Ladies and Gentlemen, at this point (Friday, April 26th), there have been several articles published online about the WorldFest incident. It has received a surprising amount of attention, and I’m glad of that.
However, it is time to put the matter to rest, at least for me. As I’ve said, I was not at the film festival, nor was I witness to any of this; my role has merely been as blogger and word-spreader. I’ve said all that I can say on the matter, and I believe that my brother has said all that he can say on the matter. People either believe him or they don’t, and there’s nothing more that can be said about that.
At this point, it is up to the Muslim student to decide whether she wants to continue to fight this situation or not, and I am not privy to or a part of that decision.
My university has expressed some concern about the possibilities of this situation escalating. I don’t know about anyone else involved, but I know that prospect makes me nervous, particularly as my only hopes for the initial blog post were that a few people might read it and be as upset as I was, and perhaps an apology would be issued. Well, an apology WAS issued, but unfortunately, the situation did not end there, and still threatens to escalate.
And quite frankly, folks, I’m a PhD student and college English teacher in the middle of finals, and my attentions are required elsewhere. I have enough on my plate just trying to grade my students’ papers and write my own.
So, if something else major happens I will let you all know. But for the moment, my role in this is done, and I need to get back to the work I’m paid for.
Thank you for all your interest and support in this past week,
Edit (8pm): Just as I was writing this post, a sort-of apology was posted on the World Fest Facebook page. Please feel free to read the post on their Facebook page, but I will also quote it at the bottom of this post so it is easier to find.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to give an update on the WorldFest incident and what has been happening in the last two days. I thought the initial post was becoming too heavy with edits and updates. On the other hand, I’m worried that people will not see this update because the news stories have so far linked to my initial post.
In any case, just to fill everyone in who may (or may not) care:
As of 7:00pm on Tuesday, three separate online news sources have covered the story:
These articles attempt to portray both sides of the story: my brother’s and Hunter Todd’s, and for the most part they have been fair. The Houston Press article ran mostly based upon my blog and my brother’s facebook post. They attempted to contact Hunter Todd without success, but later added his response when he contact them. The Houston Chronicle article interviewed Hunter Todd, but only ran with the information from Mike’s facebook post. Mike later contacted the Chronicle because they had a few facts wrong, which they have now changed, but they did not add any additional comments from Mike. The Culture Map article did interview BOTH Hunter Todd and Mike. I think Hunter Todd’s responses in each article speak for themselves. I found it terrifying that Hunter Todd does not deny searching the Muslim student’s bag, and even explains that he did so BECAUSE she was wearing a hijab and demands: “What am I supposed to do? Allow a terrorist to blow up 200 people?” (quoted in the Houston Chronicle article). THAT, my friends, is the DEFINITION of profiling.
I am concerned about a few things, however. Hunter Todd is resorting to character attacks on my brother, calling him a liar – particularly in regards to Mike’s claim that Hunter Todd tried to take his phone. AND YET, at least one University of Houston student and one other WorldFest attendant (who commented on my initial blog) have CONFIRMED that Hunter Todd did in fact try to take Mike’s phone. Unfortunately, neither the Houston Chronicle article nor the Culture Map article have included this information (and the Houston Press article only briefly mentions it), despite the fact that both witnesses said they were willing to go on record to corroborate the story. Thus, the news stories make it LOOK as if it is merely a case of he said/he said, with no proof on other side — when in fact TWO witnesses CAN and are WILLING to confirm at least parts of my brother’s version of events.
On TOP of this: from what I understand, The School of Communications at University of Houston have written a formal letter in defense of both the Muslim student and my brother. Apparently, Hunter Todd has given a response. I do not know what either letter contained, however, because the School of Communications has so far made neither their letter nor the response public. This is unfortunate, as the fact that no one is aware that the University has become involved makes it even easier for Hunter Todd to attack Mike’s character with impunity, because the news articles present Mike as if he is a lone unsupported voice. I fervently hope that the School of Communications, and preferably the whole University, will publicly support both the Muslim student and my brother and help to defend them both from accusations of lying.
And let me add this: Obviously, I was not at the event and I did not witness this incident. I am only involved so far as spreading the word is concerned. But I believe and trust my brother. Besides which, what POSSIBLE motive could he have for lying about ANY of this? I hope you all who have showed an interest and concern about this will continue to support us, and particularly my brother, as this situation moves forward, because I fear it is going to get worse before it gets better, and I do not want my brother to run under the bus because he was trying to do the right thing.
PS: on a side note, some of the comments on the Houston Chronicle article are absolutely HORRIFYING, and just go to show how far and how deep these ignorant, racist, Islamaphobic attitudes run. It makes me horribly sad.
WorldFest sincerely regrets any actions that were misconstrued or deemed offensive due to the recent situation during the organization’s master class at the Westchase Marriott this past weekend. WorldFest organizers acted on instinct for the safety of all based on the recent events in Boston. The emergency alarm and evacuation of the hotel resulted in great concern for the organization which felt its actions were justified to protect the well-being of all participants. WorldFest apologizes for responding in a way that may have seemed insulting but ultimately, everyone’s safety was the primary concern.
WorldFest plans to increase security in 2014 so festival staff can focus solely on enriching Houston’s film culture. WorldFest strives to provide a safe environment for persons of every background to collaborate with and learn from international film and filmmakers through cultural exchange, dialogue and master classes. As always, the festival and all of its events are open to the general public. We hope every culture, religion and nationality will be represented in the 47th annual WorldFest-Houston, April 2014.
WorldFest Founder and Chief Executive Officer
I hope you’ll forgive me for giving my own opinion of this post (I suppose I should just let you come to your own conclusions, but it is my blog, so I guess I’m entitled to share my opinion). This is the worst kind of false apology, one I’ve seen many times under a variety of circumstances, in which the person apologizes but insisted it was all a big misunderstanding, and thus not REALLY his/her fault, and implying that it is really the victim’s fault for “misconstruing” and therefore over-reacting. Furthermore, this “apology” such as it is only apologizes for what he claims was a legitimate security concern (which is ludicrous), and does not even admit to the secondary problem: that Hunter Todd did, in fact, have physical contact with my brother and tried to take his phone. I hope the public will see this frantic face-saving move for the B.S. it is.
UPDATE (4/23): For more updates, please see this post. Thank you.
UPDATE (4/22): Houston Press wrote an online article covering this incident, including speaking with another student (who remained anonymous) who corroborated the story. They also attempted to contact WorldFest for a statement, which was initially ignored. However, after the story broke, Hunter Todd wrote in response to the Houston Press article, which has now been added to that article. Here is a link to the full article: “W[t]F? WorldFest Founder/CEO Hunter Todd Searches Fest Attendee’s Bag ‘Because She Is a Muslim’.”
EDIT (4/21): I have been informed (and by that I mean berated) that my use of the words “racism” and “racial profiling” in connection with this is “fraudulent” because Islam is not, in fact, a race. I am actually aware of this, however I wasn’t sure what other terms would work, and assumed that “racial profiling” at least got the main issue across. Furthermore, I do not know the Muslim student personally, but I believe that the harassment was motivated entirely on her physical appearance as Middle Eastern (I don’t know if she wore a hijab or any other visual markers as Muslim or not), which WOULD in fact place it in the realm of racial profiling. However, if anyone has a preferred term, and would like to inform me, I am all ears.
Original Post (4/20): I apologize for my long absence, but I am breaking radio silence in order to spread the word about a serious matter, and ask you all a favor.
I would like to ask you all to spread the word on an incident of racial profiling and harassment here in Houston. My brother is a film student at the University of Houston, and was attending the WorldFest International Film Festival in Houston today – a Film Festival, I might add, that is supposed to be inclusive, and aimed toward fostering discussion between students and professionals in the film industry – when he witnessed the founder/director of the Festival demand to search the bag of the only Muslim student in attendance (and ONLY her bag).
As he does not have a blog, he has asked me to share the explanation he wrote on his facebook page. Please read this and spread the word:
“I had a very revealing time at WorldFest Houston today with the founder and director Hunter Todd proving what an ignorant and aggressive person he really is.
Before the morning seminar at WorldFest this morning, everyone was gathered in the seminar room for the lectures start when the hotel’s fire alarm went off. The founder and director of WorldFest, Hunter Todd, told everyone to stay in the room before he went to a girl, a Muslim UH student and classmate of mine, and demanded to search her bag. She tried to show him her pass to prove she was supposed to be there, but he demanded to search every single pocket of her bag anyway. I’d like to add he did so with a great deal of rudeness and attitude. She complied and showed him the her bag, after this he walked off and didn’t ask to search any of the dozens of other bags in the room.
At this point I called a professor of mine and told him about the incident and asked if it would be appropriate for me to say something in her defense. I then went to Hunter Todd and asked him if he did in fact demand to search her bag and if so why. He told me, “because she is a Muslim and a suspicious character, now sit down.” I told him I would not sit down and that this was unacceptable and racial profiling. I offered to take it outside to discuss with him and he then said, “no you’re one of the people I despise the most and you’re an obnoxious little bastard, now sit down or I’ll have you thrown out. In response I said he should feel free to throw me out, at which point I pulled out my cell phone to call someone about the situation. At this point he lunged towards me grabbed me with both hands and tried to take my phone from me. I separated myself from him told him not to touch me and left the room to avoid further escalation.
Later, I called WorldFest to file an official complaint about a racial incident involving there founder and director. I was placed on hold for several minutes when a woman named Kathleen picked up. I told her I was calling to file a complaint about a racial incident involving their founder and director and asked her what her position was at WorldFest. Ignoring this, she asked my name. I told her I would not give my name until she told me what position she held. More rudely she said “you called us now tell me your name”. I told her that in this situation I would not give her my name or any info when I did not know who I was talking with. This is when she yells loudly in the the phone “TELL ME YOUR NAME RIGHT NOW!” Not willing to give into to this I told her that if that was going to be how it was I would go straight to the press and that I was hanging up. She began to yell something else at me as I hung up the phone.
All of this because at an INTERNATIONAL film festival, an ignorant and aggressive man, Hunter Todd, decided it was okay to target a student for being Muslim. The saddest part of all is that the girl felt it was wrong, but that it was just the way it goes. Worse still, was that to her point not a single other person in the room of the dozens in attendance said or did anything in her defense.”
My brother has currently contacted several news stations who said they would look into it, though we do not know for certain that they will take any serious interest in the story. His professor, who is known among local Houston television people, is also contacting people. My brother has TRIED to file a complaint with the police on account of Hunter Todd’s physical contact and attempt to literally take the phone from his hand, but the officer Mike spoke to said there was nothing to be done. My brother is planning to contact a different officer who may be more willing to take this seriously.
We are also considering the option of contacting the ACLU, though that would probably have to come more directly from the Muslim student, rather than from my brother who only witnessed the initial harassment.
In the meantime, we would appreciate it if you could spread the word about this atrocious behavior. Reblog this post. Link to it in other places. EMBARRASS THIS ORGANIZATION AND THIS MAN. Remind people that there is NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for racial profiling, racism, or harassment.
So. I’ve had a busy couple weeks! Flew to Kansas City for a wedding. My oldest friend – we’ve been friends since two weeks before freshman year of high school, when we met in band camp! – was getting married and I was a bridesmaid. The wedding was on Valentine’s day, everything went smoothly, and the ceremony was short and sweet (my favorite kind! especially after all the long Catholic weddings I’ve been to). Then, while my newly married friend left for a weekend with her husband, I got to hang out with another old high school friend, who went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me entertained, take me to a party, and give me more encouragement and pep-talks than I’ve had in quite awhile. It was so kind of her and I had an absolute BLAST.
Of course, then I had to come home and get back to work. And since I got back I’ve collected papers from students, and written THREE papers of my own. (And I have one presentation and one more paper to do in the next week and a half).
I’ve been crazy-busy and horribly stressed out.
BUT I also went to a concert this past friday (yes, another one). I went to see Jukebox the Ghost at House of Blues, and it was FANTASTIC. I plan to write more about it tomorrow, after I’ve had a chance to upload my photos off my mother’s phone (I borrowed it because mine can’t take pictures), and on to my computer.
Hello everyone! As promised, here is my post about the SERIOUSLY EPIC Tuesday I had last week. I’ll begin with a few words to summarize:
Linkin Park Concert
Front Row Seats
Now, even if you aren’t a Linkin Park fan, I think most people can agree that these words indicate a pretty awesome evening, yes? And let me tell you: It was MIND-BLOWING (and ear-drum blowing). One of the best things I ever done EVER. SERIOUSLY.
So here’s the full story: I’ve mentioned before that I am a member of Grammy U, and that my brother is the Houston representative of Grammy U, which is how I had that other awesome experience of having dinner with some pretty big people in the music business. Well, my membership to Grammy U has come to the rescue again! SOMEONE in the higher-ups (and my brother and I are still trying to figure out who so we can thank them properly) ((UPDATE: We have confirmed it was Theresa Jenkins, Senior Executive Director of the Texas Chapter who arranged for the tickets)) arranged for a few backstages passes to be made available for the Linkin Park concert in Houston. My brother, as the Houston rep, was sent the info and asked to find some other Grammy U members in the area who would like to go (of course, I was first on the list).
We ended up with seven people: my brother and myself, Sofia (who works my brother and is a manager at Sugarhill Studios), fellow UH student Danny (I’m not giving last names), two guys from Austin – Alex and Mark, and Eric Jarvis – the President of the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy.
So, we’re thinking: backstage passes, that’s pretty awesome. We’ll get a tour, maybe get to meet some of the road crew, etc. And then we’ll see the concert. And we assumed we’d get pretty good seats too, but nothing too extravagant. WE HAD NO IDEA. IT WAS SO MUCH BETTER.
The tour manager for Linkin Park, Cory, was the one who gave us the tour. We got to see the set-up inside the Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion, where the concert was held. We not only got to meet, but actually had a lengthy discussion/question-and-answer session with Linkin Park’s sound guy, the head carpenter (which is a bit of misnomer, because he’s not JUST a carpenter, he’s in charge of all the set up for the entire freakin’ stage), and the director who does most of Linkin Park’s music videos (who has, by the way, also worked with Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera, just to do some name dropping). (And they were all so NICE!)
We were taken on/behind/beneath the actual stage while the crew was taking down stuff from the first opener (Mutemath) and setting stuff up for the second opener (Incubus).
Then we were taken to catering, where they had an awesome buffet spread, and had dinner with the road crew.
And THEN we were taken out to wait for Linkin Park to show up. There was a big group from the Linkin Park fan club (LP Underground) who had obviously paid a ton of extra money for a group photo/autograph session with the band. Cory kept us to the side, and then the six of us were allowed OUR OWN group photo with Linkin Park. We managed to get autographs from four of the six members (there was a small mix-up and we missed getting autographs from Joe Hahn and one other). More importantly, however, is that when Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda (the two I REALLY REALLY wanted) came to the end of the line to give us autographs, they actually STAYED and TALKED to us.
Chester stayed for about five minutes, and told us about his drink. It looked like beer, but he assured us that it was in fact Sprite, Pedialyte, and Lipton tea (I think there was tea too…). And seriously, even though I’ve seen interviews with Chester before, it still shocks me how quiet and unassuming he is in person, compared to the screaming BEAST he becomes on stage. And then Mike Shinoda actually stood and talked to us for about FIFTEEN MINUTES. Asked us about Grammy U and our interests and made cheesy jokes and was just generally really nice and really awesome. My brother and I kinda sorta idolize him (as much for Fort Minor as for Linkin Park, and because we really identify with his songs about being Japanese-American, as my brother and I are as well), and we were a bit tongue-tied around him. But, folks, it was SO AWESOME. SO AWESOME.
Finally, when the band had to go inside to get ready to perform, we said goodbye to Cory and went to find our seats. Only to discover that our seats were, in fact, FRONT ROW SEATS. There was a small pit area, an empty space, with room for handicapped seating, and then US. We were also off to the right slightly, so were practically RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SPEAKERS. IT WAS MIND-BLOWING. (And ear-drum bursting).
And to say the performance itself was fantastic would be a seriously criminal understatement. My brother and I have seen Linkin Park in concert before, when they came to Houston in 2011, and (while I cannot speak for my brother) I think they were even better this time around. For one thing, last time Chester seemed to be having a bit of trouble, and was often flat. Now this happens in live performances, and I didn’t much care, but it was still nice that he didn’t seem to have any problems at all this time. His pitch was pretty damn spot-on, especially considering it was an outdoor stage, live performances are RARELY perfectly on-pitch, and his screaming was even more INSANE than usual.
The next day, my ears were still ringing, and I could barely speak because I had done so much screaming and cheering. And then I had to go to my first grad class of the week that afternoon, and my professor is on my facebook so she’d seen that I’d been at a concert until like midnight, and she laughed when I croaked a lot when we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves.
So there you have it, folks. ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS EVER. Once again thanks to my membership with Grammy U. Best $50 I’ve ever spent.
Update #2: And somehow in the middle of all that photobombing, I managed to forget to include the official group photo we got with the whole band. So here’s that one:
I think I’ve said this before, but I’m the kind of person who has trouble being both a writer and a reader at the same time. Usually, I switch between the two roles in a cycle. For a few months I’m a writer, and I can’t concentrate enough to read ANYTHING because my brain is so full of my stories and characters and all I want to do for 20 hours of every day is sit at my computer and write. And then, suddenly, I get total brain-block, and I can’t write a thing, and I start reading non-stop.
For the last couple months I’ve been pretty securely in writer-mode. I got a decent amount of work done on two different WIPs, which makes me very happy, but I was really hoping I could keep it up right to the beginning of the Fall semester. But for the past week and a half I haven’t been able to write much of anything. Sometimes if I push and push and push, I could stay in writer-mode a little longer. But I think writer-mode is now officially over. Unfortunately.
So, I guess we’re on to reader-mode. I read A Work In Progress in like a day and a half. And now I’ve started Open Heart by Emlyn Chand (which I’d PLANNED to read and review near the beginning of the summer, but like I said, I was in WRITER-mode). I guess it’s good to be in reader-mode since I’ll be doing so much reading for my Fall courses, although it’ll be frustrating that I won’t be reading all my fun stuff, but school-related stuff instead. And, of course, I know from too much experience that I won’t be getting ANY writing done once the semester starts either. But oh well.
Does anyone else do this? Cycle through writer and reader modes? Or is it just me? Because it’s a little frustrating, and I’m more than a little jealous of people who can do both at the same time: write in the morning and read in the evening, etc. I wish I could do that. *sigh*
In other news, I’m playing with the idea of starting a Tumblr blog. I had started to watch a lot of Tumblr blogs without having an account, and just collecting them in my browser bookmarks. And over the last couple months I’ve started following even more, making it hard to keep track of them in bookmarks. So I figured I might as well start a Tumblr account so that I could keep track of them all. But now that I have the account, I’m thinking why not start a Tumblr blog? It would be fun to have something where I can just post images or short comments and things like that, without worrying about making sure a post is long enough and well-written. I’m playing around with Tumblr right now, trying to get a feel for how it works (it’s taking a little getting used to), but I’ll let you know if/when I get a Tumblr blog up and running.
Any opinions on Tumblr blogs? Anyone have one? Now that I have the account, I’m looking to add a ton to my Follow list! They’re just so much fun! :D
Okay, folks, that’s all for now. I hope everyone has a good weekend, and I’ll see you all later!
As you all may have been able to guess by now, I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy this summer. But you guys don’t even know the half of it! Between taking vacation at Yellowstone for five days, going to three concerts (Snow Patrol in May, Legend of Zelda Symphony, and then the Chicago/Doobie Brothers concert in July), and having dinner with famous people, and reading as much as I can manage, I’ve also been hard at work.
School never completely ends for those in graduate school. There are always things you need to do (or at least SHOULD do) during the summer. For me, this has included mainly getting more involved with extracurricular/service activities. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that the English graduate students at UH have been in the process of developing and promoting both a yearly Graduate Student Conference and an academic literature journal called Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature. While I did some work this past school year to help out with both, I decided that this upcoming year I wanted to be even more involved. And I managed to get myself nominated as an Assistant Editor to the journal as well as Head of the Publicity Committee for the Conference. And the work has already begun, especially for the latter. I’ve spent the last few weeks creating contact lists for every Humanities/Liberal Arts College Dean, English Dept Chair, and Graduate Director/Advisor, for every university in Texas so that we can start sending out personalized invites to both present at and attend the conference. I still need to make a list for all the community colleges in the Houston area. And THEN I need to move on to the universities in Louisiana. In the meantime, the Chief Editor of Plaza is working on the CFP for the journal, and I’m helping out with that.
At the same time, I had made plans last semester to make some serious changes to my syllabus for the coming semester, which I have now started work on. After having done a lot of research on the benefits and practical applications for using blogging in a First-Year Writing course, I’ve decided to implement it in my classroom. So I’m trying to work out a concrete plan for how and why I want my students to use blogging as a learning tool and as a way to open the classroom out into a more public space. I’ve also submitted an abstract for a presentation based on all this research to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, along with two fellow grad students I’m doing a panel with. It’ll be late August before we find out if our panel abstract was accepted to the conference (which isn’t until next March), at which point we’ll have to get hard to work actually writing the presentations.
AND THEN, throughout the whole summer, in between everything else, I’ve been writing. A lot. I started out writing the second draft of Midnight’s Knife, which I made some decent progress on until about three or four weeks ago, when I was hijacked by a new story idea that has completely consumed my brain lately. It’s going to be a strange one, I can tell… I actually have the basic premise for an entire series of stories, but this first one is a sort of science fiction detective story. It’s a kind of mix of X-Files, X-Men, and Sherlock Holmes, with a large helping of human drama about a veteran with PTSD laced through it. Yeah, if that sounds insane to you, you’re not alone. It sounds insane to me too, and I’m so excited about it! I’ve been living inside my main character’s head practically non-stop for two weeks now.
I have a month left until the Fall semester starts, so I’m trying very hard not to waste a minute of it. We’ll see how much more writing I can get done before school-work takes over.
Also, I’m trying to finish reading Dominant Race by Elisa Nuckle – it’s a novella, and it really wouldn’t take me that long to read, except that I’ve been so busy the last week or so I just haven’t had the opportunity to sit down a finish it! – but hopefully you can expect a review on that on Friday. And then I’ve agreed to review another novel, a literary fiction called A Work in Progress, which I’m planning (cross your fingers) to post on Aug 3rd.
Okay, folks, that’s all from me for now. If all goes according to plan, I’ll catch you all on Friday.