If you have these things you must be JA

THINGS_JAPANESEAll the Japanese Americans I know have all sorts of ways to show their cultural roots. It may not be evident when you meet them, but the signs are there, in their homes.

When I was a kid living in Japan, it never occurred to me that the stuff in our house was… well, Japanese. And when we moved to the U.S., we took a lot of our stuff with us – folding screens, small artworks, dolls, dishware, pottery, chopsticks and cooking utensils, and a lot more.

Once we moved into a suburban Northern Virginia home in the mid-1960s, we set about fitting in to our all-American Wonder Years life: nice ranch home, big back yard, all our Japanese stuff inside. Oh, except for my dad built a Japanese rock garden in the back yard complete with a stone lantern, and he planted a cherry blossom tree in the front yard, which bloomed every spring at the same time the famous cherry blossoms that were given to the US.

That tree has grown huge in the decades since – I’ve seen photos, and it looks like a giant fluffy ball of pink cotton candy that dominates the yard, and hides most of the old house behind it.
Read more »

Mudra Dance Studio’s “Gyaan” deserves to be seen at the Kennedy Center and other national venues

mudra-gyaan

“Gyaan” is not your typical showcase of energetic classical and contemporary Indian dance, which Mudra Dance Studio has become known for. It is, but it’s much more too.

The stage at the Lakewood Cultural Center, where Mudra has hosted many of its elaborate, every-other-year professionally-produced shows in the past decade, is partially filled with a backdrop of boxed-in platforms that serve as bandstands for the musicians. The boxes are white before the show, but once the house lights dim, they become three-dimensional screens for a complex visual interplay of videos that help tell the story that’s primarily told through dance in the front part of the stage.

This 3D multimedia richness is just one of the factors that sets “Gyaan” apart from a typical community dance recital, and even a level higher than Mudra’s typically impressive Indian showcases. It was so expensive to produce that the group launched a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the production (it was only for a small fraction of the cost).

With “Gyaan” — Sanskrit for “knowledge through experience” — Mudra founder Namita Khanna Nariani has a message she wants the audience to absorb: that in today’s world of violence and tragedy, people have to come together and support each other. It seems trite to say it, but this show is about how love and community and art can save us all.
Read more »

This powerful short documentary about caregiving needs to be seen by every Asian American

I’m a baby boomer, so I’m already an AARP member. If you’re not familiar with AARP, people make fun of the non-profit organization as a national group for old people, like grandpas and grandmas. People who aren’t members feign shock when AARP is mentioned and joke about how they’re too young and dread getting the promotional mail from the organization when they approach 50, which is when you qualify to be a member. A lot of people I know who are even over 50 joke about how they’re in denial and won’t consider joining AARP.

They should, though. It’s a pretty huge, pretty amazing organization, and since as of this year, every Baby Boomer (the boom ran from 1946-1964) is 50+, it’s an organization that’s not just for “seniors” or “elderly.”
Read more »

How are Asian Americans reacting to the news from Ferguson?

One of the few times I heard a reference to Ferguson was in this panel: from left, Hansi Lo Wang (NPR),  Shefali S. Kulkarni (PRI), Ernabel Demillo (CUNY-TV), Emil Guillermo (AALDEF) and moderator Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man).

One of the few times I heard a reference to Ferguson was in this panel: from left, Hansi Lo Wang (NPR), Shefali S. Kulkarni (PRI), Ernabel Demillo (CUNY-TV), Emil Guillermo (AALDEF) and moderator Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man).

I just got back from a week in Washington, D.C. attending the Asian American Journalists Association’s annual convention. I sat in on a lot of interesting (and some not-so-interesting) sessions about social media and journalism, issues in the Asian Amwrican Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and lots of other current topics in the news.

But one topic was barely mentioned as part of the panel discussions: The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man who was shot by a local police officer in the small town of Ferguson Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

He was killed on August 9, and for the next week – during the AAJA convention – the tension in Ferguson between protesters and law enforcement has been front and center in the news.
Read more »

Asian values kept doctor who found herself in an emergency room from speaking up about the quality of her care

Dr. Charlotte Yeh in her AARP office, proudly holding her colorfully decorated cane.

Dr. Charlotte Yeh in her AARP office, proudly holding her colorfully decorated cane.

Note: As the Asian American Journalists Association AARP Fellow, I’ve been writing articles for the AARP.org website about AAPI themes but mostly work within the AARP AAPI Community’s social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. I’m starting to write profiles of AARP’s AAPI volunteers and staff and post them to the AARP AAPI Community Facebook Page. This is the first profile I’ve posted, and because it’s such a compelling story that I’ve decided to repurpose it here. If you find the story is valuable, please LIKE the Facebook page!

When Dr. Charlotte Yeh wrote a powerful article earlier this year in the Washington Post about shortcomings in emergency care, she subtly hinted at the conflicting cultural values that affected her that night two and a half years ago when she was hit by a car as she crossed a street.

She was taken to a nearby hospital’s emergency department, but wasn’t given the level of customer care she would have liked. And she’s an expert on the subject: Trained in surgery, Dr. Yeh was an emergency department physician and experienced healthcare administrator.

But she didn’t complain or raise questions with the doctors and nurses giving her care that night. Instead, she wrote in her Post column recalling that night that she wanted to be the “good patient.”

“The good patient in me wanted to please the doctor and saunter out of the room, but the real person in me was scared,” she wrote, even though in fact she wasn’t sure she could even stand and walk at all.

That phrase, “good patient,” comes up three times in her article, and is an echo of a deeply-felt Asian value that affects many immigrants in the United States, as well as generations of Asian Americans.
Read more »