Photo credit: Yalonda M. James for the SF Chronicle
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Lion dancing, lionesses rising

Lion dancing's been associated with folklore and celebrations for hundreds of years. In the Chinese variant, gangsters under the lion costume would even reach for cabbages left on storefronts, seizing protection money in red envelopes hidden inside.

But it wasn't until recently that more and more women began joining lion dance troupes, performing at Lunar New Year parades and weddings alongside the men who have historically dominated the martial art.

Time travel with me

25 years ago, Adriana and Liliana Yee Rodrigues were the only girls performing at Lunar New Year parades in Chinatown. Other women assembled costumes, or just watched.

That's a relic of the old days, when sifus, or masters, would ban women from learning the lion dance.

Now, 5 out of 6 club leaders at LionDanceMe, a San Francisco lion dance troupe, are women.

“Hey, there’s a girl under here”

Still, some businesses still ask for all-male dance troupes, and performers told the SF Chronicle that male lion dances still dominate competitions and performances.

But the Yee Rodrigues sisters say there's a new wave of women and girl dancers in Boston, New York City, and beyond. And some things never get old.

"Every time we'd lion-dance in Chinatown, as soon as we'd take off our head they'd say, 'Wow, they're ladies.'" said Liliana Yee Rodrigues. "They're so surprised."

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who just witnessed theatre's greatest lion dancing in SF's King of the Yees (and you can too—save $10 with code SLANT10)

Um, have you ever seen lion dancing w/o the costume?

NOW PLAYING: In another life, I read a lot of comics. And Deadly Class, about a secret high school in San Francisco training students to become assassins, definitely stood out. Now, Deadly Class has become a television series on SYFY, featuring a diverse cast chock-full of people of color, like María Gabriela de Faría, Lana Condor, and the always-delightful Benedict Wong.

Though of course, that’s not the only reason it’s this week’s Now Playing—it’s also because Deadly Class feels like a rollercoaster mishmash of sights both familiar and not. A Kingsman-esque fight scene one moment, and a surprisingly tender heart-to-heart the next. I’ll be honest—based on what other folx are saying, it seems like reactions are pretty mixed. But what can I say? I’m a simple man. I see Benedict Wong, I watch it.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who swears he’s on the straight and narrow away from comic addiction

Rest in Power


Human rights activist Kim Bok-dong passed away on Monday at the age of 92. Her funeral procession took place in Seoul amid mourners chanting "Japan must apologize.”

Kim, who came forth about her experience as a sex slave for the Japanese Army during World War II, passed away without having received the full admission of guilt from the Japanese government that she desired.

Her harrowing story

At 14 years old, Kim was taken by Japanese soldiers and transported to a "comfort station," where as many as 200,000 women were forced to work as sex slaves.

Kim attempted suicide after getting beaten early in her experience, but after her attempt failed, she resolved to live to tell her story.

But when she finally returned to South Korea in 1947, she found she didn't have the words to explain what had happened to her.

Our hope

In 1991, another survivor named Kim Hak-sun came forward as the first South Korean woman to speak publicly about working as a "comfort woman". This gave Kim the courage to share her own story, and in 1992 she spoke out her experiences.

Since then, Kim has worked to support survivors of sexual violence in combat zones all over the world. She set up The Butterfly Fund to support victims and started a scholarship for children in conflict regions.

Her passing is a huge loss to survivors of sexual violence, many of whom address Kim as “our hero,” “our mama,” and “our hope.”  

Chery Sutjahjo, editor

Watch her interview
"My father believed no man should be an orphan at death, that family should deliver the dead. So I stood in as a ghost daughter and bowed at the head and foot of every orphan grandfather."
— Fae Myenne Ng, "Orphan Bachelors"

The Hawaiian prison crisis

Hawaii’s government officials have been trying to draw attention to the state’s overcrowded prisons for quite some time—and are now trying to introduce bills to relieve the stress.

During the three strikes era in the 90s, the state enforced harsh sentences on folks, and many people were too poor to pay proper bailout—especially those from marginalized backgrounds, like Native Hawaiians.

That led to overcrowding across the board. In Oahu’s Community Correctional Center, they are 25% over capacity. Maui’s jail’s 60% over capacity, Kauai is 48% over capacity, and so forth.

To put that into perspective, a center in Hawaii built 43 years ago had only 22 beds, and now holds 200 more beds… and that STILL won’t handle the overcrowding.  

Island to desert pipeline

To alleviate over capacity, inmates are being sent to for-profit prisons—private companies that can supply the government demand to house prisoners at a usually expensive rate.

In particular, they’ve been sent to the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona. And to be sent to a prison 3,000 miles away from home comes with unique challenges when you don’t have a community, family, or culture for external support.

Bills in the works

Unfortunately, a bill aimed to reduce inmates being sent to private prisons was rejected. Yet a house and senate bill would give judges authority to allow defendants to prove that providing bail would be a significant hardship—and could have the bond be paid in part or entirely waived.

Natalie Bui, editor

Unfortunately, we won't be moving inmates back soon

This weekend ... 📅

  • SAY ALOHA to a new state holiday proposed in Hawai’i’s senate, recognizing La Ku‘oko‘a—Hawaiian Recognition Day—as a state holiday in place of Presidents Day. A holiday originally created during the days of the Hawaiian Kingdom, La Ku’oko’a celebrates international recognition of the Kingdom, and was observed even after Hawai’i was overthrown by the United States.

  • START READING FRANK SHYONG’S new metro column for the L.A. Times. Shyong’s one of our favorite columnists here at The Slant, and we’re excited that someone of Asian descent is finally heading this column in such a diversity-rich area. His first column clears up exactly what he’ll be writing about—and it’s straight to the untold alleyways of L.A. Just don’t read the comments.

  • JOURNEY TO VIETNAM or just meditate to honor Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay, as his disciples call him. Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted by presidents and Oprah alike, was a prominent pacifist during the Vietnam War, and a confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr., who recommended him for a Nobel Peace Prize. He’s now returned to Vietnam to await what he calls his “transition.” Read about his final days in Time Magazine.

  • GET ON YOUTUBE and search for some K-pop to accompany this article for MTV, describing the history of K-pop and the surprising origins of K-pop in the United States. It even includes a video of 1960s K-pop stars The Kim Sisters. That’s one more fact you can tell your newly BTS-obsessed coworkers.

  • REGISTER YOURSELF ON BE THE MATCH. There are 19 million people in the bone marrow registry, but less than 3 percent are of South Asian descent. This leads to major problems when South Asians need bone marrow for diseases like leukemia, and it’s one folx like Hasan Minhaj are slowly becoming aware of. Get the story.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s hoping these Jay Chou tickets he got weren’t a scam. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Marina Cheung, Billy Huang, Kevin Lin, Paulina Dao, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Carl Shan, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Kyla Hsia, Gloria Lin, Matt Young, Cat Xia, Crystal Shei, Sooyun Choi, Yi Cao, Meher Kohli, Ryan Ikeda, Jerome Finuliar, Abby Wang, Curtis Leung, Tracey Mantilla, Mika Kennedy, James Boo, Chris Moe, Alexander Quion, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang, Claire Tran, Sara Mitchell, and Jeffrey Wang, who WILL have good luck this year, no matter what dang animal they are.

Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

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