Graffiti Artist Strikes It Rich with $200M Facebook Stock

The New York Times featured the graffiti artist who took Facebook stock instead of cash for painting the walls of the social network’s first headquarters.

The shares owned by the artist, David Choe, are expected to be worth upward of $200 million when Facebook stock trades publicly later this year. The social network company announced its $5 billion public offering on Feb. 1, which is expected to value the whole company at $75 billion to $100 billion. Ultimately, that offering will mint a lot of billionaires and millionaires.

In 2005, Choe was invited to paint murals on the walls of Facebook’s first offices in Palo Alto, Calif., by Sean Parker, then Facebook’s president. As pay, Parker offered Choe a choice between cash in the “thousands of dollars,” according to several people who know Choe, or stock then worth about the same. Choe, who has said that at the time he thought the idea of Facebook was “ridiculous and pointless,” nevertheless chose the stock. The rest is history.

Choe initially led a rough life including run-ins with the law, but according to the Times article, is wealthy even without the Facebook offering. Choe is a very successful artist with gallery shows and pieces exhibited in major museums.

Susan G. Komen Works to Recover From Planned Parenthood De-Funding Fallout

After partnering with Planned Parenthood for the last five years to provide breast cancer screenings to low-income patients, Susan G. Komen For a Cure announced on Jan. 31, it would sever ties with the family planning provider due to its current congressional investigation. Komen cited new grant guidelines that will not fund organizations under investigation. Among the groups that prompted the Planned Parenthood investigation are anti-abortion advocacy organizations that have long criticized Planned Parenthood over abortion services. The decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood was made by Susan G. Komen For the Cure National Headquarters. Critics accused the organization for allowing politics to interfere with women’s health. Komen grants Planned Parenthood approximately $600,000 annually.

Some affiliates across the country who enjoyed partnerships with Planned Parenthood were stunned and frustrated by the decision. As a result of social media and public backlash, including outspoken political opponents of the decision, outraged former donors, and a rush of funding support to Planned Parenthood to make up the shortfall, resulted in Komen amending the grant criteria and apologizing to Planned Parenthood.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker apologized on Feb. 3 and said, “We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives … Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

Komen’s statement did not mention a reinstatement of Planned Parenthood grants, but a promise to “continue to fund existing grants.”

Sen. Paull Shin of Edmonds Among Opponents of State’s Marriage Equality Bill

On Feb. 13, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law the marriage equality bill. Washington is now the 7th state to permit marriage for gay and lesbian couples. On Feb. 8, lawmakers voted in favor of the bill that would legalize same-sex unions.

“With today’s vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire on Feb. 8. “We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

The law will go into effect in June, when the legislative session ends, unless opponents halt its implementation by putting it on the November 2012 ballot. The 55-43 vote in the House included two Republicans in support of the bill. The Senate vote the week before was 28-21 and included four Republicans. Among the opponents was Sen. Paull Shin of Edmonds.

In a public stattement, Sen. Shin shared his story of being adopted into a Christian family after being homeless on the streets of Seoul, Korea. He continued, “To this day, I cherish those values and try to live my life in accordance with their teachings. Therefore my vote against passage of this bill was one that was deeply personal. At the same time, I have the utmost respect for the proponents of this bill and for their right to live their lives as they see fit. I respect their right to cherish their own values and to live in accordance with the teachings of their own faith.” Other states that currently allow for same-sex marriage is: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, New York and the District of Columbia.

Still Working To Make Lunar New Year a State Holiday in NY

New York Assemblywoman Grace Meng doesn’t buy Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claim that he can’t make Lunar New Year a public school holiday because “you cannot have … a day off from school for every single holiday or we’d have no school.”

“I think he is exaggerating when he said that we had no school days left,” Ms. Meng told The Politicker. “His policies on immigrant services have been very good, they’re very progressive. He’s done a lot for immigrant communities in New York City and it’s frustrating for me that he doesn’t understand why this community wants its first and most important holiday off.”

The New York Observer noted that along with State Senator Daniel Squadron, Meng has sponsored legislation to make Lunar New Year a school holiday in districts with substantial Asian populations. Recently, they sent Mayor Bloomberg a letter “as representatives of two of the city’s largest Asian American communities,” urging him to make next Lunar New Year a public school holiday. Though new holidays have historically been added to the public school calendar as New York’s populations changed, Mayor Bloomberg said there’s no more room for changes to the schedule. “So the answer is, while it may not be totally fair, we’re not going to change history and we’re just going to keep the same number of school days. If anything, we need more school days,” said Mayor Bloomberg. Currently, students receive an “excused absence” if they miss school for Lunar New Year after giving written notification. However, the day still appears as an absence on their record.

Quarantining San Francisco’s Chinatown With Barbed Wire

Throughout the 19th century, San Francisco’s growing Chinese immigrant population had to contend with codified prejudice from legislation like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, segregated communities, and the sentiment that Chinese Americans were the source of leprous, smallpox, and malarial “vapors.” The blog,, featured this story and original photos from that era. It commented: “This racism took a stark, physical form in 1900, when a Chinese laborer was suspected to have died of Bubonic plague. Despite flimsy evidence of the disease, San Francisco city officials built a barbed wire partition around Chinatown. Explains the National Park Service of this racially motivated quarantine: ‘While the cause of death was still undetermined, a cordon was placed around Chinatown, and no Chinese American was allowed to leave the area bounded by California, Kearny, Broadway, and Stockton streets. This restricted the freedom of movement of people, some of whom were American citizens. It caused them many hardships, for they had difficulty in obtaining goods and services from people outside Chinatown. There was a shortage of food, and prices increased sharply. Chinese American businessmen faced a loss of income, and workers a loss of wages. Finally, after three and a half months, it was found that there were no cases of bubonic plague within Chinatown.’ Contrast this approach with the 1899 Bubonic plague outbreak in Honolulu’s Chinatown, which saw city officials eventually burning the neighborhood to the ground,” concluded the blog.

Can Asians Save Classical Music?

Michael Ahn Paarlberg of posits that Asian and Asian Americans have now become the lifeblood of classical music. Himself a Korean American hapa, Paarlberg points out that fewer adults are attending classical concerts than before, and the median age of those who still attend the high culture affairs is constantly rising. The one demographic still injecting any youthful vigor into classical music is the Asian/Asian American population. According to a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008, 14 percent of Asian Americans ages 18 – 24 reported attending a classical concert in the past year, more than any other demographic in the 18 – 24 age bracket.

Furthermore, Paarlberg notes, while Asians make up just 4 percent of the total U.S. population, they constitute 7 percent of U.S. orchestra musicians and make up to 20 percent of top orchestras. One in five undergraduates and one in three PhD candidates at Julliard is Asian. So why have Asians, most notably East Asians, been so embracing of this art form? Paarlberg suggests perhaps it’s because classical music and the piano especially have come to symbolize social mobility. Writes Paarlberg, “Classical music became an aspirational totem for both newly industrializing Asian countries, whose governments subsidized music schools and orchestras, and parents, for whom having a musician in the family was a marker of success.”


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