API Equality-LA wouldn’t be the leading API LGBT organization today without the contributions of our stellar volunteer activists. Each month, it is our great pleasure to recognize one of them as our Activist of the Month. Join us as we get to know these incredible people who devote so much of their time and talent to advancing our mission.
We’re proud to share five minutes with Ryan Khamkongsay, our October 2012 Activist of the Month!
How did you get started volunteering with us?
In early 2008, I met Marshall Wong, APIELA’s Steering Committee Co-Chair, at a friend’s going-away gathering. He invited me to the General Coalition meeting and before I knew it, I was out canvasing with Marshall to get people to pledge their support for marriage equality and vote “No” on Prop 8.
How did you get involved with the Pioneers Documentation Project?
It was Eric Wat, whom I currently work with in the SSG Research and Evaluation Team, that initially informed me of the Pioneers Project and invited me to join him at the first meeting. Eric was also instrumental throughout the project. His book, “The Making of a Gay Asian Community,” provided the committee with the foundation it needed.
What do you do for the SSG Research and Evaluation Team?
I’m one of the researchers on the team. We particularly specialize in community-based projects that employ a more interactive approach that engages communities in the research and evaluation process. Our work requires the team to conduct a lot of in-depth interviews, as a method of collecting data, so when I heard that Pioneers Committee was looking for someone to interview Tak Yamamoto as our first subject, I was very eager to jump at the opportunity.
Can you give us a quick recap on what you had / have been working on for the project?
It was quite a long process to get to where we are now. There was much coordination to be done with the subject and a lot of background research to do beforehand. For Tak’s filming we were lucky to have experienced director Cathy Huang help direct the shoot and we got some great quality footage that day.
We’re still in the process of making some final edits to Tak’s film. Once that’s complete, we’re thinking of creating a short trailer-like compilation highlighting some of the best from all the interviews. Aside from this, our main priorities are to secure some project funding and increase the numbers of members we have in the Pioneers Committee.
What was it like meeting Tak Yamamoto?
I initially met with him separately a couple weeks prior to the day of the shoot at the home he and his partner have in Arleta, CA. I warmed up to him within the first few minutes of meeting and I felt like I was just reconnecting with a friend. Tak’s a very warm and jovial person with a bit of a crude sense of humor, which is probably my favorite part about him. He also has a very unique history to him, which I really wanted to capture in his short film.
What do you hope for the Pioneers Project to accomplish?
One of the reasons I really enjoy being a part of this project is because it shows us that individuals can create positive change that has a lasting impact. Our pioneers are all trailblazers in their own unique way and they’re all great examples for future pioneers. I’d like to see that long list of potential interviewees to continuously grow with names for many years to come.
These pioneers have contributed tremendously to the API LGBT community and it’s important to remember how difficult the struggle was for our community to get to where it is today. People need to hear this part of history and it would be a shame for these stories to go untold. Hopefully our work will strike up more interest so that we can continue with this momentum and empower a new generation of future pioneers.
What do you do for fun outside of work and volunteering?
I’m secretly (or maybe not so secretly) a bit of a nerd, so I enjoy reading science fiction, watching UFO documentaries and I’ve been learning more about esotericism lately. Aside from this, I also enjoy some of the more typical things: playing with my dog, going out for drinks and singing some bad karaoke with good friends.
What’s your favorite karaoke song of all time?
It’s a cross between Air Supply’s All Out of Love or Reo Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight this Feeling. I’m super into 80’s pop, so that’s my genre of choice in the karaoke room.
If you could have any superhuman powers what would it be and why?
Definitely telekinesis! I don’t get why more people don’t choose this as a superpower. With telekinesis, you get super strength and flying too.
Want to join the Pioneers Project? E-mail us at email@example.com!
API Equality- LA is a volunteer-driven organization that works to promote LGBT equality through outreach, political activism, and the power of personal narratives. We place an emphasis on working with Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles, and we are always looking for new volunteers. Join our mailing list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter to learn about upcoming events. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!