Archive for the ‘We Own the 8th’ Category

We Own the 8th Surprise

It’s the 8th of the month and today is the day that our Asian American arts collective meet’s in downtown LA in at The Great Company. Now every month, there’s a different event that takes place, from open forum meetings to talk about issues effecting the community, to keynote speakers and workshops, and live performance nights. Now, tonight was supposed to be a performance night where some of the founders including myself we’re supposed to perform from the group at large. The whole evening was hosted by Beau Sia, also one of the founders and was supposed to be us and others just performing for everyone… as I was introduced and took the stage to begin my set, the screen come down and a video starts to play… it’s a tribute video… to me! Friends and colleagues and fellow members of the 8th wishing happy birthday.

Beau really got me, I took a seat in the front row and after this wonderful video of well wishes, Beau began to bring on friends and family to honor me. It was funny and emotional and people talked of how I may have impacted them and the community. You know, the funny thing is, of course as performer, I’m comfortable in front of an audience to act or talk, but as the center of attention otherwise, it can be a little uncomfortable for me, I much rather lay low and fly in under the radar. But brothers hit the stage and told stories, roasting me a bit, a lot of laughter, then other stories which filled my heart up, I love those guys, songs from friends Olivia Thai and AJ Rafael, AJ even got me to join him for a duet… that was pretty crazy. I poem from my sister.

And the other crazy thing is, Beau, within planning for the show, asked me to write a new poem, talking about age and also becoming the leader of this group, “We Own the 8th.” It was to be apart of my set… although, ultimately there was no set to do. I was up all last night writing this new piece. Lucky for me, or I guess it might of happened how Beau planned it, this new poem I wrote was the perfect poem to end the night. So I read it to thank all those in attendance. (I’ll probably post the poem on my youtube later)

So my actual birthday is on the 29th… but this was a special night, to celebrate and honored by my peers and family, I appreciate everybody that came, everyone that took time to send in a video, everyone that performed, the poets, the singers and of course Beau. I am truly proud to be a member of the crew, #WeOwnThe8th!

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In the new year I’ve decided to be more proactive in something I helped to create called #WeOwnThe8th, a movement that celebrates Asian American media in America. Now beyond producing and acting in videos, as well as helping to organize our monthly meeting of the minds in Downtown Los Angeles, I’ve decided to start dropping monthly essays on this subject matter. Now, like most things I do, I’m just now deciding to do this without a lot of foresight or parameters that I’ll be writing about, I just love writing and I think this is a great excuse as any for me do sit down and just write.
Now I usually try to stay away from being controversial when I wonder around online, just my politically correct upbringing and my coming up in the public eye at the turn of the millennium, I understand what and what not to say in public, and Internet, for those of my comrades who happened to acquire some celebrity, the Internet is most definitely in public, and you shouldn’t go saying things online you wouldn’t say in public. That being said, I’m sure whatever I write in concerns of our community may not be well accepted or liked, even by the community itself, but I’m using my blog as place for me to write and think out loud about the subject, maybe even spark conversation… and I’m always opened to new points of view.
Now on to my first essay… the Serial pod cast.
I was turned on to this pod cast by an actor friend of mine, Chris Sabat, while having dinner at convention in Oklahoma City. He told me to listen to the first episode and guaranteed I would be hooked! He was right… now I must admit to you, that was the first time I even opened the podcast app on my iPhone! I didn’t even know I had a podcast app. But none the less, he forwarded me the link and I was opened up to a new world.
Like the rest of the country, I’ve become fascinated with this story of the murder of a young girl and the ex-boyfriend who may be possibly innocent, sitting behind bars in prison for the last 15 years.
There are several blogs about this podcast, as it has become the most successful podcast of all time, there’s has been podcast about the podcast… crazy, I know… crazier, I’ve listened a bit to them.
The reason I’m writing about this is its because this story, this American tragedy happened to happen to a teenage couple… an Asian American teenage couple. The writer Sarah Coenig did a great job of of telling and investigating the story, there’s people that says she was biased one way or another, but I really want to highlight that this story that caught on like a phenomena and spread like wildfire is an American story and even more specific, an Asian American story.
It’s also a story about children of immigrants, which is a very large part of the API community here in the states and the intricate dealings of how second generation Asians have to maneuver with functioning and adapting to this new world and at the same time, being so close connected to the culture of our parents and grandparents and how that can be misinterpreted by others that haven’t lived that life. The life of being a regular American youth at school and with friends and then going home and still trying to adhere to the customs and rules that have been carried over from our homeland countries just a generation ago, which could be 20 years ago, 10, maybe even less, countries like Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, India, China.
I have nothing profound to say about the story, I’m a fan and follower like several other millions, still seeing and waiting for this tragic tale to unravel. I simply want to bring light to an amazing story, maybe one of the most amazing stories being in told within the last year and point out that it is in fact an Asian American story. These stories are invisible and for one reason or another not apart of the stories told in the Hollywood studio system, but the success of this story reinsures me that we, Asian Americans, are apart of the fabric that make up America today and our stories are helping to write our modern history.
My heart goes out to the Lee family and Syed family, this kind of tragedy is something I would not want to wish on anyone and the pain of your loss is immeasurable. But I also see my family in your story, my aunts and cousins and friends and it feels like this could of happen to my family or close friends.
All my community work is to help inspire the next generation to tell our stories because its important, our stories are important and it’s even more important for us to tell them. But I also hope Serial helps show Hollywood that our stories can be marketable.
to check out Serial go to: http://serialpodcast.org/#episodes

Having just gone through Asian Heritage Month, (for those of you that don’t know, it’s the month of May) and touring around the country speaking on the issues concerning the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, I’ve been able to have great conversations about all kinds of ideas. Talks in San Francisco to New York, from Los Angeles to Portland. And one of the ideas I want to talk about right now is the idea of the Asian Leading Man.
Now, I’m a film maker and creating characters is important to me, as both an actor and writer. But the idea of trying to prove that to others has lead me to thinking about it all in a deeper way. On the surface, the Asian community’s cry for more roles and more substantial roles is one demanding more representation and point blankly, employment in the mainstream media in which we call “Hollywood.” I would be lying if I said I did not want more opportunities to work in my given profession. I think the Asian community at large wants to see characters that resemble them more throughout film and television. This is all true and I also believe Asian leading men and leading men of all ethnicities is important, leading women too (I don’t mean to be sexist) and ultimately help in race relations in a very special way.
How I see it, when we as an audience see the film, we live out the story through the star of the movie… the “Leading Man.” In most cases it happens to be a caucasian man. When we do this, we live a whole experience through their eyes and emotions. Thus, we grow up wanting to be Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or Travolta, Eastwood the list goes on and on. You see, when we’re living out our fantasies in films, we aren’t considering race or ethnicity, we are being scared or surprised or emotionally shattered or triumphant, we’re experiencing the human condition, as if we are the “leading man” ourselves!
Being ethnic in America, we have always seen ourselves through a Euro-centric perspective, it’s the culture that America was built on, but America has gone through many changes, like the world at large. Connecting with characters and living their stories makes us better understand or even better, makes us feel for that person, or even kind of person, more.
In reality we all see ourselves like the movie stars, we have deep connections with them, because they remind us of ourselves… or our friends and family.
You ask a group of Asian friends, who in their group reminds them of Tom Cruise or Will Smith… They’ll give you one of their buddies, because we see aspects of ourselves through movie stars. We’re funny or cocky or ernest or sexy… just like the guys on the big screen.
The problem for Asians in American media, is there isn’t enough representation out there. The predominant amount of rolls depicted of Asians in the media still circle around the old played out stereo types. We can all name them… The nerdy, heavily accented, kung fu master! Look, I’m not saying there isn’t any truth in the stereotypes, all these exist in the Asian American community and I’m not trying to protest any of these characters, I’m trying to include all the other attributes we have and pressing forward to help create more Asian Leading Men. Because you see, when we can live adventures and fantasies through others that may be Asian or Black or Latino, we actually humanize each other, we realize that we all react to things in very similar ways. We are scared shitless when being attacked by someone with a mask on in the middle of the night in the woods or proud when we have saved the world or saddened to tears when we come into the room a second too late to save the life of your one true love.
So yes, one of my goals is to help create the Asian American genre and help create many Asian leading men and women… I don’t know if it will change the world… But it won’t hurt it.

Hope you had a happy “Asian Heritage Month.”