My Next Big Task…

I’d like to share my Statement of Purpose, which I wrote as part of my applications to doctorate programs. With my next big task, with great humility, I ask that I be held accountable to all that I say I will do.

“The utmost duty of the artist—is that the artist is a committed person, that he will always take the side of any human being who is violated, abused, oppressed, dehumanized with whatever his instrument—the pen, the brush, or the camera.” -Lino Brocka

Lino Brocka, regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of the Philippines and the founder of the organization, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, speaks to my purpose in pursuing an Ed.D. His words reflected the way he made his films, that the purpose of his chosen art form was to address the issues facing the Philippines during the tyranny of the Marcos dictatorship, which is inspiring to me because his films were very critical of Marcos’s regime despite strongly enforced media censorship and rampant human rights violations in the Philippines at the time. These words are also a reflection of the way I carry myself as an artist in the two art forms I mainly engage in—dance and teaching.

I am the proud son of immigrant parents who left their homeland to escape the impoverished conditions and political corruption of martial law of the Philippines during the 1970s. My parents highly believed in the opportunities that America represented in providing hope and a future for my younger sister and me. Education was one of the main values they emphasized to me as I was growing up, and they worked to provide me the best education they could find for my sister and me. A particular passion my father had was a love for music, and he would always play his jazz and r&b cassettes at the house. This love for music rubbed off on me, and I remember and a child I would always dance to whatever music my father was playing on the radio. Little did I know that the music my father listened to would have a profound impact on me, my friends growing up, and the culture of our generation—Hiphop. Much of my childhood and high school years were spent dancing Hiphop, from breaking (commonly known as break-dancing) to Hiphop choreography.

I attended Mt. San Antonio College after high school because at the time, both my parents lost their jobs, and instead of leaving home to go to a university, I chose to attend a junior college to ease my parents’ financial burdens. I initially was a Nursing major, but after two years of coursework and an internship at the local hospital, I did not feel personally fulfilled. It was something I was good at, but not something I necessarily enjoyed. History and culture were things I was always interested in, especially those of my own as a Filipino American and of the land of my parents’ origin. I then transferred to Cal State Fullerton and decided to change my major to Ethnic Studies, emphasizing on Asian American Studies. I was immediately blown away by the wealth of knowledge I was gaining from the classes in the major. There was so much to the history of Asian Americans, particularly Filipina/o Americans, that I never knew existed. As I was taking these classes, I also kept asking myself, “Why wasn’t I taught this when I was younger?” It was then I found my calling—I wanted to be able to teach this history someday to generations after me.

I also became heavily involved with the Pilipino American Student Association (PASA) at Cal State Fullerton, and one of its main functions is the annual Pilipino Cultural Nights (PCN), a cultural production in which we told our history and experiences as Filipina/o Americans through acting, dancing, and singing. Through PASA, I was also introduced to a community that would forever have a deep impact on my life just as much as learning about my history did—the Hiphop dance crew community. PASA at the time sponsored a Hiphop dance crew called Team Millennia. I joined this crew and danced with them at numerous competitions, showcases, and community events. Through dancing with Team Millennia, I was also able to connect with several other crews and special individuals who would become my lifelong friends. It was in this close-knit network of dancers and dance crews with a shared passion for dance where I learned the value of community building. I also noticed that the majority of membership in the dance crew community happened to be Filipina/o American. I thought this was so significant to the history and experience of Filipina/o Americans, yet there has been very little study on this phenomenon.

Being an Ethnic Studies major, I decided to research this further. So after graduating from Cal State Fullerton, I took a break from dancing to focus on doing this research by pursuing a Master’s degree in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. I made the strong participation of Filipina/o Americans in the dance crew phenomenon the basis for my master’s thesis, “The Rhythm of a Nation: The Filipin@ American Movement in Hiphop Dance.” In my thesis, I argue that although Hiphop dance is a popular form of artistic expression and entertainment, Filipina/o Americans have used Hiphop dance as a space for critical cultural production and community formation. Since my study was the first of its kind, my research relied heavily on primary resources, who were mainly my dance contemporaries. I traveled throughout California, connecting with my old dance peers and the newer generations of dancers, gathering their stories and experiences. I also built my thesis on the theories of individuals who have done extensive work on performance studies and community formation. We all share the same sentiment, that dance is not just a hobby for us, but a way of life that is a significant part of our culture.

During my graduate studies at SF State, I found a second passion in teaching, which I hold equal value as my passion for dance. I became a student-teacher of Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP), which is a service-learning collaborative teaching pipeline of San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department. PEP partners with San Francisco public schools and the Filipino Community Center located in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood. Under PEP, I was mentored by its founder, Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, in teaching Ethnic Studies and Filipina/o American Studies at local San Francisco high schools and at City College of San Francisco. Some of the goals of PEP are for our students to learn their history in a safe and creative space, contextualize the content to their own personal experiences, and have them reflect what they learn using their creative talents. PEP accomplishes this by praxis of critical pedagogy, in which we allow students to think critically about their education and their situations, pose problems and find ways to solve them through circular exchange of ideas between the teachers and students. My experience with PEP and its praxis of critical pedagogy has greatly influenced the way I teach my classes outside of PEP. Through PEP, I was introduced to a community of educators, community organizers, and artists working towards social change, cultural pride, and community improvement. I became involved in several community organizations, participating in campaigns for immigrant rights, full equity for the Filipino World War II veterans, ending gentrification in San Francisco’s low-income working class neighborhoods, and stopping human rights violations in the Philippines and all war-torn countries. With all the work I have done as a community organizer, I found that all the campaigns I participated in are all Human Rights issues, which I will continue working to address as long as I live.

All these experiences have made me the person I am today. As an educator, I teach the history and culture of Filipina/os and Filipina/o Americans in order to understand our current experiences and issues. As a community organizer, I participate in campaigns that address and seek to correct Human Rights issues faced not just by Filipina/os, but all people, personally, locally, and globally. And finally, as an artist, I simply create, and encourage the creativity and harnessing of my fellow artists. These are the things that encompass who I am—Conscious, Committed, and Creative, all which I believe are what make a true artist. An artist is conscious of the experiences faced by all people, all cultures, and all communities. An artist is committed to his/her art form and to the audience, community, and students he/she serves. And an artist is creative, finding innovative ways to convey a message within his/her creative pieces that reflect his/her consciousness and commitment. This is also why I believe teaching is an art. A true teacher does not simply disseminate information, but finds creative ways to teach the curriculum and content and helps the students harness their creative talents to reflect what they learn, in whatever the space is—the street corner, the community center, the classroom, or the stage. This is true throughout the history of virtually all cultures. The sage, the shaman, the poet, the dancer, the chanter, the musician—all were teachers and all were artists.

I am now at a point in my life where I am searching for ways to bring my two passions for conscious education and cultural production together. I have been doing both for about the same length of time, but still find a disconnect between the two. Most dancers in the dance crew community are not fully aware of plaguing social issues, and if they are, it is not reflected in their art, at least not as much as in other art forms like poetry, visual art, rapping, and singing. Often times, when dancers decide to address social issues, we feel as though we must take off our dancing shoes, as if organizing around social issues and dancing are independent from each other. I believe it really does not have to be this way. Dance has so much capacity to empower and inspire social change, and provides a space where individual and collective identities are negotiated and formed. The first time I became aware of social issues and wanted to learn more about them was when I saw the music video to Janet Jackson’s, “Rhythm Nation,” in which she, along with her army of dancers, addressed prejudice, ignorance, bigotry, and illiteracy through dance. Through my experience in the dance crew community and as a teacher, I was able to find my identity, a Filipino American educator who believes in dance as a powerful tool for conscious education. There is so much potential for dancers to create art with a social purpose like other art forms, and it begins with conscious education.

My ultimate goal is to bring these two passions together as a college professor who will not only teach, but who also will create and develop programs that encourage youth and students to learn their history and become aware of social issues, and be able to address them through dance as a form of critical cultural production. My main research interest is critical cultural production through dance as a pedagogical praxis. I also want to research how communities of socially conscious poets, visual artists, and musicians have been able to accomplish this and create a dance community similar in purpose. I feel there is a lack of emphasis on critical cultural production as a pedagogical praxis of the content and theories being taught in the classroom. It is my hope that my research interests can solve the problem of essentializing teaching through traditional forms, especially when it comes to the history and social issues of people of color, and can guide me in developing and implementing programs that encourage education through cultural production, in ways that are organic, creative, and innovative.

I have no doubts that my research interests and personal goals can be advanced by study in International and Multicultural Education, especially in the area of Human Rights Education. Artists and educators are producers of culture, and to bridge both as a community in the academy and the stage, ultimately as a professor—an artist who is conscious, creative, and committed to the cause of Human Rights Education, is the destination of my personal journey.

So, with that said…

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It still hasn’t fully hit me yet, and I’m still processing this overwhelming task. But I’m hopeful that it will be done with the people by my side. Thank you all for your support throughout the years in my journey as an artist, an educator, and an activist. I do what I do for all of you, and for the masses.

Isulong!

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2 Responses to “My Next Big Task…”

  1. redbrandog Says:

    Congratulations Kasama! Glad you were able to make it. I know it has been a dream of yours for awhile. Use your knowledge for the people and hopefully being at USF can help you bring some folks into Sandiwa.

    Be humble. I will be sending you good vibes whenever I think of you.

    Brandon

  2. OMG!!! exciting much?! YES, INDEED….CONGRATS….aaaaaarrrrrhhhhh (sumisgaw ako dito, pero walang audio, kaya imagine-in mo na lang.)

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