College Welcomes Actor and Activist BD Wong for 2021 Poitras-Gleim Lecture

Victoria Gralla '22, Copy Editor

On Monday, April 5, Dickinson held its annual Poitras-Gleim Lecture over Zoom with this year’s lecturer, BD Wong, and moderator Amer Ahmed, interim executive director of the Office of Equity and Inclusivity.

About 100 viewers listened to a discussion between Wong and Ahmed. In the last twenty minutes, Katrina Faulkner ’23 asked questions that had been posed in the chat during the lecture. 

The lecture aims to challenge the imagination of Dickinson students and explore subjects that permeate various disciplines. Wong’s talk was particularly focused on his multiple identities as a gay, Asian-American man and father in the media industry.

Wong spoke about the opportunity for deeper conversations arising from moments of crisis when considering the impacts of COVID-19, the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the rise in anti-Asian bigotry and violence. He emphasized the importance of empathy and the possibility for people to start genuinely listening to Asian-Americans as they continue to articulate their “hyphenated” experiences.

Ahmed asked numerous questions about navigating and challenging stereotypes as an Asian-American actor. Wong spoke about how he takes his responsibility representing others very seriously because he believes the media has real power over how people understand one another. Constant misrepresentation solidifies incorrect perceptions of minority groups which are often generalized to the group as a whole.

“When people say privilege what we really mean by that is when you are of a certain group of people, you go through life without having to wonder or question or feel less than because of how you are represented in the media,” said Wong during his lecture.

“There was a moment in the lecture where BD Wong talked about how media is not just something to have on in the background, but that it’s also a powerful teaching tool,” wrote Kira Ouessy ’21. “It’s one of those things that you feel like you always know to be true, but when put in the context of his broader conversation about the portrayal of Asians and Asian Americans in the media that it puts into focus that media can be a powerful AND a negative tool for teaching. So he’s tried to make his career a force for good.”

Wong closed with advice for college students, urging students to take the time to ask themselves deep questions and actively participate within their communities.

“I am most critical of people who don’t ask these questions, who are apathetic, who complain, who don’t understand that we are part of something,” he said.