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Autobiography @ 33

Mar 07, 2011
» Poetry

I am 33 years old and breathin’

it’s a good year to die

to myself

I never felt such extreme peace

despite being mired in constant ear-deafening screams

from the caged occupants – triple CMS1, PCs2, gang validated,
drop-outs, parole violators, lifers,
drug casualties, three strikers,
human beings

in San Quentin’s 150 year old solitary confinement

I don’t want to start things over

 

@ 33

I am very proud of being who I am

I wrote a letter to a stranger who said
“You deserve to lose at least your youth,
not returning to society until well into middle age…”

after reading an article about me in San Francisco Weekly

I told him
“A hundred years from now when we no longer exist on this earth of humankind the seriousness of my crime will not be changed or lessened. I can never pay my debt to the victims because I cannot turn back the hands of time…I will not judge you.”

whenever I think about my crime I feel ashamed

I’ve lost my youth and more

I’ve learned that the more I suffer the stronger I become

I am blessed with great friends

I talk better than I write
because the police can’t hear my conversation

the prison officials labeled me a trouble maker

I dared to challenge the administration
for its civil rights violation

I fought for Ethnic Studies in the prison college program

I’ve been a slave for 16 years under the 13th Amendment

I know separation and disappointment intimately

I memorized the United Front Points of Unity

I love my family and friends

my shero Yuri Kochiyama and a young sister named Monica

who is pretty wanted to come visit me

somehow I have more female friends than male friends

I never made love to a woman

sometimes I feel like 16

but my body disagrees

some people called me a square

because I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs

I am a procrastinator but I get things done

I’ve never been back to my motherland

I started to learn Spanish

escribió una poema en español

at times I can be very selfish and vice versa

I’ve never been to a prom, concert, opera, sporting event

or my parents’ house

I don’t remember the last time I cried

I’ve sweat with the Native Americans, attended mass with the

Catholics, went to service with the Protestants, sat and chanted

with the Buddhists

my mind is my church

I am spoiled

in 2001 a young lady I love stopped loving me

it felt worse than losing my freedom

I was denied parole for the ninth time

I assured Mom that I will be home one day

after she pleaded me to answer her question truthfully
“Are you ever going to get out of prison?”

the Prison Industrial Complex and its masters attempted to control my mind

it didn’t work

they didn’t know I’ve been introduced to Che, Yuri Kochiyama, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, Frederick Douglass, Assata Shakur, bell hooks, Maurice Cornforth, Malcolm X, Gandhi, George Jackson, Mumia, Buddha,

and many others…

I had about a hundred books in my cell

I was internalizing my politics

In 2000 I organized the first poetry slam in San Quentin

I earned my associate of art degree

something that I never thought possible

I’ve self-published a zine

I was the poster boy for San Quentin

some time in the ‘90s my grandparents died

without knowing that I was in prison

 

@ 30

I kissed Dad on the cheek and told him that I love him
for the first time

I’ve written my first poem

I called myself a poet to motivate me to write

because I knew poets would set us free

in 1998 I was granted parole
then it was taken away

the governor’s political career superseded my life

some time in the 90s
I participated in most of the self-help programs

in 1996 I really learned how to read and write

I read my first history book “A People’s History
of the United States”

my social conscious mind was awakened

in 1992 I passed my GED in Solano Prison

I learned how to take care of my body from ’89 to ‘93

in 1987 I turned 18 and went to the Pen from youth authority

the youngest prisoner in San Quentin’s
Maximum Security Prison

I was lucky people thought I knew kung fu

 

@ 16

I violated an innocent family of four and scarred them for life

money superseded human suffering

I was charged as an adult and sentenced to life
with a possibility

no hablo ingles

I wish I could start things over

I was completely lost

 

@ 12

I left Communist China to Capitalist America

no hablo ingles

I was spoiled

in 1976 I went to demonstrations against the Gang of Four

life was a blur from 1 to 6

on 5/29/69

I inhaled my first breath.

 


1 Correctional Clinical Case Management System Mental health condition of prisoners
2 Protective Custody of Prisoners

San Francisco Interfaith Council, Guest Speaker

Jan 13, 2011
» Engagements, Reflections

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA

I was invited by the San Francisco Interfaith Council’s (SFIC) Executive Director Michael Pappas as a guest speaker with Reentry Policy Director Jessica Flintoff at its monthly breakfast.

About 80 people from different faith based groups were present at the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Heritage Hall. I shared my poem “Autobiography @ 33” with them as an introduction. I spoke briefly about the importance of all communities coming together to help those who are incarcerated. I drew the parallel on how the prisoners are being treated like lepers in the leper colony of Prison Industrial Complex. Many of the community members reached out to me when I was in prison just as Jesus reach out to the lepers in the leper colony. Without the compassion demonstrated by people from the community, I would not have become who I am.

Members of SFIC are doing many great things helping people who are in need in our community. I want to encourage the interfaith council to play an active role in changing the policy that can steer California away from being number 1 in incarceration and number 50 in education.

San Francisco State University, Guest Speaker

Oct 16, 2010
» Engagements

San Francisco, CA
Presented at Professor Grace Yoo’s Asian American Studies class, “Asian American communities: Changes and Development”, on the Prison Industrial Complex and reentry to approximately 60 students.

API Legal Outreach, Guest Speaker

Aug 09, 2010
» Engagements

Bay Area, CA
Presented on transformation, leadership and the Prison Industrial Complex, for a group of 12 youth leaders

Laney College, Guest Speaker

May 11, 2010
» Engagements

Oakland, CA
Presented at Professor Roger Chung’s “Asian-American Communities” class, on the Prison Industrial Complex and the work of Asian Prisoners’ Support Committee (APSC), to approximately 60 students.

UCLA, Guest Speaker

Apr 16, 2010
» Engagements

University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

Presented on “Other: an Asian Pacific Islander Prisoners Anthology” and the Prison Industrial Complex, to approximately 20 people.

Japanese American National Museum, Guest Speaker

Apr 15, 2010
» Engagements

Los Angeles, CA
Presented on “Other: an Asian Pacific Islander Prisoners Anthology” and the Prison Industrial Complex, to approximately 15 people.

Other: An Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology

Apr 14, 2010
» Books

This anthology of work by Asian & Pacific Islander (API) prisoners is the first book to highlight the unique stories and perspectives of this growing prisoner population in the US. Through original poetry, vignettes, essays, first-hand narratives, interviews, and drawings, 22 contributors cover topics such as the factors that led to their incarceration, the cruelty that occurs in prisons and immigration detention jails, and the harsh reality of deportation that awaits many API prisoners. By offering readers a glimpse into their innermost fears, regrets, and dreams, these prisoners contribute an important voice to our society’s discussion around race, immigration, and prison issues.

OTHER includes a preface by Helen Zia. It is edited by Eddy Zheng and Ben Wang, designed by Joy Liu, and is a project of the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC).  Available for purchase at Eastwind Books of Berkeley.

Preview below:

City College of San Francisco, Guest Speaker

Mar 15, 2010
» Engagements

San Francisco, CA
Presented at Professor Donna Willmott’s class on the Prison Industrial Complex and reentry, to approximately 25 students.

UC Berkeley ACLU, Guest Speaker

Apr 29, 2009
» Engagements

University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
Spoke about prison and parole policy with Professor Jonathan Simon, to approximately 15 students

Breaking the Chain, Keynote Speaker

Apr 14, 2009
» Engagements

University of Berkeley,
Berkeley, CA
Spoke at theSoutheast Asian Student Coalition‘s Annual benefit concert, on transforming the criminal justice system, to approximately 100 people

“Breaking the Chain”

The significance of the theme is a bold statement to break the chain of rising statistics in criminalization and police brutality in our communities. It is to break the silence of unjust acts and to promote social change in the criminal justice system. We addressed issues of rising statistics in criminalization and police brutality, hoping to promote social change in the criminal justice system.

UC Davis, Guest Speaker

Mar 04, 2009
» Engagements

University of California, Davis
Davis, CA
Spoke about the connections between personal life, the Prison Industrial Complex and the overall system of oppression, to Professor Sunaina Maira’s “Politics and Social Movements: Asian American Activism and Social Movement” class, of approximately 40 students.

UC Berkeley, Guest Speaker

Feb 25, 2009
» Engagements

University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
Spoke about the Prison Industrial Complex and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at Professor Alan Ross’s Political Science class, to approximately 385 people.

SF State University, Guest Speaker

Feb 13, 2009
» Engagements

San Francisco, CA
Spoke about the importance of community service, the API prison population, and struggles in the Prison Industrial Complex, to approximately 200 freshman students

Other: Voices of Asian Prisoners

Sep 27, 2008
» Videos

Part 1:

About the Event

“Other: Voices of Asian Prisoners”
Saturday, Sept. 27th, 2008
Critical Resistance Conference in Oakland, California

Panel workshop featuring Rico Riemedio, German Yambao, and Eddy Zheng. They discuss changes that have occurred in the Asian prison population over the past 20 years, concerns and struggles particular to Asian prisoners, and how Asian prisoners build community and resistance inside the Prison Industrial Complex. Organized by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC).

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The struggles of APA prisoners

Apr 25, 2003
» Articles, Reflections

One inmate’s call for APA community support

by Eddy Zheng, AsianWeek, VOICES FROM THE COMMUNITY

Asians do not go to prisons. When people mention the word prison they usually conjure up images of hard-core criminals — murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers, gang members and sexual predators. Prison also brings to mind the mass incarceration of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and poor whites. Rarely do people associate prison with Asian Pacific Americans.

I am an APA prisoner who has been incarcerated for over 17 years. If I have to write about all the struggles APA prisoners have to endure, I can write a book. Since I am writing an essay, I will share with you some of what it is like to be an APA in prison.

The first thing an APA prisoner is subjected to is the surrender of his ethnicity. The prison system promotes racial segregation by grouping prisoners as “Black,” “White,” “Mexican/Hispanic” and “Other.” It is a means of control by creating a separation of culture between races. As soon as an APA is processed into the prison he is categorized as an “Other.” He is no longer Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese or any other ethnicity. Once he is labeled, for the rest of his stay in prison he will be living, showering, eating and hanging out with those who are in the same category.
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