Filipino-Canadian professor co-hosts new PBS Voices show

“A People’s History of Asian America” premiered May 6 on PBS

By Ysh Cabana 

in Toronto

U.S. public broadcaster PBS has begun streaming a miniseries highlighting Asian Americans.

PBS Digital Studios partnered with the Center for Asian American Media in “A People’s History of Asian America” which premiered on May 6.

Image: PBS

The four-part educational show is co-hosted by Filipino-Canadian historian and poet Adrian de Leon and award-winning journalist, Dolly Li.

Li co-founded the digital publication Goldthread, an English-language content platform with a focus on food, travel and culture in China. She also won a regional Emmy award for a docuseries on Chinese food in America.

De Leon is currently an assistant professor of American studies and ethnicity at University of Southern California, where he taught a syllabus “The Making of Asian America” in the fall semester last year.

As in the course, each episode focuses on a particular microaggression toward Asian Americans in the U.S., from statements such as “take your Chinese virus back home to China” to stereotypical beliefs that Asian Americans are hard workers, have tasty food or are highly intelligent. Since joining USC Dornsife in 2019, De Leon has taught about Asian, particularly Filipino, labor and culture in North America and serves on the steering committee for the Center for Transpacific Studies, which coordinates the research and teaching activities of faculty whose scholarship focuses on people, cultures and ideas that move across the Pacific.

De Leon said he organized the class on microaggression as it is based on the daily language used to speak of race in the U.S. The course is a way to help students develop literacies in anti-racism and social justice.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Toronto Scarborough, De Leon pursued a Ph.D. in history. He is also a published poet with his book Rouge was inspired by Toronto subway stops and the Danzig Street mass shooting in 2012.

The miniseries can be seen on PBS Voices, the documentary-focused YouTube channel from PBS Digital Studios, and is also available on the PBS website and video app.

“PBS Voices extends public media’s efforts to foster dialogue and deepen awareness around the many ways in which diversity makes our great nation stronger,” said Brandon Arolfo, head of PBS Digital Studios.

“While A People’s History of Asian America reveals some difficult truths, we are proud to stand in solidarity with the Asian American community and present informed perspectives that we believe will empower our audiences to create a future free of hate, intolerance and racism.”

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