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APA Leaders 2016: Meet Jacky Chen

As always, we hope you all had a great weekend, and what better way to start off a week than with APA Leaders with our last but not least APA Leader for 2016, Jacky Chen! Jacky Chen's a leader and role model to the community. He has been a CIRCLE TA and an intern at the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center. Find out more about Jacky in the interview below: Name: Jacky Chen Major: Electrical Engineering Year: Senior Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

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What does being APA mean to you?

Being APA meant next to nothing to me before USC. It’s not that I was ashamed of it; it’s just that I never really learned about it. I was born and raised in Phoenix and always attended schools where the majority was Hispanic or White. My high school was 2% Asian, my best friend is white, and so I always just thought of myself as American. My brothers and I fit in pretty well. We were some of the most well-known students in our high school of over 2000. One brother finished 3rd at Freshman State for wrestling and was nominated for Homecoming Court. Another one played on the basketball team, which had recently won a state championship. I was known for dancing hip hop and won voted as “Most likely to become a Billionaire”. We were known as the “Chen Dynasty” and our peers viewed and respected us as individuals. However, that changed when I came to USC.

The USC social environment forced the label of APA onto me and it came as an absolute shock. Before school even started, at band camp, I had my first racist experience where a fellow freshman trombone only invited the non-Asians to hang out at their house. During the first few weeks, as I introduced my name, Jacky Chen, one student immediately responded with, “Wait what? Dude, that’s kind of racist,” even after I explained that it was my real name. When talking about band, an APA friend told me that he could not see an Asian Drum Major representing USC within the next 40 years because of race. Later in the year, I was eating lunch in the dining hall with my white, frat friend when his friends came over and gave him a weird, almost confused glance. At first, I disregarded these and other similar experiences, shrugging them off as singular incidents linked only to the decisions of a few individuals. However, as freshman year came and went and the lone events changed to an evidence-backed trend, I began to realize just how real and deep this racism was. People didn’t even realize it existed because, unless they tried to be more aware, it was the default setting.

I think a lot of individual Asians Americans (and other minorities) realize that there is power that comes with being white and they see that the easiest and quickest way to gain that power is to become white-washed, trading a part of their identity for power. This is illustrated by an experience where I was hanging out with a friend who happened to be a white female. A little while later, an Asian American male, who was her friend, joined us. Later that night, after she had left, the friend, who was drunk, began talking to me and saying how hard it was. At first, I was confused. Then, he elaborated, “It’s so hard to date a white girl as an Asian guy. In high school, it took years for me to break into a white friend group and become able to date white girls.” As he said, a lot of time and effort is required to become recognized as “white”. Without really understanding what is being traded, it can seem like a great, easily justifiable deal. But once that “status” is attained, it is understood to be precious and must be defended and maintained, justifying disassociating oneself from the people of the same race, who might inadvertently strip that whiteness away. This builds on top of the, already existent, societal racism creating a rejection of one’s own race and tearing apart the APA community.

Only in the past few years have I begun to really recognize the APA identity. Even though it was forced on me, I wear it proudly. I’ve always strived to live honestly and I’ve realized that if I want to do that without any strategic disadvantages, I’ll have to create a world where I can be myself unapologetically. That’s exactly what I intend to do. I’ve always surprised the people that get the chance to know me. This time, I’ll have to do things big enough that the whole world will have to turn and watch. I look forward to the day that happens, when the world must stands there, awestruck and surprised. In the fighting words of Muhammad Ali, “I’m gonna show you how great I am!”

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Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus.

The majority of my involvement at USC has not been specifically in the APA community or the wider activist community, which is somewhat nonconforming for the APA Leader recognition. However, being non-conforming is representative of me and my story in general so I appreciate being recognized despite that. To efficiently explain what my involvements look like, I’ll list them out resume-style.

Work Experience 1. Southern California Edison, Intern 2. USC Viterbi ENGR-101, TA 3. Critical Issues in Race, Class, and Leadership (APASS CIRCLE), TA and Participant 4. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, TA 5. Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (Non-profit), Intern 6. Nuclear Safety Research, Researcher and writer 7. Blockwise Engineering, Intern

Extra-curricular/Leadership 1. Trojan Knights, Songfest Chair 2. First Generation College Student Conference, Planning Committee Member 3. Trojan Marching Band, Squad Leader 4. Redefining Engagement in Active Leadership (Office of Campus Activities), Coordinator 5. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (USC IEEE), Web Chair 6. ITASA West Coast Conference, Group Leader 7. Conferences/ Retreats: GLO Leadership, Posse Plus, Viterbi Trek, Advancing Justice

Volunteer Experience 1. Joint Education Program (JEP) 2. APASS PEER Mentoring Program 3. Trojan Knight Philanthropies a. Bone Marrow Drive, Spirits in Action, Swim with Mike, Knight's Carnival on Skid Row, Pumpkin Carving, Chalk the Block, Songfest Musical 4. Events a. Kicks for Kids, Friends and Neighbors Day, MESA College Day, Trojan Dance Marathon, Viterbi Ball Ticketing, Housing New Admits

Competition Experience 1. National Academy of Engineering Business Proposal Competition 2. Undergraduate Research Symposium, Researcher 3. National Academy of Engineering Video Competition, Director, Writer and Editor 4. Boeing Business Case Competition, Writer and Presenter 5. Hackathons: HackSC (USC), MHacks (Michigan), Intel IoT Hackathon, AngelHacks

Awards 1. Scholarships: Jerome Linn Scholarship, Robinson Scholarship, Phoenix Alumni Club 2. Undergraduate Research Associate's Program Grant 3. Accepted to 5 Year Master's in EE Computer Networks (Progressive Degree Program) 4. Tea with Nikias

Looking through my involvements throughout the years, only about 20% of them specifically fall into the “APA” category. I enjoyed these APA experiences a lot. However, I also spent a lot of time in different parts of USC because I hope to create a school-wide environment that provides space for people of all races and backgrounds. I think that the value of this is often overlooked because organizations at USC can be so demanding and, as a result, exclusive based on time and commitment. I want to stress the importance of trying new and different things in order to grow as an individual and increase effectiveness. Shout out to APASS’s CIRCLE program, do it if you haven’t already.

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What kind of legacy do you want to leave at USC?

I want to leave a legacy that inspires and empowers others. Growing up with four younger siblings, I have found that the best thing I’ve been able to give them is the ability to help themselves. Often times, this ability is achieved through helping them believe both in themselves and in their dreams, which can often hover between the possible and impossible. The greatest leaders throughout history, no matter their goals, have all improved the people around them. They’ve lifted up their families, communities, and even nations and, by spreading individual empowerment on massive scales, they have been able to change the world.

This type of legacy is so incredible. Not only is it effective but it is quite literally supported by happiness and good. A 75-year long Harvard study tracked thousands of people throughout their lives and showed that the main factor for someone’s happiness is the strength of their relationships. By empowering others, an individual’s relationships with those people are strengthened. My best friend has told me time and time again how grateful he is to me for helping change his life and I could not ask for a better friend to have helped shaped mine. This brings it back to the idea of helping people believe in themselves and creating good in the world. When people are empowered, their confidence and awareness also rise. Awareness leads to empathy for others and confidence helps people act to change what they do not like in the world. If they choose to help, it can easily come in the form of empowering others which perpetuates the cycle.

Tell us how you got here. How did you first get involved with the APA community?

I was originally rejected from USC. My high schools was not very good and never really sent anyone to good schools so I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started “trying” my senior year of high school. I was devastated when I was rejected by seven of the eight schools, only getting into ASU. USC was the only rejection that noted that it was possible to appeal. Even after getting in, I wasn’t sure if I’d be going here. My late acceptance offer meant I got my financial aid package in July. By that time, it seemed like all the aid money was gone because that first year deal was terrible. Despite that, my dad had me attend freshman orientation and, there, I met two amazing people who convinced me that USC was worth it. One directed USC’s Political Student Assembly and the other received the APA leader nomination last year. So that’s how I got here.

I first got involved in the APA community by participating in CIRCLE during my first semester. I thought it was a good program but also felt relatively disconnected from most of my fellow participants who I honestly couldn’t relate to. A theme that I have felt at USC is that, for the first time, I’ve been surrounded by people that look like me but almost no one who is actually like me or comes from a background like mine, and that theme was felt in CIRCLE as well. I didn’t even attend the retreat at the end, partly because I chose to go to the USC vs. UCLA game with the marching band instead. Jonathan Wang was a big part of why I continued to participate in the community. I remember running into him on Trousdale and being encouraged to apply for the TIE internship. Andy Su was also very encouraging and he was a fellow trombone in the marching band so that helped. A few amazing people and little things like that gave me a reason to continue participating in the APA community, discover more of myself, and eventually become someone that can help others in the community. I’ve always sought out great people above all else. Even if I am unsure of what the next step will be, putting myself with great people has always been the right move. Great people convinced me to come to USC, welcomed me into these communities, and encouraged me to empower myself.

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What would be one change you would like to see at USC? In the APA community?

This question really ties into the legacy of empowerment. The first part was helping people believe in themselves and the second is helping them believe in their dreams. Dreams are often already difficult to achieve but the challenges become that much harder when reality hits you with things like racism and sexism. Therefore, I would like to see the social environment of USC become a place where, in each social interaction, people judge and treat each other as individuals, defined by real actions, rather than stereotypes. This would help both sides. It is not prudent to treat people based on preconceived notions that have no basis in the individual so this environment would teach “judgers” how to effectively interact with others. As the “judged”, it is disempowering and exhausting to always have to carry the weight of stereotypes. Often, before they can be accepted as a “normal”, “square one” human being, the judged must prove that the stereotypes do not apply to themselves. This ties into the motivation for why people want to be whitewashed, because it empowers them to be anything without being tied to a specific race, and why minorities often choose to hang out with members of their own race because they are not judged as much. By spreading this mindset to all individuals at USC, we enable everyone to be comfortable being themselves which is so basic but important.

I mention this issue of identity and stereotypes because I think it has a huge effect on the APA community but it is often not recognized in general society. We are scapegoated as the model minority, used as a tool to point blame at other minority groups. This damages solidarity in the minority community. Population wise, we are smaller than some of the other minority groups. We are also newer and have had less time to create connections in society. Many Asian countries have gone through wars and turmoil in the past few decades. We don’t have Black Pride or native ties to the Americas and there is a lack of a strong voice in the APA community. Our group, in general, is stereotyped as submissive, socially awkward, lacking power, and more feminine and less masculine. In my life time, Chinese has gone from a language that my parents did not want me to learn to a language that is highly valued by society.

During my freshman year, I had the chance to get a book signed by David Henry Hwang, a celebrated playwright. In the brief seconds that we chatted, I mentioned that I thought it was cool that he was doing a piece on Bruce Lee and Asian masculinity and he responded with, “Yeah, it’s hard being an Asian guy.” At the time, it seemed like a funny statement for him to make but, over the years, I’ve seen how true that is. Between an Asian male friend that had been adopted by white parents, loudly repeating to me, “Dude, I’m not Asian,” and more violent events such as one Asian American yelling Asian slurs and throwing raw eggs at another Asian or the Santa Barbara shootings committed by a half-white, half-Asian college student who struggled with his masculinity. Society’s stereotypes has created self-hatred for Asian males and I hope to see our community overcome that by bringing it back to valuing individuals as such.

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What motivates and inspires you?

People. Amazing people. An individual’s ability to change. Humanity’s ability to change. The ability to dream and achieve well beyond one’s current situation. Great awareness, empathy, and humanity. Well-planned and well-executed decisions. Drive and fighting spirit. The future and the gems it holds. Space travel. Immortality. The people who believe in and support me. The list goes on and on but I think the things that inspires me the most are the incredible, near-impossible things that people do. My greatest motivation is achieving the “impossible” for the people who believe in my ability to do so and to set the bar as high as possible for someone like me. Achieving the impossible is a great feeling and it gives people hope. It’s almost like magic, no one expects this amazing thing to happen because they don’t think it’s possible but then it does and some of them will start to ask, “Why can’t I do that?”

I am also inspired and motivated by individuals who stand out as anomalies in society. People are largely lazy and stupid but, sometimes, certain individuals can be surprising. That’s how I choose my closest friends. I observe people and get to know them and their background. From there, I set an expectation for how great of a person they are and, there is something pretty special about the ones who can greatly exceed this expectation. So yeah, great friends and achieving the “impossible” inspire and motivate me.

There have been so many times in my life when someone older than me, who I respect, has told me something cannot be done because that’s just how it is. The thing is, we’re living in an amazing generation. If you think the past century went by fast, wait until you see what’s coming this century. The greatest marvels of humanity are before us. Young people are growing up in a world like never before, where everything is constantly changing, where people all over are becoming empowered and doing amazing things no matter what their background is. Look at politics today, someone like Bernie Sanders, who is so optimistic, almost to a fault, is getting huge amounts of support. People would’ve said that someone like him or Donald Trump could not succeed in this election. People are wrong all the time. Young people want to dream and believe in their dreams. They believe they can make them a reality. Older people are saying, no you have to take it slower because that’s not how the world works.

All money aside, what is your dream job?

I believe that we are facing an epidemic in which people don’t really know why they do the things they do in life anymore. This is already a glaring issue in college. I was having coffee with the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Programs and he told me about a book which said that so many kids in elite, higher institutions today don’t know how to live in real life. One astute friend of mine noted how boring everyone was at USC because so many of them are prepped and guided to their current situation. At Johns Hopkins’ summer program, I saw so many adults who were just dissatisfied with their lives. It’s just really sad overall and I think it comes down to the fact that people are not fully aware of why they are making decisions. They don’t own the decisions or grow from them. Life is so easy now that it is easy to get away with being lazy. I think laziness or apathy is an easy excuse but what’s laying behind it is often fear: fear of failure, fear of one’s own inability, fear of the unknown. My dream job is to solve this epidemic.

Anyone you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?

I’d like to thank my family, especially my siblings. I’d like to thank my friends. I’d like to thank USC, its programs, and student orgs. Lastly, I’d like to invite anyone who wants to talk or become friends with me to reach out.

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We would like to take this time to thank Jacky Chen and all of our other APA Leaders this year for their cooperation and their unceasing involvement in the APA community. With this, APA Leaders is coming to a close along with most of APAHF. Make sure to check out the other APA Leaders in the past blog posts and make sure to also nominate a professor that has inspired you or changed your life for Professors of Color here:

APA Leaders 2016: Meet Anthony Garciano

Hey everyone! I hope your week has been going well with midterms and all, but to de-stress you should read this week's APA Leader interview! Our 7th APA Leader is Anthony Garciano! Anthony is heavily involved in Troy Phi as the Community and Culture Chair as well as the greater Filipino community through his work in the Kaya Collaborative, where he went to the Philippines and worked with local education and social entrepreneurship organizations. Find out more about Anthony in the interview below: Name: Anthony Garciano Major: History & Social Science Education Year: Junior

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What does being APA mean to you?

To me, being APA means the willingness to learn and unlearn, to talk and listen, and to maintain a level of conviction in the gray area. Approaching my identity in this way allows me to appreciate all the complexities and nuances afforded by my circumstances.

Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus.

I’ve been a part of USC Troy Philippines (TP) since freshman year. For the past two years, I’ve taken on the role of Community and Culture Chair for TP, and, in so doing, I’ve actively exposed myself to the Filipino and Filipino American community in Los Angeles. Also, I’m involved with Kaya Collaborative (Kaya Co.), which connects Filipino diaspora college students back to the Philippines. I was a fellow for Kaya Co. last year in which I interned for an education social entrepreneurship in the Philippines, lived with community-driven, motivated, smart, (albeit ratchet) college students in the heart of Manila, and took a crash course on social change making. Throughout all of this, I’ve internalized the lessons that I’ve learned as a 1.5 generation Filipino American (as well as further defined these lessons through programs such as CIRCLE and Gateway and my own individual research on APA identity and the Filipino/ Filipino American experience), in order to better connect and humanize both identities to the members of TP.

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What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders?

Definitely be open to different ideas, which at times conflict with each other, as well as being constantly critical to those ideas. But, at the end of the day, when you’re tired and hungry, give yourself time to eat a banana and sleep.

Why is it significant to learn about our heritage?

If we aren’t connected to our roots, how can we possibly grow? Our heritage offers us context; It offers us self-understanding. It allows us to be closer to our past; it allows us to be closer to our present communities. It acts as an agent of individuality, as well as an agent of unity. And that’s the beauty of it all.

Tell us how you got here. How did you first get involved with the APA community?

I was born in a chicken coop. Also, I lived in the island of sweet potatoes. (All of these are true. I was born in my grandmother’s chicken coop in the island of Camotes, Philippines, which translates to “sweet potatoes” in English.) So that’s how I came into this world, surrounded by chickens and sweet potatoes. But, I only got involved with the APA community once I joined Troy Philippines. And I never looked back. So I blame TP for exposing me to the greater APA community and I blame myself for sticking around.

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What motivates and inspires you?

My parents definitely act as my source of inspiration and motivation. My dad has been working 16 hours a day for nearly 20 years as a janitor, while my mom stays at home to take care of 6 kids. They are my role models; to whom I could never compare.

If you could meet anyone from the past, the present, or the future, who would you want to meet and why?

I would want to meet the first Filipino hero, Lapu Lapu. There is some controversy to where the Battle of Mactan was actually fought, which was either in the island of Cebu or Camotes (my island!!). If I could meet him, I would have the opportunity to solve one of the greatest mysteries in Filipino history, and perhaps even meet my great, great, great, great… grandfather. That would be pretty cool.

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Anyone you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?

First and foremost, thank you to those who nominated me and APASA for this recognition.

I’d also like to thank my family for tolerating me.

My TP fam for your love and support.

The professors who’ve helped me with my research and self exploration (Dr. Kurashige, Dr. Sanchez, and Dr. Parreñas).

My best friends at USC, Krystian, Kyle, and Rachel for always being down.

My BEST friend, Aina, for knowing things about me that no one else does and for being the only person who is able harmonize with me.

AND, lastly, I’d like to thank Kobe Bryant. My hero, imaginary mentor, and god. #Neverforget.

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Thanks to Anthony for the interview and all the hard work you put in for our community! Look forward to our last APA Leader coming up later this week!

APA Leaders 2016: Meet Leo Xia!

We hope everyone had a good week back from break! For our last APA Leader this week, we have the one and only Leo Xia! Leo Xia is a musician that leads the APA community by sharing APA narratives through his music and can be seen performing at various campus and community events. Check out more about Leo in the interview below: Name: Leo Xia Major: Industrial Systems Engineering Year: Junior


What does being APA mean to you?

Asian Pacific American is a political designation. It’s an arbitrary label that has grouped many people that may or may not have similar diasporas together under one umbrella term. For me personally, being APA means grappling with my privilege as a Chinese-American with two college educated parents and growing up in an international school in Beijing. It means learning the history of Asian-America in order to understand why I am not treated the same in America than I am in an international school consisting mainly of other Asian-Americans. It means thinking critically about why I am seen as distinctly American (or American Born Chinese) in China yet simply Asian in America. Sometimes I feel strange being designated as Asian-American because although I was born in California, I spent most of my life in Beijing. I exist as an awkward halfway point between Asians that grew up in the States and Asians that were born and raised internationally. As a third culture kid (TCK), it was difficult for me to find others that shared my exact experience growing up. However, through the CIRCLE (Critical Issues in Race, Class and Leadership Education) program I learned that these distinctions mean little in mainstream American discourse and media. Although APA is an arbitrary label, it has political and social significance that has shaped our collective histories. I realized that although the Asian-American encompasses a wide range of experiences, we are often racialized in the same way as if we are a homogeneous monolith. The dream, after all, is not to feel Asian-American, but rather equal to all other Americans. But it is the unique Asian-American experience forged through history that binds our communities together and keeps our roots and stories alive. It is a song of fear, hope and ultimately, love. Love for our parents who crossed oceans for us. Love for our peers in this generation who fight uphill battles everyday just to exist. And love for the ones who never gave us a chance, because they are not the flames that burn us down; they are the flames that light the way. I embrace the APA designation proudly because it makes me feel like I’m home wherever I am. I embrace my APA identity because it allows me to express myself fully through my music. I embrace it to take all the love I have received and pass it on in order to change the world.


Explain in detail your involvement with the APA community on and off campus.

I would say the original core of my involvement the APA community on and off campus is performing my original songs that capture my Asian-American perspective. My mission is to use my songs to shed light on the immigrant experience and the diverse, nuanced discrimination we face on a daily basis because we are a minority. I have written songs about APA LGBT allyship, my unborn Asian-American son as well as my struggles with reconciling the American and Chinese parts of my identity. I started performing at on campus spaces like SCAPE’s InspirASIAN and APASA’s Got Talent and recently began performing at community spaces like the 626 Night Market and Tuesday Night Cafe.

In terms of official positions,I have recently been hired as a coordinator of the USC APASS CIRCLE Fall Program 2016 after two years in CIRCLE as a participant and then a Teaching Assistant. The program examines social issues such as race, sexuality and immigration through the Asian-American perspective. This program was the beginning of my awareness of social issues and has completely changed who I am as a person today as many other CIRCLE participants can attest. I am also currently a staff member of Kollaboration LA, an Asian-American talent showcase that emphasizes empowerment through entertainment. I obsessed over this organization all the way from Beijing back in my high school days as many of my favorite Asian entertainers such as Mike Song, David Choi and Clara C came through the Kollaboration space. I didn’t have access to many Asian-American role models growing up so I’m excited to see how I will grow from this point. It’s been a dream come true to work under an organization whose mission statement aligns directly with my passions. I believe that healthy and positive Asian representation in American media will help our generation and future ones unlearn the internalized self-hatred that is silently detrimental to our communities.

What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders?

Read hella. After I became Facebook friends with more people from the USC APA social justice scene, my newsfeed was all of a sudden flooded with articles from perspectives I had never paid attention to. Read the articles that have a title that you don’t agree with. Engage with your friends who comment with a differing opinion (if you have the energy to do so at that moment). If you self identity as liberal, talk to a conservative friend. Same thing if you identify as conservative. Form your own opinion and view of the world by consuming as much knowledge as you can and challenging that knowledge just as much. I believe that empathy has a snowball effect. As you listen to and accept more stories, you become increasingly receptive to new perspectives. Through all these readings and conversations I have learned to be critical thinker and have a more solid understanding of who I am as a person and as an activist. Lastly, please take care of yourself. Self-care is so important and cannot be understated. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Feel free reach out to me whenever for a simple conversation about how your day went or anything related to social justice because I love procrastinating by talking with people.


Why is it significant to learn about our heritage?

It is significant to learn about our heritage because we exist in a vacuum without our history. Frankly I think it’s ridiculous that in my international school I didn’t learn about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Chinese Massacre of 1871 or the Japanese internment camps just to name a few. Sometimes I regret learning about the dark side of human history but now I reject the notion that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is ignorance. We need to uncover the histories that American media does not like to acknowledge. We cannot ignore histories like the genocide of the Native Americans and the enslavement of the African Americans, the two great crimes on which this country was built. How do we as Asian-Americans fit into this complex race conversation? Before we answer this question we must acquaint ourselves with true history, rather than just the history written by the people in power.

Tell us about one of your most memorable moments at USC.

The recent InspirASIAN event put on by USC SCAPE was definitely one of my most memorable moments here at USC. My performance at my first InspirASIAN event two years ago was what introduced me to the amazing USC APA community and spurred me to join CIRCLE as a participant, so this event will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. I found myself choking up after every song I played because I would look up and see the people that have shaped who I am as a person today. This community has given me so much and InspirASIAN never fails to make me feel incredibly grateful for that.

All money aside, what is your dream job?

For now, my dream job is to be a cross between a working singer-songwriter and an activist for social and racial justice. I would love to tour the country with my music and share my message of love and hope while uplifting histories and stories that aren’t often told.

If you could meet anyone from the past, the present, or the future, who would you want to meet and why?

I would like to meet Chris Iijima, an Asian-American singer-songwriter who wrote about the Asian-American experience in the 70’s and 80’s. I can’t help but feel Iike I’m standing on the shoulders of giants as I’m striving to carry on the legacy of other Asian-American activists and artists. He was unapologetic and fearless in how he expressed his view on the Asian-American perspective at a time when it was much more difficult than today to speak on racial discrimination. I would love to ask him about his journey as an activist and artist because I could learn so much from him as a mentor.

Anyone you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?

Elaine Qian: You ground me. You’ve shown me that although showing compassion is sometimes difficult, it is the most powerful force we wield in our lifetimes. Thanks for being a cool potato.

Hannah Nguyen, Andy Su and Alex Kanegawa: You all were my day one APA leaders and I still look up to every single one of you. Thank you for introducing me to this community and showing me what sustainable and powerful activism looks like on and off campus. I hope I can make you all proud in what I do and how I conduct myself.

Ryan Yu, Evan Le, Kyle Xia, Roland Wen, Shi Hao Hong: Thanks for being my homies and always challenging me to reexamine my ideas and make them stronger. You all have given me a willingness to always engage opposing ideas rather than hide from them. I hold so much respect for all of you and I hope we continue to have these conversations.

Jonathan Wang: You showed me that it’s worth it to fight for justice. You showed me that it’s OK to vulnerable and tell your story. You bring APASS to life.

CIRCLE Family: Everyone from the coordinators to the participants has impacted my life deeply. I just hope that I can make the CIRCLE program even stronger than before to make you all proud.

APASS Family: I feel like I’m at home whenever I walk into that office. Thank you for accepting me.

KASA Freshmen Dance Off Family: You all are my everything. Most of the bittersweet happy tears I have ever shed in my lifetime have probably been because of you all. Here I learned how to build community and how to bring different people together to create a magical five minute set every year. I’ll see you all around campus :)

My biological family: Thanks for crossing oceans for me and giving me everything that two people could ever give someone. Mom, I missed your sliced fruit more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for giving up your career for Kyle and I. Dad, I know we don’t talk feelings much but I look up to you so much and I want to make you proud. Kyle, we’ve fought but we’re brothers and I’m happy to call you one of my best friends too.


Thank you again, Leo,  for accepting our nomination. Your ability to marry your passion for music and your love for the APA community is commendable and we cannot thank you enough for always gracing us with your voice (and guitar!) at our events. Look forward to see the remaining two APA Leaders coming next week!

APA Leaders 2016: Meet Avalon Igawa!

Hi again! Hope everyone's doing well with only one day left to get through before spring break! Anyways, as our headline says, our third APA Leader is Avalon Igawa! Avalon's heavily involved in the APA community being the President of SCAPE and a CIRCLE coordinator. It's hard to find someone with her passion and energetic personality! Read more about Avalon in our interview below: Avalon_

Name: Avalon Igawa Major: Political Economy (Minor: Digital Studies) Year: Junior

What does being APA mean to you? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this question, and I realize that while it used to be really hard for me, it isn’t so much anymore. And I think that’s because I finally accepted that I don’t need a concrete answer and nobody else does either. It’s a beautiful identity because we can define it for ourselves and let it represent what we want. Wow, that sounded really cheesy, but I feel like it’s true! It took me a long time to accept that I could identify as Asian Pacific American and that I wasn’t erasing my mixed identity. I can be APA and I can be Irish American and I can be mixed. Because for me, being APA means that I can relate to the stories of other APAs and recognize the diversity of all the deep complex histories and narratives that have shaped so many of our experiences. Being APA represents hxstory and struggle, but most of all it represents community. And that’s what I love about it so much.

Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. At USC I started off my first semester by participating in Critical Issues in Race, Class, and Leadership Education (CIRCLE), an APA leadership and character development program through APASS. Little did I know that this choice would end up forging a path for the rest of my undergrad experience. From my OG CIRCLE experience ( Outside of USC, I had the privilege of participating in Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics’ (LEAP) Leadership in Action internship program last summer. LEAP helped me grow so much as a leader and facilitated my work as a summer intern as the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center in West Covina. I’m a member of Yamaguchi Kenjinkai Los Angeles, a group that celebrates heritage and connects Japanese Americans from the prefecture of Yamaguchi with each other and with others around the world. I’m also the house of delegate representative for the Konko Church of Whittier-Rose Hills and serve as the Secretary for the Konko Churches of North America House of Delegates.


What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? Never be satisfied and never stop growing. I believe that leadership is an ever evolving skill that takes a different shape given the circumstances of any given situation. I know that I’m a very different leader with four hours of sleep than I am with eight, so if I mentally prepare knowing my natural tendencies or weakness, I can work to prevent things I don’t want to happen before I’m working with other people. Obviously that’s an ideal situation and often I don’t realize I’m doing something until it’s too late, but by having really honest dialogues with my peers and by listening to feedback, I feel like I’ve really grown with confidence as a leader. More so in confidence that I know that I’m not perfect, but I have a lot of supporters who are pushing me to be better, and by admitting that I’m a work in progress, I will continue to grow.

In regards to specifically APA leaders, I really advise doing some serious reflection about yourself. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be a leader who could tell a story that related to everyone, but instead that the only narrative I was responsible for was my own. And I’m still figuring out what I want to say, but by taking the time to learn some of my family hxstory and consider my experiences growing up, I feel much more comfortable speaking up. And with that knowledge, I can also work to open spaces and lift up other voices so that other important and especially marginalized perspectives are being heard.

Tell us how you got here. How did you first get involved with the APA community? I was really lucky to have a club for Asian Pacific students at my high school (shout-out to LAPS!) and that was where I first started talking about what it meant to be APA. However, I would say I first got involved with the APA community through my church community. I’m part of a small Japanese religion, Konkokyo, and every summer there is a conference hosted by the Konko Churches of North America. I didn’t realize it till much later, but being surrounded by so many APAs for that weekend, specifically other youth the week prior, really gave me a sense of belonging. People came from all over the country with very different stories and struggles, but we all came together with much more in common than just our faith. Growing up seeing such a diversity of APA role models encouraged me to never doubt my ability, while also exposing me to individuals working on different issues that the APA community faces, such as language barriers. Those experiences made me more comfortable identifying with the APA community and is part of the reason why I joined CIRCLE, the program that acted as a catalyst for the rest of my involvement.


What would be one change you would like to see at USC? In the APA community? WAHHH so many changes let’s be real. The authors of the campus climate resolution more eloquently explain a lot of those really important ideas, so I think I’ll just expand on a general attitude change I wish to see at USC. In general, I’ve found that a lot of USC students appear apathetic about issues on campus not because they don’t actually care, but because they’re very focused on their own world. As students we have homework to do, careers to think about, and tons of opportunities in the form of clubs and organizations to add to our schedules. However, we also share the common ground of attending this institution and that makes me believe that it’s possible for the Trojan Family to be something other than a catchphrase thrown around and emphasized at networking events. What about the Trojan family that you share sidewalk space with every day? I wish that more of us had conversations with strangers on campus and just listened to each other’s stories and supported each other, especially in times of need. Like, why are we not all outraged when someone speaks up about not feeling safe on campus? Why is it only football that seems to bring an influx of camaraderie on campus? I can’t really say I want people to care more, because a lot of students just don’t have the capacity too. But I guess I just hope that all students will remember to care at all and that more solidarity is built on campus. We’re all out here and we’re all struggling, so why can’t we spread a little more love and support to one another, especially when someone is asking for it. I don’t know if that made sense, but yeah, I’d like to someday see a community that is more committed to one another and that pushes itself to grow as a whole. And in the APA community? I just want everyone to do CIRCLE. So be sure to apply this fall when the app comes out!

What motivates and inspires you? I feel like my day to day motivations are constantly evolving, but the constant that is always there is my family. It’s just one of those things that isn’t on the forefront of my mind, but the idea of making them proud is inherently intertwined in my goals. My family also inspires me, as do many of the people around me. There are so many individuals that I interact with on a day to day basis that are so amazing and living such inspiring lives that I’m just like sh*t (can I swear in this?), how can I not want to go out and encapsulate some of that spirit. AGH humans are so beautiful and wonderful and there are so many people who I get to see all the time that I take for granted and then it just hits me how freakin’ incredible they are and its magnificent. Wow, definitely getting the feels right now. But yeah, people. From the ones I see every day to the speakers that come on campus to the ones I only read about, it may be different every time, but they’re the ones that inspire me.


If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? There are so many places I hope to someday visit, but I think the most realistic and meaningful one on my mind right now is Japan. While I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Ireland and meet family there, I’ve never been to Japan. Both are places I feel so inexplicably tied to because of my family’s hxstory and the cultural practices I was taught in America. I don’t really have expectations of what I would take away from such a trip, just that I know I’d like to someday experience it firsthand. I’d also love to connect with the growing “hafu” or mixed community there and discuss how my hapa experiences in America may align or differ. My grandparents are planning a big trip with all the grandchildren in 2018, which I’m looking forward too especially because travelling with so much family will just be a great adventure. Until then I’ll attempt to re-learn Japanese and distract myself with my Bachan’s cooking.

Anything else?

APASA: Huge shout-out to all you wonderful people and all the hard work that y’all do! Thank you for still letting me be an APA leader despite me turning in these questions so late. I really wish I could nominate many of you because y’all are APA leaders that inspire me!!!

APASS: Ugh how do I even express how much the APASS fam has shaped my college experience?!? My home away from home, thanks for always being such a supporting rock that never makes me feel guilty for my short visits, for having an open couch for guilt free naps, and for creating such a special community.

CIRCLE: From OG Thursdays (and my OG TAs/Coords/Frendz Ted+Susan), to my Mondays, to my TA crew + Rex + Jon, thank you for helping me grow so much and always pushing me to think in different ways!

SCAPE fam: Past and present, you all have taught me so much!!! I would seriously not be the person I am today without so many of you to look up to and without your care. We’ve been through so many ups and downs and I’m so thankful for it all.

The White House: y’all are my rocks. Would not have made it this far without you two <3

Frisbee crew: Thanks for supporting me and coming out so many times to learn about those others things I do.

Fam: Can’t really do any justice saying anything on here, but I love y’all

To everyone who read this: Sorry that was such a doozy, but thanks for taking the time to check me out! Now take a well-deserved spring break ☺


Thanks again to Avalon for taking time out of her busy schedule for our interview! We are so lucky to have you involved in the APA community!

Well there is only one day until the form closes, so if you know any potential APA Leaders, nominate them here by tomorrow:

Deconstructing the Model Minority Myth

“While many people may be familiar with the Model Minority Myth, we rarely consider how the Model Minority Myth creates barriers to educational access for many different communities within the APA umbrella. Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander students in particular face high school dropout rates that reach up to 40%, but they are often made invisible under the Model Minority Myth.” - Sophia Li, USC APASA Diversity USG Delegate DeconstructED: Breaking Down the Model Minority Myth was a special collaboration event that was part of USC APASA’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival and the Academic Culture Assembly’s EdMonth. DeconstructED was a panel event moderated by our very own Sophia Li, APASA’s USG Diversity Delegate, and featured three incredible panelists who offered their unique insights regarding a prevalent issue in the Asian American Pacific Islander Community.



Calvin Chang is the Policy Director for Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, a national organization whose mission is to promote social justice by engaging Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities through culturally relevant advocacy, research, and development.

Mike Hoa Nguyen is a Research Associate with the National Commission on AAPI Research in Education and a doctoral student in the Division of Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. His research is primarily concerned with issues of diversity, Minority Serving Institutions, AAPIs in education, and federal/state policy.

Jonathan Wang serves as the Director for USC Asian Pacific American Student Services. Jonathan graduated in 2012, with a Master’s in Education in Post-secondary Administration and Student Affairs from the USC Rossier School of Education. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Education from Rossier.



The term “Model Minority”, we learned, was first coined by President Ronald Reagan following the dark era of Japanese Internment, and has consistently been used by many individuals-- primarily the white community-- as a means of comparison in order to drive a wedge between the AAPI community and other underprivileged minority groups. Despite the attraction of being considered a “model minority”, this unfounded stereotype does more to damage both the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in different ways.

Often, the idea of the Model Minority is attributed as an umbrella term to the entire AAPI community. Just as the term “Asian American” encompasses a wide variety of ethnic groups from one large continent, those who buy-in to the Model Minority stereotype fail to acknowledge that the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are actually very different in terms of their culture, history, and current challenges. The Pacific Islander community is among the most underrepresented in terms of education and often have lower socioeconomic statuses than many of the groups found within the Asian American umbrella; therefore, by being included under the AAPI umbrella, the struggles faced by the Pacific Islander community are largely forgotten, as the metrics reported to the government and aid organizations fail to demonstrate the reality of this underrepresented group.

The Model Minority Myth affects the Asian American Community in a different way. With many Asian Americans, there is a belief that being a model minority somehow legitimizes your identity as an American; as a result, this provides a sort of incentive for those who benefit from the myth to perpetuate this wedge between them and other minority groups. Many Asian Americans who buy-in to the idea of the model minority are as a result placated by those in power by this “honorary white” label; however, what they don’t understand is that, by accepting this stereotype placed upon us, we as a community lose the opportunity to choose when we ourselves have privilege.



Several organizations have begun working to repair the damage done by the Model Minority Myth by working to disaggregate census data to distinguish between Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in order to demonstrate the differences between the two communities. Other organizations are attempting to reframe affirmative action to base admissions not necessarily on race, but on other characteristics as well, such as low income, population of foster children, and number of ESL students.

Even for those of us who are not a part of these organizations, we can contribute to the cause as well. By advocating for our classmates, friends, and family members and explaining to them the importance of data disaggregation and of rejecting the idea of the model minority, we can help to minimize the negative effects of the myth. 

Amy Chau External Community Chair


APASA'S Got Talent 2016 feat. Sorah Yang, DANakaDAN and Dumbfoundead!

Hi everyone! Susana here! On Friday February 26th, was one of APASA’s signature event that featured our very own student contestants showcasing their many talents. APASA’s Got Talent seeks to highlight APA artists in our community and creates a platform for these students to be recognized. To top it off, we had 3 celebrity judges: Sorah Yang, DANakaDAN, and Dumbfoundead! They provided positive feedback to all our contestants and even gave some lively performances as well.

The first performers were CJ Productions, which consisted of Casey Huang, Holly Liu, and CASA’s president, Calvin Huang. Their group chemistry was outstanding, and best of all, they reminded us that what mattered most, was to just have fun and enjoy performing.

Dean Huang and Kaiti Liu performed a duet with a hit love song from Meghan Trainor and John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” Their melodic voices were so in sync and you could just see the ease and confidence they portrayed by just being up on stage. And like Sorah said, the song is not easy to master but they both did so wonderfully! They are also part of USC Trogons, which is the first and only East Asian A Cappella at USC. So keep an eye out for their amazing performances on campus!

Leo Xia performed a song he composed himself about his future when he becomes a father. The song, titled “Shaky Arms,” alludes to the relationship between a father and son; confused about his identity as Asian American, his father is there throughout the journey to help guide him. I’ve heard this song a couple times already and I don’t think I could get tired of it. It touches on so many experiences I think many of us can relate to.

Another duet, Max Lim and Andrew Liu sang the song titled “6 months, 8 days, 12 hours,” by Brian McKnight. Their soulful voices complemented each other and you could just see how they immersed themselves in this song. Playing the piano made it extra heartfelt.

Also, SoCal Mutiyaaran Bhangra, USC’s only all girls bhangra team, performed a traditional Indian dance. Their vibrant costumes of red and yellow as well as their dances were all beautiful!

In addition, a talented duo whom mixed in comedy and break dancing also entered the stage! Jaeho Joshua Lee and Leo Shon, best known as Winnerschnitzel, awed the crowd with their choreographed performance. They are so fun to watch on and off-stage.

The second place winner, Isaac Chien, also known through his stage name as Doji, mixed in singing and drums. Visit his page to listen to his song “Foreign Fields.” I promise you won’t regret it!


And lastly, our first place winner went to Jacqueline Faye! It is already rare to see a female APA rapper and Jackie has impressed us and left us wanting more. Her rapping skills were off the charts! Watch out Nicki Minaj, we have a rising APA female artist here!

After announcing the winners, the judges themselves gave a performance. They were very engaging with the crowd and got us all to stand up and dance! Afterwards, they stayed for a Meet and Greet with everyone.

It was my first time at Got Talent, and at Ground Zero for that matter, and I was just blown away by the student performances and delicious milkshakes. By the end of it, it felt like I had just stepped out of a concert. Surrounded by such an encouraging and supportive crowd, I hope these contestants continue to pursue their passions. We have seen their potential and I can definitely say, stars were made that night.


For more information on our guest judges visit here:


  • dumbfoundead(
  • DANakaDAN (Dan Matthews) (
  • Sorah Yang (

Let’s help support APA artists!


Susana Chan

Advocacy Chair

Keeping it Fresh: A Conversation with Constance Wu

USC APASA held their signature speaker event for APAHF  this year on February 16th. This year we brought the lovely Constance Wu, best known for her role as Jessica Huang from the ABC hit comedy “Fresh Off the Boat” to the campus. With over 400 RSVPs, even an hour before the event, people were lining up outside of Bovard Auditorium - anxious and excited to meet one of the entertainment’s leading Asian American women.  


Wu talked about her experience in the entertainment business as minority and her journey in learning about her own Asian American identity. She discussed her struggles towards her aspirations from attending in Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and the Conservatory for Theatre Arts at S.U.N.Y. Purchase to acting in commercials for McDonalds to finally making it big. Passionate about her acting craft and having studied much of drama, Constance couldn’t help but find it tragic that her claim to fame was through comedy. The event was conducted in a interview style as she responded to questions from MCs Lorna Xu and Jonathan Wang. Audience members even got their chance to ask their own questions. After the event, lucky attendees were given the opportunity for a meet-and-greet with Constance Wu at TCC!



One of Wu’s themes throughout the night was systematic racism and diversity, particularly in the arts. When asked whether she believed the reason there was a lack of Asian American artists was because of a lack of support from the culture, she rejected the thought.

"Creativity can mean so many things and to say the Asian American community doesn't foster creativity, that's false and not fair to say," said Wu.

The "Fresh Off the Boat" actress also took the opportunity to criticize the culture of entertainment business and the those that run the system. She questioned why in romantic movies such as “The Notebook” that the female lead is always sweet and beautiful, rather than overweight and with acne. Addressing the issue of stereotypes and breaking away from them, she acknowledged that in races there will always be the “dweeb” and the “hunk” but neither should make us cringe. This brought up the issue of ignorance of diversity within the director and producer community. In one of the most powerful statements that night, Wu said, “Creators need to have an awareness of what they’re creating and to not use ignorance as an excuse.”

Constance Wu is truly an inspiration and advocate for the APA community. As she continues to tell our story through her time on “Fresh Off the Boat”, she also hopes to eventually bring to light the many other stories of our community. Many students were ecstatic to meet her and expressed their gratitude towards her for being a positive role model. On behalf of USC, we would like to thank Constance Wu for joining us and inspiring many of us in our individual journeys as members of the APA community.




Stefanie Kuizon

APASA Intern

API Activism: Where Do We Fit in the Black Lives Matter Movement?

Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Su, one of the APASA interns for this year. Last Wednesday, February 10 was our first APASA-sponsored APAHF event, “API Activism: Where do we fit in the Black Lives Matter movement?” Since February is Black History Month, we decided to incorporate API solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement into our original discussion topics of the history and current issues in API activism. The event featured a short presentation on the history of API activism, followed by a panel discussion with various API activist leaders in the community.


API Activism_1

The panelists talked about a variety of topics, ranging from their work in activism and the API communities, their politicization, their involvement with Black Lives Matter, and how they address anti-blackness in their lives. Ren-Yo Hwang spoke on their work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and how by talking with the prisoners, they were able to see firsthand the injustices that arise from stereotypes and biases. One story Ren-Yo shared involved a woman who had served much longer time in prison than her Asian friend who had actually planned the theft. This difference of rulings was related to racial stereotypes and the friend’s connections that allowed her to get a lighter sentence. Ren-Yo also discussed the discrimination that queer and transgender people face in dealing with the law.

When asked about how they became politicized in the first place, the panelists told stories about their life experiences and the activist work they have done. Calvin Chang spoke about how where he worked, a police officer mistook the Asian Pacific Islander man as the offender they had reported instead of the white man, pinned him against the wall, and threatened to use his gun. Calvin had to explain that the white man was the person he should have been arresting, and that instance showed him how ingrained racial stereotypes are in society and the law enforcement in particular.

In discussing their involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, all panelists spoke on the importance of the API community showing solidarity with the Black community. Many of them also mentioned how being in those communities has also allowed them to make lifelong friends and create bonds that reach beyond activist work. Sasha Wijeyeratne spoke about their experiences specifically with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and the connections they have made within the Queer People of Color, Asian Pacific Islander, and South Asian communities.

All panelists emphasized the importance of getting involved in social justice issues in any way possible and addressing anti-blackness in daily life. Referring to what students can do to get involved now, Andy Su talked about his work with API Equality-LA that actually started from his time at USC.

API Activism_2

After an interesting panel discussion, various student participants asked engaging questions about the panelists’ work and what students can do to combat injustice at this point in their lives. In general, the event was extremely informative and gave new perspectives on what role APIs play in social justice movements.


Michelle Su

APASA Intern

APAHF Extravaganza!!

Earlier this month, USC APASA kicked off our annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival (APAHF) with our signature event – APAHF Extravaganza. To promote the festival, we invited Kogi BBQ Truck, student performers, and of course all of our wonderful students, to come by Tommy Trojan and learn all about the festival and what to expect in these upcoming months! 


With performances from USC Haneulsori, Traditional Chinese Dance at USC, Leo Xia, and the USC Trojan Bhangra Team, the event kicked off with a bang as a huge crowd formed to enjoy the show. Students lined up for their delicious tacos provided by Kogi BBQ, as well as for the awesome APAHF swag that we handed out! Check out some of the APAHF items below, and maybe you can grab some at our next events?!



We also kicked off our photo campaign, where we gave students the opportunity to “discover their voices” and to say what they use their Asian Pacific American voices for. You can check out my photo below – but an album on the photo campaign can be found here:



APAHF Extravaganza may be over; but we still have a whole truckload of events coming up for the rest of February, in March, and in April! You should all join the our APAHF facebook event to get updated on all of our events.

 Thanks for reading, and I hope to you see all at our events this semester!


Social Media Director

APA Community Dinner

APASA APA Community Dinner-22 On Friday, Jan. 29th, USC APASA held for the first time an APA community dinner for APA Community leaders as well as APA students. Students got a chance to sit down the leaders from a variety of professions and learn about their world as well as gain insight. It was so successful, that APASA had to have a waitlist for the event. The event kicked off with mingling between APA leaders and student guests. After guests got to know each other, Sean Miura from Tuesday Night Project and Buzzfeed gave the special keynote which had guests silently texting for a minute and introducing themselves to new people at the event. He ended the message with a call to action to figure out why guests were there and what they're going to do with the night's experience.

Followed by Miura's talk were performances from USC Trogons and USC Wushu. Both which wowed the crowd. Food was catered by Chichen Itza Restaurant. Pictures were taken by me, check them out below!

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APASA Historian