May 23: Coast to Coast - Honoring Our Literary Ancestors


On Saturday, May 23rd, three Asian American literary organizations across the country will come together as a community and a family to honor literary ancestors, mentors and teachers that have inspired and emboldened us throughout the years.  

This event will take place in real-time as Kearny Street WorkshopKundiman and The Twins Cities Asian American Literary Community share readings, collaborative writing and more. See below for region events and times.

The East Coast Honors 
Fay Chiang & Jose Garcia Villa

with readings by Nancy Bulalacao and Alison Roh Park
(co-sponsored by FAM, Fordham UniversityLower Manhattan Cultural Council and UniPro)

Join Kundiman at Fordham University for readings, collaborative creative writing and a special reception. 

Saturday, May 23rd
8:00 pm EST

Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus
113 W. 60th Street at Columbus Avenue
Room 816
Free and Open to the Public

Take the A/B/C/D/1 train to Columbus Circle. Upon entering the glass doors inform the security desk that you are attending the English Department event. Take escalators up 1 floor to Plaza level. Take the elevator to the 8th floor and proceed to Room 816.


The Midwest Honors
Esther Suzuki & Vijit Ramchandani

with readings by Juliana Hu Pegues, Marlina Gonzalez, June Noronha, and others

Saturday, May 23rd
7:00 pm CST
Bedlam Lowertown Location
213 4th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
Free and Open to the Public

Please note this is the Saint Paul Bedlam Location


The West Coast Honors
Al Robles & Jeff Tagami

with readings by Shirley Ancheta, Jason Bayani, Jade Cho, and Caitlyn Clark
(sponsored by APICC’s United States of Asian American Festival)

Three cities, three Asian American literary histories. Together we will be honoring our literary ancestors via simulcast (NY, MN, SF). Live jazz by Karl Evangelista and a political poster exhibition curated by Leon Sun will be on display.

Saturday, May 23rd
4:00 - 8:00 pm PST
Chinese Culture Center
750 Kearny St. #3, San Francisco, CA 94108


Photo Credit: Barbara Jane Reyes



Fay Chiang has been a poet, visual artist, community and cultural activist in NYC Chinatown and the Lower East Side for the past 44 years. In the 1970s, Fay was executive director of the Basement Workshop, the first Asian American multidisciplinary cultural organization in NYC. Fay then worked at Henry Street Settlement, NY Newsday’s Public Affairs Office, Poets & Writers’ Readings/Workshops before joining Project Reach where she currently develops programs for young people at risk. Fay also volunteers for organizations focused on arts, economic justice, community safety, and community organizing.

Known as the “Pope of Greenwich Village,” Jose Garcia Villa had a special status as the only Asian poet among a group of modern literary giants in 1940’s New York that included, E. E. Cummings, Mark Van Doren, W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams, and a young Gore Vidal. Villa was a global poet who was admired for “the reverence, the raptness, the depth of concentration in [his] bravely deep poems.

Vijit Ramchandani grew up in India and came to the United States in 1978. He described himself as a once-in-a-while poet, even though he had been writing for many years. He had read his poems on Minnesota Public Radio as well as many community events, including the Twin Cities protest cabaret against the play Miss Saigon.. Vijit worked at the Wilder Foundation as a management consultant for community organizations.  A book of his poems, American Mango, was published posthumously.

Al Robles (1930-2009) was an influential Filipino American poet and community activist in San Francisco. Born in 1930, he  grew up in the Fillmore district of San Francisco. As a community activist, he was instrumental in the political fight against the city to stop the demolition of the I-Hotel on Kearny Street. In his writing, Al Robles combined heritage with experience. As a beat-poet, Al’s poetry honored Filipino elders (Manongs) and also encouraged the younger generation to connect to their Filipino roots. Verses about traditional Filipino foods, community personalities in San Francisco resulted in countless poems, many of which were written on scraps of paper and napkins, filling the walls of his mind, and his life. His two published works are Looking for Ifugao Mountain: Paghahanap Sa Bundok Ng Ifugao 1977 by Children’s Book Press,’and Rappin’ with Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark, published (1992) by UCLA Asian American Writers Center.

The late Esther Torii Suzuki came to Macalester College in 1942 at the age of 16 from a Japanese detention camp in Portland, Oregon, where she was released specifically because of her acceptance to Macalester College. The first Japanese-American student at Macalester, Ms. Suzuki graduated from Macalester in 1946 with an honors degree in sociology.  In the years following her graduation, Ms. Suzuki played many roles: community leader, volunteer, activist, and mentor. As a social worker for Ramsey County, Ms. Suzuki spent most of her career participating in civil rights groups and developing programs specifically to assist the Southeast Asian-American population. Later in her life, Ms. Suzuki established herself as a storyteller and writer and gave a voice to both the hardships and accomplishments she had encountered as a Japanese-American.  Awarded the Macalester College Alumni Service Award in 1999, Ms. Suzuki passed away that same year.  Catharine Deaver Lealtad and Esther Torii Suzuki received the Macalester College Board of Trustees Award for Meritorious and Distinguished Service on September 13, 2002.

Jeff Tagami was born in Watsonville, California, in 1954. Originally from the Philippines, Tagami’s parents immigrated to California from Hawaii, and Tagami’s work frequently describes the struggles of Asian agricultural workers in the region. Tagami attended Cabrillo College before moving to San Francisco in the 1970s. He earned his BA from the University of California-Santa Cruz and an MA from San Francisco State University, both in the 1990s. He published one collection of poetry, October Light (2002), and helped edit four anthologies. His poem “Song of Pajaro” was featured in the PBS documentary The United States of Poetry.




East Coast

Nancy Bulalacao studied performance poetry with Kurt Lamkin and Pablo Medina at New School.  She has created and curated public programs for the Asian American community in NYC for 20 years.  She was cofounder of Poets Theater and currently prinicipal of FAM (Filipino American Museum).  This coming June she and her husband are expecting their first baby, a little boy.

Alison Roh Park is a Pushcart-nominated poet, Kundiman Asian American Poetry fellow, and winner of the Poetry Society of America New York Chapbook Fellowship and Poets and Writers Magazine Amy Award. In 2010, she received the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant in Literature to travel to rural South Korea to study gender and the impact of U.S. foreign policy and globalization on family farming. She co-founded The Good Times Collective, a group of emerging woman of color poets from the outer boroughs of New York City.



Marlina Gonzalez has been working as a producer and curator for media and arts organizations such as Asian CineVision in New York as well as the Walker Art Center and Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis for more than two decades.  In 2009, Marlina embarked on a new career direction as an in independent artist, curator, and writer focusing on creating her own work in theater, film, video and new media arts. Marlina had the honor of working with Esther Suzuki and Vijit Ramchandani as one of the co-founders of Asian American Renaissance.  “The legacy of Esther’s precious family stories and Vijit’s elegant poetry are reminders that each of us stands on the shoulders of those before us and we in turn must continue to hold firmly to support the artistry of those after us.”

Juliana Hu Pegues is a poet, playwright, performer, and academic.  She will start teaching next fall at Smith College as an Assistant Professor in English and Women & Gender Studies.  She is proud to have known Esther Suzuki both through Asian American Renaissance and in protesting Miss Saigon.  She is honored to read Esther's words.

June Noronha joined the Bush Foundation in 2005 as a strategic officer and now serves as senior manager with the Native Nations Team, where she works on nation building and government reform in Indian country.   She has worked in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.   A refugee and immigrant to the US, June is native to Kenya with immigrant parents from India, She is passionate about bridging divides, music of all genres, traditional forms of art, and keeping closely connected with family and friends around the world. A painter and community activist, June has been deeply engaged in advancing civil and human rights in and with Asian- American, Native, and Latino communities.


West Coast

Shirley Ancheta

Jason Bayani is the author of "Amulet" from Write Bloody Press. He's an MFA grad from Saint Mary's College, a Kundiman fellow, and is currently the program manager for Kearny Street Workshop

Jade Cho is a poet and educator from Oakland, California. She has been a member of 2 nationally competing slam teams, winning Best Political Poem and Best Writing as a Team at College Unions Poetry Slam 2013. She has taught in June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley, worked as a teaching artist at Youth Speaks, and performed at venues across the nation. Her first collection of poetry, In the Tongue of Ghosts, is forthcoming with Youth Speaks’ First Word Press.

Caitlyn Clark is a Korean American youth poet from the Bay Area, CA. She is fifteen years old and has been working with San Francisco non-profit Youth Speaks since 2014, after becoming the Youth Speaks Grand Slam Champion and representing the Bay Area at Brave New Voices. Caitlyn has also performed at the Hollywood Bowl in John Legend's tribute to Marvin Gaye. She can be contacted via twitter, @lilacisms