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What will you do on this MLK National Day of Service for America?
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
One of my favorite days of the year is the all-day symposium of special guest lectures and arts performances at the University of Michigan for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is one day off work and school to sit in a dark lecture hall — I confess, one of my favorite things to do — and listen and learn and start thinking forward to the kind of year, the kind of world, I want to create.
When my children were little, they attended the special all-day K-12 workshop at the university with storytellers, singers, gospel choirs, discussion groups, coloring, and — their favorite part — pizza. I was once invited to talk about the history of Asians in America there, and my children performed Chinese lion dances up and down the aisles.
Then as they grew older, they began attending the other lectures with me. I remember all four of them sitting in a pile on the floor at the business school, drawing and reading, not certain whether or not they were listening, and then the amazing conversations we had afterwards.
This year, though, with COVID rates higher than ever, schools struggling to re-open after the holidays, the re-traumatizing anniversary of the January 6 insurrection at the capitol, and the continuing fight for voting rights, MLK Day does not feel like the beginning of the year. Add on the recent loss of the pioneering Asian American activist for LGBTQ rights who spoke in my classroom every year, Jim Toy, at the age of 91.
It feels like months have already passed.
Then I get a call from a friend looking for historic photos of Asian Americans protesting for ethnic studies or voting rights. Then I get a press release from another friend fighting for data disaggregation. Then my youngest child, who we all call Little Brother, turns 18 and asks me how to register to vote.
As the child of immigrants, I know that I have an overly idealistic vision of America, the beautiful country, raised as I was on Schoolhouse Rock and my parents’ immigrant dreams. It hurts every time I learn how the promise of America is not kept for everyone and how some people actively try to keep so many of us down. So what can I do but keep learning, keep advocating, keep working to make this country better for all of us.
What will you do on MLK Day of Service?
Activists and historians remember Jim Toy as a pioneering leader in LGBTQ rights | PBS NewsHour “Jim Toy's life is a reminder that LGBT history and LGBT civil rights were also made here in the Midwest, and that Asian Americans and other people of color were a critical part of that movement.”
Overlooked No More: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Artist and Author Who Explored Identity | NY Times She was murdered after the publication of her first novel, “Dictee,” a challenging exploration of Korean history and immigrant life that inspires Asian American writers today.
Michelle Kwan Gives Birth to First Baby and Shares Photo of Daughter | E! Online Olympian Michelle Kwan welcomed her first child, a daughter named Kalista Belle Kwan. "I'm always full of surprises."
A year after police killed Christian Hall, his parents continue calls for accountability | NBC News Christian Hall, an Asian American adoptee, was shot by Pennsylvania State Police troopers. His parents are pushing for a new investigation and more mental health resources.
WATCH: Examining the human toll of China’s stringent COVID policy | PBS NewsHour A third Chinese city has locked down its residents because of a COVID-19 outbreak, less than a month before the Beijing Olympics. These lockdowns are tests of China’s zero-COVID policy, which authorities have called a success. But critics ask: at what cost?
China says SpaceX satellites nearly collided with its three-member crew space station | PBS NewsHour China is calling on the United States to protect a Chinese space station and its three-member crew after Beijing complained that satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX nearly struck the station.
N.Y. enacts ‘groundbreaking’ law to change how Asian American populations are counted | NBC News N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul quietly signed a bill last week requiring state agencies to separate data among different Asian ethnic groups.
In face of pandemic, Hmong Americans press forward to maintain New Year traditions | PBS NewsHour “It’s family reunion en masse.”
- WEBINAR ON JANUARY 20, 4 pm PT (7 pm ET) – Reframing Perceptions: Asian American Women Journalist Trailblazers
Journalists are at the frontlines to report incidents and events about our communities, country, and the world at large. They are the eyes and ears of our society and through them we gain a better understanding of what is happening around us, both the good and the challenges that have yet to be conquered. Asian American journalists have brought the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community front and center in the American discourse on race, ethnicity, and identity. They shed light on the resilience of the AAPI community and contextualize racism against Asians in America. Their tireless work helps all of us better understand what it means to be Asian in America, what it was like in the past, and how much has – and has not – changed.
On Thursday, January 20, 2022, the 1990 Institute and US-China Education Trust (USCET) present this webinar featuring these trailblazing Asian American women journalists:
- WEBINAR RECORDING – Did you miss last month’s webinar called "Beyond Shang-Chi: Superheroes, Masculinity, and Asian American Representation"? Catch the recording here. The 1990 Institute and the Serica Initiative met with film industry and culture experts to discuss changing notions of gender, the Korean wave phenomenon, China’s cultural soft power, and how to sustain AAPI representation. Hear from Bing Chen, President and Co-Founder of Gold House; Kaiser Kuo, Founder of the Sinica Podcast; Minji Chang, actor, producer, and entrepreneur; and moderator Daniel Tam-Claiborne, Senior Associate at the Serica Initiative.
Dim Sum - A Little Bit of Heart
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