Thursday, December 28, 2006

For the New Year

I took this photo outside the Lorraine Motel back in November when Catzie and I were in Memphis. If you don't know, the Lorraine Motel is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and it is now The National Civil Rights Museum. We didn't get to visit the museum (I took these pictures around midnight) but the outside of the museum has been preserved as the motel had been back in 1968, and the place where Dr. King was shot is commemorated with a wreath.

This time of year is one of joy, no doubt. My kids are beautiful and happy, and for me, my family matters most. But this time of year always makes me pensive, too, in my private moments because I know there's so much that happens despite the haven that my husband and I have made our home to be. There is still war; still poverty; still slavery; still domestic violence; still alcoholism; still rapes; still political corruption; still racism; still, still, still. Terrible things happen to innocent people. Horrible things happen to people we care about and love. I make these points to entreat you to look beyond the gifts and the parties and the showing off to hug your mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, friend, and anyone else you love and tell them how wonderful it is to spend some time with them. Please cherish these moments.

At this time of year, I wish you and yours many blessings for the coming new year. And I hope that we all actively try to protect our loved ones by helping to wage peace.

All the best always,

Sunday, December 10, 2006


When we first started to keep a blog on our website, I had intended that, for me, it would be a place where I could talk about things that I think about or are important to me. I guess I had envisioned it as an extension of what I do onstage, which is to raise awareness and educate folks about fucked up stuff going on in the world. Or perhaps I thought the blog might be a place where I can just bitch about shit I don’t usually get a chance to. Well, over the past few months, the blog hasn’t been any of those for me. Because I have such limited time, I’ve really only posted about upcoming shows, talked about experiences at recent shows, and generally tried to present an entertaining-aspiring-to-be-funny account of the places and spaces we’ve been. All of the serious things happening in the world, our country, our/my lives have fallen casualty to the “I don’t have time . . .” or “Who wants to read about . . .?” mantras that I’ve set to myself when contemplating a post. Well, I’d like to try to move toward including more of the serious things that have me concerned while still maintaining the feel-good aspect of our encounters with our fans and supporters around the country. I hope you all will share my concerns.

First, I have now become a contributor for a blog called the Anti-Racist Parent. My intro post went up on Friday, December 8. Anti-Racist Parent is for parents and other concerned individuals who are committed to raising children with an anti-racist outlook. Parents, teachers, and caregivers who are tired of having their children learn about race and identity through the mixing of neapolitan ice cream, playing dress-up with national costumes, and absorbing the same handful of sanitized historical facts every single Black/Latino/Native American/Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, can access this blog as a resource for information and as a place to discuss parenting from an anti-racist perspective. Edited by Carmen Van Kerckhove, who also maintains Racialicious (a blog examining the intersections of race and pop culture) and runs New Demographic, an anti-racist training company, this blog serves to inform, connect, and support parents as they work to raise their families with a healthy and realistic approach to race and identity. Please check out all these great sites, but most especially check out Anti-Racist Parent and my columns. Many of the issues discussed on the site so far have been about adoptees from transracial adoptions and their experiences, parents adopting children from another race and culture seeking advice on how to keep their children connected to their culture-of-origin, people in interracial relationships dealing with racism from family members, parents with mixed-race children who ask about how to help their children maintain a healthy sense of identity, etc., so there’s an issue that everyone can relate to and share experiences about.

Finally, some of you may already know that among the many things I do in life, I work part-time at a non-profit, community based organization in Philadelphia called SEAMAAC (our website is actually outdated--we're launching a new one soon), which stands for Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition. SEAMAAC works with Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees and their families, as well as people from African (Liberian and Ethiopian) and Eastern European communities, in Philadelphia in many different capacities, from breast cancer awareness to delinquency prevention to elderly services to lead-poisoning prevention and countless more programs. Our organization has taken some financial hits this year, and we have started a donor campaign, hoping we can gain some small bit of support so that we can continue to offer much-needed services to our clients for free. It’s too much for me to tell you about every program we offer, but I do want to tell you a little about one and hope that some of you will be interested in donating to our organization and helping to support our programs.

I started as Grants Coordinator six months ago, and during that time I’ve become deeply involved in an Intergenerational Program which we are trying to plan and implement by next September. Our vision for this program really started out of a concern for the Southeast Asian elderly in the city, many of them low-income and alienated from family, friends, and community. When the hot lunch program was terminated b/c of lack of funding, we became concerned about the mental health of some of the elderly who participated in the lunch program who used it as an opportunity to receive social services from SEAMAAC outreach workers as well as to socialize with one another. We became aware of an intergenerational program offered in San Francisco which enabled seniors to interact with youth in the public school system and daycare centers. The mental health benefits for the seniors were immeasurable and the positive impact the program had on youths’ behavioral well-being and school performance were also notable. We had an opportunity to apply for a modest grant to start-up such a program at FACTS Charter School.

FACTS stands for Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School, and it was created by Asian Americans United (AAU) and the Philadelphia Folklore Project. At this school, children from grades K-6 learn to respect each other’s cultures (the racial demographics are 60% Asian, 20% black, 20% white and Latino) and to recognize our interconnectedness and need for one another. Located in Philly’s North Chinatown section, the school is amazing. We took a tour of the school a few weeks ago, and even the lunch is organized to heighten the kids’ sense of responsibility for one another. Each lunch period contains a couple of upper grade classes and a few lower grade classes. The children sit family style with 10 students representing each grade at each table. All the kids have a chore upon entering the lunch room. The older kids set-up the chairs at each table and get the lunches for the younger children. The younger kids put the milk trays, napkins, and fruit on the table. When everything is set-up and all the kids are seated at their tables, they sing a song about how thankful they are for the day, their friends, their school, their families, the Earth, being able to share this food—oh my god, my colleague Lisa and I were in tears it was so amazing! Asian, black, white, Latino children working together and singing about being thankful!—And we know this would be the perfect place for our seniors to feel respected and productive as we try to plan programs in partnership with FACTS Charter School and the Asian Mental Health Program at Hall Mercer MH/MR Center in Philadelphia which would enable the seniors and youth to interact and learn from each other in rewarding ways. Our dream is to have a collaborative oral history project with the seniors and youth that would culminate in a self-created book.

The problem is, however, that although we received the grant money we applied for, it really only covers the start-up. In order to provide a quality program and the kind of support both FACTS and the Asian Mental Health Program need to help us create and establish an intergenerational program for the benefit of the seniors and children, we are going to need more money or the program will have to be shut down or staff lost. Many of our programs face similar financial strains. SEAMAAC has started a donor campaign, and we’re hoping that concerned folks would be interested in donating even a small amount of money which could help us in a myriad number of way. So my special request is that some of you please consider donating some money to our organization—even if only $10 or $20—to help us buy supplies for our programs or even support some outreach staff. I know it’s the holidays and people are strapped for money, but you would be helping to support so many people in need who make up our clientele. If you have any questions about any of the other programs and services we provide to the community, please do not hesitate to email me and ask.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you are interested, send me an email at with your name and address (please do not try to donate through SEAMAAC's website--it has to be updated). Our Executive Assistant, Kao Kue, will send you a letter in the mail and a donation envelope, and you would mail in your donation. All donations are tax deductible and, of course, your name and address would be kept private.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope you will check out the Anti-Racist Parent blog and consider donating to SEAMAAC and supporting our very important work.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

William Paterson University

On November 17, we performed at William Paterson University in Wayne, New JOIZEE!!! (sorry--it's the Jersey girl in me). We don't really have any funny stories to tell about the trip or the show (unless you want to count the fender-bender I caused on the way up). Most of all, we'd like to thank Adriana, Tony, and Melissa (pictured from right to left with us above--sorry Melissa, I only had this pic with your eyes closed) who made the show possible. This post will mostly be pics with people whose names we didn't get.

Here's a picture of the space we performed in:

That's Catzie writing her poems before the show (her usual). Don't the balloons look pretty? I took a bunch of them home for my kids who played with them all day. My youngest daughter would lay on the floor and pull the ribbon until the balloon came down to her, then she'd let it go and do it again. I swear she did that for at least an hour straight. Anyway, I got some audience shots too:

Don't they look happy to be there? More people arrived for the show:

It was funny b/c the audience was, like, right in front of us--I mean we could go up to them and touch them if we wanted while we performed. I swear-to-God I was tempted to put my finger on somebody's forehead like New York did to Crazy in Flavor of Love. Anyway, during the show, I tried to take pictures of Catzie while she performed. We didn't have any stands for the mics, so we were forced to use a podium. Catzie looks so professorial here:

You would think that when I'm performing, Catzie would take pictures of me, too, right? Nooo, she's taking pictures of her finger:

Or she's goofing around with the camera and taking pictures of herself while I'm doing a poem:

Mind you, I'm doing a poem while she's taking this picture, so nobody is paying attention to me at all. When Catzie does take my picture, it's of my big ol' bubble butt:

Anyway, the students at WPU took better pictures after the show. This first guy was funny b/c in this first picture, he's stooped down to be on our level:

But then he figured that if the photo got posted, he didn't want people (the ladies?) thinking he was short. So here's he is at his normal height:

Sorry--we didn't get his name. We took some pictures with some of the young ladies too. We didn't get anyone's name here either.

I hate to disappoint folks, but I don't do the posing thing well. Here some folks whose names we did manage to get: Stefan and Oscar:

After our performance, the Indian students put on a fashion show. Yep, we have a picture with them:

Don't they all look so nice. OK, my kids are going crazy right now, so I have to make the rest of this quick: in another picture we took with Adriana and Melissa (eyes open this time) was Adriana's friend Milton who I want to give a shout to b/c he's from South Jersey, knew where Penns Grove was without me telling him, and also knew this guy my husband played b-ball with in college.

Finally, big ups to DJ Shy who let us use his wireless mics during the show--not to mention he killed it with the music:

OK, my kids are in meltdown mode right now--will post again soon.