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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

January 12, 2011

Written by C.N.

Ed Lee and Vang Pao: Asian American Leadership in Transition

Over the last few days, news about two prominent Asian American community leaders caught the attention of many Americans around the country. First is the passing of General Vang Pao, the longtime and high-profile leader of the Hmong and Laotian American community, passed away at the age of 81. Commentator Mai Der Vang at New American Media summarizes his personal history and significance to Asian Americans:

General Vang Pao © New America Media

During the 1960s, the U.S. government recruited him to command guerrilla forces against communist Laos in a covert war in which tens of thousands of Hmong soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands of civilians forced into exile. . . .

Many of us also recalled the arrest of Vang Pao and ten other men in 2007 as they were charged with attempting to overthrow the Lao government. Rally after rally, hundreds of his devout supporters participated in demonstrations here in Fresno and Sacramento. They put intense pressure on the US government to release Vang Pao, and put together 1.5 million dollar bail for him. In 2009, charges were dropped. . . .

Many in the Hmong community viewed him as a leader, but Vang Pao also represented for them their lost homeland. When his supporters saw him in public, they saw him not as an aging man in a three-piece suit but, rather, the young valiant war commander he once was. For them, he was the manifestation of a home they once knew and the memories of a life they once lived. . . .

For others in the community, Vang Pao’s passing marks an end to a contentious era. Despite galvanizing support among the masses, there were some who remained skeptical about his leadership perhaps due to his politics, his personal life, or the fallout from histories tied to Laos. Yet whether a person admired him or held their reservations, there is no arguing the fact that he was one of the most prominent figures in Hmong modern history, essentially serving through the decades as the unelected leader of the global diaspora.

As I wrote about in my chapter “‘Better Dead Than Red’: Anti-Communist Politics Among Vietnamese Americans” in the edited volume Anti-Communist Minorities in the US: The Political Activism of Ethnic Refugees and elsewhere on this blog, emotions still run very high for many Southeast Asian Americans when it comes to matters related to the Viet Nam War and its aftermath.

I am not an expert on General Vang’s life but it was clear that he was both admired and disliked by many Laotian and Hmong Americans. In either case, he had a significant impact on many of their lives and transnational history, both in southeast Asia and here in the U.S. Inevitably, his passing creates an environment and opportunity for new leaders to emerge in the Hmong and Laotian American communities. In the process, we are likely to see Asian Americans continue the gradual transition from lives focused primarily on Asia to one focused more on America.

The other notable Asian American leader to make the news recently is Ed Lee who, for all intents and purposes, is on track to become the new mayor of San Francisco and thus one of the first Asian American mayors of a major U.S. city. The San Francisco Chronicle summarizes the recent events that led to this momentous event:

Ed Lee © San Francisco Chronicle

The Board of Supervisors voted 10 to 1 today to appoint City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor, but the decision is not official until Mayor Gavin Newsom steps down and is sworn in to the lieutenant governor’s job he won in November. Newsom has refused to resign until the new Board of Supervisors with four new members is sworn in at noon Saturday. The new board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on Newsom’s successor, who will fill out the year remaining on his term.

As for Lee’s chances to get the nod from the new board, he has it all but locked up. Seven of the supervisors who voted in favor of Lee today will still be on the board Tuesday, providing the majority Lee would need to get the job even without their new colleagues. . . . Voters will elect a new mayor in November.

Although Ed Lee’s presumed position as San Francisco’s new mayor appears to be only an interim position for now, this is still a very historic event for American society. Following on the heels of Jean Quan’s election as Mayor of Oakland, it is personally refreshing and sociologically notable to see that Asian Americans are gradually emerging as political leaders and attaining political power.

Up to this point, even though Asian Americans made up 10% of California’s population and 33% of the population in the Bay Area, we have been consistently underrepresented as political leaders in these areas. There are numerous external and internal factors that influence much of this historical underrepresentation, but as we move forward into the 21st century, as I’ve described in several posts on this blog, there are numerous ways in which the Asian American population can make significant contributions that reflect the political, economic, and cultural changes taking place in the world in general and American society in particular.

With this in mind, there are also many compelling reasons why politicians need to take Asian Americans (along with other immigrant groups and communities of color) seriously as not just a constituent group but also as a major emerging cultural and demographic force in the years to come.


August 4, 2009

Written by C.N.

Miscellaneous Links #14

Here are some more announcements and links out that have come my way relating to Asians or Asian Americans. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents:

Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce: First Annual Legislative Summit

A Legislative Summit is an opportunity to set goals/identify and prioritize legislative issues that are most pressing to the Asian communities so collectively we can create an action plan to influence future executive and legislative government activities and decisions that are favorable to our communities.

Summit Objectives:

  • To Increase awareness of today’s and future Asian American generations’ issues and needs such as economic development, immigration, language access, voting rights, and discrimination.
  • To improve cooperation and mutual understanding by bringing diverse ethnic Asian American communities together.
  • To raise the visibility of the Asian community and later to present its concerns to the two (2) gubernatorial candidates and members of the General Assembly.
  • To gather and disseminate data about Asian American communities.
  • To bring the energy and vision of different Asian community members from all social, educational, age, and business sectors background together so that collectively we can create real and productive change.
  • To identify new Asian community leaders to effectively build issues-based community coalitions.
  • To make the case for Asian American inclusion in public contracting programs and to advance the participation of Asian Americans in minority contracting programs in the private sector.
  • To help empower Asian families to understand their rights and responsibilities with regard to their student’s enrollment at local public schools.
  • To create opportunity for creating bills that represent long-term solution to foster respect for Asian American & Pacific Islanders’ vast contributions to the nation.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
5:30 PM -8:00 PM
Ukrops Headquarters Office
2001 Maywill Str., Suite 100, Richmond, VA 23230

Registration required: aabac@aabac.org or Tel: 804-798-3975
PDF Event Flier

Call for Entries: 2010 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) is pleased to announce its open call for entries for its 28th edition, scheduled for March 11-21, 2010. The SFIAAFF accepts films of all genres and lengths, and is looking for exceptional films made by or about Asians and Asian Americans.

Postmark Deadlines:
Early — September 4, 2009
Late — October 2, 2009

Attention All Filmmakers:

The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) is now accepting submissions for the 2010 Festival. A presentation of the Center for Asian American Media (formerly NAATA), the SFIAAFF is the largest event in the nation dedicated to screening Asian American and Asian films. The Festival accepts films and videos of all lengths and genres that are made by and/or about Asian Americans and Asians of any nationality. To submit online or for more information, visit www.asianamericanmedia.org.

New Documentary: Vietnam: American Holocaust

87 Minute documentary on the Vietnam War. Shows how the U.S. government killed more than 3 million Vietnamese in their War of Independence. Starts with the history of the conflict from WWII, the defeat of the French, how the American people were lied into the conflict in the Gulf of Tonkin. Then shows how the killing was done. Includes testimony from soldiers and Vietnamese. Narrated by Martin Sheen. Written, produced and directed by Clay Claiborne.

Educational Grants Available From State Farm Youth Advisory Board

This year, State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board expanded its disaster preparedness issue area to include grants addressing societal disasters like nutrition, exercise, bullying, abuse and diversity.

Applicants may request any amount from $25,000 to $100,000 based on a required budget which outlines project expenses. Request for Proposals (RFP) must be submitted online by Oct. 2. Complete details and contact information is available at www.statefarmyab.com.

The five issues that grant requests must focus on are:

  • Natural and Societal disaster preparedness
  • Driver safety
  • Accessing higher education/closing the achievement gap
  • Financial education
  • Environmental responsibility

To be eligible to receive a grant from the Board, applicants should be either an educator who currently teaches in a public K-12, charter, or higher education institution, or a school-based service-learning coordinator whose primary role is to coordinate service-learning projects in a public, charter, or higher education institution. Non-profit organizations are also eligible if they are able to demonstrate how they plan to actively engage students in public K-12 schools in meaningful service-learning programs.

The number of grants awarded will depend on the number and quality of requests received. Grant amounts will vary according to the nature of the proposal and availability of funds. At least one service-learning project will be funded in each of the 13 State Farm zones. As of June 2009, four years after the initial launch of the YAB, the board has awarded more than $12 million in grants to organizations in the U.S. and Canada and touched about 1.8 million lives.

Thirty high school and college aged youth oversee the granting of $5 million for student-led service-learning projects in the United States and in the Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario provinces of Canada. The process is unique in the responsibility and resource decisions that the youth are given. It is the Board who come together to research issues they would like to solve, review grant applications, and ultimately decide the grant winners.


May 7, 2009

Written by C.N.

Miscellaneous Links #10

Here are some more links out that have come my way relating to Asians or Asian Americans. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents:

  • Interracial Couples in New York City Needed for Documentary:

    Hello, I’m a documentary filmmaker who is looking for an interracial couple based in New York to be the subjects of a film I’m making. I was wondering if could send you a description of what I’m looking for that you could distribute to your network. It would be very much appreciated!

    Megumi
    luvmegumi@yahoo.com

  • Taiwanese American Cultural Festival in San Francisco

    17th Annual Taiwanese American Cultural Festival:
    Green Taiwan
    Saturday, May 09, 2009, 10 AM to 6 PM
    Union Square, San Francisco

    Celebrate Taiwanese American Heritage Week with food, demonstrations and musical performances! Musical acts include traditional Taiwanese folk
    music by the O Kai A Capella Singers, a Taiwanese aborigine group, and pop music by local Asian American artists. Celebrate our green theme with our orchid display or hear energy talks by Silicon Valley industry experts. Free and fun for the entire family!

    Thanks so much!
    Shawna