Asian Pacific Americans
Date: June 24, 2010
Place: The National Mall, Washington DC
Interview: Phil Tajitsu Nash, Asian Pacific Americans Program, Smithsonian Institution
Phil, curator of the Asian Pacific American Program, talks about the Asian Pacific Americans at the Smithsonian Folklife festival.
A: Tajitsu Nash
Q: Phil Tajitsu Nash. He is the curator of today's celebration. Thank you so much for meeting with us.
A: My pleasure. I love Kids.gov.
Q: Thank you. So for people who don't know about the Asian Pacific American Program can you give us a little background about that?
A: Sure. Well this is the first time in 44 years that the Smithsonian is celebrating Asian Pacific Americans. Asian Pacific Americans are about 14 million people; about 4% of the population and we're spread all over the country. We are celebrating Asian Pacific Americans in the DC area during the Folklife Festival here in DC. And what that means is that we're bringing people in from 30 different countries – from 24 different Pacific Islander nations and states. We've got people who are singing, dancing, doing crafts, food, telling us about their lives; so it really has something for everything.
Q: So, now is there a difference between Asian American and an Asian Pacific American? Or are they one and the same?
A: Well, traditionally people look at Asia and they think that all of us are from Asia and yes, our ancestors came from Asia and many of us came from Asia. But what we're trying to celebrate here is Asian Pacific Americans and what that means is Americans who happen to be of an ancestry from Asia or from the Pacific Islands. Just as the way we have people who are from France or from Nigeria or from Ecuador, these people are Americans, but they happen to have their heritage from somewhere else.
We're calling it "Local lives, Global ties." And for all the kids that are watching, it's very important that you think about yourselves as GLOBAL citizens. Yes, we're proud to be American citizens, but it's very important as this global economy to start to think about "how can we speak another language?" "How can we use another currency?"
Q: What is your favorite exhibit coming up within the next few weeks?
A: Well, we've got 10 full days of programming and frankly, every day is going to be completely different. Right now, there's somebody teaching how to make Korean kimchi; somebody's teaching us how to de-bone a chicken.
And again, these are traditions that are being preserved and at the same time transformed. And that's very important, because each of us, each kid watching this program has to realize, we all came from somewhere. Our families came from somewhere and whether or not we choose to acknowledge that, we have a heritage.
And that's very important. Frankly, everyone watching this program should go talk to your parents and grandparents right now. Talk about where they came from, how they got to where they are and what are some of the stories they feel like sharing? Because as you grow older, you realize how important it is to understand who you are. And part of who you are is who your parents are, who your grandparents are, who your great grandparents are. It's really important to see that because a lot of times their stories and their struggles are things that could inform your life.
And so you might as well start out young and get to know a little bit about that and it will make you a happier and more fulfilled person later on.
Q: Now for kids who can't make it to the festival, is there a website that they can go visit and find out more information about the festival and any type of folklife?
A: Yes, if you go to festival.si.edu, that's festival.si.edu, because we're an educational group, you'll see not only stuff related toAsian Pacific Americans, but we also have 2 other very important programs.
One is focusing on Mexico and Mexico is just not one country, it's a country that focuses on many different cultures that are there. There are people speaking a number of Native American dialects and languages. It's fascinating to see all the different cultures. There are 18 different groups coming in, teaching us about their cooking styles, for example.
And then there's a program called Smithsonian Inside Out, where people from the various Smithsonian Museums are there. And we have 19 museums where there are everything from archeology, to weather, to astronomy, plant sciences. It's really a great opportunity for you to learn about anything that interests you.