"Seven Nations Cake, with arak liqueur from Iraq, hawash spice blend for Somalia, mastic from Yemen, qamar al-deen (apricot leather) from Syria, Shamshiri tea from Iran, dates for Libya, and sorghum for Sudan. With honey for sweetness and rose petals for a warm welcome home." // Source: Instagram @protestcake
Citizenship

Points of Reference: Resistance Day 16: Cakes, Spells, Dance, and Multi-Centeredness

It’s hard to keep up—much less synthesize—current events, so here is a collection of ideas that have been resonating with me… None more than this:

“No one action will be adequate. All actions will be necessary.”

—Jon Stewart as quoted by Dave Itzkoff, “Jon Stewart Savages Trump: ‘Purposeful, Vindictive Chaos,’” New York Times, February 1, 2017. (Please read in full, in fairness to comedic craft.)

 

Note to self: If I question the value of individual acts of resistance, remember that more is more.

Case in point: The #nobannowall opposition—protestors’ and lawyers’ rapid response at airports, the ACLU’s legal cases, the Brooklyn judge’s emergency order, the win achieved by Washington State’s Attorney General, and the strike self-organized by 1,000 NYC Yemeni bodega owners. (Side note: If self-employed, precarious bodega owners can demonstrate such a unified show of force, when will artists? Why were strikers in the #J20 art strike dispersed among art-world institutions?)

Protest Cakes’ Seven Nations Cake, distributed in last night’s #nobannowall protest at San Francisco City Hall.

"Seven Nations Cake, with arak liqueur from Iraq, hawash spice blend for Somalia, mastic from Yemen, qamar al-deen (apricot leather) from Syria, Shamshiri tea from Iran, dates for Libya, and sorghum for Sudan. With honey for sweetness and rose petals for a warm welcome home." // Source: Instagram @protestcake

“Seven Nations Cake, with arak liqueur from Iraq, hawash spice blend for Somalia, mastic from Yemen, qamar al-deen (apricot leather) from Syria, Shamshiri tea from Iran, dates for Libya, and sorghum for Sudan. With honey for sweetness and rose petals for a warm welcome home.” // Source: Instagram @protestcake.

Illustrator and comic book artist Yumi Sakugawa‘s recent drawing/meditation:

"Intersectional, intergenerational, intergalactic, international, interconnection. Even if it takes years, decades, centuries-- any unit of time beyond my lifetime and my theoretical grandchildren's lifetime-- I believe in action, I believe in compassion, I believe in a plane of existence where peace is the default and not the exception. Do what you can to show up. Every gesture matters." Source: Instagram: @YumiSakagawa.

“Intersectional, intergenerational, intergalactic, international, interconnection. Even if it takes years, decades, centuries– any unit of time beyond my lifetime and my theoretical grandchildren’s lifetime– I believe in action, I believe in compassion, I believe in a plane of existence where peace is the default and not the exception. Do what you can to show up. Every gesture matters.” Source: Instagram: @YumiSakagawa.

Victoria Graham’s projects about casting spells:

Jenifer k Wofford’s NO SCRUBS intervention: joy in the face of repression, cultural workers making revolution irresistible, with women of color to the front.

"NO SCRUBS was a boisterous, fun dance brigade that injected playfulness into the SF and Oakland Women's Marches. Their focused energy was fueled by fun, feisty tunes by women of color and quirky protest signs." Organized by Jenifer k Wofford. // Source: Instagram @100DaysAction

“NO SCRUBS was a boisterous, fun dance brigade that injected playfulness into the SF and Oakland Women’s Marches. Their focused energy was fueled by fun, feisty tunes by women of color and quirky protest signs.” Organized by Jenifer k Wofford. // Source: Instagram @100DaysAction

Krista Tippett: “A cynic would say, ‘…they’re just drops in the ocean.’”

Larry Ward, dharma teacher and Baptist minister:

“That is true. I am a drop in the ocean, but I’m also the ocean. I’m a drop in America, but I’m also America.”

—From “Being Peace in a World of Trauma,” On Being, July 14, 2016.

 


Reflections on immigration, racial identity, and place

My mom's Chinese New Year's preparations this year included tamarind, which she used to eat fresh from a neighborhood tree in Vietnam.

My mom’s Chinese New Year’s preparations. Citrus and lettuce represent wishes for prosperity. Tamarind is not a traditional offering, but my mom likes it because there was a tamarind tree near her home in Vietnam. In Chinese, pink is considered light red, the color of luck.

Wall text from "Land of Opportunity" at the San Mateo History Museum, Redwood City, CA.

Wall text from “Land of Opportunity” at the San Mateo History Museum, Redwood City, CA.

I flew back to the Bay Area to visit family. The next day, Lunar New Year, the Muslim ban, and the gravity of DJT’s reckless nationalism began.

I watched videos of protests at SFO and JFK as my mom happily arranged Chinese New Year’s offerings for peace and prosperity. It was surreal to think that my parents—who came to the US to escape war and fear of persecution in Vietnam and mainland China—might not be welcomed today.

I didn’t do anything to earn citizenship. I was granted citizenship because I was born here—a simple quirk at the complex nexus of my parent’s tremendous sacrifices and generations of people who fought for equality. When I think about how hard immigrants have to work to become naturalized, it makes me want to be deserving of citizenship. Engaging as an active citizen seems a small price.

At the San Mateo History Museum, I saw register books for “enemy aliens”—Japanese, German and Italian Americans. I thought about how such xenophobic, unconstitutional acts seemed like relics of the past not too long ago, but could be seen as part of a racist continuum now (and indeed have been cited as legal precedents).

My past internalized racism also came to light. A a youth I disdained the peninsula and the South Bay; I thought they were boring and lacked culture and worldliness. But I looked at things differently as I drove around San Mateo and visited a pan-Southeast Asian Buddhist temple in San Jose. While the region may be short on high or alternative cultures, its unfussy integration of Asian and Pacific Islander cultures into suburbia with mid-century vernacular architecture and design, is specific and kind of wonderful.

It renews my gratitude to call  both the San Francisco Bay Area and Queens home. What I love most about the two are their richness of cultural diversity and the simpatico afforded by progressivism and tolerance. I don’t feel split or unrooted. I feel “multi-centered.” Is that such an odd proposition? My mom is shaped by three countries—the one of her heritage, the one where she was raised, and the one she emigrated to.

I just started reading Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (1997). The idea of belonging to a place, and at the same time, to an interconnected world, seems especially meaningful.


Notes for forward movement

Some tidbits of creative inspiration:

  • The lion dance is said to have originated when villagers were tormented by a monster, so in defense they sewed a costume and choreographed a dance. Their united power scared the monster away.
  • 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. The rooster is in charge of time and starting a new day.

Positive psychology researcher Shane Lopez’s Hope Map exercise is a set of instructions to identify goals, pathways, obstacles, and methods (in other words, ways and means) of overcoming obstacles. Follow this link and click “Show Mapping Out Hope.”

[I’ve been holding on to this one because it’s like a make things (happen) activity waiting to happen, if presented as visually-oriented handout for download. But it seems worth sharing now; the time is ripe for planning and self-determined goals.]

L-R: (1) My assumed schema. (2) Kevin's described schema. (3) A proposed revision.

L-R: (1) My assumed schema. (2) Kevin’s described schema. (3) A proposed revision.

I liked how Kevin Chen recently described five areas of life (figure 2): a romantic relationship, friendships, family, practice, and job(s). In this schema, “productivity” accounts for only two-fifths of life, and relationships account for a majority.

I realized that I’d held a three-part schema (figure 1): work, practice, and personal life. This short-changed other people and explained why I always felt like I was failing someone.

I suppose I might add two more “houses” to a revised schema (figure 3): “me-time” and citizenship/civic engagement. This might be a temporary mode for the next few years, that incorporates both activism and self-care. In this case, people still occupy the majority.

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Erik Drooker, Flood, Dark Horse Books, 1992

Erik Drooker, Flood, Dark Horse Books, 1992 [Source: Drooker.com]

Eric Drooker, Blood Song, Dark Horse Books, 2002

Eric Drooker, Blood Song, Dark Horse Books, 2002 [Source: Drooker.com]

Today, a pot of pink daisies jolted me from a low-level state of sadness and self-pity by reminding me of a scene in Eric Drooker’s Flood. I probably last read Flood almost a decade ago. But its emotional power hasn’t diminished, even via memory.

If you haven’t yet read Drooker’s graphic novels, do! They’re amazing. I’ve discussed some of the stunningly elegant compositions at length in my workshops. And moreover, I think of them especially now because Drooker doesn’t shy away from depicting the terror of state violence, nor affirming life, creativity, and resistance. There is empathy, joy, and ferocity in these stories.

One of the most remarkable things about Hidden Figures (also recommended) is how it makes vivid the mundane and constant ways that systems of injustice dehumanize all involved. I hope that we are entering period of sustained resistance, and though powers will do everything they can to misdirect, exhaust, and numb us, we will insist on being staying human, listening, and keeping our hearts open.

Citizenship, Works

Eric Drooker’s Flood and Blood Song

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Citizenship

Points of Reference: Artists’ Power of Ungovernability

A few points of reference from this week of flourishing resistance.

Afire with revolutionary love

I made and gifted this papercut-and-ink poster. It was inspired by Rep. John Lewis and Susan O’Malley. Still learning.

Last night, I co-hosted a Protest Sign Work Party. We supplied paper in fluorescent red, aqua blue, navy blue, gold, and silver. I was elated to see a lot of great paper-cutting, hand lettering, and creative messages. It was heartening to hold space, share, and prepare for the NYC Women’s March on Saturday, among other actions.

Thanks to SOHO20, Rachel Vera Steinberg, everyone who braved the rain and cold to participate, and Materials for the Arts (an amazing NYC city institution!).

The power of artists

I love what Culture Strike posted about the power of artists’ resistance.

[…] has also been having a very hard time finding musicians to perform at his inauguration ceremony, making him angry. This proves that even a person like […] understands the power of music and culture, and not having a legit cultural icon performing at his ceremony supports the notion that artists and cultural workers do not stand by him, his administration, nor his rhetoric. It shows just how powerful artists are and how much influence [we] have.*

Saying no to opportunities can be trying, but it’s a choice we all have, and we have to exercise it to understand our capacities to resist. We can’t afford complicity. Now is a time for opposition (we can oppose with revolutionary love; see Representative John Lewis’ interview with Krista Tippett on On Being).

*As per my last post about not re-inscribing power, I redacted the name. I’ll try out different ways to avoid adding to […]’s over-representation. The parens and ellipse are sort of nice because power is inherently empty (H/T Amanda Curreri), and those who occupy it can be displaced (H/T Kerry James Marshall).

Social purpose

Friday’s ArtStrike is spurring soul-searching among some artists, who question the efficacy of participating. To me the answer is obvious: collective action is comprised of personal actions. But that’s hard to see without a sense of social purpose.

Perhaps, if it develops social purpose, then the project of seeing ourselves as interdependently entangled, and as agents, not subjects is necessary and urgent work.

Autocracy & emotional self-determination

An autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d’état or mass insurrection). (Wikipedia)

One aspect of autocracy that offends is the intentional disregard for others. The autocrat exempts himself from principles foundational to social bonding: fairness, mutuality, accountability, integrity. (As M said, the spectrum of possibilities of the unreasonable continues to widen.) Simultaneously, being emotionally immature, thin-skinned, reactionary, petty, and vindictive describes a counter-example of how to be in the world. I would like to craft my resistance on my terms, to self-determine my emotional tone of resolve.

Artists/Ungovernables

While organizing artists is notoriously difficult—like “herding cats” as the cliché goes—maybe that means, optimistically, we’re inclined towards ungovernability.

ungovernable: not capable of being governed, guided, or restrained; not submissive to government or control (Mirriam-Webster)

OK, you’ve got cats, artists, ungovernability—this is so meme-ready, artists. Go with it!

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Citizenship

Swimming Against the Tide

Writing OUR Story.

I’ve been getting ready for the Protest Sign Work Party at SOHO20 on Tuesday, as well as my submission to 100 Days Action. As I’ve brainstormed messages and actions I’d like to see in the world, I’ve been thinking about these wise words from Just Seeds:

The more we represent [Trump]—no matter in what light—the more we re-inscribe him with power. Instead, focus on graphics that support the social movements that existed before Trump and will be fighting to exist after he is long gone.

This is from their Inaugurating Resistance call for graphics. Their statement of principles is worth sharing:

It is enticing to want to use his image to belittle him, but no matter how successful we are at doing that, ultimately we’re still left with another picture of him. This sets him up as the center of our visual dialog, and makes it even harder to imagine our world without his toxic presence. This is even true—if to a lesser extent—when we play off and reproduce catch phrases and language.

We existed before him, and we are fighting to exist after he is gone. We need to create a graphic front of refusal. Those of us with the skills and resources to design and produce it have a responsibility to do so. We have a responsibility to force into the public consciousness the things we WANT. … We have to fight the incoming administration and their agenda, but not at the expense of the power we were already building. We will only stop the machine when our movements get stronger.

…we want—and need—to focus on building people’s power.

I’m trying to extend this thinking to how I focus my attention and efforts.

Bad news is available daily in unlimited quantities. I’ve been thinking about it as a river current; pervasive negativity will carry you downstream if you let it. Sometimes you have to swim to stay in the same place. What is the counteraction? How do you preserve psychological wellbeing?

I am trying to craft my own news feed, and inundate it with the individuals and organizations building people power with resolve and exuberance. It’s like making a daily mood board and the mood is “F*** YEAH.” (Insisting on optimism is challenging for some; I think it’s worth remembering that the human mind is over-attuned to the negative, so intentionally focusing on the positive is a movement towards balance.)

Here’s what I’d put on my “F*** YEAH” board:

The Amplifier Foundation-supported posters for the Women’s March

Stephanie Syjuco’s Reap What You Sew banners

Writers organizing: WritersResist.org

Theatre folk organizing: Action 1/19 at 5:30 pm in front of theaters across the US. TheGhostlightProject.com (At first glance it looks like a selfie meme but the action kit is a well-thought-out how to intended to kick off further organization.)

Queens Museum’s Sign of the Times event: The museum is closing for ArtStrike on 1/20 but open for poster-making. Lots of partners involved. Taking a stand, holding space, and forging alliances… Fantastic.

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Citizenship

Inaugurating Resistance, Creativity, and Self-Determination

[Updated 1/13/2017]

If you want to make things happen in this democracy this month and beyond, there’s lots to do.

Christine Wong Yap, Strike!, 2017, ink/digital. Preview of a forthcoming project, available as a downloadable graphic for protest under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

Christine Wong Yap, Strike!, 2017, ink/digital, dimensions variable. Detail of a forthcoming project, available as a downloadable graphic (PDF, 22kb) for protest under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

When I attended an upstander training last month, it was really emotional for me to say, in unison with others, “You belong here. We all belong here.” It was a fraught, and powerful, thing to say. We have to keep saying it, and backing it up with actions.

I’m heartened to see that the disbelief and grief have not led to pessimistic apathy. Instead, many are mobilizing to protect our democracy from hate-mongering billionaire conservatives.

Rights are not won nor defended easily. If we let our vulnerabilities limit us, we’ll never know the extent of our capabilities.

I’m happy to use my modest platform to spread the word about these opportunities for enacting our agency…

January 8:

January 14:

  • Rolling for the People: Self-defense, wrestling-coloring, and an ACLU fundraiser. 3x power: Oakland + Women + Jiu-jitsu.

January 14–15:

What is a propaganda party? It’s where we invite dozens of organizations, activists, designers, and artists producing materials around a political issue to hang out, meet each other, and distribute their flyers, stickers, posters, buttons, and more. All propaganda is FREE, and we encourage all to come by, grab a drink, and load up on as many posters and stickers they can carry.

BTW, Just Seeds has just added my solidarity poster to their database of downloadable graphics! I love Just Seeds’ statement of affirmation. We have to take the long view; recognize the freedom fighters whose shoulders we might stand on, and consider the responsibility to carry on the work.

We will be avoiding art with an explicit focus on Trump and his catchphrases. The more we represent him—no matter in what light—the more we re-inscribe him with power. Instead, we’re focusing on supporting the social movements that existed before Trump and will be fighting with us and for us long after he is long gone.

  • First 100 Days: United in Resistance @ PICA (Portland ICA, Portland OR). Numerous friends and allies, including make things (happen) artists and the fab c:3 initiative, are participating. PICA will host the first in a series of workshops on organizing, safety, and protest to encourage the resistance to the Trump regime. Artist organized by: Julie Perini, Sharita Towne, Ryan Pierce, Jodi Darby, Erin Yanke, Roger Peet, Amy Harwood, Esther Forbyn, Patricia Vazquez, and others with support from c3:initiative, Mississippi Records, and PICA.

January 17:
protest-sign-party-01a-432x432

  • Protest Sign Work Party @ SOHO20, 6–9pm. I’m co-hosting this “informal protest sign-making work party, where we will share ideas and design tools.” Let’s make protest signs that are legible and memorable. I’m looking forward to dialogues, message brainstorming, and fun hand-lettering.
  • Resist Government Sachs. Actions taking place at Goldman Sachs, 200 West Street, NYC at 3pm.

Inauguration Day/January 20:

  • J20 General Strike. In case you don’t know, a general strike invites everyone to strike—no business, no work, no school. There are marches planned in multiple cities.
  • J20 Art Strike. Not sure that artists and cultural institutions need to distinguish from a general strike, but in any case, strike. No business as usual. The right to assemble is part of the First Amendment for a reason.
  • Not My President silent action in Washington DC
  • Wall of Song Project goes live with its inauguration iteration. It’s the project of Bay Area artists Michael Namkung and Mel Day—a massed singing of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” to “mark this moment with something both permeable and powerful.” Submit your video by January 14 for the first version, or during the first 100 days for a larger version.

January 21:

  • Women’s March on Washington. They’re having a call for art, due tomorrow, January 8 at 2pm. (I have reservations about calls that violate NO-SPEC principles, but maybe it’s for you if you already have suitable graphics in their required dimensions.)

First 100 Days/January 20–April 29:

  • 100 Days Actiona counter-narrative to Trump’s one hundred day plan. A calendar of activist and artistic strategy, 100 Days Action is a call to thinkers, artists, and writers to propose gestures that can be carried out either at home or in the world. Many of my artist-friends in the Bay Area are organizing this effort. It’s a chance to be creative and enact some much-needed poetry in the world. Submit here; the first review is on January 15, with more dates following.
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Citizenship, Community

Points of Reference, mid-December 2016

Right now it seems difficult to feel sure about anything—facts, news sources, impending policies, and even the appropriateness of one’s own emotions. I know that despair and inaction are recipes for depression, however. Here are some unconnected things that are affirming my faith in each other and the power of self-organization.

Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer invites you to a community Self-Defense, Anti-Bullying, and De-Escalation Training Learn self-defense, de-escalation, and upstander tactics from the Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) and the Center for Anti-Violence Education to protect yourself and your neighbors. Wednesday, December 14, 6pm-8pm Sunnyside Community Services 43-31 39th Street, Sunnyside RSVP: 718-383-9566 or eehrenberg@council.nyc.gov Free and open to all. Reserve your spot today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 6:00pm
Fight Back Workshop: Secure Your Movement
Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 112 W 27th Street, NYC

AAWW’s responsive call for the Open City Muslim Communities Fellowship 2017, “a unique six-month opportunity for emerging writers of color from communities under attack from Islamophobia to publish narrative nonfiction about Muslim communities in New York City.” The program offers a “$2,500 stipend, skill-building workshops, and publishing opportunities to up to five writers.”

W.A.G.E.‘s responsive statement about the continued relevance of its advocacy for paying artists within the context of fighting for all workers:

Here is what we must do: we must put our exceptionality to work. Putting our exceptionality to work means claiming the privilege of having it both ways. It means dissenting from the industry that we serve by demanding to be paid for the content we provide. And this demand can no longer be made on the basis of being an impoverished, marginalized, and exploited constituency. …the demand for compensation must be made on behalf of a broader class struggle that extends well beyond the field’s impossibly high barriers to entry.

I’m excited about their teasing announcement of WAGENCY,

a broad-based coalition and artist certification program intended to provide working artists with the necessary agency to negotiate compensation or withhold content and services from institutions that refuse to pay them fees according to W.A.G.E. standards—a new form of labor organizing for an unpaid and atomized work force.

It’s time, artists. UNITE.

Southern Exposure’s goals of Abundance, Collaboration, Equity, and Agency—principles that I’ve written about in Art Practical, and explored in recent projects over the past two years…

soex-goals

Support SoEx.

Words matter. Why equity? Why not diversity? Diversity is “a much lower standard than equity” (Jeff Chang).

Jeff Chang‘s perceptive writing on race and protest in We Gon’ Be Alright:

But even for those who say they don’t like the bullying and don’t like the bully, the culture wars allow them cover to do nothing. Demagogues evoke restorationist dreaming, a deeply imagined past of order and tranquility. Reactionaries do not even need to sustain the belief or the anger of the fearful; they need only the silence and the complicity of the masses. In this way, from Wallace and Nixon to Palin and Trump, the energies of anxious whites have been diverted from class uprisings to racial division.

And this:

Protest of moral and historic force begins with people facing extreme vulnerability. For those who have been silenced, rising to the act of speaking is a perilously high climb indeed. For them, protest is not an expression of fear and doubt, but an overcoming of fear and doubt. And when it comes from those at the bottom, it can often be a profound proposition about how to make the world better for all. That’s the difference between the mob whipped into a frenzy by a demagogue and the protestors demanding that the institutions address harmful conditions that negate their very existence. One excludes, the other raises up.

The #NODAPL win at Standing Rock. Mobilizations work! Now let’s continue the pressure to permanently stop the pipeline. There are still #NODAPL actions scheduled throughout December, and you are still urged to divest from the banks funding the pipeline, such as TD and Citibank.

Thinking about:

  • Self care” versus sticking your head in the sand.
  • Sticking your head in the sand versus mindfully withdrawing from the 24-hour news cycle. Being as careful about the media you consume as you are with the foods you eat (Thích Nhất Hạnh).
  • That 1980’s/1990’s slogan, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The way it affirms our negative moods, but can whisper guilt and fear into our positive experiences.
  • The facts that working out helps relieve stress, and emotional stress is tied to medical illness. Knowing that this is going to be a long haul, and we must sustain ourselves with care for ourselves and each other.

 

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