Reconsider Columbus Day -- and Then Some

October 12, 2009

  • Have you heard?!? Some folks are trying to open a bar in Oakland called Geisha. Yep, you read that right (sadly, this is not a joke). And sadly, the planning commission (a different group of folks who proposed the nail salon ordinance that I'd previously blogged about) approved the bar. However, Diana Pei Wu, an ethnic studies lecturer/professor at UC Berkeley (and friend) wrote a very eloquent argument as to why this name sucks. Read the full letter here at Angry Asian Man. Folks at Asian Pacific Americans for Progress blogged about it here and here (this is from Diana herself). I am almost reluctant to write about this because I've already written about something Oakland-related recently, and I don't want to bash poor Oakland any further. But this one deserves a good bashing. Interestingly, Diana reveals that both the biz owner and partner of the Geisha bar identify as Asian. Also interestingly, she says that the one no vote and the abstain vote are both from women of color. The yesses were all men, two African American and two white, per Diana's account. Hmm, something to think about.
  • If you are on the internets, you have probably already seen this sad video of two women (one Chinese, one black) fighting on the MUNI bus in San Francisco. It was posted on YouTube, then blogged about (and posted on Facebook ad nauseum), and picked up by local media. I really don't have much more to say about this other than that I felt pretty sad after watching it. (Also, I thought to myself that the woman who essentially broke up the fight is either a student or a teacher/someone who works with young people. But I am stereotyping based on the way she looks and also how she broke up the fight). Oh yeah, and also I hope that MUNI fixes their cameras and that bus riders unite (and help stop fights!).
  • In happier news, KoreAm has a new, spiffy website, IAmKoreAm. If you don't remember, the staffers behind the magazine (whose publishing group also prints Audrey, a magazine for Asian American women) made a public plea about a year ago to keep the magazine going. Needless to say, times are tough right now for print publications as media outlets are also trying to figure out how to make web/blogging and online journalism sustainable. KoreAm's editor in chief, Kai Ma (who has been a contributing writer to Hyphen), wrote an email saying, "...we hope the new site will allow us to stick around for a long time." So a big cheers to KoreAm for their new site, in a time when media outlets are s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g (that was harder to type out than it looks).

  • In not so positive news, it looks like California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed Senate Bill 549. What the heck is SB 549, you ask, since you've probably never heard of it. Essentially, it was a proposal to collect gender, ethnicity and language preference statistics of nail salon workers/cosmetologists in the state of California. As the legislature wrote, "Collecting data on the gender, language preference, and ethnicity of establishment licensees and board licensees will help ensure that appropriate health and safety information is effectively provided to affected licensees." This would have actually been pretty solid step forward for those advocating for the health and safety of nail salon workers, since much of the problem stems from the fact that almost everything is in English, though it's suspected that the majority of folks working salons' first languages are not English. It would be helpful to know who's actually working in nail salons, once and for all, to help figure out how to make salons safer. Bottom line, language access is a huge issue here. It would've also been a step forward in terms of helping people research this issue, since certain illnesses and diseases impact certain ethnic groups differently. As a journalist, this information is also helpful, since right now it's an estimation/guessing game. Here's Schwarzenegger's response to the senate (not signing it means vetoing the bill). I'll highlight a gem for you: He says that collecting demographic data on nail salon workers in order to improve working conditions is a connection that is "specious at best." Sheesh. (Thanks to Julian for the info).

  •  And a public memorial for Gina Hotta has been set for October 25th at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Chinatown. Claire has updated her post with details here.

Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.