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Hope y'all see that Philippines flag emoji

Featuring Filipina American activist, DJ and poet Kuttin Kandi

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News from the front

Updates on stories we've reported on before.

  • The ongoing deportations of Southeast Asian Americans has clear implications for mental health in deportees’ families. Read the story on a new report by the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

  • Connie Chung wrote a new op-ed this week, writing about her sexual assault 50 years ago in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

  • And one last note on Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record—here’s a few stories showing his attitudes towards Native Hawaiians, abortion and the pay gap.

How Filipinos break the rules of race

The U.S. considers Filipino Americans part of the larger “Asian American” demographic. But that wasn’t always the case.

In fact, during the 1970s, the U.S. considered using Spanish surnames to categorize Americans as Hispanic or Latino, which would have rolled Filipino Americans into the same category as their former colonizers.

That didn’t happen, of course. But according to sociologist Dr. Anthony C. Ocampo, author of The Latinos of Asia: How Filipinos are Breaking the Rules of Race, it wouldn’t have been too far off.

Intersectionality from colonialism

Spain ruled the islands for 376 years, and even named the Philippines after King Philip II. But Ocampo argues that imperialist influence goes beyond just linguistic or religious changes.

Ocampo says Filipino Americans have more in common with Latino groups than Asian American ones, from their shared Spanish colonialism to their traditional events. Which is why Filipino Americans, who are often excluded from East Asian-centered “Asian American” discourse, often settle where Latinos do.

After all, it wasn’t a coincidence that Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez forged a Filipino-Mexican partnership in the United Farm Workers: an alliance borne out of oppression from Americans and Spanish alike.

Disaggregating AsAm studies

Even in 2018, the field of Filipino American studies struggles to be recognized apart from Asian American studies. It was only last week that the University of California, Davis opened its doors to the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, the first center of Filipino studies in the U.S. And mainstream “Asian American” media, as we saw with Crazy Rich Asians, tends to be East Asian-focused.

Which is why once again, we’re cheering on efforts to disaggregate Asian American data, media and more, to give each disparate group its own due. With their unique history, Filipino Americans definitely deserve their own spotlight—and this Filipino American History Month (and beyond), let’s give it to ‘em.

The Slant Staff, who will be featuring Filipino American stories right here, in the first slot, all month
Speaking of Filipino American media, watch The Debut!

NOW PLAYING: Korean American adoptee Kristyn Leach grew up on Long Island, where the “regional cuisine was pizza and bagels.” I don’t think any of us are hating on pizza and bagels (I wouldn’t dare), but we can sympathize with Leach’s desire to learn more about her Korean culture and heritage. 

Luckily, Leach was able  to find a way to explore her culture and heritage and turn it into her life’s work. While she started Namu Farms in the SF Bay Area as a way to connect with her Korean roots, it’s grown to become more of an expression and understanding of who she is and what it means to be Korean American, an adoptee, or Asian American in general.

Her farm (where she grows sesame leaves, Korean chili peppers, Korean melon, and Japanese eggplant, all farmed in a style known as “natural farming”) provides organic produce for the SF restaurant Namu Gaji, which is also owned and run by Korean Americans. Both Leach and Dennis Lee, the chef at Namu Gaji, are focused on putting Korean culture and flavors on the plate in an original way that tells a similar story, but breaks the mold. 

“The experience of adoption is so complicated that I feel really grateful to have farming be the way that I interact with my culture,” Leach says. Read more in her interview with CultureStrike.

— Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who ate eight slices of pizza last weekend

Immigration, made to order

In July 2005, a Chinese immigrant flew from China to New York City to start a new life. That immigrant, who NPR’s Planet Money calls “Lawrence,” eventually became a Chinese translator for an immigration law office: a job he was excited to take.

The catch? That immigration law office was an “asylum mill”—a law office that helped its clients apply for asylum in the U.S. with fabricated stories.

Assembly line asylum

The firm would tell clients how to pursue a claim, convincing them that a false story was their best bet. Then they’d write one: a bespoke tale that exactly matched the criteria asylum officers and judges looked for, usually individual religious or political persecution.

“I realized this is open secret in Chinese immigrant community,” Lawrence told NPR. “I justify in this way: I say, ‘Okay, I’m helping people. I’m helping those lower-class Chinese people to get their status in United States.”

Meanwhile, Central American immigrants, who often cite criminal gang violence, find it hard to apply for asylum because it’s difficult to prove that they are being individually targeted.

ICE comes calling

In 2011, however, the FBI contacted Lawrence, telling him he’d be sent to prison unless he turned over information on the asylum mills he’d worked at. After helping send several facilitators to prison, Lawrence served six months of probation, and moved on with his life.

But by 2017, with a renewed focus on immigration from the Trump administration, ICE began calling, too—and this time, it wanted Lawrence to help take down the immigrants, not the facilitators.

Lawrence refused, going into hiding. Meanwhile, ICE has continued to terminate the asylum statuses of immigrants suspected of committing asylum fraud, including those who have become cooperating witnesses.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s not into this

Listen to the Planet Money podcast ep

6 Questions with DJ Kuttin Kandi

This week, we’re revisiting an interview with pinay activist, DJ and poet Kuttin Kandi, who we spoke to over the phone last November. She’s an organizer with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the Asian Solidarity Collective, and founder of hiphopbruha.com.

Back then, we interviewed folx in “6 Questions,” where we asked the same six questions to an Asian American artist, writer or other leader, and had them ask a question for the next guest. You can read the full interview on Medium.

What gets you excited to create your work?

All the work that I do, I feel, has to be interconnected to the liberation of people. That’s my core belief with anything I do. I’ve worked other odd jobs just to have a living and even then I have to find a purpose and make it about justice work.

How do you prepare yourself for the day? Do you have a morning ritual or headspace that you need to put yourself in before you go out and do this work?

I used to have these quotes on my wall and I’d pick a line from one of those poems to stick with me throughout the day and it helps me pause and savor the moments of the day.

Now the first thing I see when I wake up is my children. Even if I don’t have a moment to meditate, I think looking at my children is meditative sometimes, their life is so innocent. When I wake up I think “oh I gotta do this and that” but they’re bouncing on the bed and laughing.

What do you do when you’ve hit a creative block?

I have to be in my headspace and be in complete solitude. I was just saying to a friend, maybe we just need to go away to the woods somewhere. Sometimes it just takes that, getting rid of other obstacles. And when I get stuck with words, I’ll just keep on writing even if it doesn’t make sense and then something will come out.

What have you been reading / watching / listening to?

Ruby Ibarra’s album “Circa ‘91” is so inspiring. It’s a storytelling piece, of struggle, of joy. She talks about all the things that I grew up with as a Filipina brown girl and I find myself listening to her album in the car and I want to cry because that’s literally the shit I grew up with.

What’s your signature karaoke song?

I will always be a Whitney Houston fan so either “I Believe the Children are the Future”—I’m so cliche—or “Saving All My Love For You.” I do not sing even close to her but I always end up singing those two songs.

From Superman and New Super-Man writer Gene Luen Yang: If your life were Super Mario Bros., who/what would be your Bowser?

(laughs) I was more of a Zelda player. I’m like the younger Magneto, when he was struggling. I struggle with Professor X sometimes in a political sense with how he wants to integrate into the human world.

I totally don’t want to conform sometimes. Do we have to conform to the degree that we erase and minimize our own struggles in the process? But with Magneto, how can we get our liberation without having to oppress.

What question would you like to ask the next guest?

What is the soundtrack that best represents your life story?

Kuttin Kandi is a DJ, poet, and community organizer. She’s an organizer with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the Asian Solidarity Collective, and founder of hiphopbruha.

Read the whole interview on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

This week's stories are curated by Natasha Chan, social media editor, who is still insta-stalking Tsubasa and Shion on the regs. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

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“We have been marching for the last one hundred and fifty years. We sacrifice our individual liberties, and sometimes we fail and suffer. Sometimes we divide into separate groups and our methods conflict, though we all aim at one common goal. The significant thing is that we march on without turning back. What we want is peace not violence, We know that we thrive and prosper only in peace.” 

— Carlos Bulosan, author, America is in the Heart

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