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A Moment for Luis Leal, Pioneer of Chicano Literature

January 30th, 2010 § 10 comments § permalink

MANY WORDS HAVE DESERVEDLY BEEN SPOKEN and written to mark the passing of historian, thinker and activist Howard Zinn. The passing of Luis Leal, who died in his sleep at 102 years old on January 10 in Santa Barbara, Califas, has not been punctuated by the same volume of tribute, but no less a warm one rises from many in the Chican@ community. After all, “Don” Luis Leal was a man who contributed to much awareness, self-empowerment and truth in nuestra comunidad.

Specifically, Luis Leal legitimized the area of Chicano Studies with his teachings and his research and passion. (Almost the opposite of what some in Texas are trying to do with their suggested edits to schoolbooks.) This has imbued an immeasurable amount of self-respect and worth and knowledge that is now accessible to gente.

On the same day Charles Lindbergh completed his historic crossing of the Atlantic Ocean—May 21, 1927—Luis Leal stepped off the train at Union Station in Chicago. As with Lindbergh, this Mexican native would become known as a pioneer in his field. Professor Leal helped develop the study of Latin American literature and is considered one of the founders of the field of Chicano/Chicana (Mexican American) literary studies.

His extensive works include books, bibliographies, anthologies, and hundreds of journal and newspaper articles and essays, published for both U.S. and Latin American audiences. Much of Leal’s works put Mexican, Chicano, and Latino literature and writers in historical context. They reflect his view that research is part of a dialogue on how to advance community or social issues. Affectionately called Don Luis, Leal also helped develop scholarship by working with students who wrote the first dissertations on world-renown Mexican and Chicano writers.

Luis Leal: 1907—: Scholar, Literary Critic Biograph

Attached is a poem called Águila y Sol (Eagle and Sun) written by another icon in the community, Francisco X. Alarcón. Francisco wrote this for Luis Leal, and he sent it along the other day to a list of Chicano academics, artists, and activists from whom my father is soliciting works with which to prepare (with the help of Francisco Lomelí) a tribute for the departed Señor Leal. A “poema imposible” as jefito put it, to have for the memorial in Santa Barbara next week (Feb 1).

Salúd, Don Luis! You helped us learn about ourselves and uncover history; history important to our people. You helped us feel the effort was worthy, and helped many others to see the same about our many contributions and legacies. Your energy and love para la gente live on in the shape of so many more streams of energy and awareness. Gracias.

The Weekly Undocument: The State of our Union is Sassy!

January 28th, 2010 § 28 comments § permalink

This article is free to reprint and republish. Please link back to this page.

THAT’S RIGHT dear friends and lurkers, shamans and barkers, señoras y señores and all matter of other lovers! Nezua is addicted to rounding up the immigration and brown-centric news, and so such content will be the non-ink un-writ upon Nezua’s new Weekly Undocument! Because even though I no longer write the Weekly Diaspora, you still need your glimpse of immigration news! ¿Que, no? And who is left standing upon this hoary tundra? Who! Who has the cojones to bring a phrase like Hoary Tundra into your wide-eyed presence? Nezua, that’s who. And The Weekly Undocument.

PS. If you want to send me news/tips to be included here, please do. I’ll save it up and look it over at end of week.
____________________________________________________________________________________

By Nezua!

THE PRO-MIGRANT BLOGOSPHERE IS ALIGHT with talk of The 38 Words uttered in President Obama’s first State of the Union speech last night. Immigration advocates and activists alike were watching with baited Twitter client. Websites were liveblogging the SOTU. Obama was fill of spirit. At moments you felt hope rise that he’d hit it right. Or at least smack someone on the Right side of the aisle.

“Damn,” you said to yourself, beaming at the determined expression on Little Computer Screen Obama. “The way he is talking about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, he may just bring some of this fire to immigration reform!” And you waited for those words. You and your millions of Latino friends waited. (You have a big living room.)

But in the end, he sort of just slid it in under the wire.

“And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.”

—Barack Obama, State of the Union speech, 2010

As Sandip Roy of New America Media writes, that one sentence seemed nothing more than a “casual platitude.

12 million undocumented immigrants deserved more than those 38 words.

“Continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system.”

Does that imply that Congress or the White House have been already busy fixing our broken immigration system? Were they doing it during the rest breaks in the middle of health care reform gridlock? If so, I missed the memo.

Yes, it sounds like a punt, eh? A missed opportunity. It felt that way to me.

Maegan la Mala at VivirLatino.com points out another missed opportunity: that of connecting the health care reform issue to immigration reform, and breaks it down to the community level in her post The President’s State of the Union: Missed Opportunities on the Push for Immigration and Health Care Reform.

While I was preparing mentally for the State of the Union address, I saw on the Spanish language news about an immigrant mujer, Alexandra Nunez, who died from massive bleeding during an abortion in a clinic walking distance from Casa Mala. A single mother, like me, made a decision about her body and life within the limits placed on her because of law and who she is.

During the State of the Union speech, Obama spoke about the problems with getting health care reform passed and spoke on immigration from a law and order perspective, following the laws and securing the borders. He failed, as so many do, in pointing out where health care reform and immigration reform intersect, in the very lost life of mami Alexandra Nunez.

The “law and order perspective” is very popular with many politicians and right-wingers alike, when talk of immigration arises. Why is that? Probably because the notion of criminality and Latinos is linked nearly every day, in the mouths of many a mainstream pundit. (And immigrants today are thought of as only—and erroneously—Mexican!) Images are reinforced in movies and video games and magazines. To talk of numbers of brown people coming over the border is to provoke an anxiety that the mainstream US mind will often try to soothe with the placebo of a prison prescription.

In many cases there is just a straight-up divide in worldview and life circumstance. As a friend, Prerna (the organizing force behind DreamActivist) wrote during a post-SOTU discussion on a list-serv today:

There’s a lot of strategies and egos, but then there are also broken families, wasted lives, unfulfilled dreams that no amount of driving legislation forward can change because we don’t get back lost time. Talk is cheap, free actually, but some of us just have to make do with what we have, take matters into our own hands or move on to greener pastures.

Civil disobedience, occupying buildings FTW.

So the level of frustration is high. And yet the need for action will not wane.

Is it time to occupy buildings? How far to step up our presence and voice at this point?

Is immigration reform “dead in the water” as some DC sources lament? Not at all, counter others. What is to be done? We’ll come back to that.

FROM KENNEDY TO BROWN

Teresa Puente in Massachusetts is pretty angry about Republican Scott ‘Happy Trail’ Brown—another subscriber to the Enforcement Model of reform—being elected to the U.S. Senate. On immigration, Brown is against “amnesty,” is for more border enforcement, and programs like E-Verify. Boo. Just another cardboard cutout GOP-tronmatic figure with no real or modern solutions in mind.

How does Puente see the chances for immigration reform in today’s political context?

If there isn’t the political will to pass health care reform, I see it as very difficult for President Obama to muster support for immigration reform.

But he shouldn’t turn away from it as legalizing immigrants can actually help strengthen the economy by bringing more people in to the tax base. Plus we can’t continue to have two classes of workers in this country.

Immigration reform is an issue of national and local importance. Local advocates and politicians want to remind Washington, D.C. that it matters to us here.

LatinoPoliticsBlog breaks down Brown’s position even more here. It doesn’t sound like “Brown will even be supportive of the DREAM Act” and does not see the “relative benefit to the economy that immigrants have been proven to bring.” LatinoPoliticsBlog, speaking of those in the local community, feels he may be “hard to warm up to” after Senator Kennedy, but that it is “certainly worth” lobbying him on these issues.

MORE SOTU GOODNESS

Tammy Johnson hosts a post-SOTU discussion with Chris Rabb and Lola Adesioye to get a feel for what the President was “saying to communities of color” and the tone of the speech, overall. Rabb sums that up as “sassy.” Pressed for more, Rabb defines Obama’s approach as “vigilant when he could’ve been licking his wounds,” saying he “pulled off a fairly bold speech.” Adesioye characterizes the speech as “Chiding,” like “a father telling his kids ‘listen, we’ve got work to do; get in line!” Adesioye goes on to pan the talk of pulling troops, but touch on how communities of color are affected by so many issues that won’t be solved by “middle class tax cuts.” Video below.

Michelle Chen of RaceWire further explores this truth of how communities of color are marginalized in the general move to restore economic stability, and how the “glossy oratory” of Obama’s SOTU was threaded with a “familiar sense of entitlement.” Chen points out that the new jobs bill is “deferential to free enterprise,” a dynamic that means growth will be attained “on the backs of the poor, people of color and other communities at the economic margins.”

Recovery, in the narrow frame that Obama has drawn, is about nurturing a “strong, healthy financial market” that “channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes.” Who’s not in the picture? The families who are more likely to dip into their local food pantry than draw down their mutual funds.

As America’s Voice reports, Rep. Luis Gutierrez thinks the President did not go far enough, during his SOTU, to explain why the nation needs “real immigration reform.”

… [The President] did not go far enough for the four million American citizen children whose parents face deportation; the millions of Americans waiting to be reunited with loved ones overseas; hardworking Americans whose security is undermined in the workplace; women who are physically and sexually exploited on the floors of meatpacking plants; or the $1.5 trillion lacking from our Gross Domestic Product, all in the absence of real reform.

By the way, wanna a little insight into those meatpacking plants? Take your time with this one when you’ve a minute.

THE GENERAL MOOD AND A STREET LEVEL SUMMATION

It’s not just the blogs and activists taking a pause to wonder how effective their efforts have been so far and how The 38 Words can possibly signal anything other than immigration reform taking a backseat, or maybe even clinging to the bumper on a skateboard. As New America Media reports, “Latino media coverage revealed disappointment” overall, on Obama’s quickie paragraph on an issue so crucial to millions of human beings today. From La Opinion to Univision, the responses ranged from “the topic did not rank high profile in the address” to stating that the “scant mention” in the SOTU “left much to be desired.” Even NCLR, often right behind the White House and cheering all the way was less than excited with the President’s speech stating that the focus on health care reform was understandable, but that “we missed an opportunity” to link immigration reform to restoring the economy.

And that seems to happen time and time again, doesn’t it? The White House should have woven immigration reform into every topic it presented. That would help educate the people on the reality of the issue which is, after all, woven into every other issue we face as a nation. Perhaps then, too, there would not be this feeling of keeping the big bag behind the back, everyone fearing that the immigration issue will set the GOP’s rheumy eyes alight with loathing and a fury never known.

While nearly all the activists I am in touch with now are feeling a bit daunted by Obama’s lukewarm words on immigration reform, the country as polled remains very supportive of immigration reform [pdf]. So take a breath, amigas y amigos. We can do this. But as Dolores Huerta said about removing the criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio on January 16th of this year, it’s not work that we can sit back and wait for Obama to do.

And that’s what my DC sources tell me. (Hey! Like Jerry Macguire—I’m laughing to use this comparison, trust me)—I take my contacts with me when I leave! And the goldfish!!!) The White House needs to see and hear us on this. The President as well as Reid and Schumer. Reid will no doubt defer to Schumer’s timeline (whatever that is), but it is true that Reid has been a backer of many facets of immigration reform, including the DREAM Act. I was assured specifically that Reid’s commitment to CIR is not a passing phase, but that he is constrained to follow the lead of Chuck Schumer.

My source (who has never once mentioned the Aspens turning in any particular direction, I promise you) feels these are the pressure points, and urges advocates and activists to present and drop in, meet with these lawmakers and make your voice known. Make clear your vision on what CIR ought contain. Insist on understanding what their views are. Bloggers are encouraged to present as allies, and by all means “hold their feet to the fire” but also open up lines of contact that might aid the movement on the DC side.

And McCain, the aide mentioned deliberately, as we talked about how to steer this ship in the right direction. John McCain is up for a primary. He should be made to answer for his current position on immigration, to declare it, to make it jibe with his past statements. Because as we know, he has made a lot of those.

You can intrepret all that as you want. I worry about Schumer’s stances, which (snore) echo so much of the heavy enforcement-make-them-messikinz-speaka-de-english stuff. I worry he is really buying this idea that the nation is hungry to see immigrants cowed, bowed, and broken before they can enter the fraternity of U.S. personhood.

But from different sources in DC I am getting almost a pleading that we media members and activists do not turn, in one great big hoary wave of malcontent (didja like that? Seems we have a word of the day!) And I get the feeling it is an earnest desire not to see what might be potential help in the fight turn into more opposition. Despite what you think about my goldfish, I’d say one thing is clear. We cannot give up. And we will not. Even if the White House punts on this issue, it cannot go away for many of us. This is a struggle that will last for life.

As Prerna wrote today:

it is folly to plan life according to the timeline of those with more privilege than you. The people “fighting” for #Immigration reform in DC will continue to have jobs and funding whether or not it passes. The same is not true for the millions more who continue to actually fight for survival, daily, in this broken immigration system. So our priorities are obviously very different.

This is true. And yet, many of us want to move in the same basic direction.

Take a breath if you need to. Take a break, even. I’ll be here when you’re ready to get back in the march. Reach out to me, to your compas, to your congresspeople, to whomever. Draw on the collective power of Good and that which your friends and allies emanate. Resistance to change on some matters is deeply entrenched. So is the power to overcome that resistance.

La Lucha Sigue.


This article was created on “free time.” I will do my best to keep at it, on time, and weekly. Tip Jar. Gracias, see you next week!

A Different Direction

January 27th, 2010 § 10 comments § permalink

Or Nezua Leaves the Media Consortium and Moves On to What is Next

FOR THE LAST YEAR OR SO I’ve written a column on immigration matters for The Media Consortium, which was first called The Weekly Immigration Wire, and later The Weekly Diaspora.

Abruptly, the job has come to an end by my editor telling me on the phone they are not renewing my contract due to “editorial strategy.”

I’ll write  about the experience and related thoughts here to close up the story, as well as to think it out for my own satisfaction. I am taking my time with it and if you prefer curt and properly concluded writing, feel free to skip this post taking away nothing more than the fact that what comes after this point from TMC—whether it is called “Diaspora” or something else—is not my work.

I feel honored to have kick-started that new project of theirs and get it off the ground for the first 13 or 14 months. I’d be lying if I did not admit some frustration that I am let go just as CIR is centered, finally, in the national dialogue.

I publish this a handful of days after that happened. I’ve thought long and hard about what I should say, if anything, about my experiences. It is very hard out here in the NEW MEDIA [echo echo echo SHINE] world. You need to think about what you put live. I don’t want to react. Ranting was never a viable option; I’m not here to be petty. But the first draft of this post glossed over so much that I experienced, and mostly to put on a pleasant face professionally. And…yanno. To not Rock the Boat.

And the more I thought over the entire experience, the worse I felt about that. What do I do out here? I talk about my experience in the world, about ethnicity, about the power structures we run into, about immigration. About New Media. About writing…journalism…about allathat. Hey, that’s why the Kirwan Institute is flying me across the USA in a couple months. Dammit! Some people want to read about these things. And…as a writer type, I’d say until I write things down, they exist in a strange and nebulous place in my consciousness…likely to be erased by the everyday rushing of blood through my arteries, the living of the next breath, the What Is Important Today factor folding into the next day….

This is a Story About

It’s very tempting, when telling a story, to define the content as I did with the subhed atop this writing. It is natural to want to sum up, conclude, compartmentalize, prologue or otherwise provide a frame with so many words in order that your reader can better absorb the thesis.

But I can’t really say what this is a story about. It’s not just about my leaving my last job. Not at all. And yet, that was the departure point for much of it. Ultimately, I don’t want to predispose your thinking. In fact, I’d say it’s possible ten people could reach the end of this post and come away with different things. I’m not sure. But that’s how I wrote this. Not entirely sure of much except what it felt like to live and remember the moments.

This is a story about a number of things. People, the USA, society, gender, race, ethnicity, language, communication, media, blogging, challenge, lessons, immigration, people of color. Lenses. Business meeting art. Cultural change. More?

Marginalized Voices Are Being Mainstreamed…or Are They?

The job brought challenges. For them, I am grateful. They help me grow. They did and still do.

My very first one was perhaps due to the blurry crossover between what I do here at UMX all the time, and doing something that feels sort of the same, is often on the same topics, and written from the same seat!—but otherwise completely different in everything from process to pace. It is a business someone is running, and a job they offer me. Sounds obvious. But when you begin writing online—and when I began writing about immigration, specifically—it was from a very organic place and manner. I was going to say, I sometimes say, “I never wanted nor planned to write a word on immigration” but the truth of it is, I began the blog for the May Day Marches of 2006. That marked the official start. So I was bound to begin writing on it sooner or later.

But mostly what was driving me and my writing was wrestling with what IDENTITY means here in the U.S. to someone like me. I wrote about Chicanismo. And, también, about standing up to be counted among those willing to stare down the racists and those coming at mi gente from all sides. Talking about my family means talking about the border. And about American Indigenous. And about the war waged on us for many many years. It means talking about the power of the people, about programs like Bracero, about women who are on their knees cleaning the floors of the wealthy US citizens. Like mi bisabuela. It means talking about inequity. It means talking about immigration.

So my arc here has been a curriculum born from heart and only incidentally becomes marketable because of how long you’ve been at it, how much you run your mouth, the “hot” issues of the day according to Rahm, and an explosion in the new media frontier of which you simply happened to have been on the early tide of for serendipitous reasons.

When you find work through that path and segue over into a scheduled job…there are going to be a few places where you stop and say “Oh, wait. This is a wildly different thing.” With varying degrees of conflict required before it is clear. And here I may simply mean conflict to your expectations or personal running monologue.

I got there, though. In working that job. That’s one thing I feel proud about. Granted, it was not an easy transition. Me and my editor knocked heads a few times, especially early on. But that’s what having an editor is about. I have both been and had editors, and it is always a touchy relationship or one that takes time to feel out between any two particular people, as they will no doubt be passionate about words. But I grew to feel out the job. I grew to see that it was a place I section off my overall agenda and care and passion and feelings for the movement, and just earned my money doing what was required. For most of the time I worked for them, I felt good about TMC, because I was still allowed to speak my peace on the issues. That is, to use a lens that was not DC-centric, that was rooted in a more expansive and less border-frantic philosophy, or rather that spoke of the harm borders do, how they are in our mind, and how here in the US, immigration issues are not seen coherently, but too often a place where racism and imperialism dominate. But there were always tensions. I’m sure they existed for varied reasons, I won’t pretend to be omniscient. But there is going to be tension when you write from that place, and yet are involved with a media collective that hues to a different voice overall, one that is “independent” but yet still corporate in many cases, or DC-centric in ideology. That is only expected.

Though some things were not expected. One day my editor called me out of the blue to tell me she had issues with my “tone.” I was baffled. She didn’t mean my writing tone in the articles. She meant personally. On the phone. On emails. After a few minutes getting no clear picture of what this meant, I found myself getting frustrated, but tacked to the particulars to try and get clear of the indefinable accusation. I’d need a specific example. No, there was no real example to be had. I think the only one she could find was that recently I bragged about my blog “crushing” TMC’s blog in terms of activity. (Not respecting authority? Acting as if I were equal to them in status or power? Bad social etiquette? I said it in humor, after all….) Other than that, it was just an overall “tone” problem. I pointed out the good things I said about TMC recently as well, asked why we didn’t focus on those things. I didn’t bother to link her to my drowning maestro glosario entry, I honestly expect self-identified Feminists to already be familiar with these types of dynamics—surely she’s been told similar things by men who wanted her to offer up a bit of deference at any given moment?—and don’t want to insult them by snarkily throwing a bingo card into a tense situation like that.

So I mostly bite my lip while my belly flips. I end the phone call saying I don’t really appreciate the call coming during free time to convey what it had to convey, and I will continue to be as conscientious as I’ve always been. I felt very frustrated.

“For you, talking about race is a necessity; for us, it is a luxury.”

That quote is from a classic post in the classic iteration of UMX, back when the blogosphere just began to talk about race in the mainstream, it seemed. The person who made that statement was a commenter called “truth machine” who came by to make an ass out of himself for a short time one day, three februarys ago. The phrase was first offered as a cold observation of fact, and then again as a vehicle intended to deliver Wite Disdain.

It also communicates the difference in approach that can be found between many left-ward factions that otherwise share much agenda. For example, white feminists have the luxury of not having to factor into discussions of Feminism the issues that are particular to women of color. And as most know out here, that is actually an ongoing tension in organized Feminism.

This is one place tensions manifested at times between me and my last employers at times. The difference in viewpoints. Nothing antagonistic, as with ‘truth machine.’ But in a way that is useful to examine simply to learn about the new social and cultural terrain which we traverse here in the U.S. of A.

Other people are talking about this terrain, too, of course. Tracy Van Slyke, an owner of The Media Consortium, just co-wrote a book called Getting Beyond the Echo Chamber and in it she did a fair job—the best yet so far, I’d say, of any white progressive author writing out histories of the blogosphere—of looking around and seeing more of the terrain out here than normally recognized by many white progressive book writers: The black blogosphere. The women of color. The brown blogosphere. (Don’t remember if it got deeper than that in the book, I’ve a little left to go.)

Tracy quoted me in her book (forgive the self-referential move) as saying the difference in people of color and “identity-based” bloggers vs. white progressives is that (in about every angle of our activism) we are talking about our lives. Our families and their lives. About being in the crosshairs. About hate crimes rising against us. About very personal real-life up-close things. How our family came here, what struggle has been for our families, and finding a place, yet, where that story is told. Whereas the “Progressive” blogosphere often comes to these issues from a more detached, idealistic, altruistic, or theoretical place, when they do come at all. That’s just a fact, it’s not an accusation or a slur. It simply has to do with the history, overall, of our peoples. And what attention is given to the struggles of different peoples in the media, and why. And how that is portrayed when it is.

This is not an original insight, and it is not rare to hear it circulating in the blogospheres con melanin, but I was happy to get the sentiment into her book, happy that she included it. In fact, it made me feel very good about her and about the work they were doing.

Interestingly, there were some times writing the column when the same truth contained in that quote interfered with my work; or at least provided more challenge for me and my editor—a 20-something year old white woman. As I pointed out one day to my editor after having an article flat out rejected as a whole rather than being sent back to me with edit notes here and there—I am not like the fellow writing the TMC Economy Wire (very cool cat named Zach), nor Lindsey, who writes the Healthcare Wire. I am here dealing with issues that are inevitably personal and emotional. But maybe that’s not business talk. I have to admit there was nowhere really to go with that, once its said. So once I said it, I told myself I had to learn better how to compartmentalize. And I did.

Absorbing the Energies

What did I do to write on immigration every week?

I paid attention all week to news. This was (and is) how I know what’s going on, the landscape. I am on multiple list-servs, I am in touch with hundreds of people through Twitter and email and so on.

But the day I’d write the column, I’d open about ten or fifteen pages of articles (a predetermined list that was composed of independent news media who were members of TMC) and read through, slowly. If there are videos, I watch them. If there is audio segments of radio, etc, I listen. I sit and absorb ALL of this in one big undulating wave of information and energy. It’s quite a dosing!

So when the news would get thick with Mexican@s being mistreated or hunted, or in hate crimes being dismissed and the killers walking free, or when an abuela is manhandled or harmed in detention, it sometimes messed me up inside for a bit. I hope this is immediately understandable. Beyond the identification, I am an artist and certainly with my “nerve endings on the surface” as amiga Erika says of the artists’ condition. Shoot, I remember nights trying to write about these news stories and ending up in tears. And one time—it had to do with when a lot of abuses in the detention centers were coming to light—just ranting in my column. And then, as I wrote above, my editor called me back on the phone with a somewhat tentative “Um…this isnt really what we are looking for.”

She was right. It was my soul bellowing in pain, and yes, it was words coming from  a heart torn by barbed wire and thus, a voice that should sound out and perhaps be heard as one part of today’s human response to the immigration issue…but it wasn’t what they were paying me for.

I never submitted another article like that. I figured I’d just keep it in my blog, was grateful I have people willing to read what I write here.

Clash of the Lenses

I’d say I got the format down pretty damn well by the end. I became better and better at letting the words go without a struggle. I’d say pretty quickly. That night had a lot to do with it. Just a shift of the mindset.

I’ve been a fan of Poe for many years, many many years. And I’ve read up on some of my favorite authors as a boy and I know about Dickens and others getting paid to write in periodicals, or installments of fiction, and having to alter their words to make a buck. Knowing that is what prepared me, even, for selling art to magazines and such. You adjust to that particular market. My writing voice, which normally relies more on build, on rhythm, on music, and color, needed to fit into much sparer, dryer, “delivering news” type of style.

This reminds me of a chapter, again, in Beyond the Echo Chamber, by Jessica Clarke (directs the Future of Public Media Project at American University’s Center for Social Media and is the former executive editor of In These Times) and Tracy Van Slyke (the program director of the Media Consortium and is former publisher of In These Times.) The chapter is called Move Beyond the Pale, Male and Stale, and in it the authors predict the media landscape, if it wants to survive, must move beyond white male dominated viewpoints and the dispassionate, removed typical journalist voice; borrow a bit from the heart, soul, and fire of the blogosphere.

It is tempting here to make a cheap shot about how the edits to my work taught me the opposite, to tame down my voice. But that would be ignoring the very heartfelt and much-to-the-left thinking that they always allowed through, mostly in my final paragraph. I think just by hiring me, there was an example of media allowing less “stale” voices. And I do appreciate that. So yes, for what it’s worth, I do think they followed—or attempted to while I was with them—that dictum.

After all, this is a new media group. And as progressive as they want to be, they are a business that has to contend with the power structures in place. Anybody can talk about the white male centric landscape all they want. But it remains a power system that preferences certain voices and actions and views, nonetheless. These values and preferences ripple out and ripple down and ripple over, and I think they are worth talking about so that more and more people see the invisibled rule that shall never be spoken and can make a new way; can “move beyond the pale, male, and stale.”

Once I accepted within that writing about immigration with the job hat was very much different than writing on immigration for myself, the process became infinitely easier. In fact, after that took hold in me, I don’t think I ever bucked an edit anymore unless it said something new that distorted the orginal meaning beyond acceptability, or was something I could not approve being said about the Mexicano or undocumented community, or on the behalf of either. I didn’t need a fight, nor to be as intractably idealistic as a 19 year old would. I needed to write what was happening in immigration in the independent news circuit, and be true to myself. That was possible, most of the time.

But I did note the difference in our lenses and how that became a conflict at moments…and how the “brown” voice would be subsumed in a more anonymous, neutralized voice. And seeing that happen bothered me, sure. The media voice and how it handles mexican americans and white vs non-white is central to what got me out here, and what affected me as a child, and what needs to be shifted. If I am going to be involved in making media, then I have to feel good about how I am affecting the world in that specific aspect! Perhaps not every minute. But certainly when certain topics are being discussed.

Showing you an example of one edited—before and after—paragraph of my writing for TMC will give you a clearer idea than my describing the dynamic. (The original Diaspora blog post. The original source article.)

BEFORE TMC EDITS:

Reviewing Helen Thorpe’s Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America, Emily Deprang writes on a story that unfolds on a bus trip from Tucson to Houston and back and “details four young Mexican women” in varying legal situations—two with papers and two undocumented. Thorpe’s narrative is told through the eyes (green) of a “pale” skinned woman who has the chance to get up close to the idea of people being the same despite their citizenship status and are, after all, “Just Like Us.” DePrang calls the book “an epic journey through the realities of undocumented life” and feels “[e]very American—documented or not—deserves to meet Marisela, Yadira, Elissa, and Clara.”

AFTER TMC EDITS:

Emily Deprang reviews Helen Thorpe’s Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America for the Texas Observer. The story unfolds on a bus trip from Tucson to Houston and back and “details four young Mexican women” in varying legal situations—two with papers and two undocumented. DePrang calls the book “an epic journey through the realities of undocumented life” and feels that “every American—documented or not—deserves to meet Marisela, Yadira, Elissa, and Clara.”

Those edits can be reasonably defended. Some of my wording is unclear “on a story that unfolds on a bus trip” or cluttered, and my editor was great at lancing that stuff away. I learned from it, you better believe me. I’ll watch your fingers when you play that git-tar!

But you’ll notice what has been taken out with the edits, as well.

If you read the original article, you’ll see that the author herself very much intended to draw distinctions—those of hue and ethnicity and the privilege that comes with being lighter, with having green eyes, with being white. (If you get a feel for the book by reading the entire article, you might argue that this idea is central to the entire book that is being promoted:

Late in the night, the bus crawled to a halt, kicking up dust and gravel, and the lights came on, waking everyone. Wordlessly, the bus rustled to life and passengers began rummaging for purses and wallets. The doors hissed open, and a Border Patrol officer mounted the steps and creaked along the aisle, asking passengers if they were American citizens. When he approached us, I looked up at him with my pale face and green eyes and said, “Yes,” a defiant little frown on my privileged face. I didn’t offer any documentation. His eyes flicked to Juan, who proffered his Green Card. The officer studied it with a flashlight, front and back, scrutinized Juan, looked again at the card and returned it. The bus was silent until the officer left, and it was silent for a long time after.

The write-up celebrates how They Are Just Like Us, but as you can imagine, this would be a strange voice to adopt for a person of mexican descent writing on the piece, as I was. “Them”? “Us”? It becomes tricky, navigating this post-racial world!

My editor seemed to have answered this challenge by stripping the paragraph of any indication of this tension. And yet that tension is what the writer is communicating. Here I feel…it was the editor’s inability to grapple, yet, with these issues that made these edits, that rendered the very important lingering upon these tensions into a muted, spare collection of much safer words.

Moments like that gave me great pause. I bounced the edits back, learned not to push too hard whenever necessary, just move on with the JOB. But I’d spin into inner dialogue. Questions.

Were we—TMC and I—furthering positive change by our relationship? Was a reality/voice typically marginalized and under attack at almost all times—truly being given a platform? Or was I facilitating nothing more than the appearance of them doing so—Tokenism?

These well-hewn paths are not unique to TMC or any one company, new or old. There are simply currents in place. Strong currents in place that rise from standing structures in the stream. If you are to find a new path, it will not be the one of least resistance.

When I was accepted into NYU Film and both my best friends were so jealous that they couldn’t hide their disgust. They had wanted to be filmmakers all their lives. And I decided when flipping through the Cornell book at the last minute that my long-time dream of acting would be best expressed in pursuing a Film and TV degree. And got into NYU. And when I was two hours south, and writing and shooting short films not much later, I always invited those friends to star or be crew in my films. I wanted to bring them in to the circle of possibility.

When a certain “brown” list serv began, I argued hard for a woman or more to be on the mod panel, to shake up the typical power structures. I wasn’t even on the mod panel, and believe it or not, it really was an argument. But the young male in charge acquiesced as we had both been in Chicago when the list was conceived, roomed together, and I was kind of “in on it” to some degree. I reached out to various women of color to ask if they were interested at that point.

When my friends and I began the Sanctuary, we did the same thing—reached out to bring in people who had less of a platform. I could go on, and there are many examples that do not involved me, but I know less about them.

Those who want to change the landscape and remake the power paradigms need to always be pushing power outward to the margins. There will always be those with less power in a given moment or situation, and who have suffered in ways due to that reality. And until they get more, the societal structure will be unsound and unjust. The more drastic the ratio of inequality, the more danger exists in that unsound structure.

Those who wish to hoard the power while pretending they are here to make a new day will meet conflict when they appear in the midst of those wishing to truly change the system. This happened recently on the aforementioned list-serv dedicated to “brown” issues or framing, and is in fact related to this story.

The Process of UnNatural Selection

There are bloggers out there who have written for years on immigra—Oh, hell. I was gonna totally background myself and put it all carefully without ever mentioning UMX so as to avoid the accusation that my care for an issue is all about my own ego! Now I’m reacting preemptively to idiots. Never worth the time. Which brings me anyway (isn’t that neat?) to the link I wanted to bring in. Because some responded to the next post I’ll link by claiming all I wanted was more blogroll links.

If you’ve been around since the classic days of UMX, you may remember this post. The post’s use of the word “front” is a double entendre. For me, that post stands out as my having finally internalized the realization that most white progressive bloggers at the time (or the ones known to me) saw their range of issues are universal ones, while issues that apparently disproportionately affected people of color (and especially MESCANS! for cryin out loud) are fringe issues, “pet issues,” etc.  You know! This was that crazy blogular year of 2007! Shit was blowin’ up ALL over! And that post sprung out of my seeing the reality of the mainstream focus as it applied to the Mexican American community, or the undocumented or the Latino community. It was also pretty raw because it was me reacting to the march the year AFTER the massive march in 2006. And those numbers inspired many, and made it feel that change was imminent. So when 2007 came and the march was stomped by the police walking in creepy military type formations because they needed to make a point about massive numbers of mexicans marching, it was jolting.

But in truth, the police attack on la marcha in 2007 was only a catalyst. That feeling had been bubbling up for a while.

It is clear now that the immigration issue presents a true challenge to human rights activists as well as those who identify as “Progressives.” And I’m sure there are many posts by many people saying as much; I’ve read many since then. And it was, in fact, a reader/commenter who summed that idea up concisely in one of my threads, which is where I got the title for “The True Front of Progressivism.”

I’m not claiming I originated anything. I’m making clear, using a narrative I can stand behind as witness, where tension existed on this issue, in some parts of the Internet. This is where I learned. Duke, a co-founder of the Sanctuary, could point out his own posts on how Dkos/Markos was insisting immigration was not a relevant topic for Democrats, and so on. Manuél, Kai, Mala, Kety—everyone could tell their part of the story.

No matter which angle you come at it from, the fact is, it has only been recently that immigration has become a “hot” issue on the Left.

In the last year or so many groups have sprung up. Groups that exist to advocate for immigration rights, lawyer firms with Twitter accounts that cater to immigration. While NDLON has been pushing hard for the issue for years, it is only now that the larger entities like Dkos and Netroots Nation and such are embracing the issue, devoting more time, money, space. They want a win. A Democratic win. And I’m sure they feel it is the Right Thing to do. Now.

So there’s some background. Now we come back to the present.

Remember that “Brown” list? Let’s call this (purportedly) Latino-centric list “BrownWorld.” Well, one day about a week ago, someone sends an email, happy about a panel of speakers pushing immigration as an issue. Happy because it’s a big media draw, and in large part because the well-known Markos Moulitsas (founder of Dkos) is pitching the idea that Now Is the Time for Immigration reform.

But right away, some voices spring up on the list, protesting that nobody who follows the issues regularly is being included. Some of these bloggers are on top of this nearly every day. For years. Remember, the white-O-sphere had been very resistant to seeing immigration issues as their issue. The Wite Disdain was offered in place of any humble examination that a greater justice could be had by the core issues being more inclusive or basically, just more aware of the actual real world. That reality is remembered by many. While others want to move past it without acknowledging it in any meaningful way. They probably see no need.

Yet, on the parts of the bloggers who were brushed off, a resentment brewed. We had been told these issues that drew crosshairs on our families were “pet issues.” “third rail.” Not to be included in the constant push for justice!

I am reporting how some were reacting to this announcement of this panel. For me…I had already learned. Didn’t and don’t really raise hell about it anymore. Don’t see the point. I’ll still make the statements I do about what I see. But it’s not like I do it to make it stop or make someone see. I make the statements I do…to make them. Because it’s what I see from where I am sitting.

The overall response from many after I wrote True Front was that I had been “begging for links” in my post. The focus mostly rested on my tone. Though nobody spoke to me directly, I got the feedback in various ways. Sort of a “trickle down” effect. There were sentiments expressed that nobody who blogs should ever “shame” people into acting  (…to save lives?). Okay. I think I agree with that, after all. I didn’t write to shame anybody into anything. I was calling it as I saw it.

But I got the message! Many were annoyed by it. Okay. What I chose to take away was “organize and support your own people and don’t expect the so-called ‘Progressives’ to get in on it.” And I think it was an empowering lesson and message, one that Malcolm X. touched on in his many talks to the African American community.

Then a year or two passes, and suddenly some of those same people are taking up the helm. Yes, I understand why those voices leaped up on the list when that panel was discussed. Markos was one of those people who had not long ago opined on the non-necessity of advocating for immigration reform.

Look, I’m 40. Not 20. I know a bit of how the world works. And in fact, having Markos get behind immigration is, I’m sure, a net positive for the promotion of the agenda in the media. I, too, understand the bafflement of those on BrownWorld who saw the panel as 100% a good thing and couldn’t understand why those damn immigration bloggers were complaining again! Hey! Immigration is now gonna get some backing by a blog star! Influence and all that. Of course, now that a person stakes a claim on the issue, the question comes into play as to what they might see as satisfactory as far as terms of the bill. What will they push for, exactly? What will they concede?

But off the bat, yes. The more voices, the better!

And I said so:

I am not suprised by the stars heading up the “cause.” But hey, I would love to see Markos and others get on this issue with the fever and passion and endurance and knowledeability and powerful stances I’ve seen for years from many smaller immigration-oriented bloggers, so who knows what will happen. Anything is possible.

So yeah. You can see I needed to acknowledge the truth of things. We don’t need any more hidden histories. But at the same time, it’s not a bad thing that he is speaking in support of immigration, come on!

The thread went on… .

It’s funny, on “BrownWorld” how there are a couple non-brown people (white) who can always be counted on to leap up when us oversensitive and whiny POC and put the pressure on to be quiet. I think part of it is this DC mentality that if everyone is cheering that the picnic was sunny, nobody will remember the rain. So a voice not in lockstep really rattles them, as if it portends gloom, foretells failure. Insecurity?

These unofficial list monitors say things that sound amazingly…Reaganite. They are like Progressives…until it comes to their reaching for logic born out of conserative thinking. Like telling us “I just think you are disempowering yourself” by pointing out the eternal preferences that overlook certain voices.

I think of Clarence Thomas who hates himself for Affirmative Action perhaps helping balance against historical and systemically entrenched injustice in his own path. Would that also be the logic of the BrownWorld Reaganites? That this program is disempowering to minorities? Either way, they leap up over and over, striving to hammer down the Last Word and help the system stay as it is. They never see the larger justice suggested by questioning certain entrenched value systems.

They identify too much with the standing systems that preference what they do. I get that. But it feels obscene on a “brown” list.

Let me tell you something, white people. If you are on a Brown-centric List. Don’t find yourself in that position. Also, males? If you are on a female-centered list? Don’t do the same thing to women. Also, ANY PEOPLE who are SUPPOSEDLY in a cause that disproportionately affects certain other-related people than yourself? Don’t be finding yourself all up in that issue laying down the law for them.

You’d think these things would be obvious.

Anyway, in the course of that conversation, the Reaganites offered a couple other points of view.

One was that it was an “All-Latino” panel, so what complaint had any of us? Always complaining, no solutions, they said. (Because…including voices that have been on the issues for years is not implied as a solution inherently in the original observation?)

They were saying that Markos Moulitsas is “Latino” in a political sense. I know they weren’t meaning it like GOP uses Michael Steele–for an appearance reason with no visible cultural stance or pride or agenda that prioritizes the community. Because that’s called a “token.”

But I don’t have to be so ungenerous either. It is possible, too, that Mister Moulitsas is just now thinking about how the issue applies to him and his family. Or not even. Maybe the rightness just happens to now be revealed to him. These things can be very personal and I wouldn’t attack someone for any pace they take, if it is natural. That would be meanspirited and just stupid.

So it wasn’t important until now. And now it is. Okay! At least now it is.

Yet what I DO take issue with is how when the media that had all gathered together to be in the presence of Markos’ Very Huge Megaphone and asked him what other bloggers were involved with immigration, he replied that he couldn’t think of any offhand. That there were some smaller bloggers who had been doing some good work, but he hadn’t yet figured out a way to reach out and help give them a voice.

I guess it did not strike him that one way to do so…would be to mention their name or blog at that very moment.

If someone is an expert on the social landscape of the Internet in any way…that is a bad position to stake out. To claim such distance from the very issue you are championing. After all, this is the same Markos who emailed me personally a few months ago to inform me he had put my name in the hat when Presente.org asked him who to look at for choosing their National Campaign Director! This is the same Markos that has The Sanctuary on his blogroll! He knows peoples names. Let’s not be silly.

But don’t take it too far: I do not think it was personal. I’m betting the omission at that moment was a reflex that simply felt “safe” when presented with the question.

Those who aren’t really interested in changing the landscape of power and only want their own chair on the dias do not push power outward. They instinctively hoard it to their table and cradle their arms around it.

Is this about my thirsting for links? Is this about me wanting an immigration blogger limelight? Nope. I made it clear how tied to that issue I am and why and what it’s not about. Additionally, I am much more involved in art lately than blogging (as you can tell by the blog since January 1) and I find myself in this different role and relationship to the issue not by accident.

This is just a story I want to write down here and remember.

The Gloves With Spikes Inside Them

Don’t they wonder? Those Reaganites on the progressive lists? They claim we are just over emotional, don’t want to solve anything, etc. We leap up passionately about the same things over and over…don’t they wonder why? Why we would do it, if we know it hurts us? Do they not think there are consequences to bucking these systems? Oh there are. Beyond being told you are whiners and ‘disempowering yourself’ by supposed allies. Beyond, too, being hushed by other people of color. Maybe older ones, maybe more careful ones. You can get some people of color very worried by rocking the boat too much, and they may lash out at  you for fear that they will reap consequence for your actions. They have become more practical, and often grew up in a time where it was much less safe to do so.

If you attack patriarchy, there will be consequence. If you attack white supremacy values there will be consequence. We know this. White people often HATE hearing about white people. And the talk need not even be so pointed; most visibly stiffen to even hear the phrase “white people.” Having the phrase appears means the normal invisibility of Whiteness is banished and that there IS a dynamic and that it CAN be named and described. It’s enough to get you thrown out of a holiday picnic!

There’s a reason I hid most cultural markers of mine as much as possible for years. There are currents in place. There are unwritten rules. If you push back…you will feel it.

First in the belly. A fear. You did something dangerous. Should’ve kept quiet. Don’t rock the boat. Why are you starting trouble? Shhhhh. You fear that every time you do this and do it publicly, it will come back in a form that makes your kids ask why you can’t afford things more and more. You will limit your job opportunities. You will make enemies. You will feel uptight. You will, at times, feel a target.

The effects of pushing back on power structures are not unknown to those who do it continually. If you had to assume these people of color were not being overemotional, but are in fact very RATIONAL actors…what would prompt them to do these things? What would prompt us to keep at it? Because many blows for justice come with a pain that marks the hand wielding the tool. Why would you keep swinging?

One of the Reaganites trying to shut down the mostly-POC complaints said he couldn’t understand how we kept saying the Progressive Blogosphere is mostly white. I replied that it was indeed viewed that way. I had just read Tracy’s book and as I mentioned, had been impressed to find the inclusion of histories of the brown blogosphere and black blogosphere and women of color-o-sphere in addition to the . I pointed out to him that in her book, in the chapter “Move Beyond the Pale, Male and Stale” Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke had pointed out that in fact, the Progressive sphere was viewed as white and privileged. I went on further to say that to ignore this was to fall into a blindness that Whiteness prefers: the invisibility of its own dominance in a sphere.

I felt pretty good about slinging out my employer’s book title and some content. I thought she’d like how I used it as a forward-thinking example of literature, aware of the demographics of our modern day and on the cutting edge of where media had to go. I knew my editor was on the list, and would read the email. Our call took place only a short time after that list meléé.

I was actually surprised when less than twenty seconds into the phone call, I was told I was being let go after 13 or 14 months!

A Different Direction

We had only been scheduled to speak about how to get the column done on Wednesday night. But after a neutral greeting sentence or so, my editor says “I’m glad we had a chance to talk” as if it were not expected. That line struck me as odd, especially as it led directly to “because we are not going to renew  your contract.” She went on to say tersely that now that the “[immigration] issue is heating up” they wanted someone “in DC.” I said Okay. It was a bit surreal for me. I hadn’t expected it at all. I’m the first one to write on this column for them, I got it off the ground, and I’ve been on it for years before this, and here I felt like I was the boxer who trained for so long, jogged to the ring in his satin red jacket and was told the fight was off before the bell rang.

I totally forgot to ask if she liked the plug I gave Tracy’s book. Nor did I argue. I just said ‘Okay,’ right away. To my ears, she sounded put off-balance by the quick agreement, if anything. Maybe she was expecting more resistance. Because she offered an explanation a second time, even though I hadn’t asked for more. “Yeah, we’re just gonna…take it in a different direction,” she tacked on. Hunh.

I wondered immediately what direction this might be. Will the new writer continue to pose questions like this on media calls? Will they continue to try and push awareness outward by continually advocating for more grassroots voices in the column? Whatever direction it takes, I hope it is one useful to the People. And also, yes, I do hope that The Media Consortium is successful in their plan of building a lasting coalition of smart, informative, independent media.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Obviously, there is no way to know exactly spurred the call. There could have been a few reasons. An “editorial strategy” that required I be FedExed the last of my pay within days; that would pay me for two more weeks, but required not another day of work from me. Strategy that thought it better to have no column at all for a couple weeks rather than have me write it; better to have no immigration blogger at all since none is waiting in the wings.

And Hell, I want to take it personally! But there is no point in that. Maybe the entire operation is faltering and needs to reboot. As I said, I agree that it is time for the next level. I feel it in my life, yes. And I was beginning to feel very frustrated by the lack of communication. Everything felt in flux with no clear direction of where it was going. By the end I was doing the work their interns had been doing for 8 months or so…before they just stopped. With no warning to me that I can remember. I used to bring it up, but stopped mentioning that the interns weren’t doing their part of seeding the article ladders, and just started doing that work myself.

In fact, the end came as a bit of a shock simply because I thought that I was getting my part down much smoother; that my editor and I had worked out a system that no longer included too much back and forth. I was even writing very much in the style I knew was preferred by then. Any conflict—or outward appearance of it at least—had disappeared.

But perhaps not. Perhaps I was just not in the loop there.

I think bloggers have it hard when we get hired by companies like this. What lead you to blogging? A need to call out the truth, no? A need to present your side of it? A need to join forces and support those you want to see grow? A need to stand up to step on destructive patterns and forces. Do these traits and needs go away when you get a paycheck? No. And is there a consequence to still saying what you want about what’s going on? Even if it takes place on a closed list? Yes, you better believe it. Is that what happened in my case?  I don’t know, can’t be sure, don’t care. It doesn’t really matter.  I wrote it here, as I said, because I feel there are things to learn and know by traveling the narrative. Even if one doesn’t agree with all the statements I made. And because I needed to write it down.

And now, I need to move on.

I hope I haven’t made any hard and fast statements about things, as I feel this is all very much part of a story and a learning that is far from over. I do not offer this account as the definitive chapter, but only one angle in on a narrow window of time. Perhaps added to other days and stories, it will help tell a larger truth.

And So It Goes!

I’ll end by saying thank you to TMC for 13 months of employment doing something I enjoy doing. For supporting my voice while they did. For teaching me a bit more about dry AP style journalism (that is not sarcastic at all!) And one more time for the cash flow. There were a few months were things were so bad on my end, my TMC gig was primarily responsible for insuring the rent got paid. So okay, there is a note of anxiety now, as finding another gig at this time is not necessarily going to be easy. But I am confident that my fate brought me here for a very good reason and that it will work out beautifully.

If you want/are able to help bridge the gap, donations will be accepted with gratitude.

And so it goes! And on we go. In a different direction. In two weeks I’ll be in the Yucatán. Sounds good to me.

News With Nezua | La Marcha!

January 27th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Also at La Frontera Times, in a dim viewing room at The XOLAGRAFIK Theater, and YouTube.

Your Weekly Vinyl Reminda! [23Jan2010]

January 23rd, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

OKAY! So it’s been a while. But it’s still your weekly vinyl reminda! Sometimes I need one, too.

Weekly Diaspora: Weekly Diaspora: Does Coakley’s Loss Spell Trouble for Immigration Reform?

January 21st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well.]

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

HORIZcoakleyProfessional pundits and Democratic politicians are in a frenzy over what Martha Coakley’s senate seat loss to Republican Scott Brown might mean for American politics.

Immigration reform in jeopardy

As Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect reports, the loss of one seat probably won’t derail heath care reform, but it does make the chances of passing immigration reform slimmer. Meyerson writes that immigration reform is “necessary to restore our economic vitality and political equality,” and actually passing reform would benefit the Democratic faction. Unfortunately, that means that immigration reform will require 60 votes in order to pass the senate.

The Texas Observer‘s Melissa del Bosque writes about the slim chances of immigration reform passing in 2010. According to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a 2011 target date is “probably more realistic.” del Bosque refuses to lose hope, reminding us that Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has assured the public that “the Obama administration promised to bring up the issue in 2010.” Of course, bringing up an issue and actually passing reform are two very different animals.

Holding on to hope for 2010

In her daily roundup of Spanish-language media, Erin Rosa of Campus Progress also urges a positive outlook “despite the reorganization of the Senate.” Rosa relays that Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) assured the media during a telephone conference that President Obama “remembers his promise well.” While “most latinos” interviewed are impatient, they hold on to hope that 2010 is the year for reform.

TPS for Haitians

Haitian undocumented that are currently within U.S. borders will be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as Julianne Hing reports for RaceWire. The decision only applies to Haitian immigrants in the U.S. prior to January 12, 2010. Hing observes that it is unfortunate that it took “a disaster of this magnitude” to inspire the White House to offer TPS to Haitian immigrants, though it is “a great relief.”

What will the recently granted TPS status mean for Haitians that are already in deportation proceedings? Such is the case of Haitian immigrant Jean Montrevil, as Aarti Shahani reports for New America Media. Montrevil came to the U.S. on a green card in 1986 to “make it big,” but in his efforts, “got stupid,” and caught up in selling drugs from his taxi cab. That was 20 years ago, and Montrevil has served 11 years in prison to pay for his errors. Montrevil is now a father of four and a community leader. The Department of Homeland Security considers his prison time proper cause to deport him. Many others feel he has done his time, and is a positively contributing member of our society. Democracy Now! also covered Montrevil’s story recently, as noted in the Jan. 7 Diaspora.

Invisible to the first world

Why are countries like Haiti mostly invisible to first world nations like the U.S. until catastrophe strikes? Leonardo Padura asks, before the earthquake, “Who talked about Haiti?” for IPS News. Haiti desperately needs the emergency aid so generously given today, but the country has needed help for a long time. “Let us hope that tomorrow, when the tragedy no longer dominates the headlines, and the dead are buried,” writes Padura, “we will not forget Haiti exists….”

Disappointingly, “U.S. corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund” are remembering Haiti in a rather cruel and opportunist fashion, as Benjamin Dangl reports for AlterNet. At a time of crisis and great human need, Washington D.C. is “promoting unpopular economic policies and extending military and economic control over the Haitian people.” This is disturbing, as a long history of economic exploitation helped render the country vulnerable to disaster. The recent earthquake has claimed roughly 200,000 lives so far.

Haiti in context

While borders and border cities bear the brunt of blame when migrants move, the cure won’t be found in bigger bails of barbed wire, or harsh enforcement tactics that deny escape from economic desperation or dangerous conditions.

Jocelyn Barnes, reporting for The Nation, provides a much needed contextualization of Haiti. There are many related factors that weakened and harmed Haiti’s ability to thrive, not the least of which have been storms and earthquakes. But the privatization of Haiti’s infrastructure—which was “championed” by current envoy to Haiti in charge of “leading the quake assistance brigade” former president Bill Clinton—have definitely been instrumental in the country’s fate.

Marching against Arpaio

Finally, given the recent holiday celebrating the life and efforts of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr., we would be remiss in overlooking the January 16 march in Arizona protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The event was organized by Salvador Reza, a respected Mexican American activist and community organizer in Arizona. Musician Linda Ronstadt, Co-Founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, and approximately 5,000 people marched from a park to Tent City, the name for the sheriff’s makeshift detention center.

Arpaio is reviled by many in the Latino and undocumented community for his methods of racial profiling and humiliating treatment of detainees. Recently, Arpaio was compared to Bull Connor by an ad published in in the Arizona Republic by 60 black leaders and the Center for New Community.

King’s vision was large and led to new horizons; it cannot possibly be contained to one era, or one day on a calendar. The struggle continues, every day, everywhere.

____________________________

Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, The Media Consortium, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

News With Nezua | Ghosts and Revolution (Role Models in Action)

January 19th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

News With Nezua vids are available Sundays at La Frontera Times, and then Tuesday night/Wednesday mornings here at UMX and if you prefer a dark viewing room, at the XOLAGRAFIK Theater and for those who can’t view this type of video player on their computer/fone, at YouTube.

On Haiti

January 18th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

HORIZonHaitiI’VE TOUCHED ON THE SUBJECT in a couple small ways lately. I don’t have much more than that to say now…except to remember out loud that when I lived in Miami Beach for a few years—a place that brought me great happiness as an adolescent aged boy—Haitian gente were as common as Cubanos, just part of the everyday. No doubt, the island of Quisqueya (Hispaniola) cannot be further from Florida than where I happen to live now.

And then I think of how much I miss Florida….

How will Haiti and Haitians come out of this? Will the big players in the First World take their revenge and remove any vestiges of independence from the only nation to rise from a successful revolution of slaves? Shock Doctrine in hyperdrive? I don’t know. But we can learn a lot about our world just by watching—and truly seeing—Haiti, I think.

Here is a video featuring the voice of Telesur and Narco News Authentic School of Journalism reporter Reed Lindsay that gives a small street level glimpse of Port-au-Prince, Haiti:

And here is some more reporting by Narco News vatos:

Nobody is Coordinating the Aid
(Haití: “Nadie esta coordinado la ayuda”)

Video Footage of Immediate Aftermath of Earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti

Hope you and your family are well. And warm.

Weekly Diaspora: Haitian Diaspora Spans Borders

January 14th, 2010 § 10 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well.]
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By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger [Original title: Protecting Haitian Refugees Through Immigration Reform ]

HORIZhaiti

On Tuesday, the worst earthquake in 200 years struck just off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as The Nation reports. Bringing “catastrophic destruction” to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the disaster has spurred relief efforts worldwide. Crises like this are important reminders of how the treatment and protection of refugees must be a part of immigration reform.

Temporary protected status for Haitian refugees

In September of 2009—just one year after Haiti was decimated by four successive hurricanes and tropical storms that affected at least 3 million people—New America Media (NAM) made a prescient call to halt all deportation to Haiti, and grant Haitians temporary protected status (TPS) status in the U.S. “before more Haitians die or are impacted by natural disasters.”

Andrea Nill, writing for NAM’s EthnoBlog, reminds us it was only ten months ago, in March of 2009 that the Obama administration indicated it would “continue deporting undocumented Haitians,” in spite of the critical situation on the ground. Yesterday, Nill argued that not granting Haitian refugees TPS at this point would be “inconsistent with the promises the Obama administration has already made to the people of Haiti.” Later in the day, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano responded by stating deportations to Haiti would, indeed, be temporarily halted.

Legalize the undocumented; boost the economy

It’s a fortunate confluence of circumstance, when doing the right thing could also help our faltering economy. Jorge Rivas of RaceWire highlights a new study on the beneficial economic effects of legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform. The study came about through a partnership between the Center for American Progress and Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The research suggests that legalization would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product over a 10-year period, generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue, increase wages for all levels of workers in the U.S. (the “wage floor”) and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Detention center cover up continues

RaceWire also reveals new developments in the horrific tale of corrupt immigration officials “desperate to conceal” multiple incidents of abuse in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Violations of law include “covering up evidence of gross mistreatment, undercounting the number of detention deaths, discharging patients right before they die, and major efforts to avoid scrutiny from the news media.” Reportedly, ICE has made great efforts to cover up detention conditions and cruelty. (Video below).

‘Draconian’ anti-immigration legislation passed in Mississippi

Rev. Jeremy Tobin of American Forum reports on a piece of “draconian” anti-immigration legislation passed in Mississippi in March of 2008. SB 2988 makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to work in the state. The bill includes a waivable fine for employers that cooperate with the prosecution of undocumented workers. SB 2988 oppresses immigrants and weakens the power of organized labor. According to Tobin, one frustrated legislator said that the bill was “making it a crime to work an honest job.”

Tobin calls out various organizations that backed the bill. These groups “started out anti-civil rights” and have since “reinvented themselves to be anti-immigrant rights.” He also notes that a “disturbing” number of Mississippi Democrats voted for SB 2988.


Also featured at The Nation, Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, The Media Consortium, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

News With Nezua | Mother Nature is a Painter

January 13th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

News With Nezua episodes first air on Sundays at La Frontera Times. Wednesday you can catch them here, in a dim viewing room at The XOLAGRAFIK Theater, and on YouTube.

News With Nezua | El Pinche Taco!

January 7th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Rainsong shot this one! And due to my own rustiness and having been away from the mobile shooting situation for a bit, we had some technical issues, as you’ll see. We had to go back and reshoot the Taco segment, because I had forgotten to turn on the mic! And then when we went back it was almost dark. Which made for some interesting dimness and interesting ways of rendering that scene visible. On top of that, the battery died as we (re)shot! Ahh, production. So I had to jack up the audio levels in Post, but it makes for a bit of a hum in the sound. Ah, well! All in all, it was a fun shoot, and we traversed a bit of the local ‘hood to change up the scenery for this episode of News With Nezua. Hope you enjoy!

As always, featured at La Frontera Times, and for those who hanker for words like ‘hanker’ but mostly for a dim viewing room, the plush seats at the XOLAGRAFIK Theater are—dahling—both diabolical and divine!

Follow News With Nezua on Twitter riiiiiiight HERE !

Weekly Diaspora: Real Immigration Reform in 2010

January 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well.]

HORIZreformin2010

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

“Is it ever ‘the right time’ to pass immigration reform and a path to legalization?” asks Maribel Hastings at New America Media. The short answer? Yes. Our national economic situation dictates that we are smart about the resources available to us all. It’s also a moral imperative to adjust our laws to protect the most vulnerable of us.

Hastings runs through the complications, campaign promises, and opportunities facing the Obama administration in regards to immigration reform. While acknowledging the nature of our government as “a complex organism,” Hastings nonetheless signs off with a warning: There are many awaiting action today, people “who voted for Democrats with the expectation that they would make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.”

This year is primed for immigration reform. Activists worldwide are pushing for a “record number of ratifications” to The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (ICRMW), as Oneworld.net reports. The ICRMW was adopted by the United Nations in 1990, and “sets standards for humane working and living conditions for migrants.” To date, 42 countries have are signatory to the ICRMW and 15 more have taken “preliminary steps to approve the convention.” While the U.S. debates reform, protecting and supporting migrants should be at the front of the list.

The Washington Independent looks back at 2009, a year in which immigration was never center stage, and yet it managed to impact every other major issue on the table, from health care reform to the economy. Daphne Eviatar profiles five individuals who shaped the immigration debate for good or bad in 2009. Characters such as the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, and commentator Lou Dobbs, formerly of CNN are included in the list, but admirable women like Dr. Dora Schriro also made the cut. Dr. Schriro’s reports on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system led directly to “a major commitment” to overhaul it.

In the light of policy and compacts, it is important to remember that there is a dark and often violent side to the immigration reform debate. Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by multiple local youth in Shanendoah, PA. The local police worked to obscure the facts of the murder and thwart justice, but their complicity and hand in the judicial process has been uncovered, as RaceWire reports.

Former Shenandoah mayor Thomas O’Neill’s description of the police department reads, essentially, as a gang felled by hubris: “If they want to help somebody, they will, If they want to hurt somebody, they’ll hurt them. There’s nothing they could do that they couldn’t get away with. That’s what they thought.”

Another incident that exposes the inadequacy of current immigration laws can be found in the case of Haitian community activist Jean Montrevil, who now faces deportation, as Democracy Now! reports. Montrevil is a working father of four, married to an American woman, a “longtime community leader,” is very involved with local immigrants rights groups and checks in with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regularly and voluntarily. During one such check in Montrevil was detained and marked for deportation.

ICE is removing a tax-paying and productive member of society for a 20 year-old drug conviction for which Montrevil did his time—11 years in prison. There is no chance of a legal appeal, though ICE has the power to defer the deportation. If it isn’t halted, Montrevil’s wife Jani will be left alone with their four children. Before 1996 immigration reforms passed by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton, a judge would have had discretion to consider the effect of such a deportation on the children.

Melissa del Bosque reports for the Texas Observer on the violent fallout from Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s continued drug war “on the Mexican side of the [U.S.-Mexico] border.” del Bosque notes a disturbing trend: A growing number of uninvolved people in the proximity of State- or cartel-initiated violence in Mexico are being impacted by the violence. This is an important balance to mind, as law and State forces are designed to help the populace thrive. Various sources place the death toll in Mexico between 9,000 and 13,000.

We conclude this week’s Diaspora with a big shout out to Wiretap, which is closing its doors. Wiretap was a well-written, vibrant, and relevant collection of writing by younger people. Their writing on immigration was original, provocative, and useful. We wish them well. You will be missed!


Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, The Media Consortium, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

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