Sunday, November 29, 2009

BVA - Alisa Miller's take on Media

The Bi-weekly Video Award (BVA) is announced Sunday nights every other week. These videos are stamped with my "Guaranteed to Inspire or Inform" tag. Check out for more information.

Growing up in a first generation household from Argentina, I already new that Latin America was never on the radar for mass media or the evening news programs. Hurricanes, the drug trade and an occasional piece on a Latin American president – these were the stories. Likewise, being four years younger than Britney Spears taught me that pop culture always has an ace up its sleeve. Despite these understandings I was still taken aback by the sheer disproportion in news coverage as demonstrated by Alisa Miller, CEO of Public Radio International.

Given the global recession and nearly two years of social media and technological advances, it would be very interesting to see a new installment of this same presentation. For instance, print media has continued slashing costs with foreign bureaus and correspondents treated as fat rather than red meat. In addition, would the rise of twitter and internet news sites such as Globalpost and Huffington post alter the landscape, or would the fixed attention trends continue with the balloon boy or Michael Jackson simply replacing Anna Nicole Smith?

For shining a light on a topic often overlooked, Alisa Miller’s 2008 TED talk is stamped as “Guaranteed to Inform”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Presentations, Three States, All Welcomed

I will be presenting “Faith in Action” the following days at Jesuit Universities. I invite students and individuals in the area to attend. I will be focusing on the theme of hope in global HIV/AIDS using stories and examples from my research in the field. The goal is to challenge, inform and inspire the audience to believe in the power of the individual to impact their communities.

I hope you can make one of the presentations.

Thursday, Nov 19 at 10am
St Peters College
Roy Irving Theater
Jersey City, NJ

Monday, Nov 30 at 7pm
St Joesph’s University
Philadelphia, PA
Location TBD

Thursday, Dec 3 at 7pm
Fairfield University
Fairfield, CT
Lower Lobby BBC

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BVA - Power Shift: Australia

The Bi-weekly Video Award (BVA) is announced Sunday nights every other week. These videos are stamped with my "Guaranteed to Inspire or Inform" tag. Check out for more information.

What do you get when you mix a Saturday Night Live hit skit, a "flash" mob, and young adults looking to spread a message? The answer is Powershift - the newest BVA installment.

Powershift is a global grassroots organization that lobbies politicians to take energy policy and alternative energy seriously. Their website and organizational model breed camaraderie through group portals and videos while allowing easy access to locate and contact local government representatives. You may be thinking, "Can students make a difference?" The department of energy (DOE) seems to think so.

In October, Newsweek featured a piece on the DOE biannual Solar Decathlon contest. Teams of college students build "a fully functional house powered by nothing but the sun". The grading rubric includes architecture, market viability, home entertainment and seven other categories. The underlying objective is best explained by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. In the piece he stresses the competition as a method of challenging the coming generation to innovate, collaborate and grow a green industrial revolution. They are stakeholders not bystanders.

Policy, grassroots advocacy and education are three pillars to achieve the much anticipated "new" economy. The DOE's contest is an example of expanding the application of lessons learned for college students. It is a valuable academic tool. Powershift is another example. It connects students across the globe to gear up for energy change. It has revved up the campaign in light of the fast approaching Copenhagen Climate Conference. December 9th the world will know if leaders are serious about climate change. If they want to feel the pulse of the younger generation or if they want a quick laugh at the lengths young adults will do to spread a message, I would recommend this video. It starts off slow, but gets

For showing how comedy and art can bring attention to a global issue, for organizing and motivating over 100 young adults to dance in public, and for getting young adults involved in the democratic process - this BVA goes to Powershift.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday Commemoration of Jesuit Martyrs

20th Anniversary of a Call to Action

They were two Spanish Jesuits on a mission in El Salvador. They were two dear friends who intensely felt a calling to act in defense of the oppressed and challenge the establishment. Together they would alter the meaning of a Christian university by publicly turning its research departments into active social change agents. One is Fr. Jon Sobrino SJ, a renowned Catholic author and a leading figure on what Jesuit higher education should look like. The other is Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría SJ, Sobrino's inseparable colleague, spiritual guide and visionary partner. Twenty years ago, one would be martyred and one would narrowly escape.

In 1982 upon the acceptance of an honorary degree from Santa Clara University, Ellacuría eloquently challenged the audience to believe in the power of a university. A university was to build academic excellence and intellectual capacity. These were the vital tools needed to address root problems of oppression. For Ellacuría the overarching goals were based on two fundamentals of Liberation Theology - championing a preferential option for the poor and embracing social justice.

Prophets speak truth to power regardless of the consequence and Ellacuría and his fellow Jesuits knew the dangers of speaking against the military. From 1977-1980 alone, seven Catholic priests were murdered. Over a decade later in 1993, the UN would confirm the assassination of beloved Arch-Bishop Oscar Romero was ordered by Army Major Roberto D’Aubuisson. Yet, Ellacuría’s views were fully absorbed and practiced at his university, Universidad Centroamerica José Simeon Cañas. During the El Salvador civil war the university and the Jesuits became the prophetic voice for the oppressed, the murdered and the poor. It denounced the military and produced studies on the effects of the civil war and poverty on the masses.

In his speech, Ellacuría bore witness to the consequences of challenging the establishment and advocating for the poor. “From 1976 to 1980, our campus was bombed ten times: we have been blocked and raided by military groups and threatened with the termination of all aid. Dozens of students and teachers have had to flee the country in exile; one of our students was shot to death by police who entered the campus. Our history has been that of our nation.”

Last year I had the privilege of hearing Sobrino lecture on the fundamentals of Ellacuría’s vision and pedagogy. It is an exercise in reflection that demands action. The poor and the oppressed are the crucified people. We must ask ourselves. What have I done to put them up there? What am I doing to help them down? For the UCA it meant releasing studies and pointing at structural violence and cycles whose chains never unlinked for the majority of the population. The more it denounced the military the closer it became a target.

On November 16, 1989, when Sobrino was luckily out of the country, armed men entered the Jesuit residence at the University and murdered six Jesuits, the cook, and the cook’s 15 year old daughter. Each Jesuit was shot in the head. It was meant to symbolize the erasing of these Jesuits ideas. Yet the murders would draw international attention and help propagate the message of Ellacuría. That message of speaking truth to power, analyzing root causes of poverty and acting in solidarity with the poor is championed to this day by Sobrino and alive in the hearts, minds and actions of individuals and organizations around the world.

If you are in NJ, I invite you to come celebrate the lives and messages of Ellacuría, Sobrino, and the UCA Jesuits this Sunday on the 20th anniversary commemoration of the El Salvador Martyrs.

8th Floor 89 Market St
Downtown Newark

$ 10 Donation
Speeches, Music and Food

Sunday, November 1, 2009

BVA – Dove “Evolution”

The Bi-weekly Video Award (BVA) is announced Sunday nights every other week. These videos are stamped with my "Guaranteed to Inspire or Inform" tag. Check out for more.

In President Eisenhower’s farewell address he warned the country of a “military-industrial complex” that could grow so large it would challenge our democratic principles and liberties. Eisenhower feared the influence and lobbying power this complex would have on government policies, decision and budgets. 50 years later the Congressional Budgeting Office divvies up 20% of the taxpayer pie to Defense. A closer look by places the percentage at 54 by including veteran benefits and the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps the President known for his highways and WWII heroism should also be recognized as a psychic.

In the last BVA, Annie Leonard tackled another industrialized system. This one was defined by corporate capitalism and relentless consumerism which are depleting resources, producing endless waste and valuing short term profits over long term sustainability. She picks up where Eisenhower left adding the largest multinational corporations to the list of undemocratic and potentially destructive influences.

This BVA installment attempts to shine light on materialism and manipulative marketing – two lifebloods of consumerism. Whereas Eisenhower alerted citizens to changes that could alter our democratic practices, consumerism, materialism and manipulative marketing affect the psyche of individuals. Marketing machines have nearly ingrained in our culture an insatiable desire for newer, better and bigger. Quick, go out and buy the latest UGG boots or wrist watch as if materials indicate someone’s worth or value. Buy that hair coloring product, anti-aging cream or spend a few thousand on botox shots. Don’t you know that age is the enemy? It brings me back to my research in Rwanda where a middle aged female US doctor said she would never color her grey hair again. Why? Because her patients taught her without a word that grey hair meant you were privileged to live a long life - a privilege to celebrate not hide.

The old adage maintains that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately the message is mangled by industries hawking items and portraying their own selective and near unattainable definition of beauty. I find it interesting how it can radically differ across cultural borders. For example, in Thailand women use skin bleaching creams and whitening techniques while in the USA it’s self bronzing lotions and tanning beds. How can a woman keep up?

This Dove video offers a glimpse into what every person, particularly girls, should know - beauty is not derived from external forces, marketing campaigns or doctored photos. I promise that you’ll never look at advertisement the same again.