Volunteers, Data, and Trauma: Behind the scenes of Stop AAPI Hate


The organization recording hate anti-Asian crimes, Stop AAPI Hate, has had a large profile during the surge in hate toward Asian Americans during the pandemic.  Because of this high profile, two articles that talk about the people working behind the scenes of this organization caught my attention.   The first one from Calmatters, among other subjects, talks about the volunteers who help make the group work.  These include grad student Richard Lim, who was harrassed and called “Coronavirus” while walking near UC Berkeley, and decided to try and do something about it.

Stop AAPI Hate has published reports about how Asian American mental health is suffering during the pandemic.  But what about the mental health of those tracking and recording the almost 7000 reported incidents?   This article from the Mercury News talks about the toll that this work has taken.  Co-founder Russell Jeung has started therapy for the first time and also turned to prayer.   For others, like Angie Yellow Horse, processing these stories, while painful, can provide some benefit:

Having done it for some time now, I do realize there’s some value in reading those stories.I do think that I feel less alone or isolated with my own experience.

While Jeung and the other people at Stop AAPI Hate struggle to cope, the work of counting and recording racist incidents goes on.  Over 2800 new reports came in during March 2021 alone.

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Last Week Tonight host John Oliver talks about Asian Americans

This Last Week Tonight segment on Asian Americans hosted by John Olliver gives an overview of Asian American history and the current issues facing Asian Americans, done in his usually satirical style.  I was pleasantly surprised by how thorough it was in its breadth, given, as Olliver mentions, the poor history of white men describing Asian Americans.  I think it is a good summary, although it is not very deep (Larry Itliong gets like a second).  Still, it is half hour overview lesson in Asian American history that would be good for someone who knows very little about the subject, such as the 42% of Americans who cannot name a single prominent Asian American.

Last Week Tonight is available on HBO and previous episodes like this one are available on the HBOMAX streaming service.

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NBA Player Jordan Clarkson Assists Owners of Food Truck Vandalized with Anti-Asian Graffiti

Filipino American NBA Player and 2021 NBA sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson assisted the victims of anti-Asian hate, this time a Filipino food truck owner vandalized with racist graffiti, with getting their truck restored.  Clarkson paid for interior cleanup and detailing and offered financial assistance for the owners of World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck to get back in business.  Vehicle wrap company Identity Graphx designed and provided a new look at no cost to the owners.

It was great to see Clarkson, who holds dual Philippine and American citizenship, use his visibility to help people and remind people that anti-Asian hate is real and ongoing.  It was also great to see the local community, including the mayor and city council of Layton, Utah and local businesses like Identity Graphx, rally around the victims.

World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck will debut their new look as they reopen on June 12, which is also Philippine Independence Day.   Layton police are offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the racist vandals.

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Anti-Asian Hate analyzed by a Threat Intelligence Company

Graphic credit: Recorded Future

The most surprising things that came through my work inbox last week was this report on threats to Asian communities outside of Asia from Threat Intelligence Company Recorded Future.    It talks about anti-Asian hate happening from the United States to the UK to Australia and discussed it in the dry analytical language of threats and TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) that I usually see only in the context of security.  In my opinion, it’s worth reading all the way through, but I will summarize their findings:

  • Asian communities across the world are being affected by anti-Asian hate.
  • Nation states from China, Russia, and Iran seek to inflame the situation and use it for their own purposes.
  • Forces are trying to equate all Chinese scientists and students with espionage, while this happens, it is typically forgotten that these same groups are also the most spied upon.
  • Scammers are using anti-Asian hate victims as a way to make money through fraudulent fund raising pages.

Actionable intelligence is the most useful kind, and from this report, I would say that the last point is the most actionable.  It’s great when we want to help out someone attacked, but it is critical that we avoid suspicious GoFundMe pages.

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Vote for J.J. for ‘Beachbody Challenge’ – First Asian Male Finalist!

My friend JJ asked me to help spread the word on voting for him for the “Beachbody Challenge”:

“Hi! I’m JJ. I’m the first Asian guy to ever make it to the Finals of the Beachbody Challenge, from the company behind some famous work-out programs like P90X and Insanity. Throughout this past year, Asian Americans have been subject to numerous hate crimes and blamed for the COVID pandemic. At the same time, we’ve celebrated Asian representation in film and media. I’m taking this opportunity to contribute to our community and pledging to donate $25,000 to Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) (https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/) if I win this challenge. The Final round is based on public voting between 6/1 and 6/8 at BeachbodyChallenge.com. During this 8 day period, you get to cast a vote for each gender once a day. Whether you vote all 8 days or just once, I hope you can vote for me (JJ Lee) and spread the word! Thanks for your time!”

It has been pretty amazing to see JJ transform himself from someone who wasn’t exactly that fit … to a lean mean fitness machine:

Personally, if I was going to win $25,000, I’m not sure that I’d donate it all to a non-profit, but given all the Asian hate out there, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) is definitely a worthy recepient.

You can vote for him here – once a day until Tuesday, June 8th, at 12pm Pacific Time. Good luck JJ!

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8 reasons to move ‘In The Heights’ to the top of your movie list

In the Heights, Lin Manuel Miranda’s adaptation of his broadway musical, hits the big screen this June.

Here are 8 reasons to move it to the top of your movie list:

  1. Music 

In The Heights is jam-packed with musical numbers that will make you want to get up and dance! Every scene in this film includes elements of different beats, transitioning into full-fledged dance numbers before you know it. Bopping your head, tapping your toes, or snapping your fingers—this film will get your body moving, as Lin drew inspiration from Latin music and his love for 90s hip hop. It’s an incredible experience that you don’t want to miss!

  1. Attention to detail!

This film is truly a work of art. The attention to detail makes this movie come alive. Whether it’s the sweat dripping off of the characters faces, or the sound of the subway train passing through the city, In The Heights is filled with many details making us feel like we’re home.

  1. Lighting

The impact lighting has on this film is quintessential. It’s such a huge component and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Every scene in this film plays with lighting in so many ways and there is no repetition. Despite some scenes sett in the dark, the lighting illuminates the screen.

  1. Cast & Crew

The cast list alone should sway you to watch this film: Anthony Ramos, Cory Hawkins, Jimmy Smitts, Dascha Polanco, Olga Merediz, and the list goes on. The coveted Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton also makes several appearances in the film! Jon M. Chu, known for directing Crazy Rich Asians, also takes this film to new heights.

  1. Universal Themes 

While the film has its humor, In The Heights grapples with heavy themes that will hit home to many marginalized communities. This film discusses immigration, feelings of where home is, feelings of “am I letting down my family?,” finding community, and having big dreams, all of which audience members can relate to.

  1. The Matriarch 

Abuela Claudia is the matriarchal figure in the film. Everyone will be able to relate to this character because they either have an abuela or grandma, or know of someone in their community who’s just like abuela Claudia. She’s the one you go to for advice, for consolement or support. She’s the heart and soul of the community and you really see this throughout the film.

  1. Representation Matters 

Run, do not walk to your nearest theatre on June 11! The film really shines bright in the fact that everyone who took part in this project was a person of color. When I sat down with the cast, they all were vocal about their pride in how diverse the cast and crew are.

“Finally here is this movie that is going to be so important for this new generation and the old generation too. They are going to be able to see themselves and have pride in who they are that we are part of the American fabric and we are here. It’s a perfect movie for representation.” – Olga Merediz

  1. It’s a REAL story

There are so many characters in the film that you, the audience member, can relate to. It isn’t some far-fetched story—it’s all real.

 

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H.A.G.S. (Have A Good Summer), a short documentary by Sean Wang

I stumbled upon Sean Wang’s short documentary ‘H.A.G.S.’ an opinion piece in the New York Times (with support from the Sundance Institute) and although it was supposed to be about “adulthood,” it turned out to be much more meaningful and nuanced.

 

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A post shared by sean s. wang | 王湘聖 (@seanswang)

In this 9 minute piece primarily using pictures from his middle school yearbook and the audio of phone calls with his friends from that era, the now-26-year-old filmmaker touches on many subjects including friendship, memories, self-reflection, hopes, fears, and dreams. The filmmaker and the subjects of the film are from Fremont, California, an area with a large community of immigrants (and, ahem, Asian Americans) so this is reflected in the subjects who are featured.

But what hit me as a fellow Taiwanese American and child of immigrants were the nods to their parents, and how their parents’ sacrifices made their American Dreams possible.

In fact, Sean says in the New York Times op-ed about his parents:

Maybe that’s the single greatest privilege of my life — because of my parents’ sacrifice, my biggest challenges lie in navigating my sense of identity, fulfillment and the pursuit of my own dream of being a filmmaker, the sort of dream they never had the luxury of having.

This (along with Facebook’s lovely “Hey! Look How Old You’ve Gotten!” reminder that I’d shared this 12 years ago) reminded me of the “100 Passionate People” project by TaiwaneseAmerican.org in 2009 (the year after Sean and his friends were in middle school). In it, I’d said:

My parents and grandparents are the greatest influences of my life. Their love and passion for Taiwan is instilled deeply within me, even though I was born and raised in America. As a 2nd generation Taiwanese American, I feel greatly indebted to my parents and grandparents for all the sacrifices they made so that we could grow up in a land of opportunity and freedom that did not exist in Taiwan.

Sacrifice is a common theme for many immigrants and it’s indelibly part of the survival mechanism for people struggling for “security, survival, and assimilation” in a country that isn’t necessarily welcoming of those from abroad.

In the film, the filmmaker says that the yearbook is a time capsule and his friends marvel at how quickly time passes and wonder what the 40-year-old versions of themselves will think about their mid-20s selves. As someone who can look back at my mid-20s with more than a decade having passed, all I can say is that the time passes in the blink of an eye and it moves even faster, the older you get.

I’m glad that Sean and his friends shared their personal stories and that Sean made this (video) time capsule of this moment in their young adulthoods. I hope that he does an update for us in another 15 years because I’m rooting for them all: Danial, Way, Fahad, Sohrab, Karina, Terilyn, and Sean. I look forward to following Sean’s career, and I’m eager to see his star rising with more films and creative works, but also I hope he is able to pursue “purpose, equality, and belonging,” while creating a wonderful life for himself.

Posted in 8mm Film Review, Movies, San Francisco Bay Area, The Arts | 2 Comments

“Racist, Sexist Boy” by the Linda Lindas: A Song for the Asian American Pandemic Experience

A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy in my class came up to me and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people. After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me. Eloise and I wrote this song based on that experience. – Mila de la Garza of The Linda Lindas

I first heard of the Linda Lindas while listening to the radio – the DJ mentioned this up and coming band by that name.  I made a mental note that they had an interesting name, and then I was surprised to see them mentioned on Angry Asian Man for this LA Times article about the group and their song that had gone viral, Racist, Sexist Boy.  When I listened to how Mila de la Garza introduced the song, I was saddened that kids have had to deal with racism but was blown away by their musical reaction.  Pulitzer winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen called this a song we need right now.

The Linda Lindas have been building momentum for some time.  They wrote and performed a song on the Claudia Kishi Club documentary short on Netflix.   They have played at the Hollywood Palladium, which got them noticed by Amy Poehler, who put them in her film MOXiE.

The Linda Lindas were recently signed to a recording contract by Epitaph Records.

(h/t:  Angry Asian Man)

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Vancouver Canada experiencing the most anti-Asian hate incidents in North America

Data source: CSUSB Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism

I would have thought that New York or San Francisco would be experiencing the most anti-Asian hate incidents in North America, but the most heavily Asian large city in Canada, Vancouver, has seen the most incidents by far.  Vancouver is 42% percent Asian, and the large influx of Asians, many of who buy some of the most expensive properties in the area contribute to making Vancouver the second most unaffordable city in the world, has been a source of friction.  The pandemic has brought some of the latent anger to be expressed more overtly.

In a way, it makes sense that Vancouver would be an anti-Asian hot spot.  Professor Robert Pape and his students at the Chicago Project for Security and Threats  have analyzed the characteristics of the Capital Hill insurrectionists.  A major characteristic is that many of them are from areas where the white percentage of the population is declining.  Vancouver would fit that bill, and would additionally include tremendous gains in the power and influence of Asians.  Pape’s work talks about “fear of white replacement” and the growing possibility of “lone wolf attacks against minorities.”  Looks like that prediction is already here.

Some notes on the data:

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8Books Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

Tashie Bhuiyan’s debut novel Counting Down with You is a heartwarming YA novel about Bengali teen Karina Ahmed and 28 life-changing days.

When Karina’s parents go back to Bangladesh for a month, she starts tutoring bad boy Ace Clyde. Before she knows it, she’s been roped into a scheme pretending to be his girlfriend (seriously on her parent’s no-no list). Hilarity, hijinks, and heart ensue.

We see Karina struggling with anxiety, conflicted over the weight of her parent’s expectations (they want her to be a doctor, she wants to be an English major but also wants to please her parents — hmm, sound familiar to anyone?), and figuring out whether, if, and how to put her own happiness first. And then of course there’s romance. But as charming as Karina and Ace’s blossoming relationship is, what I maybe loved most were Karina’s relationship with her Dadu (grandmother) and her two best friends Nandini and Cora. They all try to uplift and support, even when things go awry. And ultimately the big decision is not about Ace, it’s about Karina and her future. It’s an entirely charming and enjoyable read.

I want to leave you with a line from the author’s note at the beginning of the book which is as swoon-worthy as the song Ace writes for Karina: “Counting Down with You is the story of my heart, and it was written as a love letter to young brown girls.”

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Lola’s Work: An Animated StoryCorps Feature

I was moved by this story about a devoted grandmother, which was featured on NPR and StoryCorps, and now StoryCorps has turned it into a featured animated story!   It also features some pictures painted by her and her grandson of the stories of her, such as the one below called Blue Beach, Lingayen. I like how those distant memories are captured – perhaps I thought that this one was more touching since my own visit to Lingayen is also becoming a distant memory.

As I mentioned before in other posts about StoryCorps, it’s a great way to capture the stories of our friends, family, and elders before they fade away forever.  Even better if you can capture their voices telling those stories themselves.  I have not seen any Filipino American stories animated before this one.   Only a few stories get to be animated, but it is definitely worth the effort to do those recordings.

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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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