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Nadya Okamoto

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Watching ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as an Asian American Hopeless Romantic is MAGICAL

I didn’t have many examples of happy marriages growing up, and my first few serious relationships with men were toxic. For me, romantic comedies were where I found hope and a sense of escapism from reality – that maybe, one-day, if I was lucky, I could find love like in those movies – the kind where someone kisses me and my eyebrows tense like I am feeling some sort of fireworks in my heart, and cheesy symphonies of string instruments play in my head.

During the time after my parents’ divorce but before the age of Netflix, we only had a few movies in house (on physical DVD’s, remember those?), including “High School Musical,” two copies of “Hairspray,” “50 First Dates,” “27 Dresses,” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” Much to my mom’s chagrin, these were the films I wanted to watch on repeat.  

Students Unite After Soka University Told Asian American Survivor to ‘Get Over’ Sexual Harassment

A few months ago, a college student at Soka University named Grace* reached out to me via social media to share her story of experiencing sexual harassment and to vent her anger at the school for how they have previously handled and discussed such harassment on campus. As an Asian American woman and survivor of physical and sexual violence myself, her story struck a very personal chord for me, and I knew that we had to elevate our banter over Instagram to be a public one. When I share my story, people seem to often react with disbelief – but the unfortunate truth is that such experiences as rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence (especially in college) are much too common.

Up to 19% of women will experience sexual assault in college, and the majority of undetected rapists on campus are “serial perpetrators, committing an average of 6 rapes each.” There is an indisputable effect that experiencing rape has on the mental health and ability to participate in both social and academic settings in school — 34% of these survivors will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 33% will experience depression.

Dan Koh Could Be the First Korean American Democrat in Congress

dan koh congress

Asians are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in America, but are severely underrepresented at all levels of government. This November, a record number of Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates are running for Congress and trying to change that. In 2017, history was made with 18 Asian Americans elected to Congress. With 468 seats in Congress up for election this year, I hope that we can make history once again by breaking that record of an Asian American in Congress.

Thirty-one-time marathoner and former Chief of Staff for both Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh and Arianna Huffington, Dan Koh, is running for Congress in Massachusetts’s 3rd district. If elected, he would be the first Asian American member of Congress from Massachusetts, and the second-ever Korean-American member of Congress in our country’s history. I had a chance to speak to Dan Koh about why he is running and how the current political climate is calling on young people to take action to stand up for a more inclusive America.

She Could Become the First Female Asian American Mayor of SF

With the unexpected death of Mayor Ed Lee, the first Asian-American and Chinese-American to hold mayoral office in San Francisco, there is now a special election to elect a new mayor this June 2018 before the end of the term in 2019. One of the candidates running is Jane Kim, a current member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. If elected, she would be “the city’s first female Asian-American mayor.” I had the chance to sit down and interview her about her experience as an Asian-American in politics, and her upcoming race for mayor.

I’m Nadya, a 19-year-old and sophomore at Harvard College, and I ran for office last year. Although I didn’t win, it was a terrifying, exhausting, unforgettable, and extremely meaningful journey, and I am celebrating that my campaign team and I made historic waves with student and youth turnout in the election. While I was running, I looked up to Jane Kim as inspiration for another woman who looked like me and ran her first race for local office when she was 26-years-old.

Until Three Months Ago, I Was Ashamed of Being Asian

Until three months ago, I was ashamed of being Asian. It wasn’t until I ran for local office this year, at 19-years-old and as a Harvard sophomore, when I had to suddenly defend being Asian (even for my own pride) against visceral racism usually from strangers over social media who were unafraid to call me a “chink” or “gook” and labeled my campaign as the start of some young “Asian invasion.”

In many ways, I’m still learning to be proud of what I look like as an Asian person, and trying to understand what that even means since I don’t feel very connected to my heritage. When people look at me, I am usually categorized as just Asian. In reality, I am half-Japanese and half-Chinese (my maternal grandparents are Hakka from Taiwan). My maternal grandparents grew up in Taiwan while it was occupied by Japan, and my grandmother’s house was occupied by Japanese soldiers. Growing up, my paternal Japanese grandmother used to give me baths to wash the “dirty Chinese” off of me. I later learned that she was secretly part Chinese, raised by a mother who grew up in China, and grew up in a racist Japan that made her feel ashamed because of that.