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.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
After the Atlanta shooting last month that left eight killed, including six Asian women, NPR’s Morning Edition reached out to Japanese American musician Kaoru Ishibashi to see if he wanted to write a song.
Ishibashi lives with his wife and daughter just an hour from the spas where the murders took place. In his song for Morning Edition’s Song Project, For Every Voice That Never Sang, Ishibashi (who performs as Kishi Bashi) reflects on the history of anti-Asian violence and imagines hope for a better future.
The song is heartbreaking and beautiful and includes a surprising swell of cello, but what made me almost fall out of my chair around the 2.28 minute mark from Ishibashi’s conversation with host Rachel Martin about the piece, is the moment he warmly calls out NPR.
Just after Martin’s narration points out that the exclusion of Asian Americans in the United States is nothing new, Ishibashi says:
“If you’re not a part of the dominant culture, then you’re always on the outside. So, at times, you know, you can feel included. Like, NPR can ask you to write a song for them. [He laughs, Martin laughs nervously too.] But at other times, you know, I’m still afraid to walk into a full bar of drunk people. Just because I know that one thing they can say to me might set me back — remind me of my place in society."
Shout out to the transparency of NPR’s journalism for including that powerful moment in both the audio feature and in the web story write-up. Take a listen to the 7-minute feature and watch the music video for the song here: On 'For Every Voice That Never Sang,' Kishi Bashi Is Confident For A Changing World.
SOMETHING TO READ
Worried about a robot replacing you at your job? Well, look on the bright side, one perk to technology cannibalizing every aspect of modern life is that we don’t need people who can’t tell the difference between a taser and a gun to pull drivers over to scold them about air fresheners.
In this editorial for the New York Times, Police Officers Shouldn’t Be the Ones to Enforce Traffic Laws, Columbia Law professor Sarah A. Seo points out that we already have the technology to automate monitoring and ticketing for the most common infractions from speeding to driving with an expired license.
Spread the word! A new future is possible and it doesn’t include killing people for driving while Black.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
When teacher and poet Brendan Constantine asked his students what the opposite of a gun is, they reminded him that all of us fumbling grown-ups should be doing far more listening to the wise children among us.
Constantine’s poem inspired by this conversation with his class is a like an incantation, and TED-Ed’s animators Anna Samo and Lisa LaBracio make it sing. Watch the five-minute film featuring Constantine’s gutting performance of The Opposites Game, and then sit with a long moment of silence and reckoning for Daunte Wright.
ART IS ACTIVISM
That’s it for issue 37, friends. Thanks for listening, reading, and holding on. And thank you too for showing our artist-activists so much love as we announce our #AZNxBLM crew on social media.
We’re going to keep unveiling our creatives and the very cool multimedia projects they’re bringing to life throughout the month of April, and then we’ll be publishing all of their projects in May in celebration of API Heritage Month.
If you haven’t already, join us on Instagram and follow along. We’re turning this project into a movement and you’re invited.
See you next Thursday.