Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lunch & Learn #3_Executive Administrative Assistant, Jessica Frankel & What do employers want

On June 26th 2015, Jessica Frankel, Advancing Justice-Atlanta’s Executive Administrative Assistant, trained the interns on the steps and formalities associated with job applications. The information presented reflected five central tenets - on nouveau new perspective on what employers truly look for in applicants and future employees.

Personally, I believed that the training was very useful and insightful. Jessica’s presentation started out with what future employers look for in applicants. For example, our online presence in the world of social media has a significant role in determining how employers judge individual applicants. Although many may not be aware of their online presence, it is important to note that everything someone writes on Facebook, Twitter, and email reflects how that person is regarded as by others (basically, don’t act inappropriately or post something you’ll regret a couple years from now). Some ways to make sure what sort of personal information might be available on the internet is to occasionally google yourself because it allows you to see what others may have posted and what future employers might come across that can either help or harm your reputation. Another tip is to always maintain a separate professional profile to use when networking with others.

Aside from the advice concerning online presence, I thought that tips regarding the actual interview process were the most helpful. For example, Sara Hamilton, our Deputy Director, believed that the question, “Tell me about yourself?”, was the most important of all other questions that will be asked nine times out of ten during an interview. The response, she stated, should depend on what job you are applying for and highlight the qualities you believe they are seeking. It is also important to make sure to be proactive in asking questions such as “Where do you see the company in ten years?”, because it shows the employer that you see yourself contributing to the company (and that you care enough about the job position to ask).

Last but not least, Jessica’s rule of thumb about following up with an email and then a hand written card was proved unique, because it sets a distinction from other applicants and leaves a lasting impression though you may not have received that specific job offer (Who knows, maybe in the future other job positions might be available or you might even see them again. It’s a small world).

Overall, the presentation had many useful inside tips and started topics of discussions to which other employees such as Sara Hamilton and Raymond Partolan contributed. We, interns, all agreed that Jessica did a great job in providing us a greater understanding of the job market and expectations.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lunch & Learn #2_Executive Director Helen Ho's Presentation on Advancing Justice Atlanta


On June 11th, Executive Director Helen Ho presented a brief history of Advancing Justice Atlanta branch, formerly known as the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center.
She began with a quick breakdown of the organization, its first five years of logistical struggle, and its mission. In a broader sense, Advancing Justice Atlanta, as Helen put it, "it is a grassroots human rights organization that aims to empower the community through civic engagement. (she emphasized that civic engagement included many facets including but not limited to community organizing, legal education, leadership development, public policy work, etc.)." 
Helen stressed the importance of the organization’s setting, explaining that, with the fastest rate of Asian American/Pacific Islander population growth, the quickly diversifying South not only presents an opportunity to fight for the Asian American and immigrant communities’ rights. It gives us the opportunity to work against the regressive policies Southern states are known to pass, and toward positive movement building, cultural shifts, multiracial alliances, and more. "When we say we are building power for good in the south, we mean the common good," she continued. Given the current environment, then, AAAJ ATL, as the first non-profit law center dedicated to serving Asian American immigrants and refugees in the Southeast, is doing essential work. 

From GOTV campaigns aimed to increase Asian American voters, direct legal services and education, AAAJ ATL’s work encourages a more diverse, just, and democratic legal and social environment, yielding proven, measurable results. Since the organization has begun its GOTV campaigning, for example, Asian American voter turnout in Georgia has increased by over 25% in 2014 compared to the 2010 Midterm elections. With perceptions regarding Asian Americans shifting accordingly, AAAJ ATL has quickly become a foundational community leader, building a brighter future for not only Asian Americans, but groups of all colors, as it works towards equality, solidarity, and a voice for all. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

[It's the Interns] Meet Esther Lim

It is time to meet our AMAZING Interns!
Advancing Justice-Atlanta Interns are here 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

Hi, my name is Esther and I am a rising senior at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. My concentration has yet to receive a solid name, but it’s a combination of legal studies, economics, and political and social theory. I’m heavily involved in activist fronts of all sorts, namely those regarding unfair housing policies, unequal pay across races/genders, mass incarceration/police brutality, climate change, and the privatization of education. Aside from that, however, I work as a graphic designer and I love to read, cook/eat everything, do yoga, and watch my shows.

·    What made you decide to apply for this internship?

I firmly believe, as Chief Justice Earl Warren once said, “Citizenship is man’s basic right, for it is nothing less than the right to have rights.” I applied for this internship because I want to do what I can to create a legal/political/social environment in which citizenship (the right to have rights) can become more universal and more effectively utilized by those who have it.

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

I hope and expect to 1) learn about immigration and immigrant life in Georgia and in general, 2) learn how to empower and engage with these communities that have been largely disenfranchised and forgotten/neglected, 3) make these communities and their struggles more visible to the rest of the population, 4) become more deeply aware and spread awareness of the policies that affect these communities, and 5) gain significant experience in how I/we may most effectively and efficiently initiate positive change.

·    Tell us your personal narrative on being Asian in America

Living and participating in two cultures - neither of which I felt I fully fit into - yielded a lot of identity crises for me. Eventually, however, I came to recognize my dual cultural membership as a strength, a unique perspective that allowed me to more clearly understand and value certain experiences and struggles that are often forgotten or widely unacknowledged.

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

I don’t know if there’s a specific role I’d like to fill, but I hope to voice the concerns and opinions of those who may not have the resources to do so, to fight for their rights and inclusion within the political sphere, and to work to bridge the gaps between the Asian American community and other communities of color. 

·    What is your song of the year?

It doesn’t have an appropriate name, but it’s by Rihanna <3

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lunch & Learn #1_Leonie’s Workshop

By Brian Lee and Sonia Chang

Leonie Barkakati, a graduate student intern, provided an interesting perspective concerning stereotypes of different races during her lunch-and-learn on June 4th, 2015.

The workshop began with an icebreaker in which all the staff and interns wrote obscure facts about themselves on slips of paper which were then distributed randomly. From these slips, each person was instructed to guess who wrote the information. Though seemingly facile, the task proved difficult as some of the facts could apply to more than one individual. In context, Sonia found it amusing upon realization of our myopic views of each other and also because most of the predictions turned out to inaccurate. These instances led us to reinforce the notion that outer perception may differ from inner identity, sometimes even drastically.

Later on during the actual workshop, Leonie opened the discussion of prejudice and the focus centered around an interactive chart activity in which people would write stereotypes in the respective box that indicated the appropriate race. In the second row of boxes, we wrote down characteristics of people we know that are of the race labelled at the top of the column.

Here is a sample of the table:
Native American
Stereotypes (Row 1):

Traits of People We Know (Row 2):

During the first round (Row 1), the traits that were mentioned were relatively negative. They reflected the most caricatured features of different races. These representations reflected everything from facial features to familial relations to contemporary political issues such as police/civilian relations while, on the contrary, Row 2 proved to be purely positive and supportive.

The subsequent conversation reflected our conjectures concerning the influences behind our beliefs and attitudes to distinct cultures: The first row, as Leonie holistically summarized, indicated the effect of media burlesque and news bias. Movie portrayals, news broadcast spins on current events tended to support archetypes of particular races which were ingrained in our conception of differences. The characteristics noted in the second row which contradicted that of the previous could be attributed to our respect for the people we know as well as the intimacy of the relationships we hold with those individuals. All in all, it is impossible to universally generalize traits. Even though we wish to categorize people, every individual is unique with their own set of characteristics and traits.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reflection on "Freedom Summer", a documentary

By Leonie Barkakati

Freedom Summer is a documentary about the Mississippi Summer Project, which was initiated to register Black voters in Mississippi in June, 1964.

From the start, I was struck by the number of comparisons I could make from events in the movie to other occurrences in history and current events. Within the first thirty minutes of the movie, the individuals being interviewed talked about how white people in Mississippi thought Black people would “take over” if they began voting. Another individual said, “the vote was for white people.” This sounds very similar to the opinions of some Americans who believe that undocumented immigrants from Asia and Latin America will take over the country today.

When the Mississippi Summer Project began, southern whites criticized it as a “communist” initiative. It humors me how frequently Americans label groups “communist” whenever they feel threatened. This word has been used to describe farm workers in California in the 60’s and Chinese Americans during the Cold War. It reveals a disturbingly xenophobic tendency.

Freedom Summer starkly portrayed people’s humanity (or lack thereof). The volunteers knew they were putting their lives in danger by helping to register voters, but they stayed because they believed it was the right thing to do. Looking back at that time, who would disagree? The narrative being told in Freedom Summer is eerily similar to the current reality. There are organizations in place today that are trying to register millions of people who came to this country as immigrants. There are others who rave about how “illegal” immigrants will steal “our” jobs. When we look back on this decade of history, what will people say? Do we sympathize with the humanity of immigrants in this country?

Even the reluctance of the Mississippi constituents to register in the documentary is still present today. In the documentary, registering Black voters was slow work in the beginning. People were unwilling to sign up for fear that they would lose their jobs, and rightfully so. In my experience, registering Asian voters is equally difficult today. But the community in the documentary did not fully mobilize until volunteers went missing, and bodies were found. Do people have to die for our communities to recognize the urgency of this issue?
I was particularly impacted by the stories of two women who were included in the documentary. The first was Rita Schwerner, whose husband was killed by the Klan during the Project. She said she would not cry in front of any cameras because, “It would be offensive to everyone concerned.” I thought this was a profound example of allyship. Schwerner seemed to understand how much attention the press would give her if she cried. She would not give the media the satisfaction of watching her mourn her late husband when thousands of people mourned the deaths of far greater numbers of family members in the South for centuries.

I was also moved by Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony. She was a sharecropper from Mississippi who attended the Democratic National Conference in 1964 to advocate for inclusion of people of color in the delegation from Mississippi. Her testimony was very important, yet not all of it was included in the documentary. In fact, the documentary seemed to focus more on how Lyndon Johnson interrupted her speech. I had to go to Youtube to find the entirety of her 8-minute testimony. I thought it was powerful that a Black woman came to be the symbol of the Mississippi Summer Project. She talked about losing her job just for trying to register to vote and about her time in jail. In the end, she says, “Is this America, land of the free home of the brave…where our lives are threatened daily because we want to live like decent human beings in America?” I thought she was brave to say all of these things on national television. It felt as though at that moment she carried the weight of her entire community.

I love watching moments like that. I wonder what they feel like, to truly be a representative of a community.