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Sirida Graham Terk: Here’s what I tell my students about racism

Coping with societal challenges through empathy



This year, teachers have been fighting a hard battle. We were thrust into distance-learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and been grappling with how to speak with our students about the even more pervasive pandemic of racism and violence directed toward Black Americans.

This is painful: our students depend on us as educators not only for academic lessons, but also for how to deal with societal challenges through empathy, grace, and strength.

As a woman of color who teaches in a Jewish independent school in Los Angeles, California, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to teach by example in my journey from student to educator.

At age 10, I became one of the first Black students to integrate the independent school system of Baton Rouge — even then in the early 80s, a period of de facto segregation. As a student of mixed heritage and one of the first people of color to attend an all-White school, I felt like I was “too Black to be White and too White to be Black.” It was an incredibly challenging time for me. I constantly questioned my identity and where I belonged.

During those years when I struggled as “the other,” one teacher supported me. He was White and though it wasn’t a secret that he was gay, it wasn’t socially acceptable, either. In that way, we were “others” together. He understood my uncertainty, saw me as who I could be, and helped me figure out how to be more comfortable with my identity.

Years later in graduate school, studying to become an archaeologist and curator, I found out that my favorite teacher had been murdered. He was the victim of a hate crime.

At that moment, everything stopped. It brought me right back to middle school and all my vulnerabilities around being “the other.” It was a horrific reality check, thrusting the persistence of hatred and ignorance in our world to the forefront of my conscience.

How many other young people, kids like me, had that teacher helped? Who would be there for them now? And then it occurred to me: it would be me.

That’s when I decided to become a middle school teacher.

When I first came to Milken Community Middle School, I saw the way they integrated the humanities with issues of identity, privilege, and civic responsibility. I knew: this is where I belong. I didn’t know it then, but Milken’s model of self-reflection and community engagement is all “Facing History.”

Facing History and Ourselves is an organization that gives teachers the resources to use the lessons of history to examine the breadth and depth of injustice to build a future without it. It was the first time I had been exposed to anything like that, and it was like walking into a lesson on my own life story.

Yet in all my years at Milken, the intersection between the perspectives of individuals and the narrative of human history has never been so important as right now. It is crucial that all students understand the need for empathy, the difference between by-standing and upstanding and who falls within their universe of obligation — because the cycle of history that they are just starting to witness is at a turning point.

The scary historical topics I teach, of stereotyping and scapegoating, have been showing up more and more in our news and in our neighborhoods. Anti-Jewish crimes made up 83% of religion-motivated crimes in LA County in 2018, and the 2020 murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are only the most recent and appalling in a list of injustices against Black people in this country.
There seems to be no shortage of present-day antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia and others forms of bigotry.

Yet, this rise in hate and racism is almost surreal…until it’s at your front gate. Which for us, it is.
In December, the Nessah synagogue here in Beverly Hills, the largest Persian synagogue in the country, was broken into and vandalized. This violation was deeply felt among our community. And just a couple days later, hate came to our school. Graffitied on Milken’s front gate were the words “time to pay.” Similar threats and swastikas were found at two other local schools as well.

More recently, police brutality compounded with the COVID-19 crisis has shown how pervasive racism and bigotry remain in our society, and how quickly people resort to hate-based violence.
This follows a troubling pattern: Hate crimes are on the rise here in our city and across the country. In LA alone, hate crimes have reached their highest point in nearly a decade.

In class, we’ve been using these moments of vulnerability to look closely at different elements of “anti-other” sentiment, what connects us, and how we can use those connections to expand our universe of obligation. With Facing History’s help, we are harnessing this otherness and vulnerability to build a bridge to solidarity, to humanity.

Sadly, hate-motivated violence is increasing at all levels of society, harming even our young people in their schools and communities. What I’ve come to realize is this: only by seeing each other’s realities as just that, pieces of a complex, interwoven, communal reality, will we ever make progress as a society.
But acknowledgement starts with dialogue and needs empowering tools like listening to stories of “the other,” finding points of commonality, exercising empathy, and expanding our universe of obligation. The only way we will confront hate successfully is by giving young people the tools to spot and address it in even its smallest forms.

Our children need these lessons, and so do we.


Sirida Graham Terk is a humanities teacher and department chair at Milken Community Schools.

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony



Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: (English) and (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”



HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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