"Silk Screen" is a short series -- only three programs -- from an organization with a big mission: to promote accurate images and portrayals of Asian-Americans.
The first of this season's "Silk Screen" presentations, "Jazz Is My Native Language," spotlights jazz artist Toshiko Akiyoshi, who works with 16 big-band musicians. Akiyoshi speaks candidly about the hardships and prejudices she has had to overcome -- being a woman, Japanese, a single mother -- and about the way she approaches her own musicians (". . .so that they don't feel that I am ordering them to do something. Man (sic) don't like to get orders from a woman").
She also discusses the difficult days, when she had so much trouble supporting herself that she nearly quit. "At least if you're American, you're justified to be a jazz musician. Jazz is American music. Here I am, a Japanese and a woman, Japanese and jazz player in New York. Somehow it looks kind of pathetic and comical."
She adds: "In order for artist to survive, one must love enough. If you love something enough, you can put up with anything."
Still, the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band, founded more than 10 years ago, has been nominated for six Grammy Awards and has garnered Downbeat magazine's Number One Big Band Ensemble Award five times, with Akiyoshi voted best composer and best arranger by Downbeat's international jazz critics poll.
"Silk Screen," airing Sunday at 10 on WETA, is a project of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association, which distributes TV and radio programming by and about Asian- Americans. Last month, NAATA joined with 15 other organizations to protest a new Twentieth Century Fox film, "Big Trouble in Little China." The coalition maintains that the film presents a distorted, sensationalized and sinister view of Asian-Americans and their communities.
Writer and publicist Janet Tom said that the group scheduled a demonstration the day the Fox crew was due to film in San Francisco. The crew shot its scenes at 6 a.m. and left, she said.