Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen
Columnist, Global Justice
New York, NY

Michelle Chen is Colorlines' Global Justice columnist. She is a regular contributor on labor issues at In These Times, as well as a member of the magazine's Board of Editors. Michelle's reporting has appeared in Ms. Magazine, AirAmerica, Alternet, Newsday, the Progressive Media Project, and her old zine, cain. Prior to joining Colorlines, she wrote for the independent news collective The NewStandard. A native New Yorker, she has also conducted ethnographic research as a Fulbright fellow in Shanghai and checked coats at a West Village jazz club. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the City University of New York and co-producing the community radio program Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica's WBAI.

Follow Michelle at @meeshellchen.

Reproductive health in lockdown

by Michelle Chen on March 12 2009, 6:08PM

For many women behind bars, barriers to reproductive health follow them from their communities to their prison cells. A study published in the current issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that an incarcerated woman’s ability to…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Health

Mental health behind bars

by Michelle Chen on March 12 2009, 2:15PM

Florida’s housing market may be imploding and residents may be losing houses at unprecedented rates, but lawmakers have apparently taken pains to give people with mental illness a place to call home… in the state’s prisons. Florida is on…

Topics: Health

Double-vision on Mexico’s “drug war”

by Michelle Chen on March 11 2009, 4:21PM

On the U.S.-Mexico border, drug-related violence rivals immigration as a media fixation, projecting images of a so-called “failed state” and a “wave” of killings. The New York Times cites a National Drug Intelligence Center report calling Mexican cartels “the…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration, Politics

Branching out in the stem cell debate

by Michelle Chen on March 11 2009, 1:45PM

President Obama’s executive order to open up federal funding for stem cell research has been widely hailed as a watershed for scientific integrity and medical advancement. Yet, while much of the popular focus has been on using embryonic stem…

Topics: Health

Treading carefully on the green economy

by Michelle Chen on March 10 2009, 4:47PM

The movement for green jobs is exploding around the country, and for the marginalized communities who potentially have much to gain, the enthusiasm seems well warranted. Yet with so much at stake in the ongoing economic crisis, we need…


Refocusing the lens on AAPI communities

by Michelle Chen on March 10 2009, 3:30PM

Waves of job cuts and foreclosures make it clear that not all boats rise or sink together, even when weathering the same storm. The Economic Policy Institute has analyzed the ups and downs of one group famous for striving toward…

Topics: Economy, Immigration

Plastic meltdown

by Michelle Chen on March 9 2009, 6:25PM

As the banking system takes a nosedive, credit card companies are looking to cut their losses. And consumers—particularly low-income people and people of color—are being hit with a variety of creative methods. James Surowiecki at the New Yorker observes some…

Topics: Economy

Shifting the landscape of segregation

by Michelle Chen on March 6 2009, 5:42PM

Many of us grew up in cities where racial segregation was embedded in the landscape. A study by the Urban Institute traces how this came to be the status quo in American communities, and the way race relations, government policies,…

Topics: Economy

New York’s uphill climb to drop the rock

by Michelle Chen on March 6 2009, 3:55PM

All eyes are on New York as it moves toward reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The mandatory-sentencing statutes have reshaped the prison population since the 1970s by drawing in thousands of people of color and low-level and nonviolent offenders….

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Race matters in New York’s budget crisis

by Michelle Chen on March 6 2009, 5:10AM

New York’s budget crisis is hitting the entire state with major cutbacks, and a public interest advocacy group has detailed who will be hurt the most under Governor David Paterson’s budget proposal. Not surprisingly, in many areas, the budget is…

Topics: Economy

Sudan in black and white?

by Michelle Chen on March 5 2009, 3:26PM

The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is stoking debate on how the international community should define and address conflict (particularly the United States, which has not formally recognized the ICC)….

Topics: Global Affairs

Prescription for inequality

by Michelle Chen on March 4 2009, 3:33PM

The recent discussions on race and health in the activist community coincide with a festering crisis in one part of the immigrant population: the treatment of detainees—marginalized by law from the mainstream health system—is a marker of the depth of…

Topics: Health, Immigration

Community Health on the Frontlines

by Michelle Chen on March 3 2009, 4:32PM

There’s a lot of hooplah these days about Obama’s political maneuvers on health policy, but health care reform is getting a more subtle, but no less systemic boost in the new stimulus package. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act…

Topics: Health

Cradles, Classrooms, Paddles and Prisons

by Michelle Chen on March 2 2009, 10:15PM

The Children’s Defense Fund and other advocacy organizations convened in California last week at the National Cradle to Prison Pipeline Summit. The conference built on the progress of an ongoing campaign to raise consciousness about the criminalization of youth, barriers…

Topics: Schools & Youth

More on the U.N. racism conference, post-racial edition

by Michelle Chen on March 2 2009, 4:25PM

As Roberto Lovato notes in his column, Washington’s potential/probable boycott of the upcoming United Nations summit on racism suggests the U.S. continues to stonewall international action on race issues (namely centering on Israel’s aggression and human rights abuses, the link…

Topics: Global Affairs

Grading Obama on Education

by Michelle Chen on February 27 2009, 5:03PM

Is the Obama administration on the honors track to bridging the racial and economic disparities that plague our public schools? The President has proposed several initiatives that appear to target inequities in teacher quality and student performance. His budget…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Taking their lives

by Michelle Chen on February 27 2009, 11:51AM

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Dana Lee Jetty, a North Dakota high school student and member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, shared the story of her last encounter with her sister: I walked towards the back of the house and…

Topics: Health

Representing D.C.

by Michelle Chen on February 26 2009, 4:17PM

Of all the civil rights struggles that have drawn people to the streets of the nation’s capital, one of the most enduring conflicts is a homegrown one: the basic political enfranchisement of the District of Columbia’s residents. Today, the…


Colombia’s struggle

by Michelle Chen on February 26 2009, 2:04PM

Human rights defenders in Colombia are on the front lines of civil war and government oppression, as well as United States policies that facilitate violence. Human Rights First reports that baseless prosecutions of activists are emboldening a corrupt legal…

Topics: Global Affairs

Chipping away at the embargo

by Michelle Chen on February 25 2009, 5:11PM

Tucked snugly into a massive House budget bill is a quiet tweak that could reconfigure US-Cuba relations. The provision, which passed along with the House bill today, was shepherded by Rep. José E. Serrano of the Bronx, chair of the…

Topics: Global Affairs