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For the Asian American conference fanatic, February 9 posed a difficult situation: should she opt for the Bay Area Asian Pacific American Law Student Association conference with the likes of Helen Zia and Angela Oh? Or should she attend the Committee on Pilipino American Studies conference featuring Jessica Hagedorn? Fortunately both conferences were held at UC Berkeley, giving the local APA conference freak the chance to attend both.
Although organized by two separate bodies, APALSA and ComPASs drew on the same theme the importance of connecting with the APA community at a basic level. The students attending APALSAs second annual conference, clad in business suits and ready to schmooze, were receptive to Helen Zia, the conferences opening speaker.
Zia, who recently released the book My Country vs. Me with Wen Ho Lee, pointed out the hand Asian American lawyers have had in landmark cases involving APAs, such as the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, Japanese American internment reparations, and the campaign finance scandal in the late 1990s. In these and other instances, Zia said young lawyers were always behind the efforts, propelling the APA cause into the national limelight. Equally importantly, Zia discussed the future of the APA community and where APA lawyers fit in the picture.
We have reached a critical mass, where people like yourselves arent afraid to use your voices, Zia said. She then referred to one of the biggest issues facing APAs today, racial profiling, emphasizing the roles that young lawyers will have to fill. You, especially as lawyers, have your work cut out for you.
In line with the conferences theme, Crossing Boundaries, the list of speakers for the day included activist Yuri Kochiyama and lawyer Angela Oh, who was appointed to the President Initiative on Race in 1997.
Across campus dozens of members of the Pilipino American community gathered to discuss the status of Pilipino American Studies at every level of education. On the Verge: Conversations on Pilipino American Studies was organized by the Committee on Pilipino American Studies, a student group based at UC Berkeley that is currently lobbying for a Pilipino American tenure-track professor.
Among the many speakers and attendees were Jessica Hagedorn, author of Dogeaters; Leny Mendoza Strobel, a Pilipina professor at Sonoma State; and Dawn Mabalon, who is currently teaching Pilipino American history at UC Berkeley. Also in attendance were students and teachers from all levels of education and from all over the state, including students from UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UCLA, community organizers, artists, and Pilipino and non-Pilipino professors. One of the conferences main accomplishments was simply providing a forum where such a diverse group could meet to discuss a common concern.
Again, the importance of community connections was a hot topic of discussion, especially between students. Most at the conference agreed that the issue of Pilipino American Studies is important for all students. The problems are organizing an effort that includes everyone and keeping up with different groups fighting for a common cause.
We need to recognize the movements that are going on at other campuses, said ComPASs organizer and panelist Dexter Ligot-Gordon.
The final panel focused mainly on the efforts at Berkeley, including the history of ethnic studies and where Pilipino American Studies sits in the discipline. It was during this portion of the conference when many of the attendees and panelists spoke most passionately.
Frankly, the students at this university are tired of working. We shouldnt have to sacrifice our time doing something the University should be doing for us, said Karmela Herrera, a ComPASs organizer and panelist.
Her words did not go unheard; also in attendance were several high-profile figures from UC Berkeley, including Ling-chi Wang and Elaine Kim from the Ethnic Studies Department, and Dean of Social Sciences George Breslauer.
Whether or not ComPASs meets its goal of obtaining a position for a Pilipino American Studies professor, the conference has surely launched the issue to a more prominent place for discussion.
Upon Closer Inspection
The SMILE Business
20th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival:A Preview
Racial Reconciliation with the Protestant Church
the Asian Pacific American Male
articles by marites mendoza:
Kearny Street Workshop (hb 5.1)
APA Conferences (hb 5.3)
Illicit Trade (hb 5.4)