Weapons of Mass Creation’s song ‘Hard to Admit’ addresses sexual abuse in our own communities

by Tom Nguyen

In an era where we have a president who got elected despite boasting about “grabbing p*ssy”, it’s been heartening to see at least some powerful men in entertainment and politics finally having to answer for sexual violence as women bravely come forward. I hope the media attention, national dialogue, and women sharing their #MeToo stories results in real policy changes and legal protections in every workplace against people using their powerful positions to sexually exploit others.

Besides the rich and famous though, where is the much needed spotlight and attention on the sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and violence that is happening everyday in our own communities? Julia Franco, of Weapons of Mass Creation, sings poignantly about her own struggles against sexual harassment in their latest video “Hard to Admit”.

Weapons of Mass Creation are outspoken in their music and one of my top local bands to watch — they sing about police violence, racism, and gentrification happening in our marginalized communities. And in “Hard to Admit”, Julia says on top of all the issues she has to contend with as a woman of color, self-care doesn’t mean hugs and kisses in a safe space…it means carrying mace and always being on guard against men in her own communities.

So let’s address and challenge the sexual harassment, misogyny and toxic masculinity that happens everyday in all the spaces we occupy. Women have been doing the work and leading the charge. Men, we need to step up and be accountable for our actions as well as challenging men around us when we see abusive behavior, and not being complicit and silent. Get involved and support the work of these organizations in our communities: Peace Over Violence, Justice For My Sister Collective (Julia’s older sister Hilda Franco is involved with JFMSC), AF3IRM, and TheRealTalkProject, which currently offers a self-paced course on how to be a better male ally.

Weapons of Mass Creation performs tomorrow Saturday, November 11, at Tropicália Music and Taco Festival, and “Hard to Admit” is the first of a series of live performances shot at Sanctuary Sound, a grassroots DIY community and performance space in downtown Santa Ana. Amidst the rapid gentrification of the area, the space is so vital and essential: “Sound is a safe space for dangerous sound. In the state of our communities the main stream considers our arts of expression dangerous. But this is not the reality. Our working class communities find amazing creative and ingenious ways to create expression from our experiences using art, music, dance and the power of power of our words.  Our mission is to give our communities a space to create and build their skills so they may be prepared to benefit from then in the world that is consistently taking from them.” Continue Reading →

So you love Chicano Batman. Here’s 6 more amazing LA indie bands to watch.


by Tom Nguyen

LA’s underground Latin indie and rock scene is the most vibrant and explosive I’ve seen in years. Sure, Chicano Batman put the scene on the map and kudos to them…Coachella twice and 3 back-to-back sold-out shows this September wow! They’re such the hip, in-demand darlings right now, eager fans chased them to their cars after their performance to an over-capacity crowd at One Colorado in Pasadena this summer. I see posts on Facebook like a 60-something white CSULA professor gushing about playing their music to her class and wondering why her Latino students hadn’t heard them yet…so I had to ask her besides the Johnnie Walker commercial she saw, can she name any of the many talented and unique bands with Latino musicians playing amazing music in LA right now? Nope.

So Chicano Batman bandwagoners, take note. It took them nearly a decade of playing before the white mainstream music industry noticed, and LA Weekly recently wrote a great piece about LA’s Latin alternative music continuing to break down barriers, thanks in large part to visionary promoters like Viva Presents and Qvolé Collective. The thriving multicultural scene can be summed up by Qvolé’s motto…The Future is Latin. So in addition to great acts promoted by Qvolé like Buyepongo, Brainstory, Cutty Flam, here are six upcoming independent bands I think you should check out: Earth Arrow, Sin Color, The Altons, Twin Seas, Weapons of Mass Creation, Welfair. Continue Reading →

Racism rears its ugly head all across SoCal following the election of Donald Trump

file_000-13
by Tom Nguyen

Following the election of Donald Trump, it didn’t take long for reports of blatant racism and hate crimes to start coming in from around the country. These incidents immediately took me back to my youth, as a Vietnamese refugee growing up in Orange County, historically the most conservative county in a blue state. Racism and prejudice were common and often blatant but becoming less of a worry as I entered college.

Then in 1996, my high school sweetheart’s cousin was viciously murdered by a white supremacist, a hate crime that drew widespread coverage and outrage. Looking back, the murder was an aberration at a time when white skinhead gangs once prevalent in OC were losing their foothold and hate crimes in OC by 2000 would drop to a 10 year low. Racism became less of a concern for me as white flight from many OC cities and growing Latino and Asian populations were changing OC into a more diverse place.

After moving to Long Beach, then Boyle Heights, I never looked back. Until this week. The last almost 10 years of covering LA’s diverse communities and cultural arts scene gave me hope and optimism that we had moved forward, past an era where I or anyone of a minority group would have to worry about violent extremists and hateful bigots.

The election of Donald Trump has quickly shattered that sense of progress, normalcy and security. His xenophobic, racist, homophobic, misogynist rhetoric has opened the floodgates on unabashed targeting of anyone he and his supporters deem foreign, or an outsider, or a perceived threat to the preeminence of straight white males. This is what Muslim communities have been contending with in a post-9/11 nation, with an increase in hate crimes specifically against Muslims or anyone mistaken as Muslim in just these recent years.

Living in a globally diverse Southern California region doesn’t make us any less immune to this type of deplorable and frightening behavior. Here are incidents I’ve gathered this week, mostly on social media. Most heartbreaking to me are young children being targeted by their fellow classmates and in one case, even a teacher. It is triggering to me on so many levels, back to memories of arriving in this country in the 70s as a 5-year-old child. Like any child, I had no concept of race and why certain kids taunted and bullied me and just remembering the innocence lost because of acts like these…it’s utterly heartbreaking and unacceptable!

I think it’s crucially important that we raise awareness whenever these are reported as a reminder for us be vigilant and watch out for one another. If you have heard of other incidents, please let us know. If you have been victimized, please report it to your local law enforcement as well as to the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors hate crimes and hate groups. And lastly, if you witness acts of hate, please don’t be a bystander and intervene if it is safe to do so. Watch this video in response to a similar increase in hate crimes following Brexit in UK:

Los Angeles:
story_la

West Hollywood:
story_weho Continue Reading →

Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2016 in Los Angeles

roflbot(1)
by Tom Nguyen

Here’s our roundup of Dia de los Muertos in and around Los Angeles. As I repeat every year like last year, please learn about and honor this respectful celebration of departed loved ones, an important tradition that goes back to indigenous roots, and not turn it into another culturally appropriated Cinco de Mayo.

By no means is this list complete — there are so many great Dia de los Muertos events all over Southern California, I couldn’t possibly list them all. For a more complete list, check out this one. Events below are all ages and free, unless otherwise noted. Continue Reading →

Viet Film Fest 2016: My Top Picks

12465905_912262538893611_2513417017120711810_oby Tom Nguyen

Viet Film Fest (VFF) returns April 14-17 at a new larger venue AMC 30 Orange this year. The annual festival spotlighting films of Vietnamese national and global diasporic filmmakers is organized by Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) and this year features an eclectic collection of 25 films (12 features and 13 shorts) from countries such as Vietnam, Australia, Canada, France, Norway, and the United States.

The festival will spotlight 2 important issues in the Vietnamese community: attitudes towards LGBTQ and the health and safety of nail salon workers. Also, Youth-In-Motion, VAALA’s film workshop that inspires youth to find their voices through filmmaking, will debut their films that focus on social justice issues in the community.

Continue Reading →

Here’s our Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2015 in LA and a word about Cultural Appropriation

roflbot(1)
by Tom Nguyen

Dia de los Muertos is upon us as the weather in LA finally starts to feel a little bit like Fall! As I repeat from last year’s post, as the holiday gains mainstream popularity, cultural appropriation seems inevitable as more and more people “discover” the holiday. I consider myself part of that problem since I myself was discovering Dia de los Muertos as a more culturally deep alternative to commercialized Halloween. As a person of Asian descent who’s called out racist stereotyping in other costumes and cultural events around LA, I am trying to educate myself where the line is between cultural appreciation vs. cultural appropriation when it comes to this tradition as well.

So please know that I publish this list of Dia de los Muertos events in support and respect of the communities, the artists, the musicians, the cultural organizations and the small businesses, who work so hard to preserve and celebrate the roots and traditions of this important time of year. For people new to this holiday, please ask this question yourself and don’t be afraid to ask people in the community: how do I participate in this holiday in a respectful manner?

The first step to genuine cultural appreciation is to educate yourself on the tradition’s history and significance to the communities where it originates. Get to know the community and issues that affect people in it, beyond just donning face paint for your entertainment one day a year. If I can extrapolate further, don’t just enjoy black traditions of music and dance and not care about #BlackLivesMatter. Don’t just enjoy the great LA street food and not care about poverty, lack of opportunity and criminalization of undocumented immigrants. Don’t just wear a coolie hat in Chinatown and not care about why there’s a Chinatown in the first place. So please keep this in mind and I hope to see you at one of these great Dia de los Muertos events!

By no means is this list complete — there are so many great Dia de los Muertos events all over Southern California, I couldn’t possibly list them all. For a more complete list, check out this one. Events below are all ages and free, unless otherwise noted. (Click on each event to jump to more information and scroll down for a list you can print):

Sat, October 17

Fri, October 23

Sat, October 24

Sun, October 25

Mon, October 26 – Fri, October 30

Thu, October 29

Fri, October 30

Sat, October 31

Sun, November 1

Mon, November 2

Wed, November 4

Fri, November 6

Sat, November 7

Sun, November 8

EnClave LA guide to Dia de los Muertos 2015

Earth Day events throughout LA in April and May

EarthDayLosAngeles_588x300
Earth Day is April 22 and here are just some of the many events throughout the months of April and May in communities across Los Angeles and Orange counties to help clean up our communities and raise awareness on the importance of protecting our environment. More events can be found on CalRecycle, LA DWP and LA.com. Continue Reading →

Paris Combo US Tour with New Album


By the time a friend introduced me to the wonderful eclectic music of Paris Combo, the group was already well into a long hiatus after their 2004 album Motifs. Their music is a blend of French cabaret, rumba, flamenco, Gypsy swing, cool jazz, African, Latin and Middle Eastern styles that defies easy categorization. My long wait to hear them live is over! They will be touring the US in April and May, playing new songs from their 5th studio recording, simply titled “5”. Here are their tour dates/cities:
Continue Reading →