on love as a critical resistance practice

white people love to say we need to fill our hearts with more love in this post-trump world. this upsets me (and many others) greatly, as a denial of our right to anger and resistance. but it also upsets me because it perverts and appropriates what has always been, to me, a critical resistance practice.

when white people say we need to fill our hearts with more love, they most likely do not mean the following. but i do:

  • love black people. love blackness. unlearn all the anti blackness in you that has been passed down through your own culture, that has perhaps caused you to not love yourself. understand loving blackness as a key underpinning of how to become free.
  • love people of the same sex. love trans folx. love your friends. love your friends’ children. resist the idea that love only exists in a nuclear family formation between a man and a woman and their biological children. love your friends.
  • love the earth as if it were another being to be honored rather than another resource to be pillaged. resist the commodification of life in the form of restricted access to clean air and clean water. love the people who are fighting for the love of this earth.
  • love with humility. know that love means learning and undoing your own ignorance and complicity. love through listening.
  • love because love is balm against violences perpetuated by the state. recognize this violence in your most loving moments. love not only through feeling, but through actions that dismantle oppression.
  • love because the emotional and supportive labor of women, queers, and people of color have always been cast aside as unimportant. love because emotional labor is and has always been central, not ancillary, to the building of our movements and communities.

happy holidays, i love you.

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so you’re woke. now what?

on november 9, millions of americans woke up and for the first time realized this country is racist, and sexist, and classist, and many other -ists. maybe you’re one of them. maybe you started wearing a safety pin (0.5 woke points), or maybe you called your senator about #noDAPL (3 woke points), or maybe you took a class on intersectionality in college (5 woke points).

i’m just kidding. there is no such thing as woke points, because wokeness is not a competition (use of ‘woke’ while non-black: minus 50 woke points). in all seriousness, i’m noticing an epidemic of people who are beginning to have a social justice political analysis, or who have had a political analysis for a while, but who do not have a method to act on that analysis. 

it’s great that many more people are beginning to develop their political consciousnesses. please continue! read here and here and here and here. but while i do believe social media is an important aspect of 21st century discourse production, sitting around saying what’s wrong with the world is not going to change it. and i say this as someone who sits around quite a bit saying what’s wrong with the world. 

one issue with the sole focus on social criticism is that it tears things down, but it does not build. and creating is harder than destroying. as an educator, i am always thinking about how to create entry points for people just discovering the work. what enables me to have empathy for people wearing safety pins is reflecting upon when i was, quite frankly, a privileged little shit, and what it took to get me to this point, and where i still need to go. how do we move people from wearing safety pins to being on the front lines of resistance?

working in community-based art for the past few years, this is where i think socially engaged art is helpful in providing an entry point to praxis. perhaps people don’t know how to organize a campaign. but they can make a visualization on paper. and i’ve seen that one material realization of an idea be the starting point for many, many more forms of material realization. i’ve heard many participants in community arts project say, “i never thought i could be an artist”. maybe it’s time we find a way to change that phrase to “i never thought i could be an activist”. 

having a political analysis is meaningless if you cannot practice your words: if you constantly flake out on others, if you speak but never listen, if you perpetuate toxic masculinity or colorblindness while criticizing patriarchy or structural racism. but praxis also looks different for every individual. for some it’s getting involved in organizing efforts. for others it just looks like staying alive. however, it is up to you to be self conscious of your praxis, able to articulate it in relationship to your political analysis, and willing to self reflect and self challenge. 

as a political educator, i commit to the task of sharing tools, building bridges between analysis and action, and constantly learning and holding myself accountable. here are some places where you can start, and i’m more than happy to share resources offline or directly. 

in these times more than ever, we must hold each other close and love each other, and in the words of dr. cornel west—“never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

(so stop with all that ‘all we need is love’ crap—seriously!)

Los Angeles, I Ache: June 6, 2016

Despite being away from Los Angeles, there are still moments where I feel the sensations passing through collective body of my communities back home. It’s like how a spider senses an insect landing on a nether portion of its web – apt since most of these waves are transmitted through social networks. Usually I don’t sense the joy, but I do sense very deeply when my community aches, and I ache right back.

Here are some things that I’ve been aching about this week:

Shooting at UCLA – I worked at UCLA, knew people who graduated from UCLA. Despite the broken nature of the UC system and higher education, I still consider UCLA one of the defining institutions when it comes to generating discourse on art and activism in Los Angeles. In this case I watched as my friends were on lockdown for hours.

PSSST gallery opening in Boyle Heights

This has been breaking my heart for weeks. PSSST actually approached one of my collaborations earlier in the year for a short summer residency and I was immediately suspect, as it was a white-owned gallery operation in a historically Japanese and Chicano neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights is incredibly well organized, with long histories of cultural organizations and community spaces, and I found it really suspect that none of the prominent cultural workers from Boyle Heights had said anything about this space or were involved. Researching their website, I became conflicted because queer, femme bodied, and PoC artists/curators who I respect a lot and in some cases have personal relationships with were on their board. We ended up turning down the offer. Fast forward a few months, and PSSST is at the center of anti-gentrification protests in Boyle Heights. It has been breaking my heart to watch from afar how responses to these protests have split the art community, and moreover, split the community of radically-minded artists and artists of color. In this case, it seemed like their board of well respected queer, femme bodied, and PoC artists/curators worked to deter the conversation about gentrification and raise doubts about the legitimacy of the protestors. I myself feel really conflicted about this as I am from outside the community and now literally live thousands of miles away, so in a sense I can’t speak to what is truly happening inside Boyle Heights. But I can say that has been personally devastating to see people within my (former?) community exhibit racist and institutionalized behavior that privileges the concerns of the art community over the concerns of residents who have lived and cherished their neighborhood for years. I hope that choosing between the art community and a community on the verge of displacement is not a choice we ever have to make, that as artists we always understand that our solidarity is always with those who are most structurally disempowered – especially if we contribute to that disempowerment.

#BLMLA organizer Jasmine Richards convicted of felony lynching

13305181_10154826220643906_1751655282651861749_oTwo years later, a jury without a single black person and an Asian judge and Chinese prosecutor convicted #BlackLivesMatter organizer Jasmine Richards of felony lynching – an absurd charge that completely perverts the original intention of the law. I remember the day of the protest actually. I don’t think I went but it was in my consciousness. I also remember seeing Jasmine in Power: From The Mouths of the Occupied, a play by #BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors at Highways Performance Art space at the 18th Street Arts Center complex in Santa Monica. The play was a collection of dramatized monologues about each participant’s experience with police and state sanctioned violence. Jasmine’s story was one of the most intense stories of the night. I held it in me, I admired her resilience, and I understood her leadership and passion. I ache now because the person who I saw perform that night is not a person who should be in jail. Because of that work, I understand her actions to free a fellow protestor (the definition of “lynching”) to be one of compassion and justice, and I continued to be floored by her strength while understanding that in this world, none of us should be obligated to be that strong.

At the same time, this event really underscores the need to do the work to heal anti-blackness in Asian communities. I think it’s time to acknowledge the structural origins of Asian anti-blackness instead to pointing to any one Asian ally as an example of #NotAllAsians. Until we acknowledge it, we can’t truly dismantle it. As someone who has been divorced from my country of origin for myriad, complex reasons, I am still working through how to begin this work in my own community which I do not consider community (once again, myriad and complex reasons). This is something that I will write more about at a later date.

These are the actions that #BlackLivesMatter is urging people to take:

SIGN THE PETITION: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/freejasmine-no-jail-time-black-lives-matter-activist-accused-lynching/?sp_ref=203026269.176.169279.e.535244.5&referring_akid=.2244075.bWCrFT&source=em_sp

You can ALSO can help by:

1. SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! We need as many people talking about this as possible. Please share as widely as you can! #FREEJASMINE #BLMDENA #BLACKLIVESMATTER

2. Pack the courtroom for her sentencing hearing:

Tuesday, 06/07/2016 at 8:00 AM, Pasadena Courthouse – 300 E. Walnut, Pasadena, CA.

3. Donate to Jasmine’s legal defense and/or books at www.crowdrise.com/blmla(Note“Jasmine” in your comments.)

4. Use your voicetalents and resources to elevate Jasmine’s case and cause.