“Instead of going to class, I’ve been working with the Asian Student Mobilization Committee,” a college student wrote in a letter to their mother in 1972. “If nothing else, the events of the past week have convinced me … that prolonged struggle and political education are necessary to effect change.” So begins one young person’s politicization, borne out of opposition to the US wars in Southeast Asia and galvanized by the sight of “friends and fellow students getting their faces smashed with night sticks.”
The letter is one snapshot of Asian America contained in the Chinese American Museum’s Roots: Asian American Movements in Los Angeles 1968–80s. Through books, posters, films, and music, the exhibit brings together varied local histories of movement building by Asians and Pacific Islanders, from anti-gentrification protests in Chinatown to Samoan community organizing in the South Bay. It’s a timely look at the shapes and forms of resistance that can inform today’s political struggles against an emboldened front of white supremacy and xenophobia.