鄭 YiLing

sketching wildly what freedom could be

in Taiwan, even our gangsters will buy you a bowl of noodles (before hustling you). gangsters and Buddhist nuns–always the first on scene with their crew during disasters, be it typhoon/earthquake/etc.

friendship is our default.  we want you to be fed, housed, safe and nourished.  friendship might be our island’s greatest achievement we share with the world, before we even talk about bicycles, cellphones and amazing agricultural technology.

could this friendship, this social technology be adapted into something far more political in this turbulent age?

ever since my father died, i have been left with his and departed uncles’ dreams of a free Taiwan.  what could freedom be for Taiwan in this era and this new epoch?  especially as Taiwan continues to be squeezed between the ass cheeks of US & Chinese imperialisms…

i’ve pondered this question for quite some time…i am wildly unqualified to write about this as a scholar. yet after quite a few reminders to not be so fearful of the unknown and risk of mistakes and ignorance, let’s dialogue.

maybe some of this is my inherited fear of speaking out.  during the White Terror 1947-1987/90, my father was petrified to return home or speak of Taiwan.  the FBI would turn a blind eye to the KMT kidnapping dissidents in the States.  so my father and his fellow students would go to the Pacific ocean and sing:

新黃昏的故鄉(Dawn in Hometown), a song by 蔡義德(Cai Yide)

that was the closest they could get home.

…i long to go home too, but in a free way.

i’ll write these as a curious daughter/citizen/friend wondering about freedom.  there is still much for me to learn about my own languages as Paiwan descendant and Taiwanese child born in Huchin, Ohlone people’s land on Turtle Island/currently occupied US territory.

and in my friendships, i started to hear-see golden threads that tied our dreams of liberation together, or at least ran parallel in my imaginations.  the revolutionary inspirations and parallels, the people who fight the terrors in their ways:

  • Syria, Rojava
  • Haiti
  • Palestine
  • Tibet
  • Yunnan
  • Puerto Rico
  • Quilombo dos Palmares
  • Movement for Black Lives
  • Standing Rock Sioux
  • 。。。and many more movements and incredible communities…


with prayers and gratitude for the Muhheakantuck, Lenape people, waters and lands, where I write from as a traveler/occupier.


irrepressible dreams & fireworks

Lenape Land, in a wavering summer 2017

outside there are pops and explosions of fireworks, police sirens interrupting mothers ushering their kids home. coarse celebrations of white terror, empire and vampiric independence (white on white crime!?).

remembering that not all fireworks are reprehensible. used in the right hands, they are guardians.  i am remembering the wisdom of security to set off fireworks at night to ward off surveillance aircraft that flew over Oceti Sakowin.  lying there, the sounds of planes and pops, the sounds and cold currents of air dispersing over us.

that was the last time i felt safe in this land. on this side of the 太平洋 ocean.

i am left remembering one of my fathers, 洪家富,洪會長 who warned me off playing with fireworks. we were living in his home in 淡水。he told me to stay away from the indulgence of fireworks, which amerikans liked too much.  an instantaneous burst and a waste of energy.

remembering 會長,remembering Oceti Sakowin and serving as a medic there with B.A…all i can remember is this pain in my chest, how this empire has taken the lives of so many fathers and family and friends i’ve loved.

what is the path back home?

Waters of Chinatown

Acoustic Imaging the Muhheakunntuk (Hudson)

performed 5.11.2017 at Wing on Wo&Co’s 1st annual open mic. Wore a Stetson hat and bandana because #TexasLadiesForever (in amerikkkan time, and also #Decolonize, #endAmerikkka) white lily for Taiwan’s indigenous and first student movement.  And an Ace bandaid on my left foot because I fell down on Grand street musing on waters on the awnings.    

When was the last time you wondered about the waters of Chinatown?

I’ve weaved together the prologue of my book, xin: why we are dying, and some things I’ve sensed since coming back to my organizing home in NYC. I’m sure y’all have been aware of the atrocious acts of violence raining down with AHCA and such. And so I feel like I should greet y’all, welcome to waking up in Texas.

我是鄭伊凌 come from 林邊LinBian, 屏東Pindong, 台灣Taiwan from my father’s side and 三重SanChong, 台北Taipei, 台灣Taiwan from my mother’s side. And most recently from Houston, Texas, Mexico, Karankawa Land.

Greetings to the Lenape people, guardian spirits and land we are on, giving thanks for the “Mo-Hee-Kun—Tuck” Muhheakunntuk that our air, mornings and breath are so balanced by the great estuary that nourishes waters, wetlands, bluffs and uplands. Greetings and thanks to Mei and her family, in a way, the “土地公“ of Chinatown. As some of you may know, Water in our medicines is the ultimate Yin—passive, flexible, introspective, but also the origin of all possibilities. So greetings to the spirit suffused in this place, giving thanks for the restorative work of countless women and all who carry the feminine before her who organize and protect the people, with quiet, strength, reflection and faith. With water. Countless aunties, and grandmas, Mini Lou, Monona Yin, Kazu Iijima, Ninotchka Rosca, just to name a few.

In Mandarin/Cantonese/then English:


Monks and teachers raised me in the understanding that you learned everything important about a place based on how people treat their water.

I’ve only recently returned to Chinatown/Brooklyn after being in the four directions of occupied US territory/Turtle Island, and set about understanding how waters are moving here. Annoyingly, as ever, there are a bunch of Marco Polos with their cameras, gawking at Chineseness. Some friends responded to my prompt, “waters of Chinatown” with Walker street, where uncles clean the fish scales and crab guts with splashes of water. So sewage and stinky puddles.   A friend did offer, the rainy intersection at Walker and Canal as she went for breakfast. Another, “a big old dam between the older aunties and asians born here. Things are not flowing, we need dynamite to open the dam. It’s like waters downstream are missing something but don’t know what. The water upstream is stagnant, and the area flooded with the reservoir is literally rotting matter. The reservoir is unspeakable…unconscious…說不出的苦”.

A friend from Boston/Wampanoag land asked. Does Chinatown have water? We’re getting squeezed out. To Malden, to Quincy.

In Houston’s Asiatown, we’ll serve you hot tea in a plastic cup at San San Tofu and everywhere else. The water for cleaning…well, all the water is being used up by Schlumberger down the street or BP and LukOil and the 13 refineries in the Southeast. We even have Chromium 6, unregulated and deadly, running at average 0.75 ppb in our tap water. So our toxic choices are military, medical megaliths or oil refineries or tea. We’re not like y’all Yankees, death down South is so obvious that we’re honest about the violence and hospitable as a response.

In Mandarin/Cantonese/then English:


Monks and teachers raised me in the understanding that you learned everything important about a place based on how people treat their water.

As I wrote this book, as I sent my father home, as I sent my mother to her dreams, the ancestors rush more loudly to ask through me:


Why does this world system kill the water bearers? All who channel the feminine, the girls and womyn and tender ones Don’t they know we are the sixth ocean?

Dear ancestors,

When we are lost, lost in the deathly indulgence of capitalism, in the inelegance of confuscianism, in the terror of white supremacy, in the convoluted crisis of modernism, we fear this ocean in us, because the feminine will extinguish the toxic fire we have scarred this mama earth with. How we do not realize how compassionately this sixth ocean has waited, and how all of us cruelly burn her. For her core, her 心has heated all of us, grown us. Water cleans us, even our deepest sins, our deepest separations.   Water is the seas, the oceans, the rivers, the rains.

Ancestors, water brought me home to you.

Please help us wake up, wise ocean.

Dear Reader,

When was the last time you sensed the pleasure and beauty of the sea? When did you last hear the rivers dance and sing of love, of living for the earth? When was the last time hope carried you home to the shores your ancestors walked on for millennia? When did you last feel alive?

What would dignity and returning to the reverence of water look like for us? What could we reclaim? What would we remember?

I am an ocean and many rivers, half a planet’s rotation away from the waters that grew my family for generations. And today, and here I still need water.

Every family, every community, every civilization has needed water, has gathered around water. Water brings many things, and there are so many things we can say. But there’s surely one thing we all feel when we take in water. Alive.

What about the waters that require us to look to each other, into each other, into our lineages? What if, instead of an identity, an indigeniety fixed in some imagined land, we humbly let water work and define ourselves by water?

I need your water to be well, friend, relative, kin.  We need each other to be watered well.

If all water moved through all our ancestors, went to the watersheds, lakes, streams, oceans and returned through the rain, could we return too, to the trusted ways our ancestors moved with water in over through under water?

Just a drop of water can kill thirst. Just a bucket of water in time can stop a fire. Water finds us in any form, and in water we find all the memories we need to move forward.

Let’s help each other wake up and honor the sixth ocean today.

In Mandarin/Cantonese/then English:


Monks and teachers raised me in the understanding that you learned everything important about a place based on how people treat their water.


Goodbye Houston

I feel grateful as the devils who roar in hell and the angels in worship. 

How grateful…that the toxins and heat poured through me, the months and years I spent in the death of ego, body and spirit given to capitalism. Pure capitalism, no chaser. That, when I get real, is the frontier that pulled me. Lust and care, a heady combination.

Here an orphan is never alone in her death, for mother is ever being destroyed.

Sentient beings can’t drink oil.

here oil taints all. Love even. Lust totally.

Chromium traces in water.

Chase Bank owning all the land

And here I got to wail

What are your truest desires? What do you long for? Esperanza invites me to trust my xin-heart-mind-body.

Karankawa land, here I wretch, wail, cry and crawl.

Houston fed me with all the poison needed. Neglect in slow violence, heat, corporate terror.

And along the way, some of the most amazing friends and sisters. And learned to discern the fire that burned on blood versus oil, compassion vs greed.

Sometimes, when you break, the only way to go on is to shatter completely into dust. My heart, my family had been breaking by the time we arrived. Beleaguered, we just wanted to breathe. Here, we completely the death and dissolution. The final dive.

I always had a sense and mantra since I was 3 feet tall that I would die by 27. 

This place, this amerikan capital kills me, kills family and friends.

Thanks for this 4 year long death meditation. 

Well, lo que más Houston. 

end of political organizing, 優雅知性

this is the end of my political organizing career.  well, technically it ended 1/20 with the counter-inauguration week ending.  what a time to end!  i’ve been writing the post on the burner as things wrapped up. indeed, goodbye political organizing!

with the afl-cio not paying me, i feel like the contradictions of the state of established labor movement are just not worth working through.  if someone is resolute on dying with their racism, patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism intact, then so be it. sometimes the gnarliest grouches just gotta have their stubborn dying.

i simply will never be any great political organizer.  this is ok.  with not being built for this.  i recognize my constitution is differently constructed.

learned lessons (summarized best by my 學姐 Christina’s articulation of the research process):

with any hustle, (taxes politics gang members considered supply chain….for example avocados are used to hustle money across borders.  geo politics, taxes and tariffs, the immigrant traders know best)  understand as quickly as possible why things won’t work…pain point.  why isn’t it done before?  usually there’s a good idea.

research first: usually by trying, investigate why it hasn’t been done.

then understand failure. sometimes you can get the information from interviews alone.  but people in the industry aren’t inclined to usually just give it freely. if you don’t fit the archetype, they’ll block you out with subtle psychological tactics.  but screw archetypes, the world is changing so much.  if you gotta do it, and have that spiritual knowledge, keep the faith in face of all psychological endeavors.

but don’t be stupid.  if you know why to give up, be precise why you’re not pursuing it anymore.

then ask, should i make an investment?

it’s a beautiful learning process.

the gray stuff going on…that’s exactly what you need to understand

within economics it makes sense.

small business is full of wisdom about the world…import/export.  the immigrants are such great sources of wisdom because of their social networks and ties…contacts with shipping companies, markets.

taiwanese investors starting Japanese restaurants, higher profit margins…the cultural influence with contacts, Japanese high margin…Chinese is low margin, Shogun paid for extracurricular activities to hard.

comparative advantage is source of fish…good contact.  able to negotiate a good contract.  really great human psychology and getting to know people.

as i talk to Roxy, my 學妹 out of the same organizing home, i apprehend how community organizers can’t listen to community when having too strong of an agenda…the Movement to end oppression has fragmented (Dao De Jing) into too many sectarian movements.


i appreciate in political organizing..

the honesty about toxic human pollution. the fight to recognize the dignity, worth, value of life.  the genius, practice, courage, commitment amidst the self-made devastation.  Grace Lee Boggs, my namesake, SAY IT ❤

i dislike…

the lack of self 心 organizing.  the poisons masquerading as medicines. the spiritual theft we inflict with appropriation of other practices.  the false understanding of reparations, karma and returning and the abusive ways social justice concepts are inflicted upon already divided groups and communities. reifying power dynamics and hollowing out noble 心 labor wrought dignifying ideals of friendship, solidarity, equality, democracy, freedom into murky shibboleths for political cliques.  the conflation of trade with capitalism.

the oppressive performative radicalness at all edges of the political spectrum.  the oppressive passivity at the middles of society.

i miss…

the reverence embodied and practiced in temple.  the calm and protocol and lineage/customs of sanctification and purification. the daily communal discipline.

i disdain and critique…

spiritual crustaceans. calcifications of patriarchy, capitalism, classism, elitism, homophobia, militarism…traditional structures of greed, anger, delusion worshipped with bad faith, masquerading as the heart-core-mind-center 心 of Buddhism.

the oppressive neutrality.  the middle class* way (Anjali)

as the liminal messenger:

to monks, i say, what if my friends are finding dharma and reverence in different ways.  will you be open to instructing us?

to my friends, i say, what if the monks have maintained a lineage, a bhumi, that is rare to touch, even rarer to hear in our countless lifetimes?  will you be open to humbly listening and receiving instruction?

I apprehend: everything has been invented, not everything has been connected.

example: xi’an famous foods.  how to market to other groups.  key.

reflections from meditating on 心經 and the training to listen, the way Kuan Yin Pusa liberated themselves:

i listen to their shouts, and they hit the echo, the perimeter, the vast great container

i listen to the quiet sorrows of my uncles and aunties walking around without food in this snowy time.

i listen to my masters, and in their stillness, i hear the steady, Dharma, joy and life giving, as steady as the water that emerges from the stones of Lion Head Mountain, where Yuan Guan Shi is and Master PuXian teaches.

cranberry blob. it’s not enough.  we don’t have the time.

what’s a spiritual container for this now?

motivations…where am i going? how do i get there?:

i want Caedyn, Xiao Hua, Sarita ManYi to know rains that come in the right proportion, the right rhythms.

maybe i am a selfish person, too conceited to see how useless i really am.  but i just don’t find it in my heart at this moment to leave daisy, amanda, and the little one to the rains that have washed away their father.

i don’t see it kind, fair, right to leave my friend Ijeoma to her dying father as the floods of trauma in forms of dementia, white supremacy, diaspora come for him.  i know deeply from experience what it’s like to stand at the edge of the ocean of despair and shout for my father, for his rescue, for my rescue.

just as their emotions and challenges and karma will.  but not the karma we queue up like debt and expect them to pay.

how much resentment did i have to work through to even begin to deal with my father’s denial of his death?  my mother’s denial of her dreams?

so i practice to “超越 chao yue”, first to 超chao.

with an eye that maybe in this life or next life, i get to return to the path of full renunciation.

but i will practice a la Anathapindika and his family, to become stream enterers even if I remain a householder.  I practice the radical generosity and love of Khadija (r), what it means to be a good woman.

i dedicate my body to Manjusuri Pusa, Dizang Pusa and to be as beautiful and full of goodness as the vessel of Kuan Yin Pusa.  To be there with beings on the way to liberation.  To become what is needed.  To be guided by their great wisdom, determination, stillness, compassion, dedication, learning.  To be fearless in the face of hells and demons.  To be unmoved in the face of heavens and deities.

To this point, there is a girl-woman. Someone who I saw so possibilities abound in how she reached out, how she thinks and slowly articulates her care, her precision, her training, her quiet love and the humor that can’t help but burst from the lines about her observant eyes.  It’s in how she leads, how she retracts, how she feels, how she guides.

Now, I move as a woman in the lineage of my grandmothers.

to become the best woman i could be, in the lineage of my grandmothers, 黃真真 and 黃蜂.  the shopkeeper’s daughter, and the woman from afar who came to be with her husband and became the midwife of the fishing village. two women who’s names denote the direct lineage from the emperors.

2017 to sleekness, samadhi.

cultivating elegant living. preparing for elegant dying.

now…to cultivate the feminine approach to Dharma.

May all sentient beings come and coming apprehend equanimous joy, tranquility, security in their practice of liberation and to enlightenment!



We are the panopticon

January 12th.  The website for Houston Unido was already a day late. I had promised the coalition partners an uploaded website by January 11th, 12:00 p.m. However, you were in Los Angeles for the week and hadn’t responded to my messages asking for approval of content, communications, messaging and structure. The counter-inauguaration week events were days away.   Mary Moreno, Communications Director from the Texas Organizing Project, and Amanda Hart, Communications lead and Senior Organizer from the Houston Federation of Teachers, had been collaborating and effectively supervising me in your absence. I had also run the website domain and plan by Norma and Linda in our office.

You scrapped my work on the Houston Unido website that was meant to reflect the coalition that was majority Spanish speaking[1] due to your fear that using “Unido” instead of “United” would alienate old, white union members[2]. Logistically, I had already explained in the weeks before that “HoustonUnited.com” was unavailable as a church already taken the domain address. Furthermore, after the meetings on 1/3 and 1/9 (which you did not attend), the coalition strongly voiced that “Building Bridges Not Walls” was simply not strong enough language to reflect the desire to protect communities we were a part of and represented.

As I explained all of this to you, you derisively told me,

“You’re new to this labor movement. You don’t know our processes. I’ll talk to you about this when I’m back.”

I felt angry and confused.

I’ve worked for monetary wages since I was 12. I’ve worked and supported my mother, aunties, sisters, friends since I could remember walking, following them to their jobs. Listening to them when they came home battered, bruised, broken physically and emotionally after suffering injustices at their jobs.fist-freddouglas

If you’ve eaten in a Chinese restaurant, my sister took your order. My mother washed those dishes you ate off. She cooked the food you ate. She washed the bathroom you used.

If you’ve shopped at Whole Foods, my sister-friend has been your cashier and bagged your groceries.

If you’ve eaten at a fast food restaurant like Chik-Fil-A, my friend has fried your food, taken your money-payment and your attitude when you ask for your milkshake.

If you’ve shopped in a mall, I’ve been your sales clerk, cashier and floor manager as you knocked over our products and asked inane questions while buying nothing.

If you’ve gotten a massage, I’ve been the one to tend to the knots in your shoulder, arms, backs, legs, feet, hips, head and carefully unwind the tensions of your body-mind with skills that have been honed over countless hours of attentive labor.

If you’ve gotten your nails done, I’ve been the one inhaling toxic fumes and bent over your feet, scrubbing them with my hands and clipping the dead skin off your hands and feet, then beautifying them with my artistry.

If you’ve had your house cleaned, my sister has spent hours bent over your floors scrubbing and dealing with unspeakable grime and dirty secrets.

If you’ve had your laundry dried, my aunt has pressed your clothes and breathed the chemicals as your shirts are steamed at dangerously high temperatures.

If you’ve ever ridden the train, my grandfather has laid the railroad tracks while never being acknowledged for his labor.

If you’ve ever had your car washed, then it was my friends who worked the shampoo into your carpets and wax onto your car.

If you’ve ever eaten rice, fish, melons or squashes, my grandfather and grandmother have back-breakingly farmed, scaled, harvested all these.

If you’ve ever had a teacher, it was my sisters, my aunts who taught you and guided you in expanding your mind and getting to college.

If you’ve ever drank a cup of tea, my aunties have been the ones picking those leaves with razors taped to their fingers.

If you’ve ever been to a hospital, my sister is the nurse that took your temperature and blood samples and cared for you while you healed.

If you’ve ever used a nanny, I’ve been the one feeding, bathing, accompanying and keeping your kid safe and engaged, teaching them how to put applesauce in their mouth without dropping most of it. And how to speak respectfully to elders and friends.

If you’ve ever hired an elder caretaker, I’ve been the one feeding, bathing, accompanying and keeping your aging parents safe and engaged, teaching them how to put applesauce in their mouth without dropping most of it. And how to remain calm and peaceful in the face of death and your absence and abandonment of them.

If you’ve ever not known how to say something in Chinese Mandarin, Taiwanese Hakka/Hokkien, Texan Spanish, and the wealth of languages, I have been the one to reach into my knowledge and lexicons and to my network of friends to help you find meaning.

If you’ve ever been confused, hurt, angry, I have been the therapist, the author, the auntie, the artist who understands you and consoles you through my art, writing, therapy.

If you’ve ever used the services of a woman, I’ve been the daughter, auntie, ayi, back at home, taking care of that woman’s children, my siblings.

How then, could I be, according to your words, ignorant of the labor movement? I grew up in labor, as labor, as a friend, daughter, sister, sibling to workers. While unions failed throughout the history of this country to ever protect my family and friends because we are Asian, Black, Latin@, queer, immigrant, non-Christian, non-English speakers, I am a woman, a young woman, a woman of color, a young queer woman of color.

I am the labor movement.



[1] Houston and the labor movement today and in the future is majority Chinese-Cantonese and Mandarin and Spanish speaking. The movement for worker justice is not English dominant.

[2] Now, if this was Idaho or New Hampshire or other white majority states, it certainly would be poor messaging to say “Idaho Unido.” But this is Houston, where even the white racists say they’re driving down San Jacinto street without a blink.

Storytime: Chopsticks unity

We welcome this new year, this Fire Rooster year, which promises to be a year of spirited fighting, praying, resisting and healing. I’ve been giving eco-friendly Tzu-Chi chopsticks to friends and bigs in Buddhist Peace Fellowship. It’s a joy to continue keeping my promise with my grandma, that I would practice being a good woman, a woman who cultivates 團圓 “Tuan Yuan” with her loved ones.

With the chopsticks, I shared one of my beloved childhood stories.

Once upon a time, in an ancient dynasty, a family of many brothers and sisters filled their courtyard every day with squabbles.  The villagers couldn’t tell who was louder, the chickens or the screaming siblings.  This continued for weeks and weeks, days and days.

Finally, the parents called them all to the dinner table, sat them down and asked them all to pick up one chopstick.

“My children, tell me.  What is the strength of one single chopstick?”

The mother motioned for them to pick up a chopstick each.

“Go ahead.  See if you could break it.”

And the hall filled with snaps and echoes of the broken chopsticks falling to the ground.

“Ha, that was not hard at all!” laughed some of the children.

Then the father took out a bundle of chopsticks, tied together with a piece of twine at both ends.

“Alright then, try to break these chopsticks.”

He handed them around and each of the siblings, oldest to youngest, strongest to weakest, brothers and sisters, tried to snap the bundle, but it was unbreakable. It made it’s round around the table, and back to the parents.

The mother picked up the bundle and untied the twine and handed it to her husband.  She held a single chopstick up.

“My children, when you squabble and stand alone, you each are a single chopstick, so easily bent and broken.  But when you come together,”

And she put that chopstick back into the bundle.

“…and form a family…”

she took the twine from her husband and tied it around the beginnings and ends of the bundle,

“…if y’all face the same direction, and with unity, with togetherness, with Tuan Yuan…You are unbreakable together.”

So that’s the story I shared as I cooked LNY dinner for my friends and bigs, wishing us all unity and Tuan Yuan in this New Year.  And plus, a single chopstick isn’t even really a chopstick unless it’s got a buddy.



“Year of Fighting Fascists” art by Linda Luu (tw: @lndaluu). a crowing rooster defiantly steps over a wall #NoBanNoWall.

Also read:  Lunar New Year Story of Resistance, retold by Andy Su


View story at Medium.com