Happy beginning of 2011 my dearest family, friends and supporters!
The year of 2010 definitely ended with a bang for me. I received much media attention in my effort to petition for a pardon from Governor Schwarzenegger before he leaves office. Bay Area mainstream KTVU channel 2 news did an interview with me. People’s station KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, APEX Express, and Letters to Washington had me on their shows. The Chinese World Journal newspaper did two articles on me. KQED online news blogged about my deportation case. Many bloggers and websites across the nation helped spread the word of my online petition. Change.org hosted my online petition. Facebook was extremely useful in reaching out to people to support my cause. We had over 2,500 people signed the online pardon petition. None of it could have been possible without the support from friends and the community.
My immigration status has not changed since my release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on 2.27.2007 – deported. It took four years for the 9th Circuit Court to make a decision on my appeal in December of 2010. The court ordered an oral argument from the attorneys to get more information before it makes a final decision. The hearing took place on 12.9.2010 where two hundred or so friends and supporters attended to express their support. The judges seemed sympathetic. The court’s decision could take months. Even if I do get a favorable decision, my case will have to be sent back to the Board of Immigration Appeal and Immigration Court for more hearings. My appeal to adjust my legal status in the US has many more challenges to overcome.
As of this afternoon 1.2.11, Governor Schwarzenegger released the names of people who he had pardoned. My name is not on that list. I remain a man without status. I must continue to live in a state of uncertainty, as a transient. The great thing, whenever one door closes, hundreds of doors will open. I’m forever grateful for all of you who believe in me and support me. I’m definitely planning to petition Governor Jerry Brown for a pardon.
In the meantime, I’m still happily employed by the Community Youth Center of San Francisco (CYC) as a Project Manager overseeing the Intervention and Street Outreach components. City budget cuts had interrupted the fluidity of our services to the youth and community. However, CYC’s mission to motivate youth to succeed remains as our priority. I have less time to do direct service as a Manager and I miss it. At the same time, I understand I have different roles to play and that they’re all important. I’m grateful for the opportunities to collaborate with different community-based organizations and city departments to work on creating a safer community for everyone.
In my second year serving on the San Francisco Reentry Council, I had the opportunities to visit California Medical Facility in Vacaville and San Quentin State Prison. The people who were once my “babysitters” sat at the same table with me to brainstorm ideas on how to minimize recidivism. I also saw many familiar faces still suffering in those prisons, especially the ones who have life terms. When they saw me, they saw hope. Hope that they too will be out in the “free world” one day. Hope that their way to freedom is not with toe tags. People always ask me how I feel going back inside. After all, I did spend 19 years of my life in the prison system. The truth is whenever I enter in any Total Institution nowadays, I feel disassociated from what it represents. I’m grateful that I was able to walk out of there. I will continue to go behind the walls and do my part in helping those who are left behind and voiceless.
As the co-chair for the Asian Prisoners Support Committee (APSC) based in Oakland, California, my team and I are doing what we can to provide some much needed culture competent program and resources for the incarcerated Asian and Pacific Islanders population. Unfortunate, there is no culture specific self help program for the growing API population in California’s 32 prisons. We’re looking to make history in San Quentin State Prison and Solano State Prison to get the prison administration to approve our intentions. APSC continues to correspond with API prisoners and provide resource referrals as request.
My role as public speaker allowed me the opportunity to share my experiences of transformation and raise awareness on the detrimental impact of massive incarceration effects the community. I interacted with hundreds of students at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, Oakland’s Laney Community College, University of Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, Japanese National Museum of Los Angeles, Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota and in the San Francisco Unified School District. One of the best engaging tools the students enjoy was spoken word poetry. That reminds me to come up with new materials for the upcoming year.
In my other job, I go to the California Youth Authority in Stockton once a week through IMPACT (Incarcerated Men Putting Away Childish Things) to help facilitate workshops on male accountability curriculum to incarcerated youth. The number one model of IMPACT is “ if you can’t think, you can’t win.” It feels good to be able to share my experiences and learn from those youth. At the same time, planting the seed of transformation to preventing them from heading into the adult prison system.
I attended my first US Social Forum in Detroit. I visited Vincent Chin’s grave site and paid my respect. Meeting Grace Lee Boggs and taking to heart her message of “stop thinking or acting like a minority, instead we should think and act like a majority” was definitely a highlight. It’s great to network with so many people who shared the commonality of making change in our respective community from across the nation.
In the past year, the community of San Francisco included me in many of its collaboration efforts to build multicultural relationships in addressing violence. I witnessed the power of advocacy and solidarity when over a thousand Asians stood in front of the steps of city hall demanding more resources to create safer community. I felt privilege to have the opportunities to learn from many of the community leaders from a diverse background. The lesson I learned was we must put aside our differences, no matter how minuscule or gigantic, to find our common grounds for change to occur.
I believe 2011 and the years ahead are going to be awesome. I’m a firm believer that as long as I continue to do my part in serving the community, things will work out accordingly. As Kahill Gibran expresses in The Prophet, On Work:
“[…] When you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
I love my work.
Thank you for sustaining me for another year. Please hold me accountable on my actions and remind me to stay humble. Please continue to mentor me so I can learn and grow in our shared journey on this earth. I’m encouraged by your presence in my life. Please be kind and loving to yourself, your family and your friends.
… just breathe and appreciate life flowing through your body with each inhale and exhale.