From (His)tory to Your Story: Generation A - ER goes to MAASU
Over the weekend, Elephant Rebellion packed into a van and headed to the Midwest Asian American Students Union Spring Conference hosted in the Twin Cities. MAASU is a “non-for profit organization that began in response to a need for political unity among Asian American students in the Midwest.”
The 2016 conference is centered around the theme “From (His)tory to Your Story: Generation A”, developed in order to acknowledge and understand the individual and collective narratives of Asian Pacific Islanders. The day of the conference was unexpectedly warm and students sprawled across the great lawn of the University of Minnesota to enjoy the sun and participate in workshops.
In response to the theme, Elephant Rebellion developed “The Art of Storytelling Thru Hip-Hop”. This workshop consists of sharing the art and legacy of John Vietnam, followed by interactive writing and creative exercises. The workshop successfully engaged a large audience and provoked open, thoughtful responses. The intimacy and honesty of this gathering within such a large conference was remarkable, as was the realization that all around us, human individuals were experiencing similar awakenings.
A full day of workshops was followed by a banquet and show. Many in the audience sported traditional garb, representing and celebrating their heritage; all were dressed to the nines. Before an audience of several hundred, Elephant Rebellion opened up the set for Bambu, a Filipino rapper and lyrical storyteller from L.A who had the entire dinner party on their feet. ER was honored to precede, on the very same stage, Lazy Hmong Woman Productions, who dazzled us with their poignant wit and their spring roll un-rolling abilities, Naomi Ko, who seamlessly blended smutty Harry Potter fan fiction with self discovery, and Jenny Yang, who split our sides and is paving the way for Asian female comics.
The night’s stage performance was a demonstration of art and human spirit that allowed us to examine ourselves and the world we live in through humor, anguish, and pride. The combination of these sentiments is often incongruous, but all too familiar. Living as an immigrant and assimilating to a Western culture can be isolating, but it is a reality faced by so many living in the U.S. By strengthening community and breaking down walls, these unifying hardships can be addressed openly and used to strengthen one another. The essence of this unification and of the conference itself was perhaps best expressed by ER’s very own Stephanie Camba in her keynote speech, which received standing ovation.
By Grace Phan Jones