Over a hundred students and community members gathered at the Third Annual Asians Collaborating Together Conference on April 16 at the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center. The event, put on by the University of Washington student organization Asian Coalition for Equality, provided a space for participants to learn, act, and reflect on Asian and Asian-American identity, leadership, and community involvement. This year’s conference was centered on the topic of Asian representation in different fields.
The conference opened with keynote speaker Phil Yu, founder of the popular blog Angry Asian Man. Following along the lines of the topics covered on his blog, Yu spoke about issues of Asian representation in mainstream media, as well as his personal journey of embracing his Asian-American identity and becoming involved in activism. He cited the American ethnic studies courses he took during college as spurring him to become involved with Asian-American social issues.
The second keynote speaker was State Senator Pramila Jayapal of the 37th legislative district. Jayapal spoke about the path she took to running for office and her experiences as the only woman of color in the State Senate. She called for increased Asian representation in politics in order for API voices to be heard in policy-making.
In addition to the keynote speakers, three panelists spoke about Asian representation in their respective fields. Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs executive director Michael Itti, award-winning filmmaker Jade Justad, and UW American Ethnic Studies professor Gail Nomura spoke about their experiences in politics, arts, and education. They also fielded questions from attendees about issues currently affecting the Asian community, such as how race may have factored into the case of UW student Jarred Ha, who was recently acquitted of stabbing another student and readmitted into the university.
Attendees had the opportunity to attend 10 workshops that examined representation through the lenses of leadership and self-empowerment. Through participation in the workshops, attendees learned about topics ranging from community organization to the use of YouTube as a platform for Asian artists. One of the workshops was led by internationally-renowned artist Anida Yoeu Ali. Ali’s workshop, “Legacy of Now,” engaged attendees in writing, movement, and sharing to explore how their identities were shaped by intergenerational trauma and growing up between cultures.
Yva Nyhammer, executive chair of ACE at UW, addressed attendees at the close of the conference by saying that she hoped “you got what you wanted coming into the conference, whether it’s knowledge, awareness, and confidence to love yourself, your identity, and your community, or possibly all of the above.”