Friday, May 29, 2015

“Running from Office” Webinar Review

By Brian Lee

On May 27th 2015, the interns at AAAJ Atlanta participated in a webinar conducted by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox concerning the results of their observational study which are stated in their book “Running from Office: Why Young Americans are Turned Off to Politics” and a subsequent Q&A session.

The authors, Lawless and Fox, presented their study in three segments: A discussion of the status quo, explanations to these current phenomena, and potential resolutions for issues.

First, the authors reported their survey analysis that 89% of youth (defined as high school and college students) have not thought of becoming politicians, a finding they reinforced with GfK Custom Research’s data that youth career goals are excellent predictors of actual future careers, to determine that, with the level of trust in federal government so low, this proves to be a rising issue in American culture today.

Lawless and Fox supported this finding with three potential rationales for avoiding political careers - lack of encouragement within families, lack of exposure in school, and the negative stigma associated with politicians in the media - and supplied four plausible solutions:

1.    YouLead Initiative - Encouraging students to join organizations such as the Peace Corps
2.    PlayStation for Politics - Involving politics within video games to increase exposure
3.    Political Aptitude for College Admissions - Requiring a test of political awareness to attend higher education
4.    GoRun App - Providing access to smartphone applications that show available governmental positions in the vicinity and requirements to run for said offices.

Though I think that this Webinar provided an interesting insight into youth political activism, I believe that the researchers could have used a more comprehensive methodology to procure the same results.

First, because they operationally defined politics as strictly “running and sticking to elected office”, they ignore the myriad of other political activities youth ought to be encouraged to participate in such as voting. It seems more reasonable to interview participants with the notion that it is important to encourage civic engagement in general in comparison to seeking a position of power.

Also, when inquired as to whether race or economic status affected data or exhibited correlation, Lawless and Fox stated that the characteristics they measured for existed “regardless of demographic group” and “economic factors did not show any difference” which overlooked conspicuous confounding variables. I am highly skeptical of this outcome or lack thereof because holistically I believe that race and socioeconomic status would drastically affect whether or not families would discuss politics whether politics would be a concern, and how the environment would portray politicians in general.

Lastly, in my personal opinion, encroaching on video games to add a political feature or supporting a political awareness standard on college applications seems to be an unreasonable inconvenience for youth and a step into an already controversial topic, respectively, which would not bode well with the new electorate.

Instead, an additional curriculum within the education system or an extension of responsibilities inside student-run government associations would entrench a more politically active mindset in today’s youth.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

[It's the Interns] Meet Brian Lee

It is time to meet our AMAZING Interns!
Advancing Justice-Atlanta Internship Program has begun and "It's the Interns" series goes in-depth about who is working behind and in front of the scene to Build Power for Good in the South!

·    Hello! Tell us little about yourself

Hello, my name is Brian Lee. I am a rising senior at Northview High School and a previous intern at the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center. I am the vice president of Northview’s National Honor Society, and I spend much of my time looking to improve my community through activities such as tutoring, registering voters, and organizing fundraisers.

·    What made you decide to apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship after reading about the organization’s involvement in Freedom University and providing undocumented students access to education and temporary deferred status primarily because I believe penalizing individuals for consequences that did not precipitate from their actions is unjust. My passion for immigration reform stems from this belief that, as the authority, government is obligated to mend inequalities and wrongful policies, and I believe that aiding the community through Advancing Justice is the most efficient use of my efforts within my limitations as a high school student.

·    What is your expectation and what would you like to get out of the internship experience?

As an intern at the Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, I would like to expand my understanding of the various facets of immigration policy. At the same time, I would like to help directly connect members of the community to the services provided by the legal system, such as DACA. I also hope that working with individuals in the social justice field will help me determine my future career and major education.

·    Tell us your personal narrative on being Asian in America

Having lived in three countries and two American states, I have had the privilege of experiencing a multitude of cultures that have helped me to understand the differences that lie in between. Undergoing the problems that accompany the immigration including language barriers, economic impediments, and legal documentation with my family has shaped my perspective. Assimilating into a new environment requires empathy and understanding on the part of the community and that we can all help in facilitating this process for each other.

·    What role would you like to play in Asian American Community in the future?

In the future, I hope that I can lead the community as a member of the government in ensuring fair policies in aims to cross cultural differences.

·    What is your song of the year?

It’s somewhat overplayed, but Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

[It's the Interns] Meet Leonie Barkakati

It is time to meet our AMAZING Interns!
Advancing Justice-Atlanta Internship Program has begun and "It's the Interns" series goes in-depth about who is working behind and in front of the scene to Build Power for Good in the South!

·    Hello! Tell us little about yourself

Hello! My name is Leonie Barkakati and I am a first-year master’s student studying education with a focus in social justice at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, and I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Florida (go gators!). In Tampa, I grew up around a community of several South Asian families. My “normal” is being surrounded by people of all ages, eating amazing food all the time, celebrating Hindu holidays, and watching Bollywood movies. These experiences are what I associate with home.

·    What made you decide to apply for this internship?

In the fall of 2013, I attended the Asian Americans Advancing Justice conference in Los Angeles, and I fell in love with the organization. This was a lively community of energetic people talking about the issues I find important, but I had rarely found people I could discuss them with until that point. The people I met represented a variety of Asian ethnicities and nationalities, and were in diverse fields such as law, community organizing, business, journalism, art, theater, public policy, telecommunications, and education. For this summer, I was looking for jobs, and I emailed all of the Advancing Justice affiliates because if any of them had positions available, there was no question of where I would go. I found this internship, so now I’m here!

·    What is your expectation and what would you like to get out of the internship experience?

My expectation is that I will be engaged with a community that I am very invested in. In this organization, I see people for whom uniting Asian Americans is a priority. I also have the opportunity to meet community members and leaders face to face. I don’t believe I can properly address issues in this community effectively unless I have seen what folks on the ground have to deal with on a daily basis. I believe I will gain this experience at Advancing Justice Atlanta.

·    Tell us your personal narrative on being Asian in America

I spent a lot of time as a child feeling alienated from most things mainstream American. It was only three years ago that I was introduced to the concept of systemic racism and how it affected my life. I spent my years in grade school thinking the only value I had was a number on a standardized test. My family always provided me with a lot of support, but it was often difficult for them to relate to me. Their schooling happened in a very different context.

When I reached college, I found the first mentors I had ever had in my life as a student ambassador at Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at the University of Florida. Both my mentors were Asian American. When I talked to them, I felt I had finally found people who could understand my experiences and could give me the vocabulary to describe them. They were the people who opened my eyes to how much potential I really had. I changed my major the year I met them, from Accounting to Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. They also made it possible for me to pursue graduate studies. My mentors are the people that inspired me to want to work with young Asian Americans, especially in colleges.

·    What role would you like to play in Asian American Community in the future?

It’s hard to say. Sometimes, I feel as though it will not be defined by me. I will play the role the community gives me. I know I say some stuff the community doesn’t really want to be represented by. My community probably worries that I’m going to get in trouble for the stuff I say one day, and then it will reflect badly on the community.

But everything I do is for them. Everything is about my community. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I would never have amounted to much if I became a doctor or a lawyer. I wouldn’t be giving my community anything it doesn’t already have if I took those routes, even though I knew I was smart enough to do the jobs. I think I picked this path because I could give my community so much more this way. There was no one else telling the story of Indian Americans living in the Tampa suburbs. No one else was trying to archive the history of those people living in this country, so that future generations would know who came before them. There was no one to speak out about the things I knew: families torn apart by immigration laws, people denied access to healthcare, denied access to jobs, denied access to housing, and some denied access to happiness. No one talks about how the American dream doesn’t do justice to Asian America.

No one talks about their triumphs either. No one knows what this community celebrates, how it comes together for Diwali, for Navratri, for Holi, for so many colorful holidays. Nobody knows how deeply pride runs in this community, how hard our parents worked to teach us the language(s) we know, to teach us our religion, to teach us to dance Indian folk dances, to sing Indian songs, to make Indian food, to wear Indian clothes. America looks at us and labels us as a bunch of clannish, noisy people, but they don’t know how much there is to celebrate. Every day spent with someone you love is a good day. Every day that you can think of at least one person alive who you love is a good day.

All I want is to be able to tell their stories, and my stories. They are one and the same.

·    What is your song of the year?

Pompeii by Bastille. The harmony is beautiful.

·    Any Last words???

I swear I’m not this intense in real life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Advancing Justice- Atlanta & Rally for In-State Tuition for DACA Students

By Leonie Barkakati
May 26, 2015

On May 19, 2015, Advancing Justice Atlanta attended the in-state tuition rally at 9:30 in the morning. The rally took place in front of the Board of Education building, where the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia met to approve changes to Policy Policy would allow students who reside in Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges located in Georgia. Meanwhile, undocumented students who have lived in Georgia for the majority of their lives and paid taxes to the state are required to pay out-of-state tuition rates at those same colleges.

Representatives from the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA) and the Georgia Dreamers were in attendance. Many individuals gave testimony about how this policy essentially excludes them from higher education due to the cost of out-of-state tuition. “My family has been paying GA taxes for the last 15 years. It is ridiculous that the Board of Regents continues to deny us entrance to Universities that we have helped fund,” said Maria Carrillo, who is affiliated with the Georgia Dreamers.

The rally lasted until about noon. Jaime Rangel and a small group from the assemblage walked into the board meeting, where Nels Peterson intercepted them, the Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs for the Board of Regents. Rangel reported that the Board agreed to meet with their group at a later date. The group plans to hold them accountable to that statement. 

For me, this was different from other rallies I have been to because the group was smaller than what I am used to at a rally. I have attended rallies for Justice for Trayvon in Florida as well as Black Lives Matter in Massachusetts that were attended by at least 100 people. I thought this might impact the rally’s effectiveness. I wondered if we were enough to make a difference.

In my opinion, there were two factors that countered my assumption. First, there was heavy media representation at this rally. News channels such as CBS46 and El Nuevo Georgia were present to interview students and report what had happened. After the rally, I was able to find people from GUYA and the Georgia Dreamers on Twitter and Facebook, and many of them had posted video clips of the rally on their pages. This allowed them to reach a much larger audience than only those who were physically present, and also allowed us to record that this rally happened. Now if anyone searches the internet for information on undocumented students or in-state tuition in Georgia, they will know that a rally happened and that the Board of Regents has agreed to meet with young organizers to discuss allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates.

The other factor that boosted effectiveness was the disruption we caused. In my opinion, a rally is effective precisely when it disrupts everyday life. Rallies are not designed to be in closed off areas where no one can see them. They are not supposed to be convenient. A rally’s intention is to call attention to the fact that something is wrong so that people will do something about it. When we took to the street outside the Board of Education building, we did just that. When we carried huge signs over our heads and stopped traffic when we chanted, when we made enough noise, that the police showed up (for a peaceful protest), we reminded the state of Georgia that the current policy is an injustice. Our hope is that people who we marched by, who had to wait for maybe a few minutes at the most to wait until we passed, will be reminded that there are people whose entire lives have been put on hold because they do not have access to education. This small inconvenience they experience is a fraction of the hardship that undocumented students face every day.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

[It's the Interns] Meet Sonia Chang

It is time to meet our AMAZING Interns!
Advancing Justice-Atlanta Internship Program has begun and "It's the Interns" series goes in-depth about who is working behind and in front of the scene to Build Power for Good in the South!

·    Hello! Tell us little about yourself

Hello my name is Sonia Chang. I am a sophomore majoring in my bachelors in Accounting and minoring in the Certificate for Community Engagement at Stetson University. I am also a Bonner scholar and volunteer over 280 hours during the school year at a non-profit homeless coalition and prepare taxes for low income families through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program with Unity Way.

·    What made you decide to apply for this internship?

I decided to apply for this internship, because of my passion for immigration reform and my love of service. From my internship experience, I hope to gain a better knowledge of how to best support the Asian American community and apply my major in accounting to strengthen my abilities.

·    What is your expectation and what would you like to get out of the internship experience?

During my time as an intern at Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Atlanta, I hope to coordinate and help with citizenship classes, utilize my accounting major education to further grow as an accountant, and learn specific ways to reach out to the Asian American community to understand how to serve their needs the best. I also expect to help with DACA/DAPA intake and further grow those services within my community.

·    Tell us your personal narrative on being Asian in America

As an Korean American, I know the struggles and hardships my father faced as a first generation immigrant raising me in an unfamiliar country. From the language barrier to labor intensive work, my father did everything he could to support me and provide the best educational opportunities possible. Now as a college student, being an Asian American is more than just a race. It means being part of a community that is there to support you and who understands you the best.

·    What role would you like to play in Asian American Community in the future?

In the future, I hope to further lead the Asian American community towards a path where our voices are heard and we are more united.

·    What is your song of the year?

My current song of the year would have to be “Shut Up and Dance” by the band, Walk the Moon, because I have become even more outgoing and energetic after entering college.

·    Any Last words???

I would not be in the position I am today without the help and support of my community and family. So although I am only one person, I know I have the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life as well.
You can contact me during my internship at Thank you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Infograph on Asian Americans, DACA/DAPA, and Georgia

May 19th 2015, would have been the day that USCIS began accepting applications for 
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)
 but their plans and dreams are on hold. Every day that Expanded DACA and DAPA are delayed, our families and our communities suffer!

Check out the info graph below to find out more!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Welcome to Advancing Justice-Atlanta Blog

About Us

  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta (formerly Asian American Legal Advocacy Center or AALAC) is the first non-profit law center dedicated to Asian immigrants and refugees (“Asian Americans”) in the Southeast.

Our goal is to engage, educate and empower under-represented Asian Americans to greater civic participation.
We are one of five independent organizations that make up the national Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Together with our affiliates in Chicago, DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco, we bring more than 100 years of collective experience in addressing the civil rights issues faced by Asian Americans and other vulnerable and under served communities.

  • We design policy rooted in the South. We publish public policy analyses and know-your-rights education primarily focused on local and regional issues, and translate most of our work into Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Our key issue areas are immigration, education and voting rights.

  • We are a leader in immigrant civic engagement work. We register voters year-round; provide assistance and capacity to new immigrant and refugee leaders; train and organize hundreds of volunteers to work with us in the field to build a New American electorate.   When underrepresented communities are active in civic life the common good is strengthened for everyone.

  • We defend the rights of people and communities. AAAJ-Atlanta is the first nonprofit law center dedicated to protecting and promoting the civil, social and economic rights of Asian immigrants and refugees in the South. We take on select campaigns or lawsuits that expose or challenge the people, policies and systems that violate the rights of immigrants and refugees.