Sikh American graffiti artist Nisha Sembi defies stereotypes

AsAm News/NBC News:

How can one person challenge racial and gender stereotypes with one quick spray of paint? Through her participation in graffiti street art, Nisha Sembi, a Sikh American, can not only counter stereotypes, but also build bridges among communities as disparate as first-generation immigrants and hip-hop aficionados, according to NBC.

I grew up with the typical model minority expectations, but I wasn’t interested in being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. My family always labeled me as the ‘odd, creative one’,” Sembi said.
In Berkeley, CA, she honed her skills, learning her craft under veteran U.S. and Indian artists. Now her  work, grounded in hip-hop culture, can be seen across the globe. Sembi says that her art is more than just a visual medium; her work also tells stories and gives voice to her community.
First generation Asian Americans have a very unique story to tell, and if we do not take ownership of it and document it, who will?” Sembi said.
To see Sembi’s graffiti art, click here.

Asian American history on display at 2015 Rose Parade, including the first-ever Sikh float

NBC News: 

The morning of January first ushers in new year, and with it, the 126th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade, a New Year’s morning tradition dating back to 1890 and reaching 50 million viewers, including many who have camped out all night along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, and many more across the country who will watch on their television sets. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Stories,” and several groups have looked to Asian-American history and cultures for stories and inspiration.

  • The City of Alhambra’s “Go for Broke” float honors the second generation (Nisei) Japanese Americans who fought in WWII, while many of their families were incarcerated. The 41-foot float replicates the black granite monument in downtown Los Angeles and will feature several veterans riding on the float.
  • The United Sikh Mission float, “A Sikh American Journey,” marks the first time that Sikh Americans and their 130 year history in America have been represented in a Rose Parade float. Organizers hope it will help educateand dispel harmful stereotypes. The float depicts the Stockton gurdwara, the first Sikh temple built in America in 1912.
  • The American Honda Motor Co.’s float, “Building Dreams of Friendship,” features two bridges connecting iconic imagery from America and Japan, and will feature Tomodachi leadership exchange students from Japan’s Tohoku region, the area hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
  • China Airlines‘s float, “Inspiring Grace of Cloud Gate,” celebrates internationally renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, and the Cloud Gate which is the oldest known dance in China.
  • Singpoli Group‘s “A Bright Future” depicts a fifty-five foot phoenix, representing hope, optimism, and rebirth. The bird will turn its head, flap its wings, and breathe fire. The Chinese phoenix is often coupled with a dragon, which also appears.
  • The City of South Pasadena’s float, “Still Winning!” shows two Chinese dragon boats racing against each other, shadowed by a giant pink ribbon, representing The Los Angeles Pink Dragons (whose members will also be riding on this float), the first dragon boat team comprised solely of breast cancer survivors.
  • Dole Packaged Foods’ Float, “Rhythm of Hawaii,” celebrates the natural and cultural wonders of Hawaii with two twelve-foot outrigger canoes, jumping dolphins, pahu drums, hula dancers, a waterfall, and two active volcanoes, which will actually erupt with flames and smoke.

In addition, the parade featured the Hawaii Pa’u Riders, the Maui High School Saber Marching Band and Color Guard, and the Koriyama Honor Green Band from Japan.