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And a long ways left to go!

Featuring the Asian American Feminist Collective. Photo credit: Marion Aguas for AAFC

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News from the front

Updated on stories we've reported on previously.
  • New Jersey’s Tom MacArthur, the Congressman behind the Obamacare repeal, just lost reelection to former Obama aide Andy Kim. Kim will become the first Korean American Democrat in the U.S. Congress. And yup, MacArthur’s the same guy behind this viral town hall.

  • Somehow, Asian America’s being used as a wedge … again. This time, academic Richard Sander’s filing suit against the University of California system, and a new nonprofit, the Asian American Community Services Center, is supporting him. #notyourwedge

50 years of Asian America

1968 was a year that still influences American politics, but what most people forget is that it also shaped the Asian American community into what it is today.

Giving birth to a community

That’s the year that a group of UC Berkeley students came together despite their varying backgrounds and united under the banner of “Asian American”. It was the first time the term had ever been used, creating the wider community that we now celebrate in this newsletter every week.

Those first six students joined up because they were looking to engage in the political struggle going on around them with like-minded folks of color. They created the “Asian American Political Alliance”, building the foundation for AAPI activism.

The group fought gentrification in ethnic enclaves and helped create the first Ethnic Studies department in history, all while creating a new identity for Asians in America. AAPA co-founder Vicci Wong says of their first meeting, “I went in Oriental and left Asian-American.”

The group reunited in Berkeley this past week to mark their historic first meeting, reflect on how far they’ve come and inspire the next generation of students to revive the AAPA.

5 decades of activism down, many more to go

Before we were “Asian Americans” we were a disparate group, divided by old hostilities and prejudices formed in our home countries. That didn’t stop other Americans from lumping us together and painting us with the same racist brush. Finding common roots and cause allowed us to grow in our power and build a new community from scratch.

Those old hostilities and prejudices haven’t completely gone away, as the umbrella term also tends to hide smaller subgroups and their concerns from view. We can do more to recognize the inequality that exists within our own community, raising up not just some but all.

Jessica Yi, editor, wishes she could bake a cake made of rainbows and smiles and we could all eat it and be happy

Where "Asian American" came from

NOW PLAYING: Taiwanese American Sarah’s adhered to her mother’s expectations her whole life: marry an Asian guy, earn a Master’s, help the community. But after her now-openly gay fiance dumps her, Sarah’s looking to rethink her life, with the help of her friends Kim and Gia.

And that’s just the start of Queens. From director/producer Nicole Gomez-Fisher and writer and actress Cindy Chu, Queens follows a group of friends based on Chu’s own childhood friends. “[We were] brash, loud and constantly joking on each other, but always had each other’s backs,” writes Chu. “There are no Asian American friends on television that reflect this type of friendship.”

With a pilot episode finished, Chu and Gomez-Fisher are ready for more—and so are we. Check out the teaser above and stay tuned for more on Queens.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s hooked already

When you miss an entire typhoon

A couple of weeks ago, we reported how this disastrous typhoon struck the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a territory of the United States in the Pacific Islands. Typhoon Yutu injured hundreds of people, destroyed 3,000 homes, and left thousands of people homeless.

But despite being the biggest storm to hit American soil in 83 years, mainstream coverage was painfully small.

The hierarchy of geographies

Chamorro researcher Tiara R. Na’puti points out that when we use the word “mainland,” it frames the United States as the center of America, leaving American territories—or even states like Hawai’i—on the sidelines.

Language matters because it prioritizes geography, which then prioritizes which places get what attention. The fact that the CNMI, American Samoa, Guam and other U.S. territories are small to begin with doesn’t help with mainstream American attention.

Race and class are at play, too

The demographics of the CNMI are predominantly Chamorro, Filipino and multiracial, and filled out by other Asian and indigenous groups. It’s no coincidence that these ethnicities are already marginalized  within the United States as well.

On top of that, CNMI citizens can’t fully participate in the democracy in which they belong. To vote in federal elections, CNMI citizens must move and change their residency to a state.

When it came to Typhoon Yutu, citizens relied on local, grassroots and guerilla journalism to stay updated. It’s something those living in many non-”mainland” territories are familiar with.

Natalie Bui, editor, who suggests watching John Oliver’s take on post colonial mentality upon Guam and American Samoa

A New Tool in a Century Old Fight for Voting Rights

The Asian American Feminist Collective explores the multiplicity of Asian American communities

BY CHERY SUTJAHJO

In the wake of the 2016 election, community organizers Julie Kim, Tiffany Diane Tso, Rachel Kuo and Senti Sojwal started an event series highlighting Asian American feminism. Since then, that event’s evolved into the Asian American Feminist Collective (AAFC), a group providing public events and resources to “provide spaces for identity exploration, political education, community building, and advocacy”—including its first zine.

“Rather than specifying particular groups, for this initial zine we wanted to really point to the multiplicity of Asian American community,” Kuo told us over the phone. “Wanting to draw attention to all the ways this identity is lived, and it’s lived really unevenly across the scope of inequalities. What does that mean to articulate centering or decentering Asianness as the only call to community? And if we’re going to use it as the call how do we decenter those who are most affected or impacted by systems of oppression?”

We caught up with AAFC over e-mail, and had a longer interview with Kuo over the phone. You can check out our e-mail interview here, and read the full transcript of our interview with Kuo on Medium.

 


 

What were your entry points into feminism, and was there a transition from understanding mainstream feminism to radical feminism?

Tiffany Diane Tso: There was definitely a moment during my teens where I’d say I didn’t identify as a “feminist,” but that was based on negative connotations that society attached to the term. I feel like the more I read about feminism (in school or even in accessible pop culture news), I was able to shake off all the incorrect assumptions I had. I feel like it’s been less of a flip of the switch and more of a constant process. I am constantly learning more from the people around me, through reading, and through practice.

Julie Kim: I come into feminism through community organizing. While working with immigrant communities, particularly Chinese and Korean, I started to realize that having a feminist analysis is important. Not just because I was a woman but because I started to see who was in the room of meetings, town halls, community discussions. Who were the voices that were missing? And in most cases, it was the voices of women and those of other marginalized genders.

Many people associate feminism with the West and with whiteness but there has been feminist thought or what can now be considered feminist thought in countries all around the world, centuries ago. Feminism is transnational - personal, but also a thought that can build solidarity around the world. 

Senti Sojwal: I would say I really began to explore my feminism in college, both academically and through my reproductive justice activism. The first feminist texts that really gave me a language, grounding, and political vision of feminism came from Black feminist thought—Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis. It took time for me to find South Asian feminist thought leaders, and when did it was this huge moment of reckoning, of seeing my experiences reflected back to me for the first time. It was through reading Chandra Mohanty and Gayatri Spivak that I began to understand our feminism and identities as intimately tied to colonialism and started to think critically about how my experiences as an immigrant woman were shaped and what that meant. 

Who are the radical feminists that you are most inspired by?

JK: Right now, I am particularly inspired by the women in South Korea that are taking on the #MeToo movement such as Seo Ji-hyeon. 

TDT: I’m going to piggyback off of Julie and shout out the Feminist Five in China, and Leta Hong-Fincher, a journalist and writer who has written extensively on feminism in China. 

SS: Alok Vaid-Menon, for consistently pushing us all to expand our ideas of gender, expression, beauty, and worthiness.

Many people have noted that the lack of these types of mediums and exposure contribute to the invisibility of Asian American radicalism. What are some other Asian American zines people should know about?

TDT: Not a zine, but if you don’t already know about it, Reappropriate, which is a blog run by Asian American feminist Jenn Fang.

Rachel Kuo: Amplify(Her) created by RAISE (Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast) and DRUM-South Asian Organizing Center is a zine by and for undocumented women of the Asian diaspora. Based in the UK and writing from a European context, daikon* is a group of South East/East Asian women and non-binary people who work primarily with the zine as platform and medium (their work is stunning!) to engage feminist politics—they just had an issue this summer about migrant justice. 

As a related format to the zine, community and collective newsletters have also functioned both historically and currently as a medium for distributing radical politics. Densho’s digital collections include the archives of Gidra (1969-1974), an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist monthly newsletter/magazine by students at UCLA that spoke to the politics of building an Asian American movement. 

What has driven you to action recently?

TDT: With so much happening right now, it’s difficult to narrow down this answer: the Kavanaugh hearings and his swearing in, the attempted erasure of trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people, the increasing incidences of gun violence and mass shootings, the realities of climate change and the rampant natural disasters devastating our country and countries across the globe. There have been so many attacks on our communities and marginalized groups, our freedom and our safety, that we need feminist leaders to rise up more than ever now.

Follow AAFC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or subscribe to their newsletter. Find them on their website, too, and read our interview with AAFC’s Rachel Kuo.
Read our interview with AAFC's Rachel Kuo

This weekend ... 📅

  • MAKE MISTAKES—as encouraged by comic Gene Luen Yang. He asks that to diversify books writers need to do their research, step out of their identities, and make flawed characters that sometimes aren’t like their own identities, if only because even flawed characters can inspire.

  • CRY with Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest piece in TIME magazine that talks about his relationship with France, America, and Vietnam—and why the phrase “have you eaten your rice yet” in Vietnamese means so much more.

  • CRY AGAIN but find places to do it in the comfort of your own office, thanks to JiJi Lee’s hilar piece. Once you realize they urge you to do it behind the water cooler,  you really can just cry about anywhere.

  • MARVEL at Henry Golding being the first Asian dude to make it on GQ’s list of Men of the Year. After hundreds of years of Western media emasculating Asian men, we’ll definitely take this win.

  • CROWDFUND an indie kung fu film about three out-of-shape, middle-aged men who are called to avenge their master’s death but need to call in sick for their 9-5’s first.

This week's stories are curated by Natalie Bui, editor, who appreciates her phone calls with her dad way more now. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Marina Cheung, Billy Huang, Kevin Lin, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Kyla Hsia, Gloria Lin, Matt Young, Cat Xia, Crystal Shei, Sooyun Choi, Yi Cao, Meher Kohli, Ryan Ikeda, Jerome Finuliar, Abby Wang, Curtis Leung, Tracey Mantilla, Mika Kennedy, James Boo, Chris Moe, Eve Asher, Alexander Quion, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang and Claire Tran, who are a perfectly coiffed head of hair. Heads ...? Hairs? We'll work on this.

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"The chef liked to do this thing where he'd soak a bar towel and tie a small knot on one end, then pop people with it. One night, in the middle of another manic service, I saw him winding up. As I reached for a pan, he snapped me in the tender spot between my forearm and bicep, and blood started trickling down my arm. I freaked out—when I see my own blood, I have a tendency to pass out. He started yelling at me to calm down, while another chef screamed from the protein station, 'Stop bleeding!'

I answered back, 'How?'"

— Danny Bowien, chef, from The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook

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