A Conversation With Queer Filipinx Scholar And Author, Dr Anthony Ocampo
Here is the audio for our interview with Dr. Ocampo. You can find the full transcript below.
Nic Perales: Hey what’s up fam, this is Nic Perales of ColorBloq.org, I had a chance to talk with Filipinx American scholar and author, Dr. Anthony Ocampo. We got to talk about his book, the Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. We also go to talk about the place of Filipinx discourse in pan-Asian discussions as well as Filipinx Activism in 2018.
Nic: Thank you again for doing this and taking time out of your day to do this interview for us.
Dr Anthony Ocampo: Absolutely
Nic: So can you tell me what it was like to be an Academic in a Filipino household? Were there cultural barriers, anything like that?
Anthony: So I grew up in a house hold where my parents were always encouraging about school, growing up my mom was always quick to buy books, I always had a lot of books around. She was always very proud at the fact that whenever she bought math workbooks or reading books, she would always buy two grades ahead. We’re in LA so there was a ton of traffic, and so my mom and dad would always do things in the car like little math games or I remember my dad doing opposites, a stigma of opposites. You know fun games were normal for us but it was never sort of in vain of “You have to go to college!” in fact they were very like “well as long as you go to college that’s cool”.
During elementary and high school, high school in particular I remember how my parents were very encouraging with my grades but they never really policed what I was doing in school, they weren’t helicopter parents. In fact when I took honors and AP classes they were like “umm you need rest, you need to not take so many classes or you need to not join these extra curricular activities” and I always say like “I need these for college! It’s really important!”. So I was pretty self driven in that sort of way, but I think it was in part to the high school i went to it was very competitive. To be honest I applied to college, I didn’t apply anywhere in LA much to their chagrin because I just wanted to get a change in pace. So most of the school I applied to were in the Bay and the East Coast.
I think my parents were encouraging about college but when they saw I got into Columbia and Stanford and Berkeley, and I remember of course they knew objectively those were good things but they were like “Why don’t you just stay close and go to school here at UCLA, we’ll buy you a car”, you know, it’s mixed messages and I see this a lot in my research with Filipinos where they get encouraged to do really well in school and then parents, the familiar obligations come into play and sometimes act as barriers to really great educational opportunities. In some ways, I had a prototypical Filipino story in that way.
Nic: Yeah definitely, well now that we are on the topic, your book “The Latinos of Asia: How Filipinos Americans Break the Rules of Race”, so you interview a bunch of people throughout your book, I’m curious how was that creative process for you and what made you see this and say I want to write a book about this?
Anthony: People see the book, they see the final product but they don’t realize it’s the end product of like a decade and a half of mulling over this question of “Are Filipino Americans really Asian?”. Growing up in LA we have all different Asian American groups, so it’s very customary for Asian Americans to identity as their specific ethnicity; Filipino, Chinese American, Vietnamese...and the idea of identifying as Asian American doesn’t come into play until you’re at that point where you start filling out forms registering to vote, getting licensed, applying to college.
I remember the identity crisis I had of like something doesn’t fit with this Asian box, there’s something in my gut that tells me that its a little off. So thats when the question first started and when I got to college, I was at Stanford, it was a pretty diverse place; there were African Americans, Latinos or Latinx groups, there were Asian Americans. But at that time, the Asian Americans had a population, I think a negligent number of Filipino Americans especially for a school based in the Bay Area. So I would go to Asian American studies classes, student groups meetings, you know there was just something about the way about the narratives were quintessential Asian America narratives were spoken about and I thought “Wow, a lot of these don’t fit the Filipino experience”. Some people talked about things like “being Asian American you have to be the translator because your parents don’t speak the language”, but a lot of Filipinos grow up with parents who already know how to speak English. Sometimes they’d say, “oh we all know what its like growing up and having to go to Saturday language school” and the Filipinos that was never the case.
It was just these little moments of awakening that made me think, do we fit into the popular construction of Asian American identity? And so I would write about it college, in college essays, and I had an advisor in college that happened to half Mexican and half Filipino. I would never forget in the beginning of class he said, “I’m Mexican American, I’m Chicano, I’m Filipino and I think Filipinos are Pacific Latinos, not Pacific Islanders.” That (phrase) just stuck to me so yeah this professor said to me, “Hey it really seems like you are interested exploring this question, so why don’t you do a little more digging.” As time went on, I started to observe other places that I wasn’t the only Filipino American that felt this way.
When MySpace emerged, does anyone remember MySpace?, on your profile you could write all sorts of things; what city you’re from, what hobbies are. Of course they ask for your ethnicity and when I looked at my Filipino American friends, I noticed they would pick things like “Other”, “Pacific Islander”, “Mixed”, and in my head I was like, “Mixed? Homie you’re not mixed.” So I started really think about what does it mean when people deliberately misidentify from the category thats prescribed to them and what are the implications of that?
Now a days, there are all sorts of ways you can think about the implications like if a Filipino applies for a job and uploads their resume on Monster then you know a name like Antonio Rodriguez would trigger particular notions of who this person is and it probably doesn’t fit with Asian Americans. Even on things like Grindr and dating profiles, theres ways in which you can sort for people you do and don’t want to date and I thought it was really interesting how in both heterosexual and queer dating sites Filipinos will not pick Asian. I don’t know if its a functional thing or whether it sort of is in their heart to heart don’t feel Asian, but thats another arena where identity matters beyond just checking a box on a form.
So yeah, I was lucky in a sense that I had the chance to go to graduate school and spend seven years just dwelling on this question, reading about it, researching about it. More personally, the idea of writing the book came from this feeling that I wanted to write the book that Filipino kids should have been able to read, or even more personally I wanted to write the book that I should have been able to read as an 18 year old college kid back in the 90’s. So that was my mindset from the get.
Nic: Reading the book the first time around, I’ve read it a few times now, its so relatable for many Filipinos, this is a very common narrative. So when I read it I was like, “man, this is exactly my mindset on trying to figure out where do I fit. Its essentially, society pushes us into this census category, but its not necessarily correct. In some states they still use “Oriental” in official documents which is politically incorrect, but it totally goes along the lines with our Color Bloq month cover story this month which we’ve gone from Asian, to Asian American, to the acronyms API to AAPI and the list goes on, but in the end do we really belong in that category?
Anthony: Yeah, thats a tough question. One thing I wanted to add about the book is that I was writing this book, I had this idea for talking about the relationship between Filipinos, Latinos, and Asian Americans, right how does Filipinos fit amongst these different categories? And I will say that the funny thing about academia is that even if you think you have a cool idea, sometimes the academy doesn’t always see your vision for it and so thats another reason why I wrote the book because I know for a fact there are lot of Filipinos that want to pursue their ideas but the institutions that tend to either minimize or fail to understand like the intellectual standpoint that Filipinos have as this unique group that fits in between many different racial groups.
But yeah, you’re right about what you said with respect to these panethnic categories; Asian American, now we have AAPI. I think that the Filipino case, you know I did write the book for Filipino Americans, but I also wanted it to be an opportunity to understand the ways in which people from immigrant groups or ethnic groups are able to relate to people beyond the racial group they belong to, but also highlight the fact that whenever you create identities, whether its Asian American, AAPI, Native American, Latinx, its always important to be aware of who’s included and who’s excluded. So here in this book, it was spoken to Filipino Americans, but there are other questions too. Are our experiences of Asian American, Pacific Islander, women being marginalized when we tell these stories? What about the stories of LGBTQ members of these racial categories?
Even in the AAPI, its pretty well known that the Pacific Islander kind thinks it gets the short end of the stick and I think these are things we constantly have to push ourselves if we’re in social justice organizations that are based around identity, always always asking the question “Who are we excluding?”. Because when we can figure out who we are excluding or who’s not included in the narrative we tend to create better practices, better curriculums that are more inclusive of all members under that umbrella.
Nic: Sometimes I wonder, does colorism affect the way that these label work? There is a sense of which box do you check, is it because you are more light skin or is it because you don’t identify with that because you are treated a certain way in society?
Anthony: Let me just say in academics and a sociologist, we read about race and ethnicity, we research it, we have these pretty sophisticated definitions for what race and ethnicity is, but the reality is that folks on the ground, everyday folks, they don’t think about race and ethnicity in the same way. Its very common to ask someone, “What’s your race?” they might say, “I’m Filipino.” in which by a sociologist standard not technically considered a racial category but that’s their truth then that’s their truth. It’s funny you mention skin color because there’s been a lot of people I’ve met that use skin color as the litmus test to see if someone is authentically Filipino. When I was at UCLA there was an undergrad that I used to work with who is Korean American, very dark skinned in partly because I think he surfed or something, but he said that he’s constantly mistaken for Filipino and the rationalization of this is because he is dark. He would in his words, “Look typically Korean, but because his skin color he gets mistaken for Filipino all the time.” So I think that skin color does become part of this process of categorizing people for sure.
Nic: Because it works the same for Filipinos right? Sometimes the darker you are, they get mistaken for Latino or Mexican.
Anthony: Oh yeah, definitely.
Nic: And you talk a lot about that in your book as well. With this its interesting because growing up in San Jose, I didn’t have a ton of Filipino friends. I was on the East side so all my friends were either Mexican or Black. So growing up my step-father is Mexican so we hung out a lot with his family and my (Filipino) family were in Sacramento or out of state. Growing up I identified more with the Mexican culture just because I was around it so much, but then reading your book its like no, a lot of Filipinos thats their narrative in the states.
Anthony: Yeah and I think that was interesting with a lot of the Filipinos that had deep connections with say Mexican American classmates or Mexican American neighbors, is that the connection between them was often unspoken or mentioned in a joking fashion. I distinctly remember one person joking with his friends all the time, “We both got punk’d by Spain.” you know these euphemisms for Spanish colonialism, of course colonialism was much more brutal and severe than a joke like that would make it out to be but the sentiment is clear that theres a shared history and theres a particular proximity to each other that allows for that shared history that people are constantly reminded of it. Whether its in the churches or whether its at restaurants, at someone’s house watching a boxing match, when your neighbor has multiple families in one household. All of these moments Filipinos are aware of become the rational to feel this unspoken sense of closeness with Latinx people.
Nic: I definitely agree, its amazing learning more about the Filipino culture I remember growing up and I tell my mom, “Oh yeah its Day of the Dead, we gotta go to the cemetery and celebrate!” And my mom goes, “You know we celebrate that too in the Philippines.” And I go, “Really?” *laughs* You don’t really realize you really learn about it, if you’ve never been.
Anthony: You don’t, I have a lot of friends who have spent time in Latin America, or spend time in Mexico, that have also made it to the Philippines. Without fail, when I talk to them about “Oh, what was your experience like going to the Philippines?” and they’ll say like, “MAN! It felt like I was dropped off in the middle of Latin America.” It just feels the same. You can enumerate the buildings, the class structures, you can do whatever you want, but that feeling is what I think is really notable because when it comes to every day experiences of race its often about a feeling right. Whether you feel comfortable in a space has to do with the feeling. Thats what Filipinos talked about, there were a lot of moments in which they felt in their gut that there was this link between themselves and let’s say Mexican Americans. But that’s not something they would necessarily read in their junior high or high school history books. Its just something they learn in the context of their neighborhood. Which actually speaks to the importance of highlighting not just knowledge you learn from books but knowledge you learn from community.
Nic: Yeah, you know that was interesting to read your interview with Nelson, about interracial dating or how he approached it. He was saying, “Oh well I’ve never dated outside of my race” even though he’s dated Mexican women, but it was more of an intercultural dating mindset. He’s never dated someone outside of a familiar culture.
Anthony: What’s particularly notable there, is that when he sort of forgets that his previous girlfriends are Mexican. You’re talking about the gentleman on how nervous he was dating someone that was, his new girlfriend is Vietnamese and he’s like “It’s like I’m dating someone of a different race.” and then I asked, “Didn’t you just date two women who were Mexican?” and he goes, “Oh yeah you know that doesn’t count.”
Nic: I crack up with that because my ex is Mexican and to me I had that same type of familiarity you know like “Oh there’s nothing really different.” I’ve dated outside of my culture as well, to me it was difficult because there were certain things that I had to explain as to why things were the way they were. It was kind of frustrating because to me it was just the way it is and to have to explain that, it was kind of difficult. Have you talked to anybody or have you experienced anything like that, how do you navigate with that?
Anthony: I think that, when you think about the process of dating. Especially when you are dating someone more seriously. Think of all the rituals that come with that, from meeting siblings, cousins, parents, going to holiday events, or eventually for some who choose this getting married. When you date someone you aren’t just dating them, in most cases, particularly with groups like Filipinos and Mexican Americans. Chances are you’re not just dating the person, you’re probably dating their entire freaking family. That’s a lot of…that’s a big cast of characters. So obviously there are commonalities that can help grease the wheels. So in some ways like the commonality in food, in immigration experiences, for a lot of people the commonality of religion, it buffers the tension awkwardness and tension of just being people that are related to your partner.
And that stuff matters, when I analyze some of the quantitative data, when you look at Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, San Diego, these are places like San Jose, where Filipinos live along side with Mexican Americans, we find that 1 in every 5 Filipinos marries someone who’s of Latino descent. In fact, in both of those data sets that I analyzed, Filipinos were twice as likely to marry someone of Latino than they were to marry someone who was of Asian ethnicity. And you look at other Asian American groups like Vietnamese, Chinese American, Koreans, the numbers of them intermarry with Latinos were pretty small something like 3%. So disparity in the statistics, it signals to you that there’s just this blurred boundary between Filipinos and Latinos, especially in cities where they live along side each other.
Nic: Have you seen any of this, I’m not sure if its really backlash, there’s this Twitter…everyone is kind of going crazy because of the Issa Rae comment she did in her book that states African American women should be dating, I guess upping their qualifications of men they date. She said Black women should date Asian men but not Filipinos because they are like the Blacks of Asia. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think its satire, maybe really bad written satire? Should Filipinos be offended?
Anthony: Ok, I have a lot of thoughts on this. Feel free to go on my Latinos of Asia Facebook page because I am such a Issa Rae fan, that I had felt compelled to respond. I went on my notes on my phone and wrote 3-4 pages of notes and just screenshot it over there. But here’s my take on this. What does tell you that Filipinos on Twitter and social media, are having a debate about one line written from a book published 3 years ago that is satire and then getting offended by it? That’s the thing we have to focus on. What that tells you is that Filipinos Americans are so absent from the public sphere in television, media, that we have no choice to debate something as negligible as one line point in a book that’s not in any way meant to be considered social science or nonfiction. It is satire. I think the bigger problem is not Issa the bigger problem is Hollywood. Why are we forced to have backlash against something that is a nonevent?
Nic: Exactly, that’s exactly what I thought was media is so adamant about let’s put this race and this race and have them go against each other. Rather than them taking the whole excerpt of the book and saying look this is being satire, this isn’t saying this is what you should do, this is not a “How-To” book on how to date.
Anthony: Here’s the thing, I will bet my bottom dollar that 99.9999% of people that were quick to jump on Issa have not read the entire book. Actually, I’d be curious to know if they read the 3 page chapter because I don’t think this would be the case. I think is an indication there’s a lot of positives about social media, but one of the negative things that has emerged from social media I think that for a lot of people, calling other people out and call out culture in general, while calling people out is important I think its become a little bit a form of currency of its own.
At the heart of it, I like to look at it, not just the whole work of the book, but lets look at the whole body of work of the person and think about who Issa Rae is. Issa Rae is an African American woman who has immigrant ties, who has revolutionized the way that young millennials of color, particularly women, are framed on television. We’ve spent a lot of years promoting the idea that as people of color, women of color, they have to be twice as good, three times as good, ten times as good, to get half as far. This whole respectability of politics, I know it gets you far in some cases but at the end of the day those are strategies that are for the convenience of the dominate group.
What I think I love about Issa is that #1 she’s a creator, and its really fucking hard to create shit, it is. She’s a producer, she’s an actor, she’s a director, she’s opens doors for other creatives of color including Asian Americans to produce original content that Hollywood won’t do. So the idea of dragging her for something that negligible, it doesn’t fit well with me. At the end of the day, she’s on our team. Save your energy for hating on Harvey Weinstein, or Bill Cosby, or people that have committed these egregious acts against women. At the end of the day, Issa is someone I would consider on our side. I think it comes with the territory though, like when you’re a creator, and I get this too as someone who writes books. There’s going to be people that are gonna be quick to hate on it.
I get a lot of hateful Amazon reviews or random hate messages from people that hate the book, they hate the idea of behind the book, they have these really deep seeded prejudices against Latinos, so they would never want to associated with them and so I’m like you know what, that’s your deal. When you’re the one in the middle of the arena and you’re the one who’s putting yourself out there, you’re going to take some blows. But you know what, you’re the one who’s actually trying and it’s really easy to call people out from the cheap seats.
Nic: Right, well speaking of Filipinos within media. Have you seen the trailer for Crazy Rich Asians?
Anthony: I have. I’ve seen that Kris Aquino and Nico Santos is in it.
Nic: Yeah, so that’s interesting me because there’s a lot of people describing it as the “Asian answer” to Black Panther because it is an all Asian cast. Nico Santos, he’s stars in Superstore, and then you have Kris who is a popular actress in the Philippines and she makes a cameo appearance. Do you think its appropriate for them to be casted when the majority of the cast is Chinese?
Anthony: I don’t know what their roles are specifically. So I’m not sure if they are playing Singaporeans or Chinese folks. I haven’t had the chance to read the book yet. What I will say is that, I know there are some people that are upset that, well first of all I don’t think Crazy Rich Asians is the same thing as Black Panther. Crazy Rich Asians after Joy Luck Club is like the second movie that is mainstream play. Black Panther, while it is amazing, I really love Black Panther it was a gorgeous film, all Black cast it was amazing. I just don’t think its the qualitatively the same thing. That comparison, it doesn’t really fly with me. I get the sentiment, but I don’t think its the same thing.
About Nico and Kris, I think that what’s great about the film is that this is an opportunity for Asian American actors, Filipino actors to have roles where they are not type cast in the most one dimensional ways. This is something, I think shows like Fresh Off The Boat, Master of None, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, these are all shows where we are trying to show that we are more than just the stereotypes you have in your head. I think of Crazy Rich Asians as its a film and its depicted to tell one particular story, but its also a launch pad for a larger agenda, a larger vision which Asian Americans be the creators and curators and drive their own stories instead of disconnected white folks telling us who we are. And that’s awesome. I think one thing that we have to remember is that when it comes to movies that are comprised of all people of color, theres a lot of pressure because if they fail then Hollywood is less likely to take a chance. Whereas movies with all white cast, you have a bunch of shitty movies with an all white cast and they’ll continue to cast the actors, fund sequels, its ridiculous.
People of color don’t have the luxury to fail like that. So I understand the sentiments of people criticizing Crazy Rich Asians because obviously its a really unique story, but you know what I’d rather have a story be unique than have some broad stroke story that doesn’t really get up the nitty gritty nuance of the good, bad, and ugly of what it means to be Asian, Asian American on a global content. I think sometimes specific stories as opposed to stories that try to do it all are more effective artistically and I think they are more effective at the box office too.
Nic: Do you think that there is a Filipino erasure in media?
Anthony: Umm yeah *laughs*, I have a friend who’s a sociology professor she’s an amazing researcher that does research on Asian American actors. I think about her work a lot because when things get green lit at a production house, its often the case that the depictions of different racial groups whether it be Latinx, African American, Asian American, they have to fit broad understandings of what those groups mean in order to get a chance. But here’s the thing with Filipinos, at every level Filipinos don’t fit any box. I had a friend that said she’s a Filipino American, she goes to auditions and the casting director are like, “Oh the Latino casting day was yesterday, you missed it.” and she’s like, “No I’m Filipino therefore…” you know, so that’s going to be the difficulty.
I think I take a lot of inspiration from people like Mindy Kaling, or people like Lin Manual Meranda who figure out creative ways to insert themselves on the artistic platforms. Then obviously having long term visions for how people that look like them can gain more air time and more complexity on screen or on stage. Sometimes I’m like what would be the Filipino blockbuster look like right? I can see or imagine if you can get some serious talent together, having a broadway show called PCN (Filipino Culture Night), that does a really nice job with showcasing that particular experience. I think that is something people could relate to, being a college student and wanting to explore yourself, finding yourself, and then displaying the discoveries of your identity for everyone to watch. I think that we have to remember that movie TV isn’t the only medium where Filipinos are making their mark.
You look at D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, these Filipino Americans in the food movement, oh my gosh I am just, the ways they are using the dinner table as their canvas is just gorgeous. I think that what this signals is that we have to have a multi prong, multifaceted plan of attack to have our stories elevated. And remember that success doesn’t always have to mean getting white people to approve of the things we produce. There is so much beauty, when I see a local play, when I see a local college produce their show, there’s so much beauty just the act of censoring our selves and our experiences. You know, who cares if there is a monetary thing attached to it, but it feeds your soul for much longer than any dollar amount can.
Nic: Yeah and its an interesting topic as well when you talk about…because there is such a presence of Filipino food being wildly accepted, but now we are also seeing white folks thinking “We’re gonna have this new trend of ube and baked goods with cheese on top.” Even AC our guest editor for this month tweeted out “I’m watching chopped and this white guy used to work at a Filipino restaurant and now he’s making banana ketchup.” And I’m like “Wow?” What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation with Filipino culture and food being accepted by others?
Anthony: Yeah, I mean that’s a thing with people with more privilege, money and resources, they can take an idea and run with it and then not claim or not fight where they got it from. How frustrating is that? I think that’s troubling to say the least. I have no problems calling out folks that are “Columbusing” Filipino culture you know? I think its very important for people to acknowledge where they pick things up. If you’re in a position to elevate that particular perspective, cultural practice, then do so in a way that is also elevating the community from which that emerged. It’s frustrating because cultural appropriation is not going to end, but I know there are ways in which we can channel the resources that are coming in through acts of cultural appropriations, things like scholarships or support artists, it doesn’t have to be a black or white thing it can be something in the middle.
Nic: Yeah we are seeing that a lot here in the Bay Area where this gentrification from the tech boom is bringing in a lot of people, but the locals whether they are in Daly City, which is our Little Manila, they are getting pushed out. Have you also seen this in LA?
Anthony: You know, Los Angeles theres this area called Historic Filipino Town which demographically hasn’t had majority Filipino residents, but symbolically in terms of community, organizations, restaurants, movements, history, has played a super important role for the Filipino American community, not just in LA, but nationally. It’s quickly getting gentrified, Los Angeles, I mean I don’t think, I mean what is going on in the Bay is bananas, but gentrification is happening in LA as we speak and Historic Filipino Town is next. Its troubling, I have a friend Joe Bernardo, who does the podcast This Filipino American Life, and he has this amazing series about the numerating the prices of housing in this Historic Filipino Town area.
What’s troubling is that in my own research, Historic Filipino Town represents something really important for a lot of migrants. Before they were able to move to the Carsons, Eagle Rock, or West Covina which are a little bit more middle class. Historic Filipino Town might have been the first place where they set up shop with their fellow immigrants, shared an apartment, worked long hours, accumulated goods to send back in balikbayan boxes (*for those who are unfamiliar with the term, balikbayan boxes are corrugated boxes that contain items or goods that many Filipino Americans often ship overseas back to their families in the Philippines*). I used to do research on balikbayan boxes back in the day and History Filipino Town and you see the lives of Filipinos that live there they are still really tethered to the homeland and the idea that their place where they are building, they are having their immigrant dreams come true, being completely stripped from them because being priced out, it hurts to watch. Because Filipino Americans have such few places that are publicly designated as Filipino American that to see it taken away would just be tragic.
In San Francisco, a lot of people know of the history of the I-Hotel, San Francisco and the Filipino American community, historically there have been a lot of moments where the city and our communities have met odds and I think that you fight back in any way you can. Whether its researching the negative effects of gentrification, documenting the stuff through blogs, documentaries, magazines, academic research, telling stories, not letting your Filipino American relatives and friends who are apathetic slip by and get away with just not caring. You know I think there are all different ways we can put a dent into the social inequality that our community faces.
Nic: Do you think Filipinos, Filipinx activism is enough, is it doing enough right now or should there be more?
Anthony: That’s a tough question. There are so many Filipinx American activists, in all sorts of ways people that are voicing their critiques of whats going on in the homeland or fighting for women’s rights, there’s Filipino Americans fighting for building not just tolerance but acceptance of LGBTQ people in their Filipino communities. Whether it be in their church or neighborhoods or their own families, there’s so many efforts going on and I think that that’s a complicated question.
How do we know we’re doing enough? I think there is always areas to build. There’s not many Filipino elected officials, not many Filipino American big donors, not a lot of Filipino academics. I think that maybe what is good is we gotta expand our notion of what it means to be an activist, what it means to be helping the community. I think of the case of Egg Slut, started by Alvin Cailan here in LA. He’s a Filipino American from LA who started a food company where he served a burger with a fried egg on top, it just blew up. He has locations in Glendale, Downtown LA, Venice, Vegas I believe now too, and what is Alvin doing? Is he just hoarding all the money that he’s making? No, he’s creating spaces, physical spaces and he’s creating opportunities for a younger batch of Filipino American creatives in terms of culinary arts to do their thing. Now he’s opened the door for the Valencia Brothers who have LASA in Chinatown.
We gotta think about sustainability. we gotta think about reciprocity, what’s going to be the long term game? I think when we involve our activism we always think about, sometimes these moments where we get a bit purest for what counts as activism and what doesn’t. But I think we are better off diversifying our notions of what activism is. That’ll be two good things; #1 it’ll put our foot in all different spaces, not just “traditional” spaces of activism and #2 for people who have different skill sets and different talents that may not line up with traditional forms of activism there’s going to be space for them to make contributions as well.
Nic: Yeah, it brings up I was watching Dolores Huerta documentary and she talks about as they were protesting with Cesar Chavez for civil rights for the farm workers, they paused their movement because the Filipino farm workers were getting beaten and so much going on that they stopped and they went to help their movement. So they were all working together as well as the Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King Jr. They were all in this together, everyone was helping each other out. I think that is really important to for all of us to remember, but also put forward within the present.
Anthony: Yeah and that’s big reason why I wrote this book and why I maintain the Facebook page and Facebook platform for it because I want Filipino Americans to get in the habit of thinking their struggle is not just a Filipino American one. There win isn’t just a Filipino American one. What is happening to us, is something that is inherently tied to what is going on with African Americans, Latinx groups, other Asian Americans, LGBTQ movement, women movements, there’s a thread there. So we can’t just be so silo to just what Filipinos care about because that’s a losing strategy.
Nic: We’re about to end things, wrap things up. I saw you are supposed to, I believe doing an event in Oakland this June correct?
Anthony: I’ll be there June 12th, Tuesday, 6:30pm Lincoln Family’s in Oakland. I’ll be there doing a talk on my book. I’m really excited to talk to community stakeholders, community members who are invested in Filipino American issues, immigration issues. I also want to plug a little bit of my newer research on LGBTQ folks and immigrate families. Yeah, I think it will be a really nice opportunity to meet people that are on the ground doing some serious community work and to see how academic research can inform some of the strategies or thought processing behind some of the programs they are developing.
I know that this platform reaches a lot of people so I’m always more than happy to share my thoughts on all issues related, not just the Filipino American, but immigration, race, intersectionality, LGBTQ issues. I think its so amazing to have these conversations start reaching the forefront and its a scary time in some ways, but it’s also an exciting time because there is a lot of resistance and energy going around.
Nic: Definitely, and you’re also working on a new book?
Anthony: Yeah, its technically titled “Brown and Gay in LA: When Immigrant Dreams Meet Queer Realities” so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
Nic: I’m really looking forward to that. Well, thank you so much for coming on and giving us your insight, hopefully if anyone has not picked up your book yet, they do from listening to this. Thank you again, thanks so much it really means a lot to me and Color Bloq.
Anthony: Thank you again Nic, hope to talk to you and meet you in person soon.
Nic: Hey fam, thanks for tuning in. You can find more of Dr. Ocampo’s work on his Facebook and his website anthonyocampo.com. Links can be found at the bottom of the transcript and Color Bloq’s website and social media platforms. To read more of the REMODEL Cover Story for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, visit us at ColorBloq.org and across all social media platforms @clrblq
Color Bloq relies on community support. Your donations allow us to pay our contributors and fund our events. Over the last 2 years, community donations have allowed us to elevate the voices of over 150 queer & trans people of color, and pay out more than $18,000 for their writing and creativity. We are grateful for your support.