Responsive image

The AAWW proudly presents The Counterculturalists—our live event and essay series dedicated to the idea that communities of color can constitute a counterculture. Welcome to the strange, oppositional, alternative spaces of color that thrive at the margins. Not your safe space, not your corporate diversity group, not your model minority—racial counterculture is radical in politics and avant-garde in aesthetics. We will not be assimilated.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 7pm
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 E 3rd St, New York, NY 10009

Hey Fam. You gotta drop whatever you're doing and come celebrate Jeff Chang's new book Who We Be: The Colorization of America. The author of Can't Stop: Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Jeff now presents a recent cultural history of American race in Who We Be. We're talking the Obama Hope poster, the invention of multiculturalism, Faith Ringgold, Colors magazine, Ishmael Reed, the Southern Strategy, Glenn Ligon, Basement Workshop, the Dreamers and Arizona's war on immigrants, corporate marketing, and Trayvon Martin. Jay Smooth (ill doctrine and WBAI's Underground Railroad) talks about the rise of hip hop. National Book Award finalist Jessica Hagedorn (Dogeaters, Toxicology) revisits the early days of polycultural bohemia. Historian Vijay Prashad (The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World) dissects the failures of multiculturalism. Conceptual photo-artist Hank Willis Thomas (Pitch Blackness, MOMA, Guggenheim) talks about the broadening of the post-multicultural image. CultureStrike's Sonia Guinansaca talks about Undocumenting, the first program to nurture undocumented writers, who'll be published in the upcoming anthology Home in Time of Displacement. The New Inquiry Editor-in-Chief Ayesha Siddiqi provokes. The kick-off for the Asian American Writers' Workshop's Counterculturalists series. Buy tickets now at the Nuyorican website.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 6-8 PM
El Museo del Barrio
1230 5th Ave (btwn. 104th and 105th), New York
Free Admission!

The second event in The Asian American Writers' Workshop's Counterculturalists series highlights some of the rebels and bohemians of color who are often erased from histories of the left and the avant-garde. Watch a clip from American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, the new documentary film about 98-year-old Detroit-based Asian American activist legend Grace Lee Boggs. Poet Urayoán Noel—author of In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam—talks about avant-garde poet Pedro Pietri, the Nuyorican Movement co-founder who called himself a reverend, donned black robes and carried a large collapsible cross. (He died, he said, in the Vietnam war.) New School Professor Carolina González links together Jesús Colón, father of the Nuyorican movement, and Afro-Trinidadian essayist C.L.R. James, one of the central intellectuals of post-colonial Marxism and the African diaspora. Learn about the man Edward Said called "the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of Asia and Africa"—Pakistani intellectual Eqbal Ahmad. Columbia University Professor Manan Ahmed talks about this anti-nationalist scholar who was once tried for conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger. Drop by at 6pm and get a free poster screen-printed for you by the artists of CultureStrike. The discussion starts at 630pm. Co-sponsored by The Loisaida Center.



Thursday, December 4, 2014 7pm
DATE CHANGE: December 5, 2014, 7pm
Dumbo Sky
10 Jay St #903, Brooklyn, New York
New York
Free adminission!

Some thirty years after her sudden death, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's work remains a force in the fields of visual arts, avant-garde poetry, and feminist theory. From her early scholarship on French deconstruction to her video and performance art to her landmark book Dictee, Cha carved a singular space within the history of art, a one-woman avant-garde. Her work, described, in turns, as illegible, de-colonizing, avant-garde, stuttering, provokes us into new understandings of history, language, and the body. The A/P/A Institute at NYU and Asian American Writers' Workshop are partnering to present an evening of critical reflection, with writers, scholars, and artists responding to Cha's diverse body of work. We'll screen Cha's experimental short film Permutations with an introduction from Light Industry's Thomas Beard. Poets Christian Hawkey (Ventrakl) and Myung Mi Kim (Penury, Poetics Program, SUNY Buffalo) talk about Cha's work as an experimental poet. Harvard Divinity School Professor Amy Hollywood (Sensible Ecstasy, Harvard Divinity School) discusses Cha's mysticism. Crystal Parikh (Department of English and Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, NYU) talks about Cha's role prefiguring transnational feminism. Readings by poets Jennifer Firestone (Holiday), Tonya Foster (A Swarm of Bees in High Court), and Alison Roh Park (Asian American Studies Program, Hunter College). This will be one of the most comprehensive programs--and one of the few in the last decade--to examine Cha's work. Co-presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, Belladonna, and Ugly Duckling Press. RSVP here by Tuesday, December 2.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014
University Settlement,
184 Eldridge (at Rivington), NY NY
Free adminission!

People of color make up almost 70% of New York, but ethnic neighborhoods, like Manhattan's Chinatown, are sometimes seen as exotic, abject spaces. What if we thought of them instead as alternative publics—spaces that disrupt the territorial edges of the rest of the city? For the Asian American Writers' Workshop's final 2014 installation of The Counterculturalists, we focus on the urban spaces of color from Chinatown and the Lower East Side to Harlem and Queens. Film director Charlie Ahearn—the director of the legendary hip-hop/graffiti film Wild Style—will introduce and screen his short film about seminal Asian American queer painter Martin Wong. Influenced by both the 1980s East Village art scene and graffiti, spanning Nuyorican LES and Manhattan Chinatown and the Haight-Ashbury, Wong was "a painter whose meticulous visionary realism... was as culturally complex as his appearance, which was usually distinguished by a Fu Manchu mustache and a cowboy hat" (New York Times). Yasmin Ramirez—Adjunct Curator of the upcoming shows at the Bronx Museum, Presente: The Young Lords in New York and Martin Wong: Human Instamatic—discusses the Nuyorican movement and the Young Lords. Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts—the author of Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America—will set up a pop-up version of BLACKNUSS, her Harlem-based mobile bookstore. Open City Fellows Humera Afridi and Tanwi Nandini Islam discuss their work writing about communities of color for AAWW's Open City magazine. Co-sponsored by The Museum of Chinese in America, The Loisaida Center and University Settlement. Make sure to reserve your seat here before we sell out of tickets!




A former street tough and martial arts master, Alex Hing co-founded the Red Guards, the Bay Area Asian American revolutionary organization modeled on the Black Panthers. He tells Open City Fellow Esther Wang about how the Panthers inspired him to form the revolutionary countercultural group that was bombed by the Klan and helped occupy the National Mall. (He also talks about punching out Frank Chin.)




Scott Kurashige reflects on the legendary Asian American activist Yuri Kochiyama, who passed away on June 1, 2014. Forcibly relocated by the US government into an internment camp during WWII, Yuri became one of the central activists of the Asian American movement. She held Malcolm X immediately after he’d been assassinated, pushed for reparations for Japanese-American internees, and occupied the Statue of Liberty to fight for Puerto Rican independence. Read the piece here.




We remember revolutionary activist and jazz composer Fred Ho, who passed away on April 12, 2014. In a piece originally written in 1999, Fred explains how he got his first saxophone and joined I Wor Kuen, the Asian American counterpart to the Black Panthers. In another piece from 1993, Fred charts his journey from a white-washed banana who self-identified with Spock into a Third-World Marxist. We also published remembrances by his friends and students. Kanya D'Almeida recounts what it was like to stand by Fred's death bed. Marie Incontrera of Eco-Music Big Band talks about the time Fred Ho told her music was boring. Purdue University Professor Bill Mullens talks about how Fred Ho schooled him—not just on how to be an anti-racist intellectual, but on how to live.




In our first Counterculturalists installment, we focus on agitator and global south historian Vijay Prashad. Called "our Franz Fanon" by Amitava Kumar, Vijay connects domestic anti-racism (Karma of the Brown Folk) with an more internationalist project to revive the legacy of Third World solidarity (The Darker Nations: A People's History of The Third World). Vijay tells Aziz Rana (The Two Faces of American Freedom) that the election of Barak Obama heralded the end of multiculturalism, but not the end of racism. In a rare personal essay—First Days in Radical America—Vijay recounts how he became an activist: as a student campaigner against apartheid in the late '80s. Finally, check out video from our event with Vijay at the Brecht Forum. You'll learn how the model minority went on probation, why we were kicked out of Iraq, and why Obama's a smooth criminal.




Manan Ahmed
Kazembe Balagun
Roberto Bedoya
Jeff Chang
Latasha Diggs
Carolina Gonzalez
Jessica Hagedorn
Andrew Hsiao
Hua Hsu
Kellie Jones
Amita Manghnani

Executive Director
Ken Chen

Managing Editor
Jyothi Natarajan

Interim Open City Editor
Carolina Gonzalez

Program Assistant
Nadia Ahmad

CultureStrike Editor
Sharmila Venkatasubban

Site design by Producer Brittany Gudas

Previous AAWW Program Staff assisted in conceptualizing this program:
Jennifer Pan, Jane Kim, Maryam Gunja, Ryan Wong.