We had the pleasure of EJ Masicampo, a community organizer, professor, and comedian based in Winston-Salem. Giselle, an NCAAT staff member, got the chance to have a conversation with EJ and delve into all that he does.
Read on to learn more about what EJ has to say about the multiple identities he holds, as well as the importance of being engaged in your community and government.
Giselle: Who is EJ Masicampo?
EJ: My name is EJ. I’m a Winston-Salemite and a Filipino-American. I’m originally from the west coast, where my parents had me shortly after having immigrated here. I was the first on either side of my family born in the U.S. I have been in North Carolina for 11 years now, where I am a psychology professor at Wake Forest University. I am raising two cool, half-Filipino kids, both N.C.-born-and-raised, who are turning 9 and 6 this fall.
G: What does being civically engaged look like to you? How do you stay civically engaged?
E: To me, being civically engaged means showing love to my community. Being aware of and connected to it. Caring for it. Supporting it. Promoting positive change within it. It means helping everyone within it not only meet their needs, but thrive.
For me it started simply with voting, which for some people is the most they’re able to do. And I think that’s fine! Voting is a great way to ensure that your voice and community are being heard. I’m always excited to vote. In addition to that, here in North Carolina, I have organized within my voting precinct, helping to register my neighbors to vote by making phone calls and knocking on doors. I have gotten into the habit of expressing my concerns to my representatives at all levels of government (city, state, and federal) when issues arise that are important to me. Sometimes this takes the form of making phone calls to representatives’ offices. Sometimes it involves standing outside their offices with signs. I have written op-eds in local papers to bring light to certain issues. I have volunteered for local organizations (e.g., feeding the unhoused, cleaning parks and neighborhoods). And I am currently serving in my second term on the Winston-Salem Citizens Police Review Board, helping to keep our city police accountable in how they interact with citizens.
G: How did you find out about NCAAT?
E: Your Executive Director, Chavi, was kind enough to reach out to me after she attended a comedy show I was in. I was very excited to learn about the organization and all it’s doing.
G: How did you get into comedy?
E: I have long been a fan of comedy. I watched a lot of stand-up specials on HBO and Comedy Central growing up. A few years ago I was looking for a new hobby and attended some stand-up open mics. I discovered stand-up to be very fun and challenging and fulfilling, and there is a cool local comedy community that is friendly and supportive. It’s a great scene to be a part of. I’ve been writing and performing stand-up regularly ever since.
G: What did your path to becoming a professor look like?
E: I was always interested in psychology and fell in love with the field of social psychology in particular when I was in college. Social psychologists address questions that are inherently interesting and highly relevant to social life, and they do so in a fascinating way, by designing experiments and looking at other data to address questions like what makes people happy, whom do people find attractive, what causes some people to be violent, and so forth. When I realized I could conduct experiments on those and similar topics, I was hooked. I went to graduate school and got a masters and a PhD in social psychology and became a professor, where I teach social psychology topics and oversee a lab where we do original social psychology research.
G: Have you ever experienced any intersections between parts of your Asian American identity and the work that you do?
E: My identity definitely informs both. As a social psychologist teaching about groups and stereotypes and discrimination, I am heavily informed by my experiences as an Asian-American in what I teach and in the discussions I have in the classroom; experiences with race also figure heavily in my comedy. I’m also of course drawn to Asian communities within these areas and am always pleased to be able to work with fellow AAPI professors and comics, and to mentor AAPI students.
G: Anything to plug? Shoutouts?
E: I host a monthly stand-up comedy show in Winston-Salem called Roar Shock. It is currently being held at Monstercade Bar (an amazing place!), usually on the first Tuesday of the month. Come check it out! Or check out other local comedy shows. There is a great comedy scene in North Carolina. I’m also always happy to connect with fellow Filipinos and other AAPI folks on social media. I’m @ejmasicampo on all platforms. Let me know where the good cuisine is in NC. Kuya Bear is a good Filipino pop-up that is relatively new in the Winston-Salem area. Also shout out to Island Cuisine Clemmons and Binki Cafe, also serving Filipino food out here. Curious to hear of other food anywhere across the state, as I travel a lot for comedy. I’m also vegetarian! Bonus for good veg-friendly Asian food.
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