Welcome Back!

Hello everyone!

With #StarringJohnCho, a pho debacle with Bon Appetit, Presidential elections, Asians4BlackLives, and more happening this year, our mission to bring AAPI issues to light on campus and offer opportunities for discussion and activism becomes more important than ever.

Meet half of our board and learn more about APASA at our First General Meeting: https://www.facebook.com/events/179207032509471/

We are in need of a Treasurer and Secretary! See job descriptions and application. Please send in your application to ruapasa@gmail.com by Friday, September 16th, 2016.

 

Fresh Off the Boat Screening a Sucess!

For the first time, there it was on screen: seven years of my life playing out, in the form of a Chinese Learning Center in ABC’s new comedy Fresh Off the Boat. The synchronicity of the laughter at the  APASA screening proved why this show made waves long before it was released.Continue reading “Fresh Off the Boat Screening a Sucess!”

1st General Meeting!

Last Wednesday, September 3, APASA had their first general meeting of the 2014-2015 school year. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce APASA to new members and welcome back the old.

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External Vice Chair Bo Kim gives a presentation introducing APASA to attendees at our first general meeting of the new year.

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Approximately 50 students attended our first general meeting. What a turnout!

After enjoying some delicious froyo from Swirl, we introduced each of the officers.

External Vice Chair Bo gave a riveting presentation introducing APASA’s mission, our goals for the 2014-2015 year, and past events that we have held. He also announced upcoming events, including an upcoming comedy show featuring Jenny Yang, an accomplished stand up comedian from Los Angeles, who will be headlining our kickoff event for Asian American Heritage and Culture Month (AAHCM)!

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The three pillars of APASA’s work, according to Bo: 1) community engagement, 2) advocacy, and 3) discourse.

An example of Jenny Yang’s work:

 

Afterward, we participated in an activity called the Asian American Historical Timeline, an activity that we had done last year at our first general meeting as well.

We broke up into small groups and discussed historical events from 1750 to the present day that affected the Asian American community, which were pre-printed on adhesive labels. Examples of such events included the hate crime leading to the historic murder of Vincent Chin, the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and major milestones such as the first Asian-American Congressman.

Participants also wrote three personal life events on Post-Its, ranging from those in their past or present to ones they envisioned for the future. To put all of these events into perspective, each group then placed each of the adhesive labels with historic events, as well as their own Post-Its, onto a timeline that ranged from 1750 to 2050.

The turnout at this event was fantastic – almost 50 people attended! We were really thrilled to see all the new faces and are looking forward to an exciting new year with APASA!

To learn more about APASA and stay updated with our activities, please visit the following links:

How I Lost My Identity

Although ethnically Asian, I stick out like a sore thumb in Asia. When I visited China last summer, my mother told me that everyone could tell I wasn’t raised in China. Perhaps it was the way I dressed, or my heavy American accent every time I made an attempt at Chinese, or how my mannerisms simply were not the same as theirs. However, I wasn’t fully aware of how different I was from everyone else until my grandmother commented, in Mandarin, “A Chinese person, a ‘zhong guo ren’ who can’t speak Chinese; that’s just not right.” And my reaction surprised me. I felt somewhat repulsed and thought to myself: But I’m not really a “zhong guo ren,” the translation of which is literally “person from China.” I’m a “mei guo ren.” I’m a person from America.

But, at the same time, I knew even I couldn’t fully attest to that. Although I was born in the U.S., I’m often still seen as a foreigner here; after all, I have yellow skin, black hair, and “narrow” eyes. However, I wasn’t always cognizant of this reality, and because I come from an area relatively well-populated by Asians and go to a university with a sizeable number of Asians, I’m probably still ignorant to its full extent.

I still remember the first time I grappled with the possibility that I was seen as an alien in my own country.  I was in my violin teacher’s living room, waiting for my appointed lesson time. Sitting next to me was the mother of the kid going before me, watching over her other, younger son as he worked on his homework. She looked like all the other parents of my violin teacher’s mostly Asian clientele – put together, strict, no-nonsense, and of course, Asian. Immediately, my thoughts were abound with stereotypes: she’s a tiger mother. Look at the way she supervises her kid so closely. Immigrant, too; I can just tell from looking at her. I wonder when she came here; I wonder why. Was she a poor grad student at the beginning, like my parents were? I wonder what kind of problems may arise in the future as a result of the cultural gap she has with her kids.

That’s when she spoke, in perfect, non-accented English: “Johnny, focus on your work. Matt’ll be done any second now, and you have to finish this before we leave. Stop fooling around.”

Confusion flooded my mind. But I thought she was an immigrant…? All my pre-conceived ideas about her were instantly shattered. I knew that, to have English speaking abilities like hers, she had to have been raised in the U.S., at least starting from a very young age. There was also the possibility that she went to an international school in Asia; but even then, it meant she had grown up with significant exposure to American customs. In other words, culturally, she was exactly like me – an Asian-American.

Wonderment at having finally encountered an Asian-American in adult form was quickly followed by fear. If I, an Asian-American myself, had so quickly assumed that she was an immigrant, who was to say the same thing wouldn’t happen to me when I grew up? I was well aware of the obstacles in the adult world that came with being seen as a foreigner – misunderstandings, exclusion, intolerance, missed opportunities; all of these were problems I had seen my parents deal with before. If I became a foreigner in my own country, where would I go? Not Asia; although I looked like everyone there, I would never blend in. But then, where would home be? Not wanting to deal with this question, I shoved my concerns into the back of my mind.

However, they became increasingly unavoidable as I grew older and began to step outside of my bubble. One summer, while I was returning to Houston from LAX, a ticket checker said to me, “Sank yu,” in what was clearly a mock Asian accent. Inside, I seethed, wanting to give him a piece of my mind. Who was he to make fun of Asian immigrants? Was he aware of the pain and suffering their accents gave them? And, most importantly, how dare he assume that I was a foreigner merely because I was Asian.

“I’m every bit as American as you are!” I screamed at him, as my mom dragged me away.

Another time, I came across an article titled, “8 Things That You Already Forgot About 2012.” Amongst American Idol and the woman who put her 6-year-old in a tanning bed was Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American from California who had become a pop culture sensation after several spectacular performances in basketball. Hardly a fan, I was not bothered at all by his inclusion in the list; however, I was deeply disturbed by the description the author wrote of him: “He make much good at the basketsballs!” Infuriated, I sent the article to my best friend, who was also a Chinese-American, ranting, “He’s just as American as that stupid author! And, given the fact that he went to Harvard and this dumb writer doesn’t even know proper grammar, he’s probably better at English too!” She responded with amusement; that was not the reaction I was looking for. Wanting to find another Asian-American to rally with against this blatant racism, I went to the comments section of the article. Nothing.

I began to wonder why there weren’t any other Asian-Americans crying out against the cruel position society had put them in, stuck between two different cultures, neither of which would accept them. I remembered a time in middle school, when all of my Asian-American friends went through a phase of intense “Asian pride” – even songs written and performed by Asian artists, such as “Fairytale” and “River Flows In You,” became immensely popular. And yet, when we went to high school, this phase quickly died. Soon, it was shameful that we ever listened to Asian music, shameful to be “too Asian;” the more “white” you were, the more you assimilated, the better.

When I wished my friends on Facebook a “happy Lunar New Year” in Chinese, an Asian-American friend asked me, “Why are you so Asian?” as if it was something to be ashamed of; as if being Asian was something that could be quantified, and the more Asian you were, the more “cool points” you lost. As if we needed to prove that we were American by some qualification other than the fact that we lived in the U.S. As if America were something other than a land of immigrants and their descendants.

But recently, I’ve observed a new trend emerging. I see the Asian-American community rising up as a whole to cast off the label of “model minority,” a term that trivializes many of our other problems. ABC is casting for a sitcom about an Asian-American family – and actually casting Asians actors who are not kung fu masters in it. And, every once in a while, an Asian-American breaks past the passive, non-confrontational culture that we were raised in to write an article about his plural identity, and how lonely, confused, defensive, yet unique, perceptive, and, most importantly, proud it has made him.

Yes, I still feel lost and sometimes I still feel despair. But I believe that things are getting better, even if I can’t see it at the moment. As the world becomes increasingly globalized and interconnected, progress is inevitable. I have faith that one day, someday, I will find my identity again. And then I’ll be home.

APASA and Women LEAD Present: Leadership Panel

On Thursday, April 17, APASA and Women LEAD hosted a panel featuring four successful Asian American women from Houston. Although all extraordinary and charismatic leaders, the women represented a wide range of fields, experiences, and career paths. We were honored to have these inspiring women come speak at our event:

– Donna Fujimoto Cole, Founder & CEO of Cole Chemical
– Lily Jang, KHOU 11 News This Morning anchor
– Anne Sung, Chief Strategy Officer at Project GRAD, Co-Founder of Community Voices for Public Education
– Pranika Sinha, Manager of Employee and Organization Development at Occidental Petroleum (Oxy, Inc.)

Panelists (from left): Donna Cole, Lily Jang, Anne Sung, and Pranika Sinha

The panel began with each woman talking about her career path, then transitioned to questions from the moderator, Nicole (APASA Chair), and questions from the audience. A variety of topics were covered, ranging from obstacles each woman faced to how they balanced their personal lives with their careers. A lot of great advice was offered; for example, Lily Jang encouraged the audience to listen to their “inner voice” – she had encountered poor grades at the beginning of college, as well as doubt and discouragement from her professors throughout the rest of college, but something inside told her that she needed to be a journalist, so she continued pursuing that path and is now a successful, Emmy-nominated journalist.

Lily Jang tells her life story.

The APASA board members shared their takeaways from the panel:

Margaret: For me, it was interesting how the four women had such life stories and ambitions, yet had managed to achieve so much. As someone who was raised by traditional Asian parents, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the idea that it was possible to be fulfilled by a career path other than the stereotypical path of K-12, elite undergraduate school, graduate school, stable and well-paying job, family, then retirement and travel. However, after seeing how each woman deviated from this path in her own way to suit her needs, I began to understand a little better. Although they were in different places in their lives and pursued different things, there was one important thing that all the women had in common: they were passionate about what they were doing. This passion allowed them to persevere and maintain spirit through all the obstacles and the opposition and was a large contributor to their success.

Nicole: I was struck by how brave and tenacious these women were in how much they personalized their lives to meet their unique desires, skills, needs, and ambitions — from career changes to “work-life balance,” or as one of our panelists, Pranika Sinha, called it, “blending” because one’s work and personal life will always be in flux with one another. One must constantly prioritize different aspects of life at different times — and this is okay.

Eileen: I was truly amazed by the panelists’ ambition, compassion, and most importantly, respect and care for other individuals. They all worked their way through obstacles including facing racial and gender prejudice and now have achieved tremendous success in their fields. This success, however, did not distant them, but rather brought them closer to those in need. The panelists’ desire to give back to society was contagious and definitely inspired me to be someone who can leave a big impact in the community.

Bo: As a Houstonian, I was really interested to hear how each of the panelists talked about the city’s growth and the unique opportunities that this city was able to provide. Most of the panelists had some tie to Houston growing up, and a number of them ended up moving here even after living in cities like Boston or Chicago. I think the varied opportunities that Houston was able to provide to these panelists really speaks to the growing diversity of Houston and its status as a world city. Sometimes for us Rice students it’s easy to forget just how great of a city Houston is, so it was a nice reminder to hear about all of the different industries and career paths that are available to those of us fortunate enough to live or work here.

We hope that everyone who attended the panel was also able to take something away from the event, whether it be a new outlook, a pearl of wisdom, inspiration, or simply an increased morale.

Panel Event: “Asian Americans and Mental Health”

 

Panelists (from left):  Agnes, Dr. Chao, Dr. Cheung, Dr. Leung, and Dr. Pham.  Moderator: Bo Kim
Panelists (from left): Ms. Ho, Dr. Chao, Dr. Cheung, Dr. Leung, and Dr. Pham.
Moderator: Bo Kim

On February 17, APASA co-hosted a panel on “Asian Americans and Mental Health” with Active Minds, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health on campus. We were honored to have the following panelists share their experiences and expertise:
Dr. Stephen Chao, MD (Rice ’02 Alum, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine)
Dr. Tony Pham, MD, PhD (Rice ’86 and BCM ’93 Alum, Board-Certified Psychiatrist)
Agnes Ho, LMSW (Associate Director, Student Wellbeing Office)
Dr. Patrick Leung, PhD, MSW, MA (Professor at UH Graduate College of Social Work, former President & Co-Founder of Asian American Family Services)
Dr. Monit Cheung, PhD, MSW, MA, LCSW (Professor at UH Graduate College of Social Work)

The panel covered a wide variety of topics, from the attitudes APIAs hold towards mental health to measures every individual can take to deal with mental health issues. A priceless highlight of the night was when Dr. Stephen Chao began rapping Magnetic North’s “Price of Perfection.”

A reception was held afterwards for students to engage more with the panelists.
A reception was held afterwards to allow students to engage more with the panelists.

A common point made throughout the panel was that, in trying to avoid the social stigma associated with mental health issues, APIAs tend to deny the necessity of mental health treatment, even going so far as to refuse a simple assessment. Agnes Ho and Dr. Tony Pham offered the reminder that mental illness is a medical problem — it does not make you a weak or bad person — and that seeking help is a sign of strength, while Dr. Monit Cheung stressed the importance of acknowledging the presence of any mental health problems firsthand. However, due to the stigma attached to mental illness, APIAs often avoid seeking help in order to save face, which is extremely crucial in many APIA cultures. The first step toward resolving the stigma is to simply start talking about it, via awareness campaigns, writing, or even everyday conversations, according to Dr. Chao. Meanwhile, there are also several ways to treat mental illness without going to a therapist, such as acupuncture, reading, and deep sea fishing (Dr. Patrick Leung’s personal favorite)–essentially, activities from which we individually can obtain joy. Relieving emotions through poetry, music, and other forms of creativity can also be therapeutic, as Dr. Chao testified with his Magnetic North rap.

Coming from different areas of expertise (primary care, psychology, psychiatry, research, and social work), each panelist offered a unique perspective that built off each other’s and together contributed to a rich and thriving conversation throughout the event. We hope that everyone who attended the event took away something valuable!

 

October is Asian American Heritage and Culture Month!

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October at Rice University is Asian American Heritage and Culture Month (AAHCM), and this year APASA is teaming up with Rice’s Chinese Student Association along with the other Asian cultural clubs to host many fun and informative events throughout the month to raise awareness of the various cultural, social, and political issues that affect Asian Americans.

The AAHCM Kickoff Dinner was this past Saturday where for only $3, students got to enjoy catered food from local Chinatown restaurants, Yummy Kitchen and Yuan Ten. The Asian American History Timeline, which combines both historical and personal accomplishments of Asian Americans, was once again featured.

New to the event was the “I AM (MORE)” Photo Campaign, which had a great start! The campaign focuses on unique experiences people have had to deal with concerning their Asian-American identities. Specifically, participants write on a whiteboard statements others have said to them that made them uncomfortable with or hyperconscious of their APA identity and assert their voices in reaction. We look forward to continuing this photo campaign throughout all of AAHCM!

Here are a couple of the photos that participants have shared with us:

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DavidLam Nicole AndrewTa AshleyCha Fotor01008230149 Fotor01008230332 Fotor01008230443 JoanneWang MichaelIp

These photos speak to some of the often well-intentioned, but  presumptuous microaggressions people say on an everyday basis. Some would argue that these statements are harmless and casual. But for the person on the receiving end, hearing these comments in everyday interactions can make one feel his/her identity is being defined in limiting ways by others. In other words, they feel they cannot be understood as an individual, but only as part of the collective group ideal of “Asian American.” These statements also reveal how people have entrenched, preconceived notions of what “Asian American” is or should be, and that, too, is not okay.

The first step in changing this is becoming aware of microaggressions when we hear them and when we say them — so that we can create for ourselves a more inclusive, accepting environment that enables people to express their unique selves safely.

This photo campaign aims to accomplish two things: 1) increase awareness about how subtle, seemingly harmless microaggressions can reveal dangerous assumptions about people’s identities, and 2) empower those who encounter these statements to speak up, assert their identities, and bring attention to the dangers of these microaggressions in future conversations.

Next time someone makes a sly joke or casual comment assuming things about your identity, don’t be afraid to say “Hey, that’s not okay” or “That’s a little offensive”!

We hope you’ll participate in this campaign and attend the rest of AAHCM’s events.

First General Meeting

APASA held its first general meeting yesterday, and we couldn’t be happier with how it went!

After a brief introduction of the officers and our mission, we started off with our first activity: the Asian-American Historical Timeline, an activity Bo, Oanh, and David were introduced to during the APIA U: Leadership Training program at the annual OCA National Convention this past summer.

Participants broke out into small groups and discussed historical events that affected the Asian-American community, which were pre-printed on adhesive labels. Examples of such events included the hate crime leading to the historic murder of Vincent Chin, the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and major milestones such as the first Asian-American Congressman. Attendees worked together to label these events as either a milestone, celebration, tragedy, or result of laws and policies.

(from left to right) Tony, David, and Vy analyze certain events throughout the Asian-American history.
(from left to right) Tony, David, and Vy analyze and learn about events that have helped shape the long, varied history of Asian Americans.

Everyone also wrote three personal life events on Post-Its — one from their respective pasts, presents, and one they envision for the future. To put all of these events into perspective, each group then placed each of the adhesive labels with historic events, as well as their own Post-Its, onto a timeline, which ranged from 1750 to 2050.

Emily posting her factoids onto the timeline.
Emily posting events onto the timeline.

James posting his up as well.
James posting his up as well.

The result:

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John and Ashley smile for the camera!

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Students tell of their families’ pasts.

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Present accomplishments and hopes for the future!

As John of Salisbury, who was later quoted by Isaac Newton, once said, “We are like dwarves sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more … not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, its repeal in 1943, and the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982—these are but a few of many historical occurrences that have shaped the formation of a national Asian-American identity today. As APASA strives to bring awareness to Asian-American issues in hopes of advancing equality, it’s important to always keep in mind of what’s happened in the past in order to  understand how we got here ourselves.

After being introduced to these historical events, participants then shared their own personal experiences as Asian-Americans in a special activity involving colored streamers:

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Yellow: What is a pet peeve of yours?

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Orange: What makes you sad?

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Red: What makes you angry?

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White:
What makes you happy? What are you grateful for? What are you hopeful for?

After hearing everyone’s experiences and thoughts, we are super excited for what’s in store for this school year. Everyone had such amazingly insightful and thoughtful things to share! Thank you to everyone who came out to our first meeting, and welcome to APASA! For those of you who couldn’t make it, we hope to see you soon at our next event! More details to come.

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Defy an APA Stereotype Campaign

APASA had its first official public appearance at the Student Activities Fair this past Friday! At our booth, we asked students to write a sentence in response to an Asian-American stereotype that they have faced in their lives.

Here is what they came up with:

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What stereotypes or assumptions about your identity have you encountered before?

Even if you personally haven’t had an experience with stereotypes, the diversity of these statements show how harmful and misleading such generalizations can be. As the contributions of our peers show, there is much more to the individuals in the APA community than racial stereotypes suggest.

Thank you to those who shared their responses!  Through sharing these examples, we hope we can make a larger point about the casual assumptions that we not only encounter, but perhaps also find ourselves making about others on a daily basis.

OCA National Convention

In July, Oanh, Bo, and David attended OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates’s 2013 National Convention, ’40 Years of Advocacy and Empowerment,’ held this year in Washington, D.C. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel from the 18th to the 21st. A big thank you to  OCA National and OCA Greater Houston for providing scholarships to cover our registration, hotel and airfare. Without their generosity, attendance would have been logistically and financially impossible for the three of us.

At Convention, APASA members, along with a number of other college and high school students, attended workshops and panel discussions about issues affecting APAs including immigration, affirmative action, and portrayal in the popular media. APASA members also went through the APIA U: Leadership Training workshop, which educated us about the history of APAs and helped us develop the leadership and organizational skills to build an APA community on campus.

There were plenty of other events at Convention, including an evening reception at the Newseum, a black tie gala, and an awards ceremony. Notably, at the Chapter Awards Luncheon, OCA Greater Houston received the Chapter Excellence Award for Community Building!

(from left to right) Bo, Oanh, and David on the rooftop terrace of the Newseum during the 'Night at the Newseum' event and reception. Note the nice view of the Capitol building in the background.
(from left to right) Bo, Oanh, and David on the rooftop terrace of the Newseum during the ‘Night at the Newseum’ event and reception. Note the nice view of the Capitol building in the background.

Overall, the OCA National Convention was a great experience as we also got to meet many inspiring APA advocates such as Helen Zia and Phil Yu, who we hope to bring to Rice to promote further awareness of APA issues.

Bo and Oanh with Helen Zia (in red), an American journalist and scholar who has covered APA social and political movements for decades. She's even been quoted by Former President Clinton several times!
Bo and Oanh with Helen Zia (in red), an American journalist and scholar who has covered APA social and political movements for decades. She’s even been quoted by Former President Clinton several times!

Oanh with Phil Yu (center), founder of the Angry Asian Man blog
Oanh with Phil Yu (center), founder of the Angry Asian Man blog.

Again, we can’t thank OCA National and OCA Greater Houston enough for their support that made our attendance possible. We look forward to keeping in touch with our new friends and the connections we made in DC. We also hope APASA members will be able to attend next year’s national convention in Los Angeles!

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Oanh, Bo, and David at the Chapter Awards Luncheon showing some Rice pride.