PanAsia brings Zia for festival

By Nora Granville

Helen Zia kicked off the weeks-long PanAsia Festival 2006 with a talk on Wednesday evening in Hutch Commons entitled, “Shades of Race, America’s 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 post–9/11 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 media’s inaccurate portrayal of America’s 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.

Zia’s call to action drew upon Ghandi’s adage: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

“This is your time to make sure we don’t 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.