Mayim Bialik: Going Full STEAM Ahead
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Mayim Bialik collage of pictures

By Brady Rhoades

Mayim Bialik, best known as the current host of Jeopardy! and as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the smash series The Big Bang Theory, is an honest-to-goodness Renaissance woman.

She’s a neuroscientist, a mother, an animal rights activist and mental health advocate.

An author, actor, game show host and, with the release this spring of As They Made Us, a movie director.

And she’s not done yet.

The Renaissance Woman

In the tradition of Renaissance women from all eras, Bialik is ever diversifying her ambitions, her skill-set, her scope. They’re grounded in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Bialik said she didn’t take to science until her teens, when a tutor helped her build a model of a cell out of Styrofoam.

“I could touch that Styrofoam cell,” she told ScienceNewsforStudents. “It was just amazing. It was amazing that it thrilled me the way looking at art thrilled me.”

Nowadays, she added, “I try to put a positive face on STEM and a female face in STEM.”

Bialik, 46, who is modern Orthodox Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, earned a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and a doctor of philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA. Her dissertation was titled, “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome.” We’ll break that down later.

The Cast Of “The Big Bang Theory” Places Their Handprints In The Cement At The TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX Forecourt held on May 1, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

She started her acting career as a teen, with roles in Pumpkinhead and Beaches, as well as guest appearances on The Facts of Life, Beauty and the Beast and Webster. In 1994, she earned a major role in Woody Allen’s comedy film, Don’t Drink the Water. She also played the title character of the NBC sitcom, Blossom.

She worked steadily in Hollywood for the next decade before landing her role on The Big Bang Theory, in which she played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler. She was nominated for Emmy awards in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2017.

In 2021, it was announced that Bialik would host the primetime version of Jeopardy! After Mike Richards stepped down from hosting the syndicated version of the show, Bialik started hosting that version, too, sharing duties with Ken Jennings. Moving forward, it’s unclear how producers will handle the hosting situation, but Bialik said it’s a joy working on the show.

“One of my biggest challenges is I’m so impressed that people know the answers that they’ve asked me to tone down how excited I am when people get them right, which I think is a great note to get,” she told Daily Beast.

Advancing STEAM Through Activism

She also hosts a podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, that focuses on debunking the misconceptions surrounding mental health and neurodivergence with the help of friends, guest experts and media personalities.

Bialik is a vegan and a founding member of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, a Jewish organization that advocates for the ethical treatment of animals.

Another cause close to her heart is increasing opportunities for girls and women to pursue STEAM educations and careers.

Actress Mayim Bialik attends Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast in Hollywood
Actress Mayim Bialik attends Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast in Hollywood. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/ABC, Inc via Getty Images)
“It’s an incredibly enlightening way to view the world once you’ve been trained in STEM,” Bialik has said. “It’s a smart career choice, and it’s a creative and exciting lifestyle to be a scientist.”

Bialik has written books — such as Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular — geared toward empowering girls and women, partnered with toy companies to create STEAM-friendly toys for girls and teamed with DeVry University and the HerWorld Initiative to get high school girls excited about STEAM, among other ventures.

“I love encouraging young women to embrace the sciences,” she has said.

What’s her advice to parents and counselors?

“Educate ourselves by using the resources in libraries and online to find new ways to understand our world. Also, encouraging kids to see the hidden STEM opportunities all around them. When we cook or bake, it’s math and chemistry. When we observe weather patterns or even changes in our body, these are all wonders of the STEM awareness kids naturally have!”

Bucking the Stereotypes

Remember her dissertation? In case you scientists, or budding scientists, are wondering what “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome” means, here’s a breakdown: Abstract Prader–Willi Syndrome is a neurogenetic disorder that causes obesity. The hypothalamus regulates aspects of the nervous system. “Satiety” refers to satiated, or absence of hunger. So Bialik was intrigued by the links between the nervous system, consumption behaviors and obesity in those who deal with Prader–Willi Syndrome.

A mouthful, for sure. But interesting, yes?

The cast of Blossom pose for a portrait
The cast of Blossom pose for a portrait. (Pictured L-R: Finola Hughes, Mayim Bialik, Joey Lawrence, Jenna Von Oy, Courtney Chase and Ted Wass) (Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images)
Bialik, it seems, bucks easy, simplistic stereotypes, intersecting her social, emotional passions and strengths with the two roles she’s most famous for: actor and scientist.

Has the film she’s directed furthered that tendency? That’s up to viewers to decide, as is a thumbs-up-or-down.

The movie centers on a divorced mother juggling her family’s needs and her own quest for love. Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen and Simon Helberg star.

“It’s very vulnerable,” she told TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest. “It’s not an autobiography, but it’s totally things that are based on my life and some things did happen and other things didn’t and… here we go!”

Here’s a passage from film critic Christy Lemire’s review in RogerEbert.com: “As They Made Us is most effective in its gentle, intimate, everyday moments, and Bialik mercifully refrains from melodrama…”

Lemire continues, saying the film is clearly a personal debut effort for Bialik, but she shows enough confidence behind the camera to make you curious about whatever other stories she has to tell.”

Which provokes, for Bialik fans, a pressing question: What’s her next chapter?

At 17, she was her family’s breadwinner on a McDonald’s salary. Now she’s gone into space
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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he'll be on board a spaceflight next month, in a capsule attached to a rocket made by his space exploration company Blue Origin. Bezos is seen here in 2019.

By Jackie Wattles, CNN

A rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin carried its fifth group of passengers to the edge of space, including the first-ever Mexican-born woman to make such a journey.

The 60-foot-tall suborbital rocket took off from Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas at 9:26am ET, vaulting a group of six people to more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface — which is widely deemed to make the boundary of outer space — and giving them a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting to landing.

Most of the passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity to join this mission from a pool of thousands of applicants. The organization’s goal is to send “exceptional leaders” to space and allow them to experience the overview effect, a phenomenon frequently reported by astronauts who say that viewing the Earth from space give them a profound shift in perspective.

Echazarreta told CNN Business that she experienced that overview effect “in my own way.”

“Looking down and seeing how everyone is down there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything — everything is there,” she said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I need people to see this. I need Latinas to see this. And I think that it just completely reinforced my mission to continue getting primarily women and people of color up to space and doing whatever it is they want to do.”

Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space and the second Mexican after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in 1985.

She moved to the United States with her family at the age of seven, and she recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back.
“It just really fueled me and I think ever since then, ever since the third grade, I kind of just went off and have not stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram interview.

When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said she was also the main breadwinner for her family on a McDonald’s salary.

“I had sometimes up to four [jobs] at the same time, just to try to get through college because it was really important for me,” she said.
These days, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She also boasts a following of more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series and is a presenter on the weekend CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”

Space for Humanity — which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight himself — chose her for her impressive contributions. “We were looking for some like people who were leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are doing really great work in the world already, and people who are passionate about whatever that is,” Rachel Lyons, the nonprofit’s executive director, told CNN Business.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Disney’s ‘Strange World’ to Feature First Gay Teen Romance in Animated Feature Film
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Disney’s upcoming adventure film “Strange World” will feature a gay teen romance —making it the first animated feature film produced by Disney to do so.

By Denver Sean, Love B Scott

The film, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 23, will follow three generations of a family of explorers and take viewers “to a place of infinite mystery unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” according to a trailer released by the studio earlier this month.

Several Hollywood powerhouses have been confirmed as part of the voice cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Dennis Quaid and Jaboukie Young-White.

On Friday, Disney screened three sequences from the film at the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, one of the world’s most important festivals for the film animation industry that takes place in the city of Annecy, in southeast France.

In one of them, Ethan (Young-White) flirts with a boy named Diazo in front of his friends, who tease him in a friendly way.

His father, Searcher Clade (Gyllenhaal), later joins in and embarrasses him in “an overeager show of acceptance,” as the scene is described by Variety.

Emmy Award-winning producer Matthieu Saghezchi, who also saw the sequence, wrote on Twitter that the scene is “very endearing” and it’s “treated as the most natural thing in the world.”

“The scene describes the son being very shy in front of his boy crush, and his dad comes in and says “so nice to meet you! my son talks about you all the time” and further embarrasses his son,” Saghezchi wrote. “Very cute.”

The refreshing nod to inclusivity comes as “Lightyear,” the much-anticipated “Toy Story” spinoff, was reportedly banned in 14 countries over a brief same-sex kiss.

The Disney-Pixar computer-animated adventure film starring Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear features a kiss between Alisha, voiced by the actress Uzo Aduba, and her wife Kiko.

On Monday, the United Arab Emirates announced that the film would not be shown in the country “due to its violation of the country’s media standards.”

According to Reuters, at least 13 other countries in Asia and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and Lebanon, have also banned the film.

“Lightyear,” which opens in 4,200 North American theaters this weekend, is expected to make between $70 million and $80 million.

Click here to read the full article on Love B Scott.

Disability Inclusion Is Coming Soon to the Metaverse
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Disabled avatars from the metaverse in a wheelchair

By Christopher Reardon, PC Mag

When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.

To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.

The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.

Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.

Click here to read the full article on PC Mag.

Young L.A. Latina wins prestigious environmental prize
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Nalleli Cobo wins prestigious environmental prize

By Edwin Flores, NBC News

At age 9, Nalleli Cobo was experiencing asthma, body spasms, heart palpitations and nosebleeds so severe she needed to sleep in a chair to prevent herself from choking on her own blood.

Across the street from her family’s apartment in University Park in South Central Los Angeles was an oil extraction site owned by Allenco Energy that was spewing fumes into the air and the community around her.

After speaking with neighbors facing similar symptoms, she and her family began to mobilize with their community, suspecting that was making them sick. They created the People Not Pozos (People Not Oil Wells) campaign. At 9 years old, Cobo was designated the campaign’s spokesperson, marking the start of her activism and organizing career.

In March 2020, Cobo, the co-founder of the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, helped lead the group to permanently shut down the Allenco Energy oil drilling site that she and others in the community said caused serious health issues for them. She also helped convince the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to unanimously vote to ban new oil exploration and phase out existing sites in Los Angeles.

After pressure from the community and scrutiny from elected officials, Allenco Energy agreed to suspend operations in 2013. The site was permanently shut down in 2020, and the company was charged in connection with state and local environmental health and safety regulations. There are ongoing issues around cleaning and plugging up the oil wells.

Cobo co-founded the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition in 2015 to bolster efforts against oil sites and work toward phasing them out across the city.

That year, the youth group sued the city of Los Angeles, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act and environmental racism. The suit was settled after the city implemented new drilling application requirements.

Cobo, now 21, was recognized Wednesday for the environmental justice work that has spanned more than half her life. She received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded annually to individuals from six regions: Europe, Asia, Africa, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.

“I did not want to answer the phone because it was an unknown number,” Cobo, who was getting bubble tea when she received the call about the prize, told NBC News in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “I didn’t even know I was nominated. I started crying.”

During the 1920s, Los Angeles was one of the world’s largest urban oil-exporting regions. More than 20,000 active, idle, or abandoned oil wells still reside in the county, and about one-third of residents live less than a mile from an active oil site.

Studies have shown that living near oil and gas wells increases exposure to air pollution, with nearby communities facing environmental and health risks including preterm birth, asthma and heart disease.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

‘Obi-Wan’ Star Moses Ingram Speaks Out Over Racist ‘Star Wars’ Backlash: ‘I Question My Purpose’
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Obi-Wan Kenobi and Reva

By Samantha Bergeson, Indie Wire

Just days after “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuted on Disney+ May 27, star Moses Ingram has already received countless hateful social media messages.

Ingram plays a Jedi hunter Inquisitor named Reva, who actively tracks down Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. While Lucasfilm and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” director Deborah Chow anticipated fan hate toward a Black female character, Ingram addressed the onslaught of DMs and comments she has received thus far.

“Long story short, there are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” Ingram said in an Instagram video after screenshotting messages that threatened her and called her racial slurs. “And I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me and that really does mean the world to me because, you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about this. There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. And so I question my purposes even being here in front of you saying that this is happening.”

Ingram continued, “I don’t really know. I don’t really know. But I think the thing that bothers me is that like, sort of this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself. This feeling that no one has told me, but like I just got to shut up and take it. I just got to bury it. And I’m not built like that. So I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”

Ingram’s Instagram Stories included threats saying her days were “numbered” and slamming her for not being the first Black person in “Star Wars” history.

“You suck, loser. You’re a diversity hire and you won’t be loved or remembered for this acting role,” one message read.

Another said, “How the f**k does an alien know eubonics?”

The “Queen’s Gambit” alum also included a soundbite from “The Read” podcast during which she said: “You know what’s really crazy, you would think sci-fi and fantasy would be the most welcoming, the most accepting genres because they are so often storylines that are ridiculous and made up of like, aliens and weird shit, comic book shit, and n***** having special powers and all that.”

The official “Star Wars” Twitter addressed the backlash to Ingram early Tuesday, posting, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

The “Star Wars” page continued, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”

Ingram previously acknowledged that Lucasfilm “actually got in front” of the anticipated racism to her casting. “‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram said earlier this month. “Of course, there are always pockets of hate, but I have no problem with the block button.”

John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran formerly received racist fan harassment following their respective roles in the recent Skywalker trilogy, leading to Boyega having a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with Disney executives to not sideline Black and POC characters in the franchise.

Click here to read the full article on Indie Wire.

Airbnb’s Billionaire CEO Is Giving The Obama Foundation $100 Million For Travel-Focused College Scholarships
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Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks onstage during “Introducing Trips” Reveal at Airbnb Open LA on November 17, 2016, in Los Angeles.

By Rachel Sandler, Forbes

Airbnb’s billionaire cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky is making his biggest philanthropic donation so far: a $100 million pledge to former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s charitable foundation for an initiative that links education and travel. The funds will go toward scholarships for college students pursuing careers in public service, according to an announcement from the Obama Foundation on Monday. The program, called the Voyager Scholarship, is intended to relieve students of college debt, enable them to travel and expand their horizons—and provide them with mentors.

The two-year program will provide students with up to $25,000 in financial aid for their junior and senior years of college. Recipients will also be given $10,000 and free Airbnb housing to go on a “summer voyage” where students will design their own work-travel program to “gain exposure to new communities.”

It doesn’t end there. For a decade after graduation, students will get $2,000 per year on Airbnb to travel where they wish and “forge new connections throughout their public service careers.” The first cohort of Voyager scholars will include 100 students.

“If we want this next generation of leaders to be able to do what they need to do, they have to meet each other. They have to know each other. They have to understand each other’s communities,” the former president says in a video announcing the scholarship.

Chesky, who Forbes estimates is worth $9 billion, will donate the $100 million for the Voyager Scholarship over a period of five years to the Obama Foundation, which will be in charge of the program.

The goal of the scholarship is to open the world to young leaders who would normally be too cash-strapped to travel. “There are young people across the country who have a passion for public service, but can’t pursue it because of their student loan debt. We want to help reduce that burden,” Chesky says in the video announcement.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Snapchat co-founder pays off college debt of new graduates at L.A. art and design school
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More than 200 graduates of Otis College of Arts and Design react to the surprise announcement Sunday that their college debts will be paid off by snapchat founder

By Teresa WatanabeRachel Uranga

Yaritza Velazquez-Medina took a chance on a major career turn when she decided to drop her work as a crisis counselor in 2018 to pursue her artistic passions. She enrolled at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles to become a graphic designer — even though she racked up about $70,000 in college debt to do so.

But after she crossed the stage Sunday to receive her diploma at commencement ceremonies, she and 284 other graduates in the Class of 2022 received stunning news: Their college debt would be completely paid off through the largest donation in the school’s century-old history by Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, who is founder of the beauty company Kora.

Charles Hirschhorn, Otis president, made the announcement during the commencement ceremony at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, drawing gasps and cheers from the audience. Some graduates hugged, cried and jumped for joy.

“I’m speechless,” Velazquez-Medina said, tears streaming from her eyes.

Spiegel — whose creation of the popular instant messaging app with two former Stanford University classmates made him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015 — took summer classes at Otis during high school.

“It changed my life and made me feel at home,” Spiegel told the graduating class. “I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”

Spiegel and Kerr are founders of The Spiegel Family Fund. They said in a statement that the college is “an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers.

“It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”

The donation comes as student loan debt has soared in the last few decades, driven by rising college costs and less public funding to cover them. More than 43 million Americans owe the federal government $1.6 trillion — an average $37,000 per person — making up the biggest share of consumer debt in the U.S. after mortgages.

In California alone, 3.8 million residents owe $141.8 billion, the largest share of any state. Those struggling most with crushing debt are disproportionately students who are low-income, underrepresented minorities and the first in their families to attend college.

The financial burden is harming mental health, delaying marriages, preventing home ownership and discouraging new businesses, researchers have found. The widespread effects are intensifying pressure on the Biden administration to craft a student debt relief plan; one proposal under consideration is federal forgiveness of at least $10,000 in debt for people making less than $125,000 a year.

The crisis has also prompted some donors to pay off student loan debt. In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith made national headlines when he announced he would cover the loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse College by donating $34 million to the historically Black men’s school in Atlanta.

Hirschhorn did not disclose the size of the Spiegel family gift but said it surpassed the college’s previous largest gift of $10 million. Spiegel and Kerr offered their historic donation after Hirschhorn told them the college wanted to award the couple honorary degrees and invited them as commencement speakers this year. The couple was not available for an interview.

Click here to read the full article on Los Angeles Times.

A History of AAPI Representation in ‘Star Wars’
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STAR WARS, BRITISH RELEASE POSTER WITH AMERICAN STYLE C DESIGN, TOM WILLIAM CHANTRELL, 1977

By Keith Chow, The Nerds of Color

The month of May holds a special place in the hearts of Asian American and Pacific Islander Star Wars fans. For starters, May has been AAPI Heritage Month since 1990, though it originally began as “Asian Pacific Heritage Week” when it was proposed in Congress by Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta in 1977. That’s right, 1977. You know what else debuted in May 1977?

Before the last three Star Wars movies — Episodes VII and VIII, plus Rogue One — became staples of the Holiday Movie Season, every other film in the Saga was a May release. (This year, Lucasfilm finally returns to tradition when Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts in theaters on May 25). Also, “Star Wars Day” falls every May the Fourth, so naturally, May is Star Wars Month by default. So what better way to honor both AAPI Heritage Month and Star Wars then by going through the history of AAPI representation in the Galaxy Far, Far Away?

The Original Trilogy

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

It’s no secret that the filmography of Akira Kurosawa had a huge influence on George Lucas’ space opera. Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress is perhaps the most obvious. Beyond the narrative echoes between the two stories, Lucas had intended to rhyme Star Wars and Hidden Fortress even more by casting the legendary Toshiro Mifune, one of Kurosawa’s frequent collaborators and the star of Hidden Fortress, as either Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sadly, Mifune turned down the role, and it would be more than two decades before an Asian face would be seen in Star Wars — not counting Nien Nunb or Lieutenant Telsij (the first Asian actor to speak a line of dialogue in any Star Wars movie), of course.

Twenty years later, in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi, Dalyn Chew became the first actor of Asian descent to have any significant screen time in a Star Wars movie. In an extended musical number inserted into Jedi, Chew plays Lyn Me, one of the backup dancers at Jabba’s Palace. Sure, she doesn’t really have any lines, but she did get more than four seconds of screen time and an action figure!

The Prequel Trilogy

When Lucas returned to the franchise in the late ’90s to tell the backstory of Darth Vader, he also forgot to cast AAPI actors in any significant roles. Aside from Dhruv Chanchani as Ani’s friend Kitsterthe only other Asian-coded characters in The Phantom Menace are the Neimoidians and Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. Speaking of Padme’s fetish for Oriental wear, perhaps the filmmakers were trying to make amends for the original queen’s fashion by casting actual Asian and Pacific Islander actresses like Ayesha Dharker and Keisha Castle-Hughes for subsequent Queens of Naboo?

Ayesha Dharker as Jamilia in Attack of the Clones (2002) & Keisha Castle-Hughes as Apailana in Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The prequel Attack of the Clones in 2002 was also responsible for the most significant AAPI casting decision to date. In addition to several blink-and-you’ll-miss-them AAPI Jedis, veteran Maori actor Temuera Morrison was chosen to play Jango Fett. Not only was Jango the most heavily marketed character of the prequel sequel, casting Morrison had ripple effects in terms of representation throughout the Saga.

Because Jango was the source for all of the Clone Troopers, that meant beloved characters like Captain Rex from the animated Clone Wars were also coded as Pacific Islander. More significantly, Daniel Logan was cast as the pre-pubescent Boba Fett, meaning the man underneath that iconic helmet from the Original Trilogy was also Maori. A point made even more clearly when Lucas had Morrison redub all of Boba Fett’s lines for all future digital and blu-ray releases of the trilogies and allowed Logan to reprise the role on Clone Wars.

Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett & Daniel Logan as Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones (2002)

The Force Awakens & Rogue One

In 2012, the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas for just over $4 billion. This acquisition signaled a new era in the Star Wars franchise, promising a continuation of the Saga stories but also an interconnected universe of movies, television, comics, and everything in between. Production on the sequel trilogy — the long-promised Episodes VII through IX — began soon after when J.J. Abrams, the man who reinvigorated the moribund Star Trek movie franchise, was brought on to direct the first new Star Wars movie in a decade.

In the run-up to The Force Awakens, Abrams and the Lucasfilm brain trust were asked about Asian representation in the future of Star Wars during a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con, to which the director famously responded, “Go Asians!”

When The Force Awakens finally premiered, the promise of more AAPI characters in Star Wars was realized… sort of. While TFA featured more AAPI actors than all previous six films combined, none of them could be considered major characters.

For instance, the buzz surrounding the announcement that stars from The Raid, the cult martial arts classic from Indonesia, was going to be in the film as the fearsome Kanjiklub was soon met with indifference once audiences figured out their screen time would be severely limited. Other actors like Ken Leung (as Admiral Statura) and Jessica Henwick (as Resistance pilot Jess Pava) wouldn’t fare much better since their scenes are also glorified cameos.

Ken Leung as Admiral Statura with Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa in The Force Awakens (2015)

Click here to read the full article on The Nerds of Color.

Looking at Environmental Protection Through the Lens of Disability
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By Alliah Czarielle, Hemophilia News Today

Climate change has been a hot topic in our circles lately. We feel it very much in the Philippines, where hot summers in the months of April and May have quickly turned into a season of strong typhoons and dangerous floods. Recently, a major typhoon hit the province of Leyte, causing a tragic landslide.

Individuals can only do so much to “save” our planet (and humanity) from the drastic effects of climate change. But we can make a difference by doing little things. We can boycott single-use plastics if we’re in a position to do so, lower our energy consumption, and deal with waste appropriately through proper separation and recycling.

Of course, having a disability factors into the equation about how much one can do to help the earth. Many people with disabilities must resort to less eco-friendly practices in order to address health issues and to thrive, although that’s not to say disabled people can’t take steps to be eco-friendly.

For instance, my husband, Jared, infuses factor products to treat his hemophilia. This procedure involves single-use plastic tubes, metal needles, and glass bottles.

According to a 2019 National Geographic article, one expert estimated that 25% of the waste generated by U.S. healthcare facilities is plastic. This is because the equipment used to treat patients needs to be sterile, and plastic serves that need well.

When my mom was ill with cancer, she needed to drink from plastic straws due to the limitations she had. And by the time she was bedridden, she needed to use disposable adult diapers.

In Japan, a country with a rapidly aging population, adult diaper waste is a growing concern, as The New York Times reported last year. Used diapers are likely to end up in incinerators, like most of the country’s waste. Compared with other types of waste, diapers require more fuel to burn, leading to costly waste management bills and high carbon emissions.

To help alleviate this problem, the Japanese town of Houki converted one of the town’s incinerators into a diaper recycling plant, which in turn produces fuel for a public bathhouse, the Times reported. This, in turn, helps to lower natural gas costs. Japan is fortunate to have the resources to come up with this creative solution.

Since there are limitations to taking steps to protect the environment when accessing or providing healthcare by people with disabilities or those who work at treatment centers, I offer the following suggestions.

If you can afford to, avoid single-use plastics.
If using single-use plastics cannot be avoided, be mindful of how often you use them and how you dispose of them. Seek out alternatives to the plastic bags you use for shopping or carrying things. At home, stock up with multiple-use, high-quality storage containers.

Leave single-use plastic products to the ones who really need them to live. This includes people with disabilities, older people, and babies, for example.

Avoid fast fashion.
I am guilty of patronizing fast fashion — which refers to the mass production of high-fashion clothing trends — because I like dressing up. My clothing budget is quite low, hence the temptation for cheap clothes from chain retailers.

According to a 2019 article by Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.

What percentage of clothing in your closet do you actually wear? Think about it, and try not to buy more than you would actually use. Instead of shopping for new clothes, why not shop at secondhand stores or learn to rework old clothing into more modern styles?

Jared’s entire collection of clothes fits into just one drawer. This makes his wardrobe easier to organize. He wears a “uniform” of plain, minimalist T-shirts with classic denim jeans or shorts. When I first met him in college, he still wore clothes from as early as sixth grade! He only updated his wardrobe when he built up muscle as an adult and needed to switch to clothing a few sizes bigger.

Jared doesn’t go out as often as I do, and bleeding episodes occasionally force him to stay at home. He also considers himself more of an indoor type. So he doesn’t think he needs many clothes.

But even if one’s lifestyle is active or outgoing, we can find some perspective from people like Jared. After all, how many clothes do we really need? As my drawers are now filled to the brim with clothes, I actively try to avoid buying new ones. Furthermore, I now support a local seamstress instead of buying from retail chains. The sewing takes time, but the outcome is often top quality and looks great. It’s also more eco-friendly, and I get to support someone’s livelihood.

Click here to read the full article on Hemophilia News Today.

IOScholarships Launches New Superheroes Podcast & Blog to Encourage More Diverse Students to Pursue Careers in STEM
LinkedIn
five superheroes in different costumes

IOScholarships, a platform that provides access to scholarships worth over $48 million for diverse students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers is launching a new Superheroes Podcast. The host of the series is María Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships, well known for her work as a spokesperson for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and her passion to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM.

In the podcast, María Fernanda interviews STEM students and experts to learn about more about their path to STEM, what kind of thinkers they are, and the unique benefits of a multicultural approach to careers in STEM. Episodes are 10 minutes on average.

“We are thrilled to be launching the first IOScholarships Superheroes Podcast. Not only it is exciting to hear from the innovators of the future, it’s also inspiring to hear how they overcame obstacles and how their ethnic background is so unique for doing incredible things in the STEM field,” said María Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships.

IOScholarships blog provides comprehensive bilingual articles on financial wellness, career tips and some of the most important issues related to STEM. The platform features the scholarship of the month, internship, and job opportunities.

Some of the May featured scholarships and career opportunities include the Olay Face STEM Scholarship open to female sophomores of color, majoring in a STEM field and the Intel Scholarship which helps STEM undergraduate and graduate students of color.

Data shows that roughly 20% of whites and students of color declare STEM subjects as their majors entering college, but nearly 40% of minority students change their majors and more than 20% left school without earning a degree.  As a result, while Blacks, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics collectively form 27% of the population, but they account for only 11% of America’s science and engineering workers.

“This data is what fuels IOScholarships. It is imperative that we raise awareness of the benefits of diversity in STEM if we want to build a robust STEM pipeline,” said María Trochimezuk.

The new redesigned website, developed by Diego Wuethrich, head of operations at IOScholarships, makes easier for students to look for scholarships and financial wellness resources and provides a refreshed “digital front door” for students interested in IOScholarships’ community. Also, the logo was powered by creative designer Andrea Leon-Grossman who has more than 15 years of creative experience with proven success in developing visual campaigns and delivering results.

The superheroes were created by talented IO Scholar, Matthew Rada who is an aspiring 2D character designer and storyboard artist.

IOSCHOLARSHIPS SUPERHEROES POWERS

  1. SCIENCE
    1. Sofia ~aka~ C O M P O U N D
      1. She combines elements, chemicals and other components to create medicine to heal any ailment.
  1. ENGINEERING
    1. Eli ~aka~ S T R U C T U R E
      1. He has the power to create machines and devices that help build and clean our environment. He works closely with Compound, Techno, Ink and Algorithm to make our world safer.
  1. TECHNOLOGY
    1. Tasha ~aka~ T E C H N O
      1. She has the power to create connections and communicate to people from anywhere in the world wherever she may be.
  1. ART
    1. Inigo ~aka~ I N K
      1. He has a beautiful singing voice and creates stories and paintings that entertain and give joy to people. He also creates awareness and empowers everyone to express themselves through art.
  1. MATH
    1. Amelia ~aka~ A L G O R I T H M
      1. She comes up with the right equations and absolute numbers that can solve any mathematical-related problem. She also aids, supports and enhances the powers of techno, compound, structure, and art to make the world a better place.

 

The IOScholarships Superheroes podcast debuts May 3rd, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. PT and can be found at https://ioscholarships.com/podcast. To receive the newsletter/blog please email info@ioscholarships.com.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) Geo Cluster
    June 27, 2022
  4. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022
  5. The 2022 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference Heads to Las Vegas!
    August 2, 2022 - August 5, 2022
  6. 44th Annual BDPA National Conference
    August 18, 2022 - August 20, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) Geo Cluster
    June 27, 2022
  4. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022
  5. The 2022 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference Heads to Las Vegas!
    August 2, 2022 - August 5, 2022
  6. 44th Annual BDPA National Conference
    August 18, 2022 - August 20, 2022