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Filipino San Francisco

In Filipino, kapwa refers to a cultural value of a collective well-being or togetherness in which Filipinos construct their selfhood, families and communities. In my work with conducting research about Filipino American lives with Filipino American undergraduate students at San Francisco State University, kapwa has been a driving force in uncovering Filipino immigrant and Fil-Am stories as intellectual resources towards producing knowledge.

Together with Jessa delos Reyes, Tiff Mendoza, Katrina Liwanag, Stephanie Ancheta, Jeannel Poyaoan, my experience of building kapwa with undergraduate students is an ongoing experience of democratizing the research process. These folks helped to recruit staff members working in community-based orgs in San Francisco serving Filipino community members. We all interviewed staff members, transcribed and analyzed their narratives. And we came up with different products!

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As a group, my team and I were able to write one co-authored academic publication, “Claiming Kapwa: Filipino Immigrants, Community Based Organizations and Community Citizenship in San Francisco” in New Political Science. My collaborators assisted in proofreading a needs assessment I wrote for the city of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs entitled, “Speaking Up, Speaking Out: Filipino Language Access in San Francisco.”

A few weeks ago, Filipino organizations in San Francisco, community workers and city advocates including Supervisor Matt Haney and Sandra Fewer came together for the release of a report about the lack of language access Filipinos have to basic services in the city of San Francisco. In the report, I argue that if Filipinos in San Francisco do not receive information, applications and materials in language (which the city is mandated by under the Language Access Ordinance), they are not only excluded from the basic services they need, they are also excluded from the political life of San Francisco.

 

The truth of the matter is San Francisco has been a geography of Filipino American and Filipino immigrant life for well over a century. And its about time that Filipinos are seen as part of San Francisco, especially through language access. When students, community members and academics collaborate, we demonstrate that immigrants, the folks that work tirelessly to serve them, the young people that come from those families, those neighborhoods belong in San Francisco.

 

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The Need for Caregivers Collective Resistance

The basis for organizing Filipino caregivers in the US is so astoundingly apparent. Stories about caregivers being overworked and underpaid are commonplace in Filipino communities. Many family members, community organizers, even popular films, understand that even if care homes are ways to get work, people gamble with the work being hard and the pay might not come through.

A recent LA Times article called, “An 87-hour work week for $4” recounts the horrible abuses Filipino caregivers and the victory that 66 workers achieved in their $1.1 million settlement. The protracted struggle of a 3 year legal battle has and was backed with supportive officials in the CA Department of Labor, who have issued rightful citations to wrongful carehome owners.

Still, this group of workers are often isolated. Working in care homes owned and visited frequently by the owners. Where camaraderie with one another is often facilitated by owners in the veil of benevolence. Where contact with one another is limited to the shift your on. Where families in the Philippines are quite dependent on whatever wages one makes.

Yet, the workers are in need of collective power. The CA DoL is apparently paying attention. And if the crisis of elder care in this country is not resolved (it won’t be in the next few years), this group of workers will be come essential to caring for your/our loved ones in their golden years. The need is obvious.

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A Play Date and a Protest

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As I watch my children play and laugh, I can’t help but think of the thousands of children suffering in detention at the US-Mexico border. In their days, do they have a chance to run and jump? Do they chuckle and laugh? Do they play?

For the motivating logic of deterring unauthorized crossing of the US-Mexico border, the current US administration has been trying to lift the “Flores Agreement” that limits the time children can spend in detention and upholds standards for migrant families in holding facilities. The repeal of the agreement would make detention for migrant children and families indefinite. The children held in subhuman detention facilities would grow up without room to run, without a possibility to play, without a possibility to reunite with their family members. The vilification of migrants, children and parents, erases the systems of power that induced forced migration from Central and Latin America and the broken immigration system in the US.

In the wake of youth leading global strikes to bring the world’s climate crisis to an end and a landmark lawsuit that follows, I’ve been racking my brain on how to include my kids, my friends’ kids, my friends who don’t have kids towards organizing and actions that connect us to a common experience of familial relations, both biological and chosen.

In response to continued migrant family separation, the Bay Area Families Solidarity Network initiated playdate protests to bring attention to this issue and, specifically to demand Amazon and Whole Foods to stop storing information to aid the detention and deportation of immigrant families.

Connie, the care provider and educator at Carabao Kids, a social-justice oriented daycare, which both my children have been and are enrolled in, was inspired to gather parents, families and community members to create solidarity around this issue. Over the span of a month, we planned and organized a child-focused, family-friendly action.

In an effort to connect the humanity of children and families separated by ICE to our own families, and also to explain this urgent issue to our children, Connie crafted songs and a puppet show to explain the issue of detention and separation to children and families. Katrina and Isabella played guitars and sang remixed lyrics to nursery rhymes. Volunteers puppeteer hand crafted puppets that featured a orange-haired dinosaur, Amazon alien and an ICE penguin.

We asked amazing speakers to offer speeches in poem and story to address the children and their families. Irman Arcibal, a local high school teacher, shared a beautiful poem about brown skins and the types of exclusion brown people experience. Joan Salvador from GABRIELA Philippines shared a story about the ICE monster and its connection to the Imperialism Monster that has taken the lands and rivers of indigenous peoples in the Philippines forcing them to be separated from their ancestral lands and families.

After our circle time, we held a Children’s Parade to deliver a letter to the Whole Foods store we organized a play date protest around informing them of the collusion of Amazon/Whole Foods with Palantir to profile immigrants for deportation. Youth and students from SFSU helped with providing a community safety plan for our play date and chaperoning us on our parade.

At the end of our play date, we sang songs, colored posters, parading and chanting, in hopes that our solidarity, be heard in the neighborhood we were in, and perhaps across the border.

I often wonder how to explain this complicated situation to my young children. I know and understand that parents wonder that too. This action, this form, this insistence on centering our children is one way to do it. And I’m so proud to have been part of it.

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It behooves us all to think about increasing the opportunities for our children, and families, to be involved in inspiring future generations to make this world better. This play date brought together our families in play and also in protest. It is the beginning of dreaming up and envisioning new ways to organize with families and children!

Photos by La Raine Gonzalez

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Final Project Round-Up 2019

A month out from the Spring semester and academic year, I’ve been reflecting on the amazing final projects my students created as a part of our learning communities. For most of my upper division classes, I offer a final project menu. I developed this menu after years of offering group, creative project (often in video form). Students asked for more options: option to do something individually (most SFSU students work full time, meeting with groups became too hard), option to do something with creative writing (children’s books, prose, blog reflections), option to do something that aligns with their creative passions (many SFSU students are already practicing or working in their creative forms).

I developed the menu with the logic that when students get to pick their creative project form, they are more committed to it, they can commit to learning the form, and thereby, process the content they are putting into their projects.

For my Families and Society class, Serena Matsumoto and Donna Cruz created a zine that reflected on how their families resisted the normative ideas of family. And although, they might’ve grown up thinking their families as aberrant, through the course, they redefined their families’ idiosyncrasies.

Developing a semester-long process around these final projects was key! I gave out the menu on the first day of classes and some individuals and groups chose to create blogs in response to our readings.

Kay Buban, Kristal Osorio, Lilibeth Panigua and Cole Baumeister read Elaine Castillo’s America is Not the Heart and they built this website’s content (the image below is hyperlinked to their site!):

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Jan Michaela Yee or Mykee wrote reflections on growing up Asian American, infusing her posts with Asian American songs, art and fiction:

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First Comes School, Then Comes Marriage

Ewww…Food!

Are We Home Yet?

Rainbows and Butterflies

These were some pretty awesome final projects. Just a few here to highlight but there were so many good ones! This menu is inspired by amazing university educators (and contingent faculty) Irene Faye Duller (tenured adjunct at USF and longtime lecturer at SFSU Asian American Studies), Melissa Ann Nievera-Lozano (a future TT professor at Evergreen Valley College in the Fall 2019) and Apryl Berney (longtime lecturer at SJSU Asian American Studies and De Anza College). Further, Florence Emily Castillo, MA, Doctoral Student in Sociology at University of New Mexico’s rubric on her list of final projects informed how I assess these projects.

I also had the pleasure of doing one-on-one independent study with graduating students. One of whom was a CAD major, working at my daughter’s preschool co-op. Ari and I read articles about how to bring Ethnic Studies to the preschool level. We found the concept of “multicultural education” in early childhood development and tried to expand it as social justice pedagogy. Ari introduced lesson plans that could introduce diverse characters and stories to the children–but more importantly, talk through difference as a method of learning.

Pictured below is Aya at the language arts table at Village Nursery School where in February, African American history month, the children learned about George Washing Carver on a card with teachers or co-op parents reading his history to them. The table celebrated him as a scientist and first black agriculturalist from Iowa State.

Another student, Austin Leong, a published and talented photographer graduated from our sociology program this year. We worked together over the semester to think about visual sociology, primarily in a close reading of Mitch Duneier’s Sidewalk and examining the role of the image in that book. Austin donated his photos which are framed and will be installed in our student lounge!

Lastly, it was my very first time participating as a “first reader” on an MA thesis! Tiffany Mendoza conceptualized, researched, wrote and presented a tremendous thesis on Filipina/x queer kinship! Tiff’s work builds on critical Filipino/a/x studies, specifically on Martin Manalansan’s work on “mess”, Robert Diaz’s work on queer migratory identifications. Tiff’s going on an exposure trip to the Philippines to expand her political and academic work, so you could donate to her trip–just hit up @lfssfsu on Instagram!

What amazing students! So honored to be working with such brilliant people!

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Worked Over

Caregivers work hard. They work hella hard. And fact is, the caregiving industry is unregulated. Care home owners, often Filipino, relegate caregivers, often Filipina, to  exploitative conditions, and thus, endangering their patients. Not a new fact: Filipino Community Center and MIGRANTE, among many organizations, have been organizing around these issues for years.

For me, its part of my history. When we landed in the US, a care home is what I called home. My grandmother, the matriarch of our family, cared for 6 elderly people. Me and my siblings helped her. I know what the daily grind looks like. I lent my history and my sociological perspective on the story of caregivers starting to get the media spotlight it deserves.

Just this week, Reveal News published a podcast, The Unpaid Cost of Elder Care, and published a story: “Elder care homes rake in profits as legions of workers earn a pittance for long hours of care“. On this podcast, I tried to shed light on the reasons why caregivers like Sonia and Normita might feel bound to their exploitative employer, Rommel Publico. After years of organizing and even living out this story, I’m still trying to make sense of the conditions under which Filipinos exploit other Filipinos, while trying to combat the narrative of migrant workers’ docility.

I’ve been pitching this as my second book.  Just speaking it aloud. Trying to figure out this riddle, sociologically. I’ve started the research but haven’t dug my heels in for the long road of collecting the data, formulating the themes for the chapters and writing it. But I’m trying to manifest it. This podcast and set of articles are pushing me to really solidify a plan to do this research and political work, with organizations, to recover these stories and tell them from our perspective.

Normita Lim

Image: Photo of Normita Lim, subject of Reveal News story from The Washington Post

Reveal News’ investigative journalism on Filipino caregivers is also out on various Associated Press publications around the country such as The Washington PostThe New York Times, and U.S. News and World Report

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Power of Pinays

Last work trip of the semester took me back to Montreal to the Pinay Power II Conference. It was my honor to learn from contribute to the conversation about the power of Pinays. Here are some snaps of the amazing Pinay scholar-activists, kasamas and artists I was in conversation with.

Circle of Filipinos talking about organizing in the US

Jojo Guan from the Center for Women’s Resources speaking about the role of Filipinas in struggle

Jhem and Leah from Pinay Quebec talking about recent changes in immigration policy

Activists and scholar-activists from Filipino communities all over Canada and US

Cat from UC Davis learning about political prisoners in the Philippines

Jojo Guan giving a lecture on Filipino women’s situation

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Kay Nasol facilitating an icebreaker

Dr. Robyn Rodriguez giving a keynote speech on dissident friendships

March was a quiet month for this last semester on book tour but there were other types of amazing buzz circulating about The Labor of Care. Two of which are written by Filipina graduate students and scholars–check them out below:

Giselle Dejamco Cunanan writes a book review for Ethnic Racial Studies alongside Jan Padios’ amazing work A Nation on the Line.

Xenia Rochelle Jones writes a book review from the Open University in the UK.

 

Labor of Care in Toronto

So excited to be back in Toronto!

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I was in Toronto for a workshop in 2014 and haven’t been back since. Still, I have been in conversation with Filipino-Canadian scholars and community members for quite some time and I’m thrilled to be back in the city to share insights from the book and learn about the community there!

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SFSU Labor of Care Book Salon

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In one week, I’ll be in conversation with brilliant SFSU scholars, Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales and Dr. Celine Parreñas Shimizu, about the ideas, theories and methods of The Labor of Care!

When I go on book talks, it’s usually me talking about the book and my arguments in it. Most folks come without having read the book, coming to hear what it’s all about. It’s a great experience to share the key findings with folks.

But this event is formatted quite differently. Instead of me rehearsing the book’s interventions, Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales and Dr. Parreñas Shimizu will share their comments and thoughts on the work. Then we’ll have an opportunity to pick up interesting points in a salon-style discussion. It will undoubtedly be a humbling and learning experience for me and I feel so privileged to have this opportunity.

It will be bittersweet. In my vision of this on-campus celebration back in the summer of 2018, Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon would’ve joined us, delivered her thoughts on the book and, surely, offered brilliance and laughter to the salon. I’m trying my very best to honor her during the event. I hope she’ll be proud.

The book salon will be on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 from 6:00-8:00 PM at LIB 121. The flyer for the event is attached and the event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2051410071620697/

There will be light refreshments served. Books will be on sale. This is an alumni event is held in recognition of Dr. Rachel Kahn-Hut, former Professor of Sociology at San Francisco State University.

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Little FaceTime with my littles

Leaving for book talks all over the nation and across national borders is a lot of work. And keeping in touch while away also has its sets of labor. Should I FaceTime the kids, and risk them getting upset about seeing my face but not being able to cuddle up next to me? Should I disrupt the routine the their Papa has set when I’m away with a phone call? Is it possible to be on screen for a bit and then get off without them losing their sh*t?

In my privileged world as a documented person in the US and as a scholar who gets financial support for travel and lodging for book talks, these questions reign supreme. In The Labor of Care, I write about these decision-making processes and the actual work it takes to muster up the time and coordination to make these communication habits regular. Now as a traveling, working mother, these theories have come to life.

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Montreal and Irvine, Snow and Sun

The first month of the year hasn’t ended yet and I’ve been to three universities, delivered a handful of talks from classrooms, speaker series events, seminars and community centers! I love that touring The Labor of Care allows me to talk about transnational families, possibilities of organizing with migrants, emotions and youth, technology and solidarity and resistance. I’ve been humbled to be able to have an audience with brand new youth and student organizers, long-time activists, students starting a master’s program and advanced doctoral students, everyday folks/organic intellectuals.

Amidst subzero snowy weather in Montreal, I was welcomed by Anakbayan Montreal, a group of young Filipino-Canadian students from McGill University and Concordia University who arrived in Canada as children or were born in different provinces like Ottawa and Québéc. They narrated their experiences of organizing and finding the progressive youth and students organization with painful experiences of loss, discrimination and, dare I say, double or triple exclusion from the French-speaking, Canadian society that often reads their bodies and communities as low-wage workers. Still, the power in the room was their unity. Many of them were Toronto bound for the Bayan Canada congress where progressive Filipino organizations across Canada would unite on the coming political goals of Filipino communities for the years to come.

After my talks at McGill and Concordia, I had the immense privilege of sharing about immigrant workers’ organizing at the Immigrant Workers Centre with board members Aziz Choudry and Jill Hanley and various activists and volunteers at the IWC. In these community sharings, I’ve learned that across borders, rising fascism and insecure labor regimes have criminalized immigrants and victimized their families and communities. Despite these conditions, the resilient spirit of immigrants finds its ways into centers, in organizations, in rallies and mass mobilizations.

Only a few days later with sun and warmth, I arrived in Irvine, CA where doctoral candidate in History, Pinay scholar-activist, Stefanie Lira, invited me to share my findings about migrant worker organizing with the students and faculty at UC Irvine. Alongside my book talk, I was lucky to be able to sit in a meeting for Gabriela South Bay where they were planning a Diwang Pinay cultural production, just like the one covered in the book.  This group of progressive Filipinas and Filipina Americans have worked with survivors of trafficking and caregivers created a program last year and are embarking on a new project.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks and tomorrow Spring semester begins! More book events to come as well!

 

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Labor of Care at UC Irvine tomorrow

It’ll be my first time in Irvine! I’m looking forward to sharing ideas about care work among Filipina migrants and possibilities for solidarity in the book. This is my favorite chapter in the book to discuss!

More importantly, I’ll be engaging with the work of Filipina American historian and doctoral candidate, Stefanie Lira. Stefanie’s work on reading colonial archive to examine “formations of race and masculinity in early colonial Philippines” (Lira, forthcoming) is an exciting endeavor and I am excited to learn from her and her colleagues at UC Irvine.

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