Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month is celebrated every May in the U.S. It is a month dedicated to recognize and celebrate Asian Americans’ influence and contribution to their country. For me, as someone born and raised in Hong Kong, I’m only familiar with a handful of East Asian American artists. There is a certain kind of remoteness to understanding the experience and culture of Asian American communities. However, through their works I’m able to learn more about the U.S. as a country, its communities and culture. Despite the recent rise in xenophobic sentiments toward Asian Americans, through the works of my favorite Asian American artists and entertainers I can still see past the hate and recognize beauty and good.
Here are some of my favorite Asian American artists and entertainers in films, music, and performing art. I’ve followed their journey for many years. During the pandemic, art became a form of therapy for me. Through their work, I’m transported to the far reaches of beauty, culture, humanity, at times in stark juxtaposition to the increased discrimination against Asian Americans in the past year.
Musician – YoYo Ma
The world-renowned cellist YoYo Ma, was named Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2020. He has been my favorite classical musician since the Silk Road Project 1998. His versatility proved by the wide ranges of music style and the cross-disciplinary collaborations he tried over the years (from the Chinese melodies in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to classical music or even Tango composed by Ástor Piazzolla). No matter which genre of music he plays, I find his music extremely therapeutic, it always brings me a deep sense of relaxation and peace of mind. Through his music, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty in the flawed. In a way, I think this is something we all need during these trying times.
During the COVID restrictions, he frequently shared his music through his YouTube channel (search for #songsofcomfort). By doing so, I think he hoped to bring his audience comfort. Indeed his music brought me much needed sense of calm during a period filled with anxiety, fear and uncertainty. In March 2021, he gave an ad-hoc performance for 15 mins at the vaccination clinic at the Berkshire Community College in Massachusetts for his 2nd coronavirus vaccine dose. According to the clinic staff, he played Ave Maria (one of my all-time favorites) in the waiting room which brought so much joy and peace to the working staff and people in waiting. I’m touched and inspired by his kindness and generosity towards his people.
(Image credit:“Yo-Yo Ma” by ralph and jenny is licensed under CC BY 2.0)