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Xiao Zhen Xie: Don’t Submit to Racism

On March 17, while waiting for a traffic light on foot, Xiao Zhen Xie was punched in the face by Steven Jenkins in San Francisco. It was Jenkin’s second assault on an Asian senior citizen in a matter of minutes – first, he punched 83-year-old Ngoc Pham, then 75-year-old Xie. She was badly hurt, but she managed to grab a board and smack her attacker in the mouth, who was then restrained by security guards until the police arrived.

Xiao Zhen Xie, who is a grandmother, a diabetic, and a cancer survivor, was left with two black eyes that swelled shut and a facial wound that bled uncontrollably. Her grandson, John Chen, opened a fundraiser to cover her medical expenses. When news of the attack and Xie’s fighting back went viral, the GoFundMe surged past its $50k goal, raising nearly a million dollars in a matter of days. Tens of thousands of people donated. In a separate fundraiser, 9,400 people donated just over $280,000 to Pham, whose injuries may require surgery.

Xie, however, refuses to keep the money. Instead, she’ll be donating it to organizations that will help defuse racism against the Asian American community.

“She insists on making this decision saying this issue is bigger than her,” said Chen, adding that she insists people not “submit” to racism.

The attack on Xiao Zhen Xie and Ngoc Pham came less than a full day after six women of Asian descent were murdered in a spree killing in Atlanta, Georgia. Advocates attribute the increase in violence against Asians to the racist rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 that was a strong part of former President Trump’s response to the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition tracking violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said they’ve received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents since March 2020.

According to Xie’s daughter, Dong-Mei Li, her mother is “traditional and hardworking” and resistant to the idea that “a fuss” should be made about her.

Image: Shutterstock

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Donation

Airbnb Donates $5 Million to San Francisco Homeless Crisis

San Francisco-based company Airbnb was founded by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. At the time, the two were living together as roommates. In an effort to make ends meet, they decided to let travelers rent an air mattress in their living room. In 2008, another roommate joined in and made a website. That’s when the new business began to take hold.

Ten years later, and over four million homes, apartments, boats, mansions, and villas are listed on Airbnb’s website. It has become an international sensation, with listings available in 191 countries. Current estimations put the company’s value at approximately $32 billion. And to think… all that started with a single apartment in San Francisco.

Arguably, the hospitality broker (for Airbnb owns none of the properties it advertises) has done a lot to hurt housing rates in major expensive cities like San Francisco. Landlords who can make more rent from weekend tourists than from their years-old tenants have converted properties into makeshift hotels, and legislation has had to rise up to help protect tenants. Today, San Francisco has more than 7,000 people without stable housing, including as many as 1,000 families. But it was founded by two people desperately trying to make rent, and now they want to help.

CEO Brian Chesky announced on Tuesday, November 13, that Airbnb will be donating $5 million to help alleviate the homelessness crisis in San Francisco. The company hasn’t yet announced where that money will be invested, but they’ve worked in the past with Hamilton Families, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, and Larkin Street Youth Services, all of which are heavily involved in homelessness aid.

“Airbnb is lucky to call San Francisco our hometown and we share in the responsibility to ensure San Francisco continues to be a city open to everyone, and a city that works together to tackle our most difficult issues,” the company stated in a blog post.

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Donation

Salesforce Pumps Millions into Underserved Schools

Salesforce.org, the charitable arm of a cloud-computing company based in San Francisco, has been in a philanthropic relationship with two Bay Area school districts for five years now. This year, the combined $15.5 million donations put their contributions over $50 million.

San Francisco Unified School District will be receiving $8 million, and the slightly smaller Oakland Unified School District will get $7.5 million. The money is earmarked for STEM support, teacher training, and mindfulness projects.

Mindfulness, while something of a workplace buzzword, is a big focus for Salesforce’s charity organization. They want to promote education that takes into account a student’s whole life, a “whole child,” approach.

“Because we know that what happens outside of the classroom impacts what happens inside the classroom,” explained Ebony Frelix, the executive vice president and chief philanthropy officer of Salesforce.org. Putting their money where their mouth is, the organization also donated $2 million towards fighting youth homelessness, announced in the same breath on September 25, by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

London Breed, current Mayor of San Francisco, lauded the philanthropic organization.

“We are going to change what is normal in San Francisco because we are going to invest in our kids on the front end,” he said. “We are going to make sure that the doors of opportunity in the technology field are open to them.”

Oakland Unified School District, which will receive $7.5 million, has formed a “Principal’s Innovation Fund,” where the money can be used at the individual school level. So far, they have used past donations to create a makerspace, support students who are refugees, and incorporate mental health services, all of which increase the ways in which students can access their education. More of the funds have also gone into training teachers to more effectively teach and use technology, and to make computer science education more available.

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Tech Giant Cisco Addresses San Fran’s Homeless Crisis

Homelessness is a massive problem in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the average rent is between $3,000 and $4,000 a month. A comfortable minimum salary to live in the neighboring city of San Jose is $87,000 a year, or $42 an hour, but precious few make that much. Food service in the area pays about $12 an hour, and healthcare support pays $19 an hour. So many people and families—even employed people—wind up homeless.

“Though homelessness seems intractable, I believe that it is a solvable issue,” wrote Chuck Robbins. “I also feel very strongly that we have an opportunity—and a responsibility—to do something about it.”

Chuck Robbins is the CEO of Cisco Systems, maker of internet gear like routers and data cables. He recently announced that the company would be donating $50 million over the next five years to help address the growing homeless crisis.

The donation will be given to Destination: Home, a public-private partnership focused on obtaining housing for those living on the streets. That housing is considered the first step in alleviating many problems, including healthcare, joblessness, and family reunification. The funding will also include a budget for data collection, to evaluate how resources should be used most efficiently.

Ray Bramson, chief impact officer for Destination: Home, hopes that Cisco’s noble move will inspire more Silicon Valley companies to offer their support. “No one agency, no one organization can really do it alone,” he said in the partnership’s response to Cisco’s donation, which may be the largest donation ever from a Silicon Valley company.

Employing over 73,000 people, Cisco Systems is a part of the worker boom that’s driving up the housing prices in the Bay Area. So Robbins’s words about responsibility mean exactly that. Hopefully, more tech giants will devote resources on this level to help solve the problems they cause.