Against a dramatically lit stage, Asian American rapper Jason Chu freestyled in spoken word at the opening of his performance at Benson Auditorium on Saturday, April 19. Although he is also an artist, Chu is foremost a storyteller: His music focuses on themes relating to the raw human experiences of hurt and healing, hope and fear, ethnicity, sexuality, and marginalization—and the process of transforming those struggles.
Pitzer’s Center for Asian Pacific American Students (CAPAS) brought Chu, who expressed interest in sharing his story and experiences, to campus because of the dynamic, accessible quality of his works. The Jason Chu SPEAKS event was also part of the Key to College Seminar, hosted by the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Student Association (ITASA) and the Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA), which brought 64 students from local public high schools to engage in the campus community and get to know the Claremont Colleges.
“My goal, as a CAPAS staff member, was to bring Jason Chu to share these very raw and authentic sentiments that I believe most youths feel deeply for to the Pitzer community and our audience members,” CAPAS student coordinator Chloe Shih PZ ’15 wrote in an email to TSL. “It’s important to put this on the big screen because Asian American culture limits our voices of struggle to just within ourselves.”
Chu’s performance at Pitzer was one of his 14 performances in a two-month college tour across the United States. In each place, Chu aims to inspire storytelling in communities, acknowledging the struggles young people across cultures face today.
“Not only did he speak about the broken parts of our childhoods, he embodied them, he represented them, and he transformed them,” Shih wrote. “Through his own experiences, lyrics, and authenticity, Jason shares those struggles and shines a beacon of hope on them.”