A Discussion on Interracial Solidarity
Join us for a conversation on how to build solidarity.
Panelists: Florence Chan, Legal Operations, Cloudflare, Elisa Durrette, Head of Legal - Commercial Transactions, Cloudflare, and Eddy Zheng, Founder and President, New Breath Foundation
Hi everyone, welcome to Cloudflare TV. For those who want to ask live questions, feel free to email livestudio at Cloudflare.tv.
And we'll try to answer these questions at the end of the segment if we have time.
So I'm Florence Chan, I'm legal operations at Cloudflare.
And joining me is my co-host, Elisa Durrette, head of legal commercial transactions.
And we are so excited to welcome Eddy Zheng, founder and president of New Breath Foundation.
And Eddy, who experienced the school to prison to deportation pipeline, is in the prime position to address issues of trauma, stigma and shame in the AAPI community.
While in state prison and immigration jails, Eddy transformed his life and made significant contributions including counseling at risk youth, creating an ethnic studies program and co-editing a book, Other, an Asian and Pacific Islander Prisoners Anthology.
Upon his release, Eddy led youth development, violence prevention and cross-cultural building activities and strategies in the SF Bay Area and nationally.
He dedicates himself to fighting for others who face the injustices he witnessed in prison, getting educated on systemic racism and discrimination while also focusing on healing from trauma.
We've invited Eddy to discuss the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents that have taken place across the country.
Many of you have seen this on the news, shocking images of Asian elders mugged, shoved to the ground, beaten and savvy as we saw in Atlanta a few weeks ago, murdered.
Throughout many of these instances, the narrative that tends to surface is one of young black males violently attacking vulnerable elderly Asians.
This in and of itself is a stereotype and yet these narratives are perpetuated and have once again stirred age-old tensions between black and Asian communities.
A quote that spoke to me from Kathy Park Hong's book, Minor Feelings.
To speak of pain would not only re-traumatize me but traumatize everyone I love as if words are not a cure but a poison that will infect others.
We welcome Eddy today about how we can have a fresh lens to address this trauma with renewed hope to solve for today's pain and these tensions that lead toward unity rather than distrust.
So welcome Eddy and thank you for joining us today.
It's really great to have you here, Eddy and I really look forward to having you kind of talk about some of the things that Florence raised.
I think just to kick things off, people are really well aware of the link between slavery and mass incarceration.
Those linkages are well-known. I think what's lesser known and not talked about really is the link between prisons and deportation.
So there's a prison to deportation pipeline and you actually kind of got caught up in that as a young person.
And in fact, now your foundation helps AAPI people whose lives have been touched by that, who've been system involved.
So I was just hoping that you could talk a little bit about what that pipeline is, kind of what your experience of it was and why you think it is we're not focused on it right now.
Well, happy new breath everyone.
Thank you, Florence and Elisa for really inviting me to a cloud fair, this space.
And I really like the, all the names that you have, the Asian flair, the Afro flair, it's just like, it's about our attitude, right?
So how we have that attitude about who we are and be part of who we are. So I wanna invite all of you just to take in a deep breath.
If you're watching somewhere, you're sitting, laying down, whatever you may be, I wanna invite you to take in this deep breath, right?
So I was driving today, actually in the morning, I'm trying to get my daughter, I'm a seven-year-old daughter.
And I asked her to say, hey, let's create a mantra that we do together when we are driving to school.
And then before you go to sleep, I said, what is it that you want to start with, like a mantra?
She said, I don't know.
I said, well, how about we say a happy new breath? And you say, oh, you always say that when you're writing your messages.
I say, yeah, that's why. I say, well, why do they say that?
She said, because of breath? I said, yes. I said, what does a breath do?
She said, it keeps us alive. I'm like, yes. And so many a times, we take our breath for granted just because we expect it to come.
And as part of this process, whenever I do my salutation, starting with happy new breath, it's really trying to remind myself and remind people that I have connection with, that I'm talking with, to really be grateful and be mindful of our breath, that's sustaining our lives.
And that's something that we all have in common.
And when you talk about some of the challenges, what we're dealing with in our Asian-American community, it's not something that is new, that's all of a sudden it did happen, right?
That's a long tradition of those type of xenophobia and anti-Asian-American racism that has happened in this country that definitely ties into imperialism, white supremacy, and the institution of racism.
And so as you asked the question about prison to deportation pipeline, and frequently when we hear in the criminal justice reform kind of field or the comprehensive immigration reform field, people always talk about the school to prison pipeline because it connects to the inequity in how our system or institution of education, as well as the prison industry complex, how they really are not invested in the people of color community when it comes to dealing with the way that how we educate our young people and the resources that we put into education versus put it into a criminalizing people of color and then eventually put them in prison, right?
So the school to prison pipeline really ties into the systemic racism that really are being perpetuated in the people of color community.
And through that process, the Asian-American and other community are also impacted by this pipeline, but then it extends a little bit more, right?
So I look at it from a couple of perspectives. One is that we're dealing with that school to prison and deportation pipeline because the fact that for many of the people that who are not citizens of the United States, that who got caught up in a criminal legal system, and what happened is that there's a specific law that was passed that really opened up this kind of, the different type of categories that people can be detained and then to mandatory deported.
And that is the 1996 Ira-Ira law, right? It's called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
Of 1996. And if you remember, in 1995, there was this bombing in Oklahoma City by this guy named Timothy McMay, right?
So when we look at that bombing and it's happened, it killed many of the children that was in that building, as well as adults.
But what was outrageous was that Congress and many of the people, when it initially happened, they scapegoated towards the people that were from the Middle East, right?
They say, oh, they're the terrorists that did this, right?
But then it's domestic white terrorism, right?
That who did that. But before they look at that aspect of it, they already start putting laws to stop people from coming to this country, to create tougher laws and policy, right?
Because they say, oh, we don't want the people, the terrorists to come into our country and hurt our people.
But then, so that the momentum carried.
And so part of that law that states that in a clause was that anyone who is not a citizen of the United States who have committed a crime of aggravated felony or crime of moral turpitude, they are automatically detained and deported.
And the law is retroactive, right? So meaning that if you commit a crime 30, 40 years ago, and you have been an upstanding citizen up until then, because you could have a domestic violence case, or you have petty theft with a plier, your possession of some substance, right?
So that's all considered crime of moral turpitude.
And so you could, actually, they detain people when they decided to detain you, and then they order you to get deported because something that you did 30, 40 years ago, right?
And now what we see prevalent is that they just pick up people straight from state prisons when they finish serving their time, and then they just pick, directly transfer them to immigration prisons under ICE, the Immigration Customs Enforcement, right, under the Department of Homeland Security, and then they just deport people.
And many of the people who are impacted by this, many of the solidarization folks, right, that who came here, this country, as refugees, and then also you got immigrants that who came into this country.
So they get caught up for any reason with the criminal legal system.
Some of them don't necessarily need to have to go to prison and serve time.
They're still impacted by this pipeline. And so therefore, we have to look at the way that how the United States of America, our country, how we prioritize the investment in our community, where you see that we represent 5% of the world population as a country, but yet we incarcerate 25% of our people.
And so you would think that would be much safer, but yet that's not the case.
So therefore, when we understand that pipeline, and we understand the lack of investing in our institution of education, then we see how the institution of racism and how white supremacy is tied into some of the things that we are experiencing across the country, right, where before, we're still in that middle of the trial, the George Floyd trial, the case, and we have seen how this inequity and how this type of differential treatment when it comes to dealing with who committed act of violence and how are they being treated, what depends on the color of your skin and then also because of the ethnic group.
So I think on that perspective, then that pipeline is really about separating families, it's about perpetuating trauma to the hurt people that hurted other people.
And so therefore, we need to really try to reevaluate and understanding what are the root cause of that pipeline and how is it impacting our lives, right, no matter what profession and what industry that we work at, you know, so how is it impacting us and why do we need to care about it?
What's the magnitude of that?
Because I mean, I guess, so, is one of the reasons we're not hearing about this because again, in many cases, as you said, folks get detained and then they get picked up while they're in prison and deported.
What happens to the families that they leave here?
What help and assistance do they have? Like, and also kind of like, what's the scale?
Like, how often is this happening? And also kind of like, what, you know, how does your organization interact with those folks who've been left behind?
Yeah, so one of the things about the scale is that we have been seeing many of the people from, you know, across the borders, like many of the undocumented folks that came through or people that overstayed their visa.
So many people, they've been getting deported, right?
So that's something that is known and unknown at the same time, right, for people that, from the government, whether it's under the Obama administration or the Trump administration or the current administration.
It really doesn't make a difference what administration we're in. We actually continue to deport people, right?
Continue to separating families, right, in that sense.
Now, when it comes to specifically for many of the refugee populations, such as the Cambodians, the Laotians, the Vietnamese, the Hmong, and the Miens, and many of the different communities, the Filipinos.
So what we have seen is that we don't know about those people being deported until the last few years, when there's a lot of activism from the community who bring those issue up in the social media, in the policy, at the policy table, you know, as a state, and then also, you know, nationally in some spaces.
And the reason why there's this invisible, kind of like an understanding of what's happening with that impact and the magnitude of the impact is because, partly because the model minority myth, right?
So when we look at Asian, Asian-Americans, or Pacific Islanders, people are looking at the lens of East Asian, from the East Asian aspect of it.
And because in the 60s, when they kind of created the model minority status as a way to really disempower other BIPOC community, you know, the black, indigenous, people of color communities.
So what they're doing is really trying to invisibilize and undermine the challenges, the needs from those BIPOC communities.
And specifically for the AAPI community, we are lumped into as others, right?
So we don't fit with the black, white, or Hispanic population, or the black and brown dynamic.
So we just become a other population. And as part of the other population, we're not supposed to be in prison.
We're not supposed to have mental health challenges.
We're not supposed to live in poverty because we are doctors and lawyers, and we all drive nowadays, Teslas, you know, or whatever electric cars that people are driving nowadays, right?
And so with that perception, then we just modernize the entire population of AAPI people, right?
And so, because also people think we are a monolithic group, you know, as part of Asian Americans, then they just paint a brushstroke, or just paint all of our challenges away, and all our needs away, right?
And so in that sense, that's why people don't know about the impact of mass incarceration or deportation in the AAPI community.
And they don't know about, you know, some of the challenges with mental health in our community, and the poverty that people are experiencing in our community.
So that's one type of matter too.
Now, talk about people being deported. That's just last month that 33 Vietnamese folks was deported, they put on a plane and deported.
And two of those people, they just came out, they were just released from prison after serving over 20 years, serving 20 years inside when the governor, when the parole board in California decided that they are no longer a threat to society, they have, you know, rehabilitated themselves, they pay their dues, and that they should be come out and reunited with their family.
But instead, they never set foot to be free.
And they was immediately detained by ICE and put on that plane and deported back to Vietnam, which is a place that they had never set foot in for many of those people.
And some of them, because some of them, they were born in refugee camps, and then resettled into the United States, while in the different states in the United States.
So they left from a country that they've never been to, and then now they deport them to a country that is foreign to them, right?
And why is that? That's because the United States' foreign policy, right? And I shouldn't even be speaking about this, right?
Because, you know, a lot of times when we in the space, it always seems like the representation from the Southeast Asian Americans, they're not there, right, they're not at the table.
And the Pacific Islanders, we keep using Asian American Pacific Islander, but yet Pacific Islander are not really at the table representing.
So for me, you know, because I have that direct experience, I'm working in the community, I'm connected to the different organizations who are working there, so then I'm able to share because I have that platform.
So since I have the platform, I might as well share about some of the challenges and see what people can help support in that process, right?
Yeah, so, you know, you had brought up model minority and that kind of what struck me is when I'm reading these books, a couple of quotes that have come up for me are, you know, from minor feelings.
Again, when I was growing up, black, brown kids were casually racist.
Korean kids are casually racist. I can't think of a blameless victim among us.
And from interior Chinatown, Asians were inferior, but not yet in the same way blacks were considered inferior.
So, you know, you had brought up model minority and, you know, not speaking up and not being at the table.
You know, is this model minority myth a problem for this, you know, narrative?
And, you know, who's controlling this narrative of, you know, this dichotomy between, you know, blacks and Asian communities and how do you think that, you know, who's controlling this narrative and how do we change this?
Yeah, I think that's a very complex kind of question and very complex kind of answer in this way, right?
But I do want to say that, you know, if we really look at our history and our culture and how all the BIPOC community has at some point experienced, you know, the discrimination, experienced racism, experienced just kind of deep trauma, right?
Because our community has been, as a group, been really oppressed to different policies that is set forth by whom?
It's by the founder of the United States of America.
And who were the founders of the United States of America? Are they BIPOC communities at the table that will create a United States constitution?
Or are they a specific group of white slave owners that will create a United States constitution?
Who created those policies, right? So that's one end. And why did they create the United States constitution and then the fought for independence, right?
From British, from other European countries, right? And so when we trace the origin of this story, we'll see that white supremacy and imperialism is the culprit, right, in this.
Now, some people may think, you know, in a way, it's like, oh, that's the easy, kind of like a direction that you're going to point to.
It's always everything that has happened. If you get robbed, it's white supremacy.
Oh, if you get hurt, you get in a car accident, oh, it's white supremacy, whatever that may be, right?
But if you really look at it, that is correct.
It is correct. And we didn't make that up. But then, of course, we have to kind of like peel the onion, right?
We have to lay down layers and layers of that traces back to white supremacy and then trace back to manifest destiny, right?
How one people are being saying that we are the chosen people and not the rest of the people that who share the humanity, that who are citizen of this earth, that they are somehow inferior than one group of people because we were chosen or we put ourself in that space to be the chosen one, right?
And so that's where the dichotomy comes in, where people are playing God, right?
Just pretty much, it's like in that space.
Now, so with the modern minority, how is it being used as a wedge?
It's that when people who came to this country, many of the immigrants and people who came to this country, whether it's voluntarily or people that who are by force to come in this country, that's a difference, right?
That's a difference between the African-Americans being captured and enslaved and forced to be treated as subhuman and to help build up this country versus someone that who just came to this country they're looking for a job, opportunities or being pushed out from their country.
They come and try to make a living and make a better life and then they help build this country, right?
So that's a little difference. But when people continue to get discriminated as a group and then they continue to be oppressed as a group, then for some people, it's like, how are we gonna be able to change that direction, that target, right, on our back and shift that target?
What can we do? So the idea is be more American than the American, right? That's the idea.
How can I be more American than the Americans? How can I assimilate to this culture so I can get to the proximity of whiteness?
And because if I get the proximity of the whiteness, that target on my back may be shifted somewhere else, right?
And so that's what happened. So it's out of fear. So people are trying to work hard and do what, put their head down, trying to get to the point, let's say like, I'm just as American as you in this country.
But that kind of thinking really is very disempowering also, right?
While you empower people in certain extent, but then it's also disempowering other people because that's exactly what happens when that term was coined, right, in the 60s.
And then what happened is people are gonna continue to use it, right?
They put on the Time Magazine about this few Asian kids, the whiz kids, right?
Look at them, they're the whiz. And then you talk about how successful certain people are in the Asian American community.
Then they use that, why can't you just be like them? You have been here all your life.
They just came as immigrants. If they can make it, how come you cannot make it, right?
So who is pushing that narrative, right? And so that has everything to do with anti-blackness is being perpetuated on the international level, right?
I often talk about how, you know, that there are different ways that do, the way the product that people share, you know, the messaging, the insidious messaging that people talk about, the difference between white and black, you know, or other people of color, right?
So I was sharing, you know, with some of my friends or in a different presentation I did was that when I was a kid, that's this oil is called a black devil oil, right?
It's made out of, you know, you probably heard of this, Florence, is that it was produced out of Hong Kong in 1923, right?
Well, Hong Kong is a colony, it's colonized by the British, right?
And so as part of the colony, that's products being pushed forward to the different European countries.
So the black devil's oil is actually an ointment that's supposed to heal people.
And so I had an infection in my chest by playing fireworks and blew up, and then, you know, I got infected.
So they put, I remember my family members put some black devil oil here and I got healed.
And so how can something that heals me, but then yet it kind of create anti-blackness against a whole group of people, right?
And this is not just in the United States, right? This is international.
And then that's another, and I'm sure you're gonna know this too, Florence, that's a toothpaste called black devil toothpaste.
The face is all black and then the teeth is super white.
So they said, oh, if you use this toothpaste, your teeth gonna be as white as that, right?
So they sold it and they still selling that today.
I was in Hong Kong three years ago. Actually, I bought the oil just so I couldn't believe it.
It was still selling. I'm like, whoa. And then the toothpaste, the same thing, right?
And so how do people learn about anti-blackness in their daily lives, right?
You can just go shopping and next thing you know, you see that.
And then the national media or the international media is thinking this specific category of people, the black people saying that, look at that.
Again and again, it's the image that we have been seeing the last two, three months.
It's a black person attacking an elderly Asian looking person, right?
Again and again, you see in our face, in our face, every day it's being spread out in social media like wildfire, but they don't really talk about all the other things that is happening that what pushed people to do what they do and what are the background of those people, right?
Or you have white people who did the same thing. How come that's not being put it again and again and who controls the narrative when it comes to dealing with the corporate media, right?
And so I think that plays all those intersections and the complexity of that plays in a part that how the model minority made this empowering, not only the Asian American Pacific Islander community, but this empower other people of color community all at the same time, right?
And so as my organization, a part of the New Bread Foundation is that, I'm new into the field of philanthropy just because I saw the inequity of how the institution of philanthropy has distributed its resources to the AAPI community.
Only 0.3% of all national philanthropic dollars goes to support the AAPI community, 0.3%, right?
And so I'm trying to create a seat at the table. I'm like, hey, can we have a seat at the table?
So at least we can mobilize resources and be very unapologetically in supporting a marginalized AAPI community, right?
And while doing that, so what we did was like for some of the organizations who are working directly to stop ICE transfers, right?
Then we're trying to fund them.
And then we did a response to a listening tour in 2019 and took a lawyer from Advancing Justice, Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, a co-director from the Asian Prison Support Committee and another director from Southeast Asian Freedom Network from the Rhode Island.
And then we went to Cambodia, the capital, Phnom Penh, and this is about 80 people that were deported out there.
That's just one group of people that we met, but there's other people in different cities that we didn't get to talk with.
But when we're talking with them, just try to understand what are some of the impact of that school to prison deportation pipeline had on them and their family members who are still in the United States by many of them.
And this is a good story in a way.
So this one guy we talked with, he was deported for five years because he had a case when he was younger.
And then later on, he served his time and he's out and living his life.
He started his family, he had three kids. And then one day ICE decides to get him to come in and check in to want to deport him.
So they say, hey, we put you on the plane to deport you or you put yourself on the plane and deport yourself because either way you're gonna get deported.
So he got deported to Cambodia.
Well, when the lawyer did an intake with all the people that we visited during the listening tour, the lawyer found out he's a US citizen because he was naturalized because his parents already became a citizen before he even turned 18.
So he's automatically a citizen. Well, because he didn't know that and the government doesn't have the paperwork to say that he's a citizen.
So he separated from his family for five years. So two months later, almost two months later, we have a big welcome home party for him at San Francisco airport, right?
So he was able to come home and reunite with his family. And so how many people are wrongly deported?
Or even why are they even being deported?
Because many of them came in with the United States and their country's repatriation agreement is that they're not supposed to be deported in this way.
So that's why those are some of the things that people are not aware of and how that is connected to the question that you asked, Florence, who's behind all of this, right?
And who's controlling all of this? And we have to lead to the source, right? Where's the origin of that?
And I know, it was a little bit of a loaded question, and I do what you had said about be American, be more American than American.
That's really something to think about of, wow, like that is kind of one of those things where it's the anti-blackness and how can I be more American and not speaking up means, allows for status quo and it's the path of least resistance and it starts to cause a wedge.
And you brought up, yeah. I do wanna say something though too that's related to that, which is I do think, I agree with everything that you said, Eddie, and I agree with what Florence is saying.
But one thing I think that also needs to be said is there is a silence that can happen on the part of black folk in terms of, so there's, I can't remember the name of the theorist, but there's a race theorist who's an Asian woman who talks about the triangulation between AAPI culture, black culture and white culture.
And so at times, white people can see black and Asian as other, whites and Asian can see black as other, but also blacks and whites can see Asian as other and Asian particularly as non-American.
And I think that there's, I think you're right, like at the root of all of this is racism.
We're all impacted, that you cannot live in this country and not, it's part of the air that we breathe.
But I also do think that black people need to be more in tuned into what stereotypes are they buying into?
What have they been programmed to think about how Asian-Americans lead their lives?
When we say Asian-Americans, are we just talking about Chinese people?
Are we talking about Cambodian people? Like there's a whole, we're talking about a whole diaspora of people.
And even I think as black people, because we have been so focused on our own struggle, we're not thinking about like all of the nuances.
Like there's actually, I mean, in the same way, like as within Africa, there's different struggles between, different African countries and tribal groups and stuff like that.
There's different struggles between different Asian ethnicities.
And so, Koreans feel a certain way about Japanese people, Japanese people feel a way about Chinese people.
It's like, we haven't even got there. So I say that just to say, I think also there's some learning that needs to go on for folks who are people, BIPOC people, but who are not Asian.
And to actually be able to see that there is this other community.
I'd be really interested in hearing like what you, when you're thinking about kind of like the counter -narrative like one of the things the New Breath Foundation has centered, and it's also something like you've centered in your writing is building these cross -cultural bridges.
So between black and AAPI communities, why did you think that was important?
Like, why is that important?
Why not just kind of focus on your own struggle? And, cause I mean, I don't necessarily see the black community doing as much bridge building.
So like, why did you think that was important as a strategy?
Yeah, that's an excellent point that you may release.
Is that, how do we just kind of understanding some of the dynamics between each of the community and what we're doing and what we're not doing, by to really understanding the, and live by that.
If I'm not free, then none of us are free.
Or we have our liberation are tied to each other. So we have to have a better understanding of that and not just use it as a slogan, but really use it as a way to employ us to really dig deep into understanding our own culture and history, but then also understanding other people's culture and history at the same time.
And so the need for racial solidarity that connects to our collective liberation is so intimate is that when I was, before I was educated, before I was able to think critically and become socially and politically conscious, I would not have been able to understand that how we have to humanize each other, the how that we have more in common than differences by when we look at our history and our culture.
And so therefore, once I was able to, so I always share this, is that once I was able to tap into my chi, and the chi that I'm talking about, it's not only the breath and the life force that is sustaining our lives, but really it's culture, history, and identity.
Why is that chi, C-H-I, right? And what that does is that it really connects to Asian -American studies.
It really connects to ethnic studies.
It connects to global studies, gender studies, African-American studies, Latinx studies, right?
So when we invest in ethnic studies and really understanding where we came from, that we have our ancestors, right, that have paved the way to be where we are today, just like other ancestors paved the way for other groups of folks, right, to be where we are today, and they're having that value, right, the shared value.
And so when we understand that, then we understand that the importance of building relationships, the importance of doing cross-cultural engagement and healing in that process, right?
So when I was incarcerated, we're separated, we're racially segregated by the system, by the prison-industry complex, meaning that either you're Black, White, Hispanic, again, or others, if you're not fitting into any of those categories.
So they use that as a way to control people, or to control the masses, because if we all come together, we're not segregated, we're all connected, then we will have power, we'll be able to build relationships with each other, right?
But of course, from the administration perspective, they're saying that, well, if I put all these people together, you're gonna be killing each other, right, because you have different gang affiliations, you have different, again, if you're White, you can't put a White person and a Black person in the same cell and live together and do your time, spend 20 years.
Well, that's not true, right? You can be, if you're intentional about it, right, and if you're not violating the constitution of racial segregation, you can be very intentional about not segregating people.
But as the way the system is set up, we're segregated.
But yet within that, even within there, as others, besides that we're sticking together for survival purposes, I think my experience has been the African-Americans, right, the Blacks, are the one that we all have a deeper connection with, even within the prison system, right?
So I would play basketball with them, handball with them, I'd be just like breaking bread with them.
And this is something that we would do because we're kind of like two groups of people that we kind of put in a situation that we just get to know each other and we have to live together, right?
So in that, when we're building that relationship, then we always see that whenever there's conflicts happen, then we can always mediate that conflict without escalating through violence.
So it's like, again, it's relationships, it's who you know, right? And how do we resolve issues when they arise, right, in the prison system, right?
So if you did harm to me or you did harm to one of my fellow members, and then instead of me immediately retaliating against you to hurt you back, maybe that's a way that I can do your relationship, my relationship, that we can resolve this in a different way, right?
And so from that perspective of understanding that, and I think the other thing that I must say that is that as I was tapping into my chi, one of the biggest influence in my life was Yuri Koshiyama, Japanese-American revolutionary that passed on actually this year on May 19th, it's her centennial birthday celebration, right?
She was still alive with us. And just so happened, I brought her up because just so happened, it's also Malcolm X's birthday on May 19th.
And so I say that it's because when Malcolm X was assassinated and he was in the Autobahn ballroom, while he was inhaling his last breath, Yuri was cradling his head on the floor of the Autobahn ballroom on the stage as he passed.
And the relationship between Yuri and Malcolm X and the relationship Yuri of fighting for political prisoners, black liberation, Puerto Rican liberation, it's a testament of how people of color communities, we can work together and build trustful relationship together to fight against injustice, right?
And fight for our liberation together.
And so we see examples after examples of black Asian solidarity that we can see that that is a way to how we can continue to dispel some of those type of stereotypes in the myth and address racism in that space, right?
So out here in the community, again, it's about how do we make sure that when we're talking about Black Lives Matter, we have to trace it back to why do people say black lives matter and not everything else, right?
About all lives matter, Asian lives matter, brown lives matter.
So obviously all lives matter. That's the truth.
But if all lives are matter, then why black lives are continued to being taken away?
Why brown lives are continued to taking away, right? In proportion, right?
Historically, right? We're not talking about yesterday and today. We talk about historically to today that is still the case, that black lives seems like it does not, they don't matter to the way, to how white supremacy and the institution of racism has set up.
So therefore, that's why we say black lives matter because it hasn't been matter, right?
And if black lives don't matter, then none of our lives matter because we're being treated differently, right?
So, I mean, I think that's where the importance of this racial solidarity has to be the key to address the institution of racism to fight against on a long-term, you know, as the only way to fight for collective liberation, right?
Is that we have to build racial solidarity.
I think it's interesting too, that you said one of the things that unlocked that knowledge for you was your achieve, was your cultural, your culture, your history, your identity.
How did you know that that was going to be the key and who were the first, you know, who were the first people you started reading and thinking about?
Because I think one of the things that's so interesting, you know, when you read your story is you're in San Quentin, you decide to start an ethnic studies class.
Why, like, what made you do that? Who were you reading? What were you thinking about?
And how did you know that that was going to be the key to your liberation?
Yeah. One of the things, one of the first book that I read, as a matter of fact, a history book that I read was a people history of the United States by Howard Zinn, right?
Which I have right here, right? A People's History of the United States.
That just blew my mind. I'm like, what? That's the history that we don't get to hear, right?
And so, but before I, and this is the truth, before I even really invest in learning about Asian -American history and literature, I was actually learning more about African -American history and literature before, because I, at least in the prison library, I have access to some of those literatures, right?
So the autobiography of Malcolm X, you know, the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, right?
All the different books about bell hooks, you know, by all the poet, June Jordan, right?
The poet, Lansing Hughes, you know, all the different books, like the Invisible Man by Ralph Allison, all these different books and literatures that I was able to be able to have access to, like even to a point that I was reading Solid Dead Brothers, Blood in Your Eyes by George Jackson, all those literatures, I was like, just like, just taking them all in, taking them all in, right?
And then I learned about, you know, Latin history, right?
And then also like the history of the United States, you know, and the poetry, Persian poets, you know, all the different poets.
And then I was like, because of my friends and because of my way to purchase different books or people send me books to read, so I started investing in Asian-American history books, right?
With Helen Zia's, you know, Asian -American Dreams, you know, Diane Fujino's talking about Yuri Kochiyama and then all different books that I start reading.
So it was 9-11, right?
It was like, I was building relationships. So I was a little different.
I'm kind of like the odd kind of guy when I was inside because I was kind of refusing to go with the status quo inside a prison, meaning that, hey, if the blacks are here, you're not supposed to hang out with them or the whites over there, you're not supposed to hang.
You cannot sit over there because that's not your territory.
That's somebody else's territory. I was able to build a relationship not where truly I can go sit with the blacks and have a break bread with them.
And then the people that who don't know me, they would probably question, they'd be like, why is that Chinese dude sitting over there?
And then their elders would tell them, oh, that's Eddie, that's cool, he's cool, right?
And then I go with the Latin folks, it's the same thing.
I can go with the white folks, same thing.
I sit with the whites and breaking bread with them. It's like, well, why is he hanging out over there?
You're not supposed to be over here. So it's through that relationship building that I was able to really just kind of get along with people, right?
And then when the challenges come up, I help mediate situation and resolve the situation.
So when 9-11 happened, the scapegoating come very quickly against the people from the Middle East, right?
That there are many folks from Middle East from prison, people from Palestine, people from different, probably Middle Eastern countries.
And so the scapegoating is like, oh, those are terrorists.
I'm like, why would people do that? We all locked up, we're all locked up in prison.
So then, so when doing the college program, which is a volunteer run program at the time, before it became a 501c3 after I left prison, was that they offer this kind of college program that you can get a social arts degree.
You can get the 60 units, the requirement, but then there are elective courses that you can also get besides the requirements that they also teach electives.
But the electives, that's what I'm trying to focus in on.
It's like, why are we learning about everybody else's history and nobody is learning about Asian-American history and literature to really look at, or about the intifada, all the different type of movements that's happening so we can learn about commonalities and differences.
And so that's why I was intentionally, essentially me and my friends are like, hey, we want to have Asian-American studies program inside because right around that time, the UC Berkeley student was fighting for ethnic studies.
They had a hunger strike.
They say, you know what? They were about to take that program away or defund them.
So they had a protest. So I saw people came in, the volunteers who came into prison had the yellow armbands on.
I asked them, what is that? And so they start talking about that, that ties into the 1968 Third World Liberation Front, the protest for ethnic studies and global studies in San Francisco State.
So that's all connected, right?
So through that process, so I said, hey, we need to have this.
And we also were fighting for prisoners, right? And so we put this, myself and three of my friends, we put this proposal together and said that we want to have Asian-American studies in the program.
And of course, when we shoot the proposal out and having discussion about it, the administration kind of hold a proposal and the wind of it, they just lock us up in a solitary confinement.
So I ended up spending 11 months in solitary confinement.
11 months, Alyssa, I was in solitary confinement.
Even the prison guard, the prison guard was laughing at me.
They say that, Eddie, you know, this is ridiculous. You sign a proposal, right? And you're here for 11 months.
I have people who stabbed people, who did all kinds of stuff.
And they come into solitary confinement and they get put out back to the mainline population.
And you're still here, you know? So the idea is that, what is the fear?
Why are people so afraid of knowledge about learning about each other's culture?
What is their fear, right? So we keep talking about, as I was growing up, I keep talking about knowledge is power.
It's great, you know, you need to have knowledge.
Well, what people fail to let a lot of people know is that when you get that knowledge and you start using that knowledge, you became a threat to the power of the people who are holding that power, that don't want to share that power with you.
So as soon as they felt that they're challenged, they're gonna shut you down.
So that's something that nobody was telling me about that. So I had to learn the hard way.
Yeah, if you, I mean, if you had to do it again and you knew you were gonna be in solitary confinement again for 11 months, would you do it again?
Because that, I mean, that's a long time. Yeah, I would say that I would do it again, I would do it even better.
Because, you know, knowing the impact that I was able to create to what happened now, like we started a movement, right?
So for me being in solitary confinement, the Asian-American community and its allies, they came together, they started a movement.
This is very rare that it's happening for people that who was activated inside the prison system.
I don't remember there's a time for Asian -Americans that were in the prison system, that who were activated, that was doing some of this and created a movement with the people on the outside.
What we created is the Asian Prison Support Committee that took off to this day, that became a 501C organization that was fighting to support the currently and formerly incarcerated people and the people who were impacted by mass incarceration and talking about abolition of prison, the system, right?
And so as a matter of fact, I have a book, an anthology that's coming out at the end of this year, it's being published by the Washington's Press and the two principal author that who created this anthology is Diane Fugino, Professor Diane Fugino from, actually I shouldn't say professor, it's Dr.
Diane Fugino from UC Santa Barbara and then Dr.
Robin Rodriguez, who is the chair of the ethnic studies program in UC Davis. So they created this anthology that invited about 11 or 12 of the authors to really capture the Asian-American activism in the last 50 years, right?
And so that book is gonna come out.
I'm very grateful to be included in that book as part of the anthology.
And that's specifically about that movement that I was talking about, right?
Some of the connections of that. What's the title of that book, Eddie? So we can watch out for that?
Blank, it escaped my mind right now.
But it'll come out. I'll make sure people know, yeah, yeah.
Well, I think to say that, I wanna say that it's, we are all, as human beings, we all have a place on this earth of humankind because our journey is finite.
We're only here for a short period of time. People can live up to 110 years old, but you still gotta go, right?
No matter how old you live. And so while we're on this earth, what are we gonna do to maximize our breath, right?
So one of the Native American elder who shared with me when I was greeting with a salutation, happy new breath, he said, well, Eddie, this is great, right?
Because when we take in a breath, that breath sustains our life.
But then we just keep taking that breath.
But what are we giving it back, right? So each time we inhale a breath, we have to give something back.
And so it's what we're giving back that it's important, right, as part of citizen of the earth.
Yeah, so we can talk a whole bunch.
Yeah, I mean, this is amazing that you have this courage that you spent the 11 months in solitary confinement and you would still do it and go and do it better.
How do we start to take those little steps?
Because that is a big movement for you.
For some of us, everyday folk, it's a little bit frightening. And what are little action items that we can do to get there and start humanizing each other, having these connections, little things to break bread?
Yeah, I think one of the thing really is about storytelling, right?
Storytelling mean that we all have a story.
And when we start sharing our story, like many of the ways that we can talk about this, especially with a stranger or somebody you don't know, like we sit together, it's like, what does Florence mean?
How do you get that name? Like, there's a story behind your name, right?
Whether it's painful, whether it's like happy or whatever that may be, what is the meaning behind that?
Or what do you enjoy having for breakfast?
What are some of the things? So when you start a conversation, you have commonality.
Oh, I don't like a bagel. Oh, I love bagel. Whatever that may be, right?
You start a conversation until the person is like, oh, I can have a conversation with this person.
And then you start talking about other things that may be a little bit more vulnerable or maybe, you know, so it's about building that relationship, right?
So if you work with your colleague, it's how to get to know your colleagues, right?
How to, you know, just engage them, right? That's one space.
And when we talk about some of the things that's been happening in our community, whether it's an African -American community or Asian-American community, I think the first thing we need to do is really validate people's experience, right?
If the experience for the Asian-American right now is like we are hurting, we're feeling like we're being attacked, we've been targeted, but just validate that, right?
Validate that pain. And then, so when people say Black Lives Matter, we need to validate that and ask, like, why do they say that?
How do we validate that?
And not saying that, oh, as soon as people say that word, you're thinking that that means my life doesn't matter, right?
But instead, it's like, okay, what does that mean?
Why do they say that, right? Just kind of like validate that.
And then the next thing you know, we talk, people talk about accountability a lot, right?
So I committed a crime and I spent 21 years incarcerated. So is that accountability, right?
Is there accountability to myself, to my direct victims, to my family?
Oh, what is that? Well, and how do we hold the system accountable?
How do we hold the government accountable for its failures, right? Like who's holding Donald Trump accountable for continue to perpetuate that xenophobia, anti-Asian American racism?
How is he being held accountable? So people like to talk about accountability, but then they focus too narrowly on just one part of it.
But instead, yes, we need to hold the individual accountable, but we also need to hold the system accountable that we perpetuate those conditions of racism and xenophobia, right?
So that's the other piece of it. So having a courageous conversation with family members when maybe politically we're different or maybe our experience is a little different, just because of my parents in their 80s, they may not understand some of the trendy stuff or the progressive stuff that we're talking about.
We still have to validate their lived experience because they lived through 80 some years of their lives.
They must have done something right, right? And so not be so quick to judge people and just paint them away in that space.
And so lastly, I just wanna say that, when I talk about tapping the key, reading, really try to learn and get a little understanding about like what are the ways to we address our own privileges, our own bias?
How do we do that? And how do we really like as human beings, how do we, when we see injustice, when we see things are happening to another community, how do we stand up in solidarity and willing to speak up, right?
Or donate money, do things that in a way that you can actually contribute to solution, right?
And then I'll just finish by saying that, sharing this quote that I always share with people is that we must be willing to engage in a personal revolution before we embark on a collective revolution, right?
So that means, our personal revolution is a very courageous and tough journey that we have to go through before we even saying that, oh, Lisa or Florence, let's go fight against this injustice together.
It's like, oh, I don't feel that way. So why am I with you?
That's how you feel, right? And so until we get to understanding that our liberation are really tied to each other, we will not be coming together and saying that, let's get on this collective revolution or collective liberation.
So the personal revolution is the beginning and deepening our relationship is a must to address this.
And I'm Eddie, I'm done speaking. Thank you so much, Eddie, for your time and opening up this opportunity.
This is amazing. This was a great, honest discussion and sometimes uncomfortable and awkward, but this was amazing to connect the dots, to see one another wholly and to heal, grow, move forward.
And thank you for opening up this space where we all can be heard and connect with one another.
Appreciate your time.
Yes, thank you so much. This is what Asian flair and Afro flair looks like.
That's right. Thank you so much. Thank you. Okay, bye. Bye.