AAPI: If You're Given A Stage, Then Deliver A Performance. If You're G – Vite Ramen

AAPI: If You're Given A Stage, Then Deliver A Performance. If You're Given A Voice, Then Speak

The 1 minute video I made won first place at the Asian American Stories Awards dinner! You can watch it here if you’re interested: 


So in light of the victory and May being AAPI Heritage month, let’s talk a bit about this, and some upsetting things that happened at the Asian American Stories Awards Dinner. First off, some of you might see my outfit and think, what is that?

What I’m wearing is called hanfu(漢服), and I wouldn’t say that it’s a traditional outfit or style. I wouldn’t even be able to identify exactly what era it’s from(Song or Tang dynasty, probably?), and it’s most likely made to look cool and emulate fantasy martial arts styles, rather than be a traditional outfit in and of itself.

Kind of appropriate for me then, isn’t it? I’m Chinese-American, and Made In China :^), but hear me talk without seeing or knowing me, and most people will instantly assume I’m white.

There’s a certain irony that this expertise with the English language is what enabled me to win that award-- my writing and language skills are, generally speaking, above the average American, whereas I’m practically illiterate in Chinese, and can only speak in casual conversational discussions. I’ve gone so far the other way that I have an accent in my Chinese, despite speaking it all my life-- but even that’s really weird, because I don’t have an American accent in my Chinese... rather, everyone mentions I have a 东北, or northeastern accent.

I won’t belabor the point too much, but my decision on wearing the hanfu centered around the very idea that it didn’t quite fit right on me, it wasn’t exactly traditional, and that it felt like I was performing being Chinese, trying to fit in a culture that somehow didn’t feel like mine, despite being technically Chinese in every way.

I didn’t really have a speech prepared or anything, but was told I would be given a minute to speak after accepting the award. Initially, I wanted to talk a little more about this third culture, and this liminal experience of not really being Chinese enough, and not being American enough as I was pulled into the wings to wait... and wait... and wait... 

When it came time to give the speech on stage, I tried to talk. I stumbled over my words, spoke in disorganized, vague statements as I increasingly felt my words being swallowed up in the increasing buzz of the disinterested crowd.

Something I want to point out, before anyone goes accusing me of anything-- At this point, I’d accepted the award, and then been ushered quickly off stage without doing a speech. Okay, I thought, we’re doing it in a space that’s easier to film and hear, as I was positioned in front of a large camera with someone ready to interview me. I began to speak, and then suddenly, in the middle of that interview, was interrupted to be waved back on stage. 

It was an interesting, hollow feeling. They’d billed you as the centerpiece, had a drumroll and envelope reveal for your victory, told you to prepare a victory speech beforehand, with a dozen people you don’t know coming to congratulate you even before you’ve stepped on stage. Then you win first place, on stage for less than a minute before you’re pulled away to give half an interview, then interrupted and pulled back onto stage that everyone has forgotten as they talked to each other, their eyes and focus more attuned to their freshly delivered desserts than the stage.

I don’t know what miscommunication the organizers had, or what happened during planning. All I know is that I was never sure what was happening, or what I was supposed to do, or who I was supposed to talk to, or anything at all of what was going on, until the very last minute when some random person or the other would drag me somewhere or the other with rushed, hurried verbal instructions.

In life, there’s going to be moments of triumph that ring hollow, where indifference shadows your success. There are times when all your effort ends in failure, or you’re pushed down for the thousandth time. It is inevitable; an if, not a when. And when it happens, you have a choice.

You can resign yourself and accept it, and slink away to nurse your wounds.

Or you can rise, defy the circumstances dealt to you, and fight.

There is never a guarantee of victory, even if you fight. There is never a promise of fairness. And yet, even so, you must fight, to show the world that you will not accept things as they are, but fight for what can be.

My name is Tim, in English. But in Chinese, my name is Jian(剑), translated as sword. There is a certain irony that this was a message I wanted to deliver for AAPI Heritage month, and yet, here I was, looking to do so directly at this Asian American Awards night. And so, staring at the indifferent, apathetic crowd, I decided to fight, decided to carve my words into the night.

“If you're given a stage, deliver a performance. If you're given a voice, then speak. But if you're not given a place, and you're not given a chance to be you? Then carve it out yourself. Don't wait for others to give it to you. If they tell you that you don't belong, then don't take it laying down. Don't accept it. We all belong here, but we are not given a place simply by being polite and demure. We are Asian Americans, and we carve our own belonging into the pages of history.”

At least, that’s what I wanted to say. I wish I were so eloquent and put together that I could deliver an impromptu, off the top of my head speech without stuttering, without pausing, with perfect enunciation and cadence and power. But knowing it would be imperfect, knowing it would not be a flawless delivery, I spoke, and silenced the crowd.


It wasn’t a malicious thing that happened. Large events like this are exceptionally difficult to plan and organize, and even the best planners can fall to unexpected circumstances. Whatever happened behind the scenes, I don’t know-- I only know my experience, and, in the end, how I decided to respond to it.

Some people may read this and think, what is the point? AAPI individuals aren’t discriminated against, you’re all basically white at this point. You’re just self-victmizing and complaining about nothing.

Good question, actually. At one point in my life, I used to think the same-- And hence, that’s where the concept of the “Model Minority” was born, and continues to cause problems for asian americans today.

But hey, this is already pretty long, and luckily, AAPI month is a month long. I’ll explore that concept, and more, in the future.

Meanwhile, be kind, and savor life’s little victories.

Or, y’know, fight for them when you need to :^)

-Tim, CEO/Founder Vite Kitchens

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