Dawn of a New Era: GIDRA’s Role in Unifying the Pan-Asian Identity (by Angelikah)

STANDARDS:

History – Social Science Content Standard:

  • 11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies:

  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas
  • Cite specific evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to address a question or solve a problem.

OVERVIEW:

Throughout this lesson, students will be challenged to think critically about the role and importance of alternative media in unifying the Asian American movement in the midst of larger Third World struggles. Students will consider the circumstances leading up to the creation of alternative news sources such as GIDRA and contextualize how “Yellow Power” was a leading force within the Asian American movement. With this knowledge, students will also explore how the Asian American movement found itself united amongst a larger Third World struggle.

This unit is organized in a way that will have students first develop an understanding of a historical context surrounding the making of GIDRA and use that context to inform a nuanced discussion of the primary historical document, newspaper articles from GIDRA.

The lesson will be divided amongst three days. In the first part of the lesson, students will be introduced to the historical context surrounding the origins of GIDRA and think about the general role of media in social movements. On the second day, students will analyze two articles in the GIDRA newspaper and think about how the articles in the GIDRA newspaper provide access to the ways that Asian American felt and reacted during the 1960’s. Students will be asked to thoughtfully explore the primary document from the historical context in which it was produced. On the last day, students will be asked to create their own project that takes the ideas and events from the newspaper articles and reframes them within the present context. This exercise will help students utilize their historical meaning making skills as they identify and integrate the main and key ideas present from the original primary document in a new project and think about the methods in which GIDRA helped to unify the Asian American movement.

ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING:

Through an evaluation of secondary and primary newspaper sources, students will examine and explore how the rise of alternative press such as the newspaper, GIDRA, worked to unite Asian Americans under the frame of Yellow Power and Third World oppression.

 

QUESTIONS:

  1. What is the general role of media? What has been the role of media within social movements?
  2. In what context was GIDRA founded – who, what, when, and why?
  3. What is Yellow Power? Who did Yellow Power involve?
  4. How were Asian Americans viewed in the past? How does Yellow Power reject that past assumption and stereotype?
  5. How do the articles (Yellow Power, The Third World) in this GIDRA volume reframe Asian Americans within the context of the larger Yellow Power and Third World struggles?

 

GLOSSARY:

  1. Yellow Power: Inspired by the larger Black Power movement, Yellow Power was a form of radical ethnic Nationalism that united Asian Americans under a pan-Asian identity1.
  2. pan-Ethnic/Asian: A term that generally groups and embraces all related Ethnic groups. In this movement, it was the unification of mainly Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino under one “Asian-American” label.
  3. Third World: In the context of social movements, Third World is an analogy/label for describing a loose coalition of “third world” communities of color that was characterized by a common experience with colonialism and the rejection of assimilation.
  4. GIDRA: Founded during the 1960’s by UCLA students, GIDRA was an alternative ethnic news source that helped unify a pan-Asian identity. GIDRA is considered by many historians to be the journalistic arm of the Movement2.

 

INTRODUCTION:

The free press plays an important role in our everyday lives. With functions ranging from entertainment to influential advertisements, the most important function of the media is to inform and educate a public audience. A free press is often said to serve as a “watchdog” for society as it has a role to serve as the “eyes” and “ears” for the public and to report on events as they unfold. Journalism thus, is essential in maintaining a democratic society because it empowers individuals with information about their current society so that these individuals can in turn, use this information to make decisions.

Historically, the press has served both an important and varying role within social movements in America. During the Asian-American social movement, the rise of “alternative” or dissident press such as the publication, GIDRA, provided a space for the unique perspectives and voices of the Asian-American community.

Asian American political activism began as a series of spontaneous events across the nation from the East Coast to the West Coast during the 1960’s. One of the key components of activism on the West Coast were the demonstrations that took place on college campuses. These demonstrations were from a variety of community-based organizations that protested the lack of social services offered in Asian American communities and also from a variety of college-based organizations that protested the lack of diversity on campuses3. College campuses served as politically active spaces where the Asian American social movements would cross pollinate and grow in number and strength.

Because the Asian American social movement was at most points occurring concurrently with the larger Black Power movement of the 1960’s, larger news publications often failed to report on the “small” happenings of the Asian American population. Thus, in its beginnings, the Asian American social movement was often seen as a collection of incidents that occurred at different times, in different places and with different perspectives and lacked the united community/front needed to gain attention. GIDRA, a student-initiated newspaper was born amidst this struggle for visibility and began highlighting a variety of Asian American perspectives, voices, and political happenings that had been previously overshadowed by more mainstream American issues and events4. This newspaper helped to unite the Asian American struggle into a movement founded on the basis of Yellow Power.

In April 1969, the first copy of GIDRA was completed by 5 UCLA students and thus began a monthly cycle of this publication. GIDRA not only served as a source of news for young Asian American activists but also worked to forge pan-Asian and pan-Ethnic consciousness. Through media outlets such as this one, Asian Americans began to formulate their own values and ideals, gain pride in their own identities, and create a new sense of culture built in Asian American solidarity5. GIDRA and other ethnic press sources recognized that the mainstream press often lost the voices of the multiple Asian ethnic opinions and perspectives, especially those that were US born, of the younger generation, and filled with more radical ideas6. These platforms allowed for the coverage and the growing of a multitude of changing identities and political opinions that were within the Asian American community.  The rise of alternative news sources like GIDRA served as a way to publicize Asian political happenings, connect the Asian-American community, and further, mobilize Asian-Americans across the country to join in the united activism.

 

MATERIALS:

 

Day 1 – Lecture Slides (powerpoint)

 

Drawing the Line – GIDRA (video)

 

The Yellow Press: Asian American Radicalism and Conflicts in GIDRA (secondary source)

 

GIDRA’s Content (video)

 

Yellow Power: The Origins of Asian America (secondary source)

 

GIDRA Newspaper (primary source)

 

ACTIVITIES:

DAY 1: On the first day of the unit, students will gain the necessary context needed for understanding the origins and purpose of the rise of alternative news source, GIDRA. Students will first be asked to recount any prior knowledge that they have about the Asian American movement. The teacher will then lecture on the Asian American movement of the 1960’s. The lecture will begin by providing a brief history of Asian Americans in America and then cover topics such as a brief overview of the Asian American movement, the ideology surrounding the movement, and the rise of a pan-ethnic identity. *A sample, but brief lecture slide is provided in one of the material links (slide 2). This lecture is expected to take about 20 minutes of the class.

Next, students will shift gears from thinking about the Asian American movement and pan-ethnic identity into thinking about the role of media within society, and specifically in social movements. (The teacher should know that students will be later combining these two seemingly different ideas into thinking about how the rise of alternative news sources within the Asian American movement helped to unify a more cohesive Asian American voice.) Students will begin discussing the purpose of media, who the media should focus on and what should happen when groups are left out/not covered in the media, and how the media has influenced social movements and will then share out as a class (slide 3-4). This should take about 15 minutes.

Finally, end the class with showing the video Drawing the Line – GIDRA and have students take short notes thinking about who GIDRA involved and covered, the internal structure of GIDRA, and a main takeaway (slide 5). After the video and questions, the teacher should introduce the homework to finish up the class.

HOMEWORK: Assign the section of The Yellow Press: Asian American Radicalism and Conflict in Gidra from the Abstract until Shared Identity Through External Conflict and answer questions (slide 6).


DAY 2: On the second day of the unit, students will will read and discuss articles from primary source, GIDRA, in smaller groups and work to frame GIDRA within the context of the larger Asian American movement by understanding and connecting key details and ideas. The class should begin with the teacher showing a video, Gidra’s Content, as a short precursor and warm up to class. Students in table groups of 3-4 will then begin discussing their homework answers and comparing and contrasting this information source with the ideas that they watched about GIDRA in today’s class and the class prior. This is expected to take about 15 minutes of the class.

Next, students will think more deeply about what the pan-ethnic identity meant within the Asian American movement. Part of this understanding will come from reading Yellow Power – The Origins of Asian America from the beginning until “No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Chink.” Students will begin discussing how Asian Americans came to embrace their identity with pride and what this changing identity consisted of. This should take about 10 minutes.

Finally, students will be split into 2 sections. One half of the class will read the GIDRA article Yellow Power and the other half will read the article The Third World. Students will be asked to identify what the article’s main idea is, why the article suggests that people join this movement, and the ways in which it provides a convincing call to its audience. (The teacher might also suggest that students try and identify who the articles seem to be written for.) Students will be split into 4-5 groups within these articles and will be asked to present their answers to the rest of the class. This should take about 20 minutes and then the teacher will assign homework. (If there are more groups present, groups can present the next day.)

HOMEWORK: Assign thought questions about the newspaper article as a whole. For instance, who the intended audience for the piece was, how the piece was effective and convincing, and the tactics employed that made this article captivating. This will prepare students for the final class day of this lesson plan and the culminating project.


DAY 3: On the final day of the unit, students will spend most of their time working in groups of 4 to both reframe and create either the Yellow Power article, Third World article, or possibly one of the other articles (however this may require a student to put in additional research work to understand the context of the piece so it is suggested that students stick with YP or TW article), in a medium that is relevant for a teen audience today.

GIDRA was a newspaper that constantly changed with the times. It took news stories from across the nation (and sometimes across oceans as well) that were occurring in the current and then situated these stories within a frame of the larger Asian American identity. This ability to relate the issues and stories occurring across the nation into a person’s daily life and thoughts helped to forge a new pan-ethnic consciousness. GIDRA was so important to the shaping of the Asian American movement because the writers knew how to appeal to their readers (knowing full well who their readers were!) by covering stories that had not found its way into mainstream media but, were very relevant and palpable to a large Asian American audience.

The final outcome of this lesson plan is for students to take the central ideas/information that they have gained through the study of primary and secondary sources and create a version of the TW or YP article that will speak convincingly to a teen audience today. Students can do this through variety of multimedia forms that they see fit – a written blog, a series of mock Instagram or Facebook posts, a short video, a graphic (with writing explanation), etc. Students should retain the essence of these TW/YP articles and cite evidence and arguments from these original articles, but also may feel free to situate the stories in a more modern context. Students may also add or swap out current events for some of the events that were mentioned in the original newspaper if they feel it better appeals to a modern teen audience. Students should work to integrate and evaluate the multiple sources of information they have studied in order to address questions such as, “What did YP/TW mean back then? What does YP/TW mean in today’s context? What tactics were employed by writers during GIDRA in order to appeal to a specific audience? How were they successful in garnering popular support? What stories are relevant now?”

Students should work in groups of 4 on the same topic article and spend the class period working on their final projects. What is not finished may be continued as homework.

 

Additional Sources

Lopez, Lori. “The Yellow Press: Asian American Radicalism and Conflict in Gidra.” Journal of Communication Inquiry 35, no. 3 (2011): 235-51.

Maeda, Daryl J. Rethinking the Asian American Movement. American Social and Political Movements of the Twentieth Century. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Wei, William. The Asian American Movement. Asian American History and Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.

 


  1. Nina Wallace, Yellow Power: The Origins of Asian America, (Washington, Densho, 2017).
  2. William Wei, The Asian American Movement. (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1993), 103.
  3. Ibid., 11.
  4. Ibid., 102.
  5. Yen Le Espiritu, Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities. (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1992), 40.
  6. Jean Ryoo, Learning from the Alternative Asian American Press: A Close Look at Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in Education Through Gidra. (Los Angeles, UCLA, 2009), 106.
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