By Guest Contributor Tala Khanmalek
L-R: Richard Aoki, Charlie Brown of the Afro American Student Union and Manuel Delgado of the Mexican American Student Confederation, March 1969. Photo: Muhammad Speaks via San Francisco Bayview.
On September 6, 2012 I interviewed Harvey Dong, a veteran of the Third World Liberation Front and Asian American Political Alliance at the University of California-Berkeley, where he is a professor in the school’s Department of Ethnic Studies. As our conversation progressed, I noticed the American and California flags waving through the window, and that’s when the irony of our personal and political complexities hit me.
However, Dong’s timely insights about the allegations against fellow veteran Richard Aoki connected the past and the present to clarify our positions in critical ways that also provide tools for the future of social justice scholarship and activism.
Tala Khanmalek: I was re-reading Richard Aoki’s speech notes from the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) Founding Rally (July 28, 1968) in “Stand Up: An Archive Collection of the Bay Area Asian American Movement, 1968-1974” and remembering what I think is one of the most important things about Aoki’s legacy: his comparative analysis of racialization as well as his centralization of interracial solidarity. Is there a relationship between Aoki’s politics and Seth Rosenfeld’s claim that he was an FBI informant?
Harvey Dong: Definitely. His politics is internationalism, and he’s a symbol of Afro-Asian unity. A lot of times when people talk about peoples of color and examples from history, examples from the past, Richard’s name is always mentioned because he was someone that bridged two or three different worlds. There’s a lot of support for Richard’s life and what it represented. So, in a lot of ways I kind of felt it was an attack on his legacy in terms of what he contributed and what he had represented.
Illustration by Gary Bedard
By Guest Contributor Chris Fan, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine
Last Monday, Oakland’s mayor Jean Quan ordered the forcible eviction of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s Oakland encampment, which had been situated directly outside of her office at City Hall off and on for the past two months.
Wakened in the early morning by an army of police outfitted in riot gear, demonstrators remained peaceful as more than 100 tents were destroyed, and dozens of arrests were made. The action precipitated the resignation of two of Quan’s top staffers, bringing the total resignations in response to her handling of Occupy Oakland to three. It also deepened this writer’s disappointment and embarrassment over the actions of someone who, not too long ago, could have been described as embodying the best of the Asian American movement of the ’60s and ’70s.
As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Quan was intensely involved with the Third World Liberation Front’s (TWLF) radical efforts to create ethnic studies programs, ultimately spearheading the establishment of the Asian American Studies program there. After graduating, she continued her activism in New York’s Chinatown, and, much later, joined Oakland School Board, and City Council, where she fought for a variety of progressive causes. Last summer, when large-scale demonstrations broke out in protest of a lenient verdict handed down to BART police officer Johannes Mehserle — who was on trial for shooting Oscar Grant while the latter was face-down and restrained — it was hardly a surprise when Jean Quan joined in a human chain to protect demonstrators from riot police. She was just dusting off an old skill set.