Public Affairs

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Professor Hiroshi Fukurai

For Apex Express, I talked with Hiroshi Fukurai, professor at UC Santa Cruz, for a more critical look at what’s going on in Japan.

Professor Fukurai was born in Sendai, the epicenter of last month’s monstrous 9.0 earthquake. His family still lives in the region. He talked with me about the nuclear power system in Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Company’s heavy hand over the media, and Japan’s recent passage of an internet surveillance act.

Broadcast History
Apex Express 4/21/11

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Image by Melanie Cervantes


I’ve been eager to do something with Smith & Mighty‘s song “No Justice,” ever since I first heard it while Janaka Selekta lived with me in 2002. Freedom Archives’ 10th anniversary seemed like a perfect time to work it in to a project.

Freedom Archives has over 8,000 hours of audio and video tape of some of the progressive movement’s most important voices and actions. More importantly, they keep these voices alive for people to access today through an accessible archive, revealing documentaries, and innovative projects like the Vinyl Project, an album of progressive soundbites to be used by DJs, musicians, MCs, and activists.

To celebrate their tenth anniversary, they threw a party at 330 Ritch in San Francisco. One of the giveaways was a CD made up of the many songs musicians have created using the archives along with mixes interns have created as they developed their ProTools chops and their consciousness.

I remixed this song with clips on police brutality from the Vinyl Project along with Oscar Grant footage I found on YouTube.

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For 35 years, La Raza Centro Legal has been serving the Bay Area's immigrant communities with legal services, a community empowerment and advocacy program, and a day labor program.

LRCL works with the community to make long term social change, while making sure that needs are met today. "When we model love but we challenge the injustice, were building a much stronger and richer society today," says executive director Ana Maria Loya. "Were not waiting for it someday in the future. Were living it moment by moment."  

Collaboration: LRCL asked me to interview their clients and collaborate with photographer/videographer Theo Rigby to create this promotional video. Staff collected photographs of the organization in action and musicians Los Nadies and Francisco Herrera donated their music for the score.

Formats Available : Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)

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The segment is a profile on an undocumented worker who immigrated from  the Yucatan. She talks about the challenges she had surviving in Mexico (even though her family owned land) as well as the challenges to finding work in the U.S.

Jill Shenker at La Raza Centro Legal helped me fine tune the pitch and contacted “Catalina” all while Jill was on her holiday vacation. She also spent over an hour translating the recorded interview with “Catalina.” ¡Muchas gracias Jill!

During my script edit, I learned that a study shows that listeners feel that a reporter is biased when they pronounce foreign words as a native speaker would. So while I’ve been working hard to get rid of a gringa accent, I was asked to re-gringa-fy myself for this read. Thankfully, I didn’t have to say “Tijuana” drunken fratboy style (“Ti-ah-wanna,” ) and I could pronounce La Raza Centro Legal with the emphasis on the ‘gal and not the le’. Still, I found the study interesting. I wonder if that’s why the mispronunciation of Cesar Chavez proliferates.

Broadcast History:
Justice Talking
KRUA Anchorage, Alaska
WAMC Northeast Public Radio
kuow Puget Sound

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Image by Favianna Rodriguez

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It’s silly what will motivate me to pitch a story. This time, it was because I wanted to get Inkwork’s new book, Visions of Peace and Justice, a full color book with over 400 reproductions of political posters, for free. And of course I put in more labor than what I would have paid for the book!

But in proucing the piece, I met Lincoln Cushing an Doug Minkler, two key players in the Bay Area’s political poster circle.The SF Print Collective supported the story by supplying a very nice person to wheatpaste for me to gather that beautiful ambiance. I also finally met Favianna Rodriguez, an art crush of mine. This woman is powerful and she’s under 30!

A couple of interesting things happened in producing this piece. The first was when I spoke with Dee Dee Workman with SF Beautiful. I thought for sure she’d have some negative things  to say about political wheatpasters. But instead, she agreed with folks like the SF Print Collective and Rodriguez: the real problem is with corporate advertisers! The second was finding out that in fact, groups like SF Beautiful believe that those corporate posters are illegal!

Hopefully, I’ll have a print story on this topic soon.

Broadcast History:
KALW’s Artery
WAMC

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At first, the assignment seemed overwhelming: four sites, 100 families, and many talented artists who were all a part of 100 Families Oakland, an arts program designed to bring together neighbors and families in Oakland. I wasn’t sure how to narrow down my focus, but as I started my pre-interviews, the story fell in to place.

I focused on the East Oakland project site, Jautan Stancil’s family, and artist Adalia Moncada. They provided me with wonderful scenes including the creation of a conceptual installation with life-sized plaster-of-Paris sculptures and the acceptance of a new participant who had just come out of juvenile detention.

Community members have a lot of enthusiasm for this program and the California College of Arts has launched a second round in Oakland with exploration into San Francisco’s Bayview District.

Broadcast History:
KALW’s Artery
KVRM (Nevada City)
KZSC (Santa Cruz)

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This story offered me great experience in hard news reporting. I learned how to use the public information departments of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the CDC, and universities, all of whom were very helpful, even calling me late in the night. And I learned about some great APA mental health agencies like RAMS in San Francisco, NAAPIMHA, and Asian Community Mental Health Services.

I also gained good experience in finding an interviewee and vetting. It’s a hard one: how do you find someone who survived an attempted suicide when one of the problems is a taboo about having mental illness in the first place? All I can say is thank you for house parties where I found the person who tied this segment together after we agreed to alter her voice.

I know that this is an important story and I’m glad that I received the assignment.

Broadcast History:
KQED’s Pacific Time
WAMC’s 51% (A show on Northeast Pubic Radio addressing women’s issues)

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OK, I begged to be able to produce this story. KALW wanted to make sure that my first experience working with them went well and they worried that the Thanksgiving holiday did not allow enough time for me to produce a perfect completed piece. I asked them to let me do it on spec and it worked out!

I learned so much through piecing this segment together. Once again, I was advised to write my lede first so that the story keeps focus. I also learned finding the larger context for the piece.

There is one daring moment at the end of the segment. John Wilner, the director of the film festival felt that it got a little weird. He described it as "three ‘ degrees’ of recursive, self-referential media post-modernism — there’s the story, my reaction to the way the story would sound [which is quoted in the story itself], and then your comment in the story about my being worried about your using the quote. That’s probably a first for radio, and possibly any other medium…

But my editor was really excited about it and I think it breaks the fourth wall. What do you think?

Broadcast History: KALW’s Artery

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Description: Before I left to Hawaii, I learned that the National Radio Project received
a PRX reversioning grant and the show they picked was WATER. NRP asked me to check in with the folks from my first story and see how things had progressed.

Apparently, people including the Mayor of Maui’s aide, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees, and Maui council people had listened to the Maui water story I produced for Making Contact. The pairing of that story with international water issues supported efforts to take control of the water out of the former sugar cane companies hands and put it back into public hands.

Production Notes: Once again, I met some interesting people and visited locations I’ve only driven by previously. I got to listen in at a water commission hearing where I worried that I would have to chase down Avery Chumbley for an interview. (Instead, he and his representation were a no show.) I interviewed the Mayor after seeing him at the King Kamehameha Day parade.

But my most interesting interviewee was Duke Sevilla. A local boy spoke in thick pidgin over the phone. He said he’d pick me up and take me to his home where a sacred spring once ran. When I told him where I stayed, he said, “Do you know me?!” His father ran a store right next to our house and he knew my grandpa!

I felt very confident about this piece and was able to submit it with minimal edits.

Broadcast History: Making Contact during International Water Week
Winner of the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Journalism, Broadcast

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Description: How I made it through all my Asian American/Ethnic Studies classes without understanding the genocide in Cambodia is embarrassing. Thankfully, I was assigned this story, which forced me to understand Pol Pot’s killing fields as well as the United States role in the region.

This segment illustrates a sad story about deficient refugee policies. With just English language and job training classes, many refugees failed to become citizens. Cambodian youth developed survival skills while struggling to adapt to life in urban America. In this story, the combination of those two elements (lack of US citizenship and life in urban America) along with anti-immigrant/anti-crime legislation, have forced the Thi family to face possible deportation of their son, Andrew.

Broadcast History :
NPR’s Day to Day
Crossing East: Exclusion and Resistance

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