Amado Khaya Canham Rodriquez. (Art and Design by Amado Khaya Canham Rodriquez and Ivy Climacosa)

October 6, 2020

By Paul Bolick-Mausisa, Special to the Citizen

The Town embraces and produces incredible people. Revolutionary movements embrace and produce incredible people. Amado Khaya Canham Rodriquez is one of those incredible people produced by the Town and a long legacy of revolutionary movements.

I first met Amado in my mid 20s while in the Philippines, where I was learning about the various social and political issues facing Filipino peasants, workers and indigenous communities. It was a physically and emotionally grueling trip and I was homesick. While staying with his parents, Robyn Rodriquez and David Canham, I bonded with this 3-year-old toddler over a short two days and he gave me comfort and a purpose to continue enduring the rigors of the trip.

Amado was born in Oakland, spent his childhood years in the Philippines and New Jersey and then returned to the Bay Area as a teenager. This is when I met up with Amado again some 12-15 years later, myself a somewhat “seasoned” political activist and he a soon-to-be political activist and leader.  We were both part of Bay Area organizations working on various social and political issues in the Philippines. Amado also became my student at Laney College, and my mentee in the Laney Social Justice Center (SJC). Given I was 20 years his elder and close comrades with his mother, it would have been customary in Filipino culture and even expected that he refer to me as “uncle.”  But we referred to each other affectionately as “Kasama” or comrade, trying our best to challenge power dynamics and seeing each other as equals in political activism, community organizing and movement building. 

As a blossoming political activist and community organizer with Anak Bayan East Bay and the SJC, one of Amado’s strengths was bringing people and organizations together.  With ease and confidence, Amado built bridges between various student organizations, such the Associated Student Union, Umoja Ubaka and SJC.  He also encouraged that Laney students be aware of and support community-wide campaigns, such as the Filipino Mental Health Initiative, Free College For All, Stop Urban Shield, Stop the Killings (in the Philippines) and the Fight for Ethnic Studies. With youthful energy, he tirelessly facilitated political education workshops and organized youth and adults alike in strengthening these campaigns and movements.

The most critical issue at Laney and the surrounding community at this time was the Oakland Athletics (A’s baseball team) corporation’s proposal to build a “mega stadium” across the street from the Laney campus. Amado was at every conceivable meeting, gathering and town hall, arguing against the proposal and encouraging everyone to join the Stay the Right Way Coalition  — the main student and community coalition opposed to the stadium.  Amado quickly became an activist superstar — at what we affectionately dubbed “UC Hood” — inspiring others, students and faculty alike, to engage in struggle and re-ignited the fire in many “old-timers” to recommit to political activism. While a collective effort that included dozens of individuals and collectives, it was Amado’s leadership that ultimately prevented the building of the A’s stadium, which would have accelerated the gentrification of Oakland, disrupting the Laney educational experience and displacing countless working-class families. This was a much-needed Laney College and Town victory!!!

Amado was not without his faults and errors. He wanted the revolution tomorrow, and often appeared to be sprinting, when others were jogging or even just learning how to walk. He could be stubborn and early “activist stardom” gave him a big head at times. Many of us who worked closely with him collectively cautioned: “You may sprint so fast you miss a turn and run into a dead end” and “Be patient, this is a long journey and every step is a learning moment.” Many times during our long drawn out and intense discussions, Amado would look discouraged and leave visibly frustrated. But there he was the very next day continuing his organizing and serving the people.

While Amado found meaning and purpose in political activism, he was not one-dimensional. He enjoyed life while struggling with daily trials and tribulations. He loved playing video games, listening to music, reading, eating and sought comfort with friends and family.  Many of us have a shared experience witnessing Amado’s unquenching appetite. After finishing his first plate and then gulping down seconds and thirds, he would often, without shame, offer to finish the leftovers on someone else’s plate. Like so many Bay Area youth, Amado also found it difficult to sustain meaningful economic work and was beginning to find the courage to share his struggle with mental health issues.

As a committed internationalist, Amado soon returned to the Philippines and continued to demonstrate his love for the people and those most oppressed. He worked side by side with Indigenous and peasant communities in Mindoro engaging in human rights campaigns.  Amado got food poisoning and died en route to the hospital. But under no uncertain circumstances would Amado allow anyone to believe that he simply died of food poisoning. Oh no, to understand Amado’s life and his commitments, you must understand the legacy of colonialism, US imperialism, and the long history of ruling elites that have oppressed the Filipino masses for centuries, resulting in landlessness, poverty, chronic unemployment and lack of healthcare. This is what Amado was fighting against and it is exactly what killed him. 

When I think of Amado –- his life and death — I instantly think of Little Bobby Hutton and Fred Hampton. Young revolutionary leaders fully committed to the liberation of their people, but who were taken from us too soon.  Like Little Bobby and Fred, state violence killed Amado. A bullet did not pierce his body, but centuries-long low-intensity warfare waged on the poor prevented Amado, like so many others, from accessing aid in their most dire time of need.

Amado is now amongst the brightest stars in our constellation of revolutionary fighters. He is resting in good company — Ka Fidel, Fidel Castro, Malcolm X, Tita Bullet, Uncle Bill Sorro, Mandela, BJ Alisago — and so many more. He is at rest with the multitudes of nameless martyrs who dedicated their life to our eventual freedom. He is at rest with Masa that have passed on, the humble masses whose lives continue to remind us of our purpose in struggle.

Amado died at 22 years old and leaves behind a strong and vibrant family and community, who are all mourning.  As we manage and navigate through our grief, we are also inspired by Amado’s life and are steadfast in continuing Amado’s unfinished revolutionary work.

Amado, our son of the people, our memory of you will forever guide us in revolutionary struggle. 

Mabuhay Ka Amado!!!

(Long Live Comrade Amado!!!)

Paul Bolick-Mausisa