Erin and I just spent a great weekend in LA, and all day yesterday was the main event: We attended BANANA, the first-ever gathering of Asian American Pacific Islander bloggers from across the country, and from Canada. It was kind of an ad-hoc event, organized in just two months and a little ragged on the execution side, but it was also exhilarating in many ways, and a pure pleasure to meet so many great people who make up the growing chorus of AAPI voices on the Internet.
It felt at times like much more than just a conference or a get-together. It felt like the foundation of something that has a future, as if this event was ground zero where the spark was lit for a fire that could burn strong and bright for a long time.
The event was organized by San Diego-based Lac Su, author of "I Love Yous Are for White People" (shown in the photo above) and LA-based filmmaker Steve Nguyen (third photo, below). Ironically, neither are bloggers, but as regular visitors of many AAPI blogs, they recognized that we've been building up momentum, and more and more Asian Americans (and Canadians!) are expressing ourselves online. They thought if we could all meet and share our passion and knowledge and learn more about each other and our areas of expertise, that we could harness our combined energy and make all our blogs better.
I applaud their vision and the effort the two of them made, with help from friends at the University of Southern California, where BANANA was held, to pull off the event in such a short time. I bet they didn't expect that they'd have more than 20 panelists on stage, representing all different views and perspectives on the AAPI experience, along with 30 or so audience members -- some who were also bloggers -- who wanted to learn and ask questions and share their stories.
Filmmaker Steve Nguyen of FlipHD posted a cool interview with Phil Yu, the man behind AngryAsianMan.com, one of the truly essential Asian American blogs, earlier yhis week.
Coincidentally, Erin and I interviewed Phil tonight for ...
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:
Wow. Wow. Wow. It's a triple play. It's a hat trick. It's an Asian American trinity, sort of.
Erin and I have booked three killer guests for our visualizAsian.com series of interviews in the AAPI Empowerment Series:
Next Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 pm PT we'll speak to filmmaker Lane Nishikawa of "Only the Brave," an independent movie about the Japanese American soldiers who fought during World War II that will be released nationwide on Veteran's Day;
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, we'll spend an hour getting to know Phil Yu, the man behind the must-read news site about Asian Americans, AngryAsianMan.com;
And on Tuesday, Nov. 17, we'll meet Lac Su, the author of a powerful new memoir, "I Love Yous Are for White People."