APA Spotlight: Athena Mari Asklipiadis, Mixed Marrow

8Questions is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Athena Mari Asklipiadis, who is of Japanese, Greek, Armenian, Italian, and Egyptian descent, was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of Pepperdine University with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. In 2002, Athena first stepped onto the multiracial/multiethnic scene by writing for Eurasian Nation and in 2004 she was an intern for the podcast and website, Addicted to Race. After college, Athena worked in radio production and promotions for CBS and Clear Channel in Los Angeles.

She simultaneously worked as a freelance voice-over actor and as a site leader for WeAreHapa.com where she is now Community Manager. In 2008, Athena recognized the need for multiethnic donors in the national bone marrow registry and began as a volunteer with A3M, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches. In 2009, she started Mixed Marrow as an outreach through A3M and Be The Match, the national registry. Athena currently operates Mixed Marrow and works as Assistant Sales Manager in Los Angeles for Imperial Hotel Tokyo. She is also a member of MASC, Multiracial Americans of Southern California, and JAO, Japanese American Optimists.

Mixed Marrow is dedicated to finding bone marrow and blood cell donors to patients of multiethnic descent. Our outreach concentrates on this minority due to the desperate need for registered donors as well as the lack of public knowledge regarding this topic.

What is the mission statement of your life?

I try to enjoy every single day and live each to the fullest. I think about a life with no regrets of what you coulda, shoulda, or woulda done. I also think living a life helping others is one that brings more happiness than anything else and I strive to work harder at that every day.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I was brought up in a very Japanese American (JA) influenced family since my father’s side is mostly in Europe. I always felt a strong connection to the community so when I took my position with the Imperial Hotel Tokyo; it gave me an opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture and history that was much different than the JA experience. Traveling to Japan gave me the chance to see where I come from and what rich culture we have.

As for my volunteer work with Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, I began helping at drives and recognized the lack of my demographic– mixed ethnicity bone marrow donors. With their help, I launched Mixed Marrow in 2009 to help build the registry with more diverse donors and educate people about umbilical cord blood donation. Multiracial people are the fastest growing demographic, especially in the Asian community. We need to recognize that change and acknowledge causes like this literally saves lives.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

I don’t think there is anyone that really looks like me in Hollywood right now, maybe Keanu Reeves in drag?

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

To get involved with Mixed Marrow, people can visit our website, www.mixedmarrow.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Myspace.We list upcoming drives where you can register as a donor. If anyone is interested in helping our cause as a volunteer, they can email us at volunteer [a] mixedmarrow.org.

If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

I would love to see our history recognized more in classrooms, our images represented more in media and our culture shared at more events like Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week. Sharing our story with others is something so important, it allows us to appreciate our heritage and take pride in what previous generations have accomplished.

Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals? Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?

I would say to really dig deep and find your inner passion, what makes you happy, and follow that. Do not set out toward goals that aren’t yours. I think sometimes we have a cultural obligation that we have to honor our families to the point that we worry too much about other people’s opinions than our own. That idea can be respectable to a certain extent, but we need to focus on what truly brings us satisfaction. The worst thing is to be stuck doing something every day that you hate.

Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?

Spam musubi! My mom is great at making it; we were probably the only family that brought it to Disneyland for lunch or on long car rides to Vegas. My dad is also a good cook and I remember he would make a really good Greek garbanzo bean soup on cold rainy days and I would have a cup after school.

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching the musical, Grease, and saying every line and singing every song…John Travolta was my first crush…It’s pretty bad.

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Author: Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.