May 4, 2009

Post #4: Manong Al

Al Robles, poet, activist, free spirit from the early days of Asian America passed away this weekend. I didn't know him. I didn't even know his work very well, save for a few poems that I've read in anthologies and the few times I read pages from his book, Rappin’ With Ten Thousand Carabao in the Dark, yet another on a long reading list that keeps getting longer.

But I know his name, and enough pieces of his story, and even a few of its intersections with stories with which I am familiar, such as that of the International Hotel. Manong Al, as he was known by the community, spent a lot of time with the older, single Filipino men, manongs themselves, who lived in the SRO units at the I-Hotel. He shared time, advocated for individuals to get social services, and just was around. His story, his life, and his light are interwoven with those stories from the early days of a conscious Asian American movement. As I think about ways to mark heritage month this year, I'm hoping to study his lessons and to celebrate his life.

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