Archive for the ‘DAY Project’ Category

This week, Grace Lee Boggs featured some of my recent entries about presidential candidate Barack Obama in her Living for Change column of the Michigan Citizen.  Having been a movement activist for over 50 years, GLB has a keen sense of the pulse of our nation, and I have always appreciated her dialectical analyses.  Together the Boggs Center and members of Beloved Communities Network have been discussing the significance of Obama, the movement that surrounds his candidacy, and the potential for Obama’s campaign to spark actual change.

Below is the full text from Living for Change: Continue Reading »

I was disappointed to hear that Detroit’s Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced the sale of 92 city parks last month. Many of these parks are probably small, abandoned and surrounded by other empty lots. Reportedly, the city wants to generate some revenue and spark development by selling these pocket parks.

There are enough vacant properties to stimulate development in Detroit, and I don’t see why the city can’t examine other approaches to revitalizing areas that are not designated parkland. Turning to parkland reveals a sense of desperation. It’s probably true that many of these parks are eye-sores and hardly ever used (what child would want to play on rusted, broken swings?), but selling off a city’s parks, no matter how small, is a short-sighted approach to city planning.

Whether it’s due to poor leadership, too much bureaucracy, or lack of resources, it’s unfortunate that the city is unable to improve these neighborhood parks. With the elimination of these neighborhood parks, the city cannot bank on the larger city parks (Belle Isle, Palmer Park, Rouge Park) to attract more residents, especially without an adequate public transportation system. During my experience working with youth who lived in northeast Detroit, few, if any, had even been to Belle Isle, which is considered one of the most well-known parks of Detroit.

Coincidentally, I’ve been researching the history of Detroit parks and greenspaces for my landscape theory class. As cities grew with Industrialization in the late 19th century, pioneering planners, such as Frederick L. Olmsted, advocated for the integration of public park space, in order to promote the public and environmental health of urban centers. In 1921, Detroit had become a national leader in park and recreational activities and hosted the annual convention for the National Association of Park Administrators. Hundeds of park administrators from around the country flocked to Detroit to learn how its park system accommodated a growing populace, and to view Belle Isle’s spectacular architecture and park design. (Though Belle Isle has been stripped to its bare essentials, with the closing of the zoo, aquarium and other attractions within the last 10 years).

I’m not necessarily arguing for the city to seek a return to the early 1900s because we clearly live in a different social and urban context today. But I do support innovative and visionary leadership to city planning and repairing the fabric of our urban communities. What would it look like if the city partnered with the local community to identify the needs of their neighborhoods? How can communities self-strategize to bring and maintain resources in the city? What does the city value, and how do those values manifest the kind of development we are encouraging in the city? Can we invite city designers and planners to rethink Detroit?

Click below for the list of neighborhood parks for sale: Continue Reading »

Last Saturday I went to check out the Mid-Autumn Festival organized by Asian Americans United and the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The first time I had heard about this event was several years ago through my involvment with the Detroit Asian Youth Project and our efforts to engage youth with cultural arts and activism. There’s a really dope documentary that tells the story behind the festival that captures the goals to use folk arts to build intergenerational relationships, pass down cultural traditions and build a stronger sense of community.

Walking through Chinatown, there was a wonderful vibe from the festival and the hundreds of young people and families walking around. Continue Reading »

A recent statement released by the Committee to Support the Xiong Family to increase support for their organizing efforts surrounding the Chonburi Xiong incident:

Hmong Teen Killed by Police: Community Responses to Police Violence and Harassment in Warren and the Greater Detroit Area.

Since the fatal shooting of Hmong teenager, Chonburi Xiong, by Warren, Michigan police officers in September 2006, the “Committee to Support the Xiong Family,” an ad-hoc coalition of students, teachers, community members, and organizations, have joined efforts in not only seeking justice for the Xiong family and address issues of police violence against communities of color.

On the morning of September 17th, Chonburi Xiong, 18, was shot twenty seven times by Warren police officers in his own home. The Warren police officers responded to a domestic call by the Xiong family the day before, sparked by an argument between Chonburi and his parents leading to Chonburi firing his gun several times in his home and taking off with the family car. Chonburi came home that night and went to sleep. Without having called the police, the Xiong family awoke the next morning to the Warren policy who stormed their home without a warrant, detained the family upstairs and went down to the basement where Chonburi was sleeping. He was shot 27 times and the family was taken into custody where they were not notified of their Chonburi’s death until later that afternoon.

The Warren police state that the killing is “justified”; the city’s lawyer claims, “The twenty seven means nothing. The only thing the officers needed was justification to shoot one time. The twenty seven bullets don’t matter.”

This incident, however, is no anomaly; it is related to other forms of racially targeted police harassment and violence experienced by Asian American youth and other youth of color in the greater Detroit area. On November 26th, an off-duty office outside a retail store in Detroit fatally shot an unarmed sixteen-year-old African American youth, Brandon Martell Moore. Both families have not received an explanation or procedures from which to address their son’s death. Continue Reading »

A friend sent emailed me an article today about Asian Week columnist Kenneth Eng’s op-ed, titled “Why I Hate Blacks”. I was sorely disappointed that Asian Week allowed this kind of content to be published, as I had considered Asian Week to be a professional publication serving an important need for the Asian American community. (Asian Week had even given great coverage to community initiatives like DAY Project.)

Now they have a lot of explaining to do. It’s one thing to allow for “freedom of speech”, but Eng’s op-ed is simply irresponsible.

In addition to the racist statements he writes about the Black community. The op-ed itself reads with a whiney and misguided voice, filled with faulty logic. I also read Eng’s earlier piece entitled “Why I Hate Asians“, and I came to the same conclusion with Power and Politics in that Eng’s work is that of a deranged writer. Now I usually give folks the benefit of the doubt, but Eng’s tone of writing doesn’t really convey any sincerity in trying to spark dialogue about racial stereotypes and discrimination. And then there is something to be said about a person who is a self-proclaimed “Asian Supremacist” and calls his column “God’s Universe”.

This link displays a petition against the article sponsored by several major Asian Pacific American civil rights and advocacy groups. It also lists other relevant links, including a downloadable PDF of the original column (which can no longer be found on Asian Week’s website).

The incident reminds me of some heated blog discussions a few months ago about the state of relations and lack of understanding between Asian and Black folks. I fear we all may remain perpetually as crabs in a barrel and continue playing Oppression Olympics. The Asian Week let-down certainly doesn’t help the situation.

Still, I feel mostly sadness, rather than anger, towards Eng because I think that using this approach is to operate from self-hate. I wonder what Eng is like in person. Does he have any children? What kind of people is her surrounded by? Who does he call his community? From where does he draw inspiration and hope?

Not much time to develop this entry, but I wanted to share an update regarding the Xiong memorial. This week’s MetroTimes published a well-balanced article on last Saturday’s Memorial and Community Assembly for Chonburi Xiong. As a side note, I wasn’t at all keen on the title, “Hmong and Restless”, that they used for the cover. “Hmong and Restless”, a play on the TV soap opera “Young and Restless”, is an inconsiderate way to refer to the 27-shot killing of an Asian teenager and the community’s outcry. If the article were about the counter-culture of youth, that would be a different a different case..

Back to the news article. There is a very eye-opening quote from the lawyer representing the city and police officers who shot Xiong:

One thing was certain: This guy pointed a loaded weapon at these police officers. The 27 times means nothing. The only thing the officers needed was the justification to shoot one time. The 27 bullets don’t matter.

It was reported that nearly 40 shots were fired and 27 hit the young man. I’m not convinced that the police needed to shoot at all, but to say that 1 bullet is the same as 27 bullets is appalling. One could shoot an animal less times than that. I am not an expert on police procedures, but I do believe that there are steps of de-escalation that police can take to disarm a potential suspect. On the note of suspect, I don’t think that the police have stated what the charge was against Xiong. Was there even a warrant to enter the house?

Here is the latest regarding the death of a Hmong youth by police in Warren, Michigan. A memorial and community assembly event is planned for Chonburi Xiong, young victim of a brutal police shooting. The ad-hoc committee that has been organizing support for the Xiong family also sent a press release that generated a lot of media attention in local papers, including two hits in the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and the Macomb Daily. Below is a powerful statement from the father of Chonburi, from Detroit Asian Youth Project‘s website:

My name is Pang Blia Xiong. I was born in a small farming village in Laos on December 31, 1956. I did not have much of a childhood because my country was torn apart by war. When the Americans came to Laos, they asked our people, the Hmong, to help fight the Communists. I did not know much about America, but my parents told us it was our duty to help the Americans. My father was a Hmong military leader who was killed in combat in 1969. That same year, I joined the army at the age of thirteen. Although I feared for my life at every moment during the war, I managed to survive.

But after the Communists took power in 1975, everybody who sided with the Americans became an outcast in Laos. My family fled to the woods to survive. For four years, we were constantly running to avoid the gunfire from Communist soldiers. Sometimes, we went for days without food. Many people from my village died—men, women, children, and elders. My family was lucky to escape many close encounters.

In 1979, my family made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. I lived in the Ban Vinai camp for nine years. Housing conditions were poor and crowded, and we were only given small food rations once or twice a month. I met my wife in the refugee camp. We decided to come to America, when my wife was pregnant in 1988. My older brother had already settled in Wisconsin. He told me that I should leave the refugee camp because America was a better place to raise a family. Our first son, Chonburi, was born in Thailand as we were preparing to come to the US. My wife and I were overjoyed to become parents. In our culture, the first-born son is especially important because he will be the one to carry on our family name and heritage. We have four more children born in America.

We came to Detroit in 1990, and I worked as a machine operator for an auto parts supplier. For the past eight years, I have worked as an assembly worker making auto parts for automotive engines. My wife worked as a dishwasher first, then as a machine operator. It was hard adjusting to a new country where people spoke a different language, but we both worked hard and did our best to support our family. We saved our money to buy a house in northeast Detroit, and I was proud to become an American citizen in 1998.

In October 2003, we moved to a larger house in Warren. We did not know much about the city, but we liked the houses and we heard that our children could get a good education in the Warren public schools. For nearly three years, we always considered our neighborhood safe, and we trusted the Warren police. We know there are many good men and women on the force and that they have a difficult and important job. But we never imagined that our son, Chonburi, could be killed by police officers in our own home.

We want the public to be aware that previous reports have contained many inaccurate statements about my family. We hope that the media will investigate this matter further and provide a more even-handed account.

I ask everyone who is a parent, “If you lost your child in this manner, wouldn’t you be searching for answers? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to see if your child’s death could have been avoided?” My wife and I have filed our complaint because we want the court and the public to take a closer look at the facts of this case.

In closing, we wish to thank all the members of the community, who have helped us to make it through this difficult period. We appreciate your support. We hope that we can all work together and that we can all work with the police and government authorities to ensure that all people are treated fairly. We deeply miss our son, and we do not wish to see any other parents suffer as we have.

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I thought that working on grad school applications would take away from blogging. Instead, blogging has been a wonderful distraction to help me get through the painful application process.

Lately the Detroit Asian Youth Project has been getting some great features in places like here and here! Being involved with this initiative has been a great learning experience, and it has come a long way since we launched it three years ago. In addition to the 6-week summer program, it now involves weekly after school sessions and monthly open-mics that are organized by the youth. A mix of Detroit residents and University of Michigan students serve as adult mentors. The most remarkable blessing is simply getting to know these youth and watching them articulate their stories. I have learned more about what it means to be Asian American through them, as they have also helped put into context my own experiences as a Taiwanese American growing up in a predominately white suburb. They are certainly more on point about the world than I was at their age. I look forward to seeing them grow and explore their full potentials in the years ahead.

Check out DAY Project on MySpace, too!

Below is an update about some organizing efforts relating to the Hmong youth who was shot 27 times by Warren police.

On September 17, 18 year old Chon Buri Xiong was fatally shot 27 times in his home by Warren police. The Xiong family has suffered a great tragedy and is very upset about the incident. However, the Macomb County Prosecutor has closed the case, stating that the police officers were justified in their actions. The Xiong Family’s side of the story has not been taken seriously by the authorities, or by the media which has only written from the police perspective. The Xiong family needs money to help cover funeral and housing expenses. Every donation will contribute greatly.

Please contact dayproject (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to send a donation, or get involved.

Detroit Asian Youth (DAY) Project was launched in 2004 and works with Asian American youth in Detroit to develop leadership skills and raise awareness for social justice. DAY Project engages in community-based projects that foster a greater understanding of Detroit and its Asian American community.

This voter guide is based on my personal research and conversations, and is not a complete reflection of all the positions that are up for election this year. Some positions, such as Member of the State Board of Education and several judicial positions, are not included, not because they are unimportant races, but rather I was unable to develop an informed choice by the time of this posting (and will probably just decide on the day I vote). Every voter should do their own research, but if this voter guide helps, please feel free to print it out and take it with you to the polls!

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