CAAM is incredibly grateful to have a group of amazing board members. We’d like to introduce you to Vincent Pan, who has been on CAAM’s board since 2013 and is Co-Chair with Dipti Ghosh of the board. Vincent is Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco. The movie aficionado has supported, in various ways, several Asian American documentaries, including Daze of Justice by Michael Siv, 9-Man by Ursula Liang, and Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story by Ben Wang.
He also conducted the onstage interview with the late Grace Lee Boggs at CAAMFest 2014. Below, Vincent shares his thoughts about his work and the importance of work that expands our minds, films that upend the dominant narrative, and work that helps us envision a more equal society.
Can you tell us a little about your personal background — where you grew up and how that has shaped your understanding of the world?
I was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey. My parents are immigrants and that shaped my understanding of the world, as did my attending a majority white public school, having a very large extended family, and also going to Hong Kong and Taiwan a few times as a teenager.
More than that, though, was probably how my younger brother was diagnosed with and treated for a rare and very serious heart disease when he was just a kid in elementary school. He’s fine now, and a father himself, but the difficulties that he and my parents endured at the time taught me a lot at a young age about what matters in life.
What would you say drives your work as a CAAM board member, and in all of your work?
When I think of the many lessons passed along to me by mentors and role models, one that stands out is the importance of moral imagination. How do we envision something better for all of us? Something that is more inclusive and just? For me, there is something very powerful about the capacity to imagine a world that works for everyone.
What drew you to CAAM?
I love movies, especially movies that entertain as much as they enlighten.
As someone who works in an Asian American civil rights organization, Chinese for Affirmative Action, where do you see CAAM’s role in fostering civil rights?
CAAM does an amazing job of demonstrating that stories that help other communities see our community can also compel our community to see other communities better. This is similar to how civil rights work works — equality has to mean equality for everyone. But CAAM has the unique ability to operate at the emotional level of narrative, which can often be more expansive and liberating than policy work.
Where do you see CAAM’s role in changing careers, impacting communities, and changing perspectives?
Those who have been historically marginalized deserve not only one shot, but multiple shots at success. Especially in creative fields where the learning process is iterative over multiple projects. By taking a long view, CAAM can support the trajectory of how careers, communities, or perspectives unfold in ways that can be non-linear and unpredictable.
Do you have a favorite CAAM or CAAMFest moment or film?
Interviewing Grace Lee Boggs at the premiere of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (dir. Grace Lee) at the Castro Theatre.
Is there a story, or types of stories, you’d like to see more of?
Projects that expand who we see as part of our community, or that run counter to dominant narratives we tell ourselves. Also stories that explore what it means for Asian Americans to be a part of a international community where Asians are the global plurality.
What projects have you worked on at CAAM, and what projects do you hope to support in the future?
Outside of my role on the CAAM board, some projects I have been pleased to support have included Daze of Justice by Michael Siv, 9-Man by Ursula Liang, and Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story by Ben Wang.
How does your own Chinese American identity inform the work with which you choose to engage?
I think it’s important for me to do work where I can make the most impact. Part of that is contributing on behalf of the Chinese community where my identity and cultural competency can advance universal social justice values.