Momentum Award: Eric Nam
Asian-American from Atlanta seeks to promote cultural pride through artistic expression
Published: Thursday, July 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Despite the bleak atmosphere, already two hours before the doors were scheduled to open, John Hancock Hall was already slowly being wrapped by a string of people. The gravity was palpable, and it was obvious in the atmosphere that something of importance was under way.
Inside, Eric Nam, A&S '11, diligently finalized preparations for the first ever Kollaboration Boston, an Asian-American talent show founded with the mission to empower through entertainment and media. Witnessing the scale of the event alone, it would be impossible to come to the conclusion that a college senior had singlehandedly brought the Kollaboration enterprise to the city of Boston.
Although Eric himself seems to be physically incapable of any type of boasting, the fact of the matter is that Eric alone sought out Kollaboration to come to Boston and created a city-wide show attended by 1,100 people, unified for one night under a single mission. The fact that the venue was sold out is a testament to the success of the event.
There is a clam, deliberate air to Eric that immediately inspired those around him into being more confident and comfortable with themselves. Despite the fact that the interview was for him, he was the one who immediately started off with the questions. Eric Nam has a vested interested in the lives of others.
Robert Capalbo, associate director of development and founder of the Shaw Leadership Program, best describes Eric as one who "has an air about him that instills confidence." Capalbo continued, saying "I think it's because he treats everyone as an equal. He accepts everyone for who they are and that's rare."
From talking to Eric, however, one would never get a really accurate understanding of the significance of Kollaboration. Perhaps what can best exemplify the significance is the fact that Kollaboration LA can be credited for jumpstarting the now successful career of the musical group, Far East Movement. For Eric, bringing Kollaboration to Boston made perfect sense.
"Growing up in Atlanta there was a good amount of Asian Americans but there was nothing that really pulled the community together. And as I left for college, that's when Kollaboration Atlanta started, so I just missed it. I asked myself, why isn't there one in Boston? There's so much talent and so much diversity. So I got into contact with Kollaboration Atlanta and then they put me into contact with LA and they basically told me okay, go for it."
After the approval was granted, Erica basically found himself spearheading the project alone. The prospect of creating and implementing a city-wide show for 1,100 people with the extensive support of large institutions would be intimidating for most, but for Eric, he felt comfortable taking charge of the project. "I didn't want to ask the school for help because I understood that this had the potential to be something that could be for all the schools in Boston, as it should be."
So with a team of 32, mostly college students, Eric undertook the daunting project that became a defining chapter of his senior year. Eventually securing 18 corporate sponsors, Kollaboration Boston successfully became a production large enough to honor the admirable mission it was championing: the empowerment of talented Asian Americans through the use of diverse entertainment, breaking down racial stereotypes perpetuated by Asian American's themselves as well as the dominant media groups.
Indeed the inspiration to bring this show to his own college city stemmed from personal grief and struggles that he faced as an Asian American passionate about dance and music. "I was frustrated because I know that the talent is there, but the dominant culture doesn't provide an environment where Asian Americans have a viable option to showcase their talent."
With this knowledge of the cultural climate in mind, it then becomes obvious that Eric was the most appropriate individual to establish Kollaboration in Boston because he lives by the mantra of sorts that one should never define oneself by the boundaries or definitions constructed by others. He hates the phrase, but he himself had to admit that he has an apparent "passion for life." That passion is evidenced by his extensive achievements: a member of the Shaw Leadership Program, UGBC cabinet in his sophomore year, an intern at Deloitte Consulting his junior year, studying abroad in Beijing, and found BCSWAG.