Activism

A Call to Action to My Fellow Asian-Americans in the face of Domestic Terrorism by Cassandra Lam

As an Asian-American woman who is active in social justice and activism work here in NY, I'd like to take an opportunity to publicly declare my solidarity, now and always, in action and in words, with my black and brown brothers and sisters. I deeply believe in dismantling the multiple fucked up systems of oppression heavily at play every day in America. It manifests in many forms, some of the most dangerous taking shape as institutions that racist, patriarchal white men created to divide and control people of color. Much of what we've been spoon fed in terms of the dominant narrative or history books says that this is just how it's always been, as if these efforts are circumstantial and not in fact concerted, legislated, and evil attempts to maintain a hierarchy that places whiteness at the top while invalidating and demeaning other racial and ethnic groups.

It's not easy removing the veils of ignorance that enshroud each of us and have formed much of our understanding of the world. But as human beings, it's our responsibility and moral duty to educate ourselves on the ways in which the privileges we have and thrive by daily are founded upon the systemic oppression of other communities. Trying to stand aside or remain silent because this fight doesn't directly impact you is cowardly and detrimental to your own livelihood. A hierarchy that places whiteness at the top thrives on the hope that peoples of color will fight and destroy one another in the rat race for a better position. While we may live here and perhaps even hold citizenship here, this country wasn't really designed for us - POC came here as slaves, refugees, immigrants, products of war/colonization. For indigenous folk who are native to this continent, the soil we exist on today was actually robbed from them. Truthfully, America was designed by white people for white people in 1776 and until we force our way into the White House, Congress, the C-suite of top banks/corporations, schools, police departments, courtrooms, etc., it will never be for us.

White supremacy exists and remains strong because it doesn't JUST look like the KKK or men with tiki torches. It lives in institutions as well as daily interactions of our lives. It lives through those who point at the racist people perpetrating violence on TV and shout, "See, that's not me! I'm not like that!" instead of consciously engaging in dialogue with yourself and your communities to test your beliefs and actions. It lives when people remain silent because it's uncomfortable to push the envelope or stick your neck out for someone else's cause.

Earlier today, I saw a tweet that called on white people to get their people. As an Asian-American woman, consider this my way of trying to get to my fellow Asian-Americans in hopes that we can mobilize and find our voice/stance in the resistance. There's no safety for us and any sense of it right now is tenuous at best - our fake security only exists because white supremacy, for now, considers us less a threat than black and brown communities.

If anyone wants to have a conversation, ask questions, or join me in any upcoming activist or healing events as we ground our boots into the dirt for the continued fight ahead, please reach out. I wasn't always this woke and I've still got tons to learn, but I'm always willing to devote some of my energy to bringing more people along.

Getting Off My Armchair: Activism & Action for Our (Not Trump's) America by Cassandra Lam

Exactly 8 days ago, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the United State's 45th president. Under normal circumstances, I would have watched. But on January 20th, I chose instead to go on a detox. Even if it was just for a day, I figured no television + no news = less bullshit. So my TV stayed off all day. I diverted my eyes from screens on the subway or street. I temporarily turned off push notifications on my phone. I didn't read the news or check Feedly (my fave news aggregator app). I stayed away from Twitter. If I checked Facebook, I focused exclusively on connecting with friends. 

It was the first time in my adult life that I opted to boycott an event of such national and political significance. As someone who believes deeply in the importance of tuning into your surroundings and the world at large, I anticipated feeling guilty. However, I was pleasantly surprised when that didn't happen. Instead, my information detox was empowering, clarifying, and cleansing. It was an act of radical self-care for myself and a symbol of my resolve going forward. It was also an act of protest, silent in comparison to the ones I hope to be part of in the future but powerful in intention. By reclaiming my mental space, I vowed to protect myself from negativity in order to make room for positivity and productivity. Many of the fronts I've been fighting on or advocating for are causes I've cared about for a long time, but January 20th marked a renewal of that commitment. 

Despite your political leaning, I think it goes without saying that the 2016 election cycle was tumultuous, frightening, and outright zany. A lot of hateful statements that I hoped to never hear from any human being's mouth, nonetheless the president elect's, were uttered. I lost count of the accusations lobbed against him and the childish verbal threats he launched back. Scandal and controversy emerged seemingly without pause. Trump's deplorable actions and words served directly as fodder to news outlets at the ready to distill headlines to the American people.

Since I've never been one to keep my mouth shut when it comes to justice or things I care about, I couldn't stop myself from reacting and feeling deeply for those harmed by Trump's messages. Over time, this took a devastating toll on my wellbeing. Processing everything he said or did depleted all of my reserve energy and robbed me of my ability to focus on other topics. Having to put on a smile at work on days when I just wanted to crumple to the floor wore away at my willpower. The disappointment I felt from not being equipped to do more than post my opinion or stance on Facebook ate away at my good intentions. Interaction with other people even began to feel effortful and demoralizing as a predictable pattern emerged - regardless of topic, there was always a turning point in conversation when someone would mention his name.

He was truly inevitable.

So approximately 4 months ago when it became apparent that he might just win it all, I started thinking - really thinking - about what was going on and what I wanted to do from here on out. Aside from casting my vote and encouraging others to do the same, what was I going to do? How could I prepare? What was my personal Plan B in the event that my worse case scenario came true?

When I took a step back to examine what he had done to the country in the span of a year, it was incredibly eye-opening to see the chaos he had orchestrated. In a world where we can't stop ourselves from watching train wrecks, where we can't peel our eyes away from our screens, where we can't help but respond at lightning speed to stimuli, Trump had us exactly where he wanted us. By bombarding us with so much content, without any regard for truth or falsehood, he overloaded our senses, triggering our emotional responses over and over. At best, our emotions can spur us into action and bring people together. But at worst, they have a way of clouding our minds and weighing us down if we let them. With enough time, our emotions can weaken us if we don't pay attention and especially if we don't make time to take care of ourselves. When you're overcome with despair, you're incapacitated. When you're incapacitated, you're rendered immobile. Immobile people can't organize movements, strategically plan, connect with others, or fight effectively. Trump's tactics and behavior would suggest that he was banking on just that.

The above realization really lit a fire in me. Over the course of the last year, I had poured so much energy into being angry and criticizing his incompetence, but I had nothing to show for it. It became clear to me that none of it really matters unless I take decisive action.

Unless we each decide for ourselves as individuals to take our tears, feelings, and rants out into the community.

Unless we vow to put ourselves on the line for our beliefs in ways we never did before.

Unless we protect one another and empower other voices to join our movements.

Unless we got up off our soapboxes, mobilized. and started talking to each other in person.

Regardless of whether our plans are perfect. Even if we don't necessarily know the right path forward right away.

Now, whenever I felt exhausted, I instead channel that energy into learning. I started doing research, signing up for newsletters, and bookmarking news outlets, websites, and blogs that I could rely on. I began to identify people in my network who I felt I could turn to for guidance or support. I got really freakin' clear about my beliefs and prioritized the issues I felt deserved my energy the most. I maintained my yoga practice, viewing each class as a way of practicing openness, compassion, and empathy for others.

I decided that I wasn't going to just get angry on the sidelines anymore. Instead, if something makes me feel weak, I'd like to react by doing something strong. One thing that makes me feel damn strong is getting out into the community where our individual acts of resistance can inspire others to do the same in their own ways. The momentum since Inauguration Day has been great, but lasting movements are built on the backs of people prepared to actually execute.

So let's act!

From here on out, I'd like to use my personal website as a platform for sharing organizations, links, resources, and events that I'm either interested in, part of, or believe in. The list will span the full spectrum of diverse topics I care about, some of which will be more relevant to current events than others. My goal is write a new blog post at least twice a month to share these resources or to write about experiences on the frontline of my activism. If you'd like to talk or discuss ways to collaborate on something together, feel free to contact me!


Interesting Reads

  1. A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do by George Lakoff
  2. 8 WAYS TO BE AN ACTIVIST WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE TIME by Mae Wiskin
  3. Persuasion in a “Post-Truth” World by Troy Campbell, Lauren Griffin, & Annie Neimand

Useful Links

  1. Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change from +Acumen
    1. +Acumen Complete Online Course Offerings
  2. Audrie & Daisy: A Netflix Documentary by Bonnie Cohen and John Shenk - "An urgent real-life drama that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera."
  3. Jigsaw by Google - "We’re an incubator within Alphabet that builds technology to tackle some of the toughest global security challenges facing the world today—from thwarting online censorship to mitigating the threats from digital attacks to countering violent extremism to protecting people from hate and harassment online."

Organizations

Reproductive Health, Access, and Justice

  1. All Above All
  2. Collective Sex

Government, Politics, and Citizenship

  1. She Should Run
  2. 5 Calls 
  3. Swing Left 
  4. Organizing for Action - Non-profit and grassroots community organizing movement closely aligned with Barack Obama's agenda
    1. Healthcare - ACA aka Obamacare
    2. Immigration Reform
    3. Climate Change
  5. Countable - Available on your browser or for iOS/Android

Sexual Violence

  1. Know Your IX

Intersectional Feminism

  1. Equality for HER 
  2. New Women Space

Events

NOTE: I'll personally be attending events in bold

Sunday 1/29 

  1. Brooklyn, NYC
    1. "What Happens to My Eggs?" hosted by Collective Sex - panel discussion on reproductive health and justice
  2. By Phone
    1. Ready to Resist: Emergency Call #2 with MoveOn.org, Working Families Party, and People's Action 

Wednesday 2/1 in Washington, D.C. or Livestream

  1. Shattering the Silence: A Conversation on the Capitol - Register to attend the panel discussion on sexual violence in person or for a link to the livestream

Wednesday 2/8 in Manhattan, NYC

  1. Town Hall on Diversity & Inclusion by Ladies Get Paid

Ongoing/Multiple Dates in Manhattan, NYC

  1. Impact Hub's 100 Days of Impact

The Importance of Pressing Play by Cassandra Lam

I went to bed late last night with the bloodstained shirts of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile seared into my mind's eyes. Those images, and the thought of all those who died before, haunted me well into today, following me around like ghosts. 

Like many of you, I haven't been sleeping much this week. Over the past 2 days, I've attempted to carve out time to properly process the context surrounding the Alton Sterling shooting. Overwhelmed by the controversial nature of his death, I took to writing, seeking solace from the dark things we've seen unfold online. Putting pen to paper helped me find my footing in order to sort through my conflicted emotions. As I poured myself empty, my head and heart started to clear. My notes started to naturally flow more like the beginnings of a decent blog post. I thought maybe it was something even worth sharing.

But before I could finish sorting out my anguish, before I could read my saved draft one last time, before I could assess whether I should go public with my thoughts, we all found ourselves watching another video. This time, it was Facebook Live and what we saw was somehow even more terrifying, graphic, and damning. So at 3AM EST, alone in my hotel room, I watched, re-watched, and cried.

I didn't get the chance to finish writing about one man's death before I watched another man die. The magnitude of that statement alone weighs so heavily on me. It tastes so bitter on my tongue.

For most of you, this website comes as a surprise. Over the past few months, I've been secretly tinkering with it in all of my spare time. It was sincerely exciting to think of the day when I could share it with all of you, my friends and family. In preparation for the debut, I wanted to craft the perfect first post. But in light of recent events, this 'perfect blog post' that I had written no longer seemed appropriate, relevant, or right.

At the heart of it all, my main goal for this blog was to create a safe space where people (myself included) could engage in powerful discourse. From the controversial or outright messy (aka the stuff that keeps me up at night or makes me tick) to the fun or lighthearted (aka yoga, travel, food, life), I am passionate about utilizing this platform to connect with people in the way I know best. This blog is my way of starting conversations on topics that matter most to me in hopes that it inspires others to also do the same. 

With that said, in an ideal world, I never would have chosen to write about death. I hoped that I would never feel compelled to write about death. But the reality that we live in is such that I cannot in good conscience stand in silence any longer that I already have. 

In Jesse Williams' impassioned speech at the BET Awards, he said something that struck a chord with me:

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.

That floating credit he references? It's not only white people who are guilty of this. In a way, it applies to non-black communities as well. Many of the privileges other minorities have are the indirect or direct result of oppression of the black community. Many of us benefit from this broken system in some way. So it applies to the Asian Pacific Islander community. It certainly applies to me.  

I grow increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that I am able to wake up every morning without fear of a being racially profiled, harassed, or subject to an unjustified search. I know the likelihood of a police officer ever pulling a gun on me out of suspicion or fear that I'm potentially dangerous based on how I walk, talk, look, or breathe is slim to none. I am sickened by the false position of security afforded to me by the mere non-blackness of my skin because it renders me non-threatening in the eyes of a racist justice system. I choke on the fact that members of the black community are suffering and hurting in ways I can only imagine. I recognize that I live every day generally left in peace and unharmed because others are being targeted instead.

As an Asian-American woman who has mostly stayed out of the fray and kept her thoughts to herself or confined within private conversations with individuals, I want to say that I am sorry. I should have stepped out of the shadows in solidarity with you sooner. It was never the case that I didn't care, notice, or feel your pain as institutionalized racism destroyed lives, families, and communities. I was nervous that I wasn't educated or well-read enough on the issues at hand, unsure if it was my place to intervene, and scared to offend or to make mistakes. I know now that those things matter little in comparison to the displays of support and strength the black community needs on this path to dismantling a system designed, from the birth of our country, to succeed at the cost of black lives. Slavery was the bedrock on which white America's success was built and while the shackles are gone, the fight is not over; the battleground has simply shifted from plantations to prisons. If you don't think that's true, I suggest you read, starting with The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

After I found out about the Alton Sterling shooting, I admit it took me all day to develop the courage to watch the videos for myself. I turned to news articles instead, which somehow felt easier without the visuals. I read everything I could get my hands on over the course of 5 hours - right-wing responses, left-wing responses, articles from reputable news outlets, articles from questionable news outlets, opinions from pro-gun/pro-police advocates, opinions from anti-gun/anti-police advocates, social activist posts, blogs, and more. I purposefully sought out opposing viewpoints to fight my own biases.

But at the end of the day, I still chose to press play for both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Being woke is a conscious decision. It's asking yourself in the mirror every day if you're doing everything you can to alleviate suffering and promote understanding within your own networks. It's the act of breaking down the divisions to celebrate differences. It's the desire to open your heart and mind to people who don't look like you. It's lending your voice to speak loudly, sometimes angrily, on behalf of others. It's a commitment you renew every day to fight the desensitivity that tempts you into turning the other cheek. It's the decision to press play each and every time so that you can remember what you saw and humanize the names of those who died yet live through your hashtags.

If you open your eyes to the injustice, you can start to recognize it. If you see the dead bodies, you can begin to understand the level of suffering. If you commit to learning about what you don't know, you can educate others. If you let the truth motivate your actions, you can find a place for yourself in this fight. 

In solidarity, I stand with you.