Saturday, April 30, 2016

AAPI Heritage Month: NBC presents 'Life Stories'

FOR ASIAN AMERICAN Pacific Islander Heritage Month, NBC will have a feature about AAPI individuals entitled Life Stories.

Rini Sampath
Influential and rising voices across America will tell us, in their own words, what the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience is to them.
One of the subjects is Rini Sampath which spotlight her journey as a daughter of immigrants arrived to America to seek better opportunities for their children to her achievement as USC’s first woman president (and first woman of color) in over a decade. 

Her portion of the show will be positioned with S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons’ OUT RUN, an equally politically-charged feature documentary on a revolutionary Philippine political party composed of LGBT aspirants for national office. 

From the trailer, other subjects include Vivek Murthy, Simran Jeet Singh, the a cappella singing group, the Filharmonics and more.

New episodes of Life Stories will be released Thursdays beginning May 5 and will be available on, NBC Asian America's Facebook page, NBC News' official YouTube channel, and the NBC News app available on mobile devices, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire.

Parents file lawsuit; alleges school ignored signs of mental state of teen

Emilie Olsen
Reprinted from AsAm News
THE FAMILY of an Asian/American girl who committed suicide is suing a school district near Cincinnati accusing it of ignoring their pleas for help.

Emilie Olsen was adopted from China by Marc and Cynthia Olsen as a baby.

A new filing in the lawsuit originally filed by the Olsens in December accuses the Fairfield School District of not acting after their daughter exhibited numerous warning signs she could harm herself.
RELATED: How bullying played a part to Emilie Olsen's suicide
The suit contends the school administered a True Color Personality Quiz on Emilie in the weeks prior to her suicide. Thirteen-year-old Emilie indicated during the quiz that a typical bad day for her would include “crying, depressing, yelling and screaming, passive resistance, and going into a trance.”

The lawsuit claims the results were not shared with the Olsen family and Emilie was never offered any counseling or support.

RELATED: Media too quick to judge on Washington teen's suicide
Previously the family asserted the district ignored the family’s repeated requests for help and failed to look into the bullying their daughter faced.

The district has countered by saying those claims are not plausible and has filed a motion to clear the district of all charges against it including the failure to address bullying, sexual and racial discrimination.

RELATED: 'Silicon Valley Suicides' haunt Asian/American students

AAPI Heritage Month: A timeline of Asian America

ON THE EVE of May - Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month - DiversityInc posted this historical timeline of Asians in America.

It is by no means complete. For instance, it left out the first recorded landing of Asians on the North American continent in 1587. However, it's a good jumping-off point for further study. We need to remember those who came before us and how far we still have to go.

Share it with your employers - or, share it with your employees. They all could benefit from know a little bit more about the community of which you're a part. Whether you are deeply involved or lingering around the edges, it is something you can't deny because others will always link you with it.

For students, share it with your history teachers. In most U.S. history classes, particularly in high school and middle school, Asians and Asian Americans barely get mentioned.

Time to change that.

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

President Barack Obama to keynote the Asian/Pacific gala; Hillary Clinton accepts invitation

Shortly after taking office, President Obama met with leaders of the Asian-American Pacific Islander communities.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA will be the keynote speaker during the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies’ (APAICS) 22nd Annual Awards Gala Dinner. 

“It means so much that President Obama will be joining us at this year’s APAICS Gala,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), former chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and APAICs board member. 

“Whether keeping families together through his immigration executive actions, expanding healthcare to millions through the Affordable Care Act, promoting diverse candidates to the federal bench, or putting our economy back on the path to success, President Obama has been there for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We look forward to thanking the President for his leadership and honoring his legacy at this year’s gala, and welcome the opportunity to celebrate with him in May.”

Although all the presidential candidates - Republican and Democrat - were invited to the nonpartisan event, only former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton accepted. The campaigns of Clinton's Democratic rival Bernie Sanders and Republican hopeful Ted Cruz did not commit, and the campaign of Republican front-runner Donald Trump campaign responded that he was unlikely to attend, Floyd Mori, president and chief executive of the leadership network said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's campaign didn't respond.

There has been a lot of back-and-forth on the Internet whether or not Clinton's attendance is an example of pandering or not. Believe it or not - call it hiya (Filipino: embarrassment or shame) or "losing face," a value which shows up in almost all Asian cultures - a demonstration of respect is highly valued in Asian cultures - showing up indicates that you value (and respect) the people or organization that issued the invitation.

Alan Yang, left, and Aziz Ansari will receive the Vision Award for their
ground-breaking television show 'Master of None.'
The APAICS Annual Awards Gala Dinner is the premier event in Washington celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) stakeholders, community and business leaders, and the largest gathering of AAPI local, state and federal elected officials and appointees from across the country.

“It is an honor to have President Barack Obama participate in the 22nd Annual APAICS Awards Gala Dinner and share his legacy with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said S. Floyd Mori, president and CEO of APAICS. “President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to the AAPI community and shares our determination in developing future opportunities for AAPI leaders.”

President Obama has often been described as the first Asian/American president since he was born and raised in Hawaii. He also spent a few years living in Indonesia, where his sister was born, with his mother and Indonesian step-father. He spends his summer vacations in his home state.

Also, in 2009, shortly after he took office, President Obama signed an executive order that restored the White House Initiative and President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to address issues concerning the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Asian/Americans make up a small portion of the voters - but in certain states such as California and New Jersey which have their primaries on June 7, they have the numbers to influence the outcome of the vote.

Part of the evening program recognizes individuals and organizations for their contributions to the empowerment and advancement of Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The 2016 honorees are Congressman Xavier Becerra, Lifetime Achievement Award; Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Vision Award; and Toyota, Corporate Achievement Award.

The event takes place Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. ET at the Washington Hilton.
To purchase individual tickets or Table of 10, please click here or call 202-296-9200.

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Court orders SF noodle company to stop distribution of products

A SAN FRANCISCO-BASED noodle-maker won't be selling any noodles any time soon after federal inspectors found unsanitary conditions in its factory.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Kun Wo Food Products Inc. and the firm’s co-owners, Zi Xing Liu and Zi Cheng Liu, to prevent the distribution of adulterated rice noodles, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday, April 27.

The DOJ filed a complaint in the Northern District of California on April 12, at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The complaint alleged that the defendants have a history of processing rice noodles under insanitary conditions. 
The company prepared, processed, manufactured, packed, held and distributed rice noodles to local customers in the San Francisco area, according to the complaint. 

The complaint alleges that Zi Xing Lui has ultimate authority over all of the firm’s operations, including financial expenditures, production processes and employee supervision and that Zi Cheng Liu shares responsibility with Zi Xing Liu for the firm’s production processes and is also responsible for product distribution. 

As part of the settlement, the defendants said that they have ceased receiving, preparing, processing, packing, holding, or distributing any type of food at or from any location. Under the permanent injunction, if the defendants seek to resume such activity, they must first inform FDA, take specific steps to improve the firm’s manufacturing practices, and then receive written approval from FDA.

“Kun Wo Food Products was repeatedly informed that the sanitation practices at its facility were deficient,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. 

 “The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively pursue food companies and individuals responsible for the production of food under insanitary conditions in order to protect the American people and make sure America’s food supply is safe,” said Mizer.

According to the complaint, a 2016 inspection by FDA documented that defendants failed to take all necessary precautions to prevent food handlers from contaminating food with microorganisms or foreign material. For example, as alleged in the complaint, an employee used the vat containing rice soaking for the day’s production to rinse her bare hands after handling equipment. In addition, as noted in the complaint, during a 2015 inspection, FDA documented employees using the vat containing soaking rice to rinse their bare hands, rags and buckets after using the rags and buckets to clean the production area with detergent. 

The complaint also alleges that employees touched dirty equipment and then used their bare, unwashed hands to grab rice noodles for packaging.

Further, the complaint alleged that during the 2015 inspection, FDA swabbed various surfaces in the firm’s production area, including the buckets used during processing and found the presence of bacterial contamination at the facility -- L. mono was identified on the exterior of one bucket and L. seeligeri was found on the exterior of another bucket. The complaint alleged that the firm’s employees routinely submerged these buckets in the water that contained soaking rice.

L.mono is the bacterium that causes the disease listeriosis. The most serious forms of listeriosis can cause meningitis and septicemia. L. seeligeri does not cause disease; however, it is a marker indicating that conditions are favorable for the survival and growth of L. mono.

Under federal law, food processors are required to comply with current good manufacturing practices provided by FDA regulation. Failure to follow such regulations renders food adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In this matter, the complaint alleged that defendants violated the law by causing food to become adulterated while it was held for sale after shipment of one or more of its components in interstate commerce.
For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

TGIF FEATURE: 'Here Lies Love' coming to the West Coast

Ruthie Ann Miles, center, won a Tony for her role as Imelda Marcos in the Broadway production of Here Lies Love.

GET READY TO PAR-TEE! The award-winning musical about the rise and fall of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos will be coming to the West Coast.

Here Lies Love will be playing in Seattle followed by San Francisco in 2017 after an extensive run in London and leaving its Broadway home in 2014.

Start saving up your money. The tickets for these shows are going to cost a pretty penny.
Exact dates and venues will be announced later.

The David Byrne and Fatboy Slim production requires a theater that allows the audience to stand throughout the 90-minute show. The disco-theme musical turns the space into a nightclub, the streets of Manila and a beauty contest stage and the audience transforms into the witnesses, protestors or nightclub revelers as the line between the performers and audience blurs.

It's Evita in a disco and the audience becomes part of the production.
In New York and London, the show received rave reviews garnering accolades for its stars. It won a 2015 Tony Award for Love's first Imelda portrayed by Ruthie Ann Miles.

In Seattle the show will be part of the Seattle Repertory Theatre's 2016-2017 season. It was there that Marcos henchmen killed two Filipino/American union activists. Gene Viennese and Silme Domingo.

It will be interesting to see how the Here Lies Love is received in San Francisco as part of the American Conservatory Theatre's season. The San Francisco Bay Area was the center of the anti-Marcos expatriate movement during the 20-year reign of the Philippines' conjugal dictatorship.

I suspect there will be a few tears at the eulogy of Benign Aquino, a Marcos rival assassinated on the airport tarmac upon his return to Manila from San Francisco. And a few cheers when the Marcoses get on the plane to their Hawaiian exile.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Even a Marine can be bullied; bill introduced to track military hazing

FOR REP. JUDY CHU, this piece of legislation was intensely personal.

"Harry Lew was a Marine stationed in Afghanistan. One midnight, his peers took it upon themselves to administer what they called 'corrective training,' said Chu. 

"They berated him, ordered him to dig a foxhole, and forced him to do useless exercises carrying his heavy full-body armor and a 25-lb sandbag. They stomped on his back, kicked and punched him, and poured the entire contents of a sandbag onto his face and in his mouth. It lasted a full 3 ½ hours.

"Finally, 22 minutes after they stopped, Harry killed himself with his own gun. He was 21 years old. He was my nephew."

U.S. Marine LCpl. Harry Lew
"This is the fifth anniversary of the death of my nephew, and justice certainly wasn't served," said the Southern California congresswoman. "Of the three that were involved, two were let go without any punishment, and one was put into one month confinement. So it is time for the military to treat hazing seriously. Our men and women in uniform protect us and we must do what we can to protect them."

She introduced a bill on April 26 to require the Pentagon to track and make annual reports on the problem on hazing in the military. The Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act is named in honor of Rep. Chu’s nephew. It is cosponsored by Reps. Jackie Speier, Debbie Dingell and Ted Lieu. This bill would require the Pentagon to create a database of hazing incidents in the military and to submit an annual report on what is being done to stop hazing through training and response.

This follows a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in February that showed that the Department of Defense lacks consistent data on military hazing incidents, and that servicemembers across branches are in need of better training to combat hazing. The GAO report was the result of an amendment Rep. Chu included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

Today, April 27, Rep. Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the text of the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act as an amendment to the 2017 NDAA during the Committee markup of the legislation. Reps. Chu, Speier, Dingell, and Lieu released the following statements:

“Hazing has no place in our military. It breeds fear and distrust within the ranks," said Rep. Chu.“The GAO report released earlier this year showed that the Pentagon’s guidance on hazing is unclear and imperfectly applied. Each military branch has a different standard for what qualifies as hazing, and oversight is rare. I believe that without an accurate system of tracking incidents, we have no way of actually knowing the full extent of the problem. Failure to implement clear anti-hazing policies is costing lives, and that is unacceptable. It is time the military treat this problem seriously. We must move this bill forward so that we can provide the protection and support our troops deserve.”

“We hear too many stories of hazing that harm soldiers’ mental health, can cause serious injury, diminish unit cohesion, and even cost lives,” said Rep. Speier. “Unfortunately, for all these tragic examples, we still lack a clear understanding of hazing and the military’s response. The creation of a database of reported incidents of hazing, implementation of surveys, and the implementation of new anti-hazing training are the least we can do to ensure progress is made to fight hazing.”

“I have been working with the Marine Corps on the tragic death of Private Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan at Parris Island during boot camp,” said Rep. Dingell. “This was an intelligent, loyal, patriotic young Muslim man – and class valedictorian – who loved his country. Some are concerned that hazing may have been involved in the death of Private Siddiqui. NCIS is investigating the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, and their report will help provide the facts of what happened. We all have an obligation to bring more accountability to the system ... We owe it to those we’ve lost to take action to prevent more senseless tragedies from happening in the future.”

“As a former active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and a current Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves, I am proud to join Congresswoman Judy Chu as an original cosponsor of the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act,” said Rep. Lieu. “Through enhanced reporting, tracking, and training, this legislation sends a clear message that hazing and bullying have no place in our military. Our brave men and women serving in uniform must be able to focus on the mission at hand knowing that the U.S. Armed Force’s anti-hazing policies do not exist on paper but are enforced."

The text of the bill can be found here.
For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Blogger does volunteer work on Leyte Island for recovery from Typhoon Haiyan

Ariel Neidermeier
The Philippine countryside still shows the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan .

ALL HANDS VOLUNTEERS had teams working in the Philippines when Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, allowing the disaster relief agency to be among the first responders on the ground. Within a month of the storm, Project Leyte, opened and volunteers started to pour into the country looking to help those in need. 

Blogger Ariel Neidermeier
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the volunteers' initial efforts were focused on the distribution of food and other non-food related items, debris removal and the deconstruction of damaged structures in the province of Ormoc. In February 2014, it expanded its project to the municipality of Kananga where All Hands partnered with the World Health Organization on debris clearance/management and repairs for the district’s sole hospital.

After months of emergency response work, All Hands pledged to stay and help the people recover from Haiyan and its efforts shifted to helping survivors rebuild their homes and lives. As a result of this decision, while some NGOs moved on, All Hands made a home in Tacloban, listening to the needs of the community and making every effort to meet them.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, All Hands has built and repaired more than 550 homes, shelters, hospitals and schools. It has built community spaces in six barangays (village) asking local Filipinos to help design what they want to see in their community. A woodshop program was created that focuses on teaching underprivileged teenagers basic carpentry, so that they can both learn a key skill and improve their confidence. 
DONATE: If you wish to donate to Helping Hands Volunteers, click here.
All Hands has expanded its efforts to the neighboring island of Samar, helping to build an evacuation center for a municipality that was left in a state of ruins after Typhoon Haiyan. This momentous effort was powered by 1,000 dedicated volunteers who dropped everything to help the Filipino people at the moment of their greatest need.

Recently, Filipina/American blogger Ariel Neidermeier of AsAm News joined All Hands' reconstruction efforts in Leyte and is writing about her experience. Following is her first installment as she begins her journey:

All Hands photo
Volunteers helped distribute food immediately after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines.

The Journey begins ...

By Ariel Neidermeier
Reprinted from AsAm News

IT TOOK two plane rides, an extended stop over in Cebu City, and a 3-hour ferry ride, but I made it to Leyte island in the Philippines.

From Cebu City, you can catch a ferry to Ormoc, a port city on the west side of Leyte. In Ormoc, I caught a jeepney – an open-air public bus – to Kananga, where All Hands Volunteers has set up it’s volunteer base camp and hub of operations. From there, they deploy groups of volunteers to various projects around the island. These range from rebuilding schools and homes to taking down the walls of broken hospitals to begin the reconstruction process.

My immediate thoughts on the state of Leyte island post-Haiyan are grim. On the drive from Ormoc to Kananga, which is located inland, on the west side of the island, we passed countless buildings missing roofs and walls; downed powered lines that have been left tangled in destroyed building and shrubbery. In the worst cases, the houses were simply a pile of rubble on the ground.

Driving through the countryside, I also noticed that all the trees look odd. The coconut trees that dot the horizon of this tropical place look spindly and bare; with whole fronds missing. The trees are also bowed in unnatural positions, with leaves bent and twisted. You can clearly see the ravages of the wind and rains from the storm.

Ariel Neidermeier
Volunteers dig to prepare for the foundation of a new home.

From the Kananga headquarters, All Hands is deploying groups of 5 to 15 volunteers to various rebuilding projects that need assistance throughout the island. I worked on a project digging foundations for a community of permanent homes called Rotary GK Village. The project is sponsored by Gawad Kalinga, a organization that sets up rebuilding projects in local communities in the Philippines.
RELATED: We Are The World for the Philippines
Community members are chosen by lottery and able to pay for their houses through labor.
So, if a family works a certain amount of hours, their labor translates into the price of the house.

For roughly eight hours, we dug 80 meter trenches and 50 meter holes to prepare for the laying of the foundation blocks for a tract of three houses. We worked alongside the Filipinos who are working on their own homes. In this hot, humid climate, this is back-breaking work. It’s necessary to take a break every 30 minutes and drink excessive amounts of water. I have a new found respect for manual laborers, to say the least.

Ariel Neidermeier
The children motivate the author to keep working in the tropical humidity.

The children of the village watched and giggled at us as we worked. They were incredibly interested in knowing our names, ages and origins. All of them were lively and friendly. By the end of the day, they began yelling “Ate Ariel!” (Ate translates roughly into ‘Big Sister.’ It’s a term of endearment and respect) whenever I walked past. Honestly, the only thing that gave me the motivation to continue working under the hot sun for hours were their happy smiles.
VIDEO: Watch the volunteers and their work
Today, I’m continuing on to Tacloban to join a new base of volunteers who will be working on projects outside and around the city. All Hands is slowly transitioning its main base to Tacloban and a group of seven of us are joining the small group of volunteers that are already there. While Kananga and Ormoc City felt the damages of the heavy rains and winds, Tacloban and its surrounding areas on the east coast of Leyte, were hit directly by the storm surge. I know the damages on that side of the island will be much worse than here.

Stay tuned for more information about Leyte post-Haiyan and what I find in Tacloban.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Asian/Americans decry whitewashing of Asian characters

IT'S BEEN a hell of a week for Asian/American actresses. They lost out three prominent roles that called for Asian characters.

After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy regarding diversity in the movie and TV industries, some thought that perhaps if we had more Asian writers and Asian-centric stories we would be able to generate more roles  for Asian actors.

Apparently, that was a blind alley.

Recently, the Internet has been buzzing about the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Ghost in the Shell heroine Major Motoko Kusanagi.

"It was particularly heinous because they ran CGI tests to make her look more Asian," said Constance Wu during a luncheon last week. She was one of the Asian/American actresss on the panel. Paramount has since denied that the studio tried to alter Johansson's appearance via computer graphics.

Wu, one of the stars of TV's Fresh Off The Boat, explained that the problem with the alleged tests is that "it reduces our race and ethnicity to mere physical appearance, when our race and culture are so much deeper than how we look."

Speaking out on issues always runs the risk of adverse reaction by Hollywood power-brokers but that didn't prevent Ming-Na Wen of Agents of SHIELD, who upon seeing the image of Johansson "with her Asian-esque haircut," she tweeted, "Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role."

The tweet went somewhat viral, which Wen said made her feel "happy and afraid, because to get back on the soapbox is scary, but I feel I need to. It's about accepting that part of the job," as reported in the Hollywood Reporter article about the panel.
For those of you who are not familiar with Ghost In A Shell and feel they've been dropped into an alternate universe, Ghost is based on a Japanese comic book, created by Japanese writers and artists, takes place in a Japanese setting and features an all-Japanese cast of characters.

This is not a case of Magnificent Seven's John Sturgis stealing Seven Samurai from Akira Kurosawa. At least in Magnificent Seven, by changing the setting to the Old American West, they could easily cast Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, et al, as the lead characters.

Ghost will still take place in a futuristic Tokyo, the values and mysticism will lean heavily on Buddhist principles and values and the SUPPORTING characters will still be Japanese, or at least, Asian.

At least they died Johansson's hair black. That will make her blend in, right?

Tilda Swinton, almost an albino, plays The Ancient One.

Another role made for an Asian actress is The Ancient One in Marvel's Dr. Strange. The producers tried to throw fans off balance by gender-bending the role by having a woman play the role of the Tibetan wise man. Maybe that makes it OK that Tilda Swinton, one of the whiter than white actresses, got the role of the monk.

"Well, it's not actually an Asian character — that's what I need to tell you about it. I wasn't asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that," Swinton is quoted as saying.

Duh, well ... not anymore. But the character still wears Asian-inspired clothes, and Dr. Strange still has to travel to Tibet to learn the mystical arts. The Ancient One's "power" seems to derive from his/her mastery of chi, or inner force, much in line with goals or higher levels of consciousness espoused in several Asian religions or martial arts.
UPDATED: Earlier versions of this post did not have the reaction of screenwriter Robert Cargill, which were made to The Guardian after the original posting.
Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill gives an explanation of turning the role the Tibetan monk to a Celtic wizard:  “[The Ancient One is] a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in [a] very weird political place,” he said in an interview for the Double Toasted Podcast, via The Guardian.

“He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullsh*t and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’”

But the Chinese haven't erased Tibet as an entity and still recognize it as a identifiable part of their country. And if that's the best Cargill can give as an explanation, consider this: Asian audiences, particularly China's market, identify easier with Asian characters than non-Asian characters.

Cargill went on to say that if they cast the character with a Chinese actress, they risk the ire from other Asians. “If you are telling me you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about,” he said. “Oh, ‘she could be Asian!’ Asian? She should be Japanese, she should be Indian, really? The levels of cultural sensitivity around this thing is, everyone is staking out their one particular place and not realizing that every single thing here is a losing proposition.”

Elizabeth Bank's Rita Repulsa has been updated
to be more sexy and evil-looking.
AAPI actors didn't have time to recover from this double whammy of whitewashing when pictures were released of actress Elizabeth Banks as the villain Rita Repulsa in the reboot of the Power Rangers.

The character, though not specifically Asian, was an Asian creation using Asian source material. The role has been played historically by actresses of color. In the last live-action movie, Repulsa was played by Filipina/American actress Julia Cortez.

The newest reincarnation of Repulsa has been updated so she doesn't look so comedic in her two-cone headgear. She's a villain, after all.

So what exactly is happening in Hollywood? What happened about all the promises made surrounding #OscarsSoWhite?

Nothing new is happening that hasn't been done before. There have been more white actresses playing Asian women who have won Oscars than there have been Oscars awarded to actual Asian actresses: Luise Rainer, who won the Oscar for Best Actress for playing a Chinese woman named O-Lan in The Good Earth and Linda Hunt, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for playing male Chinese-Australian photographer Billy Kwan in The Year of Living DangerouslyThe sole REAL Asian woman to win an Oscar was Miyoshi Umeki  for her supporting role in Sayonara.
RELATED: Hollywood grapples with 'whitewashing' Asian roles - AGAIN!
I'm not sure which disappointed me more: the fact that these actresses were cast in Asian roles or the fact that they agreed to play those roles. I thought better of them.

I could almost understand the casting of Scarlett Johansson. She's one of the most bankable stars around. Her appeal is worldwide, not just in the U.S. Any project she's associated with will earn big bucks. But how will the film explain the existence of a white character as played by Johansson in a futuristic Tokyo and everybody else is Asian?  We'll have to wait and see. 

But Tilda Swinton and Elizabeth Banks? I really like their work but I wouldn't put them in the same category as Johansson. The economic argument for their casting is weaker. Certainly there are Asian/American and Asian actresses who are fully capable of playing any of these roles.

How can any Asian or Asian/American actress get to Johansson's level of popularity and bankability if they are never given the roles that would elevate them to that status? 

"Culturally, I think it is not in our (Asian) nature to confront these types of conflicts, to voice our concerns, to band together to voice our concerns, and that needs to change," Wen said in the panel discussion.

She said that African/Americans were right to protest #OscarsSoWhite and demand more opportunities for African/American actors. Asians should learn a lesson from that. "We have to fight our own fight," said Wen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The number of AAPIs will surpass African/Americans by mid-century

Don't tell anyone, but the number of Asian/Americans will surpass African/Americans by the middle of this century.

A recent report from Pew Research Center, 10 Demographic Trends Shaping the U.S., glossed over this hugely significant shift but in one of their graphs accompanying the report, it showed that by 2065, the AAPI community will make up 14 percent of the U.S. population and the African/American population at 13 percent.

This might not have been worthy enough to mention in the Pew report, but it is BIG NEWS in the AAPI community, which has been struggling to get out from under this cloak of invisibility in order to get the attention of demographers, marketers, politicians and anybody else interested in the growing diversity of America.

At the root of the growth, says the Pew report, is immigration where immigrants from Asian countries has risen to the point of overtaking the immigration coming from Latin American countries, including Mexico.

So while this year's presidential contenders focus their attention on whether or not to build a wall on our southern border - thankfully - no one is talking about building a wall along the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii. Never mind that that feat is eve less feasible than the wall on the our border with Mexico, with the quality of some candidates' rhetoric this political season, I'm surprised that someone like GOP frontrunner Donald Trump hasn't proposed it.

That's why I wouldn't trumpet the growth of the Asian population too loudly (no pun intended), otherwise AAPIs might be more front and center in the Presidential race conversation.
RELATED: America's challenge is learning to live with itself
The same report shows that the U.S. will become more racially and ethnically diverse as the century marches on. The Latino/American population will surge to make up 24 percent while the so-called white (Euro/American) population will drop to 46 percent. The African/American population will remain constant, around 13 to 14 percent up to 2065.

U.S. Immigrants
No race or ethnic group will make up the majority of the country by 2055. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration. Nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the U.S. in the past 50 years, mostly from Latin America and Asia, says the report. 

Today, a near-record 14 percent of the country’s population is foreign born compared with just 5 percent in 1965. Over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration. 

American attitudes about immigration and diversity are supportive of these changes for the most part. More Americans say immigrants strengthen the country than say they burden it, and most say the U.S.’s increasing ethnic diversity makes it a better place to live.

In a reversal of one of the largest mass migrations in modern history, net migration flows from Mexico to the U.S. turned negative between 2009 and 2014, as more Mexicans went home than arrived in the U.S., notes the Pew report. And after rising steadily since 1990, the unauthorized immigrant population has leveled off in recent years, falling to 11.3 million in 2014 from a high of 12.2 million in 2007. 

Meanwhile, Asians are now the only major racial or ethnic group whose numbers are rising mainly because of immigration

The implications of the racial shift are enormous although they will not have much impact in this year's political free-for-all even though the 2016 electorate will be the most diverse in U.S. history due to strong growth among Latino/American eligible voters, particularly U.S.-born youth

There are also wide gaps opening up between the generations on many social and political issues, most evident in the Democratic contest featuring the generally youthful supporters of Bernie Sanders and the older generations leaning towards Hillary Clinton. Young adults tend to hold liberal views on many political and social issues, though they are also less likely to identify with either political party: 50 percent call themselves political independents, who may be the deciding factor in November during the general elections.
READ the full report here.
In order to take full political advantage of the increased numbers, Asian/Americans will have to do a much better job in registering to vote. As the graphs show in 2015, although Euro/Americans made up only 60 percent of the U.S. population, they made up 69 percent of voters and AAPI voters made up only 4 percent of the registered voters even though they made up 6 to 7 percent of the population in 2015.

The demographic trend could create a domino effect of changes in other fields: more AAPI politicians; an increase of marketing of products directed at the AAPI consumers; schools might teach more Asian languages and Asian/American history; more of a presence in motion pictures and TV; and maybe even, the standard of beauty will change.
RELATED: The American story - immigration, innovation, opportunity
Hopefully, by 2065, a couple of generations will have passed and today's immigrants'  children and their children's children will increase the poll of registered voters.

One of the unfortunate possibilities of becoming more visible is that AAPIs will become more of a target of hate mongers. As a community, Asian/Americans will have to gird themselves for this likely outcome and prepare themselves to take a more prominent role in this century when the face of America will no longer be the blond, blue-eyed Euro/American.
For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

#MyAAPIStory: Sharing the diverse stories of the AAPI community

AS AN EDITOR, I used to tell my reporters that every person has a story to tell. I would read the obituaries and learn the interesting lives that people led that went untold until they died. "Let's tell those stories before they die," I'd tell the writers.

We all know the stories we have, our parents and grandparents, the stories of traveling across the Pacific to make a new home in a strange land. 

We know the stories of growing up in the United States and still be considered a foreigner, an outsider, an other.  We try to fit in and get rejected. We suffer the stereotypes forced upon us and we do our best to break the mold. 

Choose your interview partner (if you are
interviewing someone). Use the question generator
 in the app to help guide your story or interview. 
The generator contains questions on a 
variety of topics and also allows you 
to write your own questions. Record the story 
or interview using the app on your phone, 
which serves as a digital facilitator that will 
guide you through the process of preparation, 
recording, and archiving your conversation.
Tag recordings with general keyword “MyAAPIStory”.

The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., with a breadth of stories and experiences. From native Hawaiians to recent immigrants to third-generation Americans, from artists to entrepreneurs to public service leaders, AAPIs are a fundamental part of the diverse mosaic of America.

In February, the White House launched a call for nominations for White House Champions of Change for AAPI Art and Storytelling. But they know that there are countless other inspiring and powerful stories within the AAPI community. That’s why they’re teaming up with StoryCorps to document and share these stories.

We encourage you to share your story and those of others within the AAPI community. Highlight issues you care about, share what your identity means to you, or interview others – friends, family members, community leaders, for instance – that are making a difference for the AAPI community.

You can share a story about any topic you wish, and the recording can be as short or as long as you’d like. Themes could include:
  • Being the first in your family to go to college
  • Your immigration story
  • Defying the model minority myth
  • Preserving culture and identity
  • Overcoming odds
  • Be as creative as you’d like!
You can use the StoryCorps app to record your story or interview, and then post it on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #MyAAPIStory. Select stories may be highlighted throughout the month of May in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

To record an interview using the StoryCorps app, download the app here.

Visit and download the free public beta mobile app from the iTunes store (Apple users) or Google Play store (Android users).

Upload your recording to StoryCorps (your recording will be archived by the White House and also will be sent to the Library of Congress by StoryCorps).

Share your recording on Twitter and Facebook using this #MyAAPIStory sign and use the hashtag.

For more information about recording your interview, visit the website.

In addition, please ask your friends and family to document their story by:
  • Tweeting: Share your #MyAAPIStory! We're working w/@StoryCorps to document and share #AAPI stories by clicking here.
  • Posting on Facebook, click here.
For more news about Asian/Americans & Pacific Islanders, read AsAm News.