poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

September 19, 2012

My Favorite Blair Poems and Songs: Happy 45th Birthday Blair (RIP)

I am thinking of my brotherfriend, the late David Blair, on what would have been his 45th Birthday. Here are some of his poems and songs that I love and listen to the most. I feel so thankful for all the gifts that he shared with our family and the world. 

http://www.thebestphotographerindetroit.com/davidblair

Blair, 2006. Photo by David Lewinski.

Excerpt from “Behind the Garage” Poem

by David Blair, 2002 National Poetry Slam

. . . I know people think I’m crazy

Because I dare to believe

That stars can fall into my cereal bowl

And mingle with the milk swirls.

And I know it’s irrational to

Throw crayons at God

And ask him to color the sky purple.

Yet, I remember the time that I did,

And the next morning I awoke to royalty skyward

To a majestic landscape of fantastic above.

And I remember later that evening

Finding the ladders tucked away behind the garage

Strewn amongst thousands of Crayola boxes all missing violets.

Does my memory serve me correctly or was there none of this?

Am I mad?

I won’t be angry.

It’s just that you’ve been dead for so long now

But I still wake up from dreams of you running through fields of flowers

The sound of one hundred acoustic guitars strumming and picking a beautiful music.

Today, I heard a music that could make the snow shine,

That could make the dead leaves claw a path through the lawn away from me.

Today I saw the beautiful shadow of a bird soar across a concrete wall,

Was that you?

 ~by Blair

* * *

Blair’s performance of “Behind the Garage”  helped the Detroit Slam Team win the National Poetry Slam in 2002. Coach Aurora Harris said she told him that the opera singing would be a good addition, that it would blow everyone’s mind. Sistahfriend ain’t never lied. Now that Blair has passed away, the most poignant stanzas to me come at the end (transcribed above). Watch Blair’s 2002 “Behind the Garage” winning performance here:  http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/55781888  and a 2010 Performance at the Detroit Institute for the Arts (DIA) Film Theatre, for TedX (where Blair begins by taking a photo of the crowd), below:  http://youtu.be/AiheqPT0vL4

* * *

“Detroit (While I Was Away)”:  I love watching this when I’m on the road traveling. There are several, more polished video versions online (including Detroit Lives! and TedX 2010); I like this one because it reveals Blair’s own feelings and the way strangers in the audience responded to him. Despite his decades of award-winning, amazing performances, Blair would still get nervous at events like this. Because he was human. And the best at what he did: http://youtu.be/6CCnRr1dQvw

Video: Detroit (While I Was Away) by D Blair at TedX 10/21/09

* * *

Less than a year before Blair passed away, InsideOut Literary Arts Project commissioned Blair to put Emily Dickinson’s songs to music. This one is my favorite. In this video, he says he was working on a new album called “Reasons for Leaving”, as if he knew that he would leave us:  http://youtu.be/lIRu0eW9hig

Video: Blair Performs “I Haven’t Told My Garden Yet” a Poem by Emily Dickinson, at Wayne State University, February 28, 2011

* * *

More of David Blair’s music, poetry, and merchandise are on his manager’s website: http://seriousartists.com/honor/

Blair’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BlairandtheBF

Obituary on the memorial website is here: http://www.dblair.org/

For some poems that I wrote about Blair, see elsewhere on this blog: https://divadiba.wordpress.com/?s=blair

Happy would-have-been 45th Birthday, Blair. Rest in Peace and Poetry. We love you and miss you.

* * *
* * *
www.emilylawsin.com
* * *

August 27, 2011

MORE POEMS: For Blair (While I Was Away)

Blair 2006 David Lewinski Photo

Today, another memorial for our brotherfriend, singer-songwriter / National Poetry Slam Champion, Blair, will be held in his hometown of Newton, New Jersey. I wish I could be there, but have family obligations here in Detroit. Here are more haikus and poems I wrote after I heard that Blair died. Hearing such tragic news while out of town makes one realize what makes a city a home. I love and miss you, Blair. Thank you for everything you did for me, our family, and our world.

.

Haikus for the Haiku Champion, David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Monday, July 25, 2011, Del Mar, California

Sunset near Del Mar, the day after Blair died.

In Exile in Del Mar

.

most would enjoy this

self-imposed exile at the

foot of the ocean

.

thousands of miles

away from where they found you

in the Corktown Inn.

.

Sir Duke belted on

my phone; i thought it was Grace.

the news numbed, threw me.

.

i locked myself in

the bathroom to cry all day

humming “no, no! why?”

.

Blair 2008 Photo by David Lewinski

.

Lost South of L.A.

remembering your

last visit here to help your

friend, queen of type keys.

.

.

Blair Had a Fear of Flying?

despite your fear of

flying, you soar far and wide

above all others.

– – – – – – –

 

There’s No Room at the Inn, Blair (Or, Anger is the 2nd Stage)

Blair 2006 David Lewinski Photo

 © by Emily P. Lawsin

 Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2:43 AM Pacific Time, Buena Vista, California 

for David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

.

for the second night in a row since your sunset

i sit in a strange motel room

struck with insomnia amidst the inquiries of your passing

.

a man cussing, paces drunk outside my window

i can hear his voice above the rumble of the a/c

ten minutes past last call

.

i want to scream back at him,

throw the spikes of my high-heeled shoes at him,

show him how we would take care of this problem in the D

.

i imagine lighting his foul mouth on fire

with the stench of the incinerator

just a few blocks from your many homes

.

i wonder what has wounded this stranger

that would allow him to crash my private pity party:

afraid to lie down and innocently rest like you did

.

just to catch my breath.

  – – – – – – –

   Blair, You Made the Earth Quake

Blair in Detroit. Photo by David Lewinski

© by Emily P. Lawsin

 Thursday, July 28, 2011, 4:55 AM Pacific Time, Culver City, California  

for David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

On the night you left this earth,

The ground shaked,

While everyone else in this Crowded House slept.

.

A 3.3 earthquake centered near Gardena,

For just the length of an Urban Folk verse,

Jolted me awake.

.

I searched for a news report

To see if anyone else felt it,

Or if it was just the washing machine in the garage,

Or my imagination, spinning.

.

On the radio, Purple Rain played.

.

Tell me: when the soils shook this sunbelt sliver of our shores,

Was that you

Trying to find us to wave goodbye?

.

Or the angels

Lifting you up to your violet colored sky?

.

Or the gardens of bees rumbling

Because you had not yet bid them Farewell?

.

Or the ancestors’ spirits, trying to ground you,

Who knew it really wasn’t your time to leave?

* * *

www.emilylawsin.com

For my other poems/blogs about Blair, click HERE  https://divadiba.wordpress.com/?s=blair

The New Jersey Herald just published an article on Blair, HERE.

To read the cover story Remembering Blair in Detroit’s Metro Times, click HERE. 

To read  the article by Scott Kurashige eulogizing Blair, in The Michigan Citizen newspaper, click HERE.

To read The Michigan Citizen article about Blair’s funeral in Detroit and the text of his “Detroit (While I Was Away)” poem, click HERE.

To see videos of Blair performing songs and poems, see his manager Serious Artists, HERE

Thank you to David Lewinski, for the beautiful photographs of Blair: http://www.thebestphotographerindetroit.com/davidblair

Donations for Blair’s family and a healthcare fund for Detroit artists are still welcome at www.dblair.org

Rest in Peace and Poetry, my friend.

.

July 30, 2011

5 MORE POEMS: In Memory of David Blair (1967-2011)

I’ve had insomnia since learning about the sudden death of our friend David Blair,
singer-songwriter/musician/organizer/performer and National Poetry Slam Champion. Here are some of the poems that I’ve written as a result, Blair’s parting gift, I suppose. 

1.          Denial is Always the First Stage

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Sunday, July 24, 2011, 1:00 PM 

for David Blair, 9/19/67 – 7/23/11

Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh NNNOOOOO!!!!! This cannot be happening.This cannot be true.Tell me something different.Not this.I need to hear something different.How can this be true?Why is this happening?Why did you leave us so early?

Goddamnit, WHY?

I keep hoping that

Maybe this is a case of the game “Telephone” gone bad:

You know, I watched you lead that once as an icebreaker

To entice a giggling circle of youth to craft bodacious poems,

Enjoying the whisper of words and lies unfolded.

So, you know, this could just be “Telephone” gone bad, right?

Or maybe the static between the sobs on the other end of the phone

Muffled the real truth: that you are really alive.

Maybe Jenny and the five other Detroit Summer doulas who called

Didn’t mean to say that you died in your sleep, trying to escape the heat.

Maybe they really meant to say that you were just “vacationing”, oh, I don’t know—“in Sleeping Bear Dunes? To escape the heatwave of the D?  Yeah, that’s it. That sounds much better. (You know I had wanted to take you there one day, Snap a photo and title it “Blair on the Bear”. Maybe we can still do that. Together.)

Maybe I can just call you right now to see if you pick up.

Maybe just to be able to hear the tenor and bass of your voice.

Maybe this is all just a dream;

Maybe I should go back to sleep now and

Maybe you will call early in the morning, like you usually do.

Maybe the heat is just getting to me too.

Maybe I have really lost my hearing and am hallucinating.

Maybe you were really an undercover agent, just assigned to Detroit to infiltrate the Left.

Maybe the FBI decided to just give you a new identity. I would be perfectly fine with that.

Maybe if I wander to a remote state, like I don’t know — Kansas,

Maybe I can wave a magic wand or click my heels three times and find you there,

A spectacled professor teaching African American music at a community college, or

A bearded bartender at your own saloon,

Listening to other people’s stories and writing your own.

Maybe my island blood has spent too many years bleeding in the Mitten

To even think that the most unbelievable could be true.

I mean, how am I supposed to believe that you, the one person who was so full of life,

You, who survived Michigan winters with no electricity, reading poetry by flashlight,

You, who survived the assembly line at Cry-Slur and the streets of the D,

You, the bravest, hottest man I know—died, maybe from the goddamn HEAT?

Yeah, I said it.

That just makes no goddamn sense at all.

————


2.         The Last Time I Saw You: Questions for Uncle Blair

         © by Emily P. Lawsin

Sunday, July 24, 2011, 11PM 

for David Blair, 9/19/67 – 7/23/11

The last time I saw you,

We shared a typical Detroit summer day.

You walked in your slippers to meet us in the Cass Corridor,

Kissed me on the cheek, while slyly clicking a snapshot of my jeweled sandals,

Crooning, “Look at those shoooooooes,” and

Guessing correctly: another gift from my (other) gay brother.

We ate Mexicantown’s tres leches birthday cake together, in the three sisters’ garden,

Which, until a couple of years ago was attached to an abandoned

“Blair Hair Salon”, where I had always wished we had taken your photograph.

My five-year-old daughter sat, as she always did, bouncing in your lap,

At Kibibi’s backyard barbecue-turned-impromptu-open mic,

Where you, of course, were the unannounced featured artist,

And the five year old, for the first time ever, volunteered to be your opening act.

Your jaws dropped when she sang a Glee medley of

“Lean on Me”/”Don’t Stop Believing”, a cappella.

Well, why wouldn’t she, with you as her most influential and favorite “uncle”?

Then, when you performed your signature “Detroit, While I Was Away” poem,

As a gift to everyone in the backyard dust,

Hanging your arms like slam dunks in the sky,

We all wondered if you would notice the electrocuted squirrel right above you,

Completely thawed from its assailant snowstorm, and

Dangling from the electricity line that DTE still has not yet removed!

But even that couldn’t throw you off beat:

The depths of your Ebony Eyes have seen much worse tragedies.

Before Pat and Julia broke out the plastic bags of week-old fireworks

And host Shayla and pregnant Becca stoked S’mores in the fire pit,

You took an hour to kiss everyone bye like you always did,

With the five year old trying to anchor your leg,

And exited the party before sunset.

Your Reasons for Leaving: to have family Sunday dinner at Matt and Bev’s.

Their toddlers would be asking for you, their godfather, their “Uncle B”.

Had I known that would be the last time I saw you,

I would have agreed to more picture taking,

And clicked my own rare candid of your gap-tooth smile –

Which I told you is a sign of royalty.

Your humble self would laugh that off, then in all seriousness say,

“I don’t know if it’s a sign of royalty, or a sign that I get no royalties.”

Then share your bellowing laugh again.

Had I known that would be the last time I saw you,

In the purple and gold shimmer of Second Avenue,

I would have clenched you so much tighter and longer when we hugged goodbye,

And I would not have scolded the five year old to let go of you,

As she pulled on your hands and shirt tail, begging you to stay.

Now, just two weeks later, can you or someone please tell me:

How do I tell her the news about her favorite “Uncle” Blair?

What do I tell this child, the one who would always run to you,

Squealing your name, jumping up and down,

Even through a Crowded House, just for one of your big bear hugs?

What do I tell this little girl who adores you,

Who can sing all of your songs and poems by heart,

The brave soul who tiptoed to you on the border of one stage,

Passing you a block letter “E” colored with brown felt marker,

Just so you could tell her joke mid-set? (And you did: Do you want a brownie?)

Cue: thunderous applause.

This is the first-grader who only wants to hold

Your hand crossing these Motown streets,

Just so the two of you can sing Ease on Down the Road, together.

So I need to know:

How do I tell this child that you’re not going to be able to teach her

How to play guitar, what more, in a New York subway so she can pocket some change?

How do I tell her that we can’t have that sushi-making tea party we had planned with you?

How do I tell her that the idea for making Hurricane Popcorn while watching a

Passing Strange/The Wiz/Akeelah and the Bee movie marathon with you

Has to be cancelled, or changed?

How do I tell this child, who has never had stage fright because of you,

Who has danced at all of your shows,

Whose curled-up belly you kissed with your music, even before she was born,

How do I tell her — my heart and my soul — that

The next time we dance down the streets of Detroit,

It will never really be the same?

——-

3.            But I Loved Uncle Blair

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

For David Blair (9/19/67-7/23/11)

Today, we told our five-year-old daughter that you died.

She cried a flood of crocodile tears like I have never seen her cry before.

We cradled her like you would,

And she asked the same questions that we have: Why?

I bit my lip so hard so she wouldn’t see it quiver with tears, that it left a scar.

“But he was my favorite fake uncle”, she said,

Her own way of saying extended family.

“But I loved Uncle Blair because he always played with me,

He never got mad at me. Did he ever get mad at you, Mommy?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.

“How about you, Daddy?”

“Nope, he never got mad at me,” he said.

She did that hummingbird cry, rocking back and forth in our arms,

And we told her how she could remember you,

What we would do to celebrate your life:

“On Sunday, we’ll have a parade of poetry and music with all of your friends.

We are going to feel sad for a while, but that’s ok.

It’s ok to cry and let it all out.”

She repeated over and over, a scratch in a vinyl record:

“Uncle Blair died? We can never see him sing again?”

Oh yes, we can watch all of his videos and listen to his music.

We are really lucky that he gave us so many gifts of so many of his poems and so many of his songs

That we can play over and over again.

“But that’s not the same as seeing him in person.”

She ain’t never lied.

“Uncle Blair died. That makes me so sad,” she repeated more, her face crumbling.

And just when I thought I would have to do something desperate

Like let her eat all of the candy in the whole wide world — despite her four cavities —

Or buy out the whole toy store down the street – including the display window doused by her drool —

Just to make her feel better,

This brilliant child, who you have nurtured as an artist since she drew murals in my belly,

Asked with her Ebony Eyes: “Can I have a picture of Uncle Blair? One, just by himself?”

As always, your divine intervention saved us.

Do you want one of the two of you together?

“Yeah! That too. I want to color it, make it look special so I don’t forget him.”

We printed two photos that she chose from the treasure chest of your albums.

She cut them out, shaping slowly around your halo.

She folded two origami paper cups like flower pots

And placed one picture inside each like planting a seed.

She drew rainbow colored petals and wrote:

“One of my favorite uncles, Uncle Blair. I’m sad that he died.  😦  “

Then we glued a purple origami crane to its sky and a red, white, and blue kite to the front;

She drew a ribbon of bows to anchor it near your heart.

It is, by far, the most beautiful piece of art she that has ever made.

————-


4.         Spelling B Haiku

          (c) by Emily P. Lawsin

for David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

“how do you spell ‘died’ ?”

our five-year-old asked us, clenched

crayon in bent fist.

  

5.    In My Child’s Dreams

Thursday, July 28, 2011, 10:45 AM

for David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

this morning, daughter

woke up saying she saw you

play music in dreams.

you did not say her

name or talk to her, just sang.

the other day, we

met a native owl

who said when dream bird spirits

speak your name, it is

your time to depart

this earth, soaring high above.

So thank you, brown bear,

For never naming

Names in your dream songs of love.

Rest in Peace, my friend.
 

 ———————————————————-

To read my other poem Dear Blair that I posted yesterday, see: https://divadiba.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/dearblair/  

*  *  *   

 For information on Funeral Services and how to Donate to the Memorial Fund for David Blair, please see:  www.dblair.org  

Please donate to the fund. Every bit helps. Thank you.  

* * * 

www.emilylawsin.com

July 29, 2011

POEM: In Memory of David Blair (1967-2011)

Blair, 2005

Blair. 2005 David Lewinski Photo.

Dear Blair

© by Emily P. Lawsin

In Memory of David Blair (September 19, 1967 –  July 23, 2011)

Like all the poets you’ve linked as kin, I want to write that epic poem for you,

With your favorite Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Tracy Chapman songs

Crooning between the lines,

Where strangers pour out beneath the lamplights of Crowded Houses like

Bittersweet, Xhedos, Urban Break, and Circa Saloon,

Clapping and clamoring to buy you a beer

If you belt out a song or poem or both, again, just one more time.

As your biggest fans, we want the never-ending encore, my friend.

I want to show the world

The brilliant light that shines from your pensive eyelids

As you strum your beloved guitar.

How you would hug it with your arms and knees

In the front seat of our car,

Skipping dinner if it meant leaving it out in the open:

Never wanting your livelihood stolen.

I want all performers to learn your level of humility and grace,

Replay for them our long discussions about how

All talented artists need patrons,

How we should all put our money behind healthcare for indie artists

How maybe that would give you a crown for your missing tooth,

And an EKG to detect any suspected heart irregularities

From your days at the Cry-slur plant or the racial tauntings of your childhood in Jersey.

Given this, I want to film you walking down Woodward,

Where all the shopkeepers, the bus drivers, and

Even the bag ladies pushing stolen shopping carts know you by name.

I want to eat dinner with you at Union Street again,

Watch the manager admonish the host for not seating you sooner again,

Take a sip of the draft he just poured you, on the house, again.

Ask him why he’s not piping your music or poetry overhead

And whip out seven or eight of your albums to stop his stuttering.

I want to watch your fans come up to shake your hand again,

Talk to you like they’ve known you forever,

Have you nod at me with one twitch of your lip, which was code for:

“Tell them your name so they will tell you theirs; I’ve forgotten. Please help!”

I know this because for years, I was one of those same fans.

At our age, our minds start to slip, but at least we know our routines.

We want the never-ending encore, my friend.

I want to fly to Berlin, Copenhagen, South Africa, and Siberia with you,

Take you to Hawai’i, Japan, Jamaica, and the Philippines too,

Not just for the adventure and stardom,

But to be able to hold your calloused hands

On the transcontinental flights that only your closest friends know scares you,

You, a denizen of Greyhound and Amtrak.

I want to always remember how one time,

I bought you a train ticket to speak to a class in Ann Arbor

And you showed me the brand-spanking new kicks you bought by the station

During a train delay.

I laughed when you told me you left your old funky shoes with worn holes in them

On the train, under the seat, in a box for someone else to discover.

“Do you think I should’ve taken them home?” You asked.

That sounds like a poem-in-the-making, I laughed:

“Even if the air hangs like your dirty dogs hummin’ on the train, I still miss you.”

We want the never-ending encore, my friend.

I want to paint a chocolate picture of you

Taking photographs in the Cass Corridor

With the second camera that you’ve lost this year,

Highlight how bumper stickers Emerging from stop signs could move you,

How graffiti that told an ironic story never needed any captions,

How on one recent day, on Second Avenue in Cass Park,

Some young punks yelled at you to put away your camera,

Patting their baggy pants by their crotch like they had a pistol in their pocket,

And you tried to talk them out of it, tell them a story and listen to theirs like you always did.

You told me it was the first time that you ever felt even an ounce of fear in this hood,

In 15 years of living here. That’s when I should’ve started to worry about you, shaken.

For all your humble, gifted talent, I want to put your name in lights at the Fox,

Have you sing “I Rise” with Maya Angelou on Oprah,

Cheer when Burying the Evidence wins a Tony Award on Broadway,

Uncover your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, next to Aretha or Paul Robeson.

I want to name you the Poet Laureate of the United States of America,

Or a Macarthur Genius Award Winner,

Or a Resident Artist as the Langston Hughes or Jimmy Boggs Endowed Chair,

Give you all the Kresge, NEH, Sorros, and Fulbright fellowships you could possibly need

So you don’t ever go hungry again, living from paycheck to paycheck,

So you don’t ever sit in a cold empty apartment reading with roaches and flashlights again,

So you don’t ever get so thirsty or so hot that you find some sleazebag motel

In the heat of the night to find peace in, just because it has air conditioning.

You deserve so much, so much better, my friend.

I hope somehow, in your short life, you realized that.

* * *

 I love you, Blair.

Thank you for all that you did for Detroit, for our world, and for my family.

Rest in Peace and Poetry. 

More poems to come.

www.emilylawsin.com

* * *

For information on Memorial Services and how to donate to the memorial fund for David Blair, please see:  www.dblair.org   Every bit helps. Thank you.

* * * * * 

Update 7/30/11

To Read 5 More of my Poems – on 5 Year Old’s Uncle Blair, click here:

https://divadiba.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/blair/  

 

June 8, 2010

John Delloro Funeral Arrangements

Filed under: Brothafriends,Los Angeles,Memorials — EL @ 11:53 pm
Tags: ,
John Delloro leads a rally at UCLA, 1995. Photo by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon.

Statement from our alma mater, UCLA. Rest in Peace, John. We love you, brothafriend.

http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/archives/johndelloro.asp

John Delloro: UCLA Scholar Activist and Asian Pacific American Labor Leader Passes (1971-2010)
It is with deep sadness that the faculty, staff, and students of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Department and the UCLA Labor Center join with countless others in mourning the loss of John Delloro, an extraordinary labor and community leader, teacher, and activist. He passed away in the early morning of Saturday, June 5, 2010 from a heart attack. Delloro was a courageous, articulate, and passionate advocate for social justice in Los Angeles, the nation, and beyond. A Bruin through and through, John received his Master of Arts degree in Asian American Studies with an interest in Asian Americans and the US labor movement and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Specialization in Asian American Studies at UCLA. He received his Associate of Arts in Social Science at College of the Canyons.  He worked as a lecturer with the UCLA Asian American Studies Department for nearly three years, where he taught “Asian American and Pacific Islander Leadership Development”; “Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Labor Organizing in Contemporary Society”; “Power of Story: Oral History, Leadership, and AAPI Communities”; “Public Narrative: Community Organizing, Power, and Identity”; and “Contemporary Asian American Communities.”  Lane Hirabayashi, Chair of the Asian American Studies Department recalled, “John was an amazing teacher who inspired many students to major and minor in Asian American Studies and become involved and active with the community.  John was dedicated to his students, and all of us in the Department remember seeing him spend countless hours in and around the office talking to them.”

As a faculty member of the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Labor Studies Center, he taught classes on “Asian Americans and Affirmative Action,” “Asian Americans and the Garment Industry,” “Labor In America,” “Labor Leadership,” “Politics and Labor,” “Race and Gender in the Workplace,” “Strategic Planning for Labor Unions,” “Building More Effective Unions,” and trainings and seminars on labor history, workplace issues and organizing at various trade unions and community organizations. “As a nationally recognized union leader, labor educator, organizer, teacher and mentor, John Delloro touched the lives of many and will be remembered for his compassion, his generosity of spirit, and for his visionary leadership,” said Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center.

In addition to his academic background, he is remembered as a longtime labor and community organizer, who served as manager of the southwest California area of the 90,000 member SEIU Local 1000, the Union of California State Workers and as a staff director for the acute care hospital division of SEIU Local 399, the Healthcare Employees union. He has also worked as an organizer for the Culinary Union (HERE Local 226) in Las Vegas and AFSCME International organizing Los Angeles Superior Court clerical employees.

A Filipino American, his activism within and commitment to Asian, Latino, Black communities was unparalleled, both in the classroom and in the workplace. John Delloro was one of the co-founders of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC), and served as the National President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, which is the largest and only national organization of Asian Pacific American working families and union members. He was also the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, a member of the Board of Taxicab Commissioners for the City of Los Angeles and served as an appointee on the California Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education.

“John Delloro had a heart of a champion, with a dedication to social justice, respect, and equality for workers, immigrants, and people of color. His commitment to positive social change was contagious, inspirational, and had an indelible impact on a generation of students and activists across the nation, including myself,” said Melany Dela Cruz-Viesca, Assistant Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. John Delloro is survived by his wife, Dr. Susan Suh, UCLA Sociology Ph.D. Alumna and community activist, and their two young children, Mina and Malcolm. A public viewing will be held the evenings of Thursday, June 10, 2010 and Friday, June 11, 2010, from 5-9pm at the Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary, located at 11160 Stranwood Ave, Mission Hills, CA 91345. Funeral services will be private. Per the wishes of the family, there may be a public memorial at a later date.

If you would like to make a donation or contribution in terms of funeral services or other needs, please make checks payable to “John Delloro Memorial Fund” and drop-off or mail to either:

UCLA Asian American Studies Department
Attention: Stacey Hirose
3336 Rolfe Hall, Box 957225
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7225
www.asianam.ucla.edu

UCLA Asian American Studies Center
Attention: Meg Thornton
3230 Campbell Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1546
www.aasc.ucla.edu

For inquiries, please contact Meg Thornton at (310) 825-2974 or Stacey Hirose at (310) 267-5593. Please visit our websites for further information.

CLICK HERE to read my previous post for a poem I wrote about John: http://tinyurl.com/PoemForDelloro


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.


December 14, 2008

POEM: For Corky Pasquil on his Birthday

great_pinoy_championsfilm

Aileen Federizo sent a cool Facebook message saying that she’s putting a collection of surprise birthday greetings together for her husband, Corky Pasquil. They moved from Southern California to live in the Philippines so that their sons can learn the culture, so I thought this was a brilliant idea! Corky and Aileen are the founders of MyBarong.com, my absolute favorite clothing company.  I met Corky when I was a grad student at UCLA and he was editing his video documentary “The Great Pinoy Boxing Era” on Filipino American boxers of the 1920s-40s (which everyone, especially all of you Manny Pacquiao/boxing fans, should definitely watch. Now you can even watch or download Corky’s video for FREE on the MyBarong.com website HERE.)


A few years after working as a physical therapist, Corky left his job to start MyBarong.com so he could work at home and help raise their son (inspiring). Corky and Aileen are what we call good people who always “give back” to FANHS and our Filipino American community, so that’s why I also give their products as gifts to family and friends of all ages. (I was going to post a slideshow of my family and me in all their fabulous Filipiniana outfits, but thought that would be too cheesy.  Just know that if it doesn’t look like it’s my mother’s vintage barong – which I also always wear – then it’s MYbarong.com.)  Happy Birthday, Corky! Here’s my gift to you, with salamats to Aileen for the inspiration:

Ang Tulâ Para sa Corky, at Salamat sa Aileen

(A Poem for Corky Pasquil, on His Birthday,

with Thanks to Aileen)

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Cornelio, Corky,

P.T.-turned-MyBarong.com man

weaving a new page

so he could be a family man

brought his bride and his boys

to their ancestral shores

stitching the threads of our history

so they could learn more:

a fine example for you and me.

made his film “The Great Pinoy Boxing Era”

as a student Bruin on a shoestring budget

with pamilya and kaibigans in his corner,

learned the ropes and edited it with love,

a gift to the pioneers and our community: all that he does.

maraming salamat / with many thanks, Corky,

for bringing the beauty of our culture to the world

staying true to your beliefs and dreams

we ride your coat tails with pride,

as you embroider our next adventure!

Maligayang Kaarawan, ang kaibigan ko! = Happy Birthday, my friend!

Mabuhay!

November 21, 2008 / December 14, 2008

Watertown, Massachusetts, USA

For my bio, go to  www.emilylawsin.com

Click HERE to read my previous blog post: “POEM: Padasal, Novena at the Polls, November 4, 2008”

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