Asian America, social media and baby boomers

AARP's TEK team helped elderly Chinese at a senior center in Boston learn to use smartphones, and they were sending texts ad shooting selfies at the end of the session.

AARP’s TEK team helped elderly Chinese at a senior center in Boston learn to use smartphones, and they were sending texts ad shooting selfies at the end of the session.

This was a fun photo booth at the AARP Member Convention in Boston, which promoted an upcoming PBS series about baby boomers sponsored by AARP. Nope, I'm not actually in the series...

This was a fun photo booth at the AARP Member Convention in Boston, which promoted an upcoming PBS series about baby boomers sponsored by AARP. Nope, I’m not actually in the series…

As a journalist, I’ve been really lucky.

I started my career as a music critic and then a reporter, so I’ve always been able to write about pop culture – especially the pop culture of my generation, the baby boomers. Then when the Internet came along, I was able to move over to work almost exclusively in digital media, and these days I work in and speak about social media. And since I started writing my “Nikkei View” column and blog, I’ve been part of a growing chorus of Asian American voices (like the JACL’s Pacific Citizen, which is about to re-launch its website after a two-year hiatus!) covering issues and stories that mainstream media frankly tends to ignore.

So I couldn’t believe my great fortune last month when I was named the 2014 Asian American Journalists Association’s AARP Social Media Fellow.

AARP, if you aren’t familiar with the organization, is the American Association of Retired People, whose members are 50 years old and older. That means that this year, the youngest baby boomers are turning 50 and can join AARP (the baby boom went from 1946 to 1964).
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Rice and tea have been and always will be mainstays of Asian culture

15 cups of riceI’m not much of a churchgoer, but I’ve attended and volunteered at events at both the Denver Buddhist Temple, and the Simpson Methodist Church, which are both focal points of the local Japanese and Japanese American communities. A couple of weeks ago, I was part of the Mile High JACL‘s Fall Festival team, and spent a long day cooking (and cleaning) at Simpson Methodist Church.

Both churches hold lots of cultural events, and like any church or temple probably throughout the world, both have fully-equipped kitchens. As we prepped for the food orders to come in, I realized that even though I’m not part of either church’s community, I’m Japanese in my cultural DNA. When I was told to wash 15 cups of rice in one of the banks of rice cookers against one wall in the back room behind the kitchen, I knew what to do without anyone explaining.
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JACL’s Pacific Citizen newspaper looking for new editor, assistant editor

Pacific Citizen Extraordinary APAs issueHere’s a column I wrote for the latest issue of JACL’s Pacific Citizen newspaper, which is undergoing a crisis with the loss of both its executive editor and assistant editors. The paper is also looking for a fulltime business manager.

I’m on the search committee, so if any of my readers is interested in applying, you should send me an email. I can send you the official job announcement as well as the requirements, which includes the salary ranges.

It’s a tough, demanding position but one with real potential for greatness.

The PC is at a crossroads

As a writer and editor, I’m not supposed to rely on clichés. But the current situation of the Pacific Citizen is best described by a cliché, that the Chinese character for “crisis” also means “opportunity.”

When I served as the PC Editorial Board’s chair for seven years, I defended the newspaper and its staff vigorously at national JACL board meetings. Because it’s expensive to run a news organization, even a super-lean one like this, the PC has always been an easy target when budgets tighten and money is scarce.

But I warned the national board every time someone didn’t understand the importance of the PC to the general membership, or the value it represented for its cost to the organization’s bottom line. I also warned that the staff, including Executive Editor Caroline Aoyagi and Assistant Editor Lynda Lin, were precariously underpaid and were working their butts off doing an excellent job primarily out of passion for their mission and pride in the quality of the PC.

I cautioned that both these fine journalists might flee for other media jobs. Finally, that’s what happened with Caroline, who was wooed away for another job. Lynda is moving because her husband was suddenly transferred overseas by his company.
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A last-minute Census reminder for Asian Americans

I’ve been meaning to post a reminder for everyone (non-Asians too!) to fill out your U.S. Census forms, or if you don’t get it done and postmarked by the end of March, to be sure respond to census workers when they come to your door in the months to come.

It’s especially important for ethnic minority communities to be counted because an accurate accounting means every community will receive the federal services and funding it deserves. And remember, this has nothing to do with citizenship, or whether you’re a student, visitor, legal, illegal, whatever. It’s just counting people across the U-S of A.

Here’s an article from the JACL about the Census and why it’s important:

JACL Says “Get Everyone Counted in the 2010 Census”

By Phillip Ozaki and Carla Pineda

Another decade has gone by, so that means its Census time! The JACL is making extraordinary efforts to make sure everybody in our community gets counted. Over $400 billion in federal funding is at stake. One person left out is equal to a loss of $1,300 over the next 10 years to his neighborhood. Everyone deserves a piece of the pie so make sure to get your forms in at the beginning of April. Historically, racial minorities have been undercounted including Asian Pacific Americans, and the JACL hopes to prevent that in 2010. Continue reading

Turning Japanese (again): A question of identity

The Asakawa family circa 1960 in Hokkaido, Japan: (from left) George, Gary, Gil and Junko (stranger in front).

I was born in Japan, so I can say this with a straight face: I’m becoming a born-again Japanese, and it’s kinda fun.

For years now, Erin and I have thought of ourselves as Asian American first, and Japanese American second. Mostly, it’s because we’re interested in and feel a kinship with other Asian Americans, whether their heritage is Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Hmong, Indian, Filipino, whatever. We certainly have immersed ourselves in the local Asian American Pacific Islander community, through being involved in events such as the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, the AAPI Heritage Month Community celebration, the (now defunct) Aurora Asian Film Festival, Miss Asian American Colorado Leadership Program, Asian American Journalists Association and others. Erin spent six months last year serving as editor of the feisty little local pan-Asian magazine, Asian Avenue.

It’s wonderful to feel a part of a larger community within which we share lots of cultural values and appreciate the various cuisines. We’ve become friends with and learned about Asians across many borders, and generations from immigrant gens to very Americanized.

It’s also partly because the Japanese community in Denver is small, and insular, and tribal, and … well, small. It’s not like LA or San Francisco or Seattle or New York, where there are lots and lots of JAs to hang with, as well as tons more AAPIs in general. We just felt too constricted sometimes by the local community.

But lately, I’ve found myself being among Japanese, and enjoying it. Continue reading