Friday, January 11, 2008

Yellow Symposium 1969

Student conferences and symposiums played an important role in creating direction for the Asian American Movement. On January 11, 1969, AAPA, the Chinese Students Club and Nisei Student’s Club sponsored a symposium on the UC Berkeley campus with the title The Asian Experience in America/Yellow Identity. Widely attended by college students from throughout California, the symposium helped chart the direction for coming period of Asian American activism. Identity consciousness, Asian American studies, community organizing, student organizing, and support for the Third World Liberation Strike at San Francisco State College were focal points of the conference. Professors from Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis were invited to speak on emerging topics in Asian American studies. A History of the Chinese and Japanese in America was presented by Stanford Lyman (Stanford University), the Asian policy of the US was presented by Paul Takagi (UC Berkeley) and Asians in the Melting Pot was presented by Isao Fujimoto (UC Davis).

At this symposium, George Woo, a member of the SF State College-based Intercollegiate Chinese For Social Action (ICSA), criticized the notion of developing an Asian American identity devoid of community meaning. ICSA was active in organizing Chinatown youth and took a more urgent militant approach to social issues. Arguing that identity without action was only a form of “mental masturbation,” Woo challenged the students to become concerned with the real conditions that people in the communities faced. He called for a reversal of the traditional brain drain of educated youth from the community. Lurleen Chew, another SF State College striker addressed the need for students to express their commitment to activism through the passage of a SF State College TWLF strike support resolution.

The Yellow Identity Symposium concluded with a resolution that fully supported the SF State College TWLF strike and the spread of the movement for Asian American Studies and Third World Colleges to other campuses. An important significance of this resolution was the identification of Asian Americans with other racialized minorities who were involved in their own civil rights and movements for self-determination. By then the press had already introduced the notion that Asian Americans were a model minority that through hard work and perseverance had overcome hardship and discrimination. The Yellow Identity Symposium repudiated the model minority thesis and asserted that Asian Americans were in support and agreement with the demands of blacks, Chicanos and Native Americans.

The next day, Sunday January 12, a statewide AAPA forum was held to map-out activities for the coming period. The intended statewide meeting evolved into an organizational meeting for the establishment of AAPA chapters on a national level. With representatives from thirteen campuses nationwide including, San Francisco, San Mateo, Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Jose, Sacramento, New York and Hawaii, a loose-knit network of AAPA chapters were established within the coming months. The discussions focused on common projects such as defining the content of Asian American Studies and facilitating community work in communities such as Japantown, Chinatown and Manilatown. Berkeley AAPA took on the responsibility of disseminating information to the various chapters. Its AAPA members supported the SF State College TWLF strike, the impending TWLF strike at UC Berkeley, and expansion of the TWLF movement to other campuses.

No comments: