When Katerina Jeng – the 27-year-old cofounder and CEO of the Asian American magazine Slant'd – was growing up, she rarely saw people who looked like her in the media.
“If I did, they played one-dimensional stereotypes, like the nerdy Asian sidekick or the hyper-sexualized, submissive Asian female,” she explains. “This made me ashamed of my cultural heritage and limited what I thought was possible for myself as an Asian-American woman.”
Jeng, who lives in Denver, started speaking with other Asian Americans in a Facebook group and discovered that she was not alone in her struggle over her identity. Seeing a need to start a conversation, she decided to create a space where Asian Americans could meet and discuss their identities out in the open. Through that, she met Krystie Mak and together they founded Slant'd, an Asian American online and print publication.
The goal: to “dismantle stereotypes, promote diversity, and finally take ownership over the Asian American story (which has historically been written for us, not by us),” she says. Soon after, they released the first issue, which highlighted personal stories from more than twenty participants.
Tonight, January 17, the magazine will celebrate its one-year anniversary and the release of a second print edition, Light and Dark. The event will include an open-mic and a story slam as well as a performance by Grace Clark, billed as Colorado's only Asian American female bluegrass musician.
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Jeng hopes that the event will take the dialogue about Asian American identity that has been happening online and bring it into the real world, where people can meet each other face to face and form a community.
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“This lack of a sense of belonging, of having healthy discussions about our experiences, and of a greater sense of community has real implications for Asian Americans," she says. "Many of us are scared to engage in these types of conversations, but we need to talk about it in order to create actionable change, build cultural empathy, and push the civil rights movement forward.”
And that's what this party's all about.
The Slant'd Story Slam and Issue 2 Launch Party will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, January 17, at Archipelago, 2345 7th Street. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at Eventbrite. Issue 2 will be available for purchase.