Monday, February 22, 2010

UCI Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez on 1st Amendment & Student Activism

Manuel Gomez in his plush office. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang, 2010. UPDATED: To listen to audio, click here: .

Irvine -- In a broad look back at his student activism days (when he hung the Black Flag of anarchism in his apartment), UCI Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, in the wake of growing controversy over the student disruption of the talk earlier this month of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, and the arrests of 12 students, discusses the First Amendment on campus, and states that UCI's Muslim Student Union will not be kicked off campus. He also states that images on student protest blogs of UCI Police taking down leaflets announcing protest events is "disturbing," but he is waiting for students to file formal complaints with his office.

Gomez says he grew up in a poverty-stricken "barrio" in Santa Ana and was active in various struggles in his student days, including fighting police abuse. He says he understands the passion and quest among young people for opposing oppression: "I understand it in my bone." His verdict on his protesting past: It was wrong to distrust people over 30. We also discuss cooptation.

In "Imagining the Future: Cultivating Civility in a Field of Discontent," Gomez focuses on the situation at UCI as tensions were addressed in the wake of the Zionist Organization of America's initial complaint to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights over the alleged mistreatment of Jewish students. ZOA has since also claimed UCI students solicited donations for Hamas during a talk at UCI of British Member of Parliament George Galloway.

In the article, written for Change Magazine, as well as on Subversity, Gomez argues that hate speech has been upheld by the courts as allowed under the First Amendment. The ZOA more recently has called for a boycott of UCI in terms of donations and enrollment.

UCI has also sent disciplinary letters to the 8 UCI students arrested, including MSU President Mohamed Abdelgany, a first step in campus administrative proceedings.

In response, the various Muslim activist groups, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, have called on UCI allow "free speech" for protesters.

Gomez's interview is being aired this morning on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, at 9 am (simulcast via He is interviewed by Subversity host Daniel C. Tsang.

Monday, February 15, 2010

UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky on the First Amendment

Erwin Chemerinsky, left, with students after his talk. Photograph © Daniel C. Tsang 2010. UPDATED with audio link: To listen to audio, click here: .

Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the new UCI School of Law, February 11, 2010 talked at UC Irvine about the First Amendment in the wake of the shouting down of the recent lecture at UCI by the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren and the arrests of the students involved.

Chemerinksy's talk, previously scheduled, happened several days after the Oren lecture, in a larger lecture hall to accommodate the crowd of mostly students who packed the room.

As a public service, KUCI's Subversity program airs Chemerinsky's entire talk and the subsequent Q and A session. The show airs today (15 February 2010), airing 9-10 a.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, and simulcast via

Meanwhile, student activists have rallied to urge support for the 11 students (3 from UC Riverside, 8 from UCI) arrested by UCI Police, asking why they had to be arrested. One statement circulating among activists suggests making these points to UCI Chancellor Michael Drake and to the UCI Dean of Students, who would be imposing any administrative sanctions on the UCI students, including potential expulsion:

· It was unjust to arrest students for simply having the courage to
stand up and speak out against a man responsible for propagating the
deaths of thousands of innocent people.
· Civil disobedience has historically played an instrumental role in
the civil rights movement in America the eventually ensured equality
and human rights for all minorities.
· Michael Oren is a representative of a state that is condemned by
more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in
the world, and he should not be honored at UC Irvine.

The statement said "we will not support an educational
institution that threatens to punish its’ students with suspension and
expulsion for standing up for their principles."

Supporters of the arrested students have started a Facebook page, "Drop All Charges Against the Eleven", which as of this morning has 4,657 members.

Meanwhile the controversy has again enraged the Jewish community, with Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, who heads the Rabbinical Council of Orange Council, even suggesting that Chancellor Drake consider expelling the students. [An earlier version incorrectly attributed a call for ending donations to UCI to Rabbi Elierzrie; but another group has formally called for that.] At the same time, the Muslim Public Affairs Council weighed in, calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sexual Minorities to March in Little Saigon Tet Parade

Gina Masequesmay. Photo from CSUN web-site. UPDATED with audio links: To listen to audio, click here: .

In a historic first, Vietnamese American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered [LGBT] plan to march as part of Little Saigon's Tet parade this coming Saturday, Lunar New Year Eve. While they have marched in Orange County before (at the OC Pride march in Irvine) and in San Jose and San Francisco, this is the first time they plan a march in the heartland of the overseas Vietnamese community in the U.S.

On KUCI's Subversity show Monday 8 February 2010, at 9 a.m., we talk with CSU Northridge scholar Gina Masequesmay
about queer life within the Vietnamese American communities. The CSU sociologist did her Ph.D dissertation at UCLA in 2001 on one of the groups marching, Ô-Môi, which came out with a zine in 2005. She is the lead co-editor of a new collection of essays, Embodying Asian/American Sexualities (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009).

Four groups plan to join together in this march, according to march organizers, embracing "marriage equality" in the context of the Prop. 8 controversy.

Song That Radio is a grass-root organization which has the dual task of operating a radio program to focus on enhancing community awareness of LGBT issues, with the aim to create social change in attitude towards LGBT people and to organize social and political events that advocate, support and empower the Vietnamese-American LGBT community by increasing LGBT visibility and inclusiveness. Its goal is to improve the quality of life of Vietnamese LGBT people by reducing and eliminating the disparities within the Vietnamese-American community in dealing with LGBT issues.

Ô-Môi is a support group for lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender of Vietnamese descent. Its goal is to provide a support and resource space for queer, female Vietnamese to come out and network.

Gay Vietnamese Alliance provides a safe and supportive environment for gay, bisexual, and transgendered men of Vietnamese descent from all over the world to network, voice issues, promote wellness and foster leadership.

The Vietnamese Lesbian and Bisexual women Network and Friends is a support network of women, young and old alike, who provide support to Vietnamese women who are questioning their identities or simply proud to be lesbians or bisexual women.

The Subversity show airs on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, and is simulcast via Podcasts are available later.

The march is slated to begin after 9:30 a.m. Saturday 13 February 2010 at Bolsa and Magnolia in Westminster, California.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dang Nhat Minh's antiwar film, Don't Burn

The diarist, Dang Thuy Tram (left).

UPDATED with audio links: To listen to the entire Subversity show on Dang Nhat Minh, including the USC panel discussion, click here: .

To listen to just the USC panel discussion: click here: .

Vietnam's top filmmaker, People's Artist Đặng Nhật Minh, has made a moving anti-war film based on captured diaries of a National Liberation Front doctor, whose intimate and revealing thoughts about war and the Party are put on paper in between treating soldiers during the "American War." The diarist is a young surgeon, Đặng Thùy Trâm, known as "Thuy." Tragically, at age 27, she was killed by an American bullet through her forehead, in 1970. The film, Don't Burn (Đừng Đốt) is Vietnam's entry to this year's Academy Awards.

In her diary, only two volumes of which survived the war, Thuy rails against the American invaders (whom she calls "devils") while wondering why the Party took so long to admit her. Was she too bourgeois? In a telling entry, she admits "Bourgeois sentiments are always suspect. It's strange that I still prefer to be like that than to be clear and simple like a farmer." The Party later did admit her and she is now considered a martyr in Vietnam. The diary has been published in the U.S. as Last Night I Dreamed of Peace.

"Don't Burn" not only brings to life events described in the diary, but also brings the story up to date, showing how an American soldier, and his military family, came around to read the diary of an enemy doctor, in the process struck by the futility of warfare. The film describes how the diaries ended up at Texas Tech, whose library contain the largest non-governmental collection on the war, and shows how Thuy's family came to read their daughter's writings almost four decades later.

Thuy's father was also a noted surgeon and his mother a pharmacology lecturer specializing in medicinal plants. Thuy gave up her dream to be a ophthalmologist and instead, like many of her compatriots, went south to serve the state.

The parallels with the film director's own family upbringing are stark. Dang Nhat Minh's father, Dang Van Ngu, was also a noted doctor, leading efforts to fight malaria with penicillin. Indeed, he also was killed by the Americans, in 1967, a year before the entries in Thuy's recovered diary begin.

Dang Nhat Minh himself has stated: "I have no regrets at all about being a film director as it is destiny. But if I could choose again, I would rather be a doctor and follow in my father's steps." Both father and son have won the Ho Chi Minh Award.

This is the first film to portray the views of America's "enemy" so starkly.
It seeks to reconcile the two nations who fought so bitter and deadly a war.

Dang Nhat Minh & Kieu Chinh at USC 23 January 2010. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010

And perhaps as a sign of possible reconciliation between Vietnamese in the homeland and here, director Minh was embraced warmly by Little Saigon's most famous film personality, Kieu Chinh (left), after a recent showing at the University of Southern California(USC).

Indeed, in California the past few weeks, the film has been shown to audiences young and old in northern and southern California.

Dang Nhat Minh answers a question during panel discussion at USC. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010.

On KUCI Subversity's 1 February 2010, from 9-10 a.m. we discuss this film and diary and present the panel discussion after the film showing at USC, with Director Dang Nhat Minh. Also on the panel are Oh, Saigon director Doan Hoang (whose film was also shown that day), interpreter Gianni Le Nguyen and USC Prof David James, who kicked off the session. Thanks to Prof. Viet Nguyen, who co-organized the "Dreaming of Peace: Vietnamese Filmmakers Move from War to Reconciliation" event, for permission to record that session and air it. Prof. Nguyen prefaced the showing of Don't Burn with a moving tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. by quoting from the civil rights leader's writings against the Vietnam War.

The Subversity program airs on KUCI, 88.9 fm in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via Podcasts will be made available later and posted here. See trailer of Don't Burn.