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.
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.
Two 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 voice, talents and resources to elevate Jasmine’s case and cause.