Michelle Obama's First 100 Days

I'm not going to go into another wall-to-wall discussion about everything President Obama has done since coming to the White House like other bloggers, but I did want to give some shine to Lady O. Despite my indifferent views on her dress sense (that vomit green number she wore on Inauguration Day...) and getting criticized for "molesting" Queen Elizabeth II last month, Mrs. Obama has come through the fire, and is now even more popular than her husband.

My only disappointment is with the media, which seems to focus so much on what she is wearing, are missing the real story about a woman who came from a modest background and went on to become a successful power-broker in her career path.

From Wikipedia:

Following law school, she was an associate at the Chicago office of the law firm Sidley Austin, where she first met her future husband. At the firm, she worked on marketing and intellectual property. Subsequently, she held public sector positions in the Chicago city government as an Assistant to the Mayor, and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. She worked there nearly four years and set fundraising records for the organization that still stood a dozen years after she left.

In 1996, she served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University's Community Service Center. In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs and, beginning May 2005, as Vice President for Community and External Affairs. She continued to hold the University of Chicago Hospitals position during the primary campaign, but cut back to part time in order to spend time with her daughters as well as work for her husband's election; she subsequently took a leave of absence from her job. According to the couple’s 2006 income tax return, Michelle's salary was $273,618 from the University of Chicago Hospitals, while her husband had a salary of $157,082 from the United States Senate. The total Obama income, however, was $991,296 which included $51,200 she earned as a member of the board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, and investments and royalties from his books.

She served as a salaried board member of TreeHouse Foods, Inc., a major Wal-Mart supplier with whom she cut ties immediately after her husband made comments critical of Wal-Mart at an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 14, 2007. She serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Damn, she was even getting paid more than her husband! How many men would be "secure" with that?

I am even glad to see that she is taking on food justice initiatives!

But best of all, it is great that she is also changing stereotypes.

From CNN:

Heather Ferreira works in the slums of Mumbai, India, where she has watched thousands of women live under a "curse."

The women she meets in the squalid streets where "Slumdog Millionaire" was filmed are often treated with contempt, she says. They're considered ugly if their skin and hair are too dark. They are deemed "cursed" if they only have daughters. Many would-be mothers even abort their children if they learn they're female.

Yet lately she says Indian women are getting another message from the emergence of another woman thousands of miles away. This woman has dark skin and hair. She walks next to her husband in public, not behind. And she has two daughters. But no one calls her cursed. They call her Michelle Obama, the first lady.

"She could be a new face for India," says Ferreira, program officer for an HIV-prevention program run by World Vision, an international humanitarian group. "She shows women that it's OK to have dark skin and to not have a son. She's quite real to us."


Black, Green and the Economy

Brentin Mock, one of my colleagues at the IJJ fellowship brought to my attention this great article in The Root regarding the green movement in the black community.

From The Root:

For blacks, the green movement has been primarily about bad things dumped in our neighborhoods. But health-based activism is no longer enough. Today’s black and green movement must be about jobs and economic sustainability....

...But that largely defensive, health-based environmentalism is no longer enough—if it ever was. President Obama has raised the stakes considerably by inextricably tying his massive economic agenda to the sustainability movement. And when you follow the links, the consequences of that decision are clear-black America's future might just depend upon its ability to paint its politics green.

Obama likes to point out that he's not the first president who's had to create a whole new economy. It remains to be seen whether his effort will as profoundly impact American life as Abraham Lincoln's railroad or FDR's GI Bill, but the audacious president hasn't been shy about his aspirations. "History reminds us," he thundered in his February address to Congress, "that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas."..

...Nearly a quarter of black households live below the poverty line, a share that is probably growing. In February, black unemployment hit a whopping 13.4 percent, nearly double the rate for whites. A generations-long gap in homeownership is widening as blacks and Latinos-who were clearly targeted with subprime lending and often steered away from more affordable loans-are poised to lose billions and absorb an estimated half of the nation's wealth loss from foreclosures. Even the auto industry collapse looks likely to hurt black working families the most.

So what does a green economy look like? Green Jobs for All has begun sketching out a clear answer to that question (and, not for nothing, its founding CEO Van Jones is Obama's new green jobs adviser). First, you have to understand the potential: Green jobs aren't just high-tech, they're everything from new building trades such as installing solar panels to revamped old-school ones such as putting in insulation. Like manufacturing was to the 20th century, they're jobs that don't require college degrees but nonetheless generate middle-class wages...

President Obama brought up yesterday during his various media appearances that America needs to prepare the next generation in careers in the sciences, math and technology in order to stay competitive in the global economy. In order to ensure all Americans have access to these career opportunities, training will need to made available and resources are distributed equally.

It is also great to see people of color like Van Jones and Sonal Shah leading the discussion on the green economy and social innovation respectively.

I am looking forward to discussing this as the months go on.



09NTC lessons for Online organizers

The 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference concluded yesterday, and there was a nuanced energy about how the nonprofit sector can use new media to bring social change. "Community organizing" became popular, yet controversial during Barack Obama's presidential campaign. As new media played a large role in Obama winning the White House, many 09NTC attendees came to learn about using the virtual energy from Obama's campaign and bridging some of the core principals of community organizing into online organizing.

One of those hopeful online organizers was Tika Giday, a Ethiopian nonprofit health advocate, who was given admission to the conference by a friend who registered and couldn't attend last minute. Giday said that she was happy to have the opportunity to attend 09NTC by chance to meet with other nonprofit technies about digital activism, and was looking forward to using her skills when she gets back to Addis Ababa.

"I am so blessed to come to a technology conference in America now because in Africa, everyone is happy to see Barack win the presidency," Giday said. "We are very impressed with the way he used online media tools, and I am here to learn from other activists and their best practices of political and social activism online."

Giday went to two workshops that addressed the online "Obama effect;" one of which was called "Online Organizing for Community Organizers." The workshop was lead by Charles Lenchner of the Working Famiies Party, who has an extensive background using online organizing for many political and environmental organizations, including Democracyinaction.org, Change.org and MoveOn.org. Giday also went to another workshop that featured Michael Silberman of EchoDitto and Anne Marie Ashburn of the New Organizing Institute. Silberman worked on Howard Dean's presidential campaign, while Ashburn was a Obama campaign field organizer in Chicago last year, who switched over to training campaign staff on using new media tools.

Giday wrote down some notable quotes from the panelists in these workshops, which include the following:

“Anyone can start a Facebook cause, but it is another thing to mobilize the people joining the cause.”

“You can’t separate the mission of the organization from the tools used to reach the goal of the mission.”

“You have to be clear about your social mission”

"Email addresses are people too!"

"Be an active listener of what your online constituency wants and what they will give to your cause."

"Treat people respectfully online, especially if you want them to support your causes."

“It is important for online organizers to mobilize supporters to do real world actions.”

Before the conference, Giday said she didn't feel sure she could be a digital activist. However, three days later, she feels more confident about going back to Ethiopia and training others about being onling organizers. In the next few days, she would like to start her own Facebook and Twitter accounts in preparing of a digital activism she wants to do.

"I have even purchased a Flip camera, and I would like to record the many injustices in my community and share them with the world online," Giday continued. "Maybe Mr Obama will see my videos!"

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Swine flu and tech life

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last two days, you should know that the world is being invaded by yet another health emergency - swine flu.

From CDC:

How common is swine flu infection in humans?
In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported.
What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?

The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

Nonetheless, most people these days are not going to go to the CDC website to find information on this crisis.

From CNN:

Of the swine flu news on Twitter, Tompkins said, "Bad news always travels faster than good news. I'm sure that was true in smoke signal days."

Unofficial swine flu information on Twitter may lead people to unwise decisions, said Evgeny Morozov, a fellow at the Open Society Institute and a blogger on ForeignPolicy.com.

For example, some Twitter users told their followers to stop eating pork, he said. Health officials have not advised that precaution. Read about how the virus is transmitted

Morozov said there's incentive for Twitter users to post whatever is on their mind because it helps them grow their online audiences.

But in an emergency, that tendency means people write about their own fears of symptoms and widespread deaths, which can create an uninformed hysteria, he said.

Coincidentally, I was having a conversation with someone here at the 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference about whether or not cities around the United States will become ghost towns, just like Mexico City in light of the illness. We happen to be leaving a workshop on cloud computing, and if a declared national emergency would require Americans to stay home, they would still be able to work virtually.

While cloud computing is the hot thing for employees who like telecommuting, are virtual offices a good thing for public health?

It has been proven that telecommuters are less likely to take sick days and be more productive due to good health, but there are also other benefits of cloud computing I learn about in the workshop that are also good for the employer.

What is good about Cloud Computing:

• No infrastructure: any web browser get you access
• Open: Internet standards and web services allow you to "mash" up clouds
• Quick Start: autonomic provisioning…try before your buy
• It costs less
• Flexibility: scale up and down to your organization’s needs; spend more time working on the mission of the organization
• Choice: you choose what apps and services you need as opposed to a vender deciding
• Capacity: skills and capacity needed are close to your mission
• Security: higher investment in state of the art security
• Upgrade: not a project, but rather automated behind the scenes
• Ongoing investment

What is bad (perceived) about Cloud Computing

• Worries about what happens to information after a vendor goes out of business
• Security of business information online
• No personal interaction with coworkers; no social interaction

If President Obama is serious about tech innovation while dealing with the growing number of health outbreaks, there would be no surprise if he were to ask Americans to think more seriously about working in the "clouds."

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09NTC Science Fair Highlights

One of the big highlights at the Nonprofit Technology Conference is the Science Fair, where tech vendors get a chance to show off their latest and greatest products and services.

Here are some vendors of note:


• Provides audio and web conferencing tools to nonprofits
• According to ReadyTalk’s brochure, they deliver “a service that is easy to use, highly available and backed by our friendly expert support staff.”
• This is part of the “cloud computing” revolution, where you can meet anytime, anywhere, while generating more qualified leads for less
• Plus, its economically and green; you “save money and travel less with web meetings”


• Simple website management tool for nonprofit folks with little to no IT experience
• According to Gulo’s postcard, it “offers organizations powerful, yet intuitive website publishing at an affordable monthly price”
• “Edit content right from your browser, and use virtually any design or layout”
• New media friendly – “publish search engine-friendly content, and maintain a calendar, blog and RSS feeds”


• Online backup for nonprofit professionals
• According to Mozy’s flyer, it is “the trusted leader in online backup, save you time and money with simple, secure and affordable backup solutions that allows you to focus on your organization’s future”
• “Manage multi-user environments from the convenience of a web-based administrative console”
• “Backup solutions start at less than $5 per month, with no setup fees, no hardware to purchase, and little management required”

Amazon Payments

• With the millions of people who use Amazon.com to buy almost everything these days, the company has created “an easy-to-use and secure way for US-based, IRS-certified 501c3 nonprofit organizations to collect donations” using their Amazon.com accounts, according to its flyer
• “Easy to configure, cut-and-paste HTML code (and buttons) for collecting donations”
• “Flexibility to set a fixed, minimum or donor-determined donation amount; also accepts micropayments or micro-donations…as small as $1.00 while enjoying Amazon Payments’ low price for transactions less than $10”
• How it works – “set up your account, place Amazon Simple Pay Donations button on your website, donors donate by clicking Amazon Simple Pay Donations button and Amazon transfers donations to you” - simple

The economy and tech access

Live blogging from 09NTC

I am here in San Francisco for the 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference, and the economic downturn has taken its toll on the nonprofit tech/communications world. Specifically, there was a lot of talk yesterday about how President Obama’s stimulus package will make an impact in bringing broadband access to disadvantaged communities.

In a workshop on community technology, one person said regarding the stimulus package that “there is a big pot of money for broadband, and in that pot, money for community technology.” Some folks believe that the discussions of the digital divide and Internet literacy are now back on the table.

“If you are going to have broadband, you have to have training too.”

More to come on this topic

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Going Back to Cali!

I am traveling to California the next two weeks!

Doing the trip, I will be attending 09NTC to tune up my tech skills. Following that I will also start my fellowship in LA.

Of course, I will be seeing many of you for consults!

I will be blogging my adventures. See you in Cali!

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Ruby Maddox Fisher on Urban sustainability

Happy belated Earth day! I was going through the my"Film Archives" on my computer, and found this footage I actually took last month because of I wanted to post this in honor International Women's Day.

Ruby Maddox-Fisher is the co-founder and past director of Gardening the Community (GtC), a youth-centered, community based, urban agriculture program in Springfield, MA. GtC grows organic frutis and vegetables on formerly abandoned lots while learning about and practicing agriculture, environmental stewardship and community development. She talks about the impact her nonprofit has made in the community regarding environmental justice.


US Couple raise funds for child health online

Dealing with the loss of a child can be devastating for any family. US TV reporter and media consultant Amani Channel and his wife Daphne lost their firstborn twin sons hours after their birth three years ago. They made a video documenting the pregnancy and shared it with the world, hoping to raise awareness and funds for March of Dimes, a leading nonprofit on pregnancy and baby health. Using social media, the Channels hope to use their own experience to not only raise funds, but to also provide support to other families going through the same ordeal.

On the first and second anniversaries of the twins' birth, Amani sent out an unofficial email blast and blogged to friends and family, asking to donate to the organization. Through those efforts, they raised $US550.00. This year, Amani and Daphne decided to step up their efforts, and raise an official amount of money -$US 5,000.

"I used several different methods to raise money, but each was related and used social media as the focal point," Amani said in an email interview. "I revised a video that I produced, and put it on my blog. I also Twittered about the March of Dimes and the twins for about four hours on Friday April 17 through Sunday April 19. To date we're raised $1,300.00 total, and it seems each day someone is adding to the pot."

So far, there has been both financial and emotional impact. Amani said that repeatedly talking about it on Twitter, posting the video on Facebook, and his blog, and his enewsletter have helped.

"Success can be measured a few ways," Amani continued. "First, the amount of donations that have come in. In less than a week we were able to more than double the amount we had raised in more than two years. I think overall awareness is another way. Some of those who donated said they never thought to support the March of Dimes, so our efforts have helped raised the visibility of the charity. Also, our story has helped other families who have experienced something similar. We've heard from friends, and strangers who say everything we're doing is an inspiration."

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Hugo's Book Club

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should seriously consider starting up a book club.

From BBC News:

A book which the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez presented to US President Barack Obama at the Americas summit has become a bestseller in just two days.

The book, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, was ranked 54,295 on the sales charts of bookseller Amazon.com.

Now, it has risen to number two.

Written by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, the book looks at the impact of foreign intervention in Latin America in the past five centuries.

It covers the continent's conquest by the Spanish nearly 500 years ago right up to the present day.

President Chavez presented his American counterpart with the book, a favourite of leftists, on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad on Saturday.

For real, Chavez could make a killing doing this for a living. Like Oprah Winfrey is for fabricated memoirs, Chavez could be the literary bellwether for books on radical politics. As you may recall from three years ago, he promoted Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, which also made the top of many bestselling lists.

Here are a couple of books I would recommend for his list, both are relative to current affairs:

Managing Mexico: Economists from Nationalism to Neoliberalism by Sarah Babb

The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World by Vijay Prashad

You all can throw in your suggestions too!

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Jamaica on my mind...

How is it that my home country Jamaica only makes the news when ish goes down?

From Jamaica Gleaner:

...The gunman who hijacked a chartered flight at the Montego Bay Airport has been identified as Stephen Fray, a Jamaican man in his early 20s who is said to be mentally ill.

A release from the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) said that at approximately 6:40 am today "members of the Jamaica Defence Force Counter Terrorism Operations Group entered the cabin of the aircraft and effected a tactical resolution authorized by the incident commando and in the process disarmed and arrested the gunman who has been identified as Stephen Fray from a Montego Bay address while rescuing the other hostages on board...

Well, I'm just glad this didn't happen while President Obama was in T&T, because you know the Secret Service would have blown apart anything that looked suspect in three shakes.

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Online activists bring Shell to trial

Royal Dutch Shell is the second largest private sector energy corporation in the world. Shell started business in Nigeria in 1937 as Shell D’Arcy, and petroleum production in the West African nation accounts for 40 percent of revenue today for the company. However, the native Ogoni people of the Niger Delta have complained for many years that not only have they not reaped the benefits of the oil riches in the area, but also environmental injustices caused by Shell's practices have devastated the region. The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, led briefly by famed environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa in the 1990s, has campaigned rigorously against Shell, but next month, the oil giant will stand trial in a United States federal court to answer to charges of human rights abuses. Online activists are using this opportunity to shed light on this matter.

Human rights group Shell=Guilty recently launched a Facebook group to educate the public about ongoing human and environmental abuses in the Niger Delta, and to seek support for a soon-to-be-announced campaign initiative.

The group is asking Shell to:

* Stop gas flaring in Nigeria, a practice devastating to the environment and human health, and a significant contributor to global warming.

* Disclose its role in the abuses committed against the Ogoni people in Nigeria, including the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9.

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Somalia, beyond pirates

Speaking of Somalia...

Dan Eldonwas a Reuters photographer who was killed in Mogadishu in 1993 by rebel forces in Somalia. He is one of the reasons I became a journalist. He used his photos and art for social change, and for this, I honor him.

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Ethnic Media Fellowships Announced!

Congratulations are in order for myself and nine other enterprising journalists.

From McCormick Media Matters:

Ten journalists have been chosen by USC Annenberg’s Institute for Justice and Journalism (IJJ) to take part in an MF-funded fellowship program that will help them report on the complexities of urban environmental justice with clarity, depth and context.

The selected Fellows all work for ethnic media or are independent journalists who cover issued related to racial justice. The 10 Fellows are:

Edwin Buggage, editor-in-chief/writer, New Orleans Data News Weekly
Lori Edmo-Suppah, news editor, Sho-Ban News, Fort Hall, Idaho
Nadra Kareem, contributing writer, L.A. Watts Times, Los Angeles
Kari Lyderson, independent journalist, Chicago
Brentin Mock, writing fellow, The American Prospect, Washington, D.C.
Julio Cesar Ortiz, news reporter, KMEX-34 (Univision), Los Angeles
Fabiola Pomareda, reporter, La Raza newspaper, Chicago
Devin Robins, radio producer, Los Angeles
Huascar Robles, arts and culture editor, Metro San Juan, Puerto Rico
Talia Whyte, freelance journalist, Boston

The program will be divided into two parts: First the reporters and their editors will go through five days of intensive training and site visits in Los Angeles in May, to be followed by a similar segment in Chicago later this summer. The work they produce as a result of the fellowship will be posted on IJJ’s web site following the program at http://www.justicejournalism.org.



No brownie points for Barney Frank

It's about time someone took on these politicians. Barney Frank would have been better served if he didn't come off so defensive.

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Moldovans "break tweets" with government protest

If you love Twitter, and use it as one of your main sources of getting breaking news, it might be time for you to bookmark Breaking Tweets on your computer/mobile phone. Created by DePaul University grad student Craig Kanalley, Breaking Tweets is a breaking news service that intergrates Twitter and traditional media outlets on event coverage. According to BeatBlogging, Breaking Tweets editors "write a one or two paragraph explanatory intro about the story, then come the tweeters, who send opinions, analysis and eyewitness media. Editors cull the best and most insightful tweets from the bunch, as well as occasionally interjecting with their own updates." This tool has also come in handy recently to help digital activists in Moldova.

Nearly 10,000 protesters in the former Soviet state protested its Communisty government Tuesday using the hashtag #pman on Twitter to rally Moldovans as well as allow others around the world to get updates. Breaking Tweets wrote a summary about the protest and posted the most insighful tweets representing the events.

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Twitter: The New Journalism, Part 2

Believe it or not, citizen journalism didn't just start recently with blogs and Facebook. The Independent Media Center (IMC) was established in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage to the Seattle WTO protests. IMC has since become an international "network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth." Nowadays, the network is also using new media tools to report the unreported. Today's Financial Fool's Day protests in London once again spotlights how IMC still reigns in digital activism.

With world leaders in London for the special Group of Twenty (G20) meeting to discuss the global economic downturn, protesters in Trafalgar Square provided news about the protests throught text messages and Twitter. Some tweets looked like this from ur32daurt: "Police are section 41ing pple cos of riots elsewhere.helicopters overhead.traffic been blocked 4 an hour" and from panda_power: "Riot police have just enetered the camp with raised batons. Ppl chanting 'this is not a riot", campers still peaceful." Some reporters are also posting pictures from the day's events.

Later in the evening, there were reports from the police published in the mainstream media that a protester died after collasping; however, Indymedia London said it can not confirm this information. Protesters with any information are asked to contact Indymedia London dispatch and the legal team at Bindmans Solicitors on 02078334433 to clarify the circumstances of this death.

Join IMC Reporting: 07588 479 039: Voice / SMS / MMS 08444 870 157: Audio recording for publishing Twitter: add hashtag #imcg20 in your message (more info) Mobile: get (((i)))mobile

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