poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

June 6, 2010

In Memory of John Delloro + Poem

Dearest John,

I logged on to Facebook last night to ask you if you would be joining us here in Detroit this month, for the US Social Forum, since you’re the National President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. I was shocked to see my entire homepage covered with news about your sudden heart attack, just a few hours after your last post. I cried in disbelief and called our friends in L.A. to see if it was true (sadly, yes, they said it happened in the dark hours of the morning, Saturday, June 5). My heart goes out to your wife Susan Suh, and children, Mina and Malcolm. I wrote this poem for you to sort through my thoughts. As always, your spirit lifts us, as we search for an explanation, checking for updates and then realizing that you were always the first to tell us such news.

Did I ever thank you for those days, when you always put a smile on my face? Did we ever thank Susan for sharing you with us, as you made this world a better place?  Many will say: Rest in Power, an ode to the Black and Yellow Power Movement that you so epitomized in all that you did. I say Rest in Peace, because I know no one else who deserves it more.

When my father, a life-long union man, died this past March, we chose this as his epitaph, which I now offer as solace, for those who loved you too:

“I go where there are no slaves, hangmen, or oppressors;

where faith does not kill;

where the one who reigns is God.”

~from “Mi Ultimo Adios” by Dr. Jose P. Rizal, on the eve of his execution December 29, 1896

My heart is heavy. I will miss you so much, my friend. Prayers and strength to all of your family. Minamahal kita.


A Bullhorn for Justice and Peace:

Memories of John Delloro, 1971-2010

© by Emily P. Lawsin


In this union town, monsoon rains

Wash a flood of memories

In this valley of tears

As I remember the El Niño years

In the City of Angels

Almost 20 years ago, with you,

Our comrade and brothafriend.


I remember when we first met at UCLA;

Me, a Pinay grad student and wanna-be poet/professor,

You, a young undergrad, who was taught

Guerrilla theatre by college republicans and Alinksy students,

Thankfully befriended by baby-faced Bong and other Pinoys:

Your Tribung Ligaw

Who were smart enough to talk to you one-one-one, without a bullhorn.

They convinced you to reject

Or at least publicly question

The white-washed education

That one used to learn in the San Fernando Valley,

Riddled with all its racial fault lines,

Despite its acres of farmlands the Manongs had plowed before us.


I remember how you used to tell everyone

The above story of how you became politicized,

With a twinkle in your eye and a wide smile,

Followed by your chuckled laugh that sounded like gasps

Which should have told us, back then, how tender your heart really beats.


I remember our poetry readings before “Slam” even existed:

My trademark “Diva, di ba” poem (written for the Pinays who

Tabled with you to Save Tagalog classes),

Followed by your trademark

“I am SPAM: A Single Pilipino American Male” poem,

You, breaking out your t-shirt with a blue can of Spam on it, like Superman.

All the women (and gay men) would say, “Is he really single?”

While you always thought they were asking, “Is he really Pilipino?”


I remember our Marxist study groups,

Where you were the only one who ever really completed the readings,

And how you still managed to scarf down a plate of potluck

Even after talking so much,

Chopsticks in one hand and a pen in the other,

Taking notes in the margins for the marginalized.


I remember our meetings at KIWA          look closely: that is John, jumping

And rallies against Jessica McClintock

For not paying her Asian American garment workers,

How you would wear one of her pink prom-like dresses

With a red bandana wrapped around your head

Circling in front of the McClintock boutique on Rodeo Drive,

Leading us all in a chant: without a bullhorn.


I remember when you and Jay announced the creation of the

Pilipino Workers Center,

How Uncle Roy said Manong Philip would be so proud:

All three of you now our guardian angels.


I remember when you were writing your Master’s thesis

And spoke to my Asian American Studies class at Northridge,

Just a few miles from where you grew up,

Bonded with all the students who were also born to Pinay nurses,

Then taught them about sweatshop workers

With a pyramid in the shape of a dress.

I told you that you were a good teacher,

You should teach.


But you didn’t listen, for a while at least,

Had to get your feet wet in the Vegas desert,

Organizing the workers,

Fell in love with brilliant Susan, the only person (before Mina and Malcolm)

Who could ever get you to slow down.

The two of you married the same year I did,

All of us reinventing the red diaper brigade.


When Spam became synonymous with junk mail,

You disguised the poetry and became a blogger, then an author,

Teaching our people’s struggles to the masses

In the form of an American Prayer,

Paying homage to our ancestors,

Burning cane fires late into the night.


The last time I saw you in person,

You had organized a mini-reunion of our activist circle,

Carrying a pink box of pastries and your son sleeping on your shoulder,

Told us about teaching at our alma mater and

Directing the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute.

While I noticed your healthier potluck plate,

We admired you for surviving your first heart attack five years ago,

As you stroked Malcolm’s sleeping hair: your priorities, now clear.


With 1700 of your other friends,

I followed all of your travels across the country, my fellow traveler,

Until you finally went home to rest.


Maraming Salamat, ang kapatid ko / Thank You so much, my brother,

My kasama, for all that you did to make this world a better place.

We raise a power fist to you: our bullhorn with the tender heart,

Offering you this poem of peace, we reaffirm your chants:

Makibaka, Huwag Matakot! We will Fight the Struggle, Without Fear,

Just as you did,

With all your heart.


John Delloro: PRESENTE!

June 6, 2010

Detroit 3:07 AM ET

www.emilylawsin.com

UPDATES:

6-7-10: CLICK HERE for Statement from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center & Department, and UCLA Labor Center. Includes info on Public Viewing (Thurs & Fri June 10-11, 5-9 PM at Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary) and How to Send Memorial Donations for the Family. http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/archives/johndelloro.asp


6-8-10 CLICK HERE http://www.buddhahead.org/delloro.htm for a recording of John reciting one of his poems in the 1990s at UCLA, in honor of the visit of Philip Vera Cruz. Thank you to Ryan Yokota for preserving and posting it.

6-8-10: CLICK HERE  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvJWif4WqBc for a video of John at a recent rally at UCLA, just like we used to do almost 20 years ago, except this time he’s in a suit. 🙂 Salamat/Thank you to Derek Mateo for sharing.


Join the Facebook Group “In Memory of John Delloro” for further updates.


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