Writer David Mura will conduct a conversation on the arts and race with three nationally prominent Asian American artists — poet and spoken word artist Bao Phi, community organizer Linda Her, and dancer/choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, founder of the Ananya Dance Theatre.
Topics will include the position of Asian Americans in American society, culture and history; the intersections between Asian Americans and other communities of color; and the complex issues facing Asian American artists. A key subject will be Asian American arts activism, including ADT’s mission of social justice, the protests over the Ordway’s production of Miss Saigon, and the shooting of Fong Lee by a Minneapolis policeman.
Among Asian Americans, the Twin Cities have come to be regarded as a key center for Asian American arts and activism. Locally, though, Asian Americans are still not integral to most people’s picture of Minnesota. Similarly, in so many conversations about race, Asian Americans are either not included or are relegated to an “add on” to other people of color. The panel will address these silences, occlusions and omissions, and provide a more nuanced and complex view of Asian Americans and Asian American artists.
This conversation is part of a series of four conversations on the arts and race at the Loft as part of Mura’s 2015 Arts Initiative Grant. David Mura is a fiscal year 2015 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Chatterjea, dancer, choreographer, dance scholar, and dance educator, envisions her work in the field of dance as a “call to action.” She is the artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre. Chatterjea also is a professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Her book, Butting out! Reading cultural politics in the work of Chandralekha and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, was published by Wesleyan University Press in 2004.
Phi is the author of the poetry collection Song I Sing (Coffee House Press). He has been a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, and appeared on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. His work has been featured in the Best American Poetry, Screaming Monkeys, and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. His poetry on CD includes Refugeography and The Nguyens EP. He performs across the country, acts as an Asian American community member, is a member of the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition, and was a member of the Justice for Fong Lee Committee. He is the program director of the Loft Literary Center. He is a fiscal year 2015 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Linda Her is associate director of Asian American Organizing Project and a Hmong American, queer-feminist writer/poet. Her has experience in community organizing on LGBTQ and racial justice, and worked on a range of social justice issues, civic engagements, political campaigns, committees, and nonprofit organizations. In 2012, she was the St. Paul field organizer for President Obama’s re-election campaign and co-organized the Asian Americans for Obama program that incorporated efforts to defeat the Marriage and Voter ID amendments. Her is a community organizer with Trust Project Mn (fb.com/TrustProjectMN) and Midwest Solidarity Movement (fb.com/MidWestSMovement).
David Mura is a poet, creative nonfiction writer, fiction writer, critic, playwright, and performance artist. Mura has written two memoirs: Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, which won a 1991 Josephine Miles Book Award from the Oakland PEN and was listed in the New York Times Notable Books of Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity (1996). His novel, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (2008), was a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Prize and Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award. Mura’s newest poetry collection is The Last Incantations. His second, The Colors of Desire (1995), won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. His first, After We Lost Our Way, won the 1989 National Poetry Series Contest. His book of literary criticism is Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto & Mr. Moto: Poetry & Identity in the University of Michigan’s Poets on Poetry series. In 1993, Mura and African American writer Alexs Pate created a multi-media performance piece, Secret Colors, about their lives as men of color and Asian American-African American relations. A film adaptation of this piece, Slowly This, was broadcast in the PBS series ALIVE TV in July/August 1995.