ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
We officially have one week left in April. You know what that means??? The creative waters are churning and we’re about to be hit with a flood of incredible #AZNxBLM projects. ROCK PAPER RADIO and The Slants Foundation will be sharing the work of our fierce crew of 21 artists throughout May in celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. GET READY. Tell all your people and make sure your star-eyes emoji is prepared for action. This week’s newsletter is a shout out to a few of our #AZNxBLM creatives to get you psyched for what’s coming.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
In case Crazy Rich Asians and Bling Empire has led to you believe that all of us in the (East) Asian community are carrying around our stock options in Birkin bags, don’t worry, Old Chingu is here with a very fun explainer on working class Asian life in America.
In his infectiously catchy single, Crazy Poor Asians, rapper, singer, and Korean American #AZNxBLM artist Old Chingu does not disappoint with lyrics about ordering bubble tea without ice, H Mart, and riding his bike through traffic.
After you add Crazy Poor Asians to your Summer of Lockdown II playlist, get ready for what’s coming. For #AZNxBLM Old Chingu is producing an original song and music video that showcases Asian and Black culture across the country, with messages of spreading love to contrast all the ones we’re seeing these days focused on stopping hate.
SOMETHING TO READ
If you’re single and your second vaccine shot is in your arm or on your calendar, you might be thinking it’s time to start planning your date night lewk so that you can swipe right and meet a stranger for post-pandemic drinks and awkward conversation.
#AZNxBLM writer Maylin Tu is here to tell you perhaps you might want to THINK AGAIN about that plan and extend your quarantine time instead. At least if you are a mixed-race woman interested in going out with white dudes.
Like Tu, I am also half-Asian with a Chinese dad and a white mom. As a hapa woman who lives in a city filled with bros who are Experts on The Pillow Book and sake, I am happy to share that as I read Tu’s essay, To All the Crazy Mixed Asians I've Loved Before, I cheered. Especially at this:
“Interestingly enough, white men who want to talk about my cultural background never seem that interested in talking about my German-American heritage. Never in the history of online dating has anyone asked me about my favorite president (Teddy Roosevelt), my most cherished constitutional amendment, or my thoughts on our national anthem.”
And then my ambiguously ethnic, biracial heart swelled at this:
“I’ve learned that people can always see difference—how else to explain that white people think I look like my dad and Chinese people think I look my mom? (Spoiler alert! I look like both of my parents). Sometimes I feel like an optical illusion in which my features only come into focus against a background of sameness—and then people only see those features that are most unfamiliar or exotic.
So while to be Asian is to be Other in America, to be Asian and biracial is to be Other everywhere you go.”
For #AZNxBLM Tu will be writing a feature on author Steph Cha, whose novel, Your House Will Pay, is a factionalized account of the tragic 1991 shooting of Latasha Harlins. Cha’s book explores generational trauma, racial tensions between the Black and Asian communities in LA, and the fragility of hope.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
While many of us are trying to figure out how to make our soft pants work for life after Zoom, stylish contrarian Mellina White has other things to worry about because she never stoped rocking clothes with zippers in the first place, pandemic comfort be damned.
Which is why Dapper Q, the LGBTQ authority on stud style, featured White not once, but TWICE in their list of 100 Most Stylish Dapper Qs. Even better—for 2020, all of the style icons featured were Black, from author Roxane Gay to surgeon Dr. Laurie J. Punch. Check out the whole dashing list, including White at number 82, and find the inspiration you didn’t know you needed to give yourself an undercut and buy some no-show socks to go with your summer loafers.
For #AZNxBLM, White is collaborating with engineer and equity advocate Jen Yoshimura on a film about the intersection of style, race, culture, and LGBTQ identity. The film will explore the politics of fashion, masculine-of-center QPOC identity, and imperfect journeys to self-acceptance.
ONWARD TO #AZNxBLM
That’s a wrap for issue 38, friends. Thanks for listening, reading, holding on.
If you’re not already following us on Instagram, join us! You can meet all of our brilliant #AZNxBLM artists there and get a sneak peek into their projects over the next few weeks.
Stay safe out there, all. The world is re-opening and summer is coming even though Covid and the police continue to take lives. Keep your loved ones close, stay vigilant, and don’t stop listening to and sharing other people’s stories. #AZNxBLM is a good place to start.
See you next Thursday.