Day 385, April 6, 2021


Tonight's soundtrack: Jeff "Tain" Watts, James Francies, Paul Bollenback, The Jazz Gallery, 2021

I spread compost over the asparagus beds over the weekend. Spring is here. It is 6 pm and my window is still open and the chickens are still foraging. 

When I was growing up, on the way to the dump we would always pass a patch of asparagus that seemed to be growing wild and unchecked by a roadside fence. Of course, by the time you could see it in a passing car, it had already bolted chest high into multiple branches. My father always mentioned it as we passed, as if one day we would remember to check early when the shoots were just emerging from the ground and they were still tender and young.

Franklin inspecting the fresh shoots.

My mom has a rivalry with a local Vietnamese family over a chestnut tree not far from their home. There is a short window of time when the chestnuts are ready to be collected, and if one is a day late, between the other Asian foragers and the squirrels, nothing is left.

My grandfather used to always have an eye out for fiddlehead ferns and kept a small stack of paper grocery bags in his car for just such occasions. It didn't matter if he was on the Massachusetts Turnpike, or some country road, if he spotted a promising patch of ferns, not yet unfurled, he would pull over and start harvesting. I seem to remember a police officer pulling along side us, more than once, to check what was going on or to move us along. 

This is the same grandfather who, when he discovered the pond beside the house we were renting one summer was filled with frogs, had me paddle him around in the rowboat while he caught a bucketful of frogs with my father's fly rod. My mom was not too pleased to discover a freezer full of processed and ready to cook frog legs.

Summers were also filled with mushroom hunting forays. One of my father's friends was a Frenchman who had a keen sense for fungi. On slightly damp days after a rainstorm, in the gloomiest patches of Berkshire forests, we would trudge looking for that splash of color that might signify chanterelles, or the wiggly mysterious shapes of morels. It was a gloomy, mosquito filled time of the day, one that made me a resistant mushroom hunter, and sometimes I stayed in the car, which might have been a relief to my dad. 

Of course, I grew up fishing, crabbing, and digging for clams. The ocean was a marvelous feast waiting for the picking. I remember, before anyone knew any better, going to see the alewife run coming out of one of the rivers and dangling a fishing net under the river flow and instantly collecting as many fish as one could carry. The alewife run is fenced off now, the population decimated by overzealous catches, but it was an amazing sight to witness. 

I grew up foraging. It felt like a part of our ethnic identity. Or maybe the identity of immigrants. I didn't know any of my non-immigrant friends who did these things. As they have gotten older, my parents have cataloged all the plants growing in their backyard from the "White Man's Feet" to burdock root, and they all make it into smoothies or teas or salads and they all have particular strengths for various ailments. 

I am a nervous forager. I tend to hem and haw so long about whether to pick a mushroom, texting pictures to my father for advice, that I miss the moment and the mushroom gets nibbled at and starts to turn colors. I'm always a little uncertain about fiddleheads, are they all edible? Isn't there some that are not? And my backyard is a thicket of knotweed, but I haven't yet decided to try the shoots, which are supposedly something like rhubarb. 

In another era, the information would have been passed along from parent to child, and of course I would pick the chicken of the woods or fiddleheads without any doubts or second guessing. But now we have all the resources of the internet at hand and it is impossible not to get sucked into all the possible things that a thing could not be rather than focusing on the thing that it is. That's why sometimes I need the reassurance and bravado of one of my parents to goad me along.

I often wonder who was the first human to try something like sea urchins, or artichokes. There must have been a lot of experimentation and sometimes painful attempts before discovering what lay inside. We are a resourceful species and find sustenance wherever we find ourselves. I was reminded of that last night at the Asian Solidarity event at UMass. I was on the organizing committee and over the last few weeks as we worked together, there were all these stories of how we are finding our way in this country, and the more we talked, the more things we found we shared in common. We were all finding our way, foraging in our little pockets of isolation. We were finding nourishment coming up between the cracks in the pavement. We were finding nourishment in particular areas of the University. We were finding nourishment in our isolation. And most importantly, we were finding nourishment in one another. 

Who knows if this coming together will be short-lived, or something that will be sustained, but it is nice to see the capacity is there. It is a source of sustenance.

Take care and have a wonderful evening,


Today in the Sawmill River.

From Our Friends:

From the Asian and Asian American Studies Certificate at UMass Amherst:

Yellow Pearl: Celebrating the Birth of the Asian American Movement

Hear a song from the “Grain of Sand” album and join a conversation about the Basement Workshop, Asian Women United, dear friend Corky Lee, the Yellow Pearl Project, and the early days of the Asian American Movement. Featuring Nobuko Miyamoto, Elizabeth (Liz) Young, Arlan Huang, and moderator Phil Tajitsu Nash.

The program will be co-sponsored by the Association for Asian American Studies and the Smithsonian Institution.

TIME: Wednesday, April 7, 11:30 to 12:30 PT (2:30 to 3:30ET) - just before the start of the AAAS Conference

Catch the program here:

Title: K-pop and Racial Justice: Global K-pop Fandom Dynamics and Asian American Activism

Discussants: CedarBough Saeji, Indiana University; Mi Hyun Yoon, Rutgers University; Gina P, activist.

Description: How has the K-pop industry been informed by and responded to conversations about race in the types of contemporary issues of social justice that we face in 2020 and 2021?

In 2020 and 2021, both K-pop and issues of racial justice have come to the fore in the United States, far from K-pop’s origin in South Korea. In this roundtable, we will discuss how K-pop is becoming a global industry driven by highly involved global online fan bases and how this is producing and amplifying new online activist techniques, to an extent that K-pop fans have become characterized by everyone from AOC to Fox News as a political force.  Do new K-pop audiences have a responsibility to become better informed and more involved?

As K-pop's international profile has rapidly grown in the past half dozen years, it has attracted a diverse U.S. audience that often felt underserved, or underrepresented by existing Western media products. This initial U.S. audience was made up primarily of ethnic minorities and LGBTQ, and only in the last couple of years has K-pop attracted a larger white audience. Korean fan practices as well as this core minority/LGBTQ K-pop demographic have largely impacted fan discourses and set the stage for the activism of the past year. 

As K-pop grows to be an even larger industry, what responsibility do K-Pop stars have to take positions on issues dear to the hearts of audiences beyond South Korea? In fact, U.S. cultural and racial issues connect directly to the roots of Korean popular music through the vehicle of Koreans performing for audiences of U.S. soldiers in the years following the Korean War.  Particularly in the context of the United States, where issues of racial justice and particularly those of key relevance to Asian Americans have a long history, how can newly engaged K-pop fans and activists inform and be informed by long-standing Asian American activist communities?

Topic:  K-pop and Racial Justice, UMass
Time: Apr 20, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 996 6169 3868
Passcode: Kpop2021

"Laying the Foundation: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Roots: An Asian American Reader" (session # 3932) 

Thursday, April 8, 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern
2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Roots: An Asian American Reader, the first comprehensive textbook in the field of Asian American Studies.  As a joint endeavor between a small team of dedicated scholars and community activists (Franklin Odo, Amy Uyematsu, Eddie Wong, and Buck Wong), Roots represented a landmark milestone for the new emerging academic discipline of Asian American Studies and a major contribution to the study of race/ethnicity, immigration, and cultural dynamics related to the Asian American community.  This panel brings together these four collaborators behind the Roots reader who brought together their collective academic and  community-level expertise to produce the first all-inclusive textbook dedicated to providing readers and U.S. society a thorough understanding of the diverse histories and experiences of the Asian American population.  In their own words, the panelists will discuss their experience related to the book, its impact on their careers inside and outside of Asian American Studies, its impact on the field of Asian American Studies and U.S. society in general, and other reflections on the past, present, and future of Asian American Studies.  As the field of Asian American Studies takes stock of the events of not just this past year and the social, political, and economic upheavals related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the fight for racial justice but also the past 50 years since the formation of our academic discipline, this moment gives us the opportunity to commemorate one of the groundbreaking and foundational works that has inspired numerous scholars to pursue a career focused on Asian American Studies and that has served as an inspirational model for linking the classroom with the community.

From the Asian Pacific Islander Civic Action Network:

Some additional resources: 


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