The Map Show

I woke up this morning to alerts that Pennsylvania and Georgia had “turned blue,” which, if you’re not familiar with U.S. politics, means that the electoral votes from those states are likely to go to the Biden/Harris/Democrat ticket versus to Trump/Pence/Republicans. (This isn’t the space to get into why this flip is monumental and what efforts were taken to achieve this, but start with #StaceyAbrams.) With the final counts wrapping up, Biden/Harris are likely to take the Oval Office next year, with only six electoral votes away from the necessary 270 to win.

I’ve tried to avoid actively perusing Facebook for some time, only checking messages and alerts here and there. I see a lot of complaints from all sides on how “we can’t just sit back and watch,” “we can’t depend on them to do this,” and “we’ve got to take back our country.” All racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, violence, and just overall bigotry aside, that’s actually the point of civic engagement. Educate yourself, get involved, take responsibility for your personal sense of power and what that means collectively as a society—do the thing!

I’m reflecting upon the biographical documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs and her comment that we should not rely on messiahs to save us. She made a reference to Barack Obama and the hope he inspired in so many. Two presidential terms and four years since he was in office, some lament today that he did not do “enough.” What can one person do, even if he held one of the most powerful positions in the world? Granted, much, but grassroots power—people power—I really believe this is where it’s at. Hope makes all the difference, but ultimately, it’s only the beginning and a call to action.

If there’s anything we can learn from these last four polarizing years and the disastrous 2020, I hope it’s recognition of our own power and our collective capacity for and to change.

Reflections of Wilshire Boulevard

Koreatown is the densest neighborhood in all of Los Angeles, but a stifling stillness still plagues this city, the economy of which depends heavily on the hospitality and entertainment industries. We continue to sit in the purple tier, indicating widespread COVID-19 test positivity rates and cases and requiring the most severe reopening precautions. While many businesses have been making due with limited hours and reliance on takeout and delivery services, many small businesses, including long-time favorites, have had to shut down permanently. Is there an end in sight?

‘Tis the Night Before Elections, and all through the house…

A crisp fog looms over downtown, obscuring the skyline.

Tomorrow is the official U.S. Election Day of 2020 and I’ve been volunteering at the polls at a local center in Los Angeles. I just got home an hour ago, and it’s almost 10 PM here. Tomorrow’s going to be an even longer day, and while we expect that many have already mailed in their absentee ballots, it’s gotten even busier over the last few days. There are over 6 million registered voters in LA County alone.

We’ve registered many first-time voters, eager to have their voices heard for the first time during this momentous election. Personally, it’s my first time volunteering at the polls. I wouldn’t have even known that volunteering as a poll worker was a thing, had it not been offered to me when I had to sort out my registration a couple of months ago.

I’m proud to be part of this election, doing my part in some way, no matter how the elections turn out. I’ve spent many afternoons and weekends canvassing and phone banking for local candidates I believe in. There’s a fervor that’s palpable with so many during this cycle, and it’s exciting to see so many younger people involved. Two of the volunteers at our center are college freshman. When I was their age 16 years ago, there’s no way volunteering for anything election-related would have even occurred to me, nor would I have wanted to.

The times are a-changin’. It’s been a polarizing election cycle, with families and friendships being blown apart with outspoken beliefs—some of mine included. Regardless of how the votes tally, the U.S. has been building up a collective sense of existential crisis that will require repair for decades to come. Whether we can come together and rebuild bridges is another story, or maybe it requires demolishing old bridges to build new paths? I won’t pretend to know the answer. All we can do now is brace ourselves for what’s to come.

The moments in between

In between the rush of work, I found some time yesterday to slow my pace and seek silence. I thought I’d share some rooftop views of the city: on one side, the sun stretching out its rays with a final exhale before meeting the horizon; on the other, the city welcoming a quiet stillness before nightfall.

I often find it hard to sit still. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything and with everyone, especially during these times that require so much delicate attention, reflection, and action. Yesterday and today, I’m spending some time thinking about my own origin story and the labor of my ancestors bringing me to this time and place. What will my own descendants say about today? What do we have the license to rewrite and retell?

Morning Rituals

I open my eyes and stretch out my arms, reaching towards the banig mounted over my bed. I breathe in the soft must of the straw.

I look west to gauge the time. My parol lantern hangs by the window. It’s October, so I’m excited to plug it in, even if Christmas is still two months away.

I grind my coffee beans, plug in my kettle, and shake out my French press, trinkets of luxuries very different from my lola’s Folgers and the pan de sal she taught me to dip.

I brush my teeth with Sensodyne toothpaste, even if I don’t have sensitive teeth. My tita, once a dentist in the Philippines and now a dental hygienist in Australia, insists.

I sit by my desk in front of a bookshelf filled with books my nanay dreamed to one day gift to me. I’ve been building my collection since college.

I get to work on the laptop Nanay bought me after someone broke into my apartment and stole mine. She insisted that I not pay her back.

My coffee is ready. I take a sip and I smile.