Saturday, October 22nd 2011 – A Workshop on Social Ventures

First I want to introduce myself: I’m Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and I’m a  coordinator for the Community Walking Tours at the ACDC.  I’m an undergrad at Tufts in my sophomore year, where I’m a part of the “Tisch Scholars Program”, a program for students who want to get involved in one of their host communities. That’s what brings me to Chinatown at the ACDC.

I thought I might dust off this blog by sharing an experience I had last Saturday with three A-Voycers – Sandy, Helen, and Kenny- and ACDC’s Director of Programs, Vivien Wu.

The five of us went to a conference/workshop in Boston call “Dream it Do it”, hosted by the United Way Youth Venture, which is an organization that supports youth leaders in their communities. The purpose of the workshop was to have Boston’s youth groups learn about an opportunity to make a difference in their communities, by creating something called a social venture.

With youth from all over the Boston area in attendance, the workshop started with some icebreakers, discussions, and presentations on what exactly it means to make a “social venture”.   Youth were inspired by videos – including a speech by Charlie Chaplin, a video about young kids who bond and make a difference through break-dancing, and a short documentary about an initiative to get locally grown produce into an impoverished inner-city  neighborhood. We learned that a social venture is any kind of project, business idea or initiative that aims to bring a social benefit to a community. And more importantly, we learned that youth have the power and ingenuity to do come up with pretty amazing ideas  and do pretty amazing things to better their communities and the world.

Then we learned about the $1,000 grants that United Way wants to give to youth to realize those kinds of ideas! To start thinking about ideas, we did some brainstorming activities – Sandy, Helen, Kenny, Vivien and I tried to think of things A-Voyce youth might be able to do as a “social venture” for the Chinatown community. Sandy and Kenny, drawing on their passion for the radio show and for teenage issues, thought up re-envisioning the radio show, and creating an online counterpart for it to make it more accessible to people. On the whole, we heard many different ideas from the groups of youth that were there. One was creating a very low cost bike repair service in neighborhoods around Boston, because of how expensive it is to get a bike repaired. Another was to create a kind of haven, or house for people who find themselves in a difficult place in life, and need a place to stay, be healthy, and become empowered to turn their lives around.

So armed with ideas like these, we filled our stomachs with pizza, and the workshop moved on to skill-building sessions. A-Voyce youth learned about strategies for the timeline of a social venture. Meanwhile, I went to a meeting with other adult supervisors (made me feel much older than I am), and to meet and learn about United Way and the other youth groups involved, as well as our role in in the process of guiding Youth as they realize their ventures. With those things done, the conference pretty much ended.

It was a really interesting experience for me to meet A-Voyce youth for the first time and attend a conference like that with them. I was really impressed with how passionate they are, and driven to take initiative and be leaders for social change.  Needless to say,  I’m excited to see how this United Way $ 1000 grant opportunity  goes forward, and what brilliant venture will come out of it!

 

Shawn – Role Model

I just decided to do a post on him. I’ve been thinking about how he’s influenced me a lot lately since he’s leaving soon to possibly go back to California. I met him when I first joined AVOYCE. When I first saw him I thought he was a weirdo, because he looked funny and he acted a bit awkward (sorry, Shawn). Over time I started to know more about him and now he’s one of the most amazing people I know. He’s just so… knowledgeable. He knows EVERYTHING. He’d always just tell us random facts like “did you know…” and when I have a question I always came to him with it. He’s a certified counselor, he used to work for tokyopop, he was a boy scout, he can speak 7 languages, he’s attended 2 universities, and he’s done a lot more than just that.

The biggest thing that he taught me is that I have a choice as to how I want to live my life. Growing up in an Asian family, I’m expected to do well in school, go to college, and become some sort of doctor. Shawn has so many skills and he has so much business and housing knowledge/experience, he can become almost anything he wants. Yet, he chooses to spend his time with us, AVOYCE. He doesn’t earn much money at all, and he has to work with teenagers and do a lot of work for them. I really don’t understand this about Shawn at all, why would he pick such a low paying  job, when he could do something that pays a lot and is worth his while? He told me that this IS worth his while. And that if educating youth and training them to become leaders means that he wont get much money, then he’s willing to do that. Sometimes I still don’t understand why he does so much for us. He even buys us food and snacks. Basically, he taught me life isn’t all about money.

Shawn helped me understand life better from a new perspective. Since he’s also Asian, he understands all the things that an Asian teenager has to go through. Shawn’s the first adult I’ve ever had some sort of connection to. Whenever my parents do something that I that I think is weird, he explains to me why they do it. Like why they fight over the bill at restaurants, why they want me to do so well in school, why a lot of Asian children are expected to give their money to their parents when they get a job, etc. He taught me how to be humble, he also told me not to be so apologetic, how to be modest, but most of all he taught me that I have a voice in everything.

It upsets me that AVOYCE might end this year. AVOYCE without Shawn… I just can’t imagine it. Shawn’s getting a real job now and he’s trying to find one in Boston to stick around a bit longer but if he can’t then he’s going back to Cali. He helped me figure out how I identify myself and he helped me understand more about my identity. Whenever I’m upset or whenever I’m troubled, or when I’m in a sticky situation – Shawn would always give me a huge smile, and I’d smile back. Shawn said that even though he has a lot of skills, his best skill is smiling. He always smiles. At first it was really creepy, but now I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve also never seen Shawn mad or frustrated, he’s always calm to me.

I’m sad that Shawn has to leave so soon, because I haven’t even known Shawn for that long yet he’s influenced my life so much. Shawn doesn’t even KNOW he’s my role model but I’m pretty sure he knows I admire him in some way. But I guess I have to be glad that Shawn’s finally going after what he deserves and that he’s putting his skills to use. I understand that Shawn did his part in AVOYCE, he completed his role, just like Nanny McPhee did (see the connection?), he taught me how to be a better leader. But more than that, he taught me about life. So if there was ever a time where Shawn questioned how well he did as a youth coordinator, I hope this answers his question and I hope that he never doubts that he did a good job. He better be proud of himself for being able to be such a positive influence for a teen like me. And I can only hope that the leadership roles I take also make him proud of me as a person, because all I know how to repay him with is to let him know that all his hard work paid off. So if Shawn really does leave and all, I’d just like to say cheers, thanks for everything.

Metropolitan Youth

5th Annual Films at the Gate

For five nights every summer, a vacant lot near Boston’s Chinatown Gate becomes a free, outdoor theater, showing Kung-Fu and classic Chinese-language films. Films at the Gate is a collaborative project of Chinatown residents, Boston Street Lab, film curator Jean Lukitsh, and the Asian Community Development Corporation.

The series seeks to:

  • improve awareness of Boston’s Chinatown as a site of cultural activity
  • restore a tradition of shared, public experience of Chinese-language films in Chinatown
  • provide temporary community use of Chinatown’s underutilized spaces, draw foot-traffic to neighborhood restaurants, and make downtown Boston a destination beyond the working hours

The Asian Community Development Corporation is a founding sponsor and presenter of Films at the Gate. ACDC is a community-based organization serving the Asian American community of Greater Boston, with an emphasis on preserving and revitalizing Boston’s Chinatown.

The American Dream

1. What is the American dream?

The American Dream is to live in big house with luscious green grass surrounded by a white fence: where your mom may be in a huge kitchen and your dad polishing his car, while you are playing with your dog in the yard. You’re parents will have a steady income and life is good. This is the American dream that most people want to achieve.

Questions:

  1. What are the reasons for emigrating from a country?

In the South Philly High School where only 6.2% are Asian, as shown on their official website, while the dominant race is African-American of 61.2%. Everyday is just as bad: going to school they fear being beaten, going to class they fear being beaten, going to lunch they fear being beaten, going to the bathroom they fear being beaten, going home they fear being beaten, everywhere they go they feel paranoid. No one should be made to feel so unsafe and horrified that they become this paranoid. December 3, 2009 13 Asian students showed up in a hospital for treatment ranging from minor bruises to major wounds. Many avoided going to the hospital fearing the medical bill, which they can’t afford to pay. December 3, 50 Asian student refused to go to school for 2 weeks until the principal take responsibility to make the school safe and fair to immigrants. Dec. 3, a day to remember.

Those Asian students came to America in hope of a better place to live. To work hard to achieve this “American Dream” everyone has been talking about, just to find themselves treated the same or even worse in a place where students suppose to come to learn, not fight, in a place where friendly bonds are supposed to be made, not ridiculed, and in a place where adults are suppose to protect, not incite torments.

Questions:

  1. How do you feel about this situation?
  2. What would you do?

Bringing back the situation with me and the dentist, the things the dentist do I have no clue what he was doing and what it was for, even if I ask and he replies I’m not a dentist his talk is foreign to me so how do I respond, neither do I know anything about insurance and how it works and their little exceptions and such. If the dentist says the insurance covers it then well I believe him. I know not of the rules, laws, nor rights, which I am entitled to. Just as foreign as it was talking about insurance and dentist for me, it was just as foreign for those immigrant victims dealing with a completely new country, culture, environment and language. I can relate to them in some way but can only imagine what they must’ve felt everyday going to school.

The Superintendent Silverman promised to do something about it, and he did but the rules they made are not enforced nor told to the students. In March 31, 2010 2 brothers moved new to America attended South Philly High. They heard about Dec. 3 violence. Earlier that month two kids kicked the bathroom door as his brother was coming out cracking his head. The parents received an urgent call from their son. When they arrived at the school the school security turned them away while they struggled to explain their presence. After the boys told the School Reform Commision the parents were called back-they were there for two hours but never once saw the principal LaGreta Brown. In hearing about the Dec. 3 violence no faculty at that school even bothered to mention about the new policies for new immigrants or discussed about the safety plans in case of harassment. Instead this boy became another victim of the ongoing violence and negligence of school and district officials of South Philadelphia.

“Honey It’s Time For Dinner!”

Hey everyone! Wow I’m hungry. Who’s in the mood for some rice? I sure am. Well at least I was until I found out some nutritional facts about white rice. I eat white rice every day for dinner as it is with most Asian families. Well, white rice isn’t exactly as healthy as brown rice is. White rice is just like white bread; It’s high in carbohydrates and it’s low in fiber. White rice has less fiber and vitamins than brown rice, but is an excellent source of niacin and a moderate source of protein, thiamin and iron. So why do we eat so much rice then? Well, Asians eat a lot of rice because the crop is cultivated commonly in south east Asian countries. The tropical climate facilitates its growth. Also we like the fluffy texture compared to brown rice. It’s also a cultural thing, even though we live in the United States where there’s more to offer we still eat white rice, because that’s what our parents were used to eating in Asia.
So apart from rice, my family also commonly eats fish for dinner with our rice as well. Fish is actually pretty healthy for you though. Fish is high in protein and it’s not very fattening and isn’t high in calories. Well, it also depends on what kind of fish you eat. My parents always lecture me to eat lots of fish, so I assume that the kind that they buy is the kind without much mercury. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week, because fish are a great source of protein, vitamins, and nutrients. Fish are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which provide protection from heart disease and are great brain food for you.
Another common rule in Asian family dinners is not being allowed to drink during dinner. Some people say that it is because if you drink water, you will have no room for your meal. Also, some people believe that drinking water while eating will dilute the acids in their stomach and interfere with the breaking down of food, however, this is arguable.
So what about soy sauce? Well, soy sauce is actually good for your heart. According to recent studies, soy sauce is a good source of antioxidants. Like other foods, only have soy sauce in moderation and don’t drown your food in it. In a lot of Asian cultures, it is good to eat soy sauce but not too much soy sauce, because an Asian saying says that if you have too much soy sauce, you’ll get dark blemishes and your skin will turn black.
So who’s up for dinner? I sure am. So let’s settle down and pass the soy sauce around!

Steps for a Healthy Break-up

Many people go through relationships throughout their life time. A recent statistic shows that 89% of teens in America have been in dating relationships. Now if you’re anything like my friend, you would think that you are going to marry your high school sweet heart. I hate to break it to you, but less than 2% of high school sweet hearts actually end up getting married and not divorcing. This is a very small percentage compared to the 89% of teens that do get into relationships. This means that 87% of these teens are going to have to go through a break up. So for those of you who are going through a break up right now, or probably will some time in the future, here are some tips on how to get over your ex.

First of all, cut off all connections you had with your ex. This includes facebook, AIM, myspace, their phone number, you name it. This way you will be less tempted to contact your ex or keep tabs on them. There’s no reason for you to keep them on any of these social networks when you’re trying to get over them. Once you delete them, MAKE SURE you keep them deleted and don’t re add them, create accounts just to add them, or even use your friends or their accounts to check up on your ex.

Number 2, don’t be friends with your ex unless you are completely over them. A lot of exs try and stay friends straight after the break up, that’s not a good idea. If you stay friends with them straight after the break up, then how will you know if you are completely over them or not? Give yourself some space and take a break from them. Maybe in the future after you’re 100% sure that you’re over them then you guys can be friends.

Three, go hang out with your friends. Your friends are your support group and probably some time during your relationship you started drifting away from them. Now is a good time to catch up with them and spend some time with them. Go have fun, this is what your friends are for. Most importantly, when hanging out with your friends, don’t talk about your ex to them. They probably don’t care about him or her anyways and don’t like to listen to you talk about them. The less you talk about him or her, the easier it is to forget about them rather than continuing to keep them in your mind.

Lastly, stay positive and let time do its thing. Be patient, it’s probably going to take some time before you actually get over your ex. Keep in mind that there’s always next time, you’re still a teenager and you’re going to get into a lot of relationships before you actually get married. The average person falls in love seven times before actually getting married. Don’t rush to find your soul mate, you have the rest of your life to do that. If you follow all these tips then you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

APIA Month in Action

My first knowledge of Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) month came from A-VOYCE. It came up in a casual conversation with my youth coordinator and I remember I was quite surprised. Then I asked if there was a Hispanic heritage month as well. It also exists. I started wondering why I haven’t heard of these months at all. Then it hit me. The schools have always integrated black history month into their curriculum. However, both APIA and Hispanic heritage month were left in the dark. I was able learn about the NAACP and other knowledge regarding the civil rights movement.

What I considered to be one of the most important lessons I learned about in my time in A-VOYCE was about Vincent Chin while the documentary “Who killed Vincent Chin?”. His impact is what made many of the Asian organizations today. What I consider even more interesting is that his murder was after the Civil Rights movement. I am definitely aware that racism still exists, but not to such extremes even in the 1980s. What perplexes me is that the possible reason for murder was due to competition against the Japanese auto industry. This includes charity events in which people who donated were allowed to smash Japanese cars with blunt objects. However, the fact that one man’s death is able to bring together so many is what I find fascinating. Without Vincent Chin, there might not have been protest in the Vietnamese community after Hurricane Katrina or protest against the dilapidated state of the cemetery at Mount Hope.

Furthermore, this led me to research more. Yoshihiro Hattori and other Japanese exchange students who were killed shortly after was what altered gun laws with the Brady Bill passed in 1993. To me, Vincent Chin was the person who had the most influence on me for APIA month. With that said, I believe every heritage month should be celebrated equally in schools.

-Kevin Chan, Metropolitan Youth

Do you know what APIA Month is?

The Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) is a very diverse place- With many cultures, languages, and people.  We are very accepting of each others’ differences and we admire each others’ strengths.  However, I noticed something strange about the CRLS that I never really thought about before.   The school doesn’t celebrate or even take a moment to focus on Asian Pacific-Islander American Heritage Month. It’s not entirely the students’ faults, but neither is it the fault of the school.  May, which is APIA Month, is a very hectic month where Seniors in high school prepare for Finals and graduation.  I think it is important that everybody, not just Asians and Asian-Americans to learn about the history Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific-Islanders in America.  I actually went around my school and asked a few questions.  I asked:

“Do you know what APIA Month is?”  “Do you know what Black History Month is?”  “Do you know why it is important to celebrate Black History Month?”

Surprisingly, all, but one person I asked didn’t know what APIA Month was, yet they all knew what Black History Month was.  They said it was important to celebrate Black History Month because this way, past experiences can be avoided in the future and we can learn about the struggles that people had to go through.  And is this not the same for Asians?  Was the experience for Asians not horrible at all?  Were their plights not important or of any relevance?

People can learn more about Asian and Asian-American history by visiting Boston’s very own Chinatown, which is not just a place for food, drink, and clothing.  There are many murals placed on the walls of buildings.  There are still remnants of the past lingering in Chinatown, despite it modernizing and growing upwards and skywards.  Take time to learn about Asians and Asian-Americans because they’ve played a vital role in American history, such as with the Transcontinental Railroad or with the murder of Vincent Chin, something that people should really research on.  Justice is for everybody, it is not black and white.

Eric Tao, Oak Terrace Youth

How has A-VOYCE affected your life?

Today during A-VOYCE our Youth Coordinator, Shawn, announced to us that there was a possibility that A-VOYCE would end at the end of the summer. ACDC, the Asian Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing in Chinatown, can no longer fund this program, and we haven’t been able to get many grants. However, there is still a possibility that A-VOYCE may not be ending. Call me pessimistic, but I can’t seem to get my hopes up.

As a member for nearly three years, I have been spending most of my Saturdays at ACDC, hanging out, participating in the discussions, and of course, going on the radio. A-VOYCE has become part of my life, and I am greatly saddened that it might be ending. I always thought that I would continue with it until I graduated high school. The Winter Party, the Sushi-rama, Participatory Chinatown. This year has been eventful, but I wish I contributed more.

Today, in the Youth Council Meeting, we had a short discussion on how to approach this: we talked about merging with other Youth programs, holding a fundraiser, etc. But with the current economy and the fact that there are other programs, we didn’t divulge into it any further.

We still have next week’s meeting, where we will be wrapping up APIA Month with another documentary, and the BBQ the week after and then that’ll be it. The youth who signed up to work during the summer will work, but for the other youth, this might be it.

We have to face reality, and the truth is, everything has an end. I just wish that that end comes later. Never forget you have a voice, no matter what age, sex, ethnicity, or race. This is what A-VOYCE has taught me.

So tell me about your experiences. Your regrets. Your hopes.

How has A-VOYCE affected your life?

-Oak Terrace Youth

Workshop: A City Called Versailles

APIA Heritage Month is in full bloom! To commemorate, educate, and celebrate this month, the first A-VOYCE workshop for the month of May dealt with a film that was based around Asian Americans fighting against injustice.

I won’t describe the whole film to you, but to give a brief summary, it was about a Vietnamese Community claiming their presence in New Orleans. The residents’ story begins with their arrival, as refugees in a town (which they called Versailles). Then it shows their survival of hurricane Katrina and their protest against a landfill site placed 20 miles from their community.

To get a fuller synopsis go to the main site: http://avillagecalledversailles.com/story

There were a lot of themes that the film explored. The one I thought that impacted me the greatest was the struggle against having a landfill near their community. Everyday there are injustices done to ethnic minority communities. I thought that one of the reasons the city decided to put the landfill in that area was because the city thought the community would not protest. They assumed that because the Vietnamese Community of Versailles remained relatively quiet before, they were not part of the city, and therefore they could take advantage of them. I could relate when the movie talked about how there was a generation gap between the elders and the youth. I could also understand that there was a language barrier. When the youth united, led, and organized the protest, I felt that A-VOYCE could do the same. Seeing little old ladies carrying card board signs, youth speaking out, and a great diversity of people in the end merging together to celebrate their accomplishment, made my heart leap.

While watching it, I could see plenty of parallels between Chinatown and Versailles Arms Apartment. First being the fact that Chinatown also has faced many injustices such as the demolition of the Hudson Street residential buildings. Also, there was a youth group created to battle against the injustices and speak out for the community as the community’s voice. While we are called A-VOYCE, they were called VAYLA-NO (The Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans). Similar to how A-VOYCE has written Parcel 24 support letters to the mayor, VAYLA-NO wrote letters against the landfill to their New Orleans mayor. Also, during the film, the community created a plan for redevelopment they attempted to present to the mayor and the city. This scene reminded me of Participatory Chinatown’s goal, theme, and significance in aiding the Chinatown Master Plan. I recommend watching the film to see even more similarities.

Some of my favorite quotes I thought were extremely powerful were:

  • “30 years, everything is gone.”
  • “My homeland is described as where I live and die.”
  • “I’m so old, it doesn’t matter if I died.” (In context of the Katrina evacuation.)
  • “This is not Vietnamese, this is America.”

-Tai Tung Village Youth