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for the Celebration, Examination, Education and
Exploration of Asia and Asian America as
PanAsia 2001
Awakens Chicago

Attendees convened April 6 - 14 at the University of Chicago to cry, laugh, share, and learn about Asia and Asian America. A blockbuster extravaganza, it was not one, but a week of 19 events each attracting hundreds of attendees.

Committee Chair Jay Monteverde says, "One of the greatest concepts behind PanAsia is unity. As individual organizers, we can only do so much. But with PanAsia, we can shout together in a unified voice that people of Asian descent are three-dimensional human beings, with stories and histories that reflect the full range of human experience. We will celebrate, learn, and teach about our lives, our experiences; we will not be relegated to two-dimensional stereotypes; nor will we remain the invisible, nameless `other` any longer."

AC Team's correspondent Cathleen Tsui, an organizer of PanAsia 2001 coordinated stories for AsianConnections, including this feature by Amy Paul, of the Asian American Institute.

PANASIA 2001 Awakens!
A Night of Poetry, Passion & Politics

by Amy Paul, Asian American Institute

PANASIA 2001 - the second annual celebration / exploration / inquiry of Asia and Asian America at the University of Chicago opened with introductory remarks by Committee Chair Jay Monteverde.

Jay remarked that as a child when his peers poked fun at "slant-eyed" Asians, he didn't know why, but could never laugh.

PanAsia 2001 shed light on the categories of Asian and Asian American, by looking beyond the black/white paradigm to create spaces for expression.

Recognizing the diversity of stories and histories, PanAsia 2001 featured the shared experiences of many Asian Americans such as being an immigrant or the child of immigrants, bearing the image of certain stereotypes and homogenized identities, and ultimately resisting within while also contributing to the dynamic spaces, cultures and third, fourth and fifth dimensions of Asian America and America.

Immediately following the opening ceremonies, guests sampled a varied array of Asian cuisines in the University of Chicago's International House.

Afterwards, a crowd of 300 experienced "The Spoken Rhymes of Asian America", an evening of poetry and politics, performance and dialogue, with acclaimed Asian American artists from Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.

Asian American poetry/hip-hop groups included: I Was Born With Two Tongues, P.A.C.I.F.I.C.S., 8th Wonder, Geologic, Garden Foundation, and DJ Nirav Pandya.

Midway through the show, the artists took a break from performing and engaged the audience with a candid discussion of their experiences as Asian American performers.

While interestingly enough, the names many of the artists listed initially as their musical influences were not ethnically "Asian", art is an internalizing, as much as externalizing process, simultaneously subconscious and conscious, and thus defies categorization.

Jeremy Bautisa of 8th Wonder, for example, expressed that he was influenced by Latino culture, as his school was primarily Latino, but that within the fluidity of his poetry, the words of his Filipino mother are distinctively apparent.

In response to a question from the crowd regarding promotion of understanding between generations, Dennis Kim from "Two Tongues" invited his Korean father into the conversation, via cell phone, who shared that he was, indeed, listening and enjoying hip-hop, noting that he remembered back in the '70s when they had disco. Dennis replied, "Oh yeah, we sample disco."

In response to another question about bringing hip-hop "back to the community," many of the artists expressed active involvement with community centers and artistic workshops for youth, as well as spreading the word and encouraging activism around hate crimes.

Fusion, hybridity, multiculturalism, diversity - none of these words do justice to this upcoming vibrant art and political scene. While each performer amazed the crowds, to inquire and to explore, the camaraderie and solidarity expressed among the artists was inspiring, evident in the many collaborative acts.

Some might classify this art form as hip-hop or spoken word, but it was truly soulful story-telling at its finest, spoken from the heart. Their stories tell of pain and suffering, of Korean comfort women being raped during the Japanese occupation, of identity being subsumed and erased by white culture, of foreign policy gone wrong, of ignorance and invisibility.

But the stories also tell of resistance and hope, persistence amid struggle, survival and the possibility that one day, a more equal justice will reign. For many, the stories brought tears and laughter, as they echoed of familiar experiences.

It was not only Asian Americans who attended; people of all backgrounds were present, including faculty, alumni, students from UIC, UIUC, Loyola, and Northwestern - some were avid hip-hop fans and others were not, but regardless, all were moved.

For some, the event presented a complete shattering of the stereotypes normally associated with Asian America, and gave rise to the multiple dimensions that have long been silenced. PanAsia 2001 continued for nine inspiring days through April 14, with arts and scholarship, poetry and music, film and celebration, uncovering some of the varied faces and voices of Asian American communities and cultures.

While highlighting the parallels between Asia and the diaspora, the events were framed in a much larger context that demonstrated, for example, how the mass migration of Asian Americans after 1965 was profoundly tied to the multi-ethnic and multi-racial Civil Rights Movement.

On Wednesday evening, April 11, a workshop titled "`Minor` Issues", brought together minority groups on the University of Chicago campus for an inter-community dialogue on the need for coalitions across race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

Other features included a Korean poetry reading, a Tea House with Chinese demonstrations, a Japanese Anime screening, a lecture on the influence of Islam in Asia, a Filipino yo-yo demonstration, an instrumental "Veena" performance and a "Students at Risk" panel featuring international leaders persecuted as students for their activism.

With an onslaught of hate crimes striking Chicago's Asian American community in the past year, PanAsia 2001 arrives at time when it is both urgent and necessary to reflect upon the struggles of the past and to rethink the future ahead, in light of the challenges upon us in the present.

PanAsia recognizes the need to confront issues that Asian ethnicities share in common on all fronts- of institutions and the everyday- to localize the struggle and focus on action that can be taken in Chicago itself, but also PanAsia never loses sight of the need for awareness and activism across the nation and around the world.

For detailed information about any of the 19 events, please visit: http://www.go.to/panasia. All events were free (with exception of the closing party by Prophecy Entertainment) and open to the public. Stay tuned for information to next year's University of Chicago's PanAsia 2002!

Chicago, Illinois -

Begun last year, 2000 under the leadership of Jay Monteverde, Coordinating Committee Chair, PanAsia is the largest effort at the University of Chicago to spread awareness, educate, and celebrate the stories and experiences of Asians and Asian Americans. PanAsia 2000 also offered Chicago 19 events, with topics ranging from ethnic violence to yellow power, art to sketch comedy, and music to poetry, with the mission of:

  1. Bringing the arts, scholarship, music, film, entertainment, and culture of Asia and Asian America to the City of Chicago in a concentrated week-long collection of forums, screenings, presentations, dialogues, lectures, performances, and other events spanning topics of heritage and past, present day, and uncertain future.
  2. Raising awareness of Asian and Asian American issues around the world.
  3. Bringing to light the third dimension of Asians and Asian Americans, depicting reality in both its beauty and strife.
  4. Representing the voices of the Asian and Asian American community.

This year, like last year, PanAsia events were open to the public and free of charge (with the exception of the closing party by Prophecy Entertainment). Among the events, a vast spectrum of subjects were covered, such as the culture gap between immigrant parents and their children, Asian and Asian American art and music, students who are persecuted for their beliefs or activism, Korean poetry and film, Asian American poetry, and Asian and Asian American identity. More light-hearted events were also featured such as a yo-yo demonstration, musical performance, and screening of anime.

In addition, some of the events featured speeches and performances by renowned groups and individuals, such as Korean writer Mun Yol Yi and Asian American artists 8th Wonder, "I Was Born with Two Tongues," P.A.C.I.F.I.C.S., Geologic, and Dj Nirav.

Said Monteverde, "One of the greatest concepts behind PanAsia is unity. As individual organizers, we can only do so much. But with PanAsia, we can shout together in a unified voice that people of Asian descent are three-dimensional human beings, with stories and histories that reflect the full range of human experience. We will celebrate, learn, and teach about our lives, our experiences; we will not be relegated to two-dimensional stereotypes; nor will we remain the invisible, nameless `other` any longer."


--------------------
For complete information and a list of events,
please visit the PanAsia 2001 website: http://go.to/panasia
Or, contact Jay Monteverde at (773) 315-9413.

 

 



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