Monday, September 24, 2007

Social and Racial Justice

Mission of the Company (Marian Tseng)

The content of Asianadian was infused with stories about social and racial justice and how to be educated about these issues. It was apparent that the aim of the publication was not focused on economics but rather on gaining insight of the experiences of Asian Canadians and the struggles and triumphs they faced.

The mission of Asianadian was printed in almost every issue of the magazine. This is an important reminder to the staff to carry out the mission of the collective in all aspects of every article and also convey to the reader the ongoing commitment to these six purposes:

  • To encourage pride in being Asian in Canada.

Asianadian is constantly encouraging Asian Canadian pride through their issues. This can be seen when notable Asians are interviewed such as Maria Lee, the coordinator of the Chinese Outreach Program (Volume 1, Issue 1). It can also be seen through Community News and reading about what other Asian groups are doing in the area.

The next three purposes of Asianadian’s mission are intertwined.

  • To bridge the differences among Asian Canadians and other Canadians.
  • To speak out against racism, in all forms and practiced under any conditions, in Canada
  • To stand up and correct misconceptions of Asian history in Canada, such as stereotypes, and also fight for inequality towards minority groups of any ethnic background

There is a plethora of articles dedicated to these aims. In Volume 4, Issue 3, Asianadian featured an article called “Racial Harassment: Individual Reflections”. Here, Asian Canadians shared their experiences with racism. At the conclusion of the article, the staff provided valuable resources for their readers when dealing with racist people or authority figures. They realized that recent Asian immigrants might not have much experience with these encounters and wanted to offer support to them.

  • To promote Asian Canadian writers, artists, etc. and provide them an outlet for their artistry

In addition to highlighting Asian Canadian issues, the magazine wanted to highlight exceptional artists in their community. They did this through having Asian Canadian writers submit short stories to be published such as “Paki,” a short story by M.K. Sohail (Volume 6, Number 1) and having a section of each issue devoted to poetry by Asian Canadians.

  • To encourage unity among Asians already in Canada and new immigrants.

This aim was achieved through community news which Asianadian wrote about. It was also achieved simply by publishing stories on both groups, new immigrants and Asians already in Canada, because it educated them on the different issues that plague each group.

These are just some of the examples of how the aims are confirmed when reviewing just a few issues of Asianadian. Often times, issues would be dedicated to a sole topic. This allowed the staff to thoroughly research and exhaust all avenues on the topic.

As a result, many valuable resources were made available to readers. For example, an entire issue was dedicated to mental illness and the Asian community (Vol. 6, Issue 1). They shared personal stories so that readers could see that this was a real problem in the community. In addition, Asianadian had a Vietnamese doctor named Bach-Tuyet Dang pen an article entitled, “My Experiences as a Vietnamese Doctor.” Dang wrote about different patients of his and how sometimes it was difficult to work with recent immigrants because they were used to traditional Asian medicine.

What is striking is the effort to convey the significance of these matters. The collective emphasized that these are topics that are important to discuss even though they are not publicized. In addition, the staff strongly emphasized that Asian equality is not abnormal and is an entitlement that should not only be allowed but is a birth-given right. Asianadian was constantly attentive to the needs of their readers rather than concentrating on profit.

Momoye Sugiman, a major contributing member to Asianadian, saw the collective’s mission as tri-fold. First, they wanted to combat stereotyping and racism. Secondly, they wanted to promote intercultural communication and understanding among the various Asian Canadian ethno-cultural groups. Finally, the members wanted to create a place where Asian Canadians could express their views and showcase their talent through writing or other outlets. Sugiman felt that this mission was achieved because although the magazine never became widely read, their readers were fiercely loyal to the magazine. This loyal readership made the collective even more determined to be committed to breaking down existing stereotypes of the community.

So while the magazine reported on the Asian Canadian community, it also targeted the audience of non-Asian Canadians in hopes to educate them. As mentioned above, they truly wanted to break down stereotypes and bring the issues of Asians to the surface.

Vision of the Company (Marian Tseng)

Every successful company needs a vision, which is used to guide a group of people successfully towards a common goal. Asianadian’s vision began in a Toronto restaurant in 1978. The conversation that morning was not centered on current events or idle chitchat but rather the vision of a revolutionary magazine. This vision became a reality due to the pioneering efforts of three people: Tony Chan, Lao Bo, and Cheuk Kwan. The magazine’s goals were dedicated to “social justice, social activism and social criticism” (Asianadian website ). The intention of the collective was to create a forum that united Asian Canadians, regardless of their ethnicity, language differences and countries of origin. This forum would aid in the dispelling of stereotypes and stand up for equality among all the races (Siu, 2002).

Asianadian succeeded in achieving this goal on multiple levels. They called on the aid of writers from diverse backgrounds to present a complete picture of the Asian experience, not just the Chinese or Japanese experience. Asianadian was fortunate to have the efforts of writers such as Satish Dhar, an Asian Indian, and Ph. Le, who was Vietnamese to bring about a broad perspective that was inclusive of all Asian Canadian communities. The collective was also fiercely dedicated to putting all their time and energy into the articles rather than worrying about getting advertisers. They recognized that they needed financial backing from investors but never allowed that to compromise their journalistic integrity. They agreed upon the magazine’s conception that their stories would not take the path of a consumerist driven publication. They did not want to encourage the rampant materialism that was so prevalent in mainstream media. Instead, they wanted to market to readers that were more activist, academic and literary. While this was a smaller audience, they were extremely devoted and active partners with the magazine.

This idea was grassroots because it was the first of its kind during a time period where Asians had little voice in mainstream media or public policy. During the magazine’s seven-year existence, over a hundred talented writers brought life and inspiration to Asianadian’s readers and challenged their ideologies. Despite the criticism and financial hardships that it would endure, the staff of Asianadian knew that they were contributing to something special and radical that was challenging the beliefs of Canadians.

Product Line/Operations (Tina Lin)

At first glance, a reader today would most likely look at Asianadian and realize it was made before the era of computers and the Internet. In fact, the process of printing the magazine was “ridiculously tedious and time consuming,” as IBM electronic typewriters were the most up-to-date word processors of the time (Sugiman, 2002). Asianadian was produced by a close-knit group of Asian Canadians based in Toronto. Members of the Asianadian collective worked together in planning, writing, typing, preparing lay-outs, graphics, and printing. Writing was, for the most part, done by people within the collective. There was never a shortage of articles as material could also be solicited from “outspoken individuals in the various Asian Canadian communities” (Sugiman, 2002). As the years progressed, however, it grew more and more difficult to find writers due to the fact that the task demanded a certain level of determination as well as skill.

The lifespan of Asianadian (1978 to 1985) was over a decade before desktop computers would become the norm. Much more effort was required in putting together a magazine at that time than it would take today. Writers had to justify the text of the article manually using a device called Letraset. Articles would sometimes have to be re-typed without self-correcting ribbon, making the process much more difficult than it is today with the advent of Microsoft Word. Once articles were completed, lay-outs were done by cutting the typed copies and manually laying them out on cardboards one page at a time. Lay-out sessions would sometimes last the entire night. Final lay-outs were then taken to a print shop for mass printing. During the first few years of the magazine’s existence, Tony Chan and Cheuk Kwan were responsible for maintaining the quality of the final product. This role would later be rotated among members of the collective. After completion of printing the issue, copies of Asianadian were packaged in boxes for mailing and distribution. Distribution was done by a company which specialized in distributing magazines throughout Canada. The collective at Asianadian needed only to pay the company, and copies of the magazine were then distributed to book and magazine stores.

Marketing Analysis and Strategies (Tina Lin)

There was discussion among the founders of Asianadian as to who would be the most likely to read this magazine. However, no official market analysis was done prior to the publication of the first issue of Asianadian. The collective of Asianadian felt an “overwhelming need to express themselves, to expose current and historical injustices, to bridge gaps between various Asian Canadian communities, and to smash stultifying racist stereotypes” (Sugiman, 2002). As far as determining who the target audience would be, founders wanted to provide a voice for the Asian Canadian community. Asianadian was resolute in expressing the viewpoints of the collective, no matter how controversial, and there was no fear of offending readers or of being labeled as radicals. Over the years, Asianadian stayed true to its mission and stood firm on its principles to be an open forum though this may have hindered growth in readership as some in the community found Asianadian to be too extreme in its views. Despite the fact that increasing the size of its readership would have potentially led to more financial support and government grants, the views of the collective were never “watered down” in order to conform to the status quo. “Shaking up the status quo [was] implicit” in the aims of Asianadian (Sugiman, 3).

With these ideals in place, Asianadian was determined to disseminate thought provoking and informative content into the Asian Canadian community. Once Asianadian was in print, marketing strategies needed to be implemented. Methods utilized to inform the public about Asianadian included “word of mouth,” promotion at public community events, and marketing to university and school libraries. Formal advertising included strategically placed flyers and exchange ads with other progressive publications. Though university libraries and other institutions and individuals subscribed to this magazine, it was difficult to put on the shelf at stores. “Left leaning” bookstores and a few “ethnic” stores were willing to carry Asianadian. For the most part, however, most “ethnic” grocery stores and bookstores found the content of the magazine to be too radical for their costumers and many potential readers found the magazine to be one-sided and radical as well.

Though turned away by mainstream stores, Asianadian did not question its content or reevaluate its purpose. From the starting block, the goal of Asianadian was not commercial success. The main interest of the collective was to raise levels of consciousness in the Asian Canadian community. Staying true to its initial intent would eventually reap its rewards and Asianadian would gain a loyal readership base. In the fall of 1979, subscribers of Asianadian amounted to approximately 300 readers from around the world. The word was getting out on Asianadian, high schools invited members of the collective to speak to students about the history the Asian Canadian community, other magazines were reprinting articles from Asianadian, even The Globe and Mail newspaper requested a front page “quote of the day” from the collective. Recognition in the community helped market Asianadian and give attention to the magazine, and “by the spring of 1980 [the collective] had clearly established the magazine as a respected, progressive Asian Canadian voice” (Sugiman, 3).

Although Asianadian was laid to rest in 1985, Momoye Sugiman still has hopes for its revival with the arrival of the Internet. The Internet presents a relatively inexpensive means for the ideas of Asianadian to be conveyed to a global audience. There would also be many possibilities for promotion on the Internet via e-mail newsletters, message boards, links on related websites, and advertising banners. By putting the magazine on the Internet for the entire world to see, there is an opportunity to spark interest among today’s progressive Asian thinkers. Momoye is optimistic and goes on to say, “Who knows? Perhaps a few young Asian Canadians – who were born when The Asianadian was launched – will become politicized after reading the entire collection of past Asianadian issues. Perhaps they will even take up where we left off back in 1985” (Sugiman, 2002).

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