Tag: Republican Convention


Despite Display of Diversity, GOP Actions and Words Send Hostile Message to Immigrants

Republicans are trying to appeal to immigrants and people of color with a diverse cast of convention speakers. But Fi2W commentator Erwin de Leon says the GOP’s message is anti-immigrant.

How Ethnic Media Covered the Conventions

During the Democratic and Republican National Conventions Feet in Two Worlds worked with the New York Community Media Alliance to bring a group of ethnic media journalists to Denver and St. Paul to cover the conventions, the candidates and the parties.  The following article was written by a member of the group, Jehangir Khattak, a free lance Pakistani journalist who reports for newspapers and radio in the US and Pakistan. 

For more reports from the conventions by ethnic media journalists click here

America’s minority communities are the driving force behind major economic sectors such as agriculture, service, hospitality, and construction. They fill the jobs common folks are unwilling to do, as well as create job opportunities through their enterprising skills. However, major parts of these communities remain in the shadows, and their contribution to the American dream is barely mentioned in the national media.  Little wonder that mainstream media’s intentional or unintentional neglect of these fledging communities has created huge room for the ethnic press to take root and grow. According to the National Directory of Ethnic Media, there are more than 2,000 ethnic media organizations nationwide reaching out to more than 50 million Americans, or roughly one-fifth of the total population.

The demand for ethnic media is growing at such a pace that in New York alone there are nine different Urdu-language weekly newspapers. Nationwide, the number of Pakistani community weekly newspapers, radio and television channels has crossed the 20 mark. However, the strength and importance of this uncelebrated segment of the American media has rarely been recognized in the mainstream media. In fact the more the mainstream media ignores ethnic minorities, the more it strengthens media from these communities.

There has always been a need for organizations that could recognize, highlight and connect the ethnic media with the mainstream and build its capacity to market publications meeting the highest possible journalistic standards. It’s in this context that the New York Community Media Alliance and Feet in 2 Worlds sponsored journalists from the New York-based ethnic press to cover the DNC in Denver. The initiative proved to be more productive than many had thought as it exposed the ethnic media journalists, many of whom were covering a DNC for the first time, to the vast trove of information for their respective communities. For the first time ten different communities saw the convention coverage from their angle.

Not only that, the NYCMA and FI2W’s project had some impact on the mainstream media too. The New York Times “embedded” one of its reporters with our group of ethnic journalists to write about a story about ethnic media’s coverage of the convention. Thus the initiative not only generated several blogs, dozens of stories and radio interviews, but also mainstream media recognition of our efforts. The New York Times story could be the beginning of a nationwide mainstream media effort to pull the ethnic media out of the shadows and into the limelight, recognize its strength and utility, and enter into partnership to dig deep inside America’s immigrant population. NYCMA and the FI2W deserve full credit and accolades for the thoughtful intiative to empower a forgotten side of the larger American information sector.

Jehangir Khattak is a US-based Pakistani journalist, and can be reached at mjehangir@aol.com

Drill, Baby, Drill: The Backstory

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is getting most of the credit for a new slogan that sums up the Republican position on energy. But the phrase, “drill, baby, drill,” was actually used first by former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele in his speech to the Republican National Convention last Wednesday night. Later that evening Giuliani repeated the phrase in his remarks from the podium, and when Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accepted the GOP vice presidential nomination, convention delegates chanted it during her speech. Since then, “drill, baby, drill,” has taken on a life of its own. Newspaper editorials are using it as shorthand for the McCain/Palin energy platform. Wired.com has announced a “drill, baby, drill” remix contest.

Photo: Fox News

Steele is African American, leaving some to wonder if he reinvented the 60’s black power phrase, “burn, baby, burn,” to advance the GOP argument for a dramatic increase in offshore oil drilling. But Steele told Feet in Two Worlds that wasn’t the case. “No, we weren’t there…(I) was not making that connection,” Steele said. Rather, according to Steele, the slogan, “literally just came to me,” as he was writing his speech. Steele continued, “I think it’s the part of me that really kind of connects to real people – how real people would view this, what’s their expectation.”

A few days ago we blogged about Steele’s comment that the GOP had, “dropped the ball,” when it comes to reaching out to African American voters. We thought you would be interested in hearing all of his remarks, so here they are:

Listen to Michael Steele interviewed by Feet in Two Worlds’ John Rudolph.


Fashion Tips for Michelle Obama – A Former (Republican, Russian Immigrant) Model Speaks Out

This article was written by Ari Kagan who was in Minnesota to cover the Republican National Convention under a project sponsored by Feet in Two Worlds and the New York Community Media Alliance

Tatiana Sorokko is a beautiful former model, tall, and an all-about-business person. An energetic, self-confident and proud young woman, she is a contributing editor for Harper’s Bazaar and a former freelance reporter in Moscow for the Russian edition of Vogue magazine. Her husband Serge Sorokko works as a real estate developer in San Francisco. During his 30 years in America he has admired Republicans, especially President Ronald Reagan.

Tatiana and Serge came to St. Paul, MN for the Republican National Convention. But they were not regular delegates. They proudly flashed their VIP credentials as “McCain 100 Team” members: the Sorokkos say they raised about $100,000 for the presidential campaign of the senator from Arizona.

I met this interesting couple from California inside the Xcel Energy Center, where the Republican National Convention was being held (I overheard their conversation in Russian). “We believe in tax cuts, strong leaders like John McCain and Sarah Palin, and staying on the offensive against terrorists. That is why we are hard core Republicans,” said Serge.

Tatiana offered some comments on so-called political fashion. “Michelle Obama made the same mistake as Teresa Kerry four years ago. Michelle wore a light blue dress that was totally similar to the color of the background video of blue sky. Teresa wore a red suit that reminded everybody of ketchup (the sauce that made her family fortune). Both of them did not understand fashion and the importance of good taste for public figures.”

Tatiana introduced me to her longtime friend Georgette Mosbacher who is a chairwoman of the New York-based organization Women for McCain. “Look at her,” said the Russian writer for the popular fashion magazine, “she is gorgeous and hot, she just gave a 30 minute interview to Fox and Friends, and she really knows how to dress, so everybody gets excited about her candidate. Not like those clumsy Democratic wives.”
Russian delegate (2)

Georgette Mosbacher (left) with Serge and Tatiana Sorokko at the Republican National Convention

Ari Kagan is Senior Editor for Vecherniy New York, a Russian-language newspaper, and host of the weekly TV show “Here in America” on RTN – the Russian Television Network of America.

Reporter's Notebook: A Russian American Journalist at the Republican Convention

This article was written by Ari Kagan who is in Minnesota to cover the Republican National Convention under a project sponsored by Feet in Two Worlds and the New York Community Media Alliance.

Dr. Solomon Bayevsky, an 85-years-old resident of Menorah Plaza Apartments in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, book writer and Persian culture scholar, knows a few things about war. He was just 19 years old, when he was badly injured during the fierce fighting against the Nazis at Stalingrad in 1943. “We don’t need more wars,” said the immigrant from Mogilev, Belarus. “With John McCain America will start a new war with Iran, and maybe even with China (over Taiwan) or Russia.” Bayevsky, who lost the use of his right arm in the war, added, “we will stay in Iraq much longer than we need. I will vote for Barack Obama because he will finish the Iraq war, will use more tough diplomacy in other conflicts, and because he is young, smart and energetic. I also like the Democratic approach toward immigrants and low-income people.”

Listen to an interview with Dr. Solomon Beyevsky by Feet in Two Worlds executive producer John Rudolph.


Bayevsky’s opinion is not entirely shared by his neighbors, many of them Russian Jewish immigrants who live in this quiet retirement home in a suburb of Minneapolis. Some praised McCain and expressed reservations about Obama’s message of change. But everybody here is ready to vote on September 4 to choose the next president. Most Russian seniors in St. Louis Park receive their information about presidential politics either from Russian-language TV and newspapers or from their children who tend to vote for Republicans.

Listen to an interview with Leonid Kerbel. Mr. Kerbel, 75, immigrated to the US in 1994, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was a tennis coach in the USSR, and still stays in shape by playing tennis. Here he explains to John Rudolph why he plans to vote for John McCain.


Ari Kagan (left) interviews a resident of the Menorah Plaza Apartments in St. Louis Park, Minnesota about the 2008 presidential election.

My visit to the local Russian community was at the end of the first weird day of the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul. The most visible and noisy event of the day was not the convention or appearances by Laura Bush and Cindy McCain who urged delegates to donate money to the Gustav Hurricane relief fund. Instead the biggest media attraction in Minnesota was an anti-war march near the State Capitol. While the main part of this rally (about 8,000 people) was peaceful and predictable, one group of violent self-proclaimed anarchists (about 200 people) behaved and looked like underground terrorists. These young marchers, in dark clothing, and with bandannas over their faces, smashed the windows of a Macy’s department store, slashed the tires of a police car, tried to block the Republican delegates’ buses, and threw various objects at police. Some of them held signs like “Thank God for Gustav,” “Fag McCain,” and “God hates Palin”.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how local police exercised the necessary restraint. Hundreds of cops, sweltering in heavy riot gear on a very hot day, protected delegates and streets from some of the craziest protesters. As a Russian-speaking Jew, who immigrated to America in search for freedom and capitalism, I shook my head when I saw some of the more peaceful marchers with anti-Israel, anti-capitalism and anti-American placards. I am no fan of George W. Bush or his war policies, but I don’t think that signs like “Free Palestine: support the right of return” or “Stop American aggression and idiocy!” were effective in terms of spreading the anti-war message. But we have freedom of speech, so even some radical views could be heard here. That is the beauty of America.

Ari Kagan is Senior Editor for Vecherniy New York, a Russian-language newspaper, and host of the weekly TV show “Here in America” on RTN – the Russian Television Network of America.


Ari Kagan on The Brian Lehrer Show

Ari Kagan, Feet in 2 Worlds contributor and senior editor of the Russian newspaper Vecherniy New York, was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, New York Public Radio today as part of the show’s series with immigrant journalists covering the party conventions. Ari described the protests and police reaction at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Click here to listen online.

Here are some of Ari Kagan’s photos of Monday’s demonstrations in St. Paul.




What If They Held A Convention And Nobody Came?

Lotus Chau, the chief reporter at Sing Tao Daily, woke up in St. Paul, Minnesota on the first day of the Republican National Convention, glanced at the TV screen, and saw CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a rain slicker, his body pressed against the wind, reporting live from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. “What’s he doing there?” she asked, “he’s supposed to be here.” Chau is part of a group of ethnic media journalists from New York who are in the Twin Cities to cover the Republican National Convention. So far there isn’t much to cover. While Cooper and a number of other network news stars have quickly shifted their focus and their considerable resources to the impact of Hurricane Gustav, reporters for ethnic media, on limited budgets, are in St. Paul waiting for the start of a convention that has yet to get off the ground.

There is no question that John McCain’s announcement on Sunday suspending all but the legally-required convention activities has had a major impact. So have the decisions by President Bush and Vice President Cheney to skip the convention. But there’s more to it. On this first day, it looks like Minneapolis and St. Paul are hosting a non-convention (not the UnConvention, since that’s the name of a series of alternative events being held in the Twin Cities to coincide with the RNC). In contrast to downtown Denver, which on the first day of the Democratic National Convention last week was buzzing with delegates, demonstrators and security officials, downtown Minneapolis this morning looked like a ghost town. To be fair, it is Labor Day, but even so it looked like they had rolled up the sidewalks.

On University Avenue in St. Paul, just a few miles from the the Xcel Energy Center where the RNC is scheduled to be held, the only evidence of political activity was a hand-lettered sign held up by an anti-war demonstrator on his way to the state capitol for a rally. The sign said “McCain is a War Whore.” There were no “McCain for President” signs to be seen on any of the local streets. A Walgreens drug store had no GOP souvenirs for sale. “No they didn’t send us any,” replied a clerk when asked why the shelves were bare of McCain swag. The only specialty items in the store were Halloween costumes. In Denver Barack Obama t-shirts, hats and pins were sold on many street corners and in convenience stores. Two days after the DNC sales continued at a brisk pace.

Shortly after John McCain announced the pared-down convention schedule, Anne Mazone a delegate from Navasota, Texas expressed optimism about the impact of the convention on the fall campaign. “Oh honey, when we come out of here we’ll have so much momentum it’ll be scary,” she said. But now the attention of the national press has been diverted from the Republicans and their convention, at a time when the GOP was hoping for all the free media that a convention normally affords.

In the meantime ethnic media reporters who are here to cover what’s happening in St. Paul are scrambling for material. With a lack of events to cover, they are interviewing each other. It remains to be seen how Bangladeshi newspaper readers will react to the political analysis of Russian and US journalists who have been quoted by a Bangladeshi reporter who needs to fill columns in the paper he works for, but is located many miles from the eye of the storm.

Feet in Two Worlds Covers the Conventions

Feet in Two Worlds kicks off its coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions tomorrow, featuring reporting by immigrant journalists from around the country who are attending the conventions. We’ll be podcasting and blogging from Denver and St. Paul, and our reporters will be on public radio with reports and analysis. Listen to the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, New York Public Radio each morning at 10:40 for segments with ethnic media journalists.

Journalists whose work we’ll be featuring include Pilar Marrero from La Opinion in Los Angeles, Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska from the Polish Daily News in New York, and freelance journalist Aswini Anburajan.

Monday we’ll present the first in a series of panel discussions on Deconstructing the Ethnic Vote, an in-depth look by ethnic media journalists at the conversations going on in immigrant and ethnic communities about the presidential candidates, the issues, and the parties. This event is co-sponsored by the New York Community Media Alliance. If you’re in Denver, please join us Monday at noon at the Big Tent. We’ll have more information soon about where you can hear and see this conversation on the Web, TV and radio.