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Showing posts from 2017

Honoring Journalists who Sacrificed their Lives

Every year, the third graders in my old elementary school perform in a Day of the Dead assembly that pays tribute to someone who has died in the past year. This year, they honored the many journalists who have been killed for daring to investigate facts others would prefer to hide. This year's theme was especially meaningful to my family since my grandmother was a Mexican journalist who spoke out against censorship. (Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.)

I didn't get to attend today's performance, but here are some photos taken by my parents. (My younger brother got to perform this year.) The third grade Spanish-immersion teacher, Mr. Sierra, has been organizing these performances, which include dance, poetry, and music, for more than two decades! I’m glad he is teaching the children both about an honored tradition like Day of the Dead and the importance of a free (and protected) press. (A few years ago the performance honored the 43 students who …

Interview with Yukari Iwatani Kane: Volunteering at San Quentin

I recently wrote about criminal justice reform and James Forman Jr.’s book, Locking up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. When I attended his talk at a local bookstore, he shared some of the ways in which we could all support the cause. One of the examples he mentioned was volunteering to teach in a prison setting. Forman himself taught a class in a Connecticut prison and found it very rewarding.
Yukari Iwatani Kane is a book author and journalist who teaches writing and journalism at San Quentin. (She is the author of Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs and previously worked as a journalist at the Wall Street Journal and Reuters.)  Here’s what she has to say about her own experience teaching journalism and writing to inmates.
Are you interested in issues of criminal justice reform?
I really wasn't before. I read about them of course, but it was something that affected a part of society that I had no connection to. Now, I'm absolutely interested. When I hear of …

Criminal Justice Reform - "Locking Up Our Own"

When I came home from my arts-focused sleep away camp, I noticed a book on my mother's desk, "Locking Up Our Own" by James Forman Jr. My Dad saw me pick it up and told me the author would be speaking at a San Francisco bookshop the following week. I had read the book "Monster" by Walter Dean Myers in English class and visited the San Francisco Public Defenders office with the Youth Policy Camp, so I decided to go.

The last time I attended a bookstore for an author event was to see a picture book writer read to children. This was much different.

Forman, a well-respected Yale Law professor and former public defender, discussed policies from the '70s and '80s that were aimed at addressing rising crime rates, but resulted in the mass incarceration of blacks. Forman explained that many of the African-American officials taking office after the Civil Rights movement were the ones who lobbied for measures against drug-dealing and gun violence at the request of …

Youth Policy Camp

Earlier this month, I attended a civics and leadership camp run by the non-profit organization, Youth Policy Initiative. The five-day camp was hosted at a local high school and aimed to teach middle schoolers about local/national issues, how the government works, and how citizens might influence policy.

Students were sorted into small groups and assigned a topic. My group's topic was public education. With the help of some high school student teachers, we did some research and learned a fair amount about public education, how it is funded, and the issues it faces nationally. This information would later be put to use as we explained our topic to other groups, discussed the issues on a field trip with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and wrote bills to pass through a US Senate simulation.

Another goal set by the camp's founder was to improve students' public speaking skills and help them become the leaders their communities need. Being somebody who is extremely shy a…

#NewUSCitizen

On Wednesday the 17th of May, my mother was sworn in as a citizen of the United States of America. We attended the ceremony where 1,063 people from 82 different countries became citizens. It was powerful, seeing all the countries represented in that room. It was inspiring to realize that each and every one of these people was, from this point on, committed to this country, and had hope for its future. The ceremony marked the end of a very long journey, as well as the end of uncertainty and fear for a lot of families. I loved seeing the voter registration tables outside the venue and all the volunteers who were so enthusiastic to welcome our newest citizens and encourage them to vote. 




My Thoughts on Immigration

I am the daughter of immigrants, as are most of my classmates (if not immigrants themselves). I believe it is very important for everybody to know that we live in a nation of refugees and immigrants. Unless your ancestors are Native American or were kidnapped from Africa and brought here as slaves, immigrants and refugees are your parents, grandparents, and so on.
I was always somewhat aware of the importance of immigrants. As a younger child, I asked my mother, who is Mexican, why all the workers in San Francisco restaurant kitchens were latino. She answered that it wasn’t because all latinos are good cooks (much to my surprise), but because they might not have that many opportunities outside the kitchen. She explained that they might not have a college education, or might not speak English well enough. That’s when I realized that immigrants do much of the work that goes unseen. They clean the streets and buildings, wash the dishes, harvest and make the food, and so much more. They …

A Letter From My Candidate

Receiving this letter made my day. I always assumed I would get some sort of response, most likely a generic letter from her office. But I never expected to get such a personal note. I will cherish this letter and take her words to heart. I feel more motivated than ever to make my voice be heard.