When I entered the contest 2 years ago, I did it for my organization Project Ahimsa (www.projectahimsa.org).
I serve as the International Grants Program Director for our
charity... a killer job which entails setting up music education
programs in some of the poorest parts of India, Nicaragua, Mexico,
Africa and the U.S. We now give away over $75,000 annually to music
education programs worldwide.
Two years ago, however, it was an entirely different picture. At the time I
entered the contest, we were in need of some visibility beyond our
narrow South Asian focused outreach. We needed to expand our network.
We needed to showcase to the world that Project Ahimsa is doing
something innovative with music education. While our mission is global,
many of our team members are South Asian... how could we truly globalize
our message, if we were so narrowly focused?
I had been reading Hyphen for some time. I already loved its
fresh aesthetic, its independent voice, and its focus on not just the
super famous Asian Americans out there, but the underdogs, the rising
stars and Asian Americans really working in their communities. Most of
all, I knew it was pan-Asian in scope, and far more global than the
channels our charity was already seeking out. So, when I heard that a
contest called Mr. Hyphen was being announced, I knew that it had to be
aligned with these virtues. I also knew it would be the perfect vehicle
to elevate Project Ahimsa.
certainly was, I came to find out, when i walked out on stage during
Mr. Hyphen 2006. The contest challenged me to entertain the crowd,
embrace the campiness, and laugh... but that is really just 10% of what
the contest is all about. The 90% that remains is highlighted by how
each of the contestants shared their experience of being Asian American
men and how that translated into their activism. We got to hear what
inspired them, what continues to motivate them, and what makes them
proud to be Asian American. Most of all, I got to talk about what
Project Ahimsa is attempting to do. I got to talk about Mahatma
Gandhi's message of nonviolence and how it connects to music. I got to
engage Hyphen's super intelligent audience in a dynamic way,
and network with all the other contestants and volunteers in the
process. What I realized, is that the Mr Hyphen is far more than just a
contest... and to win, you have to really understand that.
years later, Hyphen truly has helped to elevate the work of our
charity, and helped us reach more activists, donors, and impoverished youth worldwide. How? I was able to use Hyphen's
blog and magazine to raise awareness regarding our work. I was invited
to write a number of articles for the magazine, further enabling me to
push our organization's networking strategy. I was also able to share
lessons from our organization's development with Hyphen's board,
further strengthening our connection to Hyphen. I even got to
work with Mr Hyphen 07 to jointly reach at risk high school students in
LA through music.
So, for all you
prospective candidates, know that entering Mr. Hyphen is far more about
substance than about glitzy style. Yes, panache is important in any
endeavor, but really, Mr. Hyphen is attempting to create an intelligent
dialogue about how important it is to have positive Asian American Male
role models... not just the over -sexualized ones, the de-sexualized
ones, the nerdy ones, or the inarticulate ones that we see too often in the media. We are far more than
that, and this contest needs incredible contestants to keep fighting
these damaging stereotypes.
All hail the forthcoming Mr. Hyphen!
Back by popular demand, Hyphen presents the 3rd annual Mr. Hyphen
competition. Mr. Hyphen gives us a chance to celebrate the men of the
Asian American community who devote their efforts to worthy community
organizations — and to have a lot of fun while we do it.
Giving the underrated Asian male his due celebration, Hyphen will
invite contestants from Asian American nonprofits all over the
country. Contestants will strut their stuff in fashion, talent, and a
rousing Q&A — all in the name of winning a donation to their chosen
501(c)3 organization. Rounds will be decided alternately by an
audience vote and by an illustrious panel of judges.
The event is not only a fundraiser for Hyphen, itself a
nonprofit organization, but also for the organizations our
Mr. Hyphen 2006/2007