Kiskisan

The morning before the International Women’s Alliance conference in Manila, delegates from Gabriela USA were invited to participate in the Philippine-American “friendship” day, to protest the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines. We decided that it was important to participate in a mobilization to the US embassy, or “emba” as the kasamas here call it, because after all we are from the US, we have seen the inequality between the Philippines, and people of color, and poor people, and queer folks, and women folk, and the US. The mobilization was a really important political mobilization for us.
We were prepped that there might be kiskisan, or shield-to-people confrontation and we were assured that we’d be safe if any violent dispersal happened. Our conduct for the mobilization was “touch-the-seal” which means to get right in front of the US embassy to protest unequal relations between the US and Philippines. Our women braved the challenge. We were all a bit nervous but trusted the command of the people’s organizations.
At different moments in the march, we were asked to run down different streets, do an about-face and run some more.  Running down streets to outsmart the Philippine National Police was almost like problem solving puzzle. The puzzle: how to get to the embassy and touch the seal. The problem: the PNP’s riot gear and batons. People were chatting to one another about going in one way and decoying the other way. These earlier runs were fun and filled with chanting and laughter. I remember the smiling faces of the Nanays with us, the youth and students alive with chanting and the men from KMU, workers who came to protest their exploitative job conditions under US corporations.
The people’s orgs had a strategy. We assembled in 4 places so when we closed in on the embassy there were marchers from 4 different directions and at a certain point the PNP was encircled by the masses. As this militant march moved in and chants grew, the PNP got nervous and started to strike back, pushing us with shields. The command of the march told us to move back. So we did. And because there were no blows. The command told us DIKIT!–come back to hold the line. We were a bit in the back of the march for safety so we didn’t have to hold the line. But we needed a solid whole so we ran back. And then the PNP started to take to their batons and large pieces of rocks. They threw rocks at the crowd hitting a few in the head. The batons were most bloody. The PNP reacted to the weaponless masses by hitting men and women alike with batons over their shields. Later, (start at 4:26) we saw a video where the PNP beat a man from KMU as he stood, surrendered. 
From our end, we were told to RUN. And that we did. At that moment, all of our women made sure that they were together. Never leaving each other. Ensuring we would get to safety. We were all scared and jarred at the moment. But then, at that moment, we really understood state repression. Police repression against people who are simply practicing the freedom to assemble, the freedom to speech.
In all of my expos in the Philippines, I have never been more mobilized and agitated. The face of fascism showed itself, and even though I ran away, I’ve seen it. The face that peoples in the Philippines, Palestine, Greece, South Africa, Colombia and the world over face when they are struggling for a better world, a better life, a better future. For me, I felt like this was a march to remember not just because of the violent dispersal but because I saw the people’s resilience. Marchers whose faces I saw bloodied with batons got immediate medical attention from movement medics and wanted to go right back out and finish the march. All against imperialism.

Contradictions

I love the contradictions of the Philippines.

Jeeps and ignored traffic lanes
Mobilization and repression
Malls and poverty
Drainage and floods
Just two days ago, my FiRE sisters and i went to Barangay Damayan Lagi, a shanty town next to the San Juan river in Quezon City. Most of the residents have lived in that urban poor community for 20 some odd years, inheriting their “puesto” or space from other urban poor dwellers who built the structure before. They are in a fight against demolition. Inside of this month, the threat of demolition from the state looms over 260 families who will get pushed out in the name of President Aquino’s Public Private Partnership, where as Mylin, the lead Gabriela organizer there said will, “kill the public and make the private rich.” The PPP, as it is referred to here, prioritizes private investment and development for the public good, assuming that one more mall is good and assuming that the government, the arbiter of these deals, are for the public.
Jeni, the woman who offered her dwelling to us said, “Masakit isipin na maaalis kami dito. Nung lumipat kami dito, wala akong anak. Ngayon, tatlo na sila na lumaki dito.” It’s painful to think that we will be demolished. When I moved here, I didn’t have any kids. Now, I have all three here and they’ve grown up here. The popular rhetoric for the problem of “informal settlers” as the government labels them is that they are a nuisance, they squat, they pollute the rivers, they make the urban center ugly, etc. From the outside, we can only see their shantytowns as a nuisance, squatters, pollution and ugly.
But we often, always, fail to see the contradictions that live inside of them.
That there are families that have grown and laughed in those tiny dwellings. Those families who often barely have anything to eat, sometimes have cried together, evacuated the areas of their homes that is being swallowed up by flood, ran to the street because an electrical fire has ravaged the homes they built with their own hands.
That most of these “squatters” came from provinces. And that they way they know how to build their houses from pieces of wood, tarpaulin and corrugated metal comes from their knowledge of building bahay kubos with bamboo and parts of coconut trees. That the fact is, they all want to go back to their lives in the province but are unable to because there is no livelihood there. Landlessness is rampant. Usury and a landlord system starves their children even if they, and their ancestors have always known how to grow food.
That the pollution problem with “informal settling” is not that urban poor people are throwing their garbage into rivers but that the massive malls that excrete waste almost at the same rate as the construction of new malls are polluting as well. And because the corporations that build these malls are invisible because they serve the “public good,” the poor become framed as dirty, dangerous and decrepit.
After our visit to Damayan Lagi, my team and I went to a forum held by Alyansang Kontra Demolisyon (AKD), the Alliance Against Demolition. A metro-Manila wide coalition of urban poor organizations working towards resisting demolition through their main instrument “barricadang masa”–the people’s barricade. They have seen 2 success stories in the past year and have planned to mobilize their members to imminent demolitions. Ka Carlito of KADAMAY said that they can’t demolish all communities in one day, and if there is a demolition every day of the week the members of AKD will mobilize to fortify the people’s barricade wherever it is needed.
It’s been raining a lot here since I’ve arrived. After all, it is one of the two seasons here, tagulan, rainy season. And when it rains here, it floods. I often think of Jeni and wonder if the San Juan river has come to her family’s doorstep again. I often think of Jeni in hopes that I’ll be able to return to visit her, hoping that both the flood and the demolition won’t come to her doorstep.
The contradictions of the Philippines are stark and intense. And although, it strikes a chord in my heart, the very same organ swells with love and embrace for the conditions under which people live and the way that people resist those conditions.

Arundhati Roy

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/05/arundhati-roy-keep-destabilised-danger

I loved God of Small Things. But I love this Roy quote even more, “People have the right to resist annihilation.”

What Our Public Means and What We Can Do About It

What Our Public Means and What We Can Do About It: Michelle Fine’s CUNY Graduate Center Commencement Address (2011)

Michelle Fine’s Graduate Center Commencement Address::

 

Commencement Address

Forty-seventh Doctoral Commencement Exercises

The Graduate School and University Center

The City University of New York

May 27, 2011

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Urban Education and Women’s Studies

Good morning President Kelly, Honorees Ina Caro, Robert Caro and John Striecker, President Emeritus Francis Horowitz, Trustee Berry, Vice Chancellor Dobrin, honored guests on the platform from the Graduate Center Foundation Board, member of the Graduate Center Cabinet, faculty and most important the graduating class of 2011, family and friends…

CONFESSION: I am not Tony Kushner.

This week, like all weeks, we have had our share of political and environmental disasters but also great moments of hope. First, there was no rapture; it would have been a great, if tragic, irony after all those years of writing your dissertation…. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the State of California to reduce its inmate population by 32,000 inmates to “correct longstanding violations of inmates’ rights.” The New Jersey Supreme Court has instructed Governor Chris Christie to provide equitable school funding for the most resource deprived districts in the state. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi placed a restraining order on Wisconsin’s recent collective bargaining law. In a few days Tony Kushner will be getting his much deserved honorary degree and last evening was a stunning memorial to the great public intellectual Manning Marable.

Today, 334 of you will graduate from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, representing 41 countries including China, Romania, Burma, Congo, Colombia and also Bronx, Florida, Puerto Rico, Illinois and of course Staten Island.

As I understand it, from reviewing the transcripts of the graduating class, most of you were raised in homes that did not originally speak Foucault. Some of you have earned a Ph.D. after 10, 12, 17 years.

A double Mazel Tov to you for persistence.

Before you are hooded, I have one more assignment for you. Consider it a life time comprehensive exam. As you know, we are in a political, fiscal, ideological and intellectual custody battle for the soul of the public. You – the brilliant, diverse and deserving graduates of a, perhaps the,thriving, democratic, critical public institution for doctoral education – know intimately the joys of a stunning public higher education. Thus in gratitude to the taxpayers of New York and with love for the children of generations to come, I ask you today to consider how not if, you will engage in the struggle to defend and reclaim public education, as vital to our collective lives in a multi-racial democracy.

One might ask, when did public become a 4 letter word?  In the Spring of 2011, we have witnessed a dramatic fiscal and ideological make over of the public sphere; a grotesque shredding of budgets for public education and social services while millionaires and corporations enjoy tax breaks. Across the country, public officials have chosen to transfer the economic pain onto the already burdened poor and working class, in the drag as austerity, as if the economic crisis were natural and inevitable; as if we were truly engaged in shared sacrifice.  On every measure of social life, inequality gaps are swelling. British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009) document how these gaps jeopardize our collective human security in terms of health, infant mortality, crime, fear, violence, civic participation, voting and sense of shared fates. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich keeps reminding us that the wealthiest 1% own at least 25% of privately held wealth, while law professor and scholar Michelle Alexander, in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010) tells us that there are more Black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850 and the Chronicle of Higher Education continues to report that financial assistance to higher education is in jeopardy for low income youth and shamefully unavailable to students who are considered undocumented. On the front of educational policy for democracy, we have indeed lost our way. Fear not, for the drumbeats of organizing for educational justice can be heard across the country. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At the dawn of 1900s, W.E.B. Du Bois published The Crisis, a magazine committed to chronicling the ongoing exploitation of the African American community. Brilliant man, he understood that our country would not likely attend or respond to the cumulative structural neglect and miseducation of Black children until a profit could be made or until the people would revolt (see Du Bois, 1903).  One hundred years later, the perverse braiding of poor people’s pain with corporate profit is now becoming an American tradition, evident in predatory lending, housing foreclosures, the proliferation of for profit charters and the money being made from the prison industrial complex.

As my 96 year old mother would say, from Du Bois’ mouth to your ears, now we hear there’s a crisis! The media circulates caricatures of k – 12 educators, especially those with tenure and experience, by distributing popular images of Rubber Rooms, incompetence, greed and educators with criminal records. Some conservative media tried – unsuccessfully – to unsettle the reputation of our own brilliant Francis Fox Piven and other critical scholars of participatory democracy and labor studies. Periodic twitters bemoan fat pensions and the “tragedy” of public universities. These media stories occlude the sustained conditions of poverty and discrimination, highlight public sector “failure,” selectively report “data” on privatized success and serve as ideological lubricant for aggressive budget cuts, policies of privatization and relentless power (and land) grabs.

Enter a new regime of power brokers – thank you Robert Caro– subsidizing this reconfigured “common sense.” As the logic goes, the public sector is inefficient, corrupt, greedy and in need of radical reform, takeover and salvation. Leeching onto the pain of cumulative structural disinvestment in poor communities, this message resonates for some with justified outrage over about generations of miseducation in low income communities. But while corporations and market logic promise to save poor people from the inefficiency of the public, crucial political questions of participatory democracy, racial and ethnic justice, schools and universities as a resource in community life, the autonomy of knowledge, questions of community/youth/educator power, and accountability to whom? gently slip off the policy table and media headlines, into a neo-liberal wastebasket.

But this was Spring 2011 – your Spring, Arab Spring. We have witnessed a virtual human chain of educational struggles unleashed across the United States, stretching from the University of Puerto Rico and Madison, Wisconsin to Newark New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan where 5466 teachers – all of them – were given pink slips. Students, staff and faculty are organizing against the privatization of the University of California system, and of course at the City University of New York, students, staff and faculty, with scholars, artists and activists around the globe, organized a stunning and victorious campaign insisting that our Board of Trustees respect intellectual integrity and faculty governance and shaming their moments of silence.

These eruptive moments for educational justice have provoked funny little opportunities for new allies. In my brief remaining time, let me offer a quick story of surprising solidarity. When busloads of Professional Staff Congress (PSC) members traveled to Albany on March 23, 2011 to protest the budget cuts to CUNY, a small group of faculty, students and HEOs agreed to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested, to demonstrate the breadth and depth of this fiscal injustice. As the state troopers gently placed handcuffs on the aging PSC 33, a few whispered, “Thanks for doing this for public workers. You know, we can’t.” In Albany as in Madison we witness the emergence of a stunning, tentative but swelling alliance among college students and educators and police officers, firefighters, housing activists, k – 12 educators, social service advocates, public health workers and other public employees. Indeed, Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, not someone I quote often, spoke for his colleagues in Madison, asking, “Who are these evil teachers who teach your children, these evil policemen who protect them , these evil firemen who pull them from burning buildings? When did we all become evil?”

So you may decide to take up your third comprehensive exam in critical scholarship and/or activism in these struggles against the gentrification of public education. But before I end, I’ld like to complicate this work a bit. Let’s be honest. We don’t want to fight to keep lousy institutions open just because they are public. Engaged struggles for public financial support and democratic governance are necessary but not sufficient. Our vision must be bolder. We need your wisdom, scholarship and chutzpa to reclaim and restore the wide-open intellectual culture, participatory passions, and radical imagination of public institutions, to protect their vibrancy and to build a deep recognition of our profound interdependence. [I see some of you confused by the word chutzpa – if you don’t know what chutzpa is… you can’t really say you have a Ph.D. from CUNY! Ask a friend!]

Let me borrow an image from biology writer Janine M. Beynus (1997) who has lectured around the globe on mighty oak trees that survive natural disaster. Beynus pulls social problems up by their roots and asks, “How would nature solve this?” (Goldsmith and Elizabeth, 2011). Standing tall, almost unbowed, she tells us, oak trees grow in communities, expansive, bold and comfortably taking up lots of space. While they appear autonomous and free-standing, the truth is that they are held up by a thick, entwined maze of roots, deep and wide. These intimate underground snuggles lean on each other for strength, even and especially in times of natural disaster.

Because you have had the privilege of being educated at the Graduate Center and have probably taught throughout the CUNY system, networked by subways and email systems equally likely to fail at just the wrong moment, you know the thrill and terror of shared fates, the sweet comfort and knotty entanglements of entwined roots, and you know in your belly the intimate pain of inequality gaps sketched into the faces of your students. You know that we are weakened by segregated neighborhoods and schools, with some of us locked in gated communities, others behind bars, and increasing numbers deported. And you know how jazzed we can get in our wildly diverse CUNY classrooms as students or faculty, when we meet strangers in pulsating public spaces like parks, libraries, basketball courts and subways; as we listen to national public radio, bike in Prospect and Central Park, visit the Bronx Zoo and Botanical gardens; as we breathe in the luscious sounds and visions of museums and public concerts.

These spaces constitute productive sites of public possibility, provoking what John Dewey (1950) called “aesthetic” experiences which inspire sensual imagination for what might be, which he contrasted with “anesthetic” experiences that deaden “heart, mind and soul.”

Public education may be a deeply flawed, highly uneven system, a work in progress. It is, however, our only chance for participatory, collective sustainability. And so it is our work to deepen the roots and resurrect the aesthetic, provocative possibilities of public life, even and especially in hard times.

So, our collective project is nothing short of resuscitating diverse, critical, democratic spaces of serious scholarship for social transformation. Toward that end I want to honor our Angels of America working at the Graduate Center including the security officers working under Sergeant Cheryl Holder and with Stan Miller and the administrators, HEOs, the PSC and the adjuncts who stitch together the CUNY community so we don’t really know how precarious it all is. I know that naming names is dangerous business, but I want us to give a shout out to three unsung heroes at the Graduate Center who care intimately and always for your three basic needs – your heart, Vice President for Student Affairs Matt Schoengood; your wallet and fellowships, Associate Director of Graduate Assistant Programs, Anne Ellis; and your IRB application, the irreplaceable IRB Administrator Kay Powell. Matt, Anne and Kay are just a few of the administrators who ride the elevator thinking about how to resolve your crises, wholly attentive to students’ financial, academic and human needs, they can be found emailing quietly into the night.

And finally to our much beloved groundskeeper, President Bill Kelly who has sculpted the Graduate Center as a spa for intellectual engagement, critique, dialogue and labor. Over half a decade, Bill has not only protected our fiscal health and overseen our magnificent growth, but he has also nurtured the intellect, heart, ethics and deeply rooted public vision of the Graduate Center. Nationally and globally the Graduate Center is now one of the most highly desirable salons for public intellectuals committed to scholarship for social transformation and rekindling the public imagination. This is of course a stunning achievement in fiscally hard times, and you, the graduates are evidence of Bill’s success.

So this is public; this is why we pay taxes.  

                       

I leave you with a thought from the political theorist Hannah Arendt (1958), from the Human Condition where she argues for the vita activa. Arendt takes the position that public is not simply a noun or an adjective. At its most compelling, public is a verb: a set of commitments, your commitments, activities, labors, solidarities, disappointments and desires. Public grows deep and wide so we can all lean upon each other in good times and even more so in trying times. Public captures the dreams of the parents and grandparents sitting in the balcony of Avery Fisher Hall, reflecting your blood, sweat and tears, so that your babies could sit here, in the orchestra, with caps and gowns.

 

In closing, a mighty oak grows on Fifth. The Graduate Center stands strong and sturdy, public and democratic, diverse and intellectually provocative. But these are precarious times, financially, politically, ideologically and intellectually.  Unless we redress the unregulated rush to privatize and reclaim the soul of the public, you could be the pruned generation, among the last to enjoy the sweet roots of public support.

And so, to the gorgeous, brilliant and diverse graduating diaspora of the Graduate Center 2011, I wish you lives of meaning, justice, friendship, outrage, joy, long walks, sweet dreams, thrilling scholarship and laughter.

Give money to the Graduate Center, remember your roots, and go public – everywhere you can.

references

Alexander, Michelle (2010) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

Arendt, Hannah (1958) The Human Condition.  Chicago: University of  Chicago Press.

Beynus, Janine M. (1997) Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.  New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Dewey, John (1950) Aesthetic Experience as a Primary Phase and as an Artistic Development. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 9 (1), 56 – 58.

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co.; [Cambridge]: University Press John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A., 1903; Bartleby.com, 1999.

Goldsmith, Stephen and Elizabeth, Lynne (2010) What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs.  Oakland, California: New Village Press.

Reich, Robert (2011) http://robertreich.org/

 

Wilkinson, Richard and Pickett, Kate (2009) The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. London: Bloomsbury Press

**

All copyright to this document belong to Dr. Michelle Fine, mfine AT gc DOT cuny DOT edu

 

Learning Online

In some respects as an Instructional Technology Fellow, I really understand what its like to improve classes with technology both for undergraduates and for professors. I see how taking advantage of young people’s dexterity with the internet and their “gadgets” can actually be helpful for learning.

But I am totally uneasy with the the intimacy between technology and capitalism in education. Yesterday, I read a bit about how online classes are being positioned to take the positions of professors in universities. Today, the Times publishes an article about how online courses are now peddled to high school classes to “prepare” them for college.

While, I hope that the same amount of time and resources is being spend on critical thinking, writing and reading comprehension, I highly doubt it.

Nawal El-Saadawi

In about half an hour, I’ll be going to hear a long-time Egyptian feminist, activist, sociologist, medical doctor, Nawal El-Saadawi, speak at the Graduate Center. She was present at the recent uprising in Tahrir Square and will share her reflections on women, Egypt and the revolution.

I wanted to make available the readings that were distributed to prepare for her talk today which can be found HERE on the website of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CPCP) at the Grad Center. I’d especially like to flag the piece by Omnia El Shakry, “Egypt’s Three Revolutions” in light of the refreshingly awake conversation we had at the Labor, Crisis, Protest seminar today about the relationships between the inspiring and sometimes surprising eruptions of mass protest from the Gaza Flotilla to the French General Strike to the Tahrir Square and now Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

We talked a bit about how we, really, are in a moment were there are these eruptions of mass resistance. And trying to understand how, why and under what conditions they are happening is sort of crucial, both politically and intellectually. Do the changing sets of relations in these revolutionary instances have anything to do with one another? Is asking the question about how they might hold something in common, irrelevant? Should we see each protest as their own, particular, discontinuous phenomena?

El Shakry argues that instead of viewing the 2011 revolution in Egypt as “new” and “spontaneous,” we should see it as a continuation of the revolutions in Egyptian history and the intensification of political contradictions and complex economic conditions.

In the seminar earlier (we had just finished listening to Paul Mason and reading his book), some of the fellows were remarking about how many of revolutions that had erupted in their lifetimes (1968, in particular) really galvanized masses of people from around the world, because it made claims to a universal humanity. People were fighting for humanity, dignity and respect. And they were all coincidentally doing it at the same time. Or were they? Is it about humanity or is it about what El Shakry is talking about, a movement-induced, crisis-embedded eruption? Or are those two sides, really on one coin?

 

Copycats

http://www.latina.com/immigration-by-state

This is an interactive map that shows how many states in the US is copying the Arizona bill.

Yesterday, my co-CPCP fellow, Jen Ridgley, told me that anti-immigrant sentiment doesn’t necessarily correlate with an increase in immigration. That we should denaturalize the correlation because rises in nativism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are bound up in other things like economic policy, political conservatism and, what else?

International Working Women’s Day

100 years ago, Clara Zetkin proposed to second International Conference of Working Women in 1910 that there should be a day dedicated to the international struggle of working women. The day was adopted by this historic conference attended by over 100 working women from unions, socialist parties and working women’s clubs, representing 15 or more countries and in 1911, millions of women across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland marched to fight for jobs and suffrage.

Then, just on the heels of these inspiring actions, in New York City, the fire at the triangle shirtwaist factory killed 146 women workers who were locked in to their workplace and substandard wages and inhumane conditions. This massacre galvanized the working women’s movement and solidified March 8th as an international working women’s day, to remind us of women’s ability and need to struggle to change the conditions under which they live.

Today, that impetus remains. Even though the idea of international women’s day has gone all mainstream, from Goldman Sachs and even Michelle Obama is on board. We’ve gotta remember its roots and therefore, remind ourselves the reasons to attend March events for international solidarity or march on the street.

Women are still engaging in militant actions, grassroots organizing and movement-building strategies to empower women to take part wholly in building a society they want to live in. And the world’s ruling elite still invested in global capitalism are still doling out conditions that marginalize a big part of the world, most of them in the 3rd world and in the 3rd world sections of the first world. Women are feeling the brunt in their jobs or lack thereof, in their families, and in their communities.

In the Filipino community (here, I mean, the Philippines + Filipino diaspora), Gabriela Philippines, the largest and national alliance of women’s organization in the Philippines; Gabriela USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations in the US; and FiRE, a national democratic women’s organization in NYC, have all written a bit of political analysis and call for the 100th commemoration of international working women’s day. Also, the International Women’s Alliance, an alliance of anti-imperialist women’s organizations worldwide. Peep.

 

Diwang Pinay

Sunday, March 6, 2011 – 2pm matinee and 7pm
and March 13, 2011 – 2pm matinee and 7pm

DIWANG PINAY: Kasaysayan sa Likod ng Babaeng Manggagawa
The Story Behind the Woman Worker

Hunter College-Lang Recital Hall
WWW.FIRENYC.ORG
Hunter College-Lang Recital Hall
695 Park Ave.
New York, NY.10065

Buy your tickets now!!!
https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/148331

Since February 2010, a group of Filipino women across generations, both age and migration, have gathered weekly to create an original staged play about migration, family and resilience. Diwang Pinay follows the story of Maria, a domestic worker in the NYC area who left the Philippines to support her family by migrating only to face challenges in a new city and figure out a way to survive. See the world through her eyes as a migrant and mother.

The process of creating this original work has bestowed a multigenerational group of Filipinas, immigrant and American-born, a unique experience to write, produce and direct stories about the lives of Filipino domestic workers living and working in New York City. This production is a collaboration between Kabalikat Domestic Worker Support Network, a program of the Philippine Forum and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-Gabriela USA.

View the trailer, HERE!

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For a very long time, I’ve been collaborating and working with Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network and FiRE on producing a play about the experiences and lives of the resilient and inspiring domestic workers in our community here in NYC. FiRE and Kabalikat women have not only put together a compelling play, they have also proven that academic research and cultural work via theater arts are totally viable avenues for community-building and capacity-building of women’s leadership and organizing.

Community-building

This process has brought ostensibly different sets of Filipinos, women, immigrants, children of immigrants from seemingly separate walks of life, professions, backgrounds and interests and brought them together to engage meaningfully in discussion about our community’s histories of migration and resistance. And although, many of our experiences together brought us to tears it also brought us closer to one another.

Instead of polarizing us from one another, our experiences of trauma in migration and living and surviving in the US, whether it was our own or our mothers’ or our grandmothers’, gave us a platform to see how many of these systems of displacement (forced migration, racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, capitalism) are ordered by capitalism’s brokenness. We were careful not to privilege one struggle over anothers’. We made sure that although we experienced these oppressions differently, everyone had a seat around the table and that she was heard. We often brought food to that table and embraced one another before we left, if not only to remind ourselves that we weren’t alone.

Responsibly and respectfully, the FilAm women in this process owned the privileges they came with and further, always negotiated the space they took up, the roles and tasks they took up and figured out a good way to let their internal (class) contradictions live in the same room as the domestic workers, whose external contradictions were so obviously about class.

At the times when my Type A would kick in and I made some quick-style decisions, both FiRE and Kabalikat women were quick to stop me and get me to engage in a more collective discussion about anything and everything. It was safe enough for them to kick me and for me to be kicked.

I think I’m most grateful about the relationships that were built across and within organizations. Women were able to share their stories, to be understood more deeply and listen to others’ stories, to understand more deeply.

For our organizations, our objectives when we set out to do this play were simple, to build stronger ties between organizations and to heighten awareness about the migrant woman’s struggle. Check and check.

Research

Because the reality is that I am a doctoral student and that I have a dissertation to write, the process of Diwang Pinay was a critical time and opportuntiy to really immerse with Filipino domestic workers. The women and their lives, are the subject of my intellectual work but, more importantly, my political work. But the academic that I am, I think that creating this play really allowed me to think through some of my dissertation analysis.

I remember, I told Candice, the director of Diwang Pinay, that Diwang Pinay was to Kabalikat as dissertation was to me. I think of the process of data gathering and analysis to be parallel to each other. In the beginning quarter of this year long process, we engaged in journaling, mapping, sculpting and talk story to build a well of stories about anything and everything–open-ended interviewing, if I may.

Then in the second quarter, we met monthly to talk more deeply about themes that came up over and again–open coding.

In the third quarter, we sat down together, all of us to start writing the important scenes we wanted to show the world, the messages that domestic workers wanted to convey about their lives and work–closed coding. In this third quarter, we relied lots on the indigenous knowledge of domestic workers about working in a new city, charting out migration patterns and more. We depended on FiRE women’s abilities to transcribe and technological dexterity to record and document the stories. This closed coding–the process of exacting the themes that were most relevant and interesting to domestic workers–also became the markers for me about the themes that could and, might very well be, the chapters to my dissertation: transitions to working as a domestic, computer technology’s significance to migrant motherhood; a “chosen” diasporic family, the need for me to go to the Philippines to interview families left behind.

Lastly, in these last few months, rehearsing the scenes, lines and images we wanted to portray felt like repetition that is bound up in trying to internalize and understand the argument in a disseration.

And although I don’t have hundreds of pages to give to my dissertation committee, I feel like that the generative elements of this production is about the logic in which we went about figuring out how to do this but also in the relationships it built–meaning that the intellectual work that I’m about to produce isn’t some removed theorization. It is based on, came from and collaborated with the very community it is about.

Lil Letter to Wayne

Georgia

Georgia is taking lead from Arizona.

This makes me sad, but it also makes me wonder about how much realer does anti-immigrant sentiment have to get before we call it racism–and well, just wrong.

Epifanio De Los Santos

Context: I just got back from the Philippines. Like. Yesterday.

All of us climbed into a van headed to Quezon City, all 12 of us. As we passed by “Our Lady of Peace” and made a right onto Edsa, my sister, Alexie, asked our aunt, MamaNes, “What is that?”

She began to tell us the story of EDSA, 25 years ago. She talked about how everyone came out to the streets to let their voices be heard against the dictatorship. She remembered how she took her 9-year old daughter to the streets on one of the last nights of the protests in fear that she wouldn’t be able to get back home that night, she had decided that the rally was important enough for her daughter to skip school for. She turned to my mother and remembered how swollen her ankles were from walking so far and how big my mother’s stomach was, pregnant with my sister. She reminisced about the lightness she felt in the streets with the people there, how people and restaurants would bring food to offer it to the random strangers who held down the protest lines; and how Nanay, my grandmother, insisted on taking pan de sal, pancit, sandwiches and water with her to the rally to give out to the protesters. MamaNes remarked at the spirit of giving that held the protesters together, from the shrine to Cubao, so close to toppling the dictator that held them apart for so long. People Power. The electricity of it not only successful at ousting a dictator, but more importantly, bringing people together in unity for a purpose, to restore life.

Yesterday was EDSA People Power 1’s 25th anniversary.

In the wake of Egypt’s People Power, and Libya’s growing resistance and the resonance across the Middle East and North Africa, it is fitting to think about the consequences and lessons learned from EDSA, if only that struggling peoples can find the strength to carry out the change they have truly intended and manifested through mass mobilization.

25 years after People Power, the Philippines is bereft of substantial social services. The costs of daily goods are consistently out of the reach of common people. Peasant and landlord systems are concretely in place in a majority of rural areas in the Philippines. And when I say majority, I mean, most of the Philippines. Like, people still live in huts with no running water. Needless to say, development is uneven. Makati condo skyrises v. nipa huts. It’s like 2011 and 1950 is all going on at the same exact moment. Migration is the only option for most Filipinos and the migrant industry is the flimsy stilts on which the Philippine GDP is perched upon. To add insult to injury, most Filipinos working abroad are working low-wage jobs and are exploited and abused at an alarming rate.

A list of few among many. So these are all rehearsed and, as a matter of fact, common knowledge now. Even to Filipinos who participated in People Power 1. They all know this is how it is. These facts are actually the reasons why People Power 2 had to happen.

But the question remains, why and what went wrong? No simple answers here. And really, this question deserves a dissertation length explanation.

But for me, and my blog, and my jetlag, and you my  wordpress readers, here are some of my thangs:

People power wasn’t followed by People’s Governance

I think that the mass mobilization on EDSA 15 years ago was botched when a government and governance didn’t follow its inspiration from the outcry and demands of the Filipino people. Then, the democracy that was inserted in was influenced heavily by US political leverage that was already in place via the 1940-shennanigans aka Philippine independence. The economic decisions and strategy development leaned on foreign investors and capital. So when could the Filipino people really say what they wanted and how they wanted their own country to be run? Nevaaa.

No on asked what they needed

For a government to figure out what things they need to work on and what thing they need to start doing, shouldn’t someone do a thorough assessment of what people need and want? I’m not sure if there were any comprehensive analysis of the national needs and problems of the Filipino people. If the Philippine government published such a document, please forward it to ya girl.

“Those who look outside dream, those who look inside awaken.” Carl Jung, said that. (And I also saw it on a subway poster earlier)

I think post-dictatorship times makes all this room for civic engagement and new democratic space, but if the outlook of those who are in positions of power is towards how to compete in the global capitalist game, then things get all screwed up. Really the above quote is about those–like national bourgeoisie, land lords and ruling elites of the Philippines–who look outside–meaning to foreign and external forces and capitalists–will always be dreaming of trying to get where the big dogs are at. But really a good start could be to look inside–to the Filipino people themselves, what they need, how they want things to be run.

Ok, last thing for tonight, this outside dreamers and inside awakeners idea really resonates with me. The whole time I was in Manila, I really took notice to how much inefficiency there was in the malls, banks, restaurants. All of the places that were disguised as first world development. All of the places that looked like wannabe-American.

And then, when I was in the Visayas, in the rural areas, I noticed all the ingenuity Filipinos had in working their land, building boats, living on such meager means. Building outriggers, boats, houses, rainwater collectors, so much more, from out of what they had at their arms reach.

When Filipinos try to look outside, and be like other people, it is a hot mess. But when I saw them understand their needs, master their surroundings and build from there, wow. That’s gotta be something.

People power, man. Power to the people, cuz we did it twice. Third time’s a charm.