Imagine a children’s TV show in which an effusive host teaches Asian- and Pacific Islander-American girls media literacy, intersectionality and solidarity. Comedian Kristina Wong makes this vision possible with "Radical Cram School," the new independent web series she hosts and co-produces. She released all six episodes on YouTube in mid-August and publishes each on Facebook every week.
In a statement, Wong describes the series as "’Sesame Street’ for the Resistance." Via email, she tells Colorlines that Liberty, the daughter of co-producer and friend Teddy Chao, inspired the show. "This was almost a year into the Trump Presidency and [Chao] was worried that Liberty would start internalizing the racist and misogynist rhetoric around his campaign," Wong explains. "He wanted me to sit down and talk to her and I blurted out, ‘We should make an Asian-American girl Town Hall web series!’ From there, Wong says, they began thinking of ways to equip young Asian girls with tools to resist "the ever-present racism and misogyny of our times."
Wong counts The Radical Monarchs, an Oakland-based organization that combines anti-oppression education with Girl Scouts aesthetics and uniforms, as an influence. "They create opportunities for young Black and Brown girls to form a sisterhood and radically contribute to their community. I love their work and thought ‘Radical Cram School’ could be a space where Asian girls could learn about social justice and how to be allies to other movements."
To that end, Wong plays an instructor teaching a group of Asian-American girls outfitted in yellow berets and rainbow sashes. Liberty and the daughters of other friends of Wong’s make up the class. "Liberty, Ellie, Emi are Chinese American; Brooklyn is mixed Mexican and Japanese; Malia is mixed-race Pacific Islander; Alyssa is Cambodian; Kaisa is Pinay and Ethiopian; Kaya is Pinay and Black; and Emi Hope is mixed race Filipino, Japanese and Jewish," she notes. "We wanted this space to be specifically for [AAPI] girls, but also wanted to reflect the diversity of that identity."
The show also highlights Asian-American activists Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs. "I think it’s important to acknowledge the labor of Black civil rights activists and to also point out that there were Asian Americans who worked alongside them. If these kids can see that Asian women who look like them also took up the labor of organizing, I hope it will inspire them."
With Season One out and binge-ready, Wong has big plans for the next season of "Radical Cram School" (which plays on a term for specialized extracurricular programs ).
"One member of the [first] class identifies as genderfluid, and I would like to figure out more episodes to support kids like them. I’d also like to see if we can work with a troop of young Asian-American boys to get them to embrace feminism and reject toxic masculinity," Wong says.
Also on the agenda: "More music and puppets" and an episode addressing immigration given that one out of seven Asians in America is undocumented.
Check out the first episode of "Radical Cram School" below then watch the rest on Wong’s YouTube page: