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The perfect profile to close out Filipino American History Month.

Featuring Geraldine Mae "Gigi" Cueva and Kieryn Wang from almostchill

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A pioneer in the fight for representation

American audiences are waking up to the lack of minority representation in film and television, thanks in part to the groundbreaking work of actress and labor activist Sumi Haru, who fought well before Joy Luck Club introduced the country to thoughtful portrayals of Asian Americans.

Clapping back at racism

Born to Filipino immigrants as Mildred Sevilla in 1939, Haru changed her name for her acting career. While she succeeded with roles in “M*A*S*H,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Hill Street Blues,” Haru was hampered by a lack of opportunities for Asian women.

But Haru refused to take stereotypical roles. She refused to play maids or dragon ladies, and called popular yellowface character Charlie Chan “insulting to [Asian Americans’]  sense of logic and fair play.”

“White actors, with their eyes taped, can portray us on the screen,” Haru said. “But we as Asian-Pacifics are not permitted to portray them."

Iron Lady who? More like Iron Lotus

Haru rose to lead national labor organizations and create AAPI organizations that still endure. She has so many achievements that I can only list a few:

  • Longtime board member, VP and first woman of color interim President of the Screen Actors Guild

  • Co-founder of SAG’s Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee

  • Co-founder of the Association of Asian-Pacific American Artists

  • First Asian American VP of the national union organization AFL-CIO.

That’s not even to mention her work with the East West Players and long career hosting radio and television programs in California.

Through it all, Haru maintained her sense of dignity and equality. By refusing to accept less, she laid the groundwork for the thoughtful depictions of AAPI characters we’re beginning to see today.

Jessica Yi, editor, finds it hard to believe she has the same amount of hours in a day as Sumi Haru
Get her whole story in her memoir, Iron Lotus

NOW VOTING: BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, ID Adam, Starbucks Suzie, the names can go on and on. Unfortunately, we’ve seen many instances of white people calling the cops on Black people for waiting at Starbucks, barbecuing outside, selling water on the streets ... basically, simply existing.

ACRONYM, a DC-based organization, has created voting PSAs that flip the script. ACRONYM's ads feature the standard white people tropes: the educated, coffee-swigging hipster; the “feminist,” suburban mom, etc. They also feature Black people confronting them, finding out they're not voting, and calling the cops on them. It’s cheeky, snarky, and well worth the laughs.

So as other organizations remind folks to go out to the polls, we’re encouraging everyone to do their research on what’s on their ballot. Start by reading up on what Asian Americans as a whole think about politics, courtesy of AAPI Data.

Then, if you live in California (sorry, other states!), take a look at some of these AAPI-focused groups who have published their voting guides.

  • 18 Million Rising, in partnership with Asian Pacific Environmental Network, who has published their guide in Chinese, Korean, Lao, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese as well.

  • Asian Pacific Policy Planning Council’s voter guide.

  • Nonpartisan general voter guides translated in Mandarin, Korean, Spanish

Do your research. Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends. Talk to everyone.

Natalie Bui, editor, who is seriously telling you to go vote

Worst storm of 2018 hits American Commonwealth

Super Typhoon Yutu, the worst U.S. storm since 1935 and the worst in the world in 2018, hit the Northern Mariana Islands on Thursday, knocking out power and running water for what could be months.

A commonwealth of the United States, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the CNMI, includes islands with a total landmass of 183.5 square miles and a population of just over 52,000: almost all of whom are of indigenous, Pacific Islander, or Asian descent.

Rescue efforts blocked

While efforts in the CNMI to aid victims are ongoing, officials are hampered by extreme weather conditions and downed infrastructure. Meanwhile, despite an expedited request to FEMA for immediate humanitarian aid, FEMA has not yet opened its Disaster Recovery Centers on the islands.

Neither has President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the islands, which is necessary for CNMI residents, who are U.S. citizens, to receive federal disaster assistance in the form of grants.

With shelters at full capacity—which house only 840 total—CNMI residents currently have little recourse.

Climate change vs. Alliance of Small Island States

The CNMI is one of several U.S. territories to have been hit by strong hurricanes over the past two years. Many have joined the Alliance of Small Island States, an organization which pushes for decisive policies on climate change—something U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said "becomes our priority" if it's a priority for the Pacific.

Hopefully, that materializes in ongoing aid for the Pacific Islands and meaningful climate change policy. And if you'd like to help, you can donate to relief efforts through Direct Relief, a top-rated charity.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief

Donate to Direct Relief efforts

almostchill wants to talk with you, lean into your discomfort, and make you laugh

BY CHERY SUTJAHJO

Geraldine Mae "Gigi" Cueva and Kieryn Wang don’t think they’re overachievers. In fact, they point to this overachiever stereotype and poke fun at it, and reflecting on their experiences around not meeting this expectation and how it influenced their journeys, eventually bringing them both into the cannabis industry.

While they may not claim the word, the duo has to have some hustle and drive to brainstorm, record, and produce their podcast “almostchill.” The first season is a miniseries of five episodes, each just shy of an hour.

Listening to almostchill is like sitting in a living room with a few of your Asian American friends, recounting the weird and/or offensive shit that you run into on the day to day. Their podcast spans the gamut of topics — cultural appropriation, shit white people are saying, and how to make it as an Asian business woman.

There’s a familiarity in the conversations Cueva and Wang have that make the podcast an easy entry point for listeners. And there’s a familiarity between Cueva and Wang themselves, bouncing ideas off one another and moving the conversation forward in a lighthearted way that still asks the serious questions.

I chatted with Cueva and Wang about the work that went into their podcast, their exploration of their own identities, and what they hope for almostchill. I've highlighted a few comments below: read the rest on Medium!

On growing up and understanding their identities

KW: I grew up in the very white suburbs of Seattle and I didn’t realize it when I was growing up. By the time I went to college I had assimilated a little too far for my taste personally. I realized there are so many aspects of myself that I had forgotten or suppressed. When I got to school was when I started to think ok— who am I? Who do I want to be and represent myself as?

Through that process and connecting with the fact I am Chinese American, I began really embracing that a little bit more. [Part of] it was seeing other Asians embracing their Asianness that really jump started something in me that said, “you don’t have to assimilate so far to be accepted.” That really resonated with me, and now I’m very much proud of my Asian heritage, and not trying to be like white people, which I very much was growing up.

GC: I grew up with other Filipinos, but ironically, I wasn’t accepted by the Filipino children [in my community]. I never really understood why and that left a sour taste in my mouth, but I knew innately that I felt connected to my Filipino heritage and culture.

[After college] I started to embrace what I call this “west coast Asian girl mentality” where Asian women were always with each other and they were really proud of their identity and being in these circles. So I started embracing it. I had a close circle of friends whom I met at work and most of them were white, and it wasn’t until I saw the differences in our culture that I began to be more comfortable being who I am.

I felt this unique side of me was the most important part of what I wanted to express. I feel like every time I’ve gone against the grain there was a little bit of resistance, but why not embrace every bit of me?

On stereotypes

GC: The interesting thing is when we were going through it and talking about it there were elements where even I was uncomfortable, just realizing we were putting it out there. It takes courage and bravery to be owning and explaining that these are the stereotypes that have been projected onto us. And we need to call them out.

We did it with humor. Everything feels a bit better with humor, everything is a bit more digestible. When we avoid bringing it up or we’re in this holding tank it’s truly out of fear. The more that we bring light to things then the easier that conversations can be.

On leaning into discomfort

GC: Someone had told me years ago, just be comfortable with the uncomfortable. And I had this excitement about the unknown of engaging in this conversation with Kieryn. Leaning into it was really important for me, as was having the courage to take it out into the world. It made me feel more connected with who I am because I felt that it was something I wanted to support going out. This is what we deal with and I wanted to embrace that uncomfortable side of it.

KW: Having a co-host was really helpful because for me those conversations weren’t uncomfortable in the aspect of having a conversation or saying it out loud. The discomfort for me was in putting out that intensity into the world beyond my Instagram stories and community. That complementary aspect of having both of us was encouraging for us to meet each other in the middle.

almostchill is available for streaming on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, and Spotify.
Read all the highlights on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • WIN WITH NGUYENS, as 24 Vietnamese Americans are running for office in the O.C, though surprisingly for the region, not all of them are Republican. However, they do want you to make sure you know how to pronounce their last name, ‘cause there’s 13 Nguyens running.

  • DM NPR's Kat Chow, who is also a founder of Code Switch. If you know of any Asian American high schoolers applying to college who have something meaningful to say about affirmative action, hit her up.

  • OVERACHIEVE in the one area where Asian Americans seem to be underachieving: voting. This video gets famous Asian Americans (like Michelle Kwan) playing up on other stereotypes and telling you to put that “adobe on simmer and get out to vote.”

  • CELEBRATE Tyrus Wong, the Chinese-born American artist who is known for his work on BambiThe Wild Bunch, and Rebel Without a Cause. Google honored the artist this week, which continues Wong's posthumous recognition. The man who merely received a bit credit as a background artist in 1942 has recently been named a "Disney Legend" for his work in defining Bambi's aesthetic.

  • REVISE how you see history. May Lee Chai highlights iconic images of Chinese immigrants within our history that were heavily overlooked (such as the first Chinese woman in America, who arrived and shortly was literally on display for 8 hours). Makes you wonder what Chinese American history would look like if Chinese people got to choose which of their images got to be on display.

This week's stories are curated by Natalie Bui, editor, who highly recommends May Lee Chai’s piece on The Paris Review. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

The Slant is brought to you by:

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"'Hardworking' is one of those loaded terms people use about Asians when they’re trying to say that we’re not sparkling enough or creative enough. And I let myself fall into that trap. In the end, it didn’t do me any favors."

— Hanya Yanagihara, novelist, editor and travel writer

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