Smithsonian Suspiciously Cancels Asian-American Festival
July 16, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C—This year’s Asian-American Literature Festival has been canceled abruptly just weeks before it was to take place in August and when asked for a reason for the cancellation, the institute gave none.
“After everything that’s happened to the Asian-American community in recent years, it was a completely different feeling. We have seen so much loss, increasing violence and discrimination,” Neelanjana Banerjee, Editor-in-Chief of Kaya Press, one of the organizers of the event, told the Washington Post. “This festival is more important than ever.”
The biennial event had existed since 2019 and was hosted by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC). Many Asian-Americans believe the event was canceled because of their recent SCOTUS affirmative action victory. The current Secretary of the Smithsonian is African-American, Lonnie G. Bunch III which only adds to the suspicious circumstances for many.
The recent victory by Students for Fair Admissions activated a slew of closet racists who blame Asians for stopping their only pathway into higher education and why the bar should always be lowered.
Journalist Soledad O’Brien insulted an Asian-American anti-affirmative action supporter on Twitter: “Congrats on screwing over other people of color, ma’am! (Particularly those whose efforts in civil rights paved the way for your family to come to America!).”
Congrats on screwing over other people of color, ma'am! (Particularly those whose efforts in civil rights paved the way for your family to come to America!) https://t.co/bikNjzzAsL
The cancellation of the event was not gradual. Just weeks before writers around the world were due to arrive, the institute canceled the event citing “unforeseen circumstances.”The Washington Post revealed internal correspondence that the event had been “routinely scrutinized for controversial content” shortly before its cancelation.
“We deeply regret the situation and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused,” APAC acting director Yao-Fen You wrote in an email to some festival partners on July 5. “The members of the APAC project team will contact us. They can handle the deal directly. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.”
Several authors slated to appear at the event told the Washington Post that the Smithsonian never informed them of the cancellation. Poet Ching-In Chen stated “It was really disturbing” and described “anger, surprise and confusion” after hearing about the cancellation from colleagues.
Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian’s main spokesperson, wrote in an email to The Post, “The festival was scheduled to be subject to a standard review by senior Smithsonian staff under the direction of the Office of the Undersecretary for Museums and Culture on July 19.” Festival organizers were unable to provide a full package of verified materials for this review of the program and its content. As the festival could not live up to the Smithsonian’s high standards, the decision was made to cancel it.”
In a follow-up, St. Thomas wrote: “Put simply, the program was canceled a full month in advance. The program was still in development and we made the administrative decision to cancel rather than host a festival that did not meet Smithsonian standards. No advertising was made and participants were notified immediately. Since it was a free event, there was no problem with the ticket refund. We have nothing more to do with that.”