Sunday, April 30, 2006

Quote of the Week (69)

"Somewhere someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer."

- Louise L. Hay

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How to Rent a Negro

From time to time, I'd get lucky and catch a good book reading on C-Span 2 Book TV because the TV was not on or available all the time. This morning, I was able to watch Damali Ayo, the author of How to Rent a Negro, talk about her book.

The title of the book caught my interest immediately. It was definitely an attention grabber. The first thing I noticed about Miss Ayo was her great smile. She was an animated and funny storyteller. The book was obviously about race and stereotypes. Miss Ayo wanted her book to generate conversation and dialogue about racism and slavery. The book included email exchanges between the readers and the author on her website. It also had a "race card." Miss Ayo believed that her book was good for young people to prepare them emotionally with race issues.

I'll definitly read that book when I get a chance. You can check out Miss Ayo's website at

Friday, April 28, 2006

Holy Holly

I received a surprise visit from an attorney from UC Davis today. Holly Cooper is a professor and supervising attorney in the Immigration and Prison Law Clinics. She has been representing immigrants who are facing deportation for years. But what's different and awesome about Holly in comparison to other attorneys is that she does pro bono work. There is no charge for her services. When there are thousands of immigration detainees who can't afford to hire attorneys, Holly's pro bono representation is like bringing coal to people stuck in the bitter cold snow. It's heartwarming to know there are people like Holly who care about those who lack legal representation.

If you or your loved ones want to know more about Holly's services on immigration issues, please contact her at or (530) 754-4833.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blessing in Disguise

Last year, the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation banned all smoking in its prisons. Like narcotics, tobacco has become illegal in prisons. And, like narcotics, black-market tobacco is plentiful but expensive in prisons. For folks who want to continue their habit, they'll have to pass through the nose. The alternative is to quit.

There are many people who were able to quit their addictions of narcotics and tobacco. When there are fewer resources for access, people are forced to quit their habits. When people are able to take advantage of their confinement to overcome their addictions, it's a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chinese Abacus

I forgot how to use the Chinese abacus. When the GED teacher asked me to demonstrate for the class how to calculate with the abacus, I had to read the English instructions. After all, the last time I'd use one one was when I was 11 years old. I remember all the students had to carry their own abacus. I had a black plastic abacus that fit in my book bag. The abacus was my calculator when I was going to grade school in China. I wonder whether the students are still using abacuses in China to count.

It's a pleasure to see an abacus in jail.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Superiority Complex

I can't stand people who think that they are better than others and feel the need to pick on others. I mean, I know that's the way it has worked since forever, but it doesn't have to be like that. Those people fail to comprehend the concept that all human beings are equal. Just because I am who I am today doesn't mean that I've always been like this.

There are detainees who pick on those who don't speak English all the time. The funny thing, or should I say the sad thing, is that they're not educated and can barely understand English themselves. They're also immigrants fighting against deportation. but because they can speak a little bit of English, they feel they are more superior.

Inequalities are often created by people who believe and fight for equality. We're all guilty of that act sometimes. We have to lead by example to make changes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Exotic Birds

the only things
i see flying these days
are the cockroaches

there are plenty of exotic birds
they are a different species
each possess
richness and uniqueness
that decorate the vast sky

such a pity
they cannot fly
and the only songs
they chirp are the blues

oh these exotic birds
have hopes and dreams
but the sleepy bugs accompany them
it's a shame
that's the way
the vultures
always operate

after all
those exotic birds are a different species
they are caged

i am drawing blank
until i can fly
among the cockroaches

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Quote of the Week (68)

I am a poet
who composes
what the world proses
and proses
what the world composes

- Kahil Gibran

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Can Fly

An old timer once told me that we can all fly, like a bird, but we just haven't learned how to use our wings.

I had a dream recently that I was flying. I was able to control my flying by pumping my arms. I remember how excited I was to discover that I could fly. It was a powerful feeling.

In dreams, possibilities are unlimited.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Village Life

According to Chinese president Hu, out of the 1.3 billion of the Chinese population, 750 million are peasant living in villages. The majority of these peasants live in poverty. The chasm between the rich and poor continues to widen as the Chinese government embraces capitalism.

When I was a kid in Chinea, I used to accompany my aunt to visit my parens' villages during summer vacations. Though the bucolic scenery was captivating at the time, I didn't like the living conditions of village life. After all, I was born and reared in the city.

I don't know whether I can hang with the village life.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Political Jostling

Two Chinese guys and I sast together for two hours watching the political jostling between Chinese president Hu and President Bush on C-Span. It's the first time I had watched President Hu speak. I was impressed that he had memorized the beginning of his speech given in front of the White House. He seemed more calm and serious than President Bush.

We were surprised to see how long it took security people to remove the lady who was heckling President Hu. It looked like a conspiracy on the U.S. government's part to humiliate President Hu. I admire that lady's courage. However, I found it ironic that she would ask President Bush to "stop [President Hu] from killing."

As the whole world watched the game of political jostling between the two countries' leaders, let's be grateful it's not a war.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Elementary Math

When it comes to math, the stereotype is that all Asians are good at it. I don't know about anywhere else, but in China, students are learning algebra in elementary school. When they are compared to students in the U.S., they seem to be smarter or better in math. If that is the case, it's only because the Chinese have an early start.

Personally, I'm not good at math. But if I'm solving some equation problems with some dropout high school students, I may look smart.

I thought about this when I'd heard two non-English-speaking Chinese comment on how simple algebra is when the GED teacher asked them to solve some problems.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Asian American Population in U.S. Prisons?

I saw a segment on AZN TV about Hyphen Magazine's speed dating events. Somehow, i thought about how cool it would be if Hyphen set aside a page or two to feature writings or stats on APIs in prison. After all, the magazine is about raising awareness on issues that concern APIs.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel that the API media has continuously neglected a population of APIs behind bars. There's no representation for those who are voiceless.

Maybe it's time to get busy being inclusive rather than selective in presenting.

Monday, April 17, 2006


There isn't much I can do except wait for the judge's decision. After a year and a month in immigration custody, the deportation proceedings are finally over. At least, it's over until the judge gives his decision. Then I still have to deal with the outcome accordingly. Based on my experience of waiting for 19 years to get out of prison, I know my immigration case is far from over. I don't take anything for granted. Because if I'm not physically out of custody, I'm still here - waiting. I'm just relieved that the case is moving forward.

For now, waiting is good.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Quote of the Week (67)

"To be wronged or robbed is nothing, unless you continue to remember it."

- Confucius

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Streets of Gold

Wtih a plastic bag in one had and tongs in the other, she hit the streets for gold. She stops at the garbage can, looks in, and retrieves a plastic bottle with the tongs. She puts it in the bag and jogs to the next destination.

Yes, there is gold in the Golden Mountain in the age of recycling - just look in your nearest garbage can.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Yin and Yang

"Don't talk to me! I read your file and I know what you do!"

The young Asian immigration agent scolded me as I explained to him that I don't get to see my mom often. Anger and hatred were written all over his face. To him, I was that 16 year old who had committed the crimes 20 years ago. Somehow, the pain and trauma that I caused him blinded his ability to see beyond that 16 year old who had victimized him. I don't blame him because I understand that he hasn't let go of the suffering. He didn't do anything to warrant the victimization from me. Just like any rape victim, it's not her fault. When a victim doesn't take active steps to confront his suffering, it'll stay with him for life. He has to seek help to heal himself so he can free himself from further mental victimization. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. It means forgiving the self and healing the self.

* * * * *

"I don't know why I'm crying, but when I saw you I just started to cry," the young Asian lady dried her tears as she spoke to me through the telephone over plexiglass. Compassion and kindness were exuding from her eyes. She read about my case on the Internet and felt compelled to show up to attend my hearing. She expressed her concerns and offered to help. She had the ability to look at the life of the 36-year-old man.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Final Hearing

I stood on the metal bench with my waist chained, hands cuffed, and legs shackled on the sixth floor of the immigration building in San Francisco. My body was soaking in the rare sunshine amidst record-high rainy days. Through the smudged plexiglass window and square-crossed wires, Chinatown bathed in the rays of the setting sun. As I stood there taking in the postcard view, I wondered if I would see it again.

In the hearing, I testified on my fears of going back to China. However, I didn't fully comprehend the magnitude of the danger to my life should I be deported to China until I heard the testimony from Dr. Daniel Lynch from USC, an expert witness on International Relations.

After a year and a month, all my hearings to fight for my stay in the U.S. are finally over. The judge set the deadline of April 27th for attorneys from both sides to submit their final argument. Then the judge will make a decision on my status of adjustment and Convention Against Torture petition. I just have to wait for the decision and deal with the outcome accordingly.

The support for my hearing was overwhelming as usual. I'm grateful for the presence of old and new friends. Where would I be without all of you?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Tank Man

When four Beijing University students looked at the picture of a man standing in front of the tank, the couldn't identify the significance of the scene. The fact that they had no knowledge of one of the most inspiring moments in the twentieth century is mind boggling. Now that's the power of censorship.

Frontline's documentary The Tank Man depicted the corruption and dictatorship of the revisionist Chinese Communist regime. It'll take the Tank Man's spirit in everyone's of us to abolish any dictatorial regime against the masses.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Great Quake

I was looking through the SF Chronicle's advertising feature on the commemoration of the centennial observance of the 1906 earthquake events and history, but I did not see any mention of Chinatown. If I remember my history lesson correctly, the Great Quake changed the lives of many Chinese immigrants and the immigrant policies under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Because the fire destroyed all the documents of Chinese immigrants, they were able to renew their status and apply for their family members in China to come to the U.S.

Wherever tragedies occur, hopes and miracles are near.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Who Cares?

The phone shut off suddenly while I was talking to my attorney's assistant this morning. I was 5 minutes into the collect call. My attorney and I had scheduled the time to prepare for my upcoming hearing. I pressed the intercom button and requested to speak to a unit supervisor to inquire why the phone cut off. A deputy referred me to talk to another deputy when he came into the living area.

The deputy informed me that the phone was cut off because they had to transport prisoners. He said that the supervisor was too busy to see me and suggested that I fill out a grievance.

The phone shut off suddenly while I was waiting to talk to my attorney in the afternoon. I was 5 minutes into the collect call.

I requested to talk to the supervisor and was again referred to the deputy. I talked to the deputy and received the same reply. When I called my attorney the third time, he was not in his office.

Who cares about my due process rights?
Who cares about my mental well being?
Who cares that I wasted 21 dollars?
Who cares that I'm fighting for my freedom?
Who cares that those in uniform can mess with my life?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Quote of the Week (66)

"Life is like a brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

- George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Support APSC

The Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC) is looking for new members to support Asian Pacific Islander prisoners and educate the community about an often neglected rising prison population. APSC is taking an active stand to reach out to APIs behind bars to seek out the root cause of their incarceration. It's making a conscious effort to sopt the cycle of violence and crime committed by APIs against API communities.

Those who are interested in finding out more can send snail mail to
PO Box 1031
Oakland CA 94604

Friday, April 07, 2006


Somewhere, a youth is locked in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day, for months at a time. That's the practice called 23:1 used by California Youth Authority to punish youth who have behavioral problems. It's also called solitary confinement.

I had experienced 23:1 in prison for a period of 11 months straight. Though I came out of that experience stronger, I had my lowest moments.

No human being, let alone kids, should be subjected to such isolation and punishment.

Where is the justice with juveniles?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"That's So Cheap"

A Christian detainee told me about the two-part series of The Ten Commandments TV movie that will air next week. He wanted me to watch it with him. I told him I wasn't interested. He asked me what religion I believed in. I told him that my religion was love, peace, and equality. He said, "That's so cheap."

I wonder what's so cheap about love, peace, and equality.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wake-up Call

Soon to be a parolee, I'm well aware of the necessity of walking a straight line. Over the years, I've witnessed plenty of parole violators who were sent back to prison for any minor incidents and violations of their parole conditions. If I want to cherish my freedom, I cannot make any mistakes.

A close friend of mine who is on parole was detained after he ran a red light. Any normal person would get a ticket and that's it. But the price he paid was a loss of his freedom, regardless of how temporary it was.

We can't take our freedom for granted.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Free Mumia

When I had access to a radio, I would always enjoy listening to Mumia's insightful and critical commentary on KPFA. The fact that his voice could reach out to so many people around the world from behind bars was indicative of the power of a freed mind.

Mumia Abu Jamal, an innocent man who is framed for murdering a cop, continues to fight for his freedom after being locked up for more than a quarter of a century.

Yuri reminds us that Mumia's birthday is on the 24th of this month. There will be marches and radio programs to celebrate Mumia. It's also a celebration of freedom.

Let's rejoice and be glad in it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A for Abuse of Power

"Zheng. Zheng!" Deputy A wakes me up from my sleep. "You need to take your clothes off the bars."

I can't believe that Deputy A wakes me up for that. I proceed to reason with him that the clothes are on the cell bars because I have nowhere to hang them. He refuses to hear my explanation and threatens to write me up (a disciplinary report to punish me). Deputy A orders me to get out of my bed to remove my clothes, or he'll punish me. I comply with his demand.

I immediately check the time. It is 2:25 in the morning. I have to get up at 5 o'clock to go to work.

I cannot figure out Deputy A's urgent need to wake me up at 2:25am to enforce his rule.

In the past 10 months that I've been in that cell, no deputy or jail supervisor has asked me to remove the clothes from the bar.

An hour later, Deputy A wakes up my neighbor and orders him to remove his towel off the bar.

There must be something powerful about Deputy A's uniform.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Quote of the Week (65)

"De gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah love didn't work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but it still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."

Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Zora Neale Hurston

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Second Life Sentence

The longer I stay in detention the more it feels like I'm doing a second life sentence. Just like doing a life term in prison. There's no set date for me to get out. I have to go through what seems like an endless number of legal proceedings to win my freedom. I can remain hopeful, but never too wishful. I just have to take it day by day. By the time I do get out, it will feel anticlimatic.

I remain in the state of unknowns.