Stories from Asian America

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May 7, 2020
7:00pm Central Time
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A conversation with Dr. Erika Lee and Asian Americans Series Producer, Renee Tajima-Peña , and Marlina Gonzalez, TPT Community Impact.

Dr. Erika Lee and Producer Renee Tajima-Peña will engage in conversation about the history of Asian America as well as the making of the PBS series Asian Americans. Dr. Lee served as an advisor to the five-part PBS documentary. Producer Tajima-Peña will share her insights into the shaping of documentary.

The conversation will reflect on the crucial role of historical documentaries in re-shaping, re-forming and re-informing our understanding of Asian American history and marginalized aspects of American history.

This event will feature sneak previews of Asian Americans, excerpts from Tajima Peña’s documentaries, brief visual history of Asian American Renaissance (AAR), Minnesota’s premier Asian American arts and culture organization which served as a catalyst in the 90’s for the rise of Asian American arts and cultural organizations including Theater MU, Pangea World Theater, among others.

ASIAN AMERICANS, Premiering on TPT on May 11 & 12, 2020, and on PBS nationwide.

Video Descriptions

Asian Americans Preview

Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that will chronicle the contributions, and challenges of Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. Personal histories and new academic research will cast a fresh lens on U.S. history and the role Asian Americans have played in it.

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Funders and Partners Slides

Major Funders of Asian Americans series as well as TPT event partners.

Welcome to OVEE

Asian Americans WETA Station Reel v01 - Unlisted

A Louisiana Family Discovers Their South Asian Roots

South Asians began arriving in significant numbers during the late 1800s. Most were men who settled in communities of color and faced segregation and laws against intermarriage with whites. Many formed multiracial families like Moksad Ali, a Bengali Muslim trader, who married an African American woman, Ella Blackman. Together they navigated race in an era of anti-Asian exclusion and Jim Crow.

‘They Liked to Pit the Mexicans Against the Filipinos’

The Filipino farmworkers voted to strike, but they had to convince Cesar Chavez, the leader of the Mexican workers, to join them. The task was left to Larry Itliong. Together Filipino and Mexicans mounted a historic and victorious grape strike that electrified the world.

60 minutes


  • Moderator Avatar
    Jennifer O'Byrne (Chat) and Marlina Gonzalez (Panel)

    Jennifer O’Byrne is the Senior Event Specialist at TPT. Jen is responsible for bringing PBS content to our viewers through in person events and activities. Marlina is TPT’s Community Impact Manager, she works with community leaders and TPT content generators using human centered design thinking to ensure long-term community impact of TPT’s creative process and productions.

  • Co-Moderator Avatar
    Marlina Gonzalez


  • Panelist Avatar
    Dr. Erika Lee


    Erika Lee is an award-winning American historian, Director of the Immigration History Research Center, Regents Professor, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, and the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History at the University of Minnesota. Her scholarly specialties include migration, race and ethnicity; xenophobia; immigration law and public policy; Asian Americans; and transnational U.S. history. Named a 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, she is completing a book titled "America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (Basic Books, 2019). Her book, The Making of Asian America: A History was published by Simon & Schuster in 2015 to wide acclaim. A paperback version was published in 2016; a Chinese language version is forthcoming in 2019. Reviewed in The New York Times, the New Yorker, the LA Times, among other places, it was named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2015 by the Kirkus Reviews, a "10 Can't-Miss History Books of 2015" by History Buffs, and was awarded the 2015 -2016 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Adult Non-Fiction from the American Library Association. She is also the author or co-author of the award winning books Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, (with Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, 2010) and At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (University of North Carolina Press, 2003) as well as many articles on immigration law and Asian American immigration. She has been awarded numerous national and university fellowships and awards for her research, teaching, and leadership, including the 2017 Dean's Medal and the Arthur Red Motley Award for Excellence in Teaching from the College of Liberal Arts, the 2016 Pioneer Award from OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, and the 2015 Immigrant Heritage Award from the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. She is an active public scholar and has been an invited speaker at universities, historical societies, and community organizations around the U.S. and internationally. At the Immigration History Research Center, Lee has helped to pioneer new ways of merging immigration history with the digital humanities. She launched and oversees the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Immigrant Stories Project which works with recent immigrants and refugees to collect, preserve, and share their experiences with a new multi-lingual digital story-telling website ( and archive. She also founded and co-organized the #ImmigrationSyllabus project (, a digital educational resource offering historical perspectives to contemporary immigration debates.

  • Panelist Avatar
    Renee Tajima-Peña


    Renee Tajima-Peña, Series Producer, was nominated for an Academy Award for her documentary Who Killed Vincent Chin? which opened the 1989 season of “POV”. Her film, My America...Or Honk If You Love Buddha (1997) was an award-winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Her other directing credits include The Mexico Story for Kartemquin Films' collaborative series on immigration; The New Americans (IDA Award winner); Labor Women; The Last Beat Movie (Sundance Channel); The Best Hotel on Skid Row (premiered at Cannes, aired on HBO); and most recently No Más Bebés (“Independent Lens”). Tajima-Peña is a Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she is also Director of the Center for EthnoCommunications of the Asian American Studies Center, and Endowed Chair in Japanese American Studies.

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The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.