T’s YouTube Videos of the Week

Bambu’s Gaza Track

Bambu’s Gaza Track

MC Bambu (formerly of Native Guns), has a new track called “When Will the Time Come?” about the violence in Gaza. You can listen to it here. It’s pretty powerful. Sometimes it takes artists/musicians to bring the point home, and this song is a good example. It’s actually a track Bambu wrote for a mixtape for Tad Nakamura’s latest documentary, A Song For Ourselves, about the life of Chris Iijima. The late Iijima was an activist and musician, a member in the Asian American band, A Grain of Sand. The documentary premieres next month in Los Angeles.

Bambu’s song “When Will the Time Come?” samples from A Grain of Sand’s “Jonathan Jackson.” Pretty cool. The song is produced by Will Bracey. DJ Phatrick is arranging Iijima’s music along with Blue Scholars, Bambu, Kiwi, and Native Guns songs interwoven with sound bites from the movie.

Speaking of Bambu, here’s his latest video, “Crooks and Rooks,” which premiered on okayplayer.com last month. (excerpt from post on www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog).

Justice for Oscar Grant

Oscar Grant

oscar_COLOR.jpgPoster by Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes.

It is approximately 10 pm Wednesday night, and I can still see and hear the helicopters outside my window. Earlier this afternoon, at least 1,000 people gathered peacefully in front of Oakland City Hall to protest the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer early New Year’s day. Grant, 22, was lying face down when one of the officers pulled out his gun and shot him in the back. The peaceful protest from earlier today turned violent when a reported few dozen people lingered around and smashed in some windows and cars.

When we left the march around 6 pm, we were hoping to pick up some dinner from our favorite Chinese restaurant, but it was closed. It seemed that about 70 percent of the businesses in Chinatown closed early due to the protests, because of its proximity to downtown. And most of the downtown businesses also closed early, with many boarding up their windows. 

Like Claire’s recent post about the violence in Gaza, you might be wondering, what does Oscar Grant have to do with Asian America? Well, besides also being outraged at the shooting and non- or delayed responses from authorities, I feel like this is a story that affects all of us. At the protests last week and today, there were many Asian Americans present. Grant’s death has touched us all in some way. And living in an area where you hear of police killings every few months, it’s unfortunately an issue that’s embedded in our city and culture. Grant’s death is only bringing this issue to light, one that you would be blind not to notice if you lived here. 

BART’s police chief, Gary Gee, is Asian American. One of the three people charged from last week’s protest that turned into a so-called riot is Asian American. And many, many of the 300 or so shops that were damaged from last Wednesday are owned by Asian Americans, from nail salons to restaurants. In fact, most of the businesses damaged were small shops owned by people of color — with the exception of a McDonald’s. People have been calling this a Rodney King part II. 

In many ways, I understand why people are angry and want to smash things. But I feel for the businesses that are basically innocent. In fact, many of the owners interviewed say they support the protesters and are also angry at the shooting. But in the larger scheme of things, I think there are a few things to remember — that overall, the hundreds and up to thousands of protesters were peaceful, and that the focus should remain on Grant’s case and making sure there is a thorough investigation. And the focus should also remain on the issue of police killings and brutality. Oscar Grant’s case is unique because so many people have viewed his shooting online. But for every Oscar Grant, there is unfortunately many other people who are shot and killed without a cell phone camera as a witness. That’s why this case has garnered so much attention, and hopefully it will shed light on an issue that’s usually swept under the rug.

I’m curious if those not from the San Francisco Bay Area have heard of Oscar Grant or have seen the videos online? (post originally appeared on www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog).


Hiroshima Day

(From the Hyphen blog):

Today marks the 63rd year after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 140,000 and physically, mentally and psychologically harming many, many more.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, is apparently trying to get the U.S. to sign a nuclear arms abolition treaty. So far, the U.S. is one of three countries that hasn’t signed, while 170 other countries have. Akiba is also launching a study on the psychological damage done by the a-bombs dropped on August 6th, 2008.

It seems like there are some U.S. peace activities around this day, including in Manhasset, NY, where Japanese American children reportedly were to give out paper cranes, a sign of peace. Apparently this day is commemorated around the world with peace vigils and marches.

I’m curious if you heard of any activities in your area, your neighborhood or your city around Hiroshima Day. I think it’s ever important to keep this day in mind, remembering the people who died and also the survivors, like hibakusha, especially since we live in a country that has waged many wars abroad (and at home).

As Asian Americans, we can also collectively remember that many of us are here in the U.S. right now because our parents or ancestors left their homelands as a result of war (and many times because of U.S. involvement in those wars), as immigrants and refugees.

As Prof. Mari Matsuda at Georgetown Law said when I interviewed her for an article about the current antiwar movement, “Every single one of us has war in our geneology, as Asian Americans, and we can use that historical memory of what war did to all our countries of origin to oppose the war.” She’s talking of course about the war in Iraq, but it can be applied to any war.  

According to some younger generation Japanese folks interviewed in Steven Okazaki’s doc “White Light/Black Rain,” (which is nominated for an Emmy) they do not even remember Hiroshima Day. If Japanese kids don’t even know about this day, then it makes me wonder if Americans know about this day.

What’s even more about this day is the real truth behind it–it didn’t need to happen. Read Ron Takaki’s piece here about the racist truths behind why the bombs were dropped.

Has anyone been to Hiroshima or the Peace Museum, or seen the atomic bomb dome? Please share your experiences.   

Advocacy Journalism

Hello, World.

This is my first post on my new blog. I thought I’d write a little introduction before I posted.

I’m starting this blog, which I’m sure will change over time. The idea is a place to provide interesting and relevant local (Oakland/Bay Area) news for Asian Americans and other folks of color. I’m thinking progressive news, innovative ideas, interesting people. Stuff like that. A lot will be me commenting on what I read or see around here. Hope you enjoy, and come back and visit often.

+ + +

I just read this interesting piece in the SF Chronicle about groups like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch doing using journalism tools like FOIA to expose the hard truths that frankly, not enough journalists are doing.

The writer, Dan Gillmor, says that most fall short of journalism because they do not talk to the other side(s). From what I know, the groups aren’t trying to be journalists. I do agree that talking to the other side(s) usually leads to a more well-rounded story that is more interesting, and more compelling.

I think Gillmor is on to something here, especially with the demise of print journalism (and thus all traditional journalism, including radio and TV. A lot of radio and TV news stories are based off of print journalism). But I guess what falls short in his argument is that he’s trying to make it seem like groups like the ACLU could be considered journalists, when in reality I don’t think that’s their role. They do a lot of research and issue reports on their findings. I think it’s the role of journalists to take the time to either do the reporting or carefully read the reporting of those groups.

I also don’t like the way people use the term “advocacy journalism,” as if that is a bad thing. We get a lot of the “other sides” already, and people are not limited to one source of news. Gillmor does try to practice what he preaches by being praising some advocacy journalism.

As a practicing journalist, I have never thought advocacy is a bad thing. It depends on the story and context, and what you are advocating for. Implicitly or not, you are always advocating for something, even if it is the status quo. If you are being fair and balanced but not using your best judgment based on factual information, then you’re just advocating for the same old thing. You can be totally “objective” and fair on the surface, i.e. interview a bunch of people from different spectrums, giving them equal time, but still not necessarily be fair or balanced or just.

It also depends on what your purpose of the story is. Is it to provide a local community’s perspective on an issue? Then it makes sense that the majority of your story is going to include community voices as opposed to voices of politicians. Does that make it inbalanced? Yes, but not every story needs to be balanced. But I do agree that every story should be fair.