Goodbye to DC’s only race/politics blog

Courtesy of Aaron Ginoza

[Update 7/4: Goodbye DCCentric?  It’s true, WAMU says it’ll be a more extended hiatus for the blog until they get more $$ to fund the position].

If you’re like me and get all of your DC race-conscious commentary from Izade’s column DCentric on WAMU, you’ll be sad to hear that she’s moving on to bigger and better things.  This leaves the station in search of a replacement and I’ll be excited to see who takes her place (ever so secretly hoping to take it myself someday).  Anyway, I thought this might be a good time to plug her work.  The picture above, for example, is from a piece covering the shady practice(s) of the Museum of Crime and Punishment for hiring black males to dress in prison uniforms and walk around downtown attracting tourists.  You can check it out here or read below for a nice recap, especially in the 2nd paragraph of topics where she summarizes topics covered this past year:

Farewell, DCentric!

Today is my last day as the senior reporter for DCentric. It’s been a little over a year since I started writing for this blog, and I’m blown away at just thinking about all of the interesting topics I’ve had the opportunity to explore.

I have my own highlights, among them: producing a series on D.C.’s unemployment divide; asking why the local crime and punishment museum hires black men to wear prison jumpsuits; exploring what’s behind rock bands playing D.C.’s Ethiopian restaurants; and writing about gentrification — a lot. I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to share some personal stories about identity. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts at least half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

This beat has been challenging, too. Race and class can be loaded, emotionally-charged topics, and they typically come with broad declarations of what’s right and wrong. I’ve learned a lot in my time here, but above all, it’s that things aren’t usually cut and dry. I hope meaningful conversations about these issues continue to happen in D.C., and that they grow in number. Such discussions will be important as we figure out how to navigate all of the changes our city is going through.

So, many thanks to my colleagues, both here at WAMU 88.5 and elsewhere. You’ve provided me with support and feedback, and for that, I am grateful.

And finally, of course, I’d like to thank to you, the readers. I strongly believe in DCentric’s mission: to explore race and class and open up a space for elevated discourse. If I’ve had any success here, it’s in large part to the readers. Thank you for following my work, questioning it, offering insightful comments and contributing to this ongoing conversation, whether in person or over Twitter. I’mmoving on, but stay in touchSeriously!

Precious Knowledge: Film Screening

Great event hosted by Georgetown’s own Linguistics Department!  So proud that there is support around this issue:

“The story of a current ethnolinguistic struggle taking place in Arizona. When a highly successful Mexican American Studies program at a high school in Tucson comes under fire for teaching ethnic chauvinism, teachers and students fight back. This modern civil rights struggle is happening at the epicenter of the immigration debate in the age of identity politics” (from the flyer).

May 2nd, 2012 at 3pm
Poulton 230

New Report Finds “Access Denied” r/ DC’s Immigrant Population

Last week the DC Language Access Coalition released the much-anticipated results of a two-year comprehensive report on the state of language access in the District.  Whether by chance or choice, the timing was such that this one came out right after DC government released its own yearly report.  Comparing the two, it is clear government and language access advocates have different ideas about what compliance and accountability look like.

The event began with what I recognized to be a popular education technique – the Director speaking in a foreign language, gesturing with her hands, and having a conversation that few could understand.  Once she switches to English, it is explained that the experience was meant to get the audience thinking from the perspective of.

Next they played a short documentary featuring the some of the faces behind the Chinese Service Center and Wah Luck House, one of the last footholds of affordable housing in Chinatown and a testament to community organizing.  The last part of the event was a panel discussion of people involved either involved in the production of the report, representing the Coalition (AU Wash. College of Law, Legal Aid Society, Vietnamese Community Service Center), or DC government (DCOHR, HSEMA).

Overall this event was extremely helpful in that it was an opportunity to reengage with my professional network and past colleagues, which is great for the soul!   But perhaps biggest takeaway I had was the realization of a huge gap in the language access program that a linguist with anthropological training could fill.  As the panelists (government and not) discussed the “challenges” in language access compliance, they all addressed the issue of not understanding the client’s perspective.  What do they need?  How do we reach them?  What problems are they having?  Where are they and who are they? Government holds big expensive community forums to fill quotas and can’t fill the seats.  They collect demographic data from Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, you name it.  LEP/NEP individuals do have a minor legal recourse if they’ve been maligned (the “language access complaint”), but since there is no private right to action, clients cannot appeal a negative finding.  Considering the social service / minority affairs budget isn’t blossoming at this point, I don’t think this is an immediate career opportunity, but I left feeling pretty strongly that what language access really needs is a sociolinguist / linguistic anthropologist.  They need someone to do extensive ethnography, perhaps even on a team for a several year project.

ILA Conference

The theme of this year’s ILA conference is… Institutional Discourse!  I’m very much looking forward to seeing the work of my colleagues, but especially the plenary by Dr. Elana Shohamy, pioneering researcher in linguistic landscapes.  I hope to use this conference as an incubator for a project on the linguistic landscapes of frontline centers of government agencies, especially as they are affected and influenced by the DC Language Access Act (a local law providing equal access to government services in languages other than English through interpretation services and translation).  Here’s some more information on the conference, which is running from April 13-15th in the Tribeca neighborhood of NYC.