Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Shining a light on Asian American activism in LA

by Lori Galarreta and Josie Huang | Take Two

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"Sisters" basketball team at the Alpine Recreation Center in Chinatown: Suzi Wong, Janet Lim, Elizabeth Louie Chikuami, May Chen, Susie Chow, Marie Chung, Anna Gee, coached by Wally Quan, 1972. Asian Pacific American Photographic Collection, Visual Communications Archives

The 1960's were a time of big changes in America. The civil rights movement helped African Americans and Latinos shape new identities.

A similar thing was happening among Asian Americans.

Now, the Chinese American Museum is hosting a new exhibit that traces that community's activism from the 60's to the 80's.

It's called "Roots: Asian American movements in L.A."

Near the entrance of the exhibit, there's a large gray wall dotted with multi-colored post-its. The notes have handwritten answers to a question displayed in huge yellow text that reads:

What does Asian American mean today?

"This really enables our visitors to engage with fluid identity. To share with us, what they think Asian American means. Our exhibit definitely gives one perspective of how we define Asian American, but it is a fluid identity."

The gray wall at the exhibit asks three questions.
The gray wall at the exhibit asks three questions. KPCC/Lori Galarreta

That's according to museum curator Steven Wong, who partnered with Ryan Wong to put the exhibit together.

KPCC's Josie Huang headed there for a tour:

When folks first walk in, they immediately see an image that features women at the forefront. The women are organized in a large group, rallied together megaphones in hand to protest. Where is this scene from?

"This scene is from a photograph in Little Tokyo. It was a photograph from an anti-war demonstration and it resonates with me because there are primarily women marching with their hands raised. And for the Asian American movement women were the backbone and all too often their voices, their stories are sidelined to Asian American male activists.

So, it's nice to really represent and showcase as our signature image Asian American women fighting for their issues, fighting for equality."

Asian Pacific American Photographic Collection, Visual Communications Archives.
Asian Pacific American Photographic Collection, Visual Communications Archives. Alan Ohashi

Year of the People

Year of the People. Poster by Leland Wong, 1971; courtesy of Jeff Chop.
Year of the People. Poster by Leland Wong, 1971; courtesy of Jeff Chop. Leland Wong, courtesy Jeff Chop

 

 

"Within Chinese Astrology 1971 is the year of the boar or pig but ironically he developed this poster that says 'Year of the People, off the pigs'

...this was definitely inspired by the Black Panther party using police officers representing power structures, representing oppression and this is before community policing and so this was symbolically a way to represent a community fighting back against that oppression." 

Personal connection

"There's this flyer, newsletter, about saving the international hotel. For the museum, it shows that the Asian American movement was a national movement coming from different places, but for me personally this was an artifact that was given to me by my aunt who was active in the Bay area."

A newspaper on the many years of struggle to save the elderly housing and activism of International Hotel in San Francisco,1970.
A newspaper on the many years of struggle to save the elderly housing and activism of International Hotel in San Francisco,1970. Bessie Chin and the Dylan Phoenix Collection.

"Roots" will be at the Chinese American Museum until June 11th. For more information, click here.

To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.

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