Social Justice and Equality

My reporting for Changing America by The Hill on the topics of equality.

The New York legislator who passed statewide marriage equality pushes for the Gender Recognition Act

In 2004, when New York Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (D) was asked to lead the charge on New York’s quest to legalize same-sex marriage, he wasn’t sure if he was the right guy for the job. “That night I went out to dinner with my now-husband at Symposium Restaurant on 113th Street,” says O’Donnell. “I asked what he thought about it and he said he can’t get married! I asked why and he told me it’s because I hadn't asked yet. So, I asked him, and he said yes.” The road to marriage equality was

One year later: how George Floyd's legacy continues to spur change and reform

Today marks one year since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed at the hands of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin. When the traumatic incident, which was captured by a civilian on their smartphone camera, was released to the world — what followed nobody could have predicted. In the year since Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement and a debate surrounding widespread police reform caught fire around the nation, angering and invigorating activists to take to

Spike in anti-Asian hate could lead to systemic change in schools

This story is from The Hill's Changing America publication. After a year of increasingly severe and frequent attacks against Asian Americans, experts say it will take systemic change to make lasting improvements. A good place to start, they say, is at higher learning institutions. Asian American faculty members are taking steps such as creating educational resources for students and the public, and speaking out about the "model minority" myth that can lead to damaging consequences for Asian

Experts see new roles for artificial intelligence in college admissions process

This story is from The Hill's Changing America publication. The job of a college admissions officer is not an easy one. For any competitive higher learning institution, the admissions process used to hand-pick each incoming student has also come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. To ensure the ongoing success of an institution, admissions officers are tasked with the nearly impossible task of efficiently evaluating thousands of applications each school year, with the expectation that t

DC’s New “Gift Shop” Is a Stylish Incubator for Black-Owned Brands

Even before studying the arts in college, Gary Williams, Jr. remembers his father always carrying a camera around, taking pictures everywhere he went. His dad was a hobbyist, but Williams wanted to pursue work in a creative field full-time. It’s fitting, then, that after seven years as a government contractor, Williams met his now-business partner Tamon George. Together, they formed what is now Creative Theory Agency — an award-winning marketing firm that focuses on helping companies craft more

The DOJ launches official investigation into Louisville policing practices following the death of Breonna Taylor

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced yesterday that the Department of Justice intends to launch a sweeping investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department. The news arrives on the heels of a guilty verdict handed to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found responsible for the death of a Black man, George Floyd. Floyd’s death amongst others, especially men of color, at the hands of police officers inspired the opening of a pattern or practice investigation i

A Five-Course Dinner Series to Stop Anti-Asian Hate Comes to NYC and SF

A poignant 2020 memory for many Asian Americans remains the first time we witnessed then-President Trump call the novel coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” At the time, the World Health Organization was cautioning everyone to avoid using the derogatory and misleading term, among others such as the “kung flu” and the “Wuhan virus.” It was hard to fathom such an offensive term being used by a sitting U.S. President; sadly, it was also completely unsurprising. Fast-forward to the present and we can s

Black family's beachfront CA property seized during Jim Crow era is being returned — and it's worth millions

California state and Los Angeles County legislators are trying to provide justice for the descendants of a Black couple who owned a beach resort in Manhattan Beach, before the property was torn from them during the Jim Crow era. More than a century ago in 1912, Willa Bruce purchased lots along the beach for $1,225 and ran a popular lodge, cafe and dance hall that provided local Black families a way to enjoy their weekends on the coast during a time of strict racial segregation. The area was ref

The long-awaited legalization of marijuana in New York takes aim at issues of racial equity

This week, New York became the 16th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, finally overcoming years of stalled attempts. The cannabis legislation was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday, following a day of intense debate among lawmakers in Albany. Through the new program, millions of dollars of tax revenue from cannabis will be reinvested into minority communities that have continued to be ravaged by the decadeslong war on drugs. The robust program legalizes cannabis for

Everything you should know about the Derek Chauvin trial over George Floyd's death

On the third day of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, a witness who saw the early moments of George Floyd’s arrest last Memorial Day broke down in tears while on the witness stand. “Oh my god,” Charles B. McMillian said as he wiped tears from his face upon watching the emotional video of Floyd calling for his mother and saying “I can’t breathe.” It has now been 10 months since the death of Floyd, who died in police custody after Chauvin sat with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Pu

New York man arrested for violently attacking a 65-year-old Filipino woman

A man in New York was arrested and charged early Wednesday morning in connection to an attack on a 65-year-old Filipino woman earlier this week. The brutal assault was captured on camera Monday morning just before noon in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. The victim was walking to church when the attacker yelled racist slurs at her before he began to assault her, unprovoked. The victim was kicked in the stomach, which knocked her onto the sidewalk. Her assailant then proceeded to s

In Minnesota, a rape conviction thrown out because the victim drank alcohol first

According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, a person who is sexually assaulted while intoxicated does not fit the designation for a more serious charge if he or she consumed the alcohol or drugs voluntarily, an opinion that altered the fate of both convicted sex offender Francois Momulu Khalil and his victim. Four years ago in May 2017, a woman identified in court documents as J.S. met Khalil outside a bar in Minneapolis. At the time J.S. was 20 years old and had already taken five shots of vodka

Farmworkers say they are essential workers without essential protections

When Norma Flores López was growing up, her least favorite crop to pick was the onion. “For any 12-year-old coming back from spring break, the last thing they want us to smell like was onions, and let me tell you: once you have that smell on your hands, you cannot wash it off,” says López. “That made me very not popular at school [she laughs], so those were actually sort of my first moments of realizing, oh man, I'm not like some of these other kids. These kids were coming back from spring bre

Will Cuomo's recent scandals make the case for NYC's first female mayor?

New York City is typically known as being powerful, progressive and a city of firsts. In November 2020, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, two New York candidates, became the first two openly gay Black men elected to Congress after they were declared winners in their House races. Less than a month ago, the city’s first Black female schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, was named by mayor Bill de Blasio. One important seat of local power has yet to meet an important first, though — New York City h

Eight killed in Atlanta-area massage parlor shooting, among them six Asian women

Eight people were killed in a series of shootings in the Atlanta area on Tuesday. The horrific series of events unfolded within an hour, as a shooter likely made their way to three massage parlors in the area. Atlanta police said they found five people who were shot inside Youngs Asian Massage Parlor, two of whom died on the scene and three who were transported to the hospital where two of them also died. All four of those who died were Asian women. Just under an hour later police responded to

The UN Foundation's Girl Up on how to #LeadLikeHer

Women’s History Month lends itself as a time when we pay tribute to the inspiring women shaping our government, businesses and homes, and was designated by presidential proclamation as a time set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history. This monthlong celebration should also be a time of more solemn recognition for the progress that has yet to be made for gender parity. While women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, earn more than 57 percent of undergraduate degrees a

These 10 inspirational women should be household names — here's why they are not

Each year on March 8, the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” are recognized globally with the celebration of International Women’s Day. It was more than 100 years ago in 1910 that an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen, where the idea of a women’s day was brought forth by a German woman named Clara Zetkin. The purpose of International Women’s Day was to designate a time when women around the world would get the chance to air their conce

Chloe Zhao becomes first Asian female director to take home a Golden Globe with her film 'Nomadland'

Director Chloe Zhao has won the Golden Globe for Best Director for her film “Nomadland,” making her just the second woman to win the category in the award show’s 78-year history. In taking home the award, Zhao’s superlatives didn’t stop there, as she is now the first Asian woman to take home the award as well. Zhao’s win is representative of a shift within the industry, following years of backlash against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for what many considered to be a purposeful

Black Lives Matter announces new Survival Fund amidst the wait for COVID-19 relief

In January 2021, President Biden shared the details of his proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, with many features specifically designed to help the jobless. With unemployment benefits currently set to expire on March 14, the pressure is now on to get a bill passed, which Biden has said would extend those benefits through the end of September. In the meantime, Americans across the country are still trying to make ends meet, especially communities of color, which have been disproporti

New Netflix series 'Amend' with Will Smith explores constitutional equality

It was in 1868 that what some scholars call “the birth of the modern Constitution” took place, when the historic 14th Amendment was finally ratified. Since then, it has become among the most litigated amendments in U.S. history. Its key provisions promise equal protection of the law for all citizens of the United States, born and naturalized. While that may seem fairly straightforward, the shifting interpretations of the amendment have paved the way for not only the civil rights movement but le
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