Humanizing the Arab World in America (U.S. News & World Report and International Women’s Media Foundation)

SEATTLE – WHEN terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Yussef El Guindi stopped writing. The Arab-American playwright’s career had only just started to take off, but stunned by the magnitude of the tragedy, he avoided his craft for weeks.

He also started noticing nervous glances in his direction as he walked down the street. He was pulled aside for airport security checks. He quietly wondered what police would make of his research materials: books on Islam, Palestine and guns.

When he returned to his craft two months later, it was with a deep determination to counter the one-dimensional view of Arab-Americans all around him. He started writing a play that followed an Arab-American writer as he’s endlessly interrogated by government agents after they discover his collection of pornography and the Quran. “Back of the Throat” became El Guindi’s first full-length published play and won the 2004 Northwest Playwrights’ Competition.

Almost two decades later, the Muslim writer who was born in Egypt, raised in London and lives in Seattle, has published 10 additional plays, won more awards and has been called by the artistic director of one theater as “the definitive voice of Middle Eastern American theater.” In other ways, little has changed in the United States. El Guindi says restrictive laws aimed at immigrants, harsh rhetoric and underlying fear and suspicion of Arab-Americans and other minority groups have strengthened his resolve to tell those stories, including his latest, “People of the Book,” which opened this month at Seattle’s ACT Theatre.

The new play fulfills his long-held desire to address the repercussions of the Iraq War and misinformation spread about it. As in all of El Guindi’s plays, he seeks to create complex Arab and Muslim characters. They help illustrate a seemingly obvious, yet often overlooked, idea: Just because two people are from the Middle East, doesn’t make them the same.

“The most radical thing I’m doing is creating three-dimensional Arab and Muslim characters,” he says. “I’m humanizing the people who are dehumanized in news stories.”

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Boeing’s 737 Max troubles threaten booming Seattle-area economy (The Guardian)

Ever since Boeing announced it would temporarily halt production of the grounded 737 Max aircraft, there has been a strong sense of deja vu among residents of Renton, a small city in Washington state where the planes are made.

The city, just south of Seattle, has spent decades as an echo chamber for the company’s ups and downs.

But this time, thanks to population growth and a more diversified workforce that has sought to get away from being a “one-company town”, the community and its local economy appears prepared to weather this latest Boeing storm.

The suspension of production of the 737 Max, previously Boeing’s bestselling plane, was announced last Monday following two crashes that killed 346 people in October 2018 and March this year. The planes had been grounded worldwide, but when it became clear the Federal Aviation Administration was not going to sign off on the aircraft’s return to service before 2020, the company opted to temporarily stop making them.

Renton’s mayor-elect, Armondo Pavone, said that while it will affect Boeing employees and may affect smaller local restaurants, retail businesses and companies that supply parts for Boeing planes, this is not a “sky-is-falling moment”.

“As a longtime Boeing community resident, you get used to a little bit of the ebb and flow of a large company like Boeing,” said Pavone, who also owns a neighborhood steakhouse in the downtown area. “Because of that I think I’m very comfortable saying that as long as this doesn’t go on for years and years, that it will have some impact. But it’s going to be something that the community gets through.”

Boeing has been a fixture in Washington state since it was founded in Seattle by Bill Boeing more than a century ago. When it landed in Renton in 1941, it catapulted the area “from a fourth-class city to a second-class city basically overnight,” according to the Renton History Museum’s city history database.

Since then, each time the company has gone through a major change, Renton has been the first to feel the effects. During the second world war, when planes were in high demand, the city flourished and its workforce dramatically expanded. But in the 1970s, when the Vietnam war was ending and the need for planes declined, Boeing cut its workforce by two-thirds and Renton fell into a severe recession.

In more recent times, the city again felt the effects when the company moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago in 2001. And then there were the times when the company moved departments from their branch in Everett, Washington, to Renton, and then back again, explained Pavone.

Click here to read the full article.

Seattle is on a road map to zero youth detention – so why is it opening a huge new prison? (The Guardian)

When Armand Karim, 16, was arrested in connection with a robbery and transported to the Youth Services Center’s detention facility in Seattle, he was put in a holding cell for about two hours, given a cold lunch and then taken into a separate room to strip, so law enforcement could search him.

For the next week and a half, Karim lived at the facility in his own small room that included a sink, toilet and a bed. He says he remembers the spiders and webs in the shower and the feeling of consistently being cold, but it was the sitting around all day that really stuck with him.

“It was mentally exhausting,” he said of the experience last year. “There’s nothing in there for me to use to better myself or skills to practice. You just sit there and kind of feel depressed.”

Seattle is gearing up to open a new $242m Children and Family Justice Center, which will replace this decades-old Youth Services Center, located mere yards away. It will include a 92,000 sq ft juvenile detention center, with 112 secure beds, and a 137,000 sq ft courthouse, equipped with 10 courtrooms.

Between its extensive natural light, outdoor space and medical services, it’s clear the new space will be a major upgrade to the current complex, which has become known for its unreliable heating and cooling systems, mold and brown water.

But in the seven years since residents voted in favor of a property tax increase to fund the new complex, the trend in the US has largely been to move away from youth detention. With extensive research showing not only that long-term youth incarceration can increase rates of re-offending, but also young people’s innate ability to reform if given the chance, states have begun to hone in on rehabilitation and restorative practices when it comes to juvenile justice.

Last year, King county, which includes Seattle, took a big step in that direction as well. Officials released “The Road Map to Zero Youth Detention,” a strategic plan detailing the need to transition away from detaining children. It references the disproportionate representation of young people of color in the county’s juvenile justice system and the fact that there is little connection between youth incarceration and the amount of crime in the area. Officials also proposed a $4m investment to implement the plan.

The county is now left with the difficult task of attempting to reconcile two seemingly competing visions for the area’s juvenile justice future: a new multimillion- dollar detention facility in a county that has committed both ideologically and financially to eliminating youth incarceration.

Click here to read the full article.

*Photo by Jason Farrar

Videos

Video

One year into the Donald Trump presidency, thousands of people took to Seattle’s streets for the Women’s March 2.0 on Jan. 20, 2018. Protestors rallied for a myriad of issues, including immigration and healthcare. Seattle was one of hundreds of other cities that held rallies on the anniversary of 2017 Women’s March.

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More than half of all U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana. But despite multiple legislative attempts and urging from a multitude of local patients, Utah has not. The decision has left some patients with no access to medicine that they say is a crucial treatment option. Ashley Rice is one of those patients. She has a genetic condition that causes frequent seizures.

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Neca Allgood is the president of Mama Dragons, a support group for mothers of LGBTQIA children, and the mother of a transgender son. But at the same time, she has also remained an active member of the Mormon Church, a faith whose doctrine or institutional policies appear to sometimes stand in opposition to her work for acceptance and support of her son and all members of the LGBTQ community.

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Massive waterfalls in Yosemite National Park and rivers raging in mountains throughout the western United States are thundering with greater force than they have for years — and proving deadly as warm weather melts the deepest mountain snowpack in recent memory.

Article and video by Hallie Golden and Scott Smith

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Some of the many protesters camped out in New York City for the Occupy Wall Street movement are far from new to the scene of social activism. In fact, they have been participating in rallies for over 50 years after protesting during the Vietnam War era. Now they’re back at it again.

Video by Hallie Golden

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Anayely Gomez has been living in New York since the age of three, but as one of the 3,200 undocumented college students in the U.S., she is struggling to get through college. Although she can attend college through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, affording the cost of higher education has been a struggle. Programs like the Tuition Assistance Program help students like Gomez afford a college education.

Video by Hallie Golden

Stories

 
The Beacon Food Forest grows community agriculture in Seattle- Curbed

The Beacon Food Forest in South Seattle is a 1.75-acre maze of fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. It not only feeds the surrounding community, but also offers a brief nature-infused respite in the heart of this major metropolitan hub. Read my story here.

 

 Fremont Bridge Music- Curbed

Paurl Walsh is the Fremont Bridge’s artist-in-residence this summer. He devotes about 10 to 15 hours a week on his composition in the drawbridge’s 13-by-8 northwest tower office. Read my story here.

 

White Center Food Bank- Curbed

What happens when a food bank transforms into a grocery store? That’s exactly what happened at a major food distribution center near Seattle. Read my story here.

 

Octopus Census- CityLab

Once a year, the Seattle Aquarium enlists local divers to search for the largest octopus in the world—the giant Pacific octopus. This year, volunteers at dozens of dive sites discovered 29 of these majestic creatures. Read my story here.

 

Portraits

Animals

 

About

Hallie Golden is a freelance journalist in Seattle. She writes regularly for such publications as The New York Times, The Guardian, CityLab and Seattle
Magazine. Her stories address some of the region’s most important social justice issues, including the area’s high number of murdered and missing Native American women. 

She previously worked as a contract reporter and editor for The Associated Press in Salt Lake City and Philadelphia. She covered state and federal politics and crime, and has written on such topics as U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s resignation, and a Utah judge who called a convicted rapist a ‘good man.’

She also worked as an editorial fellow in Washington, D.C. for Atlantic Media’s Nextgov, where she spent a year investigating the federal government’s use and misuse of technology.

Golden graduated from Stony Brook University, with degrees in journalism and music. 

She has received awards for both her writing and photography, including a Robert and Rhoda Amon award for outstanding journalism.

Multimedia Skills

Computer: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, WordPress Content Management System

Equipment: Nikon DSLR: D3000 and D7000, Canon video camerabasic CSS and HTML, Microsoft Excel

Now you see it, now you don’t (The Economist)

PLUTO, the ancient god of the underworld (pictured above), dealt with the dark and the dingy. Perhaps it is appropriate that a new email service allowing users to pull back murky messages from the depths of a recipient’s inbox bears his name.

Every email you send has the potential for permanence and repercussions. Whether it’s that raunchy picture you sent a partner before breaking up, or that email you mistakenly forwarded to your boss detailing what you hate about him, once an email is sent you lose all control. David Gobaud and Lindsay Lin, Harvard Law students, have spent months creating Pluto Mail—a free messaging service that aims to make such embarrassing events relics of the past.

It was released in beta on March 1st and gives users the ability not only to set self-destruct parameters for sent emails, but also edit those that have been sent already. Pluto Mail also allows authors to see when their message has been opened. Currently, the service has about 2,000 users and about as many on its wait-list. It allows just a few new recruits to join each day.

Although there have been past attempts at similar email programs, Pluto Mail has two advantages. It neither requires that users change their email service nor that email recipients have Pluto Mail accounts. This flexibility comes at a cost, however: it eliminated the possibility of Pluto Mail being able to completely delete sent emails.

Click here to read the full article!

Reporting From Russia

Artistry Through Turbulence

More than 20 years after an epic struggle, he finds harmony in the same place: his paintings.

Aslangery Uyanayev was part of a group of artists who squatted at Pushkinskaya 10 in St. Petersburg, Russia, to demonstrate the power of art during a time of tyranny. Today, he lives in the same place, with scuffed floors beneath dried-out brushes, plastic dishes of muddy water and canvases covered with vivid, chaotic paint strokes.

In 1991, Uyanayev joined with other protesting painters, musicians and writers at the end of the communist era (when many artists and art forms were restricted). As the chaos of a transforming country grew around them, the group’s aim was to establish an independent cultural center. They ended up doing much more. The artists’ work, including many informal concerts and art shows, formed a type of protective buffer between them and the tumultuous times in which they lived.

“We moved into the house with the world collapsing around us,” said Uyanayev.

Click here to read the rest!

Young Musician Bucks Russian Musical Culture

The 15-year-old’s frustrating memories of German class do not stem from grammar drills or vocabulary words, but from balloons.

The balloons were from all the celebrations that Olja Voronenko’s school held in lieu of class. All of the celebrations were held to kill time in a school that didn’t have enough classrooms for teaching.

These were no celebrations for Olja, an aspiring violinist. As her teachers sat up front, sipping tea, and the students around her relished the free period, she struggled silently. “I had a lot of unorganized lessons, so I always felt guilty that I couldn’t spend that time on the violin,” she said.

This shy resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, with the piercing gaze is trapped in a school system that is ill-equipped to accommodate, let alone nurture, creativity.

Click here to read the rest!

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