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A still from NAILED IT! a California Humanities-supported film.

Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Three Grantees’ Work

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are featuring two recent grantees who are having upcoming public events in Fresno and San Francisco and one recent grantee that had engaging programming in Palos Verdes. 

These three grantee projects explore Asian American and Pacific Islander histories, communities and trajectories through various forms and topics.

Projects featured here include an intergenerational exhibit and story collecting project in Fresno documenting Southeast Asian refugees and the successive generations, a documentary film about the origin story of Vietnamese Americans’ participation in the nail industry, and public programming in Palos Verdes drawing out family stories of Japanese immigrant and Japanese American incarceration and connecting community members in meaningful conversation.  

CHOJ: Culture, Heritage and Our Journey

California State Univesrity Fresno Foundation received an Humanities for All Quick Grant for CHOJ: Culture, Heritage, and our Journey, an intergenerational storytelling project that brings together the older generations of Southeast Asians who came as refugees and their more Americanized children. CHOJ will ignite a conversation where the act of remembering bridges intergenerational lives through the sharing of material artifacts, migration stories, memories of homeland, and experiences of resettlement and adjustment in Fresno and the Central Valley. The project includes an exhibit expansion to highlight the experiences of Lao, Khmu, Mien, and Cambodian communities in the region. 

Come to the Exhibit Opening and Panel on May 4, 2018

Join us on May 4 in Fresno as we celebrate the grand opening of CJOH’s exhibit room. We will be joined by members from the Southeast Asian American communities in Fresno. A student panel of 1.5 and second generation Hmong-, Lao-, and Cambodian Americans on intergenerational storytelling. Enjoy art exhibits and historical artifacts, readings by Southeast Asian American students. Opening remarks by CHOJ’s Project Director and Stone Soup Fresno. Free and open to the public.

Nailed It

Adele Free Pham received a California Documentary Project grant for the documentary film Nailed It,  which premieres at CAAM Fest in San Francisco on May 12th and May 19th.

A chance encounter in 1975 between 20 Vietnamese women and actress Tippi Hedren at a refugee camp in California lead to the founding of the first Vietnamese nail school.  Nailed It explores the rise and near-dominance of Vietnamese Americans in today’s multibillion-dollar nail industry.

For tickets and more information, click HERE.



Ever had a manicure? You can probably thank Tippi Hedren, star of Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS. Actually, you can thank the bravery, ingenuity, and sheer determination of 20 Vietnamese refugee women who, in 1975, took intensive training in salon arts courtesy of Hedren’s philanthropy. They turned what they learned into a multibillion dollar industry that supports their families and their community to this day. NAILED IT, a CAAM-funded film, reaches back to uncover this story and introduces key players in the development of the industry. Filmmaker Adele Free Pham treats us to an emotional reunion between Hedren and the women she helped in 1975, and the film make parallels between the harrowing experiences of Vietnamese refugees and current refugee crises worldwide. The film celebrates both the art and soul of nails with fun illustrations by Debbie Allen and Jason DSouza reminiscent of the TV series BROAD CITY. Pham deals with racism, stereotypes and fears about enterprising immigrants with a surprisingly even hand, offering a captivating exploration of how a nail salon ended up on every corner and in every strip mall — and the survival of a community.

Kat Hughes

Japanese Americans on the Peninsula: Learning from our Past to Look towards our Future

The Palos Verdes Library District received an Humanities for All Quick Grant to host a series of public programs exploring the Japanese American experience and influence in Southern California. Programs shared stories about the experience of local Japanese Americans before and after World War II internment, explored topics of race, culture, and ethnicity, and illuminated aspects of Japanese music, art, and cultural heritage.

Project Director Laura Ishizaka:

 It became clear to me that our project, Japanese Americans on the Peninsula: Learning from our Past to Look to our Future, was reaching the people we wanted to engage and having the effect we wanted to have during our screening of the film “The Legacy of Heart Mountain.” This film followed the lives of several families and descendants of those imprisoned at the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. These families came from the Los Angeles area, and hearing their stories was moving on its own. After the film, we had time for Q&A with the film’s producer and narrator, local news anchor David Ono. The audience was completely captivated by the film, and fully engaged as Mr. Ono spoke about the importance of storytelling, and remembering our history so that we are not doomed to repeat it. He spoke about the process of filming this documentary, and others he has in the works.

While the program in and of itself was spectacular, it is what happened after the Q&A that struck me. People began starting conversations with one another about their experiences and making connections. We learned that some of our regular patrons had family in Heart Mountain or in other internment camps, and were for the first time opening up about their history. Families began exchanging stories, there were tears, and a sense of relief that they had found a safe place to talk about this tragic family history. Through those stories our community came together to be a place of healing and a place to experience their grief in a way they may have not been encouraged to do so before. It absolutely moved me and made me realize we were offering much more than a film screening to our community.

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