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  • Heath Hyun Houghton

In Conversation with Justin Cardona from Asian All American

This spring, I had the great privilege to spend some time chatting with Justin Cardona from Asian All American, a media company based in Oakland, CA.


“Through filmmaking, photography, I highlight, I try to tell the stories of my community through basketball,” Cardona, a Filipino American, noted. “It’s quite interesting how people react when looking at themselves…it kind of helped them redefine a little bit about…how they see themselves.” Asian All American features profiles and interviews with students and athletes as a way to lift up voices of the next generation, to educate on the importance of the history of Asian Americans in the U.S., and to promote and build up solidarity between communities in the Bay Area. “We need to see every day Asian Americans, of different shades, of different social and economic backgrounds, make different choices; we need to know there are other ways to navigate through this thing called life.”


Justin Cardona began Asian All American as an all-star basketball league. This in turn led to the creation of the media company to feature participants. The focus on rising, Asian American athletes in the Bay Area, allows Asian All American to offer opportunities for young people to share their stories of successes and failures. “My responsibility is to be able to share these stories, but more importantly be honest about where we are now, also doing a better a job of knowing history and connecting the two.” Cardona further noted the goal of the organization is to “uplift, educate ourselves and other Asian Americans, make them feel prideful, and build confidence.”


Cardona’s beginnings really speak to the importance of showing up and being present. “You know what, it came through basketball. I started filming just the games, I had a simple camcorder and then it just grew, and I became this maniac with the equipment and then I learned how to use the equipment properly, and became more professional. I started to do simple interviews and it just grew from there.” This led to the creation of Asian All American. “As soon as the pandemic ended, I had the opportunity to work in the schools covering sports. I’m just trying to use my connections in a way so I can create opportunities and these bridges to communicate and tell the stories of, not just only of Asian Americans now, it’s an opportunity to talk in real time—everyone’s stories.”


Cardona’s choice to focus Asian All American on local, underrepresented stories in the world of sports has had big impacts on young athletes in the Oakland community. When discussing the importance of seeing themselves in media, Cardona opined, “When I saw these young ladies win the state championship, I flashed back on my own life, and how many times I’ve reached a certain pinnacle in my life, we need to talk about those things, those successes. It’s important. And on different levels, you don’t need the star athlete or CEO. I also need to relate to an everyday person.”


Cardona emphasized the importance of the organization’s mentorship. This tenet is rooted in Cardona’s upbringing. “[My father] started using basketball as a way to talk to kids who just needed some mentorship; he used basketball as a way to do that, communicate the importance of education. So that was his start in community development, community service.” That ethos has carried through in Cardona’s work in creating programs for Asian All American. “Big ups to all the coaches. Because the coaches have a tough job of balancing out being Xs and Os and also being that mentor they [the young athletes] need to navigate through regular life.”


Cardona believes young athletes translate their experiences in sports into other areas of their lives. “Promoting youth athletes to be able to take the life building skills deeper into their lives. Life takes on many forms, and opportunities come in different forms.”



Asian All American is a forum for a community. “I think, although there are dark stories, and we have to talk about those things, right? I think right now, our community needs to see Asian Americans in a way where people can get a source of inspiration.” Ultimately, Cardona hopes to “build a movement amongst the youth. The youth is going to bring us along. I do feel a responsibility to show them in the best light.”

 

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