I was invited to write down some of my memories of my involvement as a woman in the Asian American Movement. I decided to do it because there is so little written about the
“Women’s Oppression Impacted My Life”
Women's oppression had a big impact on how I developed as a person. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time. And in fact, when I first heard the term “women’s oppression”, I didn’t think it applied to me. How am I oppressed as a woman? “I was free to be and do what I wanted” was the belief I had. In 1970 I went to one of the first Women’s Day celebrations in the Bay Area. But I did not fully grasp at that time how important it was to take on the women’s question. Only now, looking back, women’s oppression should have been one of the initial causes of why I became involved with the radical movement in the 1970’s. Also, it was my own experience of women's oppression that is behind the reason why I never had the confidence to step forward to make even more of a difference during that time of widespread turmoil and activism.
I not only did not see myself as a leader, but also shied away from that role. One of the most vivid examples of this was during a trip to
Women’s oppression impacted my life. It also impacted my life through how it influenced my mother’s life.
My mother came to the
Fortunately, she didn’t get pregnant again for another three years after that. But all the stress of having and taking care of three little babies must have been tremendous. This was quite common in
So this was the situation into which I was born. And from the very beginning was a disadvantage. I was the third child my mother gave birth to within three years. All three were born in the month of August, one year after the other. Looking back, after I took courses in Chinese Medicine, it became clear why my health was never very good. According to Chinese Medicine, after giving birth, a woman’s body becomes depleted of qi, blood, and other substances and needs to recuperate. A two or three year gap between children would be better for the health of the mother and children. But this is not what happens in real life. As a result, I was never very strong and had headaches all my life due in part to my mother having three pregnancies within too short a time period. A woman who is over-worked and depleted will not have enough qi and other vital substances to pass on to the next child for optimum health. Thanks to the women’s movement, women now have more control over reproduction, but there is the continuing struggle to keep the right for women to choose from being chipped away.
Another disadvantage was that I was born a girl into a Chinese family with traditional views on the value and role of women. Even though my father was politically progressive, both my parents placed more value on having boys over girls. This outlook was very typical of my parents' generation, much less of the many generations before theirs who lived under feudalism in
My mother’s treatment of me has never been very good because I was not a boy. I tried to explain this to my oldest brother a few times when we were adults, and he never believed me until one day he saw it for himself. My mother made soup for the family, and there were a number of bowls filled with soup on the table. I went over to get one and my mother said “No, those are for your brothers, go get your own.” My brother looked at me, and I said, ”See what I mean?” He understood then what I had been talking about. I was a second class citizen in my own family. It was unfair to be treated this way, but I understand that it was due to a cultural outlook that my parents grew up with in
“I’m Going Too”
The 1960's was a time of social turmoil, both internationally and within the
In 1968, I was 18 years old and it was my first semester at
Since junior high school (now called middle school) I was pretty much a book-reading recluse. I would borrow books from the public library and read on many subjects, fiction and non-fiction. In particular, I read as much science fiction as I could find. My particular heroes back then included astronomers Copernicus and Galileo and physicist Marie Curie. My two older brothers were more socially active. They went to Boy Scouts, drum and bugle corps, joined a kung fu club on
The Red Guard Party was modeled after the Black Panther Party. They recruited mainly street kids as members. My father was very progressive in his politics. He was against the war in
When the Red Guards started a free breakfast program like the Black Panthers, I volunteered to help during the summer of 1969. It was run out of one of the clubs on
I didn’t know these students from
There had been many demonstrations against the war in
Surrounded By Banned Books
One day my oldest brother was talking about how he and a number of other students at
The meeting was held in the basement of the building next to the International Hotel, at what was once the United Filipino Association Hall,
China Books was the only importer for books, posters, and records from
My second brother didn’t get involved in ACC. He worked with the International Hotel for a while and often hung around with two I-Hotel women friends. My mother was quite upset when he brought them home a few times, one friend holding his arm for a guide as she was blind. I had a good laugh over her disaproval. I think my mother was also upset that I started to get active and leave the house. "Mh nah ga!" - which meant "never staying home."
“What We Want. What We See. What We Believe”
The first time I went down the stairs to the basement was in December 1969. People were watching revolutionary movies and newsreels. The free community film showings was one of the first programs the
In the early days, many of the regulars who came down to the basement were elderly men. Later, people of all ages would come down, including grade-school children. Due to exclusion laws against the Chinese, many of the early immigrants could not bring family members to the
WHAT WE SEE
We see the breakdown of our community and families.
We see our people suffering from malnutrition, tuberculosis, and high suicide rates.
We see the destruction of our cultural pride.
We see our elders forgotten and alone.
We see our Mothers and Fathers forced into meaningless jobs to make a living.
We see American society preventing us from fulfilling our needs.
WHAT WE WANT
We want adequate housing, medical care, employment, and education.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
To solve our community problems, all Asian people must work together.
Our people must be educated to move collectively for direct action.
We will employ any effective means that our people see necessary.
I learned a lot about radical politics in these meetings. One thing the
Eventually we started many “serve the people” programs such as: weekly film showings; the Food Program where we distributed government supplemental foods to pregnant women and young children; we put out a family newsletter; in the summer we had a Summer Youth Program for school age children with tutoring and field trips. We set up health screenings for TB and glaucoma for the community at ACC soon after we formed, and later helped organize health fairs with other
There was so many areas of work that special work groups were set up at different times. There was labor, health, education, housing, the newspaper Wei Min Bao, the Bookstore, etc. We also set up study groups to carry out political education for ourselves and for the volunteers who were interested in working with us. We studied the writings of Mao Tse-tung and applied much of it to our work. We studied the current conditions in the world, in the
ACC and Everybody’s Bookstore was also a part of a larger
This period of time in my life was rich with experience and people. I learned to do things I never dreamed of doing before including leading group meetings and discussions. I changed from being timid to a community activist on the streets of
A Wei Min Sister