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Thank you, marketers and advertising creatives, for helping spur discussions around racism

Advocacy, Communities, Pinoy, The body

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In some ways, I’m glad that marketers occasionally adopt a “do whatever it takes to sell the product that we’ve been hired to sell” approach. Because when they get it wrong, they bring to the surface various unspoken resentments and tensions in the cultural landscape. Take the following skin whitening ads by Philippine cosmetics company Belo:

When the inevitable backlash erupted, I thought to myself, “Finally! Filipinos can start having a public discussion about the largely unspoken understanding that the color/lightness of your skin determines how you will be perceived and valued in (Philippine) society.” (The recent controversy over Bayo’s ad campaign helped.)

The timing couldn’t have been better for one organization I support, the United Philippine Amerasians, who are actively engaging the public about the issues that their community faces:

To date, there are more than 50,000 known Fil-Amerasians in the Philippines, mostly only from the northern Philippine island of Luzon. There could be tens of thousands more in the entire archipelago. Virtually all of these Fil-Amerasians people from toddlers to seniors live in abject poverty because of social discrimination and the non-recognition and non-support of their military fathers. The Fil-Amerasian phenomenon is the result of the presence of the military bases in the past decades and the continued presence of US troops in the country by way of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Aside from the neglect, the presence of US troops also exacerbates prostitution with the host provinces virtually becoming the soldiers’ “sex playground.” The Filipino-Amerasian phenomenon has deep social, political, and cultural repercussions among this segment of the Filipino society that now requires proactive intervention in terms of change in public opinion and state policy. Tens of thousands of Amerasians are unable to participate freely in everyday life because of racist sentiments. Applying for work, going to school, making friends, are arduous engagements for them.

I don’t care much for the tepid, apolitical apology that Belo has issued. “If we feel that it’s a sensitive topic right now, we’re going to park [the ad campaign] a bit and see where it goes,” a Belo representative was quoted as saying.As apologies go, this one is a big fail. It’s like telling your friend, “I’m sorry I said you were unattractive. If you’re sensitive about it now, I’ll take a break and see how you do with that. I’ll probably get back to insulting you once you stop complaining.”

At any rate, thank you, marketers and advertising creatives, for helping spur discussions around racism. And thank you, Belo. No, really. Thank you.

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Flying fish, fuzzy moments, stolen faces

Politics, Vancouver

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I’ve recently gotten involved with the municipal elections in Vancouver, throwing my support behind the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) and my friend RJ Aquino (who is running for City Council) in particular. Participating in local politics has been invigorating, although I am still as wary of the game as I am with any other form of “us versus them” relationships.

During the all-candidates debate last week at Langara College, I worked with other members of RJ’s campaign team to make students, staff, and visitors at Langara aware of the upcoming elections by appropriating my newest, coolest internet purchase: a remote-controlled mini-blimp in the shape of a clownfish. Here it is in action:

Cool as this toy is, the problem is that the novelty wears off eventually. But then I realized that this was a perfect campaign tool to grab people’s attention!

As you can imagine, we got lots of attention from everyone. I think the coolest moment of the day, though, was when a sharply-dressed woman who looked about fifteen years older than me came up to me and complimented us on our election tactic. When I asked her if she had decided who she was voting for, she said, “Yes, I have, but I’m voting for the NPA. But you know, the important thing is to get people out to vote.” It was a warm, fuzzy, cross-partisan moment.

The feeling of goodwill had faded by the time, a couple of days later, someone brought to the attention of the COPE campaign team a flier that was being distributed by NPA’s Suzanne Anton. The flier was innocuous-looking enough; in fact, it captured what looked to be another warm and fuzzy moment between Anton and two super-cute Filipino kids. What was wrong with it? I’ll let the COPE press release speak for itself.

Anton Uses Photo of Children in Campaign Literature Without Parental Consent

Vancouver- NPA Mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton has sparked anger from two Filipino families after she used their daughters’ faces in her campaign literature without the parents’ consent.

The leaflet features Suzanne Anton posing with two Filipino girls at a cultural event.  The parents however, were never consulted about the picture being taken, or published.  The photo is featured in the NPA’s promotional material, and is being distributed by Anton herself, across the city.

“Doesn’t she have her own supporters to take pictures with?” asked Cliff Belgica, the father of one of the girls featured in the photo. “Why does she need to steal our children?”

“It’s not right,” he continued. “We were never even asked. It is very shameful behavior – especially for someone who wants to be mayor.”

“We demand an apology from Anton herself, and assurance that this leaflet will no longer be handed out,” added Belgica.

The family is seeking legal counsel on the matter and is considering legal action.   “We want to ensure that the NPA doesn’t use any other children or families for their material, when they aren’t aware of it, and do not want to be associated with the them,” said Belgica.

-30-

Media Contact: Mae Price – 778.986.5863 – media[at]cope[dot]bc[dot]ca

Anton has been reported to have apologized for the flier, but the slip in judgment is pretty eyebrow-raising.

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Why I’m participating in Occupy Vancouver

Advocacy, Communities, The body, Vancouver

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Occupy Vancouver (like many of the Occupy movements worldwide) is inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. As the National Post observes,

Participants are united by a common grievance: that a small group of corporations hold massive amounts of wealth and decision-making power, while the majority of the population suffers from enormous debt, unemployment and unaffordable health care and housing. The movement still lacks concrete demands, but protesters seem to pride themselves more in the process than the outcome. General assemblies, where decisions about the occupation are made through consensus, are held twice a day.

The movement “challenge[s] corporate greed, corruption, and the collusion between corporate power and government… and oppose[s] systemic inequality, militarization, environmental destruction, and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights.”

Over the past few days I’ve been asking my (middle-class, university educated) friends and colleagues whether they were going to participate in Occupy Vancouver. I was surprised that many of those that I assumed would go weren’t planning to, and some of the reasons that I got were interesting: “It makes sense to occupy Wall Street, but Canada is different from the USA, and we have a stable economy… Vancouver is a great place to live, what’s wrong with it?… It seems that movement is led mostly by white men… We’re already on illegally occupied Coast Salish land… I’m not really the protesting type even though I think the movement is important…” Some of the objections were general and based on not having been part of the first general assembly.

I have are four main reasons for participating in Occupy Vancouver.

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Help! We need a name for a project!

Advocacy, Communities

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I’ve been working with WeDpro to put together a proposal for a project for the National Endowment for Democracy, and while we’ve been successful at putting together the actual content, we can’t think of an evocative, catchy working title for the project!! We need your help!

Some keywords are: human rights, democracy, Philippines, women, youth, discrimination, marginalization, exploitation, oppression, expression, creativity, communication, leadership, advocacy, Angeles City, Olongapo City.

To give you an idea, here’s the introduction of the proposal:

The proposed project aims to empower marginalized women and youth in two sites in the Philippines through three linked strategies: enhancing their awareness of and reflectiveness around human rights and democratic processes; supporting their ability to creatively communicate their lived experiences; and capacitating their ability to speak on and advocate for human rights and democratic processes within and outside their respective communities. Each strategy is translated into specific objectives that are tangible and measurable; each objective is defined by a set of activities. Ultimately, the project aims to enable marginalized youth to tell their stories and communicate how their rights-claiming posture has helped them overcome their difficulties, in the hope of inspiring others.

In consultation with local community leaders and school administrators, WeDpro would selected  a total of 30 women leaders, out-of-school, and in-school youth from urban poor communities in two cities—Olongapo City in the province of Zambales, and Angeles City in the province of Pampanga— to participate in discussions and guided reflections around human rights. Twenty individuals would then be selected to participate in storytelling and digital media creation workshops which would enable them to express their experiences of human rights violations and communicate how their rights-claiming posture have helped them overcome their difficulties, in the hope of inspiring others. A leaders’ pool would be developed from among the participants; they would be capacitated to do speaking tours in the project sites and other areas in the National Capital Region to bring the message of why it is important to defend human rights and democratic processes.

Thanks!

:)

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Indigenous peoples in Canada make extensive use of social media

Academia, Advocacy, Blog, Communities, ICT4D

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The headline this morning on The Tyee by a colleague and friend of mine touches on the widespread use of social media among the First Nations of Canada, who are widely scattered across this large country. Many First Nations territories were never ceded to Canada’s European colonizers, and thus remain illegally occupied. The article touches on the risks that corporately-controlled social media pose.

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No Tankers Oil Posters

Advocacy, Blog, Design

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Carlos Celdran forwarded this video to me. Although the concept is *very* cool, the one small glitch I see in the campaign’s design is that the video documentation might be more effective than the posters themselves, because by the time the “oil” has completely dripped, the shape of the tanker is barely visible. What probably would have been more effective visually is if the tanker remained painted in non-water-soluble black ink and the text was white. But super clever, nonetheless.

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The Wixarika People and Vancouver-based mining company First Majestic

Advocacy, Blog, Communities

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The letter below landed in my inbox this morning. Concerned, I googled the issue and saw that this was a well-known issue. The Council of Canadians and Intercontinental Cry, among other organizations, have reported on this. Tellingly, searches for “Wirikuta”, “Wixarika”, or “Huichol” on the First Majestic website revealed nothing.

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Stuff to see in Vancouver

Advocacy, Art, Blog, Communities, Dance, Food, Movement, New Media, Performance, Technology, Vancouver

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As the social events coordinator at the GSA SIAT, it’s my job to organize events for the grad students. It also give me a chance to advertise cool things being put on by friends and colleagues. Here’s a few of them.

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An apple in a truck of tropical fruit: Some thoughts on Vancouver and new media art

Art, Blog, Communities, New Media, Technology, Vancouver

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My friend and dance colleague Melanie Kuxdorf recently filed a report on OpenFile.ca (a “collaborative local news site” which assigns reporters to stories that are suggested by the public) about the informal dance+theatre+technology meetup that I recently organized. The article accurately highlights my motivations for organizing the event, and I have nothing more to add to it that I haven’t mentioned elsewhere, but I did want to comment on one section from the article:

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Cordillera Day 2011: Land, Life, Honour

Advocacy, Communities

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This invite landed in my inbox today. I was at the 2010 Cordillera Day, and it was inspiring. I loved the group dancing that happened—to the sound of traditional gangsa (gongs)—somewhat spontaneously in the end. Cordillera dancing often features small stomping motions, as if the dancers were gently compacting tilled soil. It has has a really grounded feel to it which is very different from, say, highland dancing. So… yeah. I’m pretty excited about this next one!

The Canada- Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) INVITES YOU to

CORDILLERA DAY 2011
“Live Out Our Glorious History of Struggle; Fight for Land, Life and Honour!”

The first celebration of Cordillera Day was held in Sadanga, Mountain Province, Philippines in 1985. Thousands from all across the country and the world attend this event that affirms the Cordillera people’s unity in their struggle for self-determination and national democracy. This year, Cordillera Day focuses on the impact of large-scale mining, and the militarization of indigenous people’s lands where a number of Canadian mining corporations are also operating.

The celebration will take place in the Philippines from April 26-27, with the ultimate goal of forging a regional pact among the different tribes and communities to protect their ancestral lands, culture, and economic sustenance.

Cordillera Day 2011 solidarity activity in Vancouver takes place on:

Saturday, April 23, 2011, 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Lakeview Multicultural united Church
2776 Semlin Drive, Vancouver, BC

We welcome community POTLUCK
Dinner served at 7:30 p.m.

Contacts: Beth Dollaga 604.320.0285, Bootz Estella 778.709.4744

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