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OPINION: When the ‘F’ Word and the ‘N’ Word Meant the Same Thing: Filipino

The insurrectos are very different from the insurrectionists you’ve been hearing about in the news recently. The rioters who attacked Capitol Hill on January 6, were dubbed “insurrectionists” because they were urged to fight and pillage the Capitol based on former Pres. Donald Trump’s lies of a stolen election.

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For some of you, to know of the singer H.E.R., the African American Filipino singer from Vallejo who kicked off Super Bowl LV with her rendition of “America,” would be wokeenough.

But the wokiest of the woke would appreciate that the game was three days after February 4, the anniversary of the day when the very first gunshots of the U.S.-Philippine War were aimed at Filipinos.

Still the wokiest yet would remember that the Super Bowl was being played in the hometown of one David Fagen, the African American hero of the Filipino “Insurrectos” of 1899.

Fagen knew when the “N” word and the “F” word both meant “Filipino.” For real. Let me explain.

Fagen was an African American born in Florida in 1875, at a time of continuing oppression and discrimination in the South. According to historian Howard Zinn, between 1889-1903 “on average, every week, two Negroes were lynched by mobs—hanged, burned, mutilated.”

This is well after the Civil War, when the best America could do was the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which made “separate but equal” the law and created what essentially would become an American caste system.

Imagine the mindset of a young Fagen, who joined the segregated, all-Black 24th Infantry as one of the “Buffalo Soldiers” sent to fight Native Americans. Perhaps he was just following orders, but when that deed was done, Fagen and the others were sent to fight in the Spanish American War, first in Cuba, then to Asia.

There they fought the war everyone wants you to forget.

After a brief stop in San Francisco, Fagen shipped off to the Philippines, where things began to fall apart morally when the first gunshots were fired at Filipinos on the aforementioned Feb. 4, 1899.

By then, Fagen had reached his existential WTF moment, and I don’t mean “what the Filipino?” But it might have been.

Fagen questioned how any African American with integrity or empathy could fight a white man’s war and turn his gun on another person of color fighting for freedom.

Maybe his feelings began during his first campaign against Native Americans, but by the second go-round in the jungles of the Philippines, he could no longer fight for the U.S. imperial army. Fagen became one of 15 to 30 deserters among the four units of the all-Black “Buffalo Soldiers.”

Fagen’s distinction: he was the only one known to have actually joined the Filipino freedom fighters of the U.S.-Philippine War.

My friend, Prof. Daniel Gonzales of San Francisco State University’s Ethnic Studies Dept., prefers that naming phrase to the more common Philippine-American War because the U.S. was the aggressor on Philippine soil and caused more deaths. Among Filipino civilians alone, casualties as a result of the war are estimated to be around 1 million lives. Some call it borderline genocide, which is debatable. But there’s no doubt this was America’s imperial war, more deadly than our present-day coronavirus war.

The real insurrectionists

The Filipino freedom fighters were the real “insurrectos,” or insurrectionists in American history; or as I see it, they were the insurrectionists based on truth.

David Fagen had to become one of them when he saw the U.S. was there to subjugate and colonize the Philippines.

The insurrectos are very different from the insurrectionists you’ve been hearing about in the news recently.  The rioters who attacked Capitol Hill on January 6, were dubbed “insurrectionists” because they were urged to fight and pillage the Capitol based on former Pres. Donald Trump’s lies of a stolen election.  The vast majority of these Trump insurrectionists were white and racist.    Once unleashed, they destroyed federal property and threatened the lives of both Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. In the end, when all was said and done, five people died.

And when they were done, they were so proud they started taking selfies.

No one was taking selfies in the Philippines.

For the Filipinos, it was a war of passion, often fought with spears and knives to ward off an American desire for domination and conquest fueled by racism.Through letters written by African American soldiers and published in America by the Black ethnic press, such as the Boston Post, the Cleveland Gazette, and the American Citizen in Kansas City, Americans at home learned the truth about just how racist the war was in the Philippines.

“I feel sorry for these people and all that have come under the control of the United States, wrote Patrick Mason, a sergeant in Fagen’s 24th Infantry, to the Cleveland Gazette. “The first thing in the morning is the “(N-word)”and the last thing at night is the “(N-word).”. . .You are right in your opinions. I must not say as much as I am a soldier.”

This was the power of the ethnic press as described in E. San Juan Jr.’s essay on Fagen, that sources the Willard Gatewood book, “Smoked Yankees and the Struggle for Empire: Letters From Negro Soldiers, 1898-1902.

It makes the racist nature of the war clear and provides an understanding for Fagen’s defection. On Nov. 17, 1899, Fagen crossed the line and joined the guerrillas.

Historians note that Fagen was so good as a Filipino freedom fighter, he was promoted to captain on Sept. 6, 1900. Some Filipinos even called him “General Fagen.” His notoriety grew as he clashed on the battlefield with the U.S. military forces, specifically Gen. Frederick Funston. Fagen’s exploits were covered by the New York Times.

The war came to an official end in 1902 after Filipino rebel leaders like Emilio Aguinaldo surrendered beginning in the spring of 1901. But Fagen kept fighting and was never found. He was said to have married a Filipina and gone into hiding in the mountains of Nueva Ecija, on the island of Luzon.

Fagen’s head or a head fake?

San Juan Jr. tells a story of Anastacio Bartolome, who, in December 1901, brought a decomposed head said to be Fagen’s to Bongabong, Nueva Ecija. Bartolome produced other pieces of documentary evidence, like weapons or clothing, but the military didn’t consider it credible, nor did they give Bartolome a reward. San Juan suspects the items may have been stolen and the head could have been someone’s from the Aeta, a black aboriginal tribe. Bartolome may have also been a ruse to throw off Fagen’s pursuers.

Nevertheless, it was the Black press that wrote an obituarywith a sympathetic point of view. On Dec. 14, 1901, The Indianapolis Freeman did not condemn Fagen as a traitor but painted the picture of a man “prompted by honest motives to help a weaker side, and one to which he felt allied by the ties that bind.”

And that’s the oft-forgotten Asian part of Black History Month, where soldiers lie David Fagen found common ground among the dark-skinned Asian freedom fighters in the mountain jungles of the Philippines.

If you’ve never heard of this history, it’s not surprising. It’s one that runs counter to America’s white supremacist narrative.

The birth of colonial mentality

My father, who was born under the American flag in the Philippines a few weeks after the U.S.-Philippine war started, lived in the aftermath, yet probably knew nothing about Fagen. That likely wasn’t taught in his colonized American school, where he learned English well enough to come to America in the 1920s as a colonized American national.

All throughout the discrimination my father faced in the U.S. (anti-miscegenation, lack of opportunities in employment and housing), he found himself in the Black community. But he still was in the throes of colonial mentality. Generally, that’s known as an acceptance of the white narrative, as one goes along to get along in society.

It’s a mindset that lingers to this day among many in the large Asian American subgroup of Filipino Americans, more than 4 million strong. It’s the reason I no longer participate in some Filipino American projects that too often discount truth for a more passive, glorified U.S. perspective. Wokeness is not an option for the latter-day colonial minded.

   They all could use some of the insight from David Fagen’s history.

He challenged an immoral and imperialistic American war. And he knew right away his connection to other people of color in Asia fighting to be free—the Filipino.

When you lack the nerve to break the bonds of colonial mentality, think of Fagen, who heard the “N” word referring to Filipinos, and knew better.

It’s a lesson worth thinking about all the time, and not just during Black History Month.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his podcast/vlog, where he talks  about Fagen with Prof. Daniel Phil Gonzales on amok.com 

Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Bay Area

Popular Chief LeRonne Armstrong Placed on Administrative Leave During Investigation of Police Misconduct

In a press statement, Mayor Sheng Thao said that placing Armstrong on paid administrative leave was not punitive but was a standard procedure when investigating possible officer wrongdoing. “We must do what we need to do to get out of that oversight,” she said, explaining that she wants to show the public and the court monitor that there will be no favoritism. A rookie officer or the top officer will face the same investigative process.

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In his remarks, Armstrong defended OPD’s internal affairs department and fellow officers who were criticized in an independent report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

“I did nothing wrong. I violated no policies,” said Armstrong, speaking at a press conference

By Ken Epstein

Refusing to accept administrative leave during a police misconduct investigation, OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong fired back with a press conference of his own this week, organized by a high-profile corporate public relations and communications firm.

“I should be the chief of police and remain in my position,” he said. “I did nothing wrong. I violated no policies.”

Mayor Sheng Thao placed Armstrong on administrative leave with pay while his role in an officer misconduct cover-up scandal is investigated by internal affairs. The case involves a highly paid police sergeant who was involved in a hit-and-run automobile accident in San Francisco and is accused of later discharging a gun in an OPD freight elevator and disposing of the shell casings by throwing them off the Bay Bridge.

At a press conference Monday at the office of PR consultant Sam Singer’s office in Emeryville, Armstrong did not blame Mayor Sheng Thao for placing him on leave but instead denounced federal monitor, Robert Warshaw, who oversees the police department and evaluates its reform efforts as a representative for the federal court that has overseen OPD for two decades.

In his remarks, Armstrong defended OPD’s internal affairs department and fellow officers who were criticized in an independent report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

“This to me, clearly, is a last-ditch effort to destroy the credibility of me…and to make the community believe that Oakland police is involved in some shady business,” he said.

He blasted Warshaw’s “ulterior motives,” accusing him and his team of seeking a reason to continue to be paid over $1 million a year to oversee the department, which was potentially set to exit from federal oversight at the end of May.

“It’s hard to say a mayor who’s been in the seat for just a couple of weeks would be able to push back against a monitor at this point,” Armstrong said, adding that some city officials might be “intimidated” by Warshaw’s team.

City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement that her office agreed that the recent report on OPD deficiencies “revealed failures that call into question the integrity of (OPD’s) internal investigation processes.”

Many observers and police accountability activists are saying that the present scandal and subsequent community uproar over Chief Armstrong is best resolved by removing police misconduct investigations from OPD and instead turning the cases over to an independent civilian body.

Defending the department’s internal investigation, Armstrong said the investigation that was conducted was “consistent with the findings that were presented to me.”

“To work and get to this point and have it taken away from you hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts my community because every day I come into this job to try to make Oakland better,” he said. Prior to this incident, Armstrong has been widely praised for helping make significant reforms at OPD and paving the way for an end to federal court intervention.

Armstrong said the sergeant involved in the case, who was identified in the media as Michael Chung, was placed on leave following the shooting incident, but that the chief was unable to review the case because Warshaw had taken over the investigation.

Sergeant Chung, one of Oakland’s most highly paid employees, received total pay and benefits of $492,779.77 in 2021, including regular pay of $160,828.84 and overtime pay of $276,959.38.

Armstrong, who has deep ties in the Oakland community, was born and raised in West Oakland, California, and was a graduate of McClymond’s High School. He joined the OPD as a police officer in 1999, after spending four years with the Alameda County Probation Department. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

In a press statement, Mayor Sheng Thao said that placing Armstrong on paid administrative leave was not punitive but was a standard procedure when investigating possible officer wrongdoing.

“We must do what we need to do to get out of that oversight,” she said, explaining that she wants to show the public and the court monitor that there will be no favoritism. A rookie officer or the top officer will face the same investigative process.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that, under our administration, that we take these findings seriously and it’s important that we look at taking the corrective action that is needed to make sure that we stay on track to make sure that we get out of the federal oversight,” she said.

“My belief is that, by holding ourselves accountable, we can be safer and a more just city,” Mayor Thao said.

At a federal court hearing Tuesday, Judge William Orrick, not addressing the criticisms of Warshaw’s role, said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the findings of the outside report conducted by attorneys hired by the City of Oakland, which revealed “significant cultural problems” that still exist after 20 years of court oversight.

The oversight began as a result of the negotiated resolution to a civil rights lawsuit in the Riders scandal in which plaintiffs alleged that four veteran officers, known as the ‘Riders,’ planted evidence and beat residents, while OPD turned a blind eye to the police misconduct.

“This is the third time since I’ve been overseeing the implementation of the (settlement) that the city has seemed to come close to full compliance,” Judge Orrick said, “only to have a serious episode arise that exposes rot within the department.”

Mayor Sheng Thao said she takes this case seriously, not a minor fender bender as some have dismissed it, and that said those involved will be “disciplined appropriately.”

“This particular misconduct is serious because it provides fertile ground for other misconduct to thrive,” she said at the hearing. “I will not tolerate toxic subcultures that try to demonize or deter officers who do the right thing.”

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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