Students discuss, screen movie about Asian American activist

Nathan Han

The Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective (ADPAC) held a screening of the “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” on Tuesday at the Multicultural Engagement Center, followed by a discussion about Asian American activism. 

The ADPAC is a student organization that aims to serve, educate, empower and represent the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American community at the University, said Sarah Philips, ADPAC director of operations. The discussion centered around Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American author and social activist, and how she and other similar activists influence Asian American activism today.

“(The event) was about discussing what activism looks like for Asian Americans in today’s world and how that was affected by early Asian American activists like Grace Lee Boggs,” said Ananya Murthy, biochemistry and biomedical engineering senior and ADPAC finance director.

Philips, an Asian American studies and government senior, said she chose Boggs specifically because of how her work connects with how she feels Asian American activism should look like on campus. Boggs is known for her work with black communities in Detroit and civil rights activism during the 1950s and 60s.

“What’s really cool about her is that she expressed solidarity before there was even a word for that,” Philips said. “She worked a lot with black organizations and was also a community activist. At UT, (Asian Americans) are overrepresented compared to the general population. So it’s a lot of solidarity work, and Boggs embodies that.” 

According to the University’s Fall 2018 Student Profile, 19% of students identified as Asian American. According to a 2016 estimate by the US Census Bureau, more than 6% of the general U.S. population identified as Asian American.

Lynn Huynh, women and gender studies and advertising junior, said Asian American activism is about more than solidarity. 

“Asian American activism has to be done both externally and internally,” Huynh said. “Externally, we have so much to work on, like building solidarity. But internally, there’s so much more we need to work on, like making sure we’re accounting for all Asian American communities and worrying about gentrification.”

Philips said she’s inspired by Boggs because of how she defied Asian American stereotypes.

“I really believe that we should all know who Grace Lee Boggs is,” Philips said. “We’re told Asian Americans are apolitical, and we’re told that Asians don’t do this or Indians don’t do this. But when you hear and watch about Grace Lee Boggs, there’s a lot of things she does that breaks that incorrect stereotype.”