Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Visits of foreign leaders raises the age-old questions for Asian/Americans

Indian Prime Minister Nerandra Modi is visiting Silicon Valley this week.
IF YOU'RE Chinese/American or Indian/American - have you been asked your opinion about the visits of Indian Prime Minister Nerandra Modi or Chinese President Xi Jinping?

Xi is in the U.S. on an official state visit and Modi is visiting Silicon Valley to try and get more assistance for his country's exploding tech industry.
Now, their visits are important, don't get me wrong, it's important for us to maintain and acknowledge our roots, especially for our families back home or if we have business ties to the original countries, but many of us have been here for generations. We're Americans.
We should be interested in international relations and trade agreements as they might affect our country - the good ol' U.S.A. 
But at the same time, non-Asians generally view us as foreigners, no matter how long we've lived here, no matter if we speak with a southern accent or grew up in Brooklyn, no matter if we root for our favorite baseball team by wearing their colors and painting out faces, no matter if we're grew up with the Partridge Family as our role models (that's another post all-together), no matter if we served in the U.S. military in Iraq or Afghanistan or even fought against the citizens of other Asian nations on behalf of "Our Country." No matter! 
Being asked our opinions of Xi or Modi is akin to being asked, "Where are you from?" and you answer, "San Francisco" or fill-in-the-blank, and are asked again, "No, really! Where are you REALLY from?"
Because of the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes, the color of our hair, people (the non-Asian/Americans) still tend to view us as "others," "exotic" "strangers," "aliens" or "foreigners."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jeremy Lin: Fit in, or be true to yourself?

WITH THESE two videos from his Youtube channel, Jeremy Lin takes the look at the dilemma many of us have faced at some point in our lives: How far do you have to go to "fit in" and in doing so, at what point do you lose who you really are?

Fortunately, the guard for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets has a defense mechanism that allows him to  is laugh off the situations he finds himself in as one of only two players of Asian descent in a sport dominated by African/American athletes.

For many of us, the hurt and anguish caused by this common dilemma, is too great to be laughed off. 

In interviews, Lin has acknowledged the difficulties he has had to face to overcome the stereotypical views some of his former teammates had for Asian/American athletes: Not fast, can't shoot, can't jump, not aggressive. 

As I watched the videos, I laughed because Jeremy is a funny guy; but it's also too easy to empathize because - to a lesser degree - I've experienced the duality that most of us "minorities" have had to endure. Then the long pause occurs ... personal memories flood back in.

Jeremy Lin: Laugh and the world laughs with you.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Jason Day stumbles in bid for golf world's top crown

JASON DAY's reign as golf's No. 1 player lasted a week.

The Filipino/Australian finished third in the FedEx Cup standings, but his short-lived reign at number one ended as he slipped to number two in the world. The new No. 1 is American 

Jordon Spieth, who won the FedEx cup at East Lake Golf Club for his fifth win of the season, including the Masters and U.S. Open.

Jason Day vows a stronger effort next year.

Day fired a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for 10th place at the Tour Championship, eight shots behind Spieth, who finished at 9-under-par overall after carding a 69 for the round.

Spite admitted he got shaky looking over his shoulder as Day put on one of the best performances of the year. "I got frustrated. I missed two cuts in a row, had never done that, lost the number one ranking. I was watching Jason Day just dominate golf," said Spieth.

"I got to work, put my head down a little more than I did right after the PGA, knowing that we could still peak this week and that's what we did."

"It's something that I'm still trying to learn, how to back up a win with another win, or at least the same level of play," Day told the Australian media.

"It would have been nice to kind of challenge for that FedExCup win but overall it's something that I just need to look back on and work harder for next year.

"It's been a good year. To be able to win the PGA Championship, and then also to get to No.1 has been a life-long dream of mine," Day said.

"It was always a goal of mine, whether I got to No.1 for a week or whether I get there for 300 weeks. I was the best player in the world. I felt it for the most part of this summer.

"Now that it's over, I'm looking forward to getting some rest, really trying to take care of my body in the off-season to come back as a new person and a lot more motivated, a lot more hungry, to stay on top of the world."

Day will head the International team in the Presidents Cup battle with the US in South Korea in a fortnight's time before he shuts down for the birth of his second child and another rigorous strength and conditioning phase.

He plans to return to competitive golf in December ready to resume the fight to be the best.

"I want to be more of a dominant player and I want to be at the top of the world ranking list for a long, long time," he said.

"I know how hard I had to work this year, so I have got to work extra hard next year."


Saturday, September 26, 2015

POPE FRANCIS: Philadelphia's Asian Catholics join the million people Mass

The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters will make a public appearance in order to see the Pope.
A MILLION people from across the United States are expected to attend the outdoor mass officiated by Pope Francis in Philadelphia Sunday (Sept. 27).

Among them will be the Pink Sisters, so-named for the rose-colored habits that they wear. The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters are a group of cloistered nuns who are cloistered, who will venture into the public to attend the mass, a half-mile from their convent.

“He’s not just somebody. He is the vicar of Christ,” said Sister Maria Clarissa, 55 years old, who once worked for an accounting firm in the Philippines. “Even if we’re cloistered, we’re going, and our bishops are saying, ‘Good for you.’ ”

Fifteen of the 20 secluded sisters are from the Philippines.

To see the Pope, they will take a break from  their continuous praying which has been on-going uninterrupted for 100 years. A lone sister will remain behind so the the string of prayers won't be broken.

Across town, historic St. Augustine Church cancelled its Sunday evening Mass so that its parishioners, predominantly Filipino, can attend the Papal Mass. St. Augustine, built right after the Revolutionary War, is now the National Shrine for the Santo Nino, patron saint of the Philippines. Its Filipino dance troupe has been practicing for months to take part in a multicultural performance meant to show the Pope the diversity in America's Catholic parishes.

The church had a declining attendance in the early 1990s. Its traditional German and Irish parishioners had moved to the suburbs. The low point was one Christmas Mass when only nine people attended and one of them was the priest. Rumors of its possible closure began to circulate.

St. Augustine Catholic Church is a story being repeated across America. Even as the Catholic Church is experiencing a loss of parishioners; as its European/Americans move to the suburbs or stop going to church, a new wave of Catholics from Latin America and Asia are reviving church with a new energy as the Catholic Church adapts its services and activities to serve its new laity. The Los Angeles Archdiocese is the largest in the United States and it is 75% Latino.

St. Augustine and churches in the San Francisco Bay Area are dominated by Asian churchgoers, mainly Filipino but healthy numbers of Chinese, Burmese, Korean, Ceylonese and Vietnamese.

POPE FRANCIS: Words of action and change

Pope Francis spoke before the UN, at Ground Zero and Madison Square Garden at a Catholic school in Spanish Harlem then moved on to Philadelphia.
POPE FRANCIS in his U.S. visit is demonstrating that in comparison to the politicians currently running for President, he is above them all in his ability to see the big picture beyond the petty partisan politics of Washington.

There are issues in the world that need to be addressed but that won't happen if we continue to engage on our narrow, selfish, short-term goals.

Comparing him to the politicians is like comparing apples and oranges. His view of the world is on another plane entirely.

ON 9/11
Here, amid pain and grief, we also have a palpable sense of the heroic goodness which people are capable of, those hidden reserves of strength from which we can draw. In the depths of pain and suffering, you also witnessed the heights of generosity and service. Hands reached out, lives were given. In a metropolis which might seem impersonal, faceless, lonely, you demonstrated the powerful solidarity born of mutual support, love and self-sacrifice. No one thought about race, nationality, neighborhoods, religion or politics. It was all about solidarity, meeting immediate needs, brotherhood. It was about being brothers and sisters. New York City firemen walked into the crumbling towers, with no concern for their own wellbeing. Many succumbed; their sacrifice enabled great numbers to be saved.

"This place of death became a place of life too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division. 
... For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace. In opposing every attempt to create a rigid uniformity, we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and lift our voices against everything which would stand in the way of such unity. Together we are called to say “no” to every attempt to impose uniformity and “yes” to a diversity accepted and reconciled.

"This can only happen if we uproot from our hearts all feelings of hatred, vengeance and resentment. We know that that is only possible as a gift from heaven. ... Let us implore from on high the gift of commitment to the cause of peace. Peace in our homes, our families, our schools and our communities. Peace in all those places where war never seems to end. Peace for those faces which have known nothing but pain. Peace throughout this world which God has given us as the home of all and a home for all. Simply peace."

“Many of you have immigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life ... Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation. You should never be ashamed of your traditions.”

“Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood.”

“You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within."

"First, it must be stated that a true 'right of the environment' does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, ... is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. 

"Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good.
"Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment ..."

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

"Big cities conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath 'the rapid pace of change,' so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no 'right' to be there, no right to be part of the city ... the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly,"... They "stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity."

"God is in the city, ... Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope."

Friday, September 25, 2015

TGIF FEATURE: Filipino/American's stories adapted into plays for top U.S. theater troupe

STARTING last week and running through Nov. 22, folks in Northern California have an opportunity to view a too-rare performance of two Filipino and Filipino/American stories that have been adapted into two one-act plays, under the banner "Monstress."

The plays are two tales of contemporary Filipino-American life in California, adapted from "Monsters," the acclaimed collection of short stories by San Francisco author Lysley Tenorio.

We know that there are Asian-American theater troupes throughout the country trying their best to perform the works of Asian-American writers, but what makes this unique is that it is being presented by the San Francisco-based American Conservatory Theater, one of the premiere performing groups in the country, which promises the possibility of a wider audience beyond the Filipino-American community. 

A vibrant array of characters strive for personal transformations that are seemingly impossible, wonderfully moving, and distinctly theatrical. The infamous headline-making eviction of Filipino residents from San Francisco’s International Hotel in the 1970s sets the background for Philip Kan Gotanda’s stirring Remember the I-Hotel, which illuminates the dangers of love that crosses forbidden territories. 

Lysley Tenorio
Sean San José’s retelling of the title story “Monstress” moves us from the streets of Manila to the Bay Area, where a B-movie director has been seduced by the opportunity to work with a shady American filmmaker. An evening of song and story about love and family, hope and indifference, triumph and failure, Monstress explores the resilience of a community struggling to find a home in the ever-shifting sands of the American dream.

Born in the Philippines, Tenorio currently lives in San Francisco, and is an associate professor at Saint Mary’s College of California, across the bay in Moraga, Calif.

In an interview after his book was released, Tenorio said:
"The Filipino/Filipino-American experience, as I know it, is full of fascinating historical facts and obscure news stories which, when looked at metaphorically, are full of emotional and psychological complexities and contradictions. And that kind of messiness is inherent in love, family, the American identity, so it often feels inevitable that my stories will evoke those themes in these weird, seemingly ludicrous, but ultimately (hopefully) believable and empathetic ways."
The cast of “Monstress” includes Rinabeth Apostol, Melody Butiu, Danielle Firmer (October 20-November 22), Nick Gabriel, Jomar Taqatac, Sean San Jose, Kelsey Venter (September 16-October 19) and Ogie Zulueta.
The plays are being presented in A.C.T.'s Strand Theater at 1127 Market Street. Tickets available here or contact: 
The American dream, says Tenorio, is “full of gains, losses, victories and defeats, joy and heartbreak. It’s life. If there’s any kind of truth, I hope these plays convey that."

POPE FRANCIS: Filipina/American is music director for the Madison Square Garden Mass

The music director for the Friday Papal Mass is Dr. Jennifer Pascual, who is also in charge of the music at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. 

OVERSEEING THE MUSIC for the Papal Mass that will be held in Madison Square Garden this Friday, Sept. 25, is a Filipina/American – Dr. Jennifer Pascual, the Director of Music of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The religious ceremony is expected to attract 20,000 to the sports arena, home of basketball's New York Knicks and hockey's New York Rangers.

Dr. Pascual was appointed Director of Music at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City in 2003. She is the first woman to hold this position, one of the most prestigious sacred music appointments in the United States.

Aside from directing music at St. Patrick’s, a center of Catholic life in America, Jennifer is also host of the popular radio program “Sounds from the Spires” on the Catholic Channel 159. She currently teaches and serves as Director of Music at the St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers, New York.

Born in Los Angeles, Jennifer proudly said that her parents are both from Manila and met in California. Her father is a U.S. Navy veteran while her mother is a retired nurse.

Dr. Jennifer Pascual
Jennifer has an extensive background in music. She earned a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Organ Performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY where she studied with David Higgs and taught undergraduate theory courses. She holds a Master of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the Mannes College of Music in New York City where she studied with Nina Svetlanova and studied organ privately with Mc Neil Robinson. She received the Bachelor of Music Degrees in Piano and Organ Performance, magna cum laude, and Music Education from Jacksonville University in Florida where she taught both organ and piano in the University’s Continuing Education Department. She was on the artistic staff of the Boys Choir of Harlem, Inc. from 1994 to 2003. 

Dr. Pascual is a member of the American Guild of Organists; New York Archdiocesan Music Commission, currently serving as its chair; Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians, having previously served on the Steering Committee; Liturgical Organists Consortium; EastWest Organists; and National Association of Pastoral Musicians, where she serves on the National Board and is a frequent recitalist and clinician at national conventions. 

She was a featured soloist in the 2004 and 2012 International Bamboo Organ Festival in Manila and is a recipient of the Paderewski Medal and Theodore Presser Award. Jennifer has performed in Austria, Canada, Italy, Russia, the Philippines, and throughout the United States. 

This is not her first Papal Mass. In April 2008, she had the privilege of overseeing all of the liturgical music for His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to New York in addition to conducting music for the Masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Yankee Stadium and the Ecumenical Service at St. Joseph’s Church. Two weeks later, she conducted the St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir for President George W. Bush at The White House for the National Day of Prayer. In December 2008, she named a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great in recognition of service to the Church. She also conducted in performance twice during that Christmas season at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

POPE FRANCIS: Words of wisdom and compassion

Pope Francis is the first Pope to address Congress.
POPE FRANCIS said it better than I can write it. Herein are excerpts of some of the words he said on a variety of issues during the Washington D.C. portion of his visit to the United States. After reading these quotes, it would be hard to argue that the Holy Father is not an astute politician; he is not a man not relegated to the pulpit, but well aware of the ways of the real world. Click here for the entire speech.

After the fiery rhetoric spewing out of the presidential campaign it was refreshing to listen to the Holy Father's softly-spoken words reminding the lawmakers of America's potential as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. Without pointing fingers, he challenged Congress to live up to America's lofty ideals.

He carefully talks about controversial issues without bringing along all the rancor that can arise with the less artful use of words. He doesn't mention words like abortion, gay marriage, racism or immigration reform, but he talks about these hot-button issues in away that is less judgmental, less threatening and less objectionable.

If there is a common theme, it is the need to help the impoverished from various fronts - whether you're making laws, making money, saving the environment, or saving souls.

“I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps,’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference – I’m sure.” 

“And I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

Philippine Embassy, Washington DC
A group of Filipino children greeted Pope Francis during his visit to Washington, DC on 24 September 2015. The children were Beatrice Olivares, Zacharie Aguila Famoso, Angelo Magalong, Abram Elijah Moses Caasi, Joelle Marie T. Bustamante, Lorenz Alacbay, Priscilla Saldana, Precious Phan, Maurine Ysabel Suarez, Anton Jordan, Christian Gio Catu, Danica Regalario, and Alyssa Laluces. The 13 children were selected out of 137 through a lottery system. The names were drawn by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.

"It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good."

"This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

"Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind."

"A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners," Pope Francis said. "The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps."

“I want to be very clear. We can’t find any social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever for lack of housing. We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help and his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’"

"All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his dream of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of dreams -- dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people."

“Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals? The answer, as we all know, is simply for money. Money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

Of all the topics the Pope brought up, he had plenty to say about immigration and then plight of refugees:

"The people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners," 

“On this continent too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?”

"When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our neighbors and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this."

Did Congress hear the Pope's words? Let's pray they did.

(More to come tomorrow.)

POPE FRANCIS: Interfaith service includes Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists & Jews

The Washington Archdiocese released this photo on Instagram when Pope Francis
visited St. Patrick Cathedral's food program during lunch.
IT SHOULD be noted for readers of this blog - written from and Asian/American perspective - that Jesus Christ was an Asian. As a matter of fact, most of the world's major religions find their origins in Asia.

I mention this because Pope Francis is going to participate in an ecumenical service at the site of the former World Trade Center, also known as Ground Zero.
Religious leaders and representatives from Buddhist, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths, will join the pope on Thursday (Sept. 25) at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Part of Pope Francis’ two-day visit to New York City in memory of those who died as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“The pope understands the power of faith or religion as an instrument of peace, as opposed to division or strife,” said Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue. “To participate in an interreligious gathering which affirms that, whatever our differences may be, we are children of the same God, is an extraordinary statement.”

Among the leaders who will offer prayers to honor the victims of Sept. 11, 2001 are Dr. Satpal Singh, a survivor of 1984 religious anti-Sikh violence in India and professor at CUNY Buffalo School of Medicine; Yasuko Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Center of New York; Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America; Bhante Hennbunne Konda, a Sri Lankan Buddhist Monk; and Imam Khalid Latif, executive director of the Islamic Center at New York University.

Dr. Satpal Singh

"Pope Francis sends a significant message by sharing this service with minority communities, such as Sikh Americans, that have been the target of post-9/11 racial violence," Dr. Gunisha Kaur, a Sikh-American leader and anesthesiologist who will take part in the multi-religious gathering, told NBC News. "Being on stage alongside such an incredible individual gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we all belong to the same collective family and that we have many shared experiences that unite us. As a Sikh, New Yorker, and physician specializing in global health work, this message is powerful."

Satpal Singh, a Buffalo-based leader of the Sikh community, is hoping to use the moment on Sept. 25 as a way to educate the wider public about the Sikh faith. His prayer would reflect the point that “our actions speak,” he said.

“God expects all of us to love each other irrespective of what our outward beliefs and what our affiliations are,” said Dr. Satpal Singh a leader of the Sikh community in New York. Sikhs have been targeted by hate crimes since 9/11 because of the turbans and beards that they wear as part of their religion. “That’s the important message that has to come through this forum.”

After speaking to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Pope Francis passed up an opportunity to lunch with Washington's political leaders so he could visit a soup kitchen sponsored by the nearby St. Patricks' Catholic Church where he met and talked with the homeless in attendance.

The visit was symbolic of Pope Francis' desire to reach out to the margins and care for the poor and disenfranchised. Since he began his papacy, the Vatican opened new shower facilities in St. Peter's Square where people can get free haircuts and a shave. The Vatican is also building a homeless shelter in Rome, just outside the Vatican's walls.

After the 9/11 service in New York, he will visit the Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem. He’ll round out his stay with a 20,000-strong massat Madison Square Garden 
where he is expected to say more on peace and justice before heading to Philadelphia early Saturday. While in the City of Brotherly Love, he will give a major address on immigration at Independence Mall and visit prisoners and some of their families at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Will Obama and China's president discuss release of Vietnamese/American businesswoman?

PHAN PHAN-GILLIS, is a Vietnamese/American businesswoman from Texas trying to develop business relationships between American and Chinese companies.

She may also be a topic of discussion between President Obama and China's President Xi Jinping when the two world leaders meet this week in Washington D.C.

Phan-Gillis, who has Chinese ancestry, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. She was visiting China as a member of Houston a trade delegation. She was detained while attempting to cross from the southern city of Zhuhai to Macau on March 19, according to a family statement.

Jeff Gillis said he spoke to his wife in the early days after being taken into custody, with the last conversation on March 23. At that time, she gave no indication she had been apprehended by Chinese authorities, he said.

Photo provided by Jeff Gillis
Phan Phan-Gillis detained in China
Phan-Gillis is being held in the southwestern city of Nanning, the family said. She had been under house arrest until she was transferred to a detention center on last Saturday, it added.

It was unclear whether any formal charges have been brought. A lawyer working on her case could not be immediately reached by the Associated Press.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Texas businesswoman was healthy, but Gillis said his wife suffers from high blood pressure and other complications and has been hospitalized twice during her detention.

Phan-Gillis, known as Sandy to family and friends, has lived in Houston for about 30 years.

Gillis, who until now has not publiclicized his wife's detention, decided to discuss her arrest with reporters because Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting the U.S. this week. Gillis said he hoped the timing of the publicity would pressure Beijing and Washington to act.

On Tuesday (Sept. 22), her husband disclosed that she's been detained by the Chinese government for the last six months on suspicion of spying and stealing state secrets. Now he's asking the president and the State Department to help win her release.

Jeff Gillis denies the accusations against his wife, who has been accused by the Chinese Foreign Ministry with threatening China's national security.

Although she has not been charged, she was formally arrested over the weekend and moved to a more secure detention facility in the southern city of Nanning, according to her husband, who said the arrest allows Chinese authorities to continue their espionage investigation.

His wife has been visited six times by American consular officers since her March 20 arrest, according to the State Department, which said it was closely monitoring the case.

"We've raised her case with Chinese government officials on multiple occasions at a very senior level," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday during a media briefing. The White House has also raised the matter with the Chinese foreign ministry and "not received what we believe to be an adequate response."

Houston Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez said he and Phan-Gillis were part of a five-member delegation that spent a week in China in March, speaking with Chinese entrepreneurs interested in the Houston area.

Phan-Gillis was a business consultant who traveled regularly to China and who also served as president of the Houston-Shenzhen Sister City Organization, according to Gonzalez. She often worked as an intermediary in ventures between U.S. and Chinese business interests.

Gonzalez said members of the delegation were surprised when Phan-Gillis did not meet them after the group passed through the checkpoint at Macau, across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. She later texted the delegation saying she was attending to a "personal matter," said the mayor.

Chinese law allows detention of people for up to six months during the course of an investigation. Some other people suspected of being spies have been imprisoned for years without formal charges being filed.

Gillis expressed concern for the length of time his wife has been detained. "I'm very frightened," he said, "that if we don't get her out this week, then her chances are not very good."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Student arrested for bringing a clock to school a victim of racial profiling?

Members of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations stands with Ahmed.
BY NOW, most everyone has heard the story about the Texas teenager who was arrested and suspended for bringing a homemade digital clock to school that everyone thought was a bomb.

Ahmed Mohamed wanted to impress his science teacher but instead he was taken out of a classroom, handcuffed,  interrogated and suspended from school.

Ahmed and his supporters believe he was the way he was treated by school officials and law enforcement was because he is Sudanese/Americans and a Muslim.

"His arrest and suspension is deeply troubling. I believe no one should be unfairly treated because of skin color, heritage or unfounded suspicion," said Rep. Mike Honda, Calif. "It was unfounded suspicion that led to the internment of over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent, including me and my family, after Pearl Harbor. 

"After 9/11, I took to the House floor to speak against the fear mongering and discrimination facing the Muslim American Community. Ahmed's arrest is yet another troubling story of how a student's good work can be overshadowed by preexisting views outside his control," said Honda.

Ahmed's story was posted by the Dallas Morning News and attracted attention from coast to coast. MIT invited him to visit the campus. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg invited him to visit his California company. 

Even President Obama tweeted him:

In addition, Dr. John Holdren -- the President's top science advisor -- reached out to Ahmed and personally invited him to come to join us at the White House Astronomy Night on October 19, where we'll bring together scientists, engineers, and visionaries from astronomy and the space industry, along with students and teachers. They'll share their experiences and spend an evening stargazing from the South Lawn. 

#IStandWithAhmed trended on Twitter. NASA scientists and MIT researchers offered tours, along with praise for the teen’s ingenuity. Oh yeah, he got a new NASA t-shirt to replace the one he was wearing when he was detained.

Ahmed Mohamed handcuffed.
But the reactions of the school and city officials didn't happen in a vacuum. Earlier this year, the Irving City Council seriously considered an anti-Islam bill after Mayor Beth Van Duyne alleged that local Muslims sought separate laws and courts. According to local reporting on the issue, “The mayor provided no evidence and later acknowledged she had not spoken to" local Islamic organizers. The Islamic Center of Irving was compelled to ask police for increased security after it received a number of threats in the hearing's wake.

The Irving police chief could not say why Ahmed was not allowed to call his parents when he was brought to the station for questioning. He did say that the case is closed and no charges would be filed for lack of evidence.

Ahmed brought the clock to school on a Monday, three days after Sept. 11 observances of the terrorist attacks on America so sensitivities were certainly heightened. That may have been a mistake on his part. But then again, why should a 14-year old Texas boy interested in science have to worry about being called a terrorist?

Day breaks through; he's the No. 1 golfer in the world

Australia's Jason Day celebrates with his son Dash.
JASON DAY is the world's undisputed No. 1 golfer ... this week.

The Australian Filipno achieved his dream of the becoming the No. 1 golfer in the world by convincingly beating the competition at the BMW Championship at Lake Forest, Ill.

“I just always had a vision of me standing on top of the earth when I was a kid and knowing that right now, there’s no one on this planet that’s better than me,” Day told reporters. “That out of all of the golfers that are in the world playing right now, that I’m the best.”

His 2-under, final-round 69 and 22-under total was good for a six-shot victory over rookie Daniel Berger. Scott Piercy finished third, seven strokes back. 

Day has been on an incredible run since narrowly missing at the British Open. The win was Day’s fifth on tour this season and his second in the FedEx Cup playoffs. In addition to leap-frogging Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy to claim the top spot in the world ranking, it made him the front-runner in the 30-man field heading to East Lake in Atlanta next weekend for the series finale. 

Day has been on an incredible run since narrowly missing at the British Open. In his six starts since, he has won four times — the Canadian Open, the PGA Championship for his first major and the two FedEx Cup events — and played at a sizzling 101-under par clip. 

This summer, the No. 1 ranking has been bouncing around between the Big Three, Dy, Spieth and McIlroy.

Despite his incredible summer, a lot of golf writers aren't willing to dub him as Golfer of the Year. They point out that he one only one major while Spieth has won two.

"Day's run is something I'd never thought I'd see: he's playing like Tiger did for spells in his prime. Except that Tiger did it about a half-dozen times over the course of a decade<" says 
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated.  "It's impressive, and he's shown more golf skill than I ever knew he had. 

"If you are a Tour player, you might very well vote for him as player of the year. If you're a fan – and most of us are fans – it has to be Spieth. Majors are majors for a reason."

We'll see.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Asians on TV: "A revolution is happening," Most Asian/Americans ever this season

The Huang family returns
The handy, dandy complete guide to Asian-viewing on TV
IF 2014 saw a trickle of Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders on American television, then 2015 is (relatively) a deluge. This week the fall season is launching a majority of shows and more will be released for the winter season.

Not counting the reality shows or daytime TV and not counting Marco Polo epic which has a huge, huge cast or the television/movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I count 52 roles being played by Asian/American or Pacific Islanders this year. I'd venture to guess that this a record.

With the number of shows that are being aired, the list below, while it looks plentiful, shows that the TV industry is starting to recognize that their audiences want more diversity in their actors and themes. However, there is still a long way to go if the industry wants to reflect its real audience.

Casting diversity has been the hot topic in production circles for the past few years but because of social media with its immediate interaction, the topic has really heated up. The success of shows like Fresh Off the Boat, Blackish and Empire was enough to force networks to rethink their casts and to be more willing to think out-of-the-box of when seeking new shows.

Keep in mind, although 2014 was an improvement from years past, a study by Fusion shows that TV shows featuring Asian/American in the lead roles may be still only in its starting phase.

America television has not done a good job depicting Asian/Americans but the upcoming television season could be turning point - if the ratings bear out. If ratings are poor for the shows featuring Asian/American leading roles, then it could be two-steps backwards as networks rethink any programming featuring Asians.

"Asian/American actors and those representing them are experiencing a sea change in the number of roles available to them," Deadline noted in a recent article. "The revolution is happening in a segment of the acting population that has been widely underserved for years, ..."

Finally, it looks like all of those years of studies, reports and protests, something is being done about increasing the visibility of Asians. More than likely though, it is the growing realization of the changing audience and - it always comes down to this - the bottom line. According to a UCLA study, TV shows with a diverse cast do really well in ratings.

Even with the loss of Selfie's John Cho, Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari, The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi, Stalker's Maggie Q and Community’s Danni Pudi, television viewers can still catch a number of their favorite Asian/American stars as well as a wave of new up-and-coming stars.


Fresh Off the Boat: The game-changing sitcom, very loosely based on restaurateur Eddie Huang's memoir,  features the 3-generation Taiwanese/American Huang family returns for a second season stars Constance Wu, Randall Park, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen and Lucille Soong.

Marco Polo: Literally a cast of thousands (of Asians and a few Pacific Islanders, most of them digitalized) since the show is supposed to take place in 11th century China following the adventures of the lone white buy in the country. But despite criticism from the Asian/American media, Polo is used as the "bridge" to the more interesting Chinese characters. The epic offers an opportunity for a whole lot of Asian actors to portray complicated people such as Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan and Joan Chen as his Empress Chabi and a slew of newcomers (to American TV audiences) including Remy Hii as Prince Jingim, Olivia Cheng as Mei Lin, Claudia Kim as Khutulun, Uli Latukefu as Byamba, Chin Han as Jia Sidao, and Tom Wu as Hundred Eyes.

Rumors are circulating that Glenn, Steven Yuen's
character in The Walking Dead, may meet his demise.

Please, no-o-o-o!
The Walking Dead: Steven Yuen as Glenn is apparently the only Asian to have survived the freaking zombie apocalypse. Glenn's future may be in doubt this year in a show known for killing off major characters. So, all you social networkers, start hitting those keyboards and start a campaign to keep Glenn alive. 

Elementary: Lucy Liu is back as the more-than-able assistant Dr. Watson to the defective detective Sherlock Holmes.

Mindy's Project: Mindy Kaling returns as date-seeking Mindy. Maybe she'd have better luck with an Asian boyfriend? Her sitcom has moved to Hulu. 

Scorpion: Elyes Gabel is the main genius. (Either the character, Walter O'Brien, is not Asian or he hasn't come to grips with his ethnic roots.) The show also features co-star Jadyn Wong as another genius, Happy Quinn.

Beauty and the Beast: Kristin Kruek as the beauty.


Asian actors playing prominent (but not the lead) roles:
  • Hawaii 5-O: Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Pak play detectives in the ensemble cop-and-robbers drama. The show is unique that it features a host of other Asain cast members and extras. The strong presence of Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders is unavoidable considering the show's locale.
  • Grimm: Reggie Lee returns as Sgt. Drew Wu, whose role keeps getting bigger now that he is now officially part of the secret creature-killing team of the Portland PD.
  • Big Bang Theory: Kunal Nayyar reprises his role as Raj Koothrappal, the second-worst Asian stereotype on television.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ming-Na Wen plays agent Melinda May; Chloe Bennet plays Skye in this TV adaptation of Marvel comics. 
UPDATE: An earlier version of this post did not include Blacklist cast members, The Talk's Julie Chen and Viking's surprise casting.
  • Two Broke Girls: Unfortunately, Matthew Moy returns as Han Lee, the worst  Asian stereotype currently on TV.
  • Red Band Society: Griffin Gluck, the comatose patient around whom the rest of the cast circles, could have been seen as a white boy if not for seeing his mother, Korean/American actress Susan Park.
  • The Mysteries of Laura: Janina Gavankar as Detective Meredith Bose.
  • Orange Is The New Black: Kimiko Glenn as Brook Soso, Lori Tan Chinn as mysterious don't-mess-with-her Chang.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Ki Hong Lee plays a character with the unfortunate name of Dong Nguyen, a potential love interest of the main character.
  • Z Nation: Pisay Pao is back as the mysterious Cassandra in this blood-splattering version of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Blacklist: Amir Arison as Aram Mojtabai and Mozhan Marmo as Samar Marno are part of the elite, secret FBI team.
  • Grey's Anatomy: The Asian scrub nurse Bokhee, who seems to make all the surgeries in the 11 seasons of this popular medical/hookup drama, is reportedly played by a real-life nurse; no lines, no big scenes, just a dependable Asian. Diversity advocate and producer Shonda Rhimes still needs to replace the huge hole left when Sandra Oh left the series based in a city that has a large Asian/American population. Let's hope Rhimes does something about this.


It's not just the increased number of Asians that are going to be on our TV sets this fall and winter, but the number of quality roles they are playing makes 2015 different from previous years. Besides being the stereotypical comedic relief in some shows, in other programs Asians will be playing doctors, martial artists, heroes and love interests. Yes! Love interests! Despite the failure of John Cho's Selfie to break that barrier, we may actually see some Asians who have multi-faceted personalities besides being a buffoon, doctor or martial artist. Asian/Americans can be romantic leads!


Into the Badlands: Steven Wu as the motorcycle-riding badass warrior Sunny and Aramis Knight portrays his protege M.K. The duo fights outlaws and warlords in a dark future of a  dystopian America where guns are outlawed. Watch for its November premiere.

Dr. Ken: Comedic actor Ken Jeong plays a Dr. Ken Park who yearns to be a standup comedian. His family includes his wife played by Suzy Nakamura, Albert Tsai as son Dave, Krista Marie Yu plays daughter Molly. Margaret Cho, who starred in the ill-fated  Asian/American sitcom All American Girl, will return to primetime TV as Dr. Ken's sister. The Parks join the Huangs as the second Asian/American family on television.

Quantico: Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra will play the lead Alex, an FBI rookie learning the ropes at the FBI's training facility while kicking ass and looking beautiful. 

Heroes Reborn: Masi Oka will reprise the role of Hiro Nakamura from the original Heroes science fiction series and Sendhil Ramamurthy returns as Dr. Mohinder Suresh. They'll be joined by newcomer Kiki Sukezane as the katana-wielding Miko.

Fear The Walking Dead: In this Walking Dead spinoff, Cliff Curtis, a Maori/American, plays the father Travis Manawa of the wonderfully blended lead family trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in diverse southern California. In the third episode, the first Asian zombie in the Walking Dead universe made a brief, but meaningful, appearance.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh Chan in this highly anticipated "girl-meets-(Asian)-boy" musical comedy. Who knows if romance blossoms and if Rodriguez gets to kiss the girl, a historic act that eluded John Cho in Selfie.

Master of None: Aziz Ansari gets his own vehicle to star in. He plays Dev, who doesn't have his act together, a starving actor (is that redundant?) in New York.

Rush Hour: the TV adaptation of the cop-comedy movie will star John Foo as Detective Lee and his younger sister Kim Lee will be played by Jessica Van.

  • Truth Be Told: Follow the relationship adventures of two couples, one of which is made up of Indonesian/American Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Mitch and Filipina/American Vanessa Lachey in what may be a breakthrough comedy. I haven't seen any previews yet so I don't know if Gosselaar's roots will be an issue. They might have him playing a white guy, kind of reverse yellow face.
  • Chicago Med: Brian Tee stars as Dr. Ethan Amari in this medical drama.
  • Childhood's End: Charlotte Nicdao plays Rachel Osaka in this television version of the science fiction classic.
  • Code Black: Melanie Chandra portrays Dr. Malaya Pineda and Raza Jaffrey plays Dr. Neal Hudson in another medical drama.
  • The Expanse: Florence Faivre has the part of Julie Mao, the girl who needs to be rescued to save the solar system in this space opera.
  • Grandfathered: Ravi Patel's character Ravi is the best friend and chef to restaurant owner John Stamos.
  • The Truth Be Told cast will tackle any topic
    your parents told you not to talk about.
  • Minority Report: Li Jun Li plays a CSI tech Akeela in this sci-fi production based on the movie of the same name.
  • The Man in the High Castle: Another sci-fi classic features Joel de la Fuente as Inspector Kido and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays Nobosuke Tagomi. The storyline is based on the premise on what the world would be like if the Axis had won WWII. 
  • Vikings: Major surprise! Of all the TV shows, I never thought an Asian would appear on - Vikings, a tale of the 12th century Scandinavian marauders in Europe - is near the top of the list. Dianne Doan will play Yidu, a mysterious slave from a "distant land" in the saga's fourth season.


FABLife: This ABC afternoon talk show features exuberant model Chrissy Tiegen as a foodie extraordinaire and fashionista Joe Zee as part of a diverse team of hosts talking about ... anything that can make your life more enjoyable, fun and Fab, with tips on how to enjoy life or make your life more "fab" ala The View.

The Talk: Julie Chen continues to rein in the hosts in this popular daytime gossipy/confessional talkshow.

This Is Life With Lisa Ling: Journalist Lisa Ling returns with one of the most informative investigative shows on TV on a variety of topics.

Survivor: The first reality/adventure show still attracts viewers. It normally features a diverse cast of ordinary people trying outwit and outsmart the other contestants. This season, two Asians will be in the cast of former cast members: Woo Hwang, the martial arts instructor who valued honor over strategy, and Peih-Gee Law, the abrasive Type-A lawyer from San Francisco.

Amazing Race: Like other reality shows, Amazing Race tries for a diverse cast. This year, the Asian/American team is Cindy and Rick Chac, newlyweds from San Diego.

Dancing With The Stars: Carrie Ann Inaba is the lone Asian in this dancing competition in which she is one of the judges. Professional dancer Cheryl Burke, a Filipina/American, has stepped away to other gigs.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend: A much-anticipated sequel to the successful groundbreaking movie will feature Michelle Yeoh reprising her movie role as well as a bunch of other Asian actors, including  Harry Shum, Jr.Jason Scott Lee, Roger Yuan, Eugenia YuanJuJu ChanChris Pang, and Natasha Liu Bordizzo. This is huge, especially for those of us who enjoyed the original. It will premiere simultaneously in IMAX and on Netflix in 2016.

* * *
As someone who grew up without any significant role models in American media, I know how that significant gap has impacted me. It was an important element in forming who I am became as an adult. I'm somewhat relieved that the younger members of my family won't have to experience that, but as I mentioned at the top of this post, there is still a long way to go.

(NOTE: My count is just for the fall and winter seasons. If summer programs were to be included, it would up the number of Asians considerably.)

In the context of American society, does this year's relative increase of the Asian/American and Pacific Islander presence constitute a revolution? Maybe, but we need to see what happens when some of these shows get shot down because they're just not good enough to garner good ratings. Will the television honchos retreat?

At an individual level, growing up as an Asian kid these days, might be little bit easier because Asians are finally being depicted in a much wider gamut of roles and programs, which translates, hopefully, to a wider acceptance of Asians as an integral part of American culture and society.