May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. BGB artists reflect on identity, history and where we go from here.
As a child, I didn’t understand concepts such as race and ethnicity. I thought I was white until I was 10 years old, because that’s what I was surrounded by and what I saw in the media. When I realized that other kids were making fun of me because I looked different from them, it sent me into a very confusing and self-hating series of teenage years. I carried this shame of my ethnicity into my twenties. I had to come to Los Angeles and have other Asian-Americans tell me why I should be proud of my heritage before I began to believe it myself. Today APHM means I don’t have to feel ashamed anymore. Well, I never had to. I guess it means, today, I can choose to allow myself to feel proud instead. For me, APHM means being able to look toward the potential of the future without forgetting the past. For the past, I had to make a point to research my heritage on my own. From my paternal grandparents meeting while detained at Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming, to my maternal grandparents surviving the bombings and poverty of WWII in Japan. I never would have learned this part of my family’s history if I hadn’t made a point to explore it myself, since these are not subjects taught in school. At least not where I’m from. For the future, I hope to see these types of stories in film and television, so the wider audience of this country can get to know who we are and who we were. – Julia Morizawa
I’m Pinay and proud. A Filipino American female in Hollywood. I’m excited to be celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage month in a time where diversity is happening like never before. Keeping it real real: it’s still pretty White guys. I think my place in today and tomorrow’s Hollywood is continually working to create that space for diversity to flourish and be seen; as a catalyst for both myself, other Asian Americans and POC. I’m excited to see what happens, and to breaking glass ceilings. Mabuhay! –Ana Parsons
I’m becoming more and more aware of my Asian identity as I get older. From my experience, I think we as Asians spend a lot of our youth trying to fit in, to be the “ideal POC,” to the point where to not stand out is to succeed. And so, we become the fastest growing invisible population in America. But few Asians are producing in our industry, so who is out here to tell our stories? The last all-Asian Hollywood blockbuster was Joy Luck Club (A Risa casting!) – 1993. That means most college-aged kids have NEVER seen a movie with an all Asian cast. That’s insane. –Kenton Chen
As an adopted Korean-American who grew up in a predominantly Caucasian culture, APAHM is a personally important bridge between the cultures we typically associate in the US as “America = West” and “Asia & Pacific = East.” I feel like there is a xenophobic component in the American culture that presumes Asian people are inherently “foreign” or that immigration is somehow an experience exclusive to people of color. The promotion of awareness and inclusion of Asian Pacific heritage in America is important to me not just as an Asian-American who so frequently encounters racial micro-aggressions and ignorant stereotypes, but as an American who by virtue of my upbringing, have my own blind-spots and pockets of ignorance regarding Asian Pacific cultures and all of our diverse histories in America. I remember how validating it felt, watching the 1992 Winter Olympics, when Kristi Yamguchi – a Japanese American with a Californian accent – placed gold, with Midori Ito of Japan standing next to her with silver. It was this epiphany moment in my young mind that I could see two champions standing side by side: both an Asian-American like me, and a Japanese person like whom so many people presumed me to be. The fact that these two women were arguably the best figure skaters in the world that day made me feel a lot less “other”…like being Asian and/or American was not just possible, but great. I hope that with APAHM, others can feel what I felt watching the 1992 Olympics. –Nicky Endres