Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus "RACE STILL MATTERS"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 6, 2014
In January of this year, the California Senate passed SCA 5, a Senate Constitutional Amendment introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez that seeks to repeal Proposition 209 as it applies to public higher education. Proposition 209 is a ballot initiative passed in 1996, which has been applied to bar the consideration of race or sex in education, employment, and government contracting. The initiative passed despite the vote of the majority of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans against it.
We at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus support the full repeal of Prop 209. Affirmative action, diversity and anti-discrimination programs in higher education and other sectors of public life have been critical to securing equal opportunities for racial minorities and women, and have been crucial to building a more just and equitable society. Prop 209’s ban on such constitutionally permissible programs has been a huge step backwards for all Californians.
Without such programs, we have seen the resegregation of public higher education in California. Prop 209 has relegated many African American, Latino, Pacific Islander and other Asian American students, including Filipinos and Southeast Asians, to campuses with fewer resources and opportunities or out of higher education entirely. Minority students, including many East Asians who are left on the flagship campuses have faced increased bigotry and hostility of all kinds.
We still need affirmative action. The reality is that race continues to unfairly limit educational opportunities for all students of color. Our K-12 schools are more separate and unequal today than they were 40 years ago. Cold numerical indicators like grade point averages and standardized test scores capture and magnify those inequalities and cannot be fairly evaluated without considering the real-life impact of race and racism. Nor are standardized test scores accurate predictors of academic success. Our full life experience, including race, is also part of what we bring to the table.
The Supreme Court has ruled that race-conscious admissions programs that undertake a flexible, individualized review of applicants where race is just one of many factors is consistent with the 14th Amendment. Race-conscious programs should not be conflated with racial quotas or other unacceptable, unlawful forms of discrimination.
The United States Supreme Court is currently considering a case called Schuette v. BAMN, which has challenged the constitutionality of a Prop 209 copycat proposition in Michigan. Advancing Justice - ALC is co-counsel to one of the plaintiff groups in the case. The Court’s ruling is expected by the end of this term and may affect the validity of Prop 209 here in California. As such, any action to impact affirmative action in California should be measured in light of the impending decision.
No matter what the Court’s ruling is, we are committed to supporting affirmative action. We strongly support the spirit of SCA 5 and its stated goal of repealing Prop 209 in the context of education. In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working with other civil rights groups to restore affirmative action in California. We also support efforts like those of our affiliate Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, which is working with legislators and advocates to address the broader issue of expanding educational opportunities for all Californians.
How can we as a community of Greek-affiliated people and other students move forward together, united? It definitely won’t get done through stereotypes and snap judgments. During a panel on Greek life at ECAASU I was on, someone came in during the middle, asked an inflammatory question with false information (a wrong assumption of Asian interest Greek organizations being racially exclusive), then left before any panelists were able to answer and talk with him. This is unfortunately relatively common in my experiences as an activist and as a Greek. There is little room for tolerance and thus little room for mutual education and growth because we are so quick to polarize the conversation.
There are very valid and true critiques of Greek life’s infrastructure. There are also many distinctions within the larger Greek community, such as the North-American Interfraternity Conference (umbrella organization for fraternities organized in 1910), the National Panhellenic Conference (umbrella organization for sororities organized in 1902), the National Pan-Hellenic Council (9 historically African-American fraternities and sororities, organized in 1930), the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (established in 1998), and the National Asian Pan-Hellenic Association (founded 2005), and the oldest active Asian-interest fraternity is Pi Alpha Phi, founded in 1929. It’s impossible to make judgments on an institution that is so diverse and different in countless ways.
Yes the system as it currently exists is inherently exclusive due to enforced gender-based admissions, financial requirements, etc. But there is change and there are people working their asses off to create this change. Greek life is hundreds of years old and progress doesn’t happen overnight, which isn’t an excuse of any kind but simply something to keep in mind. It also doesn’t happen when those who aren’t a part of it condemn and write off thousands of people based on their choice to affiliate. There are also vast differences between organizations, chapters, and individuals. Institutionally there needs strong reform that can pave the path for future students, and individually there needs more bridges built based on interaction and understanding, not stereotypes and assumptions.
I am not a person who enjoys burning bridges or giving up. I’ve learned through the work I do that judging an entire community based off of stereotypes is wrong. I joined my sorority because of the values it stands for and the community it gives me. They are my chosen family and my home away from home. I can only assume that misconceptions about Greek life influence critics’ comments. I know that people work together to support one another through financial strain. I know that organizations do everything within their power to ensure that money doesn’t become the main deterrent. I know that I’ve seen more generosity, support, and flexibility within the Greek system than in many organizations for oppressed peoples and student unions.
And maybe these circumstances aren’t in the spotlight, but they are happening. And they deserve recognition and support.
Just this year on my campus, Greek organizations (Asian-interest in particular) have done so much. Launching campaigns against sexual assault, support for cancer survivors, bringing awareness to issues like premature births, human trafficking, sexism, feminism, cross-racial coalitions…the list goes on. How often do we hear about this? How can we foster change when people with the resources and passion for justice who aren’t affiliated create hostile environments that don’t feel safe for those who are? In response to specific comments made by a person who I admire very much, at least on our campus our Greek organizations are purely on their own. There is no financial support from the existing institutions, no housing, and little encouragement or support from the administration. We have to fight to survive, and Asian-interest Greeks in particular have to fight for recognition, sustainability, and support.
Curtis Chin recently came to our campus for a screening of “Vincent Who?”. He talked about how many people read by society as Asian American may not identify as Asian American and therefore don’t feel the urge to engage with what we call the “Asian American” community. But people create their identities and communities and have the right to that autonomy. How can we as gladiators of justice (I’ve been watching a lot of Scandal lately) hold members of our campus, our peers, our friends, our family even, to this high standard without extending a hard to help build and maintain a relationship?
A term I’ve heard is “activist privilege”. I’m hesitant to use it because the word “privilege” loses its power and meaning from overuse. We have had the privilege of having resources, opportunities, and mentors to guide us in our own paths toward political consciousness. However, the idea that many student activists get so caught up in their own communities and ideologies and end up treating those who aren’t as aware with condescension is a reality. I am very guilty of this. I was an arrogant and conceited activist (and sometimes still am — I’m a work in progress) and thus not an effective or “real” activist. It took me years to learn and truly understand that everyone is at a different level of readiness and awareness. It is a chronic lack of reflection and humility in our communities when we start deciding who’s a part of our community and what standards we hold people to. Social and political consciousness isn’t something we can force on anyone, and we shouldn’t try to. But we can be patient, flexible, humble, and loving when it comes to spreading awareness and education.
Perhaps some of us have tried and met hesitation, apathy, or hostility in response. I joined Greek life late in my college career and I know how frustrating it is when it feels like no one is listening. All I’m asking as a proud activist and proud sorority member is room to grow and discuss. Remember the context of these preconceptions and be aware that we have to consciously work to create an inclusive space for everyone if that’s what we want to do. We have to deliberately create a safe space that is mindful, open, honest, and full of healing.
One complaint many Greek members have is that everything we do, no matter how impactful or progressive, seems to be swept away and glazed over simply because we are affiliated. Our milestones, our accomplishments, and our multi-faceted identities, are erased in many people’s eyes by the letters we stitch onto our hearts. And that’s wrong. That is not social justice. That is not community building. Why walk into a lion’s den knowing you’ll get torn apart for your affiliation?
As an activist who also happens to be affiliated with a Greek sorority, here’s an olive branch. Let’s be better, we all deserve that at the very least. I know we can do better because we’ve already started.
If you’re free March 29th, ECAASU will be holding a mental health summit at UMASS-Boston! Registration is free and food will be provided throughout the entire day. Mental health is definitely an overlooked, stigmatized issue that also affects the AAPI community at large. For more information on the schedule, visit the link. If you have any questions, contact Daniel Hoddinott at email@example.com!
“That said, stereotypes aren’t so much about people totally projecting things that completely aren’t there but about people having a framework with which they interpret things that actually are there. It’s not that racism causes people to see (for example) belligerent teenage boys where there are none, but that a white belligerent teenage boy is just seen as himself while a black belligerent teenage boy is part of a pattern, a script, and when people blindly follow the scripts in their head that leads to discrimination and prejudice. So yeah, it is a fact, I think, that I was a bit off-putting in my Jeopardy! appearance—hyper-focused on the game, had an intense stare, clicked madly on the buzzer, spat out answers super-fast, wasn’t too charming in the interviews, etc. But this may have taken root in people’s heads because I’m an Asian and the “Asian mastermind” is a meme in people’s heads that it wouldn’t have otherwise.Look, we all know that there’s a trope in the movies where someone of a minority race is flattened out into just being “good at X” and that the white protagonist is the one we root for because unlike the guy who’s just “good at X” the protagonist has human depth, human relationships, a human point of view—and this somehow makes him more worthy of success than the antagonist who seems to exist just to be good at X. So we root for Rocky against black guys who, by all appearances, really are better boxers than he is, because unlike them Rocky isn’t JUST a boxer, he has a girlfriend, he has hopes, he has dreams, etc. This comes up over and over again in movies where the athletic black competitor is set up as the “heel”—look at the black chick in Million Dollar Baby and how much we’re pushed to hate her. Look at all this “Great White Hope” stuff, historically, with Joe Louis. So is it any surprise that this trope comes into play with Asians? That the Asian character in the movie is the robotic, heartless, genius mastermind who is only pure intellect and whom we’re crying out to be defeated by some white guy who may not be as brainy but has more pluck, more heart, more humanity? It’s not just Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless, it’s stuff like how in the pilot episode of Girls Hannah gets fired in favor of an overachieving Asian girl who’s genuinely better at her job than she is (the Asian girl knows Photoshop and she doesn’t) and we’re supposed to sympathize with Hannah. Okay, here’s one more comment from the Internet that kind of encapsulates it. The kind of un-self-awareness of what someone is saying when they say they’d prefer I not win because I try too hard at the game, work too hard at it, care too much about it, and that they’d prefer that a “likable average Joe” win. This is disturbing because it amounts to basically an attack on competence, a desire to bust people who work very hard and have very strong natural gifts down in favor of “likable average Joes”—and it’s disturbing because the subtext is frequently that to be “likable” and “average” you have to have other traits that are comforting and appealing to an “average Joe” audience, like white skin and an American accent.”—
"Someone might be well-versed in social justice issues, may have read all the literature, might be really good at organizing people. Maybe others look up to them, maybe they’re an “expert”. Maybe they’re a social media wizard.
But maybe they’re also condescending. Maybe they’re aggressively self-centred. Fighting the “good fight” does not give anybody a free pass to be a shitty person. Oh, so you can analytically unpack institutionalized racism - clearly that means you can talk down to people who know less than you. OH you understand the nuances and intricacies of mental health issues - please, go ahead and eschew any opportunities for constructive criticism about yourself because everyone else is wrong, and you are always right.
When a poisonous personality bleeds into activism, it is frustrating. There is a difference between anger and hate. Hate is about destruction. Anger is about change. (see: Audre Lorde, Uses of Anger) When one person’s hate is masquerading as anger, it discredits all of us who are really angry. It makes a mockery of those of us who want real, lasting change.
Come here, armed with your anger, ready to do the hard things.
Do not come here, filled with your hate, pretending to be a team player when really you’re only looking out for #1.”
In December 2010, I learned that I am “less than legal.”
I was two days shy of hitting my milestone 21st birthday and, just minutes earlier, had returned to San Antonio from a weeklong ski trip spent on the powdered slopes of Copper Mountain, Colo., with my closest college friends. After I arrived home from the airport, I trudged my hefty suitcase upstairs to my room and was preparing to unpack when my dad appeared at my door. Without enough warning, he nervously confronted me with the news: “You don’t have papers,” he said.
I stared blankly, expecting him to follow-up with a goofy smile or playful laughter, or something else to show that he wasn’t being serious. The smile never came. As it turned out, the Department of Homeland Security had sent a notice to my parents’ house confirming that my visa had expired. The letter verified that I was now considered an illegal immigrant who, upon conviction, could face a 10-year bar from reentering the country where I grew up.
I was completely blindsided by the news.
Most Texans think of so-called “DREAMers” as undocumented Mexicans, but was born in Canada and have an African and Indian heritage. Financial struggles led to my parents’ decision to move the family from Canada to San Antonio in October 1996 when I was only six years old. That makes me part of the DREAM Act-eligible population whose path to permanent residency stalled temporarily three Decembers ago when legislation failed to pass in the U.S. Senate. Like thousands of other foreign-born, American-raised students of undocumented status, I am caught in a legal limbo as a result of decisions that I, myself, did not make. My story is particularly unique because unlike many other undocumented young people, I grew up completely unaware of my legal status. I had always considered myself American because in every possible way, I was:
I went through the Texas public school system starting with first grade until my senior year at Ronald Reagan High School, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude, ranked in the top six percent of my class. By that time, I had been a Girl Scout, an accomplished cellist and was already proficient in four languages.
In high school I logged close to 800 hours of community service and, as a side project, organized a fundraiser that netted $10,000 for the emergency bone marrow transplant of a young boy I had never met. I was a member of Reagan’s Model United Nations program, Spanish Club, debate team and National Honor Society. I was also an editor of the student newspaper, which was the culmination of a decade-long dream to pursue a career in writing.
Years earlier, in the second grade, my teacher had recruited me to join the school’s Newspaper Club. I was instantly hooked. By the ripe age of seven years, I had established an unbreakable morning routine that involved poring over the San Antonio Express-News’ latest headlines before heading to school for the day. I was young, but my curiosity was insatiable. I wanted to know every detail about the people, places and culture that built the melting pot known as the United States. And while my classmates had hopes of becoming astronauts and ballerinas and firefighters when they grew up, I dreamt of becoming a writer.
It was no surprise when I chased that dream all the way to Chicago, where I enrolled at Northwestern University to study journalism. While there, I landed several internships: first with the U.S. House of Representatives in San Antonio, later with a nonprofit hunger relief agency and, finally, with the San Antonio Express-News. The following year, when an editor with a different high-profile newspaper in Texas called to offer me a paid internship with the news reporting team, I accepted without hesitation. I was ecstatic.
And that’s when I hit a roadblock. I had applied for a work permit and permanent residency years before, and I knew my “papers” were still processing. Without this document in hand, most businesses could not legally pay me to work. (At this point, I still did not know I was undocumented because many people – such as tourists and students – are able to legally live or study in the United States, but are not authorized to be employed.)
I explained my dilemma to the newspaper editor, who went so far as to consult with the company lawyers. Imagine my disappointment when he called the following week and explained that because I did not have a valid work permit, he could no longer offer me the internship.
I was crushed. I was enrolled in one of the best journalism programs in the country. I had spent my summer building up my news reporting experience, and I wanted that internship more than anyone I knew. I didn’t care about the money – I just wanted to write. The editor had chosen me for the position, so I felt I had rightfully earned it. I deserved it. It was supposed to be mine.
The only thing holding me back from pursuing my dream was a sheet of paper that, as far as I knew, was sitting amidst stacks of documents piled high on the desk of an unknown immigration officer. Once the document was signed, I would be issued a work permit, but, until then, I would simply have to wait. It was sorely frustrating because I knew there was nothing I could do to speed up the process of obtaining the permit.
The day I learned that I am undocumented – just weeks after that internship offer was rescinded — was the day I put my dream on pause. In the grand scheme of things, knowing the truth behind my legal status has helped me make better sense of the conditions that have shaped my life. During my high school years, my parents always kept me close in sight, afraid that if I somehow ran into trouble with the law, I would be picked up, detained and immediately deported. Because of this, my time spent behind the wheel was incredibly limited, as was my socializing. I never really understood why they refused to let me work while my classmates collected paychecks with their part-time jobs as cashiers or sandwich artists. Later, they told me they withheld the truth from me so I could concentrate on school without any legal distractions..
“You need to focus on your studies,” my mother would tell me, when the reality was that I didn’t have a valid work permit.
And now I understand why my parents discouraged me from studying abroad in college, even as my friends were flying off to Buenos Aires and Paris for the academic term. It’s because if I left the country, I wouldn’t be allowed back in. Dhalla with ESPN reporter Michael Wilborn after graduation ceremonies at Northwestern University in June.
Dhalla with ESPN reporter Michael Wilborn after graduation ceremonies at Northwestern University in June.
For most college students, graduation day marks the birth of a new chapter in life. It’s an opportunity to move on from formal schooling to join the workforce. For an undocumented student like myself, graduation day was terrifying. I had deeply dreaded commencement since I learned of my legal status because it meant that I would no longer be comforted by the familiar confines of my school. I would no longer be a student, where my primary responsibility had always been to learn under the guidance of others.
Instead, I would be sent off into the “real world” with the expectation of not only practicing my trade, but excelling in it. Our commencement speakers explained that Northwestern had prepared us to make a difference in our communities. “Be bold and be brave,” they told us. All that was left for us to do, they said, was to “go forth and prosper.” It was inspiring, really, but mostly it was scary as hell. Making a profound difference in the community is a tough standard to live up to. It’s even more challenging without a work permit in hand, when I’m carrying nearly six figures of debt on my shoulders.
On June 15, 2012, as I was sitting next to my classmates at our commencement exercises, someone in Washington also was thinking of the financial concerns that plague undocumented students. That morning, President Obama stood in the White House Rose Garden and announced a new program (called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”), which will enable thousands of young undocumented Americans to obtain a work permit. In order to qualify, people must be age 31 or under and have arrived in the country before their 16th birthday. They must also meet criminal, education and military service requirements.
It was a gratifying graduation present, to say the least. And I’m happy to say that two weeks ago, I became one of the first young people in the country to be issued a conditional work permit – valid for two years – under the deferred action program. The card is my equivalent of a golden ticket. It is now possible for me to professionally practice a skill that I’ve loved since I was a little girl on the staff of my school’s Newspaper Club. What’s more relieving is that I can start paying off my student loans from my undergraduate education and start saving for graduate school.
Although I’m ecstatic about the opportunities that lie ahead, deferred action is not a long-term solution for my legal limbo. What’s most important is that the program does not create a lawful path to permanent residency. Receiving a work permit is a temporary fix that enables me to plan my life in two-year increments because the document will expire in July 2014 and, before that date, can be revoked at any time. And although I can legally find employment, I’ll continue to contribute sales and property taxes – and now an income tax – into public assistance programs like federal financial aid and Social Security that I won’t be able to benefit from.
Suffice it to say that I am American in every way except by virtue of birth. My parents did not ask my opinion when they chose to legally immigrate to this country 16 years ago. As a six-year-old child I did not have a choice to stay in the nation I was born, but I certainly took advantage of the opportunity to flourish in the country that I was raised.
Because of programs like President Obama’s deferred action initiative, I can say with confidence that my vision of the future is clearer and more promising than the day I first learned of my undocumented status three Decembers ago.
At the same time, however, Takei did listen to an entreaty from state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D).
“There are millions of Arizonans that oppose this bill,” Campbell told Takei. “The business community’s come out against it. We have a wide range of people that are opposing this bill. So don’t hold us all to the same standard, George, I beg you for that. Don’t think that we all are not open to anybody coming to our state and spending money here and living here and enjoying themselves here and raising a family here.”
Campbell then asked Takei to visit the state and help him convince voters to remake the state House and Senate.
“You’re right,” Campbell said. “We have an extremist element that’s taken over the legislature, and let’s get them out. I’m committed to working with you, working with anybody across the country to make that happen in Arizona.”
“We’re absolutely with you,” Takei answered, mentioning that his husband, Brad Altman, has relatives in the state. He also ripped State Senate President Steve Pierce (R), who told O’Donnell’s colleague Chris Hayes he voted for the law because he initially saw no prejudice in it.
“How do people like that get elected in that office?” Takei asked. “We’ve got to correct the process by which they get into office. He doesn’t belong in public office.”
The particular irony of her sojourn to Arizona as a distinguished lecturer, considering her book Feminism is for Everybody’s inclusion in the deeply misguided Tucson book ban, was not lost on hooks. When asked how she felt the ban would impact the future for people of color, hooks didn’t mince words: “Luckily,” she said, “we’re not dependent on Arizona.”
From what I could recollect hooks mentioning her friends and colleagues were surprised that she accepted the invitation yet alone visit the pragmatic state. She said along the lines of had she not come then that’s a move in favor of the Arizona legislators especially the Tucson Unified School District officials that prohibited her writings. She emphasized a lot on community building on a municipal level.
See also: Andrew Waterhouse’s The State Press column Know your audience in response to 2011 recording artists Sound Strike boycotting Arizona after the passage of SB 1070
We’ll need your help for the next step - on March 12, we’ll be releasing the first round of videos made by these semi-finalists and we’ll need YOU to watch and vote on your favorite. In the meantime, give some love to these folks and the organizations they represent!
We are currently working with folks in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado to create a regional coordinating organization specifically for the Southwest region of the United States. This organization is inspired by and based on existing organizations such as ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union), MAASU (Midwest Asian American Students Union), and WCAPSU (West Coast Asian Pacific Student Union).
So for anyone who knows people in the Southwest, please point them our way! We’re looking to develop and create something with people of all backgrounds and organizations. It’ll be CAACTUS: Coalition of Asian Americans Collaborating Together to Unite the Southwest! Email us at weareCAACTUS@gmail.com
“I wanted to try to actually be a real live person, rather than just singing songs about them.”
Having grown up in Falls Church, VA, Thao Nguyen first picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and began performing in a pop country duo in high school. She spent most of her 20s touring, supporting one critically acclaimed album after another. She’s worked with a laundry list of vaunted artists including Andrew Bird, Mirah, Laura Viers and producer Tucker Martine. She even toured the U.S. with the nationally syndicated NPR radio program “Radiolab.” But a little over a year ago, Thao stopped and settled finally in San Francisco. There she spent time establishing a life off the road. That included thinking about things besides music and participating in her community, most notably advocating for those incarcerated in the SF county jail and CA state prison system.
At the end of that transformative period, Thao collected her work and stepped into the studio with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Bill Callahan, Explosions in the Sky, The Walkmen). The result is We the Common, a major step forward from this already-beloved artist. The album is raw and rollicking, homemade and reckless, 12 songs capturing this utterly unique writer and performer like never before.
What was the first song you wrote for this new album?
“Holy Roller” was the first of this batch—I was trying to write for the banjo, and meanwhile I also was trying start conducting myself in a new way. So the song became my attempt to figure out how I would even begin such an endeavor. It almost had the feeling of a revival—hence the title.
And did it work? Did you figure it all out?
Well, that sort of became the quest for the whole album. The next song I wrote was “Move,” which came very quickly, maybe mostly just so I could have the chance to scream “To be free!” again and again. I could hear that moment from the beginning—it’s my favorite part of the record.
The title track is listed as “for Valerie Bolden.” Who is she?
Valerie Bolden is a woman I met on my first visit to the Valley State Prison for women—I go there with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. We sat down and immediately started talking and joking, almost like old friends. We kept it mostly light, but then she’d matter-of-factly talk about missing her daughters, about believing in God but not understanding what she was supposed to be doing in prison, about not wanting to die behind bars. But she’s sentenced to life without parole. After I left, I found I couldn’t stop thinking about her and the things she told me and the way she told them, and a lot of that ended up in “We the Common.”
Were those prison visits part of a new direction for you?
Definitely. My membership in CCWP and the work I’ve been doing in prisons and the San Francisco County Jail are the most deeply I’ve ever dedicated myself to a cause outside myself. I’d been working with great groups like 826 Valencia and ATC and Oxfam America, but not in such a profound and personal way, and not with an organization that I felt needed me as a community member, not as a musician.
And this motivation toward citizenship, in a way—a commitment to my life away from music—that shows up a lot throughout the record. Especially in “We the Common” and “City”—I was trying to capture the incredible resiliency of the people I was meeting and working with. I wanted to let that ignite the songs, to try to collect energy from people around me and give it back to them.
In the past your songwriting has often been very introspective—did this evolution also shape that side of you?
I think my songwriting has become less selfish, hopefully. I still write about myself and my life, but not in a way that just laments or broods. I spent most of my 20s on tour, so most of that formative time was spent hopping from place to place. Even though I wouldn’t trade those adventures, there are parts of me that didn’t have a chance to develop—things I didn’t quite realize I was missing. But in the past year I started feeling the desire to be an active part of my life, instead of just watching it pass by. I wanted to try to actually be a real live person, rather than just singing songs about them.
I feel I can sort of hear that transition in “Age of Ice.”
The song came the easiest of anything I’ve ever written. The images of unfreezing and returning to live in the feeling world, with some nostalgia for how I’d been but knowing it wasn’t sustainable—it all came so clearly to me, both melody and lyrics simultaneously. That never ever happens for me. Never ever. I think I was tired of being so tough, or trying to be, or pretending to be.
How did the collaboration with Joanna Newsom happen?
We met on a songwriters retreat at Hedgebrook, which is a Virginia Woolf–style farm paradise where women writers get their own cabins and write all day and meet in the evening for dinner. Can you imagine what a gift that is? Joanna and I became fast friends, and I somehow convinced her to demo that song with me, and then she somehow agreed to record it for the record. If you ever get an opportunity for a solo Joanna Newsom harp show in a cabin in the woods, then you will know the incredible fortune I had.
It sounds almost too perfect. That kind of time and space was unusual for you, right?
Right. For the two previous albums, I would finish tour and then get maybe a month before I was due in studio. But this time I had over a year to just live my life and absorb experiences and think about things and then write songs about them. And if I didn’t like those songs, I could change them or discard them or swear I was never going to write another damn song again—and then get over myself and continue writing.
The album was produced by John Congleton, who’s worked with a really diverse group including Bill Callahan, St. Vincent and Explosions in the Sky. Why did he feel like the right fit?
I really love the sounds John gets on his records, so distinct and striking and raw. He captured our energy and looseness and rhythm. On one of our first phone calls, John said he wanted to make a dangerous party record, a party where you get to the door and you don’t quite know what will happen—you just hear these beats coming though the walls. We also mentioned a lot of the same references for these songs.
Mostly we talked about `90s East Coast hip hop—early Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep. But at the same time I was also listening to Paul Simon, the Kinks, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Byrds. The album is somehow a mix of all that.
And now you’re finally heading back out on tour. Are you looking forward to that?
I am. Playing music for people is my favorite part of the job—and especially for this record, which is so much about being together and sharing that collective energy. I’m so grateful for the chance to be a part of that. It’s going to be a long tour, we hope, but fortunately I’ve used my time away to research hotel-room exercise regimens.
Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. The order that decided that people like me were a threat because of our indelible Japaneseness. The order that forced Japanese American US citizens and their immigrant parents/grandparents from their homes, communities, families, and businesses into barbed wire surrounded, gun-tower monitored concentration camps here in the US. The order that despite the country’s propaganda of freedom and equality for all, determined that Japanese Americans were not part of that “all”. An order that reminds us of the struggle of Native folks also forcibly relocated by the federal government. An order that reminds us of our position with relation to other people of color. An order that led to the decision in the Fred Korematsu (and Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui) case(s)- asserting the authority of the federal government to trample over the rights of a community based on racism and economic opportunism, a decision that still technically stands.
Remember our history. Understand its parallels and relevance today. Educate the youth. Organize with our folks. Mobilize in the face of injustice.
The Taiwanese American Citizens League (TACL) is now accepting applications for their Political Internship Program! PIP is an 8-week internship program that assigns interns in political offices located in the Greater Los Angeles area, Orange County, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington DC. Students will have the opportunity to learn and promote the Taiwanese culture, heritage and identity, and understand the American political system at the same time. A stipend will be awarded upon successful completion of the internship.
Interns will attend leadership workshops and develop a sense of identity and character through cultural and community awareness. California interns will also attend a intense 3-day advocacy and lobbying trip in the State Capitol.
All application materials must be received by the following dates:
Washington, DC Program- Sunday, March 2, 2014
Los Angeles (California) Program- Sunday, March 16, 2014
“When I go to contemporary Asian restaurants, like Wolfgang Puck’s now-shuttered 20.21 in Minneapolis and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York City, it seems the entrées are always in the $16–$35 range and the only identifiable person of color in the kitchen is the dishwasher. The menus usually include little blurbs about how the chefs used to backpack in the steaming jungles of the Far East (undoubtedly stuffing all the herbs and spices they could fit into said backpacks along the way, for research purposes), and were so inspired by the smiling faces of the very generous natives—of which there are plenty of tasteful black-and-white photos on the walls, by the way—and the hospitality, oh, the hospitality, that they decided the best way to really crystallize that life-changing experience was to go back home and sterilize the cuisine they experienced by putting some microcilantro on that $20 curry to really make it worthy of the everyday American sophisticate. American chefs like to talk fancy talk about “elevating” or “refining” third-world cuisines, a rhetoric that brings to mind the mission civilisatrice that Europe took on to justify violent takeovers of those same cuisines’ countries of origin. In their publicity materials, Spice Market uses explicitly objectifying language to describe the culture they’re appropriating: “A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market titillates Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s piquant elevations of the region’s street cuisine.” The positioning of Western aesthetics as superior, or higher, than all the rest is, at its bottom line, an expression of the idea that no culture has value unless it has been “improved” by the Western Midas touch. If a dish hasn’t been eaten or reimagined by a white person, does it really exist?”—Craving the Other by Soleil Ho [Bitch Magazine] (via thisisnotindia)
(In the video above, students and faculty speak out at a press conference in Los Angeles. )
Another showdown is brewing over ethnic studies, this time at California State University, Los Angeles, where students are demanding that the administration add an ethnic studies requirement to the school’s general education curriculum.
On Tuesday, 75 students showed up to an Academic Senate meeting to make their demands public, arguing that the courses are an important part of developing critical thinking skills in an increasingly multicultural society.
“College students who take an ethnic studies class can go out and uplift their community,” Jelani Hendrix, a 23-year-old Pan-African studies major, told the Los Angeles Times. “They can show that all of us are more alike than different.”
But ethnic studies programs throughout the California State University system, and the country, face tremendous hurdles as universities slash budgets and the programs suffer from dwindling enrollment. Cal State Long Beach recently moved to reduce the status of its Africana Studies program and a group of faculty from across the 23-campus Cal State system have advocated for a moratorium on proposed changes.
“General education requirements should be open to all departments and programs,” said Gretchen Peterson, chairwoman of the Cal State LA sociology department told the Times. “Ethnic studies should be integrated throughout the curriculum.”
The 55-member academic senate, which includes students and college deans, rejected a similar ethnic studies requirement last month. It’s expected to take up the issue again next week.
One thing I’ve always found difficult in joining my specific mixed race communities (East/Southeast Asian & any other race, but most communities end up being predominantly EAsian/white), is reading about or seeing the lives others lead and the privileges they get because most of them are middle class. Then I really feel like I don’t belong because I grew up working class.
First of all, there’s the model minority stereotype, which neither my EA parent nor I match. We’re expected to be brainy, brilliant and successful against all odds, but with us, the odds crushed us. Secondly, it seems a lot of people expect mixed race people with a white parent to automatically end up middle class or above with a lot of money and all the privilege that comes with it. My white parent’s parents were a farmer and a housewife. So, apart from two cousins who went into the business of the rich man my aunt married, all my white family are working class and don’t have much money. Some are on the dole (benefits). Going by stereotypes, an EA/white person should be guaranteed a straight path to a high-flying career and a tree that grows money. Can you already tell that wasn’t the case for me?
Some nights I had to worry if I would eat anything for dinner. I wore the same school uniform for five years. I rarely went on school trips because 5 or 10 quid was too much money off of cash for food on the table. A couple of times I remember bringing it up it in these mixed race communities I mentioned. Not whining, but reaching out to see if there was anyone out there who understood and related to my struggle. The deathly silence following each time confirmed I was entirely alone.
Does anybody out there know of any blogs or sites that cover classism while also considering race? I haven’t yet found any, but I think it could be a wonderful place for people like me.
I come to you all today in my time of uncertainty, what I feared most might be turned into a reality that our community faces on a daily basis. Tonight I sat down and began working on my own sisters case intake form. As January my older sister Victoria was accused theft at her workplace at Dulle…
I come to you all today in my time of uncertainty, what I feared most might be turned into a reality that our community faces on a daily basis. Tonight I sat down and began working on my own sisters case intake form. As January my older sister Victoria was accused theft at her workplace at Dulles Airport. She is falling victim of an abusive boss, one who knows her undocumented status makes her vulnerable; he is accussing her and placed the warrant against her.
We were contacted by airport police and asked my sister to turn herself in, instead of putting out a warrant on her. She did as told was released under her own recognizance. Her pre-liminary court hearing will be on February 27, 2014.
These implications could in turn lead to my sister being placed in deportation proceedings due to the fact that her DACA is still pending approval.
I am fundraising for my sister’s legal representation as she will need both a criminal and immigration attorney. Both of my parents have been laid off and I am the only one blessed to have a job right now as an organizer with United We Dream.
I chose to get involved in our movement because our families need relief. I chose to get arrested because our families can no longer stand the system! My sister placed her dreams on hold all for me and I will do everything I can to keep my family together.
All I ask is to lend me your strength and courage to fight whatever comes my way. I will keep you all posted, thank you for the continuous love and support that you all have given me.
"A few blocks away, Maggie Larios, 30, a latina single mother sharing a cramped apartment with her two children, is all too aware of that choice. She earns just enough from a care-home job to pay the $685 monthly rent. But the landlord who owns the block is trying to evict her and other tenants who have complained about mould, cockroaches and broken windows. They suspect the neglect is intended to oust them so he can get in more lucrative tenants.
"The mould has made me sick," Larios croaks, indicating her throat. "When we went to court one of my neighbours had bugs on her. You should’ve seen the judge’s face." With her budget, Larios stands little chance of finding another apartment in Oakland. "I don’t want to be homeless. My kids and I went through a very bad experience in shelters." But inevitably they will be priced out, she says. "It’s gonna happen. A few years ago, to see a white person here was unseen footage. Now you see them walking the street even at night." Resistance could perhaps slow but not halt gentrification, she says. "Money talks, bullshit walks." Larios has kept one asset in reserve for emergencies: her long, luxuriant hair. "When the time comes I can sell it for $400.""
This very same shit is happening on my block RIGHT NOW. Literally right now. It started with the classier looking super markets, then the white people, now the neglect has gotten so bad our buildings is starting to mold. Ceilings falling (one time it fell while my brother took a shower Idk how he didn’t get hurt when it happened). Police coming into our building exercising excessive force on folks that normally hang with the people who live here. A lot of police presence started coming with the amount of white people showing up around here. We had to limit the times we go to the super market we been going to for over a decade and go to cheaper ones cause ever since white people started showing up they started bumping up the prices on everything making it harder for us to afford that shit. Gentrification is real as fuck, and it’s happening in Washington Heights so fast I’m scared we’ll lose our vibrant ‘Little Dominican Rep.’ community in exchange for more white people, starbucks and overpriced food markets and fucked up buildings waiting to kick out minorities that don’t have the privileged pay of a normal white person in the city.
Same here in Pittsburgh. Our city is set up so that the poor live outside the rim of downtown Pittsburgh in neighborhoods that span outward. Though a few neighborhoods are nice (mainly b/c our city structures itself so that certain neighborhoods are overwhelmingly one race/culture/ethnicity) the actual suburbs are outside the city limit. Those people commute in to work (cause you know ain’t too many PoC holding down the white collar jobs in the financial sector of the city).
A few years ago though, following the major attention from the simultaneous Superbowl and Stanley Cup wins, and then the G20 summit that was hosted here, gentrification has been ramped up 1000%. WHite folks want the areas directly outside of downtown back, and are pushing Black folks further out, away from the city and its resources.
Historically Black neighborhoods like the Northside and East Liberty are slowly turning into ritzy, artistic hangouts for young folks with money (ie: white people). Both neighborhoods have had MASSIVE overhauls to residential spaces and can now boast lots of coffee shops. Historically white neighborhoods, like Bellevue and Penn Hills are becoming hubs for Black folks who still want to live in nice neighborhoods but can’t afford the rising prices of the “nice” new places in their own neighborhoods. Funny that the current attitude Pittsburgh media has about these neighborhoods is how they are “going to seed.”
1. Let me find out xtremecaffine lives in my city.
2. I grew up in Penn Hills and now live very close to East Liberty (as in a block away depending on how you look at it. And work in the city (Strip District. My church is in Homewood.
Gentrification rapidly got rid of a lot of the black residents and businesses. They aren’t trying to hid it at all. Hotels are being erected that locals cannot afford to sleep in. Morbid shit like Anthropology and Free People sit not even 5 minutes from the hood. They tore down a housing project and put the biggest Target in Pittsburgh complete as in escalators and Starbucks.
Artistic hubs for young black folks were priced out of their rent (RIP Shadow Lounge). The Caribbean Restaurant and African Restaurant are gone. In it’s place are eateries that not only can you not afford to go to, they will also look at you crazy for being black and entering. Like we are strangers.