We tell Asian America's stories to go beyond being seen.
As people of all backgrounds reckon with complex legacies of race, power, culture, and identity and ask themselves, “Where do I stand?” Self Evident presents reported stories and radically open conversations from the everyday Asian Americans who have been confronting this question for generations. Our mission is to empower local communities to share stories and build relationships around the value of self-representation.
Self Evident is a Studiotobe production, made with support from our listener community.
(BONUS) Hunger Strike! How Immigrant Taxi Drivers Took on City Hall
When Augustine Tang’s father passed away, Augustine decided to inherit his taxi medallion – the license that had allowed his father to drive a yellow taxi cab in New York City for decades. But the medallion came with a $530,000 debt trap and years of struggling to escape it. Augustine’s friend Kenny, a fellow taxi cab driver, committed suicide. So did several other drivers who were crushed under the weight of these impossible debts. In hopes of preventing another death, Tang joined a push by the local taxi drivers’ union, to campaign for debt relief. And eventually, city resistance to worker demands culminated in a 15-day hunger strike to convince City Hall that immigrant taxi drivers deserved a fair deal. The drivers’ struggles for livable working conditions showed how political power doesn’t just come down to votes. It’s a reminder how strong collective will can be, especially for those often silenced and ignored by our imperfect democracy.
Resources and Reading After listening, please take our survey about this story — to help us fund more stories like this one! This show mentions instances of suicide. We understand this topic may be difficult for some listeners. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255 WATCH: “Cheated, Desperate, Financially Ruined NYC Taxi Drivers Go on Hunger Strike” by Maximillian Alvarez of the Real News Network WATCH: “New York Taxi Drivers Hunger Strike for Debt Relief” by More Perfect Union READ: “‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers” by Brian Rosenthal for the New York Times READ: “How the Taxi Workers Won” by Molly Crabapple for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project READ: “Distressed Drivers: Solving the the New York City Taxi Medallion Debt Crisis” by Aaron Jacobs for Columbia Human Rights Law Review Special Thanks To Augustine Tang, Jaslin Kaur, John Duda, Kader Guerrab, Kuber Sancho-Persad, Maria Santana, Maximillian Alvarez, Michelle Faust Raghavan and Alec Saleens, and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance Media Team
Credits: Produced by Self Evident Media
Reported by Sahil Nisha, with help from Alina Panek and Janrey Serapio
Interview recordings by Sahil Nisha, Stacey Wong, and James Boo
Public protest and demonstration recordings by NYTWA, Augustine Tang, CM Zohran Mamdani, and Former CM Brad Lander
Edited by James Boo and Julia Shu
Fact checked by Harsha Nahata and Tiffany Bui
Sound mix by Timothy Lou Ly
Music by Epidemic Sound
At the Moment theme music by Satoru Ohno
Our Executive Producer is Ken Ikeda
This episode was made with support from the Solutions Journalism Network’s Advancing Democracy program
Say Goodbye to Yesterday
Amidst the ongoing crush of anti-Asian violence in America, Producer James turns to a personal source of restoration: ska music (yes, that ska music).
When he was a teenager, the do-it-yourself ska scene — and an indie record label called Asian Man — taught him to take racism seriously, embrace the road less traveled, and never wait for anyone else’s approval to be himself. But as James starts connecting with all of the Asian American ska fans he’s met over the past few years, he also starts to question how much his own memories are wrapped in a black-and-white-checkered blanket of nostalgia.
Eventually, these connections all lead to Mike Park, Korean American founder and still-only-employee of Asian Man Records — and Jer Hunter, a younger Black and queer musician who’s carrying the torch for ska music as a home for anti-racist activism.
And the more these conversations peel away the layers of nostalgia surrounding ska, the more James believes that this oft-misunderstood subculture has something real to offer in a world that can feel like it’s crumbling beneath our feet.
Resources WATCH: “Racism in East London,” an episode of the 1970s docuseries Our People by ThamesTV WATCH: The entirety of Dance Craze, the documentary about 2-Tone that hooked Mike Park (and countless others) on ska music WATCH: Skatune Network’s life-giving cover of the Koopa Troopa Beach theme from Mario Kart 64 LISTEN: Ska Against Racism 2020, the benefit compilation by Bad Time Records, Ska Punk Daily, and Asian Man Records LISTEN: SKA DREAM by Jeff Rosenstock LISTEN: “Five Miles to Newark,” the full-length debut album by Chris Erway’s high school ska-punk band, Taxicab Samurais LISTEN: Mike Park chats with Charlene Kaye on The Golden Hour podcast READ: “Tracing Ska Music’s Great Migration” by Evan Nicole Brown for Atlas Obscura READ: “The Chinese Jamaicans: Unlikely Pioneers of Reggae Music” by Tranquilheart for Spinditty READ: “It Came From the Garage: Celebrating 25 Years of Asian Man Records,” a comic by JB Roe READ: In Defense of Ska by Aaron Carnes READ: “Skatune Networks’ Jer on Pushing Ska Forward” by Eve Sicks for Reverb.com READ: “Ska’s New Generation is Here to Pick It Up Pick It Up” by Arielle Gordon for Stereogum READ: “Ska is Thriving Right Now: Here’s a Look at the DIY Scene That’s Keeping It Alive” by Andrew Sacher for Brooklyn Vegan Credits Produced, written, and sound designed by James Boo Edited by Julia Shu, with help from Cathy Erway Sound mix by Timothy Lou Ly Fact checked by Tiffany Bui and Harsha Nahata “No Guarantee” written and performed by James Boo, feat. Dorian Love on bass and Chris Erway on trombone, trumpet, and alto saxophone Ska Dream by Jeff Rosenstock; original compositions for “No Time to Skank” and pickitup” licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 Music provided courtesy of Asian Man Records: “Still Down for Tomorrow” by the Bruce Lee Band “Signature” and “You Don’t Know” by The Chinkees “Riptide 28” and “Sultan’s Cross” by Let’s Go Bowling “David Duke Is Running For President,” “Pabu Boy,” “Onyonghasayo,” and “Thick Ass Stout” by Skankin’ Pickle “Mutually Parasitic,” “Achilles’ Dub,” and “Stash” by Slow Gherkin Photos of Mike Park courtesy of Mike Park Photo of Jer Hunter courtesy of Rae Mystic Photo of band huddle at Ska Dream Nights by listener Frank Chan Self Evident theme music by Dorian Love Our Executive Producer is Ken Ikeda About Self Evident is a Studio To Be production. Our show is made with support from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program — and our listener community.
The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of caregiving work — and the ways that this work is overlooked, under-resourced, or placed as a burden on families without a sense of fairness or compassion. In this episode we’re sharing two stories that show people taking on the role of caregiver, and asking: Who gets to be healthy in a world that leaves so many people with family as their only lifeline?
“My Heartbeats”: When Indian American filmmaker Tanmaya Shekhar moved his life from Kanpur to New York City, he was running away from family and dreaming of standing on his own two feet. But when the first wave of Covid in India put both of his parents in the hospital, he found himself in a race against time to reunite with them — and then a slow process of rethinking his life’s path, as an immigrant and as a son.
“Delma and Delvin”: Guest contributor Angela Edward shares a day in the life of her aunt Delma, a middle-aged Micronesian mom whose full time job is taking care of Delvin — her 30-year old son who has always lived with cerebral palsy. After being hospitalized for Covid, Delma invites Angela over to spend time with Delvin and share how it feels to be senselessly locked out of the American healthcare system.
Resources, Reading, Viewing, and Listening
Take our listener survey! LISTEN: For Micronesians by Micronesians podcast READ: “How Decades of Advocacy Helped Restore Medicaid Access to Micronesian Migrants” and “Hirono Seeks to Restore federal Benefits for Pacific Islanders from COFA Nations,” by Anita Hofschneider for Honolulu Civil Beat READ: “A Historical and Contemporary Review of the Contextualization and Social Determinants of Health of Micronesian Migrants in the United States” by Davis Rehuher, Earl S. Hishinuma, Deborah A. Goebert,and Neal A. Palafox for the Hawai’i Journal of Health & Social Welfare READ: The Husk, a newsletter covering Micronesian people and happenings WATCH: “Reflections at 29,” a documentary short by Tanmaya Shekhar about the costs and regret of living as an immigrant filmmaker in the U.S. SUPPORT: Donate to the Hemkunt Foundation, which has been helping Indians survive, recover from, and weather the impact of Covid-19 Credits Produced by James Boo, Emily Cardinali, and Angela Edward Edited by Julia Shu Fact checked by Tiffany Bui and Harsha Nahata Sound mix by Timothy Lou Ly Self Evident theme music by Dorian Love Our Executive Producer is Ken Ikeda About Self Evident is a Studio to Be production. Our show is made with support from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program — and our listener community.
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- Cathy and the team
For so many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Spam is a beloved classic food, showing up in everything from musubi to fried rice. But behind that nostalgia is a history of war and colonization, and the inheritance of both favorite foods and hidden traumas.
Korean American playwright Jaime Sunwoo’s surreal new play, Specially Processed American Me, takes a close look at Spam’s legacies, and the lost stories of her own family — who’ve migrated twice over two generations, from North Korean to South Korea, then from South Korea to the United States.
While sharing behind-the-scenes previews of the play, Jaime and Cathy talk about the challenges and rewards of interviewing older generations, and how those conversations have helped her process her own identity as an Asian American.
Specially Processed American Me is co-produced by Dixon Place, Ping Chong and Company, and Free Rein Projects. You can learn more about Specially Processed American Me and find tickets to the show (debuting Jan 27 - Feb 19 in New York City) at speciallyprocessed.com.
Resources and Reading READ: “SON OF SPAMMEAT-PACKING HEIR GEORDIE HORMEL HAMS IT UP IN PHOENIX SOCIETY,” a funny and interesting profile of George A. Hormel II LISTEN: “Tater Pie,” sung by the Hormel Girls WATCH: Time for Talk - Hormel Girls of the 1950's WATCH: South Korea's love affair with Spam WATCH: Why SPAM Is So Popular In Guam WATCH: ACP Live Presents: Jaime Sunwoo Credits Produced by James Boo Edited by Julia Shu, with help from Harsha Nahata Fact checked by Tiffany Bui and Harsha Nahata Sound mix by Timothy Lou Ly Self Evident theme music by Dorian Love Our Executive Producer is Ken Ikeda Specially Processed American Me co-produced by Ping Chong and Company and Free Rein Projects (production photos by Toby Tenenbaum
Bonus: Diaspora DJ Roundtable 2021 Feat. Les Talusan, Arshia Fatima Haq, and Roger Bong
Community Producer Rochelle Kwan (a.k.a. YiuYiu in her DJ life) gathers the DJs who joined her in curating our first annual mixtape — to chat about how we can use music to reconnect our diaspora communities, across generations and borders.
If you haven’t heard the mixtape — which features musical selections by Les Talusan (a.k.a. Les The DJ of OPM Sundays), Arshia Fatima Haq (of Discostan), Roger Bong (of Aloha Got Soul), and YiuYiu (of Manhattan Chinatown) — then you can hear it here, or wherever you get podcasts.
Need more music? Did we miss a favorite track of yours that the world absolutely needs to hear? Then check out our public Spotify playlist (a totally separate, community-sourced playlist that we’re pairing with this mixtape) to hear a bigger range of tunes from Asian and Pacific diaspora cultures — and add your own favorites!
About the DJs Les Talusan a.k.a. Les The DJ (she/they)
Les The DJ aka Les Talusan is a DJ, photographer, curator, teaching artist and organizer whose practice immerses people in the joy of discovery, empowerment, and community. This approach is informed by Les’ own story of resilience, liberation and courage as an immigrant, mother and v/s.
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Les fell in love with music at a young age, DJing at local clubs and playing in bands. Les has lived in Washington, DC for over 20 years and continues to expand their talents, performing behind the decks in the U.S. and abroad.
Arshia Fatima Haq - @discostan | @arshiaxfatima
Arshia Fatima Haq (born in Hyderabad, India) works through film, visual art, performance, and sound, in feminist modes outside of the Western model. She is interested in counterachives and speculative narratives, and is currently exploring themes of embodiment, mysticism, indigenous and localized knowledge within the context of Sufism.
She is the founder of Discostan, a collaborative decolonial project and record label working with cultural production from South and West Asia and North Africa. She hosts and produces radio shows on Dublab and NTS, and has produced episodes for KCRW's acclaimed "Lost Notes" podcast series. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally at museums, galleries, nightclubs, and in the streets.
Roger Bong (he/him) - @alohagotsoul | @rogerbong
Roger Bong launched Aloha Got Soul as a blog in 2010 after graduating college with a journalism degree and — more importantly — after hearing DJ Muro's Hawaiian Breaks mix. Roger's love for story, sound and design has turned the blog into an independent record label that champions all genres and generations of music from Hawai‘i. He and his wife run the label from Honolulu.
Rochelle Kwan a.k.a. YiuYiu (she/her) - @rochellehkwan
Rochelle Kwan, also known as YiuYiu, is a cultural organizer, oral history educator, and DJ based on Lenape land in NYC’s Manhattan Chinatown. Bringing together her backgrounds in organizing, history, and music, she trains everyday people to build multigenerational oral history projects and engage with their communities as classrooms. As a cultural archivist, DJ, and dancer, she works to amplify arts and culture as essential to community resilience and foster intergenerational relationships and dance floors.
Rochelle’s also the Community Producer at Self Evident, where she leads our budding oral history program and helps to grow our listening party program through partnership and collaboration.
Credits Produced by Rochelle Kwan and Julia Shu Music curated by Les The DJ (a.k.a. Les Talusan), Arshia Fatima Haq, Roger Bong, and YiuYiu (a.k.a. Rochelle Kwan) Edited by James Boo, with help from Sheena Tan Fact checked by Alex Chun and Harsha Nahata Sound mix by Timothy Lou Ly Self Evident theme music by Dorian Love Our Executive Producer is Ken Ikeda
Learning from different perspectives as an Asian American myself
This show shares a lot of wonderful narratives and insights from many perspectives. I enjoy hearing from other Asian Americans about experiences we all may have encountered.
Thanks for educating me, an Asian American
Wow! Great podcast. Love that it covers all Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The individual stories are inspiring and uplifting.
Excellent storytellers working together to amplify the voices and experiences of Asian Americans. Thank you for this important work, educating people like me so we can understand and support the Asian American community.