Note: This blog was relevant a couple weeks ago. Better late than never, right?
The Midwest Asian American Student Conference (affectionately known as MAASC) is a biennial conference held at Oberlin College to discuss important matters in Asian American society. This year's topic was "Following the Asian American Muse: From All Mediums to New Media." New media is a fairly broad term, referring to television, movies, and web, but other "old" forms of media such as art and music still have a place in our modern age. The subject matter was particularly interesting to me, not just because I am an Asian American, but also because of its pertinence to my artwork and involvement in new media.
The conference kicked off with an Opening Banquet with guest speaker Dr. Kent Ono from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In addition, there was delicious Indian food, which probably explained the high turnout. Kent spoke about Asian American portrayals, specifically in television and movies. Asians and Asian Americans have been dealt several stereotypes that have lingered on from past and present representations, ranging from the hyper-sexualized island girl to the robotic super genius to the martial arts master. As we enter another decade, we can look (or hope) to see more "normal" roles for Asian actors and actresses and hopefully less tokenized or comical roles.
Later that night, Denizen Kane, a Korean-American rapper/spoken word artist from the Chicago area, came to perform at the Cat in the Cream. I wasn't too familiar with his work, but I left a believer. He performed a mostly acoustic set with some rapping. My opinion on this sort of music is negligible, but for what it's worth, I was impressed. Plus, he's a super classy guy. A weird incident occurred where someone (not from Oberlin) requested to use the stage. Denizen let him use the stage and didn't make a big fuss out of it or anything. And after the concert, I got him to sign one of the posters I made for him! He loved them too (unless he was lying to my face...)!
On Saturday, Jennifer Ho (Professor at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill) gave an amazing lecture shedding light on the ambiguous nature of race, particularly with Asian Americans. "Asian American" is a relatively new term that not all actually identify with. With the emergence of mixed race Asians and the growing population of Asian Americans, there are several questions concerning identity that need to be answered. "What are you?" is a question that I personally hear a lot, and never really thought about how vague it really is. I know I sound obligated to give a good review of all these guest speakers, but I mean it when I say that Jennifer's talk was my favorite one of the conference.
One last thing that I wanted to bring up is the beautiful mural painted by Sahra Nguyen, an Asian American activist and artist who graduated from UCLA. After a really good (correction: really, really, really, really good) dinner at Third World Co-op, Sahra unveiled her project and talked about her inspiration for the piece. The mural is fantastic, and Sahra is ridiculously cool. But I'll save myself some embarrassment and refrain from elaborating. I believe the piece is now currently hanging in Third World House, but I could be wrong about that.
On a somewhat related note, I think I'm going to join a co-op next year! Not sure which one yet, but it may very well be Third World Co-op.
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