Chinese American, Event, Performance

Hazel Ying Lee: Fighting for Gender Equality

Hazel Ying Lee

Although she lived during an era when the world told her that as a Chinese American female, the best she might hope for was a job as an elevator operator at a local department store, Hazel Ying Lee (1912–1944) had higher aspirations. Born in Portland, Oregon, she took her first airplane ride at age 20 and resolved to learn to fly. She joined a flying club and took lessons, earning her pilot’s license in 1932–becoming one of the first Chinese American women to enter the profession–in which more than 99% of aviators were male.

After Japan invaded China in 1931, Hazel offered her services to the Chinese government, but the authorities rejected the notion of a female aviator. For a time, she worked for a commercial airline, eventually returning to the U.S., where she set about acquiring war material for China. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, a shortage of qualified pilots led to the creation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots or “WASPs,” in 1943. WASPs flew military aircraft from factories to ports of embarkation and military training bases and transported cargo, freeing male pilots for combat. Hazel lost no time in applying, and when she was accepted into the fourth class (43-W-4), she became the first Chinese American woman to fly for the United States military.

Hazel flew the PT-19, BT-13, C-47, and P-63. The work was taxing and often quite dangerous, but she was described as “calm and fearless,” even in the face of several brushes with disaster. During a November 1944 mission to deliver a new P-63 aircraft to Great Falls, Montana, in bad weather, Hazel’s plane collided with another aircraft and crashed on the runway. She survived the accident, but later died of her injuries – the last of 38 WASP heroines to give her life in the service of her country. A pioneer in her field, Hazel Ying Lee proved that neither race nor gender need be a hindrance to realizing one’s dreams.

Click to enlarge

To find out more about Hazel Ying Lee, come to the National Museum of American History on Thursday, June 6 for an original performance by the National Constitution Center about the real–life experiences of a diverse group of seven Americans who bravely fought for equality, freedom, and justice overseas and at home during World War II. Click here to learn more about “Fighting for Democracy: Who is the “We” in “We the People”?”

Event, Performance

Event: Live Performance – Fighting for Democracy: Who is the “We” in “We the People”

Click to download the PDF flyer.

Thursday, June 6, 2013
Performance Times:
11:00 am
2:00 pm
4:00 pm
6:30 pm

Warner Bros. Theater
National Museum of American History
14th St. & Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20560
Google Map

Closest Metro: Federal Triangle

Free and open to the public.
No tickets or reservations required.

America is a story that is being written everyday in the lives of its people. What is the story? And what do we learn from it?

In conjunction with the exhibition, I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story, currently on view at the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center presents “Fighting for Democracy: Who is  the ‘We in ‘We the People’?” This compelling stage performance created by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and produced collaboratively with Philadelphia’s premier theater artists, explores the themes of civil rights and democracy through the perspectives of seven diverse individuals whose lives and communities were forever changed by World War II. Fighting for Democracy reveals how World War II was a pivotal time in developing a broader understanding of our nation and its people.

Each 35-minute performance will include a post-show discussion with the audience and artists.

Meet the seven stories. Click to enlarge image.

People portrayed in the performance:


The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center presents Fighting for Democracy, an original performance by the National Constitution Center in partnership with the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, an educational program of the Japanese American National Museum funded in part by the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is a hands-on museum, national town hall, and civic education headquarters celebrating the United States Constitution and the story of “We the People.” Learn more at

Lead Sponsor:

Partnering Sponsors:

GW Law’s Asian American Law Alumni Association (AALAA) is proud to support the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

Underwriting/Sponsorship Opportunities:
Starting at $250. For sponsorship information, please contact Amy “Emiko” J. Hever at (202) 633-2812 or

Video: Fighting for Democracy exhibition trailer. This performance was inspired by this exhibition.

Photos in the flyer courtesy of Library of  Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, U.S. Army Center of Military History, U.S. Army Signal Corps, U.S. Air Force, the national Center for the Preservation of Democracy and the Japanese American National Museum, Collection of Domingo Los Baños, the Frances Slanger Collection in The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, Mary S. Tominaga, Japanese American National Museum, The Woman’s Collection, Texas Woman’s, Dr. Héctor P. García Papers, Special Collections & Archives, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Bell Library, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Crafts, Event, Family, Literary, Performance

Volunteer for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013

Handmade storybook activity. Photo taken during the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Family Day 2011.

We are looking for volunteers who will be in the Washington, D.C. metro area on the weekend of May 4-5 to help with our upcoming two-day Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Family Festival. The festival is inspired by two new exhibitions: I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story and Nam Jun Paik: Global Visionary. This two-day kid-friendly event includes interactive performances, hands-on activities, presentations by local authors, conversations with a curator, gallery tours, a scavenger hunt, and much more.

Click here to view the full schedule
Click here to download the flyer (PDF)

Examples of tasks we need help with on May 4:

  • Talking to the public about their experiences during the festival and using a new evaluation system with iPads
  • Handmade book projects (view photos)
  • Video recording children and participants sharing their handmade books
  • Monitoring a video presentation station

If you think you would like to help out on either day, please contact Lydia Alcock at as soon as possible.  Please also feel free to forward this page to friends, family, and colleagues who may be interested in helping out.

May 4, 2013

I Want the Wide American Earth
Volunteer Orientation: 10:30am
Event: 11:30am – 4pm
Location: National Museum of American History
Address: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Metro: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle

May 5, 2013

PaikBot Family Day
Volunteer Orientation: 10:30am
Event: 11:30am – 5pm
Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Kogod Courtyard
Address: 8th and F Streets, NW
Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown
Website: Click here

Event, Family, Film, Performance

Event – Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

Monday, December 3, 2012
6:30 p.m. — 8:30 p.m.

Rasmuson Theater
National Museum of the American Indian
4th and Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20560
Google Map

Closest Metro: L’Enfant Plaza

Free and open to the public

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings is a compelling portrait of an inspiring and inventive musician whose virtuoso skills on the ukulele have transformed all previous notions of the instrument’s potential. Through intimate conversations with Shimabukuro, Life on Four Strings reveals the cultural and personal influences that have shaped the man and the musician. On the road from Los Angeles to New York to Japan, the film captures the solitary life on tour, the exhilaration of performance, the wonder of newfound fame, and the loneliness of separation from home and family.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura, the film will premiere on PBS in Winter 2013. The film screening will be followed by an appearance from Jake Shimabukuro and a Q&A with the audience.

Note: This event will not be webcasted or recorded.

Presented by:

  • Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
  • Center for Asian American Media
  • Pacific Islanders in Communications

Sponsored by:

  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
  • Southwest Airlines
  • DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival

Related Links:

Event, Lecture, Performance

Event: Joe Bataan, the Afro-Filipino King of Latin Soul

Friday, October 19, 2012
Public Talk: 6:30 p.m. — 7:30 p.m
Performance: 8:00 p.m. — 9:00 p.m

National Museum of Natural History
Baird Auditorium
10th & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.  20530
Google Map

Entrance: Constitution Ave.

Closest Metro: Federal Triangle

Free and open to the public

“Latin soul comes straight from the streets of Harlem. It’s a cha-cha backbeat with English lyrics and a pulsating rhythm that makes your feet come alive.”
— Joe Bataan

Come learn about the power of music to move people—to get us on our feet and across borders of race, geography, class, language, and culture. The intersecting lines of heritage in Joe Bataan’s music and identity offer a unique entry point into the lives and community commitments of the civil rights movement and a deeper understanding of the American experience. Born and raised in Spanish Harlem to a Filipino father and an African American mother, Joe Bataan symbolizes the dynamic intersections between Afro-Asian-Latino histories and cultural forms.

Join us for a public discussion featuring Joe Bataan, activist and performer Nobuko Miyamoto, and African American Studies scholar Dr. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar. With them we revisit the political and cultural ferment and collaboration of the late 1960s and 1970s in New York City when groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, Asian Americans for Action, and El Comité contributed to dynamic social justice movements, catalyzed largely by young people, which inspired cultural pride, creativity, and activism. Miguel “Mickey” Melendez, author and former member of the Young Lords, will moderate the discussion.

Related Links

Parking info:
Please click here to download a PDF for more details on where to park at the Smithsonian.

Funding for this program is provided by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, Smithsonian Latino Center, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Americans All: The Immigration/Migration Initiative at the Smithsonian, Smithsonian Consortium for Understanding the American Experience, and the Smithsonian Asian-Latino Project of the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool.

Event, General APA, Performance, This Month in History

This Month in History – Guam Liberation Day

Left: APA Program interns at the Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill. Right: Traditional Chamorro dance performance during the ceremony.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

On July 18, 2012, the Honorable Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, hosted a Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill, celebrating Guam’s liberation by the U.S. during World War II.  Since being liberated, Guam was designated as an unincorporated territory of the United States by the Guam Organic Act of 1950, which, among other things, granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Guam and introduced Guamanian representation in the House of Representatives.

At this year’s celebration, local Chamorro families prepared traditional island cuisine such as tangy kelaguen, salty fina’denne, spicy månnok kadon pika and sweet, syrupy latiyas. While guests sampled the island’s cuisine, traditional Chamorro dancers performed on stage. Through reenactments of traditional fertility and warrior dances, the audience experienced a taste of ancient Chamorro festivals.

As the son of Guamanian parents (my father is Chamorro and my mother, while Caucasian, grew up in Guam and speaks Chamorro fluently), I relish the opportunity to connect with my cultural heritage. Cultural events hosted in the hallowed halls of the American government speak to the vibrant diversity of the American community and its willingness to welcome people from all communities in shared celebration. It reminds me of the traditional Chamorro value system known as inafa’maolek. While there is no direct translation of this value system in English, inafa’maolek privileges the collective good over individual needs and desires. These guiding principles are deeply embedded within Chamorro culture and speak to our practice of mutual respect. The Guam Liberation Day celebration was a great way to experience the diverse cultures that make up the fabric of our diverse nation.

Art, Event, Performance

Portraits After 5: Identities in Motion

Portraits After 5: Identities in Motion
From left: Carm’s Crew (detail) by Shizu Saldamando, 2009. Jo Willems and Karen O’Brien. © Shizu Saldamando; Maggie Kim by CYJO, digital pigment print, 2005. Collection of the artist © CYJO; CYJO; and Dana Tai Soon Burgess.

Friday, May 18, 2012
8 p.m. — 11 p.m

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Kogod Courtyard
8th and F Streets NW
Washington, DC 20001
Google Map

Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown

Free and open to the public

Food and drink on sale
in the Courtyard Café

Gather in the Kogod Courtyard to see how dance, new media, language, and visual projections work together to explore identity and cultural influence.

Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter”—organized as a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program—is the Smithsonian’s first major showcase of contemporary Asian American portraiture. It features the groundbreaking work of seven artists.

KYOPO: Multiplicity is an exploration of how culture and Asian traditions survive, expand, and evolve abroad. The performance piece is a collaboration between the artist CYJO—whose work is in “Asian American Portraits of Encounter”—modern dance choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess, French composer Benoit Granier, and composer Anthony Paul De Ritis.

Related Links:

This event is sponsored by:

  • Korean Cultural Center at the Embassy
  • of the Republic of Korea
  • DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
  • Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design
  • Yale School of Music
  • Quince Imaging
  • National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
  • Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Cherry Blossom Giving Circle