Archive for the ‘People of Color’ Category

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Thanks Mary for sharing this “open letter” by Phonte. It captures a lot of what I’ve been trying to articulate about Michael Jackson and my frustration with the U.S. media’s portrayal of his life and work. R.I.P Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

My Hero Ain’t Molest Them Bitch Ass Kids: A Kaing’s Tribute

I haven’t been compelled to blog in a long time.

In an era where everybody is twittering and text-messaging their lives away, a well-thought out essay that extends past 140 characters is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

But when our universe lost its brightest star on June 25, 2009, I felt a deep, overwhelming sadness that I haven’t experienced in many years and I felt moved to say….something.

My hero, Michael Joseph Jackson, is dead.

Honestly I’m still trying to process it, almost like the loss of a much-loved family member. I mean, hell, to many of us Michael WAS family. Much like Nike, or Coca-Cola, or McDonalds, Michael Jackson wasn’t so much a person as he was a living, breathing, American institution; a ubiquitous force that has seemingly existed forever and one that we couldn’t imagine a world without. Seeing Michael onstage was less like watching a musician perform and more akin to witnessing a magician at work.

But contrary to his otherworldly stage presence and magical aura, the man we called The King of Pop proved to be a mere mortal. And now my hero, Michael Joseph Jackson, is dead.

What isn’t dead, unfortunately, is the cloud of false accusations, unsubstantiated rumors, myths, slander, and outright lies that surround his life and his legacy. The greatest myth regarding Michael Jackson is that he was a pedophile who preyed on young children. Continue Reading »

We featured Kian Goh at the Unspoken Borders Conference this year, during the Talk20 session.   Having Goh be part of the conference was fantastic, particularly because of her direct engagement with the queer community on design issues.  One of her projects is featured in our hot-off-the-press publication.  She was also recently interviewed by the American Institute of Architects – be sure to listen to the mp3 of the interview.  She articulates the importance of promoting social justice through design.  Though she specifically speaks to an architectural audience, her words resonate well with other design fields.

Two weekends ago, we wrapped up an inspiring, thought-provoking conference. Fortunately, we had a representative from Arch Paper cover the conference, and they’ve just posted a review of their reflections. Here’s a highlight:
Amidst the discussion of what designers can do about social inequities, a related question emerged: should design education address the root causes of those inequities? “There’s no lack of design-build studios going out to poor neighborhoods to build houses, but there’s no discussion [in architecture school] of why those neighborhoods exist,” said architect Kian Goh. But isn’t there a trade-off between expertise and generalism? Some participants thought so, and urban designer Felipe Correa countered: “It is important that we not overextend the net, that we bring it back to what we know how to do best,” he argued. “Allow sociologists to deal with the sociology.”
I think this has been our best conference yet, particularly because we were able to attract a wide cross-section of students to attend.  In addition to the various methods of collaboration, great graphic design and aggressive outreach effort, I believe our theme, “Ecologies of Inequality”, strategically peeked the interest of students. As a designer of color, this conference is a nourishing reminder why I decided to pursue this profession in the first place.
Another participant also posted her thoughts of her visit. After the conference, two PennDesign architecture students have launched an interactive blog to continue the dialogues around design and social justice.

This is one of the few, if only, student-run conferences at PennDesign that explicitly explores the intersection of race, politics and design. The theme, “Ecologies of Inequality”, investigates the systems and institutions that create and perpetuate disparities in public health, transportation, economic access and spatial disenfranchisement. It will also feature projects that are using design to develop new systems of equality and justice.

We’ve got an amazing line-up, so check out the website when registration opens on February 15.

OUR ANCESTORS, OUR BREATH
Cultivating Spiritual Power for our Healing and Happiness

ANNUAL MINDFULNESS RETREAT FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THE TRADITION OF VENERABLE THICH NHAT HANH

@ BLUE CLIFF MONASTERY

PINE BUSH, NY

WED, OCT 22 – SUN, OCT 26, 2008

Our fifth annual retreat offered to People of Color in the tradition of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh will be held on the East Coast for the first time! In this five-day retreat for people of Native-American, African, Latina/o, Asian/Pacific Islander, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern ancestry (as well as their Caucasian family members), we will touch healing and nourishment through the practice of mindfulness and our reconnection to our ancestors.

This retreat offers us the opportunity to practice and enjoy the art of mindful and peaceful living in our daily life. We will learn to recognize and embrace our pain in transformative ways, find peace within ourselves, and foster stronger sisterhood and brotherhood in our communities. It will give us an opportunity to stop, rest, and touch the source of wisdom, compassion and healing in ourselves, so that we can renew our relationships and bring peace and understanding to our world. Through the practice of mindfulness we will learn how to nourish happiness, gratitude, good communication and serenity in our daily life. Some of the questions we will explore are:

• What are our sources of spiritual power in us?
• How can we cultivate our spiritual power to maintain balance in our life?
• How can we nurture faith, joy, creativity, and compassion in our daily life?

For further information, please check our website later on for more details regarding this retreat (www.bluecliffmonastery.org), or call us at 845.733.4959.

On a positive tip, I’ve copied a letter sent from the Obama Chinatown HQ below:

Dear Friends,
We in PA just can’t say enough about how much your support has meant to us over the past two months:
Thanks to you, United People for Obama went from meeting weekly in a restaurant basement to meeting in our own Philly Chinatown office with phone and internet. With your support, our Philly Chinatown office transformed from a simple meeting space to a vibrant Obama Philly Chinatown Headquarters.
To everyone’s surprise, with every Chinatown bus, the volunteers kept coming. Almost overnight, our Obama Philly Chinatown Office became well-known throughout the City as a vibrant, well-organized volunteer hub. On Saturday, our volunteers called 2,747 Democrats in PA and knocked on over 10,000 doors on Saturday and Sunday alone!
Thanks to you, we used to have to tell other Philadelphians where Philly Chinatown was, but now Philly Chinatown has been visited by Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, and German worldwide media. People are not just fascinated by an Obama for America office in Chinatown: They are fascinated by the incredible transformation of an office space into a movement, of volunteers into a family.
In short, we’re not closing up shop in Philly Chinatown because, quite frankly, the support of this wonderful community has put us in position to be a force for North Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, and beyond. We’re Fired Up! Ready to Go!
Thank you for giving from your heart and for being our inspiration. Thank you to Mr. Lee Deng, our office donor, and the staff-Van Tamom, Director of AAPI Outreach, Field Organizer Peter Harrell, and full-time volunteer Helen Liu for everything. Thank you to Senator Barack Obama, Maya Soetoro Ng and Konrad Ng for their support of our Philly Chinatown Office!
Now let’s get to work!!!
Sincerely,
Anna, Matt, Nina, and many, many others

In the wake of Super Tuesday’s results of how Asian Americans voted, particularly in California, there’s been a flurry of activity among APIA bloggers to figure out what happened. In particular, Jeff Chang’s article does a great job of breaking down Clinton’s political machine.

To our community and allies, let’s not give up because for all the discussion about how Clinton has a more diverse campaign staff, we have to remember that when Obama first came onto the scene as a presidential candidate, many (including myself) didn’t think his campaign would become what it is now. I’m not surprised that many organizers of color signed up early in Clinton’s campaign because it was more established.

Name recognition played a huge role in what had happened. But there is a clear difference between Obama and Clinton. The New York Magazine recently described Obama’s campaign as a “white boy campaign“. Despite the usual spin on race and ethnicity from mainstream media, I find that this article’s analysis is incredibly off. Obama’s campaign is a break from the old way of politics. His campaign is about movement building, not name recognition. What electrifies me about Obama is that he is talking about transforming our politics and ourselves, not giving out quick, token favors to our leaders and figureheads. Professor Scott Kurashige articulates this important distinction in his recent post (long but very worthwhile to read in its entirety). Here’s an excerpt:

The Obama campaign is about transcending the “minority politics” mentality that carves us all up into “interest groups” and pushes the hot buttons that reinforce our sense of victimization and vilify the other side. Mainstream observers focus on Obama’s invocation of “hope” as a rhetorical device, which appeals to the common decency in all of us to both transcend partisanship and support an agenda driven by the discourse of change. No doubt this is part of the appeal he is making, especially as he seeks to fashion himself as someone who can unite voters in both “blue” and “red” states and also “change the way Washington does business.”

But I sense there is something much deeper to both Obama as an individual and his campaign, which has the potential to develop into a movement. Obama has a deep respect for what Charles Payne (in I’ve Got the Light of Freedom) has called the “organizing tradition” that sustained the Black freedom struggle in the South. He recognizes the debt we owe the likes of Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, and Rosa Parks, but more importantly the lessons we must learn from their struggles. If you are just a “minority leader,” then you’re not really a leader at all. If you are only fighting for your “fair share” of the riches controlled by those in power, you’ll never address the root causes of oppression. Above all is the sense that none of us can be free in America until we change the whole country. Obama speaks in poetry and he is writing a song of redemption.

Yet, as Obama admits, his work is not done. To have built an impressive biracial coalition in the North and South is impressive. So is having won both the Black and white vote in California, which really should put to rest the media’s endless drivel about that divide. Yet, we now know that a biracial victory doesn’t cut it anymore, for all that historic act has done is create new challenges. I wonder how Obama’s campaign is processing their drubbing among Latinos and Asians in California. Was it just a lack of time? Is it an idiosyncratic result of the Clintons unique appeal? Was it a failure of execution? Or do they need a better strategy rooted in a deeper understanding of Latino and Asian communities and new people to be a part of the decision making process? My sense is that it is mostly the latter. In the future, I’ll try to say more about what is shaping interethnic attitudes and relations today, especially to counter the mainstream media’s new sophomoric fixation on “Black/Latino tensions.” What should stand out, however, is that we need to know a lot more about interethnic relations and recognize they are not a sideshow.

Remember, it was the media that asked if Obama can “transcend race” — Obama never spoke these words himself because his message is not about colorblindness at all.

I’m confident the numbers will change and that more Asian Americans will change support for Obama’s campaign. In some weays, our “loss” in California is very positive because it is continuing the contest between Obama and Clinton, giving us an important moment to talk to our community, peers, friends and family members. We can really highlight what sets Obama apart from Clinton. I don’t think we are last minute at all — Transformation is very different from identity and coalition politics, which is what Clinton is solely relying upon. We’ve seen the upsurge in the last two weeks, where folks went to the poll en masse to change their vote for Obama. Let’s keep building and reaching our communities.

After I had written my last post on why Obama inspires me to re-engage with electoral politics, I recently came across these comments that he had said during his first senatorial campaign in 1995, when he was featured in an article published by an alternative paper in Chicago. I found these statements to be an important reflection, in his own words, of Obama’s approach, philosophy and vision for the role of elected officials and government.

What makes Obama different from other progressive politicians is that he doesn’t just want to create and support progressive programs; he wants to mobilize the people to create their own. He wants to stand politics on its head, empowering citizens by bringing together the churches and businesses and banks, scornful grandmothers and angry young. Mostly he’s running to fill a political and moral vacuum. He says he’s tired of seeing the moral fervor of black folks whipped up–at the speaker’s rostrum and from the pulpit–and then allowed to dissipate because there’s no agenda, no concrete program for change.

“…What we need in America, especially in the African-American community, is a moral agenda that is tied to a concrete agenda for building and rebuilding our communities,” he said. “We have moved beyond the clarion call stage that was needed during the civil rights movement. Now, like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, we must move into a building stage. We must invest our energy and resources in a massive rebuilding effort and invent new mechanisms to strengthen and hasten this community-building effort.

“…Now an agenda for getting our fair share is vital. But to work, it can’t see voters or communities as consumers, as mere recipients or beneficiaries of this change. It’s time for politicians and other leaders to take the next step and to see voters, residents, or citizens as producers of this change. The thrust of our organizing must be on how to make them productive, how to make them employable, how to build our human capital, how to create businesses, institutions, banks, safe public spaces–the whole agenda of creating productive communities. That is where our future lies.

“…The right wing talks about this but they keep appealing to that old individualistic bootstrap myth: get a job, get rich, and get out. Instead of investing in our neighborhoods, that’s what has always happened. Our goal must be to help people get a sense of building something larger.

“…The political debate is now so skewed, so limited, so distorted. People are hungry for community; they miss it. They are hungry for change.

“…What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected public official, for instance, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer. We would come together to form concrete economic development strategies, take advantage of existing laws and structures, and create bridges and bonds within all sectors of the community. We must form grass-root structures that would hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions.”

Full text below:

Continue Reading »

Sometimes there are moments that I don’t think it’s true. But it is — this moment that I hadn’t anticipated on happening has clearly come – we have a presidential candidate who not only engenders our belief in his ability and integrity, but pushes us to transform ourselves.

Obama has a subtle and beautiful undertone in all his messaging. He’s talking about all of us doing this thing called democracy together. He can’t get away from the spotlight and the adulation that many, myself included, project onto him, but I think he’s asking us to become something higher than ourselves.

Obama’s the first presidential candidate that has successfully built a campaign around Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see in the world”. This is where I love that his background as an organizer. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone effectively articulate the need for each of us to become engaged in the process, rather than spouting more politics-as-usual rhetoric. This is the kind of leadership this country needs.

Here are some things that I came across this past week that personally inspired me about Obama, his future presidency, and the potential that we can all become:

Today was certainly a highlight of the weekend for me! At 9:00am, we arrived at the Columbia HQ to take park of a large faith-based mobilization hosted by Obama’s campaign. As an organizer, I remember how important, yet challenging and nuanced, organizing the churches can be. And as a buddhist practicioner, there was only so much I felt like I could accomplish, outside of building relationships with congregations that were open to inter-faith alliances. Obama’s “Call to Chapel” was exciting to me because 1) my partner is Christian and has helped me better understand the Christian faith, and 2) the mobilization was about simply meeting people where they were, rather than aggressive campaigning.

At the headquarters, I was happy to see a large crowd gathering and a charter bus pulling into the parking lot. Outside of some logistical delays, everyone that showed up was assigned a church to attend. My partner and I chose to go to Antioch A.M.E Church in Eastover which was located about 40 minutes outside of Columbia. During the drive, I saw how this part of South Carolina was truly rural, without much infrastructure between population centers.

 

I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Antioch A.M.E. This was the kind of church that had a grave next to the building, with an address named after itself. How well would they receive us? Would they let us read Senator Obama’s letter? Did I look okay? All went well — Reverend Benton and his congregation welcomed us with open arms, and this Sunday happened to be dedicated to the youth members of the church, so we were lucky to have one of the children read Obama’s letter.

As an observer, I think that the “Call to Chapel” action was successful. Over the weekend, I had overheard many people who had qualms about taking part in this action, or who thought it was not for them. But I don’t think one needs to be Christian to take part in something like this. What better way to earn trust and build bridges than to go to the place that is the foundation of so many people?

Continue Reading »