Thursday, December 31, 2015

Post on the St. Louis World Fair and the Igorots became one of best read stories

EDITORS at AsAm News were surprised that a story about the Philippines exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair became the second-most best-read stories in 2015. It also has been one of best read stories in this blog, too. Out of hundreds of stories over the two years of Views From The Edge, it ranks ninth.

The Philippines exhibit at the fair featured six "tribes" from the Philippines, including a tribe of Igorots, one of the mountain peoples of Luzon. It is a little known chapter in our American journey and another example of propping up the idea of American exceptionalism and to justify its imperialistic ambitions.

Unfortunately, it was America's first up-close and personal look at Filipinos and it left an everlasting impression on the American psyche of barely clothed "savages" who had dogs as a major part of their diet. That image affected how European/Americans thought about the  subsequent waves of immigration from the Philippines, from the sugar cane workers in the early part of the 20th century all the way to the waves of medical and tech workers of the last two decades of that same century.

I'm sure Filipino/Americans who read the story felt mixed feelings. I know my parents' generation's reaction would be one of horror; their amor propio demeaned. "That's not us. That's only a tiny part of the Philippines. We wear clothes."

I suspect that younger Filipino/Americans would embrace their indigenous heritage with pride and feel incensed at how their predecessors/ancestors were treated like animals in a zoo.

The high interest in the post points out the strong need for an accurate telling of American history with all its warts instead of a means to make one group of people feel better about themselves at the expense of people of color. At the very least, it would teach some humility.

For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, go to AsAm News.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sports fan Seiji Ozawa at the Kennedy Center Honors

SEIJI OZAWA is a Red Sox fan. Who would have thought ... that interests as divergent as the all-American pastime and composer Johann Sebastian Bach could be found in a single individual?

After 29 years conducting the Boston Symphony, it makes sense. The Japanese/American conductor is also a fan of the New England Patriots.

The legendary conductor, 79, was honored three weeks ago at the Kennedy Center Honors event in Washington D.C. but the occasion was aired only last night (Dec. 29) on CBS. If you get a chance, you should view it. It was a whale of a show! It made me so proud to be American.
RELATED: Seiji Ozawa Receives Kennedy Center Honors
Ozawa's multiple interviews gave a glimpse of the revered conductor as a regular guy with a wide range of interests and who has lived an extraordinary life. It took place on the red carpet prior to the formal ceremonies and performances. He touches on why, instead of pursuing a career as a pianist, he became a conductor, (ironically because of a sports-related injury). 

He finds time to come out of retirement to occasionally conduct orchestras around the globe.

To honor Ozawa, close friend  cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed Tchaikovsky's "Andante Cantabile." Ma, who was similarly honored in 2011, performs with such "soul." 

Ozawa's fellow 2015 inductees included director George Lucas, actresses Rita Moreno and Cecily Tyson and songwriter Carole King.

For more Asian/American & Pacific Islander news, read AsAm News.

Nerds of the world unite ... fight the Evil Empire threatening our country

HOW IN THE WORLD does one combine the Jedi Knights from Star Wars, the ongoing presidential campaign, combating apathy with an Asian/American angle?

Thanks to Darren Criss, we can introduce the U.S. Rebel Alliance, which targets that demographic least likely to vote but also the group with the most influence. Young adults voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 208 and 2012 and some say, was key to his election.

Criss, a Filipino/American actor with a role in the popular Glee TV show and numerous Broadway credits to his name, is a superfan of the Star Wars franchise. He joined in the video urging people to join the Rebel Alliance. Criss is currently working on his debut album after a stint on American Horror Story: Hotel.

The U.S. Rebel Alliance was formed by Paul Adler, a lecturer of History & Literature at Harvard and Andrew Slack, creator of The Harry Potter Alliance and a Fellow at Civic Hall.

If you're unfamiliar with Star Wars saga and this post doesn't make any sense, well ... please, move on to the next post.

If you are familiar with the Star Wars universe, which happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, if you have the Rebel Alliance, then you must have the counterpart, the evil Empire. Who is the "Empire?" Who is Darth Vader? Who represents the forces of evil?

To Slack and Adler, the bad guys make up the Empire of Big Money, the special interests who have become the king-makers because of the large sums of money they put into the campaigns and who, in turn, have the power to influence polices that may, in the end, benefit the benefactors. 

In more crass terms: They buy the elections and the politicians. Sad, but that is what our election process has devolved into.

From their website:
If there’s a message for our times from the Star Wars franchise, it is this — we need to strengthen democracy now in order to prevent an Empire later. If more people had supported the cause of democracy and not become inured to the Republic’s slow decline then the challenges that Feinstein and Bunch identify would never have become issues in the first place. No Empire, no Death Star. 
This story of democracy undermined by the power of a few may sound all too familiar to Americans living in the era of Citizens United. Let’s hope that we can take the right inspiration from the Star Wars saga, and ensure our Republic is one where all voices count. And so, let’s not contain this discussion to a mere article! Let us use it as nerd-fueled inspiration to light up a Republic who so many have lived for, who so many have died for, and may the force be with US!
If politics is too boring for you, or if you feel that none of the candidates represent your views so what can you do? and you feel like the dark forces are too powerful and want to help preserve our Republic, consider joining the Jedi Order of the U.S. Rebel Alliance

May the Force be with you.
For more news about Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Court takes a different slant on the Asian/American rock band's name

The band in the middle of the controversy.
RACIST names have been deemed OK by a ruling rendered by federal appeals court last week. A case involving an Asian/American rock band that called itself The Slants, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the band can call itself whatever it wants based on the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech provision.

"We’ve long held that this case is not the Pandora’s Box for hate speech, that free speech is absolutely essential for having nuanced discussions of race and identity," said the band members on their website. "We’re thrilled that the court recognizes not only our legitimate business practices, but our expressive and political speech as well, which lies at the heart of the First Amendment."

The Dec. 22 ruling In Re Simon Shiao Tam could have far-ranging impact on other trademark names such as that NFL team based in Washington that calls itself a racist term for Native Americans.
RELATED: Slants oppose NFL Redskins name
Despite opposition from other Asian/American organizations, the Portland-based dance/rock band will be allowed to continue using the racist monicker.

Like the rap group NWA using the dreaded N-word in its name "With Attitude," the artists seek to reclaim, or "take ownership" of the racist term and in so doing, they say, lessen the offensiveness of the word.

The court ruled:
The band draws inspiration for its lyrics from childhood slurs and mocking nursery rhymes, J.A. 130, and its albums include “The Yellow Album” and “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts.” The band “feel[s] strongly that Asians should be proud of their cultural heritage, and not be offended by stereotypical descriptions.”
That's what they intend to do. I've never heard them perform, so I can't judge them musically. They certainly got a lot of publicity in this court battle.

“This case calls for an end to a law that is being used to suppress minority voices.” said David Rogers, executive director for the ACLU of Oregon,

When the Asian/American band sought to register its name with the trademark office four years ago, a Patent and Trademark Office examiner denied it for being offensive to Asians.

The office also took the same position against the Washington-based football team. But NWA has a trademark. How'n hell did that happen?

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the South Asian Bar Association of Washington DC (SABA-DC) and the Fred T Korematsu Center for Law and Equality jointly filed an amicus brief defending the U.S. government’s decision on The band's trademark application. From their press release:
“Asian Pacific Americans are all too familiar with the harm, including violence, that often accompanies racial slurs and epithets,” said NAPABA President George C. Chen. “Although I recognize the band’s intent to reclaim a historically disparaging term, as an intellectual property attorney, I also am cognizant that changing the U.S. trademark regulations to allow the registration of ‘The Slants’ could result in the trademarking of offensive terms by individuals and groups without similarly positive intentions.”
“SABA-DC deplores the use of racial slurs and epithets, and while the particular epithet involved in this case is not one that is usually directed to our South Asian constituency, we believe slurs against any racial or ethnic group are damaging to us all,” added SABA-DC President Habib F. Ilahi. “The First Amendment protects free speech, but it does not entitle those who wish to use such derogatory terms for branding purposes to receive the stamp of government approval.
If you want a bit of enlightened reading, check out pages 8 and 9 of the ruling. It's a list of trademarks rejected as disparaging by the Patent and Trademark Office.

These include: Stop the Islamization of America, The Christian Prostitute, Amishhomo, Have You Heard That Satan Is a Republican?, Democrats Shouldn't Breed, Republicans Shouldn't Breed, Fagdog and more, 

Good company, in my view and good reason to deny the name the band chose. But hey, I'm not a lawyer or a judge, just an apparently overly sensitive Asian/American who through my life has had to bear-and-grin-it after being called every derogatory Asian stereotype in the book.

The question arises then, is there no limit to offensive trademarks?

It is expected that the ruling will be appealed to U.S. Supreme Court. If the High Court agrees with the lower court, expect an explosion of expletive-deleted trademarked products to start appearing in our streets. Any semblance of civility or politeness, even if it is sarcastically called "political correctness," will disappear.

For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, go to AsAm News.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

COP21: what does it all mean? 'I'm an island boy,' says Obama

Island nations speak out at climate change conference 

Marshal Islanders are seeing their beaches slowly eroding away
IT'S A MATTER OF DEGREES. A half-degree may sound small, but it could spell the difference of the elimination or survival of island nations most threatened by rising sea levels.

The final agreement among the 195 nations to implement measures to lower the impact of climate change was a significant step but not the leap forward that some countries feel is necessary. The Conference of Parties (COP21), an annual meeting of all nations that make up the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. It was the 21st meeting of the countries' leaders, activists and climate experts in Paris earlier this month.

Among the key provisions of the agreement is the capping of global temperature rise “ to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

The island nations such as the Marshall Islands, Samoa and the Philippines wanted set 1.5°C as the goal but in order to get the larger countries to agree, the language allowed for some leeway with the understanding that future negotiations would reach to attain that half-degree difference.

Other provisions that are considered significant are the inclusion of human rights as a bedrock principle, the mention of ecosystem integrity, the commitment on financial and technological support, and the inclusion of a Loss and Damage article.

RELATED: Key points of the COP21 agreements 
Read the final document
President Obama addressed leaders of the island nations during the COPO21 meeting in Paris.
In a nod to the very real threats faced by small island states, President Barack Obama declared, “I am an island boy,” referring to his childhood years spent in Hawaii and Indonesia during a meeting with Association of Small Island States member states.

In fact, the least powerful nations in the world, may have had the most at stake in and may have had the most influence in the outcome in Paris. President Obama met with the island leaders on the second day of his visit to the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris.

"The bottom line is this," said Obama. "The nations that are represented by the leaders who are here today, they’re not the most populous nations. They don’t have big armies. May not have the most influence in international organizations. But as Prime Minister O’Neill indicated from Papua New Guinea, they have a right to the dignity and sense of place and continuity of culture that everybody else does. And their voice is vital in making sure that the kind of agreement that emerges here in Paris is not just serving the interests of the most powerful, but is serving the interests of the most vulnerable, as well.

"And the United States intends to stand with them as a partner in this process."

Indeed, the dignity and preservation of the world’s vulnerable islands took on a leading role at the talks with the call for a 1.5 degree goal has taken center stage.

The temperature goal is widely viewed as a much safer limit, not just for islands but for a world increasingly experiencing extreme weather events with warming of less than 1 degree above pre-industrial levels today.

Organizers of the Paris conference will be the first to admit, the commitments made by nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be insufficient to prevent global warming from exceeding the 2°C warming threshold, let alone 1.5°C. For that reason, the agreement calls for nations to revisit their commitments every five years, with the expectation that national goals will be made increasingly ambitious. 

The U.S. and Europe and the other developed countries view climate change as something that will impact them in 20 or 30 years. To the island nations, it is happening now. Hear the words of Filipina/Australian Eunice Andrada below, one the winners of an international spoken word contest as she performs in Paris during the COP21 summit.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands rise only to a height of 6 feet above sea level. High tide or stormy seas flood the streets of its capital and eat away at the island beaches. The government has plans in place to evacuate all its people, either to nearby island nations such as Fiji where they would buy land for their 57,000 people or emigrate to the United States. It would be the disappearance of the country, the extinction of a people and the demise of their culture and heritage.
FYI: For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.
“As an island boy, (Obama) understands the unique challenges we face,"said Marshall Islands President Christopher J. Loeak after the meeting. "The meeting was a chance to talk, at a very personal level, about how vulnerable we are to climate impacts and that we all need to work together to tackle what is now the gravest risk to humanity.” 

“Everything I know — and everyone I love — is in the hands of all of us gathered here in Paris,” said 
Loeak. “This is the most important trip of my life. I need to be able to return to my people and say that we joined a Paris agreement that gives us hope and a pathway to survival.”

"I think it was a much better and a much more ambitious agreement than we had expected going into Paris,” said Saleemul Huq, a long-time advisor to some of the world's poorest countries at COP21. “The biggest thing is that we have all countries working together to fight the problem, not just some.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Asians-on-TV revolution continues into 2016

IT'S BEEN a remarkable year for Asians on American television. The sheer number of Asian actors working is unprecedented. 

Oh, and there's still that terrible stereotype lives on in Two Broke Girls, but now Han Lee and image that character perpetuates is balanced out by scores of other Asian roles. Now we can point to wide gamut of roles played by Asians: Heroes and villains, love interests, businessmen, superheroes and clumsy fathers, mothers who know best, doctors and cops, robbers and a vampire killer.

The historic 2015 fall TV season listed over 52 roles played by Asian/American actors and we are not even counting the upcoming Marco Polo and the Netflix movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel. The winter season which is about to begin in 2016 and we'll see some new additions beyond what was mentioned in a previous blog.
RELATED: Every role played by Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders this season 
Nico Santo is interviewed here.
NBC, Jan. 4
Sneak peek on Hulu now available.

SUPERSTORE will feature two Asian/American actors, Filipino/American Nico Santos and  Nicole Bloom, whose mother is Japanese.

Santos stars as Mateo, a new super-energetic employee at Cloud 9, on NBC's new comedy "Superstore." He's the co-worker everybody hates because he's a brown-noser.

Bloom portrays Cheyenne, Cloud 9's bubbly, young, pregnant employee.

America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty") and Ben Feldman ("Mad Men," "A to Z") are the main stars in a workplace comedy about a unique family of employees at a supersized megastore. From the bright-eyed newbies and the seen-it-all veterans to the clueless summer hires and the in-it-for-life managers, together they tackle the day-to-day grind of rabid bargain hunters, riot-causing sales and nap-worthy training sessions. Did I mention it's a comedy?

Santos was born and raised in the Philippines and assimilated into American culture rather quickly by living in California by way of Portland, Oregon. He started doing stand-up in San Francisco and, in just a short amount of time, conquered the Bay Area comedy scene with his acute observations and quirky characters.

Nicole (Sakura) Bloom
Charming audiences all across the country with his sharp sarcastic wit and outrageous sensibility, Santos has that rare ability to be crass and snarky while at the same time remaining completely likable.

Santos has written for E! Network's "Fashion Police" and appeared on screen on Showtime's "Pride Comedy Jam," as well as "Ground Floor," "Mulaney" and "2 Broke Girls." He was also a regular panelist on "Chelsea Lately" and made his film debut in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2."

Bloom was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a child, she loved creating characters and making movies at home, which led to her involvement in theater, starting at age eight. At 14, she made the transition to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.

Bloom has studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade and the Groundlings Theatre and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. Prior to "Superstore," she recurred on Showtime's "Shameless" and can be seen in such films as "Project X" and "Model Minority."

TV's Rush Hour" will star Jon Loo and Justin Hires.
Jon Foo
Rush Hour
CBS, 2016

RUSH HOUR - The TV version of the hit motion picture franchise that starred Jackie Chan and  Chris Rock as an unlikely pair of LAPD detectives. On the small screen, Chan's  Detective Lee, a Hong Kong lawman assigned to the LAPD, is played by Jon Foo. 

Det. Lee is described as a reserved, honorable master martial artist with lightning-fast moves who comes to L.A. to avenge his sister’s alleged death and learn more about her connection to a Chinese organized crime ring.

As in the motion picture, much of the comedy stems from the culture clash between the two main characters.

Foo comes from a line of experienced martial artists. His father practices karate and his mother, judo. Foo himself started learning kung fu at eight years old and began seriously training for wushu (traditional Chinese martial arts) at 15.

The CBS production is slated for a 2016 debut still doesn't have a premiere date.

The Vampire Diaries
Leslie-Anne Huff
CW, Thursdays, 8 p.m. EST

Leslie-Ann (Delfin) Huff  will be introduced this season in a recurring role on The Vampire Diaries, where she plays Rayna, a vampire hunter who returns to the world of the living to exact vengeance on her enemies. It's a role she can bite into.

Portraying Rayna is a breakthrough for Huff. Together with other Filipino/American actors, she has been  working to improve and increase the number of Filipino artists with significant roles in Hollywood. She'll be making her first appearance on Jan. 28.

In a previous interview, she talked about her work ethic that must have played the part in booking the Vampire Diaries.

"Just be good at what you do and you are who you are. Maybe you are a person of color; maybe you are a woman; but your work is going to speak for yourself and that's always my attitude going through projects," she said.

A southern California native, she graduated from UC Berkeley with honors and was deeply involved in the Filipino student organization on campus, co-producing the traditional Pilipino cultural show.

Although her resume says she's been acting since she was 5 years old, it wasn't until 2006 when her career really started. She already has a long line of credits. Huff is a versatile actress with a knack for comedy. She's also a writer-producer who creates her own opportunities as seen in her work in the independent short film, Rosie, as well as her award-winning web series, The Lifesavers.
Let's hope that the networks are finally getting the message that diverse casts reflecting America is good business. That doesn't mean that every show featuring Asian cast members will be a success or artistically acclaimed, there are going to be some clunkers along the way, just like all the other shows that have been cancelled prematurely. 

That brings the total of 56 TV roles played by Asian actors ... and counting.

UPDATE: Despite the "revolution" increasing the presence of Asian/Americans on television, they compose only 7.1 percent of all the roles on TV according a report by Fusion and most of those are secondary roles instead of roles that affect the narrative. of the story. 
For more news about Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News. 


Monday, December 21, 2015

Miss Universe 2015 is ... uh ... Miss Colombia! Uh, no it's Miss Philippines!

It dawns on Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, on what just happened!
OH, NO! Somehow, this beauty pageant was able to find a way onto Views From The Edge, which normally refrains from writing about events that use women for all the wrong reasons.

Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, won the coveted Miss Universe crown but for two minutes, the world - actually, the entire universe - thought the winner was Miss Colombia, Ariadna Guiterrez because of huge gaff by emcee Steve Harvey.

With the two finalists holding hands, waiting with baited breath as Harvey opened the enveloped, Harvey misread the final results and announced Miss Colombia, as the new Miss Universe. Huge applause, Guiterrez was in tears as Miss Universe 2014, Paulina Vega, crowned who she thought was her successor. Gutierrez walked down the catwalk amid cheers, waving her hand to the adoring crowd in Las Vegas.

As she returned to center stage, Harvey announced, "I apologize ..." and corrected his error. Both Wurtzbach and Guiterrez looked stunned. Neither knew exactly what was happening.
RELATED: 5 things to know about Miss Universe 2015 
Harvey was sincerely apologetic and took full blame for the error. But for the two finalists, the moment that was supposed to be magical, was spoiled. Gutierrez put on a brave smile as the crown was transferred to Wurtzbach.
When the cameras turned off. Tears flowed again.

When the cameras turned off, contestants consoled Miss Colombia, Ariadne Guiterrez.
Also making the Final Ten was Miss Japan, Ariana Minamoto. She has a Japanese mother and an African/American father who was born and raised in Japan. She revealed in her televised segment that when she was a child her friends wouldn't hold her hand because they feared the color of her skin would rub off on them. 

Miyamoto said she was inspired to compete for the pageant after a fellow biracial Japanese friend committed suicide after years of being bullied.

The final three contestants, which included Miss USA Olivia Jordan, were asked why they should be crowned the new Miss Universe.
RELATED: Is Miss Universe dating the Philippines' president?
Wurtzbach said she wanted to use her voice to inspire young people.

"I will use my voice to influence the youth, to use my voice to raise HIV awareness," she said.

"I want to show the world, the universe rather, that I am confidently beautiful with a heart."

Wurtzbach called the crowning gaff "very 2015" in a video released by the pageant.

"It's a very ... non-traditional crowning moment," she said, struggling to find the right words and still trying to make sense of what just transpired.

Even if Wurtzbach and Guiterrez were beauty contest participants, they are still human beings and you can't help but feel sympathy for the two women. Now their names forever will be linked together in Miss Universe history, (well, maybe not "forever" but at least for another week) for all the wrong reasons.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A group of 10-year-olds takes on global warming

EVER fry some lumpia or spring rolls and then wonder what to do with a pan full of cooking oil? A group of 10-year olds from Westerly, Rhode Island, came up an answer so simple you wonder why it isn't being duplicated across the country.

In a world full of cynicism and negativity, it is easy to forget that we try to improve the current environment so our children will not have to refight the same battles for justice,  equality and opportunity.

Too often we forget to highlight the young people themselves who have not been tainted by the slights of ignorance and arrows of discrimination.

Here's a story that reminds us that perhaps we worry too much and our children will be just fine.

In fifth grade, Cassandra Lin learned that if the world's addiction to fossil fuels continues, it's only a matter of time before her entire town would be underwater. (When you use carbon-emitting energy like we do, that can happen.)
"My next step was to rally my classmates to action," said Cassandra. "I got together with a group of my friends and we formed a community service team dedicated to helping the community and environment at the same time.'

"What could we, eight ten-year-olds, do to help solve this issue? We already knew that global warming could be slowed down by replacing fossil fuels with alternative energies, such as biodiesel." 

Following this, we visited the Energy Solutions Expo at the University of RI, where we found that biodiesel could be produced from waste cooking oil.

Cassandra Lin
"What finally brought us to a revelation was an article in the local paper' she said. "The article was about a local charity in our area called the WARM (Westerly Area Rest and Meals) Center, which had initiated a campaign titled 'One Dollar Makes A Difference', in which residents donated $1 each week to go towards emergency heating assistance. We were astonished by this realization – people in our own community were struggling to heat their homes in our harsh New England winters. Surely, we thought, we could help these needy families. 

"And then, a solution came to us. This solution became Project TGIF – Turn Grease Into Fuel.", said Cassandra, now a teenager

“We kind of thought, 'This is a kid's project,' you know," said Jason Lin, Cassandra's father. "'It will probably last a year or two the most.'"

That was seven years ago. The kids that started it all are seniors in high school and making plans for college. The project and its members have received numerous international awards and recognition.

Their little project is now warming the homes of about 400 families

Since its launch, Project TGIF has been incredibly successful both in terms of combating climate change and helping those in need. Through partnerships with 132 (!) restaurants, they've recycled enough cooking oil to offset 3 million pounds of CO2 emissions, according to the EPA's estimations.

The lesson here is: Don't tell young kids that they're too young to make a difference. They have a bigger stake in preserving their planet and ensuring a livable future than us adults. 

For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders, link to AsAm News.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hate crimes triple against Muslim/Americans since November Paris attack

Mosques in America have been targeted by bigots.
THE MUSLIM MEN had just finished praying at a public park in Castro Valley, Ca. when a woman began verbally attacking them.

One of the men tried to explain to Denise A. Sla that they were simply praying, something they were not doing anything wrong.  She continued to rant at the men. Rasheed Albeshari began using his cellphone to tape the confrontation and the woman threw here coffee at him.

This is the first step toward justice," Albeshari said after learning that two misdemeanor charges of battery on park property and violation of civil rights -- the latter considered a hate crime -- were filed against Slader.

The incident was another hate crime added to the growing number hate crimes against Muslim Americans. Since the Paris attacks earlier his year, attacks against Muslim Americans have tripled. The shootings in San Bernardino have added fuel to the fire. 

"We’re seeing so many of these things happening that it’s unbelievable,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations, said today (Dec. 18). “It’s off the chart -- and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it.”

The recent GOP debate among the presidential candidates may have fueled mare stupidity among the ignorant. The debate focused on foreign terrorism, forgetting completely the terrorism spurred by American terrorists (except for San Bernardino).

In addition, CAIR reports, there have been 29 incidents where mosques have been vandalized or torched.

"The terrorist attacks, coupled with the ubiquity of these anti-Muslim stereotypes seeping into the mainstream, have emboldened people to act upon this fear and anger," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino.

"We must resolve to always speak out against hatred and bigotry in all of its forms -- whether taunts against the child of an immigrant farmworker or threats against a Muslim shopkeeper," President Obama told a group of new Americans last week. "We are Americans. Standing up for each other is what the values enshrined in the documents in this room compels us to do -– especially when it’s hard. Especially when it’s not convenient. That’s when it counts. That’s when it matters -- not when things are easy, but when things are hard."


Friday, December 18, 2015

Vote for Hawaiian self-governance abruptly halted but convention proceeds

Upside down Hawaiian flag, a state in distress.

A FEW YEARS BACK, while driving the long-winding but beautiful road to Hana on the island of Maui, flags began to appear in residents' yards. Some of the Hawaiian state flags were right side up, but an almost equal number were upside down, an indication that the state was in distress.
The recent attempt to select delegates to determine the self-governance of Native Hawaiian people has met a surprisingly abrupt conclusion.

The almost two-month election process to select delegates for a gathering in Hawaii to help determine the fate of Native Hawaiians' ability to determine their own future has been cancelled and instead, all 196 Native Hawaiians who ran as candidates will be allowed to participate in the discussion next year.

"Our goal has always been to create a path so that Hawaiians can gather and have a serious and much-needed discussion about self-governance," said Kuhio Asam, president of Na'i Aupuni, a nonprofit that had organized the election.

The debate over Hawaiian statehood began as soon as it became a state. Did anyone bother to ask the Native Hawaiians what they preferred? They were basically ignored. The question on the ballot gave voters a choice of statehood or to remain a U.S. territory. There was no discussion about returning to the monarchy that was in place before a group of U.S. businessmen backed by the U.S. Marines took over the  royal palace n Honolul

The election, which began in November was supposed to last a month but Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy put a halt to the counting of the ballots early December to allow time to assess the legality of the vote.

Another group of Hawaiians had protested the process because they claimed that it excluded non-Hawaiians, which would make it against the U.S. Constitution.“Clearly our lawsuit (Akina v. State of Hawaii) has brought an end to a discriminatory election,” Keli’i Akina, president/CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said in a statement. “Now, in a desperate move to bypass their failed election and ignore their voter base, Na‘i Aupuni is undercutting its own efforts to even look like a democratic process.”

“We anticipated that the path would have twists and turns and even some significant obstacles, but we are committed to getting to the ‘Aha where this long-overdue discussion can take place,” said Asam at a press conference last Dec. 15.

He said due to the delays caused by the ongoing litigation – that could continue for years – it was decided that the most effective route at this point would be to offer to convene all of the remaining delegate candidates and allow them to an opportunity to organize Hawaiians and achieve self-governance.

Asam said Na‘i Aupuni will manage the process of the ‘Aha but not the substance of the discussions. “We have retained Peter Adler and Linda Colburn of The Mediation Center of the Pacific to serve as facilitators to lead the instruction week and to thereafter assist in organizing the delegates,” he said. “They will contact the candidates who decide to participate in the ‘Aha.”

The confirmation deadline to participate in the ‘Aha is Dec. 22, 2015. An email will request that the candidates confirm whether they intend to accept the terms and attend the ‘Aha that runs the month of February 2016 and will be held at a meeting facility in Kailua, Oahu. On Dec. 23, 2015, Na’i Aupuni will post the list of delegates on its website.

Asam said a key component of the ‘Aha is the education and information the delegates will receive during the first week regarding constitution building, federal Indian law, international law regarding de-occupation, decolonization, the rights of indigenous people, U.S. Constitution issues that relate to Native Hawaiian self-governance, the ceded lands claim, background on Hawaiian Home Lands, Kingdom Law and constitutions drafted by sovereignty groups.

Na‘i Aupuni is an independent organization made up of a volunteer board of directors from the Hawaiian community. It exists solely to help establish a path to an ‘Aha, or constitutional convention, where Hawaiians can discuss and explore various options of self-determination. Na‘i Aupuni was formed in December 2014 and is separate and independent from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the State of Hawaii. For further information about Na‘i Aupuni and a list of the 196 candidates who will be seated as delegates can be found here.

For more news of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, go to AsAm News.


TGIF FEATURE: Amy Vachal describes her relationship with Adam Levine

AMY VACHAL was interviewed after being eliminated prior to the final in The Voice singing competition and touched upon the rumored close relationship with Adam Levine.

Even after leaving the show, rumors persisted in the tabloids about a possible intimate relationship between the Filipino/American singer and her mentor/coach Adam Levine, lead singer for Maroon 5.

The alleged "flirting" between the two supposedly was affecting Levine's already rocky marriage with super model Behati Prinsloo, often seen in Victoria Secret attire.

In the video interview, Vachal, who never addresses the rumors, made it clear that the relationship between her and Levine was not a romantic one. She saw him "like a brother." 

In other interviews, she plans on doing an album in the style that fans have become familiar  - jazzy, sweet, sultry, alternative, indie - that's difficult to categorize. That difficulty in categorizing her music may have been her undoing in the popularity contest The Voice, but it will please her growing fan base.

For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders at As Am News.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

First U.S. school named after Filipino/American heroes

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Gym class at Alvarado Middlle School reflects the school's diversity.
WHEN LABOR LEADERS Larry Itliong and Phillip Vera Cruz instigated the 1965 Grape Strike in California, more than likely, they never envisioned that one day, a school would be named after them.

This Friday, Dec. 18, Union City's Alvarado Middle School will officially transition to its new name of Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School in honor of the history-making Filipino/American heroic figures.

The New Haven Unified School District in the eastern side of San Francisco Bay will have the distinction of being the first district in the country to recognize the efforts and contributions of Filipino/Americans by naming a school in their honor. This historic change highlights the work of the labor movement and the spirit of the United Farm Workers.

It is fitting in that the district’s other middle school is named in honor of Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong, and Phillip Vera Cruz, together, worked in collaboration to radically change this country’s labor policies when they formed the United Farm Workers and worked for improved working conditions for farmworkers.

The name change did happen without a struggle. Honoring the labor leaders was first proposed in 1992. The neighborhood surrounding the school is predominantly Filipino/American.

Members of the Latino community protested the name change since the school was named after Juan Bautista Alvarado was a 19th-century Mexican governor when California was part of Mexico.

Supporters of the Itliong-Vera Cruz name pointed out that there was already an elementary school, two streets, a neighborhood and a park named after Alvarado.

Among the speakers on behalf of the name change was Erica Viray-Santos, a San Leandro teacher and former New Haven teacher: “We are not just trying to rename a facility, we are trying to instill a strong sense of self … This is not just Filipino history, it’s American history.”

“This renaming does not divide us but unites us," said a student from James Logan High, where the middle school's students go for 9th grade. "This is history in the making. We are part of this history. I say ‘we’ even though I am not Filipino. I am the people. I am Itliong, I am Vera Cruz.”

The school district finally agreed to the name change but said proponents had to pay the $60,000 cost even though when Chavez was similarly honored the school district footed the bill.

Local political representatives, led by Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle, along with donations from state Sen. Bob Wieckowski and Assemblymembers Bill Quirk and Rob Bonta came up with the funds to pay for the name change.

The dedication ceremony will be held in the school’s gymnasium at 31604 Alvarado Boulevard, starting at 1 p.m. The program will include performances from the school’s Ballet Folkl√≥rico dance group, band and choir, Alvarado Elementary School’s Anak Ng Bayan dance group. Members of the Itliong and Vera Cruz families are expected to speak as well as
 Assemblymember Bonta, a Filipino/American and who sponsored a bill last year declaring every Oct. 25 as Larry Itliong Day in California.

In anticipation of a large community turn out, off-site parking has been arranged in the lot of St. Anne’s Church located at 32223 Cabello St. 
According to a district press release, a shuttle will transport community members between the parking lot and the school site starting at 12:15 pm with the final shuttle to the ceremony leaving the lot at 1:05 p.m. Shuttles will also be transporting attendees back to the lot after the ceremony.

The ceremony will also be broadcast live, on-line at

Visitors are invited to a small celebration after the ceremony in the school’s Multipurpose Room.

The district asks that community members not arrive on site in anticipation of the ceremony before 12:15 pm as school will still be in session.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

President Obama speaks to new citizens, cautions against anti-immigration rhetoric

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA invoked the memory of WWII internment camps in his speech Tuesday  (Dec. 15) at a naturalization ceremony to counter the xenophobia promoted by some leaders of Congress and GOP presidential candidates.

In a moving 20-minute speech, the president compared the recent anti-immigration political climate to the “darkest chapters” of American history.

“In one of the darkest chapters in our history, Japanese immigrants, and even Japanese-American citizens, were forced from their homes and imprisoned in camps,” Obama told the new citizens in the National Archives. 

"We succumbed to fear. We betrayed not only our fellow Americans, but our values.

 “The biggest irony of course was that those who betrayed these (American) values were themselves the children of immigrants.

"How quickly we forget. One generation passes, two (generations pass) and suddenly we don't remember where we came from," he said. "And we somehow suggest that there is 'us' and there is 'them,' not remembering we used to be 'them.' On days like today, we need to resolve never to repeat mistakes like that again."

Although the name Donald Trump or any of the members of Congress were mentioned, the 20-minute speech was clearly responding to the fear-mongering propelled by the current rhetoric coming from the Republican party's leaders running for President regarding Congressional efforts to semi Syrian refugee resettlement, attempts to undo the president's executive orders on immigration and the recent calls to stop all Muslims from entering the U.S.

Although the president's remarks were broadcast live, the news media did not give them the same attention as given to the outrageous statement made by some of the Republican candidates.

White House
Immigrants sworn in as new Americans at ceremonies at the National Archives on Dec. 15.
"In the Mexican immigrant today, we see the Catholic immigrant of a century ago," he said, placing today's controversy into a historical perspective. "In the Syrian seeking refuge today, we should see the Jewish refugee of World War II."

"Down through the decades, Irish Catholics fleeing hunger, Italians fleeing poverty filled up our cities, rolled up their sleeves, built America. Chinese laborers jammed in steerage under the decks of steamships, making their way to California to build the Central Pacific Railroad that would transform the West ..."

Since the terrorist shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, the White House has been trying to temper the anti-Muslim rhetoric by visible signs of concern and remind Americans about the values that have made America the country it is today. Earlier this week members of the Muslim and Sikh communities met at the White House to receive assurances that this administration would continue to speak against the growing number of hate crimes and racist speech targeting them.

"You are men and women from more than 25 countries, from Brazil to Uganda, from Iraq to the Philippines," he told the new Americans today. "You may come from teeming cities or rural villages. You don’t look alike. You don’t worship the same way. But here, surrounded by the very documents whose values bind us together as one people, you’ve raised your hand and sworn a sacred oath. I’m proud to be among the first to greet you as 'my fellow Americans.'”

To those who opposed taking in refugees and those who criticize his executive actions on immigration, he reminded the newly-sworn in Americans, that asylum of offering safe harbor from persecution is also part of the American story. "Just as so many have come here in search of a dream, others sought shelter from nightmares. Survivors of the Holocaust. Soviet Refuseniks. Refugees from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. Iraqis and Afghans fleeing war. Mexicans, Cubans, Iranians leaving behind deadly revolutions. Central American teenagers running from gang violence. The Lost Boys of Sudan escaping civil war."

"We are Americans," said the president. "Standing up for each other is what the values enshrined in the documents in this room compels us to do. Especially when it's hard. Especially when it's not convenient. That's when it counts. That's when it matters. Not when things are easy, but when things are hard."