Claremont Colleges to Host Trans Performer, Poet, Activist Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki, Asian-American transgender performance artist, activist and poet, comes to the Claremont Colleges tomorrow. The Asian American Resource Center’s Queer and Asian Committee organized a three-part series of events surrounding
Aoki’s visit.

The Queer and Asian Committee strives
to bring a diverse range of queer individuals, like Aoki, to the 5Cs in order
to raise awareness of queer issues on campus.

“Much of our programming has
focused on experiences of marginalization of queer-identified folks in
communities of color and Asian American communities, as well as vice versa,” wrote member Jessica Hsu PO ’13 in an e-mail to TSL. “With this in mind, we wanted to add a creative and fun element to our
programming so that our communities could feel engaged in the production of a
collective identity, history, and voice” 

Aoki is a prominent voice in both Asian-American and queer communities. After graduating from Cornell University with
an MFA in creative writing, Aoki founded Cornell’s Asian American Playhouse. She
is an inspiring spoken-word and musical performer and has also been featured in
numerous documentaries that aim to raise awareness about transgender people,
including Diagnosing
Difference
and Riot Acts.

Aoki is an
accomplished performer and has performed in countless venues, including San
Francisco Pride Main Stage and the Columbus National Gay and Lesbian Theatre
Festival. She has also been the recipient of writing and social activist awards,
such as a University Award from the Academy of American Poets, and was the
keynote speaker at UC Santa Barbara’s 2005 Pride Week, GenderFusions 2008 at Columbia
College, UW Madison’s Trans Awareness Week 2009 and the 2010 Transaction Week
at UC Davis.

Aside from spreading
awareness about the LGBT community through her written work and performances,
Aoki, who is a fifth-degree black belt in Judo, also works to empower
the LGBT community through self-defense classes and martial arts. She is the head
instructor at Supernova Martial Arts.

The Queer and Asian Committee is enthusiastic about Aoki’s performance and are proud to have her at the Claremont
Colleges.  

“We wanted to bring Ryka to
campus because she is a prominent activist, performer, and queer-identified
person of color, more specifically an Asian-American trans-woman,” Hsu wrote.

Aoki’s three-part series begins
with a writing workshop Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the QRC that will focus
on challenging preconceived ideas about Asian American queer and literary
communities. After the workshop there will be a dinner with Aoki in Collins
Dining Hall at CMC (attendees of the workshop will get first-priority to attend
the dinner). Following the dinner Aoki will perform in Pomona’s SCC Social Room
from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Her performance will be based on coming out, sexual
fluidity and dealing with negativity from family members and friends. Any
student who attends the workshop will also be invited to perform their work.
Aoki will conclude her performance with a question and answer session. There
will also be a book signing of Seasonal
Velocities
, Aoki’s recently published collection of short stories, poems
and essays.

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