Together, Michelle and Catzie are a dynamic duo of Philly-based Asian American female spoken word poets. Through their voices, Catzie and Michelle hope to provide an awareness that is not often heard. Exploring topics from fetishes to cultural appropriation to ethnic pride, Yellow Rage challenges mainstream misconceptions of Asianness.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
UP IN ARMS: A BENEFIT CONCERT FOR FONG LEE'S FAMILY, 10/3
I have written about the Fong Lee case in previous posts from earlier this summer--this Sat I have the honor of performing in a benefit concert to help raise money for Fong Lee's family as they prepare continue with their case against the Minneapolis police force. Special thanks to my friend Bao Phi, one of a group of wonderful folks organizing this event. I'm posting the announcement that he has sent out about the event b/c I couldn't say any of it any better.
I am also posting my public statement on the case below.
Peace & Blessings, Michelle
PS--If you can't make the show but would like to contribute, please make checks payable to "Fong Lee Memorial Trust" and mail to Bao at the address at the end of this post.
Because of the myth of the "Model Minority," APIA people are constantly being told that we don't have it so bad--that we come to this country and prosper, sometimes at the expense of other people of color. But what fails to be known or acknowledged is that most APIA people can speak to a history and experience of unimaginable oppression--we come from countries where we and/or our parents and grandparents have witnessed and suffered through war, brutality, starvation, death, rape, genocide. Families have risked everything to come to the United States, chasing the American Dream and the promise of a better life. The tragedy is that when we get here, it's like we exchanged one form of oppression for another, from poverty to prejudice to violence. Our people still suffer, and the injustice is that we're told to "Shut up and deal" because we supposedly have it so good and because the perception is that we are perpetual foreigners who can never be fully American. The Fong Lee case joins a list of others such as Mike Cho, Kuan Chung Kao, Cao Tran,Marlo Custodio, and Karen Chen, where police brutalized and, in many of these instances, killed Asian Americans, only to be exonerated and congratulated on a job well done. Time again, police are continually held above the law while racism and violence cast a shadow over the badge which supposedly symbolizes their vows to serve and protect. In refusing to fall under that shadow, APIA's must continue to speak up and unite with other communities of color to combat police corruption and brutality. And we must remember: The time to resist is always now.
I know, I know - I'm always writing about must-see shows. Well, before you hit delete, I hope you humor me a bit with this one. Even if you're not in Minnesota and you can't attend, please consider reading and passing this along, posting it, spreading the word. The family of Fong Lee was offered millions of dollars to stay quiet, and they turned it down because they wanted truth and justice for their slain son, and because even if they collected that payday, the man who killed their son would still be out on the streets.
For those of you who don't know about the case, details are below. The officer was recently fired from the police force, months after the courts ruled in favor of the police, and as the family moves to push the case further. The police department is refusing to release the details of why the officer was fired, as he was also recently acquitted in a domestic assault case. So, I tell you this in case you heard the officer was fired and think that the struggle is over for the family/community. It is not.
Regarding this show, a group of us have been working hard to organize it. And the artists involved are all donating their performances to be here. This is no small thing. None of them are rich, and some of them are traveling long distances away from their homes, jobs, kids and families in order to be here, for no money. All because they believe this is an important issue. All proceeds go to the family of Fong Lee.
And of course, this event is powerful because it attempts to represent Asian Americans standing up for fellow Asian Americans, while also building alliances across different communities that have also suffered from police brutality.
The amount of talented people performing is truly breathtaking. And the generosity of the artists is inspiring. There have been several artists who have offered to step down in order to make room for more artists and more inclusiveness.
Please come support, and help us spread the word.
Up In Arms: A Night of Hip Hop and Spoken Word to Honor Fong Lee and End Police Brutality
Date: Saturday, October 3, 2009 Show starts 8:00pm (doors open 7:30pm)
Suggested Donation: $5-$10 (all proceeds will to go to the family of Fong Lee to assist with attorney's fees)
Up In Arms: A Night of Hip Hop and Spoken Word to Honor Fong Lee and End Police Brutality seeks to raise awareness and support of Fong Lee's case while also uniting and activating communities around the issue of police brutality.
In July 2006, un-armed Fong Lee was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in front of a north Minneapolis elementary school. Last May, an all-white federal jury exonerated officer Jason Anderson of using "excessive force" on the teenager who was shot eight times in the back. Allegations that a gun was planted near Lee's body were ruled irrelevant to the case. (For more information about the trial http://www.hmongtoday.com/page11504436.aspx and http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/05/28/fonglee_verdict/ The Lee family's quest for truth does not end with the ruling given in May, and the family has continued the long path towards legal justice.
The evening will be emceed by Tou Ger Xiong and Amy Hang. DJ Nak will be on the one's and two's with performances by Magnetic North (from New York City), Nomi of Power Struggle (from the Bay Area), Michelle Myers of Yellow Rage (from Philadelphia), Maria Isa, Blackbird Elements, Guante, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, e.g. Bailey, Tou Saiko Lee with PosNoSys, True Mutiny, Shá Cage, Kevin Xiong with Pada Lor, Tish Jones, MaiPaCher, Logan Moua, Bobby Wilson, Poetic Assassins, Hilltribe, and special guests.
This event is sponsored by: Speak!, Lealtad-Suzuki Center, Asian Student Alliance, Ua Ke, DJ Club, History Department, Coalition for Community Relations, The Loft Literary Center, Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, Shades of Yellow,Take Action Minnesota, Communities United Against Police Brutality, and Minnesota Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.
For more information please visit Coalition for Community Relations on Facebook or contact Tou Ger Xiong @ 651-738-0141 or Jose Luís @ 612-986-0832.
Thien-bao Thuc Phi Associate Program Director Spoken Word and Community Collaborations The Loft 1011 Washington Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55415 612-215-2585 email@example.com www.loft.org
Um, yeah, yall, here I am with my late ass AGAIN. But I had promised way back when that I would get pics and some info up about this event and so here it is.
Back in April, I was contacted by Senator Zavala who is one of the founders of a new political advocacy organization committed to grass-roots community-organizing called Truejustice. He was interested in having Yellow Rage come down to Austin to protest the Voter ID Bill that was before the Texas legislature. If accepted, the Voter ID bill would have required registered voters to have several forms of identification in order to be able to vote at the polls. The concern was that the bill would adversely affect voter turn-out for the poor, elderly, and immigrants who might not have access to certain documents or wouldn't update their ID cards and would intimidate them from coming out to the polls. Senator also wanted to protest Rep. Betty Brown's racist remarks against Asians, in which she suggested that they/we change our names to something--I'm paraphrasing--that's easier for poll workers to deal with.
Catzie was still recovering from giving birth, so I decided to go down to Austin solo b/c I felt these were extremely important issues, and I was happy for the opportunity to sound my voice about it in-the-thick-of-it-all. B/c I am a trouble-maker, after all :-)
So May 5 I flew down to Austin and was met at the airport (I arrived very very late) by Senator and Sheila who along with Senator is the co-founder of Truejustice (and another spunky Korean hapa sister! We're everywhere, yo! :-P). They had me stay in their apartment while they stayed at the new house they were moving into. While at their apt, I had a chance to become tentative friends with their cat, whose name is Kitty:
Yeah, she really wasn't so friendly, but I completely understand her protecting her territory. Around noon on the 6th, Senator and Sheila picked me up and we headed to the Capitol Bdg:
Did I mention it was a friggin sweltering hot and humid day? Like, no lie, the sweat was pouring--it was rather yucky. Anyway, after trudging down the middle of Austin, we make our approach to the Capitol. And here's some pics of us in front of it. First Sheila and Senator:
Then me and Sheila:
So that's the front of the Capitol. The back of the building was where it was all supposed to go down. Here's the view of the top of the back of the building:
So we passed through the Capitol and unsuspecting tourists, and began to set-up out back.
And, behold, people started to show up for the rally. Who woulda thunk it?
Alas, the mic was hand-held, so some quick thinking and resourcefulness were needed b/c, as I explained to Sheila and Senator, folks would not get the full force of all that is Yellow Rage (even if I'm only half of) if I can't perform with the mic on a stand. Lookee, duct tape! Thank goodness for good ol' duct tape:
Senator and Sheila really wanted this event to be something they could publicize and use to promote future Truejustice events and rallies, and I'm all for helping out grass-roots community organizers, so this particular rally was going to be filmed. Senator called in a friend of his who is a filmmaker and she put together a small camera crew to document the event. They had to have been some of the coolest people I have ever met. Jessica, Candice, and Nariman--who was sooo FUNNY, OMG, he just kept making me laugh the whole afternoon--were consummate professionals. And they work for the TV show CHEATERS--that's pretty cool too! Here they are doing a mock interview with Sheila:
As the time approached for the rally, a pretty good crowd had gathered.
And it was finally time to get this baby rolling. First, there's the camera take, Senator gives some info and then I'm up. Here's some pix (Sheila took lots of pix of me performing, so I'm putting up several from different vantage points so you can get a sense of the crowd, the camera crew and random people walking through):
OK, so, of course, you know that I get pretty . . . energetic when I perform. And even when I have a mic, I'm at the top of my lungs. And I don't believe in censorship, so I'm emphatically cussing up a storm. My set was about 15-20 mins. Well, some folks didn't like it. Someone told me later that a white family came out, stopped on the steps of the Capitol, covered their children's ears and ran back inside. Lawd, I am such a corrupting influence, aren't I? Well, before long, the Texas Rangers came out to find out what I'm hollering about:
It was sooo funny cuz none of the cops came to talk to me directly--they were looking for the "man" in charge it seems. LOL--Some man had to claim responsibility for me, I guess. God, it was hilarious! You have no idea how tickled I was that they were making such a fuss over lil ol' me! It really gets better b/c they kept coming, more and more of them. And they accused me of trying to incite a riot b/c of all my cussing. And they kept asking Senator what I was saying, and he kept telling them, "I don't recall."
Look, some of my Asian peoples came out to see what the ruckus was about. I just kept thinking, "OMG, my peoples didn't blow the whistle on me, did they? Not my peoples--Say it ain't so!"
Look how serious these cops are! they actually left, and then CAME BACK to talk to Senator some more. And then David aka Dee Rail (an MC hailing from I don't really know where--he's monitoring the speaker in some of the earlier photos--who was such a gentleman to me all afternoon) said to the cops, "She wasn't trying to incite a riot; she actually was trying to promote peace," or something like that. And these men are all talking about me, and I'm just laughing and taking pictures and saying, "Are they gonna arrest me or what?" Then one of the cops saw me taking pictures and came over to me and told me, "We don't take pictures." And I said, "What do you mean you don't take pictures? When you wear that uniform, you're a public servant, right? And this is a tourist spot, right? And you get your pictures taken by tourists all the time, right? So don't tell me I can't take pictures b/c we're in public." And then he got pissed and said in that "I'm warning you" voice, "Ma'am, I said we don't take pictures." And I was like, "This IS America, right? As an American citizen, I'm protected under the Constitution through the 1st Amendment to practice freedom of speech and peaceably assemble, right?" And I turned to a Chicano brother standing next to me and asked him, "We ARE in America, right? I mean, Texas is in America, right?" And he was like, "It sure is." And the cop walked away b/c he was getting pissed, but I didn't give a shit. See, this is how I deal with cops: I don't directly challenge them. I do it passive-aggressive by putting my point in the form of a question. They HATE that shit, especially from a woman. And this cop couldn't do anything to me, much as he wanted to. So he had to walk away. And I kept taking pictures, and asking, "Are they gonna arrest me or what?"
Oh!--here's Senator and Dee Rail talking to the cops together:
Finally, the cops regained their senses and decided that it would be foolish of them to do anything to me or to Senator for the event--but they did pretty much say that I'd better be done and to never come back :-) I just make all sorts of friends wherever I go, don't I? And cops make the best friends ever . . .
We wrapped up the event with a group picture. Then as we were leaving, I had to get a shot of the huge monument outside the Capitol commemorating the Confederate dead--a sober reminder that this is Texas and the American South with all its racist legacy right at the surface.
Special thanks to Senator and Sheila for giving me an opportunity to come out and protest such an important issue not only for APIA's but for all under-privileged American citizens of varying backgrounds whose right to vote and participate in the American democratic process is constantly and slowly being corroded by corrupt, elitist, racist politicians. Thanks also to the folks who attended the rally and supported, especially Clarissa who told me my poetry was beautiful. Thank you to the AMAZING camera crew for their work at the rally and for the wonderful videos: Candice Payne, Jessica Quazi, and Nariman Jafari (who made me warm up by reciting "Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear" and later sang a country music song he composed about sheep and scapegoats. I so appreciated your sense of humor). Much gratitude and appreciation also to the guys who came to my "rescue" (though I don't need rescuing, dammit! :-P): Senator and David aka Dee Rail. Seriously though, thank you guys for having my back. Finally, big ups to the Texas Rangers at the Capitol Building in Austin for being the best thing that happened to me all spring.
I leave you all with a video of Nariman and Dee Rail beat-boxin' at the close of the rally.
Catzie and I kick off the fall season with a performance at the Free Library on Vine St in Philly on Tues, September 15. Would love to see you there. More details below.
PS--I broke my foot during martial arts training last week. Come out and see if I can perform on crutches! It could be quite a spectacle. :-)
For Immediate Release:
The Light of Unity Association is once again bridging cultural, racial and regional backgrounds to bring In Celebration of Women to the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia, PA. This free event, scheduled for Tuesday, September 15, 2009 from 6:30 – 9:00 PM, showcases arts ranging from poets, spoken word artists and fiction writers to essayists, in order to promote social and cultural unity in the city of Philadelphia and beyond.
The Light of Unity Artist’s and Writer’s Series 2009 has been running since May 5, 2009 at The Free Library of Philadelphia and has had many distinguished guests. This performance will include some notable performers; Yellow Rage, Eileen D' Angelo, Nzadi Keita, Mecca Jamillah Sullivan, Tarannum Laila, Deborah Derrickson Kossman, Joanne Leva, Stephanie Durann, Octavia McBride, and Geraldine Drakes.
For more information, please contact Light of Unity Association Director, Tamara G. Oakman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (267)975-0445 or visit out website www.myspace.com/light_of_unity.
In Celebration of Women Tuesday, September 15, 2009 6:30 – 9:00 PM Free Admission – Open to Public
Parkway Central Library (Center City) Skyline Room, 4th floor 1901 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19103 Library has parking access.