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January 18, 2010
“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The words and work of the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. still inspires today. As one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders, he has taught us many valuable lessons on how to challenge social injustice and protect human rights.
Dr. King showed that nonviolent civil disobedience could be an effective tool to fight racial inequality across an entire nation. Through sit-ins, marches, rallies, motivational sermons and peaceful protests, he led a successful (and strenuous) campaign of passive resistance.
A lone bullet from an assassin’s gun cut down Dr. King’s life in 1968, and on Monday, January 18, 2010 we celebrate his legacy. It is a time for all of us to remember his struggle for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all races. The Pro-Media communications team honors Dr. King’s memory by doing our part to strengthen projects, highlight books and support organizations that work to defend justice, equality and progressive social issues.
Click here for more information on the upcoming celebration activities for Dr. Martin Luther King Day being observed on Monday, January 18, 2010 and being held this year under the theme, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off.”
September 11, 2009
by J Coco Chang, account manager
UPDATE: Here is a clip of an interview that took place on New York’s WBAI about the report “The Helpers Need Help.”
On Thursday I accompanied Pro-Media client the Human Services Council to a studio interview at FOX 5 in New York City. The segment will run on the “Street Talk” segment on Saturday, Sept. 12 during the 6 a.m. FOX 5’s Good Day program. It will also be available online here.
It was great to be back behind the scenes of a news program (something I am familiar with as a former TV producer). I was so glad to be there to provide support and help prepare Michael Stoller, executive director of the Human Services Council, as well as Gary Carter and Sarah Muller, both with Little Sisters of Assumption Family Health Services for the interview.
In the segment, they are discussing the severe challenges human service providers across New York City face in light of the economic downturn. A survey report that was sponsored by the Human Services Council and Baruch’s College School of Public Affairs has already gotten coverage in the New York Times, City Limits, WNYC, WBAI-FM, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, New York Nonprofit Press, Queens Courier and several more.
I captured some behind the scenes video and photos (available on our Flickr page). Here are the pictures:
Here is the final preparation for the news segment.
Here is the actual interview. The audio is not great, so make sure to watch the program Saturday morning!
September 4, 2009
by J. CoCo Chang, account manager
Next week on September 9th, I am going to be attending a forum called “The Helpers Need Help.” It’s a forum that’s going to discuss how nonprofits and social service organizations in NYC are dealing with the economic recession. For more information on the forum, click here.
Having spoken to the sponsors of the forum – Human Services Council and Baruch College, who conducted an extensive survey and is putting out a report in connection with the forum – my understanding is the situation is dire. Many nonprofits in NYC are in very serious trouble of having critical funding taken away from them.
Recent reports from The New York Times and City Limits provide some sense of how serious a situation this is for many nonprofits throughout the city, but I think what we will learn at the forum is that the results are actually quite scary. With many of my friends unemployed and in need of assistance in some form or another by a human service organization, I fear that any one of these organizations helping my friends could be the one of hundreds that are experiencing major cuts to their funding. I am also hearing stories of how workers at some of these organizations are living in homeless shelters because there’s not enough money to pay them a base salary.
Getting to know many of these human service organizations through my work at Pro-Media, what I have come to admire about many social service workers is that they really do have a passion for their jobs, even at the expense of their own quality of life. This has inspired me to want to give more of my time towards volunteering with as many different social service organizations as possible, which is why I joined New York Cares.
New York Cares was founded by a group of friends who wanted to take action against the serious social issues facing New York City. Their goal was to meet pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service. And what’s great about them is that they offer flexible volunteer projects with lots of organizations either after work or on the weekends.
I encourage everyone reading my blog to get involved with an organization you care about. Doing so does not have to take over your life, if that’s what is stopping you. And if you are not familiar with any organization to volunteer with, come to the forum on September 9th and get to know one. I can assure you many will be there and would welcome a helping hand.
August 24, 2009
by Abby Lopez, Account Assistant
Last night the newly crowned Miss Universe was asked the following: “In many parts of the worlds, obstacles still exist that stop women from achieving their goals in some corporations. What can women do to overcome this?” Her response: she disagreed and said she believed that women have “reached the same level as men” and “we must realize that there are no longer barriers amongst us.” I wish we were living in the world Miss Universe described.
The topic of women’s leadership has fallen out of the public discourse for far too long and the unfortunate result is that Miss Universe is not the only person with a misconception about the true status of women.
The Real Facts:
• Although women business owners generate $1.9 trillion in sales each year (equivalent to China’s GDP) women only hold 14% of Fortune 500 corporate board seats;
• At our current rate of progress, it would take 73 years to reach parity between men and women on Fortune 500 corporate boards;
• In the U.S., women make up only 24% of state legislators and hold just 17% of congressional seats.
Miss Universe’s comments last night underscore the importance of the work of the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), a multi-year project of Demos led by Distinguished Senior Fellow Linda Tarr-Whelan, which provides a platform for a conversation on the status of women leaders.
August 18, 2009
by Yamil Anglada, account manager
I’m fairly radical when it comes to my health care preferences. I would be ecstatic with a system similar to what they have in France, with their paid maternity leave thrown in for good measure. The thought of unencumbered, free access to medical care—a human right, as declared by the United Nations—gives me butterflies. I want Medicare for all. So, unsurprisingly, I’m not feeling too happy these days.
The United States of America is the only post-industrial nation that doesn’t guarantee every citizen access to health care and also has a system so dysfunctional it was ranked by the World Health Organization as 37th in the world. It’s shocking that in 2009, the government of the world’s last remaining “superpower” can’t figure out how to ensure that all Americans can get the treatment they need, when they need it. It’s beyond disappointing that the Obama administration is now backpedaling its support for a public option, which to me seemed like the only viable path towards the universal health care we deserve.
I don’t understand the excuses, especially coming from so-called “Blue Dog Democrats” in the Senate who oppose the public plan. Only 2 months ago, an overwhelming majority of Americans polled showed their clear support for such a plan. Aren’t these the very people these senators were elected to serve? I’m not naïve: I understand that a large and embarrassing number of our elected officials are beholden to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries’ powerful lobby. But now, these companies that profit are taking priority over the health of Americans. They are now joined by fear-mongering conservatives in a campaign of absurd misinformation that is turning public opinion against a government-run alternative to the for-profit plans that just haven’t been working. The recent efforts by the administration to dispel egregious lies about the proposed health care overhaul may have come too late.
Without a public option, what’s the point? If, as previously reported, the proposed changes include a measure to make insurance compulsory, won’t we just be forcing Americans to buy insurance they couldn’t afford in the first place? How is this reform? How long will we stand for this embarrassment?
ColorLines’ excellent Racewire blog has an informative post on the proposed changes, particularly the public option. It’s very much worth a read. Those of us who are eager for universal healthcare have to stay informed and have to inform those around us. Now that the public option is up for negotiation, the fight just came to us.
August 17, 2009
by Michael Falco, digital initiatives strategist
I have a slight addiction (as if there are degrees of addiction) to broadcast and on-screen entertainment — well, really, all media. This week I finished re-watching the entire “Sopranos” series and followed it up the next day with the film “District 9.”
Now, admittedly, it is a real stretch to draw any parallels between the two works, but there was one overarching idea that continues to weigh on me. It relates to the notion that works of fiction continue to more accurately encapsulate the present zeitgeist than non-fiction.
Sure, on the surface “The Sopranos” could simply be viewed as a shoot-em up mob series and “District 9″ as a stunning piece of science fiction. But that does an incredible disservice to what actually lies before us.
I am confident that one day “The Sopranos” will be viewed as one of the most important examinations and cultural documents of American life at the turn of the century. It relentlessly approached the issues that continue to define this country, whether it is race, class mobility, sexuality, paternalism, war, violence, or post 9/11 hysteria.
“District 9″ and its commentary on Apartheid South Africa is anything but subtle. But there are certainly richer layers beyond that, as the film delves into corporate greed; mass immigration; the inherent difficulties of large peace/keeping and humanitarian missions; popular public opinion trumping what is right; and xenophobia. (Although I agree with Daniel Engber over at Slate that the film could have taken the social commentary even further).
The big lesson here is simply that we should never underestimate our audience. It is easy to boil things down to vacuous, one-dimensional stories like “Transformers,” but we risk doing a real disservice to our audience. I am not belittling talking points, as they often simplify complex issues to foster greater understanding. However, we should not be afraid of nuance. We should not fear creating media and messages that contain layers and that eagerly delve into the topics of our times.
August 15, 2009
by J. CoCo Chang, account manager
According to a New York Times report this week, it is now estimated that the death toll from typhoon Morakot that hit Taiwan, the Philippines and China could now be as high as 500.
Since I have family and friends in that region, who could be part of the thousands in need of help from having lost their loved ones and homes, I would like to take a moment to say “thank you” to the staff and volunteers of the following organizations and share some information about their work in bringing relief to the East Asia region from this natural disaster.
The local staff and volunteers of the Red Cross in China, Taiwan and the Philippines are helping families by initiating rescue missions and distributing relief supplies on a massive scale. With tremendous disaster response experience and capacity in the Red Cross at the national and local level in the affected countries, there has not been an appeal to the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for outside assistance. The American Red Cross remains in daily communication with its Red Cross partners in Asia and stands ready to assist if needed. Since there has not been an international appeal, at this time the American Red Cross can not accept funds designated to the typhoon.
Dharma Drum Mountain Social Welfare, a Buddhist charity foundation, assisted with recovery by quickly initiating emergency relief programs. These programs are focusing its help by offering typhoon sufferers temporary relief measures, such as drinking water, sleeping bags and lunch boxes on a daily basis.
Since typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan, the Tzu Chi Foundation, another Buddhist charity organization, recruited over 17,000 Tzu Chi volunteers to participate in the relief efforts. The volunteers prepared and delivered more than 200,000 hot meals and 6,000 relief kits (containing towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap and food). Tzu Chi will continue to provide these daily necessities as long as they are needed. Additionally, Tzu Chi continues to provide emergency cash to the affected families.
The Eden Social Welfare Foundation in Taiwan, which also lost two centers from typhoon Morakot, is sending staff and volunteers to help at three temp shelters they have set up with local governments, churches and temples.
And finally, the Child Welfare League Foundation in Taiwan will put into immediate effect a plan to help children who lost their parents to typhoon Morakot. At a temple in Kaohsiung County that is serving as a makeshift shelter for flood victims, representatves from the foundation brought stationaries and toys to comfort the children.
To help any of these charities with their relief efforts, please contact the organizations directly.
August 11, 2009
With Ramadan approaching, the New York City Police Department has announced that is has started to prepare for the typical displays of antipathy against Muslims we have come to witness around this time. The NYPD is stepping up its cultural sensitivity training and collaborating with Muslim leaders in New York ahead of the month-long period of religious observance. This is certainly a positive outcome of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Since the aftermath of the attacks almost eight years ago, Muslims in the U.S. have been subjected to persecution by their own government and harassment by their peers. The result, according to Marquette University professor Louise A. Cainkar, is that Muslim Americans – and Arab Americans – have been made to feel particularly vulnerable and insecure. In her new book, Homeland Insecurity (Russell Sage Foundation, August 2009), Cainkar explains how after the attacks, “Arabs and Muslims were constructed as people who were different from other Americans, and once this idea was instilled, it was easier for government agencies to abrogate the rule of law and deny fundamental rights to Arabs and Muslims in the US, especially those who were not citizens. The absence of the rule of law bred a sense of insecurity.”
Cainkar interviewed over 100 Arab and Muslim Americans in the Chicago area, who all came to feel unsafe in the years following the 9/11 attacks. What emerges from the accounts is a shocking – if not surprising – picture of the lives of Americans citizens and residents that were rendered “fair game” in the name of homeland security.
“Although other Americans felt vulnerable too after 9/11, Arab and Muslim Americans felt vulnerable to the actions of their compatriots, co-citizens, neighbors, police, and their government,” says Cainkar. “To manage this threat routine activities became complex (opening a bank account, renting a film), daily life routines were altered (which streets to drive on, which time of day to shop), work and school were sites of discrimination and ethnic jokes, and normal travel was interrupted.”
But there is good news: Cainkar also details how Americans began to fight back. Community leaders started to come together to educate the population about Islam, work towards peaceful neighborhoods, and to stand with each other in solidarity against the government’s failed and abusive policies. Organizations like Chicago’s SWOP built upon the community’s diversity by bringing Latino, African-Americas, Muslim and Arab leaders, organizers and neighbors in a collective effort to stabilize relationships in the area and work towards their mutual needs.
I can’t avoid thinking it sad that these good stories could not have emerged without the dark days after the 9/11 attacks. Had these neighborhoods not faced such levels of discord, violence and pervasive law-enforcement abuses, there might never have been a call to organize and pool resources for the overall good of the community. It’s unfortunate that after all the hard lessons this country should’ve learned by now, this one seems to be the one that fails to stick: that we can’t continue to judge others by the color of their skin and their religion for the sake of expediency. Our government was far too quick to not only operate under a misguided, simplistic and highly prejudiced conception of Arabs and Muslims in its “War on Terror,” but also fomented the same in the citizenry.
Yet again, like so many times before, it has been the people who have gone beyond just repeating their government’s platitudes of Muslims and Arabs being “good people” to affect real change. It’s been average citizens who have acknowledged their similarities with one another, their need for mutual respect and understanding and who have stepped up to the call for unity in our country. They are the ones who have given us a far better chance at actually having a secure homeland for all.