Angry Reader of the Week: Tani Ikeda

"I am interested in the healing and restorative nature of story..."

What's up, good readers? Once again, it's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Tani Ikeda.

Who are you?

Tani Ikeda, but my closest friends call me Tani Appleseed because when I was a kid, I would save all my apple seeds from lunch apples, put them in my pocket, and plant them. I grew this tiny, tiny, apple tree in my room when I was seven. My mom thought that I was so strange! So oftentimes, I find myself being the person who plants the seed of ideas for little movements to start germinating. Or at least at this point in my life I'm planting the seeds.

What are you?

I am a fourth generation Japanese American, queer filmmaker who directs music videos, documentaries, and narrative projects. I am also the co-founder and executive director of imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that teaches girls filmmaking and comprehensive sex ed.

Where are you?

I am at my Venice Beach apartment, sitting next to a very sleepy pitbull named Yuki.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in a political Seattle community. In high school, I wrote my senior thesis about Asian-American women and how we are negatively affected by the media. The conclusion of my essay was, "I know that no one in Hollywood is going to create strong, positive stories about Asian-American women, so I'm going to do it myself!" It was at that point that a lot of my ideas and political framework started to build, and I realized some kind of revolution was necessary.

What do you do?

When I was 21 I co-founded an organization called imMEDIAte Justice that put cameras in the hands of young, queer women of color to tell their own stories of reproductive justice. We started off as a grassroots collective that envisioned a world were girls that had so often been pushed to the margins could become the storytellers of their own lives and sow the dreams our communities needed to be freer.

This past year, we have grown into a thriving organization that is working with The Los Angeles Unified School District. We have also run workshops in Beijing China, Kampala Uganda, Dindigul India and across the U.S. We've trained over 1,000 girls in feminist film production and partnered with Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, Forward Together and other organizations on the frontlines of the fight for reproductive justice. While we’ve expanded, we've also deepened our politics and developed a curriculum that has been published in a new book about the future of media literacy called, "By Any Media Necessary." More importantly we've had the privilege of watching IMJ girls use their voice and filmmaking skills to realize their wildest, most impossible dreams. They've gotten accepted to the top film schools in the country, spoken to the mayor, gotten queer sex ed into Oakland high schools, and had life changing conversations with their mothers about sexuality.

It can be tough working as a filmmaker and also a grassroots nonprofit director so if you are feeling generous please consider donating to keep our imMEDIAte Justice programs going strong!

What are you all about?

I am interested in how those who have been dehumanized and marginalized within the cultural narrative can recast themselves as human. I am interested in the healing and restorative nature of story and how changing the story around our lives and our people changes the future. My grandfather was incarcerated during World War II. When I was a little girl, he used to tell me over a bottle of Sapporo, "The government rounded our family up like cattle and then expected us to prove our loyalty as Americans by dying for this country." Although I was very young at the time, the choked down pain I heard in his voice transmuted something deep and engrained inside of me. It was a story of my family's struggle and our history. I've written about my grandfather throughout my life and am currently working on a documentary film about him. My grandfather's story has been my compass for locating the necessity to tell untold stories.

What makes you angry?

My anger is a response to racist attitudes and to the actions that arise out of those attitudes. Being Asian American means a lot of different things today. As author Eric Liu notes, "There are Asian Americans who are out numbering other demographics in college and at the same time there are still many Asian Americans who are struggling under the radar of that narrative." It makes me frustrated that often times only one dimensional portrayals of Asian Americans in the media exist and my hope is that we can start bringing in some more of that rich complexity.

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