Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thanks for a decade.

Recently Bao Phi, a fellow poet and friend of ours from Minneapoli, was asked by the Star Tribune to post on the blog he writes for them to write about a day that defined his decade. He decided that day would be the 2001 APIA Summit. Of course the Summit didn't happen over a day (3 days actually), but it was nonetheless a monumental moment in APIA history as well as a very important moment for Michelle and I. Like Bao and many of our fellow spoken word colleagues, we had just started our art as poets who would also use our words in our own way to bring light to social issues that needed to be heard. We had begun our journeys alone, thinking we were the few who were saying what we were saying. Until that fateful day. On a late summer day in the foggy city if Seattle we found that there was a much larger group, of artists, activists and Asian Americans just like us. And over that weekend we shared out poetry, our stories, our backgrounds and had become family. There were many Summits after that but nothing was like the very first one. Michelle and I would go on to to see many of those faces again through other poetry events remembering and reminiscing about our memories, and soon becoming our everyday friends. Some people we never saw again, but we hold them dear to our hearts for installing in us what it meant to be connected to a larger movement. Bao's article included the above picture of all of us together (Michelle is sitting front and center in the red shirt and I'm right next to her) in Seattle and can be seen here.

Soon after this our other friend Giles Li from Boston (who was also at the 2001 Summit) posted on his FB the top 12 Poems of the decade. Our "Listen Asshole" came in first (or last depending how you look at it, but I'm going by the fact that he posted this at the beginning). Here's what he had to say:

"12. “Listen Asshole” – Yellow Rage (2000) It feels like a lifetime ago. When I first moved to DC right after college, I knew close to nobody – and I had no aspirations to take on spoken word as anything more than just something I did at bars every now and then, since I lived right off Black Broadway and there was no shortage of open mics a couple blocks from my apartment. But pretty soon I found myself part of a duo called re: verse, and we were one of three main API spoken word groups out that way. The other two were Feedback (who I’ll talk about later) from New York and Yellow Rage from Philly. I don’t really know how we all connected, but folks from all three cities met up in 215 to do a little East Coast retreat and this was the first time I hear them do this ridiculous piece. It was like, yo, who’s gonna stop us now?

Favorite Line: I’m gonna fight with alla my might against motherfuckers who think I’m a white…girl. Watch my finger unfurrrrl…"

When I read that, I almost couldn't believe that at one point we were just regular people (well we still are) who never had any intentions of doing this poetry thing for the rest of our lives let alone for 10 years. For us it was just another form of expression and the friendships we made along the way were bonuses. But you know, listening another poet perform their piece just reminds you all over again why it's so important to share our experiences and there's nothing like hearing yourself in another person's writing and getting the tingles. We are so glad that many of these inspiring peole are also our friends. Giles also went on to dedicate spots to fellow poet friends Kelly Tsai, Taiyo Na, Ed Bok Lee, Ishle Yi, Malaya "Tim" Arevalo, Beau Sia, Bao Phi and many others. He has also posted this on his blog as well which you can see here.

Lastly I could not thank other poets for their contributions, whatever they may be, to Yellow Rage's creation, without of course thanking Michelle for first if thinking of becoming a group and asking me to be in it. Who would've known that partaking in that workshop in 2000 and writing one poem together would ever turn out to be one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Who would've known the aftermath of Spoken Word Poetry and it's ripple effect on everyone else. I thank you for being on this journey with me, for sharing your knowledge, your life, your love and for always inspiring me and keeping me on my toes creatively. I could not have asked to have a better poetry partner in life. Thank you Michelle.

May your 2010 be blessed with many happy fulfilling moments.

-- Catzie

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Making Peace with Santa: Repost

Hello Beautiful Peoples,

I had a little tiff with my son earlier this evening about whether or not the "real" Santa really came to visit him at school today, and it made me think of this post I wrote two (!) years ago. I surrendered the battle :) OMG, how time flies . . . I hope you enjoy the repost.

Many blessings to all of you and your loved ones this holiday season.

Peace & Love,

Making Peace with Santa

Since my oldest daughter Myong has been old enough to understand and latch onto the fantasy of Christmas, I have waged war against Santa Claus. A progressive and pro-“of color” Mommy, I regarded Santa as Family Enemy #1, for he was a suspiciously jolly and costumed white man who appeared to pilfer parents of the gratitude, love, and adoration we rightfully deserved from our over-indulged, toy-crazed children. My Mommy reconnaissance missions indicated that Santa was ever-present in my daughter’s life—from preschool to television to lawn decorations—and needed to be taken out immediately. Having sized up Santa as a formidable adversary, I knew my offensive had to be swift, brutal, and indisputable—but at the same time could not appear calculated or hateful. I had to wait for a moment in which Santa was offered to me voluntarily and completely vulnerable. That moment came when, one day, my daughter asked me how Santa was going to leave presents in our house since we didn’t have a chimney. “Santa doesn’t exist,” I told Myong in a disapproving tone intended to extinguish the glint of Santa-allure in her toddler’s eyes. “Why would some old, fat white man in a red suit come visit us? Besides, you do not take gifts from strangers—all the presents you get on Christmas are from people who love you—be sure to thank them.” Ha! I gloated at how easily Santa had fallen—make-believe, white man, stranger danger, family guilt—Santa never stood a chance.

Or so I thought. Santa culture in this country is amazingly strong, and the children who are non-believers often endure rigorous proselytizing campaigns made by believers and their agents. One year at school, Myong found herself forced to make clay Santa ornaments. Unsure what to do and fearful that I would mortally wound her art project with my “Santa Buster” bazooka and bury its shattered bits under the remains of the Easter Bunny still rotting away in an undisclosed place in our home, she decided that her best course of action would be to combat me head-on and force me to accept Santa by my own terms. I was caught off-guard when she came home from school and presented me with a brown-faced Santa ornament with her name etched on the back. “Can we put it on the tree, Mommy? I know there’s no such thing as Santa, but I painted him brown like me—and I made it for you.” Left defenseless by her cunning reverse tactics and strategic puppy-dog-eyes appeal, I grudgingly admitted defeat and hung that brown-faced Santa ornament on our tree. And noticing Myong’s glowing face as she lovingly regarded the art project which bore her name dangling amidst the soft lights of our Christmas tree, I wondered what my war against Santa was good for.

Though I intermittently fought lesser battles against Santa over the years, I didn’t anticipate that his ultimate defeat would come through the hands and words of my daughter herself. There is nothing more powerful in destroying childhood fantasies than the derisive and judgmental laughter of older children. To some extent, my own war against Santa spared Myong from experiencing the confusion and hurt caused by the piercing words of older kids exclaiming to her, “You still believe in Santa?! There’s no such thing as Santa, you big baby!” This she already knew. But what sadness for me to discover a few weeks ago that my now ten-year-old daughter was telling 2nd and 3rd graders in the afterschool program she attends that Santa doesn’t exist. As the woman who supervises the program pulled me aside with all the airs and indicators of needing to have “the talk” with me about something Myong did, I knew already what she was going to tell me. And with her account of my daughter and her friends’ assault against Santa and how the little ones had cried over his figuratively slain body, I found myself mourning as well—mourning that my daughter truly wasn’t my little baby-girl anymore who wanted so much to believe in Christmas magic and Santa.

With my son and youngest daughter now entering those wonder years of childhood in which monsters live in closets and reindeer really do fly, I have been trying to declare a truce with Santa. When my son asked me a couple of days ago if we could bake cookies for Santa, I said “OK” and began planning how I could make baking cookies with my kids a cherished childhood memory for them. When my husband asked Victor why he thought Santa would want cookies and what if Santa needed to use the bathroom instead, Victor said Santa could come in and do whatever he wanted “as long as he takes his shoes off first.” When I tuck my youngest daughter Vanessa into bed every night and ask her what three songs she wants me to sing before she goes to sleep and she asks for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Up on the Housetop,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus,” I sing them and treasure her gleeful smiles, her sparkling eyes. And when Myong and I found an abandoned Santa ornament in a shopping cart before we did some holiday shopping over the past weekend, I asked her if it mattered that he was a white Santa. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “No.” After I rescued that white Santa from his cart, cleaned him off with a baby wipe, and took him home, Myong hung him on our Christmas tree under the brown-faced Santa bearing her name. Peace, Santa.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

DC Show Canceled--Snow Storm!

Hey all,

In case you hadn't already figured, the SULU DC show has been canceled for tonight due to the snow storm. Please be safe and warm this weekend if you're on the East Coast.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Family Style in today's INQUIRER!!!

Check us out:

Posted on Fri, Dec. 18, 2009

Come one, come all
The Asian Arts Initiative welcomes people of every race to perform.

By Natalie Pompilio

For The Inquirer

The young woman with the bobbed, blond-streaked black hair took a deep breath as she adjusted the microphone, then unleashed a rhythmic rant intended to inspire and provoke:

"This is for the sisters who violently scrub off pigments of their skin

"Actively extracting scraps of 'other' just to fit in

"Scabs from battles we never win. . . ."

The open-mike night's theme on this November night was "Bringing Down the Beast: Struggle and Resistance." One by one, the evening's 10 presenters stood in front of the crowd of about 40 people in the Asian Arts Initiative's Chinatown North headquarters. Then, they unleashed their words.

Besides a Filipino woman who encouraged her fellow non-whites to accept their uniqueness, there was a Hmong woman who sang and performed one of her grandmother's songs; an African American man who repeated: "Black. It's not just beautiful. It's bold." A white man. A Latina. All performed.

"We want to encourage new voices and bring new voices to our community," said Gayle Isa, the Initiative's executive director. "By picking a theme, in addition to there being artistic development, this can be a forum about different community issues and concerns."

Today brings the third installment of the Initiative's "Family Style" open-mike nights. The event is being held at the nonprofit's headquarters at 1219 Vine St. Admission is on a sliding scale from $5 to $10.

"Family Style" is both a reference to family-style meals served in some Asian and other ethnic communities and the fact that the event is family-friendly and open to extended "family" from non-Asian backgrounds. This month's theme, which can be loosely adhered to by participants, is "Hapa Happy: Celebrating All That Is Mixed and Multi." Hapa is a Hawaiian term used to describe someone of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.

"It's almost like an artist exchange," said Catzie Vilayphonh, who cohosts the shows with partner Michelle Myers. "It's also a safe place for emerging artists, where people can make mistakes halfway through and the audience will say, 'No, keep going.' "

The Asian Arts Initiative began in 1993 as a collaboration with the Painted Bride Art Center. The initial goal was to respond to possible racial tensions in the wake of the Los Angeles riots in 1992 following the "not guilty" verdict for three police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King.

But the Initiative grew into an arts center offering performances, exhibitions and artist training as well as a community center that welcomes all races. The expansion of the Convention Center forced the organization to move from 13th and Cherry Streets to its current home last year.

The move to Chinatown North has been a good one, Isa said. The Initiative has twice as much space, including dedicated gallery and performance space, and plans to further develop a multi-tenant arts facility.

And perhaps, participants said, now is a good time for the Asian Arts Initiative to expand its presence: Earlier this month, Asian students in a South Philadelphia high school were reportedly harassed and beaten because of their race.

"People of different racial backgrounds can come together and share a creative space and build cross-culture relationships that can counter these daily experiences," Isa said of her organization's events.

The Initiative's events are open to anyone. Past performers range from students stepping in front of an audience for the first time in years to veterans who travel the open-mike circuit between New York and Washington. Besides the poetry often associated with such events, "Family Style" also welcomes songs and any other type of audio or visual performance that can be completed in about five minutes.

Show cohost Myers opened the November open-mike night, and her performance was one of the most memorable. She performed a poem she wrote about the 1982 killing of Vincent Chin. Chin, a Chinese American man, was beaten to death outside Detroit by two men angry that American autoworkers were losing jobs. The men blamed Japan for many of their woes and they assumed Chin was Japanese.

The night of the fatal beating was to have been a celebration of Chin's forthcoming wedding. When his mother tried to discourage him from going out with the boys, he promised her it was going to be the "last time" he did such a thing. She scolded that to say "last time" was bad luck. Her son went out anyway.

Myers' poem ended by echoing Chin's mother's last words to her son:

"Don't say, 'Last Time.'

"Say, 'I will always remember you.'

"Say, 'I will always fight for you.'

"Say, 'I will always, always love you.' "

If You Go

"Family Style," the Asian Arts Initiative's monthly open-mike night, 7:30 tonight at 1219 Vine St. This month's theme is "Hapa Happy: Celebrating All That Is Mixed and Multi." Anyone who wants to perform can e-mail michelle@yellowrage.

com or sign up 30 minutes before showtime. The show also will feature slam poet Thaddeus Rutkowski and a showing of Anomaly, a film by Jessica Chen Drammeh. Admission: $5 to $10. Information: 215- 557-0455,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

End-of-the-Year Updates and Shows!

Hey-lo, lovely peoples--

OMG, there are sooo many updates! I can't even begin to get all yall caught up. This past weekend was crazy busy for me, and this one will be even crazier. Here're some important bits:

Me and my poetry fam, On Point, Ink, had a great time kickin' it in Bmore last Fri night, 12/11, with The 5th L. We met some other amazing artists, too, like WORDwide, sahffi, and mOsno. Oh, yeah, and I finally got to meet Chuck the Madd Ox who was spinnin' on the 1's & 2's. My friend Jenny, reppin' SULU DC but who hails from MD, also came out to support and bless the mic.

Thanks to The Dri Fish and Native Son of The 5th L for hosting us.

Saturday, I went to hang out with a couple of elders, Mr. Chan Kung and Mr. Lee, at a Filipino holiday party my friend Lisa helped to organize as part of the Philippine Folk Arts Society, Inc., of Philadelphia. I made a parol, a traditional Filipino holiday star lantern, and had lunch with the elders. It was so much fun.

Sunday, I was invited to come out to Center City and speak/perform at a rally to support the approximately 30 Asian American students who have been boycotting classes since last week in protest of the administrators' and school district's negligence in addressing the rising incidents of assaults that they have been experiencing since the start of the school year and which put many of them in the hospital. I will try to keep updates current on the blog, but for all the latest news on this, please check-in at Asian Americans United's website:

This weekend is HUGE as far as performances. It all starts with Family Style, Fri night, 12/18:

FAMILY STYLE, Friday, 12/18/09, 7:30pm

Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine Street
Philly, PA
$5-10 sliding scale admission

Hosted by YELLOW RAGE (Michelle Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh), FAMILY STYLE is a new family-friendly, positive space that honors Asian American artists and extended "family" from all communities and cultures.

If you have a piece you want to share, contact or come at least 30 minutes before showtime to sign up!

December's open mic features slam poet THADDEUS RUTKOWSKI as well as ANOMALY, a film by JESSICA CHEN DRAMMEH, and the theme "HAPA HAPPY: Celebrating All That Is Mixed and Multi."

THADDEUS RUTKOWSKI was born and raised in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the novels Tetched and Roughhouse. Both books were finalists for an Asian American Literary Award. His third novel, Haywire, is forthcoming from Starcherone Books.

He is the fiction and nonfiction editor of the literary journal Many Mountains Moving. He teaches fiction writing at the Writer's Voice of the West Side YMCA in New York. He is a two-time winner of the Poetry Versus Comedy slam at the Bowery Poetry Club and a one-time winner of the Syracuse poetry slam and the Nuyorican Poets Café Friday slam. He has been a featured reader in Berlin, Budapest, Hong Kong, Paris and London, as well as in a number of U.S. cities.

ANOMALY features Michelle Myers of Yellow Rage, Gabriella Callender of Mahina Movement, spoken word artist/musician Pete Shungu, poet Thaddeus Rutkowski (Roughhouse, Tetched), community organizers, and academic experts. Interweaving the personal stories of the ensemble cast with performance, expert interviews, and historical context, ANOMALY is an insider's look at multiracial identity in a changing world.

For more information and video clips, visit

JESSICA CHEN DRAMMEH earned a B.F.A. in Film and Television Production from New York University. Her short film, Jimi's Blues, was awarded a Warner Brothers Post-Production Grant and screened at festivals nationwide and on television. She is the director and producer of ANOMALY, a documentary eight years in the making.

Jessica has been a guest lecturer, panelist, moderator, and organizer for dozens of discussions about multiethnic issues at colleges, universities, and community settings nationwide. She is eager to build a body of work telling the stories of multiracial people and communities of color.

Barack Obama's presidency highlights the continued struggles around U.S. race issues. ANOMALY provides a thought-provoking look at multiracial identity by combining personal narratives with the larger drama of mixed race in American culture.

SULU DC, Saturday, 12/19/09, 7pm

Yup, we're the feature--special thanks to our good friends Regie Cabico and Jenny Lares.

The Fridge
Rear Alley, 516 8th Street SE
Washington DC
$10 General Admission
$8 Students

SULU SERIES NYC, Sunday, 12/20, 8pm

Yeah, thas right--another Hapa-themed night! Us Hapas are extra-happy this Dec for some strange reason. Come be happy with us if you can. And Lo-and-behold, I'm a feature :)

Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery St.
$8 General Admissiom
$5 Students

Special thanks to my friend Koba for inviting me up.

OK, beautiful peoples, have a wonderful day--hope to see you this weekend.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bmore, Friday, 12/11, 8:30pm

Hello beautiful peoples,

Me and my poetry fam will be rocking the mic in Bmore this Friday night. Please come if you can!

Special thanks to Femi aka The Dri Fish of The 5th L for putting together this show.


Friday, December 11--

The 14 Karat Cabaret
218 W. Saratoga Street
Baltimore, MD

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

West Chester University--TONIGHT!!! Tues, 12/8

Ok, I know, I know--I'm more than hella late. I'm like "fuhget 'bout it" late. *big sigh* I'm trying yall. I really am . . . the time just gets away from me somehow.

Anyway, we're at West Chester University tonight. Come check us out if you can.

Philips Memorial Hall
West Chester University, PA


Sponsored by Asian Student Association

Special thanks to Jeffrey Lee, Creative Writing Professor, for making this happen.

Much love,

PS--A heads up: I'm performing in Bmore this Friday night along with my poetry fam, On Point, Ink. Will put details up tomorrow--I promise!