Asian / Pacific Month Starts With Lecture
In May, Santa Monica College recognizes Asian Pacific Islander month - a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S, similar to Black History month and Women's History month.
The Asian Pacific Islander festivities were born out of a Congressional bill passed in July of 1977, when New York Representative Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called for the President to declare the first 10 days of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week.
President Jimmy Carter later made this official on October 5, 1978, and under President George Bush the celebration was then expanded to a month in the May of 1990.
The month of May is historical to the Asian Pacific heritage, as the first Japanese began to immigrate to the United States in May of 1843, with the holiday also commemorating the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869.
The first leg of SMC's Asian Pacific Islander celebration kicked off on Tuesday with a lecture series on contemporary Asian women writers, cosponsored by the SMC English Department, the college and the Santa Monica Public Library.
SMC English Professor Hari Vishwanadha spoke of award-winning author Taslima Nasrin in the lecture on Tuesday. Nasrin (currently living in exile in India) was born in what is now Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
She was fond of literature at age 15. After writing a few poetry books, Nasrin moved on to writing about women's oppression, and criticized religion as well as traditions of repressive cultures that discriminate against women.
Because of this, she drew hate and opposition from many, including Islamic fundamentalists who launched a campaign against her in 1990; an organization called the Soldier of Islam put a price on her head due to her criticism of Islam, and she was confined to her home.
Two other similar occasions would follow in which a price was placed on her life. Other attacks against Nasrin came in the form government charges brought against her and the banning of one of her books - "Lajja" ("Shame") - a book the professor spoke of during his lecture.
Vishwanadha spoke very highly of Nasrin. He said, "She is a very well informed, educated, talented person; a courageous human being who wants freedom and equality for all people and she has put her life on the line in order to defend that."
More than a dozen students filled lecture room 214 in the Art complex, with a few gradually arriving as the lecture went on. The professor began with a Chinese aphorism emphasizing women's strength, then dove into how the writers featured in the series are "revolutionary beings as their art is revolutionary."
He used excerpts from Nasrin's book "Lajja" to support his points. Vishwanadha also mentioned how Nasrin had the option of coping with the norms and traditions of her Muslim background, but chose not to do so in order to express herself and her views on women's equality in society today.
Despite being a best-selling author in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, the brutal assaults and threats on Nasrin's life eventually led her to exile in Europe.
Nasrin has written a total of 28 books of poetry, essays, novels and short stories.
Many of those works have been circulated in 20 different languages, and are honored with a number of awards such as the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union of Great Britain, and the Feminist of the Year award from Feminist Majority Foundation of the United States.
Aside from the lecture held last Tuesday, the series will continue with an event featuring Koreans Pak Wan-so (author of "The Naked Tree") and O Chong-hui who wrote "Words of Farewell" on Saturday, May 14th, in the Montana Branch of the Santa Monica Public Library.
On Thursday the following week Duong Thu Huong of Vietnam, author of a book revealing North Vietnamese perspective on the Vietnam War - "Novel Without a Name" will be in Room 214 of the Art Complex.
The next week after on Thursday, May 26th Chinese writers Can Xue, author of "Old Floating Cloud" - a novella about love and obsession, and Chen Ran (who wrote a coming-of-age tale called "A Private Life") will be in the Montana Branch of the S.M. Public Library.