Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami Relief Effort Info

AKA--places to go to find out how you can give money to help with relief efforts in South Asia, Thailand and Indonesia. As a fundraiser, I was impressed that Doctors Without Borders was honest enough on their 'donate' page to say they actually have raised enough money for their South Asia Tsunami relief efforts. And Google has posted a page full of links to relief organizations throughout the region.

One note: I would discourage folks from giving money to USAID groups, since their aid often comes with repressive and fucked up political and economic strings attached.


Why do we Blog?

I just read Bino's eloquent and impassioned blog about...blogging. The purpose of it, what service does it provide to the world? Does it create good? How does it affect our lives?

I also just noticed right before I visited Bino's blog that he is my highest referral site, as well as Eileen's and perhaps Jean's as well. Yes, clearly many people visit and read El Serenito's naked thoughts. And thank God/dess. He often has fascinating and thought-provoking things to say. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for every blog I read, but that's okay. Human communication is a complex thing.

I've wondered some of the same things Bino has when I read others' blogs. Especially in the time leading up to the election, I was sometimes disgusted at the lack of political or even reflective blogging on what was clearly an event that could affect our lives for decades to come. But then, I haven't blogged about the horrible disaster and loss of human and other life in Asia due to the tsunami last weekend. I've spent most of my blogs talking about my holidays, my birthday, my new year's resolutions and my life. In short, blogging about me.

But then, isn't that what a blog is? An online 'confessional' of sorts, a public diary where we spill our guts. I have no illusions that my blog is a completely self-oriented thing; something I use to hash out my issues, to make public thoughts that I think are important and need to be known, and sometimes--especially around politics--to preach a bit from my tiny little virtual bully-pulpit when I feel strongly about something.

Of course, it's not that I haven't felt strongly about this great cry from the Earth's depths that has devastated the lives of millions of people. I have talked about the tsunami every day since it happened with friends and family, have prayed every day for the spirits of the victims and for the people who are walking around without potable water, with no food, in danger of dying of typhoid fever and other grotesque diseases that follow such disasters.

I haven't blogged about the tsunami because, for one, I know people are reading about it endlessly in the newspaper (as I have) or online, or watching it on the news. I am in no way an authority on tsunamis. I don't feel like my blog could be much more helpful to the relief effort than the many other things I can do to help. So no blogging about the disaster in Asia. I'd rather folks not read my blog and visit CNN or the web site of an NGO which is gathering supplies to aid the survivors. My blog is not the place to find that information.

For two, I believe that we as survivors of this disaster must go on. We must acknowledge the terrible loss of life and help as much as we can with relief efforts, we must honor the dead, and we must find ways to make sure that we can safeguard communities against future calamities. As someone who lives on the Pacific 'Rim of Fire'--and quite close to the beach as well--this has been on my mind constantly since last Sunday. Do our governments have our safety in mind? Does the War on Terror leave enough money in our budget to upgrade tsunami warning systems on the West Coast and elsewhere? Can we learn something from this awful tragedy?

I hope so. So, on this rain-drenched New Year's Eve, I publicly pay homage to those thousands of men, women, children, old people, tourists, mothers, wives, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, birds, animals that were killed in the tsunami that struck with little warning. I hope they find peace beyond the veil of this Life. And I pray that we learn from the mistakes of the past, learn to respect Mother Earth and listen to her cries of despair, and move forward together to build a world where love for the Earth and all of her children, for each other, is at the forefront of our collective consciousness.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Happy Birthday (and New Year) to Me!

My birthday is the one day out of the year that I (officially) spoil myself rotten. I do whatever the fuck I want, I see who I want to see, and I let myself play. My Mom instilled this fierce birthday-pride in me from a young age. She never blended in my birthday gifts with my Christmas gifts, she had big parties for me actually on my birthday until I was seven years old, and then after that always had cake and my favorite dish ready for me on the big day. I think it's healthy--especially for overworked, Type A women of color like myself--to take at least one day to spoil ourselves rotten, love ourselves silly, and have a damn good time.

Three years ago, for my big 30 birthday, I was determined to leave my 20's with a bang. Luckily, some friends threw me a surprise party that started December 2001 off right, then on the night of my actual birthday I had a salsa dancin' night out with some good friends, and then threw myself a slammin' house party a couple weeks later. I've recognized that every birthday is different, and that each year, depending on where my spirit is at the time, I celebrate my birthday a little differently. Each year it's all good. This year should be fun: H. has some special plans for me tonite, and later on we'll be going to the Elbo Room to hook up with some folks for live music and (of course!) salsa dancing. And yesterday I had a really sweet time with my Mom in North Beach, where she regaled me with stories from her San Francisco past and treated me to some yummy gnocchi with wild boar bolognese and a lunchtime glass of Chianti.

This time of year is for me--being winter, the time of rest and rejuvenation and visioning--about reflection, evaluation, and setting goals and aspirations for the coming year. I don't call these goals resolutions, per se, although they function in much the same way. My hope is to use this winter-time of rest, relaxation and meditation as a time to figure out what I need to be doing more of in the coming year to become a better person, to live up to my own dreams, to fulfill my destiny. The fact that New Year's Eve is the day after my birthday is significant; my day of birth neatly coincides with that of the turning of the calendar.

So what did I accomplish this year? I think I've become a better listener, especially to my partner. I am still far from perfect, to be sure, but I have grown tremendously in the past year. I have learned to be mindful of my anger and how it affects me and others. Unfortunately, this lesson came after more than a few particularly explosive outbursts that I don't regret, but that were humbling experiences. I learned a new dance (one of my goals from last year), salsa casino rueda, which is popular in Cuban dance clubs. I took a Tagalog class (finally!). I got a poem published, and sent out a bunch more for consideration. I started working at an organization that moves me deeply and treats me with the respect and integrity that I deserve. I have become a better person, at least just a little bit.

But of course there is always room for growth, improvement, a fuller blossoming of who I am.

So what are my goals for 2005? I have about 25 books I want to read, including lots of poetry and spirituality books. I want to build relationships more conscientiously with people in my life who nurture me and help me grow, who are positive and who challenge themselves as well as me, who are doing what they want to be doing in life and not letting their dreams lie stagnant in some forgotten recess of memory. I plan to take up a regular Kali practice again (hear that, Gura>), expand my yoga practice to daily sessions (I'm already close), and make my writing the center of my life.

Big goals? Maybe. Necessary? I believe so. Possible? Definitely.

Blessings for a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year,

Monday, December 27, 2004

Welcome to the 21st Century

Yes, thanks to our good friend (and great gift-giver) D., we have our very first DVD player. We're still holdin' on to the VHS because of the sentimental value and because we still have tons of VHS tapes, like a couple taped-off-TV episodes of ANTM, Gladiator, Crouching Tiger and The Red Balloon, among others.

So now I can set about getting my long-awaited DVD collection together, although it will take me a while since I'm not made of money:

The Godfather Trilogy DVD Collection
The Sopranos Boxset (notice a pattern here?)
America's Next Top Model (not even sure this is out on DVD, but it should be, dammit!)

My maiden voyage into DVD-dom was the copy of "Fahrenheit 9/11" I'd originally bought for my mom, and have since snatched back. I know she ain't gonna watch it anyway, so what the hell. I am such a social justice nerd, I watched almost all the features already as well as the whole movie, in one sitting. Thank God it was raining all afternoon yesterday, made me feel less guilty about it.

In other digital media news, I also just bought my first Joe Bataan CD, after listening to him on tape and on other folks' soundsystems for years. I got the classic "Subway Joe" CD at Amoeba Records in Frisco, which had five or six of his other albums on CD, not sure about the vinyl stuff.

And I still have a gift card for Tower Records, woo-hoo! So more new music's on the way...


Happy Birthday, Gura!

It's Gura M.'s birthday today, and I'm sure she's livin' it up in Vegas with her fams. I think this is the big 3-0? Maybe not.

And thanks, Gura, for the 'early' birthday wishes. Fellow Cappys know how to honor each other! Belated birthday wishes also go out to D., and to my sister, although I did get to celebrate with her with a little Hornitos tequila. Yum.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

An Unexpected Christmas Eve

I hadn't put much thought into Christmas Eve plans. In the past I've mostly spent my Christmas Eves wrapping presents or baking cookies. All of which I did yesterday, but got finished at around 2:30pm. This year was going to be a little different, I knew, because H. was scheduled to DJ at a new lounge in Berkeley from 10pm-2am. Whoa. I kept thinking to myself, No one's going to be there, it's Christmas Eve! But found myself thinking, Well, maybe lots of people go to clubs on Christmas Eve, who knows? It has been a while since I could call myself a party girl.

So I finished up all my Christmas prep, put out all the gifts under the tree, and took a walk with H. at Fort Mason Park, which made me finally understand why rich people love to populate the Marina. God, the views were gorgeous. The mist shrouding Mount Tam and the bay were amazing, and the park's gentle slopes were sensuous and very San Francisco.

H. and I packed up to head over to Berkeley for his DJ gig at around 8:30pm. He has to bring turntables to this gig so we were fully loaded and ready to rock. It's freezing in Berkeley when we get there, and downtown is super DEAD. I'm wondering again, Is anyone gonna be at this place? Then I think, No worries, this is a paid gig and H. has a commitment from the promoter. Right. I should've known better.

We get into the bar and a cool dreaded brother comes up to us and says, 'You want a drink?' and I think, 'Wow, how friendly.' The place is dead. There are two older dudes sitting at the bar a few stools away from each other, engaging in obligatory drunken banter. There's dude sitting on one of the velvet chairs reading out of a binder. I'm guessing he works there. The dreaded brother doesn't realize that H. is the DJ for another minute or two, and then he says, 'Oh, you don't have to stay.' H. and I looked at each other like, 'Is this guy for real? Did we not just haul over a box plus two bags of records and two turntables from San Francisco to DJ this muthafucka?'

I know the guy is just a bartender so clearly there's been some miscommunication. 'Oh, didn't he call you?' Referring to aforementioned party promoter. No, H. attests, no call. We waited around for a little while and checked out the slightly spooky interior of the hotel that the lounge is located in, then took off when it was clear that Mr. Party Promoter was no where to be located via cell phone. So much for global communications.

A bit dejected (I had gotten all dolled up, but mostly I felt bad that H. got stiffed) we headed back to the City and dropped off all our stuff, then walked over to the Video Cafe, where I ate breakfast at 11pm and we watched 'Ace Ventura, Pet Detective'. The guy in the next booth laughed even louder than we did. That Jim Carrey is one kooky white dude.

Ain't nothin' like some fried potatoes to cheer me up, so after gobbling down my hash browns and finishing the movie we walked back home and cozied up on the couch. Our tree looked so cute with its multi-colored lights and random Christmas ornaments that we had bought from Casa Bonampak in the Mission and elsewhere, and with all our presents for folks piled under it. I love our tree.

Finally, we settled into bed to finish reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, which we've been reading together off and on for the past six months or so. It's one of my favorites and I wanted to share it with H., who isn't big into reading books. I knew he'd dig it, though, and once we got past the difficulties of reading in deep Black Southern dialect, we had a grand time.

Last night we read the climactic two final chapters. You'll have to read it yourself because I'm not spoiling it for you by telling you what happens. Suffice it to say that Janie and Tea-Cake (the novel's two main characters) have a deep and abiding and laughter-filled love that finds its unexpected resolution in these final pages of the book. They leave you crying and smiling at the same time. I'd forgotten how quickly Hurston wraps up the book after 19 chapters of adventure and whimsy and romance, but it is in these final two chapters that Hurston's genius is at its most brilliant.

I fell asleep after H. told me he had to "check his emails". Right, on Christmas Eve, you're expecting some news from a client? I knew what that meant. He hadn't celebrated enough Christmases to be smooth enough to sneak my present past me, which meant he had to wrap it while I was in bed. That was cool with me, even though I whined to him about not coming to bed with me on Christmas Eve.

I slept well, although I had some crazy dreams, and woke up this morning not quite feeling like it was Christmas. But then I went out to the tree, plugged in the lights, and smiled at the sight of all the gold and silver and red and green wrapped gifts laying there. Almost on a reflex, I peeked around to see if anything new had appeared in the night. Had Santa come to visit us?

And there, on the right hand side of the tree, wrapped in gold with silver ribbon and a sprig of flowers on top of it, was a present that I knew was for me. The gift tag read: "To Janie. From Tea-Cake."


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Goings-On About (Blog)Town

While Gura gets girly, trying on Chanel perfume no less, her fiance Tatang mellows out and celebrates a friend's gay wedding ceremony at a drag bar (I loved T's description of another friend as 'a powder keg of funny').

Meanwhile, Jean posts a couple of amazing images, including one of Joe Bataan, one of my musical heroes who is enjoying a revival of his music lately. I even heard an album of his (not sure if it was a collection or a re-issue) on a listening station at Amoeba Records the other day. Wow! His stuff is off the fuckin' hook. Pin@ys reprezent! You need to check his stuff out if you are in any way a fan of tropical/latin/r&B music. Full of fire and funk.

And Leny didn't make it into Hedgebrook either. Sorry, Leny, maybe next year we'll both get in and be there at the same time! Now that would be nice, considering I've only met Leny once and for about five minutes, while her words are quite familiar to me via her blog and emails.

El Serenito is taking a blog-writing break of sorts (the myeow-bernation I believe he's calling it) but is posting some cool pics in the meantime. And Oliver de la Paz is stuffing himself silly with homecooked Filipino food (mmmm, yum), reminding me of the yummy pancit I had last night at my Tagalog class party and the delicious bangsilog I had the other day Carmen's on Embarcadero.

Boy, is it fun being Filipino, or what? What great lives we lead. And since it's Christmas-time, the best is yet to come. After sending out a submission of my poetry (not saying where to 'cuz I don't want to jinx it) I'll be stuffing myself silly at Mom's on Christmas day and dropping off cookies and gifts to friends 'round town.

Hope your holidays are blessed and warm,

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I Love Eva the Diva

Originally uploaded by mandirigma9.
Isn't she absolutely gorgeous? Eva is my new Idol. (Eva's on the left; that's Tyra Banks with the crazy permed hair on the right).

Yes, the time has come for me to wax philosophical about the lovely Eva the Diva, the newest Champion of America's Next Top Model's fierce competition. I was rooting for Eva early on in the series (along with Toccara, the plus-size model who was equally gorgeous and likable) because she was beautiful in an offbeat, intriguing, not-so-conventional way. No doubt that Eva's short curly hair, crazy-beautiful caramel-colored skin, and gorgeous hazel eyes that glinted just so make her irresistible to watch. But it was her attitude and straightforwardness that made me love Eva the Diva the most. She is a true Diva in the best way: fierce attitude, strength like steel, powerful energy. She has flaws, yes, but Eva is both honest about them and willing to re-examine the way she presents herself to the world in order to be a better human being. She is willing to say 'I fucked up' while at the same time allowing other people be who they want to be. (Remember her one-on-one moment with Norelle in Japan, when she apologized for wishing that Norelle had been eliminated?)

In contrast to Yaya, the other ANTM finalist, who was so snotty with her Harvard-educated ass (why is it that almost everyone I've known who's attended Harvard has this snobby attitude? Berkeleyites can be snobby too, don't get me wrong, but I think Harvard wins the elitism contest hands-down), Eva was warm, approachable and funny. I wanna hang out with Eva!

And during the last episode, as Eva and Yaya finally warmed up to each other and let their defenses down (so beautiful when women of color bond) I liked Eva even more, because she opened her mind to liking and appreciating this other woman who had been so cruel to her at times. (Remember when Yaya told Eva--who had approached her to try and mend differences--essentially, "You mean nothing to me?")

I literally jumped up and down for joy when Tyra Banks announced Eva as America's Next Top Model (she wins a Ford Models contract, a $100,000 Cover Girl contract, and a fashion spread in Elle magazine). Really, H. can testify. I was a crazy woman. Because, in the end I realized, I identified with Eva. Here was this tough little girl who had clearly been hurt and betrayed in the past, who walked in to those TV studios and had all-out attitude like, 'Here I am, I am the shit. You can take me or leave me, but if you leave me it's your loss.' And then grew and transformed into this lovely, dazzling creature with heart and vulnerability and spirit. That is what true and lasting beauty is all about: finding that tiny golden seed of beauty within you, beneath all the pain and suffering you've endured, and coaxing it out, watering it, bringing it out for all the world to see.


Entering the Fray

Welcome, Crazy Cathy to the Blogosphere! A fellow CFJ comrade and a 2004 election refugee, C. was in the trenches in Ohio and is presently being screwed out of her reimbursement check by her old bosses--which I know must hurt because organizers spend a lot of their own fuckin' money running these campaigns. Check out her posts and patronize a fellow lefty who rocks.

More power to you, C. Write on!


Saturday, December 18, 2004

I am a Sorceress

Thanks Gura for the cool link. Check it.

The Sorceress

Which Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I kinda wanted to be an Amazon like Gura, but the Sorceress is pretty fuckin' cool. And I think more fitting. I'm a schemer--I mean organizer!--at heart after all. ;-)


Thursday, December 16, 2004

O Christmas Tree & Other Good News

I came home last night to find that H. had bought a Christmas tree (surprise!) for our home. It's so cute! 2 1/2 feet tall and perfect in all its green finery. This is definitely the highlight of my holiday season so far, because I haven't lived in a home with a Christmas tree in it since 1991!

H. and I grew up with very different experiences of Christmas--it wasn't a priority for his folks to celebrate, while my family (and in particular my step-father, for various dysfunctional and quite tragic reasons I won't get into right now) was somewhat obsessed by it. We had 8-foot-plus flocked trees every year, dozens of gifts for each child, decorations up the wazoo and endless Christmas carol records playing on the ol' turntable.

I'm looking forward to sharing a bit of my Christmas tradition with H. this year, and it feels so sweet that he got the tree all on his own; I can tell he's catching some of the Christmas spirit.

In other good news: I was overjoyed when I watched the finale episode of America's Next Top Model last night (yes, it is my favorite show). Eva the Diva is the new Miss ANTM, and ain't no stoppin' her now. I'll post more on my favorite ANTM contestant later, but let's just say that after the elections, this may be the best upset victory I've ever witnessed.

Go on, Eva-girl, serve up some of that hot stuff for the whole world to see.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

List: What Never to do to Christmas/New Year Babies

First off: HAPPY BIRTHDAY H.! I love you.

An unusually high number of my family and friends (including myself) were born in the latter part of December and early January. Sagittariuses and Capricorns. Which makes us exceptionally interesting people, of course (ahem), but also comes with the baggage of having to celebrate our special days with the big JC (Jesus Christ for all you non-Christians) or Baby New Year. Which can result in some icky and sometimes downright unhappy moments.

For those of you whose birthdays are not scheduled around the time of the birth of one of the world's greatest religious figures, let me give you some etiquette tips on what not to do (along with some more constructive advice) to help your beautiful Sag and Cap friends celebrate their days o' birth.

1. The CARDINAL rule: Never, NeVeR, NEVER fold in your Dec/Jan friend's birthday with your Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah/New Year, etc. celebrations. This happened last night to H., whose birthday is today (see above). He doesn't seem to mind all that much, but I know on some level it has to hurt him, because us Dec/Jan babies Hate, HATE with a passion when people combine our special days with the major holidays of the season, as if our day was just too inconveniently scheduled for them to actually make special time just for us,

2. Do NOT give us those rude 'Oh, here's your Christmas/Birthday present. Hope you like it' gifts. We HATE those. Do you give your friend whose birthday is on July 5th a 'Oh, here's your Independence Day/Birthday present' gift? No, because that would be more than slightly tacky. Well, it's tacky to do it for us too. Now, we're not expecting folks to shell out the big bucks during this often financially stressful time of year just for our benefit (although that would be nice), we just want to be acknowledged twice, with two gifts, even if one or more of them are of the five-and-dime variety. We are soulful folks, and it is the thought that counts after all.

I have to admit I think I'm a little spoiled in the gift department because as a child my mother and family were excellent at giving me two sets of presents: one for Christmas and one for my birthday. I didn't have to deal with too many 'combo' deals as a child (even now, my mother would never deign to give me a two-fer gift, that would be unheard of!), which is probably why I have higher expectations than some other Dec/Jan babies.

3. This rule could really be the cardinal rule too, but it should go without saying: Do NOT just completely forget our birthdays because you are so busy with holiday brouhaha that you can't be bothered. Not them in your calendars, in your PDAs, on a sticky note on your bulletin board, write them on your hand if you have to. We are generally a bit sensitive about having our birthdays overlooked because of the blinding eclipse of Jesus' day and all its accompanying consumer-driven baggage. And nobody likes to have their birthdays forgotten, so why should we--despite our exceptional personalities ;-)--put up with it just because we happened to be born this time of year?

That being said, I have to admit (with more than a smidgen of guilt and shame) that I didn't get around to getting H.'s gift together in time to present it to him this morning. I usually go way out of my way to make sure that I have something lined up for him that's memorable, but I blew it this year. I'll have his present ready for later today, but in my mind I failed to meet my own strict standards of celebrating a Sag's birthday.

Maybe the folks out there who have pulled one too many 'combo' deals are rubbing off on me. Even more reason to remind myself why it's so important to take the time to celebrate the existences of some of the people I love the most. Note to self written on back of hand: L.'s birthday is on Friday!


Sunday, December 12, 2004

anthropological & political notes on a marketplace

I spent most of Saturday working at the annual KPFA Crafts Fair, trying to make some extra holiday cash and do a bit o' Christmas shopping, whilst dipping my big toe in the lukewarm waters of the event organizing world. As an independent consultant (I pick up gigs now and then outside my part-time day job as a fundraiser), I am interested in learning more about event coordination work so I thought the Crafts Fair would be a good place to start: lots of artisans selling their work, a chance to support independent media, and a place to feel comfortable with my progressive politics to boot.

I ran around doing relief for exhibitors who were working solo in their booths, (wo)manned a security checkpoint or two (much to the dismay of the security head, whom I could tell didn't think highly of a petite woman like myself taking on such a role--I didn't tell him I've trained in martial arts for the better part of the past four years), and passed out some programs to the (mostly white) people coming to shop at the fair. All of this varied activity gave me a good glimpse into the cultural dynamics of the fair, which were not surprising to me--I've been around the block when it comes to selling handicrafts and working with artists--but were still a tad frustrating and disappointing.

It was disappointing to see that most of the exhibitors (local, independent artisans selling their handcrafted wares) were White--I counted less than 10 exhibitors who were people of color. I know the fair was a juried exhibition, meaning that artists had to apply and be judged to be included. Was the lack of artisans of color due to them not applying? Or was it due to them not being accepted? I find it hard to beleive, in a place with as many working artists of color as the Bay Area, that the judges could only find a dozen or less artisans of color whose work was up to par with their standards.

Further, to put this all in a context, I do NOT (with extremely rare exception) patronize White artisans, such as those who sell jewelry or pipes or other trinkets on Telegraph. I have three key reasons behind this rule, which were all (unfortunately) reinforced for me in heightened relief at the KPFA Crafts Fair:

1. Generally, these artisans speak to me quite condescendingly and rudely. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's that I look young or that I'm Brown or that they don't assume someone like me would know anything about their high-quality art. Of course, they don't know that I worked as a salesperson at a well-known bead store for two years in addition to working as the production assistant of an equally well-known jewelry and fiber artist in Oakland. Having worked retail myself, I made a rule to myself a long time ago not to make assumptions about what a customer knew or didn't know about the product I was hawking. But just like the security head mentioned above didn't know about my martial arts training and therefore assumed that I was just a petite little Asian woman who was trying to reach beyond my abilities, these White artisans seem to often assume that I know nothing about handcrafts or jewelry or beautiful objets d'art.

Crafts Fair example: I did relief for a woman who made hand-decorated gourds, which she was selling for $48 and up. I didn't think they were that interesting, just another White woman taking some pseudo Native American and African images and techniques and making money off of them. In short, they weren't that cute to me. But I was curious about where the gourds came from, and what they were before she styled them into her 'art', so I asked a few polite questions.

Her response? "They're gourds." I, not knowing that these gourds grow hard as wood from the start, asked a follow-up question to clarify. "They're gourds," she responded again, more curtly this time, as if she didn't have time to answer these questions, despite the fact that I was her only potential customer at the moment.

After some puzzled looks from me, she went on to explain that gourds just grow hard, that they are related to squash, but that they are quite different. "That's why your question is confusing," she said with a fake smile. In my head I thought, No, your answers were confusing. But instead of getting into what would have been a frustrating conversation with her I smiled and walked away.

2. Many of the White artisans whose work I've been exposed to tend to completely appropriate images, techniques and materials from cultures from the Third World, almost exclusively relying on 'inspiration' from 'exotic' foreign cultures to make money for themselves as artists. I'm not saying that artists have no right to appropriate or borrow from other cultures, but it makes a bit skeptical (not to mention sad) when I see so many White artists exclusively taking photos of Buddhist monks in Cambodia and African sufi masters, and never really exploring their own rich cultural heritage. It seems to me a bit of denial of their own heritage, while at the same time romanticizing others' cultures. Added to my direct personal experiences with many of these artists as explained in #1 above, it's hard for me to stomach and / or reconcile their co-opting of 'exotic' images with their rudeness to me, a Brown girl who doesn't fit their romanticized image of what a Brown girl should look, act, talk like.

Crafts fair example: I relieved another White woman artist, this time a photographer. She had taken quite beautiful photos, all of which were of nameless people of color from the Third World. One was of a Buddhist monk meditating, another was a close-up of a young Indian girl resplendent in ceremonial garb (which was only entitled 'Princess') and a third was a stark, vibrant image of an African man wearing a turban and a deep aqua robe. None of these people had names in her photos. (I have a special aversion to images that don't name people of color as individuals, while the same practice would never be tolerated if the images were of White Americans)

These people were, to her, objects to be witnessed and documented for personal expression and profit, representatives of an idealized culture, place and / or history. None of the photos were of people of European descent, although the photographers' collection was entitled 'Migration Photos'. What, Russian and Latvian and Czechoslovakian people don't migrate anywhere?

3. In general I try to practice an affirmative action /community development strategy in the spending of my dollars, especially when--in a place like the Bay Area--I can actually give my hard-earned cash directly to people of color vendors/stores/artists. For example, I try as much as possible to buy my books from places like Black-owned Marcus Books or Asian-activist-owned East Wind Books, or to purchase handmade jewelry (which I love) from artisans of color, like Diana Yoshida and others who work on Telegraph in Berkeley. There is absolutely no reason that I 'need' to spend my money on rude and racist White artisans' work, when there are so many artisans of color who need my business just as much if not more. I know from direct experience the lack of support from family and friends that many artists of color endure, and I feel a special responsibility to help them make their living.

Crafts Fair example: I only bought four items--not just because there were so few artists of color at the fair, but also because there was very little of the White artists' work that I liked at all--all of which were made by artisans of color. I finally got my hands on some amazing silkscreen-printed T-shirts by Daniel Sanchez, whose dramatic woodcut-like designs I've admired for several years now. I got to meet Daniel for the first time too--a hardworkin', sincere and genuinely nice brother. I know I'll be buying many T-shirts from him in the years to come. And I bought a beautiful cloth wallet for a co-worker and a stuffed turtle for my godson from Ia Vang, of the Hmong Women Needleworkers Collective.

In the end, searching up and down the aisles at the Crafts Fair for artisans of color in a sea of Whiteness was worth the hassle of rude White vendors and the annoyance of endless 'exotic' Brown and Black faces displayed on amulets, posters and earrings (yes, earrings!). I hope you take the time to patronize your local artisans of color this holiday season, and that you come away with some treasures like the ones I found today.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Poet's Prose & A Quick Link

Check out a blog post about Ray Charles that I put up on my Music teamblog started by myself and my buddy Chavajero.

I've been re-reading Audre Lorde lately, once again awed by her ability to articulate what I feel deep in my bones about our responsibility as artists, activists, mothers, sisters, human beings. I've been craving the sustenance of her words during these post-electiond days. Here's my favorite passage for today:

"Most likely there will always be women who move with women, women who live with men, men who choose men. I work for a time when women with women, women with men, men with men, all share the work of a world that does not barter bread or self for obedience, nor beauty, nor love. And in that world we will raise our children free to choose how best to fulfill themselves."--Audre Lorde, from "Manchild: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response" in Sister Outsider

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Good Morning, Pat!

See, I knew I'd end up wanting to post after saying I was taking a break. Oh well.

Woke up this morning in a particularly dramatic (in a good way) mood. Perhaps it had to do with hanging out last night at the Slit exhibit, housed in the new Center for Sex and Culture on 11th and Harrison in Frisco, and being surrounded by kick-ass Asian women and their equally kick-ass art. But more about that show later.

So I woke up feeling a bit dramatic and therefore busted out the Pat Benatar CD and programmed in Promises in the Dark, We Live for Love, We Belong, etc. All my favorites. And I'm singing really loud and probably off-key as I type. Pat is the supreme rock star diva of my generation. She wrote her own songs, rocked out like nobody's business, had her husband backing her up in her band as her lead guitarist, and wrote about meaningful topics like runaways, the trauma abused children face, and, of course, heartbreak. And I always loved her big teeth and overbite--the fact that she was intriguing looking but not beautiful in a conventional way made her appealing to us normal-looking gals who had mucho attitude but not a lot of frilly, feminine beauty to boost us into visibility.

For now, I leave you with Pat's lyrics:

"Many times I tried to tell you/ many times I cried alone/ always I'm surprised how well you cut my feelings to the bone/ Don't want to leave you really/ I've invested too much time/ to give you up that easy/ to the doubts that complicate your mind..."

I'm off to a theater/performance workshop to get in touch with my own inner diva...


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Takin' a Break...I Think

I've been posting so infrequently lately I feel I should just post an 'on hiatus' message...but I have things to say before I go! And perhaps I won't really 'go'--I seem to recall one Bino Realuyo recently saying he'd be online a lot less and then proceeding to post like mad afterwards--perhaps this is just a fleeting need to give myself permission not to post. I know it's silly, but if I don't blog for more than a few days I feel like I'm, I don't know, being 'bad' somehow. Silly, stupid Catholic guilt.

Anyway, things have been busy busy these last couple weeks. Work is ramping up for end-of-the-year fundraising, as well as evaluation, planning, and welcoming our new Executive Director, Solomon Rivera. I am super-excited about having S. on board and working with him--from what I've seen and heard he is one smart cookie and has incredible enthusiasm and energy for the work. As a fundraiser, you can't ask for much more than that.

I've been writing a lot, mostly transcribing stuff from my notebook to the computer, and editing / adding a little on the way. I want to get all the stuff from my notebooks into electronic format before I start writing more scenes of my novel. I need to see what the bones look like, where the flesh is still thin, where I need to fatten it up. I'm realizing I need some good battle scenes, which I don't feel well-equipped to write. I'm thinking of checking out some other sci-fi books for examples of battle scenes. Any recommendations are most welcome.

In the meantime, I've been watching lots of sci-fi at home on video. I'm a big Star Wars fan and H. is a bit of a Trekkie (no conventions or anything, just memorizing lines and knowing all the characters and movies, you know, softcore stuff), so between the two of us we have a decent amount of sci-fi geekness in our home. We watched the Empire Strikes Back last night--my favorite of the Star Wars films--and I was appalled to see that James Earl Jones was not mentioned in the credits at all for doing the voice of Darth Vader. Disgusting. I mean, come on, if David Prowse is credited, you gotta put James up there too. Lucasfilm racism or did James not want to be credited? A mystery to unravel when I'm bored and need mindless Googling distraction.

I've also been reading Eileen Tabios' recent book, Menage a Trois with the 21st Century on the bus on my way to work (you can really get a lot of reading done on public transit). I'm loving what I've read so far: delicate yet sure-handed poems about desire in the first section, titled Enheduanna, after a Sumerian poet-priestess who wrote love poems to the goddess Innana. I'm thinking I'd like to write a proper review of it when I finish it, which at the rate I read could be months from now! Thanks, Eileen, for the copy, which she sent over when I purchased Pinoy Poetics; I have yet to read that one however; it's on my list for 2005.

Ok, I still don't know whether I'm signing off the blog for awhile or not. Oh, how I hate indecision. But that's the beauty of blogging, no? You can do whatever the f*ck you want! ;-)


Saturday, November 27, 2004

List: Rejection Sucks & Post-Thanksgiving Lethargy

This is mostly a bad-news post...but don't worry, I'm feeling pretty happy overall. The sun is shining here in Frisco, I've got Turkey Day leftovers in my belly, and Christmas is just 4 weeks away! I really am loving the holidays more and more as I get older, I have to admit--it might have to do with the fact that my birthday is also around this time of year: December 30th to be exact, but who's counting? ;-)

Bad news item #1: I didn't make it into Hedgebrook, ther women writers' colony I'd applied to. I really thought I had a good chance, but no go. My guess is that I'm not far along enough on my novel project for them to want to house and feed me for a month. Oh, well. I might take El Serenito up on that offer for a recommendation to an artist's colony in España--wow!

Good News #1: Although I was thoroughly bummed when I got the news on Wednesday--I think I didn't smile for like five hours afterwards--I got over it quickly, and by Wednesday night, as I was elbow-deep in Turkey Day cooking and cleaning, I had forgotten all about that pesky little rejection letter (I threw it into the recycling while I was cleaning, too).

Thanks to Leny and others for your support and encouragement, especially H. who has given me much comfort and encouragement. And Leny, I hope you get in!

Bad news #2: I gained three pounds in the last week, I'm guessing mostly from the grotesquely huge portions of butter- and fat-laden Thanksgiving food I've been consuming, and the glasses of wine I've washed it all down with. (Giggle) I love to eat, but I'm startin' to slow it down a bit. Damn, why does stuffing have to taste so good?

Bad news #3: This extra weight and all the sugar and alcohol I've been downing have made me feel really sluggish. I had planned to go to the gym yesterday with all the rest of the guilty, flabby folks, but I decided to give myself a day off from anything that could be construed as work of any sort. So aside from doing some lite Christmas shopping downtown amid the throngs of tourists, I didn't do diddly-squat--except eat more stuffing. ;-)

Good news #2: I made it to the gym today and worked up a nice sheen of perspiration, sweating off those pesky fat globules and pumping some iron. I know I'll be sore tomorrow but I've still got my endorphin high. Woo-hoo!

Good/Bad News #3/#4: I've got four Christmas presents down already--and just fifteen or so to go. ;-(


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Turkey Day

God I love this day. Been looking forward to it all week. Moist, delicious roast turkey, spiral-sliced honey-baked ham, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie with freshly whipped cream--how could someone not love Thanksgiving?

Living in the Bay Area and having been part of the often insular, but nonetheless fascinating, world of radical activism for the past several years, I've learned how to navigate the sometimes-unpleasant waters of Thanksgiving politics. First, there is the fact that Thanksgiving represents, for some, the ironic celebration of 'friendship' between white European settlers and the friendly Native Americans who fed them and taught them how to survive in the wilderness, only to be almost completely wiped out over the next several centuries by those same settlers (or their descendants, at least). So, for those who want to 'celebrate' Thanskgiving (or 'Thanks-taking', as some call it) Day that way, there is the Sunrise Ceremony held annually on Alcatraz Island. The Island--aside from its history as a notoriously vicious prison back in the day--was the site of a dramatic (and somewhat successful) protest in the 1970 by American Indians, making it the perfect setting for this 'Unthanksgiving' Day celebration.

I've been to the Sunrise Ceremony once and it was very interesting. From the chilly creepiness of 'The Rock' (one of Alcatraz' nicknames) at 5am to the heartbeat-like drumming of the Native people opening the ceremony to the speeches by Native elders that often reminded me of those I've heard at political rallies, it was truly a study in contradiction and chaos. I highly recommend going at least once in your lifetime--that is, if you support Native peoples' sovreignty.

Personally, I don't celebrate Thanksgiving to commemorate the Native peoples solidarity with white Europeans. Come on, folks, they were largely masssacred and disenfranchised by them, why should we celebrate a brief time of peace and friendship--which white people then turned around on Native folks so that they could take their land and their culture away from them? No, I don't celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving way.

To me, Thanksgiving is just another version of the age-old harvest festival that is celebrated in cultures all over the world. Whether you call it the Harvest Moon festival in China or the Yam Festival in West Africa or Holi in India, harvest festivals have been part of human civilization for countless generations, when we come together to celebrate another gathering of crops for food, thank the Spirits for our abundance and prosperity, and EAT!

So that's what I'm doing today, folks--giving thanks for all the blessings I have in my life, hanging out with family and friends, cooking some yummy food, and eating 'til my heart's (and my tummy's) content.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

On the Other Side of the World

My partner H. and I took a romantic mini-vacation this past weekend: a scenic drive North to the Wine Country; a one-night stay in a quaint boutique hotel; wine tasting; spa treatment; the works. We both needed this--and so did our relationship, which has been straining a bit under the weight of our individually accumulated daily stresses, as well as the general malaise that has hit so many of us post-November 2.

When I woke up in the hotel, I reached for the 'light' reading I had brought with me ('light' in the most literal sense: five pages of material printed from our computer): a news report and an editorial about the recent massacre of peasants at Hacienda Luisita in the Philippines.

It didn't seem odd or cruel to choose this as my morning reading for my bucolic getaway. Life is inherently a mass of contradictions, is it not? And in some way, it eased whatever guilt I had about spending money I don't really have to pamper myself.

I'm not very educated about current events (or even long-ago historical events) in the Philippines, but I'm on enough email lists to get wind of the big news stories. And this one is both telling and tragic. I can't say much about it that hasn't been said, except to add my voice of mourning and protest to the existing chorus, both in the PI and stateside.

It's so confusing at times to be here, in the U.S., the belly of the beast, and to not have a grip on what's happening 'back home'. Reading news reports and editorials--no matter how well-written--only take me so far. And although the PI is on the other side of the world, I still know that what happens there affects me here, somehow, sometimes more tangibly than others.

I think about the violent 'dispersal' (always so euphemistic how they talk about state-inflicted violence against poor people in any media) at Hacienda Luisita, which killed at least 7 peasants, including at least one child, and then I think about the recent ending of the lockout of hotel workers in San Francisco. Many of those hotel workers are Filipino, many recent immigrants, I'm sure most sending money back home to help buy food, clothing, medicine, survival.

Yes, the struggles are similar but definitely not the same. The SF hotel workers could demonstrate and picket for weeks straight in front of the Hilton and the Hyatt and the Four Seasons and the St. Francis hotels, and not get arrested, or tear gassed, or killed. But it took many decades of labor organizing to win that right. I only hope and pray that we can support a democratic movement in the Philippines that can ensure that very basic human right for workers there: to gather, to organize, and to fight for our very survival.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

"Busy Little Bee..."

Anybody who knows what movie the above quote comes from gets a batch of my special-recipe chocolate chip cookies. (Hint: think togas)

I haven't been posting lately because I've been busy, busy, busy. Started my round of meetings with other writers to help me figure out my path--to MFA or not to MFA? It's been quite intriguing. I spoke to my friend L. who has chosen the non-MFA track, and also just finished up a residency (and her novel) at the Cottages at Hedgebrook, to which I've just turned in an application for a month-long stay of my own. New acquaintance J., whom I found via Chatty and the Flips email list, gave me his take on New College's Writing and Consciousness MFA program. Very interesting stuff. Also, it's great just to connect with writers and talk about our work, our processes, etc. Feels real good, especially after my (somewhat negative) past experiences with less generous and more insecure artists/writers.

I'm planning to meet with a few other folks and to start visiting campuses to meet staff, faculty, students. My shortlist right now includes Mills and Antioch. If any of you out in blogworld would like to share your comments on these schools, please do.

I've also had more work-stuff lately because we are in the process of choosing a new Executive Director. And while the process has been long, it has not been arduous, because I and the rest of my co-workers know how important this decision is. This is definitely the healthiest and most productive ED search I've been a part of, and we are very lucky to have some great candidates to choose from.

Lastly, I've been writing a lot, too. I finished up (finally) a solid outline / list of chapters for my novel--a sci-fi/fantasy book with lots of gender-bending and queerish stuff--which makes me feel very hopeful about moving forward. I've got about 120 pages of a first draft right now and have a ways to go still, but glad I have my handy road-map/outline to guide me through.

And H. and I are planning a little getaway soon--to refresh our spirits and spend some romantic couple-time together. We both really need it for our own well-being, and our relationship could use the boost that only some R&R in a beautiful place, away from our ordinary lives, can provide.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Argentino Graf

Originally uploaded by mandirigma9.
From Chavajero, who's in mourning over the results of our Presidential election way over in Argentina, a visual:

It feels soooo good to know that the rest of the world is in agreement with me and all my other progressive/radical/liberal friends in the U.S. No, folks, we are not crazy. The world is with us.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Goodbye to a Revolutionary

Rest in Peace, Rest in Power, Yasser Arafat, guerrilla fighter, "father of a nation" that many do not even recognize as a nation, and leftist revolutionary.

My heart and eyes are heavy with sadness. A generation of radicals is (and has been) passing over into the eternal, and while I mourn their deaths, I wonder: is our generation truly ready to lead? Does it matter? With the deaths of our role-models and forebears occuring more frequently these days, can we step up to the plate and carry on their legacies? Will we do justice to their memory?

In Struggle,

More MFA Mindbuzz

So El Serenito thinks I should pursue the non-fiction creative writing MFA because there's more $ in NF. I agree. I have bought and read enough non-fiction in books and magazines myself to prove it. But, a small part of me demands, you've spent a long time doing what is 'practical' or what could be seen on the outside as ambitious or successful--becoming an Executive Director (before I was ready, perhaps), making fundraising my non-profit career, getting on boards of orgs (partially to boost my resume wattage). What about your heart? What does your heart want you to do?

Well, that's where it gets a little confusing. I've loved writing and reading fiction since I was a child. I wrote my first 'story' when I was about six (maybe younger?), a hand-stapled, crayon-and-pencil affair that told of a (surprise) six-year-old girl's daily adventures. But isn't that, in a sense, a work of creative non-fiction? Sure, the girl's name wasn't Rona and I did make up some things, but she was still based on me, a real person. And while things have changed a lot for me creatively--I'm working on a fantasy/sci-fi novel right now and have started a few other stories that are mostly fictional/fantasy--I still feel that my writing is strongest when I'm writing from an intimate place of knowledge, about my life, or the people I know.

I may have only just realized it this week, but I've always loved non-fiction. And I've always loved fiction. So which one do I choose? Practically speaking, the non-fiction MFA would probably prove more lucrative in the long-term. But will it nurture me more as a writer and an artist? Or would learning how to craft really fine fiction be just as practical in the long-term, even if I end up writing mostly non-fiction? These are some of the questions I intend to pose to the MFA grads, candidates and other writers I'm hooking up with in the next few weeks, and to the program staff themselves when I do my tour of the schools I'm thinking of applying to. They may not have all the answers for me, but hopefully they can give me some information about their own processes which will help me find the key to my own creative longings.

And, of course, there is still the 'no MFA' route, which Bino and many, many others whose writings I admire have taken. I mean, could I really deal with being in school again after 10 years of being out? Will I find a program that is supportive enough of my needs as a writer of color (or at least a program where there are enough supportive students of color)? It's all still up in the air for me.

And through it all, I'm still writing, and writing, and writing. Can't ever stop writing, 'cuz that's what it's all about.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Recovery, What's On, MFAs?

I'm feeling much better today. Thanks for the commenters who expressed concern about my vertigo. I did a bunch of self-healing, therapeutic things last night (like I said I would, eh?): massaged the bone behind my bad ear with warm sesame oil (it made my whole ear feel warm and tingly); gargled with hot water with salt; drank cinnamon/chamomile tea, an Ayurvedic remedy for tinnitus; worked on some pressure points in the back of my head; etc.

And, hey, it worked! I woke up this morning with almost no ringing in my left ear and very little vertigo. Success! But just to be safe, H. told me to stay home and rest up some more. And you know that I ain't tryin' to get vertigo on BART on my way to Oaktown. What a mess that would be!

I spent most of today resting up, reading a bit, and doing more self-healing techniques for my ear. I also watched an opera film on video--Mozart's Don Giovanni--just out of curiousity (my local library has a great video collection); some of the music was stimulating and beautiful, but I have to admit I fell asleep about 40 minutes into it. And then I watched another installation of the Ken Burns Jazz documentary series, which put me in a jazz mood. So now I'm listening to Jeff Chan in Chicago, a solid album put out by Asian Improv Records, which also puts out Vijay Iyer, a fresh jazz pianist.

And I spent some time today starting to fill out applications for MFA programs in Creative Writing. I'm still toying with this idea, despite my friend J. clowning me a while back about my anti-academic sentiments. Part of me really wants to do it, feels like I really need the structure to kick-start my writing career. I've been fairly disciplined in my writing practice, but haven't sent much out for publication.

Part of me wants to follow some advice that Bino Realuyo gave me a long time ago about taking a different writer's path, without--as I think he put it--the 'crowning glory' of the MFA.

And then, I've started to wonder whether, if I do go for the MFA, I should do a concentration in fiction or creative non-fiction? The latter I've mostly thought is a trendy thing, not a serious literary concentration. But I'm starting to have different thoughts now. Writing this blog has made me realize that I like writing non-fiction; and even my poetry and fiction is, at its best, non-fiction of sorts.

Any advice from out in blogland? What do you all think?

Oh, no, I can hear the ear-ringing returning...keep sending those healing vibes my way.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Rant: Vertigo SUCKS

I officially have vertigo, which I didn't know until yesterday just means 'dizziness'. I always liked the sound of the word, and thought it had something to do with fear of heights. But it's just plain dizziness, having your equilibrium off, etc. And I've got it. YAAAAYY.

Some of you in blogland know that I've been having ear problems for about a year now, and this is just the latest in a series of symptoms that have been, at turns, irritating, barely noticeable, non-existent, or downright painful. Well, now I'm at a new level of this ear-problem-business: this vertigo thing--oh yes, and the ringing in my ears (known in medical parlance as Tinnitus that feels as if one side of me attended a four-hour Def Leppard concert while the other side stayed home--is irritating, painful, frightening and just plain weird.

It's weird to get up from putting a houseplant on the floor and feel as if I've just had the wind knocked out of me. It's weird to have to sit down and then lie down, and then doze in and out of sleep for the next four hours because every time I just move my head the room starts to spin around me and then I get nauseated. It's weird to feel seasick when all I'm doing is laying in my own bed. Yes, the vertigo thing fuckin' SUCKS.

And the tinnitus is just as bad. There's this constant ringing in my left ear, louder than the ringing I hear when I've just left the club, and it just doesn't stop. Sometimes it gets a little quieter, sometimes louder. Certain external sounds help drown it out a little. But get something with a bass tone to it around me--from hip hop music booming in a car driving by or the sound of my upstairs neighbor's heavy footsteps pounding the floor/ceiling above me--and the ringing reverberates in my brain like a big brass gong. Yes, this tinnitus thing sucks too.

Okay, enough complaining. I should be doing some positive affirmations and healing visualizations and blah blah blah. And I will, of course, 'cuz that's the kind of boho-alternative-healing-therapies kind of girl I am. And on Wednesday I'm going to my acupunturist whose treatment and herbs will probably make me feel much better than the doctor's prescription medication will. But I had to get this off my chest. So thanks for listening, and I hope to God/dess that you never have to deal with this shit. As I said before, it SUCKS.

Wish me speedy healing and good vibes-

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Can we, please? Pretty please?

Gura M. posts this funny map of the 'real' United States...can we do this, please pretty please? I'm sure Canada wouldn't mind having California's economic power--5th largest economy in the world, with a larger gross product than the GNPs of Canada and Mexico combined--as well as that of New York City. And what could we get from merging with our neighbors to the North? Free health care, gorgeous natural landscapes, state-subsidized alternative media, Mounties in cool retro uniforms, and more...and maybe we could get them to stop saying 'aboot'.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Enter Oya, Exit Bush

Yesterday was one of the most depressing days of my year (so far), and that's saying a lot. There have been so many ups and downs for me emotionally during this election season. I told my co-workers yesterday--who commiserated with me as only those whom you've worked on elections with can do--that I felt as if I'd been beaten up, robbed, with no legal recourse. I never expected Kerry and the Dems to give up so damned easily. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and neither should all of you.

Although I felt lethargic at work all day, I knew something was brewing inside me--a sense of hopelessness and pain, yes, but also a deep anger that had been frustrated for too long. And mixed with the anger, an even deeper sadness, knowing that this country now has a population that is 40% evangelical Christian and that that vocal constituency has flexed its powerful muscles once more, and delivered a killer blow to the liberal and progressive elements of our society. Feeling that it doesn't matter what we do on the left, no matter how hard or long we work to build our base, grow our movement, figure out strategy and move everyone forward, these Church-going folk (and I don't say that in a sarcastic way at all, just a descriptive way) can blast us out of the water because, let's face it folks, they are more ruthless and probably more organized than us. And they believe that God is on their side.

I was born and raised in a fairly strict Catholic home. I went to Mass every Sunday, sometimes more during Holy Weeks. I went to Catholic school (including all-girls high school) for 11 years, and at one point in my life I wanted to be a nun. Spirituality and religion have always been an important part of my life, even during the few years that I considered myself an atheist of sorts. I can argue Bible verse or faith with any missionary that dares to knock on my door. Not one to be content with a purely Western (and patriarchal) religious tradition, I've also studied (and practiced aspects of) Santeria and Ifa (religions descended from the West African Yoruba peoples), Buddhism, yoga, Filipino indigeneous creation myths, European witchcraft and mysticism, Native American sacred traditions, the Tao and even a bit of Sufism. I believe that all Gods are one God, and that all faiths are different manifestations of an overarching Divinity that encompasses us all. I also believe that human beings can, have and will continue to twist belief in that Divine Source into something ugly, intolerant, inhumane and downright evil.

I've known a few born-again Christians in my time, and they are all decent, loving people who have an unshakeable faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We have talked about our favorite Bible verses and what we liked about Jesus' teachings. We can sit at the same table and feel as if we are kindred spirits. And we are.

But it is in fundamentalist Chritians' intolerance of other belief systems, in other religions' right to exist and thrive, that I take issue. Partially because I am a secular liberationist, partially because I personally derive so many blessings and insight and power from my non-Christian practices. Last night provides a good case in point.

As I said, I came home sad, frustrated and angry. I picked a fight with H., who was also in no mood to bear the brunt of my anger. To make a long story short, we got into a huge shouting match, hurling hurtful words to each other like the thunder and lightning bolts that had torn the sky earlier in the day. And words weren't the only things thrown (but don't worry, we didn't hurt each other). At the end of our 10-minute fight, our apartment floor was littered with the contents of an overturned box (my bead collection, some art supplies and old Duran Duran collectibles), half a dozen pairs of shoes (all H.'s, of course), and some jackets that I pulled down from the coat rack in the hallway. It looked for a moment as if a small tornado had blown through our home.

H. and I settled down, the anger leaving us and the sadness that was underneath it all pouring out in sobs and apologies. I had let my anger get the best of me, yes, but I also knew that I needed to let it out, that all the politicking and mental masturbation during the day could not adequately express these powerful and deep-seated feelings. But throwing books and clothes onto the floor could, and did. I felt better afterwards, if not a little ashamed for causing such a scene.

In my study of Santeria, I have found a great affinity with the Orisha (force of nature/deity) Oya, who rules the tornado, the lightning bolt, revolutionary (rapid) change. The tornado of emotion that had passed through H. and I and our small apartment was clearly the expression of our Oya energy. I was moved, immediately after our argument, to build an altar to the fiery warrior-Orisha, who is the equal to her mate, the Orisha Chango, in battle. She is known for her volatility and bursts of anger--behaviors I have been known to exhibit myself.

I had been planning to build an altar to Oya for a long time, but kept putting it off because I didn't have time, was too busy, didn't feel like it, yadda yadda. But Oya was clearly more than ready to have her altar made. She demanded it of me. And so I set about, at 9pm on Wednesday night, the day after election day, creating what is now a beautiful altar to Oya next to my bookcase, to honor my revolutionary-warrior spirit, the volatile and powerful force of nature in me and in all of us that demands justice, that demands all that we can give to make this world a better place.

I called H. over to look at my altar after I finished it, and he gazed at the purple silken cloth covered with a medallion of St. Theresa (Oya's Catholic counterpart), a garnet and sterling silver necklace, various river rocks and other objects that reminded me of Oya's energy. He stared at the new altar with a look of wonder on his face, as if to say, 'You made this just now?' It was a moment of healing for both of us, and I feel that having this new sacred space in our home will help us heal whatever hurts remain within us after this crazy election season, and will give us the strength, courage and power we need to get through the next four years, and to make sure that in 2008 we elect a President who will truly serve the people and not just cater to the lowest-common-denominator fears of an ill-informed and increasingly intolerant populace.

In Hope and Struggle,

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

List: Is It Really Over?

Is Bush really our president again for the next four years?
Did Kerry really call to concede?
Why am I still having dreams about propositions and Schwarzeneggar and going to vote in my pajamas?
Will life ever be the same?
Why have so many states passed laws banning gay marriage?
Am I crazy?
Is it crazy to think that a country that calls itself the land of the free and the home of the brave should not tell people who they can and can't marry?
Is it crazy to want to live in a country that does not wage war on poor people in the name of some abstract, twisted notion of democracy?
Is it crazy to want the right to have an abortion in the 21st century?
Is it crazy to think that people of all religions and faiths can get along, and not pit themselves against each other in the name of a vengeful God and a fear of armageddon?
Am I really insane?
Should I move to Canada, or France, or Spain, or Cuba, or somewhere where people are intelligent enough to see what a disastrous choice Bush is for the White House and the world?
Should I stay?
Should I just put up with all this insanity?
What the hell is going on?
And what the hell are we supposed to do now?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

More Shady Sh*t in Ohio

This just in via my email box from the League...

"Voting rights violations are already happening around the country - and more are on the way.

In the wee hours of last night, a federal appeals court cleared the way for political parties to challenge voters' eligibility at polling places throughout Ohio, ruling that their presence on Election Day was allowed under state law. 

This is the first time that political parties will be allowed to apportion partisan challengers by precinct instead of by polling site - thus increasing the number of challenges at Ohio polling places.

Sign up for text messaging to be alerted about voting rights violations, voter intimidation, and other sketchy bizness at the polls - plus November 3rd actions in case of election theft."

Essentially what this means is that the Republicans can send their goons to polling places in Ohio to challenge anyone they suspect of not being a legitimate voter--i.e., anyone who is a Democrat or who they think will not vote their way. Legal voter intimidation, that's what this is folks. Believe it, it's happening.

This can't be a democracy if all people aren't represented, folks. Don't let this election be stolen.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Movement, Movement Everywhere

This year's crazy-hyped election--and it's really not all hype, peoples, this is truly a high-stakes election, with a disastrous war, our economy, affordable healthcare, LGBT rights, access to legal abortion and many other issues up for grab both locally and nationally--has turned out thousands, if not tens or even hundreds of thousands, of people who have never done much more than shrug at the TV news into out-in-the-streets or in-front-of-the-computers activists. And even though a large number of these may be folks on the far right, overall I think it's a beautiful thing, because Movement, dear friends, is what it's all about.

I wrote a post a while back about how we don't live in a real democracy, and our historically low voting population is part of the reason I believe that's true. The other part of it is that folks living in the US--not just citizens/voters, either, but the general populace--don't participate in any form of civic action in general, and that civic action (whether it's voting or getting involved with your child's schooling or being a union member or whatever) is a crucial ingredient to a vibrant and healthy democracy. So is dissent, which is where the corporate-ruled media comes in, squashing any possibility for a mass media that encourages healthy debate that includes more than just the two parties.

Movement--getting folks out talking to their neighbors about how their city is run, getting high school students on the phones to get out the vote in poor communities, etc.--is essential. And I finally got my own butt moving these past two weekends helping to coordinate some get out the vote (GOTV) efforts with my organization, Californians for Justice.

H., V. and I (and about 10 other volunteers who came out at 10am on a Saturday morning to do their civic duty) had a grand old time, dropping literature for the 'Yes on Prop 72' and 'Yes on Prop. 66' campaigns in five precincts in Oakland's Fruitvale district. It's always good to get out into a different community, to talk to folks who are often deeply impacted by policies that they have no real say over, except perhaps through their vote. And it's always important to help dispel the myths about voting and the issues that TV commercials and confusing ballot language help create.

Being out 'in the field', trying to use my busted-up but earnest Spanish to conversate with the occasional talker (we weren't trying to talk to folks, just dropping literature, unless they had questions for us), showed me again how strong we could be on the left if we truly engaged all the dispossessed, marginalized and disenfranchised peeps out there whose values are in line with ours. They don't want to see their sons and daughters go to war against other poor people, they want affordable health care and less violence, they don't trust cops who don't come from their communities and they are tired of politicians lying to them. It was also great for me to be able to work on this election without having to posture as if I actually like John Kerry (although I am going to vote for him--whilst pinching my nose of course), but at the same time knowing that getting out voters for Props 66 and 72 would also get out the Kerry vote.

On the Western side of the bay, I'll be walking my precinct today for Norman Yee's school board bid. I met Norman salsa dancing and then through my work at the Youth Empowerment Center, and I'm glad to know he's got a good shot at winning. If you live in Frisco, also make sure to vote for stalwart progressives Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar for school board as well.

On a less positive note, however, I got this article in my email today from the League of Pissed Off Voters--which is putting Eminem's sick Mosh video into real-time action by turning out thousands of young voters to the polls tomorrow (St. Petersburg is in Florida, btw):


Elections supervisors are warning voters: Be alert for attempts at fraud and
by David Karp, Michael Sandler and Tamara Lush, St. Petersburg Times
Published October 29, 2004

When Dolores Cuellar of Orlando opened her door and saw a woman with a clipboard, she didn't hesitate to say which candidate she preferred.

"Not Bush," said Cuellar, 42. "The other one."

The woman told Cuellar she didn't need to bother going to the polls. She would mark Cuellar's vote on a piece of paper right there. And while she was at it, she also would record a vote for Cuellar's 18-year-old daughter.

Cuellar, who had never voted before, said she mistakenly thought she had just voted.


It's hella deep, folks, and it's still not too late to get out there and do something to help build a true democracy in this country--my buddy Oscarchoy is in Ohio right now and offered to pay for my ticket out there but I decided to stay home and fight the good fight here. I may be a jaded activist, but I'm not without hope. Go to: League of Pissed Off Voters, Election Protection, Count Every Vote or


Friday, October 29, 2004

Quote for the Day (Lest We Forget)

As the election rapidly approaches, this quote (sent to me from a labor union colleague) from Nov. 3, 1988 is a chilling reminder of what we're up against. And it's kinda funny too...(what a liberal hate-speech monger I am!)

"And now the liberals want to stop President Reagan from selling chemical warfare agents and military equipment to Saddam Hussein, and why? Because Saddam 'allegedly' gassed a few Kurds in his own country. Mark my words. All of this talk of Saddam Hussein being a 'war criminal' or 'committing crimes against humanity' is the same old thing. LIBERAL HATE SPEECH! And speaking of poison gas . . .  I SAY WE ROUND UP ALL THE DRUG ADDICTS AND GAS THEM TOO!" --Rush Limbaugh

If Everyone Could Vote...

...and their votes were actually counted (what a concept, eh?) and fairly calculated, etc., John Kerry would almost surely be the next President of the United States. Check out this interesting web poll conducted by the Center for Third World Organizing, which trains organizers of color from all over the country. Which means that this vote is slightly skewed to the left but it's a historical fact that poor people, immigrants, people of color, incarcerated people, youth, etc. in this country have always voted more progressively than others.

Check it...and if you know folks who are denied the right to vote b/c they're not citizens, are youth, are in prison, blah blah but are still devastatingly affected by our country's policies on schools, prisons, the death penalty, immigration, welfare, etc. forward this to them so they can participate.

Peace in the East-

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Can't vote for the next U.S. President?  Make your voice heard here!  Join the worldwide community and cast a ballot today!
Vote today at

We’re inviting all youth, immigrants, ex-felons, people living outside of the U.S., to vote for president at  Please help by participating in this vote and/ or passing it on to more people.

Click here to vote

Worldwide Web Ballot, Statistics as of October 28, 2004, 2:00pm

Poll Question: Presidential Choice
Bush 4%
Kerry 96%

Voting Status
Under 18 years of age
Bush 7%
Kerry 92%
Not US Citizen
Bush 1%
Kerry 98%
Denied the right vote
Bush 0%
Kerry 100%
A person who lives in another country
Bush 6%
Kerry 93%
Under 18
Bush 5%
Kerry 94%
Bush 5%
Kerry 94%
Bush 2%
Kerry 97%
Over 50
Bush 0%
Kerry 100%

Poll Question: What do you think is the most important issue that the next U.S. President should address?
War on Iraq / U.S. Aggression 43%
Attack on Immigrants 19%
Health Care 6%
Repealing corporate tax cut 3%
Jobs 8%
Education 14%
Voting rights 1%
Other 4%

Thursday, October 28, 2004

List: A Good Wednesday in Frisco

I complain about living in Frisco a lot at times--about how far away I am from everything living out in the Richmond district, how frickin' cold it is, how unfriendly the people are here, how segregated and contradictory it is, blah blah. But there are days--and I have to admit they're getting more frequent--when living in this City is pretty damn fresh. Yesterday was one of them. Here are a few things that made my Wednesday in Frisco so cool:

8:30am: Gave some change to a man sitting on the sidewalk on Powell near Market. He smiled broadly at me, asked my name, and said, "You must be 'bout 22." I giggled and replied, "Add 10 years to that." His eyes widened and he grinned even more. We exchanged "God bless you"s and I walked on.

5:15pm: Pan dulce. Met up with V. at 24th and Mission, where I saw him emerging from a panaderia with a bag full of the sweet rolls. Mmmm.

Cafe La Boheme. Chilled for a minute at my favorite cafe, where you find veteranos from the Mission's heyday, boho emigres from the suburbs and radical activists all mixed together. Then V., H. and I headed out to...

6pm: A free Saul Williams in-store performance at Amoeba Records (yay fresh indie record stores! And they sell videos too!) on Haight. Saul wasn't just spittin' lyrics solo, he had a whole band behind him, promoting his new eponymous CD. It's crackin', folks, you gotta hear it to believe this is the same hip-hop head who starred in Slam and who wrote ...Said the Shotgun to the Head, et al. The man's got a punk/rock/drum'n'bass soul in him that's refreshing to witness in this age of stale, lifeless pop music and yawn-inducing poetry.

Bought my mom a copy of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' 'cuz my sis says mom's voting for--gasp--Bush! I gotta fly over to her house later today with the DVD in hand to try to persuade her to turn away from the dark side. The thought of someone that closely related to me voting for Bush gives me the willies .

7pm: Witnessed the gorgeous, slightly spooky lunar eclipse while standing on Haight near Stanyan, hearing the street punks howling and hooting at it a few blocks away. Somehow seeing Saul and the eclipse so close together made sense.

7:30pm: Had dinner at Los Jarritos with V., H., and D. Chile verde, house-made, warm corn tortilas, and a Negra Modela to wash it all down. Of course I made sure we sat in the back room, which I like to call the Frida Kahlo room, because of all the black-and-white pictures of her and Diego gracing the walls. And a surprise piece of yummy chocolate cake from the table of gay men celebrating a birthday next to us. When the birthday boy tried to blow out his trick candles (I hate those things) and failed (of course), he looked down at the cake and said, "Damn, Bush is gonna win!" Which of course prompted me to knock on wood furiously. I can't help it, 10+ years of Catholic school'll make ya superstitious about these things.

11:30pm: After much deliberating about a late-night dance/music destination on a particularly dead Wednesday club-night, we ended up at The Cafe, of all places, someplace I haven't been to in about 8 years. Walking up to the entrance, which was flanked by two Black women butches on security detail, I had flashbacks to being 19 and trying to get in without a fake ID with my friend Leatha.

The music was okay, some KMEL-ish hip-hop oddly mixed with old school grooves like Prince, Mary J. Blige and Arrested Development. The real treat was being in a mostly-colored queer club, watchin' the girls and boys get freaky and loose on the dance floor. Everyone looked so young, but that only made me happy instead of jealous. Ah, I thought, the youngstas are representin' and keepin' this shit alive. I was impressed that they still grooved to Arrested Development, because even to me that shit sounds like Mozart.

All in all, a great day in a, um, uh, great City? I still can't bring myself to say "I heart San Francisco" but I will say that I have my good days, and my not-so-good days. Yesterday was one of the best so far.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Remembrances of Helen

The memorial service for Helen Toribio last night was beautiful and moving, a fitting tribute to this amazing woman who touched so many people's lives so deeply. I myself did not know Helen very well, not nearly so well as many of the people that attended the service last night, but she did affect me deeply, and left a lasting impression on me that has made me think a lot about how I carry myself in the world, who I choose to build with, and what community really means.

I experienced a powerful sense, last night, of the community that Helen built in her lifetime. I saw people from the movement, from my days at Cal, from Filipino community work, that I hadn't seen in many days. And while I was sad at the reason we were coming together, I knew that Helen would want us to see this as a time to build with each other, to (gasp!) network even, to hold each other in community in order to, as the Reverend said last night, "give us a glimpse of heaven" on earth.

I saw old KDPers, folks from FilCRA and FAA, saw a couple I knew back at Cal who are now married, met A.'s baby for the first time, finally met Leny in person, connected with D. and J. and M. and too many other people whose first-name initials I won't bother you with.

Having my mom there was nice too---I'm actually related to Helen by marriage through my father. Indeed, Helen's greatest contribution to my life did not manifest in any time I spent with her, but in the time she spent with my mother. I met Helen several years ago when I was interning at FilCRA, but it wasn't until years later that I found out we were related. At that point she had just moved to Alameda, less than a block away from my mom's house! Helen and my mom became fast neighbor-friends (my mom is known in her neighborhood as the unofficial Mayor because she knows so many people), and my mom used to cut Helen's hair. After my mom and Helen started to hang out more, I noticed subtle changes in my mom's attitudes about my political and organizing work. She had always been a bit skeptical of it, sometimes downright hostile. My mom thought I was too smart and too educated to be making peanuts at some rinky-dink non-profit, and often told me to run for Senator or some other public office (yeah, right).

But somehow, through a combination of her brilliant wit, intelligence and down-home graciousness, Helen worked on my mom little by little, softening her up to my radical ideas and work, and coaxing my mom (perhaps without even realizing she was doing it) into being more accepting of my life's work, of the vocation that I chose to follow.

Now, when I take my mom to movement celebration dinners, she goes up to people and says, "Do you know my daughter, Rona?" She is so proud of me now, instead of just being uncomfortable and maybe a little embarassed by a scene she doesn't know or understand. And although I know that my mom's change of heart has come about partially because of my own increasing openness to her, I also know that without Helen's subtle but powerful charms, my mom would've been a much tougher nut to crack.

Thank you, Helen, and bless you.

Youngstas Rockin' the Vote (& the Boat)

Found some encouraging and exciting news in yesterday's Chronicle: as of this past Monday's voter registration deadline, the numbers of new voters being registered this year is breaking records in some counties, including San Mateo, Napa and Santa Clara. The really good news to my ears, however, is that more than 20% of these new voters are in the Generations X & Y bracket, 18 to 35 years old. Which means that folks like Rock the Vote and the League of Pissed Off Voters are doing a smash-up job getting young people to not only register to vote, more importantly, they are getting young people (you know, the supposedly apathetic, has-everything, disillusioned generation of youngstas) out there into the streets, on the doors, and in the clubs, talking to people about exercising their democratic right.

I have a special sense of pride in this effort because several of my comrades are working with the League and its allies, including Upski aka Billy Wimsatt, Mattie Weiss, and Cathy Rion, CFJ staffer-emeritus and one of my fellow Venceremos Brigadistas.

The really beautiful thing about these and other white folks getting out on the streets not just in Calfornia but in the battleground states to help get Bush out of office is that they are stepping way, way outside their comfort zones in many cases, not just working with young brown kids who are 'underprivileged' and 'at-risk' in the inner city, but working with working- and middle-class white folks in America's heartland who are the ones that can really make difference in this election, and on many issues in America. I'm not saying that people of color or people living in cities don't matter, but there has been so much progressive movement-building done only in those areas that these supposedly 'backwards' places like Ohio, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, etc. are ignored by the left and then become breeding grounds for far-right Republicans. And that's a testament to our arrogance as much as to the right-wing's discipline and strategic vision.

And as a long-time youth advocate, I am just so happy that the youngstas in the generation behind me are comin' up and representin' strong. It does my heart good. And it gives me hope again in these last days of madness...12 more days to go, folks!


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Blogging and Organizing Furiously

I can't help it...I can't wait for the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) weekend, I gotta do something to make sure these crazy right-wingers don't get into office again. For now, at 9:22am on Tuesday morning, all I can do is blog, but I'm 'bout to hit the streets soon, folks, it's my warrior-organizer blood calling.

In other Election 2004 grassroots organizing news, here's an email exchange between my friend and comrade Cathy, who's in Ohio right now working with the League of Pissed Off Voters, aka the League of Young Voters, another good group that is working hard to specifically turn out the 18-35 age bracket voters in key swing states (those are states that could swing either Democrat or Republican, aka the 'battleground' states, which indeed they are in these last days before Nov. 2). I thought it would be good to get another take on the voting rights violation stuff from someone who is very connected to it on the ground right now.


Hey folks--

For those of you that don’t know, I’m here in Columbus, OH working on turning out young progressive voters.

I second Rona’s email—this shit is real. Here in Ohio (said to be key to either candidate’s victory), there’s been lots of stuff already by the Republican African American secretary of state Blackwell that’s pretty skeezy—provisional ballots, swarms of registrations that may not make the rolls, etc.

 Today NPR  had a piece about pollchallengers from the parties—that the Reps are planning on challenging as many votes as possible (guess which polling places they’ll be at?)--thus making long lines, forcing people to present ID they really don’t need, making it a hassle to vote.  

Many are saying Ohio will be the Florida of 2004.  I hope not. I hope there’s NO Florida of 2004, but with all that I’ve seen and heard about here & nationally, plus just that the polls willb e swamped with larger than normal numbers, I’m convince that there’s going to be problems.

so: if you can do it, do it.  GO somewhere. Come to Columbus! I’d love to see you (though I’ll be crazed).  I’d also love to put you to work “trick or voting” to remind folks to get their butts out there—come on, GOTV in Halloween fun style!  And southwest flies to Columbus—so you can do it cheap.  (a bit closer in Arizona, there’s a Prop 187-like initiative on the ballot—let me know if you want to get hooked up with that campaign)

14 days left!
:) Cathy

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hey cathy!
good to hear from you! i'm glad you had a minute to respond to my email. how are things out there? sound pretty hairy. i really want to get plugged into some election protection shit, but i'm not sure if i'll be able to afford it, i'm pretty broke right now. do you know what the league of young voters is doing in Cali, if anything?

anyway, take care and keep kickin' right-wing ass!


Monday, October 18, 2004

We Don't Live in a Democracy, Folks

I find it slightly amusing but mostly disturbing how so many Democrats and John Kerry supporters--including Michael Moore and MoveOn, both of whom I usually like--are acting as if the Presidential election in 2000 was the first election that was riddled with fraud and abnormalities. Every election in the US is flawed and unrepresentative of most of the people that live in this so-called 'democratic' country, for several key reasons:

1) Most eligible voters don't vote, not because they don't know how to register or they are intimidated by the process, but because they don't think it will make a difference in their everyday lives. In the 2000 Presidential election, only 51% of the voting-age population actually voted, just slightly over half of all citizens 18 years old and older in this country. And Presidential elections usually have much higher turnout that other elections.

2 Many eligible voters don't even register because they have never been informed of what the voting process is, or don't receive materials in their native language, or are confused by the process, or some other logical, logistical reason. I met a single mother once when I was doorknocking against Proposition 209 that said she never voted because she didn't have time to go down to the polls on election day. She'd never been told she could register as an absentee voter and vote from the comfort of her own home.

3) Millions of people living in the US don't have the right to vote because they are:
-in prison
-legal residents but not citizens
-undocumented immigrants

How can we call ourselves a true 'democracy' when our representatives in Congress, in our state legislatures, and in the Oval Office are voted in by a relatively small percentage of the population? And let's not even get into the vast sums of money one needs in order to be a viable candidate for public office--which has a lot to do with our increasingly privatized airwaves and a lack of a real public media. I'd rather call the U.S. a 'democracy-in-progress', 'cuz we definitely don't have this voting thing down.

It's clear that the racist and classist voting rights violations in Florida in 2000--and the subsequent inaction on the part of most Democrats to right these wrongs--gave us our current "President", and therefore the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, a would-be constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and a huge threat to a woman's right to choose abortion. But if we do everything we can to make sure that every vote counts in this election, I think we have a good chance to move this country just a little closer to being a real democracy, and to give regular folks some hope in our political process.

If you can, do more than vote or give money to John Kerry (I'm not even talking to you if you're giving money to Bush!). There are so many stories of voter intimidation, disenfranchisement of ex-felons and prisoners, and outright sloppy bureaucracy that it's a wonder any elections are valid in this country. If you can volunteer some time with or give money to groups like Election Protection or Count Every Vote 2004, please do so.

Making a democracy real and functioning is hard work and we all have to be part of making it happen.