Guest Blog Post: Leona Thao

 

Image

Three years has passed since the unjust beating of a Hmong American man in Vinita, Oklahoma. It was on March 1, 2011 when Neng Yang was driving on a rural pathway to locate his uncle’s farm when he encountered dogs running in the road. He swerved in an attempt to miss running over any of the dogs but ended up running over one.  Immediately following the incident Mr. Yang stopped his vehicle and stepped out to apologize to Scott Osborn, the dog owner. Osborn (who is 6’1” and 250 pounds) “punched” Mr. Yang (who is 5’1” and 140 pounds) who was then knocked to the ground unconscious. After Mr. Yang came to, he repeatedly apologized to Osborn and offered to compensate for damages.

 

As shared in Mr. Yang’s statement, after he claimed consciousness, Osborn told him to stand up and put his hands on his head. He then proceeded to tell him (Mr. Yang) to shake hands, not to say anything, not do anything stupid and go. Nevertheless, in Osborn’s statement, he states that his son was inches away from the dog and yelled at Mr. Yang (who was still in the car) when the incident occurred. Mr. Yang then stopped his vehicle, got out and he threw his hands in the air. Osborn felted threatened and believed Mr. Yang was going to hit him and acted out of self-defense and hit Mr. Yang. Osborn claimed he hit Mr. Yang only once.      

 

However, as you can see from the photo shown above, Mr. Yang’s injuries did not happen from one punch. Mr. Yang was hospitalized for several days and suffered a concussion He also suffered shattered bones to the face, broken ribs and needed facial reconstructive surgery. In addition, he suffered from severe nerve damages to both of his eyes and will have tunnel vision as well as lose all sight of his blind spots. Damages done to Mr. Yang could have not come from one punch.

 

It took nearly a week for the police to investigate the incident and make an arrest for Osborn who was arrested on charges of assault and battery. He was arrested and released on the same day on a $15,000 bond. I may not be a lawyer but after reading the medical report of Mr. Yang’s injuries, Osborn should have been charged with attempted manslaughter.

 

A trial jury took place a year after the beating occurred and we learned that the maximum sentence Osborn would receive if he pleads guilty on charges of aggravated assault and battery is 5 years of imprisonment and a $500 fine. The charges were absurd and I believe certain measures should have been taken to ensure that there would be a fair trial.

 

The trial did take place over a course of a few days before there was a verdict. Osborn was found guilty of felony aggravated assault and battery and would spent one year in the Craig County Jail and be fined $500.

I am not pleased at all about the outcome of the verdict because no justice was done to Mr. Yang. Osborn was even get off with not having to pay restitution for medical expenses related to the injuries Mr. Yang sustained from the beating.    

I would have to agree with advocates of Mr. Yang that the nature of his beating would have constituted as a hate crime in many states, however, Oklahoma has no hate crime legislation.

But what is a hate crime? A hate crime is defined by federal or state statutes and is a crime that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, and disability. Some of the crimes include assault, battery, criminal damage to property, and criminal trespass to property. Hate crimes are difficult to prosecute because bias does not mean a hate crime occurred and the act must be shown to have been motivated, in full or in part, by the biased attitude. The state must also meet a probable-cause standard with a sufficient amount of indicators such as a victim, offender, community, crime-crime scene and victim-offender relationship. Furthermore, hate crimes are motivated by prejudice and bigotry and pose a unique danger to society because, while they often result in an attack on an individual, they can affect the fundamental rights and emotional well-being of entire communities by making them feel vulnerable and isolated. It causes tension, which may erupt into violence between members of different ethnic, religious or racial groups.

It makes it extremely difficult to make the case that Mr. Yang was a victim of a hate crime because Oklahoma does not have hate crime legislation. Furthermore, Mr. Yang would not be able to prove anyone with evidence of what happened to him during the time he fell unconscious.

 

The most difficult part of organizing a movement around getting justice for Mr. Yang was well, everything. Although there was much support from the community both locally and nationally (my apologies if I do not include your names), it was extremely difficult to get communities engaged in the effort. My co-organizing partner and great friend, Lasia Xiong, worked so hard alongside with me to organize a campaign that could break the silence of what was unjustly done. We worked incredibly hard to spread awareness about Mr. Yang’s case, outreach to communities and organizations to assist us with our organizing efforts, fundraise to provide some financial assistance for Mr. Yang’s expenses.

 

We lacked the knowledge and experience, resources, and community engagement to organize effectively. In part, expressing how communities and individuals can show their support became extremely challenging for us as well. In addition, we were two full-time students who also worked. Time and other commitments made it extremely difficult for us to mobile a more effective campaign.

 

Regardless of these difficulties, we knew one thing. We knew that something had to be done about this and that being silent was not the way. So I applaud and respect those who work tirelessly every day towards creating social change and to improve the lives of others.       

 

If there is anything that I learned from my community organizing experience in Oklahoma, it’s that you have to be prepared. You will have little to no resources to assist your efforts, capacity-building will be difficult, community engagement will be flaky and you will get discouraged and you will get burnt out. However, you shouldn’t give up. All it takes is one voice and one action.  

Image

These are the reasons I support Making Herstory in their social media campaign against police brutality; I realize that police brutality is a form of a hate crime in itself. I encourage you to post a picture of yourself with a paper saying, “Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality” on what would-be Luis’ birthday – this Saturday, April 12th, 2014.

Image

 

 

Guest Blog Post: Sache Primeaux-Shaw

23 years ago last month, society saw themselves in the worst way. Rodney King, a Black construction worker was beaten nearly to death by the LAPD. This was not a scene that was foreign to the world because Black men were being beaten and lynched for two centuries. What was different about Rodney King, many would ask. It was 1991 and the Civil Rights movement “ended” in the late 1960s. This type of crime was usually committed by someone affliated with a hate group, the Klan perhaps. Not our men in blue. Fast forward to the 21st century and it’s the same story with different faces but these cases have ended in death. Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and many others met this fate and when the conversation about police brutality is prompted, the race card is pulled from the other side.
Bring the conversation to 2012 and lets make the victim Native American, a tribal member living in Custer County, Oklahoma. Lets name him Benjamin Whiteshield and make him a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, one of the most powerful and proud this side of the Plains. Whitesheild was killed as a result of police brutality and the same card is pulled only this time its Red. It’s a discussion that when gone untouched, is proven to be deadly for men of color because this only implies that their lives do not matter. “The Black community has spoken out loudly about Police brutality and the Native American community is starting to make waves. There needs to be more acceptance of this problem across the board and fellow police officers need to remind their fellow officers to “serve and protect with honor.”

-Sache Primeaux-Shaw

 

Use this hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc; let’s get this trending! #endpolicebrutality

Guest Blog Post: JP Phillips

      The date was June 2nd, 2011. I remember this specifically because my friends and I were on our way to watch game 2 of the NBA Finals at my friend Los’s uncle’s house. Los was ridding shotgun and is a young Mexican American male in his early twenties. My friend in the backseat’s name is Marco and like me is male of mixed ethnicities in his early twenties.. We all grew up on what is called the “southside” of Oklahoma City, an area known for its low income and primarily minority residents. Like most friends, we shared similar personalities and struggles. One of these troubles would present itself less than two blocks into our journey that day.

            Around a block into our journey we have already seen around ten police cars and three people pulled over in just the local neighborhood streets. I know we are probably going to be the next car pulled over. Sure enough, less than two blocks later I’m being pulled over. Before the officers that pulled me over stepped out of his vehicle, two more police cars arrived. When the officers walk up to my vehicle, everyone’s identification is required with no explanation as to why. Marco’s criticism of me is swift saying “ JP you should have asked what you got pulled over for?” My response is “You know why they pulled us over. We are three minorities in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are checking to see if we are wanted and when they see that we aren’t they will let us go.”  Los’s reply was “That doesn’t give them the right to pull you over though.” My reply is “ But if I question them, we will all be outside on the concrete or in county jail for resisting arrest in less than an hour.” Just as I finish one of the back up cars starts to pull off beside us. The officer in the passenger seat rolls down his window and yells with his tongue out “ OK THEN HOMIE G DOGGS” as the cop car pulls away. After brief silence in my car, the next words you hear are “that’s (cuss word) racist man.” After several minutes of angry silence, one of the officers tells me to get out of the vehicle. Apparently someone with my name has multiple warrants and they need to check if I have tattoos. After a brief show that I am tattoo free the officer hands me my driver’s license and drives off with his backup with no explanation of why I was ever pulled over.

            You would be hard pressed to find someone of minority decent that doesn’t have multiple stories like the one above. With these stories come fear and anger towards the police force with many minorities. The state of Oklahoma has seen two high profile police assaults on minorities in 2014 already. The two cases being the Pearl Pearson case, in which the police were acquitted of assaulting a 64-year-old deaf African American man for not responding to their commands and the death of Luis Rodriguez. The Luis Rodriguez case is drawing much more attention because of his wife’s video of his arrest. The video is graphic and stunning, Luis’s head being pushed to the ground with five men on top of him, the dialogue between his wife and the police officers, and how Luis looks once the police got off of him and hold him up. The police report stated Luis died in the hospital, but without a reason for his death. You will have a hard time watching the video and not thinking he was dead the second the police officers finally got off of him.

Whenever I watch the video and read of what happened leading up to Luis’s death, I can’t help but relate to him. I can imagine myself in his shoes, trying to break up and separate a domestic dispute between a mother and daughter in a public place. I can imagine myself trying to explain the situation when the officers came and what I can most relate to is how I would have felt the instant I realized they were racially profiling me and coming after me as the main cause of the domestic dispute. My thought wouldn’t have been quick let me show my identification, it would have been explain that I am not the cause of the problem and protect myself as much as possible as they slam me into the ground. We don’t know what happened leading up to the video, as the security cameras in the parking lot that night are being used in the investigation and have not been released, but we do know that Luis Rodriguez will never get the chance to tell his side of the story. For many people like myself, this looks like racially profiling and police brutality. A man killed because he didn’t show his I.D. and for resisting arrest. A man racially profiled for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Instants of racial profiling like these happen everywhere to minorities everyday in this country. That is where the fear and with it anger towards the police force comes from. The death of Luis Rodriguez should be a call to action for police forces, minority organizations and local, state, and national governments to work together to figure out a way to not only stop racially profiling, but to change the fear and anger towards police forces in this country.

I didn’t choose the story above because of what happened that day, but what happened after that shocked me. A year later Los, Marco, and me are once again at a family gathering for Los’s birthday. I bring up what happened that day I was pulled over to puzzled looks. Los says “ he doesn’t remember” and Marco says, ” That has happened to us more than a few times your going to have to be more specific.” What bothered me was not only that they didn’t remember, but also the nonchalant way they answered. It was like we had just grown accustomed to the injustice that had been plaguing us for so long. We need to change that, this Saturday, April 12th, would have been Luis Rodriguez’s birthday, Making Her Story will be posting a photo campaign to bring up the discussion of how to end police brutality. I welcome everyone reading to participate not just on this day, but everyday until this injustice is no more. 

Please join the photo campaign as I will be doing this Saturday, April 12th, 2014 – on what would-be Luis’ birthday.

Image

“Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality”

Use this hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc; let’s get this trending! #endpolicebrutality

 

 

Making Herstory Launches Police Brutality Social Media Campaign

As a facilitator in Making Herstory – a created safe space to discuss and learn about feminism, ethnic studies & personal narratives as a form of empowerment – I am constantly brainstorming/researching ways to introduce new topics to my group of committed students. After the beating of Pearl Pearson and death of Luis Rodriguez in Moore, Oklahoma, I had to tread with caution: what impact would a lesson on police brutality, in our community, have over high school students? Is it my place to introduce my students to topics that can dramatically & emotionally impact their lives?

In those times of self-doubt, I remind myself the truth can create a culture of liberation and needed dialogue for marginalized, oppressed, and silenced communities.  My students deserve to have a space to dialogue over these issues -> coming to their own conclusion through critical thinking, dialogue, and debates.

After creating a lesson over police brutality, I had my students ask me: “What can we do to help our community? How can we help Pearl Pearson and Luis Rodriguez? How can we help others learn about police brutality?” Because of their sheer dedication to the cause, we were able to raise $250 for the Luis Rodriguez family through a bubble tea fundraiser at The Hubbly Bubbly.

Image

With the date of what would-be Luis’ birthday on Saturday, April 12th, 2014, Making Herstory brainstormed potentially having a protest, rally, etc. But we asked: what is the most accessible way, at this moment in time, to create dialogue around police brutality in our community? My high school students decided to launch a social media campaign around police brutality.

How does this work?

1) On Saturday, April 12th, we ask that you upload a picture of yourself on facebook with a posterboard/paper exactly like the one below:

Image

POLICE BRUTALITY CAMPAIGN2

“Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality”

2) Use the hashtag #endpolicebrutality on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and tell us your thoughts on police brutality! Let’s get it trending!

3) Refer people to the Making Herstory facebook page so people know what this campaign is about.

4) SPREAD THE WORD! We want this social media campaign to spread through Oklahoma City. Students in Making Herstory are already organizing in our community. Can you share this with others and bring police brutality awareness?

Why? In a statement crafted by Making Herstory students: “This social media campaign is a way for us to begin dialogue around police brutality in our community, and create awareness around this issue in south OKC/Moore.”

When? Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Where? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog posts, etc

The death of Luis Rodriguez and unjust beating of Pearl Pearson served as the catalyst for Making Herstory to begin organizing around police brutality.  This social media campaign serves as a way to begin dialogue around the issue of police brutality, and to put pressure on those in power to begin critically analyzing the way institutions can unjustly hurt our community.

Continue checking our blog/Facebook page – every day leading up to Saturday, April 12th, we will have a blog post from a community member in support of the Making Herstory police brutality campaign!

Please join us in Making Herstory!

In Solidarity,

Lena Khader

 

Cross The Line

Image
Last Thursday in the Making HERstory space, students participated in the activity called “Cross the Line.” Students all stood on one side of the room and were asked a series of questions pertaining to different areas of social and person life. If the questions pertained to their lives in any way, students could cross to the other side of the room, look back at the remaining students, and walk back. As a result, diversity awareness was obtained within the group. They learned more about eachother and even themselves by identifying cultural and self identity. Through personal narratives, students gained and offered their stories. Yadira Flores and Maritza Lopez reflected through poetry about their feelings after the activity:

“You tried to break me.
I would crawl and you would knock me over,
But I got up.
I began to walk and you pushed me,
But I got up.
I started to run but you tripped me,
But I got up.
I started to crawl, walk, then run.
Then I began to fly.
You can’t touch or reach me now.”

 -Yadira Flores

“Question: Why, why are we spit out into this world filled with demons. Why are we taught that our parents will ALWAYS understand? Society only tells us things that are not. Teachers only teach us the brainy stuff. Why don’t they teach us that love isn’t seen through rose colored glasses? Why don’t they tell us that we will go through hardships, through the unthinkable…someone should teach us, warn us. Not necessarily, the miseries we will have to face, because all of ours will be different. But, WHY did my friend have to be raped? Why did my sister in Chile have to bullied? Why was my brother in England judged for being gay? Because my sister was given a beautiful gift; her daughter. And my brothers were made that much stronger. That is why, because we are all meant to go through hardships to become exactly who we were meant to be all along.”

 -Maritza Lopez

Thank you to all the students who offered their stories and the understanding of their peers! 

Thoughts and Lessons Over POLICE BRUTALITY

Image

During our third meeting of the semester in Making HERstory, students got the chance to gain knowledge on police brutality and analyze recent events that have taken place in our community. Students were given a task of searching the shelves of the library for information on the four different figures, including Pearl Pearson, Luis Rodriguez, Oscar Grant, and Vincent Chin. As the students searched through books and magazines, it became evident that no information could be found. The purpose of the exercise let students become aware of the limited information on police brutality cases that simply got thrown to the backburner. Of the two men, Pearl Pearson and Luis Rodriguez faced police brutality in our very own state of Oklahoma, both within recent months.

On February 14, 2014, Luis Rodriguez and his family took a trip to Warren Theater, in Moore, OK, for a family outing. Luis was the husband of Nair Rodriguez and father to two young women. Before cops arrived, Nair and her daughter got into a heated argument, which ultimately ended up in a physical alteration between the two. As Luis intervened, the police aggressively approached him.  The police officials who became involved in this case claim that it was Rodriguez who was incompliant in providing identification. The alleged refusal resulted in the officer pinning Luis to the ground, to the point of suffocation. As a result of blocked airways, Rodriguez passed away. Rodriguez was 44 years of age and of Puerto-Rican descent.

Melissa Salazar and Maria Gaytan, who are both students at U.S. Grant and Making HERstory, offer their opinions concerning police brutality in our community:

“My argument is why specifically, out of so many people that were present at Warren Theater, did they choose Luis to show them his ID? When his wife is the one that slapped their daughter, the least the cops could have done was arrest her. Have you ever stopped to think that the cops approached Rodriguez based on his skin complexion? Gender differences create a world in which a dark-skinned male is targeted more frequently. Because he had a dark complexion, the police might have perceived him as a greater threat towards them and the community. In fact, people of white complexion inhabit the majority of the population in Moore. We do not believe that is an excuse to single Luis out, violating his rights, and causing an unnecessary death in their family. The situation could have simply been handled in a less aggressive manner.”

Our second person of interest is Pearl Pearson, who was allegedly beat for disobeying disorders that he could not hear. On the evening of January 3, 2014, Pearl was pulled over by two Oklahoma highway troopers and immediately struck in the face multiple times. Troopers were suspicious of his lack of compliance, but in fact, Pearson is deaf. Pearson, who is, indeed, deaf and severely diabetic, even had a place card on his window confirming this. The physical altercation lasted a whole seven minutes and left Pearson with severe swelling and bruising to his face.

“The events that took place with Pearl Pearson could happen to anyone, including you. This man was innocent, sick, poor, and did not deserve this treatment. It seems that the troopers did not think before they acted, which resulted in a horrible and unjust outcome. We feel that these troopers felt that they were above the law. A worthy and skilled individual, who protects and serves their community, and not creating unnecessary havoc on innocent people, should wear that badge.”
        -Melissa Salazar and Maria Gaytan

Herstory: Lena Khader

MH4

Similar to the thoughts of my (s)hero Grace Lee Boggs, I often think being born a Taiwanese-Palestinian American, identifying as a female, and growing up in a low-income community has had a profound impact on my thoughts, dreams, and passions. My past experiences instilled in me, at a young age, the idea that there needed to be change in the world.

My father was born in Anabta, Palestine and my mother in Taipei, Taiwan. With both of my parent’s countries being unrecognized by international standards, my personal narrative has been a source of guidance regarding the work I do as an unconventional educator/learner. I must be candid and raw in my storytelling for you to understand my deep love of Making Herstory. I realize that while sharing bits and pieces of my story may be uncomfortable – it is necessary  to humanize the work that we do in Making Herstory. This will hopefully help others realize why spaces such as Making Herstory are needed in southside OKC.

My family settled in southside Oklahoma City, an area known for some of the greatest Mexican food, yet also some of the worst schools in Oklahoma. My at-risk high school, dubbed the “dropout factory” by local media, produced a 40.1% dropout rate and an average ACT score of 17.7. During high school, I was angered, frustrated, and confused by the negative media attention my high school and community received. You see, as a high school student, I always knew something was wrong with my community – I knew there were substance/emotional/physical abuse issues, immigration issues, educational disparity issues, etc around southside OKC. I knew there were patriarchal and emotional abuse issues in my own household. The problem was: I never had the space to dissect these issues, express my frustrations, and discuss solutions for our community.

I was not taught to be a politically-active and socially-conscious product of society. I was not taught to critically analyze the world, to read works of art written by womyn of color/working class/poor people, or to question the banking method Paulo Freire discusses in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Instead, I was taught to be complacent, to be a believer rather than a sentient being – a thinker/questioner.

As I progressed to college,  I joined our Asian American Student Association (AASA) at Oklahoma City University, and attended a mini-APIA (Asian Pacific Islander American) retreat called APIA-U. Those moments were my first glimpse into social activism and organizing, as well as accepting my biracial roots. When we touched on the legacy of Vincent Chin, my life changed forever.

The video above struck a chord with me, and was my “lightbulb moment” – of wanting to immerse myself in the social justice movement. I pose the question: as a high school student, why was I never taught about Vincent Chin, colonialism in my familial history, the Secret War, the Greenwood Race Riots, etc?  Why are high school students not taught about their herstories as people of color?

I had the dream of creating Making Herstory to give high school students in southside OKC the space I always searched for, but never had growing up; to give students the opportunities that myself, and many of my peers in southside OKC were never granted. A created safe space to explore feminism, social issues, and how their own rich histories/personal narratives can be used as a source of empowerment to become socially and politically conscious beings -> propelling them to create positive change in our community. More importantly, a space where they feel empowered to utilize their voice and feel safe/loved.

I am a firm believer that if you navigate students to tools that cultivate them into questioners, thinkers, and morally-just individuals – they will be interested in switching the narrative of their communities/their stories into something positive, sustainable, and revolutionary. Through creating dialogue around feminism, ethnic studies, and personal narratives, I have observed and listened to my students engage in often times difficult, impactful, and needed discussions regarding our community. My role as a facilitator is not to hand over answers to my students, nor to have them think the way I do regarding societal issues. My role is to merely to provide my students with a safe space to dialogue and question the world around them.

With our Making Herstory blog, we hope this will become another space where you – the reader/community member – can learn about what we discuss in Making Herstory. I hope that through providing bits & pieces of my own personal story, you will join me in ensuring that Making Herstory will continue on as a community organization. Everything done with Making Herstory comes out of my pure love and desire to change southside OKC for the better. My community of southside OKC, as I often say, is my heart, my soul, and my love.

Please consider a $16 donation – you’ll receive a t-shirt shipped to wherever you may live, and eternal gratitude from myself, the MH team, and the students!

Questions, thoughts? Please contact us directly at makingherstoryokc@gmail.com and like our facebook page.

Lena Khader

Help Make HERstory…

Image

Making Herstory is a community organization that empowers southside OKC high school students to learn about and discuss feminism, social issues, and how their rich histories and personal narratives can be used as a form of empowerment to becoming socially-active and politically-conscious beings of society. Students are able to create a safe space to critically analyze society and “question” everything.  While we do our best to maintain a minimum budget, creating new experiences for these students is dependent upon the availability of funds and resources. By donating today, you are helping us shift the paradigms of teens who come from low-income and/or immigrant households. Through spaces like Making HERstory, we are able to create revolutionary and sustainable change – where young people are able to become active & vocal participants of our society, realizing the power they have. Thus, creating a more loving and safe community for themselves and future students in southside OKC. The process of Making HERstory is one of story telling and healing through what many students think of as their “second familia”. As a thank you, with a donation of $16 or more we will send you an official Making Herstory t-shirt!  Please spread the word!

Also, if you know of any local students in southside OKC interested – our “survey” is open until this coming Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1-MRfyu38iudm6fGZKEmr24CIKmqYrJ1RxEE376Rp5fM/viewform

“Southside OKC needs an organization like this one because the youth throughout this community has the potential, it is just that they need the outreach – that empowerment. I can say that this group makes the difference and I am looking forward to be involved and represent Making HERStory.”

-Ivan Flores, Pathways Middle College High School

“Making HERstory has helped to better shape a part of me that I have been struggling with – allowing myself to express my thoughts in a positive surrounding. Since becoming a member of Making HERstory, I am more aware of what may be seen as trivial matters in today’s society and learn how to look at matters in depth and make connections to how these issues may have an affect on my life as both a female and woman of color.”

-Gerrica Rosales, Southeast High School