Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things That I Need, Want to, or Do Understand

1. I will never understand everything

2. Being Black means something whether one thinks it does or not.

3. I never want to want a cookie for recognizing and/or acting on injustice.

4. My own racist/sexist/homophobic/etc thoughts need to be recognized, owned up to, then eliminated the best I can.

5. It turns out that Yeshua (Jesus) was right. I do have to be willing to give up everything, friends, family, expectations, to do what is right.

6. Punishing and berating myself isnt the same thing as humility

Monday, June 8, 2009

NCORE and San Diego: Friday

Friday started off with little difficulties as my group had breakfast at the hotel and went to that morning's keynote speaker.

Keynote Speaker: Ron His Horse is Thunder- Mitakuya Oyasin (We are All Related)
Fantastic speaker. I mean, he had so many stories to tell and just his experiences in life completely astound me. Now from what I remember, Mr. Tasunka Wakinyan is the great-great grandson of Sitting Bull. Not only that but his siblings were a mix of Native American, African American, and Latino ethnicities. Not only that but his was one of the Greensboro 4, Joseph McNeil, who staged one of the first sit-ins in the 60's. Mr. Tasunka Wakinyan also grew up in HARLEM, New York. I mean I just found him so amazing to be at the center of so much greatness. Anyways, he was also talking about how Native American colleges need to have more teachers who are Native American and who teach more about how studies in school can apply to being Native American and the experiences that they do and will go through. For example he told us this story about how there was a trial with these people who wanted this land in the mountains however some Native Americans were outraged because the land had belonged to them hundreds of years ago. The opposing side tried to claim that the tribe had not occupied those mountains and the tribe proved them wrong through Astrology. Basically they could recall the position of the stars from that mountaintop hundreds of years ago, which matched the project position that the scientists had come up with.
I could go on and on about this speaker but he was just hands down amazing.

After the Keynote can that morning's sessions. At this point, I am starting to get greedy so I decide that I want to go to TWO sessions and just go back and forth. I went to both Asian Americans as the Model Minority session and Hip-Hop Criticism: Is Everybody Stupid? Both sessions were fantastic.

Asian Americans as the Model Minority:
In the beginning of this session, the speaker projected various Asian and Asian American politicians, sports players, activists, and all around famous or infamous people. I guessed like 4 correct and knew by face about 6 more (thank you 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30) but I hadn’t heard of most of them.
The speaker talks about what each person did while trying to get the audience to guess. While slightly ashamed, I was very happy to be learning all of this. Then I left this session for a bit so I could go peek into the Hip-hop criticism seminar.

Hip-Hop Criticism: Is Everybody Stupid?:
This session was hosted by this awesome rapper/ spoken word artist Ise Lyfe. I mean this guy was the epitome of cool. Even his style of talking was poetic. He showed us a slideshow of various pictures he had taken that illustrated hypocrisy or something ironic or interesting about black culture and hip-hop culture. One of the most memorable slides was that of a quote by a rapper, Soulja Boy I think, who talked about how the slave owners should get some props because without them we wouldn’t be here to get all this ice and crystal...Yeah. But he was serious. What WAS serious though was Ise Lyfe would even gave us a little performance of some of his poetry and rhymes.

Around this time I headed back over to the Model Minority seminar where they were talking about this book that two Asian American women had written talking about how Asian Americans got good grades and advising the audience how to do the same. Then an argument started about whether this was a good this or not. (Totally paraphrasing right now)

after the seminar I approached the speaker about the Avatar Racebending movement and she told me to definitely email her about it since she was on her way out.

After the morning seminars, our Iowa State group (who were all wearing our I State t-shirts. there was yellow EVERYWHERE) went on a different kind of San Diego tour. The tour was called NCORE Communities Experience Tours, Experience I: Socio-ethnic Communities, Districts and Neighborhoods. A lot of this tour was made up of touring different Sand Diego neighborhoods and investigating the links between the ethnic makeup of that area and the socio economic realities and decisions. For example, a lot of highways were built cutting right across communities of color, restricting and crippling the neighborhood. We went to an area called Chicano Park, which our driver told us: "if you're not Chicano, than you shouldn’t be going there." Much of the park was painted in really vivid portraits and surreal paintings. Azteca paintings and portraits of leaders and activists like Che Quevara. I felt at this time like this was a sacred place that I even felt a little funny about riding next to.
Next we toured the Jacobsen community of which I was really impressed. We were taken to this mall like area where shops and stores had a deeper meaning to them than buying and selling. It was kind of amazing how the entire different racial group that made up Jacobsen each had a representative voice in creating this landscape. And I finally bought my first dashiki in one of the stores as well as chowin down on some carne asada with Jose. They had an open square where different huts were representative of the population that built them. One of the things I was most impressed with is how this community basically had a goal to be completely self-sustaining where all the jobs and money flowed within the neighborhood. It made me envious even because my own neighborhood Hyde Park is a self-proclaiming interracial haven. However, the class disparities are very obvious and the watering down of cultures has not skipped over Hyde Park either. In Jacobsen though, it seemed like everyone was not encouraged but demanded to be themselves, whatever culture they were a part of. They gave themselves the individual spaces to represent and keep their cultures alive, well, and most interesting, distinct. Whatever mixing there was, there wasn’t a lost of character or dilution of culture. And I envied that a little. Which made me wonder how it played out from day to day.

Once the bus started rolling through the wealthy white neighborhoods, my eyes started getting heavy, and by the time I opened them, we were back in downtown san Diego on our way to Old Town. As we passed we saw dozens of restaurants and one restaurant in particular where a woman was outside making food. Whatever they were making smelled amazing. So anyway we got back to the hotel at around 4pm.

After a quick rest in the hotel room, we went to the seminar on green living and how white the lens it when it is carried out. The New Color of Green: A Collective Voice of Change. Mostly what was talked about was how most of the time, whenever living green is brought up, most of the people leading and following it are white and why that is. Now I will admit I have forgotten some of the details about the lecture but I do remember how Mr. Jerome Ringo the host talked about how white the green movement is and how to interpret and live it for the rest of the masses. Pretty good lecture, even if a little dry.

After that, we Iowa state students had our daily meeting on what we learned and felt that day. Since I'm doing this about two months later, I can’t remember what was said. Yeah.

Anyway for dinner, some of us felt like going to the gaslamp district so I suggested going to a Thai restaurant. With that, some of us decided to go to Royal Thai while many of the guys chose to watch the NBA playoffs at some sports bar. *Cue eye roll*
so we go and chat while waiting for our food. Mostly we talk about college, dating, and stuff. And me and Liping mooned after the cute waiter :D. after a rather mediocre dinning (and some trouble over tipping) we leave the restaurant. I decided though that I could wait no longer, I HAD to go to Ghirardelli's for some chocolate. No one but Jeff, wanted to come with so we headed over to the chocolate factory. After a mint chocolate Sunday with EXTRA dark chocolate hot fudge we both head back over to the hotel just talking about school and stuff. So we're crossing the street by the hotel when some guy who was speeding down the road actually realized, hey, he actually has to stop for pedestrians (imagine that!). As he instead, weaves around us, he yells something out of his window. Since I’m a trained Chicagoan, I knew that whatever it was, it wouldn’t be good so I basically attempted to ignore him but I did here the word "crossing". I look next to me at Jeff and he looks pretty pissed off but mostly surprised. I asked him what the guy in the car said and Jeff told me that the guy had yelled, "the Mexican crossing is that way". I was mostly really peeved that someone would really be that stupid to say something like that. We started talking about what trouble that guy would have been if he hadn’t have been in a car, then I suggest that we both do the EMT stress technique thing to calm Jeff down. Then I started feeling angry at my self for not doing more and not feeling more angry than what I was actually feeling which was confusion. I wondered what made him pick Jeff to harass and not me. I mean really, I'm just as easy a target. Why not pick the black girl instead of the latino guy? And I was angry that I couldn’t feel more pissed off instead of just really irritated that we had to run into an idiot like that.

Anyway we both went back into the hotel where we met up with the rest of the NCORE people. We had missed the powwow but the dance was just starting. I go back to the room change, chill for a bit, then went back downstairs to see if they were playing any decent music. Unfortunately I was unpleasantly surprise. For a conference that was about issues dealing with race and ethnicity, the music was pretty substandard and one sided. Mostly mainstream rap played by the time I was down there. I attempted to liven things up by playing some oldies like Candy by Cameo and This is How We Do It and it was pretty cool for awhile to get some of the older people involved (electric slide included) but it went back to the rap after awhile. I tried suggesting some samba or salsa but the DJ claimed that they had played that earlier. So I said whatever and went back upstairs to get some sleep

Saturday, June 6, 2009

San Diego and NCORE: Thursday

Thursday started out with bagels and coffee at the hotel with my group as we discussed what sessions we would be going to that day. However we were all required to go to the Keynote Speaker.

Keynote Speaker: Haunani-Kay Trask- Militarism and Tourism in the Pacific Islands
To start off, up to a certain point, I actually liked this speaker. She was very blunt about talking about the damage that has been done to Hawaii and who was to blame. Also I was fairly unsurprised at the uses that Hawai'i was put through and the demeaning ways that it has been and is portrayed. I also wasnt put off when she said that the best way for people to help Hawaii is to not visit and therefore not feeding into the tourism trap. I feel like Hawaii is one of the few places that still has enough resources left to support its own people if only it would be left alone. Foreign occupation I feel is definitely a problem.


As soon as she started to talk about how she believes that Al Qeada was right to attack the U.S. and that if there was an opportunity for another 9-11 then the Hawaii tourist airports were it. At that, much of the respect that I had for her diminished and anger took its place. Especially when she claimed that she had an Osama bin Laden poster on her wall. I then no longer clapped, no longer yelled in appreciation of what she said. and there are two reasons why that is:

1. Bin Laden and Al Qeada are pretty much just as hated in Afghanistan as they are here. Their atrocities definitely are not just directed at foreign evils but at home as well. Everybody suffers basically. They remind me of the offshoots of Nation of Islam devotees who took the doctrine of Islam and twisted it to something that didnt recognize anyone's humanity anymore. Now the Nation of Islam itself had good points about why they were forming this group and what it gave to people however, some people within that took it way too far, just like many groups who form from traditions and groups that are based in good. Basically Al Qaeda isnt good for anyone so the fact that she idolized them doesnt exactly make me jump for joy

2. She placed such a lack of value on human life. I mean terrorist attacks signal death for any person. so basically she is targeting anyone that happens to be in that vicinity. for example i feel like i have the capacity to learn and not contribute to a lot of the evils that i have in the past. however if this were say 3 years ago, she would be killing me right along with anyone else who might have the chance to change. and she said herself that we can help from over here however at the time that my family went to Hawaii, i was only 11. so basically I would be part of the tourists that she would target.

basically i find her alarmingly psycho. it's not that she didnt make good points about Hawaii but she took her reaction too far and her insensitivity and lack of compassion frightens and angers me because it means that she has no value for my life included.

So, with thoughts and emotions seriously crashing into my brain, I left that session kid of shattered and traumatized. I went to my next session which was Using the Arts as a Vehicle for Difficult Conversations about Race, Gender, and Class, emotionally raw and unstable. To make matters worse we started the session with Strange Fruit (the song sung by Nina Simone) and a video that portrayed it. So I was also feeling those feelings as well. My brain was suffering from overload and I was starting to cry ( as well as have nervous jitters) so I cut the session short and went to my room to both think and cry. now that I look back, I am not sure why I was crying. I think part of it was because I was thinking of where my life was to go once I really started rolling in my social justice work and life. I was afraid of ending up with the malevolent need for action like Ms. Trask since I am very passionate about everything that I learn, especially injustice (a vague term but it fits for now). So in a way, i could see myself ending up so made that i end up craving my piece of the pie no matters what. here are some poems that i wrote during that time:

there anything to reach for anymore
Is decency a dream and hatred and bitterness
the actual, the beginning, and the end
Is hate the never-ending cycle

The Art of Song
ere is a strange and bitter crop
spectacle to the farmers who cut the roots and plucked
from the moisten and rich ground to harvest the juices of
pain and bred strength from the skin of this fruit

Without this fruit, the dirt rots and dries with little ability to fight off intruders
deep do these roots go that
glisten with blood red
and intrude on any and my own shelter
God, what do we ask for?
love? or obliteration?

you keep you lust for my soul under wraps
then the machine that I live in will do its job
and you will probably get it in the ended

So Im pretty much a basket case at this point and I know I need someone to talk to, someone who I am not too proud to let them see or hear how low I was at that point and who would understand why I was upset. Also someone who would let me sit in my own pity. I ended up calling my Uncle Lorenzo, who not only is my God-father but also he is involved with this kind of work and he's pretty stern about give people only as much boost as they need. after talking to him, he helped me see that I had a choice in what kind of activist I could be. and I decided that I wanted to be one that always hope and held out for humanity but didnt take no stuff.

So crisis averted and I walked over to the restaurant where my group was eating lunch ( Dick's Last Resort) and finally was back to some sort of normality.

After lunch was my second seminar Pacific Islanders and their Place in Higher Education. Now considering the morning speaker, I was a little wary of any subjects having to do with the Pacific Islands, I admit. However I knew it would probably be different. I was right. I really enjoyed that session because it definitely opened my eyes to problems that I havent heard specifically of (however their predicaments sound awfully similar with key differences) and I found myself kind of wishing that I went to a college that had a bigger population of people of color because there is so much more to learn than just categories of black, Latino/Chicano, Native American, and Asian American. Diversity is such a bigger and more complicated category than I feel people at Iowa State realize.There are troubles and issues within those categories that need to be separated and alerted about. And I ended up getting much more reading material (as well as a new contact on my facebook) as we talked about issues and problems that Pacific Island students have to go through in Higher Ed and the steps that are being taken. It was a fantastic session.

So at this point, all groups from Iowa State meet up for the group discussion and it's obvious that people are still talking about that morning's keynote speaker. Fortunately Michael had invited one of my hero's, Victor Lewis to sit with us for a bit and talk. Now instead of getting into what Ms. Trask had said, he instead introduced us into a stress- releasing activity called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) where as we tapped on certain parts of our body like under the eyes or under our cheeks while chanting a phrase like "even though I totally disagreed with Ms. Trask, I completely and wholly accept myself". Victor promised us that when we did this at least 3 times (or more if we need it) until our anger and stress was gone, then it never would come back again. I mean, the fact that I can write about what Ms. Trask said without getting angry again since I had to remember and revisit how I was feeling at the time, is very surprising to me. So it was a very relaxing session and all of us had let go of most if not all of our angry and it was very relaxing.

So here is where a lot of carefree fun began. Most of the Iowa State groups, including ours, decided that we would go to Little Italy and go to a Italian place for dinner. So we gathered down in the lobby to wait for people to come down. So we gather a sizable group with plans to take the trolley to Little Italy when this shuttle bus playing loud music pulls up next to up and offers us a ride to where ever we were going. (originally for free). so we jump on the shuttle with a disco song playing in the background. we're getting ready to leave the hotel when Josh, Jose, and Deepak call us because we left them and ask if we could pick them up because their lazy behinds were watching a basketball game and wanted us to wait for them so we went back and picked them up. about halfway to Little Italy somebody asks "Where's Paul?" who, is back the hotel. so we go BACK to the hotel and pick him up and finally arrive at little Italy (with some music trouble on the way. (Air Force Ones wasnt so bad but then Eminem started playing and none of us were feeling it at all.)

The first restaurant we went to was really crowded so we went to a place called Spagghettiria who seated all 20 of us in 2 minutes! So we are just joking around having a good time when a lady selling roses walks by and poor Josh reaches (or is given, i cant remember) for a rose and is give 3 and told 10 dollars. He decides then just to pay for them when he takes out a twenty and gives it to the woman, expecting change. The rose-seller then said that's okay and gives him 3 more roses and disappears out of the restaurant before Josh could react. all of us are laughing because Josh just got completely hustled!

so after taking the music playing shuttle (or the Party Bus as we named it) back to the hotel we got back to our rooms for the night. That is except those of us who went swimming at like 9:30pm. we just hopped into the outdoor jacuzzi and heated swimming pool and talked and messed around until two of us were left and it was 11:30. they eventually kicked us out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NCORE and San Diego: Wednesday

So to clarify, yes I am doing notes from day to day. Dont like it? dont read it. also all ISCORE students were divided into different group where they would have to go to a certain amount of sessions based on the "race" they were assigned with. For reference, my group was assigned Asian American and Pacific Islander.
Group Members: Sheena (team leader), Jose, Sandra, and I

So my group goes out to breakfast at this coffee restaurant in the Gaslight District near our hotel. It was freakin' expensive and it wasnt even that good. $20 on BREAKFAST! So after vowing never to step foot in that place again, Jose left for his first seminar and Sandra (who wasnt feeling well), sheena and I went to this Walgreens-like store and then back to the hotel.

So the European Cup came on around 11am or something and Jose and I and some of the others wanted to watch it in our hotel room instead of going out to lunch. (GO MESSI! GO BARCA) Sheena fortunately brought us subway about about 15 minutes into the second half we left for the Conference Opening address.

The Arrested Development of Democracy: Cornel West
Above all a FANTASTIC session. besides the fact that Corel West is a GENIUS, his speech was seriously inspiring (as cliche as it sounds) and really was full of quotes and advice that I even wrote down to put on my facebook page. (see facebook profile for details) Basically the session was on how racism and institutionalized racism halts any kind of progress that can be made in democracy. Also just the history of civil rights actions and the actions being made today including by Obama.

So after that speech, I attempted to go to the session Perception Through Images: A Photoethnography of Women Students of Color at a Predominantly White Institution (which I REALLY am mad that I missed) but I and other people were kicked at because the session was full. -_-
So I opted for The Longest Hatred and the College Campus: Anti Semitism and Anti-Israelism in American Higher Ed. Definitely learned alot in that session. Especailly how people cover up Anti-Semitism by claimed to just be against Zionism (but their language and words usage tells the real story). A little dry sometimes but overall, good stuff.

So after the sessions was a Welcoming ceremony, Native Californian Welcome where music and dancing groups of Native northern and southern Cali performed dances and sang songs from their own ceremonial houses and events. The dancers and singers from the Bird Singers of San Diego did a music assortment that I am totally unfamiliar with where it was like pausing a song for times and performing each section separately. really just cool. and I spotted Victor Lewis from Color of Fear in the corner watching which is UBER cool.

After the performances was the NCORE Reception and dinner. Hands down the best cooked lamb I have EVER had. also lots of networking was done with people you didnt know and introductions were made. also I finally tracked down Mike who I had been hunting for and who encouraged me to talk to Victor but I gotta say I was incredibly intimidated. Eventually Mike introduced me to him and I was totally hyped. so yeah, after that, went to bed.

NCORE and San Diego: Tuesday

So I am letting all who read this now know that this is doubling as my Journal that I have to do for ISCORE so yeah.


So I arrived at the hotel about the same time as everyone else but since I had been out in the city the day before with my mother, I wasnt exploring like most of the other IAstate students were. However I did go to my frist conference which was called Race and Class Matters Part II: Examining and Understanding Internalized Racism and Classism.

I went to this session having had missed the first session. We started by finishing a movie that they had been watching in part I about gentrification, white flight, and how it affect the value and system of areas in the suburbs and city. the movie was fantastic in itself. it really lets people know how even though they claim the opposite, the government and the economy do put a price on skin color. after that we did a few exercises that focused on self experiences with class and race since the two are seen as impossible to separate from the other.

Learned a few things but mostly the session was a revisit of subjects gone over before and how they apply to oneself personally. The second video though was excellent. it was on how inner city african american girls and teens see themselves and the internalized messages they possess and are aware that they possess. The whole perm issue was brought up as well and made me feel extremely happy that I had chosen to cut mine off for the same reasons they mentioned in the movie. (I'll probably create a separate note for exactly why I cut off my hair)

After my session, all the ISCORE students met with our group leader for group discussion. However me and Jeff had to leave with Todd to go to our Scholars ceremony. So we ended up going to this (Jesuit? Catholic? dunno) college about 20 minutes from the hotel. there was a pretty decent buffet and the school mariachi band who was pretty good. it was super cold though so we werent too thrilled about being outside. so ceremony began, we recieved our awards, and as soon as we could, we left (again is was REALLY cold).

We got back to the hotel just in time to see Tim Wise, who I dragged Jeff to see cause he's freakin' brilliant.
Mostly Tim Wise talked about the so called post-racial era and the paradox and contradictions that that phrase contains. Basically it's people who have never had a good grasp on the state of instituational racism telling everyone else that it's all over and done with as if they are a good authority on it. and Tim Wise's advice? Dont listen to white men's opinions on racism, which pretty much everybody laughed at cause, HELLO? I could go on and on but I will stop there.

anyways after it was over, I turned in for the night.