Monday, May 28, 2007

SF Progressives Gear Up for '07 Mayoral Race and the Future of our Communities

Next Saturday I and other progressive activists and organizers are mobilizing for a major progressive summit at our Tenderloin Community Elementary School. We are trying to reinvigorate the spirit of the 1974 San Francisco Community Congress efforts in neighborhoods throughout the City. On June 2nd progressive elected officials and grassroots activists will join together to plan for the November 07 elections and beyond.
Former Mayoral Candidates Matt Gonzalez and Tom Ammiano and Supervisors Chris Daly, Aaron Peskin and Ross Mirkarimi may address the convention sometime after 2pm along with Board of Education President Mark Sanchez and me.
Please join us!

Dear Progressive Friends and Allies,
Please reserve Saturday, June 2nd on your calendar for the most important progressive gathering of the year.
To set the stage for our progressive campaigning this summer and fall, we will be convening to consolidate our platform, train in the nuts and bolts of electioneering, launch our candidate(s) for Mayor of San Francisco, and have lots of fun!
Saturday, June 2, 10-5
Tenderloin Community School
627 Turk Street (Van Ness), San Francisco

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Popular Education Conference

CHICAGO, June 21 to 24, 2007

Free Minds, Free People will bring together teachers, youth, parents, researchers and community-based educators from across the country to begin building a movement to develop and promote Education for Liberation. Education for Liberation is an umbrella term we use to describe the work of people who are trying to link education, social justice and activism.

This conference features dozens of workshops by and for educators and youth on topics including social justice schools, action research, arts and liberatory education, Freedom Schools, youth organizing, teaching critical consciousness and much more. It will take place in Chicago at Little Village/Lawndale High School.

The SF Freedom School will be represented on a panel entitled, "Freedom Schools, Then and Now"

Please consider going!!! REGISTER TODAY!!!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Connecting the Chinese Exclusion Act with Today's Racism and Nativism; Slowing Down to Catch up with my Family

Graphic by Jim Dong, one the founders of SF's Kearny Street Workshop

Amidst the historic celebrations/protests and dialogue around May Day, Cinco de Mayo and China's Revolutionary May 4th Movement, SF Chronicle reporter Vanessa Hua wrote an excellent piece on the significance also of the 125th Anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act - May 6, 1882.

SAN FRANCISCO - Anti-Chinese law had effect for generations: Exclusion Act forced many immigrants to lie in order to stay

In 1881, an 11-year-old boy in China named Yung Wah Gok begged for a chance to go to the United States like the thousands of other Chinese workers who had already left to seek their fortune on the railroad, in laundries and working other jobs.
A year later, immigration laws swung the door shut by barring Chinese laborers from entering the United States or naturalizing as citizens if they already were here. If Wah Gok had not persuaded his uncle to take him, he might never have emigrated.
This first attempt at regulating immigration to the United States tore apart families, cut the Chinese population in the United States in half, and forced many Chinese Americans to perpetuate secrets and even lies well into the 20th century.
"It created total exclusion from American life," said Wah Gok's granddaughter Connie Young Yu, 65, a Bay Area native. "If they could never be citizens, how could they participate?"
Today is the 125th anniversary of the signing of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco is hosting commemorative events all month.
Growing up, Young Yu heard many stories about how the act affected her family. To find a wife, her grandfather had to return to China because of laws that prevented him from marrying here. And he waited 14 years to bring his wife home; he had to prove he had become a merchant, a loophole that admitted very few.
Other Chinese people managed to squeeze through another exception to the Exclusion Act affording people born in China the right to enter the United States if one of their parents was American-born. Many Chinese Americans brought in people who weren't their children, people who came to be known as "paper sons."
For decades, many Chinese American families had two surnames: their real one, used in the Chinese community, and the name used in the official, white world to conform with their paperwork. In San Francisco, after the 1906 earthquake and fire, when government buildings containing birth and immigration records were destroyed, even more Chinese immigrants began claiming they'd been born here and bringing in paper children.
Congress had debated whether excluding people based on race violated the principles of fair play and Christian behavior, said Anna Naruta, director of collections at the Chinese Historical Society. But Nativists rallied to ensure the act's victory.
Loud support for the act came from California's then-Gov. George Perkins, who called a state holiday to allow workers to demonstrate in favor of it, "conveying to Congress and to our Eastern brethren the deep interest which inspires us to check this evil and stop this curse."
Chinese immigrants immediately challenged the Exclusion Act, saying it violated international law. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the right to determine immigration laws.
By 1892, Chinese laborers had to carry a certificate proving they were here legally or risk deportation. No one else had to carry such proof.
Foreign-born people accounted for 13 percent of the population of the United States in 1880, according to the U.S. Census. That's compared with 10 percent in 2000.
"The law was a codification of racism, a microcosm of what was happening in society," said Eric Mar, a San Francisco school board member who teaches Asian American studies at San Francisco State University. Mar and other Chinese American leaders and educators in the Bay Area see parallels between the targeting of the Chinese and the current sentiment toward illegal immigrants in the United States.
"There's a long history of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States. We have made a lot of shameful mistakes over the years about who we decide we should welcome as Americans," said Bill Ong Hing, a professor of law and Asian American studies at UC Davis. "We're treading down the same road today."
Only after volunteering in Chinatown after law school -- and seeing client after client with false identities because they were paper sons or descended from them -- did Hing understand how much the act had affected the Chinese American community and begin to clear up some of the mysteries in his life.
"Then it made sense, with my parents and relatives -- why a lot of them were worried, and why I had uncles that weren't really my uncles," said Hing, 58. "You realize how this affected the community. They had to lie and cheat to get into the country, to do what is natural for many people -- to seek a better life."
Congress repealed the act in 1943, when China and the United States became allies during World War II, but large-scale Chinese immigration wasn't allowed until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965.
Each new generation of Chinese Americans rediscovers the Exclusion Act -- and its lessons.
Lisa Chen, 17, a senior at Galileo High School in San Francisco, was shocked to learn about the act in history class. But she didn't connect it to her personal experience as the American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the 1980s.
"My family was not involved in and doesn't really think about it," Cheng said on a recent weekday in Chinatown, where she works as a counselor in training in the employment program at Community Educational Services.
But Allen Cheung, 22, who just recently learned that his great-grandfather had worked and died in the United States, now directly connects the act to his immigrant parents, himself and the future. After he visited China in the winter, his mother finally began to reveal the family's history. She thought he was finally old enough to understand, said Cheung, a student at San Francisco State who leads its Asian Student Union.
"Before that, I didn't see how I fit into the grand narrative of 1882, 1906 and paper sons," said Cheung. "Now I've learned a lot more. To know my great-grandfather was here, I start to feel connected to a lot of history. My life, my struggle, is in America."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

San Francisco Students and Teachers Marching on May Day; Protecting Students Rights in Walkouts

Today - May Day - I will be proudly marching with many of our
students and teachers who support dignity for all
immigrants and economic justice for everyone. Last
week I authored a resolution in solidarity with
immigrant student and community efforts to uphold our
local Sanctuary Ordinance and other local human rights
for immigrants policies.
To deal with the large numbers of students that plan
to walkout out sometime around noon today our district
is doing our best to protect their safety. To me,
International Workers Day always serves as an
important learning moment to teach about economic
justice, democracy, civil rights and immigrant rights
as well.
Initial reports from student organizers show that many
San Francisco schools will be participating in the
rallies and walkouts, including Lowell High, Mission
High, June Jordan School for Equity, John O’Connell
High, Gateway High, International Studies Academy or
ISA, Leadership High, Balboa High. Last year a number
of middle schools also participated in the May Day
marches and rallies as well.
To ensure district awareness of board and district
policies, on Friday the superintendent and staff
reminded every school site that if a student decides
to participate in the march, that staff should not
attempt any physical restraint of students. But the
sites can inform parents or guardians that the student
left the school for that purpose.
Larger WALKOUTS - if a large number or critical mass
of students at a school attend the march, then a
teacher or certificated staff person from the site
will be accompanying students to protect the safety
of our students.
Some of our school resource officers will not be at
their sites today. They too will be monitoring the
march. We are expecting reports beginning at 11am. I
will be marching from Mission High School with
students and teachers to Dolores Park at Noon and then
on to the Civic Center by 1pm or so.

More on Protecting Students' Rights to Protest