ATTN: Subscribers!

Hey, everyone—

I probably should have told you a while ago, but I didn’t know how to check whether this blog has subscribers. I’ve switched from a WordPress-hosted blog to one hosted on my own domain. If you’d like to keep up with my musings and wanderings (and I hope you do! There are actually some major changes coming up in the next couple of months), please subscribe to the RSS feed for the new domain. I’ll be redirecting this blog to my new domain again at the end of the month.


PS: I’m working on a few entries right now about discussions with Grand Rapidians concerning the American Dream; trauma, projection and compassion; and a scene of what it’s like to be a woman in a deceptively small town. Here’s what I’ve written about in the last few months:


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Goodbye, love.

18. The legal mark of adulthood, but it’s not some sort of immaculate transformation, and our generation has less milestones to look to than those before us. Growing up is one thing, but when do we become adults?

For years now, I’ve been keeping track of the lessons learned as I’ve come into my own adulthood. I’ve gone back and forth about sharing them, but it wasn’t till I received an email that my AmeriCorps program – committed to strengthening the public media infrastructure – was bidding adieu after a decade’s worth of service that I needed to share at least this one.

I’ve been visited by reincarnations of this particular lesson over several years, and it has been especially poignant in the last month. It started when, despite enormous effort from myself and many associated with the School of Interdisciplinary Studies over two years, our academic division was stripped of its collegiate status at Miami University. In the last month, the House strapped a rider to the budget resolution that would essentially eliminate AmeriCorps. And tonight, the Transmission Project is raising its last toast in Boston.

So here is one of the most heart wrenching lessons I’ve had to learn about adulthood, and one with which I have yet to come to grips: As we grow older, we outlive the things we love.

Goodbye, CTC VISTA Project. Goodbye, Digital Arts Service Corps. My class and the staff have inspired me to no end. I can’t thank you enough.


Photo by Morgan Sully

Filed under: Storytelling, Technology, , , , , , , , ,

Regarding the Bartertown #muraldebate

UPDATE: MLive’s Troy Reimink put together a recap of the #muraldebate. This email was sent independently of the mural debate and just happened to coincide with the day that the mural debate began.

I feel compelled to share my email to Ryan yesterday regarding the Bartertown mural. The #muraldebate on Twitter is lively, but I’m afraid that people think the issue starts and ends with Che—that Che is the litmus, and if Che has a valid spot on that wall, then the same goes for the other 75% of that mural. Ryan responded in a more personalized version of point number one in Bartertown’s official statement and offered to chat, something I fully intend to take him up on.

Hi, Ryan—

I admire your efforts to establish a vegan eatery that’s both accessible and cozy. I came down to Bartertown for the first time during Wake Up Weekend. To be blunt, I was stunned to see Mao leading the charge with a ladle, cultural revolutionaries dishing out saucers, hoisting signs and cradling an allusion to that iconic red book.

The only reason I could imagine that you reappropriated this historical event for your walls is because of the association with socialism. But honestly, as a Chinese American, I couldn’t understand why you would choose this scene any more than you would have pulled a chapter out of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship. Although it’s still hotly debated—hundreds of thousands or millions—a horrifying number of political dissidents, ethnic minorities and wrongly accused innocents in China were persecuted, tortured, raped and killed during Mao’s reign. All of it in the name of the proletariat.

One of my operational underpinnings is “From each according to his[/her] abilities, to each according to his[/her] needs.” I can sympathize with the philosophy of socialism, but I don’t see the sound logic in choosing that historical scene to capture it.

I’m not claiming to speak for all Chinese and Chinese Americans. I also can’t assume that someone else has pointed out to you just how thunderstruck a person of that ethnic heritage might find the mural. I believe in the concepts behind what you’re doing and want to frequent Bartertown, but as a member of this community, I feel the responsibility to point out how uncomfortable this and other portrayals could make your potential patrons.

Denise Cheng.

Filed under: Ethnic groups, Ethnicity, Grand Rapids, , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Beedazzling Spellebration: Li•ter•a•cy (noun)

The Rapidian was honored today by the Literacy Center of West Michigan with the Marshall Pitler Public Relations Award. We were one of the last to be announced at the Beedazzling Spellebration and had the chance to really steep in all the emotions that played across the stage. The tutors, students and families recognized for their diligence – Eritrean, Mexican, American – were just a few swatches from the gradient that fills in the Literacy Center.

Before we went up, they played a video compiled and edited by various students and tutors who couldn’t make it tonight. Among the testimonies was a Vietnamese woman, Hai (2:13), who shared that the Literacy Center equipped her with the confidence to serve her community better by being able to translate for her neighbors at medical appointments or childrens’ school functions.

It resonated. My mom moved to the States a couple years ahead of our birth (twins), and even though her English is versatile, her understanding is blameless, she never trusted herself. At the doctor’s office, in banks and on the phone, she insisted that I stand nearby, always checking her own understanding against mine.

There must have been something like the Literacy Center in the South Bay, and seeing Hai beam, I wish my mom had had the same.

Filed under: Grand Rapids, Immigration, , , , , ,

Carnival of Journalism – First-generation youth and context

Recommendation 12: Engage young people in developing the digital information and communication capacities of local communities

This is probably one that’s closest to my heart, and the most organic entry point for me.

In the full description of the recommendation, the Knight Foundation sets the scene for a “Geek Corps” that assigns post-college volunteers to public institutions to help them leverage digital media technologies. There already exists something like this, a program of which I proudly call myself an alum: the Digital Arts Service Corps (formerly the CTC VISTA Project).

But when I first read the recommendation, my mind gravitated toward youth rather than young adults. More specifically, first-generation youth in minority communities. Most of my experience in media has been imagining how to leverage everyday tools for media creation by sources that are not traditionally seen as information providers. This has ranged from mobile media creation by immigrant communities and Millennials to my current position as the citizen journalism coordinator for The Rapidian, a hyperlocal news site for Grand Rapids, Mich.

When we look at the purpose of information, it’s to acquaint communities with the intricacies of issues and phenomena that have a direct effect on them. There are patches of media that serve youth, that serve immigrants but there is a whole swath that straddles the line between cultures, and youth has proven to be a volatile time across the board.

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Filed under: Ethnic groups, Ethnicity, Journalism, Storytelling, Technology, , , , , , ,

Carnival of Journalism – Universities: Modules v. local community engagement

This addendum branches off from my blog post addressing universities’ role as potential hubs of journalistic activities. To see what other carnies thought about universities as journalistic hubs and their role in media literacy, check out Dave Cohn’s roundup at the Carnival of Journalism

Most universities, especially bigger research ones, work on projects that are outward facing, and it seems like currently, they fall under two categories:

  1. Creating modules and components that various news outlets can utilize (All Our Ideas, Mobile Journalism Tools)
  2. Engaging the communities that are around them (MyMissourian, The Local – East Village)

A nod to fellow carny Christopher Wink: “Big universities have a long history of lacking support from the communities that surround them, despite being important jobs creators, covering surrounding neighborhoods can go a long way to sure up its connections with local leaders and residents.”

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Filed under: Internet, Journalism, Technology, , , , ,

Carnival of Journalism – Higher ed, purpose and imagination

<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-980" title="Return of the Carnival of Journalism <Update: To see what other carnies thought about universities as journalistic hubs and their role in media literacy, check out Dave Cohn’s roundup at the Carnival of Journalism

In 2009, I went to my first national conference. I met up with the folks at Denver Open Media in Austin for SXSWi. At the time, I had been working remotely with DOM on their Knight News Challenge project, the Open Media Project, and had caught earfuls of bustle via conference calls, but I had never met the crew.

DOM is a highly controversial, sometimes lauded outfit in the world of public access television. I asked executive director Tony Shawcross why cable access, and in a moment that I often revisit, he said it’s simply the most effective medium at their disposal for what they want to accomplish. He’d as soon lop it off when it no longer serves that purpose.

Media as the vehicle – don’t get too attached.

We’ve all seen them: journos who wax poetic about how to dash your serial commas, how to STET your mistakes. In a shifting journalism landscape, universities’ responsibility is to imbue their students with a flexible mindset, and the rest will follow.

So what environments can universities leverage to exercise that mindset?

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Filed under: Internet, Journalism, Storytelling, Technology, , , , , ,

Vegan challenge… it has begun

Vegan Challenge! | Two friends, one month, zero animal products

I’m pretty sure I have one of the most talented web designer friends. Get ready: It took Matt Anderson about 2.5 days to whip this site together.

Matt and I started vegan challenge as a friendship project. Neither of us are vegans. We tossed around the idea of keeping a blog during the first challenge in June 2010 but didn’t pull one together till this bout.

You’ll see less random posts on Dennetmint this month, so pop on over to for our back-and-forths. We each learned a lot of different things from the last vegan challenge, and I hope you’ll join us on this January adventure!

Filed under: Grand Rapids, Internet, Uncategorized, , , , ,

2010 assessment and 2011 resolutions

I love making lists. I think I’m pretty good at letting myself deviate, but lists are like loose road maps for me.

This new year’s, something my yoga teacher said kept echoing in my mind: “Do what you need to do to let yourself succeed.” I think the key to resolutions is not to beat myself up if I don’t accomplish them. Rather, I’m examining why I didn’t accomplish them and if I really care. If I’m mad at myself for not seeing something through, then it’s time to break it down: What are my baby steps to reach that goal?

Last year, I was so excited to set resolutions that I posted them a week before the new year. Here’s how I stacked up:

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Common ground

I don’t think I talk enough about how important language is to me.

When I was young, my mom would tell me that at night, I traveled in my dreams. You went to Korea, she’d say. And Venezuela, and Israel and made a quick stop in Australia. Next, off to Mongolia. I would wake up in a cocoon of sheets, hanging off the farthest tip of the bed.

When I was young, I made a list of languages I wanted to learn. I rearranged it every year. First, it was Korean, Hebrew, French, Japanese, Cantonese, Urdu and sign language. Then it was Pidgin, German, Korean, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Thai. I never counted less than seven languages at a time. I wanted to talk with the world.

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