Monday, February 28, 2005

What are you Willing to Die For?

That's one of the questions I asked during an artist colony workshop in San Quentin. Me and a few men and women got together each week to talk about ideas, among other things.

Instead of answering my question, Camille, one of the participants, asked me more questions:

1. Does one really have any agency in dying? Doesn't it just perpetuate itself once it starts?

2. Isn't the point of 'dying for something' made by the fact that you had previously lived or tried to live for something, which is to say, someone can die only for something if he has lived for it first?

3. If you agree with this, then the question becomes "Are you willing to live for anything or at least try to live for anything?"

4. What does living for something look like? Feel like?

5. And, finally, if you disagree with me, Eddy, why?

I discovered those questions while I was going through my paperwork. I didn't get a chance to answer them. Maybe I'm waiting for the answers to come to me.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Quote of the Week (9)

"False love, false humility, and feeble faith in [wo]man cannot create trust. Trust is contingent on the evidence which one party provides the others of [her] true concrete intentions; it cannot exist if that party's words do not coincide with [her]actions. To say one thing and do another - to take one's own word lightly - cannot inspire trust."

- Paulo Freire
Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Saturday, February 26, 2005


"If I don't go to hell, who goes to hell?" I vaguely remember this saying from a Chinese movie I watched as a kid. I didn't understand the meaning of it. As an adult, I have a better grasp of that powerful saying.

I apply that saying to the way I view friendship. We all agree that friendship is a two-way street. Just like no one chooses to go to hell, a friend never wants to be disappointed by another. Yet in the real world, where there is expectation, there will be disappointment. Such is the law of yin and yang.

Knowing such reality, it reinforces my person philosophy about friendship. I will strive to be the best friend to another as I can without expectation. That way I don't have to be disappointed (not that feeling disappointed is always a bad thing. How else are we going to grow?). When a friend reciprocates, that is a bonus. It is that simple.

If I don't like to suffer, why would I want my freind to suffer? Therefore, if I don't suffer, who suffers?

Friday, February 25, 2005

It's Friday

A pencil covered with blood was discovered by a guard on the yard. The administration locked down the yard to search for a possible victim stabbing. Luckily, I was already at work so I didn't get stripped and searched. The yard went back to normal program after no victim was found.

After work, I was informed that I had an attorney visit. Normally, I would know a day in advance if I had an attorney visit. Somehow, someone dropped the ball.

When I arrived at the visiting room, I was surprised to see Victor Hwang and Peter Kang waiting for me. They're attorneys who have been representing my civil rights lawsuit. They came by to clarify the details of the final settlement agreement. The Attorney General for the defendants was playin with the language of the settlement agreement to alter its original statement. Peter was on top of it and reassured me that he will make sure that the AG stick to the agreement. I appreciate Peter's professionalism.

It was my first time meeting Victor. He has been doing his best to support my parole. From what I know about Victor, he is an awesome guy. After meeting him, what impresses me the most about him was his compassion for others.

An institutional emergency count cut our visit short. However, I was grateful to have the privilege of meeting Victor. I look forward to getting to know him better one day.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Just Some Numbers

Assignment Quotas
Full time: 3,405
Half time: 784

Total Inmates Assigned
Full time: 3,532
Half time: 0

Total Inmates unassigned
Voluntary: 48
Involuntary: 1,663

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Segregation in Prison?

Some prison official says that prison guards are being assaulted daily on the evening news. I wonder what prison he was talking about.

It's propaganda like that that keeps the prison industrial complex rolling in dough while funding for public education is being drained like sand in an hourglass.

The U.S. Supreme Court is ruling on the prison system's racial segregation policies after prisoners claim their 4th Amendment right to equal protection under the law was violated. My friend Mike had challenged San Quentin's practice of racial segregation.

Guards and prisoners are talking about the possible ruling by the high court to integrate the prison population. It will be a struggle to enforce integration among prisoners. All changes take time. We'll see if the court will rule if the practice of racial segregation in prison is illegal.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Check Them Out

A friend sent me the blogs of Jeff Chang and Hua Hsu. I heard of Jeff Chang, but I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him. I had the pleasure of meeting Hua in San Quentin about six years ago.

Jeff recently wrote a book called Can't Stop Won't Stop: The Hip Hop Generation. According to my friend, he knows what he's talking about. Jeff was also a founding editor of Colorlines Magazine.

Hua is also all over hip hop. He's investing in his Harvard education. On the side, he's interviewing folks from the hip hop scene and writing for magazines about music. He's a regular writer for Colorlines. (I still got that rock from the Great Wall of China, Hua.)

So go check these two brothers out.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Nature Time

The meteorologists predicted that it will be raining all day. However, in Vacaville, there was sunshine and blue skies all morning. Then around 4:35 in the afternoon, the sky decided to pour down hail the size of dried raisins. Then there was lightning slicing across the gunmetal-colored sky. Three minutes later, the concrete walkway on the yard was govered with patches of crystal.

Nature runs on its own time. There is no prediction. It only demands respect.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Quote of the Week (8)

"Loving someone means helping them to be more themselves, which can be different from being what you'd like them to be, although often they turn out the same. When you ask someone to live through you and for you, they wrap like a Japanese tree to suit the relationship which you are, and cease to be what you chose them for, that is, cease to be themselves. So men who are loving like as they love, and somehow they find the courage to let their partners grow in the direction they need to grow, even if that contains the risk that they might grow away."

- Merle Shain

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Flu Season

All prisoners over the age of 45 were afforded the choice of getting a flu shot. The rest of the population will have to rely on their immune system to right the flu.

In a building of 348 people who are sharing communal bathrooms and water fountains, bacteria and viruses pass everywhere. People use citracide or soap to kill germs to protect themselves. However, not everyone is health concious or considerate of others.

There are about 20 people who have the the flu right now. Anyone can become a victim if not careful.

Oh, when you do have the flu, don't count on the medical department to get you any cold medicine. You'll have to buy your own medicine, if you have the money. Or else, let your immune system handle it on its own time.

So please take care of yourself out there. Don't forget to wash your hands.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Another Small Legal Victory

Last year my attorney from California Prison Focus filed a federal writ of habeas corpus challenging my denial of parole on the grounds that the Board of Prison Terms relied on an improper rules violation report in denying my parole.

The defendant is the warden of Solano State Prison since I'm a prisoner in his domain. The Attorney General represents the warden. The defendant asked the judge to dismiss my writ. However, the United States District Court judge Thelton E. Henderson denied the defendant's motion.

Now the case goes on. The Attorney General has to prove why I shouldn't get relief even though my civil rights lawsuit was settled and I was granted parole. I'm still pushing forth all my options legally to get out of prison. It's not over until I'm freed.

The fight continues...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Quality Program on PBS

Lately PBS has been showing documentaries to celebrate and honor Black Heritage Month. Though I believe every month is Black Heritage Month, I know it all starts with one month.

I watched the story of Jack Johnson, the heavyweight boxing champion and Fidel Castro a few weeks ago. Tonight, I enjoyed watching "Slavery and the Making of America." I was also glad to see many Blacks are watching the documentary about their history.

The next anticipated documentary is about Malcolm X, which is showing on Monday, February 21st. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Malcolm X's assassination. I want to see whether Yuri Kochiyama is mentioned in the documentary.

I believe it is an injustice to history when the majority of Blacks don't know the connection between Malcolm X and Yuri. I have to believe that racial relations between Blacks and Asians can be better when more people realize our shared struggles.

Let's keep striving to raise awareness and fight for the monthly Asian Heritage, Black Heritage, Latino Heritage, and Human Heritage Celebration.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Something About My Dad

I talked to my Dad on the phone. He's plagued by the flu. Like me, Dad was born in the year of the Rooster. Like him, I think I'm coming down with the flu. I've been coughing a little. Hopefully, it doesn't escalate to the full blown flu.

From the five-minute conversation I had with Dad, I learned that he likes to watch movies, soap operas, and films from China. He prefers the Mandarin dialect over Cantonese. Maybe that's because he grew up in the military setting when he was in China where the national language is Mandarin.

However, whenever we talk, we speak Cantonese, a dialect I grew up speaking. I also speak fluent Mandarin because it's a requirement in school. I'm grateful to be able to speak two dialects of Chinese.

There is so much more for me to learn about my Dad.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Celebration of Black History Month

There were about a dozen people sitting in the front of the TV area in the dayroom listening to a live performance. Three Blacks were singing a Christian song. Then a Muslim brother got up to speak.

I wasn't informed about the event. I sat down on one of the benches to listen. A couple of older Blacks spoke on technology, the prison system, the Black Panthers, education, raising awareness among the youngsters, and self-determination for Blacks. Some of what they said were on point and people should have been taking notes.

However, when I looked around the audience, all of them were over thirty years old. There were no youngsters who needed to hear the talks. They were scattered in the dayroom playing cards, shooting dice, and standing around.

The event to celebrate Black History Month was poorly planned. No one took a leadership role to spread the word amongst the Black population or extend invitation to other people. The well-intentioned event defeated its purpose due to the lack of organization and leadership.

Where is the celebration?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Quote of the Week (7)

"In all performances there's one underlying message. I try to establish a rapport with the audience where there's one mind and they know that my feelings are theirs and their feelings are mine. The joys that they have are the joys that I have. The pains that they have are the pains that I have. I am simply bringing out the emotions that most people have inside and can't express."

- Nina Simone

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Raging Against the Spring

I spend the day finishing the novel Raging Against the Spring by my friend Orianne. She finished the book recently and I got to read it before being published. What a privilege!

The fictional story is about having hope and overcoming struggles that may seem insurmountable. There are many stories we can all identify with in our lives. I enjoyed reading it. I'll let you by the judge when you get an opportunity to read it.

Orianne is the smartest woman I know. I feel blessed to be her friend.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A Dream Come True

I had a dream about Rico. He was going to his parole hearing. I asked him what happened afterwards. He pretended that he was sad then smiled and told me that he was found suitable for parole. I woke up thinking about the dream.

I went to work and told my co-worker about the dream. A couple hours later, I received a phone call from a friend. He told me that Rico was found suitable for parole. I couldn't believe that my dream came true. I felt more happy for Rico upon hearing the news than when I was granted parole.

It's Rico's third time being found suitable. The governor denied his release twice. Hopefully, third time is a charm.

Rico will need support letters to ensure his release. I'll get more information on his case to share with people. For now, Rico is one step closer to freedom.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Authority from a Uniform

A correctional sargeant called me a liar today.

As usual, I went down to an areal where the photos of all the prisoners in the institution were stored to pick up a list of photos for identification purposes. It's been a part of my job description since my employment for the past year. All the officers who work in the area know me.

This morning the sargeant who supervised the area decided that I could no longer go to the area to pick up the photos. I had a couple of plastic laminated sheets in my hands. He decided that it was a security risk. When he asked who gave me the plastic, I told him that my supervisor did. Then I told the sargeant that my boss was on vacation. That's when he called me a liar. In his "sophisticated" mind, he figured since my boss wasn't in the office, there's no way he could have given me the plastic. So he put me in a holding cage while he went to talk to my other supervisor.

I was fuming inside at the disrespectful manner the sargeant displayed. An officer came to me and asked me to relax and that everything was going to be fine. He said that the sargeant was a knucklehead who didn't know hot to talk to people.

After a few minutes, the sargeant called me into his office and explained that it wasn't my fault and that I would not have access to the plastic and photos anymore. I told him to tell me the guidelines so that I would knot what not to do.

The sargeant didn't apologize to me for calling me a liar since the plastic was given to me. He just made up a new procedure without the presence of my boss, who was a lieutenant. A procedure that would be in place for years to come.

I'm the lowest man on the totem pole with a different set of uniforms. No authority here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Year of the Rooster

Being in prison doesn't stop tradition - celebrating the new year. Eating is a big part of the celebration.

The Vietnamese prisoners prepared a feast on the yard to welcome the new year. They invited me as always.

When the yard opened at 12:30 in the afternoon, the guys brought out the dishies that they had been cooking all night and morning. There were ten different dishes of steamed eggs, summer sausages, oysters, clams, fish, vegetables, soup, and pickled bean sprouts with yellow pepper. Most of the food came from cans. The guys were very creative in making the food presentable and edible since they don't have woks or microwaves to cook the food. It's all about using water steamers and small hot pots.

There were about 25 people present. After the traditional greetings, everyone dug in. There were sodas and candies.

When the meal was over, it was time for some blackjack. Everyone was given a box of 6 honeybuns as a new year present. The guys got together and started gambling. The bank won big time. After 30 minutes, the winner tossed all the honeybuns in the air and yelled happy new year. Everyone shared dessert.

As I sat among all the guys, I secretly wished that this would be my last lunar new year in prison. The next one I was to celebrate with my family and friends.

The most memorable of today's feast was the sound of laughter. Despite the fact that we're imprisoned and separated from our loved ones, for a few hours everyone was happy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My sister told me that Dad...

went to the emergency room last night because he was in excruciating pain. However, he waited for three hours and didn't get to see the doctor. During the waiting period, he was making comments like, "Have you picked out a coffin for me? Just go ahead and put my name on your grandfather's stone!" He was joking about dying at a time like that. Sis said that she didn't pay him any mind after he kept talking about dying.

The nurse gave him some painkillers and my Dad went home. He couldn't wait any longer. Today he drove back to Oakland from Sna Jose for an emergency check-up. The doctor took x-rays, urine, and blood to determine the source of his pain. He'll have to wait until Friday to get the test results.

It's news like that that scares me. I need my parents to stay healthy. At least until I get out of prison so I can spend some quality time with them.

I keep breathing.

Monday, February 07, 2005

It's All About the Money

The urgent legal mail that I sent out seven days ago was returned to me for the second time. This time the prison mailroom staff asked me to provide a corporate account number. The first time is said that I needed postage.

My attorney provided me with a prepaid addressed express envelope so I could rush the legal documents to him. How difficult is it to process my mail? I don't understand the logic of the mailroom staff's thinking.

I didn't want them mail to be delayed any longer so I put some stamps on it and mailed it. Hopefully, it won't come back to me this time.

Today about 30 CDC cadets dropped by the prison for on-the-job training. As they were walking across the yard I wondered why so many people would want to work in a prison. The answer is a no brainer: easy money.

There were a couple of women in their early 20s in the group. Everywhere they went the eyes of the prisoners' were glued to their butts.

It's all about the money.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Quote of the Week (6)

I never feel more given to
than when you take from me -
when you understand the joy I feel
giving to you.
And you know my giving isn't done
to put you in my debt.
but because I want to live the love
I feel for you.

To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
There is no way I can separate
the two.
When you give to me,
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me, I feel so
given to.

Song "Given To" by Ruth Bebermeyer (1978)

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I was watching a program on PBS about people who are multiracial. It featured a well-known couple in California, Jerry and Dorothy Enomoto.

Jerry Enomoto is a Japanese American who was interned when he was a kid during WWII. He later became the Director of California Department of Corrections.

Dorothy Enomoto is an African American whose parents experienced the system of slavery. She was a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jerry and Dorothy married and continue to serve the community as an interracial couple.

Why did Jerry Enomoto catch my attention? He wrote a letter to support my parole. I appreciate his support.

Multiracial people are multiplying as interracial marriages increase. That is one way to create solidarity and break down racial barriers.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Steps to Express Anger

1. Stop. Breathe.
2. Identify our judgemental thoughts.
3. Connect with our needs.
4. Express our feelings and unmet needs.

Nonviolent Communication
Marshall B. Rosenberg