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Asian America: December 2014

Compiled by Mary Tablante

  1. Patsy Mink Receives Medal of Freedom 


WASHINGTON, D.C.—The first Asian American woman in Congress, Patsy Takemoto Mink, received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24. Mink represented Hawaii and served for 12 terms. She was born and raised in Maui and became the first Japanese American female attorney in the state. Her achievements include co-authoring Title IX, which helped provide women and girls equal access to education programs such as athletics. Other Medal of Freedom recipients for Nov. 24 included Tom Brokaw, Ethel Kennedy and Stevie Wonder. The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor awarded in the country and is given to individuals who have made a meritorious contribution to the national interests of the U.S.

2. New LGBT and AAPI Liaison Appointed at White House Office of Public Engagement


WASHINGTON, D.C.—The White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) announced in November that Aditi Hardikar is the new associate director of Public Engagement. This makes Hardikar the White House’s primary liaison to the LGBT and AAPI communities. Prior to joining the White House, Aditi served as director for the Democratic National Committee, raising resources and mobilizing community leaders. She also served as the LGBT Finance Director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2013, and the Deputy Director of LGBT Voter Outreach and LGBT Finance for the 2012 Obama-Biden President Campaign.

  1. Japanese American Internment Camp Survivor Passes Away


Bainbridge, Wash.—Fumiko Nishinaka Hayashida, the oldest living survivor of the first group of Japanese Americans who were taken to internment camps from Bainbridge Island in Washington state, died at age 103 on Nov. 2. A photo of Hayashida holding her 13-month-old baby during evacuation from Bainbridge Island was circulated around the world and has been used as a symbol of internment. The photo shows her at age 31 holding her daughter, a stuffed toy and a small purse.


  1. Indian Americans Targeted in Home Invasions in New Jersey Community

Middlesex County, N.J.—Law enforcement investigated four home invasions in New Jersey’s Middlesex County that appeared to have targeted Indian Americans. In these incidents, two or more gunmen entered homes and stole cash, jewelry and electronics, reported NJ.com. The home invasions happened in late October and all of the victims are of Indian descent. One community activist told NJ.com that burglars might believe that Indian Americans are more likely to be wealthy and possibly unlikely to speak out. At least two people were assaulted during the home invasions and one person was briefly hospitalized.


  1. Fil-Am Actress Sumi Haru Dies at 75


LOS ANGELES—Filipino American Actress Sumi Sevilla Haru, who served as interim Screen Actors Guild president in 1995, passed away Oct. 16 in Los Angeles at the age of 75.  Haru’s resume included roles in “MASH,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “East of Java.” She remains the only woman of color to hold the position of SAG president, according to Variety. Haru was also the national vice president of the AFL-CIO for six years and was the first Asian American on the AFL-CIO’s council. Haru was born Mildred Sevilla, but changed her name so that Asian American actors could be better represented, reported GMA News.


  1. Bollywood Musical Coming to Broadway


NEW YORK—The 2001 movie “Monsoon Wedding” is being adapted for Broadway and will premiere in November 2015, according to NBC News Asian America. “Monsoon Wedding” is about a Punjabi family who is organizing a chaotic and expensive wedding. The film’s director, Mira Nair, announced the show’s development on Nov. 9 at the The Indo American Arts Council’s First Annual Literary Festival, and said that casting was being finalized. This will be the second time a Bollywood-themed musical will have a Broadway run. “Bombay Dreams” ran on Broadway in 2004.


  1. ABC Cancels ‘Selfie’


The ABC comedy “Selfie,” which starred John Cho, was cancelled Nov. 7 because of low ratings. Loosely based on “Pygmalion,” the show was a romantic comedy series about a woman obsessed with being famous on social media. She sought help from marketing image guru Henry, played by Cho. The last episode aired Nov. 11 and fans tried to save the show through increased viewership and a petition. The show was the first time an Asian American male was a romantic lead character on a romantic comedy television show. “Selfie” had filmed 13 episodes.


  1. Hello Kitty Café to Open in Southern California


Orange County, Calif.—By next summer, Orange County will have the first Hello Kitty Café in the continental United States. The café will have Hello Kitty-themed treats and café-style food such as sandwiches and salads. A mobile truck selling Hello Kitty doughnuts and macarons has been traveling around California and stopped at HelloKittyCon in Los Angeles in late October and early November. The first Sanrio café in the U.S. is in Honolulu. More information will be available at www.hellokittycafe.us.


  1. Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival Adds LGBT-Focused Films


PHLADELPHIA—Philadelphia’s Seventh Annual Asian American Film Festival, held Nov. 12 to 22, featured LGBT-focused films and shorts. The lineup includes “Eat with Me” and “Kumu Hina.” “Eat with Me” is a film about a mother who moves in with her estranged gay son. The movie follows their relationship as they learn more about each other through cooking and eating together. “Kuma Hina” is a documentary about a Native Hawaiian transgender woman who is a teacher, cultural practitioner and community leader. The documentary also addresses the struggle of maintaining Pacific Islander culture and values in today’s society.

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