APIDA Heritage Month: Standing Together

May 25, 2021

One year ago today, the murder of George Floyd set off waves of anguish and unrest around the world. 

At TMA, we joined those demanding greater accountability and anti-racist action from governments, institutions, brands… and ourselves. In taking a stand, we made urgent commitments to racial justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to enact these commitments in everything we do, from recruiting new team members to creating world-class campaigns. We’re building this mindset every day, and we won’t let up. 

APIDA members of TMA intended this month’s internal educational programing as part of the very same movement — to dismantle racism in all its forms, and especially, to denounce racially motivated violence. As colleagues and friends, we seek to open hearts, reveal the fullness of humanity, and deepen empathy for one another. As marketers, we know the power of storytelling. To that end, we recommend these cherished stories of the APIDA experience that touched our hearts, and hope they move others as well.  

Crying in H Mart

Written by Michelle Zauner

View Essay  |  View Book Details

“Crying in H Mart” shows the vulnerability of dealing with grief while at the same time, beautifully articulates the Korean-American food experience. 

Who doesn’t love food?! I relate to so many of Michelle’s stories about grocery shopping and eating with her mom. I reflected a lot on the daily occurrences that make up my Korean-American identity. I realized that I often take those moments for granted or brush them off with an eye roll. 

One particular occurrence I think of is when my mom is nagging me and my siblings on exactly how to make the best ssam (meat with spicy paste wrapped in red-leaf lettuce and a perilla leaf), and then she always proceeds to show us the “proper” way to eat it. I’m pretty sure we can see all her molars and fillings. I chuckle to myself thinking about this and so many memories growing up!

Tina Suh, Associate Account Director, Chicago

The Namesake

Book Written by Jhumpa Lahiri

Movie Directed by Mira Nair

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My name has always been something that I’ve struggled with, and frankly, something that most people around me have struggled with, so much so that they can hardly pronounce it. 

The Namesake captures the trials and tribulations of Indian Americans born to immigrant parents and the desire for reinvention, often struggling with or feeling embarrassed of their cultural traits – their name being one as the title suggests. 

I, too, am guilty of trying to recreate myself, with an urge to fit in, to belong. What I didn’t realize is that we all have so many attributes that make us unique and our name is one of them. 

Though still an inner battle I deal with at times, my name is one of the many things that has left me with a newfound respect for my heritage.

Sadhiya Moolji, Senior Analyst, Dallas

Bao – Pixar Animation

Short Film Written/Directed by Domee Shi

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The entire short film from start to finish was a very accurate depiction of what I myself have gone through with my own immigrant parents, who are reflected perfectly in the characters (but Thai vs. Chinese). Additionally, I’ve done exactly as the growing child/bao depicts, minus the ending (still working on that part).

The short completely took me by surprise emotionally because I rarely ever see depictions of Asian culture/families in much of anything and whew, those 8 minutes broooooke me, hah. I’m from that type of family that doesn’t necessarily show love by physical touch (no hugs), or words of affirmation (no I love you’s). It was always food (gifts) as the primary love language, and I was definitely showered with food. 

Being the unappreciative brat child, I up and left the house the second I could without so much as a “thank you” to my parents who I’m sure reacted exactly the same way as the parents in the short. Seeing a reflection of my own life through another lens and seeing how the situation was resolved, has definitely helped me in my own attempts to heal the heartbreak that I’m sure I caused my parents as a kid. 

I wish there were more cultural representations like this for others like me to connect to and help provide encouragement to heal within their own families. Disney is such a sucker for those happy endings, so I’m not sure if the end of Bao is realistic in my own world, but maybe for someone else like me, it is.

Amanda Kojsonk, Art Director, Dallas

The Joy Luck Club

Book Written by Amy Tan

Movie Directed by Wayne Wang

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I read “The Joy Luck Club” (the book is better than the movie) as a teenager and it really spoke to me because I could relate to the relationship between the four immigrant mothers and their daughters. 

I’m a first-generation Indian American and I grew up with very few people who looked like me. So while I was trying to navigate my dual identity my parents were still trying to bring me up with Indian values the best they could, just like the characters. 

I didn’t always understand why I had to follow certain rules or couldn’t do the same things my American friends could but reading this book gave me some perspective. 

Just like the main characters, there was a story behind my parents and a reason for their actions and thinking. They lived very different lives before coming to America and this book made me become more aware of their stories and the struggles and hardships they had to face to give me a better life in this country.

Rachna Patel, Creative Director, Dallas

Crazy Rich Asians

Movie Directed By Jon M. Chu

Book Written by Kevan Kwan

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This is the very first time I was able to connect to a pop culture romantic comedy movie on a cultural level. Even though this movie – adapted from the book of the same name – did not speak to Vietnamese Americans specifically, I was able to find so many personal connections in my own life to what was happening on the screen. 

Of course this movie was exaggerated with the level of wealth, but the casting, humor, and cultural references made it something so many Asian Americans could relate to and it only emphasized the fact that representation matters. 

This movie was so emotional for me that I actually made a YouTube video to share my reaction and thoughts with the world. 

It’s a feel good romantic comedy that breaks the glass ceiling in Asian and Asian American representation in Hollywood. 

Cindy Thai, Sr. Manager, Celebrity & Influencer, LA


Movie Written/Directed  by Lee Isaac Chung

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Minari captures the emotional complexity of the immigrant experience. 

America has a tendency to sugarcoat this, and insist that immigrants demonstrate gratitude and nothing else. Yes, there is gratitude, but there is also tremendous loss, homesickness, and sometimes despair. 

For first-generation Korean Americans, the pain of our ancestors is not something historical to contemplate. It’s something we observed in our own parents and grandparents as we grew up. I’m always conscious of what they went through so I could have this life.

Jean Scheidnes, VP, Growth & Development, Dallas

The Donut King

Documentary Directed by  Alice Gu

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Dry cleaners, liquor stores, fast food takeout, ever wonder why are so many of these businesses are Asian-owned? For some, it’s because businesses like these were only ones that were legal at the time Asian families immigrated here. 

For example, during the California Gold Rush in the 1860’s the Chinese experienced violent attacks and were harassed if they attempted to mine for themselves. They were used as cheap labor to work the longest shifts in the most dangerous environments. Starting laundries and restaurants to serve European miners were a few of the ways to make a living that weren’t deemed a threat.

In The Donut King, you learn to see donuts through a whole new lens, through the eyes of Cambodian immigrants. My mother was born in Cambodia and as a proud auntie to my two nieces and nephew, it’s hard to relay the stories of our ancestors in a relatable, non-eye-rolling, non-preachy kind of way.  

The Donut King is not only drool-worthy food porn, it’s a vehicle to disseminate the immigrant experience through history, humor and a shared humanity. It’ll make your next visit to your local donut shop even that much more satisfying. Great for the whole family.

Sophie Wong, SVP, Culture Marketing, LA

A special thank you to Discover_TMA and Jean Scheidnes for leading the agency’s APIDA Heritage Month efforts and Amanda Kojsank for creating the beautiful graphics.