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April 23, 2004

PanAsia celebration opens, highlights diversity

"Yes means fuck me. No means fuck you!" were the words shouted by the Asian/Pacific Islander American (APIA) female performance arts group, Mango Tribe, during PanAsia's opening ceremony. The words were a commentary on sexual stereotypes and, more specifically, the plight of "yellow fever" to which Asian American women are subjected.

The audience was given a taste of the group's voice, through a presentation of poetry, singing, rap, and interpretive dance Wednesday night, as the PanAsia event began with a dinner banquet.

The umbrella organization for Asian Registered Student Organizations, the Pan Asian Solidarity Coalation (PASC), began rallying support last fall to gather help from 24 different RSO's to organize the 5th annual event.

"We want to provide a forum for Asian RSO's and other community members to come together and organize events that celebrate the diversity of the Asian and Asian American community," said Programming Coordinator and second year in the College, Teresa Chen. "We're not just a homogenous Asian block and PanAsia is a campaign for awareness of that among other things."

The week and a half of celebration includes 30 events, including cultural workshops on calligraphy, dance, and a sushi rolling seminar.

Susie Sun, a third-year in the College and co-chair of PanAsia, is leading the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Penis" event. It is focused on gender and sexuality within the Asian American cultures.

"I chose the title to increase attendance," Sun said. The first part of the event will feature a screening of "Masters of the Pillow," the first pornographic film in America with an entirely Asian cast. Afterwards, a panel discussion will include guest speakers Dr. Darrell Hamamoto, pioneer of the yellow porn movement, and James Hou, director of the film.

The discussion will explore Asian gender/sexual myths and realities and their representations in the media. "The basic idea is to provoke thought on Asian-American gender stereotypes," Sun said.

The 200 who attended the opening ceremony's dinner at the International House shuffled into the assembly hall to hear Dr. Franklin Odo of the Smithsonian Institute speak and watch Mango Tribe perform.

Odo spoke about his personal involvement with Asian-American activism. As a second generation Japanese-American, Odo pioneered the movement that created Asian-American and other ethnic studies in California during the 1960s and 1970s. He is currently the director of the Asian Pacific American Program at the Smithsonian Institute as well as a professor in the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland.

Odo, who also works as a curator at the American History Museum, explained that he is trying to incorporate Asian American history into what he believes is "still an extremely Eurocentric institution."

Members of Mango Tribe took the stage with a variety of provocative Pieces. "Sisters in the Smoke" focused on female Asian stereotypes, while a video entitled "Hello Kitty is Dead" explored the exotification of the Asian woman in mainstream media. "If the only thing we see is Lucy Liu wearing chi-paos and massaging white guys then you're going to think all Asian American girls are like that," the video said.

Second-year in the College Melina Kolb attended the opening ceremony and said she appreciated the film, "It's amazing to see how Hollywood has turned the Asian woman into an exotic accessory for the white man."

PanAsia runs from April 21 to April 30. More information about the events can be found at http://panasia.uchicago.edu.

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