Thursday, May 25, 2006

Small Joys

Driving around pretty Lake Merritt today as joggers and strollers walked around it. Today a brilliant, perfect Oakland-sunny day, and I was blasting 'Oustanding' by the Gap Band on the car stereo.

Revising the second draft of my novel, all 491 pages of it!! I can't believe I wrote that many words for one project. It's pretty cool to see the different threads of the novel start to come together, and to start tying the ones together that are still running parallel on the page.

Knowing that we are almost at capacity for Raising Change: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference, which I'm staffing--so folks better get their registrations in today! It's the hottest ticket in fundraising right now, my friends.

Gettin' lots of (somewhat unexpected) requests for funding proposals at work. Now let's just hope some--or all--of them translate into checks.

The Enron execs were found guilty. It's a joy when some justice is finally done.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

RIP Andrew (aka "The Naked Guy") Martinez

I used to live with Andrew--better known as "The Naked Guy" to the general public for his militant 'nude-in' behavior in and around the UC Berkeley campus--at Le Chateau, a wild and crazy party house where I lived for a whole year during my first year at Cal Berkeley. We did dishes together (the pic below actually shows Andrew in the Chateau kitchen), hung out intermittently. I didn't know him well. (And yes, when we did dishes together, he was frequently naked--although he usually wore athletic shoes). We all supported Andrew's one-man crusade to defy social control and assert his natural nakedness. He was actually a pretty good-looking guy, with a cut physique (a factor which definitely helped his cause).

I was saddened to read in the paper today that he has apparently committed suicide while in jail for assault. The San Jose Mercury News published a story here. I hadn't seen or heard about Andrew in years, so I'm shocked by the news. Apparently Andrew had struggled for years with mental illness without getting sufficient, comprehensive treatment from the system, which today's article in the Chronicle tells of. There are many more folks out there like Andrew who need mental health services and can't access them, or are kicked out on the streets. Andrew was smart and always wanted to talk philosophically. He was a real idealist who seemed--at least in the short time that I knew and lived with him--to live in the world of logic and ideas, and then manifest those ideas in his behavior. I admired his civil disobedient nudity--I got topless that first year at Cal at my first Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco--and learned a lot from his upbeat, positive, playful take on protest and politics.

Rest in peace, Andrew. We won't forget about you.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Winner We Can Love

Not that I didn't love Naima, with her mohawk and edgy, racially ambiguous look. And of course I loved Eva the Diva (who, along with Toccara Jones, has helped drive many a reader to my blog via Google searches). But after the disaster of top prize winner (and boring, bland, sour-faced) Nicole from Cycle 5 of America's Next Top Model, I had vowed never to even watch the show again.

Well, H. was watching the second or third episode of this recently-ended cycle one night, and I got sucked back in, just like Michael Corleone in the Godfather Part III. And I'm glad I did. Because my faith in Tyra Banks' hit reality TV show that reveals the dirty, catty underbelly of the modeling industry while still keeping us hopelessly fascinated by its surreal glamour, has been duly restored by the victory of Danielle Evans as America's Next Top Model. Danielle was not only gorgeous and photogenic, but she had the proverbial heart of gold. She endured being followed around the house by Gina (the one Asian girl on the show, whom I really wanted to root for but was just too awful to put with in the end), and always had a smile on her face during moments of crisis. Like when she stumbled and sprained her big toe trying to do a runway strut in 6-inch platform stiletto heels. Her smile lit up the screen, making you forget that she had just taken a nasty, awkward tumble. Danielle also had the best personality of all the girls--she rarely complained, she always tried to improve, but she was determined not to lose herself in the chaos of the competition. She even deftly defied Tyra's demand that she close the wide gap in her teeth with oral surgery by reducing it a little, thus still keeping her signature physical trait but making herself more 'marketable.'

I would've been happy if the sweet and talented Joanie won, too, but the upset victory would've been a Jade-victory--she was the super-crazy girl who lived in her own reality. The won who talked back to the judges when they gave her critique, even after they warned her time and again that making excuses for her behavior just made them dislike her. Jade, to the end, was incorrigible. When the Thai judge, a designer for fab line Ishyu, critiqued her CoverGirl commercial, Jade shot back, "Well, it was my first commercial and I've never done acting before and blah blah blah" (which wasn't true because the girls had to do another TV commercial back in week 5 or 6). I knew she'd be cut right then and there. has a decent sum-up, which will have to suffice for you, dear reader, because as much as I love this show and Danielle, I have neither the time nor the inclination to spend another half-hour thinking or writing about them. I think spending an hour a week (sometimes more, if I watch the repeats) glued to the television for the past thirteen weeks has been quite enough. Now maybe I'll spend more time on my novel!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot

Went on a hike with some other women of color friends yesterday--an infrequent get-together that I pull together so I can spend some time with some fabulous women of color, and get fresh air, sunshine and exercise at the same time. We went to Briones Regional Park out near Orinda, a great place with lots of long, rolling trails and just enough people to make you feel un-alone, but not so many that you feel that you're still in the city. And it's just twenty minutes away from Central Oakland, but it feels like a world away.

I wish i'd brought my camera to take some pictures--there are some great views up there, and we saw at least a dozen hawks soaring and dipping on the hot air currents. On the not-so-great side, it was nearly 90 degrees out there, and we had little shade on the trail. We hiked for about 2 hours (a little less than half of that uphill), and T.'s dog nearly passed out from heatstroke a couple times, but thanks to full water bottles and some welcome breezes--and a well-timed stop at the top of a hill in the shade--we made it back without any real problems.

I threw out an idea that I recently thought up to my hiking compañeras--what about pulling together a people of color hiking crew? (You gotta call it a 'crew' and not a 'club', right?). They were all into the idea, and said they would sign up. After looking at some web sites of hiking groups in the Bay Area--all of which were disproportionately white--I realized that I might need to start my own thing in order to hike in nature with other people that I could relate to, and who may not be the hardcore outdoorsy types that I have a feeling populate many of the existing hiking groups (9 mile hikes? are you kidding me? maybe in a year or so, but not right now).

I also feel that people of color in urban areas often have an aversion to rural areas because of fears based on sheer inexperience, or that they think only white people go out there, or that they'll be treated badly (all fears I've shared myself). I find it rather sad that many urban folks of color are so out of touch with the nature that's in their own backyards, and that these beautiful outdoor, open spaces become simply playgrounds for wealthier white folks (the ones who can afford to live out there, etc.) instead of common spaces for everyone.

So keep an eye out for an email if you're in my POC network--and bust out those hiking shoes!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

If This Happened in the U.S., We Would Want It To End

Another reason to support full withdrawal from Iraq:
1,100 Iraqis found dead in Baghdad in the last month, victims of sectarian assassinations and torture, prompted in part by the ongoing occupation of Iraq and the political chaos it has caused there.

What if violence on this scale was happening in a major U.S. city? I wonder where compassion has gone, if even liberals in this country have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of their Iraqi brothers on the other side of the world, if we can envision the horror that we are contributing to each day we stay in Iraq.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Movement Moment? Only Time Will Tell...

Asian-Pacific Islanders (APIs) protest in Texas against HR 4437 anti-immigrant legislation on May 1, 2006.

I'm sure that there are forces already at work trying to undermine the burgeoning immigrant rights movement that has surged forward in the last couple months. Not that I'm a conspiracy-theorist, I just know how the US government and others powers that be work, and they can be very threatened by large mobilizations of people who were formally unorganized and had little voice in the public dialogue, like undocumented immigrants.

I also know how the liberal-left elements in our society work--they often fight with each other over crumbs while the Right remains fairly united and chips away slowly and steadily at our civil and human rights, and at the social-democrat ideology that is at the root of some of these rights.

Efren rants about the flaws of both the current US immigration policies and what he broadly calls 'immigration activists'. He bemoans the fact that the largely Latino-focused mobilizations and organizations that have been so visible in recent days have not reached out to API constituents. It's an argument I've heard from other APIs who are feeling, I think, a little bitter at yet another example of our invisibility in this society. We APIs are very much affected by HR 4437, the legislation that these protests are responding to, although the issue is still a divisive one in our very heterogenous racial group (in terms of class, nationality, language, culture AND immigration status). But we still haven't turned out in large numbers in the streets--at least not in California. Why not?

The answer to this, really, is quite simple, and can be reflected in this chart that I found via a news article posted on another blog.

And in California, the number of Latinos is roughly three times the population of Asians, according to the 2000 Census. Of course, this count probably excludes many 'illegals' of both Latino and Asian background because of folks' fears of being caught and deported, but it's probably safe to say that the number of Latinos in California and in the US far exceeds that of APIs. Also, in 2003, the Census bureau reported that Latinos had surpassed African-Americans as the largest minority in the US. So in terms of sheer numbers, it makes sense that Latinos would be present in large numbers during these protests.

I think it's interesting that API activists are saying that these 'Latino organizations' (which I doubt many of these activists could name but are quick to blame for the lack of API presence) should reach out to APIs, when in fact many immigrant rights groups (a good listing can be found on the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights web site, have an API component or have relationships with API constituencies.

Efren and others have also questioned the effectiveness of boycotts as a strategy to make change. On some counts, I agree with them. After all, HR 4437 is still alive, and could still pass into law. Boycotts, though, are just one tactic in a larger strategy that many groups are participating in that includes lobbying of Senators and Congresspeople through letter-writing, phone calls, emails, etc. And those forms of civic participation are equally important and necessary to actually win the policy victories that we need to change the concrete conditions (police repression, INS harassment, mass deportations, etc.) in this society.

But boycotts and strikes--especially of the May Day variety, which were fairly spontaneous and organic, and involved hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in mass action--can be extremely effective in conveying to policymakers the number of people that feel strongly on an issue. Especially in this day and age, with the Left-liberal elements of the US political landscape having so little hold on mainstream media, these large mobilizations are very effective at at least calling attention to the issue, however briefly, and forcing the mainstream media to give us air time.

My two cents. But yes, boycotts and strikes are part of a larger strategy, and are not the solutions in and of themselves. Which is one thing I'm already hearing that this burgeoning immigrant-rights movement is already debating amongst themselves. This sentiment was encapsulated perfectly for me in my favorite chant from the May Day march in San Francisco: "Hoy Marchamos, Mañana Votamos!"--Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Quick Thoughts on 'A Day Without Immigrants' / Dia Sin Inmigrantes

The May Day march heads down International Blvd. in Oakland.

So much has been burning and flashing through my brain the last few days, in preparation for, through participation in, and in reflection of the huge immigrant rights mobilizations that happened across the country yesterday, May 1st. May Day. International Workers' Day. A few of the burning flashes:

'Immigrant' communities (e.g. Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Latino/a, etc.) are deeply divided on the issues of immigration. Well, maybe APIs are more divided than Latinos. After all, I found a quite heated debate happening over at Sepia Mutiny, a South Asian blog I found while searching for API voices on the immigration reform debate. I posted a couple items there as 'RF' that seemed to draw both praise and heckles from the crowd.

I find it intriguing and outrageous that virtually none of the (progressive, I think) Pin@y bloggers in my immediate network wrote about the "Day Without an Immigrant" protests. What, did we Fil-Ams and recent transplants already forget that we are immigrants? Do we see this only as a Latino issue? Do we have no clue what's going on?

Tonight at Trader Joe's, many of the shelves were half-empty, not fully stocked. It was just a mild irritation, but a noticeable event. I overheard two other customers ask workers there why the shelves were so empty. "The strike yesterday," they both answered. "We get our inventory from a warehouse where most of the workers took the day off." Shit, really? In the US? A one-day strike that wasn't organized by any single union, that was a truly grassroots movement event, was actually felt by regular people at the grocery store? It made me smile.

The two bright spots of hope: an almost desperate plea for interracial solidarity from radical activists in Los Angeles; and the Filipinos for Affirmative Action 'Social Justice' conference this coming Saturday, which will feature some speakers and program content dealing with immigration issues. Should be an intersting dialogue.

Found this article about Irish 'illegal' immigrants, and huge protests that included white Eastern European immigrants in Chicago, as well as a human chain formed in New York City's Chinatown, showed the diverse faces of the immigrant sector of our society.

I was out in the streets in San Francisco and Oakand marching with thousands of (mostly Latino) protesters, and it was a great feeling. Great to be in the midst of so many brown folks, many of whom have probably been too frightened by the very real threat of deportation to speak up in the past. I was walking next to a Latino family with three kids, the smallest of whom, a boy who could be no more than five years old, was marching happily with a picket size that was nearly twice his size in his hands. I marched behind high school youth who had walked out of their classrooms (or just decided not to show up at school at all), mostly youth of color who are virtually given up on in their schools and communities.

I saw Jan Adams, veteran activist and one of the people responsible for recruting me into the movement. I saw a few face in the crowd that I recognized from my own activist work. But I saw many, many faces that I didn't know at all, and there were thousands of them. But, I also saw less than half a dozen API faces in the crowd. If even that many. I saw more Black folks at the protests than APIs, and supposedly immigration issues are a hot-button topic in the African-American community.

What the hell is going on? I know that the issue of 'border crossing' is not as deeply felt for APIs as Latinos (after all, the 'border' we have to cross to get here is a vast ocean), but I can't believe that at least progressive, American-born APIs are this apathetic and willing to be so invisible on this issue. Even the march yesterday from 98th Avenue and International Blvd to downtown Oakland was supposed to be met by a rally at the Federal Building organized by the East Bay Asian Consortium, a liberal/progressive API Coalition. But when I got to the Federal Building at almost 1pm, I was the only API face in sight. What happened?

Please, anyone, enlighten me with your thoughts.

Excited but still confused,