Yesterday, Jan. 20, 2020, honoring the memory and accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., was certainly the time to reflect on heroes of this generation and past.
The African-American community has many.
When I emigrated to the United States from Thailand in 1984 -- later to become a U.S. citizen -- I pondered the question: Who are the Asian heroes that have made America great -- heroes like Dr. King, Jackie Robinson in sports, Langston Hughes in literature, champion Muhammad Ali, lesser known figures such as abolitionist Richard Allen, author James Baldwin, historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Michelle Obama and, of course, the father of her children. And then there's Academy Award winner Denzel Wasbhington, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Etc., Etc. Etc. In other words, the list of well known African-American names is long.
In comparison, who in the Asian American community can be called famous? Who are the household names?
In the field of academics, we have professor of philosophy Jaegwon Kim; designer of the Vietnam memorial Maya Lin; World Trade Center designer Minoru Yamasaki; Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos; Legal Zoom founder Brian Lee, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, filmmakers Azia Ansari, Christina Chang, John Cho, and Ang Lee; musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Joanna Wang, and fashionista Vera Wang. Of coiurse, there's also there's Andrew Yang, who's running for president, joining other political figures, including Norman Mineta and Daniel Inouye. Eleven Asian Americans have become U.S. astronauts. Can you name any of them? The field of sports also has a long list of names. We all know Tiger Woods. But can you name five more major league baseball players, football players or other golfers?
The point I am making is unlike what may be an equally long list of African-American names that evoke immediate recognition, the list of Asian American names may not be as formidable. How many are aware that Hines Ward, one of the all-time leading receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is Korean-American, or that former Chicago Cubs baseball shortstop Addison Russell is of Filipino descent.
Which is the reason we founded the newspaper ASIA, The Journal of Culture and Commerce in 2002 and the Asian Heritage Society in 2005. The newspaper, featured in the mainstream San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper twice, as well as on television and radio, is the only Asian-centric organization to be honored by the City of San Diego in receiving the San Diego Human Relations Commission Diversity in the Media Award.
The primary purpose of the newspaper and later the charity, through its annual Asian Heritage Awards, was to shine the light of accomplishment on San Diego and Southern California's Asian American community and its individual achievements, which we did religiously.
We were not the only newspaper covering the Asian communities in San Diego, or anywhere, for that matter. But we were the first to bring all Asian ethnicities together using the common denominator of English, while other forms of media focused on specific communities -- Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese, for example, and in their own languages. By using English as our tool of communication, we were able to focus on every Asian community, from Afghan to Japanese American. It was an exciting time as we produced a plethora of stories on individuals and groups and their accomplishments.
As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, we ponder whether anyone is equipped to pick up the torch. Or even moreso -- is it even necessary anymore?