Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | history
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IN 2001, New York filmmaker Linda Hattendorf began documenting the life of a homeless artist whose work caught her attention. The elderly man, who set up his "shop" outside a corner grocery in SoHo, not far from the Wall Street district, wouldn't take money from passersby, unless it was in payment for one of his drawings or paintings, many of...

Vincent Chin was beaten with a baseball bat 30 years ago on June 19 in a Detroit suburb, and died four days later. At the time, I was three years out of art school, managing a paint store, and was a budding young rock critic writing for a Denver newspaper. I didn’t follow any news coverage about the attack on Vincent...

President Obama never fails to inspire with his speeches, and for me, especially his speeches in support of the Asian American community. The video above is from his speech in Washington DC on May 18 at the 18th Annual Gala of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. And while I'm at it, I'm embedding Obama's historic interview yesterday with...

[caption id="attachment_4327" align="alignright" width="515" caption="Cherry blossoms at the Japanese Imperial Palace moat in Tokyo (photo Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons)"][/caption] When I was a kid in Japan, my family would make the requisite trek out every spring to see the cherry trees, or sakura, blooming at places like the Imperial Palace (above) or Ueno Park, which is better known the rest...

It's almost a year since the 9.0-level Great East Japan Earthquake, as the disaster is now officially called, and the subsequent tsunami devastated a huge swath of the Tohoku region along the country's northeast coast. With the anniversary looming, many communities in the U.S are planning commemorative events, and many people are remembering how they learned of the disaster. The initial news of the earthquake, which struck at 2:46 PM local time on March 11, 2011, were horrific: I got an email alert and tuned in CNN late at night Denver time on March 10, and saw the tsunami devour entire towns, outracing cars of residents trying to escape its path. The total toll as of February was over 15,000 confirmed dead with over 3,000 still missing. The tsunami that wreaked most of the havoc after the earthquake was as high as 40.5 meters, or 133 feet -- that's 13 stories high -- and washed as far as 10 kilometers, or six miles, inland. Entire towns were erased in one terrible wave. And with the added terror of nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear plant, a town and its entire surrounding shave become toxic and closed off for decades, with lives interrupted, homes abandoned. The reaction to the disaster on both sides of the Pacific was swift and supportive. Nationally, JACL announced a partnership with Direct Relief International, which has now given more than $2.4 million in donations to eight organizations in Japan -- 100% of all donations went to recovery efforts, with no administrative fees taken out. The American Red Cross takes out a portion of all donaions to pay for administative fees, but it's the best-known relief organization in times of crisis, and by the end of summer the Red Cross announced it had given $260 million to tsunami relief in Japan. Beyond such high-profile efforts, there were dozens of fundraising events and benefit concerts across the U.S including in Denver, where a number of fundraising events were held to channel money to recovery efforts. The Red Cross in Colorado raised $3 million for Japan. The Japan America Society of Colorado raised more than $126,000 over the few months and hand-delivered a check directly to aid agencies on the ground in the affected part of Japan at he end of the summer. (Full disclosure: I'm a board member of JASC, although I wasn't involved in the fundraising efforts.) The Asian Pacific Development Center's "Power of Solidarity" concert, which was held just weeks after the quake, raised over $30,000. There were other concerts organized on the fly to raise money for disaster relief and recovery efforts. All of the expressions of goodwill and condolences -- and donations, and volunteer aid workers -- from around the world were much appreciated by the Japanese government. In the run-up to the March 11 first anniversary of the disaster, the Japanese government has been sending out groups of diplomatic emissaries to thank communities for their help. A couple of weeks ago, Yoshio Onodera, the Director of Risk Management for Miyagi Prefecture, the state most affected by the tsunami, visited Denver with a delegation to show his government's appreciation.

Jeremy Lin I'm about Lin-ed out -- hopefully when the Knicks get back on the court after the All-Star break they'll win some, they'll lose some and Lin will settle into being a team leader without all the crazy hype swirling around him. But one of the coolest side-effects of his sudden rise to fame -- let's call it the Jeremy Lin effect -- has been a very public discussion of complex racial issues, the type of conversations in the media and in bars and livingrooms and offices and classrooms across the country that haven't been uttered since... Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Only this time, there's the added element of racial issues involving Asians and Asian Americans. It's been fantastic, although at times it's been frustrating too, because when seemingly benign slights are pointed out, the anti-P.C. police strike out and tell us to stop being so sensitive and get a sense of humor. Yes, it's true that one reason these stupid missteps are made is because of the novelty of having an Asian American in the NBA spotlight. But seriously, would Ben & Jerry's come out with a custom-flavored ice cream based on an ethnic stereotype for a sudden star who's African American, or Latino? Watermelon? Taco-flavor? I hope one message that has been made clear in the past few weeks is that it's not OK to treat Asians with different standards. Racism is racism. And there's no such thing as a "good" stereotype, either -- stereotypes limit people, even if they're what would be considered commendable values such as hard-working, or smart. One sports anchor on an Asian American media email list pointed out that unconsciously or not, a majority of reports he tracked just happened to point out Lin's "smart" basketball skills. And Lin himself asked in an interview what it means when the media describe him as "deceptively quick" or "deceptively athletic." He knows the unspoken part of the comments is "...for an Asian." So when I was asked at the last minute to give a tribute to Gordon Hirabayashi, a pioneering Japanese American civil rights leader who passed away recently, I used it as an opportunity to extend the dialogue about race and opened my tribute with Lin. The occasion was Day of Remembrance, when Japanese Americans commemorate the Feb. 19, 1942 signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which led to the incarceration of over 110,000 people of Japanese descent in American concentration camps during World War II. The Mile Hi chapter of the JACL holds an annual event to mark the date, with speakers and a presentation about the history of Japanese American internment. This year's like the last several, was held at the University of Denver's law school. Hirabayashi was one of four Japanese Americans who fought the order to the Supreme Court (and lost, although they were cleared decades later). He died on Jan. 2 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. I knew about Gordon but not his full biography. So when I learned I had to pull together a speech in a few minutes, I pulled out my smartphone and did some quick research online and jotted down notes. While I was at it, I checked the NBA scores to see how the Knicks were doing against the Dallas Mavericks.