Friday, January 28, 2011

Violence prevention is...

... sharing with about 40 diverse immigrant students in San Francisco's International High school about the importance of education and the potential they have to become future leaders.

... outreaching in the hot spots of Chinatown and talking with youth about finding better activities than hanging out and smoking.

... challenging a group of youth on the streets to play basketball in the Chinatown YMCA against staff from the Community Youth Center (CYC) and offer them, "If you win, we will buy all of you dinner. If we win, you will have to do community service with us."

... having about 15 youth taking up CYC staff's challenge, boasting that they will run us off the court, ending up losing by 21 points and taking a group picture what the game's over and wanting a rematch.

... coming home exhausted from the basketball game before midnight and having to coordinate staff to handle the reporting of an attempted suicide by a youth.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Letter from the Pen

I maintain contact with a few people in the Pen. Whenever I have time I would write to them. I still remember how good it felt to get a letter from the "free world." Receiving letters from family and friends is one way to maintain contact and ties with the community. It also means that people in prison are not forgotten.

Today, I receive a letter from a life term prisoner who I had done time with. I met up with him during my visit to Vacaville Medical Facility with the San Francisco Reentry Council a few months ago.

I just want to share an except of what he wrote: "I was denied parole because of weak parole plans. What a bomer, I took them 29 1/2 years [with] 25 years of that was clean time, no write ups, or disciplinary action and I was denied parole for three more years under a law that became active literally about a week before I went to the parole board on 4-3-09. Marsey Law, huh, what a rip off. Here it is 2011 and I go back to the board next year 2012, so really have to dot my i and cross my ts."

Well, it's good to know that he has not giving up hope.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Community Police Advisory Board

Did you know that I'm a member of the San Francisco Central Police District Community Police Advisory Board (CPAB)? Well, I am.

I got on the board under the recommendation of the then Captain Dudley who is now a Commander. Since I do violence prevention in the city, especially working with teenagers in Chinatown, I wanted to be a member so I can provide input to create a safer community and provide an alternative view. Also, I'm representing the younger generation.

The CPAB meets monthly to talk about issues that are impacting the jurisdiction of Central Station. There's other CPAB in other stations as well. Each CPAB meeting is facilitated by the district Captain.

Today CPAB covered ongoing issues on Chinatown safety, Graffiti, Entertainment, Prostitution, Sit Lie Enforcement and Parolees. The Captain also provide the Compstat (crime statistic) of the month.

Can my involvement count as civil engagement?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Porridge with Love

It feels good to get up in the morning and find breakfast on the table.

Dad got up early this morning to make Chinese fried tortilla from scratch and beef porridge. It's a meal that Chinese from southern part of China eat for breakfast. I love eating it when I was a kid. I always appreciate Dad's cooking. As I sat at the table eating breakfast with Dad, I felt a sense of love and fulfillment. However, for a flash moment, I noticed my thought wondering how much longer will I be able to enjoy Dad's presence.

For now, I will continue to cherish his porridge with love.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Living the Dream

As part of my way of appreciating the legacy of Dr. King's dream, I participated in the Know Your Rights event that the Bay Area Youth Commissions organized and sponsored by Lick-Wilmerding High School's Center for Civil Engagement.

I had the privilege of kick start the event with a poem and got approximately 250 people chanting Peace, Love and Community. However, I was inspired by the young poet Chinaka Hodge who let her words flow like a series of soothing melody. Then I was able to conduct a workshop on the importance of knowing your rights. When it was time for the participants to choose which workshop to go to, mine was the less popular. I'm sure me being an ex-con definitely had something to do with it. Fortunately, the twelve of so people in my workshop appreciated my sharing.

It's good to see so many young people who are doing their part to live up to Dr. King's dream of equality for all. Many of them will definitely be leaders who will lead this country.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feeling Naked

Something didn't seem right this morning when I got to work. I felt a sense of lightness. I didn't know what caused that feeling until I reached for my waist and realized my work cell phone wasn't there. I had left it charging at home. The first thought came to my mind was, "The phone's going to be blown up with missed calls and messages." Then I just accepted the fact that I'm going to be without phone for the day.

I carry two phones with me daily, one's personal and the other for work. I wish I could combine the two, but personal and professional have to be separated.

When I got home, I did received some calls and messages. I totally forgot that I had an appointment for an interview on the phone. I didn't like missing the call.

Cell phone has been apart of my life for almost four years. I did feel a little naked without it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I was invited by the San Francisco Interfaith Council's (SFIC) Executive Director Michael Pappas as a guest speaker with Reentry Policy Director Jessica Flintoff at its monthly breakfast.

About 80 people from different faith based groups were present at the St. Mark's Lutheran Church Heritage Hall. I shared my poem "Autobiography @ 33" with them as an introduction. I spoke briefly about the importance of all communities coming together to help those who are incarcerated. I drew the parallel on how the prisoners are being treated like lepers in the leper colony of Prison Industrial Complex. Many of the community members reached out to me when I was in prison just as Jesus reach out to the lepers in the leper colony. Without the compassion demonstrated by people from the community, I would not have become who I am.

Members of SFIC are doing many great things helping people who are in need in our community. I want to encourage the interfaith council to play an active role in changing the policy that can steer California away from being number 1 in incarceration and number 50 in education.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day Off

The irritation in my eyes were bothering me so I decided to take a day off. I rarely take time off from work since it seems like I have never ending work to do. I thought time would go by really slow, in the contrary, the day went by way too fast.

I made a list of things I needed to do and start doing it. I washed laundry, organized mail, paid my bills, cancelled my U verse internet service, went to the Post Office to return equipment and brought stamps, went to the bank to check my account balance, cooked a pot of soup and made dinner. I rode the stationary bike for 30 minutes, showered and ate dinner.

I was so caught up in doing all the chores that I forgot to go to the neighborhood town hall meeting. I also had plan to write a poem, but I didn't get to it.

My eyes felt better after some rest. I still have endless things to do, but I enjoyed my day off.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Since everyone is making a big deal about today's date being 1/11/11, I figure I will document some of the things that transpired for me.

Today happens to be the day I have to check in with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement.) I have to report to ICE every three months. So at 9 o'clock in the morning, my co-worker drove me to Sansome Street to do my check in. I wanted to do it early so I can be at work on time and I wanted to beat the crowd. However, when I went to the designated window on 5th floor, there're too many people waiting to get their paperwork sign. so I decided to go back later.

I went back a couple of hours later, it was just routine. The ICE agent sign off on my paper and gave me a new date to go back in 3 months.

It's Tuesday so I went to CYA Chad to do my workshop with the IMPACT program. We're doing the Addiction module this series. The lead facilitator and I went to two different units to give an introduction of the module. It's good to have two groups of captivated audience. A staff sat in our circle. Later he expressed how much he appreciates us for providing this program for the youth.

I enjoyed the ride to and from Chad. I get to talk to my co-facilitator and friend Sterling. We often reminisce how life's twist and turn got us in the positions we're in. We stay busy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reversal of Roles

Many years ago when I was still in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, I was locked up in Yuba County Jail in Marysville, California. ICE contracts with different county jails to keep people who are going through the deportation process in their custody. Out of boredom and a need for outside human connection, I would call some of my friends using the prepaid telephone card to talk to them. One of my male friends was always there to pick up the phone and happily chatted with me about any random things. He would also send me money to buy food and load up on my phone minutes. I always appreciate him for being there whenever I needed him.

Tonight, I received a call from Yuba County Jail. It's my friend who was always there to pick up my call. ICE detained him and ordered his deportation to China after he lost his case. He has a wife and two toddlers at home. He doesn't know whether when he will be deported or when ICE will release him on supervision. He's waiting for luck to come.

We talked about the most random things for thirty minutes so he can kill some boredom. I'm grateful that he called.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Superman No More

Well, I knew I was out of shape hen I was barely able to do one Superman today.

Superman is an exercise where you pull yourself up above the pull up bar, drop down, and pull yourself up above the bar again. It's different and more difficult than the normal pull up which only requires you to pull your chin up above the bar. Superman requires upper body, arms and wrists strength to complete.

I used to be able to do about 8 to 10 reps.

It's been a long time since I had exercise regularly. Regularly meaning at less working out three times a week. So when I decided to do some bar work before I go jogging, I realize that I'm Superman no more.

It's time to get busy...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I Defecate Where I lay

I was walking toward city hall on Larkin Street in San Francisco observing my surroundings in the afternoon. All of sudden, a white bearded man with a backpack came into my line of vision. What I saw next made me flabbergasted. The man took off his pants, squadded half way and defecated on the side walk in the middle of the street. Then he wiped himself with a tissue, pulled up his pants and walked away as it's a normal thing to do.

Though I was shocked by what had transpired, I see dog poop and human poop daily when I go to work. The many alleyways in the Tenderloin District have been public animal and human bathrooms for years.

The only way I see that can stop all those madness is fundamentally covering the basic needs for people: housing, jobs, and food.

Friday, January 07, 2011


It's definitely a night of celebration in San Francisco politic today. Ed Lee, who is the City Administrator received 10 to 1 vote to become the first Chinese American Mayor in San Francisco.

Jane Kim had her community celebration party in Chinatown to prepare for her term as the first Korean American Board of Supervisor in San Francisco. Everyone who is anyone from the city political scene was there, except for outgoing Board of Supervisor Chris Daly. Too much drama going on there.

I spoke with Mayor Willie Brown and thanked her for his support.

I thanked Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi for his support of my pardon. He said that I made it easy for him to support me. He expressed that he strongly believe in reentry. He said that we never talk one on one and suggested that we should get together. I told him I will contact his office to set up a time to meet. I look forward to exchanging ideal with him on different issues effecting the incarcerated. I appreciate his openness.

It's good to see Asian Americans being more involve in politic, especially young people. I look forward to working with them in some capacity.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ain't That Something

So as I was looking for parking on the way to a press conference, I noticed my boss in her car writing something. After parking my car, I approached her to find out what she's doing. She told me a truck hit her car. I noticed a huge dent on the back door of the driver side. I started taking pictures of the damage and the truck parked behind her.

Then a truck stopped and parked across the street, the Caucasian man in the driver seat yelled at me, "If you think the truck behind you hit your car, you're wrong. I work for the same company. The truck has been parked here."

I looked at the damaged car in front of me and said to him, "Are you for real? I'm looking at the damage right here."
So the guy yelled over to his coworker who's busy writing down insurance information, "Armando, did you hit that car?" Armando responded, "Yes, I did."
The guy said to me, "Oh, congratulations." Then he proceeded to apologize to me three different times.
So I'm trying to make sense of what had transpired. Armando, who's driving a truck hit my boss's car. They were exchanging insurance information. I arrived at the scene to take pictures of the damage. Then, another driver, who works for the same company as Armando, driving a similar truck stopped and parked across the street. He immediate defends his coworker stating that the accident did not happened. Yet, he was not at the scene when the accident occurred. Then he apologizes after his coworker admit he was at fault.
What was all that about?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I love my GuMa

"It's been 29 years. When are going to come visit GuMa? I saw everyone else in the family except you." GuMa asked me over the phone.

How time flies!? The last time I saw Guma, my Dad older sister, was when I was 12 years old in 1982. We're at the training station in the city of GuangZhou, China.

"Do you remember the piggy bank of coins you gave me before you left?" GuMa started talking away. "I didn't use any of it. I put those coins in rolls and saved them. I still have them in the village." I can't believe GuMa still remembers everything so vividly. She's already 85 years old. I was closest with GuMa out of the family. She helped take care of me when I was a kid. I gave her all my savings before I left for USA.

I have to tell GuMa it's not that I don't want to go visit her or forgot about her. I don't have a passport to go anywhere. I told her that whenever I am able to adjust my immigration status and travel abroad, the first person I want to see in China is GuMa.

Yet, the reality is, I don't know if I will ever see GuMa again. That's why I wish that she will live to be a hundred years old. That way, hopefully I can fix my status within 15 years and go visit GuMa.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Youth Lifer in CYA

For adults, San Quentin State Prison and Folsom State Prison are considered are notorious prisons. When it comes to youth, N. A. Chaderjian, AKA "Chad," is one of California's most notorious youth prisons.

"I don't really like talking to you like this." I told "J" who is standing behind a solid metal door with a long piece of glass in the middle. It saddens me to see him locked up in a cell because I was in the same situation many many moons ago.

Today is the first session of the 11 weeks of IMPACT (Incarcerated Men Putting Away Childish Things) program. However, our point person is on vacation so take the opportunity to do meet and greet with youth participants.

"J" who is gang affiliated told me that he's been locked up in the California Youth Authority Since he's 14 years old. He's doing a youth life sentence for attempted murder. That means he'll be out when he turns 25. At 20, he has 5 more years to go. However, with good behavior he may go home in 3 years. Since he's in solitary confinement, "J" will have to learn how to get along with other wards who are rival gang members before he can program on the mainline population.

I encourage him to invest in his education and set short and long term goals. When I asked what he wants to do after he get out, he said he couldn't think that far. He needs to work his way out of solitary confinement first.

I can't help but wonder what will become of "J" when he leaves Chad after being incarcerated from a teenager to a young man.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Friendly Media

The Chinese ethnic media reported the Governor Schwarzenegger's pardon name list and commented on the fact that my name wasn't one of them. Chinese television KTSF Channel 26 even did an interview with me. They wanted to keep the Chinese community updated on my pardon effort. Over the years, I appreciate the media's support because it's been sympathetic to me. Its reporting allowed the community to make its decision on whether it wants to embrace someone who is an ex-con and confronted the idea of redemption. So far, the media has been kind to me. Friendly media is definitely a great tool for advocacy.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 Reflection

Happy beginning of 2011 my dearest family, friends and supporters!

The year of 2010 definitely ended with a bang for me. I received much media attention in my effort to petition for a pardon from Governor Schwarzenegger before he leaves office. Bay Area mainstream KTVU channel 2 news did an interview with me. People's station KPFA's Hardknock Radio, APEX Express, and Letters to Washington had me on their shows. The Chinese World Journal newspaper did two articles on me. KQED online news blogged about my deportation case. Many bloggers and websites across the nation helped spread the word of my online petition. hosted my online petition. Facebook was extremely useful in reaching out to people to support my cause. We had over 2,500 people signed the online pardon petition. None of it could have been possible without the support from friends and the community.

My immigration status has not change since my release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on 2.27.2007 – deported. It took four years for the 9th Circuit Court to make a decision on my appeal in December of 2010. The court ordered an oral argument from the attorneys to get more information before it makes a final decision. The hearing took place on 12.9.2010 where two hundred or so friends and supporters attended to express their support. The judges seemed sympathetic. The court's decision could take months. Even if I do get a favorable decision, my case will have to be send back to the Board of Immigration Appeal and Immigration Court for more hearings. My appeal to adjust my legal status in the US has many more challenges to overcome.

As of this afternoon 1/2/11, Governor Schwarzenegger released the names of people who he had pardoned. My name is not on that list. I remain a man without status. I must continue to live in a state of uncertainty, as a transient. The great thing, whenever one door closes, hundred of doors will open. I'm forever grateful for all of you who believe in me and support me. I'm definitely planning to petition Governor Jerry Brown for a pardon.

In the meantime, I'm still happily employed by the Community Youth Center of San Francisco (CYC) as a Project Manager overseeing the Invention and Street Outreach components. City budget cuts had interrupted the fluidity of our services to the youth and community. However, CYC's mission to motivate youth to succeed remains as our priority. I have less time to do direct service as a Manager and I miss it. At the same time, I understand I have different roles to play and that they're all important. I'm grateful for the opportunities to collaborate with different Community Based Organizations and city departments to work on creating a safer community for everyone.

In my second year serving on the San Francisco Reentry Council, I had the opportunities to visit California Medical Facility in Vacaville and San Quentin State Prison. The people who were once my “babysitters” sat at the same table with me to brainstorm ideas on how to minimize recidivism. I also saw many familiar faces still suffering in those prisons, especially the ones who have life terms. When they saw me, they saw hope. Hope that they too will be out in the “free world” one day. Hope that their way to freedom is not with toe tags. People always ask me how I feel going back inside. After all, I did spend 19 years of my life in the prison system. The truth is whenever I enter in any Total Institution nowadays, I feel disassociated from what it represents. I'm grateful that I was able to walk out of there. I will continue to go behind the walls and do my part in helping those who are left behind and voiceless.

As the co-chair for the Asian Prisoners Support Committee (APSC) based in Oakland, California, my team and I are doing what we can to provide some much needed culture competent program and resources for the incarcerated Asian and Pacific Islanders population. Unfortunate, there is no culture specific self help program for the growing API population in California's 32 prisons. We're looking to make history in San Quentin State Prison and Solano State Prison to get the prison administration to approve our intentions. APSC continues to correspond with API prisoners and provide resource referrals as request.

My role as public speaker allowed me the opportunity to share my experiences of transformation and raise awareness on the detrimental impact of massive incarceration effects the community. I interacted with hundreds of students at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, Oakland's Laney Community College, University of Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, Japanese National Museum of Los Angeles, Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota and in the San Francisco Unified School District. One of the best engaging tools the students enjoy was spoken word poetry. That reminds me to come up with new materials for the upcoming year.

In my other job, I go to the California Youth Authority in Stockton once a week through IMPACT (Incarcerated Men Putting Away Childish Things) to help facilitate workshops on male accountability curriculum to incarcerated youth. The number one model of IMPACT is “ if you can't think, you can't win.” It feels good to be able to share my experiences and learn from those youth. At the same time, I'm able to plant the seed of transformation to prevent them from heading into the adult prison system.

I attended my first US Social Forum in Detroit. I visited Vincent Chin's grave site and paid my respect. Meeting Grace Lee Boggs and taking to heart her message of “stop thinking or acting like a minority, instead we should think and act like a majority” was definitely a highlight. It's great to network with so many people who shared the commonality of making change in our respective community from across the nation.

In the past year, the community of San Francisco included me in many of its collaboration efforts to build multicultural relationships in addressing violence. I witnessed the power of advocacy and solidarity when over a thousand Asians stood in front of the steps of city hall demanding more resources to create safer community. I felt privilege to have the opportunities to learn from many of the community leaders from a diverse background. The lesson I learned was we must put aside our differences, no matter how minuscule or gigantic, to find our common grounds for change to occur.

I believe 2011 and the years ahead are going to be awesome. I'm a firm believer that as long as I continue to do my part in serving the community, things will work out accordingly. As Kahill Gibran expresses in The Prophet on work, “...when you work you fulfill a part of earths furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born, And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life, And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret.” I love my work.

Thank you for sustaining me for another year. Please hold me accountable on my actions and remind me to stay humble. Please continue to mentor me so I can learn and grow in our shared journey on this earth. I'm encouraged by your presence in my life. Please be kind and loving to yourself, your family and your friends.

… just breathe and appreciate life flowing through your body with each inhale and exhale.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Peaceful Beginning

Maybe it's about me getting older, I didn't go out to party and meet up with friends to ring in the new year. I just relax at home and enjoyed a sense of solitude.

As I reflected on all that had happened in the past year, I realized that things will only get better in 2011.

Life is good.