Citizens of Color : Adrienne

“I’ve had incredible models around me of truth tellers.  And some of them were people who did their truth telling through writing or other forms of art.”

Talking in a box in a box in a box! The incredible and delightful Adrienne Perry tells her story of coming to writing in Houston from Cheyenne, WY and Paris, France…Weaving together superfund sites (shout out to T.E.J.A.S.) Buddhism, birth work and writing as a spiritual practice, literary ancestors and birthing books, trauma of/and land and violent monolingualism, romanticism/travel/silence as a necessary part of living and practice. And…an urgent benediction to the young writer of any age.

freewrite 6.7.15

Writing prompt from Writespace Houston training:

Use the words “Diamond, Blade, Lavender” or   “Can you hear them?”

She smiled a lot as a baby but grimaced more as life wore on. If honesty and suffering still counted as virtues, then she was easily the most virtuous 73.4 year old person on the train.

Granny Virtue surveyed her cohorts. Night darkened and yellow-brown lights illuminated the center aisle. White glowing, radiation from phones possessed her slack-eyed companions.

She grimaced. These things made everyone pasty and no one available to each other. This used to be her favorite time on train rides, when she’d sit back and eavesdrop on the quiet hum and chatter as people slipped closer towards dreamtime. Instead she found these phones cutting like blades into those tender and rare moments.

She could hear passengers she rode with so many years ago. Once, on a long ride she sat two seats in front of a young man who kept tapping something dully against the window. Tapping, thudding, tapping, thudding. The lavender fields of Southern France streamed by like a movie montage to the metronome of this tapping and thudding.

She spent that time wondering what agitation drove the tempo of tapping, thudding, tapping, thudding. And she willed herself to listen for the answer, to trust the sway of the train to arrive at the answer or more questions. After all, this young man was either running from or towards something.

She kept quiet, inhaled deeply and listened to the journey they were on together.

The train coughed, lurched and shook the passengers awake. One second later, dreams gave way to the din of people exclaiming and gathering their items. Two seconds later, she heard the tapping and thudding, the heartbeat of this journey. Her travel mate’s tempo accelerated and then stopped. She laid eyes on him as he walked by her. She remained sitting. His mouth was set with determination and he limped a little less as he got to the front of the train car. Perhaps his leg woke up.

Just as he stepped off the car, sadness and well wishes collided in her.

She sat watching as he stepped off the platform and gazed. A burst of movement. A woman leapt into his arms. He spun her around then placed her carefully down. He dropped to his knees and opened up a box. The diamond sparkled in the morning sun.

She could still hear their muffled laughter and the clapping train-goers 30 years later. And now she wondered if her cohorts, sitting with their phones, could hear those quiet heartbeats, wishes, fears pulsing through fellow travellers on the train.

“Can you hear them?”

New Intention

So I quit my job.

I’m daring myself to become the organizer I dream of and didn’t dare to reach for with my heart until now.

Inspired from some rad AAPI feminists….Grace Lee Boggs–philosophy/praxis/dialetics/living to dismantle anti-Blackness. AC–elegance in moving across spaces, generous funding, advocacy and openness to bringing new energy in. AS–a commitment to working where one finds herself, pragmatic visioning and working from a seat of spiritual compassion.  Master Cheng Yen–utter integrity.  Utter utter integrity, sila, samadhi, panna.  Facing the sea of suffering and inspiring others to reach into their own compassion to take strategic action.

And Nellie Bly, one of my first heroes.  For daring greatly, again and again, unstopped in daring herself thus others to face tragedy and transform it.

I am scared, but learning that balance comes in movement, not in staying still and safe….I think about the grief and the death…the imbalance of those experiences just might be valuable.  If you feel it will allow you to connect more as an organizer to what people are going through, this is not wrong/avoidance worthy…

I think about my weaknesses and what I wish to transform.  The way I run away….Chinatown organizing taught me to face fears, have some compassion through Ms. Chang, who waited for me to show up and genuinely held me accountable out of compassion.  She taught me I mattered to that group.

I wish to become a great storyteller, articulating human strength and weakness and communal energy.  As an organizer, being able to navigate power and institutions and guide others. To make sure the institution backs the people.

I wish to be a good friend and practice friendship, equality, discovery, curiousity, community.

Dear Professor Yoon S. Lee


Dear Professor Yoon S. Lee,

When I was assigned to you as a first year advisee, I had no idea what I might need advising on.  Nary an internship, life plan, any plan – grand or minor – was on my mind.  Surviving my silly schedule of every day 8:30 Japanese class, followed by a full class day on Monday and Thursday…suffice to say I frequently dozed off in the mother of classes: WRIT125: Watching the Supreme Court with Professor Viti.  (Especially in a class where everyone was acting so sprung – as if folks were headed to Harvard Law School after THAT class, THAT semester – shame on me!  Apologies to Professor Viti and thanks to my dear friend Julia who rocked that class while always stabbing me in the side to keep me awake.)

Still, I found my way to your office after some FirstClass (shout out to FirstClass – miss ya!) scheduling.  Given my state of constant discombobulation, I tumbled in there with a ton of ignorance, unfurled thoughts and logic, the extent of which I failed to grasp.  But you were so gracious, a rare generosity that allowed me to fumble openly with vague ideas and vagaries.  You listened, thus teaching me by example the importance of carefully considering the wildest and most unkempt ideas.

And you did even more without needing to say much.  Your very presence as an esteemed humanities professor at Wellesley College revolutionized my imagination of what was possible for AAPI women.

And you’ve made hugely significant contributions to shift how our community imagines AAPIs with the years of work and advocacy for an Asian American studies minor.  While this was a sweet attainment for many of us, it was the fruition of over a decade of efforts by the original WAAM-SLAAM coalition and thousands of people – students, faculty, admin, alumnae.

When I heard that Wellesley had gotten an Asian American Studies minor, I was on leave and in NYC, organizing low income AAPI tenants in Chinatown.  I remember a surge of pride, joy and renewed confidence sweeping through me.  There was a happiness too that perhaps new possibilities were alive at Wellesley for the minds and imagination(s) of our community.  Perhaps it was because I was, daily, confronting the dislocation between my thinking and actions as a part of the AAPI community.  It was a hard cure for the amnesia nurtured in me from living in mostly middle class American suburbs and being mostly a product of an American education.  Not all of us were rich or smooth sailing along the model minority pathway.  (Which made me feel less alone for struggling, but that’s not pertinent now.)  Certainly, many of us were hella racists, especially as our social position of “model minority” (versus all other “bad minorities”) was birthed by the white elite and our own communities’ fear of racial retribution.  But I’m preaching to the choir here; you already know the model minority myth is filth.

But I fear we’ve relegated you to the painful box of quiet, unacknowledged, diligent Model Minority woman.  For all your thankless efforts, toil, advocacy, some students forgot to thank you – and let it be truly known that all the jubilation and victory we celebrated would not have come about without you.  I certainly am a person your work and presence has deeply impacted.  So I thank you.

Thank you because sometimes it’s not the huge shakes, but it’s the subtle, small shifts in perception and position that magnifies in impact over time.  You provided this for me and every Wellesley student, Asian and non-Asian, by your presence and work.  And I thank you for you – because today I work to protect voters and folks’ access to abortion in Texas.  Whenever the yawn between who I am/what I do and what I’ve been told I ought to be/do gets a bit frightening, you’re one of the people I remember.  Encouraged, I then get back to work.

Thank you, Professor Lee.



CYL 2012/14


The View from the front, The View from the back.

On Thursday September 4th, ABC Television Network announced that Rosie Perez (and Nicolle Wallace) would be new hosts on the 18th season of The View.  This means that the View’s host lineup will have 4 co-hosts, Whoopi, Rosie O., Nicolle and Rosie P. In sum, the View has 2 white women, 1 Black woman, 1 Latina woman as the face of their season 18 lineup.  The show will look diverse, but behind the camera ABC still has an all white leadership in production and direction.  ABC has hired Bill Wolff as the new Executive Producer to replace Bill Geddy, as well as Brian Balthazar as co-EP, Ashley S. Gorman as director and Kathleen Rajsp as senior supervising producer.  For a show that markets itself as a multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-politically representative, its writing, directing or producing teams certainly fail to reflect this purported value.

Seeing the new lineup, I’m reminded of the time I interned at The View in the summer of 2011. It was my first internship where I felt really out of place professionally as an Asian American woman. Senior producers would “ching chong” in mockery of Chinese actresses appearing on the show, audience members asked me to bring them fried rice, and a senior staff member told me I’d be better off being an entertainment lawyer instead, because surely, my parents disagreed with my aspirations in television production. Even as I filed papers, staff wondered out loud what an Economics/Philosophy double major from Wellesley (who started the school TV station) was doing there. And this racial disparity was most stark in the staff representation.  In production, there was only one Black women who was the only non-white producer, an Asian guy and a Black man who spent most of their hours in the graphics room.  Our intern coordinator was a Dominican woman who managed the front desk and the guy who managed the warehouse was a Black man.  I was the only intern of color.  Other than those folks, it was a white team making a multi-racial presenting show.

A quintessential moment of the white power dynamic happened near the end of August.  A consultant from Frank N. Magid Associates was brought in to advise the team on how best to proceed with capturing new demographics.  As this white man in his pink Polo button down went through powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide before the entire team in the conference room (I think it was telling that at this consultation meeting, the one Black producer wasn’t present.), he paused on a slide detailing the viewing habits of white women versus Black women.  Black women were “the next and most important now to capture.”  At this, a senior white male writer stood up slowly and bellowed,

“Now I just want to know where the Orientals and the Latinos are.”

I sucked my breath in sharply from the back of the room.  “Oriental” is a deeply degrading and exotifying term appropriate perhaps only to describe rugs.  It stung with anti-Asian menace.

He glanced at me, causing half the room to glance too.

“Oh I’m sorry, should I have said Asian?”

I felt my face flush with anger and shame as my intern name tag seemed to suddenly weight 10 pounds down my neck.  I looked down, unable to say anything back.  The consultant casually piped up from the front,

“Oh, they’re the same as white women so we just put them under there.”

With a cursory comment, he continued on with the presentation.  He also simplified Latina and Asian American Pacific Islander women into a single footnote to whiteness.  This glosses over a whole slew of differences, such as how many Latina women are bilingual and thus responded better to advertisements in Spanish. Nielsen pointed out in an article posted on 6/24/14 how Latin@s and Millenials, especially Latin@ Millenials are the fastest growing population.  According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth report in 2012, Latin@s have $1.2 trillion in spending power and are 52 million strong.  To gloss over some of the most viable American consumers seemed like an incredibly bad business practice.  These populations are often ambassadors to even larger audiences in South America and Asia.  I know in the Asian communities, moms will keep up with the latest Korean/Chinese/Japanese dramas to chat about with their families back in Asia.  I imagine there are the same practices with Spanish speaking dramas.

I really hope that Rosie Perez’s hosting stint with the view allows her to bring to light issues that the Latin@ people face in this country and beyond.  Representation is a small, hard won step towards a truly equal and representative media.  And it’s a better business practice.  Seeing Rosie Perez’s selection gives me hope that people behind the scenes have begun to ask “Who are we representing?  How are we representing them?  Are we intentional about giving folks a voice of their own, a platform of their own? What impact do we want to make?”  This is only a beginning though.  What about Middle Eastern women?  Or South East Asian women? East Asian women? Gender non conforming folks? Queer folks?  Trans women of color?  And more Latin@s!  Who ever said 1 is enough?

We’ll have to tune in on the 15th to find out.  Or perhaps tune into Latin@ front-lining shows like Cristela and Jane the Virgin.  Plus there’s Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, How to Get Away With Murder, and many more people of color led shows.  Let’s give approval with our attention, the most valuable currency of our information age.

Sharp grief. abortion

Last night on the abortion hotline, the first call I returned was a woman who had called multiple times and limited by 119 dollars between her and aborting the baby borne of rape.  Post a hazy happy talk with my roommate, I was stunned into the sharp grief as she folded in the desperation and cries.  The grief that belies a lot of anger injustice inspires barralled into the space and I could barely apologize that all of our donations had dried up.  Anything but silence is pithy in wake of this sadness. 

I wanted to pay for her, something to grasp at. It was that same grief that hit me when I was organizing in Chinatown and this lady came in during orientation. Armful of groceries and a fake LV bag, she was fabulous in that Chinatown lady way until she sat down and went from whimpers to near howls in her exhaustion at this predicament.  Her building had evicted her because of unsafe housing finally phoned in by out of state folk after a newscast.  Never mind that residents had been calling for repairs for years. 

She looked just like a distant auntie of mine.  And I could show her no help. Knowledge is useless in dire living. Did she just come from shopping for food to find herself evicted and alone on the streets?  I was living on little funds, so it’s not like I could whip out my cash to help.  But that’s all I want to do, I understand that so much.  To leap into whatever avenue avails itself as “help” or really a posture of defenselessness/irresponsibility.  Without skill and means, good intentions often harm.  This was one of the biggest moments that broke apart the notion of helping others for me.  All I could do was listen, and I admit I did it pretty poorly because I was so stunned I didn’t go back to the org for a month.  The work though…once my roommate, an acclaimed organizer in the Bronx gave me a sharp fixing and also shared how she ran away multiple times from the organization she became the director of, I began going back and doing door knocking outreach.  Not to work out grief, but also to honor that connection that I felt to this woman.  I don’t know what happened to her, but I recognized that my ignorance up to that point was part of the reason I didn’t do any work.  It’s privilege to not work to alleviate suffering.  Thay’s only metric is “does this alleviate suffering or increase it?”  and I think about honoring my political ancestors…who are everywhere.  In Taiwan, each year, at least once, we must go back to the graves of our ancestors, clean them and sweep them, offer them food and blessings and paper money burned for their journey.  

These are the traditions I want to remember with actions and thoughts today in work.


42. 5 days left. Women and people of Texas.

42 calls on the abortion hotline, where I volunteer.  Immediately, bile rises at this senseless inconsideration of our fellow citizens, lack of recognizing their civic/sexual/bodily autonomy.  Even more missing, is support of each other’s eudamonia.  

A few days ago when I was returning calls, I came across 2 extremely rude and unprofessional voicemails.  Per my roommate’s connections within Texas progressive spaces, we were able to immediately put this child, who failed journalistically and respectfully to show ethics and humanity on a HOTLINE for folk who are in a desperate situation.  

Waylon Cunningham called the TEAfund twice on Thursday August 21st and left 2 voicemails from 2 different numbers.  He did not leave a call back number either time. As a hotline volunteer with many more urgent women and clients to speak with, I had to look him up and call the generic Texas Observer hotline. I then called Mr. Cunningham back. The answering machine message was also shockingly rude. As someone who worked at ABC, founded the TV station at Wellesley College and various professional settings, all three of these interactions dismayed me greatly.  Journalistic quality befitting a statewide “progressive” publication was not conveyed at all.  Especially in light of the urgency of our citizens’ healthcare breakdown with the heinous HB5 enacting on 9/1, any unaccountability in progressive efforts is unacceptable.  The most marginalized of our fellow citizens, people of all classes, are being sent into abysmal, unnecessary desperation.  They are our absolute priority and any devaluation of their worth and this work is filth.  


In 5 days, Texas will only have 6/8 women’s health clinics (which provide more than abortions, hello pap smears, birth controls, free check ups, parenthood planning, etc.) for our communities.  I mourn the suppression of citizenship and pray for strength for our collective to come together and fight ignorance, hatred, greed and white children-ness that have made the Texas legislature their filthy playpen.


#Marissa418 #FreeMarissa

Proverbs 31:8-9 

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

In the Bible, King Lemeul’s mother teaches her son about women (how interesting in the few times a woman’s words are directly recorded in the Bible, her name isn’t.) in Proverbs 31, beginning with a reminder about his origins in her womb, then admonishments before then understanding the wife of noble character.  

What does it mean to be a woman?  

I began asking this question with greater urgency as I passed through a women’s college, endeavored to walk with Christ post stumbling into Him on an unhappy Father’s Day in 2010 and attending my first church service on Mother’s day, and was suddenly ripped out of the habitual AAPI model minority achievement path when our family’s American dream/home burned to the ground literally and figuratively.  Homeless, wandering around Louisiana, NYC, St. Louis, Chicago, Seattle, many airports, I discovered that as a traveler, one of the few things that always carried with me is the experience of being a woman.  Furthermore, there is always a legion of fellow travelers who shared this endeavor.  The women, the folk who took me in and nurtured me as my family and life was utterly dashed apart, were all a collective of the other: Black women, Latin@ women, Yellow women, immigrants, lesbian and queer and allies, poor, wealthy, committed/faithful to faith, each in their own ways.   NDN and Black women are the original killjoy prophets of this country and as an AAPI woman, they are my political ancestors, without whom, I would have no existence in each and every permutation as a citizen here.  I, in order to live, must honor my political ancestors, primarily NDN and Black women.  

Marissa Alexander, a Black woman, a Black mother, a citizen, a women (of color) of faith, is the word of God.  Marissa is Proverbs 31:8-9.  I understand it would be easy to say “look at us speaking up for Marissa! I am the one doing Proverbs 31:8-9.” That is filth and false. Marissa Alexander’s actions, from the firing of her gun into the roof to defend her children and herself from her abuser husband, to her civic and political and spiritual body and family being the site of State violence via imprisonment and impoverishment, are 100% the insistence of God’s word in a world that tries to kill her God-given integrity.  Every hijink, every gap between her and her freedom is a space where I see our failure to abide in the word of God. Marissa has spoken, she is loud, she is not silent. Marissa’s freedom is our freedom, her faith is our faith, our freedom from the tyranny of injustice.  We must speak to come out of our destitution (not hers), our moral failure (she has not)–anything that stops Marissa’s liberation is incompatible with the word of God.  

(By the way, what is the God/the collective tyranny oppressing Marissa that possesses us when we do not align with God’s word? I’ll repeat what I said to the white man who hit on me in a Dallas Starbucks incessantly.  In 2 minutes, he told me he used to be married to an Asian woman.  In 5 minutes, he told me he was a good Christian.  I want to see the white, capitalist, heteropatriarchical (bell hooks) God that is the worship of many american assemblies to finally do what Jesus did. Stake itself to the cross, die–not for its own resurrection, but as part of the liberation of so many.  This white capitalist heterpatriarchical God is the greatest impediment to church.  This is my demand of the church, the theology, the collective of faith walkers.)

With fellow KillJoyProphets, let’s pray to live Isaiah 40:31 “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  

With Marissa, let’s pray to live Psalm 91.  We are praying for this word to live in your life, our shared life, we are with you in the word:


Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”