Against All Odds: The Fight for a Black Middle Class | CUNY TV Special


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪ ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>>WELCOME TO ASIAN
AMERICAN LIFE. I’M YOUR HOST, ERNABEL
DEMILLO. WE START THE NEW YEAR
CELEBRATING ASIAN AMERICAN TRAILBLAZERS. FROM SOCIAL,
HISTORICAL LEADERS TO ENTERTAINERS WHO ARE CHANGING
THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE. HERE’S A LOOK AT WHAT’S AHEAD. LESSONS LEARNED. I SHARE LARRY ITLIONG’S
JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE. MIKE GILLIAM MEETS THE
MILLENNIAL WHO IS SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT ONE
PIECE AT A TIME. OPEN MIC. RAYNER RAMIREZ
CATCHES UP WITH ASIAN AMERICAN COMEDIANS. AND MINNIE ROH REPORTS ON
THE LAUNCH OF I FIRST SAW MYSELF CAMPAIGN. ASIAN AMERICAN HISTORY
ISN’T USUALLY TAUGHT IN TRADITIONAL HISTORY CLASSES. BUT ONE WOMAN IS HOPING TO
CHANGE ALL THAT WITH HER JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE. ♪ [PIANO MUSIC] ♪ BOOK EXPO AMERICA AT
THE JACOB JAVITS CENTER IS ONE OF THE MOST
POPULAR AND PRESTIGIOUS BOOK FAIRS IN THE WORLD. THIS IS
WHERE PUBLISHERS, BOOKSTORE OWNERS, AND LIBRARIANS
CAN DISCOVER NEW BOOKS, AND WHERE FANS CAN MEET
THEIR FAVORITE AUTHORS. THIS PAST FAIR INCLUDED
MANY AUTHORS OF COLORS LIKE NAFIZA AZADE, WHO’S
DEBUT YA NOVEL THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME CELEBRATES
DIVERSITY AND MULTICULTURALISM.>>>AS SOMEONE WHO HAS
MOVED, WHO IS AN IMMIGRANT, THE CITY OF NEW
YORK IS THE CITY OF THE DISPLACED, IT IS
POPULATED, PEOPLED, BY PEOPLE WHO ARE RUNNING
AWAY FROM A PERSECUTION FROM THEIR OWN COUNTRIES. I
WANTED IT TO BE A COMMENTARY ON THE STATUS OF MINORITIES
AND BECAUSE WHEN I WAS WRITING IT THERE WAS A LOT OF
TOXIC NARRATIVE ON MINORITIES IN THE, IN THE MEDIA.>>>THE MAIN CHARACTER IS
A STRONG YOUNG MUSLIM FEMALE, A REFLECTION OF
THE AUTHOR.>>>AND I ALSO WANTED TO
TALK ABOUT IDENTITIES. BECAUSE AS AN IMMIGRANT,
AS, AS A SOMEONE WHOSE ANCESTORS HAVE BEEN MOVED
FROM TO PLACE TO PLACE I STILL STRUGGLE WITH THE
QUESTION OF WHO AM I.>>>WE ALSO MET GAIL
GALLIGAN, THE ILLUSTRATOR OF THE GRAPHIC NOVEL BOY
CRAZY STACEY, PART OF THE POPULAR BABY-SITTER’S CLUB
SERIES.>>>WHY SHOULD YOU READ
BOY CRAZY STACEY? BECAUSE IT’S SO MUCH FUN.>>>GALLIGAN, WHO IS THAI
AMERICAN, GREW UP READING THE BOOKS, WHICH FEATURED
AN ASIAN AMERICAN CHARACTER, CLAUDIA KISHI.>>>I WAS A HUGE FAN OF
THE BABY-SITTER’S CLUB GROWING UP AND I STILL
REMEMBER LIKE, THE FIRST TIME I WAS READING THE
BOOKS AND I GOT TO CLAUDIA, I LIKE, READ A FEW MORE PAGES,
AND THEN I STOPPED AND I HAD TO FLIP BACK AND READ
IT ONE MORE TIME LIKE, WAIT. SHE’S NOT WHITE.>>>TODAY, GALLIGAN KNOWS THAT
HER VOICE CAN INSPIRE OTHERS.>>>THIS IS SOMETHING THAT
I’VE WANTED FOR A LONG TIME, AND WANTED TO WORK FOR. NOT JUST TO SHARE MY OWN
STORIES, BUT ALSO TO BE IN A POSITION WHERE I CAN
HELP ELEVATE THE VOICES OF OTHERS THAT NEED TO BE HEARD. IT’S SOMETHING THAT’S
REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME AND IT’S SOMETHING I THINK
ABOUT A LOT.>>>AZADE AND GALLIGAN ARE
PART OF A GROWING OF ASIAN AND ASIAN AMERICANS
FINDING THEMSELVES IN MAINSTREAM CHILDREN AND
YA PUBLISHING. BUT THERE ARE STILL SOME
STORIES NOT BEING TOLD.>>>AND THE NEXT DAY, MORE
THAN 500 FILIPINO WORKERS DEMANDED A FIVE-CENT RAISE
UNTIL THEY GOT IT, THEY REFUSED TO WORK. LARRY
JOINED THE STRIKE, TOO.>>>MISSING AT THE BOOK
FAIR WAS CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR GAYLE ROMASANTA. SHE IS COAUTHOR OF A NEW
CHILDREN’S BOOK, JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE: THE LIFE OF
LARRY ITLIONG.>>>I JUST KNEW THAT THE
COMMUNITY NEEDED A BOOK LIKE THIS BECAUSE MY KIDS
NEEDED A BOOK LIKE THIS AND I COULD NOT BE THE ONLY PARENT
WANTING THIS BOOK TO HAPPEN.>>>THE BOOK IS THE FIRST
CHILDREN’S HISTORY BOOK ABOUT A FILIPINO AMERICAN.>>>WE NEED TO LOOK DEEPLY
AND UNDERSTAND OUR AMERICAN FILIPINO HISTORY
HERE AS FILIPINO AMERICANS. AS IMMIGRANTS, AS THOSE
WHO ARE BORN HERE, WE SHOULD PUT A CLAIM ON THAT.
AND BE PROUD OF OUR HISTORY. AND THAT IS PART OF
AMERICAN HISTORY.>>>EVEN WITH DIVERSITY
EFFORTS IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, THE NUMBERS ARE
STILL LOW. ACCORDING TO THE MOST
RECENT STUDY BY THE COOPERATIVE CHILDREN’S
BOOK CENTER FOR EDUCATION, WHITE AUTHORS ARE STILL
MOSTLY TELLING DIVERSE STORIES RATHER THAN
PEOPLE OF COLOR. MEANWHILE, TEN PERCENT OF
CHILDREN’S BOOKS FEATURED AFRICAN AMERICAN
CHARACTERS, SEVEN PERCENT FEATURES ASIAN AND PACIFIC
ISLAND CHARACTERS, FIVE PERCENT FEATURED LATINO
CHARACTERS, AND ONE PERCENT FEATURED NATIVE
AMERICANS. MANY AUTHORS OF COLOR LIKE
ROMANSANTA ARE NO LONGER WAITING FOR MAINSTREAM
PUBLISHERS TO OPEN THEIR DOOR. THEY ARE BUILDING THEIR
OWN DOORS. ROMASANTA AND HER
COWORKER, DAWN MABALON, STARTED THEIR OWN PUBLISHING
COMPANY CALLED BRIDGE + DELTA.>>>WE DIDN’T WANT TO WAIT FOR
PERMISSION TO TELL THE STORY, EITHER. WE DID NOT WANT TO
WAIT FOR A PUBLISHING HOUSE TO SAY, YES! WE WANT THIS
STORY! BECAUSE WE KNEW THAT IF LARRY HAD BEEN GONE OVER 40
YEARS NOW AND THE BOOK STILL WASN’T OUT YET AND PUBLISHERS
STILL WEREN’T LOOKING FOR ANYBODY TO WRITE IT.>>>INVEST IN CREATING THE
FIRST EVER FILIPINO AMERICAN HISTORY BOOKS FOR
CHILDREN.>>>THROUGH A PUBLIC
FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN, THEY RAISED ENOUGH TO PUBLISH
THEIR FIRST BOOK, ONE THAT TELLS A STORY OF FILIPINO
FARM WORKER AND ACTIVIST LARRY ITLIONG. HE IS CONSIDERED
ONE OF THE MAJOR LEADERS OF THE FARM LABOR MOVEMENT. BUT
HIS STORY WAS LONG FORGOTTEN UNTIL RECENTLY THANKS TO
HISTORIANS LIKE MABALON WHO GREW UP IN DELANO,
CALIFORNIA, AND WHOSE FAMILY WORKED THE FARMS. SADLY, THE
DAY HER CHILDREN’S BOOK WAS FINISHED, MABALON DIED
WHILE ON VACATION IN HAWAII.>>>ON THE DAY THAT WE HAD
THE HARD COPY PROOFS, SHE APPROVED THEM BECAUSE WE
WERE GOING BACK AND FORTH EDITING THEM. WE
WERE TEXTING BACK AND FORTH, I HAD WOKEN HER UP, AND SHE
WAS LIKE, OH, I’M THE ONLY ONE AWAKE RIGHT NOW. AND I WAS
LIKE, I’M SO SORRY I WOKE YOU BUT WE’RE GOOD TO GO. AND
THEN SHE GAVE ME A CHECKLIST, LIKE, DID YOU…
DID THIS HAPPEN? DID THIS HAPPEN?
DID THIS HAPPEN? AND I WAS LIKE, YEP.
WE’RE ALL GOOD. AND WE WERE TEXTING WITH
ANDRE SIBAYAN, THE ILLUSTRATOR, AND WE WERE
LIKE, YAY! WE’RE DONE! AND I SAID, OKAY, I’M
GOING TO MAIL THIS! I’M GOING TO MAIL THIS
BACK TO THE PRINTER. WE’RE GOOD TO GO!>>>HER DEATH WAS
DEVASTATING TO THE COMMUNITY BUT MABALON’S
LEGACY CONTINUES TO BE FELT AS ROMASANTA AND THE
BOOK’S ILLUSTRATOR, ANDRE SIBAYAN, TRAVEL
ACROSS THE COUNTRY ON A SELF-FUNDED BOOK TOUR.
DO YOU FEEL HER PRESENCE? HER SPIRIT?>>>OH, ALL THE TIME. I TALK TO
HER ALL THE TIME IN MY HEAD AND I REALLY HONESTLY EVEN
FEEL LIKE I’M CLOSER TO HER NOW THAN I WAS WHEN
SHE WAS HERE. I FEEL LIKE OUR FRIENDSHIP
IS ON A DIFFERENT PLANE NOW, AND SHE TOTALLY
UNDERSTANDS, AND I ALWAYS ASK FOR HER GUIDANCE.>>>ROMASANTA IS NOT DONE
TELLING THE FILIPINO AMERICAN STORY. BRIDGE +
DELTA IS WORKING ON THE NEXT CHILDREN’S BOOK, ONE
FEATURING THE OLYMPIC DIVER, VICKI MANALO DRAVES, AND
THE OTHER FEATURING THE LEADING FILIPINO AMERICAN
HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR DAWN MABALON. I’M ERNABEL DEMILLO FOR
ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE. THE FASHION INDUSTRY HAS A
WASTE PROBLEM. BUT MIKE GILLIAM
INTRODUCES US TO AN ENTREPRENEUR WHO SHOWS US
HOW TO RECYCLE TEXTILES.>>>CAMILLE TAGLE WAS A
FASHION DESIGNER WITH A NOTABLE CAREER. YOU MIGHT
RECOGNIZE SOME OF HER FASHIONS THAT WENT FROM THE DRAWING
BOARD TO THE RED CARPET, WORN BY STARS LIKE MAYA RUDOLPH.
BUT THAT CAREER IS BEHIND HER. NOW, SHE’S ONE OF THE KEY
PEOPLE HEADING UP SOMETHING CALLED FABSCRAP.>>>FABSCRAP IS A
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION AND OUR ONE MISSION IS TO KEEP
FABRIC OUT OF LANDFILL.>>>THIS ASIAN AMERICAN
DESIGNER TURNED SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION IS
FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. HER FATHER IS FILIPINO,
HER MOTHER CHINESE. BUT SHE DIDN’T CATCH THE
FASHION BUG FROM HER PARENTS. THEY HAVE NO BACKGROUND IN
FASHION OR NONPROFITS.>>>THEY HAVE NEVER HAD A
FAMILY MEMBER THAT WAS AT ALL INTERESTED IN FASHION,
AND NEVER HAD A FAMILY MEMBER THAT HAD ANY
EXPERIENCE IN NONPROFITS. THEY WERE USED TO THE MORE
TRADITIONAL OCCUPATIONS LIKE, YOU KNOW, MEDICINE,
AND BANKING OR FINANCE.>>>THEY PUSHED CAMILLE TO
GET A FOUR-YEAR DEGREE, SAYING ONCE THAT WAS
COMPLETED SHE COULD DO WHATEVER SHE WANTED. SHE
GRADUATED FROM UCLA AND IT WAS WHILE SHE WAS INTERNING
AT THE COMPANY GUESS THAT HER BOSSES DISCOVERED
HER TALENT. IT HAPPENED WHILE SHE WAS
WORKING ON A FINAL INTERNSHIP PROJECT FOR
FASHION BUYERS AND AS PART OF HER PROPOSAL SHE HAD TO
DESIGN A LINE OF CLOTHING.>>>THEY WERE SHOCKED AT
WHAT I WAS ABLE TO CREATE. AND THESE ARE SENIOR
EXECUTIVES OF THE BUYING GUESS TEAM, AND THEY HAD
ACTUALLY WANTED TO PUT THEM INTO PRODUCTION AT
THAT POINT SO I DEFINITELY GOT VALIDATION AT A YOUNG
AGE THAT MAYBE I WAS CUT OUT FOR THE JOB.>>>BUT WHILE WORKING AS A
DESIGNER CREATING EVENING WEAR, WHICH IS OFTEN WORN
JUST ONCE, SHE REALIZED THE WASTE INVOLVED IN THE
INDUSTRY. WHETHER IT BE FROM CUTTING
FROM PATTERNS, OR JUST CHANGING FABRICS IN MIDSTREAM
FOR A MYRIAD OF REASONS. SHE SAYS SHE DECIDED SHE
HAD TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. CAMILLE LINKED UP WITH
JESSICA SCHREIBER, THE FOUNDER OF FABSCRAP, AND
JOINED THEIR MISSION OF KEEPING AS MUCH FABRIC AS
POSSIBLE OUT OF LANDFILLS. I’M REALLY BLOWN AWAY BY
THE SIZE OF THESE PILES HERE. I MEAN, HOW MUCH IS THIS?>>>THIS IS QUITE A BIT
OF FABRIC. IT’S ABOUT SIXTY THOUSAND
POUNDS.>>>THIS IS THE FABSCRAP
WAREHOUSE AT THE BROOKLYN ARMY TERMINAL, WHERE ALL
OF THE FABRIC TO BE RECYCLED IS TAKEN.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS. WHEN A COMPANY SIGNS UP,
THEY GET TWO TYPES OF BAGS TO PUT THEIR SCRAPS IN. BLACK BAGS FOR SCRAPS THAT
HAVE IDENTIFYING PATTERNS OR LOGOS THAT CAN’T BE
RECYCLED AND MUST BE SHREDDED. AND BROWN BAGS FOR FABRIC
THAT CAN BE RECYCLED. WHEN THE BAGS ARE FULL,
THE COMPANY CALLS FOR A PICKUP. AND ALL OF THE STUFF IS
BROUGHT TO THE STUFF AT THE BROOKLYN ARMY TERMINAL
TO BE SORTED. SOME OF THE STUFF THAT HAS
LOGOS ON IT AND THAT SORT OF THING CAN’T BE RECYCLED
AND SENT BACK OUT, RIGHT?>>>YEAH, THOSE ITEMS WOULD BE
CONSIDERED PROPRIETARY->>>OKAY.>>>BECAUSE THEY HAVE SOME
SORT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY WITH THEM. SO WHAT
WE CAN DO WITH THOSE PIECES AND WITH ANY PIECES THAT ARE
A LITTLE BIT TOO DIFFICULT TO REUSE, MAYBE THEY’RE VERY
SMALL, WE ACTUALLY DOWN CYCLE INTO WHAT IS CALLED
SHODDY.>>>OH, OKAY.>>>AND SHODDY IS WHAT IS
ACTUALLY USED FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF
INSULATION AS WELL.>>>OH, WOW.>>>SO WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
INSULATION FOR CAR DOORS, FOR MOVING BLANKETS…>>>THE LARGER PIECES
EITHER END UP GOING TO VOLUNTEERS WHO GET FREE
FABRIC FOR WORKING AT FABSCRAP OR ARE SOLD AT
THRIFT SHOP RATES. THEY ALSO HAVE LEATHER,
LACE, TRIM, BUTTONS, AND OTHER ITEMS USED BY
FASHION DESIGNERS. BECAUSE FABSCRAP IS A
NONPROFIT, ALL OF THE MONEY RAISED THROUGH SALES
AND DONATIONS IS FUNNELED BACK INTO THE ORGANIZATION
TO BE USED IN THEIR EFFORT. SINCE FABSCRAP OPEN IN
2016, THEY SAY THEY HAVE SAVED 458,000 POUNDS OF
MATERIAL FROM LANDFILLS. BUT THERE’S MORE. IN JUNE,
FABSCRAP OPENED THE FABSCRAP SHOP ON THE EDGE OF THE
GARMENT DISTRICT IN MANHATTAN. THE IDEA WAS TO GET CLOSER
TO PEOPLE WORKING IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY. THE SHOP
LOOKS LIKE AN UPSCALE FABRIC SHOP IN THE CITY,
BUT IT’S A THRIFT SHOP. THE PRICES ARE RIGHT, AND
THEY MAKE SURE CUSTOMERS ARE AWARE OF THE FABSCRAP
MESSAGE.>>>THIS EQUATION ACTUALLY
EASILY ILLUSTRATES FOR THEM, OKAY, YOU ARE MAKING
AN IMPACT. EVEN IF YOU’RE JUST
SHOPPING, YOU ARE TAKING A PART IN THIS EFFORT TO
DIVERT FABRICS FROM LANDFILL AND THIS IS YOUR
ACTUAL IMPACT. SO WHAT WE DO WHEN PEOPLE
CHECK OUT IS WE ACTUALLY WEIGHT EVERY SINGLE
PURCHASE AND WE TELL THAT CUSTOMER, OKAY, YOU’VE
ACTUALLY SAVED FIVE POUNDS FROM LANDFILLS TODAY, OR,
YOU’VE SAVED 25 POUNDS FROM LANDFILL. AND THEY’RE
ABLE TO KIND OF DO THE MATH AND UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT
ACTUALLY MEANS.>>>THE FABSCRAP SHOP IS
LOCATED ON WEST 26TH STREET BETWEEN 6TH
AND 7TH. AND CAMILLE SAYS THEY HOPE
TO OPEN MORE SHOPS IN THE U.S. AND GLOBALLY. SHE ALSO
HOPES THAT HER LEGACY WILL BE THAT SHE DID HER
PART FOR THE PLANET. I’M MIKE GILLIAM FOR
ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE.>>>JO KOY, AZIZ ANSARI,
AND RONNY CHIENG ARE JUST A FEW ASIAN AMERICAN
COMEDIANS WHO HAVE DROPPED SPECIALS ON STREAMING
SERVICES. THEY’RE NOT ALONE. THERE’S A WHOLE NEW
GENERATION OF EMERGING ASIAN AMERICAN COMEDIANS
WHO ARE TAKING TIRED OLD STEREOTYPES AND FLIPPING
IT ON IT’S HEAD.>>>I CAME TO AMERICA FOR
COLLEGE, I WENT TO INDIANA AND THE FIRST THING I
LEARNED WAS THAT, MAN, Y’ALL CANNOT TELL ASIANS
APART. I LEARNED THIS BECAUSE
BACK IN COLLEGE, WHEN I GO THE BARS IN MY ASIAN POSSE WE COULD
ALL GET IN WITH ONE ID.>>>WITH HER DEADPAN
DELIVERY, JOCELYN CHIA IS ONE OF MANY UP-AND-COMING
ASIAN AMERICAN COMICS TAKING CENTER STAGE.>>>MOST COMEDIANS
STARTING OUT WILL ALWAYS GO PERSONAL. SO, IF WE ARE A
MINORITY LIVING IN AMERICA, SOMETHING PERSONAL THAT’S
UNIQUE TO US, THAT HAS SHAPED OUR EXPERIENCE AND
OUR LIFE WILL PROBABLY BE SOMETHING THAT WE WILL GO TO.>>>CHIA LEFT HER CAREER
AS A CORPORATE LAWYER SEVEN YEARS AGO TO PURSUE
HER CALLING AND SHE’S BEEN MAKING A LIVING TOURING
THE U.S. AND IN ASIA EVER SINCE.>>>AN AMERICAN BOYFRIEND
IS COLLEGE, HIS NAME WAS MICHAEL, HE WENT TO
HARVARD AND MY MOM DIDN’T LIKE THAT HE A WHITE GUY,
BUT HE WENT TO HARVARD, RIGHT? SO, THAT MAKES HIM HALF-ASIAN.>>>THE RISE OF ASIAN AMERICAN
COMICS HAS BEEN DRAMATIC.>>>JOHN BORROMEO IS THE
CHIEF OF STAFF AT STAND UP NEW YORK AND HE ALSO
HAPPENS TO BE THE ONLY ASIAN AMERICANS WHO BOOKS ASIAN
AMERICANS IN NEW YORK CITY. BORROMEO SAY HE STARTED
BOOKING MORE ASIAN AMERICAN COMEDIANS TO
CAPITALIZE ON THIS RECENT BOOM IN THE COMIC INDUSTRY.>>>AND I REALLY DID IT AS A
MONEY GRAB, FIRST AND FOREMOST. AND I’LL BE COMPLETELY
HONEST WITH YOU. BUT, THERE WAS SOMETHING
THAT AFTER BOOKING ASIAN COMEDY I FELT A
CONNECTION, AND IT WAS A CONNECTION THAT I FELT
BECAUSE IT WAS SOMEBODY THAT LOOKED LIKE ME THAT
WAS ON STAGE. AND IT DIDN’T BECOME ABOUT
LAUGHING AT, YOU KNOW, JOKES ABOUT YOUR FAMILY, OR
GETTING GOOD GRADES, IT BECAME, FINDING COMICS
WITH A VOICE UP THERE THAT WERE FUNNY AND THEY JUST
HAPPENED TO LOOK LIKE YOU.>>>BRIAN YANG, JOCELYN
CHIA, AND ED POKROPSKI WERE AMONG THE VERY FIRST
ASIAN AMERICAN COMEDIANS BORROMEO BOOKED AT STAND
UP NEW YORK.>>>ONLY ASIAN BOOKER THAT
I KNOW IN THIS TOWN, AND CELEBRATING THREE YEARS
HERE, YEAH. AND THESE ARE, AND YOU’RE,
AND THESE, YOU GUYS ARE THREE FACES THAT WERE LIKE
SOME OF THE FIRST FACES THAT I KIND OF SAW WHEN I
WAS COMING UP HERE. BRIAN, YOU ARE ONE OF THE
MOST WOKE COMICS IN OUR TOWN RIGHT NOW. YOU DON’T PLAY
INTO THE STEREOTYPES THAT ARE OF OUR
COMMUNITY. YOU GO BEYOND THAT. YOU’RE NOT JUST AN ASIAN
AMERICAN COMIC, YOU’RE A COMIC THAT HAPPENS TO BE ASIAN.>>>YEAH I THINK WE ARE — WE’RE LIKE THIS THING THAT
EVERYONE KNOWS. LIKE, THE STEREOTYPES ARE
ALL OUT THERE. SO I, WE DON’T HAVE TO SAY
THEM. RIGHT? THE EXPECTATION’S THERE, SO NOW
I CAN JUST KNOCK THEM DOWN.>>>THE SON OF MUNG
IMMIGRANTS, YANG SAYS HE ALWAYS KNEW HE WAS FUNNY
WHEN HE WAS A KID BUT A CAREER IN ENTERTAINMENT
WAS BEYOND HIS DREAMS.>>>SO, MY PARENTS ARE
IMMIGRANTS, SO THERE’S NOT THIS THING OF LIKE, OH,
LIKE, IT’S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO GO INTO THE ARTS OR
BE AN ENTERTAINER. IT, THEY WANT, VERY LIKE,
TACTILE JOBS THAT YOU CAN SEE EVERY DAY, LIKE A
PHARMACIST, A WRITER, A DOCTOR, A LAWYER, LIKE
THOSE ARE JOBS THAT FEEL MORE, LIKE, REAL? TO
IMMIGRANT PARENTS, I THINK. ANYTHING ON THE TV IS LIKE
FANTASYLAND. AND I LIKE TO GET CHIPOTLE
BEFORE THE SHOW. AND THE GUY GAVE ME MY
BURRITO, AND THEN HE LOOKED AT ME AND HE GOES,
YOU’RE CHINESE. AND I WAS LIKE, NO. AND THEN HE
GOES, OH. HOW COME?>>>STAND UP COMEDY WAS A
WAY FOR ME TO SAY, I WANT TO TRY TO SPEAK IN MY OWN
VOICE IN THIS WAY, TELL MY OWN STORIES. MY NAME IS
REALLY ED POKROPSKI. THAT’S MY REAL NAME, LAST
NAME POKROPSKI. BOTH MY PARENTS WERE SUPER
WHITE, I’M ADOPTED. SO I HAVE FUN WITH THEM
AND I USUALLY SAY, WELL, MY PARENTS BOUGHT AN ASIAN
KID THE SAME REASON THEY BOUGHT AN ASIAN CAR.
HIGHER PERFORMANCE, LOWER COST.>>>ED POKROPSKI IS JUST
THREE YEARS IN THE COMEDY CIRCUIT AND HE STARTED A
MONTHLY COMEDY SHOW FEATURING ASIAN AMERICAN
COMEDIANS CALLED UNWASHED.>>>THE IDEA OF GETTING
MORE ASIAN AMERICANS ON FILM AND TELEVISION IS
STILL VERY MUCH IN IT’S INFANCY, INFANCY, IF
YOU LOOK AT THE VAST LANDSCAPE OF MEDIA AND
WHERE WE STILL ARE CARVED. IT’S STILL, IT’S MINUSCULE.>>>ASIAN AMERICAN’S ARE
ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING POPULATIONS IN THE U.S.,
BUT A RECENT STUDY FOUND THAT ASIAN AMERICANS
REPRESENT LESS THAT ONE PERCENT OF LEADING ROLES
IN HOLLYWOOD.>>>ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
I WANTED TO KIND OF ASK, IS, OUR PEOPLE. WE ARE A
CAUTION OPTIMISM. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? IS
CRAZY RICH ASIANS NUMBER ONE IN THE BOX OFFICE,
RONNIE CHIENG, AWQWAFINA, YOU KNOW, BOWEN YANG. IS IT
GOING TO POP FOR US?>>>GIVE THEM AN EXCELLENT
PRODUCT, PEOPLE GOING TO BUY IT. AND I THINK THAT’S
SOMETHING WE STRIVE FOR. WE STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE.>>>I THINK THE TALENT
POOL IS THERE. WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IS WE
NEED MORE JON’S. BECAUSE THE GATEKEEPERS- >>>THE GATEKEEPERS,
YOU’RE RIGHT.>>>HAVE TO LOOK LIKE US.>>>A RISING TIDE LIFTS
ALL BOATS, RIGHT? SO THE MORE EVERYONE
RISES, AND THE MORE THAT PEOPLE THAT WERE HELPED BY
THE FIRST TWO CAN HELP OTHERS, SO IT’S LIKE A
GREAT SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP ALL SUPPORT
AND RISING UP TOGETHER.>>>ASIAN COMEDIAN
DESTROYS AMERICA! STARRING STANDUP’S MOST RUTHLESS
COMEDIAN, RONNY CHIENG. HE’S COMING AFTER THE U-S OF A,
IN UNCLE SAM’S OWN BACKYARD! NOTHING CAN STOP HIS
MERCILESS PURSUIT. IT’S THE COMEDY EVENT THAT
WILL DECIMATE AMERICAN SOCIETY.>>>IN OTHER WORDS, WHEN
ONE ASIAN COMEDIAN DESTROYS AMERICA, MORE
WILL FOLLOW. YOU CAN CHECK OUT THESE
ASIAN AMERICAN COMEDIANS AND OTHERS AT THE MONTHLY
COMEDY SPECIAL AT STAND UP NEW YORK CALLED UNWASHED. FOR ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE,
I’M RAYNER RAMIREZ.>>>I’M MINNIE ROH.
#IFIRSTSAWMYSELF IS A CAMPAIGN ON INSTAGRAM
THAT ASKS THE QUESTION, “WHEN DID YOU FIRST SEE
YOURSELF REPRESENTED?” WAS IT IN A CHARACTER ON
TV OR IN THE MOVIES? PERHAPS IT WAS A TEACHER,
OR IN MY CASE, A NEWSCASTER I ADMIRED. THE HASHTAG WAS CREATED
BY AN ASIAN AMERICAN CHOREOGRAPHER WHO WANTED
TO SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON DIVERSITY, PARTICULARLY IN
THE THEATER AND ENTERTAINMENT WORLD. BUT REALLY IT’S A QUESTION
THAT COULD BE ASKED OF ANYONE WHO HAS EVER
SEARCHED FOR A ROLE MODEL.>>>RACH. WE’VE BEEN DATING
FOR OVER A YEAR NOW AND I THINK IT’S ABOUT TIME PEOPLE
MET MY BEAUTIFUL GIRLFRIEND.>>>THE POPULARITY OF
MOVIES LIKE CRAZY RICH ASIANS AND SHOWS LIKE
FRESH OFF THE BOAT ARE CREATING A SURGE OF HOPE
WITHIN THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY THAT THE TIDE IS
FINALLY TURNING.>>>I THINK THIS IS A GREAT
TIME TO BE ASIAN AMERICAN. WE ARE GAINING MORE
INFLUENCE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS.>>>JON HOCHE HAS BEEN AN
ACTOR FOR OVER TWO DECADES, MOST RECENTLY
APPEARING IN THE PRODUCTION OF THE MUSICAL SOFT POWER AT
NEW YORK CITY’S PUBLIC THEATER, WHICH BOASTED A
PREDOMINATELY ASIAN AMERICAN CAST AND CREW. BUT
FOR YEAR, HOCHE SAYS, HE ENDURED TYPECASTING
AND FOUND A LACK OF QUALITY ROLES AVAILABLE TO
HIM AS AN ASIAN.>>>SO WHEN I GO INTO
AUDITIONS, PRIMARILY IT’S FOR TECH PEOPLE,
TERRORISTS. THOSE ARE KIND OF THE
ROLLS I THAT I FEEL, THEY’RE LIKE, OH, WELL
THESE ARE, YOU KNOW, WE CAN’T, WE CAN’T FILL THE
LEAD ROLES, OR LIKE, THE MAJORITY OF LIKE, THE PRINCIPLE
ROLES, WITH MINORITIES, SO WE’LL JUST LIKE KIND
OF COLOR THE BACKGROUND.>>>WHEN YOU DON’T SEE
YOURSELF REPRESENTED, WHETHER IT’S ON STAGE OR
WHETHER IT’S THE CREATIVE TEAM, THE PRODUCTION TEAM,
THEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A PLACE. YOU FEEL
LIKE YOU DON’T BELONG THERE.>>>SUNNY HITT IS A
CHOREOGRAPHER SO WORKED ON SOFT POWER, WHICH ALSO
PLAYED IN SAN FRANCISCO AND LOS ANGELES. WHEN SOFT
POWER TOOK IT’S FINAL BOW IN NOVEMBER OF 2019 AT THE PUBLIC
THEATER, HITT CREATED #IFIRSTSAWMYSELF, HOPING
THAT SOCIAL MEDIA COULD PROPEL THE SHOW TO A
LARGER STAGE. NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE
MULTI TALENTED ASIAN AMERICAN CAST A CREW, BUT BECAUSE OF
WHAT THE SHOW REPRESENTED.>>>THE RESPONSE THAT I
WAS GETTING FROM ASIAN AMERICANS WHO WERE SEEING
THE SHOW AND THE POWER THAT IT WAS FOR THEM, HOW
POWERFUL IT WAS FOR THEM TO SEE THEMSELVES ON STAGE.>>>AT FIRST, IT WAS JUST
A FEW OF HER SOFT POWER PEERS AND FRIENDS WHO
SHARED ON INSTAGRAM. BUT SLOWLY THE HASHTAG
BEGAN TO TRICKLE OUTWARD WITHIN THE LARGER ASIAN
AMERICAN COMMUNITY.>>>WE’VE HAD PEOPLE FROM, WHO
ARE ON THE MISS SAIGON TOUR, OUT ON THE WEST
COAST POST ABOUT IT.>>>MISS SAIGON. HERE LIES LOVE. CHARACTERS LIKE THE YELLOW
POWER RANGER, MR. NGUYEN IN HEY ARNOLD, AND LEA SALONGA
AS FONTINE IN LES MISERABLES. THESE WERE ALL HIGH ON THE
LIST OF INSPIRATIONS. FOR HITT, IT WAS CLAUDIA
FROM THE BABY-SITTER’S CLUB AND MARGARET CHO ON
ALL AMERICAN GIRL WHEN SHE FIRST SAW HER FIRST
REPRESENTED.>>>WHAT IS IT YOU WANT
FROM ME? AND I HOPE YOU’VE GOT
SOMETHING BETTER THAN “HE’S NOT KOREAN.”>>>I DO. HE’S AMERICAN.>>>YOU KNOW, I GREW UP IN
A VERY RURAL AREA. VERY WHITE COMMUNITY,
WHITE CULTURE WAS THE DOMINATE FORCE. FOR MUCH OF
MY CHILDHOOD I FELT LIKE I IDENTIFIED AS WHITE AND WAS
VERY CONFUSED AT TIMES WITH HOW TO INTEGRATE THE KOREAN
SIDE OF MYSELF. IT IS, FOR ANYONE WHO FEELS
OTHER, IN ANY WAY, YOU KNOW? MAYBE IT SPEAKS TO SOMEONE
WHO IS NON BINARY AND DOESN’T GO BY SHE/HE BUT
GOES BY THEY, AND, WANTS, OR THEY’RE TRANS, LET’S
SAY, AND THEY WANT TO SEE MORE PEOPLE LIKE THEM IN
POSITIONS OF POWER, ON STAGE, ON SCREEN, IN
BOOKS, IN STORIES, SO THAT IT IS NORMALIZED, YOU
KNOW? IT ISN’T “OTHER”, IT’S NOT “MINORITY”, IT’S JUST,
IT’S NORMAL.>>>HOCHE SAYS HE FIRST
SAW HIMSELF WHILE WATCHING ERNIE REYES JR. AS A
MARTIAL ARTS POWERHOUSE IN A SHOW CALLED SIDEKICKS,
AND DWAYNE JOHNSON “THE ROCK” ON THE WORLD
WRESTLING FEDERATION.>>>WHEN I FIRST, YOU
KNOW, SAW THE ROCK DEBUT IN WWE, I LITERALLY WAS
LIKE, IS THIS GUY, IS THIS GUY FILIPINO? IS THIS
GUY, IS THIS GUY THE SAME AS ME? HE WAS, HE WAS REALLY A
BRIDGE, AND THAT’S KIND OF WHAT I LIKE TO KIND OF
CONSIDER MYSELF OR LIKE PEOPLE OF MIXED DESCENT.
WE’RE NOT, YOU KNOW, IT’S NOT A BAD THING. WE’RE A
BRIDGE BETWEEN TWO CULTURES.>>>EVEN I JOINED IN. MY MOMENT
WAS WATCHING NEWS ANCHOR CONNIE CHUNG AND REALIZING
THAT I TOO COULD HAVE A SEAT AT THAT TABLE.>>>I THINK THAT’S ONE OF
THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS ABOUT THIS MOVEMENT THAT SUNNY
HAS CREATED IS, IT REALLY STARTS A DIALOGUE.
AND IT STARTS US THINKING ABOUT HOW WE HAVEN’T
BEEN REPRESENTED VERY WELL. AND I HOPE THAT IT SHOWS
PEOPLE IN POWER THAT, WOW. WE’RE REALLY DOING A
DISSERVICE TO A HUGE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE.
AND THAT IT CAN CHANGE.>>>AND AS A CHOREOGRAPHER,
HITT HOPES THAT ONE DAY SHE, TOO, CAN SERVE AS AN INSPIRATION
TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.>>>TO SEE ME IN THAT ROLE
WAS GOING TO MEAN SOMETHING FOR THEM. YOU KNOW?
IT WAS SOMETHING THAT I DIDN’T HAVE GROWING UP, BUT THAT
I CAN BE FOR OTHER PEOPLE.>>>SUNNY HITT HOPES THAT
HER HASHTAG WILL PLAY AN ACTIVE ROLE IN CONTINUING
THE CONVERSATION ON ASIAN REPRESENTATION. I’M MINNIE ROH FOR ASIAN
AMERICAN LIFE.>>>THAT’S OUR SHOW FOR NOW. IF YOU WANT MORE
INFORMATION ON ALL OUR STORIES, BE SURE TO FOLLOW
US ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM AT ASIAN
AMERICAN LIFE. I’M ERNABEL DEMILLO,
WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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