"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
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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.

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Eric Drooker’s Flood and Blood Song

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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

We Got Each Other’s Backs: Downloadable Solidarity Poster

[Updated 11/19/2016: A bilingual Spanish poster has been added.]

Here’s a call for solidarity among all the people targeted by Trump. Download this poster in English or Spanish, print and share it under a Creative Commons License (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International).

Christine Wong Yap, We Got Each Other's Backs, 2016, letterpress print, 12x18 inches.

Christine Wong Yap, We Got Each Other’s Backs, 2016, letterpress print, 12×18 inches.


Christine Wong Yap, Nos Cubrimos Las Espaldas/We Got Each Other's Backs/No Mi Presidente, 2016, letterpress print, 12x18 inches.

Christine Wong Yap, Nos Cubrimos Las Espaldas/We Got Each Other’s Backs, 2016, letterpress print, 12×18 inches.*

Today, passing Trump Tower amidst other shellshocked New Yorkers, I thought about all the people Donald Trump has alienated on his path towards the US Presidency. I thought about women, African Americans, Latinx, immigrants, Muslims, LQBTQs, and the disabled. I was reminded that other artists have responded in crises, and then I was motivated by how disparate groups can unite in spite of this targeting. The despair was real, but our skills, and our capacities for solidarity and resistance, are too.

I printed this poster today. It’s letterpress-printed, with pressure plate and wood type. B organized a meeting at an art non-profit*, and I intended to distribute posters there. But as I was finishing up printing, a group of Latinx came in to the printshop. It was an ESL class from La Guardia on a field trip. They did not like Trump and were delighted I gave them posters. It was clear they were really proud to express their resistance.

*Thanks Young Zo for the translation help! I could design this poster in different languages; translation is my biggest obstacle. If you can help with translating this idiom into other languages of those groups particularly targeted by Trump, let me know!

Addendum (December 5,2016)

“We Got Each Other’s Backs” is a principle. The poster serves to remind ourselves and each other. But we must also back up those words with actions. It is not enough to perform allyship. Trump and his Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-reproductive rights cabinet will wield real power, enact real laws, and hurt real people’s lives. We have to actively resist and take risks, especially when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and risky.

I am disheartened to read that NYC subway riders did not intervene when three drunk men recently harassed an 18-year-old Egyptian American woman wearing a headscarf. (Though the Times reported that bystanders on the platform tried to stop the attackers from escaping.) But I’d expected that subway riders would speak up. Silence is complicity. Passively allowing rights to be eroded is anticipatory obedience to white supremacy.

Yet how can I say that I would have intervened? It is indulgent to imagine scaring off attackers with righteous indignation. But the reality is that I wasn’t there, I didn’t feel the intimidation or fear, and I don’t know how to defuse a situation. I’d like to think that being present—as in #illwalkwithyou—would help. But what a gamble (and pretension) to risk your and someone else’s safety on the assumption that your untutored participation (or privilege) will stop a bigot.

So I’m going to a community workshop to learn tactics to intervene productively. Join me.

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!

If you can’t make it to Western Queens, invite trainers to conduct a workshop at your school, workplace, or community. Or, read “How to Help if Someone Is Being Harassed,” by Anna North (New York Times, November 23, 2016), including the links in the last paragraph.

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Citizenship

Color, happiness, and symbols of resistance

People paint rainbow-colored stairs on August 31, 2013 in Istanbul. Stairs in the Cihangir and Findikli neighborhoods, which attracted attention after being painted in rainbow colors by a local man on August 27, were all painted grey on the night of August 29, and following comments on social media, the municipality of Beyoglu immediately painted them again in rainbow colors. // Source: Ozan Kose / AFP / Getty Images. From Huffington Post.

People paint rainbow-colored stairs on August 31, 2013 in Istanbul. Stairs in the Cihangir and Findikli neighborhoods, which attracted attention after being painted in rainbow colors by a local man on August 27, were all painted grey on the night of August 29, and following comments on social media, the municipality of Beyoglu immediately painted them again in rainbow colors. // Source: Ozan Kose / AFP / Getty Images. From Huffington Post.

A set of public stairs in Turkey has arguably been the site of:

  • guerilla art (when a local resident painted them in rainbow stripes),
  • a populist happiness gesture (he wanted “to make people smile”),
  • censorship (Turkish officials covertly re-painted the stairs grey), and
  • resistance (locals were outraged, and the city re-painted the stairs in bright colors).

It goes to show how using vibrant colors and promoting happiness may seem like simple gestures, but they can be powerful and meaningful actions for people and cities too.

 

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