Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai releases 2nd spoken-word album, “Further She Wrote”

Slam poet Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai I met spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai when she performed in Denver during the 2008 Democratic National Convention (you remember, the cool one where Obama was nominated) for an APIA Votes gala for Asian Americans. She rocked the room with a too-short set, and I bought her first album of slam poetry from 2007, “Infinity Breaks,” that night.

She released her second album, “Further She Wrote,” in early December and it’s available online via Bandcamp. Through January, you can name your price for the album (I suggest a minimum of $15 — we gotta support our peeps), to download the tracks to your computer. The CD version will be available in January.

Tsai’s a Chinese Taiwanese American born and raised in Chicago and now living in New York City. New York is a palpable presence in some of her poems, especially her sharply observed ode to her neighborhood, “he Ballad of a Maybe Gentrifier” in which she bemoans how the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood is changing as new diverse residents move in and the established black population gets pushed father into the margins. She notes the irony that she’s part of the new guard that’s changing the tenor of the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. I know the hood, since it’s where I went to college in the ’70s, at Pratt Institute. It was a mean-ass place then and it’s way different now. Sometimes changes — even “gentrification” is a good thing. She also draws a terrific picture of her hood in “Betp, Bed-Stuy Sketch #1.”
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Next up on Slam poet Beau Sia

Slam poet Beau SiaErin and I are finishing off 2009 on’s AAPI Empowerment Series with slam poet Beau Sia, on Tuesday, December 8 at 6 pm PT (9 pm ET).

If you haven’t heard of him, Beau Sia is a Chinese-American poet from Oklahoma City. He’s an artist who uses words as his paint and canvas, and his work has been widely showcased.

We caught his performance, which is equal parts stand-up comedy, speechifying, testifying and socio-political commentary, earlier this year when he visited Denver University. He’s funny as hell, intense as hell, powerful, super perceptive and thought-provoking. One of his best pieces is an open letter to Rosie O’Donnell that he wrote after she made “ching-chong” comments on national TV.

He’s fearless, and gives an important voice to Asian American Pacific Islanders that’s too often missing. Continue reading

Next on visualizAsian: Kip Fulbeck – hapa artist, author, slam poet, professor

Kip Fulbeck is a mixed-race artist and performer
Photo by Suzanne Bernel

Think of it as a racial mashup. We’re living in an era when the President of the United States is multiracial, and we’re changing our perspectives on ethnic identity — especially what it means to be Asian American. We’re moving beyond single cultural identification. Many of us are connected to our ethnic heritage and add the layer of American culture. Hence, I’m both Japanese American and Asian American.

In addition, the richness of mixed-race America is going to continue to have a huge impact on the U.S. in the future.

For example, the Asian American community of the future will be a multicultural tapestry with a bright thread of mixed-race Asians. In the Japanese American population, the mixed-race fabric is already very evident — since the 1970s, JAs have married outside our own community more than any other group. So we’ve been familiar with the term “hapa” for decades.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to call mixed-race JAs “ai noko,” which literally translates as “love child,” or maybe “hafu” (“half”), and she would say it disparagingly (sadly, she’s not PC at all). Likewise, “hapa” is a Hawai’ian term that means “partial” — and it was used originally in a derogatory way, for “hapa haole,” or “half-white.” Although I know people who are offended by the use of the word hapa, it’s become a common term for mixed-race people of all ethnicities, not just Asians. I’ve heard it used within the black and Hispanic communities.

Because of the importance of the mixed-race AAPI community, Erin and I are proud to announce our next interview for Kip Fulbeck, an artist, author, performer, slam poet and….uh, professor! Kip’s ethnic background is Cantonese, English, Irish, and Welsh, and he’s nationally known for his exploration of mixed-race identity.

Our conversation with Kip Fulbeck will be on Tuesday, July 21 at 6 pm PT (9 pm ET). Continue reading