It’s Zen and Theo, and we’re writing to you from Los Angeles. Together, we’d like to talk about cross community collaboration.
My name is Zen and I organize with J-Town Action とSolidarity, a grassroots collective dedicated to revolutionary organizing & building community power in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. My family ran the Atomic Cafe (1947 – 1989), a community space for everyone regardless of class, color or circumstance in Little Tokyo and the key inspiration for why I do this work.
My name is Theo. After being unhoused for 8 years, I created We the Unhoused, a podcast that provides accurate news coverage for the unhoused community about the unhoused community. In addition, I was the 2022 UCLA Activist-In-Residence, lecturing students on the realities of houselessness and uplifting other Unhoused voices.
Every Saturday afternoon in Little Tokyo, J-TOWN Action と Solidarity + We The Unhoused organize a Power Up to distribute much needed resources that the state doesn’t provide. We set up charging stations, hot food, PPE, clothing, whatever people need that we can get a hold of. We do this on the principle of mutual aid—that we, the community, takes care of us. Mutual aid is a principle for a revolutionary society.
Theo: What organizing looks like for me is creating a mobile Power Up to different locations where the Unhoused community are. Charging devices, food, wound care, know your rights education. I also speak in other schools and other organizations to offer education on the subject matter.
Zen: In JAS, we’re never just organizing on one specific issue or for one specific group. We’re organizing for a revolution, and a revolution can only happen when a majority of people unite with a conviction to determine their own destiny. So we always support other communities in organizing themselves, while at the same time we call attention to how our distinct experiences of oppression stem from a common system—imperialism.
Zen: I’m celebrating this month by giving deep appreciation to the people we organize with for their unwavering dedication for liberation. I always look forward to the dinners we have together every Saturday, the JAS Power Up playlist always puts me in a good mood and reading the liner notes from Grain of Sand is very grounding for me. This month also notes Day of Remembrance and our organization’s 2 year anniversary, so lots of feelings this month.
Theo: I am celebrating this dual holiday month by sharing our commonalities by penning an essay, KEEP TALKING:
“In order for this relationship to be authentic, we must keep talking about the internalized biases both communities have about one another. Conflation and dismissal are the killers of honest conversation. We should not wait until the world ends to come together or tragedy ensues. Let us meet in joy. Mutual Aid groups are an excellent way of humanizing people and breaking down some barriers. Living Unhoused in an Asian community I would speak up about the necessity of learning Black History. It is pivotal to debunking the Bad Minority Myth trotted out to the Asian community. Fleeing from war torn countries…”
Zen: We’ve been visited by terrible violence over the last few weeks, from the police murders of Tortuguita in Atlanta, Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Keenan Anderson in Venice Beach, to the mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay. In times like this, the scale of violence is so overwhelming that it feels like our only choice is to limit our political work to the violence that most immediately impacts us. But it’s only by fighting this entire system of violence that we can put a stop to the violence closest to us. We can never be safe under imperialism, and imperialism is an all or nothing deal: all of it goes, or none of it does.
- Support the #StopCopCity struggle in Atlanta here.
- Donate to the Tyre Nichols’ memorial fund here.
- Donate to the Monterey Park Lunar New Years’ victims fund here.
- Donate to the We the Unhoused patreon and the JAS mutual aid fund.
- Lastly, we do our Power Up every Saturday from 2-5pm. Our sign up link is here.
And join 18MR in fighting to keep Philadelphia’s Chinatown the cultural heart of Philly’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, a community that would be displaced if destroyed by the proposed 76er arena.
Zen: False Nationalism, False Internationalism: Class Contradictions in the Armed Struggle was written under a pseudonym by a Japanese Amerikan radical (and possibly others) who had ties to the Black Liberation Army in the 1980s. It examines how the principle of solidarity (or “internationalism”) has been misused in revolutionary movements, producing false solidarity (or “false internationalism”). It’s helped us make sense of the problems we’ve encountered in our own work, and it’s essential for anyone interested in building genuine, revolutionary solidarity.
Theo: Therapeutic coloring books with affirmations is what I am into at the moment.
I am growing stronger and wiser everyday
Think believe dream and dare
Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness
Zen: Younger people in JAS really told me that the Star Wars TV show Andor is a good portrayal an oppressive police state that breeds resistance. Here’s a guide from Eteng Ettah on spotting and breaking down carceral TV, like the Bechdel Test but for Copaganda. We have also been reading (1977) The Combahee River Collective Statement in during our Monthly Feminist Theory Picnics.
Theo: I am an international renowned Uno player. Major drawbacks have been not finding good Uno players. Big trash talking is a must. However, for the sake of friendships I voluntarily handicap myself.