On tour one of the questions I always ask young asian americans is: Who are your asian American Heros? Do you have a/pi role models. And after an uncomfortable silence someone blurts out "Bruce Lee" and then maybe a "Jackie Chan" and then there is some relief. And someone might say My mom. Which is nice. But is avoiding the question a little bit. The lack of role models for A/PI Americans is more than an academic debate. It is more than a college class on race and representation or minorities in the media or some essay on how multiculturalism is affected by the 2nd 3rd and 4th waves of Asian immigration. It is more than an article for a culture paper, it is more than a grant proposal. It is one of the main reasons that we lost AZN TV before it even started. It is why I am confronted over and over with suicide stories from interviewees who consistently cite cultural alienation as their source of despair: Traditional asian values from home which they cannot relate to (dont date outside the race, dont assimilate, dont do as the white kids do, racism etc) clashing with their image at school (nerd geek, oriental, foreginer) which is perpetuated by the lack of Asians in American pop culture and the stereotypes that persist in our popular media.
Of COURSE we are making progress. But we are far from there my friends. Here is the poem I read at the KCET ceremony. I encourage you to all look up the award winners and nominate some in your own communities so we can get this shit started and take our place as American Asians who not only pay with our taxes and our consumer dollars for the media we consume, but who learn to participate by encouraging our leaders in sciences and arts and business to inspire future generations of Americasians. George Takei didn't make it to the awards, but he is a beacon of activism and hope and served as the anchor for this poem.
(Where we are going, and where we have been.
Our heroes voices resonate within:
The heart of every A/PI Desi Hapa
East Meets West meets
Accidental Occidental Oriental Americasian.
The heroes Speak the text
Atmospheric Sound Waves from Takei 7307
As interpreted by the honorees
At KCET’s 5th Annual Local Hero of the Year Awards.
In a new translation by kate rigg
See Beau, beautiful poet
Deftly def with words with rhymes
Sign of the times
Like a beacon of hope,
Speaking loud speaking strong
In a sea of black and white
All his mighty Amerasian might
Sounds of a young man speaking
A young man teaching
A voice so clear it woke up the DEF
Beau Sia said
And we might.
Coz he did.
Fast and Fearless
Steering us to takea ride inside
The mechanics of
How to make wheels turn
How to push the form
And from within
Tony Yip said what If I flipped
This door this frame this idea
This passion that ties us all to our
Ride. Our Pride.
Tony Yip Said
DARE TO EVOLVE
And we could.
Because he did.
Knew Vincent chin
Knew that from within
The writers and the artists and the
Filmmakers and the poets
And the voters and the singers
And the thinkers and the painters
And the Keepers of History
And the speakers of our story,
Would lead us out of the parking lot
And into the future.
At the workshop at the committee
In the lens of a documentary.
He gave us places he gave us names
He gives us pictures, He built the frames
AAWW, APIMNY, DNC, APAP
And we can
Because he named it.
Holding the law inside
The pride of a fight
That tore us apart
Tore the American heart
Out of so many who tried
To believe in a country
That had lost its faith in them.
And with 100 battalions by his side
And his diplomas and his degrees
The sansei reaches one hand to the Nisei
One hand to the Issei and holds fast
Says we will not forget the past
We will speak it all
Till it has all been spoke
GO FOR BROKE
And we will
Because he showed us.
Or you might call her Aunty
If you are one of tomorrows children
Who needed someone’s love today
She refuses to say
“Less desirable too hard to place
Abandoned, unwanted, the wrong color
The wrong face”
And the strength of the world
Found in the heart of a child
Found its channel its potential
In Aunty Hemlata
Who did not forget
That we are all caterpillars
And we have angels wings
Through her teaching through her
Agency, through her so many things
Hemlata Momaya said
WE ARE FOREVER FAMILY
And we are
Because we can be.
Has an asteroid named after him
It is between mars
Planet of Passion
Planet of Luck.
It is 5 miles in diameter
And it is approved and recognized by the
International Astronomical Union.
If you can see it in your mind’s eye
(named after actor activist
writer historian role model speaker
leader survivor politician partner)
may lead you all the way home.
And if you listen for the cosmic universal sound
The echoes of 7307 Takei
Crossing the universe
You might hear it seem to say
From your Asian American Heros
To tomorrow’s heroes, today :
DARE TO EVOLVE
GO FOR BROKE
WE ARE FOREVER FAMILY.
And we might
And we can
And we will
And we are.