Friday, September 30, 2016

1946: A turning point in Filipino/American history

On Feb. 18, 1946, the Rescission Act was signed taking away the rights, benefits and honors promised to 250,000 Filipino WWII veterans who fought with the American soldiers against the invading Japanese military.
OCTOBER is Filipino American History Month. The month will be observed throughout the United States with concerts, dances, symposiums, speeches and proclamations.

The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) has made “1946: A Turning Point” as the theme for this year’s observance. October was selected because of the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental U.S. on Oct. 18, 1587, "Luzon's Indios" came ashore from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Esperanza and landed at what is now Morro Bay, California.

According to the FANHS website, the theme was chosen to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of several notable events and pieces of legislation that transformed the lives of Filipinos in the Philippines and in the United States in 1946 such as the following:

  • The Rescission Act barred veterans in the Philippines from receiving GI Bill benefits was signed in Feb., 1946 by President Harry Truman, who said: "Philippine Army veterans are nationals of the United States and will continue in that status until July 4, 1946. They fought, as American nationals, under the American flag, and under the direction of our military leaders. They fought with gallantry and courage under most difficult conditions during the recent conflict. Their officers were commissioned by us. Their official organization, the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth, was taken into the Armed forces of the United States by executive order of the President of the United States on July 26, 1941. That order has never been revoked or amended. I consider it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of Philippine Army veterans.”
  • The Luce-Celler Bill on July 2, 1946 granted access to naturalization for all Filipinos who had come to the United States before March 1934 and for all Indian immigrants in the United States, however Filipino and Indian immigration was limited to 100 per year. 
  • The Philippines, a colony of the United States since 1898, was granted its independence on July 4, 1946. 
In November of 2009, both the United States House of Representatives and Senate passed laws – House Resolution 780 and Senate Resolution 298 respectively, officially recognizing October as Filipino American History Month in the United States. Various states, counties and cities in the U.S. have since followed suit and have established proclamations and resolutions declaring observance of Filipino American History Month in their regions. The late Dr. Fred Cordova, who along with his wife Dorothy founded FANHS, first introduced October as Filipino American History Month in 1992 with a resolution from the FANHS National Board of Trustees. 

Throughout the nation, the 34 FANHS Chapters, colleges and universities, museums, and other community groups, will be commemorating Filipino American History Month with various activities and events to bring awareness of the valuable contributions Filipinos have made to the fabric of American society. For information about activities in your area, click here.

Take a look at last year's opening history-making observance of Filipino American History Month at the White House.

Where do stereotypes about Asian/American men come from ?

IT IS ALL about sex and power!

That's the short answer to the question in the headline that's been tackled by scholars, social scientists, psychologists and Asian/American men f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

You can write a book (a thick one) for a more comprehensive response. In fact, that has been done.

The touchy subject would be difficult to sum it up in a short video, but Filipna/American journalist Cat Sandoval gives it a valiant effort in the NBC video produced for "Take Back," a five-part series on "NBC Asian America Presents...," a digital video channel that will feature original content centered around themes and voices found in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. 

From "being nerds" to being seen as threats, negative stereotypes about Asian and Asian/American men "have been perpetuated and maintained through history," according to Kevin Nadal, president of the Asian American Psychological Association.
But where did those stereotypes come from? And how has that affected how Asian/American men are portrayed in Hollywood?
Yes, Hollywood is a major contributor to the stereotype, but the neutering of Asian/American men began long before the silver screen and television began playing major roles in influencing our world perceptions through American pop culture.
A non-Asian friend approached me recently after reading my earlier posting about the stereotype Asian men have to confront and overcome in American society. That was not surprising because he didn't know about the stereotype, but then, he was an immigrant himself and wasn't raised in this culture.

I tried to explain to him that the Asian male stereotype was foisted upon us to dehumanize us, to make us lesser beings. It has affected our ability to move ahead in so many professions, our relationships with the opposite sex and how we deal with our own families. But most of all, that demeaning image affects how we feel about ourselves. 

Full disclosure: Yeah. I freely admit this topic is personal and for a while, I was socially crippled by that image. So, be aware, my writing is colored by that particular lens.

Alex Tizon
Alex Tizon, a fellow journalist, was born in the Philippines but raised in the U.S., a cultural mishmash shared by many - separated from the first-generation immigrant parents and not quite second-generation Americans. Tizon, who won a Pulitzer with the Seattle Times, wrote a book about this subject titled "Big Little Man."

Young Tizon landed in an America that saw Asian women as sexy and Asian men as sexless. ... as a young boy, everything he saw and heart taught him to be ashamed of his face, his skin color, his height, described one reviewer. 

An interview with Tizon sheds light on all aspects of the stereotype that inspired Tizon. He had to undergo the torture of reliving the emotions and traumas he experienced as the image was hung on him like an old oversized suit.

One chapter focused on the image of Asian men displayed on television, from "Bonanza's" Hop Sing to 2 Broke Girls2 character of "a diminutive, sexless, bumbling, language-challenged restaurant owner who is a constant butt of jokes.

He admits that things are changing on TV with Hawaii 5-0's Daniel Dae Kim, and Steven Yeun in The Walking Dead. At the time of the interview, he express high hopes for Selfie with John Cho and the strong possibility that there romance would blossom between the two lead characters.

Alas, Selfie didn't even last the first season. Despite the charming and attractive leads, the sit-com couldn't overcome the weak writing and the one-joke premise of the show.

However, along came Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which features a Filipno/American bro - played by Vincent Rodriguez III -  as one of the leads. By the end of the first season, he gets the girl and the show featured "The Kiss," which may be worth a chapter in the annals of Asian/American cultural history.

Ama Yawson, a Huffington Post contributor, wrote about the stereotype with the intriguing title, "Asian-American Men:Hunks of Burning Loe or Wimps with Small Wieners." In her blog, she interviewed Ranier Maningding, a Filipino/American who pens the popular blog The Love Life of an Asian Guy.

Yawson's take on the issue is interesting in that she sees the stereotype as a form of bullying. I think she's on to something there.

Actor James Shigeta broke down the stereotype
Anti-miscegenation laws were drafted to prevent the marital mixing of races, usually seen as men of color and white women. The laws were originally intended to prevent black-white marriages, but they were extended to include Asian men, (or Mongol too.

White men used to beat up on Filipinos because the Filipino farmworkers of the early 20th century with their flashy zoot suits, slick hair and cologne attracted caucasian women. In other words, the Filipinos were a threat to their manhood.

The sexy Filipino drew the ire of white men who took to raiding their farmworker homes and beating up the Filipinos. One such raid resulted in at least one shooting death. Maybe the stereotype was created and nurtured in order to dismiss the threat to the masculinity of white men.

And what's the third-grader's response to a threat? You either beat him up or you begin to make fun of him. Besides calling men of color names, you emasculate them, you make up the myth about penis size, you set the attractiveness standards to benefit Europeans and anyone else -- from Africa, Asia or Native America -- as undesirable.

Maningding writes in his blog: 
The problem with being an Asian American Man is that you are stuck at a fork in the road but you've been told to stay still: while America tugs on your sense of identity and masculinity you want to push back and voice your concerns. But how do teach a group of men to SPEAK UP when they were raised to politely raise their hands? How do you untangle these robot wires and let these men feel? We may ace and code our way to a middle-class but given the open floor beneath our feet where no one is willing to see us - not Asian women,not other men, not even Asians from Asia ... It's like we're still on that railroad pounding away at the ground. This is our life.
There are signs this negative paradigm is shifting. Besides Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Alan Yang's and Aziz Ansari's Masters of None and Daniel Wu's Into the Badlands feature Asian/American leads and explores aspects of the Asian/American male psyche that is not covered in CEG. Even Dr. Ken has had its moments and certainly  Steven Yeun and Daniel Dae Kim are doing their parts (for now. There is strong speculation that Yeun's badass character, Glenn Rhee, might meet his end in the first episode of the new season of The Walking Dead.)

On the movie side, Yeun is playing the male lead in another stereotype-busting role in the upcoming movie Mayhem, John Cho continues to expand his role in the Star Trek franchise and there is hope the film version of Crazy Rich Asians will show another side of the Asian male that is rarely seen by western audiences -- a romantic lead.

But these fictional characters are also being augmented by real-life Asian/American men excelling in their highly visible fields from medicine and research to the political world to the culinary industry to Silicon Valley. And to be completely rounded out, more and more Asian/American men are showing up in our criminal justice system (Hey, if we clamor for a more complete vision of Asian/American males, then we have to own the negative facet of us, too.) 

As you can tell, a lot has been written about the subject but you don't overcome an image that took a century and a half to ingrain itself into the American concioiusness in one column or a single video. It takes all of us chipping away at that image that's been weighing us down until we're seen as individuals worth taking seriously, worth admiring, worth loving. I encourage you to click on some of the links provided in this article if you want to delve deeper into the subject. 

"NBC Asian America Presents..." videos can also be watched on NBC Asian America's Facebook page, NBC News' official YouTube channel, and the NBC News app available on mobile devices, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

TGIF FEATURE: Two Filipino/Americans to star in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'

TWO FILIPINO/AMERICANS will be starring in the San Francisco production of the Broadway rock musical "Hedwing and the Angry Inch" in which they will reprise the roles they played in New York.

Darren Criss
The San Francisco show is a homecoming for Darren Criss and Lena Hall, both of whom grew up in city where they received their early theatrical training.

“For me and Lena, it’s a huge homecoming,” said Criss, 29, to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It would have driven me mad if someone else had done Hedwig” in San Francisco.

Criss, who’ll be familiar to national audiences for his breakout role in television's Glee, will star as Hedwig for the runs in San Francisco (Oct. 4-30) and in L.A. (Nov. 1-27). 

Before arriving in San Francisco this week, Criss was appearing as Prince Ericin in “The Little Mermaid” at the Hollywood Bowl in June.

Lena (Celina) Hall
Hall is the daughter of Carlos Carvajal, noted choreographer and known in the Filipino/American community for his dance company and his role with the Ethnic Dance Festival. She plays Yitzhak, for which she won the 2014 Tony Award for featured actress in a musical. "I love playing a man," Hall said. "It’s so challenging!”
She'll also get to play the title role on the days that Criss takes off.

“It’s a great way to cap off this long journey that I’ve been on in the musical theater world,” said Hall, 36, of her return to the city. “This is where it all began.”


Brilliantly innovative, heartbreaking, and wickedly funny, Hedwig is the landmark American musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that is “groundbreaking and undoubtedly ahead of its time”  said Entertainment Weekly. This genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing musical sensation, with a pulsing score and electrifying performances, tells the story of one of the most unique characters to ever hit the stage.

Criss will appear as Hedwig in all performances, except Sunday, October 9 at 7 pm and Wednesday evenings, October 12, 19 and 26 at 8 pm. Hall will appear as Hedwig in the following performances: Sunday, October 9 at 7pm, Wednesday, October 12 at 8pm, Wednesday, October 19 at 8 pm, and Wednesday, October 26 at 8 pm.

Hall, thrilled at the opportunity to explore and express this double role, explains, “I’m thrilled to be returning to "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" performing not one, but two iconic roles in my hometown of San Francisco. Not only will I get to share the stage with my fellow San Francisco native and friend Darren Criss; but I will also get a chance to begin my own journey as the glam rock heroine Hedwig. To tell her story in my hometown is the greatest homecoming I can think of, and I am looking forward to sharing this journey with my friends, family, and Hedheads.”

Directed by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening”), the Broadway revival of “Hedwig” came away with four 2014 Tony Awards

Darren Criss as Hedwig

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rule allows Native Hawaiians to form their own government

Library of Congress
Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, overthrown by sugar plantation owners and U.S. troops in 1893 
Compiled by Jason Daley
LAST WEEK, the Interior Department issued a final ruling allowing the Native inhabitants of Hawaii to conduct a referendum on re-establishing a government for the indigenous community for the first time in 120 years. If ratified, that body, representing 527,000 indigenous Hawaiians, would be able to establish a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. and give native islanders more power over their culture, traditions and other self-government issues, similar to sovereign Native American nations.
It’s been a long road to this point. In the 1800s, the U.S. government recognized the Hawaiian Islands as an independent nation ruled over by a native monarchy. Over time, however, American businesses continued to make inroads via trade agreements. By 1891, U.S. sugar plantation owners and companies controlled about four-fifths of the islands and had pushed through a new constitution greatly reducing the power of the native government and restricting the rights of the native population to vote.
That year the Hawaiian ruler King Kalākaua's sister, Queen Liliuokalani, took the throne. In 1893, she prepared to issue a royal fiat restoring power to the monarchy and guaranteeing the right to vote for native Hawaiians. Instead, a coup orchestrated by the sugar plantation owners and backed by U.S. warships and troops deposed the queen and established a provisional government. In 1900, the U.S. officially annexed the islands as a territory and voted it in as a state in 1959.
In 1993, Congress passed a resolution apologizing to native Hawaiians for the government's role in overthrowing their leadership and began a two-decade process of reconciliation culminating in this announcement. “Native Hawaiians have been the only major indigenous group in the 50 states without a process for establishing a government-to-government relationship with the federal government.” Robert Lindsey, chairman of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs says in a press release. “This rule finally remedies this injustice.”
Annelle Amaral, the president of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs tells Merrit Kennedy at NPR that the ruling is a big plus for the indigenous community. “What it allows us to do is to finally have control over our sacred sites, over health care for our people, over the education of our children,” she says. “Instead of waiting for someone else to do something about our problems, with our own government we can begin to initiate change.”
Not everyone is satisfied with native Hawaiians being treated simply as another indigenous body. Soon after the announcement protests by indigenous activist groups sprung up on the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, reports Frances Kai-Hwa Wang at NBC News.

Wang reports: “The United States took a stable government, destabilized it, and then has the nerve today to say, ‘We will make a deal with you, and the deal is you agree to become our native people and we will negotiate some kind of settlement that will make life a little bit better for you,’” Professor Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio of the University of Hawaii Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies said during a press conference. 

“The very very worst part of all of this is that what the U.S. has done…have really actually acted to divide a people who were moving, who have been moving, towards a legal, rational, and reasonable solution to the hewa (wrong) that the United States committed more than a hundred years ago.”

Juliet Eilperin at The Washington Post reports that the move is part of a special interest that President Obama has taken in his home state in the last year of his presidency. Last month, he created the world's largest marine reserve by expanding Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a move applauded by many native leaders.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jeremy Lin gets real

Jeremy Lin
MONDAY (Sept. 26) was media day for the NBA. Teams across the nation met the press, answered questions and talked about the coming season. Usually its a predictable affair with cliches thrown out left and right.
Jeremy Lin, newly signed with the Brooklyn Nets, could not avoid the obvious,-- he is one of a handful of Asian/American playing in a sport of big men and dominated by African/American players.  He also couldn't avoid commenting on the social climate of our country and the role of athletes as concerned citizens. 
On Colin Kapernick and protest against injustice against people of color:
"I will say the one thing that I will make sure is I don't want to do anything alone. I want something to be united, I want there to be solidarity, because I don't want it to be X versus Y, or Group A versus Group B versus Group C or whatever. It has to be, if I do anything, I would want to be behind a stand of unity, because I think that's what we need. That's what I think our nation needs right now."

"The one thing I will say is that I'm very thankful there is an increase in exposure and awareness about it, because I think that's something that even though it's such a big topic and even though it's been going on for such a long time — like, hundreds of years — in some ways it was kind of swept under the rug until recently.
"I think a lot of people that weren't necessarily interested in it before, are now engaged in it, and I think that's always going to be the first step towards any change, which if we're realistic and if we're looking at long-term change or big-time change to be long-term, there are systemic issues, there are social issues that aren't going to be solved overnight. But the quicker we can get talking about it, the more I think things will happen."

On race and 'Linsanity':

“In some ways, ‘Linsanity’ wouldn’t have been ‘Linsanity’ if I
 was a different skin color. Most likely, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, and that went to my advantage. But prior to that, a lot of the obstacles to even get . . . on the floor, those were definitely obstacles that were very much stereotypes that I had to fight along the way. So I’ve always understood that there’s good and there’s bad and you have to take them together and just be thankful for it all.” 
On bias against Asians and Asian/Americans:
"I’ve always said [race] is a double-edged sword [with] my story,” Lin said. “You can just take the racial element alone. Anything I do is hyper-magnified in a good way or a bad way. People are quick to discount me or say certain things because of my race. And when I do well, people are quick to say he’s so amazing, whatever, because of my race, because of the way I look.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this post incorrectly stated that Jeremy Lin was the only Asian/American player in the NBA.

Asian Pacific Americans form for Trump

Lisa Shin of New Mexico spoke at the Republican National Convention

By Louis Chan

MONDAY MORNING prior to the presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, the GOP announced the formation of an Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee.

The move is part of Trump’s new found outreach to various minority communities. Analysts say it's just as much of an effort to bring White moderate voters into his campaign as to attract voters of color.

Trump has been working hard to soften his image in the general election after appealing to the Tea Party and those on the extreme right in the Republican primaries.

Many from both the moderate and conservative voting population have been turned off by what they consider extreme rhetoric coming from Trump.

Hillary Clinton established her AAPI committee early in the primary season, so the Trump campaign has a lot of ground to make up.

“The Trump/Pence ticket will bring meaningful change to Washington,” said Lisa Shin who was a Trump delegate from New Mexico during the Republican convention. “No longer will DC bureaucrats decide what’s best for Asian American and Pacific Islander families. Supporting Mr. Trump and Governor Pence will allow AAPIs to truly have a voice in how we want to educate our families and raise our children.”

Governors Eddie Calvo and Ralph Torres of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) respectively, will serve as the Council’s Co-Chairs.

“Mr. Trump’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Advisory Committee is a great addition to the vibrancy of his campaign,” said Brunswick, Ohio Mayor Ron Falconi. “His ability to connect with everyday Americans is a testament of his character, and what he wants to do to bring America forward from the past 8 years.”


Woman sentenced to prison for acting as an illegal agent of the PRC

Voice of America
The technology for an underwater drone, pictured above, was smuggled to China.
AMIN YU, 55, of Orlando, Florida, was sentenced Monday (Sept. 27) to 21 months in federal prison for acting in the U.S. as an illegal agent of a foreign government by U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr.

According to the plea agreement, from at least 2002 to February 2014, at the direction of co-conspirators working for Harbin Engineering University (HEU, a PRC-controlled entity) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Yu obtained systems and components for marine submersible vehicles from companies in the U.S. She then illegally exported those items to the PRC for use by her co-conspirators in the development of marine submersible vehicles including unmanned underwater vehicles, remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles for HEU and other state-controlled entities. 

Yu illegally exported items by failing to file Electronic Export Information (EEI), as required by U.S. law and by also filing false EEI. Yu completed and caused the completion of export-related documents in which she significantly undervalued the items that she had exported and provided false end user information for those items.

Yu, who is a citizen of China and a legal permanent resident of the United States, was also charged for conspiring to commit international money laundering during the course of her activities in behalf of the PRC.

“Amin Yu made hundreds of thousands of dollars by acting covertly in Orlando on behalf of the Chinese government and by skirting U.S. export laws and regulations,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley.

This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and the NCIS. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Clinton-Trump debate: racial justice tackled, immigration skipped

From the opening, Hillary Clinton took control by striding to Donald Trump's side of the stage to shake his hand.

IT WAS an unusual Presidential debate - to say the least - between Sec. Hillary Clinton and real estate magnate Donald Trump.

Early polls taken immediately after the debate at Hofstra University, showed that the Democratic candidate crushed the GOP presidential bet. It was clear that Clinton was better prepared and Trump's off-the-cuff style couldn't match Clinton's steady barrage of attacks on his tax returns, business dealings, his involvement in the birther movement, and his lack of knowledge on international affairs. Trump's penchant for denying earlier statements was often refuted by his opponent and by Holt, who did a fairly good job of reining in Trump's often rambling responses. 

The 90-minute debate moderated by NBC journalist Lester Holt, didn't seem to be enough time to cover all the issues. Surprisingly, Holt did not ask a single question on immigration and The Wall on the Mexico-U.S. border that has become a major part of Trump's campaign. Perhaps in the next two debates, the topic will come up.

There was no mention of banning Muslims or refugees either even though Trump's proposed policy stirred up a hornets' nest of controversy over the past year.

On the question about race relations, Clinton talked about the "implicit bias" that all of us must overcome; the need to restore trust between the community and police, fixing the criminal justice system and "We gotta get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them."

Trump's response was to make "stop and frisk" a national strategy to stop the killings and slow crime even though the New York said it leads to racial profiling and the courts have ruled the policy unconstitutional. "We need law and order," he said.

Still on the subject of race and how African/Americans viewed the birthism movement as an insult to the first black president, Trump repeated the falsehood that Clinton first questioned President Obama's birthright in her 2008 campaign and by getting the president to produce his birth certificate, he should be credited for succeeding in confirming Obama's birth in Hawaii.

Later in the debate, Trump showed that he still has lingering doubts about the legitimacy of Obama's presidency when he responded to Clinton, saying, "He's YOUR president." (Emphasis is mine.)

The closest the candidates touched on Asian affairs was when Trump mentioned he would make Japan and South Korea, along with the NATO nations pay for their own defense. He would renegotiate the defense treaties with those countries.  And there was Trump's opening line:

Clinton also brought up one of Trump's tweets in which he claimed China made up climate change to hurt U.S. industry. Trump denied it but it's true. Here it is, below!

There was barely a mention of Latinos and Asian/Americans and Native Americans were not mentioned at all. Granted, the shooting of unarmed African/Americans and the ensuing protests grab the big headlines, but perhaps someone could have said something about the growing Islamaphobia promoted by Trump's champaign rhetoric. I guess, it is still a black & white world for most of America, as noted by Bay Area journalist Emil Guillermo.

Reactions from Asian/Americans were not surprising, considering that the majority of Asian/Americans lean towards the Democrats.

The debate held at Hofstra University in New York is the first of three debates between the presidential candidates. Immigration, refugees, diversity or affirmative action will surely be a topic in one of those debates, right?

Bill signed; California will begin collecting disaggregated data on AAPI groups

California Assemblymember Rob Bonta introduced the AHEAD Act in Sacramento.


A BILL THAT WOULD REQUIRE the breaking out of data to better understand the unique health needs of the various Asian American subgroups has been signed by California Governor Jerry Brown.

AB 1726 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would disaggregate data to reveal the rates of major diseases and leading causes of death among various API ethnic groups.

“The population of California is uniquely diverse, especially within the API community. There are more than 23 distinct communities within the Asian American population and 19 within the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population. AB 1726 will give us a clearer pathway to formulate policy focused on positive outcomes for our specific API communities,” Bonta said.

“While we share some of the same challenges, such as language access issues, racial discrimination, and obstacles born of immigration, each of our diverse communities has different social and economic outcomes that need to be addressed appropriately,” Bonta said.

The bill had to be watered down to specifically exclude the disaggregation of education data. Mostly Chinese first generation groups feared such data would be used against them in university admissions and waged a vigorous fight that threatened the entire bill.

The bill however, remains significant given the high rate of Hep B and smoking in the Chinese community, the consumption of alcohol in the Korean community and the varying disease rates, health insurance coverage, and birth and death rates among the different subgroups.

Various API groups joined with Bonta in praising Governor Brown, who vetoed similar legislation last year, in signing AB1726.

“Since our organization was established 30 years ago, APIAHF has advocated for the collection and reporting of disaggregated data to provide an accurate picture of the health status of AA and NHPI communities,” said Kathy Ko Chin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “The Governor’s approval of AB 1726 takes an important step toward addressing the health disparities affecting these communities in California.”

“SEARAC celebrates today’s signing of The AHEAD Act as a big step forward for equity and our communities by revealing chronic health disparities for immigrant and refugee communities such as Southeast Asian Americans whose health needs have been institutionally concealed and ignored for too long,” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. 

“Increased data will empower physicians, public health professionals, policy makers, and community members to responsibly tailor community-driven solutions that recognize and address the unique needs of our increasingly diverse communities.”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mourners pack funeral for the beloved and feared Rose Pak, civic leader

Rose Pak graced the cover of 'San Francisco' magazine in 2012.

TOUGH, combative and caring – those were attributes that came out in stories about Rose Pak, an influential political leader in San Francisco mourned by 600 attendees at her funeral Saturday, Sept. 24, reported SF Gate. She died last week 
of natural causes in her Chinatown home at the age of 68. 

In her obituary that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle it was noted that Pak once said: “If I was white, they’d call me a civic leader,” with absolutely no sign she was joking.
Politicians sought her support because she could deliver whether it be crowds for a demonstration or money for a campaign.

The Hunan, China-born Pak spent eight years writing for the S.F. Chronicle, where she was reportedly the first Asian/American journalist hired by the newspaper. Naturally, as a Cantonese speaker, she was assigned the Chinatown beat. She left journalism so she could better advocate for her community by making sure that Chinatown was not forgotten and given respect by the city's politicians and planners.

In cover article in San Francisco Magazine, Pak talked about her first lessons in San Francisco barefooted politics by hanging out in the offices of the late congressmen John and Phil Burton. "They called everybody under the sun ‘motherfucker,'" she said. "I thought it was a term of endearment."

Speaking at Pak's funeral which was held at Old St. Mary's Cathedral, former San Francisco Mayor and State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown credited Pak with the large representation of Asian/Americans on city commissions and boards.

When Brown appointed the first Asian/American police chief in San Francisco, Fred Lau, it was Pak who pushed him the hardest.

“It’s time for an Asian police chief.” Brown recalls Pak telling him. “Who is going to be our police chief?”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, like so many in San Francisco politics, experienced both Pak’s support and ire.

“Despite all the sharp edges and even sharper tongue, Rose was motivated by love. Love of family and community,” Lee said.

The funeral was held at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in Chinatown. Police closed several streets and extra seating was set up outside with a video link to the indoor proceedings. in order to accommodate the overflow crowd.

The street outside the church was closed down to accommodate additional seating at Rose Pak's funeral.
C.W. Nevius, who interviewed Pak several times for his column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco columnist C.W. Nevius wrote in a recent Chronicle column
Calling Pak an advocate for the Chinatown community was an understatement. Another ... story involved the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
Pak got a tour of the place before it opened in 1976 and found that there was only a small plaque to commemorate the Chinese workers who did much of the construction on the Transcontinental Railroad. Pak pitched an enormous fit.
“I stormed out of there and drove right to the Assembly offices,” she said. “I said, ‘You guys have a lot of f— nerve. Thousands of our people died, and all you have to honor them is this little piece of paper?’”
Pak says the upshot was that the opening was delayed six months, funds were collected and a much more representative display was installed.
Pak's passing creates a great void in San Francisco politics. Who will speak up for Chinatown? For the Asian/American community?  For those overlooked by City Hall? For the underdog? 

(Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)

Fishing industry accused of exploiting Asian crews

Foreign crewmen are recruited for U.S. fishing vessels similar to the one pictured above.
TWO INDONESIAN fishermen filed suit against a tuna boat captain Sept. 22  that they claimed  kept them in virtual slavery.

They said that they escaped the boat when their Honolulu-based vessel docked in San Francisco.

Abdul Fatah and Sorihin, who goes by a single name, filed a human labor trafficking lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against Thoai Van Nguyen. They assert that they were held captive on the Sea Queen II in late 2009 and early 2010 while fishing for tuna, swordfish and other seafood prized by U.S. stores and restaurants.

Efforts by reporters to reach Nguyen, who lives in California, were unsuccessful.

The experience suffered by the two men echo the practice by many fishing vessels who find their crew in Southeast Asia and then keep them in slave-like conditions, meager pay, preventing their crew from leaving the vessel while it is docked and working in dangerous conditions The Associated Press won the Pulitzer Prize this year on their stories about the  slave-like conditions in the global fishing industry.

The two men allege in the lawsuit filed in federal that they were recruited in Indonesia seven years ago to work in Hawaii’s commercial fishing fleet without realizing they would never be allowed onshore. The lawsuit alleges Nguyen forced Sorihin and Fatah to work up to 20-hour shifts and denied them medical treatment.

Most of the approximately 700 crewmembers in the Hawaii fleet are from the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and the tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati. Because they have no visas, they aren't allowed to fly into the country, and are instead picked up at foreign ports and brought to Honolulu by boat.

Some of the fish caught by the foreign fishermen
wind up in pet food.
"With no legal standing on U.S. soil, the men are at the mercy of their American captains. ... Since they don't have visas, they are not allowed to set foot on shore." reports AP. "The entire system, which contradicts other state and federal laws, operates with the blessing of high-ranking U.S. lawmakers and officials, an Associated Press investigation found."

Hawaii and federal lawmakers are promising to improve conditions for hundreds of foreign fishermen working in Hawaii's commercial fleet, and at least one company has already stopped buying fish from the boats following the AP expose'.

Whole Foods halted buying seafood caught by foreign crew until it's clear the men are treated fairly. Last Sunday, Sept. 18, the Hawaii Seafood Council said that starting Oct. 1, the Honolulu Fish Auction will sell fish only from boats that have adopted a new, standardized contract aimed at assuring no forced labor exists on board.

A legal loophole allows foreign crews to work on the American-owned, American-flagged boats without visas as long as they don't set foot on shore. 

The AP investigation found the fishermen are paid as little as $350 a month, but many also get small bonuses, lifting their monthly pay to $500 or $600. "We always would want workers to have decent working conditions," said Hawaii Gov. David Ige. The AP report "highlighted how sometimes people fall in a loophole and they don't get the full protections of labor laws that most of us enjoy."

After the story was published, boat owners in Hawaii and seafood sellers quickly formed a task force which they said was creating a universal contract. They said they are working with buyers and government officials.

"I am confident that through this process we will ferret out any vessel from the fleet that is involved in forced labor, labor abuse or substandard working conditions and treatment of the crew," John Kaneko of the Hawaii Seafood Council told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

As the lawsuit winds its way through the courts, Fatah and Sorihin have since been issued visas for victims of human trafficking and are living in the San Francisco area.