Manhattan Valley in Danger of Being Split Into Three

New proposed lines split Manhattan Valley among three districts – 7, 8 and 9 – and many residents are unhappy, saying it divides their longstanding community and threatens minority representation.

“Our little piece of Manhattan, Manhattan Valley, succeeded in curtailing high-rise development,” Blanca Vasquez, a resident of Manhattan Valley for more than 30 years, said. “And now we get lines that destroy us.”

Residents of the Douglass Houses may end up split into two districts, 7 and 9. Photo by Tenzin Shakya.

Despite the grievances, the commission will submit the proposed map to

the City Council for final voting.

“There was a challenge trying to keep Manhattan Valley together into one,” said Carl Hum, the executive director of the districting commission, at the last public meeting on Nov. 15. “While we tried to put it into two districts, it really became difficult. Unfortunately, the way that the geography works, and the population concentration, won’t allow us to have Manhattan Valley in a single district.”

Representatives of other affected communities argued that the process of redistricting is actually fracturing communities and causing vote dilution, the division of racial or ethnic minorities, which reduces their chances of influencing legislation at large.

“Redistricting, and the district lines that come out of redistricting is what sets a stage for our local democracy,” James Hong, from the Asian American Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy, said. “Whether democracy works for communities that are local, especially ethnic communities, and whether the democratic system works for them and can represent them, is determined by district lines.”

At a public hearing last month, some community representatives raised concerns over Manhattan Valley’s being split up into three districts. Locals reminded officials of the past challenges they’ve faced in an attempt to keep the community together.

“Manhattan Valley has struggled for many years as a primarily minority immigrant neighborhood from the time that my grandmother came in 1911 from Ireland,” Gloria Kerstein, president of the Duke Ellington Boulevard Neighborhood Association in Manhattan Valley, said. “To break the spine of Manhattan Valley does not address the struggle that we had to bring our neighborhood out of crack, make it a safe and good neighborhood.”

The new Manhattan Valley district lines

Some critics proposed an alternative map, the Unity Map, which they said, “reflects New York City’s changing demographics and protects the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans.”

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, representing District 8, advocated for the Unity Map. She said, “I urge the Commission to use the Unity Map as a basis for reconfiguring Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, as a way of preserving communities of interest, and minimizing the splitting up of our city’s neighborhoods.”

East Harlem resident Elsie Encarnacion said, “Looking at the map I see broken-up community after broken-up community with High Bridge being cut into three council districts, East Harlem divided by two, Manhattan Valley split into three and no one kept whole.” She said, “As commission members, you all have a responsibility to provide voters with fair and effective representation.”

The commission did adopt some of the proposed district lines from the Unity Map in what they said was an attempt to keep communities together. Inwood, for example, is now in a single district.

“The whole is better than the sum of its parts” – Reflecting on Bell Hook’s feminist theory

In Bell Hook’s article titled “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory,” she discloses some insight on why some feminists are not being recognized in the feminist movement at large. Being a refugee and an American citizen is conflicting sometimes, its a conflict most in exile face. At heart, we’re refugees, but we have the privilege of carrying a passport that welcomes our existence. Having lived in four different countries, I’ve been able to gain some knowledge in viewing the differences between different cultures and its traditions, but recognizing that at heart people just want to belong and be respected. In hook’s statements, all feminists unite in categorical ways, but the risk is that the common good of the “majority” will take over the distinctive good of the minor differences that shape how one identifies their self. The very essence of what makes the individual experience is unique.  Hook makes the example of Betty Friedan and the second wave’s movement shaping and defining the feminist movement as a whole – without acknowledging the different social and class distinctions that played a great disadvantage to many silent feminists in the movement – those who did not have the means to speak up.

Democracy, standing in line with the majority in numbers often tend to undermine the minority.  The system itself is set up in a way where you focus more on the quantity instead of the quality. By simply quantifying the majority’s personal beliefs and their opinions will not delete the the minorities of unsatisfied people; in this case, minority women leaders. The main reason why democracy isn’t always what it lives up to be is largely due to the unequal platform upon which it was started to begin with. The wealthy and the powerful, the ones who can afford the time and finances to voice their opinions get heard. All the while, many are simply living  the 9-5, trying to step up in the status quo, and cannot afford the time nor resources to contribute. That should not go to say that their voices will not be heard, they are still very much present in the political debates that weight in on the outcome of this country.

I agree with Hook’s statement that Friedan had not thought about the different American women of that time, the ones that were not college educated because they were doing the domestic work while Friedan was attending school. White women of that time had a head start in entering the academic institutions and were eager to learn.  The “other,” couldn’t fully participate because their focus was survival. They were not able to speak on the oppression in the sexism world of white men having power over white women’s lives, because they were the ones taking care of the white babies while the white mothers fought the ‘good fight’. The oppression felt by White and Black women were outrageously different.

“There is much evidence substantiating the reality that race and class identity creates differences in quality of life, social status, and lifestyle that take precedence over the common experience women share” (Bhavnani, pg 34). In the statement above, Hook points out that even though the shared common experiences of women are a good point; they are not necessarily in the order of precedence for all women and generally never experienced in the same way. The difference in placing importance on the above mentioned versus something such as culture and tradition is not taken into account, and it’s generalized towards all women  without considering their different circumstances and opportunities.

At the same time, this issue of diversity not being acknowledged in the feminist movement is not only of race, class and socio economic back ground, but also one of location, and mainly, colonialism. It is the direct effect of the changing world heading towards being more educated and “civilized” in the western cultural perspective. Many people come to the United States for a better education but do not realize that while living in the west, they themselves are also losing parts of their national and cultural traditions due to assimilation in their new environment.  Patricia Hill Collin’s article titled “The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought,” explains the need for Black women to also emphasize on trying to understand the differences between Black and Afro American because their origins are not the same, thus their experiences are not the same. She points out that it is not good enough to be knowledgable, but just as imperative to know the wisdom in order to make judgments and statements that define all black “African” feminists.

This shows that the problem is not of one simple defining category, but of multiple historical instances that have created a huge divide in the people on such issues of identity. Many women who are also feminists have not even been taken into account because they lack the resources to speak out on the matter. However, the few Black women who have gained some credibility in academia should look into highlighting the  different types of inferiority experienced by Black and African American women all together.

In considering the feminist movement, it is important for the leading feminists who have access to reach the masses to re-consider their notion of what feminism truly is, and what characteristics constitute being a feminist. Most notably, it is important for them to not only know the difference but also understand it before they make statements on behalf of all feminists or even “Black feminists alone.” More writers and leaders in the movement are using terms such as “third world feminism” to distinguish other feminists with diverse cultural and traditional backgrounds.  It’s imperative that we acknowledge the differences amongst feminists world-wide. That would be a step forward towards acknowledging women of all different backgrounds, facing similar struggles of power,  yet working towards finding some common ground in the form of having the choice to have their voices heard.

A short reflection on Partha Chaterjee’s “Nation and its Fragments”

The purpose of Chatterjee’s book “The Nation and Its Fragments” seems to explore the idea of “community” nationalism Bengal, apart from political nationalism of India, especially in terms of India’s diverse history. This reflection just touches on a chapter of the women of Bengal and their struggle in the shift of a new era and new thinking of preserving the traditional Identity from colonialism and British takeover.

“The outer and the inner world – Women as keepers of Identity”


When dealing with cultures unknown to the self, an imaginary third eye would be useful to keep an open mind on the things we might not be able to see fully. It would raise the possibility of understanding the differences from another point of view instead of insisting on our terms of beliefs and its definitions. Pratha Chatterjee’s Nation and It’s Women touches upon the western systems of dichotomies of separating Bengal’s nationalism for preserving its identity as communities versus the political nationalism of India and how these definitions by both parties- fighting for and against colonialism- positioned women in the central party of preserving the house in her “spiritual” feminine self which carries the traditions of Bengals before Western modernization took place, all without her consent.

While the traditionalists were surrendering to the notion of modernization in the “outer” world, they were confident in preserving their identity through the “inner” world which embraced the home as being the true keepers of Bengal’s identity. Chatterjee argues that due to this resistance, women’s position in the modern world was compromised by prioritizing the national identity of their community which worked to enforce women to be keepers of the identity. This was soon defined through “the spiritual signs of her femininity”… “Clearly marked – in her dress, her eating habits, her social demeanor, her religiosity” pg 130. While all at the same time, men were able to camouflage into both the inner and the outer worlds and maintain their prideful identity in the modern world with their wives and daughters by their side. This is similar to the United State’s political structure upon which the private and public sphere is divided and the patriarchy system has allowed men to be privileged in walking amongst both the private and public sphere will full rights to their lives while women play catch up in history’s disparity. Though the comparison of the private and public sphere can be relative to this story, the underlining matter is not the similarity amongst the two, rather, the difference upon which the two systems were created and why their origins took place.

The anti-colonial nationalism that arose in an attempt to defy the western modernization taking place in Bengal at that time defended their traditional identity through social construction of two spheres defined as the “material” versus the “spiritual”. In the material outer world, they would adapt to the modernization colonialism has brought over through learning the structure upon which western society ran its “market place of ideas” type of theory which made the economy run, however in the spiritual inner world, they would maintain their traditional identity which was represented by women and family life composed of religion and the old caste systems.

“Fundamental elements of social conservatism such as the maintenance of caste distinctions and patriarchal forms of authority in the family, acceptance of sanctity of sastra (scriptures), preferences for symbolic rather than substantive changes in social practices- all these were conspicuous in the reform movement of the early and mid-nineteenth century” pg117.

The statement above clarifies our understanding of what type of system was created and the value for this particular system bent upon the prideful self identity wanting to prioritize the perception of the self rather than the actual self; community resistance. This becomes another example of how most patriarchy systems are built on the standard of pride in resisting and exterior force only to burden the women of their society to be inferior to themselves, by force or negligence, in either case, the result ends in the same way. Although women were presented to be safe keepers of the traditional identity at home, they were also chastised if they did not fit or meet the standards of the particular femininity which represented their whole community, thus leading to excluding women the chance to modernize with the rest of the world.

There will always be fights over power and beliefs around the world, history is apparent in repeating itself again and again, lets get “Herstory” along with it, shall we? However, it seems that women will always end up in the ladder because we are gifted with being the safe keepers of our traditional identity by baring, nurturing and preserving it, while fighting for our own identity and modernizing all with the national identity. It becomes a burden when we vigorously try to achieve all or are forced to choose one above the other.

Story of Ngawang Sangdrol la, Tibetan female political prisoner who spent 11 years in the Drapchi Prison

Before the era of Twitter and Facebook, political prisoners such as Ngawang Sangdrol-la recorded songs on tape cassettes to document the inhumane treatment they experienced in the Drapchi prison of China. 

Sangdrol-la (la is used after an elder’s name as a title of respect) shared her story at Amnesty International’s office in San Francisco during her first visit to the Bay Area last week on the eve of the National Tibetan Uprising Day.

Sangdrol- la at age 13

She told the audience that she was only 13 in 1990 when she decided to join 20 other protesters in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in a demonstration aimed at expressing opposition to the oppression she felt under the Chinese government. She and the other protesters had joined together to express their desire for a free Tibet.She remembers the day vividly still, walking through the streets of Lhasa shouting “Free Tibet” and “Long live His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.”The protesters knew they couldn’t be in a group together and decided to spread out individually, shouting and singing their message.

“We knew we would be caught. We had no desire to run or escape. Our plan was to shout until they (the Chinese police) caught us,” she said. And they did, she said, recalling how Chinese army officials pinned her to the ground and then dragged her away from the crowd.

“I remember people saying, ‘She’s so young, please let her go, she’s bleeding,’ ” said Sangdrol-la. She had violated an official Chinese governmental policy banning all pictures of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan flag.Sangdrol-la said she did not receive a fair trial and was sent to a detention center for nine months. Still, prison was better than the fate of her brother, she said. Chinese police shot him dead when he, too, was 13.When she was very little, she used to watch movies made in China, depicting the Chinese army as “kindhearted soldiers,” fighting against the Japanese Army to protect the mother country.

“I remember feeling like the Chinese are our own people because the TV made me think I was no different. I disliked the Japanese because in the movies they were the bad soldiers who killed the kindhearted Chinese soldiers,” Sangdrol-la recalled. But “father yelled at me and told me the real story of my country, and what had happened to my brother.”

She said that she suffered terrible interrogations, was beaten and tortured in prison, kept hungry and in solitary confinement because she would not denounce the Dalai Lama. She told the audience about the terror of shock treatments she received.”One day the authorities brought a strange object that looked like a telephone. It was actually an electric prod,” she said. The officer asked her if she wanted to call home and when she said her home didn’t have a telephone, she said the officer said he would install one.”Then he put the object in my shirt and turned it on. My entire body shook in a way I couldn’t control. That was my first electric shock, but not the last.”She was arrested again in 1992 during a similar protest and sentenced to three years in prison, but her sentence was increased to 13 years because she would not renounce her beliefs.The prison did not allow family members to visit very often but through surreptitious means, Sangdrol-la and another inmate were able to get their hands on the cassettes and began recording songs to smuggle outside of the prison.

“We recorded freedom songs to tell our loved once that we were OK and even though the conditions were horrible in prison, we still had hope and we were not going to give up,” said Sangdrol-la. “We never thought it would actually reach the outside world like this.”

In 2002, she was released to the U.S. government. She was in critical health and, upon arrival in America, was taken to a hospital in Chicago.Yangchen Lhamo, a member of the Students for a Free Tibet, part of the S.F. Team Tibet coalition, which co-organized the event, said she has heard this story before but “it never gets any less disturbing.””I now live in freedom. But, everyday, I worry about those thousands of Tibetans who are still suffering today, right at this minute, for doing nothing more than a peaceful protest,” said Sangdrol-la.

Settle with the current for the future of the “movement”

Curiosity killed the cat – as the saying goes to caution our human minds on curiosity and carefully asset our beliefs at some point, or risk the damage of loosing our senses. After reading the short story by Alice Walker titled; Advancing Luna- and Ida B. Wells I couldn’t help but be curious and ask “What is the point”. Is the story about the black civil rights leader, an advocate for equality and justice who rapes Luna, a white female social worker or is the story about Luna’s friend, the black curious female friend who voices her thorughts through her writing?

For me, the title said it all, it is about the injustice Luna suffered by the hands of another, in a act that was a violation of the basic human rights of an individual.  However, Walker’s story is not about the criminal act of rape, rather the events leading up to it and the odd ending without an answer just proves to show that perhaps its it just too complicated for us to fully grasp in one story telling incident or even a mass of a movement.

Does that mean that the human civilization has no fix to it and we should just do our best in living our own lives at the best of our ability? Is there truly no justice as Walker states in the beginning of her story for this civilization that so many brilliant minds gathered to shape? Absolutely not! In attending to our civilization, we as people of the society are responsible for presenting and sharing the truth as we know it so that others are aware of it and have the option to make better judgements.

Though Ida B. Wells had advised Walker not to write about the incident. fearing that it could harm the civil rights movement,  it still does not justify the fact that it was a wrongful act on another human being. The concern over the black race took over the concern over the human race, and thus contradicted the central belief assured by the civil rights movement; all men are equal.

Intensified emotions took over me to the fullest in advocating for Luna who had to not only stay “hush hush” about the rape incident but also had to re-live it. When the rapist broke down crying in her bed, she had to empathize with his sadness, reinforcing the inferiority she felt when he raped her. Is logic that simple? If we take out the equation of black and white in this story, then it becomes the story of rape and injustice, by which everyone would support condemning the criminal- which in this case was Freddie Pye, the uneducated, filthy, sad, poor, black man speaking in front of some “elites” about being a victim of a nation. Addressing his concerns on being “politically correct” in defining words instead of understanding feelings sustained by those condensed in the definition of those politically corrected words. What is the use?

Yet, in the end, when I stepped back from the story and took a moment to gain perspective. I calmed down relentlessly in the need to breath – then i I understood why. Yes, i concur, the civil rights movement had not only brought equality in the eye of the law to black people but to all races and indigenous groups. However, not by fighting for truth and full justice, but by compromising a few injustices for the particular people in the movement in the promise of a better tomorrow. In the hopes that the future generations might be able to come up with something better; a just world in which human beings come first before any race, organization, country or nation. That is my belief and that is my understanding, not to be mistaken for my acceptance of this story. The platform at which i make my opinion today, was set for me by the people like Ida. B Wells, Alice Walker, Luna, and even Freddie Pye. Most settled with the current and accepted what they could not change in their time. Again I understand, but I still will not accept.

“hush hush”

Peninsula Humane Society found homes for all adoptable animals in 2010 despite 7 percent increase – San Jose Mercury News

Peninsula Humane Society found homes for all adoptable animals in 2010 despite 7 percent increase – San Jose Mercury News.

By Tenzin Shakya
San Mateo County Times
Posted: 02/04/2011 09:41:09 PM PST

Despite a 7 percent increase in animals surrendered to the Peninsula Humane Society in 2010, officials said the shelter was able to place 100 percent of adoptable animals into new homes for the eighth consecutive year.

In 2009, an estimated 2,955 pets were surrendered by owners who were no longer willing or able to care for their animals. In 2010, that number grew to 3,162.

There were 3,749 animals adopted from the center in 2010, of which 3,077 were dogs and cats. The others were small domestic animals.

“The numbers really don’t tell the story. The story is in the relationships we form with them” said shelter president Ken White. “They are living, sentient beings who add so much to a family and really ask for very little back.”

Rachel Evans, 40, of Burlingame adopted her current hound-mix dog from the shelter in 2007.

“It’s been a great and wonderful experience,” she said. “I named him Lucky, but really I’m the lucky one.”

Evans said she was not surprised by the increase of homeless animals arriving at the shelter.

“We hear a lot of sad stories about people having to move to a new place where they couldn’t have a pet,” she said. “The upkeep can get challenging sometimes, especially in this economy.”

Stephanie Halliday, 30, of Foster City started volunteering at the shelter when she was a teenager.

“Every animal deserves to have a loving home, and since I can’t take them all home with me, I want to help them find their forever home,” she said.
The shelter has an open-door policy that allows animals with medical conditions to be placed in care. Currently, it has five veterinarians, 14 veterinary technicians and more than 1,400 volunteers who dedicated more than 135,000 hours in 2010.
Mark Borson, 52, of San Mateo adopted two dogs from the shelter while volunteering there.

Though Borson’s 8-year-old dog has medical insurance, his 15-year-old dog was declined. “It’s a good idea to plan ahead with health insurance for your pets before they become seniors,” said Borson.

Pet care costs for dogs range from $1,314-$1,843 annually for the first year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Medical bills could go even higher depending on the dog’s breed, heredity, pre-existing conditions and age.

“It’s best to prepare for things that are unplanned for,” said Borson. “A $300 bill could be astronomical for some, but for others it’s just another expense for the family.”
In addition to achieving the 100 percent adoption rate last year, the shelter investigated nearly 600 animal cruelty calls.

“No dog is ever ignored,” White said.

Society’s 2010 highlights

Getting fixed: 6,583 spay/neuter surgeries performed at the shelter’s low-cost clinic plus an additional 1,091 in the shelter’s mobile clinic, which provides free “fixes” in targeted communities. Total number of spay/neuter surgeries was 7,674.

Back to nature: 1,290 wild animals rehabilitated, then returned to their natural habitats.
Training: Three classes of dogs graduated from the TAILS program, a partnership with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office which pairs shelter dogs with inmates in a minimum security facility for eight weeks.

Saving animals: Rescued more than 1,000 animals from harm’s way, including dogs stuck in traffic, down horses, ducks trapped in storm drains, and deer snared in fencing.

Source: http://www.peninsulahumanesociety.org/about/news.html

3,749
Total number of animals 
adopted during 2010
1,878
Total number of cats placed 
in new homes during 2010
1,999
Number of dogs adopted, 
a 7 percent increase
672
Number of rabbits, birds 
and other animals adopted

Peninsula Humane Society found homes for all adoptable animals in 2010 despite 7 percent increase

BYLINE: By Tenzin Shakya San Mateo County Times

Despite a 7 percent increase in animals surrendered to the Peninsula Humane Society in 2010, officials said the shelter was able to place 100 percent of adoptable animals into new homes for the eighth consecutive year.

In 2009, an estimated 2,955 pets were surrendered by owners who were no longer willing or able to care for their animals. In 2010, that number grew to 3,162.

There were 3,749 animals adopted from the center in 2010, of which 3,077 were dogs and cats. The others were small domestic animals.

“The numbers really don’t tell the story. The story is in the relationships we form with them” said shelter president Ken White. “They are living, sentient beings who add so much to a family and really ask for very little back.”

Rachel Evans, 40, of Burlingame adopted her current hound-mix dog from the shelter in 2007.
“It’s been a great and wonderful experience,” she said. “I named him Lucky, but really I’m the lucky one.”

Evans said she was not surprised by the increase of homeless animals arriving at the shelter.
“We hear a lot of sad stories about people having to move to a new place where they couldn’t have a pet,” she said. “The upkeep can get challenging sometimes, especially in this economy.”

Stephanie Halliday, 30, of Foster City started volunteering at the shelter when she was a teenager.
“Every animal deserves to have a loving home, and since I can’t take them all home with me, I want to help them find their forever home,” she said.

The shelter has an open-door policy that allows animals with medical conditions to be placed in care. Currently, it has five veterinarians, 14 veterinary technicians and more than 1,400 volunteers who dedicated more than 135,000 hours in 2010.

Mark Borson, 52, of San Mateo adopted two dogs from the shelter while volunteering there.
Though Borson’s 8-year-old dog has medical insurance, his 15-year-old dog was declined. “It’s a good idea to plan ahead with health insurance for your pets before they become seniors,” said Borson.

Pet care costs for dogs range from $1,314-$1,843 annually for the first year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Medical bills could go even higher depending on the dog’s breed, heredity, pre-existing conditions and age.

“It’s best to prepare for things that are unplanned for,” said Borson. “A $300 bill could be astronomical for some, but for others it’s just another expense for the family.”

In addition to achieving the 100 percent adoption rate last year, the shelter investigated nearly 600 animal cruelty calls. “No dog is ever ignored,” White said. Society’s 2010 highlights
Getting fixed: 6,583 spay/neuter surgeries performed at the shelter’s low-cost clinic plus an additional 1,091 in the shelter’s mobile clinic, which provides free “fixes” in targeted communities.

Total number of spay/neuter surgeries was 7,674. Back to nature: 1,290 wild animals rehabilitated, then returned to their natural habitats. Training: Three classes of dogs graduated from the TAILS program, a partnership with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office which pairs shelter dogs with inmates in a minimum security facility for eight weeks.

Saving animals: Rescued more than 1,000 animals from harm’s way, including dogs stuck in traffic, down horses, ducks trapped in storm drains, and deer snared in fencing.

Source: http://www.peninsulahumanesociety.org/about/news.html
3,749
Total number of animals adopted during 2010
1,878
Total number of cats placed in new homes during 2010
1,999
Number of dogs adopted, a 7 percent increase
672
Number of rabbits, birds and other animals adopted