WASHINGTON — The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) recently announced Guy Aoki of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) and Marilyn Tokuda of East West Players (EWP) as its new co-chairs.
Aoki, a founding member of APAMC, is the founding president of MANAA, formed in 1992 in Los Angeles. The all-volunteer, non-profit organization is the only group solely dedicated to monitoring the mass media and advocating balanced, sensitive and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans.
In 2001, Aoki put comedian Sarah Silverman on the spot when he debated her on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” for using the slur “chinks” in a joke on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Last year, Aoki coordinated the protest against the “white-washed” casting of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender.”
Since 1992, Aoki has written the Rafu Shimpo column “Into the Next Stage” about Asian Americans and the media. Between 1989 and 2005, the fourth-generation Japanese American wrote syndicated pop music radio shows for Dick Clark, including the award-winning “Countdown America.”
Tokuda, who joined APAMC in 2002, is the arts education director at Los Angeles-based EWP, the nation‘s premier Asian American theater organization and the longest-running professional theater of color in the country. For six years, Tokuda served as the artistic director of Cold Tofu, the first Asian American comedy improvisation group, which she helped found.
As an actress, she has appeared in film, on television and on stage and knows first-hand the struggles Asian Pacific Americans face in the entertainment industry. Her TV credits include “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “Frasier,” “JAG,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends.”
Both Aoki and Tokuda appeared in “Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective,” a video about the character played by Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
APAMC was formed in 1999 after it, the NAACP, and Latino and Native American organizations were appalled that of the 26 new television series offered by the four major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — none starred a person of color. To hold the networks accountable for their prime-time programming, the multi-ethnic coalition began issuing annual report cards in 2000. APAMC set an ambitious agenda to raise awareness of the lack of Asian Pacific Americans both behind and in front of the camera.
APAMC’s initial chair was former Rep. Norman Y. Mineta. Karen K. Narasaki replaced him in 2000. After 11 years of service, the Asian American Justice Center president and executive director has stepped down in order to work on media diversity issues as the chair of Comcast/NBCUniversal’s External Diversity Advisory Council on Asian Americans.
Narasaki stated, “I am very proud of the work APAMC has accomplished over the past 11 years. Asian Pacific American representation in media is critical to advancing overall equality as well as addressing damaging Asian Pacific American stereotypes. I’m confident that the new co-chairs, Guy Aoki and Marilyn Tokuda, will work with the other coalition members and the networks to accomplish the goal of fair and accurate Asian Pacific American representation on television.”
“Karen’s departure will leave a huge void as her leadership has been a vital and integral part of creating change,” said Tokuda. “Her civil rights work, legal expertise and commitment to diversity have been key to the progress we have made as a coalition.”
Aoki added, “The coalition thanks Karen and her various staff members for more than a decade of trying to improve the way Asian Pacific Americans are portrayed, perceived and treated by society. Now that these initiatives are embedded in the networks internally, APAMC will focus on several issues, including: the tracking of Asian Pacific American advancement in the creative pipeline, establishing benchmarks with regard to APA visibility on television (more starring roles), and trying to interface more directly with writers and producers to bring these goals to fruition.”
Moving forward, Tokuda said, “APAMC commends the networks for having made significant progress these past 11 years in ensuring diversity initiatives have been put in place. However, although opportunities have increased substantially for all APAs in the creative fields, there is still work to be done. We look forward to a continued productive relationship with the networks as we work towards advancing mutual goals of diversifying television programming.”