The Kid Who Didn’t Belong
My parents’ rude house guest checking in again. This was originally supposed to be an afterthought for Alfie and Jaymee’s wedding. Then things started happening that kept adding to my thoughts. It all started with Kobe’s tragic death. Then the outbreak began in China and we were worried sick for our family there. Then it came here. The fear of which now led to a new wave of xenophobia. We have enough to worry about but this adds another level of stress. This is my way of processing.
In the first month of this year, I was in a new land surrounded by some of my best friends. Now I spend most of my days locked away in my home hiding from an invisible enemy. I realized through both the highs and lows I had one group of people constantly by my side. If you’ve been following my writings I’m sure you’ve noticed the Darkboyz, with a Z because it was cool to replace S with Z in the 90s. This is our story.
How we met
I started attending USC in the summer of 2005. A year later than my high school graduation year because I was waitlisted and kicked it at PCC with the homies for a year. Then I moved into a decommissioned frat house with some of the other transfers. Fresh into university and eager to make friends, I went to any party I can find. Sorry parents. First week was rush week for the on campus frats so that was our go to. We had a great time jumping house to house.
Until one incident gave me a reality check. I had been inside one of the houses when one of my roommates called me to come get him outside. I quickly found him but when we tried to get back into the house, one of the guys at the door stopped us and said “You look like you don’t belong here.” I had already had a few that night but what he said sobered me up and brought me back to reality.
We were the only two brown guys in line. I told him I was just inside but he didn’t care. The one block walk back home felt much longer. I bummed around for a couple of days and stayed away from the Row.
Then my house mate, Geoff, told me about a party at UCLA hosted by his friend from home, Albert, who also went to USC. I hadn’t been to UCLA yet and it was a welcomed change of scenery so I happily accepted. Maybe it was also a subconscious act of rebellion to check out the rival school.
We pulled up to a 3 story house in Westwood. There were already a lot of people hanging out front by the time we’d arrived. The first thing I noticed was that a lot of the people were wearing the Greek letters Theta Delta Beta, and some TDB. Then I noticed the pretty Asian girls. We didn’t see as many Asian girls at USC back then. Especially not the early 00’s ABGs, but you know they’re smart too because they go to UCLA. We were definitely staying at this party.
People called the house the Nu Class Pad. I’d later come to hate going to that house but I digress. Albert, who knew everyone, was the nicest of them all and took us around to meet everyone. Music was bumping and liquor was flowing. Everybody was so welcoming, especially the girls. We felt like the life of the party.
I swear this isn’t one of those old man reliving college glory days story. Okay maybe a little, but allow me to reminisce.
Before college, I had told myself I wouldn’t join a fraternity because I didn’t want to be a stereotype. I was reassured that this was an inclusive family environment with brothers and sisters who looked out for each other. Just what I was looking for growing up as an only child. I felt like I belonged here.
Without going into details of the sacred and always reasonable process, I accepted the bid to start pledgeship. Albert turned out to be our pledge educator AKA Hell Master. You can guess what that position entailed. In the dark basement of the Nu Class Pad, the once friendly Albert flipped the script and set the tone for the pledgeship process. There may have been a chair thrown around for effect.
Maybe it was the great people I had supporting me, maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome from Albert watching over me at school, I ended up being the only person to finish in the pledge class. Maybe it was fate that a Xiong was the only person in Xi class.
I know it is strange for a Trojan to be pledging a UCLA based fraternity. Every Sunday night I’d leave for Westwood and come back during the wee hours to my dorm room drenched in sweat, dirt, and whatever the active brothers decided were on the menu that night. Looking back now, it gave me the chance to experience both university settings. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe except go to a few more of the Monday morning classes.
It was also during pledgeship when I began to learn more about the history of the group and Filipino culture in general. I forgot to mention that I joined the first Filipino fraternity in the country and I was at the time one of the few non-Filipinos in the group.
The Darkboyz got its name from the dark skinned Ilocanos people originating from Northern Philippines. A group of Ilocano students from UC Irvine banded together in 1990 to combat the still rampant racism at the time. Instead of letting the isolation become a hindrance, this group of students chose to create their own identity outside of the accepted mainstream student body culture. The Greek letters Theta Delta Beta were chosen to represent The Dark Boyz. The intention was a mockery of the traditional Greek Panhellenic fraternities.
Basketball was what first brought the group together and it helped to draw others into the group. Eventually, instead of being the exiles, words spread of Darkboyz parties and the organization spread to other campuses across Southern California but maintained its independence.
As Darkboyz parties grew, others joined and the group became more diverse. The ideals always remained the same. Because of our origins, we always strived to be inclusive of everyone. All were welcome, the process decides if you were worthy.
The organization always straddled the lines of underground and overground, with only 2 official university recognized chapters. The underground identity of the group of course gave people second thoughts about the legitimacy of the group. Which is why I always supported chartering.
However, being open guaranteed our survival because instead of being limited to drawing from one university, we were able to recruit from a larger radius. Although it’s been recently harder to recruit from more academically focused campuses because of the intensity of the program. I believe in order to thrive we must alter the program to better suit the times but that’s better suited for a closed session meeting.
You can call it a gang but we are chartered. You can call it a fraternity but we prefer brotherhood. In the end it’s about providing support for a segment of the population that’s been traditionally ignored.
To start I take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of the Xi class guys for all the headaches we caused. Especially for getting Albert almost arrested. And we didn’t really get into an accident that one time, we just didn’t want to go. You trained us too well. Many thanks to the Xi Class sisters who physically and mentally nursed us back to health after each physically and mentally grueling session.
Special shout out to the Honorary Xi Class member, my big brother Vic who literally dragged my deadbeat body across the finish line. With whom I cofounded the Mumblers sect of the Illuminati family. It’s because we have similar speech patterns. Sorry again for calling your daughter by the wrong name.
Shout out to the Hobart Presidential Barracks and the Ktown friends, where I had the best of times and the worst of times. It was so much fun I almost dropped out of college. But the 3AM Korean BBQ and burrito runs were worth it. Although I did balloon to 210lbs.
There were also heart breaks along the way. I introduced my only 2 official girlfriends to TDB and they both left me for other bros. Maybe the problem was me. But that’s cool, happy I can contribute to the team.
Next I would like to recognize the fellow Porch Dogs. A name affectionately given to Rod, Astrid and I by Alfie and Rob because of the high frequency we’d invite ourselves over to the Theta Village. Roof top DJ party was too dope. We were basically professional couch surfers, start with no particular plan for the weekend and drifted wherever the wind took us. We went wherever we wanted and made friends with whoever we wanted. Wherever the good parties were, we went. We felt invincible. Maybe it was the liquid courage, maybe we were just awesome.
It’s not all just parties and bullshit with us. The philanthropy events we participated in introduced me to Southern California community activism and organizations. Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) was an eye opening view of the American injustice system. Friendship games, organized annually by Cal State Fullerton TDB, is a gathering of Filipino focused student organizations from universities near and far. Relay for life, AIDS Walk, beach clean ups, cooking for the homeless…we never forgot to give thanks to the community that offered us these opportunities.
To talk about The Darkboyz we must acknowledge the unsung heroes behind the scene, the sisters, AKA Darkbabez. Just kidding, they don’t like that title. It’s the Co-Ed environment that gives the group it’s family feel. The sisters are the backbones of the organization by keeping the knuckleheads in line. I can’t say we’ve always been fair to them but I’m proud of the growth we’ve made in recent years towards a more gender equal organization.
Our group behavior can best be described as socialized, demonstrated through collective participation towards common goals. From Rusty’s Surf Ranch to the 3000+ people Darklife parties, the scale of events we organized were impressive given the resources we had. Shout out to the “Ask your parents for $20” fundraiser. Squeezing 50+ people into 4 side by side Vegas single rooms or one Big Bear cabin was a sight to behold; which literally and figuratively brought us closer together.
Early Days of Social Media
It was especially strange living out this formative period of our lives publicly. We were the trial generation. Social media was still in its infancy phase. Mark Zuckerberg had just started Facebook the same year I started college. We’d heard this kid from Harvard made a better MySpace that was exclusive to students with university email addresses. So everybody signed up.
It wasn’t always like this where everybody just argued all day online. People actually communicated with each other instead of shouting into the clouds. We learned to use this new tool to communicate and organize events. Posted everything on our minds and everything that came into our digital cameras, whatever we were doing. From computers, we didn’t have smart phones yet. I’ve sanitized my online traces quite a few times. Sorry to the people I offended during my continuous search for self. I didn’t have to be so vulgar online. I thought I was the only one on the internet.
Most of us came from first generation Asian American immigrant families and we had a lot of pent up feelings to express. And we did. Some maybe a little too much. But it was the good and bad that made us real. We came to see the good, bad, and ugly of each other. Given time, we gained perspective.
From one platform to another we’ve established an entirely organic, refreshing and sometimes entertaining chronological documentation of our lives. This old man stayed on Facebook because Twitter only allows 280 characters.
The Internet has shifted focus back towards the people and we have opportunity to shape our future through this now more established ecosystem. I hope we can realize the full potential of social media and its absolute role in the future of this society.
What I’m really saying is I’m terrible at keeping in touch IRL but I see what you’re doing and I’m proud of how everyone turned out. From the Asian parents approved successful careers like doctors, lawyers, and engineers, to generally stable fulfilling lives, know that I’m proud of you. We have many medical professionals in the group. I’m watching you all battling on the frontlines of the pandemic from the safety of my home. This is the only way I can contribute.
We once related to the Animal House guys that weren’t supposed to make it. Or maybe make it but keep quiet like it’s going to be taken away from us if we speak our minds and express ourselves. There’s had never been a generation of Asian Americans who were fully socialized into American society while maintaining our own identity. We were always seen as the others. We’ve never had anyone to look up to unless you count a couple of movie stars. We’ve each had to search for our place in this society. Now we all find ourselves facing the same situation.
The pandemic once again brought the “natives” to look for their next target to vent their fears. Asian Americans drew the short straw this time. Not only do we have to live with the stresses of a pandemic, but now we have to worry about strangers attacking us because of how we look.
This isn’t a sob story. LA is also not like all of America. This is just another modern American story from a guy with too much time on his hands sheltered at home. I understand and appreciate the privileges my parents afforded me through their hard work in a new land. This is just my perspective. One voice out of many.
You don’t have to agree with everything I say. You don’t have to agree with anything I say. I do this in hopes that it encourages you to speak your truths. Each of us has a voice enabled by social media. As long as we are agents of positive change and not calling for violence, I think we should be able to say whatever we want and act however we want without fear of being looked at as the outsiders.
The fact is we are here to stay. We are just people like you, here to build a life for our families. Families that are experiencing the same exact fears and anxiety that I’m sure most of you are feeling. How we respond to this crisis will be judged by the history books. This is a global situation and requires a collaborative and collective effort. Do we want to be remembered as the people who fell apart during the crisis or people that came together to overcome?