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Kollaboration to Launch EMPOWER Leadership Conference

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by REERA YOO  | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Best known for its annual Asian American talent showcase, Kollaboration is planning to hold its inaugural EMPOWER Leadership Conference at the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, Aug. 29.

According to the conference’s official website, EMPOWER aims to allow Asian American youth and young professionals to “explore a variety of creative career paths” and learn the best practices to apply in making their dreams into reality.

The conference will consist of interactive workshops and panels spearheaded by Asian American community leaders, executives and creatives from various industries. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with these professionals and receive guidance on public speaking, building a startup, storytelling and more.

This year’s speakers include Eric Kim, vice president of current programs at CBS; Andrew Rose, director and producer at Scooter Braun Projects; Christine Chen, producer at Wong Fu Productions; Phil Yu, a.k.a. Angry Asian Man; comedienne Jenny Yang; CAPE executive director Michelle Sugihara; and Sam Yam, founder and president of Patreon. 

Actors Tamlyn Tomita (Joy Luck Club), Sunil Malotra (Legend of Korra) and Naomi Ko (Dear White People) will also be participating in the conference. Additional speakers will be announced closer to the conference date.

Early bird tickets for EMPOWER are on sale now at Eventbrite until Aug. 3. To learn more about the conference, visit its official website here.

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First-World Problems: Lessons from the Court

by SUNG J. WOO

For the first 10 years of my life, I was the man of the house. I didn’t have a father, for he was in the United States while I was in South Korea with my mother and my two older sisters. Of course I didn’t feel like a man, but one thing that I thought would make me manly was learning the martial arts.

I begged my mother to send me to taekwondo class, but she said we didn’t have enough money. Years later, I’d find out that Mom did not want me to do anything that might endanger my livelihood; if she had it her way, I would’ve been homeschooled inside a bubble. But at the time, I just thought we were really poor.

So the only form of physical activity I experienced during my grammar school years in Korea was the series of morning calisthenics led by my teachers. With whistles at the ready, they had us stretching our limbs and jumping jacks in unison. Many of my fellow students hated this mandatory exercise, but I loved it. I loved moving my body, jutting out my hands and kicking my feet in the air, seeing the white smoke of my breath in autumn.

When we moved to the States, I played soccer and kickball like everybody else during recess, but team sports did not appeal to me. There was too much responsibility, too much risk that my poor judgment or questionable skills might doom an entire group to failure. As the years went by, and ad-hoc recreation turned to formalized sports with coaches, meets and uniforms, I saw this was not the life for me. And it wasn’t long before the roles we find in school got established, academic natural selection running its course: I would quash my athletic spirit and become a gold medal nerd.

So of all the regrets I have about my life (and at this point, I have enough to open up my own store), one of the biggest is that I did not discover the game of tennis in my youth. It would have been the perfect sport for me, as it is one of the loneliest. “Long-distance boxing” is one way to describe it—and, quite accurately, as it is just you and your opponent out there on the court, trying to knock each other out in the most gentlemanly (or ladylike) way possible. Even though it’s played as a team sport in high school and college (and professionally through World TeamTennis), that’s just to make it more attractive to kids and casual fans who are used to group athletics. Anyone who’s serious about the sport knows that singles tennis is what it’s all about, where there is no one to congratulate or blame but yourself.

Though I hit the yellow ball around with some friends in high school and college, I didn’t get into the game until my 30s. I used to be terrible, grateful for the fences that prevented my shots from flying over to the next block. I’ve since refined all of my strokes with the help of professionals and programs to a point where I’m not a walking embarrassment, but I can’t help thinking how much better I’d be if I had picked up a racquet as a kid.

Would I have fallen in love with tennis earlier if I had a Korean role model? It couldn’t have hurt. Growing up, there was always the Chinese American Michael Chang. Not to belittle (ahem) his accomplishments or anything, but his style of play as the relentless retriever, the guy willing to outwork everyone—it wasn’t exactly flashy or cool. Watching him play was as fun as my math homework. If there was any player I admired, it was the blue-eyed, blond-haired Stefan Edberg from Sweden, who attacked the net with his smooth-as-silk serve-and-volley game and looked awesome doing it.

Here’s the good news for the current generation of Korean and Korean American tennis hopefuls: We have a real live one in Hyeon Chung, a strapping (6’1”!) 19-year-old lad from South Korea who broke into the top 100 this year, and is currently ranked No. 74 as of this writing. That means he’ll gain direct entry into the Grand Slams such as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and in a few years, I fully expect him to compete with the best. He’s got the goods on both sides, able to launch flat, powerful forehands and backhands from the baseline. This April, Chung won his third ATP Challenger Tour tournament and was the first player to reach 20 wins on the circuit for 2015. And the future looks even brighter, as two juniors, Seong Chan Hong and Yunseong Chung, are currently ranked a respective No. 5 and No. 11 in the world. They’re both 17, so they’ll need a few more years to bulk up and grow up, but I like what I’m seeing.

These kids are going to be all right.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.27.25 AMSung J. Woo’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times,McSweeney’s and Hyphen. His debut novel, Everything Asian, won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Youth Literature Award. His second novel, Love Love, is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press in 2015.

 

This article was published in the June/July 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June/July issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

 


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Coalition’s Race-Based Complaint Against Harvard Dismissed

by KARIN CHAN
karin@iamkoream.com

The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed the complaint brought by a group of 64 Asian American groups claiming that Harvard discriminated against Asian Americans and other ethnicities during its admissions process.

Last month, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights decided to dismiss the complaint, filed in May by the Asian American Coalition, because a similar lawsuit filed in November made the same allegations against the university, a DOE spokesman told KoreAm by email Wednesday.

That lawsuit, filed by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, may be put on hold due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to rehear Fisher v. Texas, the affirmative action case. Harvard’s lawyers have filed a motion to delay the pending lawsuit until Fisher is decided, the Harvard Crimson reported Wednesday.

Asian American Coalition president Yukong Zhao told KoreAm he welcomes the return of the 2013 Fisher case, in which the Supreme Court previously sent the case back to the federal appeals court that had ruled against Fisher to rehear her arguments. The appellate court last year upheld the use of race as a factor in the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions process.

Zhao said that he is considering expanding the scope of the coalition’s complaint. “There are lots of other Ivy League schools discriminating against Asian American applicants, without their own pending discrimination lawsuits. In this way, OCR can no longer find excuse to dismiss our complaint,” he said by email.

The Asian American Coalition argued that highly qualified Asian American applicants were denied admission to elite universities such as Harvard on the basis of race and ethnicity, despite some applicants having “numerous extracurricular and volunteer activities” or having “achieved a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.” According to the May complaint, some Asian American applicants refused to the check the box for “Asian.”

The coalition’s stance on affirmative action is not representative of all Asian Americans and has triggered statements from a score of other Asian American groups that support affirmative action.

“We support affirmative action policies—which are separate and distinct and do not result in quotas,” said Betty Hung, policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, in an email to KoreAm Wednesday. “Affirmative action simply entails taking into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity as one of several factors in a holistic, individual review.

“What all communities should be working together for is reinvestment in higher education and how to ensure that all students, including the most vulnerable communities, are gaining access to higher education,” she added.

A 2012 poll by the National Asian American Survey found that 76 percent of Asian Americans support affirmative action. The AAAJ and 70 other Asian American organizations filed an amicus brief in Fisher noting that academic qualifications and racial diversity are among a range of factors in choosing candidates, and that Asian Americans “benefit from and contribute to the diverse learning environments.”

The brief stated, “admission rates and average SAT scores for Asian Americans remain constant whether or not race-conscious admissions programs like UT Austin’s are in operation, which refutes any suggestion that such admissions programs impose a ‘penalty’ on Asian Americans and are the ‘root cause’ of a test score gap.”

Opposition against affirmative action as reflected in the coalition’s recently dismissed complaint is not new. Michael Wang, a student at Williams College, filed a complaint against Yale, Princeton and Stanford in 2013 challenging the schools’ affirmative action policies, alleging that the Ivy Leagues denied him admission despite his high class ranking, Business Insider reported.

See Also

 

Asian American Groups Take Aim at Harvard’s Allegedly Biased Admissions Process 

Harvard and Stanford Debunk Story of Korean Math Prodigy

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Featured image via Todd Van Hoosear/Flickr

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Fullerton in Orange County Settles Voting Rights Lawsuit

by SUEVON LEE | @suevlee
suevon@iamkoream.com

The City of Fullerton in Orange County, Calif. has settled a lawsuit brought by two civil rights groups alleging that its use of at-large elections denies Asian Americans and other minority groups collective voting power, the groups announced in a statement Wednesday.

Under the settlement, Fullerton—a city southeast of L.A. whose population is nearly a quarter Asian American and one-third Latino—must develop a district-based election system to replace the current one where residents vote for the five sitting council members no matter where they live, and present it as a ballot measure in the Nov. 2016 elections.

The agreement comes just four months after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles sued the city on behalf of Korean American resident Jonathan Paik under the California Voting Rights Act.

“It was a recognition on the part of the city that it’s a direction that made sense for Fullerton,” Laboni Hoq, litigation director at AAAJ, told KoreAm of the settlement. “We’re happy with the way the process moved and that we were able to do this without too much litigation.”

The settlement requires the city hold community meetings to educate residents about district-based elections—in which the city is carved into separate districts, council members live in the districts they represent and are elected by voters of those districts—and also give voters a say in how these district lines will be drawn.

“The lines that are drawn will be subject to a lot of community input,” Hoq said. “It’s really the heart of the matter to make sure that all of Fullerton’s residents are represented both with respect to geographic location as well as their racial makeup. The crux of the law is to ensure that communities of color are in a position where they can vote for their candidate of choice.”

Fullerton contains a large cluster of Asian Americans in its northwest quadrant and a large concentration of Latinos in the southern quadrant, according to Hoq.

The March lawsuit pointed out that only two Asian Americans had ever won election to the Fullerton City Council “despite the fact that many Asian American candidates have run for Council seats.”

This wasn’t the first lawsuit urging Fullerton to change its voting procedures. Last year, Vivian Jaramillo, who ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2006 and 2010, sued the city, alleging vote dilution among Latino voters.

Before the Paik lawsuit was filed, the city had reached a settlement with Jaramillo to develop a plan to put a district-based elections plan before voters, says Kimberly Hall Barlow, legal counsel for the city of Fullerton.

“The City has always been fully committed to ensuring the full voting rights of all its citizens,” Barlow told KoreAm by email Wednesday. “The citizens of Fullerton have elected both Latino and Asian candidates and we expect that diversity to continue.”

FairVote, a nonprofit that advocates for electoral reform, notes that at-large elections systems “allow 50 percent of voters to control 100 percent of seats, and in consequence typically result in racially and politically homogenous elected bodies.” As a result, the nonprofit points out, at-large elections systems typically have been struck down by the Voting Rights Act for denying communities of color fair representation.

Under the Paik settlement, if district-based elections are approved by voters next November, it will take immediate effect for the next City Council election. Furthermore, the city must provide Korean and Spanish translations of informational material about the ballot measure as well as of the ballot measure language itself. Additionally, the city is required to provide a Mandarin-speaking interpreter at meetings held in the Northeast and Northwest quadrants of the city during the public hearings.

See Also

 

Fullerton’s Elections Lawsuit Focuses on Asian American Voting Rights

Asian American Voters: The Nation’s Fastest Growing Political Force

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Featured image courtesy of Neon Tommy/Flickr

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Defying Stereotypes: “I’m Asian, but I’m not…”

By JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

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“Don’t let stereotypes define you.” The Asian American staff over at Buzzfeed Yellow take that message to heart in their latest video, I’m Asian, But I’m Not, and they give snippets on how they don’t fit the usual stereotypes—or, if they do, they own it.

AJ Rafael, Chris Dinh, and Jubilee Project‘s Jason Y. Lee make guest appearances in the short but refreshingly inspirational video. Take a look below.

On a related note—it may be hard to believe, but there are Koreans out there who don’t like kimchi. For others, like this writer, it’s our life force.

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Peter Chung Wins Kollaboration L.A. 2015

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Kollaboration Los Angeles crowned a winner Saturday night after its six finalists performed at the cozy Los Angeles Theatre Center in Downtown L.A.

This year, the annual Asian American talent showcase was hosted by Sean Miura, community organizer and producer of Little Tokyo’s Tuesday Night Cafe. Five distinguished Asian American figures were also invited to judge the competition.

The judging panel included Megan Lee, K-pop singer and starring actress in Nickelodeon’s Make It Pop; comedian Danny Cho of Ktown Cowboys; Rosylnn Cobarrubias, the CMO of mydiveo.com and former exec at MySpace; singer-songwriter AC Lorenzo; and Michelle Sugihara, the executive director of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE).

R&B songstress Rosy Donovan opened the night with a sensual original song titled, “Got Me.” As Donovan strutted around stage and sang with confidence, the audience waved their glowsticks in rhythm of the music.

Singer-songwriter Lisa Sonoda then walked on stage, where she set down a candle beside garlands of white flowers by her feet. Gently strumming her guitar, the bespectacled singer sang a serene ballad titled, “Never Could” with a backdrop of a beautiful hillside behind her.

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After Sonoda ended her performance, Miura quipped, “I want to go walk in the field now,” earning a few chuckles from the audience. The host then introduced acoustic singer-songwriter Peter Chung, winner of Kollaboration San Francisco 2012. Under the spotlight, Chung sang an original country song titled, “Back” from his Kickstarter-backed debut album, i write WE sing.

Next up was female beatboxer Track IX, who lent her craft to Pitch Perfect 2. With just a microphone, she mesmerized the crowd with her energetic beats. When it was time for the traditional Kollaboration freestyle dance-off, Track IX reappeared on stage to show off her dance moves alongside three other dancers from the audience.

After intermission, it was time for Kollaboration’s highly anticipated lipsync battle. Silicon Valley actor Jimmy O. Yang kicked things off by lipsyncing to R. Kelly’s “Bump ‘n Grind” and body-rolling in front of a blushing female audience member. Following Yang’s racy dance, Naomi Ko of Dear White People stepped on stage in a shimmering silver dress and “belted” Ariana Grande’s upbeat, electronic song “Break Free.”

Yang and Ko’s renditions were incredibly entertaining, but nothing could prepare the audience for the battle’s final act. As soon as comedienne Jenny Yang entered the spotlight, dressed in a blonde wig and a nude leotard, the entire theatre erupted in laughter. She even brought a lamp and a backup dancer—now, that’s commitment. Jenny was named Kollaboration’s first-ever lipsync battle victor for her glorious rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier,” which you can catch a glimpse of in the video below.

Following the lipsync and freestyle dance battles, Hawaiian acoustic duo Perry & Danielle calmed down the audience with their song, “Shelter.” As she played the melody on keyboard, Danielle sang in a soothing voice that complimented Perry’s crisp percussion sound.

The final contestant of the night was Korean American singer-songwriter The Will Park. Accompanied by a band, Park sang an upbeat love song while strumming his guitar.

Once all the contestants finished their performances, it was time for the guest artists to grace the stage. First up was 2014 Kollaboration Star champion Sung Lee, who wowed the audience with his live-looping beatboxing. At one point, the looping machine accidentally erased all of Lee’s tracks, but the seasoned beatboxer didn’t bat an eye as he rerecorded his beats. For the finale, Oakland-based alternative rapper Azure got the audience off their seats and jumping near the stage.

As the show came to a close, the show’s staff lined up on stage to announce which contestant would advance to Kollaboration Star in November. In the end, it was Peter Chung who took home the trophy, adding another victory to his musical résumé.

See Also

 

Beatboxer Sung Lee Wins Kollaboration Star 2014

March 2014 Cover Story: Run River North Chases the Dream

December 2013 Cover Story: David Choi

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All photos courtesy of Frank Lee/Kollaboration

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David Ryu Sworn In As L.A.’s First Korean American City Councilman

Above image: David Ryu celebrates his May 19 victory.

 

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Accompanied by his parents and civic leaders, David Ryu was officially sworn in on Sunday in front of Los Angeles City Hall. The oath of office was administered by former L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, who Ryu once worked for as an aide years ago.

“I am humbled to be the first Korean American City Council member and the first Asian American to stand here in a generation,” Ryu, 39, said to hundreds of supporters and civic leaders gathered on the south lawn. “I am proud to lead my community through these doors to take our rightful place sharing in the leadership of Los Angeles.”

Ryu also thanked his family members who had flown in from Korea to attend the ceremony. In particular, he called his grandmother, the first from his family to immigrate to the U.S. and become a citizen, his “hero and inspiration.”

On May 19, Ryu beat opponent Carolyn Ramsay, who had been supported by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the 14 other councilmembers, by 8 percentage points in the general election to win the seat for District 4. The lobster-shaped area stretches from Sherman Oaks into Silverlake and portions of Hollywood and Koreatown—all in all, about 7.4 percent Asian American. In his speech, Ryu did note that he didn’t ride on the backs of just Asian American voters.

“I was not chosen because of my ethnic heritage,” he said. “I was chosen because I made the commitment to the people of the 4th [District] to put our neighborhoods first.”

Ryu ran against Ramsay emphasizing his non-establishment ties and status as an “outsider” to city council politics, promising to be more transparent with his policies. Ramsay formerly served as chief of staff to the outgoing 14-year incumbent, Tommy LaBonge, who had termed out.

See Also

David Ryu Makes History with Decisive L.A. City Council Win

David Ryu Sets Sights on City Council Seat

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Featured image via David Ryu/Twitter

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GIVEAWAY: Win an Awkward Animal + Free Copy of ‘Everything Before Us’

 

by KoreAm Staff | @KoreAm

Awkward moments are the worst. If you’ve ever needed someone to share your pain with, Wong Fu’s Awkward Animals make for an adorable, comforting companion in those seemingly dark times.

We’re giving away three Awkward Animals with our sister publication, Audrey Magazine, to celebrate Wong Fu Production’s first feature film, Everything Before Us, which stars Aaron Yoo, Brittany Ishibashi, Brandon Soo Hoo, Victoria Park, Randall Park, Joanna Sotomura, Chris Riedell and Ki Hong Lee. The winners will also receive codes to stream the film, which is currently available on Vimeo.

The three winners will be chosen from our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms. We’d love to hear some awkward stories from our readers to empathize with. It can be therapeutic to let it out and leave it in the past!

Here’s the lowdown: The contest ends July 1. The winner will be announced the next day, July 2. Contest entrants can choose to participate through Facebook, Instagram OR Twitter, but please remember to submit your email to the contest page.

FACEBOOK

 

1. “Like” this post on our Facebook page, and share your awkward stories in the comments section.

2. Enter your email at our contest page: http://contest.iamkoream.com/.

Winners will be notified by email, so be sure to do this step! (Disclaimer: We value your privacy. Your email will not be shared with any outside parties and will be used only for the purposes of this contest.)

Once you’ve entered your name and email, you will receive a confirmation from us, info@iamkoream.com. Any questions or concerns can be sent to that address.

TWITTER

 

1. Send us a tweet @KoreAm and @AudreyMagazine with the hashtag #WongFuGiveaway.

2. Enter your email at our contest page: http://contest.iamkoream.com/

INSTAGRAM

 

1. Re-post our Awkward Bunny image on KoreAm’s Instagram on your own personal account (must be public during giveaway) with the hashtag #WongFuGiveaway. Be sure to tag @koreamjournal and @audreymagazine.

2. Enter your email at our contest page: http://contest.iamkoream.com/

Once you’ve completed the steps, you can do some homework on Everything Before Us while you wait!

Get to Know the Cast of ‘Everything Before Us’

 

Randall Park | Victoria Park | Ki Hong Lee | Brtitany Ishibashi | Chris Riedell

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