AAPI Heritage Month: Asian American and Pacific Islanders take center stage and are recognized for their talents

PHILADELPHIA — For decades, the islanders of Asia and the Pacific have struggled with media invisibility. Their stories went untold on and off camera.

As someone with a foothold in both the African American and Filipino American communities, I know firsthand the importance of representation.

From the Grammys to the big screen, this awards season has proven that entertainment is where AAPI members take center stage.

We sat down with Manan Pandya, an up-and-coming Indian-American hip-hop artist from Philadelphia, who’s one of many who calls this a first step on a long, long road.

“We’re starting to make our stories and voices heard,” Pandya said.

“We are moving in an optimistic direction, but there is still work to be done. For a long time, our narratives were considered alien.”

Pandya, who goes by his hip-hop name Taizu, says the Forever Foreigner label was hard to shake.

“When did you stop feeling strange and start acting like I was here!” I asked.

“Am I here?” Pandya asked.

“You’re here! If you’re wearing this, you’re here!” I answered.

“Not until we had the Mindy Kalings and the Kal Penns. We have a handful of incredible, groundbreaking artists that we have in our individual identities. But we have enablers that allow us to be comfortable in our own skin.”

A sentiment shared by Selena Yip, festival director of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival.

“Asian-Americans, Asians in general, are seen as full human beings and not caricatures and I think that’s something that’s happened on the indie film circuit but hasn’t had a chance to break through in Hollywood until now – like those big mainstream Netflix TV shows,” Yip said.

“Do you think we saw that on Disney’s Marvel movie?” I asked.

“Oh, Shang Chi! Yes! I think representation was something that the indie film scene was slowly but surely working toward,” Yip said. “What we’re seeing now is that Hollywood finally got it… (and) not just Shang-Chi, but the Eternals. We have a very diverse cast in the Eternals. Also directing is Chloe Zao, a woman of Chinese descent.”

“What we’re seeing now is that Hollywood is finally getting where we’ve always been working towards, which is really cool!”

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https://abc13.com/asian-american-pacific-islander-heritage-month-aapi-manan-pandya-tai-zou/11897432/ AAPI Heritage Month: Asian American and Pacific Islanders take center stage and are recognized for their talents

Dais Johnston

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