Watch: Yellow Pearl: Celebrating the Birth of the Asian American Movement with Phil Tajitsu Nash, Arlan Huang, Nobuko Miyamoto, and Liz Young

Updated: 4/6/21

In 1972, the collective known as Basement Workshop in Chinatown, NYC published the art book Yellow Pearl. Yellow Pearl was originally a project meant to illustrate the music of Chris Iijima, Nobuko Miyamoto, and Charlie Chin, but grew into a 57-page compilation of writing, art, and music by over 30 Asian American artists. The introduction of the collection reads:

“YELLOW PEARL is a collection of the creative talents of young Asian Americans. It is also an expression of an emerging consciousness of being Asian in America. We need to write about the War, Attica and our people’s history. We need to express our loves, our loneliness and our dreams. Through YELLOW PEARL we share what we feel, what we think and what we are with our brothers and sisters.”

Yellow Pearl introduction by Arlan Huang and Takashi Yanagida

On Wednesday, April 7th at 11:30 AM PST // 2:30 PM EST, watch the #HERITAGEiRL livestream below as artists-activists Nobuko Miyamoto, Elizabeth (Liz) Young, and Arlan Huang, reminisce about the Basement Workshop, Asian Women United, the Yellow Pearl Project, and the people and groups that made it happen. This program will be facilitated by Phil Tajitsu Nash from the University of Maryland. Click below to watch.

To access the real-time live captioning simulcast that will also be provided for the program, click here.

Artwork by John Yue

Nobuko MIyamoto is an artivist who uses song, dance and theater to explore ways to reclaim and decolonize our minds, bodies, histories, and communities, while creating solidarity across cultural borders. As part of the Asian American Movement, she created (with Chris Iijima and Charlie Chin) the iconic album A Grain of Sand (1973, Paredon/Smithsonian Folkways). In 1978, she established Great Leap, a Los Angeles-based organization devoted to creating musicals, concerts, albums, music videos and, most recently, FandangObon — a festival of art, cultures, earth.  Nobuko’s new album 120,000 STORIES has just been released by Smithsonian Folkways, and in June 2021, her memoir, Not Yo’ Butterfly: My Long Song of Relocation, Race, Love and Revolution will be published by University of California Press.  

Poem by Pamela Eguchi, Artwork by Tomie Arai

Elizabeth Miu-Lan Young co-founded InterChange Consultants in 1987 and has gone on to give hundreds of workshops and programs all over the world for students, government and corporate employees, administrators, athletes, and community groups. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with extensive training in Organizational Development, Liz was active early in NYC’s Chinatown Health Clinic and Asian Women United, served as a senior research associate to groundbreaking African American scholar Kenneth B. Clark, taught the earliest Asian American Experience courses at Hunter College and the University of Southern California, and served as the first director of Project Reach – an innovative program to help at-risk youth in Chinatown. Her lively programs, with titles like “Kick Butt!! Just Not Your Own,” combine serious topics with humor, honesty and empathy.

Poem by Eileen Yip, Artwork by Fay Chiang

Arlan Huang was the Co-coordinator for the Yellow Pearl Project, a pioneering Asian American multimedia effort in NYC’s Basement Workshop, that used graphic arts, photography, music, poetry and prose to capture the earliest awakenings of the Asian American Movement in NYC and nationwide. Arlan created public murals at Cityarts Workshop, helped form Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network, and developed exhibits for the Museum of Chinese in America. A respected glass blower, sculptor and oil painter – with training from the Pratt Institute and San Francisco Art Institute – Arlan has also thrived in the commercial art world by designing works for major galleries, museums, hospitals, school systems, and government buildings in the U.S. and Japan.

Poem by Curtis Choy

Phil Tajitsu Nash teaches Asian Pacific American history, art, and public policy courses, and has served as Founding Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center, Staff Attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and Curator of the APA Program at the Smithsonian Institution’s 2010 Folklife Festival. He has taught APA courses for over thirty years at City College of New York, Yale University and UMD, and also is affiliated with the University of Maryland Latin American Studies Center, based on his decades of work with Native Americans in North America and Brazil on human rights, culture, and language issues. His current activities include research on Nipo-Brasileiros (Japanese Brazilians) and support for the redress efforts of Japanese Latin Americans unjustly interned during World War II.

Poem by Curtis Choy

The program is co-sponsored by the Association for Asian American Studies and the Smithsonian Institution (Asian Pacific American Center, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, National Museum of American History). This program is supported by the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, Federal Funds administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

Poem by Iona Eng, Artwork by Jim Wong
Photo L-R: Fay Chew, Lydia Tom, Takashi Yanagida, Lisa Abe at the original Basement Workshop. Photo by Hoyt SooHoo, collection of Arlan Huang

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