The night before my youngest child – whom we call Little Brother – leaves on a four-day eighth-grade field trip to Washington D.C., I double-check his suitcase against the school’s packing list to make sure he has everything he needs. He has packed too many shirts and pants, and not enough socks and underwear. He forgot deodorant, a critical item for eighth-grade boys. The long-sleeved green school t-shirts that the students will wear at all times during the trip are in the dryer. The batteries for his camera and phone are charging in the kitchen. I tuck a box of musubi into his day pack as a snack for the bus. I remind him to brush his teeth every day and to text me every night.
Then I tell him what to do in case of a mass shooting.
Stay calm. Barricade the door. Duck behind furniture. Keep moving. Get out. Just get out.
Little Brother is thirteen years old.
And then, so that he does not worry, I lie to my son.
I tell him that since the president will be out of the country the week of his trip, Washington will probably be quieter while he is there.
I do not know if that is actually true. But, I do know that even if he were here, at home, he would not be any safer. Any of us could be caught in a mass shooting or a random act of violence anytime, anywhere.
In the grainy black-and-white image – a blurred photocopy of a photocopy of the original photograph – a spritely Japanese American woman stands poised in defiance. She faces an unseen crowd, her head adorned with a headscarf and her eyebrows knitted with passion behind a pair of pointed cat-eye spectacles. The image catches her mid-speech, one hand holding a bullhorn microphone to her mouth.
This image of Asian American revolutionary Yuri Kochiyama was my first introduction to our peoples’ history of radical organizing and social justice activism. I remember the emotions it evoked in me: I was awed by the sight of a strong, unyielding Asian American woman and thought leader; I was proud of this historic evidence of Asian Americans radicalism; and, I was angered that this history had been not been made known to be sooner.
Contrary to the trappings of the Model Minority Myth – a stereotype of meek, apolitical Asian Americana rooted in anti-blackness – revolution is woven into our DNA. Our ancestors were not quiet in the face of racism: our history is replete with examples of Asian Americans fighting back against white supremacy and systemic injustice. We were not silent witnesses to American racism; we were active participants in a multi-racial movement against white supremacy.
Often, that Asian American revolutionary spirit took the form of the written word.
I Am Another You is filmmaker Nanfu Wang’s follow up to the gripping Hooligan Sparrow, named after the rebel activist Le Haiyan who leads a group of protesters seeking justice for six elementary school girls sexually assaulted by their school principal. In that film, Wang embarked on a harrowing journey to film Le, and both were eventually were targeted by Chinese officials for Le’s feminist activism. The film concludes with Wang recording how she was forced to smuggle her raw footage out of China in order to produce Hooligan Sparrow.
This time, however, Wang doesn’t become an enemy of the state while filming I Am Another You. Instead, she finds herself living on the streets with a free spirit named Dylan who has chosen a life as a drifter. I Am Another You makes us rethink social issues such as homelessness and mental illness, as well as what personal freedom feels and looks like. Wang’s storytelling compels us to think about our lives, through Dylan’s as he lives on the street.
Winner of the SXSW LUNA Chicken & Egg Award for Best Documentary Feature directed by a woman and the SXSW Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling for I Am Another You, Wang was recently named one of Variety’s 2017’s Ten Documakers to Watch. I Am Another You is currently streaming on Independent Lens on PBS until February 15th. Watch it here.
Wang took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her passion for documentary filmmaking and I Am Another You.
Perpetual Foreigner stereotype alert: shortly after US figure skater Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic competition, New York Times Opinion section editor Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) tweeted “Immigrants: they get the job done,” a line from Hamilton.
The implication from Weiss’ tweet was obvious: Nagasu should be celebrated as an American immigrant. One problem, though: Nagasu was born in Montebello, California. And yet, for Weiss, the place of Nagasu’s birth doesn’t seem to matter: instead, the colour of her skin appears to have marked Nagasu as foreign.
I have some probably unpopular opinions about the Aziz Ansari misconduct story. And I’m calling it misconduct because – at least for me – what Aziz did doesn’t fall under the category of a sexual assault. Maybe I’m blinded by my love for Master of None, but I can’t put him in the same category as Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar. In particular, Nassar’s horrifying abuse of generations of Olympic athletes shows that even our country’s greatest champions couldn’t escape all of this; never mind, then, the countless working women whose faces will never grace CNN cameras, Time magazine covers, or red carpets.
I believe Grace. I believe her pain; and, I believe she was overwhelmed; and, I believe Aziz crossed a line. And, when I look at the story — which I think Babe.net handled irresponsibly — it seems like the whole encounter likely brought up prior trauma from Grace. So, she froze. This is really common and it is something we – all of us — have to consider when we’re in the bedroom. Aziz should have stopped. Even if the story is more complicated, I can’t with these editorials calling Grace a weak woman for not ‘resisting harder,’ especially when a lot of times ‘resisting harder’ escalates to full-on violence. Grace isn’t just a hapless victim or a snowflake, but Aziz doesn’t get off scot-free either.