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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: http://goo.gl/forms/6o56x0F8Wh

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!

USC Traditional Chinese Dance 11th Annual Showcase: Interwoven

On Saturday, March 26, 2016, USC Traditional Chinese Dance held their showcase of the year. This year the group took a more traditional approachable with their dances. USC APASA intern Aimee Xu writes more about the show.  This past Saturday, USC Traditional Chinese Dance provided the USC community with a delightful conclusion to the first week back of spring break with their 11th annual showcase, ‘Interwoven.’ The theme of TCD’s 2016 showcase focuses on their encounters with those whom have profoundly changed their lives.

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The show opened with color, as the dancers in ‘Springtime’ showcased vibrant green scarves and pink and purple fans. The first half of ‘Interwoven’ featured a variety of dances, many of which incorporated both Eastern and Western elements. In ‘Against All Odds,’ the dramatic choreography by Jessica Koe bridged Chinese and Western cultures through traditional Chinese dance elements and music by Lorde. ‘Jade Dolls,’ also incorporated multiple cultures, as traditional Chinese dance met traditional Korean percussion, as performed by USC Haneulsori.

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The second of half of the show featured the dramatic plot of the ancient Chinese tale, “The Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden.” The Cowherd, Thinh Nguyen, and the Weaving Maiden, Jessica Koe, fall in love, but the Ruler of Heaven, Jade Shi, forbids the two from being with one another. In ‘Battle in the Heavens,’ a dramatic fight scene featuring members of Wushu Nation ultimately concludes in the separation of the two lovers, as the Ruler of Heaven forges a river between earth and heaven. In ‘Celestial Ties,’ birds flock together to create a bridge and reunite the lovers as a romantic conclusion to ‘Interwoven.’

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Thank you to all the TCD performers and USC Haneulsori and Wushu Nation! The performance was done with such grace and beauty! We look forward to your showcase next year!

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Aimee Xu

USA APASA Intern

Nikkei's 2016 Culture Show: Anywhere Door

On March 242016 USC Nikkei Student Union hosted it’s 9th Annual Culture Night: Anywhere Door. The organization puts on this show every year to “showcase aspects of traditional and modern Japanese culture….and to bring awareness to certain issues in the Japanese American community” according to Kyle Kurihara, Nikkei’s President of 2015-2016. This year they focused on the issue of post-graduation uncertainty that affects many college students. 12915209_983635565004928_411225161_o

The story followed Alex Okada, a pre-med senior who was hesitant to go to medical school because medicine was never his passion. In the midst of deciding what to do, he stumbled upon a pink door that could take him anywhere and change him into anyone. His skepticism quickly turned to amazement as he traveled to Japan and experienced what it was like to serve in the military, be a part of an idol group, and serve as a monk. He returned with a renewed sense of passion and respect for the Japanese culture.

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The show also incorporated USC Kazan Taiko, USC Shinkendo, and KDB Hip-hop troupe.

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Thank you to all the performers from USC Nikkei, USC Kazan Taiko, USC Shinkendo, and KDB Hip-Hop Troupe! All photos are credited to USC NSU Kyle Kurihara.

Sarah Kim

APASA Finance Director

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Albert Chang

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great Spring Break! APA Leaders is back in action and without further ado, we are proud to introduce our 5th APA Leader, Albert Chang! Albert Chang is currently QuASA's Assistant Director and extremely involved in the APA and queer communities. Check out more about Albert in the interview below: Name: Albert Chang Major: Environmental Studies Year: Senior ‘16

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What does being APA mean to you? Just like any other cultural community, being APA is being connected to an identity and community that is greater than yourself. It’s a self-determined identity that I find pride in; an identity and an experience that is shared between myself and other APAs. It’s a unique identity experienced through the American lens that seeks to create community amongst many Asian ethnic groups in a country of diversity and adversity, while at the same time celebrating the unique and vibrant cultures that fall under the APA umbrella.

As the only Hmong-American student at USC (as far as I know), I do sometimes feel isolated. As the son of immigrant refugee parents, I along with my siblings had to navigate being authentically Hmong while attempting to assimilate into American culture in order to survive. However, the Hmong experience is only one of many narratives under the APA umbrella. It’s thanks to the welcoming APA community that I’ve been able to connect to and resonate with other stories and experiences that are entirely different from my own, but go through similar themes of oppression and resilience.

Being APA is also important in understanding how I fit within the Queer community and with other queer people of color. As an APA, I experience queerness in a very different way than say a white queer person. Navigating the racism and oppressive structures within the Queer community has been an exhausting, yet empowering and incredible learning experience. In the face of oppression coming from the white, patriarchal and hetero- cis- norms, it’s encouraging to find solace and community with other queer APAs.

Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. Throughout my time here at USC, I’ve invested most of my time and energy to the Queer and Ally Student Assembly. As a freshman I wanted to find community with APASS and APASA, however as the only Hmong-American student, I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t share that automatic connection or link to the APA community then, and it probably didn’t help that I was a Spring Admit (who btdubs, have a real shitty welcoming experience into USC imo). I remember walking into an APASA meeting hoping to get involved, but then realized it was an Eboard meeting and they were talking about member org presidents, and I was like, what am I doing here. And I mean, there was also this other looming fact that I was really gay and like fresh out of the closet. I explored and developed my queer identity instead, and found a home with QuASA. It’s interesting because I feel through my experience with queerness, I was also able to develop my APA identity. The Queer community is so complex and diverse, with people coming from backgrounds and histories so different from my own, that it made me hyperaware of my APA identity.

I was a late bloomer to the APA community: I got involved with APASS’s CIRCLE my last Fall semester at USC (shout out to Thurs. Session <3 Jonaney, sup RAKateOh). CIRCLE was an amazing experience and I wish I had done it so much sooner! I learned so much from people’s insights around complicated and critical issues, and strongly resonated with their experiences as APA. I surrounded myself with the Queer community for so long that I had been missing out on such a dope community that nevertheless was embracing, welcoming, and inviting to seasoned students like myself. I’ve been going to APASA events more often and have loved each one so far; I’m always amazed and inspired by Lorna’s, Sally’s, and the rest of the APASA team’s work and dedication to bringing events that not only celebrate APA culture, but that educate and advocate as well.

I think it’s incredibly important to understand how different experiences and identities can intersect to create tangible socioeconomic effects. The Queer community is not immune to racism. The APA community is not immune to homophobia or transphobia. Sexism and misogyny exist in both. I think it’s important that as we move forward to recognize that we as a community need to be involved in these conversations, even if they may seem removed from us.

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What story do you think every APA should know? Know your story: where you came from, how you got here, what your people have gone through. And with that, know everyone else’s story and where your story fits with theirs; make an effort to listen and learn. The APA community encompasses so many unique and rich cultures, languages, and histories. And finally, know the stories of people outside the APA community. We need to recognize that we have shared experiences, a shared struggle against the dominant power. We need to be sensitive to injustice in all its forms and to stand in solidarity with ourselves and others.

Tell us about one of your most memorable moments at USC. Well it wasn’t at USC’s campus technically, but it was during a class on property owned by USC so I guess it counts. I did a semester out on Catalina Island and enrolled in the Scientific Diving class under the Environmental Studies program. I remember the first time we had gone diving, after spending a couple days on doing the basics, and it literally changed my life. I remember swimming through this gorgeous kelp forest with beautiful fish all around me and thinking, “wow, I’m in class right now”.

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All money aside, what is your dream job? SCUBA Diving! I’m actually a certified AAUS Scientific Diver currently and it’s honestly my biggest passion. I love being in that big, open space where all you see is a deep blue around you and the fractured sunlight shining from above. It’s terrifying, yet at the same time humbling, quiet, and serene. I love fish! I love swimming with them, watching them, and eating them! Fish are honestly really cool, and incredibly smart and beautiful and tasty. So my dream job would be able to integrate SCUBA into my life, whether that’s working professionally at a dive shop, becoming an instructor, or using it for science.

What motivates and inspires you? My parents and my family. My parents are badass: they lived through the terrors of the Vietnam War and came to America with literally nothing from the refugee camps in Thailand. They had to quickly learn and adapt to a foreign culture and world full of nuanced social, political, and economic forces that were not norms to Hmong people. They sacrificed everything they knew to build a future for me and my nine (yes, 9) siblings, putting most of us through college. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for their generous sacrifices.

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

My parents: yall are badass, and I have everything to you to thank for. Love you so much. ~ <3

Alyssa Coffey: QuASA’s two-time trailblazing Executive Director. Thank you so much for all that you do for QuASA, you’ve been its firm citadel in the face of admin and ignorance. You’ve led QuASA fantastically. I’m excited to see where you’ll go next! I love our road and camping trips, or just our excursions through the city. It’s been an adventure with you ~ <3

Vanessa Siebold: Roomie for life! You have been such a huge impact on who I am today. I will always remember the times in Apt. 243, our sessions on the balcony in the mornings, and just coming home to a chill environment with you and Rachel after a long day of trying to be a person. I love that we have made this little rave fam, it’s honestly brought so much happiness into my life. ~ <3

Rachel Jones: My other roomie, resident, and dear friend! I sincerely miss your presence but am so happy to see you doing well back in New York! I love watching your snapchats, your students are honestly the cutest. We need to plan this visit to New York! ~ <3

Jasmine Aguilar: I’m so proud to call you my friend, and I truly cherish the time we spend together. I will always remember the first time we danced together at Beyond and how much pure fun we had. I’m also really wanna play that game you’ve been working on so let me know! ~ <3

Andrew Clark: Ok, I’m like really glad you came back into my life this past year. Cheers to our weekly porch sessions. I feel like you and I challenge and understand each other so well. I’m also really glad I took you to your first rave ~ <3

Queer Fam – yall the homies APA Fam – yall the homies Queer APA Fam – ‘eyyy

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Thank you again to Albert for the photoshoot and interview. We are so grateful for everything you do for our APA and queer communities. Look forward to see the remaining APA Leaders in the coming weeks!

APA Leaders 2016: Meet Jacqueline Chao

Spring Break is finally here! We hope you all have fun plans in store for next week, and one of the fun things you should be doing is checking out our 4th APA Leader, Jackie Chao! Jackie is an energetic and hardworking individual, presides over KASA, and actively sheds light on APA and minority issues to her members. Check out more about Jackie in our interview below: Jackie-7

Name: Jacqueline Chao Major: Computer Science/Business Administration Year: Junior

What does being APA mean to you? This is such a difficult question and I’m not quite sure how to answer this, so let’s throw it back a bit for context. My ancestors (lol) are originally from the Shandong province of China, but had been living in South Korea since the late 1800s. Fast forward to the 60s-70s, the South Korean government placed property ownership limitations on foreigners, and even though my grandmother was 4th generation Korean-born, she’s still racially Chinese and was therefore considered a foreigner. On top of that, the fam was scared another war was about to break out and because they owned jjajangmyun shops in Incheon, were like… BBHMM but not worth. So they dipped.

In comes red, white, blue, and well… me. When I was young I went to both Chinese school and hangul hakkyo, but I always felt awkward and out of place. The Korean kids made fun of my last name, and the Chinese kids thought my food smelled bad all the time. Also, my family was very anti-Korean (because of the severe discrimination they experienced), so it was weird to be vehemently branded Chinese but then watch the adults play hwatu at Thanksgiving and see my g-ma pop a squat over a big red bucket and make bomb af kimchi every month. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty cool to grow up in a mixed cultural environment looking back now, but at the time it was just confusing as hell. After a while, I gave up and decided I was “American” because it was easier and puberty was enough to deal with.

Growing up in Dallas (where all the APAs flourish obviously), I understood a very specific narrative of who I should be, how I should live, and what I should do. Essentially, the ethno-cultural paradigm I lived in was extremely binary: Chinese or Korean. So in my adolescence, I didn’t understand why or how I was different, nor did I make it a priority to understand my heritage and cultural identity. I conflated the ethnic complexities that made me me not only for the sake of others’ convenience, but also for my own. How could I explain to the world who I was, when I had no idea who I was?

My APA identity was always something I struggled with, and I realized that understanding myself starts with differentiating and understanding my cultural upbringing. What does being APA mean to me? It means finding my own voice and identity outside of the one ascribed to me. It means taking the time to sit down, sort through all the noise, and figure out who I am and who I want to be, not who I should be. It means being genuine to myself and keeping it 100 because if not to me then who? I’m still figuring it out of course, but at least I have one thing down: I am Chinese-Korean American.

Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. I’ve been involved with KASA (Korean American Student Association) for most of my college career now and it’s freaking great. Here’s my spiel: KASA functions pretty much like a co-ed frat that provides a community to people who understand (or are interested in) the cultural nuances of being Korean American. Because we don’t feel marginalized or out of place, we’re able to provide a social environment that somewhat perpetuates the quintessential college experience we all want, which is typically denied to us because we’re not, well… white. As President this year, this is something I’ve been super conscientious about. Although it’s not explicit activism in any way, my goal is for people to feel like they have a community to look to if they want a comfortable social space or learn about a culture with and from friends.

In my own time, I like to keep updated with APA politics, fashion, music, and pop culture in general. But for the most part—KASA is life.

What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? Be broccoli. It’s easy to get caught up in the superficiality of things every once and a while, but if you’re doing something to get likes, that makes you ramen (the really good Korean instant kind). Everyone likes ramen—it’s tasty, satisfying, and cheap but is also so bad for people in the long run. Broccoli is healthy and genuine. Most people like it, and if they don’t it’s their loss. Stay true to the convictions you hold dear and always keep yourself in check. Titles don’t make leaders, and if you’re honest, kind, and sincere, people will naturally gravitate toward you. Don’t just be good to people, be good for people.

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What kind of legacy do you want to leave at USC? I still have a year left at SC, but I feel like it’s flown by so fast already (basic, I know). The four years we have to live this experience is so rare and so special, I don’t want it to be temporary and disappear after graduation. I want to have built something permanent. Something—material or social— I can come back to in 10, 25, or 50 years and say, “Damn, it’s still there.” I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me thus far, and I want current and future Trojans (especially the APA ones) to have the same life-changing, self-actualizing, euphoric experience. The culmination of hard work all generations of APA Trojan leaders before me made my time here that much more phenomenal, so it’s my turn to play my part and pass the torch.

What motivates and inspires you? My guardian angel, one and only, showstoppin bad b, sister Becky. She’s the constant in my life and gives me the love, support and confidence I need to put myself out there. She defies all laws of gravity and pushes me to be a better person every day. Love you Jeh.

If you could meet anyone from the past, the present, or the future, who would you want to meet and why? William Chao. I wish he could be here now so he can see how much I’ve grown. I want to make him proud.

Shoutouts:

Emily Jiang: Thank you for always being there for me when I need you most. I couldn’t have asked for a better Co-President, and you deserve so much credit for the work you’ve done for KASA and APA community as a whole. This organization would literally be nothing without you, and I can’t wait to see the results of your lasting impact in the future. I hope you’re having fun in London, and I’m excited to see you when you come back.

Shelby Matsumura: KASA’s fearless Vice President. Thank you for always having my back and being unapologetically yourself 24/7. I can’t imagine staff without you. Love you dude.

Connie Hur: I know you put this together, so I just want to say thank you really quick. You’ve grown so much since freshman year and I’m so incredibly proud of the person you are today. Luh yuh bruh.

Helen Lee, Pauline Na, David Choi, Bellamy Yoo, Rachel Kwon, Justin Moon, Rachelle Choi, Brittnay Hong, Josh Jamison, Tim Suh, Sarah Kim, Courtney Cho, Lisa Lee, Nicc Hernandez, Chris Cho, Seung Woo Choi: Thank you all so much for holding it down and being the best staff EVER. I know I always get tender, but I actually love y’all so much. You all have SO much potential and I’m seriously so excited for the things to come for KASA. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to call family. <3

Michelle Seo, Jason Lee, Glara Choi, Sophiea Kim, Justin Kang, Howard Lee, Josh Byun, Kevin Sung: Thank you so much for everything you’ve done. I seriously wouldn’t even be in KASA if not for y’all. I’ll be so sad when you graduate, but I know you all will move on to big things and I can’t wait.

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Thank you again to Jackie and all the APA leaders so far for taking time out of their busy schedules for our photoshoot and interview. Everyone has been so busy with midterms, and we really admire everyone for putting so much thought and effort into their responses. We are so lucky to have all of you involved in the APA community!  Hope you guys all have a great Spring Break because y'all definitely deserve it! 

Also, today is the LAST DAY TO NOMINATE, so if you know any potential APA Leaders, the form will close at midnight: http://goo.gl/forms/bTCTJhz9Rx

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ☺

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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: http://goo.gl/forms/bTCTJhz9Rx

CASA Culture Show

  Hi readers! One of our lovely APASA interns Tiffany Chen attended our CASA member org's culture show last Saturday. Read to find out what the show was about. 

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A refreshing break from studies and classes, CASA’s 17th annual culture show, directed by Emily Levin and Jason Chen, played during the midst of midterm season on March 5, 2016. Starring Jon Lau and Holly Liu, this year’s culture show, ‘Triads and Tribulations’, was a sequel to last year’s show, ‘Triad and Tested’.

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In ‘Triads and Tribulations’, audience members follow the life of Jon, the son of Andy Lau, who left his life behind with the Triad gang. Originally unaware of his lineage as Triad boss, Jon balances his school life as a pre-med and pre-law student with his love life.  His love interest, Nicole, is an aggressive dancer chick who really knows how to pack a punch. Jon and Nicole have instant chemistry, and when Jon is kidnapped by the Triads, it is Nicole, along with her friends, who ultimately saves him.

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With a script full of humor and league references, ‘Triads and Tribulations’ had audience members laughing out loud. The show’s song choices between scenes also had more than a few spectators dancing in their seats. There were memorable performances by Trogons Acapella and the dance crew Chaotic 3. The show was so popular that even CASA partner organizations from other schools, such as UC Irvine and UCLA, came out in support. CASA’s 17th annual culture show was a success and a fun time was had by all who attended.

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Tiffany Chen

APASA Intern

APA Leaders 2016: Meet Nara Kim

Hey again! Hope your week has been going well, and what better way to end it than reading the interview of our fabulous second APA Leader, Nara Kim!! Nara is currently the President of Haneulsori, a part of Tuesday Night Cafe and much more! Learn more about her and how passionate about and involved she is in the APA community in the interview below:

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Name: Nara Kim Major: Linguistics and Psychology Year: Senior

What does being APA mean to you? As someone who’s always fascinated by languages and words, I try my best to be very intentional with my words. To me, being APA is a conscious decision to describe myself, as I feel it encapsulates my experience with race and identity.

I wasn’t born in Korea, I’ve really only been there for a total of 10 days (it was a whirlwind trip of meeting 40+ relatives), and I only have the fuzziest idea of the geography of Korea. Over there, I would be seen as an American. But I also find it incorrect to label myself as an American. Being an APA embodies growing up in a way that is neither Asian nor American.

It’s growing up with immigrant parents, in a country that constantly likes to tell you that this is not your home. It’s growing up being pushed to aspire for the American Dream, but still holding onto the traditions of another home. It’s growing up trying to reconcile the feelings of resentment against the pressure to succeed in school, but appreciating and feeling unworthy of the sheer amount of sacrifices my parents have made, and continue to make, on my behalf.

Being APA allows for me to not have to strain for one side. I feel like I belong, not just because I feel like it describes me, but because it gives me a community. It’s a community that understands, that welcomes, and that works to give back. It’s the community that gave me a home when I transferred to this school, and gave me the space to think and grow.

Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. I am most actively involved in Haneulsori, the Korean Traditional Drumming club, as it’s President. I was also apart of CIRCLE last semester as a TA, while having been a participant the previous year. (#thursday!) Outside of campus, I am apart of staff for Tuesday Night Project in their flagship program, Tuesday Night Cafe as their assistant sound engineer/stage hand. I am also the youth organizing intern for the Korean Resource Center in LA.

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What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? Leaders don’t all look the same, so please don’t ever believe that you aren’t capable of creating change or of doing anything. I still have a bad habit sometimes of comparing myself to others and feeling inadequate at not being able to do the same. But in the end, I am not them. And you are not me. This idea that leaders are made of cookie cutter shapes is so detrimental, especially for people who feel like leadership is not cut out for them. Don’t let boxes and labels restrict you from doing anything. Leadership isn’t always a speech in front of thousands of people, or being in charge of a team of people. Sometimes it’s just that conscious step to do something; it can be a conversation, a greeting, or even a smile.

Welcome discomfort. That can be facing your fear of making friends, actually listening to opinions that differ from yours, or having something you’ve believed your entire life be proved wrong. You’ll never be able to go anywhere if you just stay in your comfort zone. See it as a challenge, or a chance to grow. The world is full of so many different things, and whether they are good or bad, they’ll contribute to expanding your horizons and helping you develop as a person.

Please, please, please take care of yourself. It’s so easy to burn yourself out when you are constantly putting yourself out there for others. I had such a horrible fall semester this year because I ignored taking care of myself until it was too late. Stopping to help yourself, or reaching out for help, is an act of strength in itself. Understand that you deserve and absolutely need your own TLC sometimes.

Be realistic about your capacity (a 13 hr day with only one 30 minute break to eat is not smart). Get some sleep (no, 1-4 hours does not count). Try to eat 3 meals a day(no, one danish does not count as a meal). Take a shower (feeling clean will do wonders). Allow yourself a breather (the world won’t fall apart).

Why is it significant to learn about our heritage? Know history, know self. No history, no self.

I think some of my favorite classes in college were history classes, especially ones that shed let on the history of people of color. I took an Asian American History class as well as American Studies history class that focused on the stories of the minorities within US history, and honestly they were some of the best classes that I took in my college career. The sheer amount of POC history that is erased within US history is mind-boggling. It’s easy for people to call us foreigners when your centuries long presence in a country is constantly being erased. You learn about the struggles, as well as the victories of folks and wonder why they were never found to be worthy of being told. It sheds light on why people may have immigrated, why some people are where they are, and why some people are the way they are. By learning about how society was historically constructed, it allows for you to see it critically, but also empowers you to tell your own story.

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Tell us about one of your most memorable moments at USC. A big worry for my officers - members who have been in Haneulsori their entire college career - and I is about the state of Haneulsori after we graduate. Out of 11 of us, 7 of us are graduating, leaving only 4 members to take on the club.

As people who understand the difficulties of running the club and the work to be put in, we were pretty anxious and kind of cynical. But I reached out to our four younger kids, asking them if they were interested in pairing up with an officer in order to learn about what they were doing so they could learn how to run the club next year.

I was honestly expecting a lukewarm response, mainly because all of our members are just so busy, but they all responded with so much enthusiasm. Their main priority was to keep the club alive, and so they were eager to learn and take on more responsibilities.

I literally just sat there tearing up and was just an emotional mess with my officers who I was rapidly reporting to during the conversation. It was so validating for us who had put in so much work to keep this club going, and to see that we had kids that were so passionate about it.

I found a family here at USC with Haneulsori, and it was so heart-warming to know that they wanted to keep that going.

What motivates and inspires you?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

I literally read those words hundreds of times because it was the signature of the email of the philanthropy club that I was apart of for 5 years. If there’s anything that I took away from years in the club, was that people are my source of inspiration. You can tell me all the shitty things in the world that are happening, but I fully believe in the future and the accomplishments that we’re capable of. When I see all the wonderful work that’s being done to combat the negativity in the world, it only inspires me to do my part. People are researching the cure for cancer, fighting to make sure everyone is able to afford a home, or inspiring little kids to change the world. In the end, there’s an effort on all different ends to make the world a better place. I will always be inspired by people, in our capacity and our drive to make a change.

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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 my dad’s mother. She passed away after my parents immigrated to America in the nineties, and to this day, he hasn’t been able to visit her grave. He grew up with 5 brothers, and always tells me stories about her, like her cooking, and raising 5 boys as a single mother. I’d want to meet her and get to know what kind of person she was, and to exchange stories about my dad.

Anything else before we close? To APASA, thank you for all your hard work this year and all the amazing programs that you guys put on! You guys do so much for all the member organizations as well as this school! You guys inspire me *:・゚✧

To everyone who nominated me, I’m so honored and humbled, so thank you so much for believing in me to be an APA leader!

To my HNSR family, Thank you for giving me a family when I was feeling lonely at a new school. I’m so proud when I see how hard you guys work, both in the club and in your own lives. Thank you for the support and the love, and for the weird 50+ messages to come home to. We are truly a weird, dysfunctional family. I love you kids <3

To my spicy ate and my ading, Thank you for all the love, support, and sass. I can’t imagine my life without you guys.

To Sally, I’m so glad we’ve been able to be apart of each other lives for so long. Thank you for always being my personal cheerleader and always supporting me.

To Alex, You were my first close friend at USC, so thank you for your friendship, love, support, and general photo harassment.

Ara, I wouldn’t have made it through my move to USC without you. You are a constant pillar of support and wisdom, and I am constantly inspired by all that you do. I would give the world to you. So I will promise not to be messy at home.

To my shiba, you make me want to be better. thank you.

To my mom and dad, the ones who will shower me with so much unconditional love, even if it’s not always communicated well. thank you for everything you’ve done, and for making me who I am today.

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Thanks so much to Nara for being awesome and letting us interview you! We are so lucky to have you so involved in the APA community!

By the way, because of the overwhelming amount of support and nominations we received we will now have a total of eight APA Leaders :D! So there are still six more APA Leaders to be chosen! So, if you know any potential APA Leaders, nominate them by next Friday here: http://goo.gl/forms/bTCTJhz9Rx