Saturday, September 30, 2006

Twinkies Memory

Whenever I see a Twinkie, it always brings out childhood memories. When I was going to Westlake Junior High in Oakland, I would often walk past a store called Oasis. If I remember correctly, it was a Korean-owned store. There, whenever I had some change, I would buy me the double Twinkies pack. The golden sponge cakes with creamy filling were irresistibly delicious.

When my supervisor handed me a Twinkie today, I instantly thought about the Oasis store and the snack I enjoyed so much.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Luck of the Draw

A detainee received the judge's decision to deport him today. He htought he was going to win his case since his case wasn't too serious. However, the judge didn't give him a chance. He'll appeal the decision.

I found out that he has the same judge as I do along with two other detainees. In all our cases, the judge didn't make his decision at the end of our hearings. He preferred to give a written decision. All of us lost our cases & have decided to appeal.

According to a survey reported by the S.F. Chronicle, our judge has denied most of the cases that went in front of him in the past five years. But another judge granted relief to most of the cases that she'd presided on. Based on the report, it shows that the judges have no uniformity in decided their cases. For detainees who are seeking relief, it's all luck of the draw to see which judge they'll get.

Where is the fairness in the immigration system?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where's the Justice?

No matter where you go, gang presence is in all lock-up institutions. For many Hispanics, their gang affiliation often ruins their chances of winning relief in immigration deportation proceedings.

I've met many Hispanic gang members since my detention in immigration prison. Many of them have been in this country most of their lives. Due to their criminal convictions, they face deportation because they're not U.S. citizens.

When I talk to some of the gang members individually, they often reveal the genuine and good side of themselves. They want to do well; they love their families; they want to get out of their gangs. However, as soon as they're with other members of their gang, all logic goes out of their mind. They will risk losing everything they wish in order to have a good life with the gang. They're controlled by their gangs for life. To get out of the gang could mean losing their lives.

There's no logic in being in a gang and wanting to live a good life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Time Killer

In any institution, TV is the best pacifier to babysit and control its population. People will sit in front of the TV all day if they can Sometimes, they will fight and argue over what TV programs to watch. The administration is happy because TV keeps the population idle. The population is content because it doesn't have to think about its confinement. TV is a powerful mind-controlling tool.

For me, my time spent on watching TV decreased as my knowledge and education expanded. These days, I have too much to do to spend lengthy time in front of the TV. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching different programs on TV, but I can always do without.

I know that I'll spend even less time in front of the TV after I'm a free man. There are many time killers for me to choose from.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Learning History

There's a trailer on on a documentary about Richard Aoki. No, I don't have access to a computer, so I didn't and couldn't see the trailer. I know about the documentary through word of mouth. Also, I know my friend was working on the project for awhile.

For people who don't know Richard Aoki, he was a founding member of the Black Panther Party. Not many people know about his participation in the BPP, not even some of the OGs who were in the organization. I know because when I was giving speeches on the role of Asian Americans in black struggles and movements, hardly anyone knew who Richard Aoki is. Some people heard of Yuri Kochiyama from Malcolm X's documentary, but not Richard Aoki.

People who are interested in history and social justice movements should watch the documentary. The film will be shown at the Black Panther Film Festival in the beginning of October. Please check out the trailer on

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Waste of Money

According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is spending $100 a day to keep me in its prison. So far, ICE has spent approximately $55,000 to keep me locked up. The money continued to add up as amy case is going through the legal process with no immediate end in sight.

Instead of wasting taxpayer's money to keep me locked up, ICE could put the money to better use by releasing me. I'm not a danger to society, and I'm not a flight risk. I could be outside working, paying taxes, and helping people. ICE can put me under its supervisor release program by monitoring my movements using an ankle monitor. Why waste money by keeping me in prison while my case is pending?

It's a Hug

What do you do if you see a man crying in the dark with a blanket wrapped around his body? I'd hold him in my arms and let him cry. Then I'd talk about my sufferings, hopes, and dreams. After that, I'd listen. Lastly, I'd paint him a mental picture of his hopes and dreams.

We all need a hug sometimes.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Quote of the Week (90)

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've always imagined."

- Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Power of Truth

When Venzeuela's president Hugo Chavez recommended everyone to read Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Domination by Noam Chomsky, sales of the book went up immediately. Regardless of people's opinions of President Chavez, his call for reading Mr. Chomsky's book and people's response demonstrated people's hunger for truth around the world.

I've had the pleasure of reading Mr. Chomsky's books. They're truly mind-awakening & educatinoal. I'm definitely going to read his latest book of truth.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I Can Do Better

As I was reading an article in the S.F. Chronicle about the Log Cabin Ranch for troubled boys, I thought to myself that I could do better than the director to implement changes and provide the necessary programs.

According to the newspaper, Log Cabin Ranch houses juvenile delinquents who are one step short of being sent to Youth Authority. To me, that means that those youth are corrigible. All they need is the appropriate staff and programs to facilitate their progress.

I know that I can go into any juvenile facility and make assessments to lay out the pros and cons of their operation. Then I can make the necessary changes to maximize the potential of the youth.

Of course, I'd rather help troubled youth before they get themselves into any lock-up facilities.

I'll get my chance to make a difference one day.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Killing Time

Since there isn't much going on with me these days except waiting for the courts to rule on my appeals, I allow myself to indulge in some entertainment. I mean, I know how to entertain myself. That's how I'm able to survive these years of madness inside institutions without going insane. Inside detention, playing card games. I can break up my routine to relax. It's a treat for me. That's one way to kill some of this dead time I'm doing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Quote of the Week (89)

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

- Albert Einstein

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I'ts been a long time since I went to sleep at 9 o'clock at night. Normally, I got to sleep at around 11 o'clock and get up at 5 to prepare for work at 5:30. If I were still in prison, I would be doing yoga and meditation at that time. These days I have to adjust to a different schedule.

It seems like my circle has gotten small as for my movement is concerned. The next step the whole world becomes my domain. Therefore, I better get plenty of rest while I still can.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Menu Shopping

A friend sent me a menu from the Taishan Cafe on San Francisco's Clement Street. The restaurant's specialty is clay pot rice. The menu has a variety of dishes, drinks, and sweets. I love all the dishes on the menu. It'll be difficult for me to choose a dish because I want to try everything. My mouth gets watery just looking at all the names of the dishes. It's been years since I have looked at a menu.

I'll have to take a raincheck to eat at the restaurant. Tonight, I'll settle for spaghetti and meatballs with tomato & onion sauce.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Long Night

As soon as the guy came to my cell telling me that he'd lost his criminal case, I knew it was going to be a long night.

He was sentenced one year for a domestic violence case many years ago. He had to reduce that one-year sentence by one day so he wouldn't have to face deportation. But he lost. He doesn't want to appeal the judge's decision because he's tired of being locked up. He's been in custody for almost 3 months.

For two hours, he vented his frustrations and concerns about leaving his parents behind. I listened, advised him to focus on the future, and comforted him. Once he got tired, he went to sleep.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Buffer

My brother asks whether he can buy me some phone cards and send me some vitamins. He wants to know whether I'm eating well. I appreciate his concern for my well being, but, like many people, he doesn't know the condition of the jail.

Unlike prison, where the environment is a microcosm of society, jail is the buffer between prison and society. It's temporary. Aside from the letters, money orders, and reading materials, I am not allowed to receive anything.

In jail, the most time a person can serve is about one year. Anything longer than that and the state prison is the next destination. Though I'm an immigration detainee, not many people stay in jail for 18 months like I have.

I'm grateful that I'm doing all right under the circumstances.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Everyone can live like a lotus flower

Everyone can live like a lotus flower
the only qualification is
your ability to breathe
hold your breath
feel the bloated sensation
release the air
until your diaphragm
is emptied

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Fifth

On this fifth anniversary of 9/11, I want to remember everyone who died since that tragic day that woke up the world. I also want to pray for everyone who is dying and continues to die because of what happened on 9/11.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Quote of the Week (88)

"Fire & Ice"

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

- Robert Frost

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Power to the Peaceful

Golden Gate Park was popping today with music, artists, poets, activitist, and peace-loving people. It was another annual festival for Power to the Peaceful. Michael Franti was doing his part in promoting peace and harmony in the advent of the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.

I used to be able to participate the festival day by listening to KPFA when I was in prison. I missed the past two years due to my current status. I'm hoping to make the next one live.

Power to the people.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Tears that Nobody Sees

Men are not supposed to cry. Ane when they do cry, they don't admit it or let anyone see it. Its seems like peer pressure of society's macho tradition always hinders men from being honest with themselves.

In prison, everyone has to put up a front to show that they are strong in order to survive. Any weakness will attract predators. However, no matter how strong a person my seem when he's among his peers, once the lights are out and he's alone in his cell, tears often creep up to his tear ducts. Those are the tears that nobody sees.

Crying is a strength. I wish I could cry more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Suicides in the Pen

I was reading the Chinese newspaper today and came across an article about San Quentin State Prison. The article was about prisoners graduating from a program called "Brother's Keeper" that counsels others to prevent suicide. It's a 15-month training program to learn how to look for warning signs in prisoners who have potential mental issues, depression, and psychological pressures.

I found out in the article that a life prisoner I knew had committed suicide in 2005 after 31 years of confinement. He hung himself after breakfast one day.

During my time in prison, I'd witnessed and encountered many prisoners who wanted to commit suicide because they had decided that life was not worth living. I had the privilege to counsel some of them.

Sometimes prisoners trust other prisoners more to share their problems with instead of the mental health staff in prison. There should be more programs to help people to prevent suicides in state institutions.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Shattered Dream Team

I was a little shocked to find out that the U.S. basketball team lost against Greece in its quest for the World Championships. I mean, if I gambled, I would have bet money on the U.S. to win it all. After all, the Dream Team 7 has all the superstars from the NBA. It has blown away most of its opponents by 30-40 points during the World Chamionships. However, when it came to the end, the dream of gold fell short again. It goes to show that there's always a mountina higher than the next one.

Sharing Poetry

Whenever we read or hear a poem, each one of us has our own interpretation of what the author is trying to convey. Deciphering poetry is like looking at a painting: everyone gets a different feeling. There's no wrong interpretation unless you're taking a test.

After I shared my "Exotic Birds" (4/24/06 entry) with some immigration detainees in the GED class, they drew blanks. However, after I explained my motivation for the poem, they all asked me for a copy. They just needed some guidance to understand the words that they wouldn't find to share their feelings.

It feels good to know people always appreciate poetry no matter where they are.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Chinese Classics

By the time I was 12 years old, I had read and loved the four major Chinese classics. They were Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, Dream of Red Chamber, and Watermark.

Of course, I wasn't able to understand all the words and comprehend the historical meanings completely. Nonetheless, reading those classic literatures was one of my favorite past times growing up in China. I must confess that I was reading them in comic book form. I also listened to those classices being told by storytellers on the radio. Yes, there were trading cars of characters in those classics. I used to know them all.

As an adult, I continue to enjoy those Chinese classics. I look forward to watching those classics on DVD now that they've been made into TV series.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Quote of the Week (87)

Did u hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete
Proving nature's laws wrong it learned 2 walk
without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
it learned to breathe fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else even cared.

- Tupca Amaru Shakur

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More than just a Letter

I love it when I'm reading a letter and can feel my creative mind responding to its content. It's not the usual "how are you" and "what's up" and checking letters. Don't get me wrong. These days anyone who can sit down and write a letter to a friend is appreciated by the receiver. I'm fortunate to be on both ends because of my unique situation. I've been receiving some encouraging and inspirational letters from friends. All of you are teaching me how to be a better writer. Of course, I'm a better person through our connections.

Please keep writing.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Self Censorship

I can never ever get used to the fact that someone reads my incoming and outgoing mail before it reaches its destination. Still, I've been living with that condition for twenty years.

Sure, the authority says the mail censorship for those who are incarcerated is necessary for security reasons and that we'd lost our privacy rights. But the thought of someone getting a kick out of reading my mail makes me feel violated each time. Therefore, I am forced to censor myself whenever I write. I don't like it, but it's a part of survival.