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Asia Pacific Forum

Asia Pacific Forum

By Asia Pacific Forum

Asia Pacific Forum (APF), is a unique public affairs podcast on Asian and Asian American culture, politics, history and current events. Since its early days as a community radio program on New York’s famed WBAI, APF has produced interviews with a wide range of eminent figures in Asian and Asian American communities: emerging artists; writers and musicians; and grassroots activists campaigning for racial, economic and environmental justice.

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Asia Pacific Forum August 2020

Asia Pacific Forum

Confronting Caste in the South Asian Diaspora (with Paula Chakravartty and Ajantha Subramanian)
Confronting Caste in the South Asian Diaspora (with Paula Chakravartty and Ajantha Subramanian)
Over the past few years, the Asian American community has been navigating the country’s tumultuous racial and ethnic politics in unprecedented ways--as the targets of racial violence, as an increasingly important force in electoral politics, as the subject of countless pop cultural tropes, and as an ambivalently positioned minority group in the American social hierarchy. But the issue of caste discrimination is often overlooked as a source of tension and conflict within South Asian diaspora communities. Within communities, caste issues are often downplayed, and accusations of caste discrimination in South Asian communities are often met with backlash and allegations of anti Hindu discrimination. But in recent months we have seen several high profile cases of caste discrimination and oppression, from alleged labor trafficking of low-caste workers to do manual labor for Hindu temples in several states, to Google employees calling out discriminatory treatment by dominant caste workers against their caste-oppressed coworkers. To explore the ramifications of caste in the South Asian diaspora, Asia Pacific Forum’s Michelle Chen speaks with Paula Chakravartty, associate professor at the Gallatin School and the Department of Media, Culture and Communication, and Ajantha Subramanian Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at Harvard University. (Image: Equality Labs)
August 10, 2022
Cotton Ban in Xinjiang, Pandemic historical specificity of anti-Asian violence, and Remembering Corky Lee
Cotton Ban in Xinjiang, Pandemic historical specificity of anti-Asian violence, and Remembering Corky Lee
In this episode, we look at the significance of the cotton ban from Xiang, untangle the data around the increase of anti-Asian violence across the country and in New York City, unpack how race, gender, and class issues impact Asian American communities, and we will end with audio archives of Corky Lee's voice; the unofficial Asian American photographer laureate died of COVID-19 in January of this year.  Cotton Ban in Xinjiang In a segment broadcast initially on Dissent Magazine's Belabored podcast, we hear from Scott Nova, Executive Director of Worker Rights Consortium discusses why the cotton ban from China's Xinjiang region is significant and what it could mean for the movement for supply chain accountability.   Historical specificity of sex-based and gender-based violence on Asian women  On March 16, 2021, 8 people were killed in Atlanta by a gunman targeting massage parlors, an industry dominated by women of Asian ancestry. Six of those killed in Atlanta were women of Chinese and Korean descent. We'll share excerpts from the AF3IRM National Speak-Out Against Femicide. Mila Konomos, an Atlanta-based Korean adoptee, poet, artist, and activist, performs her poetry, "Do you see now?" Nayoung Kim Park, a Korean attorney and feminist, discusses how femicide is racialized and the need to attack this issue from a global perspective. AF3IRM National Chair Connie Huynh discusses militarized patriarchy and the need to organize.   Analyzing the rise of anti-Asian violence  Anti-Asian violence has gained visibility due to Stop AAPI Hate and organizations across the country mobilizing to highlight how attacks and harassment on Asian communities have been racialized with references like "China flu" and "China Virus." New York City is second to San Francisco with the highest reported incidents of anti-Asian violence.  The subway slashing of Noel Quintana, an elderly Filipino, and the brutal assault of Vilma Kari, an elderly Filipina woman are a few examples.   We'll first hear street interviews with Alodie and Esther from the Rally Against Hate in Columbus Park, New York, on March 21.  Dr. Russell Jeung, Professor at the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University and one of the founders of Stop AAPI Hate, discusses the character shift of anti-Asian violence one year after the pandemic, movement solidarity work, and the higher reported incidents of violence on elders, women, and immigrants.  Chris Kwok, attorney and one of the Asian American Bar Association of New York report authors: A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence discusses the importance of history, what anti-Asian violence has looked like in New York City, and the role of media influencers, law, and government have in accountability.   Remembering Corky Lee  Finally, we hear the voice of Corky Lee. He offers the same meticulousness in his interviews as he also recounts the stories behind each photo. In honor of his memory and legacy, we'll share publicly accessible audio excerpts from The New York Public Library, an interview with Corky Lee by Wun Kuen Ng, and our own Asia Pacific Forum Radio interview.
April 23, 2021
December 2020-Post-election Episode: the campaigns, the voters, and the future of immigration detention under Biden
December 2020-Post-election Episode: the campaigns, the voters, and the future of immigration detention under Biden
In this post-election special (thank god it's over), we look at how the election has affected Asian American communities, and also how immigration issues in particular have played out for the incoming Biden administration. We check in with  Alvina Wong, Campaign & Organizing Director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and Shaw San Liu, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association, about how the election played out for AAPI voters in California, including the fight around Proposition 15, a ballot measure that would have raised taxes on high-priced commercial properties. We also talk to Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, about the group’s extensive exit polling data on Asian Americans in New York, Florida, Georgia and ten other states plus Washington, DC. Not surprisingly, Biden won a significant majority of the overall Asian American vote, but there were pockets of Trump support, as well as some ethnic variations in voters’ choices.   Finally, we examine one of the critical issues Biden will have to deal with once he enters office: addressing the longstanding inequities in the detention system and undoing the disastrous policies that Trump has put in place over the last four years at the southern border. Yet many of the human rights violations that are occurring now with immigrant detention and deportation were prevalent under the Obama administration as well--that is, they happened when Biden was vice president. We talk to Silky Shah, executive director of the Detention Watch Network, about how much activists can expect from a Biden administration when it comes to addressing the mass incarceration and deportation of immigrants. Image: Yin Zhao
December 17, 2020
Asia Pacific Forum August 2020
Asia Pacific Forum August 2020
Asian America on the Black-led Uprising for Racial Justice The Black Lives Matters protests that have spread around the country for the last several months have been punctuated by solidarity protests led by Asian American groups. We spoke to Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equality Labs about the connections between anti-caste discrimination and anti-Black racism and the role of the South Asian American community in fighting both. The Future of Dissent in Hong Kong When Beijing passed a new security law for Hong Kong at the end of June, many activists on the island were both outraged and terrified, fearing that the law marked a death knell for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. It imposes major restrictions on dissent, massively expands Beijing’s political influence and control over the city’s legislature and judiciary, and enables some national security cases to be tried on the mainland. All these elements severely undermine the one country, two systems regime that was put in place during Hong Kong’s transition to mainland rule following the handover from its former colonial master, Britain. While many activists are panicking, it’s worth taking a step back and asking what exactly this means for the long-term future of political dissent in Hong Kong and the wider diaspora. We speak with Gina Anne Tam, a professor of Chinese history at Trinity University and observer of Hong Kong politics, about why the new Hong Kong security law matters, but maybe not the way a lot of people think it does. Addendum: Tam noted after our interview that she drew from some of the work of Wilfred Chan, who has also been a guest on APF. For further reference, see: Hong Kong's Fight for Life The Left's Role in the Hong Kong Uprising Cultural protest in Chile and Palestine (Part 2) Natisu, a Chilean-based musician and cultural worker with Trabajadoras de la Música, and Tarin Gonzalez, a Bronx-based activist with Existence is Resistance, reflect on militarized violence and the role of art in social movements. --- Cover Photo: Scott Lum, CC BY-NC 2.0, cropped from original.
August 30, 2020
Asia Pacific Forum June 2020: COVID-19, Electoral Politics and Labor; Asian Americans & Black Lives Matter; Chinatown Rent Strike, Natisu
Asia Pacific Forum June 2020: COVID-19, Electoral Politics and Labor; Asian Americans & Black Lives Matter; Chinatown Rent Strike, Natisu
Since our last episode, the world seems to have been turned upside down. Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic continued to ravage communities around the world, but a nationwide groundswell of protest against police brutality has erupted in the wake of George Floyd's killing. Meanwhile, hostilities between the US and China are escalating over the pandemic response. In this episode, we’ll talk to labor activists in Myanmar and the US about how workers are coping with the pandemic, examine anti-Asian sentiment in the presidential race, and look at protests in Asia, Minnesota and beyond. Organizing API communities amid the pandemic and systemic racism We spoke Kim Geron, Monica Thammarath and Alvina Yeh of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance about how Asian American workers and their communities are faring as they face the COVID-19 pandemic, economic devastation, and an explosion of racial unrest. (A portion of this segment also appeared on Dissent's Belabored podcast.) Pushing back against "tough on China" Tobita Chow, head of Justice is Global, talks about the politics of the presidential election are heating up under the specter of China. While Trump's ant-China rhetoric is on full blast, Biden’s upping his anti-China game too. A group of Asian American activists recently penned an open letter to Biden condemning one of his campaign ads, which accuses Trump of "being soft on China," and called for a more enlightened foreign and domestic policy when dealing with both Beijing and the Asian American diaspora. #CancelRent in Chinatown Melanie Wang with CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities talks about a rent strike in Chinatown, part of a citywide campaign to demanding rent and mortgage relief for all New Yorkers.  Myanmar's workers are on a strike wave Labor organizer Andrew TIllett-Saks discusses workers' struggles in Myanmar’s garment factories and the broader impact of the pandemic on conditions in South and Southeast Asia’s factories. Cultural protest in Chile and Palestine Natisu, a Chilean-based musician and cultural worker with Trabajadoras de la Música, and Tarin Gonzalez, a Bronx-based activist with Existence is Resistance, speak about the recent protests in Chile, along with what it means to draw global connections and build solidarity in the Bronx, Palestine, and Chile. Please sign up for our email list to get updates on new episodes and donate to support our journalism. Visit to get all of our archived episodes going back to 2006! There you can also learn more about joining the APF collective--no experience necessary. Email any comments or story ideas to asiapacificforum [at] gmail [dot] com. Theme: "A Softer War" by Image: Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.
June 07, 2020
Pandemics, Racism, War Crimes and Climate Change
Pandemics, Racism, War Crimes and Climate Change
Anti-Asian Violence and Discrimination in the Coronavirus Era With the establishment of the United States as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are feeling the impact of the crisis. But many in Asian American communities are also facing hatred directed towards those perceived to be responsible because the president and other public figures have played up the fact that the virus emerged in China. We speak with Professor Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University about his work monitoring anti-Asian violence and discrimination in the coronavirus era, including the website Stop AAPI Hate where individuals can report hate incidents. International Criminal Court Opens Door to Investigating US War Crimes Charges As the Trump administration scrambles to broker a deal with the Taliban that will allow the US to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan, the International Criminal Court is providing victims of that war one last chance to seek justice. The ICC’s Appeals Chamber reversed an earlier decision by the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, which had blocked the ICC Prosecutor from initiating a formal investigation into human rights violations and related crimes against humanity. Because the investigation would involve many US officials, the Trump administration, not surprisingly, sought to pressure the ICC and stonewall the investigation. The new ruling from the Appeals Chamber gives a greenlight for the investigation to go forward. Though the US has historically ignored and refused to comply with the ICC, the human rights lawyers involved in the case hope that moving forward with the ICC process will strike a blow against the near total impunity that many US officials have enjoyed up till now. MoMA Divest Disrupts Iraq War Art Exhibit At the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1 Space in Queens, a group of activists from the MoMA Divest campaign staged a demonstration at a controversial exhibit featuring artists’ reflections on the Iraq War, titled Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011. The group delivered the demands of many artists and activists calling for divestment from morally corrupt enterprises such as private prison companies, and the defense contractor Constellis Holdings, formerly named Blackwater, which was heavily involved in the Iraq war. The protesters had intended to tear up the works of one of the artists, Ali Yass, who had asked for his artwork to be destroyed as a statement of protest. In the end, MoMA managed to remove Yass’s works before the protesters had a chance to get to them on March 1, but they found a workaround. We talk to Basma Eid, an organizer with Freedom to Thrive. Confronting the Danger of Environmental Activism in the Philippines with Spirit Questing The Philippines is ground zero for climate related disasters and one of the most murderous countries for environmental defenders. We speak to Peachie Dioquino Valera, a Philippines based environmental activist, Futures Learning Advisor for Center for Engaged Foresight, and Spirit Questor. Valera shares how she confronts corporate greed and extrajudicial killings through spirit questing and climate justice work. 
April 15, 2020