Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tell Choice Hotels to Prevent Child Prostitution in Their Hotels

You can take action to prevent child prostitution by sending a letter to Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, telling him to sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct and commit to preventing child sex tourism in Choice Hotel hotels.

Choice Hotels are the owners of the Comfort Inn where Shaniya Davis was sold for sex. They are also one of a number of hotel chains that have not signed the ECPAT Code of Conduct, a commitment to preventing child sex trafficking, which disproportionally affects minority children in America.

I urge you to sign the petition HERE:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Buffet of Ideas

We are nearing that time of year when people seem to be winding down a little bit at work and focusing on holiday fun and family madness. Some of us (the lucky ones) get days off during this period to celebrate and rest up for the New Year. But there is no rest for those of us in the world of advocacy-- there are always cases or issues that need a big mouth to call them out.   But in an effort to spend little more time at home I am taking a very brief hiatus from Sax Facts (two weeks off). I will return with guns-blazing the first week of January!

I thought I would do a short round-up of a few news pieces from this week for you… a sample buffet of ideas, if you will (to match our upcoming holiday feasts), so sit back, take a sip of egg nog and let's review the week:

Little Girl Whose Braid Was Cut Off By Teacher: at first I was blown away when I saw the image of the little girl whose braid was cut off – but that was mostly because I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at on the screen. The teacher was clearly at fault for assaulting and humiliating the child with a scissors in front of her classmates. However, I couldn’t get my head around the outrage coming in during the coverage. Parents were expressing their absolute disgust over the act and calling for the resignation of the teacher. I can’t help but wonder why parents jump to protect the child in this case, but in cases of sexual assault by teachers on students the parents in some schools go right for protecting the teacher. For more of my thoughts on this, read my Huffington Post article this week (link).

Tiger’s Incessant Coverage: there really isn’t too much more to say about this (I mean ‘common, hasn’t it all been said already!). But I will add my two cents to the pile. I was driving along the other day and I saw a sign that read “Jet Blue has more coverage then TMZ.” That is how I know TMZ has made it big – they are being satirized in a major airline’s ad campaign. I think that is why this Tiger scandal is reigning in the media… we are in the age of TMZ domination. That’s what the people want, so that’s what the media provides. And unfortunately Tiger is TMZ gold.

Antidotes for Good Holiday Cheer: I heard a great interview on HLN this week with a young clergyman who said we should “Spend Less and Give More.” He went on to share a great example of a son who gave his father a bag of coffee beans as a holiday gift with a note that said ‘You can only drink this coffee with me while we reminisce on the past, catch-up on the present, and dream about the future’… Sweet! The example seeks to draw our attention to the blind and meaningless consumerism going on today in America and how Christmas and Hanukkah, etc. should be about celebrating with family and appreciating each other. I completely agree! Unfortunately, in order for our economy to continue to rebound (and to validate Bernanake’s status as Time’s Person of the Year) we do have to spend money on stuff!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Impact of Tiger on Our Kids

Are you secretly (or overtly) obsessed with the Tiger Woods scandal? Or are you sick of it? Do you think it’s ridiculous or relevant? Whatever you may feel personally about the coverage, it is an issue worth examining from a cultural perspective as well as from that of a parent.   I really wonder about the state of our country (and media culture) when we are in a historic health care debate in Congress, conducting two wars, and all you see on TV commentary shows for the last few days is discussions about Tiger’s “transgressions”  (I guess that what can call affairs nowadays).  

We have all seen a lot of commentary about the impact this will have on the game of golf, and on his endorsements. We have also seen quite a bit about the events of that fateful evening-- the police report, the many mistresses, the voice messages, text messages, and the speculations of why he is not admitting anything in public, etc., etc.   None of this really matters, does it?  But the one thing I have NOT heard about is  the impact of this scandal on children—his, mine, yours, and everyone else’s.  

How many young kids (of all colors and creeds) looked up to Tiger as a hero? Hundreds? Thousands? And it was not because he had a beautiful wife, and not even really because he had a lot of money. The kids looked up to Tiger because he is one of the BEST athletes in the world in his specialty—golf. He was the definition of a “hero.” Once you reach the top echelons of any sport worldwide, you inevitably have a following of young people who admire you for your status as an archetypal great.   So when great men fall as hard as Tiger did (in the adult world), it also shatters a small part of the innocent admiration our children feel towards these human heroes.

Coincidentally, it was my daughter’s current event date on November 30 and she wanted to share the news of his accident.  And even at the young age of seven, her first question was, “Mommy, why was he driving at 2:25 AM?”  I chose to emphasize that people can drive at all hours of the night--which would have worked if Tiger’s story wasn’t on the news nonstop.   Joy Behar said last night on her show that “Tiger is not out of the woods yet” … Well neither are WE. While the media continues to obsess about Tiger’s many sexual exploits, we have to address the aspect of the fallen hero to our kids. When great men fall, we all feel the earth shake a little. If your kids are old enough to have found a hero in Tiger, they are old enough to hear from you why it will all be OK.   

Hopefully the coverage will end soon! 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bringing Back Miss G

I know many people don’t read the paper as much as they used to, particularly my favorite part, the California section of the Los Angeles Times.  But you should!  By way of update, Monday there was a truly inspiring story about a Hamilton High School office administrator (Miss G) who was laid off by LA Unified School District and then brought back though an organization of student activists (link).

I was so inspired by these young kids who found their voices and collectively took action to save the job of a school official they were all close to. The students said they felt “Miss G really cared about them” and that it was “unfair” she should be fired.  Not willing to accept Miss G’s layoff, they came up with a plan to show their dissatisfaction at the district’s decision.  They had meetings, utilized social media and respectfully protested at school and then went to the School Board where they presented a succinct, inspiring argument as to why she should be rehired.  And guess what?  They were heard and their argument was successful.     

Back in September President Obama gave a back-to-school speech in Arlington where he asked students to be committed.  He said: “Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.”  Well, these students answered the call and accomplished what they set out to do. 

I am writing this not merely to say “go kids go.”  I am writing this because what they did was truly remarkable.   They got LAUSD, one of the most bureaucratic, political entities, to listen. They argued fairness, kindness, and appealed to reason.  The kids didn’t buy the district’s answer laying-off Miss G was a good solution to a school budget crisis – not when Miss G had not only always done good work but also genuinely cared about students, education, and the school. They tactically argued that her low seniority status was not a good measure to use as a basis for the layoff.  And their voices were heard! Steve Zimmer of the LA School Board broke protocol by commending the students in their presentation to the Board. Then, Miss G returned to Hamilton High!  

This story illustrates an opportunity - a teachable moment if you will. So, please share this story with YOUR children.   Encourage your kids to find their voices and highlight how their voices can be heard.  Kids need to know that they have a place, space, and voice in not only their world, but our world too!  Let them know that kids can make change and be the source of admiration amongst us crotchety grown-ups. Tell them that when you are dedicated to a good cause, you can make good things happen. Give your kids a reason to believe that THEIR voices will be heard by you, as well.

Having authentic dialogue with your kids - using these kinds of news stories -reminds them that their opinions matter. You can provide positive reinforcement and a reason for your kid to care enough to express themselves (to you, and to the world)!