We continue our special editions of Hard NOC Life recorded exclusively from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo. Today’s one-on-one conversation features Sikh Captain America himself, cartoonist Vishavjit Singh.
Like the rest of the nation, I woke up this morning to an unfathomable reality. Despite our best efforts, the country has chosen hate and division. Those dystopian science-fiction novels don’t feel so far off anymore. Still, we at The Nerds of Color must soldier on. I’m doing that by participating in CTRL+ALT, the Smithsonian’s pop-up Culture Lab on imagined futures this weekend in New York City. Though, to be honest, I’m having a difficult time imagining the present, much the less the future.
Who would the 75 year old quintessential American superhero vote for in the 2016 Presidential election today? For starters, Captain America does not exist. But although he might be fictional his mythology is palpable. Its ethereal connection to us Americans has a physical manifestation.
Trust me. I know. I get to don the uniform of this character armed with my turban and beard. I have traveled from Maine to California to Mississippi to Michigan to the RNC convention in Cleveland engaging fellow Americans from all walks of life.
This uniform has allowed for conversations to start in the midst of fear and ambivalence. It has allowed for common bonds to emerge despite our perceived and real differences
Is America ready for a Sikh Captain America — a superhero fighting hate crimes and intolerance? In the wake of 9/11, the massacre of Sikh Americans in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and America post-Ferguson, my answer is a resounding yes! If superheroes can battle aliens, cyborgs, and fellow villainous superheroes, why can’t there be one that fights for social and racial justice?
In 2013, cartoonist Vishavjit Singh wore a Captain America costume for the first time with a royal blue turban to match his ensemble. The short documentary Red, White, and Beard is a quirky, lighthearted glance into Sikh Captain America and the man behind this growing phenomenon.
Back in 2013, cartoonist Vishavjit Singh made a splash on the internet when he took to the streets of New York in a customized turbaned Captain America uniform. A year later, a team of filmmakers followed Singh on one of his Captain America runs and the result of that journey, a short documentary feature called Red, White, and Beard, debuts in one week at its eponymous website.
Also, come back later in the week for Alice’s review of the film. In the meantime, check out its trailer and description after the cut.
On a hot July summer day in New York City, I was working with a film crew hopping in and out of the subway in my costume as Captain America. We stepped out on one of the stops and after shooting for a few hours in Washington Square Park hopped back on the subway. That is when a couple spotted me and appeared amazed at having seen me a second time on the subway that day. The wife initiated the encounter and I sat down next to them for a few brief moments. The couple was from Arizona, and they were in town primarily to tick an item off the husband’s bucket list. To attend an Arsenal soccer match. They asked me what I doing, and I summarized the motivation of my social experiment. I stepped out on my next stop.
We finished the film shooting the next day. Two days later I received an email titled “Our chance encounter” from a sergeant in an Arizona police department. It was one of the most touching mails I have ever received.
Apparently, while the Nerds were all consumed with Star Trek last week, other stuff was happening on the Internet. So here’s a brief rundown of things you might have missed because you were too busy exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations. But first, let me get a little self-congratulations and self-promotion out of the way.
Welcome Pop Candy readers! And a big thanks to Whitney for giving us a little plug in her USA Today column. We hope you all enjoy the NOC community and join us as we look at “pop culture with a different perspective.”
Okay, that was the congrats, now here’s the shameless self-promo.
Over the weekend, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center opened its traveling Asian American history banner exhibit “I Want the Wide American Earth” at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles — after spending the last three months on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In honor of the exhibit’s West Coast opening, the Smithsonian APA Center unveiled an online digital comic I edited that features key moments in Asian American history illustrated by some of the top names in the comic industry, including Bernard Chang, Ming Doyle, GB Tran and my SIUniverse partners-in-crime Jerry Ma and Jef Castro.
You can see the comic online here. A downloadable version is still forthcoming.
So there’s that. And after the jump is other stuff on the web you should be reading: