The Center for Asian American Media stands with the Muslim, Sikh, Arab and South Asian American communities against the fear, suspicion, verbal aggression and assaults that they face on a daily basis in a place they call home. We stand together alongside other member organizations of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
Our work centers around telling our stories and marking our histories. Most of our communities came here as refugees of war or as immigrants, seeking a better life for our families, and attracted to the promise of equality and freedom. We’ve faced hardships, persevered through discrimination and have learned that achieving the American dream is an ongoing struggle.
Some of our most important work that we have supported, like Steven Okazaki’s DAYS OF WAITING and Loni Ding’s THE COLOR OF HONOR, have been around the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, one of the greatest violations of constitutional rights in US history. We are reminded how quickly those lessons seem to be forgotten in the current climate of xenophobia and fear being stoked for political gain.
We are currently working on a documentary film on the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first and only time an ethnic group has been specifically excluded from this country. Exclusionary laws were overcome through decades of protracted legal battles that eventually established the foundational right of citizenship by birthright (US vs Wong Ark Kim) and which lead to the lifting of race-based quotas on immigration. The contributions of millions of immigrants and their children, from the 1960s to today, have benefitted our economy—and the very character of the nation and its ideals.
Last year, CAAM initiated a three-year project to empower young Muslim Americans to tell their own stories through the Muslim Youth Voices Project. Already, it is telling us how vital it is to really open our hearts and to recognize that it’s young people who make this country—who have always made this country—what it is. The young people teach us that exploring your best, true and creative self is what storytelling and filmmaking is about.
Earlier this year, we supported LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, the powerful film directed by Rory Kennedy, with their community outreach. That film recounts the heroic struggle of thousands of Vietnamese, aided by equally heroic US Embassy personnel, seeking refuge in the US. Today, that legacy should inform a national policy to welcome refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries.
There are many people from all backgrounds speaking out against the hate crimes, fear speech and xenophobia in this moment. We have seen this before, and we will continue to speak up against it.
Executive Director, Center for Asian American Media