By Tom Quach
Stanford Medicine’s Center for Asian Health Research and Education (CARE) hosted the third installment of its [email protected] Concert series on May 20 to celebrate Asian grandmothers. The two-hour virtual ceremony featured video performances by over a dozen Bay Area community members and Stanford affiliates, followed by a panel of six women who discussed the experiences of Asian-American women across generations.
The upbeat event centered on the “power and grace of Asian grandmothers” comes during a time of increased violent anti-Asian crimes nationwide and President Joe Biden’s signing of a bipartisan anti-Asian hate crime bill into law.
The panelists took turns discussing their own grandmothers’ bravery, personal instances of racism and prejudice in educational and workplace environments and the inspirational nature of energized youth advocacy nationwide.
“Grandmas are conduits to our past,” said Kiet Do, a local KPIX 5 reporter who led the panel. “They connect us to our culture or language, and they make sure that we never go hungry.”
“I feel so lucky to have great women come before us and take a stand,” said Julia Hu ’06, founder of healthcare AI startup LARK Health. “I’m blessed with the voices and fight of people before me.”
While Hu shared her experiences as an Asian woman working within a mainly white, male-dominated Silicon Valley startup ecosystem, Manjula Waldron M.S. ’68 Ph.D. ’71 discussed what it was like as the first Asian woman to receive a Stanford electrical engineering Ph.D. studying in a predominantly white student community.
Hu and Waldron, who at times felt invisible to their peers and professors as they prioritized other students before her, agreed that it was crucial to find a community of like-minded, empathic people to be themselves with and grow as a leader of color. For Waldron, this took shape when she founded the Stanford India Association on campus as a way to inspire community members of color and “empower the disempowered.”
The guest speakers also highlighted the inspiring nature of recent youth protests and advocacy that have sprouted up nationwide in the wake of the Atlanta mass shooting that killed six Asian women. Bryant Lin, associate professor of medicine and co-host of the [email protected] Concert, directly referenced a March attack in San Francisco involving Xiao Zhen Xie, a 75-year-old Asian grandmother who defended herself after being assaulted. With strong community support, Xiao collected over $1 million on GoFundMe, which she and her family pledged to charities fighting Asian-American hate.
Rona Hu, the School of Medicine associate dean, offered a twist on the “fight or flight” expression. Quoting Stop AAPI Hate’s co-founder Russell Jeung, Hu noted that another option is to “flock” and stand together as a group to face injustices and hate.
Northern California’s first Asian-American female judge Lillian Sing agreed, noting that while the stark rise in anti-Asian hate crimes is appalling, Asian American youth have taken over the stage with their resounding advocacy, replacing former stereotypes of silence.
“Look at the demonstrations,” Sing said. “Young people are rising up, not tolerating all this. This is why I am hopeful.”
Prior to the panel, various vocal and instrumental presentations dedicated to the rich history of Asian communities and heritage were spotlighted.
Traditional music and song performers ranged from Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, a lecturer in the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, to Stanford’s East Asian a capella group O-Tone to seniors Jacob Bedia ’21 and Eunice Jung ’21, who performed a piano and vocal rendition of “The Gift of Love” dedicated to Bedia’s grandmother. Several additional individuals including Stanford Magazine writer Andrew Tan ’22 recorded short videos dedicated to their grandmothers living both close by and overseas.
School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor stressed the importance of uplifting the Asian and Pacific Islander community and described their extraordinary talent within the Stanford Medicine network during his introduction. He noted that while the COVID pandemic has accentuated negative and hurtful actions, society is still fundamentally filled with love, tolerance and concern for one another — qualities that must be maintained, he said.
For Stanford Medicine leadership, the opportunity to facilitate discussion and pioneer healthcare revolving around Asian American Pacific Islander communities must continue.
Alongside CARE, Stanford Medicine has dedicated several programs which spearhead research and clinical care for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. These include Stanford’s Asian Liver Center and South Asian Translational Heart Initiative. The Pacific Free Clinic offers free health care for uninsured adults living in East San Jose.
“It is our responsibility to raise awareness and create spaces where our Asian American and Pacific Islander community members can share their experiences to inform and define the conversation,” Minor said.