Sunday, August 20, 2017

Charlottesville, Asian Americans at a turning point

GROWING UP in California, my parents never talked about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. To them, the plight of African/Americans and their fight for equality were distant events

To them, the March on Washington was for African/Americans. It didn't affect Filipinos or Asian/Americans. (In fact, the term "Asian American" hadn't even been conjured up until the latter half of the 60s.)

I can't remember any of my teachers in my racially diverse high school discuss  what was happening in Little Rock, Selma and other parts of the South. The Vietnam War had yet to reach our living room TV screens.

I'm embarrassed to say, that post-WWII generation immigrants of my parents -- as much as we owe them and love them -- there was an awful saying they repeated from a popular racist ditty: "If you're white, you're right; if you're black, get back; if you're brown, stick around." (Ooo, boy, that was difficult to write.)

Through the decades, that mantra has thankfully and gradually disappeared although it is showing signs of revival among the new immigrants from Asia who have no grasp or background of Asian American history. 

As AAPI people have become more attuned to the realities of America and it's dreams, as a group, we still struggle to find our place in our country -- as individuals and as a political construct  -- and rid ourselves of the "otherness" imposed on us by other people.

The events of Charlottesville, the uprising of white supremacists and the rise of Donald Trump, a leader who has no grasp of history and no empathy for people of color is forcing us to once again, seek a place in this current battle for America's soul because, whether we like or not, it is better at the table discussing these issues rather than retiring to the kitchen letting others duke it out.

The Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a coalition of five legal aid organizations, recently put out a call that perhaps best sums up why Charlottesville affects us why we should prepare ourselves the debates that are going on and the battles that are sure to come over race and what it means to be an American.

Here is the AAAJ's clarion call:
While few Asian Americans trace our roots to the Civil War, our history in this nation is deeply intertwined and impacted by white supremacy and nativism. At the turn of the 20th century, white mobs threatened -- and even lynched -- Chinese, Filipino, and South Asian immigrants, in part for fear they would taint (white) American culture. White supremacist groups helped to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first law to ban an entire ethnic group. And white supremacy birthed “alien land laws”, barring “non-citizens” from owning land at a time when mainly Asians could not become U.S. citizens, and anti-miscegenation laws, prohibiting interracial marriage (a law that in California specifically singled out Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and other Asians). White supremacy also paved the way for the U.S. government to violate due process and incarcerate 120,000 Japanese Americans, many U.S. citizens, during World War II -- an action upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Korematsu vs. United States and never formally overturned.

Given our history, we as Asian Americans cannot stand idly by and watch as white supremacists march through our neighborhoods. Even before this past weekend, hate crimes were surging upwards, including nearly 200 incidents against Asian Americans since January documented through our hate tracker ( and the shooting of two South Asian immigrants, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, in Kansas earlier this year.

We as Asian Americans also must not be complicit in the white supremacist agenda of this current administration. White supremacy drives the President’s Muslim bans, seeking to ban entire groups of people based on their national origin and non-Christian religion. It drove last week’s one-two punches from the White House. First, when the President announced his support for the RAISE Act, an immigration bill that would gut the current family-based immigration system, which has brought millions of Asian, African, and Latin American immigrants into the U.S. and remade the racial demographics of the U.S. in the past 50 years. And second, when the White House redirected federal civil rights resources to undo long-standing affirmative action policies. The administration’s purported claim to be fighting discrimination against Asian Americans flies counter to all other evidence that this administration and its allies and supporters seek to advance only the interests of fellow white Americans.

Our nation is at a critical crossroads. White supremacist leaders like David Duke have seized upon Charlottesville as a turning point in moving their hate and nativism mainstream. Without clear and decisive leadership from the President or other administration officials or Congressional leaders, it falls on all of us to resist white supremacy, including efforts to be co-opted by white supremacists who do not and have never had our communities' interests at heart.

We call on all Asian Americans to join us in defending our vision of democracy – one where we protect the vulnerable amongst us, resist efforts to erode our hard-won rights and protections, and fight to advance progress for all marginalized communities. We pledge to challenge rising hate, to fight the President’s Muslim bans, to oppose the RAISE Act and the gutting of affirmative action, to fight deportations and defend DACA, to champion health care for all, and to ensure all voters can cast their ballots. We cannot do this alone, and we will be calling upon you to join us on the streets, in legislative chambers, and on the steps of the courts to stand up for our democracy.
It is critical for the AAPI community -- especially those recent immigrants who come to the U.S. with its abundance of opportunities available to them -- to know that it was not always this way. Affirmative action, census counts, data disaggregation, employment rights, equal pay, equal access to health care, the right to own land, the ability to marry outside your race, family reunification -- these things had to be fought for. AAPI have bled and died for these rights and opportunities we take for granted. While America was yet a dream in for the recent immigrants, Asian/Americans were in the courts, the fields, in the halls of government, on the job and in the streets fighting for these doors to be opened.

White supremacists would like to use us as a wedge against other communities of color. They would like to separate us from others who share our struggle. They would like to divide us from each other. We must not let this happen.

Filipino/American author Carlos Bulosan wrote in America Is In the Heart words that still ring true: "America is also the nameless foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and the black body dangling on a tree. America is the illiterate immigrant who is ashamed that the world of books and intellectual opportunities are closed to him. We are all that nameless foreigner, that homeless refugee, that hungry boy, that illiterate immigrant and that lynched black body. All of us, from the first Adams to the last Filipino, native born or alien, educated or illiterate-We are America!"
The violence that occurred in Charlottesville was violence against the AAPI community. It was as much an attack against the AAPI as it was against the African/American, Native American and Latino communities. When Heather Heyer was killed, a sister was struck down.

America is at a crossroads. We are at that crossroad. In the weeks and months to come, we will determine which America will emerge: one where one group reigns over all; or an America that welcomes that refugee, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked.

The history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is an ongoing struggle to know our role in American history and how we have arrived to Charlottesville last week; how we have come to this America of 2017. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

HBO needs to reconsider its plans to produce alt-history "Confederate"

Game of Throne producers ponder a news series for HBO.
NOW is not the time to give the rising white supremacist movement another outlet to air their racist views.

That's why we are joing the rising chorus against HBO's proposed Confedrate, a show they hope will take the place of Game of Thrones when the Westeros drama ends next season.

After Charlottesville where white nationalists tried to "save" a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert Lee and the violence that followed, the last thing the United States needs is a show that gives any validation to white supremacists beliefs, even if  they're presented in a fictional world.

The premise of Confederate is an alternative universe where the Confederate States of America wins the Civil War. America is divided into two countries, the Union which fought against slavery, and the South where slavery still exists and part of the norm.

The show is being produced by the same team that brought us the wildly successful Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. HBO wanted to keep the two in their stable so any project they proposed would probably have been given the green light.

Not surprisingly, the concept was met with skepticism and cynicism from people of color. The originator of #OscarsSoWhite launched a campaign #NoConfederate to oppose the proposed show.

In response to the backlash, HBO felt compelled to respond. Here’s the statement in full:
"We support everybody’s right to express an opinion but the suggestion of irresponsibility on our part is simply undeserved. HBO has a long history of championing intelligent storytelling and we will approach this project with the same level of thoughtfulness that has always defined our programming. We recognize the sensitivity of this project and will treat it with the respect that it deserves. Our creative partners should be given time to develop the series rather than face prejudgment."
By giving the OK to proceed with the project, HBO executives themselves have "prejudged" the show. The project will not air until GOT is finished so it would premiere sometime in 2019 so there is still time to get the network to reconsider. 

In an effort to make it palatable to audiences of color and to present a world where slavery is acceptable, Benioff and Weiss will be working with two experienced African/American executive producers, Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire).

But considering the recent events in Charlottesville and Donald Trump's lame attempt to downgrade the seriousness of the growing menace of white superiority. Sometimes, businesses need to look at the bigger picture and consider their social responsibility over profits. I'm sure HBO's shareholders, if aware of the uproar, could sway executives' minds.

Any attempt to portray racism as normal, will only embolden the low-lifes who confuse fiction and reality, ie. those survivalists who are preparing for a zombie apocalypse or preparing for a war against the federal government or some imagined race war. Even contemplating the plausibility of slavery is enough to make the current cadre of white supremacists solidify their warped beliefs.

From D.W. Griffith's silent Birth of a Nation, in which the KKK were portrayed as heroic figures, to Bette Davis Jezebel to the Academy Award-winning Gone With the Wind, Hollywood has a major hand in fostering this myth of Southern gentility and the "loving" relationship between slave and master. 

The worst thing about these classic movies is that as "cinema," they were actually really, really good. As historical portrayals, they were terrible. Unfortunately, they set the tone for a generation of films about the South that romanticized that era, which southerners embraced. 

Unlike the recent movies (after the 1965 Civil Rights Act) about the Civil War, (Roots, Glory, Ride With the Devil, Gettysburg, Lincoln, etc. and the modern Birth of A Nation) The earlier movies helped nurture this romantic image of the South. I always resented the portrayals of Southern gentlemen and sweet-talking Southern belles while the Union generals and soldiers were always the crude outsiders who didn't mind their manners.

In the 1915 'Birth of A Nation' the Klan were the good guys., even as
they get set to lynch one of the runway slaves. 
When HBO announced the Confederate project last week, criticism came in loud and strong.

The sci-fi site io9 posted: “It’s difficult not to be more than a bit skeptical about a show (dreamt up by two white men) built around the premise that the South won the Civil War and has modernized slavery.” The Daily Beast’s Ira Madison III wrote, “all you really need to know is that (‘Confederate’) sounds stupid as hell.”

Social media was even less kind.

Actor David Harewood of the CW’s Supergirl tweeted, “Good luck finding black actors for this project.” NPR’s Linda Holmes tweeted, “This seems extraordinarily unwise.”

“It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history. It’s our original sin as a nation. And history doesn’t disappear. That sin is still with us in many ways,” Weiss told New York magazine. “ ‘Confederate,’ in all of our minds, will be an alternative history show. It’s a science-fiction show. One of the strengths of science fiction is that it can show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could, whether it were a historical drama or a contemporary drama. It’s an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it.”

Racism is not some distant chapter in history books. It is something that still lives with us today, ingrained in our institutions and our culture.

Prominent writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, said in a piece in The Atlantic earlier this month that "African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that ‘history is still with us.’ It’s right outside our door. It’s in our politics. It’s on our network."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this post did not include material about Hollywood's influence in painting a false image of the Civil War.

Ali Wong at the Masonic Auditorium tonight

Ali Wong

ONE OF THE brightest young comedians in the country is on tour. If you want to watch Ali Wong before she becomes a household name, here's your chance. You can always brag to your friends, I knew her before ...

Unfortunately, if you want to see Ali Wong in S.F. tonight, it's too late. Her two shows are sold out!

is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actress currently living in Los Angeles, will be playing in front of her hometown crowd. 

After SF Weekly selected her as “The Best Comedian of 2009″ and the SF Bay Guardian awarded her “Best of the Bay,” she decided that it was finally time to depart her hometown. 

In 2010, Comedy Central listed Ali Wong as one of seven “Comics to Watch.” In 2011, Variety Magazine named her as one of the “10 Comics to Watch,” and Ali appeared in the 2011 and 2012 Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, QC.

With the recent release of her Netflix Special, "Ali Wong: Baby Cobra," Ali became the first comedian to record a stand up special 7 months pregnant. 

Ali co-stars in the new ABC comedy, American Housewife, premiering this fall.

Ali has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night With Seth Meyers. She also appeared in Oliver Stone’s film, Savages and was a series regular on NBC’s Are You There Chelsea. In 2012, Ali hosted the Golden Globes Live Coverage on E! 

She recently appeared in Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow’s hit film Trainwreck an was a writer on ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat before landing her American Housewife role.

Her two San Francisco shows at the 3500-seat Masonic Auditorium shows are sold out. If you want to catch her, better luck in the following cities.

Aug 19: San Francisco The Masonic 7th and 8th shows SOLD OUT
Sept 9: Denver, CO Paramount Theatre
Sept 15: Houston, TX Revention Music Center
Sept 16: Dallas, TX Majestic Theatre 1 SHOW SOLD OUT, 2nd show added!
Sept 22-23: Toronto Winter Garden Theatre 3 SHOWS SOLD OUT
Sept 24: Toronto Sony Centre 
Oct 7: Las Vegas Park Theater
Oct 14: Minneapolis, MN State Theatre
Oct 21: Temecula, CA Pechanga Casino 1 SHOW SOLD OUT, 2nd show on sale 3pm
Nov 11: Thousand Oaks, CA Fred Kavli Theatre

Tiki torches are for BBQs

AFTER Charlottesville, Virginia, let's return Tiki torches back to their original uses.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fraternity hazing death: Asians are the loneliest Americans

"ASIANS are the loneliest Americans." The haunting line rings true for Asian/Americans trying to find a place to fit in in the American mosaic.

An article, "What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity" by Jay Caspian Kang for the New York Times, is about the death by hazing of Chun Michael Deng, a college freshman struggling with identity and who was seeking membership in an Asian/American fraternity based in Baruch College, NY.

His quest for acceptance ended up in his death in 2013. He died from his injuries after fraternity brothers waited too long to contact authorities after the 18-year old  lost conciousness during a hazing ritual.

Kenny Kwan, 28, Charles Lai, 26, Raymond Lam, 23, and Sheldon Wong, 24, pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter as accomplices and hindering apprehension for concealing evidence, according to the Monroe County District Attorney's Office. The four men were originally charged with murder.

Chun Michael Deng
More than 30 other fraternity members are awaiting court proceedings in connection with the death after a Monroe County, Pennsylvania, grand jury recommended charges. The fraternity, Pi Delta Psi, is also charged with murder, and is scheduled to begin trial this November, according to court documents.

In the New York Times, Kang writes:
Asians are the loneliest Americans. The collective political consciousness of the ’80s has been replaced by the quiet, unaddressed isolation that comes with knowing that you can be born in this country, excel in its schools and find a comfortable place in its economy and still feel no stake in the national conversation. The current vision of solidarity among Asian-­Americans is cartoonish and blurry and relegated to conversations at family picnics, in drunken exchanges over food that reminds everyone at the table of how their mom used to make it. Everything else is the confusion of never knowing what side to choose because choosing our own side has so rarely been an option. Asian pride is a laughable concept to most Americans. Racist incidents pass without prompting any real outcry, and claims of racism are quickly dismissed. A common past can be accessed only through dusty, dug-up things: the murder of Vincent Chin, Korematsu v. United States, the Bataan Death March and the illusion that we are going through all these things together. The Asian-­American fraternity is not much more than a clumsy step toward finding an identity in a country where there are no more reference points for how we should act, how we should think about ourselves. But in its honest confrontation with being Asian and its refusal to fall into familiar silence, it can also be seen as a statement of self-­worth. These young men, in their doomed way, were trying to amend the American dream that had brought their parents to this country with one caveat: "I will succeed, they say. But not without my brothers!'
Good stuff, right? For most of us, as we float between the worlds of black and white, trying to find out where we fit in, uncertain that we can fit in. Some of us take on the characteristics of African Americans, appropriating their slang, music and dance; others lean towards Latinos, learn some Spanish words, dance the salsa and wear their colors; still others, become bananas or coconuts, taking on the attributes, clothing styles and listen to the musical icons of the dominant culture. 

It's a long read, well written and contains some interesting insights. It's worth some of your time this weekend.

TGIF FEATURE: Bruno Mars releases new video starring Zendaya; donates $1M to Flint

Zendaya stars in Bruno Mars' newest music video.

BRUNO MARS has been on his “24K Magic World Tour.” During his August 12 sold-out show, Mars surprised the Auburn Hills, MI audience with the announcement that he would be donating $1 million to aid victims of the Flint water crisis.
"I'm very thankful to the Michigan audience for joining me in supporting this cause," the Grammy winner said in a statement on August 12. "Ongoing challenges remain years later for Flint residents, and it's important that we don't forget our brothers and sisters affected by this disaster. As people, especially as Americans, we need to stand together to make sure something like this never happens in any community ever again."

RELATED: '60 Minutes' interviews Bruno Mars
The next day, the Filipino/American entertainer, 31, dropped his “Versace on the Floor” video, in which Mars demonstrates his skills on the keyboards. 

The 5-minute video opens with a brief encounter between Bruno and the Spider-Man: Homecoming actress in a hotel room hallway, before they enter their adjacent rooms. As an indigo haze brushes over their rooms, Bruno sits down at the keyboard to sing a little tune. Wooed by his charm and melodic serenade, Zendaya – appropriately dressed in Versace – begins to sway and dance as the room is lit up with twinkling lights.

“Versace on the Floor” is the third music video to be released off his platinum-certified studio album. It follows behind the animated visuals for “That’s What I Like” and the album’s lead single, “24K Magic.” 


Angelica Hale hits the high note in America's Got Talent..

Angelica Hale

A LITTLE GIRL, dressed in red and looking like she just came from a birthday party, emerged from a swirl of stars began softly as she sang a cover of "Clarity." Her voice continued to grow as Angelica Hale hit some unbelievably high notes, including "The High Note" that wowed the judges.

By the time 9-year old Angelica had completed her song, the four judges gave her a standing ovation and one judge, Mel B., was in tears.

Her performance was good enough for her to move her into the semi-finals. When it came time for her to face the judges with favorite Darcy Lynn Farmer, it didn't look good but the judges gave both singers a thumbs up.

The Korean hip-hop dance crew had a harder time. The dancers were in the sixth, seventh and eighth spots. That meant the TV audience had the opportunity to vote for one of the acts during the live show. 

Since it was a live show, only the east coast viewers had the opportunity to vote, leaving the west coast, where more Asian/Americans lived, no chance to influence the vote. By the end of show, it was announced that the Koreans were out of the running for that last spot heading to the semifinals.

Watch Angelica's amazing performance below:
Angelica was one of seven acts to advance. Besides Farmer, the other semi-finalists will be In the Stairwell, Preacher Lawson, Billy and Emily England, Christian Guardino and Yoli Mayor.

Next Tuesday, the second live show will help determine a new group of semi-finalists, including the other 9-year old Asian/American singer Celine Tam and the dance crew Brobots and Mandroidz, which features three AAPI dancers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Riz Ahmed's moving performance of "Sour Times"

IN THESE SOUR TIMES, when Donald Trump does or says something astonishing every day, you might have missed Riz Ahmed's rap "Sour Times" on The Tonight Show last Monday (Aug. 14).

Mind you, it was only two days after the events of Charlottesville when white supremacists clashed with anti-racist protestors resulting in the death of one women when a racist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors. The taping of The Tonight Show was before Donald Trump's infamous press conference where he seemed to equate the traitors Gen. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The British actor told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon that he wrote the rap ten years ago and hopes that one day, his lyrics would become irrelevant. Sadly, they are just as relevant today as they were a decade ago.

Trump again eases up on white supremacists

Donald Trump is back to blaming "both sides" for the violence in Charlottesville last weekend.

OMG! It's one step forward and two steps back for Donald Trump. Can anything get more weirder?

After today (Aug. 15), we realize that his statement on Monday was just a phony baloney act to calm down those Republicans criticizing his non-statements about Charlottesville on Saturday. On Monday, he belatedly denounced, specifically, the white nationalists, neo-Nazis, KKK and those who refuse to admit the Confederacy lost the Civil War.

In an off-the-rails press conference, Trump off-the-cuff, revealed that he didn't really mean what he said on Monday. He said, “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” he said. “Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”

Trump’s remarks — which put the largely peaceful counter-protesters in Charlottesville on a par with the white supremacists they assembled there to protest — are a return to his widely criticized remarks from the weekend.

RELATED: Kick out the alt-right from the White House
Trump went on to defend the “Unite the Right” rally’s decision to protest the removal of a monument to Confederate general Robert E. Lee, suggesting that this was a slippery slope to toppling statues of founding fathers and slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Did Donald Trump ever take an American history class?

In a press conference, Trump equated George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with two Confederate generals. He asserted that most of the people in Charlottesville to protest the taking down of a statue of Confederate Gen. Lee. "This week its Robert E. Lee, I wonder, I notice  Stonewall Jackson coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington. Is it Thomas Jefferson the following week?" 

Really? The former two were trying to create "a more perfect Union" while Lee and Jackson were trying to destroy our country.
An unidentified Asian man was seen marching with the white
supremacists in Charlottesville, VA.

Standing awkwardly behind Trump throughout the presser was Sec. of Labor Elaine Chao, the daughter of immigrants and wife of Senate GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell. McConnell has been one of Trump's targets since the Trumpcare bill failed to pass the Senate.

Though he was roundly criticized for his impromptu press conference which reportedly caught his staff by surprise, at least two people in America were pleased with what Trump said.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” tweeted David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who coined the term alt-right was equally thankful in his tweet, “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, a Filipino/American congressman for Virginia, tweeted today (Aug. 15), "I am extremely disappointed to see @realDonaldTrump miss another opportunity to help the country heal after the events in #Charlottesville"

After researching the Charlottesville media coverage, on second thought, maybe Trump was right. Not everyone of the Unite the Right rally was a white nationalist. There was at least one Asian male seen marching with the neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacists. 

Who is this guy? Anybody?

The video taped by an ACLU staffer caught the videographer by surprise. Later in the day, the Asian man was spotted again with the white nationalists confirming his affiliation with the demonstrators.

Kick the alt-right out of the White House, say AAPI, black and Latino lawmakers

This photo went viral in the Asian American community.

WHAT'S NEXT after Donald Trump belatedly condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the violence that broke out in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend?

Charlottesville may very well be the "turning point" in America, but not the way meant by David Duke, former KKK leader.

The Trump administration has initiated a litany of policies and initiatives that would turn back the clock to when privilege and power were limited only to whites, including:

  • Attacking affirmative action
  • Initiating barriers to voting
  • Restricting Muslims traveling to the U.S.
  • Reducing legal immigration by half
  • Criminalizing immigrants
  • Trying to kick transgender military personnel out of the armed forces
  • Assaulting civil rights
The same day  (Aug. 15) that Donald Trump gave one of the most off-the-wall press conferences about the events in Charlottesville, Va., the leadership of the Congressional Quad-Caucus – which is composed of chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) – and Representatives Barbara Lee and David Cicilline sent a letter to Donald Trump calling for the immediate removal of Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House. Bannon, Gorka and Miller, all with ties to the alt-right or have espoused white nationalists'  world view,  serve as senior advisors to the President.

The Congressional Quad-Caucus leadership along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee released the following statements upon release of the letter. Full text of the letter can be found here.

“President Trump's delayed denunciation of white supremacists and their violent actions in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend cannot be separated from this Administration's ongoing assault on racial and religious minorities," said CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu, D-Calif. 

"This is not surprising, as the President has filled his inner circle with known supporters of white supremacists, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka. Their continued presence in the White House is not only an affront to communities across this nation that were threatened and attacked by the violent protests over the weekend, but is a direct contradiction to President Trump's own delayed condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. Actions speak louder than words. I join my colleagues and call upon President Trump to remove these white supremacists from office, and take action to defeat hate.”

“The white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville have brought vile racism, hatred and bigotry to the forefront of our political discourse once again. We cannot address the dangerous spread of white supremacy in America without honestly examining its influence on the Oval Office," agreed Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. 

"President Trump has elevated hate and discrimination to the highest levels of our government. From the Muslim Ban, to raids on immigrant communities, a ban on transgender Americans serving in our military, attempts to revive the failed war on drugs and an all-out assault on civil and human rights, the influence of the alt-right is clear in the Trump Administration’s policy agenda."

“Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller have long embraced the views of white supremacists, white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. These prejudiced ideologies have no place in the highest office in our land. I urge President Trump to remove Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka from the White House without delay.”

What can we, the people do to affect the direction of our country?

Speak up: Talk to your neighbors, your family, and your friends. Have a dialogue about what’s happening in our country and what we can do about it. Acknowledge where there are injustices in your community and organize together to reform the system and fix them.

Show up: Prepare for 2018 when the mid-term elections will be held for our congressional represenatives. Make sure those friends and relatives who are eligible to vote is registered. We need to replace those lawmakers who have given Trump a blank check and choose party over country. When it comes time to vote, get out and vote.

Act up: Take action and do something important. There will be rallies, lawmakers' town halls and marches in the future that you can join. Don’t give in to, as Martin Luther King, Jr. would say, “the appalling silence of good people.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AAPI performers in tonight's America's Got Talent

Angelica Hale

Just Jerk

TONIGHT and tomorrow night America's Got Talent will be performing in NBC's America's Got Talent competition. Among the Asian and Asian/American performers are two cute-as-the-dickens 9-year olds, two amazing dance crews and an unbelievable escape artist.
In the live competition, the audience will be the judges for the 36 performers who made the live shows.

Performing tonight (Aug. 15, 8 p.m.) will be Angelica Hale, the first of the 9-year olds, and the Korean hip-hop dance crew, Just Jerk.

When she earned the Golden Buzzer, which put her straight through to tonight's love competition, Angelica impressed the judges with her mature diva-like vocals. Hale is a sentimental favorite who survived organ failure and raises money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 

Just Jerk comes from South Korea and members of the 6-person crew will be joining the military right after their run on AGT. It remains to be seen if the current tension between North Korea and the U.S. will get them any votes. 

Of the known acts set to perform on Tuesday’s Quarterfinals 1 episode of NBC’s long-running reality TV show, here is how readers of Amazon's Gold Derby rank them in terms of who might ultimately win the $1 million prize:
Darci Lynne Farmer – Singing Ventriloquist – 8/5 odds to win
Angelica Hale – Singer – 9/2 odds to win
Preacher Lawson – Stand-up Comedian – 12/1 odds to win
Puddles Pity Party – Singing Clown – 28/1 odds to win
The Singing Trump – Donald Trump Impersonator – 50/1 odds to win
Artyon & Paige – Dancing Duo – 100/1 odds to win
Billy & Emily England – Extreme Rollerblading Duo – 100/1 odds to win
Christian Guardino – Singer – 100/1 odds to win
In the Stairwell – A Cappella Group – 100/1 odds to win
Just Jerk – Hip-Hop Dance Group – 100/1 odds to win
Yoli Mayor – Singer – 100/1 odds to win
I'm not saying to vote for the Asian and Asian/American acts based on their ethnicity, but (what the hell) I'm saying you can show your support for the performers by casting your vote. 
To vote for your favorite:
  • You can download an app. Here is the link. 
  • You can also vote online or on Facebook. Here are those links. 
  • You can also call in to vote by calling in the corresponding phone number for each contestant that will be revealed during the show.
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Home owners angry that their exclusive San Francisco street bought by Asian couple

Google map view of Presidio Terrace.

THE IRONY is hard to miss: An Asian couple bought a street in a neighborhood that had racial covenants limiting the homes for whites only.Tina Lam and Michael Cheng bought one of the ritziest streets in high-priced San Francisco and the residents, some of the most powerfl and influential people in San Francisco are upset.

Lam and Cheng, Silicon Valley engineers and investors, bought one of the most exclusive streets in the city for $90,000. Presidio Terrace is an oval street with 40 multi-million dollar homes.

With San Francisco real estate one of the highest-priced in the nation, Lam and Cheng recognized a bargain when they saw one.

Apparently the $14 annual tax went unpaid for 30 years before, finally, the street was put up for auction to pay for the $994 in unpaid back-taxes, fines and interest.

Residents were completely unaware of the purchase until May, when the couple sent out a letter asking the residents if they were interested in buying their street back. They claimed that the reason the taxes hadn’t been paid was that the accountant’s address that the taxes were being sent to had not been used since the 1980s. 

The residents and homeowners association are now trying to fight the sale in court by suing the new owners.

“Ninety-nine percent of property owners in San Francisco know what they need to do, and they pay their taxes on time — and they keep their mailing address up to date,” Amanda Fried, spokesperson for Treasurer-Tax Collector Jose Cisneros’ office, said. “There is nothing that our office can do.”
The irony of the sale is that the Asian couple now owns a street that was specifically created to keep out “Orientals.” An ad for Presidio Terrace in 1906 reads “There is only one spot in San Francisco where only Caucasians are permitted to buy or lease real estate or where they may reside. That place is Presidio Terrace.”
Curbed SF compiled some interesting factoids about the neighborhood.
  • The first of the master-planned communities built in the western part of San Francisco, it’s private and gated. 
  • The gates are always open, but there’s a guard at the entrance to keep you out. 
  • Presidio Terrace is bordered by Arguello Boulevard, Lake Street, Pacific Avenue, and (ironically) the Little Sisters of the Poor.  
  • Building began here in 1905. Most of it survived the great quake. 
  • It’s wealthy. Very wealthy. A four-floor mansion at 26 Presidio Terrace hit the market in 2016 for $14.5 million. And 30 Presidio Terrace, a neighbor in the gated community, last sold for $9.5 million
  • Architecture in the community varies. Beaux-Arts, Mission Revival, and Tudor Revival can all be found here. Most notably, Julia Morgan designed an Italian Renaissance home here in 1909. 
  • Up until 2006, Google Street View used to go inside Presidio Terrace. No more. Ever since 2007, most views from the street are no longer viewable. 
  • Except this one. Oops. 
  • Today it’s the home of notable residents. Current and former Presidio Terrace dwellers include former San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband. 
  • The plaque on the front gates reads: “Presidio Terrace....private street...authorized parking only.” 
The couple are OK if the residents don't want to rent  the parking spaces on the street. In parking scarce San Francisco, there are plenty of other city residents who would pay for those valuable parking spots.

That would basically open up the street to the commoners who live outside the enclave. There goes the neighborhood.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Vanessa Hudgens given activist award at 2017 Teen Choice Awards

Filipina/American actress Vanessa Hudgens was given the #SeeHer Award (yes, it's a surfboard) at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.

VANESSA HUDGENS was ill but you wouldn't know it at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards last night (Aug. 13) when she gave an inspirational speech when she received the #SeeHer Award.
The Filipina/American actress 28, was given the #SeeHer Award for "pushing boundaries, unchanging stereotypes and embodying the fight for realistic female portrayals in media."
"I'm not gonna lie, when I was 25, I felt like I had it all figured out," she confessed. "And then I woke up at 27 and I realized that I had no idea who I was, what I stood for, and what I wanted."
"I look back on that moment really grateful because it pushed me to dig deeper and figure out what type of woman I wanted to become."
She was given the award for her work for a number of charities including the Make A Wish Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.

Vanessa Hudgens, right, stepped out at the Women's March earlier this year.
In the past 18 months, she had to overcome the death of her father on the eve of her live performance of Grease. In one of those "the show-must-go-on moments," she powered on and her performance boosted her Hollywood profile and garnered her  an Emmy.
Her hosting of the 2017 Billboard Awards elevated Hudgens' visibility and showed off her ability to spar impromptu with the stars in the audience and stage.
For me, the small throwaway line in her cancelled TV show Powerless was perhaps the most important for some little Asian/American child who might have heard it on network TV. She said, "I'm half Filipino ..." The moment was no big deal, no inspirational music in the background, no dramatic pause, but it identified her as an Asian/American when so many actors never get a chance to proclaim their heritage. individuality, what makes them different.
That single seemingly insignificant line was empowering. 
Unlike some actors and actresses who choose to remain ambiguous about their ethnicity, Hudgens has never been shy about her mixed-race heritage. Her mother is Filipino. When she had the opportunity, she said it publicly, during a performance: "I'm half Filipino."
The actress ended her Teen Choice speech with a powerful message for her younger fans. "I think it is so important for us to lean into our individuality and to embrace our weirdness," she continued. "To not be afraid of being different, because God made you you for a reason. So know that in your heart, you are enough. And the more you lean into that, the brighter you will shine." Amen, to that!
Other AAPI performers honored in the show were:
  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, "Fantasy Movie Actor" for his voice work for Maui in the animated Moana.
  • Auli Carvalho, "Break Out Actress" for her voice work as the title role in Moana.
Listen to Hudgen's speech below:

CORRECTION: Vanessa Hudge's "Filipno" quote in Powerless have been corrected.