Going Home

A year after college, I quit my job and accepted a fellowship. I was placed me at an organization in NYC to work with Korean tenants in public housing, so here I am in the city. I have been spending my summer in the steaming hot hallways of public housing, knocking on Korean tenants’ doors to talk about issues they face. Come inside, they say. “밥묵었나?” I nod, but they still feed me steamed potatoes dipped in brown sugar. I’ve come to realize this summer that my usual awkwardness melts away when I am with older folks. We dip into their ridiculously pro-America politics, frown-squint up at the kitchen ceiling that’s been leaking for the last year, and chat about how the stream of family and visitors have slowed over the years.

I eventually go into my organizing piece, and we get to talking about privatization: private companies buying up public housing land all over the city to turn into unaffordable luxury towers. Many just nod, knowing that it means that they will be pushed out eventually. Public housing is the last frontier of affordable housing in NYC, and for many, there would be nowhere else to go.

Organizing is 120% legwork. And I would add, 200% emotional labor. I meet with tenants twice a week to hear their struggles with language, mobility, and repairs in public housing. Then the next day, I walk into our Chinatown office to news about another building of Chinese residents moving out en masse after taking buyouts from the landlord. Another step in this terrifying sprint towards Chinatown decimation nationwide. K tells me that housing organizing is always being in “crisis mode” — and I see the emotional toll that it takes on us. Homelessness, evictions, tenant harassment, threats, lawsuits, buyouts, gentrification. My heart aches every time I see snapback white boys drinking coffee on wood plank benches on Ludlow Street. And the Wyndam Gardens hotel standing tall where the Chinese theater and Chinatown community mural once stood. And don’t get me started on those damn white photographers who come to take photos of elderly Chinese folks at Hester Park, as if they are on display, as if folks are all part of their cultural tour experience. There is a lot of protective anger, pain, and fear in this work. I wonder how we can keep going and if anything will be left in a couple of years.

In the quieter moments of this summer, I also think a lot about what it means to go “home.” I notice myself asking tenants about their faded Virgin Mary statue wrapped in a thick, green rosary, identical to the one that stands on my mother’s bedroom dresser. I catch glimpses of my grandmother in softly aged creases of our members. Traversing the trapped staircases of public housing, my body has developed an eerie ache for the stifling heat of Seoul summers, and I wonder if anything will ease my diasporic tug quite as much their repeated questions of if I’ve eaten dinner that day. As I ride the train back to Brooklyn, I wonder when this restlessness cease and allow me to find what I am even looking for.

It’s unclear what I am leaving this summer with, because at times, it feels as though I am left with more gaping questions in my vision for social justice. Who do I do this work for? How do I build a political home? How do you articulate something you do not know, that does not yet exist? How do you go home when it no longer exists?

I trod up the darkness, unlock the door to breathe in the hot silence of the apartment. A thud and a clank as my bags fall to the ground, and keys onto the desk. I lie on the futon with only the phone glowing in the room. My fingers count out the hour differences before my thumbs drum out the number that my mother used to ingrain in me as a child. 여보세요?

She replies with the thick kyungsang namdo accent from memories of my childhood. 응, 그래. 밥묵었나?

Image description: Four people are each holding a poster to form the words "RENT REDUCTION NOW." The words are in all caps and in orange. On the ends of the posters is an orange sticker with the words CASA and a fist.

Radical Lawyering

I’ve always been constantly been bombarded with becoming a lawyer as a career option. I got sucked into Mock Trial in high school and continued it for three years in college. All the reproductive justice & assisted reproductive technologies work done by my idols (i.e. Dorothy Roberts) seemed to be in the realm of law. I memorized case law, wrote up public statements on court rulings, and testified at hearings advocating/opposing certain bills. In many ways, the work that I’ve fallen into holds law at its crux, whether it be legislative or judiciary law. But I’ve never personally considered pursuing a career in law, let alone a practicing lawyer.

With college graduation, a flock of my fellow classmates went onto enroll at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia law schools. When I talked about social justice and organizing, people pointed me towards elite law schools — where in fact, many of my most misogynist, racist, conservative “friends” will soon graduate from and go on to actively maintain & defend our capitalist, racist system. Our world seems unable to conceive “justice” outside of the legal system, especially for a privileged Ivy League graduate like me. We are immediately pushed towards “prestigious” jobs and expected to “succeed”; certain careers are considered “beneath us.” But that’s a conversation on classism for another time.

I’m still not sold on the idea of law as a radical practice, as it seems fundamentally rooted in the system. However, a friend of mine, Brian, shared this toolkit with me: A Handbook for Social Justice Activists Thinking About Law Schooldeveloped by folks at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

I hope that it reaches the minds of young, aspiring pre-law students, who also want to change the world — through more than settlements & corporation mergers. #Down4TheRevolution

Socially Conscious Printing

I’ve just started my internship at NAPAWF and have been bombarded by all kinds of information that I would like to share with others, including a list of worker-owned union print shops for all your radical copy & printing needs.  Print a protest poster while supporting workers!


Inkworks Press
(Berkeley, CA)

Founded in 1974, Inkworks Press is a worker collective and union shop, affiliated with the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives, United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. As a union shop, all your printed material gets a union label, or a union ‘bug’ placed on them. Inkworks is also environmentally friendly — stocked with all the recycled paper you’d want!

collective copies

Collective Copies (Amherst and Florence, MA)
This Western Mass-based printing center is a member of UE Local 274 and worker-owned. Collective Copies also only uses recycled paper and even has tree-free alternatives. 10% of their yearly profits also go to local organizations related to “human rights, creative expressions, and living things.”


Salsedo Press Inc. (Chicago, IL)
Salsedo Press has been providing printing services in 1969, and is a Union Shop, worker-owned, and a City of Chicago certified Minority Business Enterprise (um, like people of color? who knows).  There are all kinds of “environmentally responsible” options like petroleum-free, toxin-free, vegetable based process, and even soy inks! Edible printing? Yum.


P&L Printing (Denver, CO)
Recently expanded business of P&L Printing is a proud worker-owned union shop. Its workers not only print for organizations, but are also actively involved in local grassroots organizations working towards social justice! They are a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Communications Workers of America (Local 7777).  P&L offers environmentally friendly toners, inks, and paper.


Radix Media (NYC)
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Radix Media is a worker-owned union print shop that was formerly known as OccuCopy, a shop that grew out of the Occupy Movement. Radix use vegetable-based inks and solvents, alcohol-free dampening systems on offset presses, and their house paper is 100% post-consumer recycled.