which are on his shirtless body-ody-ody

Featuring actor, rapper and writer Arsalan Shirazi

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News from the front

Updates on stories we've reported on previously.
  1. 30 Cambodian refugees deported by the U.S. arrived in Phnom Penh last week, and deportation continues among Southeast Asian refugee communities. A coalition of organizations have collated resources for refugees in need.

  2. 45's administration backed the efforts of anti-affirmative action students suing Harvard University. White conservatives have opposed affirmative action since the civil rights era ... and it sounds like they're making East Asian Americans their wedge (again).

  3. Bank of America is now freezing the accounts of customers after deciding they're not citizens, even though proof of citizenship isn't required to open bank accounts in the U.S. 

Henry Golding: Indigenous Leading Man

Although Crazy Rich Asians has been praised for its all-Asian cast, a rarity in Hollywood, its real representation breakthrough may be its leading man: an indigenous Asian actor, Henry Golding.

Yes, Golding, the male lead, who speaks with a British accent and has an extremely white surname. Golding’s father is English, but his mother is Iban (pronounced eee-ban), hailing from one of the largest indigenous communities in Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia.

Get up to snuff

Understanding Malaysian history requires understanding Malaysian geography.

Split into two regions, the Peninsula (West), and Borneo (East), the two parts are quite different and disconnected from one another, due to different histories and ethnic demographics.

Demographically, indigenous folks form a plurality in Sarawak and Sabah, two states in the East, whereas they are a tiny minority in the West. And although many outsiders believe that Malays are native to Malaysia, indigenous tribes — including Ibans — actually predate the Malays.

Golding's heritage

Golding’s connection with his Iban heritage clearly runs deep. Last year, he embarked on a bejalai journey: a rite of passage where Iban men leave their home and begin a transformative journey into adulthood.

Historically, getting “bungai terung” tattoos is part of the bejalai experience, which Golding did at the end of his journey: a process that lasted seven hours.

When Ellen DeGeneres asked Henry Golding where he was from, he said, “I’m Iban,” sparking a flurry of tweets from proud Ibans.

Some Iban, however, express reservations about Golding’s representation. Terence Anthony, who has mixed Iban heritage, says that because many Iban live in poor, rural areas, the story of Crazy Rich Asians wouldn’t resonate with most Ibans.

But he hopes that the ceiling that Golding has broken will create an opportunity to tell other Iban stories on the global stage.

Read the full story >

Sarah Ngu, contributor. See more of Sarah's work on SplinterJacobin and Sojourners
Read the rest of the story on Medium

NOW PLAYING: I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to wax poetic about a movie before you’ve seen it, but the buzz around Searching, the film shot from the point of view of computer screens and smartphones not titled Unfriended, is undeniable.

John Cho apparently makes Searching a “satisfying psychological thriller” and apparently makes “gets the the kind of actor’s showcase that has eluded him too long.”

So let me put it this way: I may not have seen Searching yet, but I sure will this weekend. Because while certain other films have been the talk of the town, Cho’s still one man I’ll follow pretty much anywhere.

We did have one reader who saw the film, though. Take it away, Emily C.:

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, and Emily C., contributor

Locking up cash bail

This week, California became the first state in the nation to end its cash bail system. This means people awaiting trial will no longer be detained based on their ability to make a payment to the court, but by the severity of their alleged crime and the risk that they will attempt to flee.

Free at last

This is a major victory for activists fighting for criminal justice reform around the country. As California Senator Kamala Harris writes, cash bail is unjust and discriminatory.

Kalief Browder, a New York teenager, spent 3 years in pre-trial detention for allegedly stealing a backpack because his family couldn’t afford $3,000 bail. While the city’s court system is to blame for the excessive delays, he wouldn’t have been in detention at all if it wasn’t for the cash bail system.

And extended time in detention can mean loss of wages or a job, loss of child custody, a major strain on dependents and damage to mental or physical health.

What does this mean for AAPI?

There’s a huge dearth of reliable data on AAPI in the criminal justice system, largely because the data we do have classifies AAPI as “other” (insert eyeroll).

We know AAPI are underrepresented in the prison population - about 1.5% compared to the 5.6% of the overall population - but those numbers skew towards Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. And one report from 2015 found the AAPI prison population grew by 250% in the 90s. So while it may not be top of mind when it comes to AAPI issues, it also can’t be ignored.

Still, some pause

Some groups, including former proponents like the ACLU, argue that the final bill gives too much power to judges. "In many ways, it replaces one evil with one that's even worse," said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. "It gives unbridled discretion and power to judges." 

We can at least say that one unjust system is on its way out—and we'll know within a few years how well this one is working.

Jessica Yi, editor, acknowledges that this is not an issue particular to the AAPI community, but files this one story under “intersectionality”
Cash bail wasn’t the only injustice done to Kalief Browder

Featuring actor, writer and rapper Arsalan Shirazi. Photo: Coakley PR

Arsalan Shirazi, the ultimate multi-hyphenate, is taking over “The Six”

Corporate lawyer by day , actor, writer, rapper, and founder of ENTITLD ARTISTS by night —  Pakistani-Canadian Arsalan Shirazi certainly has his hands full. His debut film, “On Again, Off Again,” boasts two sold out screenings at the 2016 Mosaic Film Festival and over 4 million minutes of viewership on Amazon Prime Video. We caught up with him over the phone.

Natasha Chan: Of all your different jobs, what gives you the greatest sense of joy or purpose in life?

Arsalan Shirazi: I think it’s hard for anything to compete with the joy you get from creating something artistically. I think creative people [have a lot of different hustles going on]. The feeling of creating something, putting it out there, and having people engage with it, watch it, and listen to your music — that feeling is the utmost joy. It was strategic and sort of not strategic how I ended up doing all these things. I’m very fortunate, I grew up middle class.

I’m a first-gen immigrant whose parents worked at a travel agency. I knew that if I wanted to be an artist coming out of Toronto and [have a stake in owning my art], then no one was going to do it for me. So being a lawyer was kind of what I like to call “the first gen shuffle” where you’re doing all the “right things” but you’re trying to figure out what are your dreams, what do you want to build, and are there ways to make all these things fit?

The joy I get from acting, writing, rapping, creating series — that is paramount for me, and I’d be lying if I said it’s the opposite. But becoming a lawyer and creating my own practice, that’s how I was able to raise the money to work on my first feature—I’m kind of juggling it all and I’m figuring it out as I go. I think I’ve been able to do some cool stuff, which opened the door to do more cool stuff, and that’s what makes me excited.

NC: So you mentioned that your group, “ENTITLD ARTISTS,” aims to tell the story of first generation immigrants. Do you feel like your movie, On Again, Off Again, helped to share of your own personal experience in this regard?

AS: Yes! 100%. I wanted to write and work on a project that I could take from start to finish. I wanted to write a small but big story. I was fascinated by — both from personal experience and those of older millennials —this phenomenon of people coming in and out of each others’ lives because we’re dealing with all of these competing pressures.

Then there are movies like, “Like Crazy” and “500 Days of Summer” — these really awesome offbeat relationship stories—but I hadn’t actually seen one with diverse characters in it. I had been talking to somebody when I was initially looking to work on the project, he was a really nice guy who had good insights, but being a white Canadian, he said, “I think your story can either be all about culture, or not about culture at all.”

It just made me think — that’s your narrative. I just want to tell a real relationship story that I’ve been through, and I don’t want to have to hide the culture. I want it to be relevant in the way that it is in my life. I don’t make every relationship decision in my life based on my culture. But it also doesn’t not factor in. So I really just wanted to tell that kind of story, and just having representation in a type of story that I don’t think you see that often.

NC: I'd like to shift over to some of your other projects — so I know that you are also a rapper that goes by the stage name ENTITLD. How did you come up with this name?

AS: Baby Boomers often say that Millennials are so entitled, "They want their dream career and they want someone else to pay for it." Millennials then go off, get their dream careers, and wait tables on the side to pay for it. Then Baby Boomers say "Millennials are so unfocused, they have their day jobs and want to do all these side projects." You can't win. Not only are we at a point in time in life where to be creative, in whatever capacity, it's also never been harder to make a living doing that stuff.

I experienced this same narrative when I left [my job as a lawyer] to focus on my movie, and I got a lot of comments like, "How entitled. You had this great job that people would die for, and you're walking off to 'live your best life'?" I don't think we're a generation of lazy people. I see a generation of people who want to live their best lives, so they're doing it.

We're not settling for systems—artistic systems, political systems, economic systems —that are broken and don't fit a new generation. So if that's being entitled means, then go ahead, call me entitled. I'm the most entitled person. Sometimes it's the name that takes away your power, and if you own it, it gives you your power back.

Under the stage name ENTITLD, Arsalan Shirazi’s track “Millennial Woman (Get Loose)” has been featured on exclusive Sony and Universal releases with artists Snoop Dogg and Raekwon. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter

Read the whole interview on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • WATCH Kristina Wong’s “Sesame Street for the Resistance.” Her new webseries, Radical Cram School, arms young Asian American girls with the tools to resist racism and misogyny, and helps them join the social justice movement early on. Expect lots of music and puppets!

  • SUBMIT a story to NPR’s Code Switch, a podcast series for people of color and allies wrapped around discussion of race and identity. Its news team is creating an episode on race and adoption and is searching for stories.

  • READ how this noodle man shaped America’s ramen craze. The creator of Sun Noodle had its start in Hawai’i—and it’s left quite the cultural impact, with a fascinating history and particular craft. There’s even a helpful guide on how to distinguish the types of ramen there is, how ramen is made, and even a guide on how to properly describe ramen. (Thanks, Crystal S.)

  • UNPACK the Black-Asian relationship in America even further, prompted by the New York Nail salon incident. This Refinery29 article delves into the history of the intergroup tensions in detail and ties it back to other incidents in recent history that have created wedges between the communities.

  • GET EXCITED for Alan Yang’s Netflix series Tigertail, which will feature the timeless John Cho and Christine Ko. Tigertail, based on Alan Yang’s family, will trace the events that happen to two poor individuals and explore the generational impact from 1950s Taiwan to modern-day New York City.

This week's stories are curated by Natalie Bui, editor, who just learned what miso ramen is (WHAT —Ed.) and wonders how it could “hurt” someone (WHAT??? —Ed.). Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at

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how lonely
would you feel in a place like that — so much pressure,
so much darkness. I'm pulled to the sea floor. My loneliness
is eaten. How poor is the hen that gave one egg at a time?
How do you tell your son to string her neck with twine?

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, poet, from her poem "Two Egg, Florida"

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