On May 7th, 2017, I was invited to speak as a spring speaker for the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) at Northwestern University. I'd like to thank everyone who had helped organize this event. Speakers included Olivia Park of Sad Asian Girls, Jessica Nguyen of Project Voice, and artist and writer Larissa Pham. "They will be discussing how they use art and media as outlets for political and social activism. Come through to meet these RAD ASIAN GIRLS." - APAC
The Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) is a student-organization at Northwestern University that strives to raise Asian/Asian American awareness and community-building on campus. This recording was taken by a video recorded and edited by Northwestern University student Seri Lee.
Olivia Park is a graphic designer and the co-founder of Sad Asian Girls, an alias used by her and Esther Fan to make social/political work that surrounds their identities as East-Asians who are living in western spaces.
Olivia Park is a Korean-American woman born in Queens, NY and raised in Metro-Atlanta, GA. Her partner, Esther Fan is a Taiwanese-Canadian genderqueer femme raised in Vancouver, CA. Their studio practice is currently based in Providence, RI.
Sad Asian Girls have been featured on multiple platforms such as PBS, Huffington Post, NowThis, Dazed Digital, Nylon, i-D, Milk, Elephant Mag, Gal-dem, and Banana Mag. Currently, Olivia and Esther are touring around institutions, such as Princeton, Yale, Wellesley, Duke, and Columbia, in the United States to share their SAG story.
View their work here: http://www.sadcontent.com/work/
Jessica Nguyen is the host of Project Voice, which is a Podcast series dedicated to increasing visibility on narratives from Asian America and spearheaded by the voices of Asian American women. As the host, Jessica hopes that this series will act as a digital space where members of her community can go to for guidance and resources. Jessica is also a freelance content creator working on numerous projects such as blogging, photography, video and copywriting.
Jessica is a Vietnamese-American woman who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts. She used to have a hard time sharing her voice since she was not able to communicate in English in the beginning. It held back her confidence to speak her voice. After learning to express herself through writing and creating her podcast, Jessica is now more confident on sharing her voice and mission to the world.
Visit her work here: http://www.projectvoicepod.com
Larissa Pham was born in Portland, Oregon and graduated from Yale University in 2014 with a degree in History of Art and Studio Art with a concentration in painting.
"Her art and writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, The Nation, Rolling Stone, Adult Mag, Nerve, New York Magazine, Maxim, ELLE, Dazed, Salon, Adbusters, GOOD, The Rumpus, The Hairpin, Gawker, VICE, The Intentional, Packet Bi-Weekly, The Yale Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.
She is the author of Fantasian, a New Lovers novella from Badlands Unlimited, out October 25, 2016. You can purchase Fantasian here, or in stores worldwide."
View her work here: http://larissapham.com
TRANSCRIBED BY THOA HOANG
JESSICA NGUYEN, INTERVIEWEE: Today's podcast is brought to you by Audible. Get a free audiobook download and 30-day free trial at audibletrial.com/projectvoice, over 180,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle, or MP3 player.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
JESSICA WANG, MODERATOR: I'll be introducing Jessica Nguyen. So Jessica is the host of the Project Voice, which is a podcast series dedicated to increasing visibility on narratives from Asian American (CHEERING) dedicated to increasing visibility on narratives from Asian Americans from Asian America and is spearheaded by voices of Asian American women. As the host, Jessica hopes that the series will act as a digital space where members of her community can go for guidance and resources. Jessica is also a freelance content creator working on numerous projects such as blogging, photography, video, and copywriting. Jessica is a Vietnamese American woman who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago but is currently based in Boston Massachusetts. She used to have a hard time sharing her voice and since was not able to communicate in English in the beginning and it held back her confidence to speak her voice. After learning to express herself through writing and creating her podcast, Jessica is now more confident in sharing her voice and mission to the world.
NGUYEN: Hi everyone, so I don’t have a PowerPoint, so all you get to see now is just my face. My name is Jessica and to start off, I like to share a poem that I wrote for Senior Monologues which is an event at Smith College, my alma mater, dedicated to students of color who want to share their art, including spoken poetry. I wrote this for my friends, who were college students at the time, and I was a college student at a time, and all of you were college students at a time. So it made sense. (LAUGHS) And um, so it's actually the third time I'll be reading this poem in front of audience, just want to mention this because I think it's okay to go back and use what you've created because even if it’s the same words, no two readings of the same poem will be this, you know, the exact same thing. Like how you read it, where you're coming from when you're reading it, feelings that you feel when you read it, all that makes a difference. So, the more you look back the art that you create the more you realize how much you have grown with it, since art actually grows with you. So, since it is spoken poetry, and I encourage “mmms” and “snapping” whenever you hear something that resonates with you or just because you like me [LAUGHTER] or not, it's fine. So the poem is called Quiet.
As I sat on my bed thinking of the words that I couldn't put my finger on. Two hours left until the deadline for Senior Monologues, how typical college student of me here, thinking back to my days of Smith, I was at a loss for words. Not because I didn't think my time here was amazing, it was just, English was never my thing, you know. All I knew was that I wanted to say something. Yet, when gifted with words, I couldn't. Maybe it was because I grew up speaking English, as it was not the language of my own, but the language that I borrowed to get by. At the age of four, my mother started teaching me English and growing up on different accents and dialects of my Vietnamese home it was a struggle. It was a battle between what I wanted to be heard and what ended up being heard. While Americans would think that growing up with a birth certificate like theirs would help, when they forget that people like you and me have to deal with twice the shit that they could ever handle. And thanks to English, I started slurring, not because I didn't know what to say but because I had too much, that my mind could not make compromises with the two tongues in my mouth. Hesitating with my thoughts as if I believe that someone could know me better than I did. I became what others call me quiet. They make up stories about me, not based on their goddamn grammar but a based on the fact that I'm Asian and I wear glasses - or used to wear glasses. How they assume my inability to see can explain my inability to speak. I will never know.
So dear white people, as if you were their parents who adopted me when in fact you took me away after bombing the land of my parents’ childhood memories. Thank you for paving the path to my fucked-up identity, for being the first people to tell me as if you knew what was behind my shut mouth. When you don't even see the anger that constantly rises the moment you decide to shove words down my throat for me. How you used the word quiet against me will leave me to grief for all the times when I felt ashamed of my voice because I didn't know that since birth how strong could be used against you. I think the most important lesson I learned at Smith was that I have always had the right to be angry, that I always had the right to show it, that we have always had the right to show it. Through the kindness and support from my fellow friends of color. One, I learned to forgive myself when I stuttered. Two, I learned to articulate my anger and along the way accepting quietness as my ally, no more my enemy. And lastly three, I learned to be patient with unspoken words because I know that they are waiting for me when I’m ready and no one can tell me when.
So, that is the end of my poem.
So, this poem was written months before I started working on my podcast series. But many of you can probably now see how I got from Quiet to Project Voice. This poem not only represents my on-and-off relationship with the English language, but also a reminder to not let my fears stand in the way of what I want to do. Whether these fears were instilled by the people I know, or you know the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Um, so now that I’ve been out in the real world for a year, but let me tell you; A LOT can happen in one year!
So, do you know those rollercoaster rides [at] Six Flag Great America where it keeps going and going and your screaming and screaming you don't really know when it ends, it’s kind of like that in the real world. (LAUGHTER) Anyways, so I don't know I make unconventional life choices to perfectly contrast guidelines of fitting in the model minority myth or I just live it. Or I just love putting my parents on the edge, as a way to show affection, you know? But either way, all I know was that I was making decisions on my own for the first time. I took the risk and moving miles away from my home in Illinois to work in Boston getting paid $11 an hour, because I believed in the meritocracy of the American dream. Note that this was right after I received my bachelor's degree at a private liberal arts college. Strike one for involuntary model minority candidate here. But after three months at that job, I quit. If I hadn't, probably… no, I most likely would have gotten fired. Strike two for model-minority. The decision to quit was probably one of the scariest decisions I've had to consider. Growing up I always felt obligated to succeed, knowing how much my parents had sacrificed for me. I knew that I could never compare myself to the struggles they had to go through as Vietnam war refugee immigrants. Therefore I felt like it was a responsibility of mine to live the dream that they weren’t able to have. So while working at a job that I hated, where I had to deal with a toxic work relationship that made me invalidated and self-conscious about my self-worth, I was also journaling projects as a freelance content creator, copywriting, and editing photos and videos late up at night, wanting to do so much with so little time. So that decision of mine to quit was a very life-changing moment of my life. In fact it was one of the most liberating decisions I've made in my life. Oftentimes, especially being taught in private elite institutions, we forget what really matters to us. The labels that we often hear so much focus being put upon like, those related to position, power, prestige, price, all the ps. Um, patriarchy. But what about the labels that we identify with already, you know? Sometimes without even a choice: Asian, Asian American, female, male, non-binary, middle-class, lower, upper, queer, straight, you know what happens to those labels? I am not saying that you should be quitters. I am just saying that stopping and questioning the purpose of your work is a valid decision to make, especially when you know that what you're doing is not going to help you grow in the way you want to grow. So, do you realize that not only are we at our peak aesthetically we have the most time and freedom to do whatever we want now?
So, a little back to me. So, how did I want to grow? What did I want to do? Well, I know that I wanted to create something that I could call my own. I'm really into empowering Asian/Asian American women. I wanted to be an artist. Imagine telling your parents that. Strike three! After having interned and worked in six different industries, I realized that I wanted to do was never within the confines of what society or my family deemed to be success. I wanted to be a digital content creator, creating not for the sake of earning a living but creating for the sake of creating for yourself, to get outside of your comfort zone. And many of you are like, yeah, yeah, Jessica, easier said than done. Well, yeah it is. Like, I'm not gonna lie, life can suck. It can be cold and merciless sometimes, but the feeling you get when you're doing something that you care so much about, when you see how much impact your work has on others, when you finally met and connected with all the badass people who are, you know same stuff as you, who are taking the same risk as you… it's worth it. So, my third point here is to be patient and as someone who's had to deal with high expectations from others, not just from others, but also from myself as well. It was probably the most difficult lesson I had to learn on my own. There was a point in my life when I was obsessed with proving people my self-worth. As a result, I overloaded myself with projects, really no #selfcare here. I felt like I had to prove to others what I can do to a point that I forgot what truly mattered, whether or not I was creating for my own enjoyment or personal growth. Sometimes, I find that our ego encourages us to compare ourselves to others, making us think that if we can't be amazing as other artists out there we might as well quit. Or if someone else is already doing the same thing as we're doing, like we might think what's the point of starting, right? It’s true; there are many amazing artists out there, but the fact that you are taking the initiative says a lot about how much you have to offer to this world because your story is important and deserves to be heard. Four, in order to grow and become the best self that you can be, you need to accept that people come and go, but when any form of love and support comes into your life, hold on to it as long as you can, before they have to leave. And when they do, thank them for their time. Five, and it's my final point. So, no one likes a fake fake fake, so be yourself. Love yourself and forgive yourself. All that good shit. Trust that you're a really freaking cool person. Really freaking cool! So with yourself, be bold, heck, be italic, but never regular. Thank you for your time!
WANG,: Thank you you all for your key notes. They were all great and very informative. So, yeah! I guess, you all kind of touched on this in your key notes but, I guess to elaborate more, how did you all first come to our art and what made you want to become an artist?
OLIVIA PARK, INTERVIEWEE: Okay, I'll start. Um, I think, like, again, like, yes; my parents were a part of it blah blah blah. But I think a lot of it is just finding that tool that you work best in. So, like, a chef clearly likes food. For m,e like, I think becoming an art student like that was just kind of like inevitable, but using graphic design, that’s like something that makes sense to me. And so I used that as a tool to say whatever I wanted to. I think really anything you can use as a tool to project important things in your life.
NGUYEN: So, I started, I mean, I was an artist since I was younger. As a kid, and I love diving myself into the visual art, through, sketching, and painting, and like, digital art. With software development and graphic design. I think, Project Voice actually started out as a video series, where I wanted it to be video series, but I learned that a camera can actually act as a barrier between the audience and the speakers. Like, I noticed that the volunteer speakers I had felt really uncomfortable sharing their stories in front of the camera, so I thought removing that visual part would actually make it better for them. And so that's when I thought podcasting might be a better medium for me to play around.
LARISSA PHAM, INTERVIEWEE: Um, I'd say that I spent most of my life trying not to be an artist. When I went to college, I was pre-med and then I worked in this lab and then I decided to be writer and even now I still find myself finding excuses to not make art because it doesn't always feel sustainable. And it doesn't always feel responsible, especially in this political climate. But ultimately, I come back to it because I have to. I think it’s, you know, ne should always listen to themselves when there's something that you keep coming back to.
WANG: So, kind of to talk about the audience’s perspective of your work, who would you say is your primary audience and who would you say that you want your audience to be, and what do you hope that the people who see your work take away from it?
PARK: I think for Sad Asian Girls, our audiences [are] really East Asians who are living in Western environments. And I think we're definitely more interested in speaking to younger voices and bodies, just because I think that's what we...that's who we can relate to the most and who can relate to us the most. But like, sometimes people ask like, “Oh, do your parents like, did you guys figure things out with them?“ And the answer, that generalizes how things went for the both of us is no. But I don't think that's such doubtful for us anymore because that's not our goal to educate our parents. I feel like we have tried but it's something deeper than that. It's not just something a conversation to fix. So, at this point it's about using our work to speak to people who can have a level of understanding because they've experienced the exact same things that we have.
NGUYEN: So for Project Voice, definitely it’s more targeted to millennials or younger voices as well, but at the same time, the people I have interviewed, range from their 30s to their teens, so my audience can expect a broad range of perspective. The target audience is Asian or Asian American women. And I say Asian/Asian American women because Asian American is a highly politicized term. Like, oftentimes we have this idea of what an Asian American, like you know looks like, it's like, more owned by East Asian Americans, and in a way, through Project Voice I'm like trying to like, you know bring in more voices, from Southeast and South Asians but that's really difficult to do that, but at the same time just being aware that no… there are women who are Asian and have lived through the Americanized experience through, the westernized world experience. And wording is tricky but that's like what my idea of a target audience is. But at the same time, I also encouraged speakers outside of the target audience to listen in, and because that's how we foster stronger alliances with other people of color as well. And allowing to see where we're coming from and it’s like a good example to set up, for when we, you know, really want to encourage ourselves to like be better allies for other people of color, too.
PHAM: Yeah, I would say that I've always written for teen girls, not really intentionally, it just kind of happened. And I would say that I think my smartest and most loyal and most inspiring readers have always been teen girls. But I think you know, I'd say that but also, it's good to not limit your audience or limit your perception of your own audience because I've had people of all ages come up to me at parties and be like, “Oh, like, I really love that thing that you wrote,” and you know it's like a 50 year old gay man and I'm like, “Wow, I'm really glad that you identify and experience crushing desire,” which is mostly just what I write about. But I think the caveat to that is that I also think that my main audience is White people and that's very unfortunate. But I basically write in mainstream media now and those audiences are very of a particular like, sort of hegemonic audience and it has been really interesting for me to move away from writing towards like the white gays and sort of doing a foo-foo approach to bias for us and I'm interested now in writing things that are almost like of obscuring themselves and that maybe aren't yet completely 100% accessible to Whiteness because I just you know you're steeped in it in America and it's interesting to play with it.
WANG: What would you say are some of your most salient identities and how [do] these identities influence the work that you do?
NGUYEN: I’ll take it. This is hard, I mean, it's very obviously, I guess. In the beginning, what I've always identified myself as Vietnamese. I remember during my first day of my Asian American Studies class, my professor would have all of us go around and pick three identities that we you know use to identify ourselves and one of them was Vietnamese. And you know the term Asian American, like, never popped up in my head, really. It was something that was like oh, no duh! Asian American but I never really use as a way to like, I don't know, include myself in this community that I'm a part of that I wasn't really aware of until college. So, now I use Asian American more because of partially because of the work that I do. And I’m a feminist, intersectional feminist to be exact. [LAUGHS] I'm a digital content creator, although I’m a podcaster but I like to see myself as someone who experiments with other mediums as well, not just podcasting but also photography and videography.
PHAM: I think my training, like, with the studio practice has been the most like salient identity in terms of like, how I approach work. I think being sort of like, studying as a painter, and like, within like, a really rigorous program has shaped the way that I approach my work. I've been moving away from using identities to describe myself, which always feels like you’re kind of, like White-washing yourself and you're like no, like I'm not a woman writer. I'm just a writer. Like, I'm not an Asian writer. I'm just a writer [because] like everyone just thinks that you're doing that. But I think it's, I think it is important to strike with clarity. Um, but I think you know it really depends on the moment. And I’ve been revisiting what it means to be first-generation American and in light of recent refugee crises, that was something that I thought about a lot when I was much younger and sort of going through that immigrant kid like, awakening where you realize that you’re different and you don't know why and you try to assimilate and then 10 or 15 years later you try to do de-assimilate yourself. S,o I’ve been analyzing that right now.
PARK: Yeah, I think, I think I'm constantly unpacking and I mean, I consider myself a woman. I don't say that I'm a feminist. I say that I'm a humanist who is continually trying to unlearn and unpack. I would say that my identity as a graphic designer is something that I'm really confident in, just because that has become something that's not just defined like, by type and computers; it's something more than that, so that's something that's worked for me.
WANG: What role would you all say art played in activism and vice versa as well?
PARK: I think the whole like art and activism thing is really strange right now. I don't even know where to start but I guess, I could start within my own school. So, I guess with like, the election of this president, a lot of people feel as artists just to do something about it because it's their medium, right? That's what their skill base is, but a lot of people and I'm seeing like, mostly non-POC, they're just using and ripping off of the aesthetics of activism because I think there is a language that's developed and it's been developed by POCs and other marginalized identities but now their ripping that kind of language to sell some type of like marketable art. I think though, because of that, it's constantly trying to come back and find what I am about. And portraying that in a way that is myself that people can't take away from me. Yeah, I think I kind of digressed from the original question but those are my thoughts.
NGUYEN: I actually have question, would you say that includes cultural appropriation, too?
PARK: I think it includes everything, like, class appropriation. I guess, even like gender, like gender appropriation is like a huge thing at like, my art school because it's trendy to rip off. I don't know, queer aesthetics, even like that that's one of like the biggest things. So, it's just I think is everything you can't just like say it's one appropriation.
PHAM: My day job is in activism right now. I work at an anti-violence non-profit in lower Manhattan, and we support survivors of violence so I do a lot of work on policy and I do a lot of work that like, I guess, would be considered, like community organizing and so I have a very hard line stance when it comes to activism. So, I like if it doesn't have like a myself a measurable effect on like a group of people are or like, you know, like getting people to vote, if it doesn't have like really well outlined like, you know like, it's useless to me, in terms of like making political impact and I do believe that very strongly. But that being said, that I do you think that like political art is very important it I think it does have a purpose. But I think you know it can be easy. And I know this because I work in the field it can be easy to sort of get your ego inflated, by being like, oh, I'm an activist in here when you're not really doing as much as you could be doing. And it's just I think it's just like very important to interrogate that urge inside yourself when you start talking about art activism.
NGUYEN: So I don't study or work in art. But you know it's a passion project on mine constantly and for me, art and activism are interconnected. Like you can literally make anything into art, I think. Like words, social media activism, and I really do believe there is validity in social media activism, where the words you use, the diction, the syntax, like of your posts, can make an impact on your readers, your friends, who are following you. In relation to my podcast, there's not a lot to work with, it's just my voice and someone else's voice. But again like being mindful of your words, I think, words have a lot of impact and it’s not just like I how you read them, but how you say them as well. Recently, I visited an exhibit that focuses on the intersectionality between like, creating narratives through fashion and using your own personal Asian American childhood identity as a source of inspiration and it got me to think about, like, you know how we relay these political messages that we have, that we feel like is important for others to know regarding our community, the issues we face within our community. And like, hmm, like fashion, there is- like, what is Asian American fashion? Like, first we see American fashion and it's like all in the classic American movies, right? And we identify them by decades, and we see like, Asian themes, we are familiar with like, the Asian/Orientalist aesthetic, but what makes you know, a collection, a piece of clothing Asian American? And I think no way, like meeting the designers at the exhibit ,hearing their narratives and you know, hearing how they show their narratives to us through their collections was an interesting like, example, of hmm, a way to be an activist but not be… really showy about It.
WANG: What time is it?
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: 3:40
WANG: Oh, okay, yeah, I’ll ask a few more questions. So, these are, like, I just finished asking the general questions, so we are going to move on to more specific ones. So, one for each person. So, Olivia, one question that we had was, “What made you and Esther choose “sad?” As opposed to angry, jaded, unhappy or yeah...
PARK: This is like, the question everyone asks us and we always forget to discuss in our presentation. But frankly, we chose Sad Asian Girls, or Sad Girls Club in the beginning because we had to make a Youtube account to upload our video. So, we were just sitting in front of our laptop and Esther was like, “Oh, we have to have a name for this YouTube channel,” and I was like, “Oh my gosh, like, I didn't even think of that.” And then she was like. “Oh, what about like, Sad Asian Girls Club? It's like Sad Asian Girls - I mean, Sad Girls Club except with Asians so it is cooler.” [LAUGHTER IN THE BACKGROUND[ And I was like, “Oh yeah, let's do that so honestly, is just like, borrowing from Internet culture, like on Tumblr and stuff. But I think it did gain some type of agency and it's really about using that sadness as a way to be productive and not being silent about it.
WANG: Thanks. So, Jessica, how do you choose topics that you talked about in your podcast and are these issues you witnessed and experienced yourself?
NGUYEN, Yeah, all these topics, really are inspired by actual conversations I had in the classroom or day-to-day. I wish you could record these conversations I had, but that would be really creepy. So, I decided to set up a more formal process in recording these conversations. And there are- a good number them I can relate to, like experiencing workplace discrimination, or I try to bring in topics that are considered taboo in our community like, sex education and intimacy issues, and mental health, and how it's not really brought up pretty often and the importance of seeking therapy services, so challenging, you know, by challenging the culture of us keeping quiet on the topic- on these topics through just like, addressing them on my podcast. But then there are also other topics that I can't relate to I feel like are important to include like growing-up as Mixed Asian American or growing up as Asian American adoptees and there's a challenge behind that, because there are so many narratives out there that my podcasters can't be representative of all the voices, but at the same time like it's still good to like, try our best and see you what you know, voices are out there, willing to share.
WANG: Yeah, so Larissa, so a lot of us actually follow you on Twitter. (LAUGHS)
PHAM: Oh, no!
WANG: So, we were wondering if you could kind of expand on this Tweet that you sent on April 11?
PHAM: What is it? Which one is it?
WANG: It’s “that feeling you don't consider yourself an Asian writer but the only orgs that consistently book you are Asian org but you're also told you're not Asian enough” It’s not trying to drag…
PHAM: Oh no, I will drag everyone in this room right now. [LAUGHTER] So, I have like, 10 speaking arrangements this month, because it's Asian American History Month. And I was thinking about I was thinking about that theme because like, I think February is Women's History Month and it's also Black History Month and my acquaintance Kimberly Drew, she was like, she Tweeted she's like, “Oh, like I'm like all booked this month but like, next month like, I'm not gonna have any work.” And I started getting a bunch of emails like in March and April that was okay, “hey like do you want to like come talk to us and I was like you don't even know my work that you think I'm a poet like it's very confusing to me. It is intended to be sort of like um like a pointed remark on like diversity events and I think like it's, I have like a lot of, like not like trouble, but like, I have like, a sort of contentious relationship with most Asian American organizations because I think the ones that I've worked with so far tend to have a very limited view of what Asianness can be or what American identity can look like and I don't really consider myself someone who makes work within that realm so it always surprises me when those organizations like, once a year reach out to me for something. Because I'm always trying to expand the idea of like, you know, like what we can be, but, unfortunately, like, my sort of time to get on my soapbox about it is the month of May. So, I hope that it addresses that Tweet.
WANG: Thank you for the drag.
PHAM: I mean I’m dragging myself, too.
WANG: Okay, so that concludes the moderated Q&A portion of this event, and so now we would like to open it to the audience.
AUDIENCE 1: Can all of you talk about your relationship to money and income, just like how do you support your lifestyle, like sustained what you want to do?
PHAM: I'll go first since I live in New York and I have to pay my own rent now and I'm not a student anymore. Um, it sucks. I have written a lot of things I didn't want to do, and I've done a lot of things I didn't want to do, to pay for things that I do want to do. And I think, so yeah, full disclosure like I have a day job that I work three days a week at and it kind of covers most of my living expenses but not much; it's in trauma; it's very exhausting but I love it very much and it sort of like, takes care of a lot of the political work that I really want myself to do. And then the rest of the time, I freelance write and then, I also sometimes write books. But I think financially, something that's been very important to me it's like making sure that I have that I'm really precious about, making space for my work and being very careful about the assignments that I do take on. Because I finally reach a point where my ratings are high enough and my income is stable enough that I can sort of turn it down like, “en Things Not to Say to your Asian Friend, or like essays about privilege which were things that I that I sort of came up writing so to answer that question, it sucks It's not really sustainable. Grants and fellowships are awesome and, it's just important to be precious about the time to that you do have.
NGUYEN: I agree, it really sucks but um, I actually used to work at various different temp places, so after quitting my first job and realizing that it wasn't what I wanted to do, I've worked at a custom tailoring company for men’s suits and shirts and dealing with a toxic work relationship. I was like, okay, screw it, it I’m not about that life. And for me, at that time I cared more about the time I had - like, I'll be working and I'll be like, oh my gosh, all this time I could be using for my projects and stuff because I would be working overtime as well. So, it didn't really, they didn't really teach me about temp placement jobs and agencies out there. I don’t know. From me, like, I don't see, like a career ladder ahead of me. All I want is to create and work on my own personal passion projects and they don't generate income now and I generate income through my temp jobs. I’m still trying to find that 9 to 5 day job that I'm passionate about and um, yeah, it's a struggle.
PARK: So, right now, I am a student who is finishing school, but um, I work full-time at a press production company. And I do Sad Asian Girls on the side because I like it and I can't stop doing it. Um, Esther and I go to a lot of talks, so I'm probably going like every other week or something to pay for like, art supplies and food. I am an RA right now, so I get free housing. Um ,but like my job after this, they pay for my housing, all my transportation. They pay pretty well,.I'm doing graphic design. I'm happy about that. But I feel like I got lucky.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: Hello, so I think all of you guys touched on kind of the, I guess, myopia of like, Asian American organizing. I feel, like as like, the part of an Asian American organization at school I feel like there is that kind of self-reflection that is like necessary, but I just wanted to like how do you guys reconcile… I feel like Project Voice, really addresses this, is the kind of like, just like diversity narratives and then you talked about like a lot of like larger Asian American organizations really catering towards like one specific idea what Asian American is. So, like how do you guys... maybe, had to challenge that and in like, daily practice of whatever you do? And like it does that require readjusting your goals [because] or… in your workshop, you talked about constantly coming back to the mission statement and like as an organization, you have a mission statement but like, how much of that should be like us attempting to reach that lofty mission statement and how should it be like tweaking it and narrowing the focus?
PARK: I think the mission statement can constantly change right so I think it should be an honest depiction of what it is currently. And when it does change and when you work towards like other goals, and that metamorphosis or whatever you want to call it happens like, that's when you say something else like.. .I really hate it when people say like that they're trying to change like representation of Asians ‘cause like, you can't. Like, that's the reality, like you can only show reflections of who you are and like, by doing that diversify the place and the space. I find that a problem with a lot of institutions and a lot of student Asian groups, like, they'll say there like some Asian Student Association, but all they only have East Asians there so maybe it should just be called like, East Asian Organization or something. But like, something like that is such a meaningful gesture to other marginalized identities, and like, you really have to think about who you really are, because once you start using these like, buzzwords that aren't even reality, like you're not really improving this space.
NGUYEN: So on Project Voice, the people I've chosen to interview, it's been a challenge because in beginning, I didn’t even noticed it, but I noticed that like later on, like a lot of my interviewees were Chinese American, not just East Asian Americans. I had a lot of Chinese American friends and I was like, WHOA THERE! Because… I had to stop and space these episodes out and include more voices. And in a way, yeah it is a challenge to invite other voices too, especially not just like you know ethnic identities in terms of ethnic identities, like Southeast and South Asians but also like gender representation and sexuality and just like, your upbringing and class as well, so it's a lot to like, keep in mind. But you know, just being open to meeting new people. I think that's what's so great about having technology and social media. Like, I've met a couple of, made a couple of new friends just through on Facebook because of Project Voice and also the questions that I would ask my interviewees, making sure that they're not based on my preconceptions of their identities, making sure that like I'm very aware of the wording I choose, in terms of asking them what their opinions on this and that and their experience in general. So, yeah, that is important to keep in mind, too.
PHAM: I think I have the luxury of being like, a relatively free agent so, free Asian agent. (LAUGHTER) Sorry. So I think I've been allowed to sort of create my own brand based on like, the things that I like, I'm actually interested in or the themes I'm actually interested in and like again, this is my art training coming out but like, there’s always like, there’s always] like content really there's there, there's always like things that you're engaged with when you're making work and, when you're like writing about something and like those themes, may be informed by your identity and are definitely informed by your experience but they probably exists like outside of you. Like, I'm really interested in intimacy and I'm really interested in regional culture and I'm really interested in surveillance. And I've sort of focused on those things I enjoy doing rather than working from like, an identity based place. I do think with coalition building, it can become very myopic and I know that like ,all sort of like identity based organizations always come from a good place, but I do think - yeah, like it is important to this sort of a target the mission statement. Like Olivia was saying, and examine your motivations for doing. So, but I think as an individual it's really great to be able to just like be a freak and like just like do whatever you want and that sort of like propels you from being pigeon-holed.
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