Lessons learned in wild Africa

By Sammy Wu, Pasadena City College Courier, 2/26/2015

Justin Chapman, alumni of Pasadena City College and University of California, Berkeley, has many accomplishments under his belt.

At age 19, he began writing for the Pasadena Weekly, and from there, went on to publish news-breaking stories for over 20 leading publications, including LA Weekly, Berkeley Political Review, and Patch.com. At 19 years old, he was also the youngest elected member to serve on the Altadena Town Council, beating out the 57-year-old vice chairman of the council by earning 63 percent of the vote.

Now with the release of his book, Saturnalia: Traveling from Cape Town to Kampala in Search of an African Utopia, he can add author to his resume.

The book centers on his three-month excursion across Africa in Spring 2012 from Cape Town, South Africa, to Mityana, Uganda. During the journey, he barely avoided being institutionalized in a mental hospital, stayed in a poor township that valued art-making, was almost killed in a car accident, wandered about the mythical Zanzibar island, watched a witchcraft healing ceremony, and relapsed into his heroin addiction, all while hunting for compelling stories and finding love in the most unexpected of places.

The book, which is intended as a travel diary and an anthropological journal, grew out of a series of blog posts collectively called “Saturnalia: A Trek Through the Lands of Lawlessness.” The posts were infused with intense and often overwhelming emotions because Chapman would write his experiences as they were happening to him. He said many people were moved by his stories and waiting to see what would happen next. Such reaction was what motivated him to turn the blog into a paperback book.

The process of writing the book was difficult and time-consuming, for contrary to what Chapman initially thought, it took much more than just simply copying and pasting. Yet, the process was also cathartic because he learned a lot about himself—his limitations and his strengths.

And now he hopes that he could somehow inspire other readers, particularly those from this generation, about the undiscovered gems of Africa, as well as the lessons he learned along the way.

“I hope that the book will open people’s eyes to the real Africa, beyond what is depicted in television documentaries and fleeting media accounts of atrocities and struggles,” said Chapman. “The stories Saturnalia contains and the conclusions it draws are important and should not be passed over or forgotten.”

“This book can be beneficial and influence in positive ways the relationship people in the rest of the world have with Africa. There are remarkable changes going on in Africa and people should know about them,” he added.

The book has already garnered positive reviews from a myriad of renowned writers.

“Chapman’s vivid prose turns every paragraph into a photograph of a strange, dangerous but alluring land. As his characters indulge themselves with sometimes reckless abandon, the author communicates a sense of adventure for adventure’s sake and draws the reader into riding along without hesitation,” said Joe Piasecki, editor of The Argonaut and former Los Angeles Times reporter.

Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, Skagboys, and The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, called the book “the perfect metaphor for contemporary American youth, painfully trying to work through its own baggage, and openly and sincerely seeking to engage with the world beyond the USA’s established physical and cultural borders.”

Chapman originally planned on staying in Africa to become a diplomat for the U.S. Foreign Service in Africa. He even took an exam for a placement in the department, and he passed the first round, which only 3,000 of the 20,000 applicants pass annually. He did not pass the second round of exams, but he wanted to try again had he not met and fell in love with his fiancée, Mercedes Blackehart, upon coming back to America.

He now resides in Pasadena, California, with Mercedes and their dog Fiona, cats Mason and Dixon, and tortoise Stockton. He is the secretary for three board of directors: ACLU Pasadena/ Foothills chapter, Men Educating Men About Health, and West Pasadena Resident’s Association. In addition, he is the Project Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Communication Leadership and Policy.

Isolation from technology and social networks increases risk of labor trafficking, USC study finds

Migrant workers who are isolated from technology and social networks are more vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation. These and other findings are detailed in a powerful new report, Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society, released today by the Center for Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. This project was made possible by a grant from Humanity United, a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom.

The report includes the story of a young woman from the Philippines who was stranded in Malaysia after being misled by a deceptive labor recruiter. Despite having a mobile phone she did not want to call her family and make them worry. While being transported to an unknown destination by her brokers, she was apprehended by police. Interrogated and imprisoned, she hid her phone and called a friend for help. After a month the Philippine government finally intervened. As it turned out, the woman’s phone served to connect and disconnect her with unscrupulous recruiters, as well as support.

Researchers also found that the confiscation of cell phones, restriction of Internet use, and deception in online recruiting can be indicators of labor trafficking – a form of modern day slavery. As one of the survivors of labor trafficking interviewed for the report revealed: “The [employment] agencies are very strict on mobile phones. When you reach the agencies…in the country destination overseas, they will get your phone.”

At the same time, the researchers found that technology provides a critical infrastructure for positive change.

“Mobile and internet technologies can be leveraged to assist workers and migrants to connect with crucial social networks of support, family, friends, and information,” explains Mark Latonero, Ph.D., principal investigator and chief author of the report.

Based on analysis of supply chains, online recruitment, disaster response, and a Philippines case study, the report details ways in which the responsible uses of technology can assist governments, businesses, NGOs, and migrant workers in preventing and mitigating the effects of labor trafficking.

“The issue of labor trafficking is starting to get the attention that it deserves,” says CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan. “This report builds upon the work on technology and human trafficking we started five years ago and will help the public and policy makers better understand the role technology plays as both a problem and solution.”

Some findings and recommendations in the report include:

  • Laws and policies should ensure workers have free access to communication technology and social networks.
  • Data analytics can be used to monitor and identify exploitation and trafficking in global supply chains.
  • Online technologies that are useful for maintaining social connectivity are also used to exploit. The divulging of personal information such as cell phone and passport numbers on social media profiles allows illegal recruiters to exploit job seekers.
  • Disaster and humanitarian response technologies represent a new avenue for trafficking intervention.

“Technology can play an important role in both perpetuating and addressing labor trafficking. Yet, little evidence-based research has been done on the relationship between the two,” says Ed Marcum, vice president of investments at Humanity United. “This report allows us to better understand its use and dynamics in order to more effectively develop and scale solutions.”

In the Philippines, researchers interviewed numerous stakeholders including survivors of labor trafficking. The report notes technology skills training and the facilitation of peer-to-peer communication as promising strategies to combat labor trafficking.

Taking stock of the complexity and challenges of the issue, the report lays the groundwork for both research and action, providing analysis, recommendations, and guiding principles for governments, NGOs, the private sector, and researchers.

For more information, visit the Technology and Human Trafficking Initiative website.

On Friday, March 27, between 7 and 8 a.m. Justin will be interviewed about Saturnalia on Crown City News Sunrise, a live morning TV show on KPAS. He will also participate in the show's "Morning Buzz" segment discussing the important local, state, national, and international issues of the day.

CCN Sunrise runs on the Arroyo Channel 32 in Pasadena on AT&T Uverse and online at www.crowncitynews.com.

Here's a link with information about the show:

The Good Fight

Remembering the life and times of lifelong progressive activist Marvin Schachter

By Andre Coleman and Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/19/2015

Longtime political activist and Pasadena Weekly co-founder Marvin Schachter died early Tuesday morning after being hospitalized with a heart infection at Kaiser Permanente Hospital on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. 


Schachter, 90, was involved in one way or another with nearly every major progressive cause since the mid-20th-century — from ending segregation and the Vietnam War to supporting disarmament, equal rights for women and minorities and opposing commercial use of nuclear power as well as American military involvement in Central America, most recently protesting against the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East. 


At the local level, Schachter, who also regularly wrote columns for the newspaper he helped start more than 30 years ago, devoted much of his time to ensuring senior citizens were cared for, chairing the Pasadena Senior Advocacy Council since 1995 and serving as president of the Advisory Council of the Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging. He also served on the California Commission on Aging and worked as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. He was also a Menorah Housing Foundation vice president.


Schachter is survived by his wife, Esther, daughters Amanda and Pam, and two grandchildren, Max and Emma Rothschild. Family members said plans for a memorial service were not finalized as of Tuesday. 


“He was a remarkable person, and an even more remarkable father and grandfather,” Amanda and Pam said in a joint statement to the Pasadena Weekly. “We loved him even more than he loved us.” 

News of Schachter’s death early Tuesday morning left community members in mourning. 


ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter President Dick Price called Schachter “an amazing guy” and a good friend to many people.


“The last time we saw him he was driving his car to a panel session about fighting government surveillance — tootling down the road to keep Big Brother out of our business. He was doing what he loved to do, right into his 90s,” said Price, who along with Sharon Kyle publishes the online magazine LA Progressive.

“I came to know Marvin because of his commitment to civil liberties — a commitment we shared,” said Kyle, who is also an ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Branch board member. Schachter was a lifetime member of the ACLU of Southern California Board of Directors.


“Always generous with his time and just as generous with his stories, his presence at any meeting almost surely meant that a pearl of wisdom would be offered,” Kyle said. “I will really miss Marvin and am proud to call him friend.”


Local political leaders and others were saddened to hear of Schachter’s passing.


“Pasadena owes much to Marvin Schachter, who was part of the progressive soul of the city and a true guardian of our civil liberties,” said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. “Marvin was always willing to stand up and fight the good fight — from battling anti-Semitism and ageism to the preservation of Social Security and Medicare. Marvin was always energetic, passionate and thoughtful and brought a world of experience to bear on any issue. He enjoyed universal respect and admiration and will be deeply missed.”


“When you look at who has been a leader in aging issues, the name Marvin Schachter is at the top of the list,” said Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden of Pasadena. “Every time I think of senior housing, I think of Marv. He put the issue on the table for policymakers to address in a serious way. He inspired people all over the state to get involved and stand up for what they believe in. Even as he approached his ninth decade, he continued to fight and that has made all the difference. He was a wonderful human being and will be sorely missed.”


In recent years, Schachter suffered from hearing loss, but still maintained his zest for social and political engagement.“In the last year or so he became very hard of hearing, and as an inveterate attendee at hundreds of meetings of seniors affairs, of civil liberties, and others, he could barely follow the meetings,” said Kris Ockershauser of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Branch. “Yet he continued to attend and speak to the issues. I felt it must have been a melancholy time for Marvin, with a lifetime of experience in activism and so much to say on contemporary issues, to understand that his gathering deafness would someday bring an end to it.”


Pasadena Weekly columnist and author Ellen Snortland described Schachter as a friend to all.


“Marvin Schachter was more than a personal friend to me and to many of us in Southern California,” Snortland said. “He was a friend to humankind and to the vision of what is possible when people pull for one another. Marvin had the big picture; that until all of us had justice, no one really has it. He saw us as a huge human family and he did everything he could do to make us all better.”


In October, the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter honored Schachter at their annual Garden Party with a Pioneer of Social Justice Award. In November, the ACLU of Southern California honored Schachter, along with Democratic US Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, at the organization’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner.


According to a 2014 story in PW, Schachter’s road to Pasadena and political activism began as a result of an FBI surveillance file prepared on him over his leftist activities when he was a college student in the 1940s. That revelation to his bosses in the 1950s cost him a sales job in Chicago. Schachter instead took an even more lucrative position in clothing sales, which led him and his family to California.


“It was totally accidental, thanks to the FBI,” Schachter said.


The youngest of four children, Schachter grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. He said the tough times of the ’30s were influential years for him in determining the direction of his life. His father was in the retail fur trade and was unemployed much of the time. But even harder times were coming as fascism began rising around the world, with war erupting in Spain and Adolf Hitler seizing power in Germany. Several members of Schachter’s family died in the Holocaust.  


Schachter was drafted into the Army in February 1943 and served in military intelligence until his discharge in February 1946. After leaving the service, he followed in the footsteps of his older brothers and attended Brooklyn College, working for civil rights long before that cause came to national attention. During that time, he was active in the American Student Union, a national left-wing organization of college students best known for its protests against militarism. Although he was in high school when he first joined in 1940, Schachter became a member of the ASU’s national board at the age of 15, which led to the FBI opening a file on him.


By the late 1960s, Schachter was in Pasadena and supporting efforts to bring racial equality to local schools. 


“Pasadena has a real heritage,” Schachter once said of the city in the early 1960s, when the John Birch Society enjoyed a wide following, the American Nazi Party had set up shop in nearby El Monte and the Southern-based White Citizens Council, a group somewhat overlapping with the Ku Klux Klan, tried to establish a foothold in the San Gabriel Valley.


Schachter supported a successful federal lawsuit filed by Jim and Bobbie Spangler, along with Skipper and Pat Rostker and Wilton and Dorothy Clarke, against the Pasadena Unified School District, aimed at forcing desegregation of local schools.


“The story of Pasadena is one of a city that was liberal in some ways, but it’s also one of a city run by white businessmen with a large disenfranchised minority community,” Schachter once remarked. As a result, Schachter told the Weekly, “Pasadena was a bastion of white supremacy.” 


“Marvin Schachter was a clarion voice for peace, justice and equality,” said Mayor Bill Bogaard. “He advocated for seniors, the poor, and for persons needing housing and health services. His death seems extremely sudden to me because, notwithstanding his advanced age, he was still active in pursuing important social values. We will miss his inspiration to make the world a better place.”


Robert Nelson, a retired JPL scientist and a longtime member of the ACLU, said Schachter will be remembered as a “master teacher.”


“He was the ‘go-to guy’ for younger people to seek out when we needed advice in the struggle for peace, justice, dignity and decency,” said Nelson. “He leaves behind at least four generations of successors who were the beneficiaries of his wisdom. His lessons were well received by so many because they were taught with such a profound spirit of kindness. He was the closest we will ever get to having a ‘philosopher king.’”


Former PW Deputy Editor Joe Piasecki said Schachter had a profound effect on him as a journalist.


“Marvin’s political savvy was surpassed only by the empathy and compassion through which he viewed politics,” said Piasecki, who is now managing editor of The Argonaut, a sister newspaper of PW. “He was not only my conscience, but the conscience of Pasadena as a whole. The world is a better place because of Marvin, but I’m not sure what we’ll do without him.”

PW Editor Kevin Uhrich and PW Arts Writer Carl Kozlowski contributed to this report.

Swimming in words

Pasadena Central Library hosts Author’s Fair Saturday

By Ellen Snortland, Pasadena Weekly, 2/19/2015

Walk into my home in Altadena that I share with my husband, and — if you’re a neat freak — prepare for a screeching desire to scream and then flee. In almost every room you’ll find books everywhere, with many stacked in precarious piles; there is the scent of paper, leather bindings and candles. For bibliophiles? Ahhh … you are home. Put up your feet and spend a few decades. I’ll bring you a cup of tea.

Many of us are becoming antique in our love of physical books. But what we’ve also got going is a love of e-readers, because we can walk around with a device that only weighs 10 ounces, yet can contain as many books as we have in the entire house with room to spare! It is the best and worst of times for reading and writing geeks.

Nature dictates readers as well as writers adapt and learn how to do the best we can to survive in a technological revolution. As we dive deeper into the digital age, there’s a balancing act many of us do between convenience and conventional ways. It’s convenient for readers to shop online. It’s author suicide to not be on Amazon or have some kind of online presence. On the other hand, there’s really nothing like having an author read directly from her or his work in person, with real blood and bones, pen and ink, brick and mortar all in one place.

And that place is a real, honest-to-goodness library or book store. I’m urging you to put down this newspaper (or the book you’re already reading), and get your butts in gear to show up and support Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, our most famous ferociously independent bookstore.  In addition, you’ll want to visit Altadena’s own lovely and eclectic store Hoopla! where local authors are routinely celebrated. And let’s not forget about the Pasadena and Altadena Public Libraries and their myriad and distinctive branches that appeal to all readers, even those just learning how.

On Saturday, in what is the second of a now-annual event, the Pasadena Public Library is sponsoring
Author Fair. The fair features many familiar San Gabriel Valley authors in and out of the Pasadena Weekly’s line-up, including me and Justin Chapman, along with other familiar authors like Anne Louise Bannon, Elizabeth Pomeroy, Petrea Burchard and way too many others to mention in this small space.

We’ll be selling, signing and speaking. Thus you have all the materials together in one place; the fluids and material essentials of our intellectual lives in this community: flesh and blood (the authors), brick and mortar (the library) and pen and ink, or fingertips and keyboards. These are the liquids and solids of our collective work toward understanding human beings and our experience together.

OK, I know I’m geeky. But really, what else is writing and reading other than the attempt to glean what it is like over there, in that other body or universe inhabited by other people?

In my writing, I attempt to point at and illuminate the darker realms of violence that we all encounter and what to do about it. Yes, we all experience and process violence, whether it’s a direct threat from a stranger, an abusive boss we are afraid of, or vicariously through the paralysis we feel when our child comes home to say she or he is being bullied at school. My latest book, The Safety Godmothers, is funny and practical; it provides real-world answers to highly relatable and ordinary boundary violations, which includes verbal, emotional and physical self-defense success stories.

Chapman, my colleague at the Weekly, writes about his journey from Cape Town, South Africa, to Uganda in his newly released Saturnalia. It is an emotional, geographical and spiritual journey that is hair-raising and hysterical, sometimes within the same paragraph.

Lest you think, “Wait a minute … this is blatant self-promotion,” let me clear that up for you. Why yes, Dear Reader, you’re darn tootin’ it is! Think about the books that became the commercial successes we all love. Do you have any idea the type of resources that big publishers use to promote their already successful authors? A big fish (and wonderful) author like J.K. Rowling has a huge PR fleet behind her; she doesn’t need to self-promote. So we smaller fry — whether self-published or with small independent publishers — need to promote ourselves or our words will never reach you. Never.

So bring the kids! Exult in the gorgeousness of the Pasadena Central Library, while bathing in the sensual experience of being with books. There’ll be coffee and pastries available at the Espress Yourself Coffee Bar. The authors will be live and possibly nude! Just kidding. We will be clothed, but you have to admit it got your attention.

Make it a new habit with your family to attend this event each year.

Author Fair is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Pasadena Central Library, 285 E. Walnut St., Pasadena; http://tinyurl.com/PasAuthFair.  SAVE THE DATE! Lisa Gaeta and I will be having a special reading and author signing event for “The Safety Godmothers” at 7 p.m. March 9 at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320, write email@vromansbookstore.com, or visit vromansbookstore.com for more information.

Bush campaign strategist named senior fellow

USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is pleased to announce a new senior fellow, Matthew Dowd. Dowd, 53, served as the chief strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign and currently serves as a political analyst for ABC News.

As a CCLP senior fellow, Dowd will focus on “examining what we can do to bridge the political divides today in America involving campaigns, communication, and governing.” He will also focus on “creating momentum in the social impact entrepreneur space with emphasis on linking capitalism and social consciousness.”

During the past 30 years, Matthew Dowd has helped shape strategies and campaigns for CEOs, corporations, foundations, governments, candidates and presidents. He most recently founded Paradox Capital, a social impact venture fund which is focused on for-profit social good companies. His experience in business and politics will help bridge the paradox between capitalism and social consciousness.

Over the last 25 years, Dowd has been an active entrepreneur in Austin, Texas, founding three highly successful companies, including Vianovo and Public Strategies.

Dowd has worked both sides of the political aisle, but now considers himself an Independent. Dowd’s political work includes serving as the chief strategist on two winning re-election efforts – for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and for President George W. Bush in 2004. His innovative approach on the 2004 and 2000 campaigns led the bi-partisan American Association of Political Consultants to name him Strategist of the Year.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he advised a wide variety of political clients including helping former Democratic Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock win election and re-election. He began his career as a member of Democrat U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s staff, and has worked on the staffs of two Democratic Congressmen, including Dick Gephardt.

Dowd currently serves as a special correspondent and analyst for ABC News where he appears on “This Week,” “Good Morning America,” and “Nightline,” and writes a regular column for various publications. Dowd covers not only politics but cultural, economic and spiritual trends as well. He has served on the boards of various non-profit entities including Seton Family of Hospitals, a Catholic nonprofit health system in Texas. He was adviser to Bono at the One Campaign, and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has taught seminars at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Dowd is the co-author of Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, a New York Times bestseller published by Simon & Schuster.

Kantor calls for end to ports showdown

Michael “Mickey” Kantor, co-chair of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy advisory board, penned an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, “End the storm at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.”


In his February 16 op-ed, Kantor described the “frustrating and costly slowdown of operations at West Coast port facilities,” caused by a deterioration in contract negotiations between management and labor.

“Now the latest deterioration in the contract talks — which resulted in an almost complete shutdown of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports over the holiday weekend, with 33 ships lined up waiting to be unloaded Monday — has the potential to turn the slowdown into a full-scale crisis,” Kantor wrote. “If the West Coast’s 29 ports are not returned to full operation soon, it will create a shock wave that reverberates across the economy, derailing a promising economic recovery that is creating jobs and restoring a sense of economic security for the nation.”

The effects of the slowdown and shutdown of the ports have reverberated across the country, Kantor said, with high-value goods manufacturers and agricultural producers particularly feeling the hit. And if the situation devolves into a strike or lockout, Los Angeles and the rest of the country will experience lasting consequences.

“Some of these losses, while painful enough in the short term, could become permanent if foreign customers ultimately find the products they need elsewhere,” he wrote. “Our competitors around the globe, be they in manufacturing or agriculture, are all too willing to poach future business from the U.S. Such a hit to the economy is almost impossible to measure, but it will continue to have real-world consequences going forward.”

Kantor stressed that this crisis is preventable, and called on President Obama to step in and “use his bully pulpit — and all other means at his disposal — to ensure that our nation remains open for business.”


Kantor is a partner at Mayer Brown in the Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles offices. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, he served as the United States Secretary of Commerce from 1996-1997 and as United States Trade Representative from 1993-1996. While in office, he led the negotiations that created the World Trade OrganizationNorth American Fair Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and was involved in the initial steps towards the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He is a consultant with the Retail Industry Leaders Association.