Poetry

Profile: Khmer Girls in Action

Khmer Girls on the March

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) empowers young Southeast Asian women with an eye towards individual, political, and cultural transformation.

KGA began its life in 1997 as HOPE for girls, an empowerment-based reproductive health program for young Cambodian (or Khmer) women in Long Beach, CA — the location of the largest Cambodian community in the US. A sexual harassment campaign, sparked by a comment from a school teacher towards on of HOPE’s members, launched the group into the world of organizing. Eventually KGA split off from its parent organization, Asian Pacific islanders for Reproductive Health (APIRH).

Having widened their focus beyond health to include many issues faced by young Southeast Asian women (and now men, with the introduction of the Young Men’s Empowerment Program), KGA combines leadership development, political education, community organizing, and arts and media work to create “gender and culture specific approaches to youth organizing.” In addition to reproductive health, KGA has tackled issues such as police harassment, and making sure Cambodians are fully counted in the 2010 census. Last year they worked with the UCLA Datacenter to survey over 500 Khmer youth about their experiences. The results, which have been written up in a visually creative report, highlight issues of (more…)

Poetry in Stormy Times

“Syllable by syllable let each verb,
each noun
build a fortress on your insides. Strengthening
the levees of your soul”

Sitting out Hurricane Irene with my family in Boston, winds battering the windows, I thought I might share a storm-related post. As Irene makes its way up the east coast, and reports of flooding and deaths come in, it’s difficult not to be reminded of Katrina — that storm that both devastated the gulf coast and uncovered some key deficits in our country and government.

There is much we can learn from our responses to natural disasters. In addition to renewing our respect for the natural world, and our inability to fully control it, disasters stretch our resources to the limits. In doing so, they highlight systems of racism and oppression that are always there, but are deftly hidden within the myths our country tells itself.

In the newest set of resources put out by the Zinn Education Project, teaching artist Renée Watson tells of how she took advantage of these national teachable moments — as well as the power of spoken word poetry — to educate and empower a class of New York City youth. (more…)