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Today in History

9.20.1899

Dalip Singh Saund, fist Asian American elected to Congress, is born.

 

A Guide to Asian American Empowerment
Ebihara Contemplates Life Through Poetry Print E-mail
Books

As National Poetry Month ends and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month begins, Wataru Ebihara discusses Infinite Loop, his recently published collection of poetry and photographs, with ModelMinority.com.  You can order Ebihara's book and see some of his other work at his Web site.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm a third-generation Japanese American or "Sansei" from Cleveland, Ohio, and I moved to Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1995.  I admit to easily fitting into the Asian American model minority stereotype...  I have a PhD. in electrical engineering, even though, I'm not using it so much right now.

My current "day job" is an Information Systems Manager. I work for a non-profit organization that provides housing for the low-income, social services, and community development in downtown Los Angeles.

How long have you been writing poetry?  Do you have any formal training?

I first started with Japanese haiku poems. I remember my mom showing me how to write haiku with lines of five-seven-five syllables.  My grandfather also composed haiku.  However, I've been writing poetry down on paper since I was around 15 or 16.  Some of them I've kept in a journal, and it was a way for me to remember.

I do not have a formal background in English literature or creative writing, but I feel that poetry is something that arises primarily from "doing" -- and using one's experiences and heart.  I enjoy the freedom of writing poetry, and playing with word images, and using the structure and sounds of the language.

What was it like to get your book published?

My original motivation was to share my writing with family and friends.  It took some effort and thought to organize it.  It's quite wonderful to see my poems and photos printed in book form -- so I'm happy.  But there's a little feeling of nervousness too, though -- to release a work into the world for public view and criticism.

What inspired your poems in "Infinite Loop"?

The inspiration for my poetry comes from different places -- my memories, family, emotions, introspection, visions, dreams, travels, experiences.  I guess, it's life. In some poems, I try to verbalize the non-verbal sublime experience that could be spiritual in nature.  It's a thing only a poem can express.

 
Explaining Asian American Academic Achievement Print E-mail
Academia

By Stanley Sue and Sumie Okazaki
From "Asian-American Educational Achievements: A Phenomenon in Search of an Explanation"
American Psychologist
©1990 American Psychological Association
August 1990

The academic achievements of Asian Americans cannot be solely attributed to Asian cultural values. Rather, as for other ethnic minority groups, their behavioral patterns, including achievements, are a product of cultural values (i.e., ethnicity) and status in society (minority group standing). Using the notion of relative functionalism, we believe that the educational attainments of Asian Americans are highly influenced by the opportunities present for upward mobility, not only in educational endeavors but also in noneducational areas.

Noneducational areas include career activities such as leadership, entertainment, sports, politics, and so forth, in which education does not directly lead to the position. To the extent that mobility is limited in noneducational avenues, education becomes increasingly salient as a means of mobility. That is, education is increasingly functional as a means for mobility when other avenues are blocked.

 
Use of "Asian American" Wanes Print E-mail
Identity

By Stephen Magagnini
©2010 The Sacramento Bee
May 24, 2010

Is the term "Asian American" fading into history, like "Oriental" before it?

As Sacramento's growing Asian immigrant communities celebrated Sunday's Pacific Rim Street Fest, a growing number note that Asian American isn't a race and said they choose to identify by their ethnicity.

Robbie Mae Lopez and her family came downtown to enjoy more than 15 Asian cultures represented – but don't call her Asian American.

"I'm full-blooded Filipino American," said Mae Lopez, 27, of West Sacramento. "Asian American is kind of a loose term. I think being Filipino American is a full-blown identity crisis itself. We were overrun by the Japanese, Spanish … ."

As the race question on the U.S. census form has expanded to 15 categories and write-in options – giving Americans the right to check as many boxes as they want – fewer are embracing the term Asian American.

It still holds currency for local civil rights activists Jerry Chong and Alice Wong.

 
How America Unsexes the Asian Male Print E-mail
Dating
By David Mura
The New York Times
August 22, 1996

The Japanese-American actor Marc Hayashi once said to me: “Every culture needs its eunuchs. And we’re it. Asian-American men are the eunuchs of America.” I felt an instant shock of recognition.

To my chagrin, I came close to being one such eunuch on screen in the Coen brothers’ movie “Fargo.”

The call for the role seemed perfect: a Japanese-American man, in his late 30’s, a bit portly, who speaks with a Minnesota accent.

I am a sansei, a third-generation Japanese-American. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 20 years. Though not portly, I’m not thin. A writer and a performance artist, I had done one small film for PBS.
 
False Friends in the Affirmative Action Debate Print E-mail
Law
American Dilemma"
American University Law Review
February 1996

 

Frank Wu, Professor, Howard University Law School: It's impossible for Asian Americans to stay neutral. They shouldn't try to stay neutral. Race is highly charged. You can't find a neutral place in the debate. But if you look at how Asian Americans are drawn in, you can see how they've also been used.

I should preface this by saying that you can be very ambivalent about affirmative action as an Asian American or white or just in general. You can be ambivalent about affirmative action and yet still be appalled by the Supreme Court's recent decision in Adarand.

You can have doubts about whether affirmative action is the best thing to do, and wonder whether there may be other means to advance racial justice. But what the Court has done, and what conservative commentators urge is that we give up the effort entirely, that instead we pretend that there aren't appreciable problems of racism and poverty that are linked.

 
Gaps Emerging in U.S. Census Outreach to Immigrants Print E-mail
Law
By HOPE YEN

(c) 2010 The Associated Press
February 1, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The government is fumbling some efforts to assure immigrants that U.S. census data won't be used against them, including gaps in outreach and foreign language guides that refer to the decennial count as an investigation.

With the launch of the head count weeks away, the Census Bureau's outreach has been falling short in at least a dozen major cities, such as Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Jose, Calif., and Seattle, according to a report released Monday by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Many of their states are on the cusp of gaining or losing U.S. House seats and face a redrawing of legislative boundaries that may tilt the balance of political power.

The report generally praises the Census Bureau for improved efforts since 2000. But noting the large ramifications of even a small undercount, AALDEF is critical of the Obama administration. The legal group cited the government's refusal to give fuller assurances that census data would be kept confidential and to suspend large-scale immigration raids during the count - as was done in the 2000 census. AALDEF said it wasn't ruling out legal action to get stronger guarantees.

The census officially began last month in parts of rural Alaska. Most of the nation will receive their forms by mail the week of March 15.

"We have heard a lot of speeches by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the census director saying the census is confidential. But speeches and Web postings do not have the force of law," said Glenn Magpantay, an AALDEF program director, in a telephone interview. "Our concern is how much risk immigrants are putting themselves at."

 
Racial Bullying Roils a Philadelphia High School Print E-mail
Hate

By Patrick Walters
The Associated Press
January 21, 2010


PHILADELPHIA -- The blocks surrounding South Philadelphia High School are a melting pot of pizzerias fronted by Italian flags, African hair-braiding salons and a growing number of Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian restaurants.

Inside is a cauldron of cultural discontent that erupted in violence last month - off-campus and lunchroom attacks on about 50 Asian students, injuring 30, primarily at the hands of blacks. The Asian students, who boycotted classes for more than a week afterward, say they've endured relentless bullying by black students while school officials turned a blind eye to their complaints.

"We have suffered a lot to get to America and we didn't come here to fight," Wei Chen, president of the Chinese American Student Association, told the school board in one of several hearings on the violence. "We just want a safe environment to learn and make more friends. That's my dream."

Philadelphia school officials suspended 10 students, increased police patrols and installed dozens of new security cameras to watch the halls, where 70 percent of the students are black and 18 percent Asian. The Vietnamese embassy complained to the U.S. State Department about the attacks and numerous groups are investigating, including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

The New York-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund joined the fray this week with a civil rights complaint to the U.S. Justice Department.

The Philadelphia school district acted with "deliberate indifference" toward the harassment and failed to prevent the Dec. 3 attacks, according to the complaint. It says Asian students' pleas for help and protection were ignored by school employees.

Asian students say black students routinely pelt them with food, beat, punch and kick them in school hallways and bathrooms, and hurl racial epithets like "Hey, Chinese!" and "Yo, Dragon Ball!"

 
Asian American Group Fights Against Injustice Print E-mail
Leaders
By Jeff Gammage

(c) 2010 The Philadelphia Inquirer
February 1, 2010

CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
At the office of Asian Americans United, director Ellen Somekawa (left) meets with (from left) Judy Ha, Betty Lui, and Neeta Patel.

 

Less than 24 hours earlier, 30 Asian students said they had been attacked by roaming groups of mostly African American classmates at South Philadelphia High School. Now the bruised and beaten were telling their stories to the TV cameras, backed by leaders of the Asian community.

Helen Gym, a board member at Asian Americans United, directed the crowd like a traffic cop, connecting parents with interpreters and kids with reporters. Her cell phone wouldn't stop ringing. A few steps away, talking to a TV journalist, AAU executive director Ellen Somekawa lambasted the School District of Philadelphia, which she would later accuse of "a total lack of moral leadership."

In the days after that edgy Dec. 4 news conference at the Chinese Christian Church, Somekawa took pains to say that AAU was only one part of a larger coalition of Asian organizations. But from the start, it was obvious that AAU was in charge, framing the community response, as it had done many times before.

It was AAU that led the massive 2000 protest that opposed construction of a Phillies baseball stadium north of Chinatown and that pushed to build a multicultural charter school on the site. AAU helped organize Chinatown parents to demand better schools, blocked plans for a federal prison in Chinatown, worked to help a young illegal immigrant stay in the United States after she miscarried during a rough, forcible deportation attempt in 2006.

This year, AAU celebrates its silver anniversary, marking 25 years as a tenacious, pugnacious advocate. In its time, AAU has given voice to the voiceless and strength to the weak - and in the process succeeded in antagonizing innumerable politicians and elected leaders.

 
The New Calculus of Diversity on Campus Print E-mail
Academia
By Jacques Steinberg
The New York Times
February 2, 2003

At public universities in California and Texas, the end of affirmative action in admissions has benefited one minority: Asian-Americans.

And if the Supreme Court decides later this year to limit or eliminate race-conscious admissions at the University of Michigan, Asian-Americans stand to gain far more than any other group, at least in proportion to their numbers in the general population. Their experience in the admissions process provides yet another prism through which to view the affirmative action debate. As things stand now, a relatively low percentage of Asian-American students are admitted to many top private and public institutions, nearly all of which practice affirmative action, compared with the high numbers of the arguably qualified among them.

But if the Supreme Court phases out race-conscious admissions, the number of Asian-American students can be expected to soar, at the expense of other groups, even whites.

 
Chinese Immigrants Vulnerable to Violence Print E-mail
Hate
By Petula Dvorak
December 23, 1999
©1999 Washington Post

 

Zhen Liu Guo had heard the stories: A pistol in the face for $8. A bullet through a windshield. Pummelings in the dark corners of Sixth Street NW.

And no police were called ever.

Walking home the night of Dec. 12, the 47-year-old Chinese immigrant took a different route to his apartment building just north of Chinatown, avoiding the spots his fellow Chinese immigrants said were dangerous.

Candlelight March to be Held in Remembrance of Mr. Guo

candle.gif (714 bytes)A candlelight march in remembrance of Zhen Lin Guo will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, January 6, 2000 in downtown Washington, D.C.  It will begin at 1301 7th Street, NW (between N and O) and proceed around Gibson Plaza, and will be followed at 8 p.m. by a meeting in the building basement on building security and an update on the investigation into Guo's robbery and murder.

As some of you know, Mr. Zhen Liu Guo was robbed and killed on Dec. 11, 1999 outside of Gibson Plaza, a public housing unit where about 40 Chinese-speaking families live. Greg Chen, the Mayor's Assistant for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs arranged for a community meeting on Dec. 16, 1999 where police, tenants, the U.S. Attorney's office, and building management discussed the tragedy and other public safety concerns associated with the building.

At the meeting which was attended by over 100 people, we discovered that:

  • Chinese Americans and African-Americans who live in the building shared  the same frustrations with crime, police neglect and poor building  management.
  • Four days passed before the police contacted Mr. Guo's family and they had not canvasssed the building to interview possible witnesses.
  • Security cameras were often not in working order, including the night
    of the shooting
  • After a lot of persuasion, several Chinese-speaking residents related other crimes committed against them but were not reported to the police.  They cited no confidence in the police and fear of retaliation as two major factors for not reporting the crimes.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the police and building management explained what they were doing to address the tragedy and prevent another occurrence.  They were supposed to post the measures (increasing lighting around the building, posting the names of the PSAs responsible for the building, assigning a Chinese speaking police officer to the case, hiring a part-time building worker who speaks Chinese, etc.) both in English and Chinese at Gibson Plaza.

The purpose of the candlelight march is to show support for the Guo family, keep public attention on Mr. Guo's case, encourage cooperation between the Chinese-speaking families and the African-Americans who live in the building and send a message to the criminals that residents are no longer going to be silent when victimized.  Flyers about the march will be distributed to all the residents.

The community meeting after the candlelight march will give the police and building management an opportunity to update us 3 weeks after the shooting.

The U.S. Attorney's office will also be there to educate the Chinese American residents and other residents about the importance of reporting crimes and assistance available under the victim compensation plan.  As of this  writing, no arrest has been made on the Guo case.  But, Asst. Chief McManus assigned Officer Wen Ai to assist Det. Pat Pae who is handling the case.

Those wishing to send letters of condolences should send them to Ms. Xiu Weng, 1301 7th Street, NW, #715, Washington, DC 20001.

-- Francey Lim Youngberg
Access to Justice Partnership
(703) 660-9166

He was safe until 9 p.m., when he arrived at the back door of 1301 Seventh St. NW, a 10-story box of apartments drawing Chinese immigrants who want low rents and proximity to their jobs in Chinatown. Just outside the entrance to his home, in the dimly lit parking lot and out of range of a security camera that functioned sporadically, Guo was shot three times and killed for his wallet.

 

His 17-year-old daughter, Yun Shi Guo, looked out the window when she heard gunshots. Then, she saw her father and the blood. This time, the police were called.

 

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