This Saturday, New York University is hosting the 9th annual NYCAASC (@NYCAASC), a day-long conference geared towards AAPI college students. Organized by students from several NYC-area universities including NYU, Columbia, Barnard, CUNY, SUNY and Fordham, this year’s conference theme — “Critical Mass: Collective Bodies for Action” — was chosen to explore how the AAPI community can greater stimulate collective action for social change.
Writing about the conference on their website, organizers say:
2014 was not a landmark year in America’s long history of human rights violations, but it was significant in the refusal of bodies to stand back in the face of injustice. “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” was yelled into the night air, as the list of murdered names grew every day, connected by their perceived social identities—of race, gender, sex, and sexuality, etc— ultimately, in difference: a difference marked onto the body and fraught with meaning.
For this reason, this year’s conference is themed, “Critical Mass: Collective Bodies for Action.” In protest, a mass of bodies becomes a powerful organism, one that breathes, marches, and moves in time together. The goal of this year’s conference is for the Asian/Pacific/American community to reach that critical mass: a point of large scale rupture, but also of creation. A/P/A communities must break away from the position of silence or affirmation they have been confined to and respond to these calls for action.
This year’s conference will push attendees to examine how difference is constructed and imposed onto our bodies. It will look at how bodies are policed in certain contexts— from racialized stereotypes to beauty standards, gender norms, and immigration policy— but even more importantly, it will expand the limits of what a body can do. How will our marked bodies become actors of change and builders of a more just society? Like our activist predecessors, we want to inspire our attendees to create positive change and to add their necessary voices to the singular rallying cry.
To address this larger theme, workshops have been tailored to focus on such topics as transnational adoption, gender identity, mass incarceration, and Asian American anti-Blackness. Workshops also focus on strategies for building political dialogue and inspiring mass action through mediums of art, film, and story-telling. A keynote talk will be delivered by Jeff Chang, author of the acclaimed book “Who We Be: The Colorization of America” and other works, and interspersed in the schedule are performances by poets Paul Tran and Jess X. Chen. The day-long conference concludes with a concert by the incredible Magnetic North and Taiyo Na (whose collaborative album Home:Word remains a part of my regular playlist in my iPod).
I definitely wish I had the time to check this out this Saturday, because this sounds like an incredible opportunity for any aspiring AAPI activist to listen, learn, and engage in Asian American political organizing and social justice movements.
Registration is free and open to the public. Although regular registration is currently closed, organizers invite interested locals to fill out their registration form and/or to contact conference organizers immediately to secure late registration, which remains available.