March 3, 2015

Out of Control Anger

Officer Rafael Ramos (left) and Wenjian Liu (right) were killed on Saturday in an ambush by a gunman in a Brooklyn neighborhood.

Endless political hate speech ensues. Let’s hope it’s dampened now that more died. All the causes are facing opposite directions compounding out-of-control anger.

Conservatives focus on the fact that both men died while resisting arrest & are responsible for their own demise, the risk to law enforcement by such folks, that blacks are the majority of violent criminals & thus risks to their & others’ well-being as well as an orderly peaceful society.

Liberals focus on how both criminals were victims of excessive law enforcement force, racial profiling and discrimination, blacks in the context of historical misdeeds, and decriminalization of “small” offenses.

Blacks focus on not being represented by 2 petty criminals, being generally hard-working law-abiding citizens, victims of persistent society-wide biases, how the system is gamed against them, and how disrespected they feel at all times.

Anarchists focus on hijacking the cause, openly calling for the execution of police, lionizing anarchistic assassins (including o called “civic” “leaders” advocating killing cops), and turning demonstrations into excuses for violence.

AAPIs focus on not being hijacked then overwritten for another’s cause, emphasizing safe communities (not anarchies), and educating each other about AAPI cases of police brutality.

Some are not for justice, they’re for hell on earth. Where are the sensible people? The overheated (hopelessly full of emotion) inane (excessively idiotic) discussion avoids the rational, intelligent & productive debate which a such thorny, ingrained controversy requires. Hope no more die in these so-called causes.

NYC, Jan 22: Franklin Odo Speech about Japanese immigrants

Editor’s Note: The below is from our friends at NYU APA Studies.

The Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU presents

Voices from the Canefields: FRANKLIN ODO

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A/P/A Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews

RSVP to A/P/A by Monday, January 20

Yuko ka Meriken yō
Kaero ka Nihon
Koko ga shian no
Hawai koku
Go on to America
Or return to Japan?
This is our dilemma
Here in Hawai‘i

Through the poetic lyrics of holehole bushi (Japanese folksongs), FRANKLIN ODO (Founding Director, Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Program) traces the experiences of Japanese immigrant plantation sugar workers caught in the global movements of capital, empire, and labor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From despair and defiance to love and lust, the sentiments conveyed in the lyrics of holehole bushi illustrate both the evolving local conditions and global context within which the workers, and particularly women workers, found themselves.

We celebrate the publication of Voices from the Canefields: Folksongs from Japanese Immigrant Workers in Hawai‘i with a selection of readings, song, and film.

Co-sponsored by the Japanese American Association of New York, Japanese American National Museum, and Hālāwai.

Franklin Odo retired in January 2010 as founding Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American [APA] Program. He served in that capacity since its inception in 1997. During his tenure, six major exhibitions on Asian Pacific American ethnic groups were created or hosted at the Smithsonian. He was Interim Chief of the Asian Division, Library of Congress in 2011. He has been Director of Research and Education at the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and a Senior Advisor to the International Student Conferences. He leads a “Theme Study on Asian American Pacific Islanders” for the National Historic Landmarks Project of the National Park System and is Senior Advisor to Densho.

Odo was a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawai`i and visiting professor of History and American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Hunter College, Princeton, and Columbia Universities in the 1990s. He received an MA in East Asia Regional Studies from Harvard and a PhD in Japanese history from Princeton University.

His book, No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai`i during World War II, was published by Temple University Press in 2004; he edited the Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, published by Columbia University Press in 2002. His new book of folk songs from Japanese immigrants working on Hawaii’s sugar plantations was published by Oxford University Press in October 2013. These translated lyrics depict the richness of life and work in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, especially among women workers.

Among his awards are the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies, a Distinguished Service Award from the Asian American Justice Center, Leadership Awards from the Japanese American Citizens League and the Organization of Chinese Americans. Odo was appointed Humanist in Residence at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities at Brown University in April 2013.

Living vs dead Chinatowns, gentrification & elections

AALDEF, the NYC based Asian American civil rights organization, has a new report out about the rate of gentrification in Chinatowns in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. (I guess DC was just a lost cause.) In conjunction with the discussion of this article, I want to propose the idea of “living” (these three cities, Chicago, San Francisco) versus “dead” Chinatowns (DC.) In my mind, when I walk the streets of a given Chinatown, “living” connotes active engagement and residency by the Chinese American community versus the slick, big box retail feel of Washington, DC Chinatown, which most Chinese Americans fled decades ago for Montgomery County, MD, and Fairfax, VA. The shops in DC Chinatown are adorned in bright signs with Chinese characters, but have very little daily relevance to Chinese or Chinese American culture, such as the skateboard shop, the Ann Taylor, and the Legal Seafood.

It’s a very read-worthy report, and I’ve gone on the walking tour of Boston Chinatown where you can see how highway I-93 literally cuts through the enclave, with a half-sheared building standing mute but providing powerful testimony to interesting municipal planning. The report illuminated that the AAPI population in Boston Chinatown went from 70% in 1990 to 46% in 2010. Philadelphia Chinatown has been encroached upon by developers, and was under threat from a proposed casino for a significant period. NYC Chinatown was at one point overtaking Little Italy, but now with the New Museum and the gentrification of the Bowery, is being pressed upon by towering luxury apartment buildings. Not to mention, Park Row, a residential community adjacent to South Chinatown, and nearby commercial buildings (shops and restaurants) have been under the shadow of 9/11 for 12 years, with limited access for a substantial period of time (9/11 cleanup), depressing retail sales. To this day, there are armed police stations that guard the entrance path to Park Row.

San Francisco Chinatown has managed to thrive due to a high intra-ethnicity turnover rate, and Chicago Chinatown (of which, really, there are 3 – historic Chinatown, “new” Argyle (largely Vietnamese-Chinese American) Chinatown, and “new new” Chinatown, which is across the street from historic Chinatown, and includes a number of residential properties that have lured second and third generation Chinese Americans back to the city center. (There is some small degree of this happening in other cities as well, but in my mind, Chicago has done a better job than most.)

The reason that I keep rotating back to this issue of whether Chinese Americans who have “made it” come back is because it is also a large part of why “living” Chinatowns become essentially “dead” Chinatowns. Moving out of Chinatown and to the suburbs is intrinsically seen as one of the markers of success for first, second, and third generation Chinese Americans. This is antithetical to keeping Chinatowns vibrant. This is separate from biased and discriminatory urban planning decisions hatched in concert with the stereotypically greedy developers. And it absolutely doesn’t discount folks who want to stay but get pushed out – I’m just bringing this up because it’s also a real thing.

Don’t get me wrong – DC Chinatown/Verizon Center is more bustling and lively than a decade ago, and is now an economic engine and one of the hearts of the city, but the business owners by and large do not live there. Although the DC AAPI population has risen 60% since 2000, according to the 2010 Census.

In NYC, the press of developers on the boundaries of Chinatown has caused friends who have lived, breathed, and worked in Chinatown for decades to move to Harlem, where elected officials like City Councilor Melissa Mark-Vivitero have noticed the increase of AAPIs. This follows on a previous out-migration to Queens (Flushing, Woodside, etc.), Brooklyn (where there is another Chinatown), New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, and Connecticut.

So how do we keep the living nature of Chinatowns across the country? The report proposes several solutions: reinforcing and constructing more low-income housing, subsidizing local small businesses, prioritizing green spaces, strengthening the links between satellite Asian Am enclaves in the suburbs to the Chinatown cores, and engaging in dialogue with traditional community land owners like the family associations. All of these are great, and I’m going to a step further.

What I’m fundamentally saying is that keeping Chinatown affordable and full of vitality is partially dependent upon the people in elected office. They hold hearings and have influence over city planning to varying degrees. Former At-Large Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon came out of the fight to keep one Boston Chinatown. Michelle Wu and Suzanne Lee are running for city council in Boston (different seats.) Philadelphia has yet to elect a progressive AAPI city councilmember, whereas SF has a plethora of AAPI electeds (and folks in the pipelines to run when the inevitable term limits hit.) AAAF Greater Chicago helped get Alderman Ameya Pawar, the first AAPI alderman ever in Chicago, elected in 2011. Progress is slow, but steady.

Not that AAPI candidates are necessarily going to be informed about the community’s issues, or even live in the Chinatown district. It is incumbent upon the community and those who work to keep living, breathing Chinatowns to educate candidates and elected officials, regardless of their ethnicity. Because we all need allies and champions in this effort, and sometimes people surprise you.


The Reminder of One Community’s Success

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri

Editor’s Note: We moderate all comments, including inappropriate and racist ones.

I have never watched the Miss America pageant live, so when I heard about the news of Nina Davuluri becoming the first South Asian American to win the Miss America title, it was from my Facebook mobile app the morning after. Yet, barely five minutes passed before my Facebook friends started posting news stories on the racist backlash to someone of Davuluri’s lineage attaining the title “Miss America.”

Whatever your views on the Miss America pageant, Davuluri’s success is nothing to take lightly. While the pageant has its origins since the 1920s, it was not until 1983 when the first African-American woman would wear the crown and in 2001 when the title went to a Hawaii-born Filipino woman. As groundbreaking as her accomplishment may be, the reaction on the Internet is nothing new. When Cheerios released a commercial in which a little girl adorably pours cereal all over her African-American father’s chest because her White mother said Cheerios is “heart healthy,” the company had to disable YouTube comments. When a 10-year old Latino boy (beautifully) sang the National Anthem while wearing a traditional mariachi outfit, stinging tweets speculating about the boy’s immigrant status filled the online world.

Each ethnic and underrepresented community always celebrates a victory when someone from that community achieves some success (my mother still boasts about how a National spelling bee champion is Indian, as if the child were her own). Yet, we are constantly reminded of the outsider status minorities share in this country and how no matter what the achievement, no community is immune from the vitriol of the anonymous online poster. It is a humble reminder that the advent of technology and communication modes, as well as progress in other areas, do not reflect a change in attitude of the entire American public. So while we praise Davuluri’s win and read all about it on our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, we are reminded that there are some who will simply burn up inside to see another community’s success.

– K.J. Bagchi

AAPIs running today, 9/10/13 edition

Quick rundown of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are on the ballots today (Sept 10.) Please note, these are not endorsements from AAA Fund or myself.

New York City (Polls open until 9pm)

Pollsite locator:

John Liu – running for NYC Mayor.
The current NYC Comptroller, Liu has been careful to point out that he was never a career politician. After serving 2 terms as the first AAPI NYC Councilmember, and head of the Transportation Committee, he ran for and won a citywide election for Comptroller in 2009. He’s running against a wide field of candidates including current frontrunner NYC Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former Congressman Anthony Weiner. Notable endorsements include AFSCME DC 37, Sierra Club

Reshma Saujani – running for NYC Public Advocate.
Saujani first ran for office in 2010 against incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a liberal lion. At that time, she was a Wall Street lawyer, and since then, Saujani served as Deputy Public Advocate under Bill Di Blasio and founded the nonprofit Girls Who Code. She’s running in the only citywide election that hasn’t gotten that much press (lacking a Weiner or Spitzer), against State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Tish James, educator Cathy Guerriero, and NYPD community liaison Siddique Wai. Notable endorsements: Queens Democratic machine, Brooklyn-Queens NOW, a ton of celeb endorsements.

NYC City Council
Margaret Chin v Jenifer Rajkumar (District 1 – Chinatown/ Financial District)
One-term Councilmember Margaret Chin faces a primary challenge from Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar in an AAPI v AAPI showdown. Chin, a former tenant rights organizer and nonprofit exec, represents the AAPI-heavy district, but has come under fire for being too closely aligned with the developers that she began her career by fighting. Rajkumar, a civil rights attorney, is trying to capitalize on some of that disenchantment. Here’s a closer look.


William Tong – running for Stanford Mayor
Tong, a former State Rep, was the first AAPI elected to the Connecticut legislature. And he picked up a seat against an entrenched Republican incumbent. After running in the CT US Senate primary last year, he hopes to repeat his previous campaign victories by winning a Democratic primary for Stamford mayor. As a state rep, Tong passed anti-gun legislation and was an ardent and vocal supporter of immigrant rights. He recently scored a coup in getting Gov. Dan Malloy’s endorsement, but the local Dems are with a primary opponent. Here’s a recent interview with Tong.

Will update more later as election returns come in.

Update (9/11/13)
Primary day was not the greatest for most of these candidates, as only incumbent CM Margaret Chin won her race, with 58%.


July 25: NYC AAIFF with AALDEF

Asian CineVision

Join the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) on Thursday, July 25 at the 36th Asian American International Film Festival for a screening of:

Director Jeffrey Chin | 30 mins
Civil rights leader and newspaperman Sei Fujii discovers several hurdles to acquire equal rights, within his own community and beyond.
Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:30PM
Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Ave (between 1st & 2nd Ave)

Other short films in the INTO PENUMBRA program:
Only Child
Director Christian Gosset | 6 mins
Keye Luke
Director Timothy Tau | 12 mins
Or Die…
Directors Gregory Bonsignore & John Petaja | 12 mins
More Than a Face in the Crowd
Director Samantha Chan | 25 mins

Discounted tickets for AALDEF friends are $10.50. Tickets are non-refundable. Please also consider a $5 donation (or more!) to help support AALDEF’s legal and educational programs.

RSVP by Monday, July 22th. For information or to purchase tickets, contact Jennifer Weng at 212.966.5932 x212 or

The film festival runs from July 24 – August 3. Check out the entire schedule at

Should Immigrants Have the Right to Vote?

Should you have to be a US citizen to be able to vote?

NYC is now considering allowing any resident to vote if he or she”s been living in the US legally for over 6 months.

What do you think?   My view:  because they have established ties to the community, it makes sense to allow committed, long-term immigrants (i.e., greencard holders) to vote in local elections, but we should be careful about going further than that.

— Gautam Dutta

Public hospitals in NYC charge less for Medicaid care than private, hospital closings & the safety net

The NYTimes has a new article out on the discrepancy amongst hospitals and what they charge for Medicaid procedures. This isn’t a new topic (Stephen Brill did a great piece on it called “Bitter Pill” and patient advocates have known this for a long time), but the government released new comparison data on 3,000 hospitals nationally. In the NYC area, it’s unsurprising – the public Health & Hospitals Corporation (HHC) hospitals charge less than the US average for Medicaid services. The private hospitals charge anywhere from 1-2 times the US average, to more than that. Unsurprisingly, because the public safety net hospitals try not to gouge their patients, their finances are also suffering. Of the hospitals that have closed or that are on the chopping block, many are HHC hospitals.

Some of the hospitals that charge less than the US average: Bellevue, King’s County, Harlem, Downtown, Elmhurst, Flushing
Some that charge 1-2x the US avg: NYU Medical Centers, NY Presbyterian, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, Beth Israel, UMDNJ
Some that charge > 1-2x US avg: Robert Wood Johnson Rahway, Long Island Jewish

Let’s have a conversation about what hospitals price gouge versus perform a public service the next time the state decides to put together Berger Commission part 2 to close hospitals. Because that analysis was incredibly short-sighted and determined that there were too many hospital beds in the event of an emergency. Of course, they thought we would still have access to all bridges and tunnels in the event of an emergency. So when Hurricane Sandy hit, Manhattan hospitals had to transfer within the island. But there weren’t enough beds to transfer patients to, so it took longer to remove all the patients from the waterlogged hospitals. I would hope that this is a serious consideration the next time around.

It’s easy to make money by overcharging. It’s harder to keep hospitals afloat when you are committed to public service, harder to justify grossly overcharging for things from basic bandages to complicated, costly procedures.


NYC & NYS lawmakers taken down in corruption/ bribery bust

One day after April fools, the FBI took down a number of elected officials in a bipartisan sting operation, including NYS Sen. Malcolm Smith (Democrat – Independent Democratic Conference) and NYC Councilmember Dan Halloran (R of Queens.) This was no April fools joke unfortunately, as Smith had been trying to collect enough signatures from the heads of GOP parties to get a Wilson-Pakula (a pass to run on the Republican ticket for mayor.)

Now, why Malcolm Smith, who used to be a Democrat, who broke ranks in December with the newly elected Democratic majority in the state senate to form the Independent Democratic Conference alongside 4 other Democratic state senators, would want to run on the Republican line for mayor, is a fair question. This led to a bizarre power-sharing structure between the Rs and Ds in the State Senate, with leadership rotating back and forth every 2 weeks. (No, this is not a joke. Though perhaps a joke of a way to govern.)

Councilmember Dan Halloran some of you may remember from his initial run for city council against Kevin Kim. Halloran is the First Atheling of Theodish New Normandy (a leader of a pagan cult). Kevin Kim was an aide to then Congressman Gary Ackerman and a good Christian. Somehow, Halloran got elected, and then he most recently unsuccessfully ran in a Congressional race against now sitting Congresswoman Grace Meng in 2012.

QnsTrib Kim v Halloran

It will be interesting to see if Kevin Kim or other Asian Americans get in the race for Halloran’s seat. There is a lot of intrigue in this whole tangled mess. Much reading to do.

Only in NY folks, only in NY.


AAA Fund NYC hosting APA immigration townhall tomorrow

Editor’s Note: I strongly encourage all to attend this tomorrow but if you cannot attend in person, watch the ustream which archives the event. You may have noticed our growing & steady attention to this all-important topic.

Editor’s Update: There’s another one Monday, May 21 per

The forum is expected to draw interest from many in the community. Simultaneous translation via headsets will be available for speakers of Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Urdu, Bengali and Nepali.

The APA Community Town Hall forum comes at a critical juncture where 2013 represents our best chance in decades to win “real” immigration reform. Our APA Table of New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform brings together over 20 Asian-led and serving organizations, working with the larger statewide campaign of over 150 labor, faith, grassroots and immigrant organizations unified to pass a progressive and comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.

WHEN: 7:00PM, Thursday, March 28, 2013
6:30PM (Pre-Event Reception)

WHERE: LaGuardia Community College
Little Theater
31-10 Thomson Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101

WHO: Speakers from the APA Table of the “New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform” Campaign, community members, and advocates (see below for complete list).

Adhikaar, Alliance of South Asian American Labor, Asian American Action Fund, Asian American Arts Alliance, Asian American/Asian Research Institute, Asian American Bar Association of New York, Asian Americans for Equality, Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance of AFL-CIO, APICHA Community Health Center, Chinese-American Planning Council, Chinese Progressive Association, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Damayan Migrants Workers Association, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of NY, Hamilton-Madison House, Kalusugan Coalition, Korean American Association of Greater New York, Korean American Family Service Center, Korean American Association of Queens, Korean Americans for Political Advancement, Korean American Business Council of New York, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY, MinKwon Center for Community Action, OCA-New York, Pilipino American Unity for Progress, Q-WAVE, Queens Community House, Richmond Hills EDC, South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association of New York City, South Asian Council for Social Services, South Asian Americans Leading Together, South Asian Youth Action, The Philippine Nurses Association of New York, United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, Wonkwang Community Service Center, 1199SEIU (list in formation as of March 25, 2013)