Inspiration, Life Well-Lived
U.S.-Mexico Relations, Economic Opportunity
“The US-Mexico border is one of the most vibrant yet misunderstood regions in the world. Often portrayed as troubled territory characterized by negative attributes such as violence and disordered migration, the reality of this extensive geography is that it is also a place of unparalleled cultural richness and business opportunities created by the convergence of two nations, two languages, two cultures, and two economies.
In mid-September, the Institute of the Americas partnered with the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program to convene a ground-breaking conversation called Innovation and Culture at the Border. This convening examined the creative dynamism of US-Mexico border, with a focus on the impact of American Latinos in border economies, and the opportunities that border regions represent for them. Along the border, American Latinos — who are often bicultural, bilingual, and frequently binational — are uniquely positioned to contribute to new approaches that create economic opportunity and advance prosperity.
Examples of creativity and entrepreneurial success are abundant in border cities along the nearly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border. However, such models are many times invisible, actively ignored, or unacknowledged. To counter such invisibility and enrich the narrative, Innovation and Culture at the Border brought together individuals who work and live along the US–Mexico border (with a special focus on CaliBaja) and who have intimate, practical knowledge of the challenges and opportunities for innovation and creativity.”
Theatre, Social Justice
Humanizing the struggles of the school-to-prison pipeline
Dominique Morisseau, an award-winning playwright from Detroit, describes herself as an artist-activist. She recently developed a three-play cycle called The Detroit Projects, in which she highlights issues that have affected the city for decades, such as racism, urban renewal, and economic inequality.
Morisseau’s newest project, Pipeline, tackles the mass incarceration of Black men with the story of a devoted inner-city public high school teacher who tries to save her teenage son from the school-to-prison pipeline.
New research shows that kids can start going down that path as early as preschool, where Black children are 3.6 times more likely than White children to be suspended.
Morisseau, the daughter of a teacher and a former teacher herself, developed a deep understanding of the pipeline from her time living in urban cities like Detroit, New York, and Chicago.
“This concerns me,” Morisseau says. “And playwrights have the power to humanize social issues by making people visualize human beings at the forefront of those issues. We can spark emotions and make people feel these issues in their guts rather than simply make them think about it in their brains.”
Huff Post "Listen to America" series:
“The Crescent Peace Society’s “Meet a Muslim” events are one of a handful of similar initiatives that have sprung up across the country since the election. One Muslim couple started a “dinner with your Muslim neighbor” project in Seattle, for instance, and a Muslim veteran has been traveling the country with a sign reading “I’m Muslim and a U.S. Marine, ask anything.”
When asked whether such projects place undue responsibility on Muslims to have to humanize themselves to non-Muslims, particularly in an environment of increased fear among the Muslim community, Latif demurred.
“There’s a lot of discussion in progressive circles on whose job it is to humanize people, and I understand it’s off-putting to explain, ‘I’m just a human being just like you are,’” he said. “But we’ve found in our work that waiting for other people to do the work doesn’t get anything done. You have to take that first step and hope that other people will join you.”
“If we don’t speak, then other people write the narratives for us,” he added.
Amid a recent rise in anti-Muslim hate groups nationwide ― and spate of hate crimes in recent years in the Kansas City area ― Latif recognizes the effect and reach of the group’s events are small. But even if they touch only a few hundred people, he believes they still have value.
“There are so few Muslims and so much said about them,” Latif said. “Even just meeting people who [already] support us, they can say to their extended families: ‘I’ve met a Muslim person and this is what I found out,’ so it’s a ripple that hopefully reverberates further out.””
Women, Running for Office, Campaigning
This advice, while geared toward women, can help men as well.
"Whether you're happy with the political climate or hell-bent on change, one thing is clear: You are underrepresented in government — and that void has far-reaching consequences, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. Currently, 70 percent of our elected officials are men, even though females make up more than half of the population. What's holding us back? The crazy (and statistically unfounded) notion that women can't win. Well, it's time to step up. Follow this ultimate guide to running for office to get started."