Friday, June 26, 2009

IN MEMORIAM: SCHOLAR RONALD TAKAKI

UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies professor, author, and race relations pioneer Ronald Takaki passed away last month.

Takaki is considered a pioneer in Asian American Studies and a scholar on race relations, even helping President Clinton with a speech on race relations in America in 1997. He taught at Cal for over 30 years, established the nation’s first ethnic studies Ph.D. program at Cal, and authored Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, Democracy and Race: Asian Americans and World War II, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America, and Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II. Considered the preeminent work on Asian American history, Strangers from a Different Shore was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

Takaki’s work and passion undoubtedly touched the lives of many of his students. I was one of those students who was moved after reading Strangers From A Different Shore and was privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from him at Cal.

After one of the last classes I had with Takaki, he sent me a note with these words: “Wow, what a riveting read. What you have done as a writer and artist is to give ‘voice’ [through your writing]... You have my best wishes to your bright career as a writer.” Those words touched me then, and they still do now - more than ever. Thank you, Ron.

His family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Takaki’s name to the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

Ronald Takaki

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

VINCENT CHIN: HE STILL MATTERS TODAY

Vincent Chin died 27 years ago today in Detroit, Michigan.

His death still reverberates today. Twenty-seven years ago, his world collided with Ronald Ebens, a Chrysler employee, and his step-son Michael Nitz, who was recently laid-off. Ebens blame Chin for Detroit’s automotive troubles, calling him racial epithets, and telling Chin: "It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work." Ebens bludgeoned Chin to death with a Louisville Slugger bat, leaving him brain dead. Guests invited to his wedding instead came to his funeral.

Father and step-son pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to a lesser charge of manslaughter. Wayne County judge Charles Kaufman heard the defense, but the prosecutor in the case didn’t show up. After a 5-minute recess, the judge sentenced them to three years probation and fined each $3,000. In Detroit, the fine for killing an animal is $5,000.

Outraged, his mother Lily ignited the fight for justice for her son. It lead to two civil rights trial on violation of Vincent Chin’s rights to use of public spaces (accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Ultimately, a second federal trial in Ohio in 1987 acquitted the assailants. His death still matters because it united us as a community.

Vincent Chin

Friday, June 12, 2009

YOU CAN DO IT!

I guess I shouldn’t have ignored this most of my life: A positive attitude can protect your health, according to RealAge. Positive thinking appears to protect your health in the two ways:
  • Enhances immune system function
  • It also encourages independence and an outgoing attitude, fending off depression
Damnit, now, I’m so mad at my parents for screwing me up, causing me to be dumb, and filling me with self-doubt. Ugh, this sucks!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CUONG'S SPIRIT SERIES

I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
It’s clear what Mother Tersea meant, that in life the best way to live is to be for something, to have positive energy. Spend your time being for something - your passion, your beliefs, your yourself.

Mother Teresa.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

LILY CHIN

Lily Chin, mother of slain Vincent Chin, died seven years ago today.

Mrs. Chin fought valiantly for justice after her son was bludgeoned to death in Detroit in June 1982 by two automotive workers and were only sentenced to three years probation and fined $3,000 each. Ronald Ebens and his step-son mistook Chin for Japanese and blamed him for the decline of the American automotive industry. Because Ebens uttered a racial slur, he was tried on federal civil rights charges for violenting Chin's rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A second trial acquitted Ebens.

In the end, Mrs. Chin never found justice for her son. She returned to China, and then returned to Michigan. Her work, courage, and strength ignited the Asian Amerian Civil Rights Movement.


Lily Chin

Monday, June 01, 2009

OH MAGGIE

In the second grade, I had my first crush on Maggie Bolivar. My earliest memory of Maggie Bolivar left an indelible mark in my mind. The feelings would fester, grow and thrive deep inside of me. It’s one of those things that stay within you.

Maggie Bolivar and I were in Mr. Pollack’s second grade class at Buchanan Street School. She was my first crush. She had short, wavy, dark brown hair and a sweet smile that lit her eyes. She was best friends with Erica Torres. Even then I knew that I had to get Erica to like me for Maggie to like me. Admittedly, I was a precocious second grader.

It might have seemed odd to others: the dark-skinned kid who hung out with Maggie and Erica. But three of us were inseparable. They were my friends.

My father drove me over to Maggie’s house and waited in the car. I walked up the steps of her house nervously with a sheet of paper and a pen in my hand. When I rung the doorbell, Mrs. Bolivar answered and greatly me with a smile. She asked me to come in, but I awkwardly stayed outside, so she turned and screamed for Maggie. When Maggie came out her smile lit my face.

I told her if she gave her number to me my father would take us to the movies. She said yes. I handed her a piece of paper and a pen. A smile crawled onto my face. She pressed the paper onto the wall and wrote her number on it. She turned around with that smile and handed me the pen. I held it tightly in my hands. As she captured me with her eyes, she folded the paper in her hands, twisting it, crumbling it, and then crushing it into a small jagged ball. Maggie gave me her hand, offering me the crumpled piece of paper. I reached for it, but it slipped out of her hands and rolled onto the porch. I chased after it, almost desperate to capture it. She was still smiling. I smiled back shyly and bent down to pick up the ball of paper. Excited, I turned to leave, unfurling the piece of paper as I walked towards my father’s graze. Her number in my hand.

I opened the crushed piece of paper and straightened her words out onto my lap. I showed my father her number on the piece of paper, my most prized possession. He looked at it quickly and drove off. I asked my father when we could go to the movies. Not sure, he responded quietly. Next week?, I probed. Not sure right now. Let me think about it, he countered. I am not sure what happened to him that day, but he never took us to the movies.

I was embarrassed the movies never happened, but Maggie never brought it up. We were still friends and nothing had changed.

It was near the end of second grade and Mr. Pollack told us that we would perform the dance in front of the next school assembly. He announced that after recess he would pair us up with partners for the dance. I knew immediately who I wanted to dance with.

I was excited. Somehow I knew I would get to dance with Maggie. After pairing up most of the class, Mr. Pollack announced Maggie’s name. I smiled inside. Then he announced my name. I raced up to take my place next to Maggie Bolivar.

Maggie looked at me with the same bright smile that lit her eyes. I almost couldn’t believe it. I was happy. She turned away, almost embarrassed. Then she turned to me and asked, maybe she said. She uttered, “Why did I get stuck with you, nip?”

Nip.

I took a step back and looked into her eyes. Nip.

In the second grade, I had my first crush on Maggie Bolivar. My earliest memory of Maggie Bolivar left an indelible mark in my mind. The feelings would fester, grow and thrive deep inside of me. It’s one of those things that stay within you.