Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fundraising = Sugar for the Sugarless

That's me and my insulin pump enjoying a completo (glorified hot dog) in Santiago, Chile. That little machine is my lifeline, believe it or not. That little machine is one reason to support JDRF.

It's that time of year again: asking for money time.

There are lots of reasons people ask for money, but the very existence of nonprofit organizations is proof that there is a certain talent for asking for money professionally. Ideologically, I support a number of political and charitable causes, and when I can, I donate. There is one cause that has far more personal weight for me, though, and for selfish reasons: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. JDRF was founded by the parents of children living with type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, and for that very reason, all of the proceeds go to support type 1 research specifically. The majority of Americans living with diabetes have type 2, a condition of the same name and similar symptoms, but one that is potentially reversible. Type 1 does not have a cure...yet.

Every fall, JDRF hosts a series of Walks to Cure Diabetes across the nation. On October 4, my family and I will be participating in the Walk to Cure Diabetes at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Here are a few brief reasons why this is a good cause to support:

-Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition requiring injected insulin and numerous finger pricks every day to stay alive
-JDRF has contributed more than $1.3 billion to Type 1 diabetes research
-JDRF was founded by the parents of children living with type 1, which means that all of its research resources go to finding a cure
-According to the National Institute of Health, between 850,000 and 1.7 million Americans live with type 1. Of those, 125,000 are under 19 years old.
-About 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with type 1 every year; of those, 13,000 are children.

Inspired? Here's how you can help:

You can donate to our team at
Click on "donate" near the tennis shoe marked "Walk to Cure Diabetes."
Our team is Malibu Pumpers: Team Julia Halprin Jackson.

Or, simply follow this link:

In case you didn't know, I'm diabetic, and I really, truly appreciate your support.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Oakland Fault Lines Project on KALW's Crosscurrents

Anyone who has spent any time in Northern California's Bay Area can sense the tension between its citizens and the local police forces. East Oakland is a neighborhood known for its history of gang violence and police brutality, two problems that many argue could feed off each other. I recently started an internship at KALW Radio here in San Francisco, where I first learned about a unique series of investigative reports called the Oakland Fault Lines Project. Young reporters teamed up with Mills College, the Vesper Society, a local nonprofit entitled Youth Uprising, and KALW to provide an in-depth look at how and why these cycles of violence begin in the East Bay.

The stories, which are reported by Sandhya Dirks and Sarah Gonzalez, have been divided into a series of installments that feature local youth, law enforcement officials, community leaders and nonprofit organizers who engage in an active dialogue to question just how these problems form. The featured stories include an exploration of Measure Y, a campaign that included outreach programs for local youth, as well as an inside look on the accessibility of guns on the street. There are also revealing interviews with Jakada Imani, the Executive Director for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and David Kozicki, Deputy Chief of Police. Perhaps the most moving excerpt that I've heard so far was the exchange between Youth Uprising contributor Darrel Armstead, who grew up in Oakland, and Kozicki. Armstead asked him why African Americans are so often targeted by police officers, and explained why so many young people growing up in the area adopt the attitude of "F**k the police."

These stories resonate for me because they find a way to ask the questions that so many people are afraid to broach. Issues of race and class are timeless, and although the public attitude toward both is constantly evolving, I think it is easy to forget that unless we as a society are actively listening to each other, very little will change. It is one thing to acknowledge gang violence, police brutality and institutionalized racism, but is an entirely different act of courage to question it, much less probe those who are most closely affected.

The first time I was made aware of the conflicts between East Bay residents and the police was when I was in high school. I was a senior when the planes flew into the Twin Towers in 2001, and within twenty-four hours I had witnessed the seeds of racial profiling, not just on a national level, but locally as well. I grew up in Davis, a hunky dory university town about 80 miles from the East Bay, not without its own racial mini-dramas. After watching the 9/11 news in my government class, Mr. Winters invited all of us to go to the American Civil Liberties Union conference at UC Berkeley. The conference was scheduled long before 9/11, but the themes were eerily apt: the topics at hand were largely related to racial and social profiling, and how police forces across California were required to adopt a new system of profiling after September 11th.

It shocked me to realize how many innocent people are pulled over for alleged violations (such as faulty headlights, missing registration stickers, etc.) and then treated in a manner disproportionate to their "crime." And then I realized: this is a reality for many people around the world, even within our most democratic United States.I can't claim to know or understand just what this experience is like, being profiled for something simply because I fit a certain set of physical or cultural criteria, but listening to the Fault Lines interviews has given me a greater sense of why these situations occur, and how it makes people feel.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Don't Want to Take Their Word for it.

A part of my childhood died this week when I heard an interview on NPR with LeVar Burton, the brilliantly talented host of the PBS children's television show, Reading Rainbow, who announced that his 26-year-long edutainment program is officially coming to an end.

Burton, whose acting career is studded with conscious role choices (think Kunta Kinte Roots, the epic created by Alex Haley, or Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: the Next Generation), sounded truly sorry that his show, which encouraged children not only to read, but to become active participants in their communities, would no longer be on the air. I remember being transfixed by the programs, which always showcased young kids championing their favorite books, kids who could have been my neighbors or classmates, and often included field trips that were related to each show's theme.

I remember one show in particular, in which Burton interviewed a man who constructed great works of art out of discarded furniture, most of which he found in the city dump. Burton followed him into his garage, and together they picked apart an old bureau, which the man then repainted and redesigned into an amazing collage piece. It was a revelation to me that such everyday things could be truly beautiful. And when LeVar said something was possible, it was possible. That very night I remember tearing through my bedroom for old newspapers, magazines, and postcards, ripping out all my favorite photographs and rearranging them onto a big cardboard box. This box became my "idea box," the one I returned to whenever I had a story in mind.

It later occurred to me that Burton had created the world's best job for a literature major. I mean, the very concept of the program was to promote literacy, to tell stories, inspire new generations of readers, writers, and thinkers. And think of what his program did to boost the careers of hundreds of children's book writers. As a child, I wanted more than anything to be that kid with her chosen book, explaining all the critical plot points during the last two minutes of the program, my face bobbing into view while a virtual image of the book opened and closed. As an adult, I wanted that to be my book, or that producer to be me.
But now, more than anything, I just wish that this show, this truly noble, innovative program, could triple its lifespan, and thus make more kids want to be that kid.

His interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation was followed by a series of calls, all from listeners who, like me, had grown up with Reading Rainbow, or had children who had competed in his writing contests. Burton sounded calm, yet tragically defeated, and I wondered why it is that these productions of true quality--reading shows for children, public radio news programs, heck, public education in general--are so often scrapped for the ones that have no moral or social core. Do we really need another reality show? Or trendy romantic comedy?

No. We need someone who has the courage to say: "This is one opinion -- now go out there and create your own."

Friday, September 4, 2009

In essence, I poop Frisbees.

This is my dog. And my father. And, somewhere in there, a Frisbee that aforementioned dog was supposed to deliver during Davis' Picnic Day festivities. Bear with me for a moment while I make a wild personal comparison:

I sympathize completely. I mean, Taj was under a lot of pressure. He was capable of achieving the task at hand, and had demonstrated his ability many times before. He had a task to do (i.e. retrieve Frisbee successfully as many times as possible in 60 seconds), he enjoyed doing it, and when it came down to it, the very concept of performing said task in front of such an expectant audience was so overwhelming that his body just took over.

So, grad school. You see the parallel, right? So much energy and effort placed into something so effervescent, so well-intended, with surprisingly high stakes. Such earnest attempts to manage time. And, as always, there is that sixty-second clock. Metaphorically, that is.

I'd like to crack open San Francisco as if it were an egg, watch as its life slips through my fingers. I want a character I could date, adopt, despise (not necessarily in that order). Basically, I'd like to be this:

Well, maybe without that crazy gleam in my eye, sans canines. I'd like to stand up a little taller, take a little more control of what stories my fingers digest and compute. Maybe what I need is a little less manic and a little more awkward-goofy:

Someone with flair, unafraid to look away as others point and giggle.

Although, who knows, that might already be happening:

Note: All dog photos should be credited to the lovely and talented Lyra Halprin.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Prefer Music for Breakfast

Five Albums I've Recently Developed Crushes On:

1. The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1

Randy Newman is the best possible mixture of political satire and bedtime storyteller. My favorite is his classic "Political Science":

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

2. Konk, by U.K. rock group the Kooks. This is one of those albums that makes you forget where you are and start skipping.

3. Fiona Apple is pretty much the classiest little lady with the biggest, most surprising voice. Zach Galifianakis has got deadpan down pat, and has nailed that fine line between awkwardness and ironic wit. Now, the two of them together...well, check our Not About Love.

4. I fell in love with Bon Iver through NPR's Live Concerts podcast. Bon Iver, or "good winter" in French, is the result of one of Justin Vernon's better winters. And then I stumbled upon La Blogotheque, a French music criticism website. Their videos show how music create communities:

Oh, Skinny Love. I want to be someone's.

5. This final group wins for weirdest (a.k.a. best) name: Blitzen Trapper. What does that mean, anyway? It means the newest, hippest version of Bob Dylan, complete with trendy glasses and Portland boys decked out in plaid.

All of these songs are the stories that at some point were just thoughts in heads.

I am going to think about that, go to sleep, and wake up inspired.