Reach the Dream !

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2013 by poplockpoetry

Dedicated to Rakim

Posted in Uncategorized on March 1, 2013 by poplockpoetry

“I wanna make my moves fly, with grace, throughout space so high it tastes the sky
swoop down on the ground, throwdown to the go-down, rocking like a king with no crown
slow down for the tempo to drop, let me rest on the rest like an intentional pause.

moment of silence because I’m breathing a cause
open my eyes and wrap my disguise a bboy in side a pop, decorated with locks
hop my rhythm back and forth swayin like I was ’bout to wreck to the hip and to the hop
non-stop. end.”


Performin in the Bay SF 2013

Performin in the Bay SF 2013


Can’t deny Rakim’s great contribution to music, rap and hiphop. Growing up and getting into breaking, Rakim’s style of lyrically riding the funky rhythms of James Brown’s drums and changing up the rhyme flows using internal, multiple syllable rhymes. His style changed the game, and his flow just seemed to dance.

Unwrapping White Privilege and Asians at the Library

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 20, 2011 by poplockpoetry

Almost a full week after the infamous “Asians in the Library”  video blog, we have charged responses from many denouncing it as bigotry, catchy Youtube renditions, UCLA campus revisiting its teeth of Code of Conduct standards, and someone’s life forever changed.

Among the plethora of youtube responses, I was a bit taken aback at the sexist language directed at Alexandra. Though, to be sure, I have seen in any case where white bigotry (e.g. KKK coverage) has been openly public, some folks often like to distance themselves by dismissing the person merely as “uneducated” and “white trash” (i.e. I am not like them!) I see it no different how folks responded to Alexandra. Why do we do this?  Have we really addressed her racist perspective or what “American manners” really mean?  I’m trying to think how I distanced myself when a fellow Filipino gets bad coverage, I don’t have that privilege of race in this country.

I guess immediate lessons from this are:
1 – Don’t mess with Asians or the Asian American community.
2 – When making provocative rants, never represent a large institution where almost half of the folks you’re attacking attend. (I wonder how my alma matter of 3% Asian Americans would have responded?)
3 – YouTube can destroy your life.

I’m glad folks like Beau Sia attempts to address (in Alexandra voice) some real issues reflecting why Alexandra and many of us could have been threatened by Asians in the Library. A great piece and performance:

Thanks to ColorLines article for calling for a better conversation.

“Uống nước, nhớ nguồn”

Posted in Viet Nam on July 19, 2009 by poplockpoetry

Nha Trang by night, photo courtesy of Trinh Tran

Nha Trang by night, photo courtesy of Trinh

“Drink water, remember its source.”

When you drink the water, remember those who have come before you and those that will come after…

My mentor shared me this Vietnamese saying while waiting for my first bowl of phở in Việt Nam. It was a rather odd, sobering remark as I anticipated the country’s staple dish. He shared the importance of sustaining ourselves for our life’s journey and unpacked its meaning, and at that moment, I found the phrase to intersect so much of my own life. The next few months are my reflections in this country of understanding the “source”….everything the sights, the smells, and most importantly—the people I walk with through Việt Nam.

Portrait of Place: NYC Part I – “It’s all about Ghetto expression..”

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 by poplockpoetry

Oh the big apple, the place where my cousin tells me, “they know how to get your money”. Up until this recent trip, I never really felt a sense of community in NYC.  I mean, how can you find a community with a city with so much hustle, 5 boroughs, and a population of over 8 MILLION people, where do you start? For my friends and family, they’ve each found a niche and are trying to survive the NYC life.

My first stop was hanging with my homie Boogie B.  He was gracious enough to show me around Manhattan, let me tag-along a homie’s bday party (where I learned the term “snake”) and we checked out Brian Green’s House Dance Conference Party.  Now mind you, this was the same party I went to at least 5-yrs ago when I looked like this (flashier n 15 pounds lighter):at Brian Green's House Dance Conference, '04

Thumping bass, hands flying, riding pianos, salsa rhythms, African drums melted together as young and old dancers from the House & Hiphop scene graced the floor.  There’s a certain spirituality and sensual vibe I always feel in a Housin’ environment.  Maybe it’s the uplifting Gospel-influenced lyrics. And it’s honestly one of the few places I see older and younger generations of dancers, where predominantly people of color, a gender balance, and so many dance styles get down. The official dance contest was on fire as 20 folks ripped the circle.  I never seen steps like that in my life. The finals came down to Meech originally from Cameroon, Japanese New Yorker Hideki  and Linda reppin’ the Ladies of MAWU. My jaw just stayed dropped the whole night, they’ve each won some renown international house contests and here they are reppin in a local low-key contest. That diversity is a snapshot at the talent and humility I felt in the NYC House scene. In their steps I saw tappin pirouettes, poppin hits and waves, funky locks, smooth headspins and swipes, & African dance rhythms all fused into the rhythm of House music. It’s undeniably the soulful manifestation of Black music. We were also blessed with two fellow dancers from Detroit who rocked “Jittin” styles. It’s the first time I ever seen the dance and heard the music live-it’s on some hyper-electro funk vibe, (picture hearing Planet Rock at 300RPM) with explosive moves—-some vaudeville, stepping, flips. They were definitely reppin Detroit’s legacy of techno, house, and jazz.   This is an example of Jitting:

It’s like if Miami Bass and House Music had a child, it would be Detroit Techno, and they would Jit. The term “the Jit” is actually short for the Jitterbug which it derives from.


The host Brian Green dropped the knowledge to connect the dance movements “House is ultimately comes from what? Techno music—just like the same Techno music our brothers were rockin in Detroit,” and reminding everyone, that everyone’s styles and dance goes beyond that room, because “at the end of the day, it’s all about ghetto expression, just because you don’t know it’s there, doesn’t mean it don’t exist”.


That whole piece hit me real hard as we always, at some point, written off new dance movements because it’s done by people of color. When in reality, it’s our expressions, it’s our dance, it’s our space.  So I ain’t knockin our Krumpin, Turfin, Flexin, our communities are always changing, always evolving and once in awhile they come back around (e.g. breakin).


I’m reminded of our “ghetto expressions” we use to rock in Florida from breakin wit Freestyle music, poppin liquid, to bustin’ out the WHOOP and the sistas “scrubbing the ground”.  Do those dances exist outside of FL?

If you know what’s up, rep your regional dance, or your ghetto expressions here….

Oh and as for the winner of the contest, Meech took the competition and totally changed the approach of how Boogie B & I dance, as B said “it’s like he gives you a sneak peak of his arsenal, then slowly builds up to an explosion”. Witness the skills below:


The gnawing need to know: Roots of Identity Transnational Activism

Posted in philippines with tags , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by poplockpoetry


Oroquieta City, Mindanao, Philippines

Oroquieta City, Mindanao, Philippines

“Returning to your roots; Know where you came from. Deep Roots, Lasting Growth”.  As young student-activists, we were bombarded with these slogans at Asian American conferences; there we began the journey of inserting/reclaiming ourselves into American history and awakening parts of our identity long denied.  But even then, attending those conferences by themselves seemed so abstract, idealistic, borderline wishful thinking.  The connections wouldn’t resonate in me until my work doing post-Katrina community organizing.


One summer night in the Bronx, NY, I sat in a circle and drank with elderly Filipino men, our Manongs we’d say— and one person they would refer to as “Vice-Mayor”.  The nickname was actually out of respect to the Vice Mayor position he held in his hometown in the Philippines.  We didn’t talk much, and my Tagalog is futile, but at the short conversation we had, he looked me straight in the eye with conviction, “Don’t forget that you are Filipino.”

In his words, I sensed the urge to acknowledge dignity to a life that he once knew and a life that was sacrificed for my generation.  This would be the same themes that would echo a Vietnamese elder who housed us, Ong Khang, in New Orleans, who reminded my colleague, Mai: “Remember who you are; we Vietnamese have our special expereience(s) and survived war”.  Any given night, he would share with us his stories of survival in the education camps and his escape to the US, this all reinforced an ideal of a collective duty of the next generation.

 As the next generation, do we have a duty to be accountable to a place we never lived?  What makes fellow activist of color make this trip to your “homeland”?


Maybe it’s because living abroad, just like moving out of your hometown, is the best way to critique your surroundings, or maybe it’s part of that journey to fulfill part of identity that you’ve learned to assimilate, hide and forget. Or it’s the realization that you want to make this part of you, finally relevant.


Now I’m not talking about self-congratulatory, privilege confirming attitudes that fuel some folks’ trip abroad (that’s always conditioned). I’m asking why the search for a true connection?  And if so, how do we make this work mutually beneficial?  Let’s not forget along with the birth of the Civil Rights movement, Asian American movement in the U.S. 1960’s, these movements always had transnational agendas as Third World nations were at war for independence from our own U.S. economic, foreign policies; and there was genocides being conducted by both foreign powers and domestic entities.



There’s also other activist precedence setting with these “homeland” moves: Marcus Garvey’s Transcontinental Black Star Line, the Back-to-Africa Movement, Stokely Carmichael’s self-exile to Guinea and  Martin Luther King Jr. would always remind us the transnational connections:  

“In this period (1960s) when the American Negro is giving moral leadership and inspiration to his own nation, he must find the resources to aid his suffering brothers in his ancestral homeland. Nor is this aid a one-way street. The civil rights movement in the United States has derived immense inspiration from the successful struggles of those Africans who have attained freedom in their own nations. The fact that black men govern states, are building democratic institutions, sit in world tribunals, and participate in global decision-making gives every Negro a needed sense of dignity.” MLK on South Africa Apartheid.


 There’s a narrative that if we do not confront the roots of our origins, we would not know how to confront our own present oppressions.   


Throughout my time working with the Vietnamese American community, I’m inspired by colleagues who not only visited Viet Nam, but ignited personal connections, and have built their knowledge learning from local communities in Viet Nam and can successfully connect models to community development & organizing in the US.

 A great research paper by Francis Calpotura, head of Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA) suggests how US social justice organizations are can learn more policy-centered strategies from our Philippine NGO’s.  For example, in the Philippines, there is a national mandate for local participation and this alllows for advocacy groups to not just hold public officials accountable, but for local communities to be involved in community planning, budgeting,  local legislation and effective public hearings.

To put it in a U.S. perspective: these are the same solutions we were asking EPA on the Federal, and State levels on handling environmental justice post-Katrina, just think if we had that access already in place before the storm.  It’s radical for me because it looks into the Philippines as a source of strength, not as a poor, Third World ghetto. I’m grateful for the framework of the article as it mutually contributes a “two-way street” principle that MLK alludes to.

I guess we all have our reasons for making that transnational leap back “home”.  For me, this is another journey of unveiling a part of me long denied—-the realities of my mom’s hometown and the family connections long cut off.  The only recollection I have of the Philippines is complaining as a  spoiled American 4-yr old and as a place my mom threatened to send me back as punishment.   So with my reason for going,  I hope it starts my own unlearning of paternal, Western thought towards a more holistic, grounded activism.


For those folk who’ve gone abroad, thought of going, or have started transnational work, what’s your reasons? Or what are the reasons for you not to go? 


“Know whence you came, if you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.“ – James Baldwin, Letter to Nephew on 100th Anniversary of Emancipation

“Paghahanap, Pagtuklas, at pagbawi: search, discover, and reclaim. We search for our true story, our collective story, and our story teaches us our duty. Our identity leads us to action” – Steven De Castro, Identity in Action, A Filipino American’s perspective


Dancing in the Dark

Posted in personal, poetry, Uncategorized with tags , on September 30, 2008 by poplockpoetry

Sneakers scratch the surface of the ground
his legs swiftly glide as if he’s making sand out of concrete
it sounds like a painter’s brush
drafting an outline on grated canvass
no one else is around
he is lost in the shadow of his own rhythm,
lost in his moving circles
resembling a methodological clock in 6-steps
that seeks peace between the sporadic seconds
his hands take turns at balancing his burden

there is no light behind the Buddhist temple
so how can he see?
he spent tonight bringing in the Mid-Autumn Moon
in the twilight of his own refuge-
away from the blaring songs of front stage-singers and
silly-string fights, away from the other biloxi breakers who performed

As I stepped in the dark, towards his rhythm, his moves were shining
It was as if a glimpse of his soul was learning a new language
before it could say “hello”, he stopped.
shrugged the dirt off his hands and said, silently,
“I’ll be a good breakdancer one day”

in that quick second, I’m taken aback in flashbacks-
to my first backspin in 1996, when I might have been his age…
when I proclaimed those same words
when no one else was around
when people said I can never learn
I began to get lost in the shadows of my rhythm
learning a new language
amidst the dark confusion of life
because, eventually, at the end of a song,
my soul began to shine.
and these movements led me where I am today.

I responded to him, “soon, man, keep it up”
keep that light shining.

Gainesville, FL. 2003


Welcome to my blog – Pop.Lock.Poetry.

I’m reppin’ me on this one! It’s going to be a party and I got some music, dancing, and food for y’all.

One day I wanted to do a one-man show, but after the real world set in, and when a few inspiring people continued to nag me, i got this blog instead. This is my attempt to uplift my personal story, our collective stories and daily experiences that some how find voice through Hiphop and Spoken Word Poetry. Through the language of these arts, I’ve learned to be reflective on my roots, introspective about my identity and subversive about society. so like any form of art, i hope this blog serves as another conversation, another cypher, dance circle or another debate…I am by no means an expert at what I do, but I’m a student of life. Hope y’all enjoy.