Friday, August 31, 2007

My father's love

Before I came back to the free world, my parents normally stay at my sister's house during the weekdays and only live in their house in Oakland during the weekends. After I came home, my Mom became the designated "baby sitter" to make sure I am cared for. After being away from her side for twenty one years, she felt the need to show me her motherly love.

At the same time, my Dad felt the same way. When my parents decided to go to stay with my sister for a week, my Dad worried that I wouldn't be able to take care of myself. He told my Mom that he would drop her off and come back to stay with me so he can cook for me. He told my Mom that I had been away for too long, now that I'm home he felt guilty that I have to be alone. He felt like he's abandoning me. My Mom had to convince him that I'll be all right before he's willing to leave. Of course, Dad cooked enough food for a week before he's satisfied that I wouldn't go hungry.

How can I not love and appreciate my Dad!?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Legend of Bruce Lee

"Bruce Lee! Bruce Lee!" I heard an exciting voice calling.

I truned my head toward the direction of the voice and saw a young African American on bike standing next to a Latino American.

The brother had a colgate smile on his face as he walked toward my direction and yelled, "Bruce Lee!"

I looked at hime and said, "What's up?"

"It is Bruce Lee! It is Bruce Lee!" he proclaimed enthusiastically.

I asked for his name and shook his hand.

He walked away happily.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It must be the Hawaiian Sun...

If things had worked out the way I wanted, I would be in Hawaii attenting the Annual Convention of Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement & National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development today and kicking it on the beaches. Instead, I am working. Not that working is a bad thing since I love my job helping the youth and community, but I would rather be in Hawaii.

The truth is I have to remember that I am a parolee. That means I do not have total freedom of movement. (not that we have total freedom anyway) As a parolee, I have to ask for permission to go anywhere beyond 50 mile radius of my residence. As a ex life prisoner, whenever I travel out of state, I have to get written permission from my parole agent, his supervisor and the reginal administrator. After that, I have to get permission from my ICE agent. I was fortunate that I had gotten approval to go to New York and Washington D.C. However, I was not lucky enough to get permission to go to Hawaii. That was fine with me. What I did not like was that I lost $525 because I had brought the ticket ahead of time. That is one week of my paycheck. I could have gotten some refund, but the news of my disapproval came one day before I was scheduled to leave for Hawaii. So I spent $525 on feeling the excitment of going to Hawaii and the disappointment of not being able to go.

That is the way things go in life sometimes - I can't always get what I want. Life is still good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Black August

When I was inside the pen I had opportunities to join the annual Black August commemoration with the African American brothers. Sometimes I listened and other times I shared. I always thought it was a privilege for me to be able to connect with people from different racial groups.

This year I am able to join the Black August commemoration again, the difference is I am in the free world. The organizers invited me to speak along with a group of respected revolutionaries included Kumasi, Chief Ernie Longwalker and his wife Warrior Woman, Richard Aoki and Yuri Kochiyama. It was an honor for me to be in their presence and sharing my thoughts with all the brother and sisters who believe in change and community.

I hope all the brothers and sisters who are still in captivity know that they are not alone or forgotten.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Eastern Medicine on the Bus

An Asian teenager got on the bus with his grandfather who's holding a big trash bag of aluminum cans. The older man dropped the bag off and smiled at me. Then he sat next to me and told me that he'd saw me on tv. He said that everyone makes mistakes and that I'm doing good helping the youth. He told me that he's 72 years old. (He didn't look a day older than 65.) I thanked him and asked where he came from. He's actually from the same village as my Mom. He said he also helps people because he knows how to feel pulse to diagnos health problems. I asked him to check my pulse. He did and told me that I'm healthy, but I haven't been sleeping soundly. He wrote out a formula of Chinese herbs for me to cook and drink. He said it will help me. I thanked him and exchanged contact information with him.

Everyday when I'm on the road and in the public is an adventure.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Youth Guidance Center

The Youth Guidance Center (YGC) sounds like a recreation center where youth can play sports, receive counseling, and find resources to empower themselves. In reality, YGC is a juvenile hall that locks up youth who have been in trouble with the law. Its new designed compacity holds up to 150 juveniles.

Twenty-one years ago, I was a youth who occupied one of the rooms in YGC. Today I am a case manager and outreach worker for a community youth center going into YGC to share my experience with the youth occupants. The sole reason the youth want to participate in any programing offered by outside agencies is so that they can get out of their cells. They don't want to locked up. That's the same feeling I had when I was in YGC. I went all the programs that were offered so I could avoid being stuck in the cell and look at the walls. So when I started talking to the youth they were not listening. They just wanted to chat with the other youth. Then when I told them that I have been locked up longer than they have been alive, they gave me their undivided attention. I understood what they're going through. That is the instant creditibility that other youth counselors don't have. I was able to maximize the 40 miniutes I have with them to emphasis the importance of respect, education and responsibility. At the end, I got my message across.

The difficult thing for me was leaving those kids behind. I don't think I'll ever change that feeling.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back to Jail

I didn't think that I would be going back to jail this soon, but I did.

No, don't fret. It's my choice to go to jail this time around. The San Francisco Youth Commission invited me to go to San Bruno County Jail to look at a program called "Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP). "RSVP implemented throught the San francisco Sheriff's Department, was designed to test a hypothesis concerning the causes and prevention of violence through a jail-based violence prevention experiment."

I went inside the jail for two days to observe the prisoners participate in the program. The first thing I noticed walking inside the housing unit was the smell. There was this strong odor that I'd recognize anywhere - the smell of dirty laundry. The other visitors didn't smell it. It's a prison thing. I can never forget that stench smell of orange clothing on prisoners' backs.

The prisoners were separated in groups under the supervision of one outside facilitor to conduct the sessions. Some of them lead the discussion and others give feedback. Everyone participated in the process of embracing the deconstruction of violence in order to reduce violence in their lives. Whatever reasons motivated those guys to join the RSVP or how much they get out of it, they have started the healing process.
I believe there should be more programs like that in all prisons as well as schools and in the community.

I was in those types of self-help program myself. It works. As I walked out of the jail, I remembered that it used to be the other way around - me staying in prison and others walking out. Freedom is great.