Category Archives: Bigger Than Me and You

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Death is My Motivation

Over the weekend, I was a guest speaker for the Asian American Resource Workshop’s (AARW) panel about youth organizing, community activism and efforts in social change (Yes, you see a lot of my paintings and poems but sometimes the most important work goes unseen–which is the case for many of my community organizer homies).  Anyways, I talked about my involvement as a youth organizer in high school and political education being a catalyst for my journey to the west coast, reaping up bundles of knowledge in ethnic studies, racial theories, community building, grassroots organizing and all that good stuff.  They asked me the following question, to which I was stumped.  I stumbled in the moment and gave a shitty, unfulfilled answer.  I said something cliche like the red or blue pill in the Matrix. Lame. Now, I wish to redeem myself and say what I really meant to say:

Question: What is your motivation for continuing activism and pushing for social change?

My motivation is knowing that I will die. The way everybody will die, unless they create a pill for immortality.  I don’t know when I’ll die, which is why time can’t be wasted.  I ask myself, “If you only have ONE life to live, what do you want to do with it?” 50 cent says Get Rich or Die Tryin’, it sends the message that the ultimate goal in life is to become filthy rich, but how fulfilling is that?  You can’t take all the money, cars, clothes and expensive shit you bought with you when you die.  I think about how fucked up the world can be these days–madd corruption, poverty, bank conspiracies, institutionalized racism and the list goes on.  It really makes me sad.  Even after I die, my kids and their kids will still have to live in this world.  So if I had one life to live, it would be to do everything I can to leave this world a better place than when I first entered.   I want my kids and their kids and other kids to live in a better world than what I lived in.  Whether it is through creating art to inspire new generations, publishing research on social theories, implementing just policies within institutions or more, I want to live a purposeful life and make a lasting impact on the world.  It is definitely a more difficult route, to accept the burden of social responsibility.  But after a consciousness is cracked open, it’s hard to be happy with just material things anymore.  It doesn’t even matter if no one remembers me.  There are a lot of social justice fighters throughout history whose names we will never know–martyrs like Malcolm or Martin are great figures, but they didn’t do it all on their own.  Remembrance or not, the world will never be the same.

For more information about AARW and how to get involved, click the image below:


AARW Mission

The mission of the Asian American Resource Workshop is to work for the empowerment of the Asian Pacific American community to achieve its full participation in U.S. society.

We are a member-based organization that seeks to document the diverse Asian Pacific American histories, experiences, and social conditions. Our resources and activities are used to respond to current Asian Pacific American issues and to promote Asian Pacific American identity.

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I told myself I wouldn’t post about Tiger Woods,

That I wouldn’t join the thousands of ruthless indulgers in sex-crazed America to throw in their two cents about Tiger Woods’ private affairs.   I’m in no position to dissect Tigers’ marriage issues, but at the very least, I can say sumthin’ about the wild reactions that have since ensued.

Everybody wants a piece of Tiger.  Whether what Tiger did was right or wrong, Tiger Woods is known for being an amazing GOLFER, not an amazing husband.  I’m in no way condoning or excusing him, I’m just saying, you can be the best golfer in the world and still be a dirtbag.  There’s no stated correlation between athletic ability and marital morals.  Even though I believe what he did is fucked up, I still believe in the right to privacy.

Tiger Woods getting caught cheating affected people in 3 different ways:

1) He lost fans.
2) He gained fans.
3) Did not matter.

Some (heterosexual) women are thinking, “Ugh. MEN. Typical.” Another reason why we can’t trust them.  Even nice guys are dogs.

Some women are thinking, “Damn, Tiger. Can I holla?”

Some (heterosexual) men are thinking, “Damn, Tiger ruined it for the male species.  He just made it harder for the rest of us to get with women (such as  the ones quoted above).”

Some  guys are thinking, “Damn, Tiger. Elin is HOT! You idiot.”

Amidst all the reactions, there is one common factor: DISAPPOINTMENT.  For me, the most disappointing thing about the disappointment expressed is hearing about how many men are NOT disappointed in the fact that Tiger CHEATED, they are disappointed in the fact that Tiger GOT CAUGHT.

“Tiger got CAUGHT.  And THAT’s where he fucked up.”

WTF?

This implies that it is acceptable for men to cheat on their wives as long as they don’t get caught.  I’m not judging polygamy.  If people want to have multiple partners, they should join a polygamous society and/or NOT get married.    But in the context of American society, a sexist culture promotes the narrow view of manhood as being misogynist, macho and dominant.  We raise boys to believe that being men means it’s acceptable to devalue women.  Preserving the male ego means exerting dominance over women.  Many men would argue that this is inherent and part of biology.  I won’t go into arguing the entire sociological standpoint of how people are conditioned to play out gender roles, but I think we could agree that babies are innocent.  Everybody is born into this world with a clean slate of mannerisms and behavioral habits.  Those things are taught and learned, not inherent.  SpikeTV is an example of the macho teacher.  As a woman in this society, I think men forget how their words and actions can make a women feel devalued, disposable and disrespected.  Some men think women like it.  Maybe some women “do”.  Or maybe that is also part of the female gender role conditioning to accept objectification because that understanding is correlated with male dominance and desirability.  Like many things, it’s a vicious cycle.  But if the root of our problems are socially constructed, then we can most definitely do some social reconstructioning. Holla.

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First Vietnamese American Woman on Federal Bench

Good news! Jacqueline Nguyen:
1) We reppin’ the same last name of the greatest Dynasty to ever reign.
2) Nominated by (first black President) BARACK OBAMA!
3) Went to my alma mater, UCLA!!

PEEP THE ARTICLE:

Senate Confirms Nation’s First Vietnamese American Woman to Serve on the Federal Bench

This is tight.  Jacqueline Nguyen is the first Vietnamese American Woman to serve on the Federal Bench.  She was born in South Vietnam (1965) and moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old after the Vietnam War.  She went from war refugee to U.S. Federal Bench–all in one lifetime!!  Damn, extraordinary people like her give folks no excuse to not hustle for a dream.  She got that Refugee State of Mind.  Many privileged (& spoiled) Americans inherit a legacy of advantages.  She inherited nothing.  And what she accomplished by climbing the ranks of American society in less than a lifetime is a testament to the possibilities of hard work, determination and perseverance.  The value and hustle of immigrant and refugee communities are too often undermined in this country.  Oftentimes language and cultural barriers hinder such communities from fully having a voice to defend and represent themselves.  Mainstream society casts immigrants and refugees as perpetual foreigners, second class citizens and a waste of space.  But damn, haters bedda watch out!!  Wanted or not, we are most definitely a rising class.  And I don’t mean that in a “Let’s take over everything!!” kind of way.  But rather, let’s transform this country and shift the paradigm kind of way.  For a bedda day. And days.  First class all day everyday please and thank you!!

Speaking of Vietnamese people, my parents had a huge dinner party last night with some OG Vietnamese homies.  (There was lobster! I was having a fucking blast with them claws.). My dad’s long lost brother showed up for the first time in YEARS and now has a wife and two kids (long story, another blog post).  All the OG’s kept telling me I need to step up my game and be MARRIED by 25!!  I told them that fellas need to step up THEIR game. HELLO. They kept asking me, “How come you don’t have a boyfriend yet?”

I told them,

“Two words: TIGER. WOODS.”

or as the people like to say, CHEETAH WOODS. haaaa!

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When Globalization Hits Home

Globalization has declared a war on diversity by setting a universal standard of living. The process has most of the world convinced that the capitalist way is the “best” way.  For nations to gain international leverage, they must enter the race to modernize society. In essence, the reality of globalization results in standardizing all aspects of culture–language, customs, traditions, food, production, manufacturing, etc. When we see field workers drop their pitchforks and take up jobs at the nearest McDonalds–that is a product of globalization. When we see a street vendor sell rice plates for 50 cents outside a newly erected Louis Vuitton store–that is a product of globalization. When we see indigenous mountain people sell souvenirs to tourists for a living–that is a product of globalization. While the process of globalization standardizes, modernizes and quickly transforms a nation’s economic landscape, it inevitably widens the disparity between the rich and the poor at exponential rates.

There was a point in time when my dad’s family and my mom’s family were in the same economic class–DIRT POOR. I remember visiting both sides (Dad’s family in the North, Mom’s family in the South) and it was always everybody packed into a one room “home” with rice, salt and potatoes for sparse meals. By the end of the Vietnam War, most of the country was so fragmented and ravaged there were only 2 social strata: the impoverished and the ruling. In 2007, Vietnam finally joined the WTO (World Trade Organization) and made a significant shift toward an OPEN MARKET ECONOMY–which basically means they’re opening their doors to compete in the global economy, which basically means more standardizing, more mechanizing, more modernizing, more skyscrapers, more condos, more business suits, more wireless networking, more conference calls and more westernizing. This is a race, so you can either get with it or get left behind. But the reality is, some people can’t even run the race if they wanted to.

Being in the city (and capital, Hanoi), my dad’s side of the family still had the chance to go to school and pursue an education. Most of my dad’s siblings went into finance, marketing and business. With the booming open market, some quickly went from rags to riches (my aunt even got her own chauffeur!!). My dad’s family are part of the lucky few who entered the finance market at a good time–when it was rapidly on the rise and they got pulled up as quickly as they entered. Like stock markets, trading and closing deals–timing is everything.

My mom’s side of the family is less fortunate. They are stuck in the cycle of poverty which they’ll probably never escape. As a small fishing village, education was less accessible. When boys become men, they head out to sea and become fishermen. Girls find little ways to make money, like washing hair, bartering at the market or selling lottery tickets. That small fishing village my mom grew up in has not changed. Some of her siblings are still living in the same dainty shacks made of the same wood planks and metal sheets I remember visiting as a child. I’m surprised the homes haven’t collapsed under the water yet. Everyone is begging for a way out of poverty. My female cousins keep pleading me to find them American husbands that can marry them out of the cycle. Now, after all these years, the government is kicking everyone out of my mom’s fishing village because they want to build a resort for tourists. The villagers have no mode of transportation, no savings to buy land and no money to build a new home. Tourism, capital and resorts are all a result of globalization, which in turn makes the economy better, but makes the poor just damn pointless.


(This is actually the “nicer” part of the village. My aunt’s shack is on wooden stilts above the water. And the public toilet is like a high dock on poles. You squat above a hole in the dock that drops all your crap into the ocean beneath your stankin’ ass.)

With a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA, I’ve studied and theorized globalization from many angles. But I can’t even find the words to describe how I feel when I actually WITNESS the impact of it in my polarized family. North vs. South. City vs. village. Rich vs. poor. They say that those who flourish within capitalism can only profit at the expense of fucking over another entity. If there is a winner, somebody’s got to lose. So within economic politics, is the reason for my dad’s side becoming richer part of the reason that contributes to my mom’s side being fucked over?

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Refugee Romeo & Juliet: I WAS BORN

I’m starting a new category.  It’s going to be somewhere between critical essays on race, class, gender, sexuality, global ish and the good, the bad, the ugly in my eyes.

There are many layers when talking about the Vietnam War.  So let me break the entities down for you:

The Colonizers = French (Outsiders)
The Anti-Imperialist Revolutionaries = North Vietnam (Insiders)
The Anti-Communist Revolutionaries = South Vietnam (Insiders)
The Nosy MFerz with the Personal Agenda = United States (Outsiders)

North Vietnamese revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, finally kicked the French out, claiming Vietnamese independence for the first time in over 1000 years.  After so many years of fragmented colonization, he wanted to unite all of Vietnam under one vision–Communism.  But South Vietnam wanted to do their own thing, so they became more of the underdawg radicals, waging a guerilla war against the North.  The U.S. got involved, fighting on the side of the “South” but since they couldn’t tell North Vietnamese apart from South Vietnamese, they ended up murdering anyone and everyone who looked Asian.  To this day, the world still questions why the U.S. got involved and what they were fighting for–and no one will give you a good reason because there isn’t one. But international supporters like Che Guevara, Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, African nations, Third World Nations, the working class and revolutionaries alike outspokenly stood in solidarity with Vietnam against U.S. and their aggressive, imperialist, suckiest agenda.  Basically, looking at internal affairs, the Vietnam War was a war between one set of Revolutionaries against another set of Revolutionaries.  The North and the South did not get along.  It was an onslaught of radicals, militants, guerilla fighters and working people against their mirrored selves.  Everybody wanted independence, but freedom looked different to different people.

My pops was a city boy from the North, one of 7 children. After the North Vietnamese kicked out the French AND the Americans in 1975, the entire country fell under “Communist” rule.  There was a lot of chaos and poverty.  Many people wanted to get out but it was illegal to leave the country.  So people secretly escaped by boat; hence, refugee.  If you were caught trying to escape, you were immediately imprisoned.  When my pops made his run, he left only a letter behind for my grandma.  He didn’t tell anybody–not even his family because it endangered him to get caught.

My mom was a seaside girl from the South–she was from a small, fishing village where all the men went off to sea for months at a time and the women stayed back and hustled a modest living in anticipation to see how much fish would be brought home.  They lived in shacks made from scraps of metal and wood, some on stilts because the tide would rise and so people had to travel by boat to go from home to home.  My mom was the youngest of 5 kids, and the only one to escape Vietnam by boat.  The boat fare was 1 ounce of gold.

My mom and pops were just teenagers when they said “FIGHT THE POWER!” and escaped Vietnam.  We got the revolutionary-life-on-the-line-fight-for-what-you-believe spirit in our blood.

To fast forward to the good part, both my parents coincidentally ended up in East Boston via a Refugee Relief program.  They lived in the same housing complex with other refugee homies.  My mom was a Pretty Young Thing and all the girls had a crush on my dad.  No surprise, my pops had his eyes on my mom, and tried stepping to her but immediately my mom was like, “I don’t date men from the Communist Country!”  This was nothing to deter my dad.  He insisted, “Just because my government is like that doesn’t mean I’M like that…” (Sound familiar, Americans?)  My pops persisted with the mackdown and continued to woo my mom until next thing you know, my older sister was born, and then I WAS BORN!  It was a brave, forbidden love for it’s time. But like Che Guevara and many revolutionaries will tell you, at the core of any revolution, is love.

And that’s how I was born.  Now let’s start the show.

It’s cool to find artwork in every countries around the world supporting Vietnam (China, Cuba, Angola, Russia, Philippines, Cambodia, etc.).  This is just a snippet:


Cuba supports Vietnam: “For a Vietnam 10 times more beautiful.”


“The People of Viet Nam will win!  The American Imperialist will lose!”


Friends today and back in the day

Read about how the Black Panther Party and Ho Chi Minh became homies! Click the image for full story:


I had the honor of meeting Muhammad Ali when I was in the fourth grade!!  This man laid the WWF truth on the world.  And I’m not talking about wrestling.  I’m talking about the SMACKDOWN!!!

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FORT HOOD Up In Our Homes!

Every time there is a shooting in America, every person of color prays the gun man (or woman) isn’t of one’s own race or ethnicity (or religion)…except for white people of course.  White people are the only group of citizens who do not become antagonized and vilified by the media when a crime is committed…because I guess it’s just their natural right to be criminals, or millionaires, or football players, or anything else really.  It’s part of white privilege, the privilege to be exempt from marginalization and have ownership over everything–from space to identities ….yadidameeeean??

An individual committing an individual’s crime is one thing.  But for one individual’s crime to become the focal point for the media to antagonize an entire community is another thing.   I can say more, but Vijay Prashad says it way better in his article, Can the Major Speak?



Vijay Prashad is a widely renowned professor, author, journalist and a critical voice in the progressive community.  Some of his books include “The Karma of Brown Folk”, “The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World” and “Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism”. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but maybe by it’s title, yadeeeeeg? I didn’t want to copy and paste because that’s just lame.  Don’t be a lazy 21st century video drone…READ his article.

But I’m kind of a hater so I judge all the time.  By the looks of it, these covers are looking extra fly for the reading pasttime.

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CNN on the daily

I was getting my daily dose of CNN–trying to stay in the loop and shit!  I love perusing headlines all around the world and seeing snippets what’s going down.  Of course, too often than not, I’m scrolling along and the most irrelevant un-newsworthy celebrity headlines appear.

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