Tuesday, February 08, 2011

If it doesn't bleed...

it doesn't lead... as the saying goes.

A 16 year old Asian teenager was stabbed and passed away last night in San Francisco. One of my Case Managers notified me of the incident and I verified the facts with a staff who works in the wraparound service in SF General. So I went on SF Gate news online to read the news reporting. The staff writer wrote that a 16 year old teenager was stabbed to death by a 18 year old man. That statement made me pause to think how media can portray things base on what it wants readers to feel and believe. How can a 16 year old be called a teenager and a 18 year old called a man? The last time I check Sixteen and Eighteen both end with teen. So they should both be Teenagers. Where's the man comes in? I'm just saying... Then when I look at the same news again at night time, the whole story changed. That's online media for you.

On another note, a Chinese World Journal reporter expressed to me that in her 20 or year career, this is the youngest Asian homicide victim that she's aware of. The Asian community is definitely shaken up by this tragedy since there's very few murders in its history. Unlike the African American and Latino American communities where young people are killing young people all the time. That's another reality.

It's a sad reminder that life is short. I hope everyone gets that message.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

War according to Mao

"We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun. ... When human society advances to the point where classes and states are eliminated, there will be no more wars, counter-revolutionary or revolutionary, unjust or just; that will be the era of perpetual peace for mankind. Our study of the laws of revolutionary war springs from the desire to eliminate all wars; herein lies the distinction between us Communists and all the exploiting classes."

A friend gave me the English version of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung many years ago when I was in San Quentin. I remember reading the Chinese version when I was in elementary school in China. I didn't understand the meanings of what I was reading. Now I can comprehend the depth of Mao's analysis.

I picked up the book from the book shelf and randomly came across the passage where Mao spoke about War that I found worth sharing.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

New Year at the Q

Different cultures have different superstitions. One of the superstitions in Asian culture is it's bad luck to go visit a prison. It's one thing if you have loved ones locked up and you're visiting them. It's all bad if you just go visit a prison.

In the past, I had encourage some youth to go visit San Quentin so they can get an ideal what life is like so they won't do things that land them there. However, most of the Asian youth don't want to go because of superstition. Their parents don't approve of them going for the same reason.

For me, I would like to think that I transcend all superstition. Therefore, I went to visit San Quentin this afternoon to brainstorm on setting up a culture competent program to help the Asian and Pacific Islander prisoners. One of the prisoners showed me a "lai shi" he received from an older prisoner. "lai shi" is good luck money that married people or elders give to the youngsters in a red envelop during new year celebration. Since there's no red envelop in prison, they guy use a paper towel and shaded with red color pencil to make the envelop. For money, he put a prison photo ducat (Photo ducat is used in the visiting room to take pictures with visitors. It's sell through the Prison Canteen.,) which worth two dollars, inside the envelop. I asked the guys whether all the Asians are going to have a spread to celebrate the new year. They said everyone's too busy working and going to self help programs. They may do something over the weekend.

Culture is important. For those who are incarcerated, they still observe their cultures as much as they can. Therefore, it's important to have cultural specific programs cater to their needs to reduce recidivism.

Again, I'm grateful that I can walk out of the prison each time I visit. Each visit gives me perspective and makes me more appreciative of freedom.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New Year's Eve

It's the eve of the Year of Rabbit. The atmosphere in the US is definitely different from the home country as Asian immigrants from different shores celebrates the Lunar Year. I hear the firecrackers popping here and there in my part of Oak Town. And it seems like those sounds of scaring the devils away becomes lesser and lesser with each passing year with all the banning of fireworks and all. I guess that's the way it goes when you're in a foreign land.

I wish I have some firecrackers to remind me of the good old childhood day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Violence prevention is...

... sharing with about 40 diverse immigrant students in San Francisco's International High school about the importance of education and the potential they have to become future leaders.

... outreaching in the hot spots of Chinatown and talking with youth about finding better activities than hanging out and smoking.

... challenging a group of youth on the streets to play basketball in the Chinatown YMCA against staff from the Community Youth Center (CYC) and offer them, "If you win, we will buy all of you dinner. If we win, you will have to do community service with us."

... having about 15 youth taking up CYC staff's challenge, boasting that they will run us off the court, ending up losing by 21 points and taking a group picture what the game's over and wanting a rematch.

... coming home exhausted from the basketball game before midnight and having to coordinate staff to handle the reporting of an attempted suicide by a youth.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Letter from the Pen

I maintain contact with a few people in the Pen. Whenever I have time I would write to them. I still remember how good it felt to get a letter from the "free world." Receiving letters from family and friends is one way to maintain contact and ties with the community. It also means that people in prison are not forgotten.

Today, I receive a letter from a life term prisoner who I had done time with. I met up with him during my visit to Vacaville Medical Facility with the San Francisco Reentry Council a few months ago.

I just want to share an except of what he wrote: "I was denied parole because of weak parole plans. What a bomer, I took them 29 1/2 years [with] 25 years of that was clean time, no write ups, or disciplinary action and I was denied parole for three more years under a law that became active literally about a week before I went to the parole board on 4-3-09. Marsey Law, huh, what a rip off. Here it is 2011 and I go back to the board next year 2012, so really have to dot my i and cross my ts."

Well, it's good to know that he has not giving up hope.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Community Police Advisory Board

Did you know that I'm a member of the San Francisco Central Police District Community Police Advisory Board (CPAB)? Well, I am.

I got on the board under the recommendation of the then Captain Dudley who is now a Commander. Since I do violence prevention in the city, especially working with teenagers in Chinatown, I wanted to be a member so I can provide input to create a safer community and provide an alternative view. Also, I'm representing the younger generation.

The CPAB meets monthly to talk about issues that are impacting the jurisdiction of Central Station. There's other CPAB in other stations as well. Each CPAB meeting is facilitated by the district Captain.

Today CPAB covered ongoing issues on Chinatown safety, Graffiti, Entertainment, Prostitution, Sit Lie Enforcement and Parolees. The Captain also provide the Compstat (crime statistic) of the month.

Can my involvement count as civil engagement?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Porridge with Love

It feels good to get up in the morning and find breakfast on the table.

Dad got up early this morning to make Chinese fried tortilla from scratch and beef porridge. It's a meal that Chinese from southern part of China eat for breakfast. I love eating it when I was a kid. I always appreciate Dad's cooking. As I sat at the table eating breakfast with Dad, I felt a sense of love and fulfillment. However, for a flash moment, I noticed my thought wondering how much longer will I be able to enjoy Dad's presence.

For now, I will continue to cherish his porridge with love.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Living the Dream

As part of my way of appreciating the legacy of Dr. King's dream, I participated in the Know Your Rights event that the Bay Area Youth Commissions organized and sponsored by Lick-Wilmerding High School's Center for Civil Engagement.

I had the privilege of kick start the event with a poem and got approximately 250 people chanting Peace, Love and Community. However, I was inspired by the young poet Chinaka Hodge who let her words flow like a series of soothing melody. Then I was able to conduct a workshop on the importance of knowing your rights. When it was time for the participants to choose which workshop to go to, mine was the less popular. I'm sure me being an ex-con definitely had something to do with it. Fortunately, the twelve of so people in my workshop appreciated my sharing.

It's good to see so many young people who are doing their part to live up to Dr. King's dream of equality for all. Many of them will definitely be leaders who will lead this country.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feeling Naked

Something didn't seem right this morning when I got to work. I felt a sense of lightness. I didn't know what caused that feeling until I reached for my waist and realized my work cell phone wasn't there. I had left it charging at home. The first thought came to my mind was, "The phone's going to be blown up with missed calls and messages." Then I just accepted the fact that I'm going to be without phone for the day.

I carry two phones with me daily, one's personal and the other for work. I wish I could combine the two, but personal and professional have to be separated.

When I got home, I did received some calls and messages. I totally forgot that I had an appointment for an interview on the phone. I didn't like missing the call.

Cell phone has been apart of my life for almost four years. I did feel a little naked without it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I was invited by the San Francisco Interfaith Council's (SFIC) Executive Director Michael Pappas as a guest speaker with Reentry Policy Director Jessica Flintoff at its monthly breakfast.

About 80 people from different faith based groups were present at the St. Mark's Lutheran Church Heritage Hall. I shared my poem "Autobiography @ 33" with them as an introduction. I spoke briefly about the importance of all communities coming together to help those who are incarcerated. I drew the parallel on how the prisoners are being treated like lepers in the leper colony of Prison Industrial Complex. Many of the community members reached out to me when I was in prison just as Jesus reach out to the lepers in the leper colony. Without the compassion demonstrated by people from the community, I would not have become who I am.

Members of SFIC are doing many great things helping people who are in need in our community. I want to encourage the interfaith council to play an active role in changing the policy that can steer California away from being number 1 in incarceration and number 50 in education.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day Off

The irritation in my eyes were bothering me so I decided to take a day off. I rarely take time off from work since it seems like I have never ending work to do. I thought time would go by really slow, in the contrary, the day went by way too fast.

I made a list of things I needed to do and start doing it. I washed laundry, organized mail, paid my bills, cancelled my U verse internet service, went to the Post Office to return equipment and brought stamps, went to the bank to check my account balance, cooked a pot of soup and made dinner. I rode the stationary bike for 30 minutes, showered and ate dinner.

I was so caught up in doing all the chores that I forgot to go to the neighborhood town hall meeting. I also had plan to write a poem, but I didn't get to it.

My eyes felt better after some rest. I still have endless things to do, but I enjoyed my day off.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Since everyone is making a big deal about today's date being 1/11/11, I figure I will document some of the things that transpired for me.

Today happens to be the day I have to check in with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement.) I have to report to ICE every three months. So at 9 o'clock in the morning, my co-worker drove me to Sansome Street to do my check in. I wanted to do it early so I can be at work on time and I wanted to beat the crowd. However, when I went to the designated window on 5th floor, there're too many people waiting to get their paperwork sign. so I decided to go back later.

I went back a couple of hours later, it was just routine. The ICE agent sign off on my paper and gave me a new date to go back in 3 months.

It's Tuesday so I went to CYA Chad to do my workshop with the IMPACT program. We're doing the Addiction module this series. The lead facilitator and I went to two different units to give an introduction of the module. It's good to have two groups of captivated audience. A staff sat in our circle. Later he expressed how much he appreciates us for providing this program for the youth.

I enjoyed the ride to and from Chad. I get to talk to my co-facilitator and friend Sterling. We often reminisce how life's twist and turn got us in the positions we're in. We stay busy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reversal of Roles

Many years ago when I was still in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, I was locked up in Yuba County Jail in Marysville, California. ICE contracts with different county jails to keep people who are going through the deportation process in their custody. Out of boredom and a need for outside human connection, I would call some of my friends using the prepaid telephone card to talk to them. One of my male friends was always there to pick up the phone and happily chatted with me about any random things. He would also send me money to buy food and load up on my phone minutes. I always appreciate him for being there whenever I needed him.

Tonight, I received a call from Yuba County Jail. It's my friend who was always there to pick up my call. ICE detained him and ordered his deportation to China after he lost his case. He has a wife and two toddlers at home. He doesn't know whether when he will be deported or when ICE will release him on supervision. He's waiting for luck to come.

We talked about the most random things for thirty minutes so he can kill some boredom. I'm grateful that he called.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Superman No More

Well, I knew I was out of shape hen I was barely able to do one Superman today.

Superman is an exercise where you pull yourself up above the pull up bar, drop down, and pull yourself up above the bar again. It's different and more difficult than the normal pull up which only requires you to pull your chin up above the bar. Superman requires upper body, arms and wrists strength to complete.

I used to be able to do about 8 to 10 reps.

It's been a long time since I had exercise regularly. Regularly meaning at less working out three times a week. So when I decided to do some bar work before I go jogging, I realize that I'm Superman no more.

It's time to get busy...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I Defecate Where I lay

I was walking toward city hall on Larkin Street in San Francisco observing my surroundings in the afternoon. All of sudden, a white bearded man with a backpack came into my line of vision. What I saw next made me flabbergasted. The man took off his pants, squadded half way and defecated on the side walk in the middle of the street. Then he wiped himself with a tissue, pulled up his pants and walked away as it's a normal thing to do.

Though I was shocked by what had transpired, I see dog poop and human poop daily when I go to work. The many alleyways in the Tenderloin District have been public animal and human bathrooms for years.

The only way I see that can stop all those madness is fundamentally covering the basic needs for people: housing, jobs, and food.

Friday, January 07, 2011


It's definitely a night of celebration in San Francisco politic today. Ed Lee, who is the City Administrator received 10 to 1 vote to become the first Chinese American Mayor in San Francisco.

Jane Kim had her community celebration party in Chinatown to prepare for her term as the first Korean American Board of Supervisor in San Francisco. Everyone who is anyone from the city political scene was there, except for outgoing Board of Supervisor Chris Daly. Too much drama going on there.

I spoke with Mayor Willie Brown and thanked her for his support.

I thanked Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi for his support of my pardon. He said that I made it easy for him to support me. He expressed that he strongly believe in reentry. He said that we never talk one on one and suggested that we should get together. I told him I will contact his office to set up a time to meet. I look forward to exchanging ideal with him on different issues effecting the incarcerated. I appreciate his openness.

It's good to see Asian Americans being more involve in politic, especially young people. I look forward to working with them in some capacity.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ain't That Something

So as I was looking for parking on the way to a press conference, I noticed my boss in her car writing something. After parking my car, I approached her to find out what she's doing. She told me a truck hit her car. I noticed a huge dent on the back door of the driver side. I started taking pictures of the damage and the truck parked behind her.

Then a truck stopped and parked across the street, the Caucasian man in the driver seat yelled at me, "If you think the truck behind you hit your car, you're wrong. I work for the same company. The truck has been parked here."

I looked at the damaged car in front of me and said to him, "Are you for real? I'm looking at the damage right here."
So the guy yelled over to his coworker who's busy writing down insurance information, "Armando, did you hit that car?" Armando responded, "Yes, I did."
The guy said to me, "Oh, congratulations." Then he proceeded to apologize to me three different times.
So I'm trying to make sense of what had transpired. Armando, who's driving a truck hit my boss's car. They were exchanging insurance information. I arrived at the scene to take pictures of the damage. Then, another driver, who works for the same company as Armando, driving a similar truck stopped and parked across the street. He immediate defends his coworker stating that the accident did not happened. Yet, he was not at the scene when the accident occurred. Then he apologizes after his coworker admit he was at fault.
What was all that about?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I love my GuMa

"It's been 29 years. When are going to come visit GuMa? I saw everyone else in the family except you." GuMa asked me over the phone.

How time flies!? The last time I saw Guma, my Dad older sister, was when I was 12 years old in 1982. We're at the training station in the city of GuangZhou, China.

"Do you remember the piggy bank of coins you gave me before you left?" GuMa started talking away. "I didn't use any of it. I put those coins in rolls and saved them. I still have them in the village." I can't believe GuMa still remembers everything so vividly. She's already 85 years old. I was closest with GuMa out of the family. She helped take care of me when I was a kid. I gave her all my savings before I left for USA.

I have to tell GuMa it's not that I don't want to go visit her or forgot about her. I don't have a passport to go anywhere. I told her that whenever I am able to adjust my immigration status and travel abroad, the first person I want to see in China is GuMa.

Yet, the reality is, I don't know if I will ever see GuMa again. That's why I wish that she will live to be a hundred years old. That way, hopefully I can fix my status within 15 years and go visit GuMa.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Youth Lifer in CYA

For adults, San Quentin State Prison and Folsom State Prison are considered are notorious prisons. When it comes to youth, N. A. Chaderjian, AKA "Chad," is one of California's most notorious youth prisons.

"I don't really like talking to you like this." I told "J" who is standing behind a solid metal door with a long piece of glass in the middle. It saddens me to see him locked up in a cell because I was in the same situation many many moons ago.

Today is the first session of the 11 weeks of IMPACT (Incarcerated Men Putting Away Childish Things) program. However, our point person is on vacation so take the opportunity to do meet and greet with youth participants.

"J" who is gang affiliated told me that he's been locked up in the California Youth Authority Since he's 14 years old. He's doing a youth life sentence for attempted murder. That means he'll be out when he turns 25. At 20, he has 5 more years to go. However, with good behavior he may go home in 3 years. Since he's in solitary confinement, "J" will have to learn how to get along with other wards who are rival gang members before he can program on the mainline population.

I encourage him to invest in his education and set short and long term goals. When I asked what he wants to do after he get out, he said he couldn't think that far. He needs to work his way out of solitary confinement first.

I can't help but wonder what will become of "J" when he leaves Chad after being incarcerated from a teenager to a young man.