Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

API environmentalist Dorothy Le’s thoughts on minorities and the green movement

In Culture, Monologue/Dialogue on April 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Dorothy Le speaks out about Los Angeles transportation issues. Photo courtesy of Dorothy Le.

Vietnamese American Dorothy Le, 24, is a 2007 UCLA alumna who majored in Environmental Science and minored in Geography/Environmental Studies.  As an undergraduate, she led E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, an environmental and social justice organization at UCLA and was involved in the  UC Divestment Taskforce, The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), and the Statewide Sustainable Transportation Policy.

Dorothy is currently Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), where she works to increase bike facilities and bicycle and pedestrian access to transit hubs throughout Los Angeles County.

Pacific Ties: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of environmental activism and advocacy work?

Dorothy Le: My favorite part of environmental activism is that I work to protect nature and the world in which we live.  It’s a beautiful world, and I want it to continue being beautiful for my children, grandchildren, and generations beyond.

My least favorite part of the environmental activism is that it sometimes doesn’t address race or social equity.  I have to work, as a woman of color, to incorporate race and equity into environmental work, but sometimes it’s difficult.  Especially with bicycling being such an activity dominated by white males, it’s quite a challenge to incorporate people of color and women, even though there are plenty of people of color and women who cycle.


Do you feel that Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans are proportionately involved in environmentalism and leadership positions?

I think there could be more Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans involved in environmentalism and leadership positions, of course.  It’s difficult though because of many cultural factors.

What cultural factors encourage or discourage activism?

These include parental pressures, societal pressures and confusion.  My parents wanted me to become a doctor, or a medical professional at least.  They didn’t understand how I could make a living doing what I am doing.  They just don’t understand the system very well and are scared that if I take a risk, then I’ll be losing a lot.  They would rather have me be safe.  I, though, am a person who takes risks and is okay with trying new things.  In order to be where I am today, I had to disobey my parents and communicate with them clearly about what I wanted to do.  That’s a difficult thing for anyone to do- to not have that support from your parents to do what you want is tremendously discouraging for Asian American people.

Being a Vietnamese American woman, in a society that is still dominated by white privilege, hierarchy, and power, it took me a long time to understand where I fit in, what my unique contribution was, and what my own privilege was- to overcome and make effective change.  I encourage everyone- Asian American, Latino American, African American, Caucasian, Native American- to understand their privilege, unique contribution and work to make the world a better place with their unique abilities and power.

Portions of this interview, plus Dorothy’s thoughts on women and environmentalism, are  featured in UCLA’s FEM newsmagazine.

— posted by Debbie Chong


Songs of Consciousness

In UCLA Events on April 29, 2009 at 12:48 am

For all of you in the Los Angeles area – Kappa Psi Epsilon of UCLA are having their 6th annual open mic night on May 12th.  The event is free for all and everyone is invited to perform!  Here’s some more info:

This open mic night is an outlet for performers, artists, and regular people to come out and share their talents. Through these performances, we hope to provoke inspiration, thought, and change in the audience.

This year’s Songs of Consciousness theme is “Change for Change.”

In the past, performers have performed anything about: the influence of women in their lives, the struggles they see within their community, the passion they have for their community, their individual passions (life experiences, emotions, love, etc.) Any and all performances are welcome, as long as it has to do with the theme of “Songs of Consciousness.” Basically if it has significant meaning behind it, a meaning to the artist, to the community at large, or if it means anything to you as an individual (life experience, emotions, etc.) it is welcome!

If you want to perform, you can contact Cristina Santos at santoscristina3@gmail.com, find her on on facebook, or simply talk to another Kappa.

Dream ACTion Week at UCLA

In NEWSPRINT on April 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

This week is Dream ACTion Week at UCLA, an educational event that seeks to educate and gather support for the Federal DREAM Act. If passed, the Federal DREAM or Development, Relief, and Education Alien Minors Act will grant citizenship to undocumented high school graduates after completion of a college degree or minimum of two years in the armed forces. Learn more about the DREAM Act and the Alliance of DREAMS, the organization holding the event, here.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of the “No Identity Silent Action” in front of the Kerchkoff Steps. Students wearing white face masks held signs in support of passing the DREAM Act and tried to gather petition signatures. I’m not a great photographer, but here are some photos I caught:



Below is also a list of the events taking place this week.


Posted by Evelina Giang, who dares you to grant people their dreams.

Got books? The L.A. Times Book Festival Does!

In A&E on April 22, 2009 at 2:29 am


As an English major at a predominantly non-English major school, I am constantly asked by others about my future aspirations in life. Do I want to be a teacher? A writer? A starving artist on the corner of Santa Monica living in a ragged (but poetically inspiring) box?

My answer to that is usually a provocative, unabashed, “I don’t know.”

Because I really don’t. Life is too short to have all the answers, even when it comes to your livelihood (or, according to some people, lack thereof). Maybe someday in the future I will regret not taking my dad’s suggestion that I give up the books and become a pharmacist instead. But at the moment I can’t picture myself doing anything else, and one thing I do know is that there will never come a day when literature won’t be a part of my life.

Which is why it pleases me to announce that the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (insert about ten billion exclamation marks here) is happening this weekend (April 25 – April 26) at UCLA!

latimesbookfestivalThis upcoming Saturday and Sunday the bulk of Los Angeles (all the cool people anyway) will be flocking to the UCLA campus for two whole days of celebrating their love for the written word. Also…

Asian-American Authors to appear at book festival

I’ve taken the liberty to preview the schedules in advance and to my delight found the names of some prominent Asian-American authors who will be appearing for the panels:

Melissa de la Cruz (the Au Pair series)

Hari Kunzru (The Impressionist)

Carolyn See (Mothers, Daughters)

Lisa See (Shanghai Girls, On Gold Mountain, Peony in Love)

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (Madeleine is Sleeping)

Sandra Tsing Loh (Mother on Fire)

Lisa Yee (Girl Genius)

When one thinks of Asian-American literature today, big names such as Amy Tan, Chang-Rae Lee, and Jhumpa Lahiri are usually the first ones that come to mind. They’re all wonderful writers, I’m sure, but they’re not the only ones out there, as evident by the names above.

Last year Maxine Hong Kingston (Woman Warrior) gave a wonderfully inspirational speech about using writing as a means of enacting social and historical change. It’s refreshing to see Asian-Americans not only finding their foothold in media and entertainment, but breaking their way into the literary scene as well.

(Maybe there’s hope for us English majors after all.)

So do yourself a big favor and come check out the festival this weekend! It will be awesome, I guarantee it. Nothing beats a warm day in the company of fellow bookworms and free merchandise (if not free then massively on sale).

I for one not only plan to check out a couple of the panels above but am thoroughly excited to hear Ray Bradbury make the exact same speech for the third year in a row (and see him get a standing ovation for the third time as well). T.C. Boyle and Laurie Halse Anderson are also scheduled to make appearances.

So bring your SO or mother or brother or best friend (but most importantly, bring yourself) and come celebrate!

More information can be found at: http://www.latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks/program_panels.html.

You can get tickets for the panels online (for .75 a piece) and a limited amount will be distributed at the festival on the day of. The tickets will be distributed at the on-site location near the Poetry Stage up to 30 minutes before sessions. Don’t worry about not getting tickets in time though. Last year I didn’t have any and I still managed to attend every panel I wanted to.

-posted by Shirley Mak, in fits of uncontained excitement.

Racist Box Designs in Chinese Snacks?

In Culture, Monologue/Dialogue on April 21, 2009 at 12:00 am

I was walking around 99 Ranch Supermarket in Alhambra, CA when my uncle prompted me to the snacks aisle:img_5970-copy

To say the least, I was surprised to find what can be deemed as culturally insensitive and even racist. There it was: a box labeled “Brown Sugar Thousand Layer Cookies” with a drawing of a brown faced man with a band aid. I wasn’t sure what the image really meant and how it helps in advertising the item, and was appalled to find such a drawing. Is this what the manufacturer–Asian people– have of Latinos? Is this box being culturally insensitive or is it just a logo? Take your vote and let me know what you think.

And below are the other “flavors” offered by that company. It looks as if each of these food products represent a race.


Let me know what you think! Leave your comments

Posted by Evelina Giang, who was not moved to buy the Brown Sugar or any other versions of these cookies from that manufacturuer.

Hong Kong night market comes to UCLA: Monday, April 20, 5-10 pm

In Culture, UCLA Events on April 19, 2009 at 8:48 am
UCLA's Hong Kong Student Society is bringing the lively streets of Hong Kong to Bruin Plaza this Monday evening!

UCLA's Hong Kong Student Society is bringing the lively streets of Hong Kong to Bruin Plaza this Monday evening!

Information below courtesy of the HKSS Night Market page on Facebook.


Monday, April 20, 2009


5:00pm – 10:00pm


Bruin Plaza (by the Bruin Bear)



Here comes the HKSS Night Market 2009! A taste of Hong Kong is going to spread through the UCLA campus as Hong Kong Student Society (HKSS) is dedicated to bringing the vibrant streets of Hong Kong to you all!

We are holding the first Hong Kong Night Market on April 20th at the Bruin Plaza from 5pm-10pm. The Bruin Plaza will be transformed from an empty space into a crowded Hong Kong style marketplace of street food and merchandise. You can definitely experience the Hong Kong’s unique culture by starting your journey at the Bruin Plaza for Hong Kong style snacks and specialty drinks and enjoy everything HKSS is going to prepare for you!

At the HKSS Night Market there willl be traditional and famous Hong Kong street foods including curry fish balls, dim sum, pot stickers, boba drinks, milk tea, red bean soup, sweet sago soup with taro, egg waffle, and marinated chicken wings and eggs. Street food is an important part of Hong Kong culture with both traditional and foreign influences. The food served are the most common local street food found in Hong Kong. They are fast, hot, and tasty. People will just past by a street food stand grab a skewer of fishball and dim sum at any time.

In addition to the street food and beverages, there will also be a fortune telling stall in the Night Market which will predict one’s future and analyze one’s characteristics and personalities with reference to the year of birth. The fortune telling will be FREE if you buy a package of the twelve Chinese Zodiac jades (these are bought from Hong Kong and are LIMITED!!).

Come and spend some of your precious time to have a walk in the night market! We hope that you will enjoy your experience at the HKSS Night Market and we are confident that you will want to travel to Hong Kong to sample the delicacies of Chinese cuisine and experience the Hong Kong culture time and again…
For more information, feel free to talk to us at our booth on Bruin Walk or visit our website at http://www.hkbruins.org

— posted by Debbie Chong

Joe Wong on Letterman

In A&E, Monologue/Dialogue on April 19, 2009 at 1:10 am

Comedian Joe Wong made his debut appearance on the Late Show Friday night:

Joe Wong immigrated to the US from China in 1995 and is now a fixture at comedy clubs in the Boston/New England area. I love how his jokes are funny – without using the race card.  Some comedians make it their objective to get laughs out of racial humor (Russell Peters, Carlos Mencina) but Joe just tells it like it is.

I always wondered where the line of racial humor is drawn.  It’s ok to make fun of your own ethnicity right?  But when it gets to be self-depricating or self-hating, then it’s just irritating and unnecessary.  It becomes laughter aimed at racial stereotypes instead – cheap laughs for little humor.  Of course, it’s always a no-no for white comedians to use the racial humor thing – remember the Michael Richards/Kramar scandal?

Which comedians do you think go over the line?  Who does a good job? Should their be a line or should people stop being so sensitive?  I want to know your opinions! Discuss.

Posted by Maria

Cool API environmentalist: Sanjayan

In NEWSPRINT on April 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Sri Lankan American Sanjayan, a lead scientist for Nature Conservancy, often finds himself the only person of color at meetings, the classroom, and even the field. Photo credit: Erika Nortemann / The Nature Conservancy, from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1725017,00.html

As Earth Day approaches, environmentalists across the country are encouraging people to think green.

Have you ever noticed that most Americans in the green movement are white?

Sanjayan, a Sri Lankan American, is a lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy and one of the few high-ranking people of color in his field.  He comments on his experience being a racial minority in the green movement in this 2008 article of Time magazine:

An American of South Asian descent (like many people from his native Sri Lanka, he generally uses one name), Sanjayan often finds himself as the only person of color at environmental meetings, in the classroom, even out in the field. Conservation in the U.S. — and the environmental movement more generally — tends to be very white and relatively well off, from the leadership down to the foot soldiers. “Right now conservation groups do miserably (in diversity),” says Sanjayan. “That needs to change.”…

Sanjayan admits that being the only brown face in the room, as he puts it, has probably been as much of an advantage for his career as a detriment. People remember him from the blur of conferences and meetings. In international field work, not being white can make it easier to gain the trust of local populations — Sanjayan recalls an early field trip to an African nation in the wake of apartheid, when being white meant earning instant suspicion. But he admits to being troubled that at a time when the U.S. may finally be ready to elect an African-American to the Presidency, the country’s major environmental groups have yet to be led by a non-white. “It’s pretty surprising, and at the same time, not surprising at all,” says Sanjayan…

Fortunately, there are already signs that the green movement can be more than just white. At home in the U.S., a new crop of African-American activists like New Yorker Majora Carter and Oakland-based Van Jones are adopting environmentalism, fighting for clean air and water in the inner city or green jobs for the underemployed. Around the globe, Sanjayan notes, U.S. environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy have put local staffers in positions of authority. But more can and should be done. “As a conservation community, we badly need to do this,” says Sanjayan. Diversity — in all its forms — should be a green goal.

— posted by Debbie Chong

Coming to America…Asian Pop Stars

In A&E on April 14, 2009 at 12:00 am


Asian music is invading America reports People Magazine as Korean Artists Se7en, Boa, The Wonder Girls, and Japanese pop star Utada Hikaru make their break into our airwaves. Below is the People’s half page spread on each of the artists, comparing them to the likes of Britney Spears (Boa) and Justin Timberlake (Se7en). I don’t think I can recall any Asian pop artists who have made their breaks in American music, so I’m really excited to hear these talents invade KIIS FM or whatever mainstream music station you listen to.


Source: AllKPop

Posted by Evelina Giang, who knows these songs are a hit when she begins belting the lyrics at the top of her lungs in front of her unsuspecting friends.

Betty Brown, Texas Republican, Asks Asian-Americans To Simplify Names

In NEWSPRINT on April 13, 2009 at 9:32 am

betty-brown-for-web1Last Tuesday at a conference between the House Elections Committee and Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans, Betty Brown, a Texas Republican, said that voters of Asian descent should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

Her comment prompted numerous politicians across the country to call on her to apologize for her statements, and rightfully so.

New York City Councilman John Liu sent her a letter saying, “It’s outrageous and insulting for you to suggest it would ‘behoove’ us to adopt another name, to give up our birthright and a part of our own identity, in order to exercise our right to vote.”

In a country as diverse as America, I’m pretty shocked that things like this still occur. Although Brown’s spokesman has said she was not trying to make a racially motivated comment, anyone with some shred of common sense would have guessed that asking a particular group of people to change their last names solely so that it’s more convenient for others to say them is not only insulting but downright outrageous.

After all, how would you like it if someone asked you to change your last name, handed down through numerous generations and attached with a specific history and family background, simply because they claimed it was too hard to pronounce? (I find the motivation behind her reasoning extremely strange, as Chinese surnames tend to be a lot shorter than a lot of other Asian names out there. But that’s besides the point. No group should have to change their last name because it is deemed unsuitable by another group.)

In a country that prides itself on bringing together different cultures, ethnicities, as well as surnames, there is no excuse for this kind of ignorance and racial insensitivity to occur.

More information regarding this travesty can be found at The Huffington Post website:


-posted by Shirley Mak