Editor’s note: This page was updated May 3 to include “Native Hawaiian” in the headline and in the story to reflect the White House’s statement adding these words to the name of this heritage month.
Lists of favorite books, movies, podcasts and bands can serve as avatars of identity and the glue that binds a friendship. Sharing the stories that move us, inspire us, educate us, make us laugh, cry and get angry help us empathize, understand and join others in the community.
As part of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we reached out to staff from across campus for recommendations of things to read, watch or listen to that celebrate the history, culture, struggle and contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Meg Thornton, UCLA alumna, student and community projects coordinator for the Asian American Studies Center, recommended a film fesitval and a local band.
- The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival is run by Visual Communications, a longtime community partner of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. VC was founded by several UCLA alumni who were also founders of the center. The festival highlights the most outstanding filmmakers, storytellers, actors/actresses, writers, musicians and artists of Asian American, Pacific Islander, South Asian and Southeast Asian heritages. New films, classic films, documentaries and animated films are all included in this very special festival. It’s a pioneering and leading film festival extravaganza for Asian American, Pacific Islander, South Asian and Southeast Asian communities in the country.
- The Linda Lindas’ “Racist Sexist Boy” music video was filmed at a Los Angeles public library and posted online in the spring of last year. The song was written in response to an incident band member Mila de la Garza dealt with at school with a boy who told her that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people because of the virus. She wrote the song with fellow band member Eloise Wong. I thought it was so awesome that being so young, they could channel their feelings, thoughts and creative energy into this powerful song. It gave me hope and was a bright spot in the early days of the pandemic lockdown. The Linda Lindas’ music and videos are good fun and positive energy! I like the honest feelings of their lyrics and outspokenness. They carry on the best of punk rock and grrrrl power. They embody hope and creative energy for a brighter future during this challenging time.
- The Linda Lindas performing for NPR’s “Tiny Desk (Home) Concert”
Nancy Lee, senior manager of public relations, Hammer Museum at UCLA, recommended a movie, a podcast and two books.
During AANHPI Heritage Month, I think it’s important to highlight the multiplicity of experiences contained within the umbrella terms “Asian American,” “Native Hawaiian” and “Pacific Islander.” There are many histories and expressions to explore endlessly.
- “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was one of the most moving and interesting movies I’ve ever seen. The earnest and goofy multiverse story centers on Evelyn Wang, played by the wonderful Michelle Yeoh. While it’s not about being Asian American, the cultural details are spot on and enhance the storytelling. I laughed and cried throughout and can’t stop thinking about this movie.
- I never miss an episode of the podcast “Time to Say Goodbye!” hosted by Jay Caspian Kang, Tammy Kim and Andy Liu.
- “Continuum” by Chella Man is an illustrated pocket book following the young author’s journey as a deaf, transgender, Chinese and Jewish artist. “The Properties of Perpetual Light” is a beautiful book of short essays and poems from by Julian Aguon, an indigenous human rights lawyer and writer from Guam.
Veena Hampapur, director of communications, UCLA Labor Center, recommended two of the center’s Re:Work podcast episodes.
Our miniseries explores the experiences of Cambodian refugees in Los Angeles who got caught up in the criminal justice system at a young age. The experiences of working-class Southeast Asian refugees existing at the intersection of criminal justice and immigration enforcement are often overlooked when telling stories of the Asian American community. These stories are also particularly timely, given recent news on immigration enforcement.
- The “Redemption” episode focuses on Cambodian refugees who got caught up in the criminal justice system at a young age. Billy Taing shares his story of fleeing the Khmer Rouge and resettling in America with his family, only to continue facing hardship.
- The “No Child Left Behind” episode shines a spotlight on how too often, youth from marginalized communities of color are not seen as needing protection. Rather, they are treated as the ones we need protection from. This episode tells the story of Phal Sok, who was once a kid in Long Beach forced to grow up too soon.
Alise Brillault, communications manager, Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, recommended four rappers.
Bambu, Ruby Ibarra and Rocky Rivera are amazing Filipino American rappers with socially conscious lyrics. They interweave narratives of race, class, gender and migration to uplift Filipino stories and call for multiracial solidarity. Cosmosis is my friend and an awesome Korean American woman rapper!
In addition to these recommendations, the Asian American Studies Center and Asian American studies department have partnered with campuses across California for a special webinar series every Friday in May that celebrates Asian American activism and looks ahead to community challenges and opportunities.
“Contemporary Asian American Activism: Building Movements for Liberation” brings together scholars, organizers, researchers and contributors to the forthcoming book of the same name, edited by Diane Fujino and Robyn Magalit Rodriguez.
The book and the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month speaker series present lived experiences of the fight for transformative justice and offers lessons to ensure the longevity and sustainability of organizing.
The series kicks off Friday, May 6, featuring Karen Umemoto, Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the Asian American Studies Center, presenting on the topic of “Incarcerations, Displacements and Transformations.” Umemoto will be joined by Eddy Zheng, president and founder of the New Breath Foundation, which works to mobilize resources to support Asian American and Pacific Islanders harmed by violence and the unjust immigration and criminal justice system, and Filipina scholar-activist and educator Katherine Nasol.
The other talks in the series will be: “Internationalism and Local Struggles,” “Political Education and Radical Pedagogy” and “On Movement Building: Shaped by the Past, Creating New Futures.”
For more details about the speakers and to register for events.