Everyone loves a success story. Like in movies, books, oral stories, even mythologies, the success is even more glorious when the hero or protagonist encounters great challenges or comes from humble beginnings.
In real life, there are many examples of celebrities who’ve made that meteoric rise from humble beginnings to extraordinary success. Celine Dione, Elvis Presley, Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, and comic Jim Carrey – all of them were born into disadvantaged backgrounds.
Unlike most other industries that require traditional requirements like higher levels of education; in entertainment, talent and ambition are the main drivers of success – which is perhaps why the doors are wide open for everyone, including those with tough starts.
Locally, comedian Augie Tulba, or more commonly known by his stage name Augie T, has climbed his way from the projects of Kalihi to become one of Hawaii’s most admired entertainers. For close to three decades, he has built a massive fanbase and parlayed his popularity as an entertainer into other successful ventures. Comedy was the start, which led to Augie T, host of one of the top morning radio shows, and numerous other opportunities.
What’s perhaps unique about Augie T compared to other legendary comics who were his predecessors such as Mel Cabang and Andy Bumatai (also Filipinos), is the timing of Augie’s career. His sustainability is also largely boosted by his ability to market himself in the digital age, where the internet, DVDs, CDs, and blockbuster comedy special-shows are more common, enabling entertainers to reach a broader audience.
Fellow Filipino comedian Jo Koy is the consummate marketer who has done this at the national-international level. Augie T has done the same in our state. He’s created a brand, which is himself, that is “transportable,” so to speak, to other areas – acting, business, public speaking events.
He has also taken his brand and celebrity status to help our community. In his final big show “Laugh Under the Stars 2” on October 13 at the Waikiki Shell, it will also serve as a fundraiser for B.R.A.V.E Hawaii, an organization that is committed to anti-bullying in school-aged youth. He’s done numerous fundraising events for worthy causes and organizations. In fact, at 50, he says he plans to focus more of his time on public service.
What’s particularly inspiring about entertainers who succeed is it keeps alive the dream that it’s still possible to make a living in the performing arts. Chances are far slimmer than most other occupations. But in the digital age with enhanced marketing tools and the internet, talent can still get you places that you’ve never thought possible.
Augie T told the Filipino Chronicle, “if you work hard, anything is possible.” We’ve all heard this before. But when people who’ve made it, believe in this saying, and is living out limitless possibilities – this is truly inspiring.
It’s true most people would want their children to pursue safer careers in medicine or engineering. But sometimes, children have different dreams and goals that do not follow a clear path. And still, they manage to succeed, even in comedy, as far-fetched that this could sound as a child or teen.
This is why perhaps why Augie T is so special. Through his courage, he has made his dream of succeeding in comedy (a tough field of entertainment) come true. He says he’d dreamt of this goal from a very young age. He’s talked about quitting at times. But he’s also talked about being fearless (something he’s acquired as a professional boxer) and perseverance.
In the past, the Filipino Chronicle has interviewed a multitude of role models in our community that we’ve chosen for cover stories -- judges, physicians, politicians, business leaders, and government heads. Augie T, the standup comic, radio personality, local celebrity, and yes, role model, is right up there with the best of them in our community.
Thank you Augie T for all the laughter and joy; and thank you for your community service work. We encourage you to go out and support him at his last big hurrah on October 13 that is also a worthy fundraising event.
Peaceful Protest Is a Protected Right
It’s the sign of the times that the country finds itself in yet another divisive issue. The 2018 NFL season recently started and a new policy adopted (unanimously by NFL owners) mandates that players must stand during the national anthem or face a fine. Or NFL players have the option of staying in the locker room if they decide not to stand. The new rule is a strong move to clampdown on player protests at the sidelines.
This is the third season since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the kneel-down in 2016 to peacefully protest during the national anthem the police brutality of unarmed black men abused or killed by police. Kaepernick, and later dozens of NFL players, used their celebrity power to raise awareness of this systemic problem and what they believe helps those who otherwise would have no voice.
But the original intent of the peaceful protest has been overshadowed by those who say kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful and unpatriotic.
Now the debate has transmuted into – whether taking a knee during the national anthem should be allowed as a form of freedom of speech; or on the flipside, the national anthem, like the flag, is too sacred a symbol to be used to protest.
On face value, this issue of exercising the right to protest could be seen as lightweight compared to other more impactful issues. In 2016, most people seem to agree and little brouhaha came over Kaepernick’s initial kneel-down protest.
But that all changed when the “divider-in-chief,” President Donald Trump, jumped into the fray and stoked a fire of division. Trump used this as yet another opportunity to fire up his base and the ongoing cultural war.
Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”
Trump’s crackdown on NFL protestors isn’t just about an attempt to establish lines of allegiance and patriotism that shouldn’t be crossed, it is at a deeper level, an attempt to exert power over NFL players and to snuff their protest of police brutality on the black community. The symbolism of asserting racial white power is further highlighted by the fact that NFL owners are mostly billionaire white men and their entertainment-employees (the players) are mostly black athletes (70 percent).
What’s really going on
The new policy, which had no input from NFL players, showed tone-deafness to the racial symbolism of muting black players expressing their conviction over a serious issue affecting mostly the black community.
It has reopened old wounds of racism and power; and is particularly acute when the people who are protesting happen to be black leaders. It’s one thing to disregard a class of disenfranchised citizens (who get little attention), but to successfully muzzle the leaders whom these citizens look up to sends a stark, humbling message.
The new policy is not about defending patriotism. It’s about NFL owners protecting their deep pockets from Trumpers calling for a boycott.
The new policy is a blow to freedom of speech and expression, the First Amendment. It also brings the nation closer to facets of authoritarianism, a trend Trump and his followers are fashioning each day.
Many people wouldn’t necessarily see it this way – but coercion of allegiance is in fact a form of authoritarianism.
The new policy also puts a symbol (national anthem) over the true meaning of that symbol, which is the substance of the Constitution that guarantees the right to protest openly in public areas.
The new policy demands pseudo-patriotism.
Those who are against the kneel-down protest, in an attempt to sound more convincing, also have been using the argument that taking a knee during the national anthem is disrespectful to U.S. veterans – which couldn’t be further from the truth.
A U.S. veteran makes a compelling argument against this line of reasoning: “When I was commissioned into service, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. I didn’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution or whose rights and freedoms I supported and defended. They (protestors) are not anti-military, nor are they attacking police officers or advocating violence against them; they are simply standing up for their convictions.
“We can leave forced religious expression and coerced displays of patriotism to countries less secure than ours.”
Most Americans are fair-minded and can see through Trump’s demagoguery on this issue. Most Americans value and respect freedom of expression even as uncomfortable as taking a knee during the national anthem could be. The U.S. has been and was founded as being a tolerant and open society. It may not be at times, but it remains the ideal and something Americans strive for.
There are far more important issues Americans could be dedicating their energy to and Americans shouldn’t allow peaceful protests to be a dividing issue as this has already been.
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