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I just got home from the Drawing the Asian American panel held at NYU earlier tonight and wanted to jot down these thoughts before I forget:
1. G.B. Tran, a cartoonist born to Vietnamese refugees of the Vietnam War, said that he doesn’t consider himself an Asian American artist, and that he has only recently begun to explore his identity as one who is. This is mainly because he never cared much about his Vietnamese heritage growing up as a Vietnamese American, and that he only started to care about learning his family’s history and why it matters when he was in his late twenties. T. and I were talking about it afterward, and I said that maybe some artists who are Asian American don’t always want to be defined solely by their Asian American identity because they don’t want their work to appeal only to other Asian Americans, but to everyone. It’s just hard because while you know you feel that way, you can’t stop other people (potential viewers of your work) from assuming what your work must be about and therefore not being interested in it.
2. Wendy talked about artists who are afraid to include POC in their work because they worry they can’t properly depict POC or accurately represent POC experiences, and said that they should consult with POC who have the same ethnic background as the characters the artists want to draw. I agree, as long as it’s done respectfully. I wanted to add that including POC in your work shouldn’t be that big of a deal or scary to try, in the sense that non-POC artists shouldn’t think that POC experiences are so different from non-POCs’ that our life experiences revolve solely around our race/ethnicity. Yes, race/ethnicity do inform our day-to-day lives, but we also have experiences and problems that have nothing to do with our cultural backgrounds. That can vary depending on where you live and the cultural diversity (or lack thereof) that you’re surrounded by, but generally, we all have experiences that are and aren’t race-related. Wendy’s comics are a good example of this, because she has some featuring herself that depict the problems that come with being an Asian American woman, and some that don’t. The ones featuring her original characters are like this as well.
3. Juliet stated that she wears the title of “angry Asian feminist” proudly, and I wanted to ask her if she’s ever lost any friends because they found her too angry, too intense about her feelings on oppression, representation of Asian American women, and things like that, but I was too shy, lol. She also mentioned her posts about the “YouTube Mafia” of Asian American men who have been racist toward other POC which I wanted to talk about, especially since I’d read about how she reacted to David So’s racist joke about Latin@ women at this year’s ECAASU, but that was a discussion for another time.
Other things: I bought a postcard-size print of her infamous “Kawaii White Boy-kun” comic, and I didn’t win Mr. Brontosaurus or a copy of Vietnamerica. :( But T. won a manga drawing kit!
Hello! Sorry for the late response, I have a bad habit of not checking my tag.
I’ve definitely lost a lot of friends because they thought I was too intense, too angry, too dramatic, too MUCH in general. However, that’s really taught me what kind of people are good for me. I may have lost friends, but that was most likely meant to happen because if they can’t understand such a crucial and integral part of me, then how can we be good friends? If something like fighting the oppression that weighs on my very identity as an Asian American woman is “too much”, then how much do they really care for me?
I surround myself with people who aren’t embarrassed by my anger, but instead stoke the flames!
Feel free to message me about David So, Youtubers, and other things! Thanks for coming to the panel.
Something I’ve heard a lot in the Asian American community when it comes to discussing methodology and strategy is the black/white rhetoric of using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X as the be-all-end-all examples. I’ve lost count of how many times people have compared anyone even remotely more “radical” than themselves to Malcolm X. This is dangerous rhetoric because it not only paints Malcolm X as some dangerous idealistic criminal, it also erases the more moderate and radical beliefs for Malcolm X and MLK Jr. respectively. It creates an us-or-them mentality where people who are interested in social justice or Asian American social justice in particular can be alienated because they’re too radical for some circles and too moderate for others.
Quick history lesson: Martin Luther King was a radical. He was an anti-capitalist labor organizer and racial justice activist. People throw around his quote that only love can conquer hate, hate cannot conquer hate. And yet, MLK often included direct actions and civil disobediences in his organizing and encouraged others to do the same. He grew increasingly radical as he saw the consequences of capitalism, imperialism, and a slow moving civil rights movement. In 1968, he said “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.” In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, MLK says:
“I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.”
Contrast to Martin Luther King’s progressing radicalism, Malcolm X’s views changed drastically after leaving the Nation of Islam. He advocated for more international human rights justice rather than a black/white segregation issue. Towards the end of his life, Malcolm also reconsidered his lifelong argument that Black Nationalism means completely segregating from white America. Here is a quote from when he spoke at a voting rights rally in 1964, coordinated by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
“And I think that the people in this part of the world would do well to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and give him what he’s asking for and give it to him fast before some other factions come along and try to do it another way. What he’s asking for is rights and that’s the ballot. And if he can’t get it the way he’s trying to get it, then it’s going to be gotten one way or the other.
Others use Mahatma Gandhi as an example. I swear, people are desperate for any kind of social justice icon who preached reformatory tactics. They’ll accuse people of being too angry and unable to communicate because they’re “too radical”. And yet Asian America works in the racial justice sector – a community that isn’t exactly devoid of radical activists. Why do we all do the work that we do? Because we’re angry with the state of society. We’re angry about discrimination and hate crimes and microaggressions. A good friend of mine once told me that they don’t associate with people who are embarrassed of their anger. The more I think about it, the more I agree.
Many people use MLK as a poster child of a “good black man” and demonize not only Malcolm X’s teachings, but also radicalism as well. This divides communities into those who are “too passionate, too radical, too extreme” and everyone else. I’ve discussed what the word “radical” means with several leaders of prominent Asian American organizations and each time I hear it defined differently. I’ve heard it exalted as an ideal to live up to, but I’ve also been told that it’s a negative word and that we as Asian Americans should strive to find a more appealing word. Excuse my language, but cut it out with the fucking semantics! Just because you call it a different word doesn’t change someone’s ideals or actions.
Something else I’ve heard is that I’m “too radical” to be a part of an organization. But then I read books by Helen Zia, I read some Frank Wu, I read some Grace Lee Boggs. All three are extremely respected figures in Asian America who colleges pay thousands of dollars to invite to speak. You know why I love reading their texts? Because I feel a kindred connection to them. I look at their words and it feeds the flame in me that wants to fight oppression. So my question is: what is the “right” kind of radical”? Is there some kind of magical X Factor that makes a person somehow just a little bit more acceptable? How do you even measure radicalness anyway?
My personal opinion is that everyone’s radical. We’re radical for imagining a more equal and just world than the one that we currently live in. We’re radical for using the term Asian American. We’re radical for attending conferences and designing workshops and reading books and listening to music. We’re radical by having immigrant parents and grandparents. We’re radical by using names that people butcher and mispronounce, but still hold up in pride. We’re radical for eating our food!
We’re radical simply by existing. There is no good or bad radical, so if you think I’m “too radical” for your group, I want no part of your “activism”.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Korean American born woman with many passions in life. I have always been pretty ambitious since I was a child, and would like to believe that many of those goals have been accomplished only to make many more new ones. I love to explore new experiences and enlighten the rest of the world of any new discoveries especially when it comes to food and adventures.
2. What do you do?
I am currently President of VNV short for Visualize & Voice Corporation. It is a positive street wear brand made for both women and men. Currently we have over 20 different designs for tees and tanks, but I plan to expand the brand to other types of apparel in the near future.
3. What inspired you to create VNV?
There are many things that have contributed to creating VNV. I believe there was a necessity for any clothing brand to be unique in the industry, as well as a need for attire that was able to provide our generation of trends with more positive and healthier messages on a daily basis. Our world relies on strong visual imagery from everywhere, and it made sense to create a brand that would be aesthetically pleasing and beneficial for our growing youth. It couldn’t hurt to be more exposed to something inspiring or motivating that could help plant seeds of healthy thoughts, potential aspirations, confidence, and visions of future dreams for the people who are going to be the leaders of our future.
4. You say that it’s inspired by fallen youth culture, what do you mean by that?
Since 2006 I have been able to submerge myself into a culture I had not expected to be in. It had already been almost 2 years since I graduated from Carleton College, but I had befriended many students in the capital district because Albany happened to be a college town. Although I had adapted to my new surroundings (having been originally from NYC/NJ) and met some amazing characters, I have realized there were many downfalls to the environment, vibe, and overall mood Albany had been notorious for: 1) Kegs and Eggs incident which gave Albany a bad reputation all over the nation 2) tighter police enforcement leading to cancellation of events like Fountain Day 3) deserted downtown streets 4) cold and long winters.
Basically, it was difficult to find people who were actually proud of living in Albany or going to school in Albany. It dawned on me that it might not just be Albany that may experience these sentiments in their perspective locations. All of our 18-21 years old’s all over the country some commuting from home, and some traveling far from home experience discomfort from what they are used to in their hometowns. The whole experience could only be made better by the very people living in it to change what needs to be changed if we all wanted to see any change. There were plenty of college towns all over the nation that have plenty of traditions and things to be proud of that also give their students something to be proud of when they are residing there temporarily. Hence, I observed this over the course of my time here and I wanted to be a part of a bigger movement. Possibly a positive revolution for the students here and for Albany as a city. VNV was created in Albany, and was inspired by the culture here, but it would speak for the rest of the world also.
5. Who do you name as your role models and inspirations?
I have never considered anyone specifically my role model, but there have been many individuals who have inspired me by challenging my views, and shedding light upon new perspectives that I had yet to discover. For that I thank that I have God in my heart, a mother who sacrificed everything to make sure I was educated and properly raised, a father who has supported me until I became self-sufficient, friends who are the brothers and sisters I never had, and relationships I have been in that have been a reflection of who I was at the time.
6. Where do you see VNV in five years?
In 5 years, I see VNV participating in all major trade shows, and known in NYC and other major cities in the country. I have released over 20 designs just within the 1st year, which means by then I foresee having at least 100 designs ranging in tees, tanks, outerwear, and accessories. I plan to hire employees who will be able to do administrative work, market, sell, and design for me. I also hope to be on track for my own brick and mortar store.
7. What about yourself? Where will you be in five years?
As for myself, I see myself creating new goals because I would have already knocked out all the ones I have set for myself this year, haha. I would like to be traveling a lot to market my brand, speaking at events to younger people to spread the brand’s mission and motto, and participate at fundraising and volunteering events to support organizations through VNV’s profits.
8. What has been your greatest obstacle?
My greatest obstacle has been myself. I truly believe that we all can be our worst enemies when it comes to life. There will be many people who judge and talk about you, and because of what you hear or the environment you are in you are unable to move forward or be optimistic about any tasks you have set for yourself. You have no one to blame, but yourself for not having accomplished the things you wanted to. Don’t let anyone stop you, not even yourself to go anywhere but forward. There is no point moving backwards so that is not even an option. Standing still or being stagnant will get you nowhere, so force feed yourself something positive to hurry up and get you to moving forward towards whatever you may want to do.
9. In a male-dominated business, how do you gain the upper hand?
Honestly, I used to always fight for the upper hand during my younger years. But, I have learned that it isn’t always about getting the upper hand especially against the opposite sex. I am not a feminist and I don’t quite believe in complete equality because I believe men and women are both made so differently that we both possess specific talents that we can always share.
However, the society we live in does not allow for things to be any easier for women when it is already dominated by men. For that reason, I have learned to take less risks and strive to be completely, ethically, morally, and consciously by the books. We can’t be blamed if everything was done correctly and there was no room for any criticism, but to be so rigid aka a perfectionist. Unfortunately, we might sometimes have to work harder to even gain any respect to prove that we have the strength and endurance a man would easily have over a woman biologically. I have also learned to have ownership of anything you do, which means to learn everything from the bottom up and not relying on anyone to help you. Always be professional when it comes to business, and treat everyone with the same kind of respect you would demand. Finally, to be comfortable with rejection because men probably deal with that all the time. Any kind of constructive criticism or a plain rejection of your product or even YOU should not discourage you to be who you are and believe in the things you are proud of because you will never please every single person in this world.
10. What advice do you give ambitious young Asian women?
I guess this would be a continuation from question #9 but I would like to tell our ambitious young Asian women that it is okay to feel discouraged at times because it is that much harder for a female minority who is young and inexperienced trying to be successful in this world. However, there are many advantages as well as rewards because you would have worked that much harder than the average person for your dreams. Rest assured times have gotten better, and the Asian community is more accepted if not in more demand in the media and in the workplace. Our work ethics and wits have been acknowledged even as a stereotype. Be grateful for the ambition in your heart and the fact that you possess these dreams. Embrace challenges, overcome any hurdles one by one, build bigger dreams as you achieve your goals, always be optimistic and positive enough to share the wealth of your vibes to any dark clouds around you, and have faith that no matter what you do in life that as long as you are thankful for what you already have, there will be no permanent failures in life. If anyone would like more in-depth advice please feel free to contact me and I can enlighten you to have a happier perspective on life.
A born and raised Queens boy, Jake Choi is the hottest name on everyone’s lips these days. You may have seen him in the Superbowl Best Buy commercial alongside Amy Poehler, College Humor originals, or the new show Golden Boy on CBS. Jake took the time to answer some questions for Fascinasians:
1. How would you sum up your background and childhood in less than ten words?
I was very confused of my identity and insecure.
2. Have you always wanted to be an actor? How did your family feel about that when you told them?
No I actually wanted to be a professional basketball player. But when I stopped pursuing basketball, I didn’t know what to do. My friend actually suggested that I give acting a shot based on my personality. My family wasn’t too against it or for it. They just wanted me to be happy.
3. What ethnicity are you? Do you think this has held you back or helped you in any way?
I’m Korean. I don’t think it has held me back or helped me. I guess it really comes down to how you play the hand your dealt.
4. Have you ever been offered a demeaning or racist role? How did you handle that?
Yes a few times. I had to politely turn them down.
5. What are you most proud of?
Hmm…. maybe landing the Best Buy commercial since the role really was open to any ethnicity.
6. Do you identify as more Korean-American, Asian-American, or just American? What’s shaped your sense of identity?
I identify myself as just a human being. But if I had to choose, I’d say Asian American. There’s a rich Asian history and culture here in America and I’m very proud to be a part of it. But we’re all really one and the same. It’s not about what color you are, what nationality, or religion. As long as you are comfortable with yourself, that’s all that matters.
7. What are the five most recently played songs on your iTunes?
Lauryn Hill - Ex-factor, 2NE1 - I love you, John Legend - Coming Home, The Weeknd - Enemy, Lupe Fiasco - Hip Hop Saved My Life
8. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
I think my biggest accomplishment is not quitting what I love doing even when I had hit rock bottom.
9. What changes do you hope to make in the community?
I would just like to help mold the image of how Asian Americans are viewed and cast in the entertainment industry and media. The stereotypes have been slowly disappearing but you still see it a lot on TV and film. Which is why I refuse to audition for any demeaning or stereotypical roles.
10. And last but not least, the question that’s on everyone’s mind: are you single?
No comment :)
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