Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Great news: Kayla got into all her desired colleges!

"My high school counselor said I wouldn't get accepted into any of the schools I applied to, but I got accepted into all of them 👊."

This was 18-year-young Kayla Harrell's Facebook post on March 23, 2016. Since then, close to 100 people have liked -- or reacted to -- it in some way, and the post has more than 20 supportive comments and a few shares. 

While the excitement of her success is elevating, the high school senior remembers when the discussions with her counselor about college brought her down.

"I kind of believed her," Kayla told Nessessary Daily News during an exclusive interview, adding that her counselor told her in January that her grades were not good enough for her to gain acceptance into the three schools she applied to. "I was like, 'I'm just gonna hope that I get into these schools anyway.'"

And she did. Not only did Kayla get accepted to Forbes list's George Fox University in Oregon, Southern California's Vanguard University, and Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts, but she has also been offered hefty scholarships to two of those three schools.

"It was because of my talent," said Kayla, who plays and wants to continue studying classic guitar in college. "Your school may try to make you think it's all about your grades. But really, [colleges] want to know who you are, what your work ethic is.

"Things happen throughout high school, throughout middle school -- you're not always in the best place," she continued. "Schools understand that.

"It's OK to fall and come back."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

To vote or not to vote: Arguments for and against the ballot

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on March 25, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been edited accordingly.

Last week, we covered the topic of voter apathy -- specifically sharing that while there are reports about the mainstream American public not fully participating in its electoral rights, the Vietnamese-American community largely exercises its vote. We also pointed out that the leading presidential candidates’ campaigns that are galvanizing American voters this year do not seem to be aligned with the Vietnamese-American community’s interests.

We raise a question then: If none of the leading presidential candidates seem worthy of the Vietnamese-American vote, will the community that turned out in large numbers in 2012 do the same this year? Should members of the community even vote for the next president if there is not a viable candidate to choose?

To help us with our dilemma, we offer some arguments for and against voting this year.

Against voting

In a Waking Times article published last week, contributor Stephen Parato laid out the case for not voting, sharing that he is not going to vote this year because he does not want to comply with a “broken system.”

“I choose not to vote, not out of ignorance, nor out of apathy (actually quite the opposite), but out of noncompliance with a broken, fundamentally corrupt and laughably ineffective system,” Parato wrote. “If given the choice between stabbing myself with a knife or stabbing myself with a fork, I would choose neither (after questioning why I would even stab myself in the first place).
“We shape society based on our daily actions, not by hoping someone else will come and save us.”
Delving more deeply into his reasoning, Parato wrote that the system is corrupt because the U.S. government is basically controlled by big banks, and U.S. lawmakers are nothing more than “lapdogs” for big business. Rather than support such a system, he opts to use the “power of noncompliance” by peacefully resisting the vote. Instead of voting, he urges, Americans can work  to create real changes within themselves before seeking a cure for their woes from the outside.
“We’ve been focusing all of our energy on external authority figures for so long that we can’t even fathom what the world would look like if we all stepped into our inherent power,” Parato said. “And that is exactly what needs to happen for any real change to take place.”
For voting
Unlike Parato, Sara AbiBoutros -- a Queens, New York-based community coordinator, activist and law student we interviewed for an article on the importance of open, public space earlier this month -- believes “voting is a real threat to those in power”; and if the right people are voted into office, social and political change can be enacted.
“The laws that politicians pass really do have an impact on our day-to-day life,” AbiBoutros told the Viet Tide recently, adding that these laws can be life-altering -- as is the case with laws governing abortions and rent increases -- or not so much, like laws that provide free lunch in public schools. “If having the right to vote was not a powerful tool, then those in power would not try to take it away from us.”

Though, showing some understanding for views against voting, AbiBoutros said that plenty of people feel as though voting is pointless because the people being elected are not truly committed to social and political change. Yet, it’s difficult for well-intentioned politicians to pass progressive laws because of the way the U.S. system of government works. This can be disheartening and lead to people becoming apathetic and disinterested in politics as they feel their voices are not being heard, regardless of who they vote for.

But this election, people are not going silent, AbiBoutros continued, adding that the same fervor was present during President Barack Obama’s first election in 2008.

“Eventually people get tired of the status quo and start to raise their voice so loud that it's impossible not to hear it,” she said. “It's the people who organize and are actively putting pressure on politicians to push a progressive agenda.

“[The people] are the real champions of social and political change.”

Friday, March 18, 2016

Is 2016 the year of voter resurgence? What this could mean for the Vietnamese-American community

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on March 18, 2016. It was written by Ness White and has been edited accordingly.


The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were jokes to political pundits and junkies last year. This year, the mainstream media has begun to take these jokes seriously, as they could dramatically change not just the outcome but the mood of the 2016 presidential elections.

While business mogul Trump is the frontrunning Republican candidate and independent U.S. Sen. Sanders is running as a Democrat, the support these two polar opposites have gained appears to show that a growing portion of the right and left bases are fed up with the political establishment. As such, this could be the year voter turnout surges, as Americans seek to keep establishment candidates -- notably Hillary Clinton, former
Democratic secretary of state under President Barack Obama -- out of the White House.

For example, in the March 8 Michigan Primaries -- where Trump and Sanders gained the most votes for their parties -- 2.5 million voters cast their ballots. This is the highest voter turnout in Michigan primary history. Both candidates have been reported to draw record crowds at their campaign rallies; and Sanders has raised the most individual campaign contributions, while Trump has been reported to be responsible for a revolution among Republicans, having created a spike in voter turnout for the party this campaign season.

The Viet Tide has reported on low voter turnout in the past, particularly during its 2014 midterm elections coverage. Specifically, the magazine shared that some 36 percent of voters nationwide made it to the polls during the general elections in November that year. Historically, midterm elections years -- when only local, statewide and congressional elections are held -- tend to have lower voter turnout than presidential elections years.

However, even during the 2012 presidential elections voter turnout was considered problematic nationwide, and particularly for states like California and Texas -- where a large portion of our readership resides. Part of what has been called voter apathy in the mainstream and even alternative media has been attributed to the promises President Obama made during the 2008 campaign cycle, but never actualized.

“Ignoring the fact that Obama was always a well-marketed corporate candidate with moderate conservative (neoliberal) positions, a lot of people got their hopes up that he might be different,” political writer Tim Hjersted wrote in a Films For Action article this month. “It's understandable people don't want to get their hopes up again.

“It's not surprising that so many people say the game is rigged and elections are pointless.”

At least, this has been the story for mainstream Americans. But for the Vietnamese-American community, things might be different.

For example, according to a 2013 National Asian American Survey report, Vietnamese-American voter turnout was at 81 percent nationwide during the 2012 presidential elections, higher than the national average of 57.5 percent. Vietnamese Americans also supported President Obama over rival and former Republican Massachusetts gov. Mitt Romney by 61 percent -- again, higher than the national percentage of 51 percent.

Remembering a history of political repression in Vietnam, Vietnamese Americans perhaps see voting differently than the average mainstream American. While voter apathy for a mainstream voter might seem an appropriate response to a feeling that one’s voice doesn’t matter, this does not appear to be the case for voters in the Vietnamese-American community.

But the far-left and far-right leading candidates who are galvanizing the mainstream American public do not seem to hold Vietnamese Americans’ best interest. For example, the Viet Tide has reported that Trump’s immigration proposal released last year and his rhetoric during much of his campaign has been highly anti-immigrant -- which could impact the Vietnamese-American community that is among the largest foreign-born Asian-American communities. Sanders, on the other hand, has been described as a Democratic socialist, which might conjure up images of the very political concept Vietnamese Americans escaped when fleeing Vietnam.

In essence, what might be driving forces for the mainstream American vote this year could be something of a threat to the Vietnamese-American vote. Further, if Vietnamese-American voters do not back Trump or Sanders, would they put their weight behind Clinton?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Gather around: An important elections topic is not being addressed

This article was originally published on March 4, 2016,  in the Viet Tide. It was written by Ness White. It has since been updated and edited accordingly.


During my nearly one year of 2016 presidential elections coverage, I have reported for the Viet Tide on many issues -- from immigration, the economy and wars abroad to trade deals, race issues and gun control. However, I have been made aware that there is an important issue that has not been discussed -- an issue that greatly impacts the public on a collective scale.

Sara AbiBoutros, a Queens, New York-based community coordinator, activist and law student, told the Viet Tide that the use of public and private space is not a "sexy" topic and does not resonate with the American public. As such, mainstream candidates are not likely to talk about it much -- if at all.

"To make the connection about how the dichotomy between public and private space impacts their lives is not so simple," she said. "There is a connection, but when people are worrying about how they are going to pay their rent next month and things like that, the issue doesn't seem so relevant."

But to  readers paying attention to national news, mainstream or otherwise, the issue of public and private space might be considered an important one. Not only are there racial, environmental, labor, pro- and anti-immigration, and anti-war protests happening throughout the country, there are also protests against the potential Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement -- which involves the U.S., Vietnam and 10 other countries, and has been criticized for its possibility to increase human rights abuses, despite the jobs and economic boost it is projected to encourage. Public space is considered to make these protests possible, to make space available to the public so people can voice their concerns and grievances. It can assist in bringing about change.

AbiBoutros said that the use of public space has a long history in various social movements throughout U.S.
history. In a graduate paper she had published in the CUNY Law Review, "The Issue is not the Issue," she
detailed some of this history, specifically focusing on the 1960s Free Speech Movement (FSM) and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. In both instances, public space was used as a medium to address social issues that were largely being ignored in the national mainstream discussion, and in both instances the public spaces being used were violently targeted by the government and private institutions that sought to squash the public discourse -- especially as that discourse was directed at their institutions.

"The use of public space was critical for both movements to create a confrontation in which society could no
longer ignore the systemic issues plaguing the country," AbiBoutros, who participated in the OWS movement, wrote. "By centering their issues around public space, the FSM and OWS were able to gain political victories, but most importantly they were able to foster a sense of community.

"Without a space for people to come together, it would be impossible to engage with one another, to plan, and to make our civil disobedience visible to the public."

Although mainstream candidates have not focused on the issue of public and private space, AbiBoutros said that of the candidates running, Republican frontrunner and business mogul Donald Trump is the most likely to support reducing public space to expand private space, as he is pro-big business and a land developer whose rhetoric is "public space [is] disposable for the right price, or any price for that matter." While AbiBoutros did not specifically say that Democratic candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders would support the expanding of public space, she did mention that his rhetoric is similar to what OWS focused on: one percent of the population accumulates the wealth in the U.S., while 99 percent of the population's economic situation remains stagnant.

Added to the probability that mainstream candidates will not likely discuss public and private space this
elections cycle, the mainstream media is not likely to bring it up either. AbiBoutros said that the media seems to view social media presence as more important than physical presence. Not only is everything analyzed by
polling, she said, but if someone wants their viewpoint recognized, they have to sign an online petition or be
part of a poll. Mainstream media outlets, she continued, will show clips of Tweets and have entire discussions about them.

"All of this has had a negative impact on the importance of public space and the use of it because when the
[public] space is not being used, governments and private entities will try to take it away,"AbiBoutros said.
"Before the internet existed, people took to the streets.

"The use of public space to peacefully assemble is essential to the success of any social movement fighting for social justice."