Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asian Arts Initiative Grand Re-Opening Ceremony!

Hi everyone,

This Sat, April 4 at 7:30pm, Catzie and I will be performing at the Asian Arts Initiative's Grand Re-Opening Ceremony, the official kick-off to blessing the new digs on Vine St. Please join us--all events are FREE!

PS--The final cut of Asians Misbehavin' in "Model Minority Man" will also premiere--you don't want to miss it!



Friday, April 3 & Saturday, April 4, 2009

Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street, Philadelphia(215)557-0455 or info@asianartsinitiative.org

Friday, April 3, 2009

- 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Opening reception for Chinatown In/flux exhibition

Saturday, April 4, 2009

- 3 to 7 p.m. Open house

- 7:30 p.m. Performance showcase

All events are free and open to the public.

Reservations are strongly recommended for the performance showcase. Donations are always accepted!

Opening Reception (Friday, April 3, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.)

Join us for a gallery reception featuring our Chinatown Live(s) portrait series created by photographer Rodney Atienza; and the launch of our Chinatown In/flux: Future Landscapes exhibition, designed to catalyze imagination and action toward a positive future for Chinatown North where the Asian Arts Initiative is now located.

The reception includes a performance by the Philadelphia Suns Liondancers to bring good luck to our new home! Chinatown In/flux includes artist installations by Rebecca Hackemann, Nadia Hironaka, Kikuchi + Liu, and Jonathan and Kimberly Stemler at the Asian Arts Initiative and nearby neighborhood sites.

Open House (Saturday, April 4, 3 – 7 p.m.)

Come one, come all for an easy-going afternoon opportunity to wander through our new gallery and performance space, witness a live on-line radio broadcast by Youth Arts Workshop alum Mike Trinh, and watch a decade’s worth of community videos created through our programs!

Performance Showcase (Saturday, April 4, 7:30 p.m.)

Whether you are a regular or first-timer, you won’t want to miss this fantastic diversity of dancers, musicians, poets, and spoken word artists blessing our new home with a live performance showcase—on what promises to be one of the most memorable nights of the Asian Arts Initiative’s 15 year history!

Hosted by Edward Garcia with artists including: Sham-e-ali al Jamil, Asians Misbehavin’, Pallabi Chakravorty and the Courtyard Dancers, Las Gallas, Mytili Jagannathan, Juliette Lee, Taiyo Na, Hanalei Ramos, Alex Shaw, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Yellow Rage, YaliniDream and special guest musicians.

FREE or $15 premium tickets. Reservations are strongly recommended for the performance showcase: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/59682

Donations are always accepted!

Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street, Philadelphia(215)557-0455 or info@asianartsinitiative.org

More on Richard Aoki


Former Black Panther leaves legacy of activism and Third World solidarity
By Momo Chang
Posted: 03/19/2009 06:33:08 PM PDT

BERKELEY — Richard Masato Aoki, a former member of the Black Panther Party, died Sunday morning at his home in Berkeley from complications from dialysis. He was 70.

Aoki is a legend in activist circles because of his role in the Black Panthers as one of its first members and field marshal.

Born Richard Masato Aoki in 1938 in San Leandro, Aoki was uprooted when his family was interned in a "concentration" camp in Topaz, Utah, during World War II. The family resettled in West Oakland, by then a mostly black neighborhood. He befriended Huey Newton and Bobby Seale at Merritt College. When Newton and Seale founded the Black Panther Party in October 1966 they created the Ten Point program and showed their plans to Aoki, who transferred to UC Berkeley around that time.

"He was one consistent, principled person, who stood up and understood the international necessity for human and community unity in opposition to oppressors and exploiters," Seale said.

Aoki helped organize some of the Party's first rallies against police brutality and gave them guns from his personal collection, used to patrol the police in the party's early days, Seale said.

At UC Berkeley, he became a leader in the Third World Liberation Front Strike in 1969, representing Asian Americans as a part of the Asian American Political Alliance.

Lifelong friend Harvey Dong met Aoki in the '60s as students at Berkeley.

"He gave a very important dimension to the Asian-American movement in terms of linking the struggles of the African-American community with the Asian-American community," Dong said. Aoki later became one of the first coordinators of Asian-American studies at UC Berkeley and taught some of the early classes.

Before the Black Panthers, TWLF and AAPA, Aoki had begun his political involvement as a member of the Socialist Workers Party and the Vietnam Day Committee, an anti-war group, said Diane Fujino, chair and associate professor of Asian-American studies at UC Santa Barbara, who is writing a book on Aoki.

He is also remembered as a devoted son and caring friend. Aoki was ill when he checked himself out of a hospital earlier this year to take care of his mother, Toshiko Kaniye, who had a heart attack and passed away on Jan. 20. His devotion to his mother stems from his upbringing. His parents divorced when Aoki was young and he lived with his father for a period. Kaniye later raised Richard Aoki and brother David, who has since passed away, as a single mother working in the laundry business for many years.

"Richard was very unique and marched to his own drummer," said Alze Roberts, a friend and colleague who met Aoki in 1968 when they started the Masters in Social Welfare program together, then worked together as counselors at the Peralta colleges. "His personality was a blend of the Asian and African-American cultures."

When the Ethnic Studies department was threatened with cuts in 1999 and students held a strike on campus, Aoki came back as one of the speakers and supporters, 30 years after the original strike.

"His very presence animated the spirit of the strike and it brought the important connection to the '69 strike itself," said Roberto Hernandez, who was involved with the 1999 strike.

Last week, UC Berkeley held a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1969 strike, days before his death. During the events, which Aoki was too ill to attend, his name was brought up many times, according to Hernandez.

Ben Wang and Mike Cheng recall meeting him in 2002 as students at UC Davis, eager to learn from the revolutionary leader.

"At the time, we were just a couple of young college punks and he didn't have to give us the time of day," Wang said. The two interviewed him for a student newspaper, where they talked for hours and joked about making a documentary about Aoki.

Wang and Cheng did embark on the journey of making a documentary on Aoki, and showed a rough cut of the film at the EastSide Cultural Center in May 2008 to a packed house.

"We're on his shoulders now," Cheng said. "It's his time to rest and it's time for us to keep it moving," referring to Aoki's struggle for justice.

According to friends, colleagues, and relatives, Aoki had a way of staying connected to people. He would often copy news articles and send them to friends, or bring up current events during dinner. If there was a book he liked, he would buy multiple copies and give them away, Cheng said. He said he has more than a dozen books that Aoki gave to him over the last seven years.

Close friend Shoshana Arai said Aoki was able to maintain friendships with many people even during times when groups disagreed or became fractioned. "Richard is probably one of the most amazingly loyal people I've ever met in my life," she said.

Aoki never married nor had children, in part because of his own parents' divorce, according to cousin James Aoki, who reconnected with his cousin in the last 8 years after moving back to Oakland. Aoki is survived by cousins and extended family.

Activist and friend Yuri Kochiyama puts it most succinctly: "We're all so saddened (by his death)."

Berkeley High school friend Oliver Petry, with wife Barbara, became one of Aoki's caregivers in the last few years. Oliver remembers they would go swimming at the Albany High School pool, which Aoki used as physical therapy to recover from a stroke he had in 2005.

"He was a sweet guy, I absolutely loved him and I miss him tremendously," Petry said.

Aoki was also devoted to the younger generation. After leaving UC Berkeley, he worked in the Peralta College system for 25 years, as a counselor, instructor and administrator, before retiring in 1994. He was a counselor at Merritt College and College of Alameda.

A memorial and reception has been planned for Saturday, May 2 at a location to be announced. In addition, there will be a ceremony and car caravan on Sunday, May 3, leaving Lil Bobby Hutton Memorial Park (Defremery Park, 1651 Adeline St. in Oakland). Final services will be held at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Messiah College, Sat, March 28

Hi everyone,

We're performing at Messiah College in Grantham, PA, this Saturday, March 28. Event details are below.

Speak Up: Spoken Word Poetry
South Side Cafe

Sponsored by the Asian Student Association and Multicultural Programs.

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thank You OSU and CSULA!

Our performance season began this year at Oregon State University on January 23 and California State University in Los Angeles on February 24. Special thanks goes out to DaMarcus at OSU and Nick at CSULA for all their hard work bringing us out and putting together great shows.

The OSU show was part of an MLK Celebration event called "Social Justice Through Hip Hop." We made the front page of the school paper THE DAILY BAROMETER.

Our journey to OSU took us through DC to catch a connecting flight to Portland. While in DC, Catzie and got caught up in the throngs of people leaving from Inauguration events. The commercialism surrounding the Inauguration --and the Obamas in general--is truly unbelievable. Lookee at all the stuff that was on sale in the airport:

Yes, t-shirts, caps, bobble heads, teddy bears, buttons, life-size cut-outs. It's all a bit insane.

We arrived in Portland around 8pm PST and were picked up by Ron and Tab. They had the coolest sign to greet us with--we took a picture of it with Ron later. It took us another 2 1/2 hours or so to get to the hotel. We stayed right next to the campus.

And directly across from us was the football stadium. Here's the back view.

And here's the front.

Did you know that the OSU mascot is the beaver? And that you're not allowed to mention that quacking fowl which is the mascot of their rival school under penalty of severe torture? Yeah, I was reminded on several occasions of this by DaMarcus who kept eyeing me sideways anytime I mentioned that we had performed at said-rival school last year. :) Anyway, you can see how serious they are about the beaver-mascot--it's all over the campus:

And there was a scary, rabid, and huge wood statue homage to the beaver inside the entrance to the student union. Note the on-campus barber shop in the background.

DaMarcus, who used to be a campus guide, took us on a tour around campus, and I kept asking lots of questions about stuff to test his knowledge of mundane OSU tidbits. I think I did stump on a couple of things. But he showed us some interesting and cool statues of "kows" that are on campus and around Portland which benefit a program called "Kows for Kids on Parade." The program was established to help at-risk youth.

After the tour, we went back to the Multicultural Center for a meet-and-greet with other artists and some students.

And, of course, the most important part of it all was the food:

And we met some cool people.

It was soon time for the show. Here's DaMarcus getting the crowd warmed up.

And our host for the evening was JarVez (I'm not sure if I spelled his name right) who was so damn funny. And, yep, he's a Biggie fan.

We set things off to start the show. Later, we took pictures with many lovely people.

Here's Ron with the airport sign. It's so sparkly!

Here are some shots of the ballroom space that we performed in. Um, yes, that's a runway. We didn't use it but some of the hip hop artists did. From the stage-view:

From the audience-view:

And here's the audience:

I couldn't get any really good shots of the other artists that performed b/c the lighting was not that good and they kept moving around so much. Here's the American Indian hip hop group who performed, Rez Hogs:

Here's DJ Fat Boy who spun for Diezel P.

And here's Diezel P.

It was so nice meeting everyone, and we had a great time. Special shout outs to DaMarcus, Ron, Tab, Jun, Shannon, and JarVez.

On February 23, we flew out to Los Angeles for our show at CSULA. Isn't this the coolest sign/promo ever!? It was up on all the flat screens in the student union.

The hotel we stayed at was so purdy. One thing I love about performing in Southern California is the feeling that I really have traveled outside of Philly. Look at those palm trees!

Catzie and I had separate rooms this time--doesn't mine look nice?

I don't know if Catzie had a view, but I had a gorgeous view of the outside courtyard and the mountains. These were taken right after sunrise.

Then I went outside for a short walk. The weather was so beautiful--I caught Spring Fever b/c Philly was FREEZING when we left.

After breakfast, Catzie and I met up with Kirstie from the University of California, San Diego (2 hours away!) who was interviewing us for a paper she's doing about Asian/Asian American womyn and love.

Kirstie came down to LA with a couple of our favorite San Diego peeps, Janice and Mary (sorry we missed you, Xander!) After the interview, which lasted about 3 hours or so, we decided to get something to eat before the show. But Catzie and I had spied a Hawaii Supermarket down the street from the hotel, so in our endless quest for Hawaiian Hurricane popcorn, we begged Kirstie to drive us down there. Here we are (with Kirstie and Janice) ready to go crazy in the Asian supermarket (yes, that IS a shopping cart Catzie is hiding behind her). Later, I was like, "How the hell am I supposed to get all this food in my carry-ons?!"

When we left, we bought cakes that a lady was making outside the supermarket.

Here's Mary about to bite into one of the delicious morsels.

Here are the cakes cooking. So you could get them filled with red beans, coconut, cream, and some other things I can't remember now. I got one filled with red bean and another with cream. Yummy!

But we were STARVING and looking for a place to eat. Suddenly, Catzie announced that she wanted to eat at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. The closest one was in Pasadena, so off we went even though we knew it would make us late for our arrival time for the show. I mean, you can't really argue with a pregnant woman when she wants food/a certain meal/has cravings, right?

Ever the tourists, we took a picture in front of the restaurant sign even though everyone in the restaurant was looking at us.

Catzie's camera was acting up, so I took some pics of the food. Here's a lemonade/ice tea mix called "Lisa's Delight."

I think the dish I ordered was called a Country Boy: 3 wings and a waffle. It was scrum-delicious.

We were crazy late leaving Roscoe's to head to CSULA. We're sorry, Nick, if we caused you a great deal of anxiety! But thanks to Kirstie, we made it with plenty of time to get settled and rehearse. Here are Janice, Mary, and Kirstie again. They stayed to hang out at the show.

I gave the ladies my camera to take pics of the show. Um, the pics didn't turn out so well--but it wasn't their fault! My camera is not that great. Anyway, here's the best pic of me in the bunch. Eek, I have no face! Alas, the stage can be a lonely place . . .

They managed to get a great shot of Catzie's boots. And water bottle.

We met up with our good friend, Bert. It was really wonderful to see him--it's been, like, 7 or more years since I last saw him.

The ladies from San Diego had to leave so we had to say Bye-Bye (sniff!) Here's one last group photo.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone at OSU and CSULA. We hope to see you all soon.

Much love,