Affirm And Amplify Individual Identities Within Our Collective Humanity

Our collective humanity is comprised of our individual identities, cultures, and lives.

Too often, we overgeneralize each other’s identities and cultures. Such overgeneralizations spark and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. 

People of the global majority are too often called on to validate, defend, and/or debunk these overgeneralizations – the very stereotypes that hurt us. 

The notion of “a single truth” or “the universal truth” is white supremacy at work attempting to silence people of the global majority from sharing their identities, perspectives, and lived experiences for multiple truths to exist.

We each hold multiple truths.

Our lived experiences are truths.

Our identities are truths.

Our cultures are truths. 

When one person of a marginalized racial identity shares a truth that conflicts with something another person of the same racial identity says, white folx will often question the contradiction and demand a singular truth from BBIA folx. 

BBIA folx are too often pressured and expected to explain their truths without acknowledgement or compensation for the emotional labor such discussions take.

Pleas of “help me understand” plague the daily lives of marginalized folx who are not only undoubtedly experts of their own lives, but must too often serve as the unpaid “diversity, equity, and inclusion” consultant in white people’s lives. People of the global majority navigate through the stereotypes and “truths” written by white folx, and our actual lived experiences which are too often denied, denounced, and devalued. We are often gaslighted with relentless questioning to “prove” our truths.

Authenticity in the histories, traditions, identities, cultures, and lives of the global majority does not always show up in the form of literature and written scholarship. 

Recognize and understand that the western written word too often perpetuates white supremacy. 

The personal, aural sharing done by people of the global majority must be authentically accepted and valued by default.

Actively work to decolonize the idea of a “single” or “universal” truth in our collective humanity.

Listen intently without interrupting when we are sharing our identities, cultures, and lives. 

Reflect deeply and internally on what we share.  

Trust our truths as authentic by default, worth amplifying and celebrating when we share stories of our life experiences. 

Affirm our individual identities and multiple truths within our collective humanity — not by inaccurately replicating our traditions or replicating what we do at all, but rather by amplifying people of the global majority who are doing the daily work of preservation and continuous creation of culture. 

Empower our youth to truly hear, vocalize, and amplify each other’s multiple truths. 

The truths of our youth are important and necessary or our collective humanity. 

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Reframing the common question “Where are you from?”

Language matters. What we ask matters.

For too long, we have been socialized to ask and answer the common question “Where are you from?”

For many Black people and Indigenous communities, this question is triggering because of unknown and/or traumatic, severed pasts due to colonialism. We must remember that personal stories, lineages, cultures, and authentic histories have suffered from systemic erasure globally. 

Asking “Where are you from?” continues to otherize folx who identify as BBIA, adopted, multicultural, and more. 

For the AAPI community, this question reinforces that we do not belong, and is too often followed up with “But where are you really from?” — indicating a displeasure with and refusal of whatever answer originally given, as if to comment that a person could not possibly be from anywhere other than what is close to or matches the mental stereotype within one’s colonized mind.

Decolonize the idea that the question “Where are you from?” must be answered with a geographical location. 

We are from what we say we are from, who we say we are from, where we say we are from, and anything we say we are from that is authentic to who we are.

We each have a multiplicity of identities, and we define for our individual selves if and how we want to respond to this question when we inevitably continue to be asked this throughout our lives.

Our intent matters, and our impact matters.

Reflect on the intent in asking and being asked “Where are you from?”

Regardless of whether the intent in asking meets a surface-level desire to know masked under the false pretense of curiosity that only satisfies the person who asks the question or aims to build one’s understanding, having internalized this question as a truth-bearer of identity, the impact of asking can be harmful, toxic, and traumatic, especially with repetition.

We must reframe the common question “Where are you from?” so that we do not further perpetuate stereotypes, nor do we reduce people to only be representatives of their assumed and/or authentic social groups.

Create and continuously recreate new questions with the intent of building deep understanding across communities and cultures. Involve your communities in this process of reimagination. 

“What do you choose to share about your identity/identities?”

“Where do you call home?”

“Who is your community?”

Freedom dream new ways to define and share who you are — for yourself.

Listen intently and fully to the questions, ideas, stories, emotions, and arts shared with reimagined questions to understand your own self, your community/communities, and fellow communities.

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We belong together.

How to describe myself as an Asian American woman right now?
I used to walk on the street, go on the subway and turn the music up real loud
I’m a musician, a teacher, and I want to feel the sound in my bones
Instead I’m scared of having my teeth or head knocked off my orange-seated throne

Every day I gotta choose on my commute, dependent on my mood
Do I go through my lesson in my head, keep my eyes down on my shoes
No, I can’t, instead I stay alert all around me
On a good day I’m listening to a podcast, out of 10 on a volume of 3

How do I begin to explain the daily negotiations 
When news, media, and law don’t acknowledge the racial motivations 
360 West 43rd, I used to live next door
Will it be me or my mom you’ll shut out on the concrete floor

What if I spoke up, how you like that?
I’m dynamite, and a firecracker and I won’t be typecast
I won’t stand for society’s erasure of my i-dentity
I’m here for good measure, for no one’s pleasure, for us and our entities

Strong like chrome I can’t be sanded down
And unlike a cassette tape, I won’t be rewound
Even with my small feet I won’t let me be bound
I can step in and out of Chinatown for my words to be heard and found

My dad emigrated from Hong Kong so my last name TSUI is Cantonese
But (in Cantonese) I do not speak Cantonese, (in English) I’m actually Shanghainese
But (in Shanghainese) if I speak Shanghainese, (in English) y’all go weak at your knees,
And as MC Jin says, y’all better learn Chinese

But being Asian is more than just being from China
I’m a member, a representative of the collective from major to minor
AAPI, a political term for Asian American Pacific Islander
Is not just about East Asians or me that you hear rhyming here

For the South Asians, Brown Asians, Black Asians in our society
Undocumented Asians, adopted Asians, more than obeyers of filial piety
Shouts to Tony Delarosa, Dr. Kevin Nadal
We must be more inclusive than the diversity and equity institutional walls

GoFundMe, Go Fund us in our neighborhoods, our needs and wants
Don’t need the blue eyes white supremacy dragon slanted, tilted, a-Flaunt 
Remember, the system is built on the backs of Black people and labor
When we divide ourselves up we ain’t doing anyone no favors 

Maxine Hong Kingston reminds me of my fellow warrior women
And I want you to listen to the LGBTQ+ and Trans fams, the non-binary people and visions
We must have more than just my mom’s good luck superstitions
Trust y’all, we need to do more learning and listening on our mission

We’re NO model minority, we’re the global majority 
Our voices together are stronger than any authority
So my call to action is for us is to truly unite
We cannot do this alone, we need each other in this fight

Justice is not just is it’s for just us
We cannot take the master’s tools to rectify or make just
We can call to those in power to help our communities
But we must step off each other’s subway stops for true cross-coalition unity 

Let’s stand together and if you need some perspective
Remember that this is lifelong work as one intersectional collective
We are striving for the liberation of our marginalized peoples 
Each one of us is a hero, rest in power 13-year-old Adam Toledo

Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, BBIA
BIPOC solidarity, We’re here united and we will rise today
Black Lives Matter as we stand on Munsee Lenape Indigenous Lands
Deep within us, we’re together, our hearts, souls, and hands

It’s 4.4, the anniversary of Dr. King’s final breath countdown
AAPI history, lives, and arts in schools, Ethnic studies is the starting ground
We must eradicate anti-Blackness, It’s not simply just stop Asian hate
Ask “how can I use my voice to activate and stop ALL hate”?

And beyond that I’m asking that we spread so much love
As powerful as the firebird’s flames and the peace of a soaring dove
And to tell every kid we know in our lives and see,
“You matter, and know your voice can set you free”

For my grandfathers and my grandmother, who I’ve never met
I am your wildest dream each day from sunrise to sunset
Today is 清明节 (Qing Ming Jie), a day that means literally clear and bright
In many Asian cultures, it’s a day of rituals for our ancestors’ spirit and might

And for them, our ancestors, our presence, our future, for all to hear
it’s not just we belong here
It’s we belong – together. 

For our ancestors, each other, this moment, our children, say this with me:

I shine bright with my golden light.
I shine bright with my golden light.

Dear grandfathers, grandmothers, I will protect your daughter and son
My mom and my dad, I will protect all our loved ones
As my students say, our joy is revolutionary,
Because we are golden, we are worthy.

Today, I want to end with Isang Bagsak. Isang Bagsak is a solidarity clap that originated in the cross-cultural fight unifying Filipinx and Latinx communities through Larry Itliong and Cezar Chavez. Isang Bagsak literally translates to “one down” and is a unity clap – to signal unity in movements together and that this moment is one down, of many more to go. I learned this from Tony Delarosa, and I am not the culture bearer of “Isang Bagsak”, I am a culture sharer. I, along with all of you, will start clapping together – slowly. As we gain momentum and the clap gets faster and louder, pulsating here in New York City, I will say “Isang Bagsak”, and right after you hear that, we will clap ONE TIME together – as a collective. Let’s do it. 

Isang Bagsak
加油 (Jia You)
My name is Alice Tsui.
Thank you.

Times Square Takeover to Stop Asian Hate 4.4.21 | Photo Credit: Sang Cheng

Music is dance AND dance is music!

“Music is dance AND dance is music!” exclaimed a first grader today. This declaration made me critically analyze and reflect on my own understanding of music and dance. Here are a few thoughts I have:

The forced division of music and dance into separate disciplines that do not interact is colonization at work. There is nothing that dictates the separation of the two aside from the colonization of our minds.

The lived intersection of music and dance is critical to multiple cultures of the global majority. The intersections vary for each culture – all of which should be amplified in the arts. 

Music and dance simply do not exist separately. In certain societies, no general terms exist for music and dance. 

Start your research at the indigenous music and dance of Papua New Guinea, Suyá, and Blackfoot peoples. This is a non-comprehensive list and simply a suggestion for a starting point.

The convergence of music and dance is not monolithic and cannot be applied universally to all cultures. Generalizing will only lead to erasure of individual voices in each culture.

Take critical care in understanding the nuances of music and dance in cultures of the global majority. We must always care deeply for BBIA peoples, their individual realities, and their collective experiences as practitioners of music and dance.

Upon reading and researching, decolonize your understanding of music and dance as separate art forms. Arrive at new understandings of music and dance as you continue to learn.

Authentically envision arts in your community to include the bold and unified intersection of music and dance. Once again, there is nothing that dictates us to uphold the status quo of white supremacy aside from the colonization of our minds.

Empower musicians and dancers to critique and redefine the narratives shared when music and dance come together. Actively critique and redefine the narratives as the convergence of music and dance renews itself through each musician, dancer, and arts practitioner. 

Then keep going.