Asian American Commercial Watch: Andrew Yang for Mayor of NYC: ‘Hope Is on the Way’

Back in January, former Democratic presidential candidate announced his candidacy for the Mayor of New York City. I was pre-occupied with personal matters at the time, so I didn’t blog about it. The mayoral primary election is less than two months – June 22nd. This will be the first New York City mayoral election primaries to use ranked-choice (up to five ranks) and instant-runoff voting (as opposed to the plurality voting of previous primaries).

Since Yang’s announcement, in the few polls released, Yang has been leading except for a more recent one, as all the candidates have been attacking the front runner.

I’m hoping Yang makes it through the primary because I think it would be fantastic if we had an Asian American Mayor of the largest U.S. city in the United States. It would be a fantastic platform for Yang to highlight that Asian Americans are just like any other American and can be civic leaders and inspire and encourage Asian Americans to get engaged in civic life, if only to get more Asian Americans to vote.

 

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Asian American Commercial Watch: A CODA Story

I first saw this commercial during the 2021 Academy Awards, which seems entirely appropriate given the increased visibility of Asian American’s during the year’s awards.  Tony Lee, a lead design at Google Brand Studios, talks about his experiences growing up and as a CODA – a child of deaf adults and the importance of communications with the during the pandemic.  Like many Asian American children, he had to translate for his parents, but in his case, the language he used was sign language.

I loved this commercial for a number of reasons.  It highlighted the humanity of Asian Americans – something that has been ignored by many during the pandemic.  It showed multiple generations of an Asian American family and highlighted the isolating consequences of COVID-19.  Finally, it exposed Asian American ties to other communities, like the deaf community.

If you like this commercial, you might also want to check out this one – not Asian American strictly, but still very engaging.

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San Jose to Add Delano Manongs Park, named for Filipino American Farm Workers

The City of San Jose is adding a new park called Delano Manongs Park, honoring the Delano Manong farm workers, key players in the founding of the United Farm workers and the Delano Grape strike.  According to this City of San Jose presentation, the park will include a children’s playground, a gathering plaza, an open sporting lawn,
benches and seating, and landmark signage.   The park location at the corner of Gimelli Way and Beechnut Drive – not far from where I live and close to where I would buy pandesal.

I am happy to see these Filipino pioneers honored in this way.  It is also great to see more park space open up – I think that the pandemic has shown how important it is to have parks and open pace around us.  For more information on the Delano Manongs, you can see an older post of mine on the subject which refers to this documentary The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the UFW.  The Delano grape strike is also talked about in the Asian American documentary that was shown on PBS.

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Asian Rapper DESTROYS Model Minority Myth

I saw this rap on Facebook recently and was shocked that this was published last July 2020 and had not gone viral (as I last saw it had less than 1,200 views). ‘Matt R. Fact‘ does a brilliant job of summarizing Asian Americans’ history of suffering discrimination and the origins and perpetuation of the ‘Model Minority’ Myth in a 5:47 rap/music video:

“Did you know the “model minority myth” about Asians being a uniformly successful and historically accepted ethnic group isn’t true? Did you know this myth is also a tool to perpetuate and justify racism towards other minority groups? Watch this video to learn why, and see the myth be debunked (and perhaps for the first time in rap form). Share it if you like it!

As far as I’m concerned, every Asian American, let alone, American, needs to watch this rap video to educate themselves a little bit! I’m just so impressed as how much ‘Matt R. Fact’ crams into his rap and how he’s able to rap it so well. I hope you share it and make the video viral!

I’m going to have to check out his other videos on YouTube.

 

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Asian Americans raise Visibility at the 2021 Academy Awards

Asian Americans became increasingly visible at the 2021 Academy awards, with Chloe Zhao getting Best Director and winning Best Picture for NomadlandYoun Yuh-jung won best supporting actress for her role in MinariH.E.R. won an award for best song “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah.  Steven Yeun was a presenter and was nominated for best actor.  Zhao is the first woman of color to win the Best Director award.

This was significant progress from the 2015 Academy Awards low of Chris Rock making Asian math jokes with Asian children as props, but as Dino Ray Ramos points out, let’s celebrate the wins but realize that there is still room for improvement.

I am looking forward to Zhao’s upcoming Marvel movie, The Eternals, coming out later this year.  Steven Yeun is currently voicing a lead character in Amazon’s animated series, Invincible.

(photo credit:  Vegafi  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

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Senate Passes COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act by 94-1 Margin

The United States Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would improve data collection of hate crimes associated with COVID-19 and expand public awareness of those crimes, in a rare bipartisan vote of 94-1.  The bill was sponsored by Hawaiian Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Approved amendments to the original bill include the “Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act” from Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for funding for state and local governments to improve their reporting systems.  Rejected amendments include a clause by Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to “prohibit Federal funding for any institution of higher education that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions.”  Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the sole no vote.

The Jabara-Heyer NO Hate Act is named for Khalid Jabara, who was killed in a hate crime in Tulsa Oklahoma, and Heather Heyer, who was run over by a white supremacist in Charlottesville.  The bill next moves to the House of Representatives for action.

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Marvel Studios’ Official Teaser: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Marvel Studios recently released their official “teaser” on their upcoming film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” – in theaters September 3, 2021. For the Asian American community, I have to imagine this is our ‘Black Panther’ moment (a great film in my opinion and a gigantic blockbuster).

Although I was a big Marvel comic book fan and collector as a kid, I don’t think I had ever heard of Shang-Chi. Obviously, this is a big deal for actor Simu Liu, who will be starring in Marvel’s first super hero film starring an Asian American super hero.

From the trailer,  there will be a lot of martial arts action, and that’s not a surprise given the background of Shang-Chi (from Wikipedia):

“Shang-Chi, also known as the Master of Kung Fu and Brother Hand, is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin, first appearing in Special Marvel Edition #15 (cover-dated December 1973) in the Bronze Age of Comic Books, starring in his own solo title until 1983. Shang-Chi is proficient in numerous unarmed and weaponry-based wushu styles, including the use of the gùn, nunchaku, and jian.”

Part of the film were shot in San Francisco as the film takes place there, and I remember some of my friends trying to catch glimpses of the filming when Marvel was on location.

I’m really hoping “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a big hit and look forward to seeing it theaters this September!

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From Across the Counter – A Choreography raising funds for Feeding America

With so much negative news about attacks on Asian Americans, to see this dance video choreographed and performed by Fuschia Dance as a fund raiser run by Virtual Arts for Humanity for Feeding America was a refreshing change of pace.  I loved the fusion of Indian dance and Western music and its theme of connecting with and honoring elders.  The virtual performances showcased by Virtual Arts for Humanity are a clever way to present the arts during the pandemic until live performances can be done.

The pandemic has affected many Asian Americans and others’ livelihoods.  Feeding America supports a network of foodbanks across the United States.  Donations can be made at this link.

 

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The Stories of our Elders: Lola’s Sacrifices and Life Lessons

photo credit: Kenneth Tan

With our Asian American elders under attack, we should remember that one way to honor them is to preserve their stories. One really convenient and great way to do that is through StoryCorps, which provides apps to record their stories and a mechanism to share them online.  Some of the more interesting stories are shared on NPR.  I really liked one that the aired on NPR late last year called “Lola’s Work: What a Grandmother Taught Her Family About Love.”

“Lola” in Tagalog translates to “Grandmother” in English.  Kenneth Tan and his mother Olivia talk about his grandmother Crescenciana Tan- the sacrifices that she made and the lessons that she taught.  I found the her lesson on the different between a life’s work and a job to be particularly meaningful.  I also loved seeing the old pictures of the Lola when she was younger and full of life.  So many times we just think of our elders as just old and forget that they have had all kinds of experiences and adventures.

On occasion, StoryCorps will add animation to a story that they share.  This one called “No More Questions” was recorded just a few weeks before the elder in the story died.  I also recommend this animated version of a man’s memories of his son.

StoryCorps has a number of ways you can interview people and record their stories.  They have a mobile tour where they travel between cities offering appointments for recording stories.  They also provide an app and even a video conferencing option.  I recorded my father’s story on a mobile touring site and used the app to record my mother.   Note that recording stories doesn’t mean that NPR will necessarily air it.  Also, while NPR plays short segments of a few minutes, what you record can actually be much longer. The sessions with my parents were about an hour, but in some ways it doesn’t seem long enough and I am thinking about recording more.

 

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TurboVax creator Huge Ma honored by New York officials and Andrew Yang


TurboVax is a web site and twitter feed that helps New Yorkers simply and easily find and register for COVID-19 vaccinations.  New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang and Congressman Ritchie Torres honored TurboVax’s creator, Huge Ma, for his work to make it easy for thousands of New Yorkers to get COVID-19 vaccinations.  Before TurboVax, people looking for a vaccination would need to monitor three government websites and periodically refresh them to find an available appointment. Ma experienced this himself trying to get an appointment for his mother. For $50 and two weekends of coding, he created the site, built on top of Google Docs (a really clever hack, in my opinion).

In addition, Ma is using his platform to educate people about anti-Asian hate and providing links to organizations raising money to support Asian Americans.  Ma was previously honored by NY1 as New Yorker of the week.

When he isn’t guiding people to potentially life-saving vaccination appointments and fighting against hate, Ma is a software engineer at AirBnB.  He recently got his first vaccine a few days ago, more than a month after starting the TurboVax service.

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“Leave the Door Open” with Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak nears the Top of Charts

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak have formed the group Silk Sonic, and their release of Leave the Door Open is nearing the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart (I put a snippet of the charts below for the week of April 3, 2021 below).  Interestingly enough, another artist of Asian descent, Olivia Rodrigo, is currently right behind them with her former number 1 hit Drivers LicenseBTS is number 26 with Dynamite, and H.E.R. is further down the list at 58 with Damage.  I doubt there ever was a time when four acts with people of Asian descent were on the Hot 100 chart!

The Wife loves Leave the Door Open and plays it a lot. Looking forward to the rest of Silk Sonic’s upcoming album, An Evening with Silk Sonic.

 

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8Books Review: Simplicity at Home by Yumiko Sekine

Simplicity at Home: Japanese Rituals, Recipes, and Arrangements for Thoughtful Living is a wonderfully calming experience. Written by Yumiko Sekine, founder of Fog Linen Work, with gorgeous photos from Nao Shimizu, this is a guide to making a simple and thoughtful home, as well as a glimpse into how the author actually puts her ideas into practice in her own space.

Flipping through this book is quite soothing, everything is thoughtfully arranged, shelves are well-balanced, clothing drawers immaculately organized–yet there are still eclectic collections of bowls, pops of personality, so it’s not sterile or empty feeling as sometimes impeccably designed things can feel. Sekine walks visitors through the seasons, including advice and tips here and there, pulling from her own lifestyle and design sensibilities. There are also instructions and recipes scattered throughout. Some I feel are as simple as they look — a somen recipe for example, is one I might actually try, as are the bath salts. The two pages on how to carve your own wooden spoons, on the other hand, I’m quite dubious about. Definitely more aspirational than practical.

And I should say, to be clear, that I personally am a lover of stuff. I unsuccessfully tried to Marie Kondo my closet, and though I may briefly strive to follow Yumiko Sekine’s “bring one book in, let one book go” suggestion, it will be only short lived. Still, the writing is inviting and informative, and a reminder to be thoughtful, even about the little things. And need I say, one last time, it’s very peaceful to look at–even for someone who knows their home will never, ever, look anything like this.

 

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