Hamlet probably wouldn’t be your first guess if you wanted to know his name. Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, my father was never one to fit your ‘Asian Dad’ stereotype - no accent, shit Chinese, academically gifted but passionate about sports with a talent to match. My dad was out here challenging all your assumptions about Asians before the 'myth of the model minority'. He was so good at ball I dubbed him the Asian Pete Maravich - his no look pass game was on point!
Hamlet did not discriminate against any sports - he loved them all and we would watch it all together. But one thing I do remember was how much we rooted for other Asian athletes. In the past three decades I’ve cheered for Michael Chang, Tiger Woods, Paul Kariya, Yao Ming, and Jeremy Lin - that’s only 4 and a half Asians and I don’t even like golf! Why did nobody in the North American mainstream media look like us?
That all changed for me in 1996 when “Rumble in the Bronx” came out, starring Jackie Chan. I’d already known Jackie from Drunken Master II but watching him break into the American mainstream was a whole other experience. The man was a legend - doing his own stunts, choreographing everything, and even decent at acting! For the first time growing up it felt cool to be Asian! But even then I couldn’t do kung fu and as cool as it was, I still wasn’t sure what space a CBC (Canadian-born Chinese) was supposed to occupy.
Hip-Hop spoke to me while also helping me navigate the world as a minority, something that rock music never seemed to explicitly touch on. I’d like to think that in the same way many Black people were able to identify with Bruce Lee in the seventies (because his movies were the first North American films to feature a non-White lead/hero), hip-hop also played a similar role for me and I know it does for a lot of my Asian counterparts.
There’s a rumbling in the 6ix and although disconnected, there’s undoubtedly a community of Asian artists that have been grinding endlessly. We cross paths from time to time, we acknowledge each other and silently give our props to seeing another Asian in the arts. It’s time to bring this community together so we can help inspire and encourage not just each other, but the next generations to come - to continue pushing their artistry into the world. Every piece of work helps empower and give us a voice, and every success is a step closer to better representation for Asians in pop culture.
Hamlet was a proud father and CBC. He had a passion for cooking Chinese food, played on an Asian basketball team, and loved his family. Ever since he passed away in 2008, my brother and I have tried our best to continue his legacy. My dad always pushed us to be the best that we could be. From music lessons to band practice and even our shows, Hamlet believed in us and made sure we were recognized for our talents - even if we were the only Asians in the room.