by ANDREW LAM of New American Media
In a recent New Yorker cartoon, a dog is shown lounging by a pool and saying to a pup: “Youtube’s one thing, but cats will never make it on the big screen.” A funny commentary, surely, but in America that statement could just as easily be applied to ethnic minorities, especially Asian Americans.
Cats and Asian Americans reign supreme on Youtube, but in Hollywood it’s another story: discrimination, stereotypes and exclusion are the norm for Asians, both on television and the silver screen. The most recent evidence of this came during the Golden Globe awards ceremony, where viewers were hard pressed to find an Asian face in the audience, let alone an Asian name among the nominees. The TV camera showed flashes of the marvelous Lucy Liu and comedian Aziz Ansari, as if trying to make sure that these two “cats” would somehow make up for the lack of Asian diversity. This year’s Oscar nominations offer another example. Not one name, with the exception of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category, is an Asian name.
As for racist stereotypes, just take for example the recent episode of How I Met Your Mother, a CBS sitcom, in which white actors put on yellow face like Fu Man Chu and spoke in exaggerated Chinese accents. The producers called it a tribute to kung fu, but Asian Americans took to their twitter feeds and called it out for what it is: pure racism. Continue Reading »
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 13, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration reform.
American at Heart
At one time, Filipino American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ work was his life. Then, after “coming out” as undocumented in 2011, his life became his work.
by ADA TSENG
When Jose Antonio Vargas was 12, his mother sent him from his home in the Philippines to the United States to live with his grandparents, whom Jose grew up thinking led an affluent life overseas. In reality, his grandfather was a security guard and his grandmother worked in food services. After relocating to Mountain View, California, Vargas pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America every day at school, not realizing anything was amiss—other than the fact that his mother was curiously unable to follow him to the U.S. like she had planned.
Then, one day, a 16-year-old Vargas went to the DMV for the typical teenage rite of passage: to take his driver’s permit test. But when a woman there told him that his green card was fake and warned him not to come back there again, Vargas finally learned the truth about his passage to his adopted country.
Vargas’ grandfather, a naturalized citizen, told his grandson he had saved up money to purchase fake documents to bring Jose over. He had assumed Jose would grow up to work in the service industry, live a low-key life until he married someone with papers, and all would be OK. All of it, including his separation from his mother, was to give his only grandson a better future. Two things, however, derailed his grandfather’s plans for him: First, Vargas came out as gay in high school—this was in the 1990s—making the prospect of getting a green card through marriage much trickier. Second, the teenaged Vargas, instead of letting the news defeat him, convinced himself that he could earn the right to call himself an American. Continue Reading »
Windy City is: (left to right) Kim Ban-jang on drums and lead vocals, Ra Guk-san on percussion and chorus, Beck Jung-hyun on the melodica and keyboards, Shin Jae-won on the didgeridoo, percussion and chorus, Oh Jin-woo on guitar, and Noh Sun-tek (squatting) on bass guitar. Photo courtesy of Windy City.
Windy City cooks up music for the soul.
by JONATHAN CHA
One name is synonymous with reggae. In fact, all you need to say is “Bob”—for Robert Nesta Marley, who wrote such immortal songs as “Redemption Song,” “Could You Be Loved,” and “Jammin”—and instantly, the genre of world-famous Jamaican music unfurls before you.
In Korea, there is another name.
This is Korean reggae, and it is finding fans beyond the ROK to festival stages around the world. The prospect of the music of his homeland finding voices in Korea impressed Damian Marley, global reggae superstar and son of the legendary Bob. Backstage at Reggae Sumfest last July, the premier reggae festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Damian Marley, when informed about bands like Windy City catching fire, coolly responded, “Nice.”
When Daniel Frankton, head of publicity for the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Mendocino, Calif., the second U.S. destination for the band’s recent tour, saw YouTube videos of Windy City under the Buk Han Mountains, around a campfire with Nyahbinghi drums and a pot bubbling, he remarked, “That could be up on Bobo Hill in Jamaica. A totally different culture, yet a similar lifestyle.” He described his first impression of the band as “really moving.”
Formed in Seoul in 2004, the six members of Windy City combine a host of musical influences, including funk, R&B, Latin, jirubak, or Korean jitterbug, with reggae to create a unique version of the island rhythms. Backed by a cornucopia of instruments, Windy City (the name is an homage to soul legend Curtis Mayfield’s record label) features Kim Ban-jang on drums and lead vocals, Ra Guk-san on percussion and chorus, Beck Jung-hyun on the melodica and keyboards, Shin Jae-won on the didgeridoo, percussion and chorus, Oh Jin-woo on guitar, and Noh Sun-tek on bass guitar. Continue Reading »
What’s in a Name?
A Korean name can provide its bearer with a link to ancestors going back thousands of years.
by HILDI KANG
My interest in our Korean history began thusly: I am proud to have my grandmother’s birth certificate from Derby, England, dated 1867. But my pride was countered by a comment that my husband from Korea once made: “My family has records going back a thousand years.” With true wifely devotion, I responded, “Yeah, sure!”
Turns out, he’s right. Each Korean name contains a wealth of history that links an individual to ancestors thousands of years in the past. I notice that even today these honored genealogies, catalogued in a book called the jokbo, continue to poke their way into the life of nearly every Korean.
Yet although nearly every Korean family is proud of this book and talks of this book, when I ask, “Do you know what’s in it?” they shake their heads.
As I see it, that’s not OK. These books are among the oldest, most complete and most unique family records in the world, and they carry the record of each family over hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. If you’re curious about unlocking pieces of your own personal history, here’s how to get started. Continue Reading »
by ETHEL NAVALES
The faithful readers of KoreAm‘s sister magazine Audrey have made one thing clear: they love adorable Asian babies. Of course, we don’t blame them. Who can resist squealing over those round eyes and chubby cheeks?
Don’t you worry. We noticed one thing in particular with these children who reach social media fame. Many of them have a killer fashion sense. That, or they have parents who understand how much we eat these pictures up. Some people complain that these fashion-heavy photos are simply parents vicariously living through their children by dressing them up to reach viral fame. Others claim that these parents simply enjoy the idea of a well-dressed toddler. Whatever the reason may be, they certainly caught our attention. Continue Reading »