100 Years of Hell-Raising

The Hidden History of Asian American Activism in New York City

That push is unsettling things within the Asian American activist world as well, raising questions about power and panethnicity. One activist organization that took hold in the '80s and '90s, the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence reflects this new, multiculti, largely immigrant world: its director is a second-generation Korean American woman (who succeeded a first-generation South Asian woman), and its campaigns against police brutality and government neglect have involved Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Pakistani immigrants.

Indeed, the new world of Asian American activism is perhaps the most promising ever. Grassroots Movement–born institutions like the New York Asian Women's Center, AALDEF, and Trinh Duong's CSWA, have managed to reach adulthood. Meanwhile, they've been joined by nascent gay and lesbian groups, AIDS organizations, and a new generation of politically charged artists. John Kuo Wei Tchen, director of NYU's Asian Pacific American program, remembers the '70s fondly (he was a member of Basement Workshop). But noting the grassroots movement flowering in new Asian communities, he's come to feel, he says, that for Asian American activism, "the renaissance is now."

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