about that viral “caution during Super Bowl Week” post…

There’s a post circulating on social media about human trafficking during the Super Bowl. Let’s take a look.

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Subject: Caution during Super Bowl week

Okay, sounds… vague.

I talked with [redacted], my daughter who attends U of MN, last night after her sorority meeting. She said they learned there had already been 56 arrests made in the Twin Cities related to human trafficking and Super Bowl week is just beginning. 

“Two women who work with victims of sex trafficking said Monday that they have not yet seen an uptick in trafficked people the week before Super Bowl LII. But it is early yet, cautioned Beth Holger-Ambrose, the executive director of The Link.” (MPR News, January 29)

The girls were warned about safety measures including traveling and staying in groups at all times, etc. she also shared that the daughter of her roommate’s family friend who is a medical student at the U. was out on the street scraping her car windows at 7:30 am this weekend in MPLS when a van pulled up and three men jumped out and grabbed her. She was astute enough to scream and fight with them using the window scraper and fortunately she was only beat up and not abducted.

The “daughter of her roommate’s family friend” part is interesting. It’s told in a way that grabs your attention. And it worked, since as of this writing, one post I saw with this cautionary message had over 7000 shares on Facebook and over 150 comments.

I am not writing this to comment on the veracity of this particular incident. However, I wish the 7000+ shares of this post would also share facts and resources about sex trafficking and the Super Bowl.

Sharing with you all to share with your families friends – this human trafficking issue is real and expected to surge over the week. The girls were told that during big events like the Super Bowl, traffickers typically abducted young women (and men) and quickly ship them out of the state. 

“…there is empirical evidence that like many large scale and localized events, the Super Bowl does impact local sex markets. However, the evidence does not support the claim that the Super Bowl creates large numbers of potential victims or the claim of Super Bowls being the biggest event-based impact. Exaggeration could reduce the credibility of important efforts to combat sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as efforts to destigmatize the women involved in the sex industry. ” (Research brief via UROC at the U of M, commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, June 2017).

Please be very cautious with your families when out and about, even here in Rochester and surrounding areas, during this time with well over 1 million additional people within 90 miles!

“Knowing the facts, being aware of the signs and making sure that everyone during this big event is safe is a great way to fight trafficking. Together, we need to remain focused on ending sexual exploitation in Minnesota 365 days a year.” (MN Girls Are Not For Sale, via Women’s Foundation of Minnesota).

Need support or resources? Contact The Link here. In addition – know that the Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis will be open 24/7 during Super Bowl weekend, and does advocacy work year round to support victim-survivors of sexual violence.

Bonus round:

Understand and educate yourself about work being done to end sex trafficking of girls and children. Raise awareness year round.

Understand what sex work is. Understand what sex trafficking is. Understand that they are not the same and why we need resources like SWOP Minneapolis.

Regarding the release of the annual Femicide Report from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women: Reporters Didn’t Go to a Press Conference on Femicide in Minnesota Because the Super Bowl Is More Important (via Jezebel)

And on the “normalcy” of low-flying helicopters conducting radiation-level testing, SWAT teams and military humvees everywhere, ICE agents being called in to help “protect and serve”… read this update from Unicorn Riot.


about persimmons & pilots

What are the odds of your existence?
How many generations did it take to make you?
How many plagues, wars and massacres conspired
To uproot your family tree and salt the earth around it
How many ancestors carried your fire?

– excerpt from A Pragmatist’s Guide to Faith, by Guante*

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We were sitting around the dining room table, eating, which is a main activity whenever we stop by my parents’ house. There were some guests visiting, and my mom had arranged plates full of pears, pineapple, and bright orange persimmons in front of them. My family explained what persimmons are – bright orange, kind of soft but firm at the same time, tropical-tasting. Aren’t they deep-fried sometimes, like tempura? I asked. Oh wait, no, that’s sweet potatoes. Haha, never mind. My sister mentioned she likes to cut persimmons in slices, so you can see the pretty insides. Our guests didn’t seem to mind that these were cut into neat chunks; to my mom’s delight, they ate their share of fruit and bowls of hearty homemade ragout, too.

We talked about plans for the holidays. Someone mentioned that a family member was a pilot, and my sister joked that her kid should become a pilot when he grows up, so that the family could go on inexpensive vacations.

My dad, from his chair at the head of the table, had been listening to the conversation. Is he a commercial airline pilot? he asked. He leaned back in his chair, the conversation having jogged a memory. When I was in Vietnam, I signed up to become a pilot, with eleven other men. I was the only one who failed the test, because I’m colorblind. The other men went on, and none of them came back.

It was bad luck, but good luck too, my mom responded from the kitchen. She brought another plate to the table, this one full of persimmons cut in thin slices, so you could see the star shape inside, where the core is. Ohhh, everyone breathed. That is beautiful.




*Disclosure: Guante is my husband/partner/bff. Once a young person asked if I was “Mrs. Guante,” which still makes me chuckle to this day.

It’s not about whose lives matter “more”

The outrage that ensued has been important. At least one vigil was held in [Charleena Lyles’] honor and covered by local media, hundreds chanted “Say her name!” while marching for her, countless articles have been written about her, and a GoFundMe set up for her children has raised over $100,000… When it comes to focusing our attention on those who are killed by police officers, do Black lives matter more than Asian lives?… I have strongly supported and defended the Black Lives Matter movement. But now I’m wondering: Do Vietnamese lives matter? Do Asian lives matter? Where is the outrage and empathy?”

– Excerpt from “Do Asian Lives Matter? Contemplating Disparate Coverage of Charleena Lyles’s and Tommy Le’s Deaths” by Alyssa W. Christensen

In response to the piece excerpted above, I’d like to start by providing some context. The national outrage for Charleena Lyles is the result of immense organizing and emotional labor by black folks. Black Lives Matter was co-created by three black queer women, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. The call to “say her name” comes from efforts to bring attention to violence against Black women in the United States. Specifically, the African American Policy Forum put out a brief titled “Say Her Name,” which is intended to “serve as a resource for the media, organizers, researchers, policy makers, and other stakeholders to better understand and address Black women’s experiences of profiling and policing.” In the words of Kimberle Crenshaw, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and co-author of the report: “Although Black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality. Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combatting racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.”

Without movements like Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name, our mainstream media and national consciousness would not be where they’re at today. These movements, and the countless individual activists and organizers who make up these movements, make sure that we know about Charleena Lyles and Philando Castile. They urge us to remember Sandra Bland and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and Aiyana Stanley-Jones. They push us to fight for trans black women like Eyricka King. This work far from done. Often, when Kimberle Crenshaw speaks to audiences, she’ll start by asking people to raise their hands if they’ve heard of Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Rekia Boyd. As she continues to call out names – Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson – fewer and fewer hands remain raised, and eventually maybe just one or two people in a room of 100 will have recognized all of these names. 

I don’t think the question is whether Black lives matter more than Asian lives. Black Lives Matter is about centering Black lives; and Say Her Name was created to draw attention to Black women who are targeted by police brutality. Everyone should support and defend Black Lives Matter, because it is the right thing to do, not because we are waiting for something in return.

I recognize the author’s pain in realizing that stories like Tommy Le’s are glossed over or generally ignored by mainstream media. What can we do about it? How can the APIDA community take the lead in putting pressure on media to cover these stories? How can we take the lead in uplifting our own stories and narratives? How can we lead or support work already being done to provide community alternatives to policing?

I don’t have all the answers, but I appreciate that the author reached out to one of their favorite local news sources and questioned them on their lack of reporting on Tommy Le. I can put pressure on local media when they fail to report on stories that matter to me, and I can throw my support behind media or organizations who are uplifting those stories (nationally, that might include AAJC and NAPAWF; locally in Minnesota, for example, that includes RadAzns and CAAL). I can organize a screening and discussion of Vincent Who? in my community. I can diversify my news sources and follow different voices on social media, especially those from marginalized communities.

The APIDA community has a rich history of organizing and activism, something that I only began to learn about in the handful of Asian American Studies courses I was able to take as a college student. For folks looking to learn more, I’d recommend checking out this quick history on Asian American activism, and books like Dr. Erika Lee’s The Making of Asian America, and biographies from Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama.

“If these histories are erased and buried, each generation feels a little more alone, like we are starting from scratch. I hope people see how the past informs not only today’s movements, but our futures.” – Ryan Wong, one of the curators of the exhibition “Roots: Asian American Movements in Los Angeles 1968–80s” at the Los Angeles Chinese American Museum

Addendum on July 20: Tommy Le’s family has created a YouCaring page and are asking for support to help with funeral and legal expenses in the coming months as they continue to fight for justice for Tommy. (h/t Mark Tseng-Putterman for the link)

On ‘difficult names’

“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” ― Warsan Shire

18359108_10106743218512927_1042242656479510728_oMy parents didn’t plan on having me, their sixth and youngest child, but they did choose my name carefully: UyênThi. This name is special for a lot of reasons. For one, the letters in it echo the spellings of my five older siblings’ names. Its abbreviation, út, means baby of the family. Hidden in my name is my mother (turn the symbol on the “e” upside-down and you get a “v,” which is hugging the “en” of my name. Ven: my mother’s name). My dad is reflected in my name as well. He wanted it to be one word, no space: UyênThi, not Uyên Thi. Since Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language, this tends to confuse Vietnamese people outside my family. They want to shorten my name and call me Uyên or Thi. Continue reading

Black April, Snapshots, and Spacetime

Note: Thank you to Julia over at Project Yellow Dress for the motivation to write this piece!


In the picture, it’s winter, sometime in the mid-eighties. I’m wearing a white blouse with a holiday-ish green velvet dress over it. The dress has a small embroidered snowman patch on the front. I think maybe we are in the living room at my grandparents’ house, probably for a Christmas party with all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents on my dad’s side. The dining room table would be weighed down with dishes and dishes of traditional Vietnamese food, each one prepared by a different aunt and carefully transported over to share, potluck-style. In one corner of the dining room there are also plenty of two liter bottles of pop like RC or Schweppes ginger ale for the kids, and a few bags of Doritos, too. Continue reading

If this is not normal, our responses can’t be either

(A conversation between me and Guanteoriginally published at Opine Season.)

KTM: In arts spaces, we talk a lot about the importance of creating catchy “hooks,” capturing an enormous, complex concept in an easily-digestible soundbite. “We Are the 99%,” for example, is a good hook. “Black Lives Matter” is a good hook. “Water is Life” is a good hook. I’m thinking about all of this in the context of what I would say is this past month’s big hook: “This Is Not Normal.”

UTM: I keep seeing and hearing reminders that “this is not normal,” from tweets, to buttons, to my friends and colleagues repeating it to themselves and to each other. When I open my social media feeds, the headlines and sentiments are full of anger and fear – the latest Executive Order from Trump, stories of real humans being harmed by those orders, and the reminders: “It’s only been one week.” “He’s doing what he said he would do.” “This is not normal.”
Continue reading

Women’s March MN & the Ongoing Struggle for “Unity”

On Wednesday afternoon, I was looking for more details about Women’s March Minnesota, and came upon the list of 20+ speakers lined up for the rally. I noticed a few women of color and American Indian women were listed, several of whom I look up to, including elected officials like Senator Patricia Torres Ray and Rep. Peggy Flanagan. As I scrolled through the profile pictures of the speakers, though, I realized that there were absolutely zero speakers from the Asian American community. I emailed the march’s leadership team, began tweeting at them, asked my friends to help me, and waited to hear back. Continue reading