Tag Archives: AALDEF

That was no heckler in San Francisco: Yelling “Stop deportations,” an undocumented Asian American stands up and Obama stands down

I’ve played basketball at the Chinese Rec Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown as a kid, but this was a one-on-one game no one would have expected.

An undocumented Asian student in America, Ju Hong, 24, a Dream activist, was one of those with an invite to the special presidential event.

Hong was supposed to be merely ornamental, not a catalyst.




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AALDEF Podcast: Marching And Talking With Todd Endo,Asian American Activist, 50 Years After His First March On Washington

Check for updates at http://www.amok.com


Don’t forget to check out my column at www.aaldef.org/blog

AALDEF’s Emil Guillermo was at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with Asian American activist Todd Endo, 72, who as an Oberlin grad marched in 1963.

AALDEF Podcast: Marching And Talking With Todd Endo,Asian American Activist, 50 Years After His First March On Washington

The march began when the speaking stopped.

Here was the start:


More pictures and commentary on my blog at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.


In case you didn’t realize it–Trayvon Martin is a descendent of Vincent Chin

A reader from Philadelphia re-tweeted me this sign from a protest there.

Note Vincent Chin’s name at the bottom of the sign.

It’s significant. Trayvon’s family may ultimately take the same road Chin took to seek justice: a criminal case followed by a civil rights case. But as followers of the Chin story know, the Martin’s could find the same pitfalls. Bottom line: there’s simply no guarantee of justice at the end of that long road.

See also my post at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.




Asiana 214’s modern internet racism vs. the old style that young Milena Clarke has felt all too well

Is there any doubt that the racism that came out of the crash of Asiana Flight 214 remains one of the most under-reported aspects of the whole tragedy?

Asian bad driver jokes/bad pilot jokes? That’s old school racism, but the modern Twitterverse exploded almost immediately after the crash with everyone showing off their repressed racism.

If you’re one of those who think it’s no big deal, then maybe the example of the egregious racism experienced by Milena Clarke will be instructive.  The old-school style still lingers as well.

If you need to know the difference between the old style racism and the new modern one, check out my post on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.

Vincent Chin: Another year, another anniversary, but a story we will never forget

I was on the road yesterday but did not forget that it was the 31st year after the death of Vincent Chin.

On a day when Edward Snowden continues his trek for freedom, another Giants loss, and a week of monumental constitutional decisions, there was little time on the news spent marking Chin’s story.

Check out my piece on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog to read my column based on the interview with Chin’s killer, first posted last year, the 30th anniversary of his murder.



AALDEF press release on examples of discrimination against Asian Americans on election day

This was released by AALDEF tonight:

November 6, 2012 – Many Asian American voters, especially new citizens and first-time voters, encountered barriers at polling places, including inadequate language assistance, excessive requests for identification and voter eligibility, and missing names on voter rolls. 

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) dispatched over 800 attorneys, law students, and community volunteers to over 120 polling places in 14 states with large Asian American populations, where they recorded voter complaints and conducted a nonpartisan multilingual exit poll. AALDEF also received reports of voting barriers via a multilingual hotline, by email, and on social media.

States with the most egregious violations include Virginia, where Korean American voters were segregated from other voters into a separate line; Philadelphia, where Vietnamese American voters faced a severe shortage of language assistance; Michigan, where Bengali materials were severely mistranslated; New York, where poll workers in Chinatown were not informed of new rules for voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy; and Georgia, where Asian American voters struggled with discriminatory new proof of citizenship laws.

“Asian American voters had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to exercise their right to vote today,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program. “Our attorneys are fully investigating every complaint and we will report our findings and observations to local election officials and the U.S. Department of Justice.”

A summary of voting rights violations follows:

  • Annandale, VA

Poll workers separated all Korean American voters into segregated lines because “there were so many,” allowing white voters to vote first, and required to go through additional hoops to vote. Unlike other voters, only Korean American voters were directed to stand and verbally state aloud their names, addresses, and cities and states of residence in English, despite providing government issued identification to vote. Elderly Korean American voters with limited English-proficiency were particularly uncomfortable with the discriminatory treatment.

  • New York, NY

Many Asian American voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy were turned away by poll workers who were unaware of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order allowing their ballots to be counted wherever they were cast.Incidents occurred in Chinatown, Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens where poll workers refused to give out provisional affidavit ballots to voters. In Flushing and Elmhurst, Queens, elderly Korean American and Chinese American voters were turned away by poll workers and not given affidavit ballots. In Jackson Heights, at least 20 mostly South Asian American voters were turned away. In Chinatown, poll workers were unaware that affidavit ballots were even translated into Chinese.

Required language assistance was inadequate. Queens County has been covered for Asian Indian language assistance under Section 203 of the Voting Right Act since October 13, 2011. However, the New York City Board of Elections did not provide Bengali language ballots to voters, nor were there “Interpreter Available” signs posted outside the sites.

  • Philadelphia, PA

At the South Philadelphia High School poll site, there were too few interpreters to assist Vietnamese American voters. Before Election Day, Philadelphia officials said they had only trained four Asian language interpreters for the entire city. As a result, Asian American voters were turned away from the polls.

  • Hamtramck, MI

Many poll sites in Hamtramck failed to provide Bengali ballots, make translated materials available, or provide interpreters, as is required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. In one case, the translated sign displaying the Voter Bill of Rights had nothing to do with voters’ rights. Poll workers also complained that voting machine scanners would not read the translated Bengali ballots. 

  • New Orleans, LA

At three poll sites in New Orleans, limited English-proficient Vietnamese American voters, many of whom were senior citizens, were told that interpreters could not assist them or otherwise translate the ballot for them, in violation of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. AALDEF attempted to appeal to local elections officials, yet the hotline number to report problems only led to a voicemail box.

  • Atlanta, GA

Several Asian American voters in Georgia reported that they were not allowed to vote because they had not provided documentary proof of U.S. citizenship, as is required under Georgia’s new proof of citizenship law. One Asian American voter in Cobb County, despite having a U.S. passport, was told that she could only vote by provisional ballot and to go to the County Clerk’s office to prove her eligibility to vote.

My night at the New America Media Awards

I gave these remarks at the New America Media Northern California and Central Valley awards ceremony (July 19, 2012). I was named the winner in the Outstanding Commentary/Editorial Essay (English language publications) for three pieces I did for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.

Among the judges were Joan Walsh of Salon.com, author Richard Rodriguez, and NAM editor/author Andrew Lam. You can view the three essays on the nomination fight of Goodwin Liu, a defense of Rutgers student Dharun Ravi, and a reflection of the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 on the archives at aaldef.org

Here are links to the individual pieces:




 (See all the winners here).

The gala ceremony was held at KQED-TV in San Francisco, and since it was being taped for some future broadcast, we were all limited to a 1-minute thank you speech. Due to that limitation, I promised to post my full, idealized remarks here at www.amok.com. Sort of like the House of Representatives on those one-minute speeches on C-SPAN, where they reserve the right to extend their remarks for the record. So it’s not really a transcript of what I said. It’s what I said or meant to say:

Since we are limited to one minute, I want to say that since I know another winner Ben Pimentel won’t be here, that before tonight, he agreed to give me a few seconds of his minute. Just like they do in Congress. But he said he’d do it only if I would sing my thank you. I said, “Ben, what do you think this is karaoke night?”

I’m taking the extra seconds.

(crowd titters)

Of course, if they cut me off, you can always read my remarks at www.amok.com

Yes, I am still amok after all these years. But as the politicians like to say, I have “evolved.”  I’m less amok and slightly more “nuanced.” I still report. But I also opine. And  I appreciate the judges’ recognition of my work, my truth-telling, an insistence on a fearlessly honest expression of my views.

Ironically, my first media job was 40 years ago this year. The job was at KQED…when it was on 4th street….. “Newsroom.”

Not HBO’s  “THE Newsroom,” we know that kind of newsroom doesn’t really exist, but “Newsroom,” a show where striking chronicle reporters told their stories on tv.

I was a junior at Lowell High School. I got a buck-sixty to be a gopher…

40 years later, here we are, and adjusted for inflation, I’m probably still making as much money.

I discovered my commentary chops while at NPR, then at Asian Week. Now you can read me at aaldef.org. That’s not “all deaf” as in the hearing disabled. That’s AALDEF as in the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Civil rights, Voting rights, Worker’s rights, and more. AALDEF fights for Asian Americans.

I thank AALDEF for keeping my voice alive. The executive director Margaret Fung has been a great supporter, and I thank her.

Thanks also to my  real editor, my wife Kathy, a senior VP at PETA and inspires me with all the work she does for the animals.

And thanks to Sandy and this organization. It’s a long way from NCM.

Most of all, I want to thank all the ethnic journalists here for doing what you continue to do at a very  high level.

Congratulations to all of you. I  have had some mainstream success, but I didn’t discover my voice, journalism didn’t make sense until the truth was part of who I was. Only in the ethnic media are the stakes allowed to be that personal.

Make no mistake there’s nothing minor league about ethnic journalism.

We do vital work for an underserved audience.

So thank you again. This recognition means a whole lot more. Especially when you do it for love.

Chauncey Bailey, our dear late and lamented friend and colleague, put it in perspective.

He once said after receiving an award from this organization, “These are our Pulitzers.”

He was right then.

He’d be right today.

Thank you very much.