Google’s Asian Google Network’s Eventbrite page popped up under my “Other Events You May Like”, I saw that tickets were free, so I registered for the event. Apparently, the event wasn’t supposed to be public, oops! I’m glad I was able to join their community for such an awesome experience!
It felt cathartic to immerse my senses to learn about a part of American history that I was never exposed to during my pre-college education. The crisp 360° visuals and narrative audio worked seamlessly to create a high-tech learning experience and it makes me extremely excited to find more initiatives and projects that’s revolutionizing Asian American education!
Hearing Cantonese-speaking seniors read poems that were carved out on Angel Island was extremely unexpected and eerie. Being from a Cantonese family, the experience was especially striking for me… The creator literally chose to combine my ancestor’s DYING language with such a FUTURISTIC medium! HOW AWESOMELY CONTRASTING IS THAT?!
I’ll break it down more for those who are less familiar*: Cantonese has entered a period of decline.
Mandarin has begun to overtake English as the 2nd language of Hong Kong
A significant portion of schools in Hong Kong use Mandarin as medium of instruction
Cantonese media has lost its prominence on the global stage
Overseas Cantonese diaspora form an increasingly smaller share of overseas Chinese
Guangdong Province is now full of tens of millions of residents who never learn Cantonese
Both the Hong Kong government and Cantonese speakers in general fail to be active promoters of Cantonese language
Being able to feel that your “irrelevant” Asian personal trait is relevant when the American culture that you are also a part of is still alienating and not celebrating non-white ethnicities is an invaluable feeling to experience. I wish Americans can come up with a word already that describes this complex feeling…
While the whole experience seemed magical with the virtual reality component, it also was a reality check… What a time to be alive… The Muslim ban and other recent political activities were unsurprising hot topics during the panel discussion. It’s so scary that CAAM’s VR simulation is more real and in-your-face than Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh’s reality and alarming refusal to denounce racist opinions on the Chinese Exclusion Act during his confirmation hearing.
The organic circle discussion formed with Stephen Gong Executive Director of CAAM and other attendees afterwards in the reception area is an example of why events like this is so important to have. You can always count on making wholesome connections and having resonating conversations if you show up and be present at these events!
Naturally, I called my grandma immediately after the event to tell her about it. Words don’t do the VR experience justice and I know that it would make my grandparents so happy to experience something like this. I am hopeful that there will be an increase in community experiences like these so we can re-color what American history looks like. I’m extremely thankful that Google shares it’s resources to ethnic communities like Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Asian Law Caucus (ALC).