Erin and I are launching a new site this week, visualizAsian.com, that will celebrate the accomplishments of Asian American Pacific Islanders with live audio interviews conducted over a conference phone line that will also be streamed live on a webcast, and then will be playable online afterwards.
We’re pleased to announce the debut interview will be with Norman Mineta, the former Secretary of Transportation and a longtime public servant.
This interview is particularly perfect because we’re doing it on May 21, while it’s still Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Not only is Mineta the first Asian American to be appointed to a Cabinet position (Secretary of Commerce under Bill Clinton) and the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation in U.S. history (under George Bush), he was also a co-sponsor, along with Congressman Frank Horton (R-NY) of both the 1978 House Resolution establishing Pacific/Asian Heritage Week and the 1992 bill that expanded the week into â€œAsian Pacific American Heritage Month.â€
His years in political office came in contrast to his childhood experience, imprisoned during World War II in a Japanese American internment camp.
Mineta was born in San Jose, California, to Japanese immigrant parents who were not allowed to become U.S. citizens at that time. During WWII the Mineta family was interned in the Heart Mountain internment camp near Cody, Wyoming, along with thousands of other Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans.
Here’s how the visualizAsian.com interviews will work: notable AAPIs will be interviewed via a conference call and streamed live online — it’s like the new evolution of talk radio — and the calls will be archived online. You can submit questions to the interviewee before and during the interview, through a form on the website. You’ll need to register for the calls to listen, submit questions or replay, and if you dial in, long distance charges may apply (the interview’s completely free on the webcast, of course).
We’re excited about these interviews, which we’re calling the Asian American Empowerment Series. visualizAsian.com’s goal is to feature free interviews with leading Asian American Pacific Islanders from politics, pop culture, business and more, as a way to inspire and empower other AAPIs to follow in their footsteps. The next interview’s already scheduled for June 2 with author and activist Phoebe Eng, and future interviews will include actor and activist Tamlyn Tomita, â€œSurvivor: Cook Islandsâ€ winner Yul Kwon and journalist/activist Helen Zia.
We decided to start visualizAsian.com because we’re still largely invisible within the American mainstream. We’re doing much better in entertainment — we’re on a lot more TV shows, for instance, and though not the lead character, we’re playing more and more strong support characters. We’re visible in the news media to an extent, and now we’re much more visible in the highest levels of government. But there aren’t enough of us in politics, or in the media, to where decision-makers know about the AAPI community on a consistent basis. We have the highest percentage of college degrees of all minority groups, but represent only a tiny fraction of executive-level management in coprorate America.
What’s with that? We think that by promoting and celebrating those of us who accomplish great things in their lives, others of us will become inspired and empowered to follow in their footsteps. Erin often paraphrases a quote from Phoebe Eng from her terrific (and inspiring book, “Warrior Lessons:” “Growing up Asian in America is like looking in the mirror and not seeing any reflection.”
It’s time to shine a light on ourselves so we can finally see how great we are.
If you can think of other notable AAPIs, let us know, and we’ll try to track them down for future interviews!