Kindred Journey 16 - Kshama Sawant

I heard of Ms Sawant several years ago and with the onslaught of information one receives daily (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not) I swept her to the back of my mind. When researching her for this I realized what an incredible feat it is to be an open Socialist elected official in a US city. As she has said in interviews, many young people do not have the same anti-socialist , red state, cold war view of Socialism that their grand parents once did. In fact they are the youth all over the US and the world who are protesting, occupying, and asking questions. Kshama is a teacher, activist, software engineer, and now a seated member of the Seattle city council which makes decisions about the direction of that city. Sawant was born in 1972 in India. She came to the US in 1994. She studied economics in North Carolina and became politically motivated by the incredible disparities between classes both here in the states and in India. She joined the Socialist Alternative (a nationwide crew of socialist activists) in Seattle and ran for US house of representative for Washington. She lost but won a seat as a city council member in Seattle in 2013 and was re-elected in 2015. One of the greatest victories she has been a part of among several losses is the winning of a $15 an hour minimum wage which so many other cities and states then began fighting for.  This is a quote from her while she was talking about past examples of socialist societies, why socialism is no longer such a dirty word, and why it is important that working people have excellent access to healthcare, education, safety, and more:

Socialism cannot survive in one country. If you have a really successful example of a workers economy, what would happen? Working class everywhere would look at that economy and say hey we want that. And thats very dangerous for the ruling class because as long as there is a successful example of and people clamoring for that they're not going to have that kind of control that they have now over the working class" -Kshama Sawant

Sources: Richard D Wolff, Wikipedia,  Talking Stick


Kindred Journey 15 - Chhaya Chhoum

I found out about Chhaya through the NY Times conversation with Asian Americans about race. Chhaya is the founding executive director of Mekong NYC, a non profit organization dedicated to organizing Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans, recent immigrants, and families in the Bronx New York. Mekong started out as a project of CAAAV (Communities Against Anti-Asian Violence) which grew out of a lot of hatred and racism directed toward the Asian American community in NYC. Chhaya immigrated to the US with her family fleeing the violence of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (over 150K Cambodian/Vietnamese migrated to the BX between 1975-2000), but was brought into a late 70's world of poverty and violence in the form of city life. She joined CAAAV at a young age and became an organizer fighting against slum lords, poverty and trauma families carried with them. Her work in the Bronx is ground breaking considering the incredible challenges both Cambodian and Vietnamese families face with regards to cultural difference, language, housing, and so much more that really deserves a specific intentional support network. Chhaya's work shatters that model minority stereotype which denies the lives, struggles, and stories of so many Asian American youth. I also dig that she talks about the use of art to heal and organize!

Sources: APA Institute, NY Times, Petra Foundation


Kindred Journey 14 - Fon Davis

Fon Davis started his career in film with the film Tim Burton film "The Nightmare before Christmas" as a set builder and has since gone on to build models or create special effects for over 30 films. Some of these films include Star Wars prequels, Interstellar, Starship Troopers, The Matrix, Elysium, and even produced his own short called "Morav". I found Fon's name while researching stop-motion film which lead me to meet several people who worked on Nightmare before Christmas, him, and his entire crew at Fonco Creative. The studio was awesome, bustling with props, miniatures, sets, artifacts, equipment, and lots of people working diligently to help make other people's stories come to life. In the short time that I've met and researched him, I get the feeling that Fon is a truly nice guy, very hard working, particular, but very open minded. He is a pioneer of using multiple technologies (digital, practical) to make special effects look real so that we the audience don't even notice them. From his work at Industrial Light & Magic, to Fonco, to New Deal Studios he has helped push the art form forward. Not only that, he teaches anyone who wants to learn how to build the miniature models and techniques he uses for film in educational classes with videos and schools such as Stan Winston School. Look out for him on shows like Battle Bots, at a comic con, or building an amazing robot for the next sci-fi film.

Sources: Sense of Scale, Stan Winston School, Fonco Creative, Imdb

Kindred Journey 13 - Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku was born in Hawaii in 1890. He was one of nine children born at a time when Hawaii was still a kingdom, before the overthrow by the United States. He was taught at a very early age how to swim and became an incredible swimmer. So much so that he began competing in the olympics and winning several medals shattering records as he went. He first competed as part of the US swim team in 1912 at the Stockholm Sweden competitions. Then again in 1920 and 1932. After he won several competitions he then ventured into acting (staring in over 20 films/shows), and later became a police officer. When he first came on the scene in surfing and acting he was discriminated against, and although many loved him he was not featured prominently in Hollywood films. 
But, he is credited for is giving surfing to audiences in Australia in the early 1900's which no one outside of Hawaii had ever seen. He inspired many young people in Hawaii and across the world. It is said that he would perform tricks such as standing on his head, walking the board, and surfing with power and grace. His contribution brought surfing to the world and it exploded. He has been recognized as a pioneer, a kind man, a hero, and has been inducted into both the swimming and surfing hall of fame. To this day there is a surfing competition named in his honor. 

Sources: Wikipedia, Duke Surfer of the Century, Duke Foundation


Kindred Journey 12- Animated Characters

If you have children, care for them, or are a big grown up kid you recognize some of these characters  right? I want to ask you the viewer about the reach and impact animated films/TV have on kids and culture. Beyond these five Disney characters, what cartoon series or animated film do you know of with an Asian American main character? Got one? Good, now look up the highest grossing 100 animated films/shows via wikipedia. How many of Asian American characters are present? Are the stories fun, silly, serious, preachy, informative, realistic, visible, or invisible? How do you feel about people challenging Hollywood (animated studios make blockbusters too) for whitewashing characters based on Asian or Asian American stories or not including Asians at all if it's not an animal? If all children could see themselves represented prominently in billboards, bus ads, backpacks, toys, and films would that make a difference? More directly, how would films/shows about Asian American life, culture, and backgrounds help our kids feel understood, loved, or proud when they are not in our presence? PLEASE do me a favor and watch the most recent of these "Sanjay's Super Team". I think it speaks volumes about these questions without trying to preach or put anyone down.

Sources: Up, Lilo & Stitch, Big Hero 6, Mulan, Sanjay's Super Team


Latinxs in Kid Lit-Pura Belpre

Hey! If you are not a regular reader of “Latinxs in Kid Lit” please go check them out. They blog about new books, history, and up and coming writers/artists. This is my second time contributing to the blog. Above is an illustration I did of Pura Belpre for women’s history month this year. Please take a look and read the article. Here is my favorite quote from it: “Storytelling as a means of resisting and challenging oppressive dominant narratives.”

Malcolm X Jazz Fest-I'll be there selling books

If you are in the Bay Area this coming weekend you are invited to come to the MXJF, A festival that has been going on for years! I have been going for years and i'm excited to be a vendor for the first time. I will be selling my first self published children's book "Furqan's First Flat Top" this weekend along with authors Melissa Reyes (I am Sausal Creek) and Jill Guerra (Long Hair don't care). If you contributed to the kickstarter for this book you'll be receiving your goodies very soon, but you can also come and cop the book from me this Saturday at the park. Love!!


Kindred Journey 11 - Maya Lin

Maya Lin (born 1959) is an artist, sculptor, and designer best known for amazing work creating the art installation and dedication memorial for the Vietnam War in Washington DC. She was born in Athens Ohio and was around artwork in some for or other at an early age being that her father was a professor of art and her mother was a poet. She graduated from Yale with a Bachelor in Fine Art and won a public art competition at a very young age to take on the Vietnam memorial project which catapulted her into some fame and hatred from critics of an Asian American woman creating the memorial.  After this Maya went on to design the civil rights memorial in Montgomery Alabama and the Museum of Chinese Americans in New York City which I was blown away by. She has created tons of public art pieces across the US and internationally which are breath taking. These pieces use nature, earth, water, and many emotions which have multiple levels of meaning. 

Sources: Wikipedia, The Takeaway,  MayaLin.com

Kindred Journey 10 - Peggy Oki

Peggy Oki is a professional skater, surfer, environmental activist, visual artist,  and an advocate for wildlife mammals. She grew up in southern California and began skating at a time when the styles were very conventional. Her style and that of her team was aggressive. She competed and won many competitions. Peggy was one of many pioneering women in skate culture in the 70s as the first girl to skate as part of the original Zephyr skate team . She was inducted into the skating hall of fame and adapted her style of skating to surfing, which she still does today. As she was skating she also went to UC Santa Barbara to study environmental biology and began a lifelong career in advocating for marine life. She created paintings of whales and has lead art shows and installations to speak about the murder of them. To this day Peggy still rides, paints, and fights. She even does speaking engagements such as TED talks where she speaks on her life's work. 

Sources: PeggyOki.com, Skategirl Documentary, TED