How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Blogger El Random Hero and Superman: Something in common?

Photo by Gareth Simpson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Clark Kent's secret identity, January 2007

Zócalo Public Square has posted a bittersweetly humorous essay by L.A. blogger El Random Hero, aka Erick Huerta, who also happens to be undocumented.

Huerta, a 26-year-old journalism student, describes his trip here as he recalls it: "Once, when I was seven, I fell asleep in Michoacan and woke in Boyle Heights. No joke."

I'd never thought of Clark Kent in this way, but Huerta draws the following parallel as he writes about juggling multiple identities of his own:

I guess I should be inspired by Superman, arguably the most accomplished of all “illegal aliens.” Literally, in his case, as he came from another planet as an infant because his parents wanted to give him a better life when his home world was annihilated. He landed on earth and was raised in the Midwest by a loving couple to become a symbol for truth, justice and the American way.

Last time I checked, he was still working at the Daily Planet, getting by under the name of “Clark Kent.” I hope that the e-verify system doesn’t catch up with him someday; where would ICE deport him?

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Report finds educational disparities between Asian, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander subgroups

Photo by backonthebus/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new report reveals wide gaps in the educational achievements of different Asian ethnic groups in California, with big disparities between Asian-American, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students.

From a story today by KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez:

For one Asian-American subgroup, the Hmong of Southeast Asia, the idea that all Asians are academic high achievers is a dangerous myth. Nearly half of Hmong adults don’t have a high school diploma.

It’s dangerous, says University of California researcher Lois Takahashi, because the myth keeps the struggles of Hmong families out of the policymaking spotlight. She says statistics about the much larger Samoan, Guamanian and Tongan populations in California are just as troubling.

"One fifth of Pacific Islanders in our grades 9-12 are expected to drop out by grade 12," Takahashi said. "That’s very similar and almost equivalent to the dropout rate for Latinos in the state."

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Donated photo: A downtown DREAM Act rally

Photo by Adrian Gonzalez

Young DREAM Act supporters rally in downtown L.A., December 2, 2010

A student participating in a rally in downtown Los Angeles this morning to promote the DREAM Act sent in this photo. The rally was held in support of both the proposed federal legislation and of several demonstrators arrested during a rally a few months ago, who were in court today.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would grant conditional legal status to young people who attend college or enlist in the military and who meet certain criteria, including having arrived in the United States as a minor under 16. Earlier this week, Senate leadership introduced a tightened version of the measure, with a lowered age cutoff for applicants and a longer period of conditional legal status.

Both House and Senate leadership have indicated that a vote will occur soon. Meanwhile, college students and aspiring military enlistees, many of them undocumented, have been participating in demonstrations around the country to call attention to the measure.

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American snapshot: Commerce

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A bibimbap billboard above a gas station off Interstate 5 in Commerce, November 19, 2010

This is the first time I've ever seen an English-language billboard with an image of bibimbap, the beloved Korean meal-in-a-hot-pot, most often crowned with raw egg.

The billboard is an advertisement for TheTasteofKorea.com, a website promoting Korean dishes that appears to be sponsored by the South Korean government and a food trade group.

Still, it's not a billboard you'd expect to see in anything other than an immigrant town, where staples and comfort food from around the world are part of the regional cuisine. Bibimbap, we already love ya.

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Author Rick Nahmias on California: "We are the most diverse place for faith in the world."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX6X0v8pvQk&feature=player_embedded

Zócalo Public Square recently featured this great interview with Los Angeles photographer, writer and filmmaker Rick Nahmias, author of Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited. The book documents marginalized communities in California practicing their faith, among them Buddhists in San Quentin, a Mormon congregation for the deaf, and Latina sex workers who pray to Santa Muerte, the skeletal sacred figure whose cult originated in Mexico.

In the interview, Nahmias talks about how California's history as a landing place for migrants - including 1930s Dust Bowl Okies, who brought over Baptist and Pentecostal traditions - has made it such a rich place for religious diversity.

This diversity doesn't necessarily beget religious harmony, unfortunately, but it's another testament to California's role as the great melting pot of the 21st century.

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