APA Spotlight is a weekly 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).
Hyphen Magazine’s Editor in Chief Harry Mok wrote about growing up on a Chinese vegetable farm for the second issue of Hyphen and has been a volunteer editor since 2004. As a board member of the San Francisco and New York chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association, Harry has recruited and organized events for student members.
He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a graduate student instructor in the Asian American Studies Department. Harry currently works as an editor and writer in the communications department of the University of California Office of the President. He’s spent most of his career as an editor and writer for media outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Newsday and the Associated Press.
Founded in 2003, Hyphen is a nonprofit news and culture print magazine that illuminates Asian America through hard-hitting investigative features on the cultural and political trends shaping the fastest-growing ethnic population in the country. Hyphen is a fiscally sponsored project of Independent Arts & Media, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
What is the mission statement of your life?
Do your best and enjoy life to its fullest.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing?
I’m one of those non-model-minority Asian Americans who wasn’t a math whiz growing up and managed to overcome parental pressure to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer. I was always more drawn to writing and creative endeavors. Like many journalists, I thought the profession could do some good for the world, so I pursued it as a career.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
It might not be that interesting of a movie, but there’s a lot of good Asian American actors out there and I’m sure any of them would be great. Hopefully a Hollywood studio would cast them rather than importing an actor from Asia.
How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?
If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?
Given the antagonistic tenor of the discourse of race and immigration lately, I don’t know that this country will ever fully reconcile the differences over these issues that some people seem to have. For API’s I think slowly but surely we’re shedding that “foreigner” image, but there’s bound to be more bumps in the road along the way. There seems to be many more APIs moving into nontraditional fields such as politics, and I’ve noticed a few more API faces in movies and TV than there have been in the past, but there’s still a long ways to go.
Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals? Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?
Explore and find out what your interested in and what you’re good at. Work hard to attain your goals.
Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?
I grew up in a small town that wasn’t near a Chinatown, so when my parents would bring back dim sum from trips to San Francisco, it was always a delicious treat and something I looked forward to. I guess that’s why I’m a big fan of dim sum today.
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