….wild is the wind…creative freedom is the seed….
I did a lot of soul searching before deciding to discuss this topic because of JFK’s assassination and the subsequent assassination of Robert.F. Kennedy (RFK), the mere mention of the name, left some people in awe and stressed. Given the current US political climate, I did not want to add to the stress. It scared Randy Rodriguez (Kel1st) in recent times to the point where he wanted me to pretend we never talked about anything important in our 6 years of creative collaborations together. The rhetoric of Trump ‘s divisive hate speeches toward Mexicans and other Hispanic communities, drove many into self-censorship and silence in the last two years. Fears of losing livelihoods made some courageous and others, go into an oppressed hiding, hoping the storm will blow over. As I write this during the USA Government Shutdown, I understand the fears resonated with all 800000 government workers and their families. I am also appalled by the attempt of American Neo-Nazis to appropriate Martin Luther King Jnr. day for their personal, unethical agenda.
Objectively, I told Kel1st that it is not possible to rewrite history because it would be creatively dishonest to say we never discussed some of the casual brain-storming I did with the inimitable Jane Kagon, the Director of Robert Kennedy Foundation in Los Angeles, over the last 7 years.
I urge all creatives inside and alongside the Graffiti/Hip Hop Nation worldwide, some of you are all dear to my heart, otherwise I would not spend 6 years (almost weekly) art bickering with one of your own, please don’t be silent if you are facing systemic discrimination from those with far right racist alignments!!! An oppressive, racially segregated, fake news infested, KKK endorsed bunch of pro- #Trump #maga bullies NEED you to be scared and silent so that your human rights can be systematically taken away!
While I never personally identified with the legacy of Martin Luther King Jnr. , as I am too far removed from the history of slavery of the USA, I’ve had the honor to meet those whose grandfathers and fathers “stood up for ” racial equality and stood beside the likes of Gandhi, Nehru, and the Bishop Desmond Tutus of the world. Members of my own family, stood up to war crimes in Japanese occupied Hong Kong. We understand the psychological warfare of race-based imperialism, disguising hate crimes as Nationalism. Some members of my family “spin-ed against it” and became the godfathers of Extreme Asian Cinema!
I was pleasantly surprised when I went for a Fresco Masterclass in Florence in 2014, there was a Hong Kong cinema retrospective up in the hills of Fiesole featuring some of the anti war crime propaganda films I knew so well. The location was at a former Italian Socialism club which acts as a community cinema, youth club, cafe and bar. It has the best views over Florence, so whenever I am in Florence, I always visit there to spend a lazy afternoon.
I was so happy to learn that Mrs Ethel.Kennedy and family decided to promote RFK Human Rights (RFK HR) in Italy. The current climate in Italy 2019 is counter-intuitive to human rights. On the 6th November 2017, RFK Human Rights hosted a Gala and Award Ceremony at the Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze. It is a wonderful space and Human Rights is such an important global issue!
I remember the space well as I met some of the artists that are part of the conservation team for the frescoes in there and in many other historic sites like the Sistine Ceiling, during my art journey there.
What I loved about the Italians, were their ability to understand emotional displays and find the strategic center motivating the expressions. For example, in our championship of human rights, many of us can feel frustrated and vent when working with Human Rights Projects. Many of us who work in humanitarian projects worldwide, trying to safeguard human rights, vent and rant behind closed doors to those we trust, on a weekly basis. We helped one another by allowing a safe space to vent, and make vocal our dark thoughts and resentment towards what seemed like impossible odds. We are committed to protecting human lives and the associated rights for all human beings, whom we may never meet, but whose rights to a dignified existence, we believe, must be universally respected, but are often violated with impunity.
There are moments of lighthearted humor in the dark rants, that I maintain like pillow talks, should never be published unless the failure to do so will confuse, obfuscate and detract from the raison-d’etre of our humanitarian missions!
Well, unless one is a professional comedian, in which case I refer all to the wonderful entertainment by Mr.Alec. Baldwin during the Ripple of Hope Award 2018! 🙂
There are great speeches, like “I had a dream” delivered by Martin Luther King Jnr. or the speech given by Robert Kennedy announcing the assassination of MLK, which should not be forgotten.
In between the historically significant speeches, the dark rants facing momentary setbacks or the frivolous fun, usually #sarcasm laced, comments on social media like twitter, are the USEFUL brainstorming juices, that seemed like mere venting and trolling, usually directed at unreasonable bigots and troll-bots, but years later, contribute significantly to global humanitarian policies.
It is this particular style of free flow, intuitive discourse, beloved by artists and creatives, that I would like to focus on and share because it is both creatively significant and historically truthful!
For the past few years, I’ve had regular informal brainstorming sessions with Jane Kagon, the Director of RFK LA , even during the California Fire 2018 when she was in the middle of it. More frequently I’ve engaged in what seemed like endless Art Bicker Fights with Kel1st from South Bronx. Jane is a friend and someone I feel safe, inside an art mandala, to discuss things that bothered me. The most recent art discourse that bothered me was when Kel1st wanted to commit art suicide because he felt his art was being killed. Most of the time, he sounded frazzled, rushed and extremely upset!
What it did show me was the “psychological oppression” the Trump administration inflicted on the psyche of an ordinary Hispanic American man, who without the art force in his life, would be one among many in an office cubicle. I saw similar energy when I slapped a prominent GOP ‘s nephew in the middle of a Tibetan Monastery when he kept instigating #metoo incidents around me. I know that tactic. What I wanted to ask of all is, “How did America ended up here?”
After researching into the days of Segregation, I am reminded of the words of my ancestor, who wrote of the need for Chinese people to fend off “economic racist segregation” in the new world. Ironic. My ancestor in San Francisco in mid 18th century, thought about the threat of “economic racism” and discussed new ideas about the new world with all his peers. A few decades later, a man by the name of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, repeated the same sentiment in his many speeches delivered in his native Cantonese dialect about “The need of all chinese people to defend ourselves against Economic Race Based Segregation” at the dawn of the 19th century! Go figure! “Jesus” Yu ( it was a nicknames he got from his siblings, who were so sick of his incessant discussion about his christian conversion in the new world when he returned to China) knew what he was talking about, way back when he saw the dawning of some new world trade routes!
Anyway, when I read about the red-lining, the white exodus of certain neighborhoods, the policy of economic apartheid from way back in the 18th century that culminated in the modern ghettos that gave us “The Bronx is Burning“, it was very easy for me to understand! I knew exactly what black activists were talking about. My only reflection was: “Why didn’t your ancestors chat with my Chinese great great grandpa and his friends back then in Chinatown, they went beyond economic #RESISTENCE!”
When I said that in some other parallel discussion, everyone thought I was joking! No. I was not. When people asked me why I am still talking to annoyingly neurotic Kel1st , given the huge gaps in our up-bringing and world views, the only honest response I could give was,”Because my Chinese ancestors thought this was a good thing, in order to improve the Arts, and thus Life, in the future for all people, Chinese and otherwise if they want a peaceful life !”
Again, many thought I was joking! No. I was not.
On a lighter side, with Jane at RKF, I also shared my sense of amusement, when following my resignation as Far Eastern Ambassador to the NYC based UN Women’s empowerment network, the BBB ( Bush’s Bible Bashers) earnestly invited me to join them in their online Bible study groups that proved “Trump is the 2nd coming of the 666 Beast”!!!!!!!!!! Lulz……I had to exercise all my self control to stop myself from suggesting that they should Impeach Trump and shave his head so that his “666” Damien Tattoo will be revealed before the Grand Jury! Lol. Bring back the Inquisition #sarcasm !
Instead I just thanked them politely and sent them some hip hop video with a line I think they will understand, “You don’t stand for something. You fall for anything!” I don’t think they heard of it. I forgot the name of the artist but I hope they got it. 🙂
Anyway, now you know, not everything in life is serious inside trusted creative circles and some things are “For REAL” even if it sounds “funny” to you. If you are still incredulous, I suggest a heavy dose of Humility and simply drop your assumptions about Asian looking people!
Human Rights lobbying is not a trendy affectation for me. It is a lifelong deeply held idea and the fulcrum of my decision making. Where I probably erred is on the level I assumed everyone else would be interested. Thus in 2013, completely fascinated by the possible “rise of the 666 Beast” (according to Bush’s fans) following a late night discussion with the Director of RKF, I started bringing some of the ideas of RFK into my regular Art brain-storming with Randy Rodriguez. Maybe I dragged him reluctantly into sharing my hobby horse, maybe he was ALSO creatively and morbidly fascinated by the Kennedy assassinations? He was very keen to explore this theme in the era of Obama. Only in the Dark Age of Trump did he started to hide his inputs. Let’s hope he takes some herbs to calm down and find his courage again? 🙂 I am sick of all that hiding up a tree and refusing to articulate what is wrong. Lol. Any way, back in the 90s, his friends Public Enemy ( see By the time I get to Arizona) agreed with me, and “Lefty” who left Harlem, went Globetrotting and now in 2019, “Dare 2 Dream” does too. So there! I can’t be that far off if so many in the Bronx agree! 🙂
So we agreed to brainstorm some ideas about spreading “social justice and human rights”. I was not sure what to do with Jane’s Planet Justice. I don’t think it conveyed, for me sitting outside the USA. But some themes became a part of all of our art development nevertheless. While the artist for Kel1st, screamed “traction” and “branding”, the reality of what is meaningful for the art, was being co-created outside of our personal control as artists.
Woven into the roots of the creative process, were the brainstorming and the feed backs, between ourselves and those inside the trusted circles. We talked about the protest branch of hip-hop, which grew up from elements of the chain gang songs, African beats and how many of his peers became an entire hip-hop founding generation who grew up with the assassination of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and the rise of the Black Panther etc. as their only social reality.
It made me realized, apart from being worlds apart, we also came from different cultural decades!
I don’t know how effective we, the artists, were. I would not say our creative development was “the best” or “the worst”, but what it did do was provide nuances, from very different socio-economic perspectives and enabled a fairly important direct historic lineage transfer; the kind of things that help all Chinese arts lineages maintain integrity after thousands of years of inter-generational transfer of knowledge, and without which no new innovative schools could be properly established in 6000 years of history. Lol. Coincidentally, it was this type of “maintaining integrity of the arts lineages” that Chairman Mao tried to interrupt by killing scholars, artists and thinkers. But since the Han Emperor who also tried that and failed, we are not sure why the Great Chairman Mao failed to learn from history, perhaps his limited illiteracy level meant he was unable to read many historic classics; hence he made up his own simplified chinese to cover his ignorance of classical traditional Chinese text? What do I know, my ancestors’ ideas were directly quoted by Doctor. Sun. I am sure they had no idea what they were doing! (sic.)
Anyway, RFK had myriads of Ivy Academics, Industry experts and Ivy grads, vying to be a part of the foundation’s history. Hell, an ex-wife of an English Royal offered to donate her time in a high tea session, with VIP donors to RKF! There were also private tours of the Kennedy Compound at Cape Cod on charity auctions, which I personally thought was more interesting than high tea, because I love sailing. It was #snl fun! But it was not all presentations to Oprah’s Inc. to champion Education!
There were times when the important messages gained no interest, even I found aspects of it, not terribly “relatable” because it did not focus enough on the aforementioned “racist economic segregation”. In my humble opinion, economic segregation has succeeded in USA 2019 because Legal Desegregation failed to fully address the economic segregation in the creation of ghettos. This failure went all the way to the time of Lincoln! This is a message that failed to get the appropriate results, in spite of generations of hip hop and graffiti artists screaming it out! Instead nasty economic segregation tactics bullied them all in Harlem. Still, I asked, “How did America get here?”
Again, why didn’t anyone speak to Jesus Yu and his friends, back in the 18th century, when what you now called San Francisco had some “zoning disputes”? They were Cantonese and Hakka. Unlike the aloof Qing Manchus, they were pretty talkative, gritty, practical and down-to-earth people. I think, deep down, we all know what the real reasons were.
There was a moment in my art studio one night, where Jane and I talked about how scary the “coming of the 666 Beast and his cabinet” (BBB in-joke) were. It felt like over the years, so many humanitarian issues were flagged and discussed. I got a sense of how the visionary ideas often seemed “vague” when presented ahead of its time. It made me think about the weird graffiti quote that I paraphrase as “Innovators are the first to see the path, and the last to be recognized…”! I think it was Kel1st ‘s slightly more congenial younger brother who kept using that quote. I don’t remember. Lol.
Ironically China reached the dark side of the moon in the same week as I discovered 800,000 people will go without pay over Christmas, while many in the media continued to side-step the issue of Systemic Economic Racism as a policy from the White House since 2016.
Fact-checking a Racist, is futile. The entire premise of Racism is factually flawed.
It is more important to remind people of the emotional “Realness” in Robert Kennedy’s disappointment when MLK Jnr. was killed. I heard it once. I felt it. Randy Rodriguez honestly thought it did not resonate with him because he was Puerto Rican American, he felt he had a different history. Did he forget Puerto Rico’s current reality post Hurricane Maria?
That sounded weird for me, so once I asked him directly,” Are you mixed race? ”
He gave me a weird answer about how he wished he got Afro hair when he was little but never got it. What does that mean?????? I never understood if that meant Yes or No????
I didn’t think that was a weird question, given Gen Z has the largest multiracial population of any generational cohort at 5%. But that number understates the total multi-ethnic population between 4 and 20 years of age, because the U.S. Census does not include Hispanics in its count of multiracial persons. So basically most Hispanics are the same as “honorary white” equivalent in South Africa’s Apartheid system! But in #Trumpland, Afro-Americans are put above Mexicans in his bigotry ladder! Does that all make sense? It would if your Daddy was arrested at a KKK rally in 1927 and if all your friends are arrested by the FBI ! Do Not confuse 666 Evil, with the hilarious BBB whose “Holy Mother” icon Barbara, who had, at the very least, the decency to say that while she hate abortion, she just could not make the choice for someone else! Lol.
It was an insult to human decency and intelligence, as well as the legacies of human rights champions worldwide, for “Gay Conversion Therapy” champion Pence to compare any deeds of a child of a KKK member to MLK ! I am very glad MLK’s son expressed all of our disdain for Pence’s immorality! We support Pence’s gay bunny, Marlon Bundo !
Jokes aside, I understood Kel1st was awkward about the question of his genes, like my Miss. Australia beauty queen friend from South Africa. She was wary about saying she was mixed race; Indian, Jewish and Dutch! She whispered it to me once on a train ride to see the Dalai Lama in Melbourne. I got free tickets so I took her along! 🙂
So, Stockholm Syndromes that lead to self-censorship are REAL even if no one is trying to lynch you! It was not his lack of “meds for lunch” that made that horrible d-grade rapper wannabe deny the history of slavery! “It is still the same old story…a fight for love and glory” while lesser cowards sang “Springtime for Hitler” without a hint of irony! lol. #showbiz
Sure, no Human Rights Champion was ever the perfect, irreproachable Symbol they grew into at a later point in history: Not Martin Luther King Jnr. Not Nelson Mandela. Not Sun Yat Sen, Gandhi nor Aung San Sui Kyi. Human beings will always be flawed. Symbols are perfect because they are often created posthumously.
The point is to choose the right Humanitarian side of history, in the present.
It is the Pyrrhic victory of the “casual baby-boomer racism” propaganda machinery in the Trump GOP era that concerned me in my creative dialogues about the moment when Robert Kennedy met the Martin Luther King Jnr. Their political alignment in Equal Rights bolstered their respective, and indeed, respectable legacies.
In times of chaotic extremism, the historic struggle to regain “center” in the Civil Rights Movements interested me!
Once upon a time, a white supremacist political candidate might be seen as “the norm” in the times of Slavery and Segregation. One would wish the Party of Lincoln would come to some enlightenment in 2019 instead of remaining complicit with the son of a KKK member. But let us not hold our breathes! Some people are so far behind, they think they are in front with their “Let them Eat Cake” attitude towards basic human rights!
How did America get here? Did Lady Liberty snuff out her own torch, when MLK, JFK & RFK were murdered?
During my stay at the United Arts Club in Ireland, I saw this verse by Yeats in many billboards around Dublin and it was only much later in my research inside the RFK digital library that I realized it was cited by Robert Kennedy:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
The Second Coming by W.B.Yeats
If today’s world is but an echo of what history ushered in after the assassination of the Kennedy ‘s. How apt! Nixon’s era, like Mao’s Cultural Revolution, was a dark and dangerous time in our collective modern history, especially against free speech. So I hear, as I was not born then!
I do not know what it would take for things to get better. Maybe everything. Maybe nothing. There will be empty threats and egotistical attacks (most likely on Twitter! lol.)
“…..the worst are full of passionate intensity…”
Though I do hope, from my experience of the creative brain-storming around many Human rights issues, at the very least, “the best” do not “lack all conviction”…maybe they were slow to respond because they saw years ahead, they were burdened by the gravity and the depth of the problem? Maybe, they got tired of the hysterical fake news screaming nonsense and took a nap? 🙂
In the past two years, I slowed down and paused. I took a year off to go to Film & TV production school because I wanted to explore this creative medium on my own terms, without all that “Godfathers of Extreme Asian Cinema” inherited expectations. In the last two years, all I saw of Kel1st was a lot of sadness, irrational howling from stress and being upset without being able to explain why.
It was hard to imagine a grown man who punched his way out of South Bronx being so rattled by the simplistic Hispanic “hate crime” propaganda of Trump. Yet I must confess I do not have the context just as he never understood the context that meant all grass-root Humanitarian Project workers end up venting vehemently and at times callously in private, while on an impersonal humanitarian level, they want the best strategies for those whose human rights they work tirelessly to protect! Unless a person lived through such a paradox, an outsider will only “guess wrong”.
I was appalled by the separation of refugee children from their parents, at the Southern Border. I did a bit of digging and found that in Robert Kennedy’s USA, Hong Kong philanthropist like Mrs. Lee brought refugee orphans, from China’s famine during Mao’s Revolution, to safety in California. So, if any overseas Chinese are still wondering why I blocked all invitations to join, “Chinese American for Trump” or why I refused to support your GOP candidates in mid-term, I only have this to say to you, ” Lock your own communist Chinese refugee kids in cages first then you can collaborate with evil after! #sarcasm ”
Honesty is not a lonely word inside the creative art space anyway! Lol. As my Jewish cancer research doctor Uncle said,” Scientifically it all depends on what baseline you are using as a measure! Artists would not be a recommended baseline for the average “norm”! ” Indeed.
In a round about way, the issue of “context” brings me back to bipartisan politics. I’ve struggled with the whole BBB thing because there are some extremely respectable Asian scholars who support some past GOP’s international policies, because it helped human rights dissidents inside China. They liked the way Bush lobbied against involuntary abortion and sterilization of non-Han minorities in China and defended Christians prosecuted by Beijing in many incidents of human rights violations! But in the context of inside the USA, BBB GOP s stance on Equal rights, fundamentalist promulgation of religions fanaticism against Women’s bodily autonomy and pro NRA Gun Policies, are the stuff of Geneva Convention level war crimes, rooted in an Economic Racist Segregation policies!
So without indulging in Moral Equivalency, there is still the reality that in 2019, for those oppressed by Emperor Xi in China, GOP s are God’s little helpful angels and for some inside the USA, the GOPs are oppressive servants of the “second coming of the 666 Beast” especially during this Trump government shutdown!
Angels and Demons exist in the context of the beholder but some things have the power to “center” and provide the moral compass to guide us through the myriads of horse manure we are bombarded with daily.
After I was bombarded with yet another set of GOP s looking for Chinatown (East and West coast lol.) political endorsements, I finally just asked if I could clarify publicly the Kel1st and Yu’s creative position from the past few years re: The Robert Kennedy Foundation and RFK Human Rights.
The answer was a simple,”Use it. The only thing is it cannot be used in any political endorsement. But Use it creatively if it can do some good! ”
I will use it via the Art force because deep down, with all the mass hysteria, if the center is never regained, it is those around Kel1st in the Bronx , whose lives are most impacted by the social instability of a Failing Government ie. the veterans, the postal service staff, the train drivers, the government contractors, the construction workers and the NSA security staff who are using food banks.
No matter how much he howls and tantrums inside the Art mandala, deep down, he knows exactly the fear of not making ends meet (even when it is no longer true in his life), of becoming the working poor, the stress of being unable to put food on the family table, the distress of insufficient healthcare, the madness created by social instability and gun crimes.
An artist for Kel1st can do lots of interviews saying everything was “Kellogg’s cornflakes” advert great in #Trumpland, the art energy inside the art mandala is quintessentially honest and objects vehemently to any “White Wash Hustle”! Still..taxes…are unrelenting…since he never got the tax breaks Trump gave to his rich friends and MacDonald’s won’t be feeding his kids for free, not that he would feed them constant junk foods if he had options! Lol.
At times like this, the best “The BEST” can do is to pick up our pens, our brushes, our cameras, our spray cans, our musical instruments, and as artists and human beings, create a vision for humanity of what is Artistically Authentically “THE BEST” , so that it endures beyond “the Worst of times” where the worst are screaming with passionate intensity, probably destroying copies of Charter of the United Nations and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by feeding it into a paper shredder. The world might for a moment become so confused, they imagine the worst is the best! #Asif that would ever “fool all of the people, all of the time”, as Abe would say…and he was also murdered after pushing for Human Rights ahead of his time!
In short…in the year of the Western Gregorian Calendar 2019, just before the Lunar Chinese New Year of the Pig in the Year 4717:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Cecilia is a Hong Kong Chinese-Australian Social Entreprneur, Artist, Directors of NGO in Africa, South Ameria, Asia and California who really really likes to "tell it how it is", having travelled to over 40 countries around the world & seen some interesting things every so often.
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