May 25, 2016

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

May 24, 2016

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

May 18, 2016

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

May 17, 2016

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

Dig this? Check out this portrait of model maker/SFX artist Fon Davis

May 16, 2016

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!!

May 14, 2016

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,

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:, Skategirl Documentary, TED

May 10, 2016

Kindred Journey 9 - Invisible Skratch Piklz

The "Invisible Skratch Piklz" are DJ D-Styles, DJ Mix Master Mike, DJ Shortkut, DJ Apollo, and DJ Qbert. There are more members, but I'm listing the ones I've seen perform together mostly as a crew or band. I cant remember the first time I heard of ISP, but I knew who DJ Apollo and DJ Qbert were when I was entering high school. They were famous in the Bay for mix-tapes and ripping shit up in battles like the DMC, ITF, New Music seminar, and more. Later, when I got into bedroom DJing and collecting I caught word of battling, the infamous X-Men vs ISP battle at Rock Steady's anniversary, and a re-emerging culture. As I was getting into scratching, so was the whole Bay! Many continue to scratch , rock parties, weddings, your corporate event, classroom, or the lunch hour on your local radio station. 
It is important to note that this crew made history because of millions of hours of practice, performance, and and building community with so many other DJs. They innovated so many aspects of performing, equipment, music, and learning because they shared their knowledge. Before people were really using the internet crews like ISP, Beat Junkies, and the X-Men were making VHS tapes with instructions.  I'm sure many entered the class just by listening to them. They're still rocking, still teaching, still touring, and when many left the underground culture of "turntablism" they kept going,; returning to party rocking roots and expanding to other crews and opportunities. ISP, a mostly Filipino American group is a pillar in the hip hop community and an timeless part of the Bay/LA music scene and Asian American history as a whole. Salute! 
Oh and if you're looking for that scratching itch, look up "Skratch Pad"!
Sources: Memory, Life, Experience

Kindred Journey 8- D'Lo

I first heard of D about three years ago when my wife was working on his website. Then I saw a feature in Hyphen magazine. Just this past April I had the chance to see him perform live at a conference called "Re-Map" where he did a dope piece which he's performed several times about coming out to his parents and having an operation called top surgery. It was a dope piece and really blended a somber emotion with comedy. It touches on some of the complexity Asian Americans and all people go through with parents who are not familiar with or comfortable with LGBTQ identity. D was born in Queens NY to Sri-Lankan parents. Later he moved out to LA and has been there ever since. He has toured doing comedy and rhyming as an mc. He has also appeared in television series for HBO, Amazon, and Netflix. Definitely someone to keep your eye out for.
Sources: The Guardian UK,

May 8, 2016

Kindred Journey 7 - Hmong BBoys

I saw this documentary called "Among B-Boys" by Christopher Woon and R.J. Lozada this week which is an amazing piece of documentation that is necessary watching for students of Hip Hop and Asian American studies. I have heard of the Hmong people but there were many things that I didn't know such as their people coming from a region that encompassed more than one country(Laos, Thailand, China, and Vietnam). I also didn't know that there was such a huge concentration of Hmong immigrants and refugee families in places like Minneapolis, Fresno, Merced, and Oklahoma. Some of the crews like Velocity, Soul Rivals, Airsteps, and Underground Flow were in the film. And this brought me back to high school because I remember a hole gang of B-Boys at my school who were South East Asian. I think hip hop culture touches so many and speaks to a lot of people no matter where they are from. I also think that for the young men and women in the film, to grow up here in the states or in any country that is different than your parents birthplace is a balancing act. The challenge for artist and storytellers is to make the stories that often seem invisible or weird to the mainstream more readily available; and told in a way that is well executed. Shout out to the Hmong Bboys!

Source: Among B-Boys

May 7, 2016

Kindred Journey 6 - Diane Yang

I heard about Diane Yang from the Zagat series by Jessica Sanchez on Foodways. Diane was born and raised in the states, but her parents are Hmong from Laos/Cambodia. She is the executive pastry chef at a restaurant in Minneapolis (home to a big Hmong population) called "Spoon and Stable" where she makes beautiful, yet simple creations influenced by modern and classic techniques. Diane began school at Le Cordon Bleu in 2000 and began working for some incredible restaurants and chefs not long after. I was intrigued by the amazing look of her pastries because I love them, but also by her cultural pride and achievements.

Sources: Foodways/Zagat, Spoon and Stable

May 6, 2016

Kindred Journey 5-Anderson .Paak

Yes, the brother is both African American and Korean (Seoul). Anderson Paak has been singing and plying drums for a long time and if you've seen the live performance you know he is talented. His most recent single "Am I wrong" was like a breath of fresh air to soul music whether it be slow or with a faster house bass.  I appreciate the composition of the music and the character of his lyrics are not cookie cutter R&B. Paak has been getting more well deserved attention after working with the likes of Dr. Dre on the Compton LP and Knxledge as one half of Nx Worries. But he began working with brother Shafiq Husayn of Sa-Ra back in 2011 and has been putting out projects steadily. With four solo studio albums, multiple singles and collaborations he is someone to keep your eye out for.  Not only for his style, confidence, great album art design, but for his musicianship.

Sources: Hot 97 W/Ebro, Wikipedia

May 5, 2016

Kindred Journey 4- Eiko Ishioka

Eiko was born in 1938 in Tokyo Japan. She began her young career in design by attending the Tokyo national university of fine arts and music, graduating in 1961 and embarking on a career of graphic design. She opened her own design studio and began working on advertising campaigns for cosmetic companies. She was hired to not only design promotional ads but commercials. She began working for films such as Dracula, The Cell, The Fall, The Immortals, and Mishima a small film directed by Paul Shrader in the '80s. Eiko's work also extended into theater, circus companies such as Cirque du Soleil, basketball, and design for The Olympics. Before she passed away in 2012 she was given many awards but what I loved most about her work that I saw in "The Cell" and "The Fall" was the bold color, the distinct curves and angels, and the directness of her pieces. A collection of her work is still up at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. 

Sources: The Cell, NY Times, Wikipedia

Kindred Journey 3-Willy Santos

Can't remember the first time I heard Willy's name and i'm no skate expert. But I always remember him being around. Riding. I remember hearing his name. Willy was born in the Philippines in 1975. He moved to the US with his family in the early '80s. When he got to the US he was inspired by some local guys in San Diego to start skating at the age of 10 or 11. By 15, he was a professional skater being sponsored by companies who made skate decks, wheels, shoes, etc. He began to skate with Tony Hawk's company Birdhouse and has been with them for two decades. Willy also owns several skate shops in San Diego called Willy's Workshop. Willy is not only a huge inspiration for young Filipino Americans and all kids here in the states, but he also goes back to the Philippines often to support the emerging skating culture there.

Sources: HBO-East of Main St series (video, Wikipedia,

May 1, 2016

Kindred Journey 2- Iris Chang

Iris was an award-winning journalist and writer whose parents are both professors from Taiwan. She was born in the states and raised in Illinois. She worked for several newspapers as a journalist before becoming a writer. I believe researching articles, facts, and historical accuracy led to her wanting to write the immense books she wrote about Asians and Chinese Americans throughout history. Her first book, "Thread of the Silkworm" was about a Chinese professor named Tsien Hsue-shen who although brought incredible research and work to the United States, was unfairly targeted as a spy during the great "Red Scare" of the 1950s in the U.S.

"The Rape of Nanking", her second book, talked in depth about what Chinese women and men faced during World War 2 when the Japanese invaded the town of Nanjing. Her third book titled "The Chinese in America" highlighted the struggles of Chinese Americans and many Asian Americans in the US being made to feel like the "other" or not truly American simply because they are Asian. While doing research last month I came across Iris and remembered seeing her books. Sadly, Iris took her own life after a serious bout with depression and overuse -- maybe even misdiagnosis of --prescription medication. I love the fact that she unapologetically wrote about stories that are not talked about enough in history. Even older Asian Americans sometimes have an attitude of being tough despite the struggles they faced, and she is one of many scholars highlighting the stories and injustices of her people and those of others. RIP Iris Chang.

Kindred Journey 1- Equipto

Equipto (Ilych Sato) is being widely recognized for his activism in SF, being one of several educators or artists leading a hunger strike (11 days!) at the 17th St. police station in the Mission. The first time I heard of him was because of one of the Bay's oldest hip hop groups, Bored Stiff. Known for a deep voice and a relaxed flow, Equipto has been rhyming for two decades, at least. Together with the group they started putting out albums in the late '90s with over 6 LPs to their credit, and probably 10 times that from individual members who are not just musicians, but community advocates or teachers. I remember seeing him perform back in the 2000s with Andre Nickatina, mobbin, smokin, and just riding. Although I don't own any of his records, I always heard him featured on a track here or there and respect his flow. If you've listened to the Smoke Signals podcast you know him and Shawn have a big respect for music and culture that goes into and beyond underground hip hop. I know he's not claiming to be an activist and some people might have their issues with him, but I gotta give credit where it's due for taking a stand and confronting some of the struggles people (especially Black and Brown), are going through in SF. This Japanese/Colombian American is affecting change by bringing attention to justice unserved.

This first portrait is part of a month long series I'll be doing dedicated to the Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Asian Diaspora within the US and beyond as a way to highlight people from the past and present that have broke barriers, set standards, inspired, or simply existed. I invite anyone to join me in celebrating them w/ art, photos, or words on your own platform. Big respect to those fighting for ethnic studies in our schools. There are so many stories that need to be told.

Did you catch the new one of H.E.R.?

Coming Soon-One of a kind like me

One of a Kind, like me Unico, como yo is coming soon. Do me a favor and go follow Blood Orange Press on twitter or facebook for updates on the projects. Here's a photo of me and Blood Orange Press founder Janine Macbeth looking at final artwork for this incredible book due out very soon.