CNN camera captures a kid dying from lack of education. Every year of education for a mother increases the chance of her child living by 10%. When a woman has five years of education, her children are 50% more likely to see their fifth birthday."

Also debuted at the conference was YouTube's new video-sharing site for non-profit organizations.

  • Another exciting new media creation is the interactive web timeline on the America at a Crossroads site.  The timeline is related to the PBS series meant to explore "the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world — including the war on terrorism; the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; the experience of American troops serving abroad; the struggle for balance within the Muslim world; and global perspectives on America’s role overseas." There are four separate timelines that correspond to a world map and offer pop-ups of information on key historical events.  A similar example of the capacity of an interactive timeline is found on the Reclaim Civil Rights website, which even has video embedded in the presentation.
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced last week the launch of a new photo-database meant to enhance the E-Verify system for matching names and social security numbers of foreign workers in the US. 
  • Various blogs have commented recently on the new citizenship exam going into effect a year from today. The New York Times published an article discussing changes in the test, which has been criticized as abstract, irrelevant, lacking in any information about Latin Americans, and demanding a level of knowledge of American history and politics well above that of the average citizen. The ImmigrationProf Blog questions how this test relates to the literacy tests for the native-born voting population that were outlawed in the 1960s.
  • Finally, in other current events, 17-year-old Jena Six member Mychal Bell was released from prison last week on $45,000 bail.  In an unexpected display of generosity from the community, bail was posted by Dr. Stephen Ayers of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who offered his support upon hearing about the case because he felt that the District Attorney's treatment of Bell was innapropriately harsh.
Blog Post Happenings in Media
  • The Health Care Blog has run a series of posts about the Health 2.0 conference on September 20 in San Francisco.  Meant to empower consumers to take charge of their health decisions through new technology, the convention focused on the capacity of tools such as social networking sites, blogs, specialized medical search engines and video sharing sites to transform access to health care.
  • Racialicious and New Demographic have released the newest podcast in their 'Addicted to Race' series, themed on the 'New Yellow Peril.' The podcast discusses the recent increase in anti-Chinese narratives in the news.  Comments on the podcast are welcome.

"Between the lead paint toy scare, the tainted pet food scare, and the general rise of China’s economic and military might, all the anti-Chinese sentiments we’ve been hearing lately sound awfully similar to the anti-Chinese sentiments at the turn of the century."

  • Another great usage of Web 2.0 is the ImmigrationProf Blog's 'Immigrant of the Day' series.  In a corner of blogosphere focused largely on individual episodes of violence and legislative battles, it is refreshing to get a regular dosage of success stories which help remind us that people immigrate to the US in search of increased opportunity.  Recent features include Madeleine May Kunin, the Swiss-born ambassador and former governor of Vermont, and comedic musician William Hung from Hong Kong.
  • The Huffington Post highlights a MediaWeek article which reports that most political candidates are slow to adopt paid advertising on the internet, choosing instead to stick to traditional media such as television.  Despite a willingness to engage in social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace and a well-defined focus on online fundraising, "most candidates were planning to spend roughly one percent of their total media budgets online, versus the seven percent that most mainstream brands typically spend on the medium."
  • Finally, our video 'What Do Human Rights Mean to You?' has been posted on the From Poverty of Opportunity Campaign blog presented by the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs.  The Campaign works to reduce poverty in the state of Illinois by using the framework of human rights to organize communities, advocates and policy leaders into creating social change.
Blog Post Progress in Jena, Thanks to the Black Blogosphere

CNN estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 people attended yesterday's rally in Jena, Louisiana in support of six African-American students who were prosecuted unfairly for beating a white student after being threatened in a series of racially-motivated incidents.  It's wonderful to see that so many people went out of their way (as much as 20 hours on a bus from Los Angeles, with children in tow) to stand up for fairness and equality in our judicial system, and there was not a single arrest in the process.  In the photos of the event on Huffington Post, someone is carrying a banner that says "An Injustice ANYWHERE is an Injustice EVERYWHERE."  That's a great illustration of the value of community, the sense that our lives and well-being are interconnected.

Two big developments have come out of the march. First, the Third District court ordered District Attorney Reed Walters to hold a hearing within 72 hours to discuss Mychal Bell's release from prison.  Second, Congress announced that the House Judiciary Committee will be reviewing events in Jena, which is promising.

There has correspondingly been a good deal of discussion about the role the blogosphere and new media have played in what is now being referred to as the "21st Century Civil Rights movement," a new online movement with the ability to mobilize thousands of supporters in rapid time.  Yet at a time in which Republicans and mainstream media are taking heat for ignoring people of color, the bigger, white progressive bloggers are also getting knocked for failing to report on happenings in Jena.

Blog Post "Sanctuary Cities"
  • Over at the LA Times, Ron Brownstein is talking about "Sanctuary Cities" and our immigration policy.  It's only in the last two weeks that I've begun to notice the term "Sanctuary Cities" creaping into the public discourse.  The term seems to be the anti-immigrant movements' frame of choice, designed to not only focus on actual immigration laws, but to act as a club for Republican Presidential candidates to beat up Democrats.  The way it is being deployed by folks like Romney and Tancredo, Sanctuary Cities = Progressive Urban Centers = Democrats.  Am I reading too much into that?
  • Progressive Blogger Digby is moonlighting over at The Big Con and opens her new gig with a must read piece about Race and the response to Katrina 2 years ago.
  • If you haven't read it yet, Time Magazine recently profiled some high school students who used FaceBook and MySpace to organize on behalf of their friends, whose parents are undocumented workers facing deportation.
  • The American Immigration Law Foundation has an interesting piece about local ordinances seeking to curb immigration in the face of the Federal Government's failure to pass a comprehensive reform bill:

    Regardless of why anti-immigrant ordinances are metastasizing across
    the country, the ordinances themselves, and the arguments of their
    supporters, are based on false assumptions. Take Culpeper County, where
    champions of the resolution complain that new immigrants aren't
    "assimilating." Missing from this complaint is an understanding of the
    fact that "assimilation" (or integration) occurs over the course of
    generations, not within a few years of a person's life. While most of
    our immigrant forefathers probably achieved at least a basic mastery of
    English after several years in the United States, like Latino
    immigrants now, they certainly did not become linguistically or
    culturally "American" in any meaningful sense within their lifetimes.
    And neither will today's immigrants. But their children and
    grandchildren will, just as we did.

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.
Blog Post Blogosphere Diversity and the Effectiveness of Internet Action

Blogosphere Diversity remains the topic du jour this Monday (unless you want to talk about the upcoming Rove resignation), though there are a number of other important posts to read as well:

  • Angry Black Woman ponders the effectiveness of blogging as a way to help eliminate racism.  Is blogging so much talk, or is it another form of doing
  • At ColorLines, Daisy Hernandez asks if you can iChat your way to Social Change, in an excellent piece about media consumption habits and activism among people of color.
  • The Field Negro weighs in on this issue as well, with a lot of more about diversity in the blogosphere and the larger conversation that is (at times very indelicately) taking place.
  • Linda Seger at Huffington Post adds gender discrimination into the mix.
  • JaninSanFran wrrites about the danger of anecdotes in media reporting - an interesting piece on how personal stories can frame or misframe an issue.
  • Jack and Jill Politics has an excellent post about health care equity and access vs. quality of care.
  • Finally, Facing South continues its coverage of the Jena 6.
Blog Post Forming Diverse Coalitions: Interview with James Rucker of Color of Change

Speaking of diversity in the blogosphere, Baratunde Thurston of Jack and Jill Politics sat down with James Rucker, the executive director of Color of Change, at the Yearly Kos Convention.  The two talked about the growing black blogosphere, and the diverse coalition that formed to oppose the Congressional Black Caucus/Fox News debates.  Also discussed is the possibility of forming a similar coalition around the Jena 6 in Louisiana. Here's a video of their conversation.

Blog Post Huge Discussion on Diversity in the Blogosphere

I noted yesterday that there was a stark lack of diversity at this past weekend's Yearly Kos convention.  Others noticed as well - the mainstream media, and the bloggers who conceived and attended the convention.  For the past day or two, that lack of diversity has been a driving topic on some of the more influential blogs - mostly at the relatively new site Open Left.  Here's a rundown on who's talking about what.

If you are a progressive advocate, blogger, or other whose work might fall under that nebulous label of "diversity," these are conversations you should be following and inserting yourself into.

First read Jennifer Ancona's post about one of the panels at Yearly Kos: The Changing Dynamic of Diversity in Progressive Politics.  The panel featured Adam Luna of the Center for Community Change, Cheryl Contee, Tanya Tarr, and Eric Baylor.  The post summed up the need for a more diverse progressive movement and a Democratic Party willing to "address issues of race head-on," yet only the usual suspects showed up in the comments to Jennifer's post.

Second, check out a series by Chris Bowers, one of the founders of Open Left in which the diversity of the movement (or lack thereof) plays a crucial part. 

Bowers argues that the progressive movement has stalled in the last two years (compared to the three prior years).  Sure, he's talking about the online progressive movement and the change within the Democratic Party - not what many social justice folks might label the progressive movement - but that gets exactly to Chris's point.  Without the diversity of that broader movement, this one (online and electoral) piece has stalled out after three years of rapid growth.

Bower's co-blogger Matt Stoller then jumped into the debate with a demand that conversations about blogospheric diversity contain actual facts about the internal politics of various racial and ethnic coalitions.

Bowers again responded, with one of the demographic analyses for which he's known.  His conclusion - yeah, things could be more diverse, but let's not get into a fight about not-diverse-enough vs. things are fine.  Let's work to have a productive conversation and bring more voices into the discussion.

I couldn't agree more, and if you aren't already in these discussions, go throw in your two cents.

Blog Post The NY Daily News Links to Our YouTube Video!

In an article about clinic and hospital closures in Brooklyn, The New York Daily News is highlighting our YouTube video!

Gloves off in fight to keep clinics open

As they campaign to keep two Central Brooklyn health clinics up and running, advocates are using everything from old-fashioned, political arm-twisting to newfangled YouTube videos.

The Central Brooklyn Health Crisis Coalition is urging local elected officials to write and call Gov. Spitzer and the state Health Department so that the St. Peter Claver and the Sister Thea Bowman Family Health clinics won't close.

The coalition is asking the public to tune in to a YouTube video, www.youtube.com/opportunityagenda, to hear from clinic patients, and to support the campaign by writing or calling state officials.

"We must keep the pressure on," said Ngozi Moses, executive director of the Brooklyn Perinatal Network and head of the coalition, which includes several community groups and the Brooklyn borough president's office.

You can watch the full video here.  And don't forget about the other new media tools we've brought to bear on the problem of hospital and clinic closures in Brooklyn.

Blog Post Race, Opportunity, and the YouTube/CNN Debate

Written and researched with (great) help from Amanda Ogus. Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Monday night’s YouTube debate gave the “average Joes” of America the chance to ask the Democratic presidential candidates their own personal questions.  Between the filter of CNN’s production team, who chose which videos would air, and the stump speeches that still weeded their way into many candidates’ discourse, the debate was not as natural as it could have been, but still offered a new way for Americans to have their voices heard. 

So, how did CNN do in picking questions that deal with the tricky topic of race, and how did the candidates do in answering them?  This is important.  As some have noted, the video submissions were dominated by white men – a demographic not representative of the diversity of America.  Whatever the reason – be it lack of broadband access or lack of savvy when it comes to New Media – CNN clearly made an effort to rectify that imbalance through their selection of questioners who were of color and questioners who  asked pertinent questions about race in America. 

Yet still, there were a lot of lost opportunities.  No one addressed the issue of racial disparities in health care, or recognized that equal access (through whatever insurance or universal health plan) does not necessarily guarantee equal treatment. Much more could have been said about equal access to and quality of education - especially in light of the recent school cases.  Next to nothing was said about comprehensive immigration reform.

Overall, we give CNN a "B."  They clearly tried to showcase diverse voices - especially tricky given the racial and gender imbalance in the questions submitted - yet they still failed to adequately address many topics.

 

In this post, we’ve compiled those questions, as well as evaluated the responses from the top tier candidates - Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson.  Check out the full transcript on CNN, and the video coverage on
YouTube.  For a comprehensive summary of media responses on the
debates, check out Jack Muse’s coverage on Huffington Post.

Question 6

Edwards: Immediately answering “no”, Edwards explained that he would pursue other goals to create more equality, citing a recent study that in Charleston, black people were paying more than white people for mortgages at a higher rate, even when taking income into account.  Edwards reiterated that to have true equality means fighting the big companies: “we can’t trade our insiders for their insiders…what we need is someone who will take these people on…That’s the only way we’re going to bring about change.” 

Obama: Responded to the question by choosing to focus on education, also focusing on South Carolina by profiling a low-income school in Florence, SC.  Focusing on education, Obama said, is “the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.”

Question 7

Richardson:  Richardson explained that in a future crisis, the government should work to “eliminate…any red tape” and “let those who live there come back first, instead of big moneyed interests.”  While he didn’t respond directly to the “race” aspect of the question posed, he did express his disagreement to the way the administration reacted.

It should be noted that during this question, Senator Dodd spoke eloquently about economic opportunity in the Gulf in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Question 8

Obama: Used this opportunity to explain how “race permeates our society.”  He details the failures of the government in denying programs to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and said that as president, “my commitment on issues like health care is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that’s what’s really going to solve the race problem in this country.”  Obama’s comments were the only mention of racial disparities in any candidates’ answer, and put a strong emphasis on the fact that racism still exists in many parts of society.  Trying to force “colorblind” legislation is ignoring these disparities, and only perpetuating further inequalities. 

Clinton: Maintained that the (presidential) race should not be about Obama’s race or her gender, but about “what is best for you and your family.”

Question 9

In a question from the Reverend Reggie Longcrier, the candidates - particularly John Edwards were asked about religion as a weapon for discrimination - particularly as a justification for slavery in the past and a tool to rob GLBT people of their civil liberties today. 

Edwards: spoke in favor of equal rights and civil rights and his determination not to let his own faith beliefs - which are not in favor of gay marriage - to dictate public policy and limit the rights of American citizens.

Obama: Spoke about equality before the state in terms of marriage and the civil rights it confers, but wants to leave actual determinations about marriage up to individual religious denominations.

Question 27

Richardson: Makes a brief mention of suppression of minority voters by the Republican Party.  No other candidate is allowed to respond.

Question 28

No one specifically mentions people of color, but this question on the minimum wage touches on themes of economic mobility and security, and is highly relevant to millions of low-income families and people of color.

Obama: He's really the only one who hits this out of the park, noting that it's almost the wrong question.  Presidential candidates tend to be rich.  They can afford to work for the minimum wage.  It's everyday people who need to be given a living wage.

Question 34

This question asks whether the candidate's health care plans would cover undocumented workers.  Only Dodd and Richardson are allowed to answer, and, while both answer yes, this was mostly a lost opportunity for a substantive discussion about two of the most important and hot issues facing our nation.

Blog Post YouTube/CNN Debate Tonight

Tonight is the YouTube/CNN debate.  If you haven't heard of it yet, the debate questions will be entirely composed by the public, submitted via YouTube.  Overall, I'm a little disappointed that there was no voting system to
allow users to decide which questions get selected for air during the
debate.  It makes this much less a citizen endeavor as CNN is still
playing a huge gate-keeping role.  The promise of
this debate is that it will showcase an intelligent array of Americans
asking hardball questions that the timid networks are afraid to ask.
My sense is that the debate will actually go one of two ways:
CNN will select a rather boring slate of questions, mirroring the
questions they would have asked anyway.  If that is the case, this will
be nothing more than a new coat of paint on and old car.  The worst
case scenario will be if CNN picks mostly stale questions but sprinkles
in some of the quirkier videos, making the American public look not
only uninformed, but freakish.

The Opportunity Agenda made a few videos of our own to submit as question.  Here's our interns, Allie, Amanda, Linda and Michael (clockwise), asking questions about opportunity, economic mobility, health care equity, immigration and restoring a sense of community and the common good.  Watch the debate tonight and cross your fingers that one of these videos will be featured:

Blog Post Online organizing against new BET show
  • Mirror on America reports on the controversial show set to premiere on BET next week, "Hot Ghetto
    Mess." Using viewer-submitted home videos and
    BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews, this reality show attempts to
    broadcast a side of the black community and hear people’s opinions on
    issues. “Hot Ghetto Mess” is based on a
    website with a purpose to showcase all parts of the black community, negative
    or not, in order to promote reflection on how this community is perceived. The online editor explains: “I want each and
    every person that reads these words to look at your life and ask how you can
    make yourself better, your community better or your kids better.” However, after many people expressed their
    offense to such a show, Gina McCauley, creator of the blog What About Our
    Daughters?
    (discussing how the black female community is represented in the
    media) turned to a coalition of religious and women’s groups to protest the
    show. The coalition targets advertisers
    for the show, and two companies (State Farm Insurance and Home Depot) have
    already asked BET to pull their ad time. At the premiere, this coalition has organized “watch parties” in many
    cities across the country to record which companies purchased advertisements,
    then plans to boycott these businesses or organize demonstrations. We’ll wait and see how effective their
    strategy is, but the approach - mixing blog outreach, new media, and good old fashioned boycotts - demonstrates a creative mix of action that could make a good model for future online/offline organizing. Racial justice activists could take a page out of McCauley’s book in their
    own campaigns
  • The Washington Post reports on the resolution passed
    yesterday in Loudoun Country, VA that limits undocumented workers access to
    county services and penalizes employers who hire them (Thanks, ‘Just News’
    blog
    !). This legislation is one of many strong statewide and countywide that have passed since the Senate’s
    failure to organize a comprehensive nationwide immigration policy. Without the national government setting the
    limits, we will be faced with different localized laws that will lead to an even more chaotic system. In addition,
    laws like these which focus on employer sanctions rather than face the problem, avoid the main issue - that of the rights of workers.
  • DMI Blog reports on Massachusetts' decision to implement a new social welfare program called
    Choices.  The program allows people receiving welfare the option of receiving counseling about viable options for education and occupational advances. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research
    explains that for low-income students, higher education is the best way to
    acquire good jobs, and this positive step has a ripple affect in the students’
    families and communities.
Blog Post How will a new progressive blog fare in the big issues?

Timecover_2

  • Huffington Post offers side-by-side assessments of the U.S.
    Presidential Candidates’ health plans in easy-to-read charts.
  • As a new progressive blog opens its doors, Jack and Jill
    Politics
    ask some pertinent questions about race and religion in the
    blogosphere, and how blogggers who cover these topics can become more
    influential online and even make up for the shortcomings of "the Old
    Left.” Quoting eteraz’s Open Left Diary,
    Jack and Jill posts “The ultimate question is: race-conscious or race-blind;
    religion-conscious or religion-blind (referring only to those communities whose
    religion is already politicized); focus on under-represented people via
    minority-rights or economic-rights.”
  • To add to our previous posting on opinions following the Supreme Court schools decision, here are two more op-eds. NNPA Columnist George Curry reflects on the gains (or lack thereof) this country has made in desegregation since the 1954 Brown decision. Curry explains that this Supreme Court decision is just the latest in reversals of desegregation efforts.
  • Ron Walters takes Curry’s points one step farther in this Louisiana Weekly column, stating that the country has now returned to the
    “Separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.
Blog Post FEMA's tactics in the post-Katrina climate
  • We continue to learn many lessons from Hurricane Katrina, nearly two years after the storm struck the Gulf Coast, chief among them the consequences of misplaced governmental priorities.  In a case where we most needed a strong and positive governmental role, instead we witnessed a monumental failure of will and dodging responsibility.  For example, Facing
    South
    reports that federal agencies responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
    gave the startling amount of $2.4 billion in contracts guaranteeing profits for
    big companies, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. FEMA, which has seen its support consistently cut and its core mission altered over the past seven years, was responsible for nearly 94% of these
    contracts. The tragedies in Hurricane Katrina should have provided an opportunity
    for the government to act as a positive resource, but many reports show many
    poor decisions, increasing suffering for the victims. Check out the Center for Social Inclusion’s
Blog Post How do video games perpetuate racial stereotypes?
  • Racialicious questions the effects racial stereotypes have
    when perpetuated in pop culture, like popular video games like Grand Theft Auto. Responding to Deadline Games CEO Chris
    Motte’s post on GameDaily Biz, a site and blog dedicated to the video game
    industry, Racialicious discusses the flood of games that use both sexist and
    racist messages as part of the plot. Few
    video games include African American, Asian American, or Latino main characters
    without employing numerous stereotypes as part of their image. Not just demeaning, but such portrayals
    reinforce the idea that stereotypes are valid and appropriate. When popular culture reflects an inaccurate
    lens, advocates for social change will have to cross that many more obstacles
    for equality. If people start believing
    stereotypes about certain race or gender groups, there will be fewer public
    movements to help truly disadvantaged parties.
  • Ezra Klein points to an interactive game by The New York Times called Points of Entry, in which players learn
    about the proposed point system in the Immigration Bill firsthand.  The game allows players to change key education and employment history
    details in an effort to boost one immigrant’s point total higher than another. The game is one of many in a growing trend
    to use interactive online games to educate audiences and motivate them to advance social change. In Darfur is Dying, players choose a
    Darfurian to try to either forage for water, trying to avoid getting captured,
    or support a camp for seven days with the imminent threat of an attack. Games for Change is an organization which
    provides “support, visibility and shared resources to organizations and
    individuals using digital games for social change.
  • As a social worker coordinating anti-hate crime programs,
    Marshall Wong uses his family’s immigration struggles to drive his work. In this Dreams Across America video, Marshall explains the
    xenophobia his parents and grandparents received, and the ways in which they
    fought back.
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/13/07: Part 2
  • The Washington Post discusses the sub par health care that
    many undocumented workers receive while serving jail time with the U.S.
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Lawyers
    are currently investigating numerous claims on behalf of undocumented workers who
    were taken into custody with minor illnesses and released with life-threatening
    infections. The ACLU stated that
    detainees often have poor English skills, don’t know their rights and have no
    access to counsel; another example of how our current system fails to treat both immigrants or those enmeshed in the criminal justice system fairly and humanely.
  • In an update to previous coverage of the 5-4 Supreme
    Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, ACS Blog reports on the House Committee on Education
    and Labor held a hearing today to consider restoring anti-discriminatory
    protections for workers. Leadership
    Conference on Civil Rights’ Wade Henderson stated before the committee that this
    outcome is “fundamentally unfair to victims of pay discrimination” and that the
    outcome “ignores the realities of the workplace.”
  • Huffington Post reports with more information on the Dreams
    Across America
    project (refer to our previous posting): an immigrants’ rights
    group using Web 2.0 to put a human face on immigration and advocated for comprehensive positive reform that expands opportunity for all in America. As
    ImmigrationProf adds, the opposition to legalization is strong, with
    grassfire.org sending 700,000 faxes and emails and making 1 million personal
    contacts with Senators. Groups like
    Dreams Across America, with innovative, online strategies, are necessary to combat these
    opposition organizations that are rallying online.
Blog Post Where is the Online Organizing for Immigrants Rights?

As we move further from the day to day details of the immigration debate, it's becoming increasingly clear that a savvy campaign among the conservative grassroots organized hundreds of thousands of supporters online to bring down comprehensive reform. 

As an article in the New York Times documented this weekend:

“We had way more response than we could handle,” said Stephen Elliott, president of Grassfire.org,
a conservative Internet group that called for volunteers for a petition
drive and instructed people how to barrage lawmakers with telephone
calls and e-mail.

The group gathered more than 700,000 signatures on petitions
opposing the bill, delivering them this week to senators in Washington
and in their home states.

Organizers described a new Internet-linked national constituency
that emerged among Republicans, much like the one that Democrats
pioneered during the presidential candidacy in 2004 of Howard Dean. But many of these Republicans are enraged at their party leaders, including Mr. Kyl and Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supported the bill, and they feel betrayed by Mr. Bush.

Matt Stoller at MyDD notes that the nativist elements of the Republican Party did a good job organizing online to kill this bill, and sees the potential emergence of another element of a conservative blogosphere in their organizing savvy.  I think that he's right, and thus far the immigrant rights community has not exhibited an coherent online strategy to counter the rise of such a blogosphere.

GrassFire.org's ability to attain hundreds of thousands of signatories to its petition echoes the early days of MoveOn, which itself started as a petition drive, and their online savvy extends beyond gathering signatures.  The organization has also created humorous TV ads in support of a border fence.  They are currently trying to raise $100k to air their spot on TV, and the ad has already been uploaded and viewed almost 50,000 times on YouTube.  This organizing savvy goes far beyond GrassFire.org.  On FaceBook, anti-immigration groups far outnumber those that are in favor of comprehensive reofrm, and the largest group - by far with over 14,000 members - is called "No Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants."  This is just as true in the blogosphere, with anti-immigrant blogs dominating the discourse.

We face an uphill battle, but it's not by any means insurmountable.  There is a nascent progressive blogosphere forming in favor of humane immigration policies, lead thus far by blogs like Immigrants in USA, Immigration Prof, Border Line, Migra Matters, Immigration Equality, DMI Blog, Pro Inmigrant, Immigrants and Politics, Latina Lista, Justice and Journalism, Migration Debate, and Blue Latinos.   As far as I can tell, these groups are still disconnected from the Beltway immigration advocates, and even from the many grassroots immigration groups scattered across the country.  There is little in the way of a coordinated strategy to harness online the many hundreds of thousands of immigrant rights supporters that groups like La Raza command offline.  That needs to change.

A new organization - Dreams Across America - seems to be looking to form a coherent online strategy (including blogs, social networking, and online video) for advocating for humane, comprehensive reform that lives up to our national values, but so far they are a lone voice just getting started. 

Last week, the conservative grassroots successfully organized online to pressure their representatives and kill reform.  It's time for the immigrant rights community to become similarly organized.  The next time an immigration bill comes before Congress, let's be ready with our own online strategy to counteract the conservative narrative and build support across the country and in Congress to achieve comprehensive reform.

 

Blog Post Daily Blog Round-up
  • ACS blog reports on the 5-4 majority decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, a case involving sex discrimination in the workplace.  While the gender wage gap has narrowed in the last 30 years, this decision only makes further advances more difficult.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites that in 2003, a women’s average wage was still only 81% of a man’s average wage.  By continuing to put such roadblocks in the path of possible equal opportunity employers, women and minority groups will have a much harder time fighting for equality in the workforce.
  • Prometheus 6 reports on Color of Change’s continuous efforts to unite the rising black blogosphere and the progressive netroots to combat the Congressional Black Caucus’s democratic debates on Fox News.  Color of Change is pioneering new forms of online activism for racial justice advocates.  Show your support by checking out their site.
  • DMI reports on senators' reactions to the recent immigration proposal (The Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act (pdf)) and to the NY Times/CBS poll showing a strong majority of American support for providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.  DMI discusses the senators' apparent disconnect with this majority, detailing two different amendments to the bill (introduced by Senators Vitter and Coleman), which would have created roadblocks to a compassionate pathway to citizenship that recognizes the contributions immigrants make to our country. 
Blog Post Diversity in the Blogosphere and Digital Divides

There are some fascinating discussions about diversity in the blogosphere happening on MyDD, one of the top ten "progressive blogs," and a site that usually focuses on polling and strategy to the exclusion of all else.

It started with a post by the site's managing editor, Chris Bowers: A Quick Note on Diversity in the Blogosphere, wherein he suggested that the blogosphere was a niche, and that while diversity in the progressive movement was important, diversity in the blogosphere was not an inherent good or even necessary.

Needless to say, that caused a ruckus.  Through two other posts - More on Diversity: Blogging is a Niche and  Diversity in the Blogosphere: Practical Difficulties, Bowers clarified his point and the conversation become much more specific - focusing on barriers to entry, particular blog hiring/recruiting practices and the value of certain types of activism within the movement.

It culminated with this post by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona on Building Multiracial Coalitions, which Bowers promoted from the Diaries to the front page of the site (and where The Opportunity Agenda gets some love in the comments - thanks Jenifer!). 

The whole discussion is fascinating and well worth a read, especially as the "blackosphere" grows and learns how to work with the already established progressive blogs (aka the "whitosphere").

It also offers an opportunity for us to point out the wiki we set up to help groups find and catalogue blogs that focus on racial justice issues, immigration issues and human rights issues - all frequently ignored by the "mainstream" blogs.  You can find the wiki here.  The password is "justice."

On a related note, the Pew Internet and American Life Project  has a new survey out (pdf), and Andre Golis at TPM Cafe has a good read on the results and what they mean for the Digital Divide in America:

the usage gap is growing because while the speed of adoption at the
top is quick and interest is broad, many have either no access or no
interest.

It would be a tragic irony if the technology that offered the
greatest possibilities for destroying inequality actually expanded it,
or was simply prevented from realizing its potential by preexisting
economic, educational and social inequalities.

Destroying the digital divides that exist is a prerequisite for
realizing the most radically democratic and egalitarian dreams for the
possibilities of networking technology. The first step--empowering an
educated and socially engaged class of people to have new forms of
discussion and collaboration-- was easy. The second, third and fourth
steps will be much harder, and will require people putting their elbow
grease where their rhetoric is.

Another must read on the digitial divide today is this must-read interview with Arnold Chandler of Policy Link, who talks about the divide not only in terms of access, but of usage patterns and skill level.

Blog Post Blackosphere vs. the Whitosphere

There is a fascinating discussion going on over at MyDD about race in the blogosphere.  Why is it that the two most influential "progressive" blogs are 97% white.  Why does a vibrant, primarily "black" blogosphere exist in parallel to the "whitosphere?"  What does it say about the progressive movement that there is little connection between those two blogospheres?

The conversation veers into presidential politics, but this is a fascinating self-examination of how race is playing out in the new tools of a supposedly more participatory democracy.

Blog Post Images of Opportunity

The Doors of Opportunity IIHere are The Opportunity Agenda, we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the New School University in New York, where we teach a class on media and social justice, and work with some great professors who use our organization as a case study in their classes.  Most recently,
Professor Kit Laybourne used our organization as the "client" in his media production class.

Students in the class were tasked with producing an image that was representative of:

  1. an issue area in which The Opportunity Agenda was active; and/or

Redemption is in our Nature

one of the 6 Core Opportunity Values that we use as the basis of our framing. 

Students tasked with producing two images.  One of which contained text and could function as an iconic image on our blog or website when we cover a particular issue or message around a particular core value.  The second image was designed specifically for use by others.  It was to contain no text, and was meant to be a "blank canvass" that other nonprofit organizations or social justice activists could use to remix and reuse the images for their own work.  To that end, all images were to be original photos taken by the students, original graphic illustrations, or images found under a suitable creative commons license

Community Graphic

The results are in, and we're really please with the results.  I've created a Flickr set of the images and tagged the photos with a number of common tags - non profit, creative commons, etc.

I'd invite you take a look at the work the students produced, pass the
photos around, and use them in your own work.  If anyone has questions
about our process, usage rights, or recommendations on how we might take this to the
next level, please let me know.

All the images can be viewed here, on our Flickr page.

Blog Post Experiments in Democracy

With only four more days until Americans make their yearly trek to the polls, its hard not to think about what it means to be a citizen, and what political participation really looks like in America - both historically and practically. Here are some items I've been enjoying as I try to grapple with that problem.

A new poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics (pdf) suggests that, on Tuesday, young voters will shatter previous turnout records for midterm elections.  The poll - which has an incredible sample size of over 2,500 18-24 year olds (half on and half off the "college track") - concludes that turnout could be as high as 32%.  The previous record was 27% set in 1982.

The gang at Radio Open Source just finished a show about "Experiments in Democracy" with Lani Guinier.  The show explored the question of what participation looks like in America and in other democracies, and how we can truly make our electoral system more representative of the voices of the people it is meant to serve.  Listen to the show. (24mb mp3)

A rash of stories about Diebold machines are leaking into the media.  Problems are yet again arising with these machines, and the blogosphere is awash in conspiracy theories.  HBO is currently airing a documentary on the machines - Hacking Democracy - which premiered last night.

A citizen journalism outfit - the Polling Place Photo Project - is  asking folks to take a picture of their polling place and submit it to the project.  PPPP hopes to create a record of the voting experience in America in 2006.

In a more activist vein, I'll point people yet again to Video the Vote - a project that seeks to document and minimize irregularities in Tuesday's voting process.  If you've got some time on Tuesday and want to help safe-guard our democracy, this non-partisan group is looking for volunteers for a variety of tasks from filming sites, manning the phones or shuttling film crews in your car.

Finally, conservatives like to fear-monger about immigrants voting illegally.  Its the purported rationale behind many of the stringent voter ID laws they are trying to pass in the states.  So allow me to relish in a moment's worth of Schadenfreude as I introduce you to the new face of voter fraud.

Blog Post Google Bombing 101

Some of you out there might have heard about an effort by progressive bloggers to "Google Bomb" the election. 

The practice has been around for quite a while - mostly for humorous or  satirical purposes (just google the words "miserable failure" and you'll see what we mean).  But -  with an effort by the progressive blogosphere to Google Bomb 70 Republican candidates - it's lately gained traction as a genuine tool for advocates and activists alike.

The idea - partly inspired by the Drum Major Institutes's innovative use of Google Ad Words to "grade" congress and educate voters - is simple: If enough blogs link negative stories using the names of Republican candidates, their collective linking power will drive those articles up the Google search results.  Undecided voters - the most likely to be randomly googling candidate names in the next two weeks - will click on those links, see the negative stories, and decide to vote democratic.

Andrea Batista Schlesinger of DMI asks the appropriate question - how can this tactic be used to change public policy? 

The short answer is this: alter public opinion.  For instance, right now, very few news stories ever report on human rights issues, and the American public is highly uneducated about human rights issues.  What if we could Google Bomb a number of common terms that - even though they are not framed as such in the US media - are human rights issues at core?  For instance, health care is a human right - recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - yet rarely is it reported that way.  What if major public policy groups, in cooperation with the blogosphere, could use Google Bombs as a way to begin to alter that?

That's a big example, but what about somethign smaller?  How about a Google Bomb on a specific campaign?  The blogosphere has already accomplished this.  In 2005, a campaign called "There Is No Crisis" played a large role in the social security debate.  During the height of the campaign - which was largely supported by the blogosphere - Google searches for Social Security frequently yielded an anti-privatization website called "There is No Crisis."

There are lots of potential uses - and case studies - out there for those who are looking to google bomb public policy.  The trick is to identify a specific campaign and then build concensus between the think tanks and the blogs.  It's that partnership that will ensure the critical mass of links required for any such campaign to be successful.

For more about Google Bombs and Search Engine Optimization strategies, check out this white paper by the New Politics Institute.

Blog Post Podcast: Participate in a Conversation About Health Equity

On Thursday, The Opportunity Agenda will record the 7th edition of Opportunity Radio - our monthly podcast.  In this edition, Brian Smedley, Research Director and co-founder of The Opportunity Agenda, and director of the Institute of Medicine study "Unequal Treatment," will talk with Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Color Lines magazine, about the issue of health care disparities.

Brian and Rinku will define health disparities, discuss the scope of the problem, and explore what Rinku and ARC are doing to combat disparities and help all Americans achieve health equity - or equality in access to, and quality of, care.  During this conversation, we would  like Brian and Rinku to answer questions posed by you, our readers. 

If you have a question about equity, access, and the role that race, ethnicity, and gender play in American health care, please post your question in the comments.  Brian and Rinku will do their best to provide answers to your questions during their conversation.  If any questions are not addressed during out podcast, we'll do out best to answer those questions in the comments or through an additional blog post.

This is a topic not often addressed in health care debates or in the blogosphere.  Even health policy blogs frequently gloss over the topic or avoid it alltogether.  Never the less, it is an important issue affecting millions of Americans every day and in many places across the country it is an issue that is getting worse.

No question is too big or small, and we genuinely want to hear from you on this issue.  If you'd like to become more informed before diving into the conversation, here are some facts and resources to get you started:

Read our complete fact sheet.

  • While about 21% of white Americans were uninsured at any point in 2002, communities of color were more likely to be uninsured at any point (including 28% of African Americans, 44% of Hispanic Americans, 24% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 33% of American Indians and Alaska Natives), and are more likely to be dependant upon public sources of health insurance.
  • While Hispanic children constitute less than one-fifth of children in the United States, they represent over one-third of uninsured children.  Among children in fair or poor health who lack insurance (nearly 570,000 children in 2002), over two-thirds are Hispanic.
  • More than 11 million immigrants were uninsured in 2003, contributing to one-quarter of the U.S. uninsured. The uninsurance rate among immigrants increased dramatically in the late 1990s, following the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which imposed a five-year limit on most new immigrants’ ability to participate in public health insurance programs. Prior to and shortly following passage of the Act (between 1994 and 1998), immigrants accounted for about one-third of the increase in the number of uninsured individuals. Between 1998 and 2003 they accounted for 86% of that growth.
  • Foreign-born people are 2.5 times more likely than the native-born to lack health insurance, a gap that remains unchanged since 1993.
  • African Americans, Hispanics, and the poor and near poor (of all racial and ethnic groups) are more likely than white non-poor groups to face barriers to having a regular source of health care. These gaps have increased since 2000. Over 42% of Hispanic poor and 37% of Hispanic non-poor people lacked a regular source of health care in 2001 and 2002, an increase of more than 30% and 18%, respectively, since 1995 and 1996.
  • During this same period, the percentage of poor and near-poor African Americans and whites without a regular source of health care went largely unchanged. But these groups were up to 75% more likely than non-poor African Americans and whites to lack a regular source of health care in 2001 and 2002.
  • Minorities are less likely to receive necessary procedures than whites but more likely to receive undesirable treatment than whites, such as limb amputation for diabetes.
  • African-American heart patients are less likely than white patients to receive certain kinds of care, such as diagnostic procedures, revascularization procedures, and thrombolytic therapy, even if they have similar patient characteristics.
  • Minorities are less likely to be put on waiting lists for kidney transplants or to receive dialysis.

Read our complete fact sheet.

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