In 2002, spurred by the shuttering of a.Magazine, a small group of 20-and-30-something journalists and artists got together to fill the void by envisioning the kind of magazine we always wanted to read: a publication that would go beyond celebrity interviews and essays about discovering our roots, which we found a long time ago, thank-you-very-much.
We began meeting around a kitchen table in San Francisco that spring, and over snacks and beer, a vision slowly emerged. The magazine wouldn't flinch at covering serious issues, but also wouldn't take itself too seriously. It would cover Asian Americans in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota, not just the critical mass living in California and New York. It would feature emerging artists, thinkers and doers, not only the few established Asian Americans who'd gotten mainstream approval. It would be a magazine that looked beyond identity -- we'd explore cultural issues while tackling what is Asian American by accident, by tangent or by happenstance.
Our early efforts were infectious. Those at the first meeting told a few friends, and the gatherings quickly outgrew the kitchen table. During a year's worth of after-work meetings, we developed the publication's voice, elected leaders, debated content, threw (fundraising) parties, fought among ourselves and eventually learned to work together. A pair of staff members even fell in love and got married -- all stuff worthy of a reality TV show.
Starting a magazine from scratch with zero funds is no easy task. But we were made mighty by bowls of Spam and kimchi over rice. Inspired by the passion and dedication that we saw in each other, and energized by the hi-jinks that ensue when you spend too many hours with the same people in enclosed spaces, we marched -- steadily if improbably -- toward the publication of our first issue.
Hyphen issue 1, which paid tribute to Asian American activism, was published in June 2003. The cover depicted a woman sitting on a stack of suitcases by the side of a road, just under a sign that read, "Welcome to Asian America, Population 11 Million." Since then, our numbers have grown to 15.5 million. And in tackling issues of culture and community with substance and sass, Hyphen has also flourished, becoming a media must for savvy Asian Americans.
The Asian American landscape has changed since we published our first issue, and we are proud that Hyphen has been a part of the dialogue. When we started Hyphen, we didn't know that we would create such a far-reaching community. When we first gathered around that kitchen table, it was simply because we were driven by a hunger for a more complex representation of Asian America. And when none presented itself, we decided to do it ourselves.