April 19, 2014

April 21, DC: AAPI Mentoring with Nina Davuluri & Julie Chu

White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

The White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), and White House Council on Women and Girls invite you to an armchair conversation with

  1. Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014
  2. Julie Chu, four-time Olympic Medalist of the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team
  3. Moderated by Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs.
  4. Other panelists to be announced.

You are welcome – and encouraged – to forward this invitation to young women who are students, interns, young professionals, or emerging leaders in your networks. Mentorship is an important part of our efforts and we hope this event will provide these young leaders a chance to hear and learn from our special guests.

Monday, April 21, 2014
1:00 – 2:00 PM
The White House
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Space is limited and RSVPs will only be accepted until we reach capacity. To RSVP, complete and submit the attached security spreadsheet (.xlsx with header fields: LastName, First Name, Middle Name, Date of Birth, SSN, Citizen, Country, Gender, City, State, Email Address) to AAPI@who.eop.gov by 12 pm (Noon) EDT this Friday, April 18th. You are not confirmed for the event unless you have correctly completed the attached form AND receive a confirmation e-mail.

DOL Labor Hall of Honor Inducts Chinese Railroad Workers

Editor’s Note: We re-Tweeted the DOL’s Tweet about this news.

Chinese Railroad Workers

The United States Department of Labor invites you to join Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez for the induction of The Chinese Railroad Workers into the Labor Hall of Honor

Friday, May 9, 2014
11:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m.

U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave NW
César Chávez Memorial Auditorium
Washington, DC 20210
Vistor’s Entrance: 3rd & C Streets NW

Registration and identification are required to attend. This invitation is non-transferrable.

Register at webapps.dol.gov/DOLEvents/Event/View/288 before Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Contact Jeremy Bishop, Special Assistant to the Secretary
in the Office of Public Engagement, at bishop.jeremy@dol.gov with any questions or concerns.

The politics of pilgrimage: Vietnam Veterans War Memorial

VVWM

(Photo from Fischer Art History)

The lines of people angle in, respectfully, along the powerful obsidian walls. Some are here on a pilgrimage and have come armed with light paper and crayons for tracing the names of their loved ones, to bear away some of the memory. Some are tourists from inside and without the homeland, checking off stops on a planned itinerary of historic places. This does not detract from the sacred nature of the place.

I breathe in the smell of earth and listen to the birds chirping brightly on this windy day. Time stops and the field of vision freezes. All there is, is in front of me.

The V of the wall rises like a gash in the earth, and the ground dips slowly like a curtsey, mimicking the descent into the underworld. And all the people follow the trail, with a sharp line dividing the black stone from the green grass and wildflowers that line the top edge. In contrast, families and friends have left bouquets that have withered in the sun, cut off from any source of sustaining nourishment.

In seventh grade, my class took a trip to Washington, D.C. and I brushed my hands along the cold marble wall. The wall transmitted such sadness and I felt the etched names like a mantra. I watched as families clustered in tight blossoms of sorrow around the name of a loved one who had died defending his or her country. At the age of twelve, I was transfixed by the flat shininess and the ghostlike reflections of the visitors in the face of so many names. As if we were the mirrored ghosts, paying our respects to those who had come before.

In the midst of my twelve year old reverie, a lady scolded me, saying “It’s disrespectful to touch the names.” My hand had been tracing etched letters on the wall, feeling the differential between my hot little hand and the somber, polished stone. It had never occurred to me that the memorial was meant for anything but touching.

I take in a deep inhale and exhale, now in my thirty-two year old self. Finding out later, in college, that Maya Lin was twenty when she submitted her design for the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial blind competition, a complete unknown student at Yale, gave me the context of her courage. What she endured was only magnified when you understand that her design was chosen out of 1,421 submissions, including entries by internationally recognized architects.

Lin faced a great deal of controversy, including detractors who thought that it was wrong for a young Chinese American woman to design a memorial for fallen American soldiers of the Vietnam War, that she looked too much like the people who had helped kill our veterans. She wound up having to defend herself and her vision to Congressional inquiry and soldiers who had returned from war. The former Secretary of the Interior even held up the building’s permits in an attempt to get her to change her design. It has since become one of the most cherished and significant memorials. More than a physical replica of soldiers in battle, walking the long wall and watching the names of the fallen rise to a height beyond humanity, and then walking away from the apex, and seeing the names taper is a heart-wrenching journey of finality and closure.
If it cleaves the earth, it is because it is a memorial to one of the most divisive wars of the modern American century. The memorial is magnificent because it is simultaneously the cut, the scar, and the healing. It has taken me twenty years to pin down what resonates about the memorial, and yet, I am always glad to put a name to a visceral feeling.

–Caroline

“Where are you ‘from, from?’”

A recent campaign organized by Harvard students called “I, Too, Am Harvard,” has sparked discussions of racial comments and the diverse experiences people of color face.

The campaign highlights black Harvard students’ experiences of fleeting racial comments based on stereotypes associated with being black on a university campus. Originally organized as a play stemming from interviews with members of the black Harvard community, the campaign has expanded to a photo series, where black students hold up signs with statements such as “Can you read?” and “You’re lucky to be black…so easy to get into college!” to illustrate these stinging comments made by classmates, friends and others.

“Our voices often go unheard on this campus, our experiences are devalued, our presence is questioned—this project is our way of speaking back, of claiming this campus, of standing up to say: We are here. This place is ours. We, TOO, are Harvard,” read the description of the campaign’s Tumblr page.

Harvard, where black students make up 11 percent of the class of 2017, has responded positively to the campaign, according to a recent USA Today article.

Although the campaign focused on Harvard’s black community, a recent New York Times article explored how subtle comments like those highlighted at Harvard can have bigger racial and ethnic implications on minority groups. The article showcased some Asian stereotypes, such as hiring “the Asian computer programmer because you think he’s going to be a good programmer because he’s Asian.”

Others in the Asian-American community have also addressed similar issues of ethnic identity and origin. Wong Fu Productions, a California-based film production company run by three Asian-Americans, recently posted a video skit called “Accidental Racism,” where coworkers of different ethnicities probe each other about their ethnicity and origin.

In the skit, one of the actors asks her Asian-American coworker, “Where are you from, from though?,” to which he responds, “If you’re asking me where my family is from—China, I guess.” It is also interesting that the Asian-American coworker then asks another man from Kentucky the same types of racial comments without realizing the similarities and stereotypical undertones.

Another video series from ISAtv, a YouTube channel focused on issues of the Asian-American community, called “Level: Asian,” follows two Asian-American brothers as they explore what being Asian means to different people. In their most recent video, they ask UCLA students about the Asian college lifestyle and the question, “Do you think all Asians go to good colleges?”

Have you ever been asked about your ethnicity and been offended by someone’s probing question of “No, where are you actually from?” Or do these questions not bother you? Can these comments be considered “racism 2.0” as one source in the recent New York Times article labeled it? Or do these questions stem from genuine curiosity from someone who may not be as familiar or aware of your culture as you are?

Jayna Omaye recently earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. As a student reporter, she previously covered politics, immigration and demographics in Washington, D.C. for a number of national media outlets, including USA Today, McClatchy, MarketWatch and the Military Times.

Follow her on Twitter: @JaynaOmaye

NYC, Jan 22: Franklin Odo Speech about Japanese immigrants

Editor’s Note: The below is from our friends at NYU APA Studies.



The Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU presents

Voices from the Canefields: FRANKLIN ODO

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
6:30PM

A/P/A Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews

RSVP to A/P/A by Monday, January 20

Yuko ka Meriken yō
Kaero ka Nihon
Koko ga shian no
Hawai koku
Go on to America
Or return to Japan?
This is our dilemma
Here in Hawai‘i

Through the poetic lyrics of holehole bushi (Japanese folksongs), FRANKLIN ODO (Founding Director, Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Program) traces the experiences of Japanese immigrant plantation sugar workers caught in the global movements of capital, empire, and labor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From despair and defiance to love and lust, the sentiments conveyed in the lyrics of holehole bushi illustrate both the evolving local conditions and global context within which the workers, and particularly women workers, found themselves.

We celebrate the publication of Voices from the Canefields: Folksongs from Japanese Immigrant Workers in Hawai‘i with a selection of readings, song, and film.

Co-sponsored by the Japanese American Association of New York, Japanese American National Museum, and Hālāwai.

Franklin Odo retired in January 2010 as founding Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American [APA] Program. He served in that capacity since its inception in 1997. During his tenure, six major exhibitions on Asian Pacific American ethnic groups were created or hosted at the Smithsonian. He was Interim Chief of the Asian Division, Library of Congress in 2011. He has been Director of Research and Education at the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and a Senior Advisor to the International Student Conferences. He leads a “Theme Study on Asian American Pacific Islanders” for the National Historic Landmarks Project of the National Park System and is Senior Advisor to Densho.

Odo was a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawai`i and visiting professor of History and American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Hunter College, Princeton, and Columbia Universities in the 1990s. He received an MA in East Asia Regional Studies from Harvard and a PhD in Japanese history from Princeton University.

His book, No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai`i during World War II, was published by Temple University Press in 2004; he edited the Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, published by Columbia University Press in 2002. His new book of folk songs from Japanese immigrants working on Hawaii’s sugar plantations was published by Oxford University Press in October 2013. These translated lyrics depict the richness of life and work in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, especially among women workers.

Among his awards are the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies, a Distinguished Service Award from the Asian American Justice Center, Leadership Awards from the Japanese American Citizens League and the Organization of Chinese Americans. Odo was appointed Humanist in Residence at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities at Brown University in April 2013.

Real people and their stories: How the government shutdown affected journalists

Editor’s Note: We welcome Jayna Omaye to our blogteam! She’s a journalist with Northwestern University and we are very excited for the professional insight and writing she brings to you our reader.

What happens when your job is covering the government as a journalist, but the government shuts down for two weeks? That was the dilemma many journalists faced as hearings, speaking engagements and other events were postponed so legislators could focus on reopening the government.

Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in the politics of an issue, especially when you’re in D.C. When the government shut down, many people were concerned with which politician was arguing for what, why the two parties couldn’t get along, etc.

But the real effects of the shutdown could be seen through the eyes of the average, everyday person: the furloughed employees, the tourists who traveled all the way to D.C. to see barricaded monuments, and the businesses near the Hill that took a beating.

These stories were worth telling, and that is what my classmates and I tried to focus on during the shutdown. If you weren’t in the district during these past two weeks, the shutdown may not have been as obvious. But it has affected everyone, including those not in D.C.

I remember calling my mom to ask her if the federal cemetery where my grandparents are buried was still open. The thought of it closing only hit her as she was driving up the hill to the cemetery.

During the first week of the shutdown, I was working on a story about how well youth followed government news. A Pew study found that younger Americans were least likely to follow the shutdown.

I remember talking to a furloughed intern who was worried about receiving college credit for her internship if the shutdown didn’t end soon. In the meantime, she had to substitute her internship experience with reading textbooks and writing essays. Another intern I talked to was not furloughed because her Congressman deemed his entire staff essential.

Another story I worked on was a video about how D.C. tour companies were affected by the shutdown. I went into the story expecting that these businesses would say the shutdown was horrible and devastating to their business. But again, I was surprised.

Even though one tour company said they were losing business and customers, they also said the shutdown allowed them to explore other avenues and be resourceful. They were able to increase their neighborhood and food tours, which weren’t affected by the shutdown, and help furloughed local workers tour and see their own neighborhoods.

Many people think working as a journalist in D.C. is all about covering government hearings and the politics of an issue. While that is half true, the other part of the job is understanding how what happens in D.C. affects the rest of the country.

I know many people who don’t like “politics.” And while I understand where they’re coming from (because it can be very confusing to grasp), politics and policies encompass everything in this country.

Every single bill that passes through Congress and is signed by the President affects citizens nationwide, whether they know it or not. This idea was even more apparent these past two weeks.

So what happens when your job is covering the government as a journalist, but the government shuts down? As always, you concentrate on real people and their stories.

My shutdown stories:
“D.C. tourism takes a hit during government shutdown”

“Youth least likely to follow government shutdown news, report says”

– Jayna Omaye

Living vs dead Chinatowns, gentrification & elections

AALDEF, the NYC based Asian American civil rights organization, has a new report out about the rate of gentrification in Chinatowns in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. (I guess DC was just a lost cause.) In conjunction with the discussion of this article, I want to propose the idea of “living” (these three cities, Chicago, San Francisco) versus “dead” Chinatowns (DC.) In my mind, when I walk the streets of a given Chinatown, “living” connotes active engagement and residency by the Chinese American community versus the slick, big box retail feel of Washington, DC Chinatown, which most Chinese Americans fled decades ago for Montgomery County, MD, and Fairfax, VA. The shops in DC Chinatown are adorned in bright signs with Chinese characters, but have very little daily relevance to Chinese or Chinese American culture, such as the skateboard shop, the Ann Taylor, and the Legal Seafood.

It’s a very read-worthy report, and I’ve gone on the walking tour of Boston Chinatown where you can see how highway I-93 literally cuts through the enclave, with a half-sheared building standing mute but providing powerful testimony to interesting municipal planning. The report illuminated that the AAPI population in Boston Chinatown went from 70% in 1990 to 46% in 2010. Philadelphia Chinatown has been encroached upon by developers, and was under threat from a proposed casino for a significant period. NYC Chinatown was at one point overtaking Little Italy, but now with the New Museum and the gentrification of the Bowery, is being pressed upon by towering luxury apartment buildings. Not to mention, Park Row, a residential community adjacent to South Chinatown, and nearby commercial buildings (shops and restaurants) have been under the shadow of 9/11 for 12 years, with limited access for a substantial period of time (9/11 cleanup), depressing retail sales. To this day, there are armed police stations that guard the entrance path to Park Row.

San Francisco Chinatown has managed to thrive due to a high intra-ethnicity turnover rate, and Chicago Chinatown (of which, really, there are 3 – historic Chinatown, “new” Argyle (largely Vietnamese-Chinese American) Chinatown, and “new new” Chinatown, which is across the street from historic Chinatown, and includes a number of residential properties that have lured second and third generation Chinese Americans back to the city center. (There is some small degree of this happening in other cities as well, but in my mind, Chicago has done a better job than most.)

The reason that I keep rotating back to this issue of whether Chinese Americans who have “made it” come back is because it is also a large part of why “living” Chinatowns become essentially “dead” Chinatowns. Moving out of Chinatown and to the suburbs is intrinsically seen as one of the markers of success for first, second, and third generation Chinese Americans. This is antithetical to keeping Chinatowns vibrant. This is separate from biased and discriminatory urban planning decisions hatched in concert with the stereotypically greedy developers. And it absolutely doesn’t discount folks who want to stay but get pushed out – I’m just bringing this up because it’s also a real thing.

Don’t get me wrong – DC Chinatown/Verizon Center is more bustling and lively than a decade ago, and is now an economic engine and one of the hearts of the city, but the business owners by and large do not live there. Although the DC AAPI population has risen 60% since 2000, according to the 2010 Census.

In NYC, the press of developers on the boundaries of Chinatown has caused friends who have lived, breathed, and worked in Chinatown for decades to move to Harlem, where elected officials like City Councilor Melissa Mark-Vivitero have noticed the increase of AAPIs. This follows on a previous out-migration to Queens (Flushing, Woodside, etc.), Brooklyn (where there is another Chinatown), New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, and Connecticut.

So how do we keep the living nature of Chinatowns across the country? The report proposes several solutions: reinforcing and constructing more low-income housing, subsidizing local small businesses, prioritizing green spaces, strengthening the links between satellite Asian Am enclaves in the suburbs to the Chinatown cores, and engaging in dialogue with traditional community land owners like the family associations. All of these are great, and I’m going to a step further.

What I’m fundamentally saying is that keeping Chinatown affordable and full of vitality is partially dependent upon the people in elected office. They hold hearings and have influence over city planning to varying degrees. Former At-Large Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon came out of the fight to keep one Boston Chinatown. Michelle Wu and Suzanne Lee are running for city council in Boston (different seats.) Philadelphia has yet to elect a progressive AAPI city councilmember, whereas SF has a plethora of AAPI electeds (and folks in the pipelines to run when the inevitable term limits hit.) AAAF Greater Chicago helped get Alderman Ameya Pawar, the first AAPI alderman ever in Chicago, elected in 2011. Progress is slow, but steady.

Not that AAPI candidates are necessarily going to be informed about the community’s issues, or even live in the Chinatown district. It is incumbent upon the community and those who work to keep living, breathing Chinatowns to educate candidates and elected officials, regardless of their ethnicity. Because we all need allies and champions in this effort, and sometimes people surprise you.

–Caroline

The Reminder of One Community’s Success

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri

Editor’s Note: We moderate all comments, including inappropriate and racist ones.

I have never watched the Miss America pageant live, so when I heard about the news of Nina Davuluri becoming the first South Asian American to win the Miss America title, it was from my Facebook mobile app the morning after. Yet, barely five minutes passed before my Facebook friends started posting news stories on the racist backlash to someone of Davuluri’s lineage attaining the title “Miss America.”

Whatever your views on the Miss America pageant, Davuluri’s success is nothing to take lightly. While the pageant has its origins since the 1920s, it was not until 1983 when the first African-American woman would wear the crown and in 2001 when the title went to a Hawaii-born Filipino woman. As groundbreaking as her accomplishment may be, the reaction on the Internet is nothing new. When Cheerios released a commercial in which a little girl adorably pours cereal all over her African-American father’s chest because her White mother said Cheerios is “heart healthy,” the company had to disable YouTube comments. When a 10-year old Latino boy (beautifully) sang the National Anthem while wearing a traditional mariachi outfit, stinging tweets speculating about the boy’s immigrant status filled the online world.

Each ethnic and underrepresented community always celebrates a victory when someone from that community achieves some success (my mother still boasts about how a National spelling bee champion is Indian, as if the child were her own). Yet, we are constantly reminded of the outsider status minorities share in this country and how no matter what the achievement, no community is immune from the vitriol of the anonymous online poster. It is a humble reminder that the advent of technology and communication modes, as well as progress in other areas, do not reflect a change in attitude of the entire American public. So while we praise Davuluri’s win and read all about it on our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, we are reminded that there are some who will simply burn up inside to see another community’s success.

– K.J. Bagchi

DOI: Secretary Jewell to Deliver Keynote Address at Native Hawaiian Convention

Editor’s Note: The below is a re-posting of “Secretary Jewell to Deliver Keynote Address at Native Hawaiian Convention.

Date: September 3, 2013
Contact: Jessica Kershaw (DOI) 202-208-6416

HONOLULU, HI – On Wednesday, September 4, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will deliver the keynote address at the 12th Annual Native Hawaiian Convention in Honolulu, HI.

In her remarks, the Secretary will underscore the importance of Native Hawaiian issues within Interior, and the special oversight role the Department has for the Native Hawaiian community. Immediately following the event, Jewell will participate in a brief media availability.

The Convention is considered one of the largest gatherings of Native Hawaiian organizations, leaders, policy makers, cultural practitioners, and community members from across the state. Activities include discussions on health, policy, philanthropy and civic engagement.

WHO:
Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
WHAT:
Keynote address at 12th Annual Native Hawaiian Convention
Media availability to follow
WHEN:
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
12:30 p.m. HST
WHERE:
Hawai‘i Convention Center
1801 Kalākaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii

MEDIA: Credentialed members of the media who wish to attend are encouraged to RSVP here.

###

Jellybeans

Although this is a slight departure from the typical content of this blog, the message that is communicated in this video is powerful and widely relatable.  Basically, life is short and time is precious:  take risks, and do things you love with the people you love as often as you can.  I’m sure you’ve all heard some form of this before, but the creators’ clever use of jellybeans really puts things in perspective.  This video struck a serious chord with me and really got me thinking about the ways I spend my time and possible changes I can make to lead a more meaningful existence.  Who knew jellybeans could have such an impact?

– Alex Polishuk