Today, June 2nd, marks the birthday of Beau Sia, one of the biggest role models in my life. To me, this particular individual is bigger than any celebrity in terms of hi’s importance in shaping who I am today. While there are many other influential figures in my life, Beau Sia helped me set my path in what I wanted to do with my life and for that, I would like to wish him a happy birthday and to talk about the significance of this man’s work.
For those who are unfamiliar with Beau Sia, he is an American spoken poet of Chinese/Filipino descent who was born in Ohio and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is known for being a fierce advocate for the APA community as well as a wickedly talented spoken poet. He was one of the first to respond to Rosie O’Donnell’s “ching chong” jokes on The View several years ago, as well as headlining an awesome PSA on APA Heritage Month.
I first came across Beau Sia three years ago in college when a good friend of mine showed me a YouTube clip of a Def Jam spoken poetry performance. My friend told me that this particular poet reminded him of me and that I would definitely enjoy it. Intrigued, I immediately checked it out. The title of the piece is called “Give Me A Chance” and marks the very first spoken poem I’ve heard.
I was simply blown away after watching this spoken poem. I checked out his other poems, most notably Asian Invasion and Asians, Asians Everywhere. For the longest time in my life, I used to feel guilty for my over-exuberant energy and intensity in my racial consciousness. But here is a man who take this passion and fire on his thoughts about racial identity and transforms it into fierce words for the whole world to hear. I became immensely inspired by this, which set me on a path to hear other works of spoken poetry from Asian American artists like Yellow Rage, Bao Phi, Shihan, Ishle Yi Park, and so many others.
It was Beau who inspired me to pursue my interest in spoken poetry, an interest that helped me find love and acceptance within myself and my Korean American identity after the Virginia Tech shooting. Years later, after I graduated from the College of William & Mary and moved to Los Angeles, I put out a YouTube video that was a spoken poetry piece about my unfathomable connection with Seung-Hui Cho and how I was able to exorcise my anger against my ethnicity, my father, and myself. Several weeks later, YouTube banned the poem because it violated their community guidelines, which meant that it was considered hate speech.
Beau Sia was one of the people who I contacted through e-mail about this issue, and although I never met him, I could only hope that he would be a good person who would understand what I was going through.
You know the feeling that happens when one of your role models responds to you and takes you seriously? Well, Beau took the time to commend my actions and give advice, and words can’t quite describe my feelings as I read his responses. He would occasionally drop by to leave a few comments on my Facebook page every now and then and like a giddy admirer, I was always happy every time he did.
But one day, he left a comment after I was informing the Facebook world that I was going to go watch Eyad Zahra’s The Taqwacores at the 2010 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Beau writes that he would be attending the screening, which I dismissed it as I didn’t register in my head that he was even in Los Angeles.
Boy, was I wrong. I could not believe my eyes when I first saw Beau while waiting for the movie theater doors to open. After several minutes of hesitation, I then decided to approach him and quasi-nervously asked if he was Beau Sia. He said yes and then informed me that I must be Edward. I said yes back in surprise and throughout this whole time, I was trying so hard not to explode into a giddy mess of a fanboy admirer. But for some reason, I tell Beau all of this and ask him if I look calm and composed. He tells me that he is impressed. To this I’m glad because my last encounter with a notable person didn’t go so well as I was totally on hyper frenzy mode. (John Cho, if you’re reading this, I’m actually a normal person, I swear!)
All I can say is, it was truly amazing to actually meet my role-model in person. It’s not often that you get to meet your role-model who has considerably influenced your life. I mean, how cool is that?
So to wrap it up, I just want to thank Beau Sia for everything: his work, his humor, his passion, and most importantly, who he is as a person. He has done so much for our APA community and to the spoken poetry world in general. He has helped me find my voice and passion in social justice activism and performing arts so with that being said, I wish Beau a very happy birthday 🙂