Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications. She is a senior contributing editor and writer for Hyphen.

"Freedom Fighters" Screening

Catch a screening of "Freedom Fighters" at the Manilatown Heritage Foundation in San Francisco tonight (located on the first floor of the new I-Hotel).

The film is made by a friend of mine, Wayie Ly, and it's a work in progress. Here's a description of the film:

"'Freedom Fighters' is a documentary that focuses on the influences and inspirations of two courageous women, 87 year-old Yuri Kochiyama and 68 year-old Kiilu Nyasha, as well as the intersections of both their lives with such notables as Malcolm X and Mumia Abu Jamal. The images and audio weave together a story that tells of the issues that both Yuri and Kiilu feel are most relevant today, such as the case of Mumia Abu Jamal and the war at home and abroad. The story highlights these two courageous women who have tirelessly given of themselves to the struggle for true democracy, and human rights for all."

It also sounds like Yuri Kochiyama, who recently turned 87, will be in attendance. A great chance to check out the Manilatown Heritage Foundation and new I-Hotel if you haven't been there already, a new documentary, and to meet Yuri Kochiyama.

Seeking Bone Marrow Donors

by Samara Azam

When I found out that mixed folks are the least likely to find a match for bone marrow donations, I was overcome with a few thoughts. First, I became instantly appreciative of having two sisters who are also British and Pakistani. Second, I thought I should go on a quest seeking out British/Pakistani folks and be extra nice to them just in case I ever needed a donor. Third, I got really angry that there were so few mixed folks and people of color on the national registry of donors -- the likelihood of finding a match is connected to your ethno-geographic background.

Then I decided to do something about it. I registered to become a donor at the 2005 Mixed Heritage Week at UC Davis. So far I'm not a match for anyone, but at the end of every year, the national registry sends me a nice letter to my parent's house, checking that my contact info is still the same.

Three years after becoming a donor, I ended up at the CBS 5 and The CW 44/Cable 12 reception for Asian Pacific History Month, honoring the Asian American Donor Program for their dedication to increasing the number of APIAs on the bone marrow donor registry. It was so exciting to be at an event honoring the same people who raised my awareness and signed me up as a donor. It was also a good reminder that there is a lot of work to be done.

When Jonathan Leong accepted the award on behalf of AADP, he walked up to the podium with an 8-year-old boy who was looking for a match. As Jonathan put it, they are trying to find matches for people who need a transplant "like yesterday." He apologized that Yul Kwon couldn’t attend the reception. Yul Kwon has become the poster boy for raising awareness since the passing of a good friend that never found a match.

Right now, folks like Michelle Maykin are waiting for a bone marrow transplant. She needs to find a match by June 21, 2008 - less than a month from now -- and her best bet is someone who is Thai and Vietnamese.

"Hollywood Chinese" in LA and NYC


Hollywood Chinese, by award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong, opens in the Los Angeles area and New York City theaters today. Go check it out. We posted about it when it opened in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also interviewed Arthur Dong for the local paper, the Oakland Tribune.

It's great to see documentaries take over the big screen. I read in a recent edition of the Films Arts magazine that documentaries have gained more mainstream appeal since films like "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Supersize Me" and "An Inconvenient Truth" came out.

Still, they are a labor of love -- most documentary filmmakers are not out to make big Hollywood bucks. So please let's continue this trend of supporting documentaries on the big screen. An Asian American one, at that! I think you'll enjoy the film.

The film plays at the following theaters:

Interviewing Yuri


Yuri speaking at anti-war demonstration and rally in Central Park (circa 1968). Photo courtesy of the Kochiyama Family and "Passing It On," by Yuri Kochiyama (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2004).

I know Harry already posted a birthday wish to Yuri, but I wanted to talk about what it was like interviewing Yuri Kochiyama, the social justice activist who knew Malcolm X and was there when he died. Interviewing Yuri was one of the highlights of my year so far.

I've known about Yuri Kochiyama -- her name is always thrown around in Asian American/progressive circles, usually in a "we look up to Yuri" sort of way -- but learned a lot of new things during my research and interview.

The more I learn about her, the more I am amazed at her life and realize just what makes her so unique.

Tule Lake Pilgrimage


The Tule Lake Pilgrimage 2008 is now taking applications, due May 31. This year, the pilgrimage takes place July 3-6.

Tule Lake was one of 10 internment camps during WWII that held a total of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were United States citizens (the first generation, Issei, were not allowed to become citizens at the time).

Tule Lake is in far Northern California near Oregon and held many of the "no, no" boys -- those who answered "no" to two confusing questions and then deemed potential enemies of the U.S.

The theme this year is to learn more about the largely unknown Segregation Center at Tule Lake, which held 12,000 of those deemed disloyal by the U.S. government. During the war, Japanese Americans were also asked to renounce their U.S. citizenship; the vast majority of those who did were incarcerated at Tule Lake.

I am always amazed when I meet people who say they had never heard of Japanese American internment during WWII until recently. Many of these folks are either white and/or grew up outside of California. And even if we think we've read/learned a lot about the topic, there're still more untold stories that need to be heard. 

Happy Mother's Day (For Peace)


That's a pic of my baby doing the Asian squat, which he learned pretty much as soon as he gained neck control. And check it out, he can cook stir-fry in a wok too!

In all seriousness, I promised to myself that I would take the time to write something on Mother's Day.

It is funny to say now that I am officially a receiver of the greeting "Happy Mother's Day." Being a mama is a very new part of my identity. I don't remember what I did last year on Mother's Day, but I'm pretty sure I was still adjusting to taking care of a newborn (Baby T was about 2 months then). Plus, those early early days are a blur now.

The Revolution Starts in the Kitchen

That's the tagline for "The Cooking Show con Karimi y Castro," starring Robert Karimi and John Castro.

They're in the Bay Area performing until May 18. I wanted to check out the show tonight, which sounds fascinating, fun and funny, but alas am home sick tonight.

If the name Robert Karimi sounds familiar, that's because we featured him in our latest issue -- he's the intense-looking guy donning a chef's hat and wielding a wooden spoon in one of the rotating photos on our homepage.


Vietnamese Deportation


Photo by Ari Simphoukham

I have been meaning to blog about last week's student actions in response to the recent agreement signed between the U.S. and Vietnam, allowing for thousands of folks currently living here to be deported.

Here's a story in the Daily Bruin about last week's student demonstrations, which included UCLA, UCSD, UC Davis, and other campuses.

According to Rhummanee Hang, a Cambodian American student at UC Davis who's a member of Southeast Asians Making Immediate Change (SEAMIC), last Wednesday's demonstration at her campus had a turnout of 200. There was a march, speakers and performers, spoken word artists, emcees, dancers, and signing of postcards to representatives. 

This is how she explained, in an email, why students, particularly Southeast Asian students, are speaking up against the pact:

"Southeast Asians came to the United States as a result of the wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos). Many of the 1.5 generation are the ones at risk of getting deported because of these policies. They came here when they were very young, grew up in this country, and their lifestyle, their way of thinking and being is very "American". Many of these people are not fluent in their native language and know little about the country where they were born. To send them back to a country that they are unfamiliar with and are still suffering from the affects of the war is unfair. 

The current policies itself are unfair, because it offers no second chance. There is no due process for nationals who sign their rights away. But there are numerous reasons for why they might do that. Because this affects my community, I feel it is important. We speak up because they can't do it themselves."

Arthur Dong's Hollywood Chinese


"Hollywood Chinese,'' Arthur Dong's latest documentary, is now playing at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco, and runs through April 24.

The film traces the history of Chinese Americans in feature films, starting with the late 1800s. Dong does a nice job of interviewing folks who are active in Hollywood, including directors Ang Lee, Wayne Wang and Justin Lin, to name a few.

What's nice about this particular film is that I think it has appeal beyond Chinese and Asian Americans. It's really an interesting look at how the industry has changed - and how some things have not.

The interviews with actors, writers and directors are quite good. Candid, and introspective responses from all. Though the topic is pretty broad and spans 100 years, the film is also very coherent and a pretty seamless 90 minutes.

One of the most interesting tidbits about this film is that through the 10 years in the making of it, Dong rediscovered and helped restore a 1916-17 Chinese American feature film, "The Curse of Quon Gwon," the first known Chinese American film made by Oakland resident Marion Wong. It was basically sitting in a basement for decades. Dong was able to get 2 reels of the black and white silent film, or 35 minutes, restored by the Academy Film Archive.

There is a special one-time screening tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the Grand Lake Theater at 7:30 p.m. Audience members will get to watch the restored "The Curse of Quon Gwon" preceding the documentary. "Hollywood Chinese" includes snippets from the film, but otherwise this is one of the few chances to see 35 minutes of the 1916-17 historic film.   

Before It's Too Late

Until a couple of days ago, I didn't pay that much attention to what was going on in San Francisco with the Olympic torch situation.

But seeing how big the demonstrations were, and how much media attention they've garnered, and how huge the Beijing Olympics are going to be, I realized that I have to say something.

I've read the various media accounts of the protests, most of which were framed as "anti-China," "pro-China, "pro-Tibet," or some other form of "anti/pro" dichotomy.

The fact of the matter is, it's much more blurry and complicated, at least for me. I think many more Chinese Americans feel torn or conflicted rather than "pro-China" about the Olympics and about the Tibet issue. There is no monolithic Chinese American community, or voice.

There are in fact many ties between the Chinese and Tibetan communities. Though many prominent Chinese Americans like torchbearer/activist/writer Helen Zia, scholar Ling-chi Wang, and actor/director Joan Chen have voiced their perspectives, I would like to add mine to the milieu of growing voices out there.

Probably like the folks mentioned above, I have a sense of ethnic and national pride in being Chinese. I also detest the hateful and unnecessary Chinese/China-bashing that has been around, since, oh, Chinese people first landed here in America.

But I also sympathize with the struggles of Tibetan and Burmese, and ethnic minorities from Burma like the Karen people.

Why We March

Here is a piece written by my partner Tony Nguyen about the current peace movement. This is what he has to say about it:

I wrote this piece to reflect on the Strength in Unity contingent over these past five years and because of conversations I had with other folks of color who see the anti-war movement as purely a white middle class thing and therefore not "their struggle."  This piece is my own personal reflection and process, and doesn't necessarily represent the views and opinions of the various groups that make up our contingent. 


The front of the March 19, 2008 Strength in Unity contingent led by members & friends of ILPS, BAYAN USA, and Arab Resource & Organizing Center. Photo by Jamison Boyer (

Strength in Unity - Five Years Later, We March for Peace and for Each Other
by Tony V. Nguyen
When you think of the U.S. peace movement what comes to mind? Cindy Sheehan? Code Pink? Berkeley? 
This individual, this group, and this city are all important players in the current U.S. movement for peace in Iraq, and their brave and tireless contribution should be commended. But there are many, many others around the country who have also been voicing their desire for true peace and justice since before the war on Iraq began. 
And not all of them are white.  

AZN Award Nominees Announced

AZN announced their list of nominees today for their 3rd annual Asian Excellence Awards. Though AZN TV is now defunct, the (award) show must go on...

This year's hosts are Carrie Ann Inaba, a judge on Dancing With the Stars, and MADtv actor/comedian Bobby Lee.


This is the same award show that Adam Carolla made fun of on the radio a couple years ago. (insert angry emoticon here).

Ping Pong Playa

Here's a film to watch if you're itching for some good laughs: Ping Pong Playa, directed by Jessica Yu.

The film focuses on Christopher "C-Dub" Wang, a 25-year-old slacker who would rather play video games all day and dream about starting up a t-shirt biz than get a job. Oh yeah, and he wants to play in the NBA. Jimmy Tsai, who also co-wrote the film, plays the role with good comedic timing. Among some of his character's notable traits is that he likes to school kids half his size (and age) on the basketball court.

My Piglet

So it's been, like, months since I've blogged here. Mostly because since the arrival of my little one, I've have limited time. But also, this is the Hyphen blog, and I'm thinking, my life has been revolving around this little fellow who eats/pee/poos/sleeps and hardly leaves time for me to do the same, and why would anyone here want to read about that?


By William Wong

For nine years (1989-1998), I wrote a regular column for AsianWeek, the San Francisco-based weekly newspaper that bills itself as “The Voice of Asian America” but that now has egg foo yung on its face for its incredibly stupid decision to publish a racist rant (“Why I Hate Blacks”) by a young writer named Kenneth Che-Tew Eng, or as AsianWeek labels his (now former) column, “God of the Universe.”

Humble Creator

Gene Yang's Catholic-inspired comics.

COMIC BOOK CREATOR Gene Luen Yang is best known for his retelling of the Chinese trickster tale of the Monkey King in American Bom Chinese (First Second Books), the first graphic novel ever nominated for the American Book Award.

Though he didn't win, he was showered with praise at the 2006 awards ceremony in New York City by literati, as comic book enthusiasts hailed this as an honor for the genre.