What Will You Do When They Start Rounding Us Up?

What Will You Do When They Start Rounding Us Up?

“We can’t be afraid.  We go on and do what we always do and ‘echale ganas’ (give it your all).  That’s all we can do.” This is what my mom told me after California voters approved Prop. 187, a draconian law that required various state and local agencies to report persons suspected of being undocumented and barred undocumented immigrants from basic public services like education and health. It was 1994, I was 13 years old, undocumented, and fearful for my and my family’s future. My mom’s simple message of perseverance and not giving up helped me overcome my fear and contributed to me becoming the first person in my family…
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Awakening the Equitable Innovator

Awakening the Equitable Innovator

Research and innovation for a sustainable and equitable world In last month’s issue of Wired Magazine, President Obama urged artificial intelligence (AI) researchers to embrace moral responsibilities and explore issues such as diversity, job loss, wealth gaps, and generally keeping this powerful innovation in the hands of “good.” In the same article, Joi Ito of MIT expressed his concern that AI has been primarily driven by a “predominantly male gang of kids, mostly white… who are more comfortable talking to computers than to human beings [and prefer not] to worry about all the messy stuff like politics and society.” In one of several Star Trek references made throughout the interview, Ito…
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“Do You Think They Know?”

“Do You Think They Know?”

It is a Saturday night and I’m at the Atlanta Hilton standing at the door of the Crystal Ballroom. I stand watching 100+ people of color and social justice activists dance and sway to the music, living. And I think to myself “Do you think they know?” It is a few days after the election and I’m at the Facing Race conference, a conference dedicated to the racial and social justice movement. Workshops titled “Raza Que Raza: The State of Latinx Racial Justice” and “Keys to Interrupting the Impact of Implicit Bias” occupy my time. I hear speakers remind me of Audre Lorde’s statement “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle…
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An Open Letter to My Fellow Greenliners

An Open Letter to My Fellow Greenliners

I’d like to share my thoughts about the election. It’s 9:00 a.m. on election day 2016, so clearly I’m writing this before any results are in.  This blog post isn’t about the candidates or control of the Senate or what happens next.  It’s about you, my coworkers at Greenlining—the most incredible group of folks that I’ve ever worked with. My perspective on the world was – like everyone – formed by my family, my faith, my education, and my experiences.  Those factors shaped me into a person who is passionate about justice and equity, angry enough to want to do something about it and too stubborn to give up. As…
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Low Income People and People of Color Must Stand Up to Big Tobacco

Low Income People and People of Color Must Stand Up to Big Tobacco

Cigarettes kill. That’s a fact. Not only does cigarette smoking heavily affect users’ health, but also affects non-users’, as exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to serious health complications. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion a year… – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cigarette smoking deteriorates the collective health of us all. Here’s the good news: Awareness of the negative health impacts of cigarette smoking has tremendously increased in the United States. And with it came a decrease in cigarette consumption and cigarette-caused illnesses…
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Uber and the Tech Economy Have a Discrimination Problem

Uber and the Tech Economy Have a Discrimination Problem

Earlier this week, researchers from three top universities reported new research indicating that ride-hailing companies have a discrimination problem, producing piles of negative press for these firms. According to Bloomberg’s report on the study, “Drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. in Boston canceled rides for men with black-sounding names more than twice as often as for other men. Black people in Seattle using Uber and Lyft Inc. faced notably longer wait times to get paired with drivers than white customers.” In fairness to the companies, they have expressed concern about these findings, and it’s important to note that it seems to be individual drivers engaging in discrimination, not the companies themselves. That said, nothing…
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Leadership Development — What Helped Me Should Be Available to All

Leadership Development — What Helped Me Should Be Available to All

I started my first semester at the University of California, Berkeley this fall, and being here is a tremendous privilege. As a first-generation student of color, attending one of the world’s most prestigious universities seemed very unlikely and out of my reach due to the lack of resources within my community.  Overall, young people who look like me have a higher chance of dropping out of high school, being incarcerated, or maybe even killed after being profiled and assumed to be dangerous. I could have been just another statistic. So, how is it that I made it to one of the world’s most prestigious universities despite the odds? I attribute…
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The Merchants of Fear

The Merchants of Fear

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt When President Roosevelt said those words at the depths of the Great Depression he was, at best, shading the truth. Millions who were out of work and desperate had plenty to fear – like not having a place to sleep or food to eat. And many Americans have perfectly real fears today. Some fear that our fast-changing economy might not have a place for them. Many Bay Area residents rightly fear being priced out of our region’s insanely expensive housing market. African Americans and other people of color have every right to fear that if they are pulled over…
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Electric Buses and Trucks Can Deliver Opportunity in California by Cutting Poverty and Pollution

Electric Buses and Trucks Can Deliver Opportunity in California by Cutting Poverty and Pollution

Heavy-duty vehicles are the single largest source of smog-forming pollution in California. Transportation emissions endanger public health and hurt low-income communities and communities of color the most because these communities are more likely to be located near busy roads, highways, and ports. That’s the bad news. The good news: powering our buses, and trucks with electricity can clean our air, fight climate change, and create jobs—especially in communities hit hardest by poverty and pollution. Electric buses and trucks are here to stay in California, and we’ll soon see a lot more of them. Here are some reasons why: As I discussed earlier this month, California has decided to make a…
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Housing State of Emergency: Solutions in Sight

Housing State of Emergency: Solutions in Sight

When first moving to the Bay Area, I was shocked by the number of tent cities I saw. They reminded me of sprawling refugee camps, inhabited by people who fled violence and destruction in war torn countries like Syria, where my family is from.  As a Syrian American, I know the refugee narrative all too well. Yet the tent cities made me aware that you can be a refugee in your own country, as the lack of affordable housing in the U.S. leaves many without a stable place to call home. Lack of affordable housing is the number one reason low and middle income people are leaving the Bay Area. Fortunately,…
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