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Greatness Is in the Gathering

csrcalloway:

How an under the radar movement in Los Angeles may be showing us that the pop culture change we’ve been waiting for is the change we should be striving for.

It’s a gathering unlike anything seen since Harlem in the 1920s. On one side of the room you’ll find spoken word poets laughing and cutting up with YouTube newsmakers. A few feet away celebrated comedians may be in deep business discussions with producers and authors. Movie stars, graphic designers, and directors break bread with performers who are starting out, struggling, and grateful to glean knowledge from someone who’s “been there.”

The place: a breathtaking loft known as The SEED Center outside of Little Tokyo near downtown LA. The day: any given 8th - the eighth day of every month. The event: the collective brainchild of a few popular Asian American performers; including Dante Basco (actor, poet, writer, producer, leader of the lost boys, and Crown Prince of the Fire Nation), AJ Rafael (musician and YouTube OG), and Beau Sia (slam poet); known as #The8th. The purpose: a rallying of Asian Americans to, in the words of Basco during the October meeting, “create consistent, quality content” that that is written, directed, designed, produced, and released by and starring Asian Americans, for the enjoyment and consumption of ALL.

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It’s a tough concept, in an industry that seems to have a vision that’s limited to black and white (but mostly white). Where black creators have had the temporary boosts (yet lasting legacies) of a Renaissance and, half a century later, a blaxploitation era where they were able to create genres that became the zeitgeist, Asian Americans in the industry have not had a similar trajectory. Latin American performers even had a short-lived pop “explosion,” but compare the early 2000s arrival of J.Lo and Ricky Martin to the second “British Invasion” that made multi-award winners out of the Adeles and Amys and seems to have no end thanks to the sudden acceptance of Sam Smith as the heir to Robin Thicke’s white soul throne and the reverent fanship of Florence + The Machine. Asian performers have broken through few and far between over the decades. Lea Salonga, John Cho, Ming Na, Lucy Lui, and yes, Basco, have their devoted followings and have maintained impressive pop culture presences, yet the great promoters, producers and directors of our era still seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Asian casting. Take Christopher Nolan for example, who cast two of Batman’s greatest Asian characters (villains, natch) with the so-not-Asian Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillard in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises respectively. Asian characters occupy a minimal percentage of mainstream lead characters, and aside from the occasional Bruno Mars or Far East Movement hit, the Billboard charts have turned a blind eye as well.

Basco, looking only slightly older than his famous childhood characterization of Spielberg’s most famous young antihero while sounding exactly the same, seems to have the solution. “We’ve got to change our mindset,” the actor said at one point as he addressed the assembled faces on #The8th, just one of many choice quotes he delivered during the evening. “Why aren’t we creating our own machine?”

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It’s not necessarily the idea Basco’s proposing that’s novel, but it’s the ongoing execution of said idea through the function of #The8th that could turn notion into impact. These gatherings feature such influential faces as comedian Timothy DeLaGhetto, casting director Julia Kim, and rapper MC Jin who share their stories, motivations, and showcase their newest projects. Hearing Basco and Beau Sia trade thoughts in a casual, joking atmosphere is on par to hearing what a conversation between James Baldwin and Langston Hughes may have sounded like back in Harlem (or a young Alice Walker and Toni Morrison). When Basco and Rafael laugh at each other, it’s like Arsenio and Eddie sharing a laugh on late night television (or even their contemporary DeLaGhetto, cracking up his costars on “Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out”). Because of these lightning in a bottle moments, word of mouth has turned into word of thumb, as Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr users begin to flood their feeds with quotes, selfies and OMG moments. “Everyone here is a part of making this happen,” Dante said truthfully, and though he was speaking to the crowd, he could have just as well been talking to the digital “here,” as artists and creators across the states who have been inspired by the monthly gatherings and the talent featured begin to fine tune their own output. #The8th movement is in no ways limited to California, and that could prove to be it’s greatest strength. There are talented Asians all over America. If they’re not being showcased in the current mass media, then, ahem, fuck that mass media.

It’s beyond surreal to have ‘beginners’ brushing shoulders alongside some of their biggest inspirations in such a casual, encouraging setting that continuously produces actual results (check out the trailer for CROSS, an upcoming short film that found its Filipino star Jason S. Mordeno when the director Gerry Maravilla attended #The8th a few months back; then pre-order XIV:LIX, the latest album recorded by Jin that has more than a passing connection with many associated with #The8th; and then stream Jason Chu’s “Letter To Jin” - first line: ‘fifteen and pimply, my friend sent me a message that said “Chinese freestyle on BET” / Intrigued by this emcee from Miami, Chinese kid with slanty eyes kinda looked like me’) and challenges those present at each congress to do MORE and to do so shamelessly.

In crude terms, who needs an Asian version of existing properties, or “colorblind casting,” when there can first be a version of something that features an Asian outlook, showing that the Asian American exists, is valid, is not monolithic, and is relatable? To do so would be to break down molded, crusty stereotypes and to embolden the idea of representation. Haven’t we as a society moved beyond casting Asians and other minorities only as dopey/uptight best friends and wise sage supporting characters?

There’s a magic in the air at #The8th, a spiritual electricity that is lighting up the atmosphere over L.A. This current generation has never had anything like #The8th before… And that’s precisely why it’s a necessity.

If you believe representation matters, then you definitely need to check out the goings on at #The8th.

Website: http://weownthe8th.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeOwnThe8th

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As an additional teaser, here are a few of the awesome videos linked to / shown at / promoted and showcased at this month’s meeting.

MC Jin & Traphik - "I’m Not Him" (music video)
30 Something Else (starring Angelo Perez, Dante Basco, Cheryl Tsai-Perez, and Frieda Jane - "NFL (Not Fucking Likeable)" (web series)
Keoloha Mahone - "My Riches" (music video)
Niwt 17 Films - It’s Not You, It’s Me (web series)
Francis dela Torre - Blood Ransom (theatrical film)

angrygirlcomics:

fascinasians and I are basically Marceline and Bubblegum

Yup.

angrygirlcomics:

fascinasians and I are basically Marceline and Bubblegum

Yup.

Esther Wang interviews Alex Hing, Founder of the Red Guard

My favorite memory is being cast, because i had been auditioning for another part, the Limo Driver (I think) and there was a mixup, he wanted me to play this OTHER role of a Hong Kong film director - and the role had a very heavy accent, and I went in and auditioned, and said - and this is early in my career - I went in and auditioned, but I quietly thought to myself “I don’t want to do this role in a kid’s comedy, with an accent, because I don’t want young people laughing at an accent inadvertently.” I know they weren’t intending to make fun of the accent, but I didn’t want to risk it.

So I was offered the role after the audition and I politely declined, and they asked why, and I told them. And I heard word that the director said “Well, we’ll get rid of the accent then. Come in and we’ll develop a different character.” So I went back in with Shawn Levy, and we developed a new take on the character, he pitched it to the studio, and so I had no business doing anything at that point in my career, but he and I are friends - I bumped into him recently, and for him he says it was his first feature, and it was really awesome from HIS perspective that it was a good reminder that actors need to feel invested and the importance of collaboration, but for ME it was important that someone understood where I was coming from politically as far as representation of Asian-Americans.

- John Cho, on being cast in Big Fat Liar [x] (via unikitties)

#FergusonOctober: It's Time To Get Real, Asian America

18mr:

Today, I’m getting into the car and driving 4 hours across the state of Missouri to participate in #FergusonOctober. I’m anxious, nervous, hopeful, and scared. To tell the truth, I’m intensely scared after Wednesday’s police-related shooting that ended in the death of Vonderrit Myers Jr., and which contributed to last night’s protests, tear gassing, and shameless police intimidation.

Like a lot of people, I’ve had Mike Brown on the brain since August 9th, the day he was gunned down by Darren Wilson and left lifeless in a street for over 4 hours. Now I’ve got Vonderrit on the brain, too. And this doesn’t even mention the innumerable unnamed and/or blatantly ignored Black women and men who are killed, imprisoned, and abused at the hands of those whose vow is to “protect and serve.”

I make no bones about the fact that what’s going down right now in Ferguson and St. Louis is distinctly about the horrors and systematic dehumanization of Black people all across this country. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is a potent incantation responding to police brutality, racial profiling, and state sanctioned violence. It is a radical swansong crooned into the barrel of a gun.

 And it’s not my song to sing.

What, then, is my ballad in a world festering with white supremacy and anti-Blackness? What is the score that shapes the life I live as an Asian American in a white world that criminalizes, brutalizes, and demonizes Black people?

 The blues I sing are about being a refugee. About growing up “government cheese poor.” About being the yellow boat kid whose life seems to have exploded into the universe simply to be “saved” by white Protestant America. About being the only Asian kid in a white Wisconsin school and vowing my tongue would never speak the lilting, accented language of mother. About the horror of seeing swastikas spray painted on my great-uncle’s home for months on end because the landlord refused to paint over it. About being 5-years old and having to explain to my non-English speaking grandparents that the prank caller accused us of eating their dog. About being the subject of white men’s concubine sex fantasies. 

But if I listen closely – more closely than I listen to anything else – I can hear another tune beating itself out in the 2 and the 4 of my life. These downbeats carry the notes of anti-Blackness, white supremacy, colonialism, and internalized oppression. They sing the song of my participation in marginalizing others, and of all the benefits that come with it – like not having to be disproportionately charged and imprisoned because of racial pathology and getting to be the “model minority” instead. This is the song I get to sing when I get drunk on not having to be Black.

And this is why #FergusonOctober is a battle I must wage, too. This battle demands justice for Black people and a radical transformation of Asian Americans. If I choose to hang back on the sidelines, to not engage in Black liberation while refusing to tackle my status as the “model minority,” then I am as culpable for murder and imprisonment as any other.

-PaKou Her, Campaign Director

Harvard Crimson: Asian Americans at Harvard Receive Death Threats

antiasianracism:

Dozens of Asian American students at Harvard have received death threats by way of email, reports the Harvard Crimson (file photo from Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association).

The number of threats received appear to be in the hundreds and the Crimson reports that “many, but not all, of the emails’ intended recipients appear to have Asian surnames.”

The emails made reference to the intended recipients as “slit eyes.” The authors of the emails identified themselves as Stephanie Nguyen, Eduardo Nguyen and Huy Dinh.

The Cambridge Police Department has joined the Harvard University Police Department in the investigation.

The Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association and several other Asian cultural groups have cancelled a planned discussion this week on being Asian American at Harvard out of concern for safety.

You can read reaction from recipients of the emailed threats and an alternative get together of Asian Americans now being planned in the Harvard Crimson.

Be A Part of Ferguson October

18mr:

Be a part of #FergusonOctober

We have to send as much support to Ferguson and St. Louis as possible so that together, we can fight police brutality and systematic racism! Help us raise money for supplies that the Asian American contingent will bring to Ferguson this weekend!

reconcilingworks:

We are proud to honor Tseng Kwong Chi as our Spirit Month’s icon today!
Tseng Kwong Chi, also known as Joseph Tseng, was the preeminent photographer of the 1980s New York pop scene. His work engages a wide variety of traditions, from landscape photography to portraiture. His best-known photographs examine perceptions of “foreign-ness,” as he experimented artistically with his Asian-American identity.
Tseng immigrated as a teen with his family to Canada. After studying Fine Arts in Paris, he moved to New York City. Tseng compiled portraits of the period’s most celebrated artists. He produced the largest Keith Haring archive, taking more than 40,000 photographs of the renowned graffiti artist and his drawings and murals.
Tseng’s most famous body of work is his collection of self-portraits, titled “Expeditionary Self-Portrait Series” or alternatively “East Meets West.” In the series, Tseng adopted the identity of a stereotypical Chinese dignitary, donning a Mao suit, mirrored sunglasses and an ID badge that read “SlutforArt.” He situated himself in front of well-known Western monuments and tourist sites, including the World Trade Center, the Eiffel Tower and Mount Rushmore.
Tseng’s photographs exploit the juxtaposition of perceived and self-assigned identities. Reductive stereotypes were particularly relevant for LGBT Americans of his generation.
At age 39, Tseng died of AIDS-related illness. The stunning portfolio he amassed in his brief career secured his legacy as one of the best photographers of his era. His work has been displayed in museums worldwide, including the Guggenheim and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

reconcilingworks:

We are proud to honor Tseng Kwong Chi as our Spirit Month’s icon today!

Tseng Kwong Chi, also known as Joseph Tseng, was the preeminent photographer of the 1980s New York pop scene. His work engages a wide variety of traditions, from landscape photography to portraiture. His best-known photographs examine perceptions of “foreign-ness,” as he experimented artistically with his Asian-American identity.

Tseng immigrated as a teen with his family to Canada. After studying Fine Arts in Paris, he moved to New York City. Tseng compiled portraits of the period’s most celebrated artists. He produced the largest Keith Haring archive, taking more than 40,000 photographs of the renowned graffiti artist and his drawings and murals.

Tseng’s most famous body of work is his collection of self-portraits, titled “Expeditionary Self-Portrait Series” or alternatively “East Meets West.” In the series, Tseng adopted the identity of a stereotypical Chinese dignitary, donning a Mao suit, mirrored sunglasses and an ID badge that read “SlutforArt.” He situated himself in front of well-known Western monuments and tourist sites, including the World Trade Center, the Eiffel Tower and Mount Rushmore.

Tseng’s photographs exploit the juxtaposition of perceived and self-assigned identities. Reductive stereotypes were particularly relevant for LGBT Americans of his generation.

At age 39, Tseng died of AIDS-related illness. The stunning portfolio he amassed in his brief career secured his legacy as one of the best photographers of his era. His work has been displayed in museums worldwide, including the Guggenheim and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

angrygirlcomics:

Here is a pic of our lovely panel Fight What You Know on diversity in media & writing good diversity, which I totally stole from the Mary Sue’s Twitter! From left to right: Susana Polo, our moderator; Brendan Fletcher, Danica Novgorodoff, Amber Benson & moi
Thanks so much to everyone who came out!!! You were an awesome audience.

angrygirlcomics:

Here is a pic of our lovely panel Fight What You Know on diversity in media & writing good diversity, which I totally stole from the Mary Sue’s Twitter! From left to right: Susana Polo, our moderator; Brendan Fletcher, Danica Novgorodoff, Amber Benson & moi

Thanks so much to everyone who came out!!! You were an awesome audience.

Oct 9

I’m happy. Which often looks like crazy.

- David Henry HwangM. Butterfly (via feellng)