Category Archives: activists

Are Will and Jada pimping the mini-mes?

How stupid unobservant am I? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer that.) Um, yeah, so I just (like, just this minute while writing this piece) figured out that Jaden and Willow smith’s given names are tributes to their parents. Will/Willow. Jaden/Jada.

Duh.

Okay. I know. It’s pretty damn obvious. But, whatever. I feel a wee bit smarter now that I figured that out.

:/

(Anyone out there who didn’t get the Smith’s naming strategy until just now, please do leave a comment admitting it–it’ll help soothe my bruised ego.)

Anywaaaay, I said all that to introduce the fact that Jaden and Willow were both nominated for this year’s NAACP Image Awards–Jaden, for his starring role in the remake of The Karate Kid, and Willow for her hit single, Whip My Hair.

For these two cuties to have been raised by “Hollywood” parents with a combined net worth somewhere in the quarter of a billion dollar range, they seem relatively grounded and down-to-earth. (Though I do think Willow has the potential to get full of herself if her mama doesn’t rein in her little ego right quick.) Love you, Willow…but I’m just sayin’.

Jada and Will have gotten quite a bit of Internet flack recently for supposedly “pimping” their kids, and “depriving them of their childhoods,” but I don’t see any evidence of that here at all. These little Smiths are truly talented, and they seem to really love what they’re doing. And, why wouldn’t they? Though they do have to work hard and put in long hours to achieve the success they’ve enjoyed so far, they also have that huge and powerful SMITH MACHINE behind them, which has to make the whole experience that much sweeter.

Though they barely have 20 years on earth between them, both Smith kids seem to “get it” that they are privileged to have the parents they do, and they understand that most of the world doesn’t have they advantages they were born with. Their parents have done an excellent job of instilling this in them from a young age–not just by setting an example of what philanthropy and concern for community look like in action, but also by encouraging their children to become actively involved in charitable causes themselves.

Jaden and Willow have lent their names, images and time to Project Zambi, which supports children orphaned by AIDS in Africa,and Buy Life which provides medicine, food and shelter to millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

If you’re wondering what the criteria for winning an NAACP Image Award are, read on:

1. Fair, Accurate, and Inclusive Representations Rather than portraying people of color in broad stereotypes, the project deals with the characters or themes in a fair, accurate, and multi-dimensional manner. Inclusive means that a broad spectrum of people of color is represented. This includes economic, geographic, and political diversity, as well as seniors, differently abled, youth, families, etc.
2. Boldness and Originality The project breaks new ground by exploring subject matter relevant to people of color in a way not traditionally explored, and handles the content in a fresh and original manner. Is this project “cutting-edge?”
3. Impact The project impacts society in a significant way. Does this project dramatically increase the cultural dialogue about issues that pertain to people of color? Or, does this project reach an idea that is not regularly exposed with regard to images and issues pertaining to people of color?
4. Overall Quality The overall quality of the project should be considered. A project which is of high quality production value adds impact, significance, and weight to the images and issues portrayed.

If my little daughter wanted to put a poster of either or both of these kids up on her bedroom wall, I would allow it. I think they stand for something positive, and so far their images are definitely uplifting and admirable.

I hope they both win.

 


Julian Assange: Devil or Daredevil?

I really don’t know what to think of this Julian Assange WikiLeaks debacle. With the exception of those who have already judged and convicted the man, people seem to be afraid to write or say what they think for fear of having their words sifted through the NSA’s supersifter translator anti-anarchist thingy. So, unless you’re counting filmmaker Michael Moore who apparently doesn’t give a damn what the NSA thinks of him, cautious folks are just sort of talking and whispering about the story in headlines and soundbites.

“…what if the public in 2003 had been able to read “secret” memos from Dick Cheney as he pressured the CIA to give him the “facts” he wanted in order to build his false case for war? If a WikiLeaks had revealed at that time that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction, do you think that the war would have been launched…?” -Michael Moore

I wouldn’t really categorize myself as a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that just as governments “have ways of making you talk,” they also have ways of making you shut the f*#% up. I’m trying to use my intellect and intuition to arrive at some sort of personal opinion about Assange’s motives, and his recent alleged criminal behavior, but I’m finding that it is difficult to uncover much unbiased information in this age of pseudo-journalistic news coverage.

I did search the Internet and found some interesting back story that I wasn’t aware of. Although it’s been well-reported that Assange was convicted of computer hacking when he was a teenager, not much else about his character is widely known.  I was able to find a CNN affiliate’s exclusive December 2nd interview with Julian’s father Brett Assange, where it was revealed that Julian was always “the kind of kid that wouldn’t take no for an answer. ” I suppose those who believe the rape allegations will take that and run with it, but from all that his dad says about him, it seems Julian could easily be the target of a smear campaign.

“He always stood up for the underdog…He was always very angry about people ganging up on other people. He had a really good sense of equality and equity.”

Julian’s mother also sees her son as a champion of right and wrong. She told the Melbourne Herald Sun that she saw in him from a tender age a sensitive boy who was good with animals and had an innate will to do “what he perceived as just.” In another interview with the U.K. Mail she said:

‘My son is a good person who is doing good for others. He wants people to know the truth. People have a right to know what is going on, especially if a war is being fought in their name. The people who have committed atrocities should be the ones called to account, not my son….He’s a hero to some people, a villain to others. Which one do you think I believe?”

Of course those are his parents, so if I’m looking for unbiased information, I’ll have to keep looking. Where do I find someone unrelated to him to serve as a character reference?  I’m not finding quotes on the Internet from regular folks attesting to his integrity (perhaps due to the aforementioned sifter thingy), but Amnesty International did recognize him for “excellence in human rights journalism,” and he has supporters around the world who post bail money when needed, and demonstrate with signs that read “COURAGE is COURAGEOUS” and “DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER.”

Conversely, finding quotes from individuals who clearly don’t care for the man hasn’t been difficult. We know there are two women in Sweden who have accused him of sexual assault, serious charges which will he will have to answer to in a court of law. Assange says he is innocent and the women are a part of well-orchestrated smear campaign–a covert attempt by the powers that be to silence his website. Along with these serious charges against him, Assange has made himself a pretty impressive list of enemies–and this is but a tiny excerpt of what is a very long list:

WikiLeaks “has violated the Espionage Act.” -Sen. Joe Lieberman

“super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal.” –The New Yorker‘s George Packer

“an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” whom we should pursue “with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.” -Sarah Palin

“He’s a psychopath, a sociopath … He’s a terrorist.” -Republican Mary Matalin

“A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” –Democrat Bob Beckel

That last quote makes me think of David Kelly, the U.K. biochemist and U.N. weapons inspector whose off-the-record comments (he said the government exaggerated about WMD in Iraq) led to his death. Though officially dubbed a suicide, Britain’s Michael Powers, a physician, barrister, and former coronor has joined a group of physicians and others who don’t believe the evidence  supports the suicide finding. Lord Hutton decided that evidence related to the death, including the post-mortem report and photographs of the body, should remain classified for 70 years.

Whoa… Okay. I’m not making this up. My computer just crashed to the dreaded BLUE SCREEN fatal exception error.  This was on my screen when I rebooted:

Allrightee then. I’m sure that was just a coincidence. Okay NSA, I am not trying to get on your list please.

Aaaaaaanyway,

I think it is completely possible that Julian Assange committed the crimes he is accused of, and if he did, I don’t see how that should have a bearing on whether WikiLeaks is deemed to be journalism, civil disobedience or out-and-out terrorism. Let the world’s courts open up that discussion–not the tabloids.

I also think it is completely possible he had consensual sex with those women, and someone has either enticed or coerced them to lie about it.  Either way, the debate will continue to rage about whether Assange is a terrorist or a whistle blower and if WikiLeaks’ brand of  “transparency” hurts more than it helps.

“Our goal is to have a just civilization. That is sort of a personal motivating goal. And the message is transparency…we believe that it is an excellent message. Gaining justice with transparency. It is a good way of doing that, it is also a good way of not making too many mistakes. We have a trans-political ideology, it is not right it is not left it is about understanding…any political ideology that comes out of misunderstanding will itself be a misunderstanding. So, we say, to some degree all political ideologies are currently bankrupt. Because they do not have the raw ingredient they need to address the world. The raw ingredient to understand what is actually happening.” -Julian Assange

All of that sounds really good to me because I agree with his assertion that the existing political ideologies are bankrupt.  The truth is, regardless of the continents we live on, the names we use to call on the Creator, or the political ideologies we profess, none of us want our cities to be incinerated. I do feel like governments might be less likely to commit crimes against humanity if they know they are being observed, but I  don’t feel I have a full understanding of what kind of havoc such transparency can wreak either.

Is Julian Assange a dangerous devil, or a courageous daredevil? My intuition leans me toward the latter, but I’d like more solid information to help me decide.


Eva Longoria’s “Desperate” daughter faces deportation to Mexico

If you’re an avid Desperate Housewives watcher, you know that Eva Longoria’s character,  Gabrielle Solis, is currently tangled in a heart-wrenching storyline involving a past hospital baby switch.  Gabby’s daughter Juanita is not biologically hers, but is the “anchor baby” of an undocumented Mexican couple who are now on the run with Gabby’s biological daughter (whom they raised from birth).   We have yet to see where this plot is headed, but according to US law, Juanita could be taken to Mexico if her bio parents are deported.

In real life Longoria has been very vocal about immigration issues, and it appears that the writers are helping her use the show to bring attention to the serious plight undocumented children face. The actress has also recently donned the executive producer hat for the upcoming documentary “Harvest,” a film exposing the exploitation of migrant children who pick produce on American farms at sub-poverty wages.

“We won’t take a shirt made in China by a child, but  yet in our own country 25% of the food we eat is harvested by a child…Over 500,000 kids are working in the fields and 80 to 90 percent are American children.  We have these mixed-nationality families…How does immigration reform address those kinds of families?” -Eva

This morning Longoria joined a group of Latino leaders in addressing a letter to the leadership of the US Senate urging them to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). If passed, the legislation would provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought illegally to the United States by their parents.

December 16, 2010

Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:

As Latino leaders in government, business, entertainment, and sports, we urge members of Congress to support the “Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.” This modest and sensible piece of legislation would allow young people who were brought to the United States by their parents at a very young age to pursue higher education or serve in the military.

These students are success stories in their communities, serving as student body presidents, star athletes, and performers, graduating often with honors from schools in their hometowns. Our country benefits immensely from the talent and drive to succeed that they demonstrate. They want the chance to go on to college or serve in the military to continue giving back to the only country they have ever called home.

We know from a recently released study that the students covered under the “DREAM Act” will contribute at least one trillion dollars to the American economy over the course of their lifetimes. Moreover, according to the Congressional Budget Office, enacting the “DREAM Act” would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion dollars over ten years. The intangible benefits of investing in these students’ futures, however, are immeasurable.

America cannot afford to lose another generation of young people who stand to contribute to its economic and social prosperity. The beneficiaries of the “DREAM Act” are our future teachers, nurses, and engineers. The U.S. has invested in the education of many of these individuals since kindergarten, and it is only fitting that we enable them to serve and contribute, allowing our nation to reap the benefits. The Latino community is counting on Congress to come together and show its support for the future of these young people and the nation.

Sincerely,

Luis Castillo
Linda Chavez
The Honorable Henry G. Cisneros
Maria Contreras-Sweet
Emilio Estefan
America Ferrera
The Honorable Carlos Gutierrez
Eva Longoria
Monica Lozano
Janet Murguía
Ozomatli
The Honorable Federico F. Peña
The Honorable Bill Richardson
Lionel Sosa
Solomon D. Trujillo
The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa


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