Sunday, October 31, 2004

Spring Forward

Halloween. It's just another day. There's nothing special going on in prison.

The weather was sunny and crisp this morning. I exercised for an hour and stayed in my bed area writing all day.

In ten days I'll find out whether I'll spend another year in prison or start a new life in the free world. Though I know the parole board has no excuse to deny my parole, I can't get excited about what might or might not happen. I just have to wait and see what happens on November 10th.

Please send me good vibes and keep me in your thoughts.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Wisdom from Hawaii

Marc's parents and grandparents live in Honolulu, Hawaii. They travel to visit Marc at least twice a year in one of California's prisons. That's love. I had the pleasure of meeting them today.

My older brother lives in Oakland, but I haven't seen him in three years. That's another story.

One of my lady friends visited me. I had a great time communicating with her. It felt good to be in the presence of a woman.

Marc wanted me to meet his parents, so my friend & I stopped by their table to say hi. Marc's dad insisted that we sit down and join them. We did & I started chopping it up with him about religion and the philosophy of life.

Marc's dad share with me that young people shoud listen more and talk less. He said the less we talk, the more powerful we become. He said that when he was twenty years old, he thought he knew everything and that nobody was smarter than him. Now, he's older and realizes that he didn't know anything. He emphasized that young people must listen and learn from their grandparents or elders because they had been through life.

His message was that young people should listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time until their sixty years old. The theory was the less we talk the more time we have to think and learn. I agreed with him. I'm about 60/40 right now. I told him that I'll strive to be 70/30.

I had a great time talking to Marc's dad. I can see myself kicking it with him in Hawaii so I can listen more.

Friday, October 29, 2004


Me and three of my Asian buddies were sitting around my bed area shooting the breeze. All of a sudden, I just burst out with a line: "I feel like my back is up against a brick wall and there's a Mack truck two inches from my face." The guys were startled as I continued to read aloud the poem "Run Free" by Sonia Sohn from the book Slam. It's the screenplay and filmakers' journal of the 1998 movie Slam.

I received the book today. It brough back the excitement I felt when I wanted the movie about five years ago. I was getting into poetry at the time. Therefore, I enjoyed the poetry by Saul Williams, who played the main character in the movie. My friend Camille even gave Saul some of my poems and my address so he could write to me. Though I didn't hear from him, it was cool.

If you haven't watched the movie, you should. I recommend teacher and social workers to share the movie with youth.

I look forward to reading about the making of the movie.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Different Strokes for Different Folks

The water fountain in the building is located in the area where the white prisoners and southern Mexican prisoners watch TV. I went to take a drink of cold water and saw the images of people rioting on the street. The station was PBS and it was showing a documentary called Twilight. I forgot the author's name. The documentary was about people's reflections on the aftermath of the worst riot in the history of the United States - 4/29/92. The actress took on different characters that she had interviewed and acted out their feelings.

I was getting into the documentary when one of the white guys stood up to channel surf. The guys didn't like the show. When they came upon the Jerry Springer Show and saw the KKK wearing white hoods on stage, they got excited. I got up & left the area.

I wanted to finish watching the documentary but the screen went blank. There was some difficulty with the station. Just my luck.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Just a Random Search

I came back from work in the afternoon and found my bed in complete disarray. Cassette tapes, letters, paper, books, and pens were scattered all over the place. It was like a small tornado swept through the area. When I saw the pink copy of "Search Receipt" on my bed, I knew it was the work of a prison guard.

One of the duties of a prison guard is to search prisoners' cell or bed area for contrabands randomly. It is against rules and regulations to trash prisoners' property. However, some prison guards think that they're above the law and abuse their authority by disrespecting prisoners' belongings.

The prison guard who searched my area is a female who enjoys making prisoners in the building miserable by abusing her authority. Aside from one prisoner who has a crush on her and thinks that she's the best thing that happened to humankind, everyone hates her. Devil is one of the many names that prisoners call her. Her actions match her nickname. The ironic thing is that she knows that she is hated, but takes pride in being hated. Who would like to be hated?

I looked at the mess on my bed and decided to leave it. I changed my clothes and went outside to exercise.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Just a Reminder

November 2nd is almost here. If you haven't cast your vote, please remember to do so. This election day is not just about voting for the next president of the United STates. There are many local initiatives on the ballot that will effect yopur lives.

You have a right to vote, so exercise it. Your action or non-action will effect you and your community. It's not just about you.

Please vote yes on Prop 66.

If you live in the city of San Francisco, please vote for JANE KIM for the school board.

Represent yourself!

Monday, October 25, 2004

I Miss Singing

I remember my friend Mike, who's Vietnamese, OG Larry, who's an African, and I, who's Chinese, used to stand on the upper yard in San Quentin and sing acapella. We would sing different oldie songs and tried to harmonize them. OG Larry was the talented musician. He assigned the pitches for Mike and me. I would almost always sing tenor because I could sing falsetto. Mike would sing baritone or bass. OG Larry would get in wherever he could fit in.

Sometimes we would sing among hundreds of prisoners who would be congregating on the upper yard. We were in a zone. At times when we were able to hit our notes, we would be able to create sweet harmony and a crowd would gather around us. Those were good times. Other times Mike and I were off key, but we still enjoyed singing together.

I also sang in the Catholic choir and as a cantor for awhile. Somehow I enjoyed singing in front of people. Even though I wasn't all that, I always sang with feeling.

I look forward to singing with my friend again.

Football Season

It was a warm and sunny outside. YOu would think more people would go to the yard and enjoy the spring-like weather. There were only about fifty people outside. Most people were in their building watching football.

Sunday football is a day that people look forward to all week. It's entertainment for some. For others, it's a chance to win some money.

There are a variety of ways people can bet on football. People can play the football poll, football ticket, football square, Fantasy football, or make side bets. If you want to gamble, you can always find a bet. Some people would make a friendly wager to make watching the game more exciting. Others bet to make a profit. A serious gambler can lose up to $500 on one Sunday.

It's the American way. Prison is no exception.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Double the Pleasure

Sami asked me to draw her a cat. How could I refuse the request from such a beautiful angel?! I made an attempt to draw Chococat with crayon. Sami's mom laughed at the unrecognizable figure that I drew. Yup, I couldn't draw to get a parole date. The important thing was that Sami liked it.

Juju stayed out of sight while I was talking to his mom. He stood behind his mom's chair silently. I found myself worrying whenever I couldn't see him. I wanted to know where the kids were at all times.

It's been more than 5 years since we saw each other. It was a super-pleasant surprise when Carol came to visit me on a rainy day with her 3-year-old twins. I didn't recognize her at first because I never expected her to show up even though she told me that she would in her letter.

We kicked it and caught up with each other's lives. At the same time, we watched over the twins while they engaged in their own world. I was in a zone being with them. I had the taste of what having a family was like. I love it. I definitely want to have kids of my own one day.

I'm extremely proud of Carol because she's a single parent who's able to hold down a job and nurture two kids. When I caught a few glimpses of Carol the Mom in action, she was glowing. She is a super mom.

Sami melted my heart while I was holding Juju in my right arm and she ran towards me with open arms for me to pick her up.

I doubt that the twins will remember the four hours we had spent together, but I will always remember and cherish the joy Carol and the twins brought me today.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Lowdown on Embrace and Let Go

A friend recently ended a relationship she had with a dude. They were together for about three months. Despite the short period of their relationship, breaking up is hard. She was feeling it. She told herself to "Just let go. Let go. I realize that this was the best thing I could do..."

Many of my friends probably have heard me talk about my theory of Embrace & Let Go. That's how I deal with my challenges when they arise. That technique has helped me through many difficult times.

Here's how it works. When I face a challenge, I embrace it. Embracing it means that I feel the pain, frustration, rage, or whatever feelings that challenge elicits. The key is not to deny those feelings. Don't try to replace those feelings. I let them marinate in my mind and reflect on the origin of those feelings. Then I let it go. I let it go only after I come to the understanding that there is nothing I can do to change the past.

Sounds pretty simple. It is. However, it takes practice to get better at it. I use the technique in dealing with happiness also. I embrace the feelings of being happy, enjoy it, reflect on it, and let it go.

Please remember that hardships give us strength and patience. Happiness allows us to be grateful.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Know Your History

Today I received a most welcoming letters from a new connection. She sent me a couple of articles from the Revolutionary Worker publication. The articles are on the topics "Social & Economic Achievements Under Mao" & "The Truth About the Cultural Revolution." There are some perspectives on the effectiveness of revolutionary struggles in China under the guidance of Chairman Mao.

I left China when I was twelve. Therefore, I don't have a full grasp of CHinese history as being taught in school. The year I attended first grade at seven years old was also the year the Cultural Revolution came to an end. It's the same year that China had its biggest earthquake in the coal mining town of Tangshan. It's the year Mao died. It's the year the Gang of Four got arrested. It's the year I participated in my first organized protest by takin g to the streets, holding signs with hundreds of people.

My new connection informed me that the protest I had participated against the Gang of Four was "part of denouncing that legacy (socialism) & restoring capitalism."

That statement led me to reflect on my childhood and evaluate how Mao has impacted my life. It pointed out how little I know about the history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. It inspired me to learn more about the truth of my history to "set the record straight."

If you're interested in learning more about Chinese communism under Mao, you can go to

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Shower Conversation

What do six men taking a shower have in common?

They're naked.

Guy #1: "Which sign in the horoscope is the most generous?"

Guy #2: "Gemini."

Guy #3: "Hell, no. My ex-wife was a Gemini and she's off the hook. She would switch up at anytime."

Guy #4: "It's different between men and women. I'm a Gemini and I'm generous."

Guy #5 remains silent - just taking a shower.

I'm a Gemini and I'm just taking a shower.

The discussion continues...

Asian American Youth for Positive Change

Today I received an A to Z of all the agencies serving the East Bay. After leafing through the listing, I found 9 organizations that specifically help Asian youth. The organizations offer services including art, cultural activities, health, counseling, recreation, academic and family support.

I'm grateful for the existence of those organizations. After I get out of prison, I plan to add another organization called Asian American Youth for Positve Change (AYFPC). The main objective of AYFPC is to prevent the youth of today from becoming victims and statistics of the Prison Industrial Complex of tomorrow.

I have completed a business proposal for the creation of AYFPC based on the 6-month curriculum I had designed to help troubled youth to rebuild their foundations. It's a small step towards reaching my goal in starting a non-profit organization.

I'm doing my part.

Monday, October 18, 2004

An Empty Warren

No one knows when exactly the brown rabbits started to populate in between the double prison fences. Somehow, those furry creatures have been a fixture of the prison for the past ten years.

They created a warren in between the fences. Aside from the seasonal grass, the warren is barren. Therefore, their source of diet came from the prisoners. Prisoners would throw fruit, carrots, or other vegetables from their sack lunches over the fence to feed the rabbits.

Aside from the few pigeons and crows, there aren't any other critters around. The rabbits are welcomed neighbors. They often jump around and chase each other in circles. The prisoners enjoy watching the rabbits eat and play around. Its helps them break the monotony. Just like that: the prisoners and rabbits have sustained each other for years.

Nothing lasts forever. Due to the rabbits' ignorance of safe sex, its population reached 200+. There is not enough food to feed them so some of them die. In the past, the prison administration have raounded up the rabbits and released them into the nearby hills. However, some of them always slip through the crack. THe rabbits just keep on multiplying. The administration has left it alone for awhile.

Today, when I walked by the fences, I noticed an emptied warren. There were no rabbits in sight. Later on, I found out that the administration finally got rid of all the rabbits this time. No rabbits slipped through the crack.

Many prisoners say that the rabbits will find their way back to the warren.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Get Down or Get Punished

It rained on and off throughout the day. Luckily, the rain stopped when we went to dinner. The ground was wet and half of the sky was covered with dark clouds. I exited the chowhall and took in a few deep breaths of the fresh air.

All of the sudden, the PA system announced for everyone to get down. That meant everyone had to sit down on the ground wherever they were standing, except those who had disabilities.

There is a "get down" policy in prison. Whenever there is an alarm, every prisoner has to sit down immediately. The cause of an alarm could be a fight, a medical code, or the guards accidentally sound off the alarm. The guards would respond to any alarm on the yard or in the buildings. Anyone refusing to sit down will be punished by receiving more time in his prison sentence.

Some of the guys squatted instead of sitting on the wet ground. The guys who happened to wear their raincoats sat down. I was walking by the building so I leaned against the building and sat on a dry spot. The guards were yelling at those who were squatting to sit down. Most of them complied and sat on the wet ground. One African American prisoner refused to sit on the wet ground. The guards handcuffed him and locked him in a cage. He will receive at least 60 more days if he's found guilty.

It's dangerous going to dinner during the rainy season. You never know when the alarm will go off.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Is Tobacco a Drug?

Sitting on my bed, I can look out the narrow window and see part of the yard and the distant mountain. Sometimes, I enjoy staring out of the window and soak in its activities.

I looked out the window this afternoon and saw an old man smoking a cigarette by a couple of concrete benches. He was bespectacled and balding. He was white and around the age of early sixties. There were plenty of men his age in prison. Nothing strange there.

Then he bent down and picked up a cigarette butt and lit it with the one in his hand. Next thing I knew, he was picking up a bunch of butts and putting them into his jean pocket. With the price of tobacco increasing in the past few years, prisoners picking up butts to supply their nicotine addiction are everywhere. Nothing strange there.

Recently, the governor passed the bill that will ban the selling and smoking of tobacco in all prisons. Can you imagine how the nicotine addicts are going to cope without cigarettes? I'm sure the trafficking of tobacco in prison will match the marijuana and heroin. As it is, some prisons that don't allow tobacco have created a lucrative black market. It's a fact that many guards get fired for selling tobacco to prisoners. At the rate of five dollars per cigarette, that's a temptation that some can't resist.

It's only going to get stranger once the tobacco ban goes into effect. Just you wait.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Just Another Day to Celebrate

"You and your mom are the only people who remembered my birthday. Thank you," Dad told me when I called to wish him a happy 71st birthday.

It's the same thing every year. No one else seems to be able to remember Mom & Dad's birthday. How can any children forget their parents' birthday - the people who gave them life?! I make no excuses for anyone.

So far my parents can always count on receiving a birthday card and a phone call on their special day. It's the least I can do.

As usual, Dad didn't do anything special to celebrate his birthday. He ate dinner with Mom and my six-year-old nephew. Dad is a frugal and low-key person. He lives simply. I love my Dad.

Today is also my best friend Jeni's birthday. Jeni & I went through junior high school together. She's been there for me throughout my incarceration. I value our friendship. Though we haven't been communicating for the past two years, I will always remember her birthday and wish her the best. She's a proud mohter of two handsome boys. Happy birthday, Jeni! Family comes first, I understand.

Another person who shares a birthday with my Dad and Jeni is Pimpila. She's the poster girl for Asian American Writers Workshop. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year. Have a great year, Pimpila!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"She Said No" - What a "Shock and Awe"

Some time in March of this year, a friend sent me a zine of poetry by Pablo Dosh and Shailja Patel through a vendor. I've been waiting to read those collection of poems for a long time.

What I received from the prison mailroom was a "Notification of Disapproval Mail/Package/Publications" form. It informed me that on page 7 of Shailja Patel's Shilling Love zine it "portrays conduct which appears to be nonconsensual behavior" and on page 29 of Pablo Dosh's Shock and Awe zine, it "portrays conduct which is forceful, threatening, or violent." I have the options of returning the zines to the sender or destroy them.

The two pages in the question contain the poems "She Said No" by Shailja and "Shock and Awe" by Pablo. Shailja's poem depicts the fact: "On March 9, 2001, Christopher K. McCarthy, of Concord, New Hampshire, a US soldier stationed in South Korea, was sentenced to 6 years in jail for beating to death a Korean bar waitress who refused to have sex with him." Pablo's poem depicts the US Desert Storm War in February of 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. Those were facts expressed through poetry.

The lady who worked in the mailroom decided that the two pages out of the two zines are disallowed due to their content. She didn't give an explanation why or what specific words were a violation of the prison rules and regulations. What's amazing about this is that the lady actually read every page of the two zines and decided those two pages were disallowed. It's unheard of. Where did she find the time? Does it mean that she reads through every newspaper, magazine, and book that comes through her hands? I'm sure she would open any newspaper on any day and it will have articles that state the facts of nonconsensual behavior and violence. Yet, how come she allows those coming in? Or is it just because I am Eddy Zheng? Huh...

I wonder how much of their decision to disallow the zine has to do with personal feeling and political views. If any, wouldn't that be a violation of my rights? Hmmm....

Naturally, I appealed their decision through the prison inmate appeal process. After going through three different levels of appeals, the Director's Level Appeal from Sacramento denied it. The entire appeal process took six months. I received the decision this evening.

My next step is filing a writ of habeas corpus in the court to seek relief. I have to fight for every little thing in prison so prison guards or officials can't keep trampling on my rights.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Psych Eval

Every life prisoner has to have a psychiatric evaluation before he or she goes in front of the parole board. The psycho-social assessment is done by prison psychologists to determine the prisoner's violence potential and mental state. The Board of Prison Terms relies heavily on the findings to consider a life prisoner's suitability for parole. It's all right if a prisoner gets a positive evaluation. If the psychologist's assessment is negative, a prisoner will have not chance of getting parole. More often than not, the Board of Prison Terms uses the psych eval as ammunition to deny parole.

In my previous psych report, the psychologist concluded in the seven-page assessment that "[I have] matured into a well-adjusted and stable individual and represent an excellent candidate for parole." The parole board ignored the doctor's finding and continued to deny my parole based on the seriousness of my crime, which will never change. Last year the parole board requested that I get a new psych eval.

Today I had an appointment with a psychologist to do my psych eval at 11 o'clock. I brought along my support letters, photos of my family and friends, and other necessary documents to share with the doctor. I wanted to be on time so I left work ten minutes early to go to the doctor's office area. I was calm and ready to have a good interview. The doctor did not see me until 12:05pm. While I stood for an hour, no one said anything to me about the delay or checked on me. I just stood and waited.

The doctor sat down and started to ask me my name and prison number to verify my identiy. Two minutes into the interview, he remembered to introduce himself to me. It seemed like he was in a rush. He had a two-page questionaire with him and he started going down the list to question me. He asked about my age, height, weight, date of birth, religion, tatoos, sexual orientation, family history, education, psychosexual development, substance abuse history, employment history, psychiatric and medical history, and plans for the future. Most of the questions required short answers. We didn't discuss any single issue at length which I would have preferred. It took 40 minutes for him to finish interviewing me. He got up and started to leave. I was taken by surprise that he'd finish so soon. I didn't move from my chair. I asked the doctor to give me five more minutes because I would like to show him the pictures and letters that I had brought. He indulged me by sitting down. I ended up taking 15 minutes to share my pictures and support letters and a business plan proposal for a youth organization with him. He kept my business proposal to read later on. I thanked him and left.

The doctor said that he would finish the report in a week or two. I emphasized to him that I was fighting for my freedom and hoped that he understood that.

I didn't know what to think after the interview. I just have to wait for the report to see whether it's positive or negative. Whatever the result is, it will have an impact on my November parole hearing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Today I received a big envelope from Anmol. In it was 26 signed support letters and the 6th Annual APAture Booklet.

For the past two years, I had the privilege to be included in the APAture program preseted by the Kearny Street Workshop. Anmol, Monica, or another friend would set up a table to promote my zine and raise awareness about my parole situation. This year Anmol was able to show a taping of my last year's parole hearing. He's always coming up with creative ideas to help me.

I vaguely remember the first time I heard about APAture. I think it was in 1998. I met this pinay named Anita de Asis in the youth program in San Quentin. I showed her my first zine called Flying in Formation. She said that there was an event in the city where she could sell the zine for me. I didn't want to sell my zine. I was happy that someone actually wanted to read it. I told her to do whatever she wanted with it. Anita made a bunch of copies and set up a table to sell them. Afterward, she told me that she sold some and gave many away. She asked me what I wanted to do with the money. I told her to donate it to the kids she worked with in her program. It was all good.

I'm grateful that APAture was able to provide a forum for Asian Pacific American artists to share their creativity and talents. I definitely benefited from being a part of this awesome event.

I want to thank all the people who dropped by the table to check out my zine and watch the video. I'm grateful for the caring folks who signed the support letters for me. You touch of kindness goes a long way.

I want to give a special thanks to Scott Louie who is the coordinator for APAture. I appreciate your support and kind words. Hopefully, I can volunteer my service in the 7th Annual APAture. Thank you for embracing me.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Asian Prisoners' Revolution

For the past 18 years, I've witnessed the steady rise of the Asian American population in the prison system, especially Southeast Asians. This is a problem that has often been neglected by the mainstream media and the Asian communities. Due to cultural differences and traditions, Asian prisoners have become lepers of their own communities. We're left to survive by ourselves with minimum support from our families. Most guys in here don't know how to reach out and those few who do find little response. I have come to the conclusion that the lack of interest from the Asian American community is its need to stay in the glass house of blissful ignorance. It's easier to neglect the problem that causes shame to its model minority status than address it. The result is the multiplying of "Asian Leprosy" in this modern day slave plantation of the Prison Industrial Complex and the continued victimization of the Asian community.

That's why I'm want to publish an anthology of Asian American prisoners' writings. I want to give the lepers an opportunity to show the Asian community that beneath the plague of leprosy they're good people. With help, they can change and become productive members of society.

My friend Ben Wang was generous enough to help me with this project along with folks from the Freedom Bound Center. Ben has made up a flyer to distribute to prisons to solicit participation from Asian prisoners. The following is the text on the flyer. We need your help to spread the words. If you know Asian prisoners or have connections to reach them, please pass on the information:

Asian Prisoners' Revolution

A call for writings, poetry, and artwork from Asian prisoners across Amerika.

Featuring writings and artwork by Asian prisoners, this zine will raise awareness about the rise of the Asian population in the Prison Industrial Complex. It will be distributed throughout the Asian Pacific Islander community once it is published. We call on all Asian Pacific Islanders prisoners to submit poetry, vignettes, essays, short stories, and artwork to be used in this first every Asian Prisoners' Zine. Please include a short bio about yourself with your submission.

Please send all submissions to

Asian Prisoners' Revolution
c/o Freedom Bound Center
4104 44th Street
Sacramento CA 95820

Tentative deadline: June 2005

Let's cure this "Asian leprosy!"

Sunday, October 10, 2004


It's been a quiet day. I spent most of the day in my bed area. I wrote a couple of long letters to friends and did an inventory or my property.

I have three filing boxes of legal work and two boxes of misc. writings, articles, and paperwork. I have 83 books in my locker and one my bed. I have five books that I'm reading next to my pillow. I like to read certain books at different times of the day. It's all spontaneous. I may decide to read Pablo Neruda's poem while I'm waiting for breakfast. I like to have access to different reading materials. I think that's one of the reasons why I still haven't read half of the total of books in my possessions. I'm plgging away slowly. The next book I'm getting ready to read is Elephant Vanishes by Murakami.

I enjoy kicking it on my bed, turn on some smooth jazz, and read. It's a pleasure that I will continue to indulge myself in for years to come. I wonder what it would be like to sit in the middle of a forest and read while the birds are chirping with the leaves on the trees playing percussion.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bon Voyage

I walked out of the visiting room with an unusual sense of emptiness. Anmol and my parents just left me. We spent over three hours together enjoying each other's presence. I should've been feeling happy and content, but I wasn't.

It was a beautiful day. The temperature was about 77 degrees. THe sun was shining and there was a light breeze. As I walked amongst the prisoners on the yard, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I was breathing and telling myself I don't belong here. It was like my body was in a different realm looking at the prison. I was thinking, How did I survive bring in prison for the last 18 years?

Today will be the last time I see Anmol. He'll be leaving for New York to start a new chapter of his awesome life. For the past two years he had dedicated himself to help me to secure my freedom and fought for the rights of other Asian prisoners. I remember telling him in letters and during our visits in San Quentin's death row that I felt undeserving of his unconditional love and devotion. Aside from my family, no one has been there for me as much as Anmol. He never fails in what he sets out to do for me. My parents said that it's rare to see such a wonderful human being these days. I feel so fortunate to witness and benefit from Anmol's kindness. Words cannot describe my appreciation for all he has done for me and my family.

It'll be a huge loss for the Bay Area's progressive community without Anmol's presence. He's an awesome organizer and researcher who inspires changes in people's lives. He told me that he's not a front man, but rather works behind the scenes. Well, he could've fooled me because he was definitely able to take charge and come through all fronts.

Maybe my sense of empitness derived from our lack of closure during the visit. We didn't really know how to say goodbye. Even as Anmol is facing the many uncertainties and challenges of his relocation, he was expressing concern and anxiety for my upcoming parole hearing. How can I not be grateful to such a good brother?! It hasn't really hit me that Anmol is going to be gone, but I'll miss his presence tremendously. I'll be doing plenty of letter writing to New York.

Pleae give Anmol a hug when you see him or email him to say thank you. He deserves it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Just Do It

I'm a pretty quick learner. However, sometimes I don't feel that I can really master any one specific thing. That's why I often say that I don't have any talent or skill.

It's been two years since I've been practicing yoga consistently. I learned all my moves from an illustrated book. I learned how to do Pilates the same way. I have been doing that for 5 months. I love it.

What's a trip and fulfilling is that I teach other prisoners how to do yoga and Pilates. So far, I had taught 3 African Americans and two whites. I still do it with one African American every morning. It's convenient since we live in the same dorm. I learned and improved my postures from teaching because I don't want to show them the wrong way to do it.

I can't wait to go to a yoga class so I can learn the techniques properly. For now, I'll keep ripping the benefits from my limited skills.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Hello Friends

Throughout the years I have had the fortune of meeting many awesome people. Depending on where I am at physically and mentally, the necessary people will show up in my life to sustain me. I'm always able to make special connections with people from all diverse backgrounds. Some people I keep in touch with consistently. There are many who have moved on in their journey. However, I think of them often and wonder how they are doing.

I just want to say hi to the following friends whom I miss from time to time:

Anie, Anita, Anne, Adele, Andrea, Aida, Andy, Amy, Amanda, Ca, Carol, Cindy, Chuck, Chia, Camille, Donna, Dongxifeng, Dina, Diana, Emily, Elli, Erin, Fred, Frank, Gary, Heidi, Heather M., Heather H., Helena, Hua, Jean, Jennifer, Josh, John, Jared, Jimbo, Jeni, Jane J., Jack, Katy, Krishna, Kimberly, Lily, Lynn, Louise, Lillian, Mei, Milly, Mildred, Michael, Meegan, Mark-Jiryn, Meillisa, Peter, Becca, Rachael, Rod, Susan, Shelly M., Saysana, Sarah, Sito, Shawney, Sister Solome, Shirley, Sharon, Tracy, Trisha, Vicki, Vanessa, Xavier...

I look forward to reconnecting with you all one day soon.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I'm a Commie

I walk to the desk where the guards are stationed in the building and they ask me for a canteen ducat. A canteen ducat is used by prisoners to withdraw money from their accounts to purchase food and cosmetic items in the prison canteen. A white guard informs me that I need to turn the ducat in on Thursday night instead of the usual Sunday night due to the holiday on Monday.

I say, "Oh, it's Indigenous People's Day."

The white guard responds, "It's Columbus Day. Only pink Commies call it Indigenous People's Day."

I see that his face is flushed, so I chuckle and walk away. He is the same guard who called me a Commie when he saw the KPFA sticker on my 32 oz. drinking pitcher. He had commented that KPFA is a Commie station. I listen to KPFA; therefore, I am a Commie. What ingenuous deductive reasoning!

Well, if listening to KPFA and honoring the indigenous people qualify me was a Commie, then I'm proud of it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More Than Just a Game

I walked around the dayroom of the building just to observe the activities. Aside from people watching the blaring TVs, there were many occupied tables. People were playing cards, Monopoly, chess, dominos, drawing, studying, shooting dice, and chatting.

I stopped at the table where four people were playing a board game called "Axis and Allies Pacific." It is a game that involves attacking and bombing different countries. The four people playing the game were of diverse backgrounds: white, black, black mixed with Chinese, and Japanese mixed with Korean. They were having fun. I picked up one of the plastic soldiers and noticed the stamp "Made in China" on it. I wondered to myself, Is anything not made in China these days?

I watched most of the vice presidential debate between Edwards and Cheney. Aside from all the character attacks, I couldn't help but notice how nonchalant they were when talking about killing terrorists and those who harbor them. Edwards spoke passionately about the necessity for the Israeli government to protect its citizens from suicide bombers. Edwards lamented the death of innocent children at the hands of Palestinian suicide bombers. Maybe I still have a comprehension problem, but aren't all lives sacred? Aren't the innocent children of Palestine dying? Aren't the innocent children of Iraq dying? Who is using weapons of mass destruction? Why harbors the terrorists and inspires terrorism?

Life is more than just a game.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Old Meets the Young

It's rare that I would run into someone who did time with me 15 years ago. With 33 prisons in the state of California, a prisoner can be transferred to any one of them.

When I met this African American brother named Nate, he was 45 years old and I was 18. We were in the notorious maximum security prison San Quentin serving our life sentences. I was a skinny kid who was still growing and spoke very little English. Nate was a worldly guy who knew his way around the harsh environment of prison. Somehow we made a connection and he always looked out for me.

I remember one day we were standing on the upper yard of the prison waiting to go back ot our cells. Some guy walked by me in a hurry and bumped me unexpectedly. Somehow, I didn't budge and stood my ground. Nate was shocked. To this day, he still believes that I know some secret kungfu.

We went to different prisons in 1989 due to prison needs. I hadn't seen him until he transferred here last month. Nate was able to catch up with me this afternoo on the yard. I just finished exercising so he was surprised by how muscular I was.

We walked around the track for 45 minutes catching up on our lives and reminiscing about the good old days. By the time we finished, he was surprised how well I had turned out in the last 15 years. He thought that I would be all tatooed down, caught up in prison gangs, and all doped out like so many youngsters he had encountered. After being in prison for 34 years, he has experienced many changes.

I told him education is a powerful thing. It's good seeing Nate under the circumstances.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

One Vote Counts

The presidential election is fast approaching. The choices are Bush and Kerry for the mainstream American voters. The alternative choice is Ralph Nader of the Green Party. Other less known choices are candidates from the left parties such as Roger Calero and Arrin Hawkins of the Socialist Workers Party, Bill Van Auken and Jim Lawrence of the Socialist Equality Party, Walt Brown and Mary Alice Hebert of the Socialist Party, Leonard Peltier and Janice Jordan of the Peace and Freedom party, John Parker and Teresa Gutierrez of the Workers World Party. There are probably many other presidential candidates out there who we don't know about. Have you made up your mind who you're going to vote for?

A better question is "Are you going to vote?" As record number of voters watched the first debate between Bush and Kerry, it's obvious that more people care about who's going to run this country for the next four years. & as we witnessed the incompetency of Bush without his spech writers, it would be a continued nightmare if he actually wins the presidency this time. Yet, is Kerry, aka the lesser evil, any different from Bush if he's elected as the next president of the United States? Does Nader have a realistic chance of winning? Do any of the other leftist candidates have a chance? What choices are there?

It is lack of choices and lack of fiath that many voters are discouraged from exercising their electoral rights. A right that countless people died fighting to secure. A right that gives you a voice. A right that millions of people around the world still don't have.

For those people who believe that their votes don't matter: I want to remind you what happened in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was elected president by the people and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was elected president by its landless farmers and badly paid or jobless workers twice. It happened because the people believed that their vote counts.

For those who are tired of allowing the limited pool of racist and filthy men to continue running this country and want changes, please believe that one vote counts. Just remember the South Africans and indigenous Venezuelans.

All changes take time and sacrifice. There is no instant gratification. Collectively we have the power to make the changes we want to afford justice and equality for all. It might not happen today and it might not happen in tomorrow, but as long as we keep exercising our rights and continuing to plant seeds of hope, it'll happen some day.

One vote at a time.

Power to the People!

Saturday, October 02, 2004


I can't understand why so many African American and Southeast Asian prisoners sag their pants. They wwear their paints or shorts halfway down to their buttocks. What kind of fashion statement does it make by exposing the cracks of their buttocks for all to see?!

Back in the old days, a prisoner saggin' his pants was an invitation for sexual advances. With the Pepsi generation, it's fashionable; it's cool; it's being a gangster.

For some prisoners, saggin' can be a shield for his safety. He can be wearing a tight pair of jeans and others would think that he's a homosexual. If he sagged his jeans with buttocks exposed, people just think he's crazy or in with the fashion. It's about group identification.

What I can't figure out is why prisoners who are in their mid-thirties think that exposing their buttocks is cool. It's the same reason why I don't understand how some African Americans use the word "nigga" and not feel degraded just being it's spelled differently.

There are a couple of Southeast Asian youngsters who I hang out with who sag their pants. When they come around me, I pull their pants down to their ankles. They pull their pants up instead of saggin'. They know what statement I am making. However, when they're on their own, the crack of their buttocks is exposed for all to see.

Where is the self respect?