Thank You Google and LinkedIn and Facebook and Yahoo…

30 Jun

Google was very brave to post its diversity numbers last month. The company has started a national, even global, conversation about the shockingly low number of black and latino and female employees among its ranks. Now Facebook and LinkedIn and Yahoo have also confirmed what we all know, that tech is largely white and Asian and male.

And my sources tell me that a few years ago the figures were even worse.

The virtual invisibility of Black and Latino (and Southeast Asian) faces from the most impactful, prestigious and high-paying positions in technology – which I would loosely define as engineering, product and venture capital—is no surprise to me or to anyone working in this field.

But what makes the Google announcement so powerful is the data. Without data it is hard to mobilize institutional action around an issue.

Note: CNN tried for two years to obtain meaningful data on the race of employees at the country’s largest technology companies and despite a freedom of information act, they were largely unsuccessful.

I’m glad Google has changed its mind. Of course, the solution to changing these figures is still to be debated. Who’s next?

Big News: All Star Code

24 Oct

© Natalie Keyssar 2013 for All Star Code. All rights reserved.

Me presenting first place prize to Lion Music Gaming at All Star Code’s September 28, 2013 Design a Startup in a Day Workshop

What a crazy ride. In November 2012, I started speaking to people about an audacious but simple idea: could someone create a pipeline to the technology sector for talented minority boys?

Fast forward a year and that simple idea has blossomed into a recognized organization that is galvanizing a community. 

Founder is a new role for me. It’s been amazing and I am stunned at the opportunities open to this organization. The role feels like a fit.

Please check out http://allstarcode.org and let me know what you think.

 

We have a lot of news brewing and a lot of work to do so I apologize this message is so short.

For loyal readers, I have been keeping a journal and I look forward to writing down and publishing sometime soon the amazing twists and turns of this story.

Finally, if you know any parents or teachers of teenage black boys, our workshops vastly expand participants’ understanding and knowledge about tech career. There are prizes for the winning teams, and parents get to watch the demos too. Spread the word about our Nov. 23 Workshop hosted by General Assembly.

What am I up to?

26 Feb

Dear all, this blog has been a little sparse recently but never fear, I have been on the move. A couple of essays are with editors, I’m continuing to meet with literary agents regarding a book. I just published a piece in the WSJ about a lovely architecture firm specializing in Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. 

But the past is prologue my friends. Philanthropy, or as its known today, “social entrepreneurship” has been on my mind the past few months and I am using all my skills to build some new initiatives that I feel are worthwhile and are an appropriate next chapter in my father’s legacy and in my life.

On Thursday I am headlining an invite-only event at JP Morgan about black philanthropy organized by the entrepreneurial BlackGivesBack.com. Later this year Baltimore’s Pratt Library will have me join them as their e-book author of the month for Lonely.

More details soon(ish), I promise. For now, you can follow me on Twitter @clewishalpern for more real-time updates and musings.

Blogging, elsewhere.

8 Feb

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 4.31.54 PM

Christina’s blog post on Medium about how to change your life

A friend invited me to contribute to Medium, a new blogging platform launched by the people behind Twitter. It’s a sleek interface and I was pleased to join their community with a short essay on the art of the Life Pivot.

I borrowed the term from a book I am currently reading called The Lean Startup. I see some other people have already applied the ‘pivot’ model as a way to find personal fulfillment.

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A Q & A with the Creator & Star of ‘In Deb’s Kitchen’

14 Jan

A new year means new experiments! Here is my blog’s very first q&a.

Debra Shigley on CBS

Debra Shigley has crafted a totally 21st century educated woman’s career of many hats, many options. She’s a lawyer, a journalist, a speaker, a career coach, a television correspondent, a book author and a magazine editor. She is also my friend and college classmate  and she quoted me extensively (and anonymously in her women’s career guide book! Deb (formerly Debra Hunter).

Now, she’s also a web television entrepreneur. Deb has just launched the first episode of ‘In Deb’s Kitchen’, a short segment cooking show about using a mix of fresh and prepared ingredients.

Deb! I had no idea that you cooked! What’s your relationship to a home-cooked meal? Are you a lifelong cook?

I’m not! My husband Kevin is actually a great cook. For our first Valentine’s Day, he made me a fancy fresh pasta dish and homemade rice pudding.

I learned a lot from Kev (ed. note: he co-stars in the show), and started cooking a lot more after we got married about 5 years ago. That’s a funny thing that happens to a lot of women I think, once you become a wife and especially after having kids (we have a 2 year old son and an 8 month old daughter). Call it old fashioned, but I think it’s really nice to be able to cook a nice meal for my family.

Web video is an exciting but uncharted and risky area. You run published a go-getting career guide book, you appear on The Today Show, which are both really traditional things to do. How did this show come about? When did you become such a daredevil?!

It really was one of those ideas that just sort of came to me! After my second baby was born, I rejoined the 9-5 world after freelancing and speaking for a few years. I’m a travel editor by day. But it has changed our day-to-day lifestyle. I don’t have time anymore to, say, run to the grocery store during a weekday to pick up all the ingredients for a new recipe I wanted to try that night.

I did a little survey of my Facebook friends and found that a whopping 78% cook dinner with a mix of fresh and packaged ingredients– which is not the kind of cooking shown in most cooking shows. So, I thought, and a why not make my own show? I came up with a budget, “crewed up” with some friends of mine in Atlanta, and we shot 6 “pilot” episodes in a very busy two-day shoot!

Have you gotten any exciting leads from the show or any interesting viewer email?

Yes! You’ll see me cooking on a certain national morning show later this month (omg!), and I’m working on several marketing partnerships to distribute the show. Some of my favorite cooking products have expressed interest in sponsoring… It’s early yet but all very exciting!  Lots of people have requested kale recipes. Also, gluten-free. One woman said the kitchen didn’t seem like it was my kitchen. No, it really is! For the next round of episodes I’ll make sure to have some pics of my family on the fridge :)

Now, turn your attention to all those other men and women who aspire to become YouTube stars. What advice do you have for them?

I’m certainly no expert at this, that’s for sure. But the simplest advice I can offer with any endeavor or creative impulse is to just do it! Don’t wait around for permission and maybe don’t get too caught up in research before you start. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really study all the other cooking shows on YouTube before I filmed this. If I had, I probably would have been too intimidated to even try (there are indeed a zillion shows out there!). So follow your gut, put your voice out there, and don’t be attached to the results.

New episodes of ‘In Deb’s Kitchen’ will post to YouTube every other Tuesday at 10 am.

And readers, I hope you like these interviews (I have a celebrity one lined up next!)

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Token Casting Sucks, But It’s a Good Show – Lena Dunham’s GIRLS Season 2 Reviewed

12 Jan

It’s a saying of the art world that a strikingly negative review is as good as a rave. Why? Because it shows the artist is a striking a nerve.

So for better or worse, Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow’s HBO comedy GIRLS, which follows four twenty-something white women with artistic aspirations as they bounce and bum around New York City, is a cultural phenomenon to be considered. I had the chance to attend the season premiere screening and after-party and so have already seen the first three shows.

Let me say that I do really like this show for capturing the narcissistic mess created when the over-praised generation meets the callow real world.   And, by adding a black character this season (the excellent Donald Glover, of Community), the show has also given us a good way of talking about what it’s like to be the lone black person surrounded by white people.

The second season shows Hannah (Dunham’s character) in a striking and somewhat unexplainable ménage a quatre: she is still attached to her deranged ex-boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) whose broken leg has given him a rather beguiling neediness. (As a sign of Hannah’s pathological insecurity she literally carries Adam’s piss for him.) But she is also in the throes of a new and emotionally satisfying relationship: no, not her much ballyhooed dalliance with a black Republican named Sandy (played by the actor and rapper Donald Glover). Hannah’s real romance of the first few episodes is with her gay ex-boyfriend Elijah (Andrew Rannells), whom she chose as her new roommate over Adam at the end of last season.

Elijah and Hannah go through all the rites of relationship passage, they sleep in the same bed, decorate and throw a party together. They also get high on cocaine and have a glorious night out in a terrific sequence that comes dangerously close to making you want to try drugs. Of course, the night ends in acrimony and by the end of the third episode Hannah has managed not only to alienate all three of the men in her life, but has made two of their lives appreciably worse.

The quirky Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), now no longer a virgin, keeps her self-respect and may reap a reward for it. The bohemian Jessa (Jemima Kirke) returns from her honeymoon with her impulse husband, and their too-good-to-be-true cocoon is ripe for a breach.

The gorgeous and proper Marnie (Allison Williams) is brought low and we meet her detached mother (Rita Wilson). But Marnie has the advantage of being able to look for a “pretty girl” job, like restaurant hostess. The relative ease that an attractive girl can land a job is contrasted with Hannah’s wretched struggles. After all, pretty girls (and boys) have a leg up in a host of jobs: publicist, NoLIta shop girl, magazine intern… The plain Hannah’s only viable gig in her chosen field is a website that will pay her $200 for an article about trying cocaine for the first time. One hopes the site at least gave her the money to buy the drugs.

The most stinging criticism leveled at Dunham was the show’s all-white cast. She appears to have responded to that charge by adding Glover’s character and addressing race directly. In Glover’s brief time on screen he adoringly makes out with Dunham against a bookshelf, sucks on her nipples, tells her he loves how weird she is, that she writes wonderfully well. He also tells her that he doesn’t like the content of an essay she’s written: “It’s not for me,” he says. Of course, things promptly fall apart as Hannah starts attacking Sandy for being a black Republican: “I would also love to know how you feel that two out of three people on death row are black,” she says.

Their subsequent fight exposes the absurdity of colorblindness and skewers the hipster edition of jungle fever: “This always happens,” Sandy tells Hannah. “I’m a white girl and I moved to New York and I’m having a great time and oh I’ve got a fixed gear bike and I’m gonna date a black guy and we’re gonna go to a dangerous part of town. All that bullshit. I’ve seen it happen. And then they can’t deal with who I am.”

It’s a nice line, but it would be more meaningful if we had actually learned something about Sandy. Like, why is he a Republican? How did the two of them meet? What are his hopes and desires? And Glover’s character has none of the gloriously humanizing bad qualities that make the other Girls guys, like the awful art world character Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone), so fun to watch (and loathe). This lack of specificity is what makes watching black characters on mainstream television such a frustrating experience.  Glover didn’t attend the show’s premiere and now I think I see why: he wasn’t necessary. Dunham’s character has more than enough men in her life already. Token casting is still just token casting.

Still, it’s unfair to blame Dunham for all this. After all, her mentor and the show’s producer is the great comedic factory Judd Apatow, who is far more powerful than her and his movies are the very essence of all-whiteness. In Apatow’s movies, the women are thin, blond and together and the men are allowed to be fat, blobby and unemployed. Even though it seriously strains credulity to think that a man who looks like Glover would date the plain and plump Hannah, it is thrilling to see her character fully imagined as a desirable, thoughtful, flawed woman. In one of my favorite scenes Hannah enters her lover’s apartment, turns away from the camera and disrobes confidently, leaving on only a nude thong. Tattoos adorn her Grecian body and she looks beautiful. For young people who are still figuring out how women should look, seeing Dunham exposed like could be terrifically influential.

And while Sandy might not have much of a personality, he does have some self-respect. Their conversation ends whenHannah attempts to claim the upper hand by saying: “I never thought about the fact that you were black once.”

This is intolerable and Sandy kicks Hannah out. But Dunham we can let stay, she has shown that she’s at least recognized the problem.

So let’s celebrate what GIRLS gets right, even as we cringe at what it gets wrong.

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Sunday* Cooking: Exhaustion Food

28 Dec

Variety was not the spice of my family’s dinner table when I was a young child. But neither was processed food, at least not on the dinner table. Yes, my favorite after-school snack was a big glass of chocolate milk or a slice of baloney. But our family meals were at the table and cooked fresh that day (or in the case of stews, the day before).

When I am very tired I don’t have the time or energy to experiment with legumes or rotate a rack of pork (a forthcoming time-intensive but delicious holiday recipe that I will share later).

But right now I’m exhausted. So, I give you one of the greatest easy recipes that uses a processed ingredient.

ONION BEEF

Adapted from The I Hate To Cook Cookbook.

 

Buy 3 lbs. of chuck steak, it’s a cheap, flat fatty cut with the bone in. It’s so down home Whole Foods doesn’t even sell it.

Place it on a piece of tin foil big enough to wrap around the beef.

Sprinkle 1 or 2 packets of Lipton Onion Soup Mix on top.

Close up the beef in a foil envelope (leave room for lots of beef juice, the steak will render some liquid).

Place the foil packet in the oven and cook at 300F for 3 hours.

Eat with rice or boiled potatoes (They cut the delicious salty flavor.)

Serve with a salad, if you’re up for it.

 

*I know it’s not Sunday. I will be doing a digital detox this weekend so I am posting this early!

The Payoff of Grief

22 Dec

Several months ago, the spouse of a friend of mine lost a very close relative in a sudden accident. My friend was heartbroken, and concerned for the spouse, who was even more heartbroken. Death is stunning and grief is much worse.

The massacre of six-year-old children and the teachers who tried to protect them in Newtown, Conn., has filled us all with horror and sadness. As someone who was served up more than my fair share of horror and sadness at a young age, I am something of an expert on grief. Well, that is probably overstating things. I have never read a book on grief. I don’t have a degree in it. No one pays me to sit on a panel and discuss it. What I am, is very, very familiar with it.

And so I told my friend, as I want to tell other people who are suffering from the pain of what happened in Newtown or from losses that have struck them personally, that grief is an awful thing to feel. But the payoff of grief is that eventually you appreciate life more. I know this because I have felt it. So, if you are in the throes of mourning or in the long, dull numbness that can follow, I have some strange-sounding advice for you. Stick with it.  Because you won’t feel this way forever.

 

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PRINTED

17 Dec

My mother asked. And my e-book is now a “real” book.

 

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Stop for Fried Chicken

11 Dec

We didn’t have much of a plan for our honeymoon—just my mother’s car, the open road, a month of free time and hearty appetites…

I’m excited to announce that I’m now contributing to Chevy Culture, a lifestyle and auto site sponsored by Chevrolet.

Click through for the full post on Chevy Culture, and come back in the next few weeks and months for more.

Here are some other things we saw and did while we drove around America.

Prince’s humble storefront.

To see the whole trip browse through the October 2012 archive of The Christina Blog.

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