World Records Broken at Walkathon for Philippine Typhoon Survivors

February 16, 2014; ABC News (Associated Press)

Last November, super typhoon Haiyan ravaged the central islands of the Philippines, killing 6,200 people, destroying 1.1 million homes, and rendering more than four million people homeless. To date, nearly 2,000 people remain missing. The United Nations warns that millions of survivors are still without adequate shelter.

“The authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress…but we cannot afford to be complacent,” UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines, Luiza Carvalho, said. “The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical.”

Among the Filipinos worldwide responding to the continuing crisis in their homeland are followers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), an independent and indigenous Christian group. Members participated in a walkathon staged in the Philippines and 55 other sites in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States, and in the process broke a couple of Guinness World Records.

Guinness adjudicator Kirsty Bennett certified that 175,509 congregants marched in Manila on Saturday, breaking the record set 14 years ago in Singapore when 77,500 people walked to promote healthy living. Bennett also confirmed that 519,221 Iglesia ni Cristo members worldwide set a new record for the largest charity walk in multiple venues, more than doubling the previous record set in Canada seven years ago.

Edwil Zabala, a church spokesperson, said funds raised would be used in constructing new homes and providing livelihoods for survivors of typhoon Haiyan. “The amount that will be raised through this activity will be allocated by the church through the FYM (Felix Y. Manalo) Foundation as additional assistance to our countrymen especially our brethren, who were devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda.” The total amount raised has not been released. Walkathon participants contributed a 250 Philippine peso (approximately $5.63) registration fee.

This is not the first time Iglesia ni Cristo members broke Guinness world records. In 2012, the group set new records for the largest dental health check, the biggest number of blood pressure readings, and the most numerous blood glucose level tests, conducted in eight hours.

Iglesia ni Cristo established its first congregation in 1914. Today, it has at least 5,500 local congregations in about 100 countries and territories.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Quarterly.

When a Pat on the Head Becomes Spit on the Face

It’s perfectly okay to pat a dog’s head. It’s fine to pat a very young child’s head. It is not acceptable, however, to pat another adult’s head.

Last Sunday, at church, a fellow parishioner walked by my pew during communion and patted me on the head. I felt violated, disrespected, and my anger grew by the second. At the end of the service, I told a friend in the next pew what happened and asked if I was overreacting. He assured me I was not. Others agreed. Indeed, as I recount the incident, the response has been universal: incredulity and anger on my behalf.

Rather than confront the man and make a scene, I chose to leave and walk off my fury in the winter cold. I sent him an email telling him never to do that again. His response was a flippant, “received, apologies.” He didn’t seem to realize the gravity of his offense until my husband called him out the next day. Even then, the offender was too swift and slick in feigning remorse.

How could he possibly think it was okay to pat a grown man on the head? Would he have done the same to any other adult? To another white man?

A Filipino-American friend mused, “I wonder if he was inclined to do that because you’re a “little brown boy?” The thought also crossed my mind. As the smaller and darker spouse in a gay biracial marriage, some people readily assume that I am the younger, dependent and subservient exotic. Never mind that my husband and I are highly driven, middle-aged professionals who treat each other as equals and partners.

A gay Asian-American friend characterized the incident as a not so micro microaggression, one of the “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them.”

The man told my spouse that he meant to tap me on my shoulder but somehow ended up patting me on the head.

“A touch on your shoulder would have been much more appropriate and probably would have conveyed a totally different meaning,” an African-American friend pointed out. “The fact that he chose to pat you on the head says volumes about perceived and real power in this situation … microaggressions are so draining.”

Who knows for certain what spurred the man to treat me like a small child. I can’t help but think, however, that my being brown had something to do with it. This man, after all, has a habit of flaunting his Southern bona fides and recently bragged about his family’s Black help.

Yes, microaggressions are draining. And I sure am pretty damned tired of it all.

Reposted on the Huffington Post.

Marriage Equality on Hold in Utah But Progress is Inevitable

Utah

January 6, 2014; Washington Post

On December 20, lesbian and gay Utahans got a surprise holiday gift from U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, who ruled that the state’s ban on same-gender unions was unconstitutional. Hundreds of couples rushed to get marriage licenses, resulting in what Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker called a “thrilling pandemonium.” Within a week, close to 1,000 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples, easily shattering records and providing counties with thousands of dollars in revenue.

The ruling caught conservative Utah by surprise, and state lawyers scrambled to halt marriages, asking both Shelby and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay as Shelby’s decision was being appealed. The requests were not granted, prompting the state’s Attorney General’s office to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.

On Monday, the nation’s highest court took away the gift of legal unions from same-sex couples who were about to get licenses and left those who got married during the past two weeks in legal limbo. The justices gave no indication which argument convinced them to halt marriage equality in Utah or who among them dissented.

Opponents of the freedom to marry may count this as a victory, but the tide has long turned. Not counting Utah, 17 states and the District of Columbia have sanctioned unions for couples who happen to be of the same gender. A majority of Americans view marriage equality favorably. Moreover, in states all across the union, lesbian and gay couples are fighting in the courts for their right to marry. However the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Utah, there are many cases in the pipeline. It can only get messier. In time, though, all couples will be recognized, not by their biology but by their love and commitment.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly.

The Importance of Counting Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

Press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a new project aimed at improving health data collection for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The information will be collected through the National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

As a way to increase the number of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander households included in the survey, the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander National Health Interview Survey uses the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which collects data on approximately 3 million households in the United States annually.

The Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders National Health Interview Survey will include a sample of approximately 4,000 households. Data collection for the survey begins in February 2014 and findings will be available in the summer of 2015. The data will help public health researchers to produce reports on a wide range of important health indicators for the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population.

“This project represents a significant milestone in our implementation of the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities by enhancing the availability and quality of data collected and reported on racial and ethnic minority populations,” said Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health. “This unprecedented survey, which further advances the goals of data collection as called for by the Affordable Care Act, will shed important light on the health status of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population.”

CDC’s National Health Interview Survey is the nation’s largest in-person, household health survey, providing information on an individual’s health status, access to and use of health services, health insurance coverage, immunizations, risk factors, and health-related behaviors. The data play a crucial role in monitoring and improving the health of the nation. For example, Healthy People 2020, the set of public health goals and objectives for the nation, uses information from the survey to track progress toward its targets.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders comprise just 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population, which makes it difficult to include them in sufficient numbers in most national population-based health surveys. The lack of reliable health data for this population has made it difficult to assess their health status and health care utilization. However, the available data for this population indicates that they experience significant health disparities when compared to other groups.

“CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics regards this project as a major step forward in providing much needed health data about the ethnically and culturally diverse U.S. population,” said Charles Rothwell, NCHS director.

For more information about the National Health Interview Survey visit www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm.

Just Say No to Red Kettles?

Kettles

December 14, 2013; Christian Post

It’s once again the time of year when the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community points an accusatory finger at the Salvation Army and wags another at anyone who drops a dollar into a red kettle. Activists argue that the Salvation Army is prejudiced against LGBT people and encourage everyone to donate their money elsewhere. The religious organization counters that they do not discriminate and that they serve all those in need, including homosexuals.

Through a public relations firm, the Salvation Army told the Christian Post that their “mission is clear: to provide services to those in need without discrimination. The Salvation Army treats everyone with equal love, dignity and respect regardless of who they are. We are especially proud of our service to thousands of LGBT community members each and every day.”

As a matter of fact, the nonprofit has taken steps to appease the queer community. Last month, the Salvation Army dropped links to two ex-gay ministries, which it had listed as sexual addiction resources, from its website. This garnered the applause and gratitude of Truth Wins Out, a “non-profit organization that works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice.”

No Red Kettles, an online community, is not as forgiving. A blog post explains that the issue is not about who is being served or not. “Our objections to the Salvation Army lie in their continued promotion of a bigoted ideology, and how they have used their clients as bargaining chips while discriminating against their LGBT employees,” Sarah writes. She gives a couple of examples from the group’s history of Salvation Army discrimination, including turning down government contracts, which resulted in closure of homeless and elderly programs, so as not to provide spousal benefits to same-gender couples.

Another No Red Kettles blogger, Lauren, dismisses any olive branch the Salvation Army offers because “the church has yet to repudiate any of its explicitly anti-gay beliefs.”

The Salvation Army will not declare gay is okay any time soon. It is a Christian organization, and an evangelical one at that. Like the pope, it is softening its image, but the core dogma remains intact. So, as you walk by the cheerful bell ringers and contemplate tossing money into the red kettle, stop and ask yourself, “Do I want to keep the Salvation Army and its ideology going, or would I rather donate to another organization?”

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly.

Asian-American Groups Name Housing Project after Filipino Labor Leader

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December 14, 2013; Asian Journal

Last Friday, two Asian American community organizations, the Pilipino Workers’ Center (PWC) and the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation (LTSC) opened the Larry Itliong Village in Filipinotown, Los Angeles.

Named after the “forgotten” labor leader, the development includes 44 affordable housing units reserved for low-income families, homeless individuals, and transitional-age youth, defined as those between the ages of 16 and 24 and leaving foster care or state custody. The village also provides community spaces and social service programs including healthcare assistance, immigration case management, and employment workshops.

This is one of the few affordable housing projects that’s been able to be built in many years. And it’s really needed,” the Asian Journal quoted Aquilina Versoza, PWC’s executive director.

PWC was founded in 1997 and provides immediate services and resources to low- and moderate-income workers and their families. LTSC was established in 1979 and serves the needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities throughout Los Angeles County.

Larry Itliong, along with other Filipino laborers, started the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and were joined by Mexican farmworkers. The historic protest led to the unionization of farmworkers and formation of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).

Originally posted in Nonprofit Quarterly.

At Last I Have A Green Card, But Many Others Still Wait

(Photo: Erwin de Leon)

After 23 years in the U.S., I finally have in my hands on that much- coveted green card.

I got permanent residency thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June upending section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). My husband and I finally have our marriage recognized by the federal government.  It was an easy and expeditious process, which belied our struggle with the immigration system throughout our 15 years together.

Two months after my spouse submitted his petition, we were called in for an interview. We were asked the most basic of questions, confirming who we claimed to be, how we met, and when the other was born. The adjudicator examined our legal and financial documents and made copies of our wedding pictures. That was it.

He didn’t even bother with other “evidence” we had painstakingly and obsessively put together for months, collected in a three-ring binder. A week and a day after the interview, my permanent resident card arrived in our mailbox.

John and I are very happy and extremely relieved. We are well aware that we are among the more fortunate ones. Not all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants are as lucky. The Williams Institute estimates that there are about 7,000 non-citizen gay couples and that some 267,000 undocumented immigrants identify as LGBT. These individuals have not benefitted from the Supreme Court’s ruling, but they will benefit from comprehensive immigration reform which includes a path to legalization.

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama once again called for passage of immigration reform. He rightfully argues that fixing our immigration system is good for the economy and our national security, and, ultimately, for all of us.

“It doesn’t make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any incentive or any way for them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibilities and permit their families then to move ahead,” Obama said. “It’s not smart. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense.”

It is highly unlikely, however, that Congress will take up immigration reform this year with only a short time left in the legislative calendar and the Tea Party Caucus controlling the Republican majority in the House.  So the work continues.

My husband and I and other gay binational couples may have won our own personal battles with the immigration system, but we still have the responsibility to help other immigrants out of the quagmire.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds.

Moving Beyond Marriage Equality

A couple of days ago, my husband and I were interviewed by an immigration adjudicator. The gentleman deemed our relationship legit, approved us on the spot, and told us to expect a green card in the mail. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling upending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he treated our marriage just like any other. My spouse and I are very fortunate.

Not all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants are as fortunate, however. The Williams Institute estimates that about 7,000 gay couples are both non-citizens, and that approximately 267,000 undocumented immigrants identify as LGBT. These individuals do not benefit from the Supreme Court’s ruling, but they will benefit from comprehensive immigration reform. A path to legalization will free them from the shadows to become more productive, engaged, and committed members of our society.

On Thursday, the president once again called for passage of immigration reform. He rightfully argues that fixing our immigration system is good for our economy and our national security, and, ultimately, for all of us.

“It doesn’t make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any incentive or any way for them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibilities and permit their families then to move ahead,” President Obama said. “It’s not smart. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense.”

As we celebrate breathtaking progress on the marriage equality front, we need to be mindful that other pressing issues beset our community. We can be fired in 29 states for being ourselves. Our transgender sisters and brothers are not welcome in the military. We suffer poverty more than straight people, especially those of us who are of color. And too many in our community are further marginalized by their immigration status. Just as we rallied behind the freedom to marry, let us rally behind the freedom to live, love, and work in this country of immigrants.

Originally posted on the Huffington Post.

The unexamined element of immigration reform

Now that the government shutdown has ended and the debt limit lifted, President Obama has shifted his attention to immigration reform. He argues that it is imperative that the broken immigration system be fixed once and for all. Considering the bruising everyone just went through, it is hard to imagine lawmakers duking it out over another contentious issue.

Imagine that comprehensive immigration legislation does manage to clear Congress and the White House. Will systems be in place to handle the surge of immigrants who will be eligible for legalization? I cannot speak to the capacities of federal and state governments, but I can begin the conversation on the nonprofit infrastructure that helps immigrants integrate.

The U.S. Senate immigration reform bill that passed last June includes a path to citizenship for a vast majority of undocumented immigrants. The Congressional Budget Office estimates about 8 million will be eligible and apply for regularization of their status. The process will be long, arduous, and costly. But before they embark on this path, individuals will need, first and foremost, legal assistance in understanding the process and submitting applications.

Unauthorized immigrants, who are mostly low-income, will have few resources, if any at all, to secure the services of immigration attorneys. Many will turn to immigrant-serving nonprofits providing free legal information and advice. A new Urban Institute brief provides an outline of these organizations.

An analysis of data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics indicates at least 684 nonprofits provide some form of legal aid to immigrants. These providers are dispersed throughout the United States and can be found where immigrant communities have settled.

Figure1

 It appears, however, that there aren’t enough of them. In the 10 states with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants would have more people to serve than other nonprofits. For instance, in Texas, there is one nonprofit providing legal aid to immigrants for every 41,250 undocumented clients. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,916.

Table3

In the top 10 states with the largest percentage change in undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants potentially have a larger population to serve compared to other nonprofits. For instance, in Maryland, the ratio of nonprofits that provide legal aid to immigrants to potential undocumented clients in 1 to 27,500. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,182. Alabama is a stark case, where the two nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants could face an estimated 120,000 undocumented individuals.

Table4

This very high ratio of undocumented immigrants to potential sources of nonprofit legal aid should be a cause for concern. Adding thousands of new cases to existing caseloads without substantial infusion of resources—funding and staffing and volunteers—is not a realistic scenario.

The infrastructure for assisting undocumented immigrants with legal issues is very thin, compared to the projected needs. A concerted effort to assess capacity and plan for expansion is required. Further analysis will help identify where and how infrastructure and capacity can be built to prepare for comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime funders and other stakeholders can step up and support this research.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends.

15 Years in a Binder

Op-E Pic

Last month, my husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary. In a few days, we need to prove those 15 years real to an immigration adjudicator, now that my spouse is able to sponsor me for a green card. This one person will decide our future in the country we love and call home, possibly radically altering our lives just as five Supreme Court justices did four months ago. We will be presenting this arbiter with an inch and a half binder, an abridged edition of our life as a couple.

Enclosed, each in its own plastic sleeve, are supporting documents that include shared leases, savings and credit card accounts, pension plans and living wills naming the other as sole beneficiary, and health care proxies guaranteeing the other makes life and death decisions when the time comes. These proxies were written up eight years ago when couples like us had no legal rights or protections, documents we always had on hand whenever we traveled outside of New York City, just in case.

Over a hundred select pictures countenance our history. The first Christmas at our cramped East Village studio, followed by holidays in Times Square, Charlotte, and Chapel Hill. The first time my husband’s parents met me on neutral ground at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The first time my large Filipino-American family met John in Chicago for my cousin’s debut. Formal parties celebrating my lola’s 80th then 90th birthday. Grad school graduations from General Theological Seminary and the New School. John’s ordination at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with family members and friends in attendance. Summers in Maine. President Obama’s first and second inauguration. And of course, our civil ceremony at Moultrie Courthouse in Washington, D.C. three years ago. An elopement that was later celebrated on Facebook, Washington, and New York.

Notarized letters from family and friends attest that ours was not a marriage of convenience. We have over two dozen missives from folks who know us as a couple. From kin as well as from good friends, colleagues, and fellow advocates for civil rights and equality. A lawmaker has written on our behalf, so has a bishop. Finally for good measure, we have tossed in a few cards written to us both, mailed to our home address.

Perhaps this is all overkill. After all, there is no reason why my husband’s petition should be denied since we do meet the criteria. More so, I’d imagine, than countless straight binational couples who have much shorter histories and less proof than we do and whose marriages have been deemed real and worthy of green cards. But our long struggle with the immigration system as a gay binational couple leaves us a bit anxious. When we do finally learn that our 15 years together has been judged real and have a green card on hand, then will we exhale.

Reposted on the Huffington Post.