Emil Guillermo: Oscars? Here's the Emil for Best Minimal Presence by an Asian American in a Best Picture nominee
February 21, 2015 4:02 PM

By the time you read this, the whole world will have watched the Oscars. And while there's a great chance of someone on the red carpet "wearing an Asian American," I am sure of this: There's absolutely no chance an Asian American will win in any of the major categories. Not Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor. Best Actor in Support Hose. Nothing.

Again. That's always the way it is. No dearth of talent among us Asian Americans. Just a dearth of Oscar support. (Not one nomination for Harold and Kumar ever? What is the academy NOT smoking?)

That's why it is necessary in my one-man academy (100 percent people of color) to make up a category that Asian Americans are sure to qualify for.

I call it the Emil for best minimal presence by an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for best picture. 

This is a very specific category. And it is loaded with suspects, I mean, nominees this year.

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Remember, the actors all had to be recognizable for at least a second in movies nominated for best picture. My nominees are:  

1. From "Birdman," Keenan Shimizu, who played Han. Now here's a guy with the prototypical Asian American acting career. He was Big Father in the 2001 Louis C.K. classic, "Pootie Tang." And on the small screen, he acts so well that on "Law and Order," he's played Det. Kwan, Asian Tech Guy Hsu, and a Deli Owner. That's the Asian character trifecta!

2. From "Birdman," Akira Ito, who plays a translator so well, I don't even remember him being in the movie. True invisibility--in any language!

3. From "Boyhood," Andrea Chen, who played "Sam's Roommate," the great enabler. Chen enters her dorm room and finds Mason, the boy in "Boyhood," with his girlfriend studying "biology," if you catch my drift.  Chen says she'll be back, in a way that pays homage to Schwarzenegger. Scene stealer! And she didn't need 12 years to nail the role.

4. From "The Imitation Game," are you kidding?

5. From the "Theory of Anything," all that high minded science stuff, and I didn't see one Asian American.

6. From "Whiplash," Stephen Hsu, guitar, and Tian Wang, piano, were boys in the band. And how's this for true sub-minimal treatment: They are uncredited. That really sets the standard high for minimal presence---they were in the negative, absolutely unrecognizable. Their sub-presence is so low it edges out Kavita Patil, a lovely and accomplished actress, who usually plays Indian doctors, nurses and health care workers on TV and in the movies. In "Whiplash," Patil plays....Sophie, the assistant!  And she got a credit. Sorry Kavita--that's way too much recognition already. 

I know you're saying what about Zero from "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the lovely Indian ...nope. Tony Revolori is from Guatamala, and not technically Asian. Besides, he should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, just for his hat. The Lobby Boy made that movie! But alas, zero for Zero. Robbed.

And as for that "American Sniper" actor Mido Hamada, who played the Butcher, he was born in Cairo. Technically, Middle Eastern people are considered Asian in a broad sense. But in this movie, the transgressions are on a totally different level so as to disqualify them for the "minimal presence" award. 

And that leaves us with our winner: (Drumroll, please...)

The winner for Best Minimal Presence by an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for Best Picture goes to Selma," for the minimal Asian American presence of Steven Kiyoshi Kuromiya. 

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And just when you thought there were no Asian Americans at Selma. (It's sort of like the Oscars; we're there somewhere.)

If you don't know about Kuromiya, he was a creative activist, an SDSer, who became an aide to Dr. King and then later a loud and proud AIDS activist for ACT UP. He actually was beaten up in the earlier Selma marches.

Kuromiya wasn't technically in the film. But my "AA-dar" went off when the film cut to documentary footage included on the last big Selma march to Montgomery. It was an Asian guy. And it had to be Kuromiya. I swear on any bible Rudy Giuliani believes in. 

Kuromiya was an Asian American who made a difference. 

So that's it. No red carpet. No big show with Neil Patrick Harris hosting.

It's just a single Emil. One award. No plural needed for the best minimal presence of an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for Best Picture.

One is enough. And it goes posthumously to Kuromiya, so he can't show up anyway. 

But if there were a living winner, while the Emil doesn't really exist physically, it is totally acceptable to mime stroking it admirably--in private. 

Speaking of awards, there are Oscars and there is the Emil. And then there are the 2015 Justice in Action Awards presented by AALDEF.

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Unlike the minimal presence at the Oscars, the winners this year are all highly visible and making a difference for Asian Americans every day in their respective fields: Jessica Hagedorn, novelist, poet, and playwright; Neal Katyal, partner at Hogan Lovells, Paul Saunders Professor at Georgetown University, and former Acting Solicitor General of the United States; and John W. Kuo, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of Varian Medical Systems.

Get your tickets here.

Hollywood is still a fantasy game played by actors. The fight for justice is no game. And no fantasy. It requires those who take action. That's the example set by the AALDEF Justice in Action Award's deserving winners each and every year.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: New Year thoughts for NYPD's Peter Liang, Montana's Markus Kaarma, San Francisco's Stephen Guillermo
February 15, 2015 1:31 PM

The Lunar New Year is coming, bringing the prospect of good luck and great fortune.

We hope.

After last week, we all need something inside that proverbial big red envelope.

Let's start with justice.

If you're NYPD Officer Peter Liang, you have to be wondering about your luck when your case just happens to come up after district attorneys in Missouri and New York failed to prosecute two cases involving the police shooting deaths of two African Americans, which sparked massive nationwide protests.

Liang definitely was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The failures of the system to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, or NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was videotaped choking Eric Garner in Staten Island, seem to be the biggest "uber facts" in Liang's case. They are "uber" because while they're not part of Liang's specific narrative, their coincidence seems to be driving the subtext in his prosecution. (I've written about those cases here and here.)

Liang was indicted last week on second-degree manslaughter charges for a freak shooting in which a ricocheted bullet killed Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn high-rise. A rookie cop on the force less than 18 months, Liang reportedly had his finger on the trigger and was pointing his gun into the dark--a violation of his safety training. More importantly, there doesn't seem to have been any threat.

With no identifiable threat, it's difficult for Liang to argue self-defense. Liang did not testify before the grand jury, and his partner was granted immunity to testify against him.

The stars are not aligning. 

We'll see if any new facts in Liang's defense come out at trial. But for now, the existing facts, combined with the "uber" facts, appear to make this case set-up on a tee for reform-minded Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson. With the way people feel about cops and DAs' failure to prosecute them, the political winds appear to be behind him. 

And somehow Lady Justice seems to be holding both a scale and a kite.

Markus Kaarma and Stephen Guillermo
Markus Kaarma's case is a little different tragedy. It's not about police, but about a private individual taking the law into his own hands and relying on Castle Doctrine laws to justify killing an unarmed person.

It was vigilante justice. And Kaarma was wrong.

You may have heard of Kaarma, 29, a Korean American from Montana. His case didn't get a lot of play nationally last week, perhaps because he was convicted of deliberate homicide last December. 

But his recent sentencing hearing was quite a shocker. 

Kaarma thought the Castle Doctrine gave him the right to shoot to kill in order to protect his home. Instead, he was sentenced to 70 years in prison for murdering Diren Dede, a 17-year-old German exchange student.

"You didn't protect your residence, you went hunting. And here you have a 12 gauge shotgun that's loaded. Not to protect your family, but to go after somebody," said Missoula District Judge Ed McLean on Feb. 12.

The sentence was a surprise. But so was the prosecutor's initial decision to go forward and charge Kaarma in the first place. That's been my experience with DAs when it comes to self-defense cases in which the Castle Doctrine is invoked.

It happened in the case of my cousin, Stephen Guillermo.

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I've written in this space about Stephen numerous times. And from a victim's point of view, there are some similarities in the Kaarma case.

Stephen went by mistake to the wrong apartment in his building. The apartment was not his but that of an African immigrant, a retired security guard. Witnesses said they heard no break-in. If so, the door may have been opened so that an unarmed Stephen walked into the apartment and was shot to death by the armed retired security guard.

In Montana, Kaarma left his garage door open, hoping his suspected teenage prankster burglars would come in. When they did, motion detectors alerted Kaarma, who then fired a shotgun four times killing an unarmed teenage intruder in the garage.

Many DAs feel just having a dead body in the house makes the Castle defense unbeatable.

But I've always argued that the shooter still must show that he acted reasonably in using deadly force.

Now that Kaarma's Castle defense failed and his 70 year sentence issued, I'm beginning to feel this could be a breakthrough moment. 

Not necessarily for my cousin Stephen's case.

The San Francisco DA George Gascon had arrested Stephen's killer, refused to prosecute, and let him go.

No, my hope is that Kaarma's conviction and sentencing will set the example to rework the homicide laws so that DAs don't see going up against the Castle defense as a defeat. Prosecutors want to have a winning record. Preferably a win in every case.

Last October, I asked DA Gascon what he needed in order to prosecute anything.

Of course, he said he had to have the facts and the legal analysis. But Gascon also added: "A prosecutor would be violating his ethical obligation if he didn't believe he could prosecute successfully." 

In other words, it really is "Just win, baby." 

Or "just believe you can win," a form of political will.

When I mentioned challenging the Castle doctrine, Gascon said individual cases weren't the place to take ethical, moral, or courageous stands.

As a proper example of when to take a stand, he pointed to his advocacy of California's Prop. 47, which has re-codified California law in order to lower the high incarceration rates of people with mental health and substance abuse problems. Why? Because, as Gascon said, "It doesn't work."

Well, Castle really doesn't work either. Not if you want to prevent innocent people from being killed.

Gascon may have quivered before the Castle Doctrine in the past. But now maybe he'll take a stand--not for my cousin's individual case--but for future victims who could be murdered by vigilantes who want to use their guns whenever feel threatened in their home. Even if they're wrong.

The Lunar New Year is coming. There's always hope.
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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.



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Emil Guillermo: Is "Fresh Off The Boat" historical or the taming of Eddie Huang?
February 4, 2015 4:45 PM

Eddie Huang, producer, chef, memoirist, former lawyer, all-around bad dude, and self-proclaimed "human panda," was born in Washington, D.C. on March 1, 1982. 

He was in diapers when I was well into my television news career, the first Filipino American on one of the big three network affiliates in San Francisco. I know the struggle of being an Asian American in the white mainstream media. And I know what it's like when you don't fit the mold for mass consumption.

That's why I admire the hell out of what Huang has done. He's a real Asian American male living larger than life, or larger than life usually allows us, especially in the media.

If you saw the debut of his "Fresh Off the Boat" on ABC, then you know it's smart and funny, way more than your average network sitcom. 

Plus, it's full of Asian Americans. Real enough? We'll get to that in a bit. Let's say it's a bit better than the Asians you'd find at Madame Tussauds.

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The ensemble cast includes Randall Park (Kim Jong-Un in "The Interview") as Louis, Eddie's dad, who plays the striving restaurant owner. It's not just some take-out place in D.C.'s Chinatown; it's a franchise steak joint in suburban Orlando. Louis is married to Jessica, Eddie's mom, played to comic perfection by Constance Wu. And then there's 11-year-old Eddie, played by Hudson Yang, who could become multicultural America's post-hip-hop "Beaver Cleaver."

Just from an invisibility standpoint, the arrival of "FOTB" deserves a massive fist pump.

Through the years, we haven't had much representation.

The first Asian I ever saw on TV was a Filipino guy in 1959 named Poncie Ponce (real name Ponciano Hernandez, a Filipino American born in Maui). He played Kazuo Kim, the cab driver in ABC's "Hawaiian Eye." (Any Connie Stevens fans out there?) 
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I was just four, but it made an impression on me. I learned it wasn't really that cool to be Filipino or Asian on TV. Not in Hollywood. And certainly not on the news.

There was another Filipino on that show named Leon Lontoc, who usually played a storekeeper, but ended up as Gene Barry's driver on the network show, "Burke's Law." Lontoc was typical of the Asian American actor. His character list includes "Chief Watu Watu" in the sitcom, "McHale's Navy." He's been a Chinese grocer in "Ironside," a houseboy on "Mission Impossible," and on "Bonanza," he was Ah Yee. Maybe he was Hop Sing's buddy?

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It doesn't really get any better. A short list of Asian Americans in sitcoms includes the late Filipino American actress Sumi Sevilla Haru, who appeared in "M*A*S*H" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." She was also the SAG-AFTRA leader who in her later years fought for better roles for Asian Americans. And let's not forget the legendary Japanese American comic actors, Jack Soo in "Barney Miller," and Pat Morita, who before the "Karate Kid" was on "Happy Days." 

Forgive me if I left out anyone. But can you see why it was a big deal when comedian Margaret Cho burst on the scene in 1994's "All American Girl"?  

Asian Americans went from bits in your white fried rice to the whole damn main course. 

Unfortunately, the show was a product of the times and indicative of a society still struggling to deal with the notion of a multicultural America. "All American Girl" was off the air by 1995. Thirty years after the Civil Rights Act, Asian Americans were still relatively invisible. And most of society had no problem with our lack of inclusion.

Now 20 years after Cho's cancellation, 50 years after the civil rights law, "Fresh Off the Boat" gives us a whole new Asian American family on TV.

It's not better than getting more family reunification provisions in immigration reform, but it's close.

"FOTB" passes the invisibility and representation tests.  We're back in prime time.  And there's still an ethnic flavor. We're not coincidentally Asian, like Mindy Kaling's "The Mindy Project," or Lucy Liu's Watson in "Elementary," or Aziz Ansari in "Parks and Recreation."  

At its core, "FOTB" is still the story of the modern Asian American family. 

That's not to say there aren't some problems in translation from Huang's book.

Huang's memoir is all-Huang, all the time. A sitcom is still a sitcom. It left me with a lot less Huang than I was expecting.
 
If Huang served up real cheddar in his book, "Fresh Off the Boat," the sitcom version is pure Cheez Whiz.  Processed cheese product.

Eddie is Orange Juice--with pulp--versus Sunny D smooth.

Street vendor taco versus Taco Bell.

Eddie is the former; ABC's "FOTB" is a lot more of the latter.

Apparently, even Huang sensed that based on what he wrote in New York magazine last month. 

eddiehuang.jpg"My story had become an entertaining but domesticated vehicle to sell dominant culture with Kidz Bop, pot shots, and the emasculated Asian male," Huang wrote. "I got upset when they dressed Randall like a Fung Wah bus driver or Hudson like an And-1 yard sale or Constance like the Crocodile Hunter with kitty-cat heels. We couldn't go out like this!"

But Huang eventually was able to--as Filipino American composer Robert Lopez might say--let it go.

Especially after "the scene." That would be when the show dealt with Eddie being called a "chink" in school. It's a topic fitting the tradition of sitcom morality dilemmas. Jeremy Lin gets called a "chink" in real life, and the situation starts a ruckus. The epithet moment in "FOTB" is worthy of the Sitcom Hall of Fame. It makes the show not so much about our authentic Asian-ness, but more about how our universal family stereotypes can help us find common ground with others.
 
It got to Huang.

"After 18 months of back and forth, I had crossed a threshold and become the audience," wrote Huang. "I wasn't the auteur, the writer, the actor, or the source material. I was the viewer, and I finally understood it. This show isn't about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won't take that gamble right now....The only way they could even mention some of the stories in the book was by building a Trojan horse and feeding the pathogenic stereotypes that still define us to a lot of American cyclope. Randall was neutered, Constance was exoticized, and Young Eddie was urbanized so that the viewers got their mise-en-place. People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network's approach to pacifying them is to say we're all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit 'em with the soy. ...It doesn't sound like much, but it is."

Homogenized Asian American on TV is better than no Asian American at all.

And that's how Eddie Huang got on board with his sitcom-self. "FOTB" is sanitized for America's protection. Plus, I'm sure he's getting paid.

If he's down with it, so am I. And I'm not getting paid. I'm just glad a real void has been filled. 

Recently, my TV viewing hasn't had much in terms of Asian sightings.

In the most watched TV show ever--the Super Bowl Halftime show--- there was an Asian American up there with Katy Perry. But who knew the rogue #leftshark was Asian American Bryan Gaw until he took off his damn shark head.

On my staple shows, "House of Lies" does have a skateboarding Asian American internet company owner.

On "Girls," Lena Dunham outs a "gaysian" in her writer's workshop. It's the Asian male stereotype Hollywood loves. 

On "Shameless," another gaysian performs oral sex on a Westboro Baptist-type minister in order to shame him on social media. I guess that makes the Asian American character heroic?

And just for good measure, this week on the NBC soap "Days of Our Lives," another gaysian sighting, a Japanese American comes out to his mother and grandfather.

It's no different from the old Three-Network days. We're just flecks of updated stereotypes (from emasculated male to gay male) sprinkled across a new landscape of a thousand channels.

If you want unadulterated Eddie, on Vice's food channel, Munchies, you can still catch him in all his "Huangderful-ness." "Huang's World" is foodie Eddie as the Asian Kardashian. It's his memoir in reality TV form for those who want the mainline BaoHaus experience.

For the Velveeta "melting pot" sitcom experience, that would be "Fresh Off The Boat." But there's a lot of upside. It takes some time for a show to find itself. If "FOTB" grows and develops, it could become a multi-season hit, an enduring milestone for Asian Americans, and an antidote to the Ah Yee and Hop Sing images in TV's past.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Happy FK Day! FK Day? For Fred Korematsu, of course
January 29, 2015 7:52 PM

Fred Korematsu would have been 96 on Friday, January 30, and if you don't know him, you should know why he's important. Even if you do know Korematsu's basic story, you might be surprised by some details here. There was nothing easy about what he did.

It's been just four years since the inaugural Fred Korematsu Day celebration was established on his birthday--the first time an Asian American has been so honored in California.

For what Korematsu did, he should be more appropriately regarded a national hero on the same level as Martin Luther King, Jr.

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FK as MLK? Anyone who has seen "Selma" understands what MLK did for African Americans. Korematsu was every bit a symbol for the fight against transgressions against Asian Americans.

Korematsu was just one man, and not a movement. But you'd be hard pressed to find in a single person someone who embodies the fight for democracy, freedom, and justice for Asian Americans more than Korematsu.  

In 1942, when he was just 23, Korematsu saw other innocent Japanese Americans rounded up by the U.S. government to be incarcerated in a camp, and simply decided he would not go.

That's the shorthand hero version. 

The twists in the Korematsu story show how he is still relevant today.

According to the award-winning documentary Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story, Korematsu was on a date with a Caucasian woman at the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing. He saw himself as an American and didn't think his country would do anything to him just because of the war.

Wrong. His U.S. government soon regarded him as the enemy because of his race.

Korematsu defied the internment order for a while, and even had plastic surgery to see if that would allow him to look more Caucasian and avoid scrutiny. But his ultimate arrest was accompanied with sensationalistic media coverage. The slur "Jap" was used to describe both Asians and Asian Americans.

The news coverage of Korematsu's jailing caught the eye of the Northern California ACLU's executive director Ernest Besig, who decided to make Korematsu the test for the constitutionality of the internment. 

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the government arguing against the 14th Amendment and justifying the internment of Japanese Americans as a "military necessity." Critics have said the Court seemed unwilling to go against the government and President Roosevelt, which might explain why civil rights stalwarts like William O. Douglas and Hugo Black were part of a 6-3 majority against Korematsu.

To this day, that 1944 decision still stands.

Korematsu lost. Ultimately, he would spend time in an internment camp. But he also found that not only was he shunned by general society and his country at war, he was also shunned by other Japanese Americans in camp who believed he should have shut up and cooperated.

It only took 40 years to be vindicated.

In 1983, Prof. Peter Irons, a legal historian, discovered government memos that were kept from the Supreme Court in 1944. The documents revealed an internal struggle within the government on how to present the case. Would it go with the Army's contention that Japanese Americans were a threat to national security? Or would it also present information from the FBI and other military intelligence that contradicted the Army?

The Army's perspective prevailed. But Irons said a statement in one document continued to haunt and fuel the protest. It read: "We are telling lies to the Supreme Court. We have an obligation to tell the truth."

The suppressed information was enough for a group of attorneys, mostly young Japanese Americans, to reopen the case and overturn Korematsu's conviction in 1983 in a federal district court in San Francisco.

But it was far from a total victory.

Because the government declined to appeal, the 1944 Supreme Court decision remained untouched. Korematsu's crew of young lawyers couldn't get back to address the high court.

"We were stuck at the district level," said lead attorney Dale Minami. "But we did undercut the factual and legal basis for what the Supreme Court did."

But is that enough? Minami told me it would be ignorant for anyone to use Korematsu as a precedent today for the wholesale imprisonment of people because of their race.

But then what do you say to all those post-9/11 incarcerations of Muslims at immigration holding cells from New York to Guantanamo? What about the proclivity of the government and law enforcement to use racial profiling?

It's not far-fetched to see how xenophobic zealots without a knowledge of history could easily misread Korematsu, even though the lower court conviction was actually vacated.

And so the Supreme Court case remains dangling out there for a zealot to abuse. But it forces us to keep Korematsu's memory alive and make his lifelong fight our perpetual battle for civil rights.

Just look at Selma, and the battle for voting rights. Fifty years later, there are renewed efforts that are organized and well-funded, whose sole aim is to dismantle the Voting Rights Act and to disenfranchise minorities and the poor. 

If we're not vigilant, we soon will be marching backwards faster than forwards. 

That's why not just Asian Americans, but all Americans, can ill afford to forget Fred Korematsu. FK all the way, every day. Not just on Jan. 30, but all year round.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Diversity at the movies? Was that Kiyoshi Kuromiya in a few frames of "Selma"?
January 19, 2015 12:56 PM

If you're an Asian American like me, you may be watching movies and media for any presence of Asian or Asian American anything. 

It's like our "AA-dar." 

Among the Oscar-nominated movies of note, mine went off in "Boyhood," when Mason crashes at his sister's University of Texas dorm with his girlfriend, and in walks the "sister's roommate." 

Yup, the Asian American student, who politely agrees to get lost while the others get it on.

It's the typical role. Compliant. On the margins. Not the one having sex. 

Unfortunately, there's no category for "best minimal presence in a major motion picture." 

Oddly enough, my "AA-dar" also went off during "Selma."

If you plan to see the movie for MLK Day, or soon after, please go and keep your eyes peeled during MLK's speech on the capitol steps of Alabama.

Although I cannot verify this with the producers in a complete Zapruder film-like analysis, look at the black and white clips interspersed in the film's scenes of the big March, the final one in the movie that actually took place on March 25. 

There is a non-black face with black hair and an Asian-sized body among a group walking by with signs. It's a wide angle/side view. They walk by in a flash, but no matter how faint, and for how many seconds, I could sense we were in the presence of an Asian American.

Steven Kiyoshi Kuromiya. 
kuromiya3.jpgAs we honor Dr. King throughout the nation, Kuromiya is one of the Asian Americans among the closest to Dr. King.

In the assassination year of 1968, Kuromiya cared for Dr. King's kids at the King house the week of his funeral.

But in 1965, Kuromiya, as a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later a member of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), met Dr. King.

If you miss the frames that flash by at the end of "Selma," imagine Kuromiya on the front lines at the first marches at Selma. He was one of those clubbed by the state troopers in Alabama.

In a Life magazine piece, Kuromiya talked about his role: 

I was in the South during the spring and summer of 1965. After Revered James Reeb was killed, we marched and I was clubbed down and hospitalized. When you get treated this way, you suddenly know what it is like to be a black in Mississippi or a peasant in Vietnam. You learn something about going through channels then too. I gave my story to an FBI agent in the hospital. He took seven pages of notes, but I remember thinking at the time it was probably just about as effective as relaying information to the ACLU via the House Un-American Activities Committee. Nothing ever came of it, at any rate.

It sparked Kuromiya's independence for taking real action, for the public good, and, of course, through non-violent means. 

If you want to be a rebel, Kuromiya would be a good role model.

Of course, he already knew what discrimination felt like. He was born while incarcerated by the U.S. in a Wyoming internment camp during World War II. 

His family later moved to Monrovia, California, and Kuromiya went on to college at Penn. As a student, he made sure his voice was heard in the biggest issues of the day, the antiwar and civil rights movements.

Like Dr. King, Kuromiya knew that protest and the media go hand in hand. To draw attention to the use of napalm in Vietnam, he staged an event where a dog was threatened to be burned alive on the library steps at Penn. When thousands turned up, they saw Kuromiya's message: "Congratulations on your anti-napalm protest. You saved the life of a dog. Now, how about saving the lives of tens of thousands of people in Vietnam?"

Later, Kuromiya became a legendary fighter for AIDS research, known as the founder of Critical Path, and a member of ACT-UP. 

Kuromiya died of AIDS in May 2000, just 56 years old.

When you think about Dr. King, remember that the fight was never just a black and white thing. 

Asian Americans stood with Dr. King in the common fight for equality.

It may not be always reflected, but if you look hard enough, you'll find that we had a voice.

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Read about my take on the Oscar snub of "Selma" and more of MLK here.
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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.



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