Archive for the ‘Northwest Diversity’ category

ColorsNW Exclusive – GYASI ROSS – Election and Obama

February 4, 2008


False Choices: Electable vs. Good

by Gyasi Ross / ColorsNW Contributing Blogger

I’ve got freakin’ anger issues when it comes to this election game! More on that later, but suffice it to say that I’m sick and tired of getting to the voting booth and being required to choose between a) the electable (is that even a word??) candidate, or b) the good candidate. I’d like to be able to say that I’ve always chosen the good candidate, but that’d be a lie. Instead, I give in to the emotional/sentimental blackmail that our beloved Democratic candidates inevitably employ. It sounds something like this:

Electable Candidate: “This is the most important election ever. Even though I’m a crappy candidate, I’m our best shot to get rid of blah, blah, blah.”

Silly Voters Like Me: “Gee, you’re right. I should not vote for the person I want. What was I thinking?”

Inspiring, right? In 2008, however, I think that I may be able to choose an electable candidate that is actually good. His name? Obama.

In any primary election, there is the electable/practical choice for the bid, and the idealistic/good choice for the bid. The practical choice is unsexy, but kinda safe; close to what we want, but not really. Think of the practical choice as Diet Pepsi—it’ll do if we just want sugary fizz, but as Ray Charles clearly saw, “ain’t nothing like the right thing, baby!”

Uh, huh.

Obviously then, if the so-called electable candidate is Diet Pepsi, then the good candidate is Pepsi, or maybe even Pepsi Max. It tastes so good going down, but you know there has to be a catch. In elections that “catch” is that the good candidate doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Cabo of getting elected. Consequently, the electable candidate emphasizes the good candidate’s unelectability and promises to give a whole lot of almost-real-thing in exchange for your vote.

Just like drinking Diet Pepsi, however, downgrading to the electable candidate leaves a nasty aftertaste in your mouth. If you’re anything like me, you’ll kick yourself after doing it. Hence, we’re back to where we started; my bitterness and anger at this election process.

I can’t lie—I’ve done it before. For example, in 2004 John Kerry was the practical choice, but not a good candidate. Now, I take some solace in the fact that Kerry is supporting Obama in 2008—good choice. Still, even that didn’t justify his candidacy as a Senator who initially supported the War in Iraq and later attempted to bring his vote more in line with Howard Dean and the political left. If I would’ve voted my conscience, I would’ve voted for Dennis Kucinich. Granted, Kucinich’s presidential campaigns are destined to go down in gasoline-boxered flames; still, the man has a message, and isn’t that what elections are about? But like many others, Diet Pepsi was sadly sufficient in 2004.

I resolved, however, never to vote for a candidate merely because of that candidate’s electability again. Instead, I want the real thing—a genuinely good candidate that I could feel good about. If that means that I have to vote for myself as a write-in candidate, and as a result the electable candidate loses by one vote, and everyone hates me like Chicago hates Steve Bartman…so be it. My conscience will be clear.

This year, however, I may not have to result to such drastic measures. The reason why? I actually like, respect and admire Obama. He is a messenger of hope; he has openly been opposed to the Iraq War since its illegitimate genesis, and has always promoted accessible and high-quality health care since his days in Illinois Legislature. As a Native, I admire that Obama has made it a priority to articulate a coherent stance on the trust relationship that the U.S. has with Natives. Further, Obama—with an unlikely win in Iowa and a near-win in Clinton’s firewall state, New Hampshire—is well-positioned to be the next president of the United States. In a word, he’s “electable”. And good. Together. Imagine that.

As Ray Charles so eloquently said, “ain’t nothing like the right thing, baby.” I plan to vote for Obama because he is—at long last— the real thing.

Gyasi Ross is from the Blackfeet and Suquamish Reservations, and is a Columbia Law School grad. He writes regularly for several publications in the country. He has worked with several tribes in various capacities and has a special interest in reconciling traditional lifestyles and contemporary economic development.

Interested in being a ColorsNW Contributing Blogger? Email Editor Naomi Ishisaka at for more information.


P-I – Gangs taking more Seattle kids

January 16, 2008

Gangs taking more Seattle kids

Even as teens die, grade-schoolers eager to join


Trying to reach teenagers increasingly exposed to gun violence and attracted to gang life, a motivational speaker recently met with the 600-member student body at Cleveland High School and threw down the gauntlet. It came in the form of a rope stretched across the floor.

“Stand on the line if you are not being raised by your mother or father,” said Brenda Caldwell, as many youths stepped forward. Stand on the line if you have experienced emotional or physical abuse. Stand on the line if you are holding anger or unable to forgive.

“They flooded the gym floor,” said Caldwell, a Tennessee-based counselor who works in schools, giving lectures to youth around the country. “There was no talking, no speaking, but the message in Seattle was loud and clear.”

Seattle P-I – Langston Hughes director waits to hear fate after 3 months on forced leave

January 8, 2008


Jacqueline Moscou photo
Jacqueline Moscou, creative director of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, was escorted from the premises in October. The city is investigating a complaint that she wanted to hire only African-American staff and cast only African-American actors. (Karen Ducey / P-I)

Langston Hughes director waits to hear fate after 3 months on forced leaveTuesday, January 8, 2008
Last updated 7:31 a.m. PT


Almost three months after she was placed on forced administrative leave, the critically acclaimed artistic director of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center still doesn’t know what her future holds.

Jacqueline Moscou was escorted from the premises Oct. 19, while the city investigates a complaint she wanted to hire only African-American staff and cast only African-American actors.

“Essentially, of racism,” said Antoinette Davis, the law partner of Moscou’s attorney, Vonda Sargent, on what Moscou’s accused of.

In an interview last week, Moscou continued to deny the charges.

The experience has been “humiliating,” she said, and maddening because she doesn’t know who is making the allegations.

The situation has frustrated not just Moscou, who has been artistic director since 2002, but many in the Central Area, where the performing arts center has provided a venue for African-American plays and actors for decades.….

Press Release – Rumors of Imminent Deportations Send Chills Throughout Cambodian American Community

January 8, 2008


Contact: Many Uch (206) 679-2084 /

Ammara Hun (206) 331-8302 /



Diverse communities rally to demand fairness and due process

SEATTLE – As word spread about an impending shipment of deportees to Cambodia this month, scores of people gathered today in front of the Federal Building to speak out against the impacts of deportations on their families and communities. In addition to Cambodian Americans, speakers included those whose family members could be deported if the United States were to sign repatriation agreements with countries like Vietnam and Laos.

“I am a refugee from Cambodia,” said Sara Man, a 30-year-old resident of Federal Way. She and others described the unique conditions facing refugee families from Southeast Asia. “My family lived through the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, where the Communists killed over a million people under the leadership of Pol Pot.”

In addition to family separation and displacement after living for decades in the United States, many individuals fear retribution for their role in assisting the United States during the war in Southeast Asia.

“The Laotians, including the Hmong, Khamu and Mien, helped the CIA during the Vietnam War,” said Chio Saeteurn, who arrived in the United States as a refugee from Laos at the age of seven. “Deportation back to our native country could mean political persecution.”

Approximately 2,000 Cambodian Americans are now awaiting deportation, many as a result of harsh 1996 laws that vastly expanded the number of “aggravated felony” crimes making non-citizens deportable. These include non-violent and minor offenses. The 1996 laws were applied retroactively, affecting many refugees whose mistakes occurred when they were teens or young adults, and who have since served their sentences, established their own families, and became law-abiding community members.

– more –

Today, deepening fears of impending deportation has created a chilling effect in Cambodian American communities here and across the country.

“Many people who are affected by this issue are afraid to speak out,” said organizer Many Uch of the Refugee Justice Project. “But we need to raise public awareness of the effect this is having on our families and communities. We, as Cambodian Americans, stand in solidarity with other immigrant and refugee communities who are being targeted by laws that are fundamentally unjust,” he said.

In July, U.S. and Cambodian officials interviewed over 100 Cambodian Americans in San Diego in preparation for travel documents needed for deportation to Cambodia. Community members in Seattle, as well as in other cities across the country, have heard rumors that the next shipment of deportees to Cambodia will take place within the month.

“Many people who face deportation don’t have access to affordable legal representation,” said Uch. “And since 1996, many who are deported because of ‘aggravated felonies’ don’t get a hearing in front of a judge. We are asking for a restoration of due process.”

Unlike in the criminal justice system, indigent defendants in immigration cases are not provided with free legal counsel. Moreover, the 1996 laws eliminated the right to judicial review on a case-by-case basis for those who committed “aggravated felonies”, a term that now includes offenses as minor as shoplifting.

Many Chout Uch
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Seattle WA 98146
206-679-2084 cell
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