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Bao Phi

Performance poet, community activist

Cambodian Son: Minneapolis Screening and Q & A with director Masahiro Sugano on April 15


TUESDAY // APRIL 15, 2014 // 7-9 PM 

Director Masahiro Sugano will be in attendance for a post-show Q and A.

From the website: Cambodian Son documents the life of deported poet, Kosal Khiev after receiving the most important performance invitation of his career—to represent the Kingdom of Cambodia at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Kosal would travel to London having only taken two flights prior; first, as a 1-year-old refugee child whose family fled Cambodia and, then as a 32-year-old criminal “alien” forcibly returned to Cambodia in 2011. The film follows a volatile yet charming and talented young man who struggles to find his footing amongst a new freedom that was granted only through his deportation. Kosal’s London representation is a triumphant moment for many people in his life, both in America and Cambodia. The film traces the impact and significance of this moment for Kosal, his friends, family, mentors and a growing international fan base. Armed only with memorized verses, he must face the challenges of being a deportee while navigating his new fame as Phnom Penh’s premiere poet. After the performances end and the London stage becomes a faint memory, Kosal is once again left alone to answer the central question in his life: “How do you survive when you belong nowhere?

I was able to exchange some emails with Anida Yoeu Ali of Studio Revolt about the film, in anticipation of the premier here in Minnesota on April 15.

1) What drew you to Kosal Khiev and this project?

Masahiro (director) and I were introduced to Kosal by a mutual friend, another Khmer Exiled American (KEA) I knew in the US. Our mutual friend raved about Kosal’s poetry and said that we should really meet him, especially since I was also a spoken word artist once upon a time in Asian America. (Masa’s personal telling about his first encounter with Kosal is very touching, so feel free to read it here:

Then one night Masa comes home and tells me that he just heard Kosal’s life story in one sitting. He was moved by the whole experience and he said this guy has something special and that I should really take the time to hear him kick a poem. Being the jaded old school spoken word artist that I was, I didn’t really believe Masa but then I remembered that Masa doesn’t usually rave about spoken word poetry so Kosal must have moved him deeply. On another night, Kosal came to visit us and in the middle of my living room I asked if he would kick a poem. That poem was “Moments In Between the Nights” and it grabbed my guts and shook me teary eyed. Since that moment sometime in July 2011, our paths have intertwined into both a journey and collaboration.

We believe Kosal represents something bigger than himself – ideas around compassion, the transformational power of art, and justice.

2) As it is National Poetry Month, what is it about poetry and spoken word that makes it a useful vessel for such a heavy subject?

Spoken word woven with musicality, theatricality and the raw energy and charisma of Kosal offers an element of entertainment that enables a mainstream audience typically unsympathetic to the deportation of convicted felons to have a new guide into the issue.

Kosal has a voice and it’s powerful and inspirational. We truly believe that his story and poetry should be heard on an international scale. We believe he has the power to unite and open up minds and hearts. He became a reformed man inside the US prison system as a result of arts programming. This means that reform is possible and art can be transformative. Kosal is living proof. We don’t need more punitive forms of justice but rather options that are restorative and transformative.

3) What is the goal of this film?

Our goal is to reach millions with this film. Laws can only be changed if we can change the culture which created the policies. We want people to humanize the issue of deportation through Kosal’s story. We want people to experience his story in order to tap into compassion and a sense of justice. Kosal’s story is complicated and has everything to do with history, geo-politics, war, circumstances, and failed systems which created him, then destroyed his life, and now rebirthing him once again.  

4) Where can readers learn more about deportation?

Please read the “issues” section of our press kit and/or our movie’s website for this information:


Orbit: Remembering Brandon Lacy Campos




When I looked through my archive to select a picture for this blog post, all but one of the photos I found had Brandon surrounded by friends.  For those of us who knew him, this is not a surprise.  He was such a magnetic soul – many of us were drawn to him, to his brightness and his candor, his poetry and his politics, his serious commitment to social justice and his hilarious stories that often veered into “too much information” territory.

For me, my memories of Brandon include Lord of the Rings trivia contests, walks under starlight far from the light pollution of the city, and getting pulled over in a rental car on the way to a funeral.  Lots of camping trips, nerd of color bonding sessions, soccer games in Powderhorn on Sundays, and poetry readings.  Like many others, I was grateful to have Brandon in my life, with all the different collisions and intersections and sheer joy that he brought with him. 
When I got the news of his passing months ago, I was far from home, far from the people who were mutually close to him, all of us in shock, all of us in mourning.  It was as if we, his friends and community, were in orbit around him, and with Brandon gone suddenly we all spun and reeled in space, lost.  I still have not been able to process and deal with losing him.  
This weekend would be his birthday -  I reached out to several community members, most of whom are from Minnesota or have roots here, to share a few words of reflection and honor his memory.  Here are their responses.
Dear Brandon: I remember a conversation with you in your kitchen at a party at your Powderhorn apartment.  You said something like ‘Why do I have to choose one race/ethnicity to identify with?  Why can’t I choose multiple races/ethnicities?  And it should be up to me, not others, to define how I identify.”  Years later I realize this conversation was a catalyst for my own journey as I grappled with my identity as a transracial adopted Asian American.  My recent visit to NYC wasn’t the same without seeing your bright eyes and hearing your laughter, but I could see and hear all of you when Justin and I visited the memorial by your apartment.  I brought flowers that reminded me of Minnesota – hope you liked them.  I almost didn’t take that trip to NYC but now I know I made the right decision.  Your legacy will live on and it confirms some of the challenging work I’ve done in the last year - I know you are standing in solidarity with me.  Thank you forever for being an eternal light in my life.  Thank YOU for all of your love and support for so long.
E. Lee (12.7.2012)
Brandon was just always "Up In It". Whatever "It" was at any given moment, whether or not *you* knew it or not, Brandon knew it. So that, whether we were infiltrating a predominantly white nerd convention (Convergence) with a gang of nerds of color in 2007, or discussing intersections of neoliberal economic policies and racism at the 2008 Midwest Social Forum, Brandon could be counted on to bring a fresh, engaged, and passionate voice to the conversation. He occupied so many spaces at once (mixed, queer, HIV positive, activist), that it seemed like he was always pushing every boundary, every category, and every comfort level at once. In that way, he made me feel less alone, and more okay in my own intersectional identity. Like many people, the thing I will miss most is his laugh. That, and his irreverent sense of humor -- the way he was always stretching the limits of the acceptable. If it needed to be said, and if it didn't need to be said, he would say it.
-Shannon Gibney
You know how there are some people who just fizz with energy and creativity and a sense of both hope and love? And they manage to fizz like that while still having this strong sense of politics and clarity about who has too much and who is struggling just to get by? That would be Brandon. I first met Brandon when he was a 19 year old University of Minnesota student, deeply involved in the gay fraternity. Even though he was 14 years younger than me, the two of us did some serious growing up together.  Together we would move from local to national organizing and back again, sharing gossip and vision, always fierce about claiming the midwest as being a powerplace that the coasts just kept ignoring. Brandon had that energy that drew people to him, lots of people. There was no way to ever know all of the people who Brandon claimed. They lived in every neighborhood and often had very little in common with each other, except for Brandon. That intensity and that big wide net of people and experiences also meant Brandon was a person who could hide when he struggled. He lived dozens of lives at every single moment, and in some of them, he was in a lot of pain. In others, he was the bright and shining star that everyone turned to face. I am still learning a lot from Brandon and imagine I will continue to learn from him for years to come. I miss him - his sassy and his serious, his family focus and his wild ways. 
-Susan Raffo
Brandon and I first “met” on FB 4+ years ago. I had been checking out people on our mutual friend Bryan Thao Worra’s page, saw a picture of Brandon and thought he was quite adorable. I asked Bryan to “introduce” us to each other and soon received a friend request from Brandon, once accepted I received my first post from him. It simply read, “We should make out some time”. I had absolutely no idea at the time how Brandon and I would change each other’s lives…….. forever.  My lover, brother, sister, roommate, child, teacher, student, collaborator, muse, source of inspiration, frustration, anxiety and many grey hairs, I loved all of him like no other. Brandon continues to never be far from my heart.
-David Berube
This note is the opening up of doors to the heartbeat and love that was Brandon Lacy Campos .  It’s not an easy task to write about someone who was so prolific on many levels from writer, to activist, to womynist, to fairy chef, etc.  Brandon was my sister/brother.  Our love and activism for our Communities of Color, Queer folks, Afrofuturism brought us together.  We met during our tender years at the University of Minnesota and bonded.  We understood the need for organizing friendships, communities, and movements across identities/ class/ gender expression/ immigration status etc.   I love Brandon’s fierceness, tenderness, and protective nature.  We cried a decade later as he said I loved him unconditionally, saw the good in him & held space for people even as others tore them down.  We smiled at the memory of us almost in each others lap, hugging in a love seat during his first going away party in MN.  He reminded me of my goodness as we caught up in NYC and we had a way of making each other cry even when we wanted to be hard.  When you are his family, he would hold people to account anywhere, such as the bathroom line as he overhead them talking trash about my character.   Thank you Brandon for your love, light, words, and sharing during your challenging time.
-Seyi Adebanjo
My fondest memory of Brandon Lacy Campos is the year my wife and I hosted a poetry reading in the backyard of our former residence in south Minneapolis.  Brandon was in town and he, along with several others, blessed our space. It was always a joy to have him around and to hear him read his work.  Through his writing, community activism, and his very presence, Brandon always had a way of making his own personal journey a shared purpose for us all to connect with.  Thankfully, this remains true today.
-Rush Merchant III
We met through activism and poetry. The greatest gift he gave me was to call me family and mean it. Brandon loved life, but understood that he was not perfect, nor did he need it to. He was an advocate of many causes, loved in many circles. But what I miss the most is his laughter and vulnerability. He was a caring person. We behaved like brothers and treated him as family. So much that he became tia Brandon to my little girls and one of Santiago's godparent. I miss his randomness, his nerdyness and the teasing we would have between each other like siblings. But also his ferocity on the mic. He was an amazing writer, who always impressed me with his words. He was a good definition of community, he always brought people together from different places. He is still doing that today. 
-Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria
The poets gather and we begin to build images and histories of you.  You are hard to write about Brandon.  There aren’t enough words to convey what you have meant to me.  You had a vulnerability that made me want to protect you.  You had a darkness that made me want to run from you.  You had a smile that always caused mine.  You were smarter than most people I know.  It was always a joy to see you lay the smack down on someone.  Side eye and all, you weren’t afraid to bring it and sometimes reckless in the conflict you wrought.  You loved big, always willing to give yourself over to people, that’s why people loved back so much.  I miss the fun parts and I want to forget what was hard but I can’t because that was part of our journey as well.  I miss you, every day.  I have lost a part of my life, and we all mourn the future we wanted with you.  So much of what is good in me is because of our friendship, of the world we created together, of our conversations and our laughter.  I pray that the ancestors have taken you home and I know that I will see you again, poet and revolutionary friend.
-Coya Hope Artichoker
It’s so hard to put into words what Brandon has meant not only to me, but to my family as well.  Brandon came into our lives like a whirlwind and continues to remain a very strong presence in our home.  I have so many favorite memories of Brandon that it is hard to select one, but there is one that does stand out the most and it is one that I hold onto dearly.  It was one simple phrase and gesture he made to me while I was in New York City a few years ago for a conference.  We went to a show together and while we were waiting for it to begin, he gently leans over, leans his head on my shoulder, and whispers, “I’m so glad you are here.”  It was the simplicity of that moment, in the midst of a vibrant environment, that defines best who Brandon is.  He was very open about his strengths, but also his faults.   The beautiful thing is that he didn't let himself be defined by either.  To us, he was Brandon, B, Tia Brandon, Amor.  And that’s who he will continue to remain.
-Nubia Esparza
This Saturday, Aug 31, Palabristas: Latin@ Word Slingers will be paying tribute to their departed collective member, Brandon Lacy Campos, who passed away last November 9. 
Palabristas members will perform Pedro Pietri's classic 'Puerto Rican Obituary' as well as one of Brandon's own poems, as part of an event called COPArty: A Music, Poetry and Dance Fundraiser for Copa Comunidad Midwest 2013.
Copa Comunidad Midwest 2013 is a gathering of leftist/anti-imperialist futbol (soccer)players and supporters from around the country - four days of futbol, food, fiestas, good folks and fun. 
COPArty will also feature poet Chaun Webster, music from Silva Sol, aon jarocho and Big Quarters, and DJ sets by DJ Dang!, DJ Sarah White Black, and DJ Mamadu. The event runs from 9pm to 2am at Bedlam Theatre, 2714 E 27th St. Minneapolis (just off the greenway at 27th Ave S).
There is a $10 suggested donation, but nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.
All proceeds go to help cover the costs of Copa Comunidad Midwest. Members of Palabristas thought it was a fitting space in which to pay tribute to Brandon, as Brandon played soccer with members of Palabristas who are now part of Left Wing TC soccer team, the host team of Copa Comunidad.
For more information, please contact Left Wing TC at