Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Hits Cuba

My sister just Facebooked me about Hurricane Sandy.  The article says that it hit Santiago de Cuba with a force of a level 2 hurricane, 110 mph.  It referred to a death in one of the other Caribbean islands but no news on Cuba except where it hit.  Other than a short paragraph: 
Hurricane Sandy, strengthening rapidly after crossing the warm Caribbean Sea, slammed into southeastern Cuba early Thursday with 110 mph winds that cut power, damaged homes and blew over trees across the city of Santiago de Cuba, we don't know much."

However, I know for sure that the rest of Cuba would probably have sent all the trucks in the country going that direction to move things out of homes which needed a safe place because with the blockade things like appliances are hard to replace, that the doctors made sure all 100 of their patients had enough medicines and some were put in hospitals which are built most safely, that all the school children living away, went home early making sure their rooms were ready for families, because schools are also safe buildings, that even small children have a task, and that the school children and others made sure that the dead branches were cut, sewers cleaned, that all was in preparedness, because they would have tracked this hurricane and not having to worry about the profits of the hotel business, and attending to their attitude, that the human being first, the people would have had enough advance notice to take care of things the best they could. The elders, the sick, the disabled, those pregnant, visitors and guests in homes would all have been accounted for so that they would be in the safest situation possible. But I am still concerned and will be praying for them.

But what will happen on the northern seaboard in the United States.  

One of the best things which can happen with the end of the blockade the US has put on Cuba is the flow of ideas -- one of which is HOW to prepare for surviving a Hurricane.  Or will capitalism be able to adopt such a model.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rest in Peace Dear Jimmy Mirikitani

Master Artist and precious elder of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, Jimmy Mirikitani, died Sunday, October 21, 2012, with his close friend, Director Linda Hattendorf closeby.  Linda was told by the elder Nisei ladies at Tule Lake "You're a good Japanese daughter," and she was and is.

I am one of the lucky ones to have met Jimmy at Tule Lake Pilgrimage the first three times he attended.  I missed the next two pilgrimages.  I am sad that I missed seeing Jimmy.  Please check out the website.  The link is on this blog.  I'll write more later.  Right now, we're all a little stunned.

Russell Means Tells America, Welcome to the Reservation

This is a profoundly interesting analysis of the current American situation, Reagan's policy to allow corporations usurp our individual rights, and turning all of American into a reservation where, as Means describes, there are no freedoms.  I am buying his book!  That being the case, then

certainly all Americans need to watch this, be able to see the belly of the beast, and join the ongoing resistance of the American Indians, as Russell Means prefers to be called.  I'm going to read his book Welcome to the Reservation.  Clearly it is a book written for the rest of America, and he is doing it out of the goodness of his heart for all the good people he met along the way, with the gift of wisdom gained while digging into the historical documents and learning the truly revolutionary spirit of those documents, and the part played by the tribes they met and were transformed by.  These are not documents written by monarchists but by a collective that glimpsed something better and were inspired by the possibilities of that glimpse -- the Iroquois Confederacy, the Narragansett, the Pequot, the Wampanoag, all the first nations people of the land.


I was asked by APASU at UO campus to speak as a founding member of their organization on campus for their Wednesday Dinner before the Multicultural Alumni week for Homecoming.  Dedicated to John Beckwith with "You were right!  Everything is their fault!"

           For APASU's event before the Multicultural Alum Event, Gerlinger, 10/24/12
           Forty some years ago, I moved to Eugene.  It was the Year of the Rooster.  I was 24 and never so alone and  so alienated in my life.  Even on campus, I remember having whip lash whenever I sighted black hair.  No one like me.  Imagine this campus without anything, no OMAS, no MCC, no Diversity Vice Presidents, faculty, no Ethnic Studies and definitely no student unions. The year was 1969.  As the Winds of Change on the West Coast at San Francisco State and, on the East Coast, at Columbia U, with student strikes shutting down their campus for Ethnic Studies, for their histories, poets, writers to be included in the curriculum, for the right to have student unions, for the right to have staff of color, and when the concept Third World Peoples was first used and heard, we were on the verge of the same kind of change at the University of Oregon. 

            The UO was not going to mess with student strikes so in the summer of '69, I was able to sign up for a Black Literature class taught by a Columbia professor!!  He was not African American; however, he often encouraged the leadership of two African American students in his class.  Turning the class over to students was a first to me.  It was exciting!  I even remember the first insight one of the students gave us.  William Faulkner cannot write the Black Experience.  In Faulkner's books, Black characters only come alive when a White person is in the room. 

            It was not until fall of 1972, when I left teaching to pursue my Fifth Year certification, that I caught a small article in the newspaper which was to change everything for me.   A class called Asian American Experience was being offered and I signed up, excited to meet other Asians in this "city of people" where I was the only brown spot.  I loved the sound of it -- Asian American -- because that time was the first time, Asian American was used and heard by many of us -- when the idea that we have the right and the responsibility and the self-determination to decide for ourselves what we called ourselves, not oriental, not foreign, not "other " was powerful.   In naming ourselves, we left nothing at the door and we brought our ancestors' stories and our own poetry and songs on our backs into these ivory tower.  But I get ahead of myself because something else came first.

            The Asian American Experience class was taught by John Beckwith, Chinese American from the Seattle area, who is now a lawyer in Seattle -- who may even be a retired lawyer in Seattle.    That first day, there he stood in front of his motley crew of Asian students, jeans, white t-shirt, red bandana tied around his head pacing, wide gestures, huge voice.  We took notice!  San Francisco State Student Strike was in this room as far as we were concerned!! 

            John Beckwith's lectures were exciting.  His invitation to lively, high pitched, passionate argument was exciting.  We didn't read books, but every day there were  handouts pushing us to respond, rethink, remove brainwashed stereotyping,  hardly ever agreeing completely but completely engaged.   We wrote. Where there was a lack of material, we wrote the material.  During that hour and a half, twice a week, it was all about CREATING a movement.  We had to FIND our literature, UNEARTH our history, COMPOSE our own songs and bring the beat of the Taiko Drum to America.  When we did the first organizing, you know what I mean, we were cooking it, we were sharing, we were arguing, we were laughing a movement into shape in the homes of community people.   Community would drive to campus, pick up the students and head for the coast to spend the day at Strawberry Hill.   All the while we were talking about issues carried up and down I-5 from L.A. to British Columbia across to NYC -- reunification of Korea, the American war in Viet Nam from an Asian perspective, -- identity, always identity, Asian Men and Asian Women dynamics, and, of course, our two class projects.

            Our class project was to start two clubs -- one on campus and the other in the community.  For a decade, the two organizations were really just branches of the same.  On campus, we worked through the bureaucracy with the help of community to win our room, the Asian American Student Union, or AASU, and were crammed into a long narrow space resembling one of the alleys of the EMU Bowling Alley right next door.  Aren't we always crammed by some bowling alley?  We had the smallest room, but we did not have the least people.  The Community Group was called Asian American Community Group.  Very plain and inoffensive.   We still exist, but understandably we changed our name, now PACAlliance -- Pacific Asian Community Alliance and AASU has become APASU, Asian Pacific American Student Union.

            As a student union/community group unit, we were able to accomplish many things through the next decade.  Remember, we didn't really have a decent budget from IFC.  A lot of our activities were done in community homes.  My house became the motel for guests, and party site.  In those days, there was a steady stream of people going up and down I-5 carrying in backpacks, books and anthologies they wrote and published themselves,  stopping at  APASU's all along the way.  There was always an audience, food, a place to sleep and a party wherever you stopped.   Chris Iijima, Nobuko Miyamoto, Lawson Inada, Frank Chin, Janice Mirikitani,  Political Prisoners Movement, Free Cho Sul Lee Movement, Reparation and Redress Movement, The Tule Lake and Manzanar Pilgrimage organizers, Unity, an Asian American Socialist Organization, Seattle Taiko, the Noh Buddies musicians, "Chop Suey" the first Asian American Musical, Shasta Taiko, they all stopped in Eugene, hosted by APASU and in the homes of community members. 

            More than often we'd get a carful or two and head off for a pilgrimage, a conference, an Obon, a Filipino I-District pig barbecue, an opening, a rally and represent,  forming an I-5 family which lasts today.   Our first major conference attracted Asians from all over -- and they came to share their own projects.   We called the conference "A Tribute to John Okada" the first true authentic Asian American voice who died an unappreciated genius, resisting editors of publishing companies and their efforts to whitewash his novel,  No No Boy, an honest portrayal of the pain and betrayal of being Japanese American during WW2.    The Asian American Ethnic Pride Movement was alive and well in Eugene too, and the heart of it was APASU and the community group, now called PACAlliance
            Exciting as the AASU was, everyone will tell you the most transformational and the most treasured gift which came out of our Student Union in the late 60's through the 80's were the strong alliances -- make that friendships -- make that family -- we built across student union lines with BSU, NASU, MEChA and ourselves and the political movements of that time we were part of.  We were part of the Free South Africa Movement and everyone helped with Reparation and Redress.  We worked the pow wows, making sandwiches and lemonade for the drums, and NASU was there to help us host our traveling guests.  We supported the HEP program, and all of us ended up at the Longhouse over coffee, beading, and conversation.    We stood with NASU to support a Longhouse, the first in the nation, to be on a college campus.  We joined other student union women and LGBTQ for a parallel women's conference in support of Jan Oliver, First Black ASUO Student Body President who questioned why the UO Women's Conference appeared to be about White Heterosexual Feminism only.  Not everything was direct action.   In between lots of celebrations, pow wows, potlucks, parties.     We went to IFC meetings together, supporting each other, and you know how important that is to crowd the room.

            We changed the landscape of the university when we were here.  Some of us taught the first ethnic studies, although no credit was given in the beginning.  Together we unearthed those federal funds earmarked for students of color finding them buried in remediation classes and fought alongside our faculty allies to have them appropriately administered which began the Council for Minority Education, CME.  The CME had an Asian American as its first administrator, Gary Kim, who had led the charge in the first place.  The CME legacy is OMAS, MCC, and all the culturally relevant classes on campus.   The CME legacy is OMAS, MCC, and all the culturally relevant classes on campus.   Although gutted, enough of CME remains to make the difference between the campus we experienced, no recognizable point of entry or support to what Students of Color coming to this campus experience today.   I want you to know that from the beginning , APASU and APASU members were in  leadership positions in making this campus work for everyone so that you  understand that we belong in all parts of any diversity design on this campus today.

            These multicultural relationships still last today.   The skills we learned working together as well as the network of influence we now have all around the country with one another is the greatest gift gained at the UO.  It made me a better teacher.  I hear that same testimony from tribal leaders, judges, CEO's, community organizers, business people, artists -- that these multicultural networks and the work we did together, made us better and more successful than anything we gained at the University of Oregon.

            I support you APASU.  I am very proud of you for carrying on a great legacy.  Your work makes this campus safer and richer.  Granted, it may be a little different in terms of issues, the role you play in the history of movements, but what remains the same is that you contribute, you represent, and you endure.  APASU's historical roots is the message I leave with you tonight, and that is "We cannot do anything alone, and together, we can do anything we Dream."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Outside the Belly, Following the Sacred.

"Outside the Belly" blog is proud to present a photograph by Kayla Carpenter, Hoopa, a young leader and good friend.  I pushed some buttons just to see what would happen and my blog design completely disappeared with the Rakaia River of South Island, New Zealand.  So it was time to find another picture, and here was Kayla's ready to upload, permission and all.  I hope it's ok to use it for my blog because it carries a meaning with it.

Grandma Florence, Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader took us into her home, introduced us to all her sacred places and invited us:  The Winnemem Way of Life is a Hard Life but the Best Life in the World.  We found that to be true, refugees from an Empire, the Monster's Belly.  Now we have a good view of the belly, on the outside, tribal in an empire, federally unrecognized, a ceremonial life among secular and having to struggle for freedoms people take for granted to the point they don't even know the meaning of the "freedoms" they believe themselves to have.  Definitely the Winnemem take nothing for granted and the struggle is hard, and every victory sweet and shared.  Everything good ripples out.

So thank you Kayla, for the perfect picture for my blog.  Salmon spawning.  Salmon sacrificing their lives for Life.  At the end of its Life Cycle, everything grows from it.  The Chief says that scientists have found salmon DNA in the trees.  She says, "we need more salmon in the trees."

I cannot imagine a more important being for humans to follow, a being which knows both river and ocean, the being who lives its whole life to reproduce and to help everything to live, a being who struggles against all odds to do its sacred responsibilities.  The Chief talks about the great salmon who hurled themselves at the dam over and over and over again until they killed themselves just to go another 100 miles further.

I am once again reminded of the Cuban artist and school principal when we were conversing and joking about living in the Belly of the Beast, reminding us with encouragement, "But remember!  Jose Marti said, 'I have lived in the Monster and I have seen its belly!!' "  I named my blog with the insight of the great Cuban philosopher and revolutionary, and I write about my life as a grandchild of immigrants who have found her place outside the belly with my tribe, unrecognized and undefeated, the Winnemem Wintu. 

Expose the Dirty Secret

Peter DeFazio, populist and favorite Congressman of Oregon, broke from party ranks (Democrat) to join Republican (aka racist xenophoic) to vote for and pass the criminalizing of our borders, to the south that is.  I am still outraged by it.  My efforts have been puny.  In public places whenever the Congressman comes home to march in the Eugene Celebration Parade  "De Fazio!!  Immigration Justice!!!"  By this time, no one would know or care what I meant if I were to say something about building the wall between Mexico and the US and making a War Zone from our neighbors to the South.  He comes to speak, "De Fazio!!!  Immigrant Justice!!!"  I'd feel foolish the only voice shouting if I weren't so angry.

Here is a video which brings it ALL home.  Now, I plan to show this video whenever I have the chance, of the brave people of Maricopa County, AZ, who refuse to do nothing while the racist Sheriff Arpaio takes that piece of legislation De Fazio helped pass and wages violent illegal war on indigenous, undocumented and Latino citizens, men, women, and children.  Please watch this, and pass it on widely!!  There is no justice in the United States.  At some point, all the dirty national secrets must come out!!

"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.