Sunday, January 31, 2016

Candidate Lindy Li switches district in her effort to win congressional seat

Lindy Li
A FUNNY thing happened on the way to Congress. A little more than three months before Pennsylvania is scheduled to hold its primary election, energetic congressional cadndidate Llindy Li, who has amassed a pretty hefty campaign chest, decided to switch districts in which she will run.

This strategy would be risky for a weaker candidate, but Li might be putting herself in a better position for a victory if she could overcome the carpet-bagger accusations that #are sure to come.
RELATED: Lindy Li, made in America
In the 7th Congressional District near Philadelphia, where she originally intended to run, she would have beat a hotly contested primary with two other Democratic canddates and then face a 3-term Republican incumbent. In the 6th district, where she was born and where her parents still reside, the Democratic challenger Mike Parrish, an army vet and businessman, has raised only $26,445 for his primary campaign. In contrast, Li has amassed #250,000.

This is the first political campaign for the former financial analyst with Morgan Stanley. Li told NBC News that local and state party leadership, which she said originally encouraged her to run in the 7th District, had asked her to switch to the neighboring 6th District where she grew up. If she wins the 6th District primary, she will face a first-term Republican incumbent.

If successful, the 25-year old Li would become the youngest member of Congress. 

Li got a big boost when three veteran Asian/American Congressmembers endorsed her candidacy. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA) are lending their support to here.

"I am incredibly honored to have the support of these outstanding community leaders and will continue to work hard to build a bottom-up grassroots campaign that addresses the concerns of all citizens in Pennsylvania's 6th," Li said in a statement.

"Lindy Li is an impressive woman," said Honda. "Her personal story and knowledge of the issues facing working families, along with her enthusiasm and work ethic, will serve the people of Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District well."
For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Americans, read AsAm News.

Asian/American baby named Gerber's Baby of the Year

Gerber Baby of Year
Isla is Gerber’s Baby of the Year

Reprinted from AsAm News
The Dimples have it.
Baby Isla of Troy, Michigan has been named Gerber Baby of the Year.
The seven-month-old  is from Troy, Michigan and was selected over 170,000 other photo entries.
Isla received a $50,000 grand prize, $1,500 in Gerber Childrenswear and will get the opportunity to appear in an upcoming Gerber’s ad.
“Isla is always so happy, and we really think it showed in her winning photo,” said Isla’s mom Rachael Welch. “She’s got that same smile on her face every day. Plus her hair is so cute and crazy – it just adds to her adorable personality! We still can’t believe we won because there were so many gorgeous entries.”
Isla has already made the rounds on television. She appeared on ABC’s FabLife with her parents.
“She’s always a big deal,” added her mom. “It hasn’t quite sunk in that she’s the Gerber baby, but she’ll be excited she’s part of the Gerber family this year.”
This was the sixth year of the annual contest.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Barbie gets a huge makeover; there's now an Asian version

Barbie's clones: Can you spot the Asian Barbie?
BARBIE, the iconic doll of young girls throughout the world, is getting a makeover.

 Twenty-two makeovers, to be exact.

Beginning Jan. 28, Barbie's diverse sisters will be sold along side the much-loved, much criticized original blonde, busty, thin-waisted form on

The Barbie that is unmistakenly Asian.

They will all be called Barbies - kinda creepy - but now they will be available in curvy, tall or petite versions. Their skin tone will come in a variety of shades, from dark brown to the original pale version, which was modeled after a German doll, which was inspired by a German comic book prostitute.

And, drum roll, please - ta-dah! - there will be an Asian Barbie. with long dark hair, almond-shaped eyes and her skin-tone is a darker shade than the Euro Barbie but lighter than the African Barbie.

We never encouraged our daughters to play with dolls when they were little although they expressed a preference for Ernie and Grover from Sesame Street. As young girls, they were more interested in basketball and boy bands. 

Barbie is more than just a doll, wrote Time Magazine. The brand does $1 billion in sales across more than 150 countries annually, and 92% of American girls ages 3 to 12 have owned a Barbie, thanks in part to her affordable $10 price tag. She’s been the global symbol of a certain kind of American beauty for generations, with brand recognition that’s up there with Mickey Mouse.

The influence of Barbie on the psyche of young girls is hotly debated. One of the most compelling studies was a 2006 study that found that girls exposed to Barbie at a young age expressed greater concern with being thin, compared with those exposed to other dolls.

If there is any doubt about Barbie's influence on young girls, watch the video below. One of the youngsters says, "This one looks like me and this one looks like my mom."

America, Mattel notes, is changing and so is the country's standards of beauty. Barbie needed to change, too, to reflect the Americans of the 21st century.

All the new Barbies will be more anatomically realistic than the original version. The revolutionary "Curvy" Barbie won't be obese, but its proportions will be more reflective of reality than the skinnier versions which still look like they promote anorexia.

The decision to offer choices to young children didn't come about alturistically. The competition from other doll-lines grew stiffer, and resistance to the unrealistic image of the original Barbie from image-conscious mothers grew, sales flagged. When moms started voting with their dollars, Mattel had to reassess the criticisms at their product. In the mid-2000s Barbie faced her first serious competition after years of maintaining about 90% market share of the doll sector.

Competitors, including the Bratz dolls and Disney Princess line were eating away at Barbie's dominance. As one Mattel vice president says, "Barbie was having an identity crisis."

For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Friday, January 29, 2016

TGIF FEATURE: Vanessa Hudgens doing “Grease: Live", Jan. 31

Filipina/American actress Vanessa Hudgens on the Jimmy Kimmel show.
VANESSA HUDGENS is not a celebrity that I follow closely but I may be changing my mind after her recent guest stint on Jimmy Kimmel's late night show.

She was articulate, animated, funny, poised and - well - charming. Fresh off her Broadway debut in the musical Gigi, her next gig is a live telecast of the popular musical Grease.

In the Fox production of Grease, she'll take on the iconic role of Rizzo, the tough-talking, worldly role made famous by Stockard Channing, who played the role in the film version. Rizzo is the counterpart to the innocent girl-next-door Sandy, the Olivia Newton John part played by good-girl-next-door-type Julianne Hough. Broadway vet Aaron Tveit (Les Miserable) will play John Travolta's bad boy role of Danny Zuko.

“Being Rizzo is something I’ve never imagined, and I love that because it will be a new challenge," says Hudgens. "She is such an iconic character that continues to transcend generations. I cannot wait to bring her to life on live television. I’m going to be a Pink Lady!”

Fox (not Fox News) will air the special on Sunday (Jan. 31) from 7 to 10 p.m. on each coast (sorry, Pacific time zone, you get tape-delayed).

It has been a busy January for the 27-year old Filipina/American actress. She took part in  the 10-year reunion of the cast of High School Musical, her breakout role. Besides Hudgens, the other cast members included Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman. They celebrated in a Los Angeles high school gym to mark the Disney Channel hit movie's 10-year anniversary, which aired on the Disney Channel on Jan. 20.

Noticeably absent was Zak Efron, Hudgen's on-screen and (for a while) real-life boyfriend.

The original High School Musical Movie debuted on Jan. 20, 2006 and earned 7.7 million viewers in the U.S. alone. At the time, the movie broke records for Disney Channel’s highest ratings of all time. The original soundtrack ranked as the No. 1 album of 2006, and the love story of Troy, Gabriella, and fellow Wildcats went on from the TV movie to create two more theater movies and a concert tour.

Hudgens may be a little distracted. On Jan. 24, she tweeted that her father, who has stage 4 cancer, is not doing well and asked her fans for their prayers.

From left: Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveldt and Vanessa Hudgens as their Grease characters.

For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Asian American political action committee endorses Clinton

Rep. Judy Chu introduced Hillary Clinton to Asian/Americans during a recent rally in San Gabriel, Calif.
SECRETARY OF STATE Hillary Clinton got a jump-start in winning the Asian/American Pacific Islander vote when she received the endorsement of an influential political action committee.

CAPA21 formally endorsed Clinton for President Thursday (Jan. 28), saying that her track record on AAPI issues and candidates is unmatched by any other presidential candidate of any party.“Hillary Clinton has clearly demonstrated her commitment to AAPI communities and issues,” said Glen S. Fukushima, CAPA21 co-founder and Chair in a press release. “As Senator, she was a leader on issues to improve the lives of AAPI families and communities. As Secretary of State, she understood that the importance of the Asia-Pacific region in U.S. foreign policy, which strongly impacts recent AAPI immigrant communities.”

“Hillary Clinton has appointed AAPIs to top positions in her campaign, crafted an AAPI-focused vision, and was the only candidate to hold a major event exclusively devoted to AAPIs,” said Dale Minami, CAPA21 co-founder and President. “A candidate’s actions, not just words, on AAPI priorities preview how she will perform once in office.”

Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, is being challenged by Senator Bernie Sanders, who's popularity continues to grow, say national polls. Clinton maintains a small lead in Iowa, where caucuses will be held on Monday (Feb. 1),
However, in New Hampshire, Sanders, who represents neighboring Vermont, is favored in nation's first primary,

CAPA21 is a national Asian American Pacific Islander PAC based in San Francisco, established in 2014 by Fukushima, Minami, and others to invest in progressive candidates, AAPI field operations, and AAPI voter engagement projects. CAPA21 is a successor to the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans (CAPA), founded in 1988 as the country’s first national Asian American PAC and served the community until 2008.

“CAPA21’s vision is of a country where AAPIs have a powerful presence and role in all branches and levels of government and politics, achieved through AAPI voters who are engaged and empowered,” said Courtni Sunjoo Pugh, a CAPA21 Leadership Council Co-Chair. “Hillary is the best candidate to help us achieve that vision for AAPIs.”

CAPA21’s Leadership Council Co-Chairs include Ginger Lew, Maeley Tom, Mona Pasquil, Mark Keam, Steve Ngo, Phong La, Tessie Guillermo, Kiran Jain, and Dilawar Syed.

Asian American voters in the last decade have nearly doubled from more than two million voters in 2000 to 3.9 million voters in 2012 (Center for American Progress, AAPI Data). It is estimated that Asian Americans will reach five percent of voters nationally by 2025 and 10 percent of voters by 2044.

Asian American voter numbers are critical swing votes in Nevada, Virginia, and Florida and influenced the presidential elections in those states, as demonstrated in 2008 and again in 2012.

RELATED: Asian American voters lean towards Democrats, Sanders
Despite the growing importance of AAPIs, they face poor or non-existent language assistance at the voting booth, poor outreach from political parties, and oppressive voter ID laws (Center for American Progress) in several states.

Hillary Clinton’s outreach to AAPI communities has been strategically significant in a closer-than-expected contest for the Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. President.

Thus far, Secretary Clinton has:

  • Appointed a record number of AAPIs to major roles her campaign, including: Huma Abedin, campaign vice chair; Dennis Cheng, finance director; Maya Harris, senior policy adviser; Mini Timmaraju, women’s outreach director; and Lisa Chandadveja, AAPI outreach director.
  • Created a substantive connection to AAPI communities through the formation of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Hillary Leadership Council, a group of more than 150 elected officials, community, and grassroots leaders.
  • Outlined her positions on AAPI issues through her “Vision for a Thriving AAPI Community,” recognizing continued challenges to our prosperity, such as enduring racism, language barriers, and a gender wage gap.
  • Hosted an official campaign event devoted exclusively to AAPIs on January 7 in San Gabriel, California, joined by Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Rep. Judy Chu and dozens of AAPI elected officials and community leaders from across the nation.
For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Hollywood grappling with its lack of diversity

JUST when it appears that Hollywood is going to make some serious movement towards diversity, along comes the announcement that Joseph Fiennes is going to play Michael Jackson in a movie.

Really? When I mentioned the need for creative casting in an earlier post on this subject, this is not what I meant.

The entertainment industry trade newspaper Variety, thought the problem of #OscarsSoWhite was serious enough to use their Jan. 26 front page with a white Oscar and properly placed the blame where it belonged on the industry. "Shame On Us" was the headline.

"The 89-year-old motion picture academy is absorbing the brunt of the public disdain. But the fault lies not just in the star-making Oscars, many agreed, but in ourselves," read the cover story by senior reporter James Rainey and Awards Editor Tim Gray. "The Hollywood studio hierarchy remains an exclusive club chaired by white men and one white woman. The big talent agencies have almost no minority partners. And the media that cover it all — Variety included — employ only a few people of color."
RELATED: #OscarsSoWhite - The Sequel
With calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts approved changes that would increase the diversity in its voting membership over a four year period and move some of the older, white members who have not been active in the industry for years, into a new non-voting category.

More celebrities began to voice their opinions - Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith, George Clooney, Idris Elba and Michael Moore were among those calling for more diversity; Michael Caine urged patience; Julie Delpey, Charlotte Rampling made some questionable statements that demonstrated their lack of understanding but both later backtracked on their statements; even President Obama and Hillary Clinton weighed in on the issue.

But it was late night host Bill Maher who made the most outrageous assertion that the reason African/Americans didn't get enough roles was because Asians don't like blacks in their films.

If the motion picture industry was a single business or a school, there would be picket lines in front protesting the lack of diversity or activists banging on the door demanding to be let into the exclusive club. Certainly, Bill Maher should be the object of scorn.

“This (#OscarsSoWhite) obviously reflects the lack of diversity in Oscar voters as well as in films generally. It behooves Hollywood — as an economic imperative, if not a moral one — to begin more closely reflecting the changing face of America,” said the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition in a statement.

While much of the conversation has focused on African/Americans, statistics for Latinos and Asians are comparatively invisible.

"Asian and Indian people are decades behind even black culture." said Alan Yang, co-creator of the Netflix series Master of None, in a Hollywood Reporter interview. "We don't have lead characters. When we made Aziz the lead on [Master of None] and we made the character based on me one of the leads, it didn't exist. We need that Asian Denzel (Washington). We need an Asian Halle Berry, and that doesn't exist yet.

"But the demographics of America are changing, and it's exploding," continued Yang. "The interest in culture from the Asian and Latino and black population is increasing every day. And as America changes, the culture will need to keep up."

Clearly, the debate is not going to end soon - at least up to the Oscars telecast next month. Then we'll see how much of Hollywood's response to all the angst and fury is just a public relations strategy or if the institutions and the Euro/American men who run them, are really sincere by instituting the changes necessary to create a culture more representative of the audiences pay for the tickets to be entertained. 

For more news about Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders, go to AsAm News.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nathan Chen: The future of U.S. skating

Nathan Chen wowed the audience when he did four quads during the U.S. Skating championships.

WHILE Maia and Alex Shibutani attracted most of the attention of Asian/Americans at the U.S.Figure Skating championships last week by capturing first in Ice Dance, another Asian/American was also generating a lot of excitement by making a huge statement to the ice skating world: Watch out for Nathan Chen.

Sixteen-year old Nathan made history at the national championships by landing four quadruple jumps in his long program, more than any American skater ever, giving him a total of six over the two days of competition, a previously unthinkable number for a U.S. skater.

No American man has ever done more than three in an entire competition. By comparison, Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic champion, recently did five quads in each of two big events – two in the short and three in the long. Chen is the United State's best bet to have a chance to keep up with Hanoi's athletic ability.

RELATED: Shibutani siblings win the gold
“It was a big risk for me, but I thought this would be the best time to do it,” said Nathan. “I’m trying to set myself up as a senior skater, and I think this is a big step for me."

However, four quads wasn't enough to win. Nathan only placed third. Yes, third. Third place  is enough to allow him to compete at the world championship in Boston a month from now. 

He was beat by more experienced - but traditional - skaters, Adam Rippon and Max Aaron, both of whom were less athletic than Chen but skated with more "grace" and fluidity.

Judging of the ice skating competition has always been open for debate. The traditionalist want grace - almost a dance - to be emphasized while others argue that in the Olympics, the athletic ability should be given more weight. You know what they say, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." It is such a subjective judgement.

Chen's energetic performance woke up the audience and people are talking about the 2018 Olympics for the teenager. The teenager will have two years to work on that "grace" thing.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates will compete in Ice Dance at the World Championships.

Joining the Shibutani siblings and Nathan Chen will be Hawaiian-born Madison Chock and Evan Bates. The veteran team will compete in ice dance along with the Shibutani's at the world championship in Boston.

Waiting in the wings are first alternate Mirai Nagasu in Women's Figure Skating and for Pairs, the first alternate team of Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran and third alternate, Jessica Calalang and Zack Sichu.

Nagasu and the Tran/Castelli team will represent the U.S. in the Four Continents Figure Skating championship that will be held in Taipei in February.

For more news about Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, go to AsAm News.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chefs Roy Choi, Daniel Patterson may revolutionize the fast-food industry

Chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi opened the Watts outlet of Loco'l.
CAN FAST FOOD be healthy? Or, the converse to that question, can healthy food, that you usually find in high end restaurants, meet the demands of fast food, inexpensive, tasty and fast?

Noted chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson brought their gourmet food to Watts to  challenge the notion that chef-created dishes have to be costly and “fast food” has to be greasy and fried.
“The core of the idea is how do we get the food to be 99 cents and sit right next to a Popeye’s and sit right next to a Church’s or a KFC?” Choi told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s where the chef’s mind comes in." 

If Choi and Patterson are right, McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell might be shaking in their grease-splattered boots.
Loco'l's fare looks and tastes like fast food,
They had planned to open their first collaboration in San Francisco's Tenderloin, a neighborhood out-of-towners are told to avoid. Encountering complications with the site, they decided to focus on the Watts location to open Loco'l.
The line starting forming around 7:30 a.m. for the 11 a.m. grand opening. Opening on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was a statement by the chefs.
A Rand Corp. study found that from 2007 to 2012, the percentage of people who were overweight or obese was increasing everywhere but especially in neighborhoods where the only dining out options are your typical fast-food outlets.
RELATED: Roy Choi and friends launch a fast-food revolution
The idea for Loco'l began a couple of years ago at a symposium for chefs from around the world meeting in Copenhagen. Choi, whose fusion offerings from his food trucks revolutionized the food industry, stood in front of the some of the best chefs in the world and talked about hunger.

“We have a hunger crisis in Los Angeles,” Choi told the international audience. “In many parts of our city, this is how we supply our neighborhoods: liquor store, liquor store, liquor store.”

After the symposium, Choi was contacted by Daniel Patterson, who at the time, was executive chef at Coi, one of the fine-dining restaurants in San Francisco. Together they merged their ideas to develop Loco'l.

The two chefs hope to open the Tenderloin restaurant and an Oakland outlet this summer.

Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson.
"We fundamentally believe that wholesomeness, deliciousness and affordability don't have to be mutually exclusive concepts in fast food," state's Loco'l's website. "We believe that fast food restaurants can truly empower the communities they currently underserve. We believe that the giant corporations that feed most of America have degraded our communities by maximizing profits over decades. We believe that chefs should feed America, and not suits."

Loco'l in Watts at 11 a.m. and will stay open until 10 p.m. at Wilmington Avenue and East 103rd Street. It closes on Mondays.

"If [Locol] becomes successful and it grows, then these kids will grow up with this as a memory and impression on their lives," Choi said. "A lot of the [adults] in this community didn't have this impression, memory, or experience growing up. Now, these kids will. That alone will change things. Their first and only experience with food won't be fast food or processed food. It will be natural food."

Let the revolution begin!

For more news about Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Washington Post editorial: Immigration in reverse

PEW graphic
I THOUGHT this editorial from the Washington Post is worth sharing because a lot of the fear-mongering on immigration is sheer political poppycock from presidential candidates hoping their supporters don't do any research on the issue.

If any further study is performed, it would be found that the largest group coming to the U.S. since 2012 is Asian immigrants, surpassing the numbers coming from Latin America. 
Asians are expected to constitute 36% of the immigrant population by 2055, surpassing Latinos, who by then will be 34% of immigrants.

However, unlike immigrants from Latin America, who share a common language, immigrants from Asia come from a myriad host of countries with their own languages and cultures.

Those political candidates stirring up the anti-immigrant fervor by labeling them rapists and drug dealers and talk about building walls need to catch up with the facts. They have been living in the past too long.

Immigration in reverse

By The Washington Post Editorial Board
January 24, 2016

THE ANTI-ILLEGAL immigrant rancor and outright nativism afoot in the Republican primary field give rise to the impression that illegal immigration has soared to unprecedented levels and that the border is no more than a line in the sand, scarcely monitored and easily crossed. The truth diverges wildly from that rhetoric, as a pair of recent studies demonstrate.

Notwithstanding the demagoguery of Donald Trump and some of his GOP rivals, the number of illegal immigrants in this country, which has declined each year since 2008, is now at its lowest level since 2003, and the percentage of undocumented immigrants likewise is at its lowest point since the turn of the century.

A report from the Pew Research Center shows a decline of nearly a million unauthorized immigrants, to 11.3 million, from 2007 to 2014. An even more recent survey, from the Center for Migration Studies, a New York think tank, indicates that the number of illegal immigrants has now fallen to 10.9 million, a precipitous drop driven largely by declining arrivals from Mexico. In fact, according to Pew, for the first time since the 1940s, Mexican migrants have been leaving the United States at a greater rate than they have entered.

Those numbers underscore what demographers have known for several years: that the great wave of Mexican immigration that began in the mid-1960s crested a few years ago and has been tailing off. Some 11.7 million Mexican-born immigrants, roughly half of them undocumented, are now in this country, down from 12.8 million in 2007 . Most of those who have left have done so of their own accord; comparatively few were deported.

That Mr. Trump has leveraged fact-free rhetoric for political advantage is not news. Still, it is noteworthy that so much of the GOP-primary oxygen, at least until the terrorist attacks in Paris, was consumed by alarmist rhetoric about border security, when in fact the border is more tightly patrolled than ever, and apprehensions at the southwestern border, a rough measure of illegal crossings, have been cut by about two-thirds since Sept. 11, 2001.

The dwindling Mexican immigration since the Great Recession reflects a number of factors, including, on the “pull” side, balky economic recovery and tougher border enforcement in the United States and, on the “push” side, improving economic conditions and a falling birthrate in Mexico. The result, according to Pew, is that in the five years ending in 2014, more than 1 million Mexicans (including 100,000 children born in the United States with dual citizenship) returned from the United States to live in Mexico, while 870,000 Mexicans entered the United States, many or most of them illegally.

Republican rhetoric on immigration has not caught up to those numbers, nor to the reality that the U.S. economy, like other Western economies, cannot function without low-wage, low-skill labor, which Mexico has supplied. An estimate 7 million-plus undocumented immigrants, most of them Mexicans, are employed in this country. Mr. Trump’s fantasies of mass deportation notwithstanding, they will not be replaced by native-born Americans. At some point, Republicans will need to grapple with that reality.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Shibutani siblings win the gold at U.S Figure Skating Championships

Alex and Maia Shibutani won the U.S. title last weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota.

IT HAS BEEN a long road for the brother-sister team of Maia and Alex Shibutani.

For years they were perennial runner-ups but the Shibutani siblings broke through to place first with a passionate free dance Jan. 23 at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Performing to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” they created four mesmerizing minutes where the skaters and crowd connected. The program was both passionate and technically precise. And it earned the siblings a standing ovation and the highest free dance score of the competition and vaulted them over the defending champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and into first place.

With their first U.S. title in hand, Maia, 21, and Alex Shibutani, 24, head to Boston for the Worlds on March 28 to April 3.

“I think Maia and I have been skating for 12 years, it’s been a long time,” Alex Shibutani said. “When we first started, the dream was always to go to the Olympics. We accomplished that in 2014, and I think that experience really propelled us to where we’re standing today.”

After winning the national champions at the intermediate, novice and junior levels, the Shibutanis had won five straight U.S. medals after joining the senior ranks in 2011, including silver in 2011, ’12 and ’15. They also won a world bronze medal in 2011 and finished ninth at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

But the U.S. title had eluded them - until last weekend. 

Performing to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” the Shibutanis were on point from the start to finish in their free skate, drawing the crowd into the performance as they went. When the score was announced, Alex Shibutani raised his arms and pumped his fists. 

“That was an absolutely incredible moment for Alex and me!” said Maia. “The crowd was fantastic and to become national champions for the first time is incredible."

The Michigan-based Shibutanis have skated together since the spring of 2004, and are each other’s first and only partners. The younger of the siblings, Maia, got the ball rolling in the sport when she was introduced to figure skating at the tender age of four.

Alex and Maia Shibutani react when they hear their scores.
“While we were growing up, our parents wanted to expose us to all sorts of sports and activities including swimming, tennis, and music,” said the now fifteen year-old Maia. “We were living in Old Greenwich Conn., and birthday parties involving skating were really common. I immediately fell in love with skating and began taking private lessons.”

At age seven, older brother Alex, 19, followed his sister to the ice, but not before having dreams of becoming another type of athlete.

“When Maia started skating, I would be taken to the rink when she had her lessons,” Alex explained. “As I was still under the delusion that I would grow to be at least 6’6″ and play professional basketball, skating wasn’t an instant interest for me. However, Maia always looked like she was having so much fun, so I decided to give it a try too.”
"We’ve put in the work this season and I think that has really been showing across the board. We’ve taken our skating to another level this season and I think that’s reflected in our performances and in our scores.”

For more news about Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.


2015-2016 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature winners announced

#OSCARSSOWHITE has attracted a lot of attention the last few weeks after the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts announced its  nominees for the Oscars' acting awards. For the second straight year there were no actors of color among the 20 nominees.

The discussions sparked by the lack of diversity in Hollywood brought attention to the lack of people of color throughout the motion picture industry, especially in the decision making roles that determine which movies will get made and who will be cast in the movies.

Although much of the critiicism has focused on the lack of African American nominees in the movies, the absence of Latinos and Asian/Americans in meaningful roles is even more dire. 

Hollywood is not the only industry where AAPI are rendered almost invisible, the literary world suffers from the same blindness. In order to bring more attention to Asian/American authors, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the American Library Association, has announced the winners of the 2015 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature (APAAL). 
RELATED: Don't blame white guys for the lack of diversity in books
The awards promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and are awarded to titles published from October 2014 to September 2015 based on their literary and artistic merit, according to the group's press release.

There are five categories for the Awards, each with a Winner and an Honor book. Here are the winners of the 2015 awards:

Adult Fiction
  • Winner: Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press)
    Viet Than Nguyen weaves a compelling story of a Vietnamese double agent in his debut novel The Sympathizer. The novel brings humor and a critical eye to the Vietnam War and narratives of Vietnamese refugees.
  • Honor: Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy (Bloomsbury USA)
    Sandip Roy blends family secrets, arranged marriages, and culture clash in his debut novel, Don’t Let Him Know.  From the new bride Romola who arrives in the United States to her only child Amit, who discovers a family secret, readers will be fascinated with the interconnected stories about family, friendship, and culture. 

  • Winner: The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee (Simon and Schuster)
    Dr. Erika Lee, University of Minnesota History Faculty & Immigration History Research Center Director, compiled an astounding 17-chapter single volume of research which falls on the 50th anniversary of the commemoration of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Lee’s significant centennial plus documentation includes and describes some of the most important annals of Asian American history in the areas of immigration, assimilation, civil rights as well as noteworthy contributions and strides made to the American landscape attributed to Americans of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino Vietnamese, Cambodian, Sikh, Hindu and other Asian ancestry and heritage.
  • Honor: Canton Restaurant to Panda Express by Haiming Liu (Rutgers University Press)
    To the Chinese people, food is the aggregator of warm social interaction. Haiming Liu in this new title has documented the story of the social history of a transcultural people by weaving the history of the early Chinese settlers, their assimilation into their adopted American culture with the story of their continually adaptive cuisine which includes the present-day fusion and fast food industry. This intriguing title examines the developmental history of the Chinese up from the mid 1800’s and their commitment to American society while retaining their own unique brand of what it means to have Chinese ancestry.
  • Honor: The Good Immigrant: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority by Madilyn Y. Hsu (Princeton University Press)
    The Good Immigrant stands out as an impeccable study which fills a critical void in the literature of Asian America. Its focused research reveals discoveries about a unique group of immigrant whose history has been generally overlooked. It explores into the past and more recent immigration from Asia, such as transnational immigrant student, the intellectual, the entrepreneurial businessman, and etc., which garnered notice of the growing influence of Asian Americans. Until Hsu’s articulate and scholarly endeavor few have found cause to investigate.
Young Adult
  • Winner: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
    P.S. I Still Love You was a contemporary and relatable story to many teens that we as a committee even wished we had a book like this to read and refer to during our teenage years.  Furthermore, Han is able to depict Lara Jean, the protagonist in a very positive and relatable light for not only for other Asians but people in general as well. Lara Jean is able to be both Korean and “normal,” and avoids being typecasted into certain tropes.
  • Honor: Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani (Tu Books)
    Ink and Ashes was very interesting and different than what we had read. It was contemporary, but yet the readers will learn a lot about the Japanese histories and superstitions through Claire and her research into her family history which contains links to the Yakuza – the Japanese Mafia.  With suspense, mystery, and a dash of romance, this book has teen appeal and would be suitable for a movie adaptation.
  • Winner: Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton (Dial Books/Penguin Random House)
    he committee was especially impressed with Full Cicada Moon, praising Hilton’s engaging examination of racial (and particularly, biracial), gender, and social issues, as well as the powerful verse in which it was elegantly told.  The portrayal of the remarkable Mimi—a strong protagonist whose memorable journey is both stirringly and gracefully developed.
  • Honor: Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (Green Willow Books/Harper Collins)
    Kelly’s entertaining and refreshing debut novel was enjoyed by the committee.  Of one particular note was the sensitive development of its believable protagonist, the smooth detailing of Apple’s ethnic heritage and her struggles to embrace it, and overall, the hopeful yet not overly didactic message it presents on exploring one’s identity and the adolescent experience.
Picture Book
  • Winner: Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino (Lee & Low Books)
    Juna’s Jar celebrates imagination, while also showcasing cross-racial best friends in modern day Los Angeles. It charmingly captures the adventures and heartache of a little girl—who just happens to be a Korean American.
  • Honor: Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
    Millo Castro Zaldarriaga is a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who dreamed of drumming at a time when only boys were allowed to drum. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music celebrates music, culture, gender, and the right to dream.
The winners will each receive an award plaque and an award seal on their book at the APALA Award Ceremony on Saturday, June 25, 2016 during the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL.

As you can see, there's quite a choice here. There is a lot of Asian/American literature for those of you seeking books that might reflect your experience.

The APALA was founded in 1980 by librarians of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestries committed to working together toward a common goal: to create an organization that would address the needs of Asian/Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian/Pacific American communities.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

In Football We Trust: a film about football and the Pacific Islanders' dreams and disappointment

The Boomfield brothers are featured in the film that took four years to complete.
FOR THE NEXT two weeks after the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos winning their respective divisions Sunday (Jan. 24), football fans start zeroing in the ultimate sporting event, the Superbowl.

No doubt, there will be more than a few Pacific Islanders playing 
in that event, one of the most watched games in the world. For many Polynesians, playing in the National Football League has become their ticket to the American Dream. Even though Polynesians (Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders) make up only a half percent of the U.S. population, more than 200 Polynesians have played professionally in the National Football League (and in the Canadian Football League) — 28 times more likely than any other ethnic group. 

A documentary, In Football We Trust, will explore this phenomenon which some refer to  as a calling or a gift from God; others credit genetics, socio-cultural influences, or the push and pull of global sports capitalism. 

The reality is, though, only a few of them make it into the pros. For those who don't make it into the pro ranks, many face economic hardship. The lure of gangs becomes an attractive option out of poverty and disappointment.
UPDATE: The percentage of Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. has been corrected to .5 percent.
"I am first generation Tongan; born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah," says director Tony Vainuku. "My parents are both of Tongan descent, and followed their parents to Utah in the early 1970s, where their families practiced Mormonism. I didn’t have much growing up, poor was the norm, and education was never viewed as a 'better way' out of our circumstances."

The documentary transports viewers deep inside the tightly-knit and complex Pacific Islander community in Salt Lake City, one of the chief sources of the modern influx of Pacific Islander football players to the NFL. Shot over a four-year period, the film follows four young men striving to overcome gang violence and near poverty through the promise of American football. The film follows the Bloomfield brothers, Fihi Kaufusi, and Harvey Langi, both of whom like many Polynesian NFL players, had to face poverty, gang violence, and racism.

"The kids in my neighborhood looked up to notorious gang members and popular drug dealers," says Vainuku. "However, the Polynesians who played little league football with me found their role models in Junior Seau and Vai Sikahema, pioneers for our culture in the NFL. They made the “American Dream” appear reachable. We all relied on our size and speed throughout little league, hoping to one day play in the NFL."

Featuring interviews with current and former Polynesian NFL stars Troy Polamalu, Haloti Ngata, Star Lotulelei, and Vai Sikahema, In Football We Trust reveals how making it to the NFL is like winning the lottery: the odds are discouraging but the payoff can be irresistible.

Vainuku made the documentary with 
 award-winning filmmaker Erika Cohn. "In the film, we see our subjects strive for the promise (or at least the perceived promise) of the NFL," says Cohn in an interview. 

"The American Dream phenomenon fascinates our society and unfortunately professional sport plays a large role in this. I think we need to put our idealism in check. I believe In Football We Trust will illuminate how our country’s infatuation with chasing the American Dream can often leave people entrenched in the very conditions they are striving to overcome."

"We come from a line of warriors. Football embodies what our culture is," says Vainuku.
In Football We Trust will air on PBS stations, Monday, Jan. 25. Check local listings for times.

For more news about Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, go to AsAm News.