forgotten tongues

while transferring from my wheelchair, i look at the ceiling and scream dramatically
“i have forgotten p!!”
“blood? pi???” my mom asks worriedly in corean
“no umma! the letter p! p-ubt!”
i am quiet for a moment then ask
“…what does it look like?”

disregarding the grave nature of this situation, she shakes her head at me and leaves the room, telling me i need to spend less time on the computer.
(i love that she equates any lack of knowledge on my part to too much time in front of the computer.)
does she not know what losing language, letter by letter,
script by script, means to me?

i think back to middle school where i won an international writing contest sponsored by south korea’s national tourism agency
the local k-times newspaper interviewed me and put my picture on the front page
unraveling and ragged, my mom carried that folded, faded yellow picture with her for years

the writing prompt was something simple like “why do you ❤ korea?”
and while older americans australians and europeans wrote about delicious food, a culture of respect, and hiking geumgangsan, eighth grade me submitted an essay about king sejong’s work
the theme of the essay focused on hangul as the language of the people
now of course i didn’t know about globalization colonization assimilation
the struggle of people of color in this world
or resistance back then
but the power of language
as generator
for maintaining community
was obvious
to even my middle school half corean
broken-tongue self
sejong’s refusal to let language belong to the aristocracy brought writing and literature to the people
creating a new era for the joseon people

now i am left flailing my arms with a sense of loss
will future generations of my family
only know korea
through margaret cho comedy sound bytes?
mentions of the eradication of the dmz in history books
and store-bought kimchi they eat at their halmoni’s house?
has it really been 8 years since i have traveled to see my family?
did i really encourage my mother’s students to change their names from hankyul hanbyul youngkwang and myunghan
to heather ellen danny and kevin?

no. yes. no. yes. yes.
what to do with this,
where to go with this,
i don’t know.
for now i will start with the letter p.


Leave a comment

Filed under woc, writing/poetry

our monstrosity

i am lucky enough to have a video recording of little light reading her piece, the seam of skin and scales, during our SPEAK retreat in detroit. i can’t describe how powerful it was to play her recording this morning in the silence of my house, except that it was so needed, so haunting, so disquieting, so intimate. so beautiful, just like her.:

“It is time to look the monstrous in the eye. It is time. It is time to say that we are beautiful in our fierceness, and that we are our own. We are not the rejected of what we can never be. We are what we were meant to be. We are not pieces of wholes thrown together incorrectly. We are not mistakes.
We are not inferior knockoffs of someone else. If our monstrousness is frightening, then it is time we bare our teeth and draw that fear close to us and stop being so afraid of our fearsomeness that we fear everyone and everything else right back.

I am throwing my head back, here, and saying it: no more being afraid. Hell no. My monstrousness is not a place of shame. It is a strength. It is the power to say I am mine, and I will tell you what I mean. Not you. I am not any thing trapped in anyone’s body. I am tougher than that, and I have plenty of blood to spare in this body of mine, and plenty more miles to go before any of you can bring me to my knees, and I dare you to try.”

1 Comment

Filed under i love my people, links

an open letter

Dear Wheelchair Dancer,

Hey sister— thanks for your blog post on the elections, racism, prop 8. I’ve been in such a funny place lately after all of this and your writing really helped me in naming why.

Sylvia posted a tweet the other day about wanting to wrap Obama in bubble wrap, Teflon, a condom, Fort Knox— anything— to keep him safe until January 20th. That’s kind of how I feel about my emotions. And I hate to sound cliché here, but also my hope. My head knows what this election means and what this election does not mean but I still want scream Yes We Can!, rock my Obama shirt in classes full of Republicans, and, well, just bask in the symbolism of it. I want to believe in what everyone else believes in for more than one night, even if a lot of it is compartmentalizing what I know and not thinking about things folks like Moya and so many others are sayin’. So I close my door, download all the free mixtapes people are producing for Obama, and bullshit around happily.

But then it changes, right? At least it did for me, couldn’t even last a week. I read a message from VivirLatino about another mass ICE raid where over 100 people are rounded up in Florida and separated from their families. I hear white racist gay folks getting time on the tv and then blame Prop 8 on communities of color! I get an email from someone I really care about saying someone she knows was being beaten to death from what seems like a hate crime. With tears in my eyes I read of Duanna Johnson’s death and then see talk show radio hosts trying to leave comments on my blog saying they’re advocates while simultaneously disrespecting who she was. All these things tear me right from that cloudy good place. These things come at me like a million lightening bolts, reminding me of all the work that needs to be done and more importantly, who will be the ones doing this work.

It will be us. We will do it cause there isn’t anyone else but us, the people, la gente. So like our dear friend asks in her blog— as organizers, as artists, as community-builders, as dreamers, how can we learn from his campaign? How can we get the folks on the ground, many who weren’t believers in power of people before, to keep dreaming and ready to pick up other tools? How do we stay focused? Clear-headed? How do we build this bigger than non-profits, projects, campaigning?

And what about when the evil, the hate, the bondage is internal— How do we combat these things when they come in the form of our communities, people we love? I mean I didn’t truly understand what racism and white privilege really meant until I got involved in social movements, you know? Is it possible to take these conversations happening post-Prop 8 and turn them into something that lasts? Will there be room to sew close our open wounds, our mistrust? And is it even worth it, trying to work it out with gays and lesbians who will always choose marriage, gentrification, assimilation and capital building as priorities, when so many fellow queers are homeless, forgotten, oppressed, closeted, beaten, denied their humanity?

I’m really hoping you have some answers, that someone has answers. In the meantime, thanks for being who you are, for our gchats, for the love…

In solidarity and w/ love,


Filed under activism, community, homophobia/heterosexism, internal change, organizing, queer, violence, woc

for duanna johnson

a picture of duanna johnson

sister, i am angry
furious at your death
upset with my own foolishness in celebrating him
while you die in the streets

with beatings, with violence left on your beautiful brown skin
with the names, the silence, the mainstream media lies
they refuse to let us ever forget that
guns penetrating our backs, we are always standing at the cliff of our own mortality

sister, i am in mourning
lighting a candle, i read this poem into the glimmering light
my poem is a prayer for you,
for the others i will never have the opportunity of knowing, and for the friends who mourn your death today
we will not forget. we will speak your name.

you said no!, you would not let police brutality and violence against transgender women of color fade into an invisible cloud of silence
you said no…
and now you are gone.

you are gone
but we will not forget.
the anger, the connection, the injustice just cuts too deep.
instead we will carry your name on our tongue
your bravery in our own ribcage
your memory in our work
we will wear red everyday
remembering you
and countless of others

we will not forget, sister.


Filed under queer, race, violence, woc

on election night

two disabled girls
both of color,
both in their twenties,
both stuck at home,
sit together over the phone
waiting for president-elect
mr. barack hussein obama
to appear on stage

one girl tells her friend that tomorrow they have to go out and buy newspapers
“giiirl! we’ll be able to point at the framed headline—OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT and tell our kids that their potential knows no bounds!
that they can dream as big as they want
that the world,
this day, is theirs!
our children! my children! my future babies!
god is good. god is good”
she sighs happily

the other one, half listening, whispers “all the time.”
“god is good all the time.”
she is sitting close to the television— 8 inches away to be precise— and without realizing it, she is scanning the crowds looking for trouble, as though she has the power to reach out to chicago and protect this man from any harm
not believing it is really possible for this man, this black man, to be president,
she asks her friend again and again “is this real?”
“will we wake up tomorrow and know this only in our dreams?”
her friend assures her it is real.
a million times her friend assures her it is real.

the first girl, a surprisingly staunch believer in the american dream, cries
she thanks god, believing that this is nothing short of a miracle, something sent down from heaven for the people
a blessed provision that will get us all through hard times

the second girl, the one still scared to let go, continues asking her friend if this whole thing is real
she realizes that though she has spent hours, days, months, preparing herself for what will happen to communities of color if this man loses the elections,
she has not put any thought into what could happen if this man actually won
her world feels like it has grown bigger,
her lungs deeper
her dreams more possible
if a black man—actually any person of color— can be president, what else will she see in her lifetime?
what things can she, with community, envision, hold close, and build together?
the potential of it all burns brighter than even before
she lets go
the two girls cry together
both with happiness
and for now, the axing of dreams deferred.

here’s to the future.
change we build.
hope we carry.
our dreams.
the dreams of our children.


Filed under community, i love my people, woc, writing/poetry

casting my ballot

“hey lady! hey lady! they have curbside voting!”
a group of 15 or 20 people stand on the sidelines and shout at me as i get out on the lift of my van.

“i know, that’s great, but I’M going to vote INSIDE!” i yell back loudly, annoyed at having to have said this allllll morning already (i have some serious health issues going on & it seems as though everyone and their mother had a personal investment in making sure i did not go out in the rain).

i expect the crowd to be embarrassed or something but instead they erupt in cheers, clapping, and you-go-girl!s.

what’s more american dream-y than the disenfranchised stepping to the polls, right? i walk by, waving at all of the people like a star.

just kidding. the totally fun moment turns serious when one of the folks breaks the line and approaches me:

“i just want to say thank you.”
she says all big eyed

“for what?” i ask pretending like i don’t know. i’m about to be really annoyed if she’s going to go inspirational crip on me and ruin my big first-time voting moment.

“for coming out to vote.”

oh great. she really is going to ruin my moment! damn! i brace myself for the on-coming pity party.

she continues:
“my husband is handicapped. he just began riding an electric chair and i couldn’t get him to come volunteer with me. a few weeks ago he was at a store and after knocking out a whole aisle of candy, he is too embarrassed to come out. plus with transportation being the way it is, everything set up against you, you know?”

i nod and explain that for the first year that i used a powerchair, my specific expertise was in knocking down store displays, particularly large pyramids of shoe boxes. she smiles in shared understanding and continues to open up, telling me more about all the issues her husband is facing as someone who has just acquired a disability. we brainstorm solutions and exchange phone numbers. i go inside, vote, wave to her, and leave.

i’m not much for electoral politics but moments like these really remind me how important policy and participating in the political process can be as tools for the advancement of disabled people. as disabled people, our lives are intertwined in the system. the stakes are high and bad policies play out in intimate, real ways for each of us. i have hope that next time elections come around, she and her husband will be out on the sidelines together.

“Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.” Justin Dart.


Filed under disability, politics

you can vote however you like video

seriously not sure if i should be screaming youth power
or squealing over how cute (and bipartisan) these students are:

(h/t to the good folks over at double consciousness. lyrics below the cut)
Continue reading


Filed under links