Asian Heritage month Tag

Kindred Journey 24 – Troop 12

Troop 12 is the first Japanese and Asian American boy scout troop founded in the United States. It is also one of the oldest. It was founded in 1915 through the work of Masunobu Morisuye. The troop was comprised of American born Japanese or Nisei. The group practiced wilderness and outdoor activities such as swimming, camping, etc. They also learned first aid and volunteered in the Japanese community in San Francisco where they were founded. The group was founded because they could not become a part of existing Boy Scout troops or were not welcomed into white troops. They completed all the requirements to become recognized and became a troop anyway though. The group recently celebrated their 100th year anniversary which has seen struggle during the imprisonment of Japanese during World War 2, finding sponsors to keep the group going, and maintaining a club for kids to learn for over 100 years. In addition to all of the outdoor activities and volunteer work the club scouts are often given the chance to travel to other states and the troop has even been to Japan to learn more about their culture. And the hat the trooper wears is in reaction to a member being teased by another troop. When Troop 12 heard about this, they all bought white hats and wore them together in solidarity.

Sources: History of Boy Scout Troop 12 (youtube), Japanese Immigration hearings

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Kindred Journey 23 – Margaret Cho

Born in San Francisco in 1968, Margaret Cho is one of the greatest comedians to do it. She has written books, starred in plays, shows, and films, recorded music, and done some amazing comedic performances. One of the things I admire about her is her ability to merge political and hilarious. Margaret started performing as a teen. She went on to be one of the first if not the first Asian American lead in an Asian American specific Tv show called “All American Girl”. She had a broadway show called “I am the one I want”. She has toured all over the world performing stand up, and she has been nominated for many awards like the Grammy’s, Emmy’s, and she has won awards from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). Beyond doing comedy Margaret has been an advocate for LGbtq rights, she has stood up against bullying, and has lead commentary to political issues. She is still performing and inspiring today.

Sources:, The Rubin Report, Broadly

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Kindred Journey 22 – Mountain Brothers

Mountain Brothers are a hip hop group from Philadelphia with members Styles, Peril-L, and Chops. Besides Key Kool & Rhetmattic, Mountain Brothers were some of the only Asian American cats rhyming and putting out records. Coming from the Bay you see lots of writers, B-boys, and DJs, but very few MCs. That all changed when I saw this trio from Philly. Their first album “Self: Volume 1” came out in 1999, and their second and last album came out in 2003. They also had an EP titled Microphone Phenomenal. MB were pioneers for Asian Americans in hop hop and although Peril-L and Styles are pursuing medicine and science Chops still continues to make music. In fact the group united for a song on a Chops record in 2013 along with cats like Dumbfounded, Bambu, Rocky Rivera, Geo of Blue Scholars, Neil Armstrong, DJ Roli Rohl, and more. The guys are Chinese Taiwanese and simply by making great music and being themselves they have made history and given young Asian American artists role models. Galaxies!!!

Sources: Wikipedia,,

Did you catch the one of Mndsgn ?

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Kindred Journey 20 Vicki Manalo Draves

Vicki Manalo Draves was born in 1924 in San Francisco California to a Filipino father and English mother who met in the city. She grew up in the south of market area now known as Soma. She began diving at the age of 16. She tired to begin training at SF’s Fairmont hotel and wanted to compete but was discriminated against because of her Filipino heritage. She had to change her name to her mothers maiden name in order to to enter competitions. It was said by her friends and teammates that the discrimination she faced lit a fire under her and when she made it to the olympic games in 1948, she was the first American woman to win two gold medals in platform and springboard diving. Vicki continued to swim for many years, got married and had several children. Today there is a park in San Francisco named after her and when she passed away there were many news publications that honored her. She even has a biopic film in the works about her life’s story.

Sources: Kickstarter (Save our Story), NBC, Wikipedia, Olympics

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Kindred Journey 19 – Tyrus Wong

Tyrus Wong was born in 1910 in Taishan China. He migrated to United States, specifically Angel Island in the Bay Area between San Francisco and the East Bay. He endured interrogation and detention because of the US policy called the Chinese exclusion act.  After his release and reuniting with his father he moved to Los Angeles. He loved to draw and paint as a child and attended Otis college as a fine artist. From the 1930s until the 1960s Tyrus worked in animation at Disney Animation studios and later at Warner Brothers. While working as in in between animator at Disney his incredible landscape paintings where discovered by Walt Disney and his painting style laid the foundation for the landmark film Bambi. Because of racism his work was not lauded or celebrated by the studios however, and Tyrus did not get his just due until he was in his 70’s and 80s. Through his artistic career he not only painted beautiful landscapes. But he also painted Chinese calligraphy, greeting cards, ceramics, and built kites. Tyrus passed away in December of last year. He is survived by three daughters and two grand children.

NY Times, CAAM, CBS Sunday Morning

Dig this? Check out this ptg of AAPI animated characters

Kindred Journey 16 – Kshama Sawant

I heard of Ms Sawant several years ago and with the onslaught of information one receives daily (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not) I swept her to the back of my mind. When researching her for this I realized what an incredible feat it is to be an open Socialist elected official in a US city. As she has said in interviews, many young people do not have the same anti-socialist , red state, cold war view of Socialism that their grand parents once did. In fact they are the youth all over the US and the world who are protesting, occupying, and asking questions. Kshama is a teacher, activist, software engineer, and now a seated member of the Seattle city council which makes decisions about the direction of that city. Sawant was born in 1972 in India. She came to the US in 1994. She studied economics in North Carolina and became politically motivated by the incredible disparities between classes both here in the states and in India. She joined the Socialist Alternative (a nationwide crew of socialist activists) in Seattle and ran for US house of representative for Washington. She lost but won a seat as a city council member in Seattle in 2013 and was re-elected in 2015. One of the greatest victories she has been a part of among several losses is the winning of a $15 an hour minimum wage which so many other cities and states then began fighting for.  This is a quote from her while she was talking about past examples of socialist societies, why socialism is no longer such a dirty word, and why it is important that working people have excellent access to healthcare, education, safety, and more:

Socialism cannot survive in one country. If you have a really successful example of a workers economy, what would happen? Working class everywhere would look at that economy and say hey we want that. And thats very dangerous for the ruling class because as long as there is a successful example of and people clamoring for that they’re not going to have that kind of control that they have now over the working class” -Kshama Sawant

Sources: Richard D Wolff, Wikipedia,  Talking Stick

Kindred Journey 15 – Chhaya Chhoum

I found out about Chhaya through the NY Times conversation with Asian Americans about race. Chhaya is the founding executive director of Mekong NYC, a non profit organization dedicated to organizing Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans, recent immigrants, and families in the Bronx New York. Mekong started out as a project of CAAAV (Communities Against Anti-Asian Violence) which grew out of a lot of hatred and racism directed toward the Asian American community in NYC. Chhaya immigrated to the US with her family fleeing the violence of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (over 150K Cambodian/Vietnamese migrated to the BX between 1975-2000), but was brought into a late 70’s world of poverty and violence in the form of city life. She joined CAAAV at a young age and became an organizer fighting against slum lords, poverty and trauma families carried with them. Her work in the Bronx is ground breaking considering the incredible challenges both Cambodian and Vietnamese families face with regards to cultural difference, language, housing, and so much more that really deserves a specific intentional support network. Chhaya’s work shatters that model minority stereotype which denies the lives, struggles, and stories of so many Asian American youth. I also dig that she talks about the use of art to heal and organize!

Sources: APA Institute, NY Times, Petra Foundation

Kindred Journey 14 – Fon Davis

Fon Davis started his career in film with the film Tim Burton film “The Nightmare before Christmas” as a set builder and has since gone on to build models or create special effects for over 30 films. Some of these films include Star Wars prequels, Interstellar, Starship Troopers, The Matrix, Elysium, and even produced his own short called “Morav”. I found Fon’s name while researching stop-motion film which lead me to meet several people who worked on Nightmare before Christmas, him, and his entire crew at Fonco Creative. The studio was awesome, bustling with props, miniatures, sets, artifacts, equipment, and lots of people working diligently to help make other people’s stories come to life. In the short time that I’ve met and researched him, I get the feeling that Fon is a truly nice guy, very hard working, particular, but very open minded. He is a pioneer of using multiple technologies (digital, practical) to make special effects look real so that we the audience don’t even notice them. From his work at Industrial Light & Magic, to Fonco, to New Deal Studios he has helped push the art form forward. Not only that, he teaches anyone who wants to learn how to build the miniature models and techniques he uses for film in educational classes with videos and schools such as Stan Winston School. Look out for him on shows like Battle Bots, at a comic con, or building an amazing robot for the next sci-fi film.
Sources: Sense of Scale, Stan Winston School, Fonco Creative, Imdb

Kindred Journey 13 – Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku was born in Hawaii in 1890. He was one of nine children born at a time when Hawaii was still a kingdom, before the overthrow by the United States. He was taught at a very early age how to swim and became an incredible swimmer. So much so that he began competing in the olympics and winning several medals shattering records as he went. He first competed as part of the US swim team in 1912 at the Stockholm Sweden competitions. Then again in 1920 and 1932. After he won several competitions he then ventured into acting (staring in over 20 films/shows), and later became a police officer. When he first came on the scene in surfing and acting he was discriminated against, and although many loved him he was not featured prominently in Hollywood films. 
But, he is credited for is giving surfing to audiences in Australia in the early 1900’s which no one outside of Hawaii had ever seen. He inspired many young people in Hawaii and across the world. It is said that he would perform tricks such as standing on his head, walking the board, and surfing with power and grace. His contribution brought surfing to the world and it exploded. He has been recognized as a pioneer, a kind man, a hero, and has been inducted into both the swimming and surfing hall of fame. To this day there is a surfing competition named in his honor. 
Sources: Wikipedia, Duke Surfer of the Century, Duke Foundation

Kindred Journey 12- Animated Characters

If you have children, care for them, or are a big grown up kid you recognize some of these characters  right? I want to ask you the viewer about the reach and impact animated films/TV have on kids and culture. Beyond these five Disney characters, what cartoon series or animated film do you know of with an Asian American main character? Got one? Good, now look up the highest grossing 100 animated films/shows via wikipedia. How many of Asian American characters are present? Are the stories fun, silly, serious, preachy, informative, realistic, visible, or invisible? How do you feel about people challenging Hollywood (animated studios make blockbusters too) for whitewashing characters based on Asian or Asian American stories or not including Asians at all if it’s not an animal? If all children could see themselves represented prominently in billboards, bus ads, backpacks, toys, and films would that make a difference? More directly, how would films/shows about Asian American life, culture, and backgrounds help our kids feel understood, loved, or proud when they are not in our presence? PLEASE do me a favor and watch the most recent of these “Sanjay’s Super Team”. I think it speaks volumes about these questions without trying to preach or put anyone down.

: Up, Lilo & Stitch, Big Hero 6, Mulan, Sanjay’s Super Team
Dig this? Check out this portrait of model maker/SFX artist Fon Davis