BANANA, the first Asian American bloggers’ conference, to convene in LA

The Banana conference of Asian American bloggers will be held Nov. 21, 2009 in Los Angeles.

When I first started the Nikkei View as a weekly column in 1998 that ran in a Denver Japanese community newspaper (now gone), I posted the columns on my nikkeiview.com website. I wrote as a way of telling the world how I saw pop culture and politics through my Japanese American experience. In the decade since then, I’ve become involved in the larger Asian American Pacific Islander community, and converted the old website to this here blog.

At the time, I don’t think there were a lot of Asian Americans writing stuff on the web like I was. There may have been, but I didn’t reach out to find them. There were columnists who’d paved the way in traditional media (newspapers), like the late Bill Hosokawa, whose footsteps I followed early on, and Emil Guillermo of AsianWeek. The cool magazine Giant Robot launched back in 1994. The terrific Pacific Citizen newspaper had been publishing for decades, but didn’t have a website until a few years ago.

But there weren’t a lot of columns being posted online back in the day.

Now, the blogosphere allows for many voices from the AAPI community — the long list in my blogroll on the right of this page is always growing as I find new blogs to add — and a couple of them have risen to national prominence.

So Erin and I are planning to participate in a first-ever gathering of Asian American Pacific Islander bloggers called BANANA, Nov. 21 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (it’s a link to a Facebook page). It’s being organized by Lac Su, the author of the terrific memoir “I Love Yous Are for White People,” who ironically is not a blogger. (We’ll be interviewing Lac Su on Nov. 17 for visualizAsian.com.)

BANANA will hopefully establish once and for all that there’s an emerging chorus of voices that’s distinctly Asian American, that’s rooted in many Asian ethnic heritages, but is all tied together by shared experiences and values from living in, being born in and growing up in, these United States of America.

Not all of the bloggers I mention below will be at the BANANA event (see Joz’s comment below), but a couple of these voices have even developed a national audience outside the AAPI population:

Angry Asian Man is a daily must-read site for me and thousands of other readers, because its creator, Phil Yu (who Erin and I will interview Nov. 10 for our next visualizAsian.com call) diligently — maybe even obsessively — posts bits of news and opinion about anything notable having to do with Asian or Asian Americans. I’m sure many of the items are sent in to Phil, and he probably can’t post everything. But it’s a testament to his audience reach that the site is never short of material, and there’s stuff being posted all through the day.

Disgrasian is a blog run by a couple of AAPI women, Jen and Diana, who make merciless snarky fun of celebrities, politicians and outrageous dumb stuff involving AAPIs (they’re no friend of Jon Gosselin) while still pointing out news and issues of importance to the community. They don’t hold back, and their edgy attitude has earned them a place as bloggers on Huffington Post (yeah, I’m jealous).

There are others who are equally important but are better known in AAPI circles than in the mainstream media, that I read whenever there are new posts, because I value their opinion and their knowledge:

  • Minority Militant is a veteran who thinks independently and is politically outspoken and takes his time to write thoughtful, longer posts. His latest is a shorter piece that says Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawai’i is flat-out wrong for his views on an anti-rape amendment, but notes that the AAPI community is bashing Inouye without acknowledging his achievements as a Medal of Honor recipient and the most powerfil AAPI in the country.
  • Slant Eye for the Round Eye can’t make it to the conference but I’m including Slanty here because like Militant, he’s not afraid to speak his mind, plus Slanty really knows his music and pop culture, and I appreciate the loads of videos and news he finds. It helps keep me abreast of AAPI pop culture.
  • 8 Asians is a group blog written by a bunch of smart folks including our pal Joz, who keep up on news, gossip, celebs and issues.
  • Hyphen Blog is the blog produced by the smart, savvy, talented writers and editors who contribute to Hyphen Magazine, a non-profit AAPI publication that we ALL should be supporting by subscribing.
  • Asian Pop technically is a newspaper column, not a blog, but I rely on Jeff Yang’s insights on all things pop culture related to Asia and Asian America. Yang edited the amazing book with comics featuring Asian American superheroes, “Secret Identities” which I still have to blog about!
  • Eric Nakamura’s blog reflects the depth and breadth of Giant Robot, the incredible magazine and retail empire he’s helped built as publisher and editor.
  • Raclialicious, founded by trainer Carmen Kerckhove, covers all racial identity issues.
  • Steve Nguyen Flip HD is where Nguyen, a filmmaker, compiles video interviews and documentaries about Asian Americans. Steve will co-host of BANANA with Lac Su.

I feel honored to be among the bloggers who will be at BANANA. We all have distinct voices with different approaches and areas of expertise. I know that as a group, we’ll be able to forge a stronger, clearer voice than we have as individuals.

Maybe we’ll see you there!

Here are the details:

Again, a link to the Facebook page: BANANA
Saturday, November 21, 2009
4:00pm – 6:00pm
University of Southern California (USC)
University Park Campus, Taper Hall, Room 201
Los Angeles, CA

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12 Responses to BANANA, the first Asian American bloggers’ conference, to convene in LA

  1. Anon Nikkei says:

    You reference Eric Nakamura and Giant Robot in your blog but it doesn’t appear as if Lac Su shares your appreciation of Eric, Martin and GR. I’m not quite sure how you can “hopefully establish once and for all that there’s an emerging chorus of voices that’s distinctly Asian American, that’s rooted in many Asian ethnic heritages, but is all tied together by shared experiences and values from living in, being born in and growing up in, these United States of America” without having a Giant Robot presence at this first-ever gathering…quite a shame

  2. darleene says:

    If the event weren’t on a Saturday, I might try to go, but I work Saturday nights. 🙁

  3. Gil Asakawa says:

    Fair enough — I’m not sure if Lac is aware of Giant Robot’s blog; maybe he thinks of it as a magazine and website (and stores). He’s acknowledged that he hasn’t reached out to every possible site that fits, so he’s urging everyone to spread the word so people can come and share and feel welcome.

  4. Gil Asakawa says:

    Bummer, Darleene!

  5. Simon Tsui says:

    I wish I was in LA.

  6. For the record, there are a number of folks who were invited but cannot attend due to scheduling issues. For instance, 8Asians will be represented, but I won’t be there. Also absent will be the ladies of Disgrasian. Though Gil mentions a lot of great folks, not everyone mentioned above will be at the event.

    Thanks, Gil, for including 8Asians in this distinguished list of Asian American bloggers!

  7. Gil Asakawa says:

    Yeah, I should clarify that my list of favorite blogs isn;t necessarily the people who will be at the BANANA event….

  8. Lac says:

    Giant Robot was invited and so were a host of other AA bloggers. Like Joz mentioned, due to scheduling, distance, and non-response, some just gave us their blessings.

    -L

  9. Pingback: Dawen Interview w/ AARisings « a-Tunes

  10. I don’t think it matters, it’s a long time ago, and I ran into this via google, but I don’t recall being invited, I even did a search to no avail. But that said, hope it went well, and I hope someone remembers something about it. I didn’t hear of it until today.

  11. Gil Asakawa says:

    Hey Eric! Last invitation process was very ad hoc and a lot of people who could have contributed weren’t part of the event. This year’s is still in planning — except that it won’t be this year. As of now, it’ll be early next January, and Erni and I are part of the planning process and you are already on MY list to contact for a panel (the second Banana will be an all-day event with a series of panels, lunch and a reception, keynote speakers and such, all for free!). You can expect an email from me the minute we have a confirmed date and venue!

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