October 8, 2021

Volume 1, Issue 18

Dear Friends,

Thanks for your continued support of the 1990 Institute and newsletter. Thanks also for forwarding this newsletter to your friends and family, and for encouraging your friends to subscribe so they can get this content straight to their inboxes too. 

Scroll below to Spotlight to find out about our NEW video called “Shang-Chi: Cultural Watershed or Marketing Opportunity?” launching TODAY where we explore this blockbuster hit from an Asian American perspective. We also have a NEW podcast called “A New Wave of Civic Engagement for Asian Americans” that you don’t want to miss! 


Our video, Shang-Chi: Does the Legend Live Up to the Hype, is out now!


How can finding more cousins help us see ourselves more clearly?

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang


My seventeen-year-old son, who we all call Little Brother, has been growing tall and growing his hair long, which he pulls back into a nice pandemic ponytail. 

One of his friends is also tall with long hair, which she also pulls back into a ponytail. 

From the back, you can’t tell them apart because they are both tall and have the same ponytail, with the same curl. 

This past weekend, I talked with the girl’s father at a school event and realized that both our families are originally from Shandong province. Ah. So that is why we are all so tall. 

All my life I’ve been told that that’s why I am so tall, because our family is from Shandong province, home of the tallest Chinese. It is only in recent years that my children have started to laugh at the mere idea that I am tall.

Really, I am tall. It’s an important part of my self-image.

Little Brother and his friend have been trying to convince people that they are long-lost cousins. This new Shandong discovery adds a layer of complexity and believability to their prank. I love how my children always try to seek out more relatives.

It is with that same energy that I always rush to see who won MacArthur fellowships every year. Often referred to as a “genius grant,” the MacArthur foundation gives a no-strings-attached grant of $650,000 paid out over 5 years. Every year I count: how many Asian Americans, how many people of color, how many artists, and how many scientists. Some people get excited about the release of sports scores or movie awards, but for me, it is the announcement of the MacArthurs. 

This year there is only one obvious Asian American MacArthur fellow, Don Mee Choi, a Korean American poet and translator who writes and creates art about the effects of military violence and U.S. imperialism on the civilians of the Korean Peninsula. We have different family histories and have been impacted by different wars, but there are parallels in perspective, sort of the way that cousins have slightly different life experiences, but they get you.

In recent events co-sponsored by the 1990 Institute, we looked at ideas of unity through communication: what's next for AAPIs in media and entertainment, challenges and opportunities facing Asian Americans, and anti-Asian hate and the economic challenges facing our Chinatowns. Media representation, civil rights, economic issues – cousin issues that affect us all.


Curated News

Trauma and Trump make Asian American voters a more cohesive bloc, new poll reveals | Politico  Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are significantly more likely to be mobilized by a shared fear of violence and discrimination than before the pandemic.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent? | Inside Higher Ed  Faculty leaders at the University of Tennessee call for reinstatement of Professor Anming Hu acquitted in China Initiative case, and for policy changes for when the FBI comes calling about a professor again.

Documentary shows how an Oakland Chinatown kid became a more than ‘Almost Famous’ rock journalist | SF Chronicle  A new film about legendary Rolling Stones journalist Ben Fong-Torres. “I said, ‘Ben you’re in everyone else’s rock ‘n’ roll documentary; why don’t you have one?’” recalled filmmaker Suzanne Kai. “And he said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’”

The Godfather of Asian American Blogging, Phil Yu | Center for Asian American Media  “His dedication and persistence, his willingness to step up and stand up at times when our community really needed a rallying call, and his sneaky sense of humor all really have set him apart. People survive and endure for a reason.”

California city apologizes for 1887 Chinatown destruction | PBS NewsHour  “It’s important for members of the Chinese American community to know that they are seen and that the difficult conversations around race and historic inequities include the oppression that their ancestors suffered.”

VIDEO: Exiled to Motown Exhibit Tells History of Japanese Americans in Metro Detroit | One Detroit PBS  An exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum called “Exiled To Motown” explores the Japanese American experience after settling in Metro Detroit after World War II.

Adoptees Call For Boycott of “Blue Bayou” | Reappropriate  “The film Blue Bayou is clearly based on the life of Korean American adoptee Adam Crapser, who did not give the filmmakers his consent or the rights to his story,” says Adoptees for Justice in a public statement

Canadians, Chinese executive return home in prisoner swap | PBS NewsHour  China, the U.S., and Canada completed a high-stakes prisoner swap with an executive of Chinese global communications giant Huawei Technologies charged with fraud and held in Canada, Meng Wanzhou, and two Canadians held by China, potentially bringing closure to a three-year feud that embroiled the three countries.

China, U.S. unveil separate big steps to fight climate change | PBS NewsHour  Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country will no longer fund coal-fired power plants abroad, surprising the world on climate for the second straight year at the U.N. General Assembly.

China flies record 52 warplanes toward self-ruled Taiwan | PBS NewsHour  China flew 52 fighter planes toward Taiwan on Monday in the largest show of force on record, continuing the three days of sustained military harassment against the self-ruled island.


Our NEW podcast launches Episode 4: A New Wave of Civic Engagement for Asian Americans on Monday! Click here to catch up!



  • NEW VIDEO LAUNCHES TODAY! – Marvel’s Shang-Chi with its Asian American superhero is an important film for Asian American representation. But is this really a cultural watershed moment or more of a marketing opportunity to ensure profit for Disney’s shareholders? Could it be exploiting the desire for more positive Asian representation? Time to buckle up as we dive into these issues in our NEW video, “Shang-Chi: Does the Legend Live up to the Hype?”. We talk about filmmakers and films that pushed the boundaries further and paved the way for Shang-Chi's success – why didn’t they receive the same attention? How much does Shang-Chi really challenge Hollywood stereotypes of Asian men? A movie like Shang-Chi is overdue and a milestone for the AAPI community, but there's still a long way to go in terms of Asian representation on the big screen! Watch the video TODAY and let us know what you think!


  • PODCAST – The latest episode of our new Bund to Brooklyn podcast comes out on Monday! In Episode 4: A New Wave of Civic Engagement for Asian Americans, co-host Siyuan Meng in Shanghai shares her perspective on how young Chinese approach civic engagement. Then filmmaker/producer Brian Yang joins Siyuan and New York co-host Lucia Liu to share his experiences as a campaign manager for Andrew Yang's presidential campaign. He also talks about raising awareness against the recent string of violence against Asian Americans. Listen here or subscribe to us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and all other major podcasting platforms. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @bundtobrooklyn.


  • WEBINAR – Save the date – November 4 at 4 pm PT! Join the 1990 Institute and U.S.-China Education Trust (USCET) for a webinar featuring Asian American women journalists who have brought the AAPI community front and center in the American discourse on race, ethnicity, and identity. “Reframing Perceptions: Asian American Women Journalist Trailblazers” will feature activist and author Helen Zia, former CNN anchor Joie Chen, and 1990 Advisory Council member Mei Fong. Registration is open!

Dim Sum - A Little Bit of Heart


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