“Asians have been here longer than cowboys”

Stop DiscriminAsian
May—June 2021, Norwalk, Los Angeles, off the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5)
Commissioned by For Freedoms, part of the AAPI Solidarity campaign

Long before immigrants sought fortune during the Gold Rush, Asians have been on the land we now call the United States. It was 1587 when sailors from Manila landed on Chumash land on the California Coast. By the 1700s, migrants from India had arrived and Filipinos established permanent settlements in present-day Louisiana.

It wasn’t until 1849 that the “cowboy,” which is based on Mexican vaquero traditions, came to be associated with the American West.

To create a new billboard for For Freedoms, Stop DiscriminAsian collaborated with member Kenneth Tam to adapt an image from his recent work “Silent Spikes,” which focuses in part on Chinese railroad workers — who famously connected the rest of the country to the “Wild West.”

Asians are more American than apple pie, which is derived from an English recipe featuring a fruit that originated in Central Asia. And the iconic cinnamon and nutmeg flavors? Courtesy of Sri Lanka and Indonesia.



Billboard created by Stop DiscriminAsian, with image from Kenneth Tam; text by Astria Suparak; accompanying text and research by Suparak, Jen Delos Reyes, and Margaret Liu Clinton; and design by SDA. Installation photos by Job Piston.