Coke’s Super Bowl Commercial: Why All the Hype Over Speaking English?

The internet has exploded with commentary about Coke’s 2014 Super Bowl ad in the last few days. The minute-long spot depicts people from various ethnic backgrounds participating in relatively “American” activities—road trips, movie outings, roller skating—and drinking Coke, of course.

Those who wander the internet have probably seen the trending #boycottcoke hashtag (and the ensuing debate on Twitter), as well as the discomfort among conservatives about what the ad communicates. Did we mention yet that it plays “America the Beautiful” in different languages? Apparently that gets people hyped up.

CokeAd

People claim that the ad is un-American because its vocalists do not sing entirely in English. But I’m a little confused as to why singing another language is a problem in the United States. The thing is:

  • The United States has no official language at the federal level. As this government site mentions, some (but not all) states have designated their own official languages.
  • Did you also know that people don’t have to speak English to vote? As long as they’re American citizens, their input matters. And speaking of citizenship…
  • In some circumstances, people don’t need to know English to take a citizenship test.

In general, the United States government has established a number of outlets that allow non-English speakers to participate in what our country has to offer. Not knowing English in America is undoubtedly a disadvantage anyway, for practical and cultural reasons: people who never learn it don’t get an equal chance to immerse themselves in the freedoms it offers or overcome constant discrimination.

America was built on the backs of non-English speaking immigrants—the kinds of immigrants who still face judgment for the cultural norms that differentiate them and make them unique. The fact that the United States provides lingual accommodations—and the fact that a single Coke ad isn’t entirely in English—captures more truth about our country’s origins and claims more respect for disadvantaged minorities.

What do you think about Coke’s Super Bowl ad? Leave us a comment below!

-Amanda

 

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

Advertisements

Why Martin Luther King Jr. Was Just an Ordinary Guy (and Why That’s Extraordinary)

This weekend, the newspapers and internet will be full of articles about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact on civil rights—so I’m not going to talk about his grand achievements because you can read about those elsewhere.

Instead, I’d like to quickly explore why MLK is one of the greatest social justice and human rights advocates of our time.

Is it because he used non-violent methods to protest racism and segregation? Is it because he often sprinkled Bible verses throughout his speeches? Or is it because he gave his “I Have A Dream” speech on my birthday? No, no, and no.

My favorite thing about MLK is that he was just a normal guy. He wasn’t perfect, and he showed us that we don’t have to be perfect to change the world either.

MLK grew up in an average family with a strict minister father and gentle mother. He did well in school—he skipped two grades in high school and was student body president and valedictorian in his seminary. Still, this biography calls him a “popular student… but an unmotivated student” during his first two years at Morehouse College. Though he was a minister’s son he often questioned his faith and his desire to follow his father’s footsteps into the seminary.

Martin and family at Morehouse College, where one biography calls him a “popular student… but an unmotivated student” during his first two years.
Martin and family at Morehouse College, where one biography calls him a “popular student… but an unmotivated student” during his first two years.

These are qualities that plague average human beings—who among us hasn’t questioned our faith or come down with a bad case of “senioritis”? But Dr. King never saw these as barriers; instead, he knew that he was ordinary but that this did not limit him to ordinary actions. His upbringing, which was not free from racism, created his passion for speaking out against a corrupt system—a passion that, as we all know, eventually engulfed the entire country and brought about justice.

If he can do all that, then why can’t I?

In the early days of BSB we faced many challenges, and there were times when I didn’t believe that a group of young adults could run an organization or change how anyone thinks about social justice issues. I often thought about MLK in those early days and how, like me, he was just a normal person with his share of problems; yet he understood that we can feed and share our inherent talents and passions in a way that makes the world a better place. We hope that you will too.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”  –Martin Luther King, Jr.

-Scott Hines

Scott Hines is a Director for Blood, Sweat and Berries.

Why is Nelson Mandela so Great?

Okay, I’ll be honest: when I heard that Nelson Mandela had passed away last week, two things initially came to mind: the America’s Next Top Model episode where the finalists visited his prison cell, and that one rugby movie with Morgan Freeman. I’m only human.

My thought process reaffirms that pop culture hasn’t acknowledged Mandela’s accomplishments much—yet everyone still knows his name. If you watch ANTM more than the news, here are a few noteworthy (and chronological) reasons* that explain why he became a figure for political and social justice:

  • During his activist years, he started the law firm Mandela & Tambo. The firm provided affordable legal services to unrepresented blacks in South Africa.
  • After organizing a national workers’ strike, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage.
  • While imprisoned, he earned a Bachelor of Law degree through the University of London.
  • He gained such notoriety as an anti-apartheid figure that multiple countries campaigned for his release.
  • After many failed negotiations, he finally left prison when Frederik Willem de Klerk was elected president of South Africa. (Even cooler is his forgiving attitude about the whole imprisonment thing.)
  • In 1991, he was elected president of the African National Congress (a formerly illegal political party that Mandela joined in 1943).

Nelson Mandela

  • In 1993, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk for their efforts to end apartheid.
  • After the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, he was elected president of South Africa and published his first book, Long Walk to Freedom (which he mostly wrote in prison.)
  • His support for South Africa’s national rugby team as a catalyst for racial reconciliation inspired the film Invictus.
  • After retiring from politics, he formed “The Elders,” a group of world leaders that works for political and charitable causes around the world.
  • He also founded three foundations: the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation. Each promotes a different aspect of his work.

If you feel particularly inspired by this man’s work, consider donating to one of his organizations here. However, many would argue that Mandela’s real legacy lies in teaching us that ordinary people can become extraordinary by shamelessly acting on their beliefs. It’s a lesson we can all identify with—even if you don’t watch Top Model.

*You can find many of these facts in this Biography account of Mandela’s life.

-Amanda

 

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

For All The Eaters: Ramon Torres vs. Sakuma Brothers Farms

Editor’s note: This post is a report of a forum that one of our directors, Scott Hines, attended. As the conflict includes highly opposed and biased views, we disclaim that the facts cited below may not be verified.

With his blue jeans and Baltimore Orioles baseball cap, Ramon Torres looks similar to any of the other migrant farm workers I have met through my experiences in BSB. But he is the president of an impressive movement by workers in Washington’s Skagit Valley the likes of which this state has not seen in some time.

The group, called Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice) is made up of about 300 immigrant farm workers fighting for secure contracts, fair wages, and, ultimately, justice and respect from their employer, Sakuma Brothers Farms.

From R to L: Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community Development; Ramon Torres, President of Familas Unidas de la Justicia; Edgar Franx, Community to Community Development; Angelica Villa, immigrant farm worker in Lynden, WA.
Ramon Torres speaks at the UW Tacoma forum

I recently attended a forum at UW Tacoma and pieced together a basic timeline. The strike began on July 11, after a farm worker was fired for complaining about the abuses he and his fellow farm workers face: racial slurs from supervisors, low wages that changed daily, and 10-13 hour workdays with no lunch breaks in inclement weather, among others.

Torres banded together a group of farm workers that refused to work that day, and they eventually were able to meet with the management of Sakuma Brothers Farms and negotiate several demands that included pay increases, retraining for abusive supervisors, and rehiring of the fired worker. Both sides agreed on the demands, but Sakuma Brothers broke them the very next day.

Since then, the farm workers continue to strike off and on as demands are re-negotiated and broken. Torres, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and has been in the US for 11 years, says he has never seen a workplace like Sakuma Brothers, where minors who are required to earn $7.81 an hour instead make $4 from a company that has no problem withholding rightfully-earned money from its workers. He recalls noticing that a 13-year-old worker was missing $300 over three weeks, so he asked a company accountant to show him how she calculates the paychecks; after two or three miscalculations he asked her to show him on paper and she miraculously came up with the correct amount.

He then went on to recalculate other workers’ paychecks and recovered over $6,000 for 25-30 workers that the company had withheld over those three weeks.

“I studied in Mexico, and I only finished high school,” Torres said at the forum. “I don’t think I should have to show you how to calculate paychecks.”

It’s that kind of dissonant behavior that may have led to Torres’ dismissal from Sakuma Brothers on September 12 for what the company cited as “personal problems.” He also blames it on the 200-person strike he arranged the previous day in which workers stopped picking for two hours until wages were raised.

“They didn’t like that I made them look bad,” he said.

Torres organized the strike because he believes that the company can afford to pay their workers more, or at least the legal minimum wage. Sakuma Brothers has been hiring guest workers through the federal H-2A program, which “allows agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature,” according to the US Department of Labor website.

He claims they pay the guest workers $17 per hour plus the gas it takes for them to commute. He is asking the company to pay workers $12 an hour, but the company claims it would need to pay $6 out of pocket per hour to pay this wage—even though, he says, “they have no problem paying the guest workers $17 an hour.”

Because Ramon was fired, he has been living off of the donations from events like the UW forum, which were collected in his Orioles baseball cap.
Because Torres was fired, he has been living off of the donations from events like the UW forum, which were collected in his Orioles baseball cap.

Since Torres was fired, he has been leading Familias Unidas and traveling to college campuses around Washington state to spread his mission: to convince people to boycott products that use Sakuma Brothers crops, including Driscolls berries and Haagen-Dazs ice cream, until a legal contract has been made to ensure wage stability.

His group is currently trying to work with grocery stores to not carry these products, but few have agreed because of “complicated repackaging processes” and pre-existing contracts that can last until the end of the year. According to Torres, a few stores have agreed to not sign another contract with these companies until the issue is resolved.

If you want to get involved in this campaign, Torres can send 2-3 members of the committee negotiating with Sakuma Brothers to hold similar forums. He also encourages participation in their picketing and boycotts, especially by young adults and students. As Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community, said in the forum, “If you eat, if you are an eater, then by God you a part of this movement.”

-Scott

Scott Hines is a Director for Blood, Sweat and Berries.

Why You Should Love Your Job Right Now (… if you weren’t furloughed)

I got a strange phone call a few weeks ago.

It was the supervisor at one of my two jobs. She said that due to a few unforeseen circumstances, I needed to stay home until things got straightened out.

I was not kept home because of mistakes on my part, at least—it was some kind of system error. But since this is one of two jobs I work, that phone call meant that I would have nothing to do for half the week.

This went on for two weeks. So if you’re the kind of person that hates their job and doesn’t care about money, you’re probably thinking That sounds awesome! I wish I could sit around and do nothing!

I don’t hate my job—and I do care a little about money—but the novelty of not having to go to work still hit me. Too bad that only lasted for a day, and then I went and got a nasty cold.

I’m the kind of person that feels the need to contribute something in order to feel meaningful in society. Heck, aren’t we all that kind of person? So sitting around feeling ill and not working made me feel meaningless. I wasn’t doing something or making something, and all I could do is read books and binge on Netflix. Not a terrible way to spend your days, but still.

JohnBoehner

In light of the US government shutdown, I can’t help but think about the hundreds of thousands of federal employees that just got told they weren’t allowed to come to work either. I am not one of them, but I imagine those that were furloughed—including people like clinical researchers, FDA inspectors, NASA engineers, and many more—are being told that their work is not meaningful enough to sustain.

There are clearly many opinions about how well the United States Congress deals with funding government programs. Beyond any criticism, I’m thinking about the kids that be going hungry because their mothers’ WIC checks didn’t come, or the ones that may not even go to school because their case workers had to stay home. Or the families that depend on housing vouchers to keep roofs over their heads. Or just the realization that hundreds of thousands of people will simply not have paychecks as many agencies are operating on emergency procedures.

It’s beyond books and Netflix now—it’s a ripple effect that will reach all of us if these people cannot return to work. If you still do have a job at the moment, be grateful for it… even if it’s not your favorite thing to do every day.

What do you think about the government shutdown? Share your thoughts below.

-Amanda

 

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

Reflections on the New Miss America

Full disclosure: I have never watched the full Miss America pageant. I actually didn’t even know it was still televised until this year. It’s been a few weeks now since Nina Davuluri made headlines as the first woman of Indian descent to be crowned Miss America. Honestly, I was a little torn between my urge to cheer her on as a fellow Asian-American and my urge to scoff at the existence of the pageant altogether.

Miss America has long been one of critics’ favorite examples of the ongoing objectification of women in American culture. I, myself, have never really thought of it as much more than a parade of bathing suits. Seriously, the only televised portion of the pageant that requires the women to speak lasts all of 6 minutes.

But winner Nina Davuluri has turned much of the discussion surrounding the pageant to a more positive note. Actually, not since Sandra Bullock as Miss Congeniality (in a thinly-veiled imitation, the Miss United States pageant) has a person helped the pageant world receive such good publicity. Almost everyone praised the Miss AmNina Davulurierica pageant for its pick of a winner that accurately represented this country’s diversity.

Something else that has been largely overshadowed by her descent is the fact that Nina Davuluri is also an aspiring medical school student. She also hopes to serve as a spokesperson for STEM education. As such, Nina Davuluri seemingly breaks the stereotype that Miss America is selected only on the basis of a pretty face and reminds the public that the Miss America pageant is technically a scholarship program, a fact also conveniently highlighted in Miss Congeniality (seriously, that movie was like a Miss America 101 course).

But since we can’t seem to have nice things, much of the reported controversy following Nina Davuluri’s win also came from the slew of racist comments about her descent. The racism that followed failed to show much beyond maybe the apparent need for more education in geography (c’mon guys, India and Iraq aren’t remotely the same place). Although the negative comments found its way to various corners of social media, the general response were words of encouragement and approval.

Personally, I’m starting to come around a little on Miss America. When I was living in Europe as a kid, my family was pretty consistently the only Asian one in the neighborhood. So when we first settled down in the States, I liked being able to see women who looked like me in movies and on TV. Watching Lucy Liu kick butt in Charlie’s Angels was actually pretty important to me and my feeling of belonging. In that sense, I think Nina Davuluri serves a similar purpose: she is someone who showcases the country’s cultural diversity, appropriately one of the issues she hopes to promote in the upcoming year. I, for one, look forward to Nina Davuluri’s reign as the new Miss America.

Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.

Tips from Across the Atlantic

I spent last month traveling around Europe, where I mostly frolicked around in art museums and cathedrals. Not a bad life. I also ate some pretty fantastic food, and each time the bill came, I automatically started doing my usual mental math: there’s the total, move the decimal point, multiply by two. Oh wait was that the amount before tax? Do we have more than six in our party? More than once, I was reminded that we were not expected to leave anywhere near the familiar 15-20% tip, and a service charge was sometimes already in place.

Here in the States, tipping has become standard in the service industry, especially in  restaurant culture. Eateries that offer alternatives to the tipping system are far and few. Studies have shown that Americans overwhelmingly prefer tipping to a service charge. Maybe we feel that a service charge deprives us of the power to stick it to bad waiters, but studies have shown that the correlation between tips and service is weak. Tips are based largely on the bill amount, and customers usually tip the same percentage regardless of service quality.

Tipping

The U.S. is also one of the only countries to establish a separate minimum wage for tipped employees. While the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the minimum tipped wage is only $2.13. Minimum wage in the U.S. lags behind much of western Europe, but the situation is worse for tipped employees. While minimum wage was last raised in 2009, tipped minimum wage has remained stagnant for the last twenty-two years. To put that into perspective, twenty-two years ago, a loaf of bread cost an average of 70 cents.

It’s common to think of tips as a reward for good service or the lack of tips as punishment for bad, but as it currently stands, restaurant workers rely almost entirely on tips to make a living. As a result, many struggle to make ends meet. Are we too cynical for the argument that decently paid workers will deliver good service without the additional incentive? I hope not. Employers should not be able to pay their wait staff the same wages as they did in 1991, and I challenge anyone to find bread now for 70 cents. As the battle for higher pay wages on (pun a little bit intended), let’s extend the case to include the tipped workers, lest we make them eat cake.

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.

5 Reasons Why Supporting Local Arts is Awesome

graffiti1. A vibrant art scene makes for a vibrant city.

Be honest: how many times have you complained to your friends that there was nothing to do where you live? Next time try attending a local concert or visiting a neighborhood art gallery. You’d be surprised how much fun you can have (usually for free)!

.

.

Painting a butterfly2. You may find yourself a new interest or hobby.

Maybe a trip to the local repertory theater encourages you to try your hand at playwriting. Maybe attending an art show inspires you to take a painting class. Maybe you find that the arts are definitely not your thing and go on to discover that you’re an Einstein-level math genius. You never know.

.

NHarts3. It’s a great way to get to know your community.

While you’re familiarizing yourself with the up-and-coming local artists, don’t be surprised if you also meet a ton of new people along the way. Getting more involved in your community inevitably leads to making friends with your fellow city dwellers and learning more about local organizations.

.

promisekids4. The arts give back.

Studies have shown the potential benefits of an arts education, especially for at-risk youth.  Students with arts involvement tended to have better academic outcomes and higher career goals. Many nonprofit organizations capitalize on this potential by introducing and encouraging the presence of art in schools.

.

NHarts5. It’s a chance to relish in the diversity of your own backyard.

I love dropping by New Haven’s annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas. There is always a performance to watch, from classical quartets to modern dance troupes. Better yet, there is never a shortage of people to talk to. Festivals like this attract crowds from all walks of life and provide a golden opportunity to interact with people of different backgrounds and cultures.

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.

Standing Your Ground and Walking Free: On George Zimmerman

It’s been weeks since the jury decision on July 13th that allowed George Zimmerman to walk free. And while protests are dying down, although not completely, the topic still seems to come up frequently. Or maybe that’s just because I work in a coffeehouse with a large morning crowd of lawyers. And they talk and argue about it as I make their morning lattes.

It’s not about race,” claims one of them. To which another replies that it’s hard to imagine a white kid walking through a neighborhood with a pack of Skittles being stalked and labeled a suspicious character. There’s a sub-conscious stereotype in place that many people no longer even see as racist. It’s become so engrained that a stereotype can excuse racism.

"Justice For Trayvon" Rallies Held Across The Country

But with all the focus on race, there’s a second important issue that is being obscured. After the shootings at Sandy Hook in December of last year, gun violence and gun control became central issues. Six months later, the trial surrounding Trayvon Martin’s shooting called them to attention again. And now? We seem to have forgotten about them completely. Those protestors manifesting their displeasure at the Zimmerman verdict are voicing concerns over racial issues, and issues of civil rights thought resolved. But far fewer people are up in arms (no pun intended) over laws like “Stand Your Ground” that allowed the shooting to happen. Take the gun out of his hand, or don’t allow a man who clearly knew the law intimately to shoot a claimed assailant, and then call it self-defense.

I hope I’m wrong, but it does feel like a dangerous precedent is being set. Self-protection is one thing, and certainly valid, but to think that a gun owner has the right to use their weapon and, by claiming to feel threatened, be absolved of any blame is a worrying issue. Provoking someone into attacking you, a fight or flight response in this case, and then responding to that unarmed assailant with a bullet, point blank…

Race or not, there are some things very wrong with this picture.

-David

David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.