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New Year at the Q

Feb 03, 2011
» Reflections

Different cultures have different superstitions. One of the superstitions in Asian culture is it’s bad luck to go visit a prison. It’s one thing if you have loved ones locked up and you’re visiting them. It’s all bad if you just go visit a prison.

In the past, I had encourage some youth to go visit San Quentin so they can get an ideal what life is like so they won’t do things that land them there. However, most of the Asian youth don’t want to go because of superstition. Their parents don’t approve of them going for the same reason.

For me, I would like to think that I transcend all superstition. Therefore, I went to visit San Quentin this afternoon to brainstorm on setting up a culture competent program to help the Asian and Pacific Islander prisoners. One of the prisoners showed me a “lai shi” he received from an older prisoner. “lai shi” is good luck money that married people or elders give to the youngsters in a red envelop during new year celebration. Since there’s no red envelop in prison, they guy use a paper towel and shaded with red color pencil to make the envelop. For money, he put a prison photo ducat (Photo ducat is used in the visiting room to take pictures with visitors. It’s sell through the Prison Canteen.,) which worth two dollars, inside the envelop. I asked the guys whether all the Asians are going to have a spread to celebrate the new year. They said everyone’s too busy working and going to self help programs. They may do something over the weekend.

Culture is important. For those who are incarcerated, they still observe their cultures as much as they can. Therefore, it’s important to have cultural specific programs cater to their needs to reduce recidivism.

Again, I’m grateful that I can walk out of the prison each time I visit. Each visit gives me perspective and makes me more appreciative of freedom.

Violence prevention is…

Jan 28, 2011
» Reflections

… Sharing with about 40 diverse immigrant students in San Francisco’s International High school about the importance of education and the potential they have to become future leaders.

… Outreaching in the hot spots of Chinatown and talking with youth about finding better activities than hanging out and smoking.

… Challenging a group of youth on the streets to play basketball in the Chinatown YMCA against staff from the Community Youth Center (CYC) and offer them, “If you win, we will buy all of you dinner. If we win, you will have to do community service with us.”

… Having about 15 youth taking up CYC staff’s challenge, boasting that they will run us off the court, ending up losing by 21 points and taking a group picture when the game’s over and wanting a rematch.

… Coming home exhausted from the basketball game before midnight and having to coordinate staff to handle the reporting of an attempted suicide by a youth.

Chinese American Cultural and Art Association Guest Speaker

Mar 20, 2009
» Engagements

Spoke at the “Preventing Youth Delinquency” Youth Lecture and Conference, with Guest Speaker Honorable Judge Lillian Sing, to approximately 250 people

2008 Reflections

Jan 02, 2009
» Engagements

The year of 2008 breezed by like a sparrow riding with the wind of a tornado. Sometimes I don’t even remember all the things that have had happened in my life.

I’ve been in the “Free World” for 22 months. However, I feel like I’ve been here all along. Who would’ve thought that I am still in the United States? My immigration status remains the same – deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is still waiting to secure my travel document from the Chinese government so it can process my deportation. I’m still under ICE’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. I have to check in with ICE three times a month. My appeal in the ninth circuit court of appeal has been pending for over two years. I have no idea when the court will issue a decision.

Therefore, my status in the US is still uncertain. Fortunately, with the support and dedication of my friend Ben Wang, we were able to secure the commitment from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Mike Honda to express their support to sponsor a private bill on my behalf to stop my deportation in the 2009 congress. With Obama as the president, hopefully my chance of getting the private bill passed increases. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I continued to work full time in the Community Youth Center (CYC) of San Francisco. Since my 20 months of employment in CYC, I was promoted three times. Currently, I’m the Senior Project Coordinator responsible for two components that work on decreasing the violence in the schools and the community – the Community Response Network – Asian Pacific Islander (CRN-API) and Intervention.

The stigma of being a formerly incarcerated person has worked for me and against me. There are those who will continue to doubt me. That’s fine. As the saying goes, “You can lead a cow to water, but you cannot force it to drink.” One thing remains unchanged for me is my dedication to service the youth and community to the best of my ability. I find it extremely rewarding to be able to utilize my experiences to provide services to the often under-funded and under-served API population. Therefore, it is humbling to be accepted and validated by most of my peers and community for what I do. Because when you give me a chance, you give thousands of other an opportunity to change their lives.

I have attached a chronology of some of the things that I’ve done this year. They are the direct results of your support and faith in me.

In my reflection of this year, I realize that sometimes I’m disconnected with society. There’re so many things that I did not learn or understand as a result of my incarceration. Therefore, sometimes I unknowingly hurt the people I care about, myself included. At times, I find myself thinking that being in prison is better than being in the so called “Free World.” I feel like I am living in a lie and that my life is one big lie.

I know that I have much to reflect on and take direct actions to make changes. That’s why I ask all of you to keep me humble and continue to guide me in this finite journey of life.

Thank you for being there for me and being my mentors. Your presence in my life reminds me of how rich and lucky I am.

As we embrace the year of 2009, let’s continue to be kind and loving to ourselves so we can pass the same loving kindness to others.

May you and your families be happy and healthy.

My heart bows to you,
Your humble servant,

Eddy Zheng

happy new breath