Month: February 2016

The 88th Annual Academy Awards

I’ve stopped watching awards for a few years now. I don’t really know what made me stop watching them, it just kind of happened. As if I woke up one day and no longer cared about who won which award or who was best dressed. It all just became irrelevant to me.

This year made the 88th annual Academy Awards, and Chris Rock was the host. As I said before, I wasn’t interested in watching. I wasn’t interested because as I mentioned before, I’m now uninterested in almost all of the Awards, but for this particular Awards I had even more reasons to not want to tune in. There wasn’t one Black actor that was nominated for an Oscar. That fact alone caused an uproar which lead to Will Smith, his Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.22.01 AMwife Jada Pinkett Smith, and others boycotting the Oscars.
For some reason, and believe me I do not know why, Stacey Dash was asked her opinion on it, and boy oh boy, did her response go viral and reck even more havoc. To sum it all up, she made a mockery of Black people. Dash responded with her thoughts of Black History Month, BET, BET Awards, Centric and more, as saying, “We have to make up our minds. Either we want segregation or integration.” She went on by explaining that Black people would be angered if there were an awards where only White people were awarded, as well as saying there is no White History Month, therefore there shouldn’t be a Black History Month. There’s a lot I could say about that but I think the media covered it all.
Now back to the Awards last night, Chris Rock had his opening monologue where he explained that Black people only wanted the same opportunities that White people had. The crowd applauded as celebrities tweeted about how great the monologue was and how funny Chris Rock was. He mentioned the fact that no Black actors were nominated and how his friends and family told him he should “quit” as his role of the host for the Awards. Rock even then went on to make a joke stating that it’s always the unemployed people telling you to quit your job. Lol, I’ll get back to this.
Lastly, before I throw all my opinions out, he made a “joke” about diversity outreach where Stacey Dash came out on stage giggling and said, “I cannot wait to help my people out. Happy Black History Month.”
I like to believe I have a great sense of humor. But none of that was funny to me. From the Black unemployment jokes to Stacey Dash giggling about helping her people out. None of it was funny. If anything, it was degrading. It was a mockery and it was embarrassing to oth
er Black people. Embarrassing to see Chris Rock make light of the fact that’s it’s 2016 and the only time Black actors can truly be appreciated and recognized are at our own awards that Stacey Dash feels are unnecessary. It was embarrassing to hear a crowd full of privileged white people laugh at jokes about unemployment in the Black community. And far more embarrassing to hear the uncomfortable light giggling when Stacey Dash came out and made a fool of herself and her race. If even the white celebrities grew uncomfortable from hearing that and took to Twitter to share theScreen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.22.11 AMir opinions of Stacey Dash; imagine how the Black community themselves felt to hear and see one of our own smile with a face of pale foundation on while making a joke of Black History Month.
Growing up my parents have always told me, “Do not put on a show for White people.” In the times of slavery, Black people were literally white people’s amusement. We actually got on stages at their parties and get togethers and acted as clowns to amuse the white people. When I watched the clips that went viral of Stacey Dash and Chris Rock I couldn’t help but shake my head and think of that line my parents embedded in me. They were truly putting on a show in a crowd full of white people, and only one term can be used to describe how I felt towards them both: sell outs.


There is something I haven’t spent enough time exploring within myself and that is masculinity and how it affects me. Back when in Fall 2014, I gave a presentation about myself including some pretty basic information that one would probably find on a dating website as well as significant obstacles I have faced or am currently facing in my life. One of those obstacles was seeking love from my father and what that meant for me. My father is a very stoic figure who reveals very little emotion especially feelings of sadness, sorrow, and the like; he’s very consumed by his work and hobbies with little regard for human connection on an emotional level. He’s pretty much a surface dweller when it comes to these things. After I finished my presentation, my professor recommended to me bell hooks’ Men, Masculinity, and Love. He has also struggled with a similar issue of finding love and acceptance from his father, especially on an emotional level. When I was able to get my hands on this book, I only read a chunk of it because all my other class work took precedence over this. From what I read, it helped me understand my experience in the sense of how my dad acts and what I think of when he acts that way. I still couldn’t explicate this experience with terms and ideas that would allow me to further reflect and know myself until I started working on an upcoming MOSAIC workshop called Love +.

I remember a few weeks ago when I started working on this workshop, I stumbled across a Ted Talk by Tony Porter called: A Call to Men. This video had brought up two key ideas: 1) masculinity and its expectations are toxic and 2) the “man” box. Masculinity being toxic is best explained by talking about the “man” box. A picture of what the “man” box looks like with examples is posted so that y’all know what I’m talking about. This box is a metaphorical representation of what it means to be a man in American society. Being inside this box, one adheres to the societal norms and expectations. When one is outside this box, one is subjected to humiliation or in social justice terms, oppression. There are many examples of what these things are located in the image. What I came away with after watching Mr. Porter’s TED Talk is having the ideas and terms to explain my masculine experience with my other social identities and my dad. Whenever I cried, he had told me to stop crying and that I needed to be a man whenever I had any conversation with him. Now I know why my dad acts the way he does which is because of the collective socialization he continues to experience as a male in this society. Given that this is something recent for me, I still continue to explore my masculinity and be critically conscious how I am being shaped as a man in this society. If you’d like to join me and my co-facilitator Elaine for MOSAIC’s workshop Love + to explore ideas of gendered styles of love and more, it’ll be March 1st in Student Wellness center from 6-8pm. I’d hope to see you there to help combat the toxicity of masculinity and what that means for the current and new generation of young men and women.



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Beyoncé and her “Formation”

I am just as excited as every other woke person of color that has seen Beyoncé’s new music video, “Formation.” I have had the song on repeat since she released it the day before the Super Bowl. The historic imagery, the unapologetic blackness, the clear political statements—all of it, all of it made my heart melt with joy. I have always loved Beyoncé; I grew up on her music and my first memory of a song in English is of her singing “Irreplaceable.” I think she is enshrined in not only American popular culture, but in this country’s and this world’s history. I am literally honored to be able to bear witness to the trajectory to her career. To be able to say that I existed at the same time as Beyoncé, whether or not I ever see her in real life, whether or not I ever go to one of her shows, just knowing that I am alive at the same time she is means so much to me. You could say that I am a fan.

But in truth, I think that what I am saying is a mere acknowledge of the reality: Beyoncé is to what our time what people like Ella Fitzgerald are to the 20th century. One day I will meet teenagers who listen to Beyoncé’s music with a nostalgic longing the way some of my generation do when listening to stuff from the 50’s and 60’s; it’ll be the cool, “hipster” thing to and I feel so honored to be able to say I saw it all as it was actually happening, and not through the lens of a history that was presented to me.

But I am also critical. I, just as much as others have already, have to question the extent to which someone who has accumulated such a tremendous amount of wealth can truly speak for or represent the black masses. I have to question the reality of the release of this song: Beyoncé will put out a song and a music video, for which she will receive an enormous amount of profit. She can perform at the Super Bowl utilizing a wide array of symbols that point to radical black activism, but at the end of the day, she will still return to her obscenely privileged life. So I do wonder: how effective can a music video or a song be?

I have had this conversation with several friends—whether or not the release of a video such as this one is truly effective. Why doesn’t someone as powerful as Beyoncé take to the streets along with the rest of the Black Lives Matter activists? Why isn’t she protesting in the traditional form? Of course, a music video that reaches millions is invariably important, but so would an image of one of the most iconic black musicians of our time standing by her people, in the streets of say, New York, as they fight for equity and an end to the institutional dehumanization of the black body.

At the end of the day, I personally appreciate Beyonce’s “Formation.” I love the imagery. I love her cold, ruthless stare. I love the way she holds her head up high. I love that she is making music for her own people, without worrying about anything or anyone else. I love that she is acknowledging her roots in such a poignant matter. I love that she hasn’t forgotten  who she is. I love that, and I think we should ultimately commend her greatly for her current work as a musician who is clearly entering into a new realm of activism.



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29 Days

Today officially marks Tết Nguyên Đán, which is Sino-Vietnamese for “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” otherwise known as Lunar New Year. Many Southeast Asian countries, not limited to China, celebrate this holiday that commemorates the New Year as according to the lunar calendar.

Last week as I was preparing lì xì (traditional red envelopes stuffed with money in order to bring good fortune for the new year) to hand out to my coworkers, one of my peers asked me about the Lunar New Year. And it got me to a point in conversation where I started to dance around metaphysics, emphasizing that time is unreal and that our measurement of time is artificial. Accordingly, the way we measure time will be determined by those who have the power to tell us how we should.

Why is it that the Lunar calendar was swallowed up by the Gregorian calendar? A quick thing of research will reveal something that is unsurprising to me. The Gregorian calendar is named after the Catholic pope who introduced it in 1582. The calendar was reformed from the previous Julian calendar, which was reformed from the previous Roman calendar. The calendar that endures today has been built on empires, from the Roman Empire to the Catholic empire. Today, it continues to uphold the capitalist, neoliberal, American empire.

The Western calendar that we follow today is not natural. It was created in the late 1600’s in order to accommodate a major Catholic holiday. Thus, Easter is aligned with the pleasant season of Spring. The notion of common years and leap years were also adjusted according to Easter. Ultimately, the calendar that endures today was specifically built in order to benefit and accommodate Catholics. Christmas and Easter are both recognized and celebrated as national holidays, having been artfully implemented into a culture of standard for everyone who lives in the United States. We take these holidays; we take these free days off of work and school; we take these things and we do not even question them.

This early morning, while the rest of the city slept, my father opened his eyes to rise out of bed, into the bathroom, into his work clothes, into his truck, into his job at yet another manufacturing company that does not even guarantee permanent employment. He drags his feet out of financial and social necessity rather than standing for self-fulfillment. I could tell that he was disappointed last night. Unlike some years past, our family was unable to visit the temple at midnight to properly welcome the new year. This year, we had to pass in order for my father to get a decent amount of sleep for work. There is no free holiday for Tết outside of Vietnam.

Following Vietnamese belief, I hold the truth that the way we start our new year is telling of the rest of the entire year. This day, like the rest of this week and month, I am already occupied with work, studies, and extracurricular activities. It is truly rewarding and at times, draining. No matter what institutional forces are on my back, the reality is that I actively choose these things for myself. This morning, I was summoned out of bed by the subtle forces of a Western capitalism that drives our growing 40-hour workweek, the very robotic productivity that continues to feed a series of days that are further removed from the true spirit of living days. And this is how the rest of my year will follow.




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