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April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 1
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FREE EST. 1974—SEATTLE VOLUME 45, NUMBER 8 — April 18 - May 1, 2018 THE NEWSPAPER OF THE CHINATOWN INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT & ASIAN PACIFIC ISLANDER COMMUNITIES OF THE NORTHWEST
Speakers discuss continued relevance of Korematsu, WWII incarceration cases By Vince Schleitwiler IE Contributor
The King County Sheriff’s Office on the first floor of the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle • Photo by Chetanya Robinson
After Tommy Le shooting, new policies from Sheriff’s office
By Kelsey Hamlin IE Contributor It’s been almost a year since Tommy Le was fatally shot by two members of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), and the KCSO falsely told the media and Le’s family that he held a knife during the confrontation. It’s been not muchmore than 100 days since the KCSO had a change in staff. A number of Asian Pacific Islander (API) community members feel optimistic while others feel hesitant about upcoming changes under the newly elected sheriff, Mitzi Johanknecht. How does the sheriff’s department intend to avoid any future deaths like Le’s? One possible way is ammunition. In February, the KCSO received sponge rounds, or Drag Stabilized (DS) bean bag rounds, intended to neutralize someone without using regular (and more likely to be lethal) bullets. Officers began training to use these bean bag rounds at the beginning of March. The ammunition has to be paired with its own weapon in order for it to be used: “less lethal shotguns.” After much discussion with community members, the KCSO opted to avoid calling the new items “nonlethal,” unlike other departments across the country. The bean bag rounds themselves still have potential to cause significant damage, though not
death. This is one of many steps Johanknecht wants to take in the hopes of avoiding another death like Le’s. “I want the deputies to use what they’re trained in and what they think is best needed for that situation,” Johanknecht said. “There’s a big swath of [information determining the best option] that is a much more detailed conversation and some of it gets into tactics.” A report from the national nonprofit Police Assessment Resource Center advised the KCSO in 2012 to start training deputies in deescalation tactics and to use less lethal tools, like the bean bags. Now, the deputies are. They’re also receiving implicit bias training. “Since 2012, we knew we should be doing this and the leadership of the sheriff’s office, from that time forward, hadn’t done anything about it,” Johanknecht said. “So I was saying ‘that is something that I would implement.’ I would take information from that study.” And she did. Another key component of these less lethal shotguns, Johanknecht pointed out, is that unlike Tasers, they don’t require officers to get closer before firing at a person. The sheriff added that Tasers don’t work half of the time because, to be effective, they require both prongs to actually attach to a person, and have SHERIFF: Continued on page 3 . . .
Remember when the injustice of Japanese American incarceration felt like a settled question? Thirty years ago, Congress offered World War II concentration camp survivors an apology and redress payments. Thirty-five years ago, the infamous wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu for defying Executive Order 9066 was vacated by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, with similar rulings following in two other cases, involving Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui. On Friday, April 13th, lawyers, students, and members of the public gathered at Seattle University to hear about these cases and their consequences from Judge Patel and other participants and leading jurists. Importantly, despite lowercourt reversals, the Supreme Court decisions in Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui were never officially overturned—even if they are widely seen, Patel noted, as a nadir of US jurisprudence. In his 1944 Korematsu dissent, Justice Robert Jackson described the majority’s deference to government assertions of military necessity as “a loaded weapon” left for future leaders to abuse.
Korematsu Coram Nobis Press Conference. • Courtesy of the family of Fred T. Korematsu
correct misconduct—the cases were reversed.
Next, Karen Korematsu—Bannai’s “sister from another mister,” she joked—shared personal stories of her father Fred’s lifetime of courage. There was that time that President Bill Clinton’s staff called. Fred was being awarded the highest honor a civilian can receive—but the invitation didn’t cover travel expenses. Tell them to mail it, Fred told his wife, it’s too expensive. They persuaded him to go, but ever since, Karen explained, “I tell young people, save your dollars if you want to go to the White House and receive the To which the current administra- Presidential Medal of Freedom!” tion appears to have responded, hold Growing up in the 1960s, Karen my drink. never heard about camp from her famAt the event, organized by Seattle ily. Then one day a Japanese American University and the Federal Bar As- classmate gave a report on the incarsociation of the Western District of ceration—and mentioned the KorematWashington, Lorraine Bannai sum- su case. Was this some black-sheep relmarized the history of the cases. ative? At home, her mother confirmed Prof. Bannai served on Koremat- it was Fred, but wouldn’t say more until su’s 1980s legal team, led by Peter he came home. “He said, it happened Irons, who—along with researcher a long time ago, that what he did was Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga—uncovered right, and the government was wrong,” proof that the government willfully Karen said, her voice catching. She saw suppressed key evidence undercut- the pain on his face, and couldn’t ask ting its claim of military necessity. any more questions. Except one: could Through a writ of error coram no- he still vote? Even then, Karen took bis—a rare legal procedure used to KOREMATSU: Continued on page 8 . . .
2 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
Opinion: Infertility awareness is a critical need among Asians By Annie Kuo IE Fellow
groups every month in Greenwood, Laurelhurst, Everett and Bellevue.
If you or someone you know has trouble conceiving or maintaining pregnancy, it’s because infertility is quite common. And if you don’t know of anyone, it’s likely because they just aren’t talking about it – especially in family-focused Asian cultures, where infertility often carries a stigma. Embarrassment and shame can lead many people to avoid their usual sources of support in friends and family, and suffer in silence.
Asians seeking cultural empathy may appreciate that the Greenwood and Laurelhurst support groups are co-hosted by Thai American and Indian American women. Those who prefer more anonymity can find online support on RESOLVE forums at inspire.com. I am one of those hosts, an accidental infertility activist, now RESOLVE Ambassador and member of the UW Men’s Health Campaign Council. I pursued egg freezing when my daughter was three years old and became familiar with the time-consuming, expensive, and often frustrating process of fertility treatment. Today, I advocate for the infertility community by providing emotional support, raising awareness about the disease, and meeting with lawmakers to increase Americans’ access to family-building options, including adoption. On May 23, I will train advocates from around the country at RESOLVE’s annual Advocacy Day in Washington, DC (bit.ly/createchangeblog).
Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months. Couples trying to conceive when the woman is over 35 are encouraged to consult with a medical provider after six months. The reasons for infertility are equally split between men and women, about 30 percent male and 30 percent female factor, with the remaining third of the population facing unexplained infertility. Low sperm count is actually the most common cause of infertility, and male infertility is a factor in 30-50 percent of couples trying to get pregnant a second time. According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, 147,472 women in Washington state share this struggle, or toward solving it. I also want people to one in eight American couples. A different know that compassionate support – both study by the National Institutes of Health local and online – exists for the journey. suggests that this number is even greater – Dr. Victor Fujimoto, director of the IVF that one in six couples are infertile. program at the University of California In 2012, the Center for Disease Control San Francisco, co-authored a 2007 study (CDC) published a National Public Health revealing that 40 percent of east Asian Action Plan on Infertility. It states, “Al- patients waited up to two years to talk to though the ability to have children is often a doctor. Precious time is often wasted assumed, a significant proportion of indi- because of denial or distrust of medical viduals and couples experience infertility professionals. Like many Asians, I hesiand may be affected by its resulting social, tated to consult a doctor, even a year afeconomic, psychological, and physical ter a miscarriage and not getting pregnant effects. The World Health Organization again. If it were not for the encouragement (WHO) and other professional organiza- of a fertility-wise friend, I may have detions, such as the American Society for layed seeing a doctor even further. It turns Reproductive Medicine, have defined in- out that, even though both my pregnancies fertility as a disease.” were spontaneous, the doctor found both During National Infertility Awareness male and female factor issues and could Week (NIAW, which will be April 22-28, support the continuation of my second 2018), I want API people struggling to pregnancy with simple medication. I may build families to know that accepting the not have my daughter if it were not for possibility of a problem is the first step those two visits.
Established in 1974, the International Examiner is the only non-profit pan-Asian and Pacific Islander American media organization in the country. Named after the International District in Seattle, the “IE” strives to create awareness within and for our APA communities. 409 Maynard Ave. S. #203, Seattle, WA 98104. (206) 624-3925. firstname.lastname@example.org.
IE BOARD OF DIRECTORS Ron Chew, President Gary Iwamoto, Secretary Peggy Lynch, Treasurer Arlene Oki, At-Large Sokha Danh At-Large Nam Le, At-Large
The International Examiner ran an infertility Q&A last year covering the many ways that Asians are affected differently than the general population (bit. ly/asianinfertility). Asian women experience a fertility decline starting at age 32, earlier than age 35 for Caucasian women – though both races often delay starting a family for career or educational reasons. Seeking timely help is critical. Asians actually have a lower response rate to IVF than white women and higher rates of endometriosis, vaginismus and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Asian men may also have a hard time culturally and socially accepting a male factor issue that needs treatment.
During NIAW, community can be found at the Footsteps for Fertility Fun Run April 21 at Green Lake where grants and free IVF cycles will be awarded at random to registered participants. KING-5 News will also run three televised NIAW segments on infertility, hosted by anchor Michelle Li, who is Korean American and has been vocal about her own infertility experience.
Emotional support is available in the Puget Sound for those seeking community during these challenging times. In addition to professional therapy, RESOLVE volunteers offer free, peer-led support
MANAGING EDITOR Chetanya Robinson email@example.com ARTS EDITOR Alan Chong Lau firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMUNITY RELATIONS MANAGER CONTENT MANAGER Pinky Gupta Lexi Potter email@example.com CONTRIBUTORS Kelsey Hamlin BUSINESS MANAGER Vince Schleitwiler Ellen Suzuki Chris Juergens firstname.lastname@example.org Robert Hirschfield FELLOWSHIP STAFF Susan Kunimatsu Bif Brigman Rumi Tsuchihashi Mitsue Cook Roxanne Ray Maria Pan EDITOR IN CHIEF Carolyn Bick Jill Wasberg Denis Mair email@example.com Betsy Aoki Jan Wallace
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April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 3
Tommy Le shooting: Sheriff to “reimagine how we do law enforcement” . . . SHERIFF: Continued from page 1
an adequate distance apart on the body. This doesn’t always happen when Tasers fire and the prongs deploy. KCSO policies specify that the less lethal shotgun is an additional force option, not a replacement. While training to use a less lethal shotgun is not mandatory, deputies who do use it are not allowed to carry any other shotgun “to avoid mixing of rounds.” This does not mean deputies with less lethal shotguns won’t be carrying a gun with bullets altogether. Other less lethal alternatives include Tasers, pepper spray, batons and chemical agents. Joseph Lachman, an API community activist and Civic Engagement Program Manager for Asian Counseling and Referral Services, believes that, while less lethal options are important, there are larger issues that need to be addressed. “You really need to have a deep look at what policies and what trainings are already in place because when that officer reaches down, they can choose what to reach for, and if there’s the idea they ‘fear for their life,’ then is the instinct to go for the lethal weapon?” Lachman asked. “That’s where all those hours of training either kick in or they don’t. That really comes down to, I think, that fundamental idea that the culture of the sheriff’s office.” Lachman felt having the less lethal option could influence a deputy’s mentality, However, there are still situations where law enforcement has access to non-lethal methods to subdue a suspect, but don’t use them. “Unfortunately, I think in a lot of ways our society is relying on police to act as first responders to people in a mental health crisis,”
he said. “And we don’t want to see people solving a mental health crisis with a bullet. Even just having a gun sometimes, out and pointed, can do a lot to escalate a situation. I think there’s a lot of potential we have for changing that kind of fundamental approach. I think it requires that they do a little more of looking inward instead of looking to buy new equipment. I don’t think this is something that can be solved with new equipment.” Instead, Lachman looks toward accountability to instigate change. He’s optimistic about King County Executive Dow Constantine’s decision to halt the inquest process, leading to a new January ordinance requiring the county to supply lawyers to families who can’t afford them. What’s more, all of Washington state no longer includes the “malice” standard when investigating use of force, a change instigated by Not This Time’s Initiative 940, which passed into law in March through a sister bill. Pushing up his thin framed glasses, Lachman described the less lethal weapons as “toys.” “They’re not lethal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt,” he said. “They’re meant to subdue people. I just don’t want to see lethal force being used against people when it’s not necessary, I also don’t want to see non-lethal force being used against people when it’s not necessary. Sometimes that’s protesters, sometimes that suspects.” KCSO policy specifies that the less lethal shotguns may be used only when other physical, verbal and de-escalation alternatives would be or were ineffective. Policy specifies the less lethal shotguns are to control a resisting, aggressive or violent person posing a threat of physical harm to anyone including themselves.
None of this, however, erases what happened to Tommy Le, a 20-year-old high schooler shot by KCSO deputies the night before his graduation. Le was in an apparent mental health crisis during his confrontation with police, though teachers, friends and family described his alleged behavior that night as uncharacteristic of him. The toxicology report showed no drugs or alcohol in Le’s system, although it did not test for mushrooms or LSD. The International Examiner requested for the more inclusive toxicology report that detectives already asked for, and awaits this information. Nor does it erase the fact that the KCSO disseminated false information stating that Le charged at officers with a knife, even though he was shot in the back and had only a pen. “Slowly, throughout this narrative, Tommy’s body has been turning 180 degrees,” Lachman said. “It went from him ‘being shot in the side’ to him being shot in the back. I can’t think of any way they could reconcile these different narratives, the one told by the deputy and the one told by the bullets in Tommy’s back.” Joe Nguyen, an API community member who works at Microsoft, feels more optimistic about the new efforts from the KCSO. Unlike Lachman, Nguyen has met and spoken with Johanknecht on several occasions. In fact, he’s now on the King County civilian commission for law enforcement oversight. Nguyen felt Urquhart repeatedly gave excuses when criticized whereas, he feels, Johanknecht is the “exact opposite.” Johanknecht feels the same way. Furthermore, she said a predominantly male and predominantly white KCSO would further perpetuate problems.
Chinatown/International District Resident Services:
Announcing the Set for Success Program A community-based eﬀort led by InterIm Community Development Association (InterIm CDA) received a multiple year grant to support our Set for Success program in the Chinatown/International District (CID) and South Seattle. InterIm CDA is on the front lines addressing homelessness, housing aﬀordability and equity in our city and region. This grant award will provide much-needed support for the holistic approach that InterIm CDA is taking with residents to address health inequities, Þnancial literacy, language and technology barriers and the lack of eﬀective civic engagement on issues that directly impact low-income immigrants and refugees.
This program aims to increase the skills of our residents through access to education and information for their wellbeing with health education, Þnancial literacy, ESL and computer literacy, and civic engagement. Approximately 600 low income residents who are nonEnglish speaking or limited English speaking will have access to this program over a period of three years. This is a Þrst-time, unique, innovative program being implemented in the CID and South Seattle and will transform the lives of the residents and their children. InterIm CDA will work to build cohesion, resilience and capacity with low-income refugees and immigrants through a coordinated, systematic approach with
four community partners: International Community Health Services (ICHS), Helping Link, YMCA–Downtown Seattle and Seattle Business Education Hub (SBEH). InterIm CDA has a 49-year history of advancing social justice and equity for low income, Asian and PaciÞc Islander, immigrant, and refugee communities. As a nonproÞt aﬀordable housing and community development organization based in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, InterIm CDA owns 5 mixed-use aﬀordable housing buildings with a total of 305 units housing 577 residents. InterIm CDA provides multi-lingual, culturally competent housing-related and community building services.
“I am overjoyed that we are now able to implement a holistic program in all InterIm CDA-owned buildings. This is a unique, innovative and first-time program in the Chinatown/International District and South Seattle.” ~ Pradeepta Upadhyay, InterIm CDA Executive Director
“The work we need to do is not only to reflect the communities we serve — you’ll hear that a lot — but we have to engage, understand, and have allow all the different cultures that we provide service for sink into us,” Johanknecht said. “We shouldn’t just try to reflect it, but become a part of that culture.” She believes there’s a barrier stopping more people of color from joining law enforcement. She wants to figure out why and recruit them. Nguyen admired Johanknecht’s intentions but questioned why disenfranchised and marginalized communities would ever want to join law enforcement. He knows of only one Vietnamese officer in the KCSO, Peter Trung. “The efforts [KCSO deputies] are doing need to be proactive and culturally competent and of the community,” Nguyen said. “They hold quarterly sessions of ‘this is how you become a law enforcement officer, you should come.’ That’s not good enough. You need to prove to the community that they belong there...that it’s actually relevant to you.” Nguyen felt the problem of officers using lethal force when it’s unnecessary is solvable. He believes the solution is more training hours and simulations with weapons. Nguyen is adamant the training KCSO deputies receive now are outdated and infrequent. A self-described data nerd, Nguyen tracked down and analyzed data on KCSO trainings. He found that the KCSO doesn’t appear to use de-escalation tactics. “We can fix this,” Nguyen said. “This is a thing we can do. Folks think [officers] should be trained, yada yada. They’re not. The number of hours they have with their firearms is very little. They usually only spend their time training with their firearms at a range, which is not the same as if you’re in a house or in public.” Nguyen grew up in the same neighborhood as Le. The Vietnamese-American community isn’t exactly tight knit, he said, but they all know each other. He found out Le had been shot through a friend that night. “All of it’s talk right now,” Nguyen said of Johanknecht in February. “She’s saying the right things, accountability being a big thing. The fucked up part is, for your job, you’ve taken an oath to protect a community, yet the community is afraid of you because of the shit that you’ve done. How do you mend that trust? The first thing is accepting that mistake or acknowledging things are broken and trying to mend that. Urquhart’s staff never did that. Mitzi and her staff have for sure been gracious and been apologetic.” Thus far, the KCSO has done private mediation and outreach to the Vietnamese-American community. They even added Judge Dean Long, a well known and trusted API community member, to their oversight board. Johanknecht also emphasizes attending community events. She stands in support of I-940 and its sister bill, which is now law . It’s been 33 years since Johanknecht entered law enforcement. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” Johanknecht said. “As we’ve talked about just a few things we’re assessing and trying to get better at, there’s many more things I hope to accomplish and work with the community on. It’s just the beginnings, but I am looking forward to having those interactions...finding ways to reimagine how we do law enforcement.”
4 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
The CID’s affordable housing bottleneck By Chris Juergens IE Contributor The Chinatown-International District (CID) neighborhood is one of the most transit-rich neighborhoods in the city. Minutes from downtown offices by bus or train, a 30-minute train ride away from Sea-Tac Airport, and a major stop on Seattle’s rapidly expanding light-rail, it gives many residents the freedom to not own a car. Asian grocery stores, restaurants and community centers are a further attraction for many residents. Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking banks, clínics and other services mean non-native English speakers can access necessary services without worrying about a language barrier. Add to this the number of affordable housing options in the CID and the attractiveness of the neighborhood for many lower-income Asian-Americans is second to none. “Traditionally, the CID’s affordable housing has attracted people who really depend upon culture and services of the neighborhood – Chinese or other Asian immigrants with limited English proficiency have been able to access services in their native languages in the CID,” said Maiko Winkler Chin of Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda). However, the attractiveness of the CID as a place to live for all people – Asian-American or not – has increased the strain on the limited numbers of affordable housing spots in the CID. “As Seattle has become more expensive, however, a wider array of people are moving to the CID who do so for the transit-rich environment or its proximity to downtown and less so for the linguistic and cultural services and communities,” said Winkler Chin. Increased attraction to the CID means increasing rents and increasing waits for affordable housing. Rachta Danh, manager of CID affordable housing building the NP Hotel, said there is currently a minimum wait of two years for new residents to enter his building. A 10-year resident and two-year long resident here reported having had no wait and having had a waiting period of one year, respectively, showing the recent strain on affordable housing access in in the CID. Within the Asian-American community living in CID affordable housing, the reasons to live in the CID are diverse. The IE spoke with three current residents who talked about why they want to or need to live in the neighborhood. Amy and her family of four live in a threebedroom, Section-8 subsidized apartment in the CID. She and her family have lived in the same apartment for nine years. Their monthly rent this year is $684, about 30 percent or so of the total cost of the apartment if it were offered at market rate. Amy noted the exact amount her family pays fluctuates slightly based on their income. Amy is grateful that she and her family were well-insulated from the recent rise in Seattle housing costs. Amy works 14 hours a week at the CID Community Center which allows her to raise her 10 and 14-year old. “I’m lucky I
don’t have to work more and can focus on raising my children,” she said. Amy’s husband, also from China originally, is the family’s main earner. Amy’s husband is the head waiter at a Chinese restaurant that is a 10-minute drive from the CID. “He drives to his job because public transit cannot get him there easily. As such, we do have one car. My kids take the bus to and from school. I do not need a car because I work just by my apartment and have everything I need here in the CID.” Amy loves the proximity to Asian markets, clinics that provide care in Mandarin, and the CID community center and meeting places. Amy is a fairly strong English speaker, but still recognizes it is a major benefit to access important services in in one’s native language and in one’s neighborhood. Theresa is a Chinese-American retiree living on Social Security and savings. She has lived in the United States since the early 1970s and is a strong English speaker. A former hairdresser who is now currently without an income, she pays $481 per month for a publicly subsidized studio in the CID. Teresa has lived in her current apartment for 10 years. She says she loves her building because it is clean and well-run. And she loves the CID’s location and the transit-richness of the area. For her, the transportation benefits were clearly the biggest draw. “You do not need a car here. There is absolutely no reason,” she says. Not needing a car, Theresa is able to save a significant amount of money and enjoy Sound Transit’s senior discounts. Wei is a Chinese immigrant who has lived in the United States for 10 years. She speaks English well. She has lived in her current apartment for two years after waiting for one year to secure a unit. An employed caregiver working in the CID, Wei pays $600 in rent for a publicly-subsidized studio very similar to Theresa’s. According to her apartment manager, this is 30 to 40 percent of the market rate for a studio. Wei’s income is higher than Theresa’s, so she pays higher rent for a similar apartment. In contrast to Theresa, Wei does have a car, and she pays $125 a month to park near her apartment, and she noted that the parking fee is the largest negative for living in the CID. She uses her car to get around the city beyond the CID, especially when her American-born husband, who lives and works out state, visits her. With Seattle’s housing more expensive and scarce, and affordable housing units not readily available for all of those who are eligible, the CID will attract people who are more interested in the convenience of the neighborhood rather than its cultural and linguistic benefits and services. For others, the transit and the cultural and linguistic services will remain an equal pull. As Winkler Chin noted, many of the most elderly residents in the CID’s affordable housing buildings cannot drive nor speak English and most need to live in the CID. These are the very people who are left out of this article given the author’s lack of Cantonese or Mandarin language skills. According to Chin, for these elders the necessity of living in the CID is of tantamount concern. Illustration by Daniel Robinson
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 5
Meet Savannah Son, KhSA of UW president and F.I.G.H.T. intern By Bunthay Cheam IE Fellow
cerated is a route. I feel that for other people, that’s not normal for them, they don’t know anyone who’s incarcerated.
Savannah Son is a second generation Cambodian American whose family resettled in the U.S. following the Cambodian Genocide and the fallout from the Vietnam War. She is the current Khmer Student Association of the University of Washington (KhSA UW) President and an intern at Formerly Incarcerated Groups Healing Together (F.I.G.H.T.), an organization that advocates on behalf of and provides reintegration support for incarcerated community members returning to society.
IE: Do you speak and/or read or write Khmer?
Under the helm of Savannah, KhSA has stepped up campaigns to raise visibility and create awareness within the public sphere of who Cambodian Americans are. Some strategies include film screenings, activities fostering engagement with other cultural clubs, and direct engagement with policy makers and politicians. During the Seattle mayoral campaign season, Son and fellow club members were present at mayoral candidate forums to highlight UW’s plan to axe Khmer language classes. They succeeded in making it a talking point during the debates and even got some of the candidates’ signatures of support. In the fall, they sat in a meeting facilitated by ACRS executive director Diane Narasaki with incoming UW Regent Blaine Tamaki to once again highlight this issue.
Savannah Son at the CIRCC Mayoral Candidate Forum getting Mayoral candidate Nikita Oliver to sign a petition to save Khmer language classes at UW. • Photo by Bunthay Cheam
port Khmer students on campus. Most of us are first generation students, and that experience coupled with being students of color – being Khmer students specifically – comes with its own complications and its own struggles. So, we’re really just about creating a community that’s supportive and inclusive. We also like to raise awareness about Khmer culture, the Khmer community and the various issues Another strategy the club pursued was we face. to hold film screenings with panel disThrough programming, we do a lot of cussions. In September, KhSA hosted a community events but we also do educascreening of First They Killed My Father, a movie based on a book written by Loung tional sections, we dedicate part of our Ung about her life experience during the time during our meetings for a cultural Cambodian Genocide. Loung Ung teamed lesson and a political one, this includes up with Angelina Jolie and filmmaker social and academic support services. Rithy Panh to create the film which was I just recently started interning for released on Netflix in September 2017. A F.I.G.H.T. It stands for Formerly Incarcerpanel discussion was included as part of ated Groups Healing Together. It’s been the screening to give the audience direct a really great learning experience, I’m access to discussions by people who expe- learning a lot about community organizrienced the genocide themselves. ing which I think is something you can’t Through her work with KhSA and really learn through a textbook. F.I.G.H.T., Son hopes to raise awareness IE: Do you see any similarities beof the plight of a refugee community that tween the struggles of the Cambodian has so often been lost in the American American community and Cambodian narrative. American students on campus? International Examiner: Who are SS: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting you? though, because I work at the [Ethnic] Savannah Son: I’m a senior at UW Cultural Center (ECC) [on campus]...that studying English and American Ethnic means that my network is a little bit more Studies, I am a first generation college expanded because sometimes when you’re student, second generation Khmer Amer- part of a cultural club [like KhSA] you ican. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what get really into your enclave and into your I want to get into, but I do know that is- bubble. [Because of working at the ECC] sues concerning incarceration and the I get to meet and talk to people outside of school-to-prison pipeline are close to my that bubble… It still kind of surprises me heart. So, whatever I do I hope I can con- meeting people that don’t know about the issues that we’re facing right now just betinue working on that. cause I’m surrounded by it constantly, it’s IE: How are you working towards a good reminder that we are very underthat? represented, that people still don’t quite SS: I’m part of the Khmer Student As- understand the difference between our sociation [of UW] and it’s a club to sup- experiences and maybe the experiences of
SS: No, I think that for a really long time that to be Khmer is to speak Khmer but then growing up not speaking Khmer fluently meant that I always struggled with the idea of identifying and it also meant that there was always a big language barrier between me and my family that I felt like would never be bridged. I think part of being the children of immigrants, you just find ways to adapt and now I actually embrace the fact that I struggle with speaking the language and am no longer embarrassed or ashamed about it. It’s just something that I have difficulty with. So I find that the older generation is actually a lot more receptive to that, to me wanting to express the fact that I don’t speak Khmer but I really am trying to learn. But I think for other people it definitely causes identity struggles.
I know that there is a Southeast Asian recruiter at UW, and he does make an effort to connect with KhSA, which I really appreciate but I think building solidarity across all the different cultural groups can be really difficult if people. I find that that’s the experience that we have. That’s why we’re looking to do more than just community events but campus commuIE: What are some issues in the Camnity events just to connect more with difbodian American community you are ferent cultural clubs. There’s definitely an working toward addressing? issue of representation. SS: Thinking about my own lived exAs for resources, the people that know periences, mental health is a huge issue in about us and work with us who are not a our community. Sometimes, when I think part of the administration do their best to about, especially for those who are secsupport us. ond generation… there’s definitely a lot of IE: What are some goals you have undiagnosed PTSD in the community but also mental health in the younger genera- for KhSA this year? For F.I.G.H.T. that tion. We hear stories about the ways that you want to accomplish? For yourself? our families have struggled, and we see SS: My vision for KhSA is…to develthat, and we think that that’s what life is op a better way to outreach to more high supposed to be like; it’s supposed to be school students to encourage them to go hard and in some ways you’re not sup- to college. We have a scholarship open to posed to be happy all the time or happy all high school seniors in Washington of at all because you’re always focused on Khmer descent, but I would love if KhSA living day to day or living from one crisis was able to develop some kind of mentorto the next. And because of that, people ship program that allows our members are afraid to get help or [are] afraid to ask to foster relationships with more Khmer for help so I think that one of the biggest youth. Maybe even organizing a conferissues. ence that allows high school Khmer stuI also think that poverty is a really big dents to convene on a college campus and issue in our community, and I think that learn more about the community and their poverty is also one of the reasons why identity. we struggle with issues when it comes to As for F.I.G.H.T., I envision us estabhousing, when it comes to mental health lishing a healing circle with the families resources, when it comes to secondary of incarcerated API peoples. I think there educational attainment. is still a huge stigma attached to incarceraIncarceration and deportation are issues tion and as a result, families feel ashamed that our community really internalizes. or isolated. I think a healing circle with From my own experience, my family just the families would help de-stigmatize ininternalizing what it meant to have family carceration and also aid in de-criminalizmembers incarcerated, it was just some- ing our communities. Incarcerated people thing that they felt was a failure on their are people with loved ones too and I think part as a family unit when really it’s about that's important to remember. the different causes, systemic causes, that create an environment where being incarother Asian ethnic groups that have [or] have been here and have been established here in Washington and here in America for a longer time. They don’t understand our history as a refugee community and the implications of that especially when it comes to college access.
6 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
Saira Rao: A newborn Indian American radical runs for Congress By Robert Hirschfield IE Contributor Prior to the 2016 election that stunned the world, Saira Rao, 43, first-time congressional candidate from Colorado’s first district in and around Denver, could have stood as the classic, almost clichéd Indian American political candidate: graduate of NYU Law School, clerk on Philadelphia’s Fifth Court of Appeals, lawyer for the Wall Street firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton. Her parents, both doctors, were immigrants to America: her father from Bangalore, her mother from Coimbatore. Her politics were no less typical: “I was a total centrist Democrat. A Hillary supporter through and through.” Rao has emerged as the most radical of the unprecedented wave of first time Indian American candidates running for Congress in 2018. In the desolate space President Trump’s victory opened inside her, and inside many Democrats, a new political being was born and with it a new identity. Rao’s attention, previously fixed on white liberal Democrats, latched onto disillusioned black, Latina, Asian female Democrats bitter about their support for the party being taken for granted, and their key issues (racism, poverty, health care, immigration) ignored. In her open letter to The Huffington Post (12/16/17), titled I’m A Brown Woman Who’s Breaking Up with The Democratic Party, she begins with the poignant words, “You were the love of my life.” Citing her votes for Bill, Barack, Hillary, after whom, in college, she named her ficus tree, she concludes, “I realize now that the love has been one-sided, unrequited. You have never recognized me as a brown woman. You have taken my love, my money, my tokenism, with nary anything in return. You married the white woman and hooked up with me on the side.” Excoriating the party on immigration, she asserted: “For all your talk about Dreamers, there’s been little action. [Campaigning, Rao demands a clean Dream act.] You don’t seem to give a crap about kids of color who will be kicked out of this country, the only country they know. What if all those Dreamers were white? I suspect there’d be a very different outcome.” In her own Democratic-controlled Denver area, she cites undocumented residents fear-
Photos courtesy of Saira Rao
ful not only of seeking health services, but of picking up their children from school, not knowing if they themselves will be picked up by ICE. “When ‘the other’ is demonized, that affects all of us.” In March this year, she clarified her reentry into the party with KPFK journalist, Sonali Kolhatkar, claiming it was the party establishment she broke from. She has come back because, “I think progressives can take the party back.” The challenger to liberal Democratic Congresswoman Diana De Gette, Rao still knocks on the same doors she knocked on when canvassing for Hillary Clinton, but with a different message. Like many radicalized women running for Congress in 2018, she speaks out for a single payer national health care system and against the “dark money” of corporate PACs (she herself takes
no corporate PAC money) like those of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies whose exorbitant prices drive up the costs for medical treatment and medicine. And she boldly calls on her constituents, as decent Americans, to side with those who suffer racism and are threatened with deportation. If her activism on behalf on racial justice is belated, and fierce (“Where is your outrage over the national epidemic of police brutality against black people?” she demands in the Huffington letter), it is because she herself suffered racism growing up in Richmond, Virginia. Her peers tormented her with war whoops. Her father was mockingly called “the chief.” Her mother had to endure the “n word” at work. “My mom was the single most important influence in my life. She had rheumatoid arthritis (and cancer), and every single day during the eighties I’d watch her putting on her sari with her crooked hands and go to work at the VA Hospital.” Rao recalls her mother saying to her and her sister, “Treat everybody the same. Those who are above you, and those who are below you.” She also recalls her saying, “We are not black. We are not white. People don’t really know what to do with us.” That would certainly apply to Rao. With race a guaranteed third rail issue in American politics, Indians candidates are usually careful not to let their brown-skinned candidacy incite voter misgivings. Rao for her part openly supports Black Lives Matter. Broadening her identity without abandoning her Indianness (She was present at the last Holi celebration in Denver, and is proud of the strong sense of community that typified Indian life in Richmond) is her way of responding to the surge of American tribalism at the core of the Trump presidency.
How do the people of the first congressional district respond to a progressive Indian candidate? “This is a very diverse district,” Rao says with her almost girlish enthusiasm. “It consists of lots of Latinos and black folks, lots of brown folks. They are very enthusiastic about meeting me and hearing what I have to say. Rich white people, who in my district are very pro-Democratic Party, are not. My aim is to motivate those folks who feel they have been disenfranchised, who feel it doesn’t matter who they vote for, nothing will change. Many of them are progressive young people of color. I want them to know that I am beholden to them, to ordinary people, unlike more traditional Democrats who take money from the big corporations and are beholden to them. “ Rao will still have to make significant inroads in the first district’s 74-percent-white community if she is going to stand a chance. To her advantage, the current national mood of anti-incumbency might help. Her opponent has been entrenched in office since 1997 and is the longest serving House member from Colorado. “Looking at the congressional picture, we have nine folks in Congress. Every one of them is white. That is not representative of Colorado. We have never had a woman of color from Colorado. I would be the first woman of color elected, let alone the first Indian.”
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 7
Time is of the Essence: The work of Ko Kirk Yamahira Of the 13 pieces in the exhibition, five were created specifically for the Frye’s galleries. The most dramatic dominates the main gallery (none of the works have titles). Starting out as a 20-foot long ellipse, all the lengthwise threads were removed, the canvas remounted on a two-foot wide rectangular frame and suspended horizontally. The remaining threads hang down in the shape of a diaphanous ship’s hull, reflected in a mirror on the floor. The monumental yet translucent floating shape and its reflection have a mythical presence.
By Susan Kunimatsu IE Contributor People enter an art museum or gallery with the presumption that the work on display is in its final form. Whether finished days or centuries ago, the artist’s signature attests that it is as perfect as she or he could make it. Be forewarned: Ko Kirk Yamahira’s solo show, currently on view at the Frye Art Museum, is a work in progress. Yamahira begins each work like a conventional painting, stretching canvas on a rectangular wood frame and applying paint. Then his art-making process takes a U-turn. He deconstructs the surface by cutting and unweaving threads one-byone. The threadbare areas may form a translucent pattern that casts shadows on the wall behind. Removing larger swaths leaves voids between dangling garlands of colored canvas. Or he may remove all the threads in one direction, leaving a ghostly image of the painting on the remaining threads, stirred by slight movements of air. Sometimes Yamahira cuts out parts of the wooden stretchers, leaving the canvas with soft sections that can be folded or draped; the paintings become three-dimensional sculptures. For this show, Yamahira and curator Amanda Donnan decided how to hang each piece, but they can take on a life of their own as interactive works that assume different shapes each time they are installed.
Photo by Susan Kunimatsu
This ongoing process of deconstruction and reconstruction is the essence of Yamahira’s work. Pieces are never finished, they are presented as they are, at this time. “There is no specific aim to find a meaning, neither in the creative act itself, nor through the creative process,” he states. “The totality of the meaning can be found in the continuation of the process.” The exhibition should be experienced like a moment in a performance; the action may continue or be repeated in the future, but it will never be exactly the same.
Those who insist on viewing the show purely as visual art will find a sculptural beauty in Yamahira’s work. He coaxes a surprising variety of shapes from simple rectangles using his reductive process. A few works contain images: repeated silk-screened photographs that are distorted in different ways by the removal of threads from the canvas. Most are abstractions in single muted colors, dimensionality created by the controlled destruction of the canvas. Several pieces hang or stand free of the walls, projecting physically into the space and projecting shadows onto the walls behind.
The four pieces that introduce the show started out as monochromatic canvases, each a different primary color. The canvases were completely unraveled, reduced to a pile of threads, cut up and mixed together, and adhered to the original stretcher frames, the colors blending in a pointillist effect. Hung several inches from the wall and brightly lit, each casts a clearly-defined shadow. To look only at the surface would be to see four fuzzy window frames. A deeper look rewards the viewer with subtle complex color and an implied view into the past or future. Ko Kirk Yamahira continues at the Frye Art Museum through June 3. Curator Amanda Donnan will host gallery talks on March 24 and May 2 at 2 p.m. More information at www.fryemuseum. org or 206-622-9250. Admission to the Frye is always free.
The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is a Must-See Retrospective By Rumi Tsuchihashi IE Contributor Right now, there is no mistaking the arrival of the most recognizable contemporary Japanese artist’s work in downtown Vancouver. Anyone passing near the Vancouver Art Gallery can’t help but be surprised by the sight of a massive, brightly colorful octopus head perched atop the building’s roof. The glittery round eyes of the inky blue octopus are part adorable and part ominous as they scan the cityscape. This utterly captivating installation is the perfect greeter for the Takashi Murakami The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, an awe-inspiring exhibition well worth travelling three-hours north to see. It’s easy to mistake 56-year-old Murakami as a mere pop artist, as his fame began with commercial crossover collaborations. “I was just using Orientalism, using the manga image” he says, referring to the period in the late 1980s when he was struggling to find himself in the New York contemporary art scene. After being exposed to Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, he no longer saw the commercial crossover as a risk, but rather a way to more meaningfully establish his identity as a Japanese artist and connect with more people – and emerge he did, gaining worldwide fandom.
Because of his unique perspective, Murakami would likely welcome anyone who comes to the exhibit for no other reason than to get a selfie with the meticulously sculpted “The Kanye Bear” (2009) or to be cheered up by the Instagram-friendly, smiley-faced filled wall of “Flowers, flowers, flowers” (2010). But linger long enough – which you can’t help but do – and it will also be difficult for anyone to walk away unaffected by the subtly complicated emotions behind these cheerful characters. This retrospective – and its accompanying catalog, a comprehensive guide produced in collaboration by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where the exhibition originated, and Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki studio – traces Murakami’s 30-year career. In mostly chronological order, both the exhibit and the catalog follow his evolution from a student Ph.D. working in monochromatic Nihonga into the anime and manga inspired Superflat work for which he became famous. Mr. DOB, the mouse-like character who made his first appearance in the early 1990s and reappears in works created decades later, “became both a brand ambassador and a stand-in for the artist’s creative ambitions,” notes Michael Darling, curator and editor of The Octopus Eats its Own Leg. Underneath the cheerful colors and meticulously finished, stunningly uniform
low luster silkscreens and acrylic paintings (which have grown larger and larger with the scale of art production expanding at his Kaikai Kiki studio), there lurk frequent appearances of nuclear clouds, skulls, and the occasional inscriptions of mild Japanese profanity. One of the most jaw-dropping works is housed in a darkened gallery towards the end of the exhibit. At 10 feet high and 32 feet long, “100 Arhats” (2013) is the largest of the three murals featuring Arhats (enlightened beings in Buddhism). The scale of the piece is proportionate to the impact the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster had on the artist, and his desire to pay homage to Japanese traditions, both religious as well as artistic tradition, in its wake. Though more overtly serious at first glance, fans of his earlier work will find traces of his humor in the Arhats’ details, from the patterns of their clothing to their rainbow color nose hair. The subtitle of the exhibition, The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, came from the Japanese saying tako ga onore no ashi wo kuu. It’s a hard concept to translate
Courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery
into English, but is about surviving difficulty by sacrificing oneself. The octopus eats is own leg to survive, but knowing the tentacle will eventually regenerate. Perhaps that greeting octopus at the top of the Vancouver Art Gallery building is the artist himself, consuming and breaking down his own history, culture, and success to continually re-emerge anew. Darkly light, cheerfully hopeless, and seriously unserious, The Octopus Eats its Own Leg will inspire every fan to revel in this complex artist’s ambition, imagination and mastery. Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is on display the Vancouver Art Gallery Feb. 3-May 6.
8 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
Kevin Lin: Challenges for actors playing Hamlet By Roxanne Ray IE Contributor
space designed for zero. We do not yet know if there will be room capacity issues. There is a lot that can go wrong, but I believe the rewards will be worth it when everything comes together.”
Over four hundred years after Shakespeare’s Hamlet was first presented, directors have to get pretty creative in order to show audiences something new. It appears that Julia Sears of the ensemble The Horse In Motion will be doing just that, staging an immersive, site-specific version of this play starring two Hamlets, played by Kevin Lin and Jocelyn Maher.
Things also seem to be coming together in Lin’s acting career as a whole, and his calendar is booked well beyond Hamlet. “I am happy to say that I am part of the HERON Ensemble, which will be announcing its summer production soon,” he said. “Even more recently, I joined The Seagull Project and will be a part of their upcoming Uncle Vanya in early 2019.”
Lin was initially intimidated by the project. “When I read an audition notice and my initial thought is, ‘There is absolutely no way that I could do this,’ it's a good sign to me that I ought to audition,” Lin said. “I am enticed by the challenge of it all.” The actor was aware of the burden placed on the shoulders of actors playing Hamlet. “The risks are great: portraying one of theatre's most iconic characters, in a play that has been famously produced all over the world, and being bold enough to say that I have something new to offer to Shakespeare's canon,” he said. “Auditioning for this ambitious project was a conscious, slightly masochistic choice of saying that ultimately, I enjoy and embrace the struggle.” That struggle was not without its doubts and travails along the way. “Despite my best efforts, a cascade of apprehension looms over this entire process and a multitude of insecurities arise: what if I fail?” Lin said. “What if I don't rise to the expectations? What if the role is too difficult for me?” Once started, this train of thought kept moving forward. “Many of these worries extended beyond theatre, and for a long while, I was overflowing with negative
emotions, but then it dawned on me. Are these doubts and uncertainties real, or are they torments of the mind?” he said. “If I perceive an impending danger, can I not also perceive its solution? If I cannot find serenity, then should I be looking elsewhere?”
that includes Chang and Bannai filed a Supreme Court amicus brief opposing the ban. As Bannai explained, the incarceration is a reminder that “the Constitution needs to protect every person within our borders.” These days that claim seems more controversial than ever, as movements against police violence and mass deportation demonstrate. Maybe it’s finally time to restrict access to that “loaded weapon”?
civic engagement seriously. He said yes.
In her remarks, Judge Patel, now retired, explained how the government, trying to avoid a reversal in Korematsu, effectively conceded misconduct. Because her ruling, along with the Yasui and Hirabayashi cases, was settled on factual grounds and not appealed, the original Supreme Court decisions still stand.
specific work allows a person to engage their senses in a way that they normally would not have access to with a traditional live performance,” he said. “Objects have their own emotional value that can far Lin feels he has learned much both in exceed their economic value.” the theatre world and from the dramatic In this theatre format, the senses are given material itself. “I am beginning to realize a prime place. “You can touch and smell that the troubles that plague us all are not site-specific work, and if there's food, taste it battles we have to fight alone,” he said. as well,” Lin said. “You can establish a bond “There are certain recurring archetypes of with the space and recall important personal people that exist throughout history, stories, memories when the curation is deliberate. or even our distant social circles. If we want The challenge, of course, is finding the right to be understood, we just have to find them. Or, in this case, let them find us.” space for the right story.”
Ultimately, Lin believes that he and his partner in playing Hamlet are both up to the challenge. “Jocelyn Maher is gifted with the trait of being incredibly endearing and playing alongside her has been a vital source of relief for me,” Lin said. “I feel free to confide my worries in her and find mutual understanding because she has the Lin feels that The Horse in Motion mental fortitude of a saint. She is a smart, ensemble has done just that. “The Stimsonhilarious actor who surprises me every day Green Mansion is a brilliant historical with excellent work.” Seattle landmark, but we have to play by Lin is also inspired by the site-specific its architectural rules,” he said. “There format of the production at the Stimson- are some logistical problems: actors and Green Mansion, a Seattle Landmark that audience will be flying up and down flights is available for tours, lectures, and special of stairs during the show. There will be two events such as this production. “Site- tracks of a play running simultaneously in a
. . . KOREMATSU: Continued from page 1
They never spoke about it again until his case was reopened, but eventually Fred overcame his modesty, and crossed the country, speaking up for others—AIDS patients threatened with quarantines, Muslims after 9/11. After he died in 2005, Karen took on his mantle.
He is grateful for these and other opportunities. “I benefit greatly from being a young male, along with many other normative descriptors, actor of color,” he said, “and the rising movement towards equity in theatre has given me an extra leg to stand on in the constant struggle to find work in town.”
Coincidentally, the event took place the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day, but Dee Simon, Baral Family Executive Director of Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity, found time to attend. “Although individuals held in concentration camps in American and in Europe will never find justice,” she ref lected later, the timely discussions Fred Korematsu • Photo by Virginia Commonwealth University Captial News Service/ reminded her of the words of Elie WiFlickr esel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but to review executive branch decisions there must never be a time when we about national security and immigra- fail to protest.” tion policy is ultimately based on these discredited, but never reversed, racist precedents.
Nonetheless, Prof. Robert Chang told the audience, those rulings are considered toxic, as are similar racist decisions related to 19th century Chinese exclusion laws. However, he argued, this history lies hidden behind the Trump administration’s legal arguments for its Muslim travel ban. Their Last fall, on behalf of the Korematsu, insistence that the courts lack authority Hirabayashi, and Yasui families, a team
These discoveries have made this production especially important to Lin. “Throughout the process, I have found a unique solace in Hamlet,” he said. “This play and this particular production seemed to arrive right when I needed it most.” Hamlet runs from April 12 to 29 at the Stimson-Green Mansion, 1204 Minor Avenue, Seattle.
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 9
On the bucket list for musical artist Yultron: “Put Asian Americans on the map” By Candace Kwan IE Contributor In the past year alone, we’ve seen Yultron play sets at EDM festival Beyond Wonderland, perform at Asia’s Got Talent with Jay Park, support on Marshmello’s tour, and much more. “I’m kind of doing everything. I’m not really putting myself in a box and going, oh, I’m only going to be this type of artist, I’m just trying to do everything and letting people catch up with me,” said Yultron. Yultron was born to a Cantonese father and Chinese mother who were firstgeneration immigrants. Like many Asian kids growing up, Yultron took violin and piano lessons, but it was unexpected for him to pursue music as a career. “I’ve always just been dabbling in music. I played in bands for fun, I picked up guitar, I played in bands in high school. When I got to college, I wanted to be in a band really bad, so I joined a couple of bands, and the bands ended up breaking up because of just band differences. I decided I just wanted to do my own thing and not have to worry about someone else’s opinion. I just started creating music then. In college, one thing led to another and I just never stopped.” Yultron was making music for 10 years, and in 2011 connected with Far East Movement through an email song submission. He was the first artist the group signed to their management firm, Transparent Agency, who now has around eight acts on their roster. This collaboration really helped things get going. Despite being signed to a mostly Asian American management firm, Yultron says he has a very diverse fanbase that
mostly is not Asian. “Not until recently, I’ve started getting a lot more Asian people contacting me, or they’ll recognize me at an Asian tea spot, or a restaurant... this is crazy, I’ve never had Asian fans. It’s not from the Jay Park thing, which is really weird. Most of them are ravers [since] a lot of Asian people are ravers. The fact when they find out I’m Asian American, it makes them like me more. I think we have a natural tendency to stick together. That’s pretty cool, I’m stoked on the fact that there are Asian kids loving my music and I’ve never really thought about it before until recently.” “The Jay Park thing” Yultron is referring to is “Forget About Tomorrow,” the second song he did with the k-pop star. “[Jay Park] opened me up to a lot of his fans and a lot of k-pop fans. [Forget About Tomorrow] is different from the songs Jay Park makes. It’s more into the world I’m in. I don’t make records like that normally either. We’re both taking a chance with each other on trying to find a medium of dance music and whatever Jay does. When Jay brought me onto Asia’s Got Talent, it was a big deal. People were like ‘whoa, who’s this guy?’ They’d never heard of me before.” Messages from Asian fans have prompted Yultron to think more about his role as a visible Asian American artist. “It opened my eyes into thinking that I should be more...not necessarily saying I should only be geared toward Asian Americans, but that I should at least throw it out there that like hey, I’m proud to be Asian American and I’m just like you guys with parents that are super firstgeneration. I had to take SAT classes, I had to take violin classes, all the stuff, my parents didn’t approve of me making music, I had to go against them and their
wishes for years. Not until recently were list to put Asian Americans on the map.” they finally okay with it. Yultron’s self-titled album will be out That’s another thing too, when you this fall, and he has his next EP signed don’t have your parents on your side for with H1GHER Music, Jay Park and Cha most of your career, it’s kind of hard. Cha Malone’s hip-hop label. “Me doing Being an inspiration and being a role my own thing, making base music with model for Asian Americans is definitely my fans, that’s gonna help. Every little up there for me too, I’m not saying that brick is going to help build this house. it’s my sole purpose in life to help Asian I’m taking this on piece by piece.” Americans and to inspire them but defiKeep up with Yultron by following nitely it’s a part of it when I realized, hey, him on Instagram @Yultron and Twitter I can do a lot for Asian Americans. It’s @Yultron. definitely one of the things on my bucket
Barbie Chang: Poems show the intersectionality of being a daughter, mother, Asian American woman By Michael Schmeltzer IE Contributor Victoria Chang’s latest book of poems “Barbie Chang” is a collection of tightly knit verse deeply influenced, in sometimes subtle ways, by the idea of circles. The most obvious occurrence appears right in the beginning as “beautiful thin mothers at school / form” what is referred to as “the Circle” throughout the book. The mothers maintain a somewhat two-dimensional quality but offer readers a spatial and social understanding of the world the narrator navigates; one is either in or out. Chang
observant enough to hate the status quo but nuanced enough to recognize her own desire to “hang up her Asian boots // and root for the Circle.” It is a heartbreaking look at conformity and privilege wrapped in the cleanest craft. It is an astute observation of sacrifices parents, especially parents of color, make for their children. As Chang writes, we feel we owe it to our children “to make friends to blend / into the dead end.”
a clock. When one gear of identity turns, everything shifts. She can’t confront motherhood without recognizing her role as daughter, even as she cares for her aging parents. She can’t confront “the Circle” without understanding how much of her is unwelcome within it. These circular systems manifest in not only what Chang writes about but how. Her word play, the formal structures, the rhythm and rhymes, all work toward a unified book, connecting each poetic What makes “Barbie Chang” work so movement together. well, what makes the character of Barbie “Barbie Chang” is a finely polished, Chang so real, is the Venn Diagram of smart book of poems that understands intersecting identities Chang merges the power of claiming all our identities to create a whole: Chang is mother, as one whole but recognizes the toll it daughter, and an Asian-American takes to hold onto them. woman. This book operates as cleanly as
10 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
Local Cambodian American community shows resilience through the arts By Maria Pan IE Contributor Photos by Carolyn Bick On Saturday, April 7, 2018, the Cambodian American Community Council of Washington (CACCWA) held an event called ART of Survival: Remembering the Past, Welcoming the Future, which “showcase[s] Cambodian Americans who have held onto their identity through the trauma of war and resettlement through art.” The event celebrated traditional to modern Cambodian artforms and took place at Seattle City Hall. Close to 400 people attended ART of Survival, including not only Cambodian Americans but a diverse mix of communities. Several community-based and service-oriented organizations also joined and engaged with the crowd in impactful ways. “The event was a great success. APACEvotes got 25 people registered to vote,” said Derek Lum of APACE, who tabled at the event. Seattle Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan opened the event in the Bertha Knight Landes Room by welcoming the large crowd. Vy Nguyen, a legal aid and representative of Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, read a proclamation that established April 7, 2018, to be officially recognized as “Cambodian Cultural Celebration Day” in Seattle. Councilmember Gonzalez was the principal sponsor of the proclamation. Newly appointed Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CA-
PAA) Commissioner Sina Sam gave her first public speech since being appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee. Many of those on stage noted the significance of a younger generation planning this year’s event. The previous one had been held in 2015 and had been planned by the older generation, most of whom had lived through the genocide. CACCWA Co-Chair Pakun Sin said it was time to “hand off to the next generation, to look through their own lenses in terms of survival, living here in the States.” Chantha Banks, a child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide, said the event would “bridge the gap between old generation and young generation.” Many performances were representative of both the struggle and the bonds created between the two generations as they worked to understand one another. Spoken word artist James Santana presented “A Tale of Two Generations”, narratives told through both the perspective of his mother during the Cambodian Genocide and from his own viewpoint living in the U.S. Sreymom Serey, Tyler Cheam and event organizer Bunthay Cheam performed a staged reading titled, “Goodbye, Ma”. It was taken from a play that deals with inter-generational trauma between a mother and her son amidst the backdrop of deportation in the Cambodian community. The wide range in art disciplines – from the ancient Khmer Buddhist chant called Smot to meditation and chanting, to spoken word and performance to DJs and
Children play on the steps of City Hall lobby • Carolyn Bick
fashion – appealed to all generations of the Cambodian diaspora. Tacoma-based artist Molica Chau displayed paintings. Keo Sanh of Eazy Duz It Car Club of Seattle was at the event with three pieces of his artwork – Sanh uses parts from several of his cars as his canvas, using airbrush to paint images inspired by his Cambodian American heritage. The Cambodian Cultural Heritage Dance Troupe and Northwest Angkor Dance Troupe performed Khmer traditional dance. Phounam Pin, a former contortionist with Phare, the Cambodian Circus, who hails from Battambang Cam-
Phounam Pin readies her shot as part of her rendition of the Peacock Dance • Carolyn Bick
bodia, performed a traditional Khmer peacock dance, updated with contortion acts. Recording artist Jusmoni, who is of African American and Khmer heritage, wooed the crowd with her smooth Cambodian pentatonic scale influenced jams. Growing up, she was part of a dance troupe in Rainier Vista and had to learn Khmer songs as well as the dances. There was also a short film set made up of four films. Lucky Chanthalangsy presented his film, Chanthadeth, a film dealing with identity issues many young Cambodian Americans face, especially navigating public school with ethnic names. A documentary series titled, Sadhu: The Art of Survival, was created by Khmer Buddhist monk Venerable Prenz Sa-Ngoun and Che Seyhun. In one episode of the series, musician Arn Chorn Pond discusses seeking out the motherland’s old masters, but few had survived the war. The film states that, “90 percent of Cambodia’s artists were killed during the genocide.” The documentary ends with the statement that it’s “love that we all crave and want, not money.” The short film Float by local film making duo Voleak Sip and Tristan Seniuk also made an appearance. Float is set in the 1990s and stars Tony Teav and Peyton Pich. Attendees at ART of Survival were treated to catering provided by chef Maly Mam who was flanked by Tarik Abdullah of Midnight Mecca and Jeriel Calaymayan of Pokewai. One of the event partners, the Khmer Student Association of the University of Washington, stressed the importance of events like these. “After the genocide and everything that has happened, we want to show that we remain strong and want to share the revival.” April is Khmer New Year Month, for more information on other events, visit https://bit.ly/2Gu6tAI.
Multi-disciplinary artist Tara Kim (Little Lotus Vintage) diplays sarongs she has made. • Carolyn Bick
Kimshaina Mao of CCH Dance Troupe blesses the event with a classic dance. • Carolyn Bick
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 11
Memi Yamashita preps taro desserts • Carolyn Bick
12 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
In celebration of National Poetry Month By Alan Lau IE Arts Editor
April is National Poetry Month and here at the International Examiner, we’ll celebrate by listening to our own poets. Poetry has often been characterized by the general reader as something abstract or difficult to understand. It’s as if the genre had a lock on it and you had to have a special key to open the secret. So I was curious enough to put the following question to our own poets and see what they had to say: “What makes poetry special and why should anyone read it?” In this issue, we print their responses which range from the terse to the epic. We feature reviews of recent books by Asian American poets and an interview with a local poet. Meanwhile, I still remember what writer James Baldwin had to say about the poet and society so many years ago and how it remains relevant to this day. “The poets, by which I mean all artists, are finally the only people, who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t, statesmen don’t, priests don’t, union leaders don’t, only the poets. That’s my first proposition…and it sounds mystical, I think in a country like ours and at a time like this, but something awful is happening to a civilization when it ceases to produce poets, and what is even more crucial, when it ceases in any way whatever to believe in the report that only poets can make.” So find a poem that you can make your own and celebrate National Poetry Month in your own special way.
Poetry reflects the humanity in everyone
It makes us feel I encourage people to read poetry to expand their consciousness and humanity,
Photo credit: Asian American Press
Growing up, I had little exposure to poetry books. I didn’t read a collection of poetry until well into my 20s. With that said, I gradually realized that poetry is all around us. It is the basis for pop music lyrics and greeting cards and plenty of television commercials. Reading poetry allow anyone a glimpse into not only how one individual feels, but also how a whole culture feels. People should read poetry more because life can be
dull and cruel. Poetry breathes life into a language we all share. What makes poetry special to me is that it can be desirous, complicated, unnerving, consequential and bizarre, all at the same time. Poetry reflects the humanity in everyone, and humanity can be a prism for anyone who wants to look through it to be inspired to think beyond one’s self. ~Kevin Minh Allen
their sense of the imaginative emancipatory possibility.
~Shin Yu Pai
Poetry teaches me how to care. It gives me the tools to pay close attention to the ethics of caring. It is one thing to be agreeable, to be correct, unhurtful, but it’s another thing to care. ~E. J. Koh
Poems are there when we are angry, in love, frustrated, lonely, wondrous, fearful, uncertain, hopeful. Poems are my attempt at grappling with the world – because I can’t say how I feel in plain speech. Poems can slow us down in an otherwise unbearably busy world. I love how poems make me see the world in a new way – as if I’m turned upside down. As if I’m on the ocean floor, looking up. For me, poetry is also an altar, a way to honor my ancestors. Each image, each line break is carefully placed there to sing forth their histories. We should read poetry because it makes us feel. ~Jane Wong
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 13
Take nothing from this world but awe and a longing to return to the magnificent beginnings of first things I constantly find myself having to counteract what pop and postmodern culture provides me as scenic and narrative identities, backdrops for the play of consciousness, yet these manufactured things have the appeal of mass (mis)recognition, visual referents others can attach to a story I’m telling, in prose or poetry, about the past and its places. And I am likewise constantly inspired by the great works of literature not to give in, to find inspiration in the humble regions of my own memory, in a homebound ethicality, in the sere commonplaces of mild existence. I have Walden as our American version of the great Japanese eremitic zuihitsu (poetic essay) tradition practiced by Kamo-no-Chomei, Yoshida Kenko, and Matsuo Basho. And I know that, like them, I write from lost places, neighborhoods I have been taken away from I feel a need to return to. I write from Kahuku, the plantation village on O`ahu in Hawai`i where I grew up as a child, remembering its Buddhist temple, tofu makers, rows of shotguns, and sandy village square, remembering the fields of sugar cane, the tractors and trailers hauling burned and cut cane down the Kamehameha Highway to the smoking mill at the center of everything. I write from the rocky beaches and sandy promontories where the separate graveyards were
for Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese workers. I write from the blossoming plumeria trees, from the ironwoods by the beaches, and my memory of street vendor calls and my grandfather singing in Hawaiian and Japanese as he washed dishes for his roadside café. I write from this world I left at the age of six, returned to when I was ten, that was lost to everyone as a re-capitalized Hawai`i turned itself away from sugar to embrace tourism. I write from the small tract home my parents bought for us in Gardena, near Los Angeles, its symmetrical grid of suburban streets, its corner gas stations and liquor stores, the barbed wire around my high school, the razor wire around wrecking yards and auto shops, the tiny Japanese okazuyas and gaudy poker parlors, the rat-nests of palm trees, and the long, cooling, fog-banked and wind-tunneled seaward-bound road at the center of town. I write from my memories of all of us in high school – black kids bused in from Compton, Chicanos from “The Tracks” near Gardena Boulevard, and us Buddhaheads from all over town, worried dress and the latest dances, worried about cool and avoiding addiction to glue and Robitussin even as we hoped we were college-bound. I write about the summer evening Festival for the Dead at Gardena Hongwanji and the intimate
Poetry is a rhythm. It is a rhythm that excites, that soothes, that angers. It connects us to other rhythms, perhaps those that are unfamiliar to us. It connects us to other times, other places, other people. Poetry connects us to our time, our place, our people. It feels limitless in that it can contain form, yet freely expresses what we carry in our hearts. Poetry can reach inside the reader in a more concise and concrete manner by taking them right to the crux, right to the secret place where Pandora’s box awaits – and our experience reading poetry is as individual as the contents of our secret places. Poetry is special because everyone can find a place within it. ~Kale Kim
spaces for dinnertime cooking my mother and grandmother made, my father watching football and boxing on the TV, exhausted after work and stymied by his social isolation. I write from people who work and want better for themselves and their children. And I write from what was an intellectual native ground – my years away at Pomona College, where I studied literature, languages, and philosophy and was allowed to develop my deep love for learning and reflection. I found “the better nature” of literary practice there, sponsored in my soul a feel for the finish of language, the finer tone of contemplative emotions. What was better than reading Keats and Kawabata in the mornings, hearing a lecture on jazz operas and Moby-Dick by the fiery and signifying Stanley Crouch, browsing through the home library of the poet Bert Meyers and listening to him hold forth on the Spanish civil war and the last poems of Miguel Hernandez? What was better than reading A Primer of Tu Fu late at night, having a cup of burgundy, and practicing ideograms until I fell asleep over the smearing ink on the soft, absorbent pages of my copybook? A rhyme from Yeats runs through my head as I walk
Photo by Franco Salmoioraghi
across the yellowing grass of the college soccer field. In the distance, I see the moon ascend over a snow-streaked Mt. Baldy, and I feel a studious complacency rousing into passion in the late spring twilight. Volcano, the little village where I was born on the island of Hawai`i, is, finally, the first lost neighborhood of my soul. I did not grow up there in that preternatural rainforest and sublime volcanic landscape, but I moved back many times these last years, writing from the ache of my love for that place. It exceeds all the praise and lyric description I can muster. Poet, take nothing from this world but awe and a longing to return to the magnificent beginnings of first things. ~Garrett Hongo
Poetry gets at the blood and bone. It is the mind trap full of icicles and splendor, drawing you in for beat after beat. Poetry not only shows you you are human, it shows you others are human, too. As a craft and an art form, it is one of the hardest. Where others have hundreds of pages, or a full accompanying drum set and guitars, or a two-hour movie, you as poet only have a couple of breaths and a pause and memory of the kind of melodies you want to create. Language has to be all of it. ~Betsy Aoki
Poetry is special because it has the ability to shift culture and change hearts and minds. I believe it plays a critical role in achieving social change. People should read poetry to reimagine how the world can be a safe and just place to live in for everyone. ~Troy Osaki
14 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
Pei Pei the Monkey King: Playful poetry with serious resonances By Denis Mair IE Contributor
discussion of “vertical life” in an interview she did for Apogee Magazine #9. “Vertical life” refers to withdrawal from the city’s horizontal workaday surfaces which are chaotic and hotly contested, seeking a space to free one’s own mind.
This is a book of children’s poems for adults, or perhaps one could call it a book of adult poems for a reader’s inner child. The poems articulate author Wawa’s multivalent feelings about returning to This theme of space promised or Hong Kong (and to her native language) foreclosed is also addressed in the poem after a sojourn abroad. “Hardhearted Rabbit,” in which the Although couched in allegorical terms, speaker complains to the stern rabbit: the poems carry an emotional punch “You told the leverets/ That on earth because they grapple with social realities there is truly no grass…/ I drew windows in Hong Kong and with recent assertions on your warren door/ Made the leverets of popular will, such as the Occupy see grasslands/ You used to take a look at Movement and the Fishball Revolution, the window/ Then take a look at me/ Now both of which the poet joined in at street you just watch me and laugh.” level. The question of finding space to free The book is curiously polyvocal: in one’s mind is one of life-or-death. As this slim volume we encounter three Wawa puts it in the appended interview, major kinds of discourse: 1) a Preface by “local mothers talk about their children Henry Wei Leung gives a theoretically ‘winning at the starting line.’” In other informed treatment of linguistic words, even children are under pressure circumstances behind these Chinese- to succeed, and there is little time to play. language poems by Wawa, given Hong In other poems we see the result in the Kong’s “doubly colonized history”; 2) the poems themselves are fables written form of child suicides. One poem speaks in playful storybook language with of “raising steel umbrellas” designed serious resonances; 3) the appendix is a to protect pedestrians from people who conversation in which translator Henry jump off buildings…“So we can resume Wei Leung prompts Wawa to open up on a life with heads lowered/ The streets a “meta” level about her temperament, back to business” (“Death of the Green motives and mental state as a poet. Balloon”). Only near the interview’s end does he The children lose direction because reveal that they are husband and wife. their socialization doesn’t give them (He proposed to her three days after the a coherent sense of who they are. The outbreak of the Fishball Revolution.) poet’s sense of urgency and her impulse In many of these poems, the speaker to act are expressed in absurdist terms: makes efforts to connect with the society “Holy Shit! Mr. Satan’s schooling in the where she grew up. She tries to connect school!/ I’ve busted in but my feet are directly with a “monkey of the soil,” a glued down!// Holy Shit! Mr. Satan’s blade of grass, a royal poinciana tree, a schooling in the school/ One by one I “rooftop sleeper” and other denizens of scoop the flowers up/ Crawl out on my her haunts around Lion Mountain (above arms/ Both my legs are rubbering//…My the quintessentially Hong-Kongian legs stringier and stringier!/ The flowers starting to bloom evil faces!/ But my face district of Mongkok). slowly vanishing!...” She tells them she was friends with In spite of these encounters with Pei Pei the Monkey King, evidently a horrific social phenomena, the poet character to be reckoned with in her keeps digesting her experience in a way youthful halcyon times, but the denizens that yields transcendent perspectives, at seem preoccupied and are not roused by least as reference points. references to past camaraderie. In the final poem of the collection, she The speaker also tries to re-connect by looks back upon all the onetime cronies sympathetically contemplating the city’s and creatures she encountered upon her spaces where people dwell and move return. She calls all of them “immortals,” about. What she sees takes imagistic form: for instance, tenement buildings and enumerates the perspectives that belong uniquely to them. She does not are massive birdcages. forget the caterpillar that “fell into her For every mention of a constraint that arms” and hitchhiked a ride under her holds people down, there is an answering collar, eager to see the city’s sites of evocation of freedom. For instance, bustle and commotion. for the children cooped within those Perhaps this caterpillar poem multiple cages, there are flying trees prefigures the actual situation of the that draw near the windows to visit the children. The speaker recalls that as a poet, who now lives with her husband in child she found release by spending time Hawaii and is expecting a daughter. In her “Letter to a Future Daughter on the with those trees. Occasion of the ‘Fishball Revolution’” In “Kingdom of the Rooftop”, the (Guernica Magazine), she declares that speaker visits a rooftop sleeper who she fully intends to take her daughter loves to pursue his own daydreams on back to Hong Kong. elevated platforms. He admits that his erstwhile transcendent dreams have gone off-kilter, but nevertheless insists that “my city is arriving soon.” This
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 15
Marshallese poet and activist Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner talks climate change, nuclear trauma and cultural resiliency Chetanya Robinson IE Managing Editor
has given Marshallese people a sense of urgency about climate change, JetñilKijiner said. “We as Marshallese people are coming into the conversation with a background in this history of nuclear legacy,” she said. “We’ve already lost islands, and we know that pain already. And so that’s why we’re fighting so hard against climate change.”
In 2014, Marshallese poet and activist Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner was presented with a high-stakes challenge: To write and perform a poem before the UN Climate Leaders Summit. “They wanted me to write a poem to the climate movement, they wanted me to write a poem to “save the world,” which is a tall order--and then also they wanted me to write a poem to these world leaders--and I had no idea how to write a poem to any of those,” Jetñil-Kijiner told an audience at the UW wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House on March 11.
While the world promised to abide by the Paris Agreement in 2015 to reduce temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, leaders of Pacific nations have called on the world to prevent at least 1.5 degree Celsius increases in temperatures to stave off disaster for their nations.
Instead, she decided to write the poem for her seven-month-old daughter. “I thought, you know, I want her to know that there are people fighting for us.” Jetñil-Kijiner said the resulting poem, titled “Dear Matafele Peinem,” is the most hopeful one she’s written. In it, she reassures her baby that the sea won’t rise to swallow the Marshall Islands, and no one will be forced to become a climate change refugee. It ends with the words, “We won’t let you down - you’ll see.” During her performance at the UW Intellectual House, Jetñil-Kijiner read from her first collection of poetry, Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter, which was published in February 2017 and is the first published book of poetry by someone from the Marshall Islands.
Already, thousands of climate change refugees have left Pacific Island nations, where the impacts of climate change are an existential threat. Over 20,000 Marshallese have left, most of them headed to the United States. Jetñil-Kijiner wrote a poem for CNN about the seemingly small yet crucial difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming.
Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner at the UW wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House on March 11 • Photo by Jacinta Harshe
Her poem “Monster” is about the trauma of Marshallese women who gave birth to children deformed by horrific birth defects as a result of exposure to nuclear radiation. It weaves this together with the legend of the mejenkwaad, a female demon said to eat babies and pregnant mothers, as well as her own own experience of postpartum depresAs well as being an activist, poet and sion. spoken word artist, Jetñil-Kijiner is a UW student Cassiera Cruz saw Jetñiljournalist and an educator who works as a specialist for Pacific Resources for Kijiner perform when she came to Education and Learning, and directs Cruz’s home island of Guam. Jetñil-Kithe nonprofit Jo-Jikum. In an interview jiner’s work can resonate with people in before her performance, Jetñil-Kijiner different ways at different times in their said art and poetry are sometimes the life, Cruz said. best way to reach people when it comes “She just has this gift of sharing very to the complex, difficult subjects she sensitive and complex issues and transwrites about. forming them into art and poetry that Jetñil-Kijiner’s performance at the provokes empathy,” Cruz said. UW focused on two devastating threats Randizia Crisostomo, a UW graduto the Marshall Islands: Climate change ate student and the Burke Museum’s and the legacy of nuclear weapons test- community outreach coordinator for ing. The U.S. dropped 67 nuclear weap- Oceania and Asia, remembers a proons in the Marshall Islands during the fessor showing Jetñil-Kijiner’s poem 40s and 50s, the equivalent of one Hiro- before the U.N. in class. The students shima bomb every day for 12 years, and were speechless. “We see compassion Marshallese people have dealt with the or relationships shared within our own horrific consequences ever since. families and our own communities, and Jetñil-Kijiner read a poem about high just to see someone who’s sharing that rates of cancer caused by this nuclear on such a larger scale, I mean with the legacy, including her niece who who United Nations, and just talks about died of leukemia when she was 8 years climate change and all of these issues, but also strengths that are coming forth old. Jetñil-Kijiner’s poems are often about many things at once. Her writing process often starts with extensive research, including talking to elders. She’ll often weave Marshallese legends, history and traditions into the poems, as well as science and statistics, and her own experiences.
from all of our communities, is what’s really important,” Crisostomo said. Jetñil-Kijiner’s first project in 2018 involved sailing to the the ominous Runit Dome in Enewetak Atoll to film a video for a poem performance. The dome was built by the U.S. in the 1970s to encase 73,000 cubic meters of radioactive debris from over 40 nuclear tests on the atoll. Jetñil-Kijiner’s poem talks about the history of the island before it was obliterated in the blasts, and ends with the question: “Who gave them this power? Who anointed them with the power to burn?” For Jetñil-Kijiner, the connection between nuclear testing and climate change in the Marshall Islands is obvious. “Our islands didn’t matter to the U.S. They could have tested in anywhere, but they decided to test it in our islands,” she said. “Ultimately, our lives didn’t matter…. With the looming threat of climate change, it’s the same issue again, where they’re thinking, these people’s islands could go underwater, but their lives don’t matter as much, so who cares if they lose their homes and they lose their islands? So in both situations, our lives are disposable -- the Marshall Islands and Marshallese people are seen as disposable.” The experience of having islands vaporized, or made too deadly to live on,
While the world seems unwilling to do what it takes to prevent 2 degrees of warming, let alone 1.5, Jetñil-Kijiner finds hope in the example of her elders, the nuclear survivors and activists. “This fight isn’t something that’s gonna be solved overnight, and I know that they fought their whole lives, she said. “And so for me, with my work, I don’t see it as an option to stop, and I don’t see it as an option to get burned out.” Before her performance, Jetñil-Kijiner visited the special collections in the back of the Burke Museum to meet with Pacific Islander students including Cruz and Crisostomo, and to see examples of Marshallese jaki-ed weaving from the 1890s, which are too fragile to on display under glass. Jetñil-Kijiner admired the rich colors and intricate, fine patterns in the weaving, remarking, “This would be amazing to wear.” In September, she took a three-week weaving workshop in the Marshall Islands with a master weaver who had revived the traditional art. She’ll incorporate her jakied weaving skills into a future project, a performance for the Asian Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Australia in November 2018. It’s a festival that until now hasn’t included many artists from Micronesia. No matter what challenges the future holds, the Marshallese will continue strong, Jetñil-Kijiner said. “It’s a unique, living culture, and it’s not something that’s dead or dying or in danger of disappearing beneath the waves,” she said. “We’re a thriving and living being.”
16 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
Korean American poets give personal, historical and societal insights on their family roots in America and Korea By Betsy Aoki IE Contributor
enjoy experimental forms striving for spaciousness and precision will enjoy her particular treatment of human emotions and the cosmos.
Not My White Savior, by Julayne Lee, Rare Birds Books, 2018
Sky Country, Christine Kitano, Boa Editions, 2017
Presenting her memoir in poems, Julayne Lee looks critically at the conditions which inspired her adoption – the Korean War, the perception that the Korean orphans would come to a better life in the U.S., and the difficulty of cobbling together an understanding of her heritage while growing up in the Midwest. These poems are very accessible and plainly written – she notes that she wasn’t originally intending to publish, but that others had found healing in hearing the painful issues addressed.
At the start of the book’s title poem, Christine Kitano writes: “The Korean word for heaven is ha-neul nara, a kenning that translates literally to ‘sky country.’ It was a word often used by potential immigrants to describe the United States.”
Be prepared for blunt speech and raw rage as point by painful point, Lee takes us on the journey to find her personal history and owned identity. She is very clear about the forces, societal and parental, that oppose her ethnic exploration, clearly depicting how her adopted parents fought to contain her within their Christian, sexist and smug sense of the better American life. Even her body is colonialized, and she notes in “Eyes Wide Open” that her adopted white grandmother asks, “how I can see out of these slits” for eyes, where eyes wide open means rounder, better-looking. literary creatures appear in conversation There are fierce, painful moments all with the poetic speaker – a hag, a witch, a over this book of poems, but there are a few village prostitute. Jane Austen is invoked, that stand out for their nuanced insight: then deftly the poems weave the author’s “Jealousy”, where the speaker notes she has Dorothy Hamill bangs and nostalgia into been groomed into something her mother weave. By the end of the section you are is jealous of; “Are You My Mother?” which left wondering whether the characters in traces the reactions of older women the the speaker’s memory are fictional, or part speaker meets upon a return trip to South of the nicknames of childhood and not Korea, and the “Psalm for White Saviors” fairytales at all. which closes with the lines: “Surely I can’t In the final section of “Korean Grocery,” pass as white eternally/for my olive flesh, female voices have the last incisive, deadly almond-shaped eyes/shall follow me all word – the title poem “One Daughter is the days of my life/ And I will dwell in my Worth Ten Sons” is here, as is a defiant “I yellow body/ With my white name forever.” find my father’s magazines” and “Day of the Dead,” when the mother gets the crabs ready for a soy sauce boil. The final section brings everything together – the memories, the folklore, the history of childhood (Rodney King once again makes an appearance). Until at last the mother has In One Daughter is Worth Ten Sons, Jiwon her victory over the fat, skinny and mean Choi takes us on a different exploration of in the process of something delicious. Korea and Korean-American culture. Here, with literary phrasing sharp as needles, she takes us through life in New York City area as a Korean-American. Her poems are bursting with Korean proverbs, city modes of transport, and symbols of love’s eventual separation: a pastrami on rye strewn under In No Comet, that Serpent in the Sky the seat of a subway car, moths without Means Noise, the reader will encounter wings, cold fish pressed to warm flesh. a lot of white space and a huge sense The eye of the speaker is always moving, of expanse. There are ten poems in this always exacting in describing what it finds, full-length book, but the book itself is and always passionately involved/changed shaped short in height, long in width, to by what is seen. accommodate the longer lines and the In the “No Regrets” middle section, photos of the cosmos that are embedded in there is some harkening to Anne Sexton’s key moments of certain stanzas. It is hard Transformations – first with a poem about to talk about these poems without noting Anne Sexton herself, but then mythical and the layout and the way they are shaped.
One Daughter is Worth Ten Sons, by Jiwon Choi, Hanging Loose Press, 2017
No Comet, that Serpent in the Sky Means Noise, by Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Kore Press, 2017
Kitano has rich sources of family material to draw from – a Japanese-American father who was interned at Topaz, Utah, during World War II, and a Korean grandmother who fled Korea in 1953, pregnant with the author’s mother, running with a fiveyear old aunt strapped to her back. Most of her poems are lyrical, free verse, not experimental in shape, not integrated with photographs or complex layouts to get their imagery into the reader’s mind. But she doesn’t need to play with layout; the images stick. In writing about internment at Topaz in “About the Trees”, Kitano explores what incarceration survivors say and cannot say, choose and cannot choose when they try to translate the experience to later The book’s composition makes more sense generations. She closes with these six when you realize that a few of the pieces exquisite lines: were intentional collages, drawn from “Believe me. The men were not angry. scientific works and Korean dictionary But when they dug the trees from the entries, and others were presented initially earth to the world as paper or digital chapbooks – longer running discourses spread out anger bled through their hands. across many pages. The men returned with the trees At the line level, the sense of vast over their shoulders, the stunned roots spaciousness and of outer space is reinforced aloft by the turns of phrase and subject matter. and curled into incomplete fists.” The book begins with the long poem, On Light, and we learn our ideas of light waves being like water waves can work, and then POETRY: Continued on page 17... don’t work. As she does later in the book, here Lee favors using unfinished symbols – never closing a parenthesis or bracket-to leverage that feeling of stretching the reader’s eye outward, that the poem opens its ideas about light it is never finished. For example, after musing that the sun’s surface is like a turbulent sea, Lee adds these lines: < How can one attend to the context and its surface simultaneously? < Attention disintegrates and refracts as light across the atmosphere In more classically composed, if prosaic lines, later she continues in On Light: “It is an eerie feeling when the sun suddenly fades into the daytime sky. We do not know the sun inside a computer. Monochromatic sun.” Her language is crisp, the lens clear, and the vista wide. Readers who
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 17
The Venn diagram of Natasha Moni’s poetry: Where math, poetry, cultural identity and health care intersect By Jan Wallace IE Contributor A licensed naturopath in Washington state, Natasha Kochicheril Moni is the author of poetry collections, The Cardiologist’s Daughter (Two Sylvias Press, 2014), Lay Down Your Fleece (Shirt Pocket Press, 2017), and Nearly (dancing girl press, 2018). Her poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews have been published widely. As a 2018 Jack Straw Writer, Natasha is developing her hybrid creative nonfiction/ poetry manuscript. It explores questions of belonging and mistaken identity growing up in the South as the first-generation American daughter of a Dutch mother and an Indian father. International Examiner: I am curious about how you see the intersection between being a naturopathic physician and a writer. Natasha Moni: First I should say I have not actually started practicing. After I graduated, I took time off to write my first novel before starting my practice. To answer this question: I see stories running through the two paths. I am very interested in patients’ stories – how they brought them to where they are in their lives, and possibly lead to a diagnosis. How whatever we pay attention to in our own lives whether that be as a patient, a writer or a doctor informs how we move through our lives. At this point I am not sure how writing will impact the naturopathic practice. In terms of the other way around, I deliberately avoided getting degrees in literature because I wanted a career path that was something different from writing that could then inform my writing. I did study with Deborah Digges, briefly. I was born into an allopathic medical family. My father is a cardiologist, my mother is an RN. I joke that medicine was probably my first or second language. It took me awhile to come to terms with becoming a doctor myself. But it was always there – my love of medicine and the terminology that goes with it. IE: Tell me about your current project as a 2018 Jack Straw Writer. In The Cardiolo-
POETRY: Continued from page 16
gist’s Daughter, I noticed places where the poem titles call out the pairing of cultures in your background. NM: Obviously, I was reflecting on my cultures in that book but there is more. That title is actually tongue in cheek – in retrospect, maybe I wouldn’t have chosen it. I have a lot of respect for both my parents in the medical fields. But I have lived with this identity as “the cardiologist’s daughter” my whole life. My father was voted the top cardiologist in the area so that was the identity thrust upon me. In writing that book I was trying to get out of that identity but I still had to address the different roots. Just in the last few years I found myself writing essays addressing what it meant to be a person of color who passes for white. I know I had started to think about this while I lived in the South but I really didn’t discuss it much, maybe just with my mom. Now I want to take my work to an even deeper level in addressing this. I think a lot of that comes out of reading authors like Claudia Rankine. What she’s done in Citizen: An American Lyric is so powerful. My story is not the same at all. But seeing people like her step out and make themselves vulnerable with such brilliance – I couldn’t help but start to dive into this now. IE: In your essay in The Rumpus, A Ringing in Your Ears that Would Disappear by Morning, music videos are interspersed with the text. I wonder if you see poetry and prose working together similarly in your new project? NM: I wanted to do something other than poetry and I found myself moving into creative nonfiction and long form fiction. I’ve been seeing other authors playing with hybrid forms. I think the two forms can achieve different goals, looking at the same topic but in ways that are unique to each genre. I was recently interviewed by Jason Arundel from Jack Straw. He compared my poems to a Venn diagram in talking about how one poem builds on the other. I guess that is what is going on here, except it is creative nonfiction and poetry. I am looking at bringing some math into the poetry now.
IE: Which poets do you currently read? Which have provided signposts along the way? NM: For a year each, I was obsessed with three books: Richard Siken’s Crush, Carolyn Forché’s Angel of History, Ilya Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa. I wanted to tap into what they were doing. Now, I am hosting a 30/30 blog on my website for poetry month. On my current radar is Seattle’s Civic Poet AnastaciaReneé, as well as poets I’m featuring on my blog this month. Two are Jason McCall, a new-to-me poet whose Montgomery, 1998 floored me, as did Megan Fernandes’ White People Always Want to Tell Me They Grew Up Poor. IE: Which memoirists do you admire? NM: There are two local writers I want to mention who have not yet had memoirs published. One is Putsata Reang who wrote a piece for the New York Time’s Modern Love column called At Sea, and Seeking a Harbor about fleeing genocide in Cambodia with her family. The other, Sonora Jha, most recently wrote a piece called “To Raise a Feminist Son, Talk to Him About Aziz Ansari.” Both of these women show a
Kitano’s gifts are in the telling details “It’s a simple recipe: boil until the meat and her strong sense of integrity even falls from the bones, easy, like a when she is writing about “A Story with girl No Moral.” Over and over we are brought shedding a summer to the immigrant perspective, as in the opening stanzas of “Chicken Soup”, dress.” where her Korean grandfather works as In the end, the Korean grandmother a janitor in LA: has the last word of the book, or at least “The immigrant sees, not the postcard- the last image – illuminated by the lights of a bus to bring her home. In that lucid perfect lights snapshot, the grandmother becomes more but the scuffed tiles, dust-lined than the autobiographical memory, just desks, the darkening as a ferryman in Greek or Roman mythos throats of toilet after would become more than a ferryman. toilet.” In the end of this stunning collection, Later in the poem we switch to the Kitano has the grandmother bring us all Korean grandmother cooking with the home.
From this initial section, which deals with her relatives’ sense of endurance over incarceration, we spill over into other strong poems of memory, loss, and emergence of self. Each poem serves as its own anchor, its own voice. And while some are clearly the author in recollection, others are vivid explorations of experience. We get the sense of an entire life for a dental assistant – a continuing saga of an insomniac – the clear-yet-murky memory of drowning and rescue in a hotel pool. Sometimes the camera pans in very close, as with the rebellion of a young girl turned into the speaker: destruction of her dress-up clothing.
lot of grace, beauty and even fierceness in their writing. In the past, I’ve read memoir or medical nonfiction including Lauren Slater’s Welcome to my Country: A Therapist’s Memoir of Madness, anything by Atul Gawande. And of course, Anne Patchett’s Truth and Beauty. IE: What advice would you have for poets who are just starting out? NM: Read every genre. Attend local poetry readings, and start building your literary community on and offline. Study authors who aren’t similar to you. As soon as you realize you have a go-to form, whether it be four line stanzas, or list poems, break out of it. Publication will come, if you’re determined and you have researched your markets. Now, go buy a poetry book. And tap me, if you need some encouragement. Time willing, I will respond. Natasha will be among several writers reading at the 2018 Jack Straw Writer’s Program series of readings on May 11 at 7pm, at 4261 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle, WA.
18 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
COMMUNITY RESOURCE DIRECTORY
COMMUNITY RESOURCE DIRECTORY
April 18 – May 1, 2018 — 19
At API Chaya’s 2018 annual gala, Mirror Memoirs founder Amita Swadhin: “We need to start talking about child sexual abuse...and we need to realize that if we center the children, we make everybody safer.” • Photo by Lexi Potter
Discover new poetry from China in the collection Zero Distance By Denis Mair IE Contributor In the late 90s and early years of the new millennium, a polemical battle between “intellectual writing” and “populist writing” unfolded on Chinese websites such as PoemLife. Members of the populist writing camp rallied around Yi Sha, who reveled in the rich materials of everyday life and eschewed the stylistic influence of translated Western works. The intellectual writing camp spearheaded by poets such as Zang Di and Xi Chuan proudly acknowledged the importance of the Western canon for jump-starting modern poetic practice in China. The populist camp was interested in developing China’s own native modernism; the intellectual writing camp seemed committed to working through Western modernist currents that had been interrupted during China’s period of leftist isolationism. In the 2000s decade, it became clear that the two camps were not diametrically opposed. For a while, the two camps had served as straw men for attacks against each other, but then their proponents got their fill of polemics, like getting over a bout of flu, and the conflict faded away. Even so, we can hear reverberations of that clash in this concise anthology ably edited and translated by Liang Yujing. This svelte volume indeed gives English readers
“a glimpse of what is being written in China now.” However, a random sampling would be confusing in a country where “good poetry can be found anytime anywhere…and good unknown poets can be seen at every corner of the land.” This collection hangs together because the translator mines an authentic vein of native modernism. It also earns the title Zero Distance by affording glimpses into the lifeexperience of inquiring young minds since the new millennium. The voices in the poems belong to the witty, earthy vernacular that emerged from Yi Sha’s populist writing camp. Several of the poets selected for this volume (Yi Sha, Huang Haixi, Xidu Heshang) are founding members of the “Chang’an Poetry Festival.” This rolling festival is really a reading series held in Xi’an (originally called Chang’an). The word “Festival” is a tonguein-cheek reference to the prevalence of large poetry events sponsored by government organizations. The Chang’an “Festival” is nothing like that: it is a self-initiated event among poets and is not connected with the national or provincial Writers Association. (As a personal disclaimer, I should note that in 2013 I was a guest of the Chang’an Poetry Festival along with the Seattle poet Paul E. Nelson.) The poems in this collection employ wonderful metaphors, but they also play with suggestive resonances of actual things. The emphasis is on direct experience rather than
engagement with an intertextual “universe.” The poems are short (30 lines or less). Many of the poems represent epiphanies in which metaphors come alive. A mental image is offered as a convenient way of summing things up, but then it opens onto a deeper, perhaps more unsettling view into one’s situation. One example is “Scene” by the Tibetan woman poet Xi Wa. The poem describes a newspaper lying on the grass in a park: the pages of the newspaper – holding a jumble of reports that touch all facets of our lives – “… rest quietly on the same level// A young mother puts her sleeping baby/ at the center of the newspaper.” The poem “Lover” by the Uyghur poet Song Yu, describes a woman at breakfast. All the details are suited to a fastidious temperament: before her eyes is a sterilizer that keeps dust off bowls and spoons. She drinks “milk tea from a blue-rimmed porcelain bowl” and orders small dishes. But before her eyes a different kind of image also appears: “…Among the strong horses on the grassland/ one belongs to me.” Her mind registers the disparity: “…A sensitive nose like mine,/ steep shoulder blades like mine – / how can they stand/ heat, sweat and stench?// Nothing more deadly than encounter/ in a hoof print.” Many images used by these poets are playful, ranging in emotional tone from mordant wit to intimate vulnerability. One example of the former is “Bellboy” by Ba Ling, which
describes small coffins for children at a coffin store: they stand on end near the doorway, reminding him of bellboys who are waiting to be adopted into a “world filled with carnal pleasures.” An example of the latter is “She Grinds Her Teeth” by Xidu Heshang. He describes a woman who grinds her teeth in dreams, making him think of her as a beaver and himself as a poplar tree. Soon the metaphor runs away with him: “As I love you,/ I’m willing to let you/ gnaw at my root,/ even though it takes you/ only fifteen minutes/ to bite it off.” As a generational elder to the other poets herein, and as master of approachable poetry, Yi Sha is given pride of place at the very end of the anthology. His poem “Associations at Genting Casino, Kuala Lumpur” harkens back to his fiery days as a champion of the commonsensical, level-headed everyman. As a critique of the direction of modern economic development, his poem is rooted deeply in traditional values, but it makes its point through dark whimsy. “The earth’s meeting its doom/ Human beings move to another planet./ Luckily enough,/ I’m among the last batch to leave./ When we reach there,/ we find those who arrived earlier/ live in a super casino./ They shoot globes/ at the hoops./ As I tell them the news/ about the earth’s death,/ they laugh/ and celebrate./ It turns out that all the people/ have put a bet/ on the destruction of the earth,/ their home./ Now they win.”
20 — April 18 – May 1, 2018
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Connecting light rail to the South Sound Tacoma Dome Link Extension Attend an open house Tacoma // Apr. 17 // 6-8 p.m. Federal Way // Apr. 18 // 6-8 p.m. Fife // Apr. 24 // 6-8 p.m. Online open house tdlink.participate.online