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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Elder Wisdom, 1960s Asian American Activism, and the Struggle for Third World Education


The 1960s Asian American Movement and 1968–69 Third World Liberation Front(TWLF) Strikes dismantled racist stereotypes of Asian Americans as “silent citizens” while alsoconnecting the community to a broader global liberation movement. This research explores howthese 1960s radical movements continue to influence modern Asian American communityorganizing and efforts to build multiracial solidarity. This paper draws upon the wisdom ofinterviewees who participated in the 1960s TWLF Strikes at SFSU and UC Berkeley, and theradicalizing lessons they shared with a younger generation of students, activists, and communityleaders.Through a series of conversations with former TWLF student members and leftistactivists, this paper reflects on the following questions: In light of the broad political changesthat emerged from the 1960s Third World struggle, how do we begin to understand thesignificance of these movements today? What lessons can we learn from Third World solidarityand the origins of Asian America, given the institutional limitations of the Ethnic Studiesdepartment at UC Berkeley? The theoretical and social foundations of these past movementschallenge capitalist, imperialist perspectives and emphasize an urgent community focus. Byrediscovering community-oriented learning and “self-determination,” Asian American studentscan revitalize the spirit of the Third World struggle in Ethnic Studies and the broader community.

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