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Join #MyInternetIs and tweet about why Net Neutrality and internet freedom is important! July 31 at 12PM EST/9AM PST

Vanessa Teck from projectavaorg, Reappropriate, and I will be trying to trend #MyInternetIs on Thursday at 9AM PST/12PM EST to discuss why Net Neutrality and a free internet is important. We’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #MyInternetIs!

ie #MyInternetIs a free library on all the information I was never taught in schools.

#MyInternetIs an open discussion space where I learn and grow from folks I would have otherwise never met.

We’d love for you all to join us!

#AAPI groups OCA & JACL join other major civil rights orgs against net neutrality

The fight over net neutrality — which has been brewing for awhile — came to a head this year after a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order …

net-neutrality-blocked

The fight over net neutrality — which has been brewing for awhile — came to a head this year after a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order of 2010 in January of this year. The appeals court ruling essentially deregulated the nation’s industry of internet providers, but gave the FCC the option to write new regulations. Within weeks, the FCC had voted to open themselves up to a 4-month comment period, and then to develop new rules governing the internet.

These events have been seen by net neutrality advocates as a momentous opportunity to establish federal regulations over the distribution of the internet that ensures it is equally accessible to all users.

But, last week, the nation’s largest coalition of civil rights organizations — the National Minority Organizations collective — submitted a joint letter to the FCC in support of deregulation of major internet providers, and apparently against the option favoured by the net neutrality movement.

So, what is the fight really about?

The fight over net neutrality is really over the degree to which internet service providers (ISP) can generate extra revenue by monetizing content access. One major point of contention is a practice called “paid prioritization”: ISPs creating paid internet “fast lanes” that produce high download speeds for some content in exchange for money from the content provider.

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence showing that major ISPs are already engaging in paid prioritization is in this widely-shared graph. It shows changes in average download speed of Netflix content through Comcast ISPs: download speeds were relatively stable until Comcast and Netflix entered into negotiations late last year. During that four-month period, download speeds dropped substantially. Weeks after a direct connection contract was signed, average download speeds for Netflix streaming on Comcast increased by 150%.

Evidence that Comcast and other major ISPs designate some content to internet "fast lanes".Evidence that Comcast and other major ISPs designate some content to internet “fast lanes”.

The increase in speed after direct connection is less relevant than the sudden slow-down prior to the signing of the agreement, which suggests that Comcast was effectively regulating users’ Netflix content access as a negotiation tactic.

Net neutrality advocates are troubled by graphs like this one. They argue that ISPs should not have the power to promote, or limit, any form of internet access based on the kind of content that is being accessed.

These net neutrality advocates favour reclassifying ISPs as “common carriers”, which would have them falling under “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934 (an act that has itself been amended and updated to reflect more modern technology). Title II contains existing regulations — outlined in several pages’ worth of rules — that would disallow a practice like paid prioritization, under the reasoning that common carriers are creating a  communications infrastructure, and therefore should not have a say over the content of the communication they provide. Title II further establishes regulations to ensure that common carriers can not discriminate by disproportionately applying charges that favour some users over others.

But major ISPs are against Title II reclassification for obvious reasons: it would place strict regulations on how these ISPs can operate, and specifically how they can pad their bottom lines by controlling download speeds.

The US currently ranks 20th in the world when it comes to average internet download speeds.The US currently ranks 20th in the world when it comes to average internet download speeds.

Instead of strong federal regulation, major ISPs favour an FCC ruling that would have them fall under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, a vague proclamation two paragraphs long that focuses on limited federal regulation in order to “promote competition”. While the FCC would have the ability to intervene in situations where they are acting to “remove barriers to infrastructure investment”, they would be largely powerless to stop practices like paid prioritization. Basically, the FCC would exist only to help ISPs increase the size of their customer base, and nothing more.

Last week, the National Minority Organization (NMO) — a coalition of over 40 of the nation’s most prominent civil rights groups — bizarrely came out in favour of the Section 706 option, and against Title II reclassification. Alongside respected organizations like the NAACP and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH, NMO includes some of the nation’s largest and oldest Asian American political groups, includingOCA — Asian Pacific American Advocates, (formerly Organization of Chinese Americans), the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) — as well as the Council of Korean Americans and the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship.

In their letter to the FCC last week, NMO rightfully notes that “access to broadband, adoption, and digital literacy are critical civil rights issues” and further provides ample evidence that while internet use is high among some minority communities, many impoverished areas that are typically populated by people of colour remain under-served. NMO further notes that in this age, digital access is critical for promoting education and upward economic mobility. Where we do not disagree is when the NMO writes:

Without broadband access, low income and middle-class Americans — and particularly people of color — cannot gain new skills, secure good jobs, obtain a quality education, participate in our civic dialogue, or obtain greater access to healthcare through telehealth technologies.

It is exactly this reasoning that leads me to conclude that ISPs should not be permitted to continue their role as our digital gatekeepers. Internet access is indeed critical for full contemporary citizenship; therefore, NMO’s reasoning is exactly what leads me to the conclusion that ISPs should be treated like common carriers:companies whose mission it is to provide a necessary service to the general public without discrimination because that service is of widespread benefit to all citizens, and who do so under federal license and regulation.

Yet, despite arguing that broadband access is a civil right, NMO finds itself somehow arguing in favour of a system that permits (and indeed encourages) discriminatory internet access, and where users are subject to the capitalist whims of corporate ISPs.

net-neutrality-comic

NMO argues that Title II reclassification will harm market competition, which they argue will in turn hurt broadband adoption by underserved minority communities. Notably, however, this latter assertion is almost completely uncited in a letter that is otherwise funky with footnotes; instead this statement amounts to broad and largely baseless hand-waving:

Overly burdensome regulations treating broadband as a public utility (31) would institutionalize second class digital citizenship, needlessly delaying the digital inclusion goals sought by communities of color. This result would harm both consumers of color and minority entrepreneurs, for whom the Internet has been their easiest path to entry to bring new content to their communities and the nation.

NMO’s concerns over the effect of Title II on the cost of broadband adoption rates strikes me as particularly odd: classification of telephone service providers as common carriers has not appeared to significantly hamper phone access (or minority entrepreneurship) for the country’s communities of colour.

Instead, NMO argues that ISPs should fall under Section 706-mediated deregulation, coupled with vague “consumer protections” and a “presumption against paid prioritization” (the latter of which they also argue in a footnote is largely a non-issue). While this is laudable sentiment, Section 706 offers no legal clout whereby the FCC could a priori prevent ISPs from employing discriminatory practices. Instead, NMO offers a solution for how paid prioritization practices would be discouraged under Section 706: yet, their solution involves after-the-fact relief and punishment, and appears to place the burden for identification and correction of any such practices squarely on the consumer. It is, in essence, a system that would allow ISPs to do whatever discriminatory thing they think they could get away with.

This bizarre anti-net neutrality stance by the nation’s top minority and civil rights organizations is troublesome to me, particularly because their reasoning regarding the right of citizens to digital access as outlined in the first half of the letter seems to deviate so sharply in rationale from their pro-big business prescriptions. These are organizations that have historically stood against discriminatory business practices in defense of minority interests. How did these esteemed civil rights organizations get to their anti-net neutrality position?

Republic Report suggests that it might all have something to do with how these large non-profits derive funding. It’s no secret that major non-profit groups like the OCA are backed by major corporate sponsors, and that this sponsorship relationship can lead to some questionable practices. Last year, three OCA summer interns — including the incredible Juliet Shen of Fascinasians and Vanessa Teck of ProjectAVA — were fired for speaking out against Wal-mart’s employment practices; Walmart is a major backer of the group’s national conference (recently Shen and Teck offered a retrospective on the fiasco that is worth a read).

Three of these OCA 2013 summer interns were fired for speaking out against Walmart's employment practices.Three of these OCA 2013 summer interns were fired for speaking out against Walmart’s employment practices. Walmart is a major corporate sponsor of OCA.

Comcast is vocally lobbying against Title II reclassification of ISPs. OCA named Comcast / NBC Universal its winner of the “Outstanding Corporate Partner Award” last year. Comcast was also a major Gold-level sponsor of JACL’s 2014 convention. The NAACP is sponsored by a number of major corporations, including but not limited to Comcast (as well as the nation’s largest for-profit university, University of Phoenix, which employs predatory lending practices predominantly against people of colour).

While I won’t go so far as to say that Comcast and other major ISPs have purchased the nation’s top civil rights organizations with its corporate sponsorships, it is also not unreasonable to conclude that these non-profit organizations — which rely on corporate support to stay afloat — are financially positioned in such a way that they cannot or will not speak out against the corporate interests of their backers. Non-profits of this size are not solvent on small donor money alone; but their acceptance of corporate money leaves them in an ethical quandry, and can result in a situation like this one: several major civil rights organizations have partnered with large internet service providers to protect the same predatory business practices that victimize their very own marginalized, oppressed and disenfranchised constituents. We clearly need to re-examine our current system of supporting non-profit organizations, and how their civil rights goals can become compromised in the unending fight to avoid bankruptcy.

In the end, there is some room to disagree on the topic of net neutrality when it comes to Title II reclassification vs. Section 706, particularly in terms of how increased FCC regulation of ISPs might increase operational costs that can potentially discourage minority small businesses. Even net neutrality advocates will agree that Title II reclassification is a practical, but imperfect, solution. But, the arguments provided by NMO in their FCC letter offered no logical basis for the discrepancies between their assertion that internet access is a civil right and their conclusion that strict federal protection of this civil right is unwarranted —  a conclusion favoured by at least one of their shared corporate backers. I think the critical need for widespread, fair and neutral internet access as a protected basic civil right of the digital age far outweighs any possible risk of a small amount of increased costs to select entrepreneurs.

To that end, I fail to understand how we can permit a system wherein the major civil rights organizations that we trust to advocate on behalf of those civil rights can find themselves accepting corporate money that clearly arrives with at least some “strings attached”.

(Note: If anyone from any of the organizations cited in this post reads this and wants to offer any additional explanation about their position against Title II reclassification and specifically how this option would hurt people of colour, I would be happy to work with that person to publish it as a counter-point to this article.)

Chinatown Beautification Day 2014

A Little about Us

Chinatown Youth Initiatives is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering New York City Youth with the knowledge and skills to address the needs of Chinatown, Asian Americans and other underrepresented communities. One of the events that we host to achieve these goals is CYI’s annual Chinatown Beautification Day! What began as a mission to address the concerns of the negligence of post 9/11’s Lower East Side has since then evolved into a two part event that brings youth from all around the city to participate in a unique learning experience. During the first day of the event, volunteers will be able to participate in a conference where qualified facilitators will lead them through a variety of workshops. The workshops will vary in content, but topics such as environmentalism, sustainability, hate crimes, and Asian-American politics are all fair game. These discussions encourage active contributions, and are designed to give the participants a chance to voice their opinions and to learn from each other.

 The second part of the event gives the volunteers a chance to go out onto the streets of Chinatown armed with brooms, dustpans, and garbage bags. This part of the event not only shows the Chinatown community that we really care, but will also act as a message, telling the people who traverse Chinatown to remember to take care of the community.

Our Goals(why we need money)

All donations will go to support the Chinatown Beautification Day Clean-up and Conference.

Chinatown Beautification Day Clean-up:

Your donations will make this whole day possible. Donations will go directly to providing supplies and resources to over a hundred students as they spend the day cleaning up the streets of Chinatown and making their message of community responsibility felt throughout New York City. 

Chinatown Beautification Day Conference:

Every year, 100+ high school students from all five boroughs come join the participants of CYI in a full day conference exploring ideas of identity, leadership, and engagement in the Asian American community. The flavor of every workshop Your donations will provide for food, speaker honorariums, and all the other resources that make this event a success. Help us provide a unique learning experience for NYC youth.

The Impact

So in case you’re still on the fence about why you should support us, these are the highlights:

1. We are bringing together over 300 youth to help clean up one of NYC’s most iconic areas.

2. We are engaging youth in a series of workshops that teach things you would probably never learn in school… for free!

3. We are creating an environment to help inspire and foster future leaders.

What else are you waiting for? Donate today and help make these goals a reality and this year’s CBD the best one yet!

Other Ways You Can Help

If you want to help in other ways, help us spread word of this event to anyone who may be interested in either donating or participating! All support and/or donations are appreciated!

#RealCourageIs by Jeannie Mai

Fox ‘s New Talk Show “The Real” and fashion correspondent for NBC’s Today Show. #Wearapist

‪#‎RealCourageIs‬

When I was 25 I had just moved to LA with little TV experience. I didn’t have an agent, so I was finding jobs for myself off the internet. I found a casting call in search of a spokesperson for a national branded campaign promoting healthy eating. I read the script and saw that it called for a fun personality and positive attitude. Duh…I was perfect. I got dolled up in my usual snazzy self and headed to the interview. Once I signed in and sat down, I noticed the entire room was filled with long legged, blond-haired, blue-eyed gorgeous models. After a few min the woman checking names in called me up to the front. She informed me, “Thanks for coming in today. Unfortunately, our client is looking for a specific look and type when it comes to the image of this spokesperson. Rather than let you waste your time here waiting, I thought best to let you know so you can be on your way.”

I looked around the (tiny) room and saw every blue eye shift and look away from me in embarrassment. My face got really hot.

"Well I don’t mind waiting if I can just get a chance to audition. I’m confident I’ve got what it takes."

The woman half smiled at me and said, “Oh I’m sure you do. You’re just not what they’re looking for. As you can see here our client is looking for a certain type of iconic face, and I’m pretty sure they haven’t called for any Asians.”

Now I was pissed. Before I could even think of a response, I saw the doors to the audition room open and a tall blond walk out. I grabbed my headshot off the desk and ran through the doors. The woman chased after me but I had already entered the audition room and faced the 3 serious looking executives. “Hi I’m Jeannie Mai and I’m here to audition for the part because I know I can bring you something different. You guys ready?” I didn’t wait for an answer and jumped in front of the camera set in the middle of the room. One of the exec guys stood up and pressed the record button, and I gave it my all. After I was done, I gave it to them two more times, in different, fun versions. I didn’t wait for a reaction. I put my headshot gently on their table, thanked them each for their time, and walked out.

I walked out that day realizing courage cannot exist without fear. Had I not felt afraid from the rejection and humiliation, I wouldn’t have revealed my true fighting self. I’ll never forget that.

By the way, I got a call that evening that I landed the part. This one time part then became a 2 year contract that lead to a house payment for my parents and an agent for myself. So remember ladies, you’ve already got wings. Now just fly.

http://bit.ly/RealCourageIsHere

The RealRealCouc

Bob Beckel: Your racism is dangerous - resign now

Plate by Plate: Project by Project's Annual Tasting Benefit

Every year, Project by Project selects a non-profit partner based on a theme or issue that addresses current needs in the Asian American community. This year, Project by Project LA is partnering up with Pacific Asian Counseling Services (PACS), whose mission is to enrich the lives of children and families through counseling and caring. PACS provides culturally sensitive and language specific services with expertise in the immigrant Asian Pacific Islander populations.

We are featuring some of the most popular and renown restaurants and drink purveyors. You also may find a list of our participants here.

Project by Project (PbP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in New York City in 1998 by a group of young Asian American professionals. The founders surveyed the non-profit landscape and noticed a recurring need in the Asian American community—organizations were spending so much time on fulfilling its missions and executing programs that they were unable to pay enough attention to the business of being a non-profit. The founders of PbP realized that what the community needed was social entrepreneurs, and that is what they sought out to build.

Comprised of a team of professionals with backgrounds in finance, consulting, technology, media, entertainment and law, PbP’s founding team felt it could play a strong role in assisting community groups in securing capital, reaching out to new groups of volunteers and bringing greater awareness to issues affecting the Asian American community. Based on those principals,  PbP created its campaigns around a 3-pronged mission that is still in practice today:  Volunteerism, Awareness, and Fundraising.

Building upon those principles and looking to impact as many causes as possible as it expands, PbP created a method of taking on a different local beneficiary community partner every year, touching on a different issue each year. This method of focusing on one issue at a time for a period of a year allows PbP to work in-depth with the partner and thoroughly educate its volunteers on the cause.

Our signature event is “Plate by Plate,” our annual tasting benefit, formerly the “Food & Wine Tasting.” We are the only Asian American non-profit organization in the country that produces a large-scale food tasting event with star chefs, top rated restaurants and celebrities who participate by serving dishes to our attendees. 

August 2, 2014 at Petersen Automotive Museum

6060 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

6:30PM – 7:30PM · VIP Reception
7:30PM – 10:00PM · General Admission

Dress Code: Black Tie/Formal

This is sure to be an amazing event for an amazing cause, I hope to see you there! For more information and ticket purchase, click here. This is not only an opportunity to truly give back to the community, but also see talent like the hosts jennyyangjokes of Jenny Yang comedy and seanmiura, Mr. Hyphen 2013!

The price of our silence in the deadly occupation of Gaza is too high

There is a scene in And The Band Played On where Matthew Modine’s character explains the origins of the phrase “The Butchers’ Bill”: a phrase coined by British Admiral Lord Nelson when asking for the daily casualty reports of soldiers lost in the Napoleonic wars. In the film, Modine’s character creates his own Butchers’ Bill for the AIDS epidemic, and it remains one of pop culture’s most poignant visual reminders of the devastating cost of the disease in human lives.

The Butchers’ Bill in the ongoing violence on the Gaza Strip is equally heart-breaking. In less than two weeks time, Israel has launched airstrikes against Palestinian residents of Gaza targeting over 1500 sites; Hamas has also launched over a thousand rockets into Israel that have all been largely ineffective. As of today, the Butchers’ Bill for Palestinian residents of Gaza nears 350 after 11 days of fighting, nearly fifty of those dying in the last 72 hours at the hands of invading Israeli ground troops. The United Nations estimates that three-fourths of Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli offensive actions this month were non-militants, and approximately 50 — a third of them killed since Thursday — have been children. An additional 2000 Palestinians have sustained serious injuries in the attacksThe UN reports that yesterday the number of Palestinians displaced by the violence has nearly doubled to 40,000 — all seeking refugee status in one of 34 UN shelters.

There are no words to describe the rage and grief I feel in watching this senseless killing unfold. But the price of my silence — and the silence of too many of us in America — is also far too high.

palestinian-family-displacedA Palestinian family, displaced by the violence, flees Gaza City.

On Wednesday, reporters and bystanders watched in shock and horror as an Israeli gunship brutally slaughtered four young Palestinian children (none older than eleven) on an otherwise deserted Gaza beach. After an initial strike, the Israeli planes returned to chase and gun down the four young boys — all cousins — as they ran screaming for their lives. Just 24 hours later, seven children were shot — four of them fatally — by an Israeli naval gunboat while they were playing soccer on a Gaza rooftop.

In the last two weeks, four Israeli have lost their lives.

This past months' Butchers Bill in the Gaza StripThis past months’ Butchers Bill in the Gaza Strip.

Too many  of us are allowed by the comforts of distance to pretend that what is happening in the Gaza Strip right now does not affect us. That distance comes in many forms: geographic distance, cultural distance, religious distance, racial distance, and linguistic distance. That distance gives shelter to our assertion that what is happening to Gaza is not happening to us. It gives shelter to our rationalizations and our justifications. It gives shelter to our dehumanization of the Palestinian people. It gives shelter to our silence.

That distance is also a lie and an illusion.

David Palumbo-Liu writes about how violence in Israel-Palestine is a matter of American studies, particularly in light of our country’s hand in shaping the conflict. He and many other writers have noted the US State Department’s stance in defense of Israeli airstrikes targeting Palestinian civilians; President Obama defended that stance to Muslim American guests at the White House’s annual iftar dinner. Like it or not, America is involved in what is happening in Israel-Palestine.

Let me be clear: most of us do not know what it is like to live as a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip. As a Canadian-born (East) Asian American, I do not know what it is like to live as an occupied people in my own Holy Land. I do not know what it is like to live under constant threat of overwhelming military violence and death. I do not know what it is like to find myself staring down the barrel of an assault rifle, or be targeted by the sophisticated weapons mounted on a gunship or an F-16. I also do not know what it is like to be brown and Muslim, and to have these two simple facts of my being cast me as a villain and a terrorist.

But, what is happening in Gaza still touches me on a fundamental level.

In Gaza City, a Palestinian man stands amid debris after an Israeli airstrike. (Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)In Gaza City, a Palestinian man stands amid debris after an Israeli airstrike. (Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

For so many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the plight of colonized people is familiar and deeply personal. Most Asian and Pacific Islander countries still bear the scars of both military and cultural occupation, whether by Western powers and/or by other Asian nations; some of our lands still remain occupied to this day. Most of us in the AAPI diaspora share a blood memory of the violence that is wrought by occupying forces against indigenous peoples, and the political, cultural and militaristic tools that have been used in the exploitation of our lands and our people.

Most of us can still identify the after-shocks of colonialism on the course of our lives. Some of us share family memories of the atrocities of war that came with revolution against occupying forces. Some of us are in America as refugees fleeing the violence of war. As Americans and/or descendant of certain Asian nations, many of us are complicit as colonizers; some of us also still live as colonized peoples today, and for many of us that fight against the colonizers rages on.

It is true that I am not Muslim and I am not Palestinian. I also do not need to share in those identities to see the connection between their struggles and my own political narratives. I do not need to share in those identities to recognize the humanity of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, and to lament their devastating and senseless slaughter. I do not need to share in those identities to stand in solidarity.

I need only be human.

The mother of one of the children killed Wednesday on a Gaza beach by Israeli forces grieves the death of her child. (Photo credit: Daily Mail)The mother of one of the children killed Wednesday on a Gaza beach by Israeli forces grieves the death of her child. (Photo credit: Daily Mail)

I do not know how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All I know is that this bloodshed has got to end.

Millions of activists around the world — including protesters in many Asian countries — have taken up the cause of the Palestinian people fighting against occupying Israeli forces. It is time for Asian Americans to join our voices to this expanding international chorus of outrage.It is time for us — as AAPI and as moral humans —  to take a vocal stand in solidarity with Palestinian people, and all our Muslim American brothers and sisters in the States. We can no longer allow others to pay the price for our silence; for now we are again reminded that the price of our silence is too high.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Tazila Ahmed (@tazzystar) for inspiring, and providing many resources, in the writing of this article.

The Struggle to Love…to Struggle WITH Love

Juliet Shen and Vanessa Teck are two of the OCA interns who were terminated in 2013 for openly criticizing a major sponsor. Both identifying as activists and feminists in their early 20’s, they have shared experiences of isolation, pain, and fear. Since then, Juliet and Vanessa have begun a transformative journey to better understand how to root their movements in love.

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juliet

Juliet Shen

One year ago exactly, on July 19, 2013 at 11:05AM, I was fired from OCA – APA Advocates.

It’s been a rough year of self-reflection and unexpected turns, but I like to think that I’ve grown as a person and an activist. After being fired, I was the brunt of jokes and anonymous emails about how irrational and stupid I was, how I’d never find a place in the APIA community again, and how my career in DC was over. My idealistic bubble was popped — everything was reduced to a form letter of termination read in an empty room. I was defeated, and isolated myself in my college campus determined to not return to a community that cut us out without remorse.

After OCA, it became second nature to avoid certain individuals and organizations. This was perhaps unnecessary, but my discomfort was real. It can be difficult navigating the circuits of Asian America when you’ve pissed off one of the biggest organizations. I linked up with Suey Park as a friend and collaborator over our shared experience of being booted from nonprofits in the APIA community. It felt good to be angry. I was powerful again after being stripped of my autonomy and dignity, and stepped up to the mantle of “Juliet Shen – Feminist, Blogger, and Activist”. I was excited to be relevant again as a web warrior fighting for representation and justice. Of course, you know how that story ends.

Sometimes it’s hard to love a movement when it never loves back. The expectations for feminists and activists often don’t leave room for being human. I’ve come to find that most people who meet me for the first time have this idea of me as a “militant, man-hating, white-man worshiper”. This year, I joined a sorority and I started dating again. Somehow, these choices — choices that I made for myself and choices that make me happy — have dissolved friendships and alliances in my life. It was easier to grow a thick skin and become as bitter and callous as people wanted to believe I was. But ultimately, we can’t let peoples expectations of us limit and harden our hearts; that is the opposite of what activism should do.

I did come close to quitting. I wanted to experience life as a “normal” 21 year old and go out, have fun, and not worry. I almost didn’t renew Fascinasians’ domain and toyed with the idea of letting it fade away peacefully. I chose a year of self-care and self-love because activism was tainted with reluctance and pain. I was never radical enough, but always too radical for someone. I wasn’t angry enough, but my anger intimidated and alienated others. I didn’t feel good enough for anyone and struggled to find motivation to do anything at all.

Both OCA and Suey Park taught me the dangers of rooting my ideology in anger. And yet, this year has been cathartic. During theTwitter Clusterfuck of 2014, one particular hashtag appeared: #BuildDontBurn. That is where I learned what real community and humility meant. If OCA was the bad breakup it felt like, this was coming home to family. That’s what I always thought activism was supposed to be: individuals coming together and loving each other because they shared a dream that a better world was possible. The guidance and love from the people behind #BuildDontBurn reshaped my perspectives on ego, credibility, community, and organizing. I didn’t have to be “good enough” for anyone — I just had to act because there was injustice and discrimination in the world.

Ultimately, it is a privilege to not be political. Instead, I am reimagining activism in a positive, loving way. Tanzila Ahmed, an organizer and blogger, wrote about love as a radical tool. This year, I let myself be soft. I learned to love in more powerful and constructive ways. Love is transformative in all of its many forms, from platonic to romantic to revolutionary. The love and encouragement from OCA’s Class of 2013 Interns (shoutout to the McMansion!) and my mentors (have y’all read Reappropriate?) keeps me going today. And what of OCA? Well, I maintain that they were the spark that lit my fire…and Summer 2013 won’t be the thing that puts it out.

Love,
Juliet

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vteck

Vanessa Teck

After my termination from OCA last year, I lost myself. I began the summer as a fresh graduate with stars in my eyes, hoping that my experience in our nation’s Capitol would equip me with the tools to serve my community. Yet, after a harsh termination, the world scared me. I received anonymous messages telling me that it would be impossible for me to find a career within the APIA advocacy community, the space that I called my home for so long. I was told that I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. There was no room for dialogue, for I already felt the labels of a failed activist and student bearing huge weights on my shoulder. I loved the movement, but I felt as though it was no longer loving me back.

As a result, I entered my Masters program with angry eyes and a hardened soul. I knew that it would take a toll on me; my time, my health, and my overall well-being. Yet, despite multiple warnings from well-intentioned mentors about entering the ivory tower, I could have never prepared myself for the psychological train wreck that I experienced throughout this first year.I felt the need to prove myself, to prove that I belonged in a space deemed so illustrious by family members who have been taught that academia is the only road to success and by mentors who have equated academic achievement to overcoming institutional barriers. I constantly feared, with each new day in my program, that someone would call me out as a fraud. I worried that, despite my various involvements and successes, my work would never be seen as good enough, that I would never be seen as graduate material. That before I spoke in class, I had to spend precious time developing articulate statements, so that when I said them out loud, I was perceived as credible and qualified. I sat and stared at blank pages as I attempted to write my papers, worried that my inadequacies would appear the moment that I began typing. That opportunities to work with faculty members would come with risks of a larger and more public community discovering my incompetence and termination.

I never afforded myself the opportunity to fully deconstruct how the summer quaked my entire being. I went through a stage of coldness, focused solely on achieving and burying the pain that I felt each quarter, as if ignoring the pain would cause my questioning to go away. I was often told that my kindness and conscientiousness were weaknesses… that if I remained soft, I would not be able to shape others. I lost the power of my narrative and in doing so, I forgot how to love. It was not until I was invited to speak on a panel with Suey Park that I began to realize how much I was hurting… and how much of myself that I had lost. As an individual who identifies as an advocate and activist right down to my core, I spent more time resisting the system, rather than transforming it. I forgot that as a Cambodian American feminist and activist in Higher Education and Student Affairs… my presence in itself was already resistance.

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What if instead… we transformed our idea of activism into being soft? If it were about loving deeper, instead of fighting harder? If it were about creating transformative change through soulful relationships, rather than tearing each other down? What if activism was less about expertise, but focused more on cultivating a space where mistakes could be considered a form of resistance? Imagine activism as a living room in which we can all feel welcomed and at home, hearts warmed and united by our common struggles, rather than a process of putting on armor and preparing for war.

That’s not to say that protest organizing is not needed, but despite many activists who claim to fight for justice, we forget to be inclusive and place one another on a pedestal. We have expectations of others that we cannot even achieve ourselves. Nothing about that is visionary; it’s just a remix of the oppressive systems we want to transform in the first place. By claiming to be an expert in anything, we remove the ability of ourselves and others to learn and grow together. We are our own gatekeepers. It was remarkably easy to disconnect myself from the reality and challenges of crafting an inclusive climate, excused by the overshadowing of my anger, but by recognizing that my lived experiences are only one of many that have the potential to create change, I begin to decolonize what I have learned and transformatively humanize myself and others.

Since then, I have found love within the stories I have had the privilege of hearing. I found love in the struggles from fellow womxn of color, the achievements from student activists, the frustrations from other graduate students drowning in debt, and the clarity from those who have been told that they matter. Although I end this piece still fearful, I am thankful for the family that I have gained along the way. From the cutest OCA intern class ever to an incredible partner who pushes me to be fierce and proudly introduces me as a feminist, I no longer feel lost or alone. I am embraced by those in my life who continue to love me, whether I am “radical” enough or not, “critical” enough or not, “activist” enough or not.

I continue to struggle and am hopeful that I will continue to struggle because it will mean that I am still attempting to create my own space founded upon love.

Love,
Vteck

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You can find Juliet at her blog, Fascinasians, a website dedicated to curating news and experiences about and from the Asian Pacific Islander American community. To learn more about Vanessa, check out Project Ava, a social justice media company, dedicated to sharing meaningful stories. Currently, Juliet and Vanessa serve as the Co-Chairs for the Coalition of API Americans Collaborating Together to Unite the Southwest (CAACTUS).

Demand an Apology from Fox News and Resignation of Bob Beckel!

The term “Chinaman” is an archaic racial slur dating back to the mid nineteenth century, with a heinous history of dehumanization and violence against Asian Americans (and Chinese Americans in particular). Yet, Fox News co-host Bob Beckel has used this slur on-air not once, but twice, in reference to Chinese and Chinese Americans. Most recently, he referred to Chinese people as “Chinamen” in a July 10, 2014 episode of “The Five”.

Fox News’ ongoing tolerance of Beckel’s anti-Asian racism, and their unapologetic airing of Beckel’s repeated use of anti-Asian slurs, is both unprofessional and an insult to Asian American viewers. 

Sign this petition to call on Fox News to IMMEDIATELY issue a retraction and an apology to the Asian American community for their airing of Beckel’s usage of racist slurs, and to call upon the network to terminate Beckel’s position as Fox News co-host.

For Asian-American Men, A New Definition of Sexy - Kristina Wong

Comedian Kristina Wong recently gave a commencement address at UCLA’s Asian Pacific Islander graduation. In it, she talked about what life was like when she was an undergad at the school, navigating her way through tough classes, professional aspirations and the demands of being an Asian-American woman in higer ed.

In a bit about the emasculation of Asian-American men, Wong re-defined what she considers sexy. From her speech:

Let’s address first of all, the emasculation of Asian men and how the media “doesn’t consider Asian men sexy.” Where the hell is the world getting these ideas that Asian men aren’t sexy?! I want to see the young Asian-American men of your generation model healthy masculinity that’s not being reflected in mainstream America.  I want the future of Asian men to show that what’s sexy is respecting a woman’s boundaries, dismantling patriarchy, fighting for social justice, all while coding the heck out of a computer program!  That’s what’s sexy! Asian-American men, are you going to be the new face of sexy?