Words by Samantha Pak
As 2022 comes to a close, we’re looking back on some of the highlights of the past year.
While our biggest high point here at JoySauce was our launch in the spring, a lot has happened in AA+PI news in the past 12 months.
Here’s a look back at the past year:
We are very proud to be #VeryAsian
During a short news segment about New Year’s food, St. Louis-based journalist Michelle Li briefly mentioned one of the dishes she as a Korean American enjoys for ringing in the new year. Apparently, this was too much for one viewer, who called in to let Li know just how offensive she found those three seconds, calling Li “very Asian” and that “she can keep her Korean to herself.”
This could’ve been a dark way to start the year, but instead, it became a rallying cry for our community. People took to social media, posting their own favorite Asian New Year’s dishes, as well as other aspects of their identities that made them proud to be #VeryAsian. This all led to Li starting the Very Asian Foundation, which supports and provides resources to expand the telling of Asian stories and experiences, and provides grants to organizations working within Asian communities.
To learn more about how Li turned racism into lemonade, check her out here on JoySauce!
AA+PI excellence at the Winter Olympics
The Olympics are always a highlight of any year and the 2022 Winter Games were no exception, and AA+PI athletes made the podium in numerous sports in Beijing.
One of the high points of the games was the Quad King himself, Nathan Chen. Chen took home the gold medal in men’s figure skating. Free skating to a medley of Elton John’s songs, Chen even caught the attention of the global superstar, and later starred in the music video for the acoustic version of John’s and Britney Spears’ “Hold Me Closer.” Chen was also part of the U.S. team that placed second in the figure skating team event. Other AA+PI members of the silver medal-winning team were Vincent Zhou, Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), and Madison Chock.
In the women’s snowboarding halfpipe, Chloe Kim successfully defended her title, winning and becoming the first two-time gold medalist in the event at the ripe old age of 21.
Freestyle skier Eileen Gu also made headlines during the Olympics—and not just for winning medals (three in total: gold for the halfpipe and the first-ever big air event, and silver for slopestyle). Gu, who was born a U.S. citizen, also made the news because she competed for China at the games.
AA+PIs take on Washington at Unity March
The first-ever large-scale march led by members of the AA+PI community took place in June in Washington, D.C. The aim of the Unity March was to speak up and speak out against AA+PI hate crimes, with goals to celebrate diversity, amplify voices and reimagine our future. In addition to people from the Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas, the march included allies from other different racial groups.
Speakers included trans rights activist Geena Rocero, youth poet laureate Alexandra Huynh, actressTamlyn Tomita, and civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Hate crime survivor Esther Lee also shared her story, and the importance of not diminishing our experiences and fighting to be heard.
BTS takes a break
Beloved K-pop boy band, BTS took over the news cycle in 2022.
The group’s announcement in June that they were taking a break to pursue solo ventures led to heartbroken fans and plunging stocks. As a result, Hybe, the entertainment company behind the musical juggernaut clarified that the group wasn’t taking a hiatus, but just focusing on solo projects at the moment. As much as we love BTS, these guys have earned this well-deserved time off—and reminded us of the importance of taking a break every now and then.
The group also made headlines when their record label announced that all seven members would be signing up for military service. In South Korea, all able-bodied men between 18 and 35 are required to serve in the military for 18-21 months, so it was nice to see BTS didn’t play the celebrity card to shirk their civic duties. The first member to report for duty was Jin (whose real name is Kim Seok-jin), who began his service earlier this month.
The comeback of Constance Wu
Constance Wu came back this year. After disappearing from the public eye for a few years, the actress released a new film (Lyle, Lyle Crocodile) and memoir (Making a Scene). Wu had stepped back after receiving harsh and swift backlash in 2019 for tweeting her dismay at the renewal of her show, Fresh off the Boat.
While promoting her film and book, Wu addressed being “canceled” and how the comments she received at the time landed her in the hospital after she attempted to take her own life. Sadly, much of the hate she got for “being ungrateful” came from within the AA+PI community—including a message from a fellow Asian actress who called her “blight” on the community. In interviews, as well as in her book, Wu revealed that one of the reasons she was so upset was because she had been sexually harassed by a show producer. This was before the #MeToo movement, so Wu didn’t think anyone would believe her. She also didn’t want to “stain the reputation” of the only AA+PI show at the time.
Wu’s situation only further highlighted the need for more, and nuanced representation of our community. We need to be allowed to make mistakes because putting people on a pedestal of perfection is not only unrealistic, but it puts so much pressure on people, it can only end badly.
SEADRA bill introduced to Congress to support SE Asians facing deportation
In the fall, the Southeast Asian Deportation Relief Act (SEADRA) was introduced to Congress, a bill that would limit the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to detain and deport individuals from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. As we’ve previously written, the threat of deportation “has harmed and burdened the largest refugee community ever to be resettled in the United States.”
Many Southeast Asians came to the United States as refugees after a number of U.S.-involved conflicts in their home countries. But after arriving in the states, folks received little support following these traumatic experiences. So this bill, which addresses the communities specifically, is a step in the right direction for the United States to right some of the wrongs and heal some of the harm it has caused over the decades.
Anna May Wong becomes the first Asian American on U.S. currency
The first Asian American movie star, Anna May Wong (1905-61), continued her trailblazing ways when she became the first Asian American to be featured on U.S. currency in October. The U.S. Mint released 300 million quarters with Wong on the “tails” side of the quarter, opposite George Washington. The $0.25 coin is part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, which launched this year and will run through 2025. Wong’s quarter was the last to be released this year, alongside fellow badasses Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, and Nina Otero-Warren.
Affirmative action comes before the Supreme Court
In the world of academia, affirmative action was a big hot-button issue and AA+PIs were at the center of it. Two anti-affirmative action cases came before the U.S. Supreme Court in October, involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In both cases, the organization Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued the schools to get rid of race-conscious admissions—a practice that was started to bring equity and diversity to campuses.
SFFA is led by conservative white man Edward Blum, who has been trying to get rid of affirmative action for years. This time around, he’s using AA+PIs, arguing that affirmative action discriminates against us, and playing into the model minority myth to prop up his case. Thus pitting AA+PIs against other non-white racial groups who have been disadvantaged by the system for generations.
In reality, the relationship between AA+PIs and affirmative action is complicated. Certain metrics in the admissions process might work in some people’s favor, but not for others and vice versa. And we need to remember this. So many of us have used the phrase “not all Asians…” to point out that our community—like any community—is not a monolith. The same goes for education.
AA+PI make history during the midterms
Ever since I came to this country in 1972, I’ve never stopped being excited for the promise of America.— Aruna Miller (@arunamiller) November 9, 2022
I will never stop fighting to make sure that promise is available to everyone.
And this promise begins with a commitment to deliver a Maryland where we Leave No One Behind.
In politics, we saw a lot of firsts in November during the midterm elections as several newly elected AA+PI officials made history —at all levels of government.
Kenneth Mejia was elected as Los Angeles’ city controller and will be the city’s first Filipino American elected official and the first Asian American to assume a citywide office. In Illinois, Nabeela Syed, at 23, will be the youngest member of Illinois’ General Assembly—she also flipped the 51st Legislative District from red to blue. Salman Bhojani and Suleman Lalani will become Texas’ first Muslim legislators for house districts 92 and 76, respectively. In Rhode Island, Victoria Gu and Linda Ujifusa will be the first Asian Americans elected to the state legislature, representing the 38th and 11th legislative districts, respectively. Aruna Miller made history twice when she was elected to be Maryland’s next lieutenant governor—she’ll be the first South Asian woman and first immigrant elected to the position. And at the national level, Shri Thanedar will be Michigan’s first Indian American in Congress.
Of course, we want to live in a world where there are no more firsts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate these wins as they’re happening.
AA+PIs on screens big and small
As soon as Everything Everywhere All at Once was released in theaters in March, it became the talk of Hollywood. We saw how an everyday woman (in this case, also an immigrant) had the power to save not just the world, but the multiverse. And while many of us in the AA+PI community already knew how awesome Michelle Yeoh is, the rest of the world finally woke up to her greatness.
This year, there were AA+PI-led projects for fans of all ages and genres. For young viewers, there was Pixar’s Turning Red on Disney+—though the coming-of-age film also gave Millennials a good dose of nostalgia (especially those with a particular love of pop boy bands). Hulu’s Fire Island was the queer AA+PI Pride and Prejudice remake of our dreams. The MCU expanded and introduced us to Ms. Marvel, the first-ever Muslim superhero. Comedian Jo Koy brought us Easter Sunday, a comedy featuring a Filipino American family. And for sports fans, there was 38 At The Garden, an HBOMax documentary on Jeremy Lin and that moment in time known as Linsanity.
That’s a wrap on 2022. Here’s looking to 2023 for more great AA+PI news!
Published on December 27, 2022
Words by Samantha Pak
Samantha Pak (she/her) is an award-winning Cambodian American journalist from the Seattle area and assistant editor for JoySauce. She spends more time than she’ll admit shopping for books than actually reading them, and has made it her mission to show others how amazing Southeast Asian people are. Follow her on Twitter at @iam_sammi and on Instagram at @sammi.pak.
Art by Robinick Fernandez
Robinick Fernandez is a prolific and visionary creative director whose work blends the worlds of art, architecture, design, and fashion. For two decades Robinick Fernandez connected art with design for global brands, and his work has left an impact having navigated across many countries and cultures including Europe, Asia, the United States and beyond. For his next venture, he celebrates his Filipino American roots as Creative Director for JoySauce, being committed to cultural storytelling, sustainability, forward-thinking design, and conscious content .