The day after the event, I woke up with a happy heart and fulfilled soul. Thinking back on the day, I knew our strength would be in small numbers and in an intimate setting. With a circle on the floor, and family and friends happily coloring on the wall, I pulled lead artists, Nicky and Vincent, and guest speaker, Eddy into a team huddle. We shared in the hope that we would create a safe space for discussion and to empower our guests to share about themselves in their own life journeys on being “immigrant”, or “minority”, or “token”, or any kind of those “others”. We supported each other to support those who came to support the event.Our aim for the day was to own our narratives. The sharing circle we created, on the floor and facing one another gave us each equal importance and presence whether we spoke or not.
Nicky Gervacio started us off by sharing her art about the United Farm Workers and the Delano Manongs. She told us her story about how we aren’t all fortunate enough to learn about our own ancestries in school, and that we have to seek it on our own. Sometimes, without access to such history and knowledge, some don’t even know to go looking for it. As artists and cultural workers, we have an ability and duty to make sure we can tell share our histories in more ways that just history and school books. Vincent Kukua continued and shared his critique of corporate culture vultures who like to exotify and romanticize land and culture. THIS is the reason why we need to let our stories be the main stories that are told and repeated.
Though Hoi-Fei Mok and Amman Desai were not physically there, they were still present. They were able to share a bit of themselves in spirit through writings and recordings. Their pieces ranged from challenging capitalist food systems, to culture-keeping as simple steps to decolonizing; from queer and trans love, immigrant rights, protecting all land, to freeing all political prisoners. Then, brother Eddy Zheng closed us out and shared his poem about his journey as a Chinese immigrant growing up in prison to a dedicated community member, activist, poet and youth advocate. You are truly SO amazing and I am happy and honored to know that you are on this earth, breathing.
So much love to our honorable guests, Nyoka Lowery-Bey of KulchaColoring WorksInc, and kuya Johnny Itliong for sharing and spreading so much wisdom. This next generation of artists is doing their part to continue the histories and legacies that are outlawed and hidden from us. We are so glad to know we have each other who are doing this work that is so important.
Thank you to all the volunteers and amazing team and comrades from San Jose Advocates for Empowerment (SAFE) for setting up the space and supporting me through all the crazy on the day. Special shout out and thanks to Dieu Hoc Huynh for turning on a dime and coming out to video record the event. Big big major hugs and thanks to Mannyfest Design for understanding our vision and knowing exactly what to do for our coloring book layout and continuing media and design support. Lastly, thank you to our sponsors and festival organizers, API Cultural Center - San Francisco for giving PoC the push and the platform to do this all.
This is just the start – more coloring sessions to come. Here’s to a colorful future!