Tech Now + Beyond

Michelle Obama sent me to tech boot camp and it opened up my eyes to a whole new world

Michelle Obama smells amazing. I could never put my finger on it, but when she hugged me with her incredibly toned arms, the first thing I thought was holy shit Michelle Obama is giving me a hug, and secondly, wow she smells so good. It was a sweltering Washington D.C. July afternoon but the First Lady seemed unbothered by the heat instead she brought inspiration, poise, and grace with her.

She was speaking on her Let Girls Learn initiative: “You all are here today because someone believed in you because someone gave you the chance to be everything you would want to be.”  That line stuck with me then and continues to remind me both that I am worthy of my opportunities, and so are the amazing people around me. But on that July afternoon, I was thinking, what did I want to be? Who believes in me? And what sort of girl do I have the potential to be? 

I asked myself these questions frequently, especially in moments of doubt. I was certain Michelle Obama, the Let Girls Learn Program, UN Foundation, and U.S. State Department got it all wrong when they decided to send me to Rwanda for a little over three weeks for a global, “women in STEM” or WiSci, program. It was a summer of is this really happening right now? Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve to be here. That thought was on loop on the plane-ride from Portland to Chicago to Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa to Kigali. And on the bus from Kigali International to our compound at Gashora Girls Academy in Eastern Province, Rwanda.

But once I got to Rwanda, I was able to meet the 120 girls from eight African countries and from around the U.S… And after we shared a meal together, I realized, we’re all in this together. It was three hard weeks of tech boot camp and I started with zero coding experience. I worked alongside girls from Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. While we had moments of cultural difference, misunderstanding, and frustration, we shared moments of brilliance, joy, and success. Together we learned C++, built Arduino models, and prototyped a solar-powered Wifi hotspot.

At the very end of my experience in Rwanda, I was able to present my tech-prototype to The First Lady of Rwanda Jeanette Kagame. I held my head high as I presented on the lack of internet access in developing areas (4 billion people do not have access to Wi-Fi), and the emerging technologies that can better connect people globally. As I sat on the plane from Kigali to Addis to Dublin to  Washington D.C, to Chicago and finally to Portland, I knew that not only did other people believe in me, but I believed in myself.

Three years later, I am at an all-female liberal arts college and pursuing a social science major. My experience in Rwanda (all thanks to Michelle Obama) working alongside 100 other girls, taught by a mostly female staff played a large role in my choosing a women’s college. While I have no intentions of majoring in computer science or engineering, learning C++ taught me a new way to solve problems. And learning about hardware and software made me more tech savvy so I could troubleshoot my daily technology problems. Being in Rwanda surrounded by girls from other countries showed me how global technology really is. And the friendships I cemented in Rwanda continue to grow and flourish.

Image description: From left to right, Sydney Baumgardt, Grace Wong (author) and Nell Shea watching the sunrise over lake at Gashora Girls Academy, Rwanda
Image description: From left to right, Sydney Baumgardt, Grace Wong (author) and Nell Shea watching the sunrise over lake at Gashora Girls Academy, Rwanda

Tech boot camps aren’t just for aspiring engineers and computer programmers, they’re for everyone.  Every single person can benefit from learning how to code, communication, and work together. I am where I am now because I believe in myself. And I believe in you, too! Next time you get the opportunity to take a risk, remember that it’s your chance to be everything you want to be.SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Fashion Lookbook

This is how to build the perfect capsule wardrobe

Summer is just around the corner, so it’s time to put together your summer capsule! While capsule wardrobes may be in vogue online, it can be so challenging building one from your own closet. While capsules seem new and trendy right now, they follow the basic principle of wearing what you love most and fits your life best. 

According to a study done by ClosetMaid of 1,000 American women, the average woman has 103 items in her closet but she considers 21% to be “unwearable”, 33% to be “too tight” and 24% to be “too loose”. That’s a whole lot of clothes that you’re not wearing. Intentionally choosing the clothes can help make dressing easier, more functional, and more sustainable.  I have tried (with varying degrees of success) to make myself a the perfect capsule wardrobe and learned a couple tips and tricks along the way!

What even is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is when you pull a smallish number of clothing items that seamlessly work together that you can wear for a period of time. For example, some people choose thirty-three items (clothes, shoes, accessories, etc.) to wear for three months. This is commonly referred to as 333. But thirty-three might be too big or too small a number for you. Caroline from Un-Fancy does thirty-seven pieces in 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 15 tops, 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats.  The idea behind the capsule is that you can eliminate some of the difficulty of dressing every day by having a set number of things that seamlessly work together to make you look and feel amazing.

[bctt tweet=”Intentionally choosing the clothes can help make dressing easier, more functional, and more sustainable.  ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Where do I start?

If you’re completely new to fashion-with-less, you can start getting some inspiration from online style blogs and Pinterest. I start by taking every single piece of clothing out of my closet. Yes, I do this three or four times a year. And while it may seem like a really arduous, messy task it helps you evaluate the clothes you have and what you may need. I sort my clothes into three piles: love, kinda like, dislike and seasonal. The “love” pile generally is incorporated into my capsule. The “kinda like” pile is usually put back into my closet. And the “dislike” pile is sorted into sell and give a new home or put into a box in my closet. The dislike box is taken out the next time I clean out my closet and either goes into the kinda like pile or is sold. The “seasonal” pile has things like down jackets, snow boots, and sandals– things that are only functional in the right season. I keep them in my closet and wait for the right capsule to incorporate them into. Reassessing your closet can help you get rid of items that no longer serve you.

[bctt tweet=”Capsules help you wear what you love most and what fits your life best!” username=”wearethetempest”]

How do I pick my clothes?

I generally start by choosing a time frame that could specific dates, seasons, or whatever you want. Generally I look at the weather of the time period, my plans for that time period whether it be school or work, and any special occasions. This can help you choose shoes, outerwear, and give purpose to your clothes. I only choose pieces that are comfortable, fit well, and serve my needs.

After I have sorted my clothes, I pick out three major color, four minor colors, and a couple of accent colors for my capsule. This allowed for most of my wardrobe to be worn together and look put together together.

I wore my capsule from the end of January to mid April. My main colors were black, white and red. My accent colors were grey, denim, maroon and navy blue. And I chose leather, gold, and stripes as my accents  And I chose thirty winter pieces: 3 pairs of shoes, 7 bottoms, 5 sweaters, 2 dresses, 10 tops, 3 jackets and 1 scarf. I did not count underwear, socks, or workout clothes in my capsule. I am currently not wearing a capsule right now, rather taking time to reassess my clothes and wear some of my dislikes, kind of likes, and plan for my summer capsule.

Why I capsule:

Ultimately, I capsule because I like doing more with less. Before I capsuled, I was often overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. I felt like I wasn’t taking risks with my clothing and was wearing the same thing everyday. With a capsule, I intentional create style risks that I feel comfortable taking, plan my outfits on my Stylebook app, and know that my clothes make me look and feel great. And I hope a capsule can do the same for you!

Tech Now + Beyond

I was harassed online for commenting on an immigration piece

In 2003 the United Nations hosted the World Summit on Information Society and declared that there could and would be “empowerment of women through enhancing their skills, knowledge, access to and use of information technologies.” Information ecologists predicted in the early 2000s that the low cost of interacting on the internet and the access to information and opportunities would be a “safer” option for women and minorities to interact in the world.

Fifteen years after the UN summit, women and minorities have more access to technology but there are still real risks and challenges associated with having an internet presence. The internet is not a de facto safe space for women and minorities because the gendered, racist, and ageist realities of the material world, transcend to the virtual world as well. And my experience and that of other women is indicative of this.

In August of 2016, I published a piece on MTV about being a bystander at a Black Lives Matter art event. I had been kindly invited to say a couple words but decided that I would rather watch.

It was a call to other allies and activists, who sometimes needed to show their support by simply showing up. I did not write this article to be inflammatory. But the response I got from complete strangers was really negative– people told me I was a “good for nothing social-justice warrior,” a “dumb bitch,” and that I should “go die in a hole.”

In April of 2017, the Wall Street Journal published a thought piece on immigration, where the author the possibility of American culture being ‘overwhelmed’ by an increase in immigration. He writes at length on the evolving self-identification of second-generation teenagers from simply ‘American’ to a foreign national identity or pan-racial identity like “Asian-American” instead of just “American.” Being a second-generation teenager who identifies as Asian-American and Chinese-American, I felt I had to respond.

[Image description: Two paragraphs of text. Paragraph one reads: "Pity Ms. Wong's parents. They must be mortified." Paragraph two reads" "@JoseSchild WSJ editors should be ashamed of themselves...Publishing a sophomoric letter like this from someone who is barely a sophomore. They should've just pushed this letter to the back of the pile, and allowed Grace to grow up without creating an electronic record of her lack of maturity.] <a href ="WSJ"> </a>
Comments I received following the Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor. [Image description: Two paragraphs of text. Paragraph one reads: “Pity Ms. Wong’s parents. They must be mortified.” Paragraph two reads” “@JoseSchild WSJ editors should be ashamed of themselves…Publishing a sophomoric letter like this from someone who is barely a sophomore. They should’ve just pushed this letter to the back of the pile, and allowed Grace to grow up without creating an electronic record of her lack of maturity.] Via Wall Street Journal

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal on my experience being a racial minority in America. And the comments section tore me apart. In the 40-some comments on the Wall Street Journal page, all of them targeted me: from “Ms. Wong, your identity, and your ethnic experiences mean nothing to me” to  “Grace must mean something different in Chinese because Ms. Wong exhibits none,”  and “Grace, just go back to China.” I got Facebook messages from strangers calling me a “bitch,” “chink” and “crybaby.” People told me I was uneducated and didn’t understand what I was saying.

I wrote to the editor of the Wall Street Journal because immigration is an issue that is very close to home and my American identity is constantly in question, particularly with the Trump Administration. I wanted to talk about immigration reform not be reminded that my identifiers and therefore opinions are not welcome in America. 

When I read the UN Summit brief and hopes of information ecologists, I felt torn. While the internet has empowered women and minorities globally by connecting them to new information and opportunities, it has also disempowered them. Internet harassment of women and minorities mirrors that of harassment in the real world.  But unlike the real world, on the internet people can hide behind their screens whilst perpetrating toxic narratives of racism, sexism, and ageism.

The easy thing to fix this would be to eliminate sexist, racist and ageist dialogue in both the real and virtual worlds, but we all know that that’s not going to happen anytime soon. But, we can take steps to eliminate this sort of harassment. Talking about workplace harassment and the #MeToo movement, advocating for racial dialogue and equality, and elevating youth voices can all change the narrative. 

And, instead of being a bystander to internet harassment, we can act.

You should help those bullied in the virtual world, just as you would help people being bullied in the real world. When I was being harassed on the internet, my friends, family, and followers all sent me private messages and shared my articles in a positive light. For my high school graduation gift this year, my aunt and uncle also gave me a keychain that reads “never read the comments” that I carry around with me everywhere. And maybe one day the world and the internet will be a safe, equal space for women and marginalized groups everywhere. 


Fashion Lookbook

Do you know about the ugly afterlife of your clothes?

During the summer of 2015, I was on a bus visiting a farm in Eastern Province, Rwanda. We were jostling down dirt roads surrounded by small homes, shrubs, and a couple other motorcycles on the road. The sun was shining down on our rural landscape and I was annoyed when our bus had to stop because a car ahead had broken down. Soon word got out that Americans were stuck on the road and young children began to flock to our bus to ask us for spare change. And I noticed one boy in particular, he was staring at us and giggling with his friends, clad in an In-N-Out Burger t-shirt.

[bctt tweet=”The young boy in rural East Africa wearing an In-N-Out Burger t-shirt hadn’t gone there himself. So, where did his shirt come from? ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I was stunned. In-N-Out is a burger chain native to the West Coast. And I associate their Animal Fries with California girls and Hollywood stars alike. I concluded that this young boy who laughed at the foreign American women stuck on the road hadn’t gone to In-N-Out himself and probably never would have the opportunity to. And I began to wonder, where did his shirt come from?  The answer for that particular t-shirt is unknown. But I found a lot of unsettling information about the life-cycle of our clothes and the ugly effects of consumer culture.

[bctt tweet=”The afterlife of our clothes reveals our ugly and unsustainable consumer culture.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Say, I go into a Target, Forever 21 or H&M and buy my cotton t-shirt. Eventually, the t-shirt isn’t trendy anymore and I stop wearing it. First, the piece of clothing will sit in my closet taking up space. Once I decide that I don’t want my piece of clothing, I could sell it directly to a picky second-hand store, sell it to a friend either in person or online, or I could donate my t-shirt to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. If I choose to directly sell to either a second-hand store or another person, that’s great. But eventually they too will get tired of my t-shirt. So more likely than not, my garment will end up at a donation center.

At the donation center, my garment will either be deemed high quality enough to be sold within the U.S. or not. If not, my garment will be shredded into rags? Or, it will go into a bale that weighs a half ton and shipped overseas to a developing economy. These bales will be cut open at an auction and sold to a merchant.These local merchants create stalls of used clothes that line the streets of developing countries worldwide.

According to an Oxfam report, used clothes make up 50% of the clothing sector throughout the sub-Saharan region. And in 2014, East African countries imported more than $300 million worth of clothing. While this may seem like a win-win situation, it’s not.

[bctt tweet=”Exporting use clothes from America to developing countries undermines their local economies and prevents them from growing.” via=”no”]

These used-clothes undermine local economies in developing countries and prevent them from growing. Instead of creating, purchasing, and wearing locally-made and locally-sourced garments, people are wearing old American t-shirts simply because it’s cheaper. 

According to Andrew Brooks, lecturer at King’s College London:“Your t-shirt may be quite cheap for someone to buy, but it would be better if that person could buy a locally manufactured t-shirt, so the money stays within the economy and that helps generate jobs.” If people could make their own clothing, benefit from that clothing, and wear it for a long time, that would certainly be better for people and for planet.

[bctt tweet=”Our unsustainable consumption demands low-quality products that are easily thrown away– all at the expense of people and planet. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

And what happens when these countries no longer need our clothes? This is indicative of unsustainable consumption that demands low-quality products that are made the expensive of the planet and thrown away only to harm more people. Instead of blaming these charitable organizations, we should instead change our habits. 

So the next time you’re shopping, think about the clothing you choose to put on your body and how you plan to get rid of it when the time is right. I suggest buying better instead of buying more. And maybe, we can slowly but surely change the cycle.

Fashion Lookbook

8 steps to starting an awesome sustainable lifestyle

For years I have known that fast fashion companies like Forever 21 and H&M weren’t very green or sustainable brands. For a brief moment during my preteen years, I was convinced by Forever 21 that neon, boxy, translucent tops were so cool. I bought at least three of them, but three months later said tops were decidedly uncool. The whole concept of “fast fashion” and constantly evolving trends is pretty unsustainable. The industry lures you in with accessible low prices and “on trend” pieces, but it’s filled with unsafe labor practices for underpaid and overworked laborers, environmental pollution, and unsustainable inventory practices.

My shift towards ethical fashion began at the end of last summer when I moved across the country to attend college. Obviously dorm rooms are small and suitcase space is limited so I had to narrow down my stuff to my most used items of clothing. I realized that I prefer wearing high quality, timeless pieces. And that the hundreds of dollars that I was spending at Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 was getting me clothes that didn’t last very long and weren’t very high quality.

I made the decision to go minimalist and ethical-sustainable in early September and it hasn’t been without it’s challenges. For one, the astronomical prices of pretty much everything was intimidating. I had to figure out how to transition my wardrobe from its current state to a more ethical-sustainable one while also being sustainable and cost-effective.

Overall, I have loved shopping ethically and sustainably. I have found an amazing community of ethically-aware people and brands that bring me a lot of joy and contentment. If you’re thinking about jumping on the ethical and sustainable train, here are eight tips to get you started!

1. Set a goal

[Image description: gif of list that says “How to achieve you goal” and check marks by each point.]

For me, my goal was to be more informed and buy better, not more. It’s an evolving process of learning and adapting but having this goal helps me remember that it’s a process. In the past eight months, I haven’t completely transformed my wardrobe and I “cheated” and bought a super cute turtleneck from J.Crew in December. But remembering why I’m doing what I’m helps me stay on track and not be too hard on myself.

2. Do your research  

[Image description: gif of woman flipping through a book in the library.]

When I first decided to go ethical, sustainable, and minimal, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know of any ethical-sustainable brands or bloggers, so I just got familiar with resources online– on social media especially. And I watched the amazing documentary, The True Cost.

3. Learn the lingo 

[Image description: gif of woman pacing and reviewing her ethical vocab with highlighter in her mouth.]

As with any industry or culture, ethical fashion comes with a lot of terminology that can sometimes be confusing. Some commonly used words include: Ethical, Sustainable, Fair Trade, and Organic.

4. Spend some *focused* time on social media  

[Image description: gif of woman checking two phones so she can maximize her ethical-sustainable social media game.]

Finding bloggers whose style you would like to be similar to or just generally like can be a great way to see how different ethical and sustainable pieces go together. I really love Selflessly Styled and Un-Fancy. 

5. Take stock of what you have 

[Image description: woman in a towel looking at her closet saying “Okay, so I have nothing to wear.”]

Minimalism is different from shopping ethically and sustainably. But before you shop, it’s always good to take stock of what you have. And buying just for the sake of buying isn’t ethical or sustainable. In reviewing what you have, you can see what else you might need to add to your wardrobe. Instead of letting items you no longer have use for take up space in your life, donate or sell your items to give them a new home.

6. Plan your shopping and budget

[Image description: gif of woman budgeting for her sustainable style while telling her husband, “last year you spend $5000 on donuts”]

Ethical, sustainable shopping is expensive. But you also save thousands of dollars not following fast fashion trends. Budget how much money you’re willing to spend and choose a handful of pieces that you really love.

7. Go shopping

[Image description: gif of woman running across the street with shopping bags filled with sustainably-sourced clothes!]

This is the fun part! I like to ask myself two big questions when I shop: Do I have something like this? Because I love to buy black and grey tops– I have them in every style from knit cardigan to cut-off tank top. I really don’t need another black or grey top even it’s cute.  I then ask, will this fit into my wardrobe and into my life? I want to make sure that I can wear While I love cute wedge heels and even open-toed clogs, being a college student means I am walking all of the time from my dorm to class and to the library. And the same goes for dry-cleaned items because there aren’t any laundromats near me. So  I try to make sure that I purchase items that go with my personal style and my lifestyle.

8. Reevaluate

[Image description: gif of woman tilting her head and thinking about her ethical-sustainable style journey.]

As you’re on your ethical, sustainable journey makes sure you’re checking in with yourself. And set new goals to keep you progressing!


Fashion Lookbook

Was the 2018 Met Gala trendy or just plain insensitive?

Every year on the first Monday in May, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York City hosts its annual Met Gala that raises funds for the Met Costume Institute. 

Every year, the invitation-only guests wear the finest garments from the world’s most prominent designers. Guests are encouraged to draw inspiration from the theme when dressing for the occasion. The themes are meant to weave a dialogue between works of fashion and their designers, art history, and its cultural significance. Past themes have included China Through the Looking Glass and Manus x Machina.

This year’s theme is “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” It hopes to foster a conversation between the Museum’s religious works of art and religiously inspired clothing. Some notable pieces in the show include papal garments on loan to the Met from the Sistine Chapel. Vogue has said that “the intersection of faith and fashion,” or “the sacred and profane” has not always been easy. 

And certainly, these difficulties do not come without controversy.

[Image description: Two looks with Christian inspirations from the Fall 2000 Christian Dior haute couture show.]

I talked to a college Catholic student named Dana* about this year’s Met Ball theme: “It’s offensive.” She went on to talk about how these gaudy showings of her faith only reinforced stereotypes because “being Catholic is to be humble.” Dana has visited Costume Institute exhibitions in the past but she thinks this year’s exhibition may have gone too far: “I know that the whole Catholic thing is trendy right now, but people are really uninformed about our faith and have a lot of misconceptions about Catholics. The Met usually has great exhibits, but this just seems offensive.”

[bctt tweet=”People are uninformed about our faith and have a lot of misconceptions about Catholics. This exhibit is just offensive.” username=”wearethetempest”]

This year’s show is directed by Head of the Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton. In the documentary, The First Monday in May, Bolton talked at length about the process of creating the Met exhibition and hosting the 2015 gala. He said he expects “dissenters” of his exhibitions and has no issue being “controversial” or “provocative.” 

The Met has insisted that this year’s show is not about religion or politics, rather, it’s about fashion, art, and aesthetic inspirations.

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[Image description: on the right Laura Love and on the left Chadwick Boseman– both are in Versace and wearing clearly ecclesiastically inspired ensembles.]

I grew up Catholic and much of my family practices the faith. 

When I heard that this year’s Met Gala would be centered around Catholicism and “material Christianity,” I was stunned. I knew that people would definitely dress culturally inappropriately as they drew on inspirations from the papacy, the Virgin Mary, and the Madonna– icons that are sometimes misused and misrepresented.  

Further, the Met Gala is a huge cultural event that invites celebrities from fashion, film, music, and beyond.

And how these celebrities dress is not without larger implications. This year’s theme creates big questions about cultural appropriation, like where is the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation? And to what extent does creating an event around an institution like Catholicism require an element of historical and cultural education? And what is the roles of the celebrities who attend the Met Gala to be culturally sensitive and use their celebrity to educate people broadly?

[Image description: two photos of Rihanna wearing a silver, papal-inspired ensemble by Maison Margiela.]

Some of this year’s clothing choices certainly fell on the side of controversial in my book. 

Notable ones include Met Gala hostess, Rihanna, wearing a silver, bedazzled version of the Pope’s hat and matching miniskirt, top, and jacket. Maison Margiela created the revealing ensemble.

The Pope is the most sacred figure in the Catholic Church. He teaches the global Catholic community about the faith and its applications in the modern world. The current pope, Pope Francis, has a reputation for making the Church more open and welcoming, diminishing the gaudier aspects in favor of caring for the poor, and even environmental issues. For Rihanna to wear the papal hat seemed self-important and culturally insensitive to me. 

While of course designers draw inspiration from the Church, they must be careful to respect the cultural norms, traditions, meanings behind their inspirations.

<a href ="source"> </a>
[Image description: Lily Collins in a black ensemble with clear inspiration from nuns.]

Lily Collins wore a floor-length, sheer black dress with a structured black top piece that drew inspiration from traditional nun apparel. Collins accessorized her ensemble with a metallic black halo atop her head and clutched a thin silver chain with a cross at the end of it. Her makeup included dark eye makeup and a single red tear on her cheek. 

While I did not find her outfit too offensive, the inspiration and subsequent sexualization of Catholic nuns in her outfit seemed inappropriate.

Collins is not the only one who wore elaborate headpieces to the Met Gala. Many others wore halos, veils, and tiaras to the event. 

While the ecclesiastical inspirations found historically in fashion and presently in the Met Gala border on cultural appropriation and offense – they also create the perfect opportunity for critical thought and dialogue.

There’s something to be said about that, too.


*Name has been changed for privacy.

Race Inequality

Art-activists Renee Lopez and Ameya Okamoto are breathing new life into social justice activism

Ameya Okamoto and Renee Lopez are both women of color, artivists (art activists) living in the whitest major city in the U.S.– Portland, OR. I am proud to call both Ameya and Renee friends. Their work inspires both at the local level and the national level. One of Renee’s photography series, Women of Color in Portland, captures beautiful, bold women reclaiming a space filled with whiteness. Ameya has received critical acclaim for her works for Black Lives Matter. I had the opportunity to chat with the two of them about Portland, art, and social justice!

The Tempest: How do you identify? And how long have you lived in Portland?

Renee Lopez (RL): I identify as a Chicana, Black, Filipino woman. I have lived in Portland for 12 years.

Ameya Okamoto (AO): I identify as an Asian-American woman of color. I moved to Portland in 2007 with my two sisters and mom.

[Image description: Two images of anti-gun activists who led March for Our Lives.] Images courtesy of artist.

The Tempest: How has being a woman of color shaped your experience living in Portland? 

AO: Being a woman of color in Portland, it’s very obvious that I am different. Portland is a very white city. It was really hard for me when I was growing up, and even now, I have consistently been the only person of color in class and the only person of color at the lunch table. But I take ownership of my identity. As Asians, we are “in between-ers.” We are between black and white, between complicity and freedom, in between the conversation of racial justice. I would love to see more Asians in racial justice because they are so in between these spaces.

RL: It’s been empowering to be proud of who I am, but that can also have a backlash. You will get treated differently if you are outspoken and black or brown. White folks get uncomfortable and don’t know how to deal with folks like that. I don’t think they encounter that a lot and aren’t sure what to do. My experience has been trying most of the time, when you see only white folks doing well (owning businesses, etc) it does something to your mental health. Every time I leave Portland I realize how oppressive it is. 

[Image description: two photos by Renee Lopez from her Women of Color in Portland series.] Photos courtesy of artist.

The Tempest: What sort of art do you do? And why do you do it?

AO: I am a visual artist. I am an artivist (art activist). Art is my medium of protest. Artists are the disrupters. Artists are the change-makers. We are the ones who call out the truth in the world. As a visual artist I think it’s important to create art that conveys messages that I want to put out in the world. I want to break through language and cultural barriers. I want to move people. 

RL: I am a freelance photographer. Photography has helped me come out of depression, gave me something creative to focus on and gave me a sense of direction in my life as to what I want to do.

[Image description: protestors holding art created by Ameya Okamoto at a march for racial and social justice.] Image courtesy of artist.

The Tempest: Why did you choose art as your medium of protest?

AO:  At the moment I am working with Black Lives Matter Portland and reach out to families who are exposed to racial violence, generally police violence. A lot of what I am doing is helping people. I want to help families and communities heal. I can create art that brings positivity to communities that have been oppressed and constantly shown negative representations of themselves in media. I am trying to reverse the false narratives that are being created about people of color.

RL: My camera is a tool that documents what was happening around me in my community. Not only just at protests but also a way to make statements when I was feeling angry or frustrated. I also use my camera as a way to take back space and give a platform to women of color in Portland– take a beautiful powerful imagine and let them say whatever they wanted to say. 

[Image description: on the left, an image created in memory of Quanice Hayes by Ameya OKamoto. On the right, a photo by Renee Lopez from her Women of Color in Portland series.] Photos courtesy of artists.

The Tempest: What do you both think is the most pressing social justice issue on local and national levels presently? 

AO: I am currently working with Black Lives Matter but I also think that DACA and the #MeToo movements are huge. I think the biggest social justice issue is the lack of intersectionality between these movements. Finding the intersectionality no matter what you’re fighting for is super important and needs to be highlighted more.

RL: I’d say the most pressing social justice issue on local and national levels presently is inclusion. A lot of black and brown women who started and have been fighting for women’s rights and transgender folks are being forgotten. I wish the pink pussy hat-wearing women would remember us.


Be sure to follow them both on Instagram (@ameyamarie and @misslopezmedia). This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Gender Race Inequality

Sex ed classes in America are only made for straight white people

Sex ed: the awkward class that teaches students all over America primarily the dangers of having sex.

Sex ed is known for being an uncomfortable class where students put condoms on bananas and learn about sexually transmitted infections and diseases. The conversation around sex ed really focuses on abstinence-only education that fails to serve students’ sexual health needs. But there’s another problem with sex ed in the U.S.: it isn’t serving students of marginalized identities. Sex ed in this country rarely covers queer sex ed, non-white sex ed, consent or cultural expectations around sex. Sex ed is failing students from marginalized backgrounds and we need to fix that.

The problem starts with people of color having disproportionately less access to sexual education and an overall below average education. When it comes to sex ed, sexual health experts and medical researchers focus on white, heteronormative sex. This makes sense because there are a lot of white, straight folks in America and more funding for research that can reach a lot of people. Due to the overwhelming whiteness of the sexual health field, there just isn’t the research or curriculum to teach sex ed with more diversity and inclusion.

Oftentimes, just having sex ed that isn’t abstinence-only is a huge success. Comprehensive sex-ed isn’t taught simply because the budget doesn’t exist. And what is taught, generally doesn’t include resources for LGBTQIA students and educators feel uncomfortable approaching the cultural aspects to sex-ed that are relevant to students of color. Thus, students of color and LGBTQIA students don’t get access to sex ed that will help them lead healthy, sex lives.

So where do people from marginalized backgrounds learn about sex, sexuality and sexual health? By and large mainstream media. The RAND corporation conducted a study on teenage exposure to sexual content on television and found that teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual intercourse in the following year and they have a significantly greater likelihood of teen pregnancy. On the upside, television seems to portray the risks of sex and helps to inform teenage viewers about the potential consequences of sex.

But we also have a long history of fetishizing POC and WOC people in the media. There is an ugly trend that sexualizes “exotic” women of color in the media. From a young age, girls of color are valued less in society for their gender and sex. Highly sexualized portrays of women of color often leads to women of color associating their worth to their sex appeal. And that is reinforced every time the media, America’s sexual health educator,shows them as exotic and highly sexualized.

While I was lucky to receive a better-than-average sex ed that included things like STIs, STDs and consent, no one ever talked to me about cultural expectations revolving around sex for Asian women.

In the media, Asian women are often portrayed as small, silent, and soft– their lack of power manifests in being sexless and bookish or hyper-sexualized. There are cultural expectations for Asian and Asian-American women around sex– like as comedian Amy Schumer put it, that Asian women have “the smallest vaginas in the game.” Remarks like these and countless media representations only enhance the fetishization of Asian women. It was not until my Asian Affinity group in high school did I have the opportunity to explore the complicated history of the sexualization of Asian women.

Black, Native and Latinx populations have disproportionately higher rates of teen pregnancy, sexual assault, and STIs. The lack of informative, useful sexual education is failing marginalized groups. And the lack of diversity in sex ed reinforces white, heteronormative sex.

This is not a small problem. And there are only so many things that we can do immediately to better serve marginalized communities and their sexual health needs.

First, you can support organizations like The Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) which create opportunities for inclusion in the field of sexuality, sexual science, and sexology. Or, you can turn to your local Planned Parenthood, which is trying to include things like social and cultural expectations around sex in their curriculum.

Second, you can engage in meaningful dialogue with your friends and the larger community – a lot of people don’t even know that this is a problem.

And last, educating yourself on diversity in sexual education can make you a resource for others. Just because schools aren’t teaching students doesn’t mean that young people can’t learn. Being a role model and talking to the young people you know about how to practice safe sex and all the other pieces of sex like consent, body-positivity, and cultural expectations can be a great place to start.

History Race Policy Inequality

History books will never be able to tell what it’s really like to be a child of the Vietnam war

Ever since I can remember, I have known about the war.

50 years ago, war broke out in Vietnam between the South and North Vietnamese. My family on both my father and mother’s sides were refugees from the war that migrated stateside. I grew up hearing the stories of Vietnam before the war, during the war, and then life as refugees in America. The Vietnam War irrevocably changed my family’s life. But learning about the Vietnam War in schools and again in the media, just makes me feel confused.

In my U.S. history course, we covered the Vietnam War briefly.

I was taught a single fluid narrative of the Vietnam War: hawks and doves in Washington arguing for different policy and the young people who didn’t want to go to war. I remember my freshman year of high school, I read Tim O’Brien’s story, On The Rainy River, that recounted his urge to evade the draft. What a privilege, I thought, to even consider not going to war. For my family, we didn’t have a choice–the war came to us whether we liked it or not. And the war indiscriminately hurt Vietnamese people regardless of their political convictions and changed our lives forever. In college, I learned about the My Lai massacre and felt more confused. How could the Americans have just slaughtered innocent Vietnamese people? Weren’t the Americans on our side?

In my family’s nearly five decades of American life, we have clung to memories of a Vietnam that no longer exist. On my father’s side, it was the second escape from communism. They had fled China amidst Mao Ze Dong’s communist rule in the 1940s and then again in the 1970s during the Vietnam War. On my mother’s side, her father fought in the war for the South Vietnamese army and after the war, the U.S. helped them migrate stateside.

In my family, there is only life before the war in Vietnam and life after the war in the U.S. For me, the Vietnam War marks the end of an era in my family that I only know through pictures and stories.

Growing up, I heard countless stories about the war, life before it and the grueling experience of coming to America. I heard stories about fear and bravery, familial duty, and new beginnings. I could almost feel the hardship of starting life afresh in a foreign country.

But to me, the U.S. doesn’t feel foreign at all.

The only language I am fluent in is English. I had to learn Mandarin in school and I am still not even close to fluent. The only political system I really understand is the American one and I hold the American values of freedom, life, and liberty close to my heart. I am just as much of an American as anyone else. Except I’m not. My family is not. And my history isn’t the one that’s taught in history classes.

My bicultural identity as both an American and a child of Vietnam War refugees has shaped my view of the Vietnam War. But I am not the only one. The Vietnam War created a diaspora of Vietnamese people around the world, many of whom ended up in the U.S. And our stories are rarely told. After reading a series of pieces that remember the Vietnam War in The New York Times, I felt as if my life and experience were not told– the stories of refugees, the stories of a diaspora community connected to a place that no longer exists, and the confusion that surrounds patriotism to the U.S. I don’t know how I am supposed to feel when learning about the May Lai massacre.

Am I supposed to still love my country? Am I supposed to still feel like a proud American? It could have been my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins killed in that massacre. What am I supposed to think when I hear the stories of draft evaders– the stories of people who had the privilege to not be affected by this war?

I don’t have any answers to these enormous questions. But I think it’s okay to feel confused. Gaining the American perspective and politics helps me better understand what happened in the war. Hearing the stories of my family’s journey to America, helps me know my own history. I will forever be caught between two worlds: my Asian identity and my American one. I have come to accept that my bicultural identity affects all parts of my life from customs and traditions to remembering the past.

And the history you’re taught won’t necessarily tell your story, so sometimes you have to tell it yourself.


10 unconventional ways to fight for environmental justice

Today, not as many people talk about the environment when talking about social justice. But our planet is just as much a part of social life as is gender and race. While we often talk about how our planet is getting warmer every year, we don’t talk about what we specifically can do to slow down climate change. While environmental issues may not be “your thing” per say, we all need to try and protect our planet. Recycling and composting are great, but unfortunately they are not enough. Here are ten easy ways for you to live greener everyday.

1. Consume ethically and sustainably

[Image description: woman carrying shopping bags (hopefully filled with ethically and sustainably made goods) across the street.]

The fast fashion industry is incredibly destructive to our planet’s wellbeing in its use of chemicals, poor labor practices, and overuse of resources. Denim is one of the dirtiest industries, so by consuming clean denim you take an important step in keeping our planet clean! Look for brands that produce ethically and sustainably–usually this looks like using good materials, ethical practices, and long-lasting items.

2. Eat more plants

[Image description: gif of carrot flexing its muscles with words “VEGAN POWER”.]

Unprocessed, plant-based foods are gentle on the land they are grown on, do not produce very much waste, and helps decrease greenhouse emissions. Processed foods generally are made in large factories that produce emissions and pollute the environment with chemicals. Meats like beef are also very land-intense. Not only is eating a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian diet more environmentally friendly, it’s also better for your body! 

3. Use plastics-free beauty products

[Image description: gif of woman applying mascara (hopefully one without plastics in it)]

Microbeads are tiny little beads of plastic that are found in face wash, body scrubs, some toothpastes and other cosmetics. They are super duper small so they aren’t captured in the wastewater treatment process. These little pieces of plastic then flow into the water, harming sea life. To protect sea life, buy products that don’t have microbeads! 

4. Practice minimalism

[Image description: image of a minimalist, marble bookcase with few books on it.] <a href="source"> </a>
[Image description: image of a minimalist, marble bookcase with few books on it.]

Minimalism is a practice of doing more with less. In practicing minimalism, we learn to consume less and to want less. By consuming less stuff, we use less resources and don’t pollute the earth with our unwanted products. Minimalism can seem really challenging in our consumption-filled lives but purchasing high quality items that last a long time can be equally satisfying.  

5. Get around greener

[Image description: gif of a cartoon woman riding her bike through a park with a dog in the front basket.]

By using public transportation or less emission-intensive modes of transportation like carpooling or bicycling, we can reduce emissions. One of the big threats to the environment is emissions! By biking, taking the subway, or even carpooling with friends and family, we can pollute less.

6. Reuse… everything!

[Image description: green arrow that says, "reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat"]<a href="source"> </a>
[Image description: green arrow that says, “reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat”]

I try to find new and fun uses for my old stuff. I use an old bracelet box to store my polaroids and an old cookie container to store my pencils. Instead of throwing these things away, try to find new and cool uses! Glass jars can be used for everything from making chia pudding, storing your extra change, or putting fresh-cut flowers!

7. Sustainably get rid of your stuff

[Image description: gif of dancing plastic bag on a pink background. Bag reads “thanks for nothing” reminding us to get rid of stuff more sustainably.]

Throwing your old clothes in the trash fills up our landfills. Instead, try selling your clothes to other people, altering your old clothes to match your current needs, or donating your clothing. While there are definitely concerns around dumping all your stuff at Goodwilll, finding new homes for your old stuff helps reduce waste!

8. Use reusable containers

[Image description: gif of woman drinking from very large, reusable mug on a purple background.]

Whether you are using a reusable water bottle, reusable coffee mug, or reusable to-go containers, these little steps all help reduce waste! You can find tons of super cute water bottles, travel mugs, and containers that will last a long time.

9. Shop local

[Image description: multicolored tomatoes and other produce at a farmers market]<a href="source"> </a>
[Image description: multicolored tomatoes and other produce at a farmers market]

Not only are you supporting people within your community, you are reducing your carbon footprint. I try to buy fruits and vegetables that are grown in-season so they don’t have to travel as far. Farmers markets are great ways to support local farmers and get super fresh produce!

10. Use less aerosols

[Image description: gif of woman applying hairspray onto a model.]

While the U.S. outlawed putting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in aerosols in the 1970s, aerosol sprays still aren’t great for the environment. While CFCs actively eroded the ozone layer, current day aerosol sprays contribute small amounts to the carbon footprint and also emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contribute to ground-level ozone levels and some states, like California, are thinking about banning them because they can increase smog. Instead of reaching for your favorite can of hairspray, think about using a different product!

You can use one of these ten tips or all of them! Hopefully they will help you live greener and keep our planet green too!

Policy Inequality

When fellow college students stopped respecting my freedom of speech, the college did nothing to stop them

Around the U.S. colleges and universities are grappling with the issue of freedom of speech and what can/cannot be discussed on campus.

This is particularly acute at my institution and affects my experience as a student. I am involved with a somewhat controversial fellowship on my campus that is aimed at promoting liberal ideals of freedom of expression and learning from ideas that differ from your own. I applied for the fellowship in the fall thinking that I would be able to learn and grow. Yet I have found myself confronting tensions between freedom of speech and being respectful of other people.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon I was surrounded by left-leaning politics and perspectives.

When I arrived at college, I wanted to broaden my perspective and engage with ideas that differed from my own. I joined a fellowship that promised to engage me with ideas about freedom of speech, highlighted varying perspectives, and required me to think critically about my ideas and perspectives. And while I got certainly got all of that, I also had to defend myself to fellow students about why I was part of this fellowship and why I even believed I should be asking these kinds of questions.

My fellowship is contentious because it’s less liberal than the student population of my college, receives funding from some very conservative donors, and challenges students by bringing in speakers that don’t always agree with their worldview. While I think multiple perspectives are healthy, many around me don’t.

Students protested speakers and vandalized our fellowship offices claiming that the ideas that we talked about and presented were offensive and thereby harmful. When this started happening, I felt confused. I believe both in the ability for everyone tell their story and speak their truth but also wanted to respect my peers’ identities.

I continued on in my fellowship and the protests continued against it.

I learned to stop telling people about my involvement with the fellowship and to just listen to my peers who were angry and hurt. Many of my peers wanted to shut down the fellowship and talked about various ways to censor speakers or people from the fellowship.

I felt hurt but after reading about other institutions dealing with similar problems of free speech on campus made me feel like alone. I grew closer to my friends within the fellowship and we created a support group for each other. My belief that everyone should be able to speak freely remained unchanged, but I began to think that everyone might be approaching the problem the wrong way.

Instead of trying to force uncomfortable and unfamiliar topics onto students through controversial speakers, maybe our fellowship could have more balanced roundtable discussions. And instead of trying to shut the fellowship down and censor us, maybe students could lean into discomfort a little more.

But actually implementing that seemed almost impossible.

After countless conversations with students, faculty, and administrators, I found that I couldn’t force people to be more open-minded or teach them how to engage with differing opinions in one day. Rather, I had to explain the benefits of speaking respectfully and the merits in understanding and responding to different perspectives. And ultimately that learning to engage with new ideas is a practice of tolerance and inclusion

Rather than censoring others who don’t agree with us,  we can teach each other to understand.

It is not easy work. Some days I am too tired to engage and so I don’t. But I try to respond when I can. Free speech and respectful discourse are not mutually exclusive. You can have free, respectful speech. What we cannot have is censorship of ideas and conversations on college campuses.

While I wholeheartedly agree that speech that is violent or targeted at identifiers shouldn’t be permitted– it is hurtful and unproductive. But shutting people down for their ideas is the first step towards authoritarianism. Whoever decides what ideas can and cannot be expressed holds immense power whether that be a majority of students, a group of professors, or an administrator. And it doesn’t leave space for innovative new ideas. We will never grow and learn if we all think in one way. And we must confront new ideas and perspectives that aren’t our own

Sharing ideas is at the foundation of education and learning. Being exposed to uncomfortable, new ideas will either change our beliefs or help us believe our current beliefs more firmly. Free speech and being respectful are not mutually exclusive.

And if we can engage in respectful dialogue, we will grow and learn for the better.

Career Advice Now + Beyond

These 6 steps will help you brag the heck out of yourself

I have always hated talking about myself and NEVER bragged about my accomplishments or even what I was doing. I was afraid of being judged by the person I was talking to or making the other person feel uncomfortable. Then I met  The Queen of Bragging, Meredith Fineman of Finepoint Co., who has built an entire firm around helping women brag better.  I met Meredith in Washington D.C. where she lead a workshop for teenage girls on bragging. I vividly remember her saying,  “everyone is going to judge. But own it, because you’ve done the work.”

But bragging can be especially challenging for women.  In 2013,  The Psychology of Women Quarterly conducted a study on women, social norms of modesty, and workplace performance. Results confirmed that “boasting about one’s accomplishments causes women to experience uncomfortable situational arousal that leads to lower motivation for and performance on a self-promotion task.”

Since women tend to undercut their accomplishments, here are six tips to help you brag better in 2018:

1. List out your awesome

[Image description: It shows a toddler holding toy weights in her hand and lifting them, saying “One…two…”] Via Giphy
Sit down and pretend you are your mother or father or proud aunt, friend, or puppy. Now imagine what they would say about you. My mother would say I write articles online, host great dance parties and am loving college. My mother would brag about me. Make a list of things that you can brag about from career moves to passion projects to interesting things you are pursuing. This will be your list of things to draw from when you are promoting yourself in-person, online, and in-writing.


2. An interesting introduction

[Image description: It shows a woman opening her arms and the camera zooming into her face dramatically.] Via Giphy
First impressions and introductions can have a huge impact on how you present to someone, especially when networking. You are awesome and unique, and people need to know that right away. Instead of saying: “Hi I’m Grace and I create content at The Tempest,” I could say, “Hi I’m Grace and I love telling the stories of underrepresented groups like women, minorities and youth. Right now I am writing at a media site called The Tempest that is changing the changing the narrative of diverse millennial women in the world.” The latter is an infinitely more interesting introduction and then you and the person you are meeting will connect more authentically. And remember that the more you practice, the better you get!


3. Stay social 

[Image description: It shows a woman multitasking holding a mobile phone in each of her hands.] Via Giphy
In our ever-connected world, bragging on social media is a must. When you get a new job, start a new project or make a life change– let everyone know! Your friends and network want to cheer you on. And they might have a cool connection, idea or skill that can help you take it to the next level. Tweet it, snap it, ‘gram it– let the world know what you’re up to!


4. Set up a personal website or LinkedIn profile

[Image description: It shows actress Constance Wu sitting on a couch and looking at someone, saying, “I am the best.”] Via Giphy
If you have been featured online or have content online, you should have a personal website. On a personal website you can shape your own narrative, link all of your mentions, and feature your work. If your career is less virtual and more hands-on, definitely set up a LinkedIn profile. You can connect with your network, post about your new career moves, and find new opportunities.


5. Write a kickass bio

[Image description: It shows animated character Princess Merida from Disney movie Brave strutting and the sentences “I’m awesome” and “Yep, the best here” flashing on either side of her.] Via Giphy
Every person should have two bios: a long bio and a short bio. These should be well-written, concise, and informative. Your long bio should include your accomplishments, goals, and projects in a hefty paragraph or two. Your short bio should be the two or three-lines that everyone needs to know and remember about you. Women often write about themselves in either the first-person or in the third-person using their first-name. Men often write about themselves in the third-person using their last name. While this may not seem significant, “Ms. Wong” is much more formal and engenders much more respect than just “Grace.” Write a bio that shows off what you’ve accomplished! (And don’t forget to update it often.)


6. Stay true to you!

[Image description: It shows a model walking on a runway with her arms open and a wide smile on her face.] Via Giphy
When you promote yourself, stay authentic and consistent. While the content may change as you grow, keep your style and voice consistent. When you introduce yourself, the langue you use should feel natural and comfortable, even if you’re nervous. The point of bragging about yourself is so people get to know how awesome you are. By being original, you’ll stand out and shine.


By recognizing what you have accomplished and what you hope to accomplish, you’re already taking the first steps and setting yourself for the path to success.

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