SS: There have been many stories, both tragic and inspirational that have come out of the killing of George Floyd by the white policemen. I want to be in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I don't want to detract in any way from the movement. On the contrary, I want to help and provide support through educating my community on the importance of black lives and to bring understanding of why and how the systematic persecution of black people has gone on for all these years in America and throughout the world. It is far too easy to say that it is a black person’s (or anyone else’s) problem and to walk away and carry on with your life, ignoring reality. The moment to do something to bring justice for black people is right now, through systematic changes, policy, and studying and remembering history. How about jobs for all, as FDR and Henry Wallace implemented? How about Medicare for all, education for all, and controls on real estate speculation (which kills economies)? We all suffer until these measures are in place—especially black and other minority communities.
Until justice is universal, we all pay for inequality in some way. As an old man walking to a convenience store here in Long Beach, my father was robbed for only $20 on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Anaheim Ave. As part of this robbery, he was struck in the back of his head by a 2x4 piece of wood, and his skull was cracked. He was already a senior citizen! Why was it necessary to strike him? As a result of this, he lost his left-side hearing, and he was never mentally quite the same.
So, we pay for it one way or another. Was I angry? You bet I was. But it is important not to characterize an entire community by one act. And we can also reflect on how many people would be dealing (or doing) drugs, or desperate enough to hit an old man, if they had, from the beginning, a job to support themselves and their family, and equal access to healthcare and education, all the free of charge, as in much of Europe.
Yes. My creativity has been challenged, because I have to deal with what’s going on in the world, first with Covid-19, and now with injustice, racial instability, and the destruction of property and people’s lives. I have to deal with anxiety and hearing gunshots, sirens, and blasting sounds, all of which remind me of my scary childhood in Cambodia. For me, creating new work while processing all the chaos and destruction in our city has been challenging, but to focus on art and creating is also a great way to block off all of the chaos going on around me. It reminds me that beauty is ever-present. In fact, that’s what I did as a child while living in a refugee camp. For me to make art and to isolate myself from the dysfunctional world around me is a great escape. As an artist, I feel the need to be productive and reflect by staying focused on my work. Yet, this same work does not have to be disconnected from the world around me. It can be relevant to what is going on. Indeed, it usually is. It is an outlet for me to process these issues.