Helen Zia kicked off the weeks-long PanAsia Festival 2006 with a talk on Wednesday evening in Hutch Commons entitled, Shades of Race, Americas Legacy of Discrimination.
An award-winning journalist and author, Zia was introduced by a member of PanAsia as an advocate for those who are marginalized in this society.
Having participated in the political movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Zia emphasized the similarities between the past and present. In what she referred to as a post9/11 world in which divergent ideas and foreigners are often classified as evil, Zia told her audience that this is your time to bring social change.
Zia criticized the lack of an Asian-American presence in TV shows, movies, and history books and discussed the medias inaccurate portrayal of Americas diverse population.
She described several examples of Asian-American influence in the U.S., lamenting how these achievements have gone MIH, or Missing In History. Understanding this absence, Zia said, is critical in assessing intolerance in the world today.
Challenging her listeners to reclaim their stories, Zia stressed the urgency with which those who are marginalized must make their voices heard.
Zias call to action drew upon Ghandis adage: We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
This is your time to make sure we dont go missing in history, she said.
The PanAsia Festival celebrates Asian and Asian-American cultural identity and explores various social and political issues affecting these groups. The Festival includes several events, ranging from lectures to performances, to be held in the coming weeks.