Town Hall Teen Nights!

Town Hall’s 22 & Under program makes all of our self-produced events free for youth, but all throughout our Homecoming Festival we’re going even further. We’re partnering with TeenTix to host pre-event celebrations for youth only—Town Hall Teen Nights. Teens, drop in at these pre- and post-event gatherings for snacks, talkbacks, and the big ideas you crave.

9/5 Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor – 6:30PM-7:30PM 

Join us for pizza and cupcakes at this pre-show meetup in the Otto (in the Forum).

9/9 Deep End Friends Podcast – 6:30PM-7:30PM

Young Women Empowered hosts a pre-show meet-and-greet in the Otto for youth to mix, mingle, and meet activist and author Virgie Tovar of the Deep End Friends podcast.

9/11 Math Night Pre-Event Game Night – 6PM-7PM

Join us before the show for snacks and games with Zeno Math in the Otto (in the Forum).

9/11 Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz – 6:30PM-7:30PM

Join us for pizza and cupcakes at this pre-show meetup in the Otto (in the Forum).

9/14 Hydrant Showcase – 6:30PM-8PM

Stop by the Forum and join Hydrant for an all-city young musicians’ mixer and jam co-hosted by alumni of The Residency, Rhapsody Project/Unbroken Circle, Próxima Generación, and Beats to the Rhymes. 

9/14 Ibram X. Kendi Post-Event Conversation Circle – 9PM-10PM

Sit in with facilitator ChrisTiana ObeySumner in the Reading Room as they lead a post-event conversation circle exploring Kendi’s discussions of antiracism.

9/25 Jonathan Safran Foer – 6:30PM-7:30PM

Join us for pizza and cupcakes at this pre-show meetup in the Otto (in the Forum).

The Media is Actually Dying

Town Hall and Fuse Washington collaborated for a Media is Dying panel discussion on July 11. Anya Shukla, a rising 11th grader at Lakeside School and a TeenTix Press Corps editor, was in attendance:

I didn’t know that the media was deteriorating. According to Bloomberg, journalism is decaying all around the country, at organizations such as Buzzfeed, Vice Media, and CNN. Even in Seattle, what many would consider an artsy, media-oriented city, the number of journalistic opportunities have dropped by 40%. These are the kinds of cold, hard, scary facts that I learned last week at Town Hall’s The Media is Dying panel, featuring Adrienne Russell, Clifford Cawthon, and Peter Jackson.

I could tell that I was out of my depth as soon as I walked into the event space, which was filled with local political chatter and orange YES t-shirts. I’m not exactly cut off from politics–I keep up with the New York Times–but compared to my fellow audience members, I knew nothing. I don’t pay attention to the goings-on in Seattle; I don’t know who our senators or representatives are. Further proof of my ignorance: I thought journalism was a viable career

According to Jackson, the media’s slow and violent death is not because of a lack of interest–schools are overflowing with story-hunting, news-sniffing students. It’s not due to a lack of opportunity: the internet, with its ability to democratize the news system, has made it far easier for grassroots media organizations to thrive. So what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, the web is a double edged sword: although the internet opens doorways for smaller journalistic organizations, it is also responsible for many of the media’s current struggles. As a former newspaper editor in the audience told us, 65% of a newspaper’s revenue comes from advertisements, but only 15% of the paper’s income goes to the reporters. A decline in advertisers–perhaps because companies can now promote their content by paying Google or using strong search engine optimization–means a reduction in staff pay. As well, the internet makes it far easier for readers to stop subscribing to news: if you can find information anywhere, for free, why should you have to pay the Washington Post or the New York Times? Of course, less subscribers means less money for journalists. The world wide web, a once-brilliant beacon of hope and prosperity for newspapers, is now media’s downfall. 

Money can also affect papers in ways one wouldn’t expect. Jackson let us in on a sobering truth: the best health information comes from a website associated with Kaiser Permanente. Some of the greatest photojournalists in Seattle work for the Starbucks Newsroom. Journalists have to go where the money is, and often, that money is in the hands of corporations focused on promoting their brand. Especially when your article might hurt the billion-dollar company that owns your paper, it can be hard to tackle hard-hitting stories. Reporters can’t bite the hand that feeds them, even though that goes against the necessity of telling the truth in journalism, of not sitting on important information, of being objective. 

So the media is dying. But what can we do to slow its demise? Russell thought that, like in several Nordic countries, government should be required to pay for journalism. Newspapers are a public utility, after all. Jackson believed that we should foster a love for the news at an early age by having children share articles in school. This will pay off down the road, when those kids grow into adults with the power to subscribe–i.e. give their money–to whichever newspaper they choose. I think we need to get young people involved with their cities. Part of the reason I felt out of place at the panel was because I don’t keep up with local politics; I don’t know what I’m saying YES to. I don’t subscribe to the Seattle Times because I don’t think the goings-on of my town are as important as what’s happening in New York or Washington D.C.. If I felt that there was something Seattle could give me, something I could fight for or against, something I would want to read about in the paper, I’d be paying $3.99 a week for the rest of my life. Somehow, I need to become invested in Seattle at a local level, so that I can support our local newspapers. But hey–I’m young. I can change my mindset. I can still learn more about citywide politics, either in the classroom or through my own research. And I’m a quick learner: I now know that journalism is practically over; the presses have stopped. But, hopefully, one day, thanks to a shift in how we think about our towns and an increase in funding and subscribers, I’ll find out that they’ve started rolling again. 

 

Technology: An Amplification of the Human Force

Town Hall and KUOW collaborated for That’s Debatable: Technology Will Save Us at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute on March 24.  Huma Ali, a junior at Lake Washington High School and a TeenTix Press Corps editor, was in attendance:

When I first think of technology, I think of smartphones. But when I ponder it further, I realize that technology is infinitely more present and relevant than the entertainment device my smartphone largely serves as. Technology is in hospitals, roads, cars, and industrial machines. Technology is in my life, your life—even your dog’s life. It has enabled us, as humans, to advance our society.

And as such, when the statement “technology will save us,” is placed before me, I naturally agree. With access to the whole world at my fingertips, it’s confusing to think that it won’t save us. Because it will. Right?

It turns out that, prior to the debate, 52% of the attendees at KUOW and Town Hall’s event, That’s Debatable: Technology Will Save Us, thought so too.

In previous decades, it was widely believed that our means of transportation would, by now, be dominated by flying cars. While that isn’t the case, there is still a vast collection of innovative technologies that tinge our world—now, inventors can even construct impeccably life-like “people,” and are able to reproduce voices into customized “voice fonts”.

The evening’s main event took the form of a debate, which began with Elizabeth Scallon’s, head of WeWork Labs Northwest, opening statement arguing in favor of the assertion that technology will save us. Scallon laid out the drastic issues plaguing our communities: the need for 100,000 more doctors to accommodate increasing patients, lack of clean water, and broader, more controversial issues, like global warming. By highlighting these problems, Scallon introduced the idea that we could create solutions to them through technology. Alongside her, in agreement, was Vinay Narayan, Vice President of Product Management and Operations for HTC VIVE, who labeled technology as a “tool” and means of problem-solving.

After hearing the argument, it can be understood how technology will aid in saving us. But will it be the driving force, and the entirety, of what will save us?

Hanson Hosein, Director of UW’s Communication Leadership Program and President of HRH Media Group LLC, argued no, and subsequently pushed the question, “what do we need saving from?” Hosein asserted no matter what it is that we need saving from, technology isn’t going to do the saving for us, rather humans must save themselves. Hosein was not opposed to using technology as a tool—stating it was neither the problem not the solution, but an amplification of the existing human force.

Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, carried the conversation from such ideas, pointing out the lack of transparency of powerful tech companies in their work and intent. Webb focused on the fact that a minute few are making the decisions that affect the majority, and that this is the prominent issue within the technology industry—the lack of trust. How can technology save us if we are being left out of the discussion regarding it?

Before voting our final stance on whether technology is going to save us or not, audience members were prompted to discuss our thoughts with those sitting next to us. I spoke to a man working in the tech industry, who revealed some raw truths avoided by the debaters arguing yes: that no matter how rich one was, they would still lack the power, influence, and capabilities of major tech companies—so the idea that average individuals can create solutions to the world’s most prominent issues is a hoax.

The outcome: 72% of the audience members claim that technology will not save us.

Technology has enabled people to an extent in that they are able to use it in whatever way they’d like. As Hosein contended, technology amplifies the human force. So claiming that technology will save us as a blind absolute, may be the root of our downfall. In the end, only we can save ourselves.

Sikh Captain America Combats Discrimination

This article was originally written and published as part of the TeenTix Press Corps, a program that promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. This piece was written and edited by members of the Teen Editorial Staff, the leadership board of the Press Corps. Town Hall is thrilled to partner with the TeenTix Press Corps to help amplify these young writers’ voices. 

Written by Lily Williamson


When I think about America, especially in our current political climate, I think about prejudice. Bigotry seems to have infected every part our nation and, as a teen, it often feels like reducing the amount of discrimination in our country is simply impossible. Many current events and happenings in the news pile on, spreading hate and contributing towards a perpetual feeling of political stagnation and ambivalence. But Vishavjit Singh, in both his exhibit, “Wham! Bam! Pow!” at the Wing Luke Museum, and talk, “Vishavjit Singh: Sikh Captain America” at Town Hall Seattle, shows that combating discrimination, while not an easy task, is something each and every one of us can and should be working towards.

Singh, a self-described “accidental cartoonist” and former software engineer, was pressured by his parents to pursue a career in the sciences. He was inspired to start drawing in the aftermath of 9/11, after experiencing and witnessing harassment and discrimination against anyone who looked similar to the perpetrating terrorists. Singh remembers finding out that the towers had been attacked—he was at work when he saw it on TV. Immediately, another employee was staring at him. Singh states that “his angry, bloodshot eyes was my first introduction of things to come.” And things only got worse—as Singh was driving home, “just about every driver on the road… took time to flip [me] off or scream at [me] in anger.” In the period directly after the attack, Singh had to work from home in order to avoid harassment.

But Singh realized that the people who were harassing him were “good people” who simply “made that decision to use…ignorance and fear and project it onto people.” So, Singh set out to confront what he calls “turbanphobia”—the “irrational fear of turbans and people who wear them”—using humor. He decided to draw cartoons that feature Sikh Americans, as well as perform on the street  by dressing up as a Sikh Captain America (he even visited Seattle as Captain America this past May) in order to start conversations about what an American really is.

Singh’s exhibit, while quite small, makes a statement. It mainly focuses on his cartoons, but also gives an introduction into his activism as Sikh Captain America and his story as a Sikh American who survived the 1984 anti-Sikh genocide. Singh’s art is simple yet bold, and its bright, eye-catching color palettes give his comics an amusing, energetic feel. However, the art’s message is what really shines. Singh’s cartoons are based around the everyday predicaments of Sikh Americans, but they also bring to light the discrimination that many Sikhs are subject to. Many of Singh’s cartoons riff on popular art pieces, such as one entitled We Are From Freaking Right Here, a take on Grant Wood’s famous painting, American Gothic. It portrays a Sikh man and woman in the same pose as the couple in American Gothic, saying “We are from freaking right here. Next question!” By taking inspiration from a well-known painting that was intended to be an example of the everyday American, Singh shows that the typical, everyday American can be anyone, not all of whom are expected.

Singh’s cartoons are so effective because they’re so personable. They tell Singh’s own story, which he believes is the most effective way to combat prejudice. When he sat down with TeenTix to do a pre-show interview, Singh told us that he believes that “sometimes the world will define us by using labels… and [those labels] don’t tell you who [someone] is.” But by “find[ing] ways to tell your story but also creat[ing] a place to listen to other people’s stories,” we can, as a society, become more empathetic towards the struggles of others and start to understand and accept people who are different than us.

The United States has an undeniable problem with unjust discrimination, but that is slowly starting to change—mostly because of activists like Singh who teach lessons about the importance of compassion. Vishavjit Singh’s exhibit shows that change is not only possible, but something each of us can contribute to.


TeenTix is a youth empowerment and arts access non-profit. For more information about TeenTix click here. To learn more about the Press Corps program, click here.

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