Jessica Nguyen sits down with Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright of Ballot Breakers, Representative Padma Kuppa of Michigan, and Representative Patty Kim of Pennsylvania to discuss civic advocacy and American politics. We start off the episode learning about the women’s relationship with politics, a field they all originally viewed as dirty business and were reluctant to partake in. They all share how their backgrounds and life experiences have influenced the work that they do in the political space, whether that is as a state representative amplifying and advocating for their communities or the founder of a platform that highlights the younger generation of politicians and celebrates their victories.
For State Representatives Patty and Padma, we hear more about their journey running for office, touching upon the causes they are passionate about and the importance of active listening. They talked about the challenges they faced as well as their proudest achievements as elected officials. Lacy shares the origin story of Ballot Breakers and the takeaways she has learned as being a voice for young, aspiring Democratic candidates. Realizing how often she would get cut off or dismissed in certain political spaces because of her identity, she realized the power of allies and communities who support and will help amplify your voice. Directly addressing what is going on in the world, they shared how they have been affected by and are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and to the issue of police brutality in connection with systemic racism that exists in the US.
We end the interview with insights about the world of politics: things they wish people knew about this space as well as advice for those considering running for office. Thinking toward the future, they share their vision of hope and change as active participants in civic advocacy.
LACY LEW NGUYEN WRIGHT: Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright is the creator of Ballot Breakers, a website series interviewing young progressive candidates running for office and has featured over 50 candidates representing young people’s perspectives in government. She was previously an Editor-at-Large at Huffington Post. Her writings can also be found on Elite Daily, The Moviegoer, The Bottom Line, and HelloFlo. Lacy is based in whichever coffee shop has the best mocha.
BALLOT BREAKERS: We’re seeing young people running for office in droves, seizing the opportunity to take control of their futures and give voice to the people who aren’t being represented in today’s government. These candidates are breaking tradition, transforming what it means to be a candidate.
Ballot Breakers seeks to authentically showcase these energized young people, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and platforms. Ballot Breakers don’t just represent their generation -- they represent their constituents, communities and progressive values throughout the country.
State Representative PATTY KIM, a former news anchor and reporter and Harrisburg City Councilwoman, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2012 and has been a leader in government reform and transparency. She returned her cost of living increase (COLA) and introduced a bill to eliminate the yearly pay increases. She is also one of the only members of the House to post all of her expenses on her legislative website for public review. Kim's priorities in the General Assembly include taking a solution-based approach to statewide issues, working in cooperation and collaboration with colleagues, and utilizing her record of service to support initiatives that stand to better the lives of the citizens she represents. Leading her caucus’s charge to provide a livable wage for all Pennsylvanians, Kim twice introduced bills to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. She continues her fight for a minimum wage increase to restore the middle class by lifting thousands of Pennsylvanians out of poverty. Kim serves on the Appropriations, Education, Local Government and Transportation committees. She is Vice Co-Chair of the Southeast Delegation. During her second term, she served as Treasurer for the Legislative Black Caucus. Prior to her work in the legislature, Kim was elected to Harrisburg's City Council where she served two terms. She was elected as council Vice President by her colleagues during her second term. A 1995 graduate of Boston College, Kim is married to John Sider and together they have two children, Brielle and Ryan.
PADMA KUPPA is serving in her first term as State Representative for Troy and Clawson, Michigan's 41st District. She is assistant Democratic Whip, and serves on the Energy, and Local Government and Municipal Finance Committees. She is an engineer, with automotive and technical background and is an advocate on environmental issues and reducing climate change. Her passion for all things local includes extensive community involvement, with several years on the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals and in K-12 PTAs. It shows in the way she digs into the bills that come before the Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee. Kuppa came to the U.S. from India at the age of four and grew up in America before moving to India as a teenager. After receiving her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology Warangal, Kuppa moved home to the U.S. for graduate school, and went through the immigration and naturalization process, She got married and started a family before moving to the 41st district more than 20 years ago Kuppa has a career that spans the automotive, financial, and IT industries, with rich and varied community leadership at the local, state and national level. She is co-founder of the Troy-area Interfaith Group and currently President of the Troy Historical Society and a board member of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. As the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the State Legislature, she brings a fresh perspective to the State House.
Jessica Nguyen sits down with a few members of the Southeast Asian American (SEAA) SEAAster Scholars Collective–Jacqueline Mac, Linda Pheng, Vanessa S. Na, Varaxy Yi–to hear more about their experiences as POC/SEAA in academia, the meaning of homemaking, and the origin story and mission of their collective. After running into each other at various conferences and acknowledging that there were not many SEAA that occupy the academic space, they made it a goal to create a support system that provided the exchange of knowledge and authentic voices/experiences of the SEA diaspora. Oftentimes feeling alienated and isolated in academia, which is a predominantly White space, some members have taken more creative approaches (like dyeing their hair blue) in order to stand out and fight against invisibilization. When speaking about the challenges they had to overcome, they realized they wanted to do more than just survive. They wanted to thrive.
Focusing on fostering a collaborative atmosphere, the SEAAster Scholars Collective was founded to help people feel whole and supported. Engaging with other scholars who are able to empathize with their cultural experiences and honor each other’s beliefs and values, they found empowerment. After sharing their favorite moments and takeaways from being a part of this group, they end the podcast by providing advice and resources to those interested in pursuing a career in academia.
The SOUTHEAST ASIAN AMERICAN (SEAA) SEEASTER SCHOLARS COLLECTIVE is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the postsecondary experiences of SEAA students, staff, and faculty. We met as graduate students through various social connections and higher education networks and were thrilled to learn that there were other Southeast Asian womxn in higher education. We hold individual and collective identities as Khmer American, Lao American, ethnic Chinese Vietnamese American, daughters of refugees, partners, friends, and sisters.
Varaxy Yi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, California State University, Fresno
Malaphone Phommasa, Ph.D., Director, Transfer Student Center, University of California, Santa Barbara
Latana J. Thaviseth, Ph. D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles
Linda Pheng, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Vanessa S. Na, Ph.D. Student, University of California, San Diego
Jacqueline Mac, Ph. D. Candidate, Indiana University, Bloomington
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Seo Kelleher, the author of the newly released book “Don’t be a Bitch, be an Alpha,” to talk about her journey as an intuitive life and business coach and shamanic healer. With 20 years of marketing experience and an MBA under her belt, Seo used to define herself as a high performing career woman who focused on getting good grades and climbing the corporate ladder. Concerned with what other people will say and think about her, she realized that she was creating challenges in her head with the mindset that she had to live up to what the world had expected of her. When she transitioned into becoming an intuitive life and business coach, she realized that she had to dig deep within herself and face and heal her own traumas before she could help others with their transformations. Her approach in coaching focuses heavily on people relying on their own self for clarity in answers. Using her personal experience of transforming her own life, she wants to pass on these practices to a greater community of womxn who empower each other by first empowering themselves.
Touching upon her book “Don’t Be a Bitch, Be an Alpha,” Seo talks about redefining alpha womxn as womxn who are empowered by their own authentic being. She believes that a strong woman emerges when she can exist in space where she can truly be herself. To foster and continue to build this space, one needs to be a little selfish and take care of one's self. Once you reach the most thriving version of yourself, the core of what you do in this world stems from a place of abundance, joy, excitement, and creativity instead of guilt, duty, and obligation. We end the podcast with the advice to have more fun and to not fear rejection. Unlike what many of our Asian diasporic parents may say, good things do not always have to come with suffering.
SEO KELLEHER is an intuitive life and biz coach who empowers women to move outside their comfort zones, manifest transformation and play big. As a coach, she goes beyond strategy and embrace the WOO to help women change their lives so they can change the world on their own terms... and in their own way.
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Tiffany Huang, the founder of Spill Stories, to talk about how she is able to foster personal growth passion projects. Stifled by the fast-paced Hong Kong lifestyle, Tiffany wanted to build a platform that allows for people (particularly womxn of color) to be unrestrained in the way that they speak and share their stories. Having to juggle both her day job and her passion project, she realized that sometimes one has to throw organization out the window and just start executing when you realize what it is that you want to do. With time and experience, Tiffany has learned that authentic stories come about when one does not overthink and simply makes their passion and intentions clear.
Delving into more how Tiffany was able to develop Spill Stories to be what it is today, she touches upon she has become aware of the cues that precede burning out, prompting her to check in and make sure that her basic life needs are met. They talk about the importance of self love and how it is easy for people to pour so much love and passion in their projects but not into themselves. Even if it means taking a day for yourself where you can calm down and do nothing, they discuss how one’s productivity should not be a determinant of one’s worth. Tiffany ends the podcast with golden nuggets that include advice on how to approach passion projects: “Be very crystal clear on what is your purpose.”
Spill Stories is a storytelling platform to unite womxn of color, tackling social issues told through deeply personal perspectives. Spill Stories focuses on delivering high quality content via Instagram, while also offering monthly writers workshops in Hong Kong / Seoul, and larger bespoke events for the community.
TIFFANY HUANG is a Taiwanese American living in Hong Kong. She is a marketer in the hospitality industry by day and a writer by night. In 2018, she founded Spill Stories, a storytelling platform to unite womxn of color. She finds herself often caught between two worlds -- one focused on commercial success, and the other focused on personal passion projects. The desire to close this gap is what drives her to wake up in the morning everyday, as challenging as the journey may be.
Website: Spill Stories
Julie McConnell sits down with Julia Ha and Tammy Tran from Project Yellow Dress (PYD) to talk about how underrepresented communities are gaining visibility through self-expressed artistic mediums. We start the podcast getting to know the two PYD founders who talk about their family history (fun fact: they are second cousins). Their family experienced a double diaspora having to escape China and Vietnam because of warfare, and as a result, have traveled to many different countries in search of a new place to call home.
We move on to hear about the lightbulb moment when a children's book on the Holocaust inspired them to start PYD. Recognizing how taking ownership of one's history is so crucial for communities who are often overlooked in history textbooks and mainstream media, they created PYD as a platform to encourage silenced individuals to share their stories through whatever medium they desire. This is a community of people who are flipping the script as they do advocacy in their own way. Yes, Asians can be artists. They can be whoever they want to be. It is so important for them to be able to feel like the protagonist of their story, to celebrate the fact that they are a refugee or a child of a refugee, especially in today's political climate.
We close out the podcast with takeaways that touch upon an increasing need for ethnic studies courses. Because learning about people’s history helps us understand one another and ourselves, it is so important to recognize how and where ethnic studies is being taught and improve on that. "Know history, know self. No history, no self."
Project Yellow Dress is a storytelling platform that is dedicated to sharing and highlighting the histories, experiences, and voices of the Southeast Asian diaspora.
JULIA HA is a Chinese-Vietnamese American from the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of Vietnamese Boat People refugees who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s. She received her B.A. from University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where she majored in History: War, Revolution, and Social Change with a special emphasis in Genocide Studies, and graduated with a M.A. Ed. degree in Equity and Social Justice in Education with a focus on Genocide Education from San Francisco State University (SFSU). She currently works as an EOP Advisor at San Francisco State University.
TAMMY TRAN, one of the co-founders of Project Yellow Dress, is a Chinese-Vietnamese American whose parents are Vietnamese Boat Refugees. Through Project Yellow Dress, she’s been able to reconnect with her family's history and get to know more about her parents and community. Aside from Project Yellow Dress, she studied Fine Arts & Art History during both her undergraduate and graduate careers and is currently getting an MILIS in Cultural Heritage Management. She truly enjoys seeking out new narratives that inanimate objects can tell us and believes that it's so important to find ways to preserve people's voices through visual representations.
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Ivy Kwong to talk about navigating the healing process individuals may have to go through with their family, particularly their parents. After talking about her own personal experience, Ivy shares tactics to help people heal and foster healthier relationships with their parents.
Ivy touches upon how growing up as a child of immigrants from China and Hong Kong, she felt that she constantly had to constantly switch back and forth between two cultures–home was China while school was America. Having to straddle between these two worlds, she often was shocked at how her experience with family was so different than that of her American friends. She struggled to seek validation, approval, and love from her parents who gave conditional love only when she was succeeding. She often had to walk on eggshells within a household that didn’t process and talk about emotions. Ivy comes to realize that this emotional repression leads her to turn the anger she feels toward her parents against herself.
As Ivy starts to unpack all of the trauma she experienced in her childhood, she talks about the importance of healing oneself first before any rebuilding of familial relationships can occur. Guilt and shame are powerful and manipulative tools that one needs to recognize and acknowledge, especially when formulating one’s boundaries. Ivy touches upon how to recognize when your boundaries have been violated and goes into talking about you have to be in touch with your own boundaries before you are able to enforce them. We teach people how to treat us and we get to choose how we respond to the way that people treat us.
The podcast rounds off with Ivy talking about how her work as a marriage and family therapist has allowed her to help address trauma that gets passed on from generation to generation. As individuals go through healing, they learn to trace the root of their trauma, helping older generations also go through the healing process. In a way, doing the work to help the older generations heal is a way of recognizing and paying back the sacrifice our elders have made for us to be in this position of privilege. It is important to remember that this healing process is ongoing and non-linear, and that a lot of time “you have to go through a lot of fuck yous before you get to forgive yous.”
Ivy Kwong, LMFT offers culturally sensitive psychotherapy and coaching services specializing in recovery from codependency, Asian and Asian-American mental health issues, and healing from intergenerational and ancestral trauma.
IVY KWONG is a first-generation Asian-American woman who was born to Chinese immigrant parents and raised in the Midwest. She is a survivor of childhood and adult sexual trauma, a codependent/people-pleaser in recovery, the founder of BareIvy.com, a workshop and retreat leader, and an author, speaker, and coach. She has over 14 years of experience as a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in recovery from codependency, Asian and Asian-American mental health issues, and healing from intergenerational and ancestral trauma.
She recently finished her first book featuring a little Asian-American girl as the main character entitled "The Little Girl, The Ocean, and The Moon." It is a children's book written for adults, encouraging you to remember and to honor your childhood dreams. Ivy is available for in-person therapy in Seattle WA, for online therapy sessions in WA and CA, and for online thera-coaching (a blend of treatment involving elements of both therapy and coaching) worldwide
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Helena Berbano to delve into how and why Asian-Americans are so politically disengaged. Given Helena’s active involvement in campaigning for Asian-American women candidates, she speaks about the power of political engagement and how the lack of such action negatively impacts the larger community.
We start the podcast with Helena speaking about the difficulties of working and existing in a white male-dominated space that heavily relies on having connections. Still holding onto her authenticity, she has found a way to adapt within this space as a woman of color. Working in politics, she has also gained insights into why the Asian-American community has lower engagement with politics compared to other communities. Besides more obvious factors like voter suppression tactics and language barriers, there are also issues with lack of contact and lingering trauma from past experiences with corrupt politics. Taking these into consideration, we should reevaluate what would be the most effective ways to get more of the community (both young and older generations) to be more politically involved. Helena recommends redefining the negative connotation around the word “politics” through honest conversations about causes and issues they genuinely care about. Using that as a stepping stone, one can start by getting involved in local elections because no matter how small or big the political stage is, representation of diverse perspectives matters.
When it comes to being an activist, Helena reminds us that one does not have to be out in the frontlines protesting or go knocking door-to-door to call themselves activists. What is most important is to find the route to activism that is most authentic and accessible for them. Stay tuned to the end of the episode to learn about resources and/or spaces to explore if you are interested in being more involved in political movements.
HELENA BERBANO is a 2nd generation Filipina American who is an organizer, activist, and campaign operative. She has managed national voter engagement programs and has advised a number of Massachusetts state and local grassroots advocacy groups on their campaigns. During her tenure as Director of Special Projects at Nonprofit VOTE she focused on voter registration and outreach with disenfranchised communities and collaborated and trained a variety of advocacy and nonprofit networks, including the National Association of Community Health Centers, YWCA, United Way Worldwide, and League of Women Voters.
One of her biggest passions is getting more women and people of color elected into public office. In 2016, she organized a national coalition of Asian American Pacific Islander millennials in support of Secretary Clinton. She also has invested in leadership in her home state of Massachusetts. In 2017, she served as Campaign Manager for Nicole Castillo's bid for Newton city council, and in 2018 she served as Strategic Advisor for now State Representative Tram Nguyen. Most recently she served as Director of Operations for Dr. Mohammad Dar’s bid for the 8th Congressional District in MA.
She holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she was given the distinctions of McCormack Scholar, Keough Capstone Fellow, and Best Capstone for her research focused on women of color public office initiatives. She is the outgoing Co-Director of New Leaders Council - Boston and formally sat on the Mass NOW PAC and Young Democrats of Massachusetts boards. On her days off, she listens to musical theatre compilations and avidly sings power ballads at karaoke.
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Abigail Hing Wen, the author of Asian-American young adult novel “Loveboat, Taipei,” to learn about her journey in becoming a published author. Working in artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley, Abigail had no idea she would ever become a writer. Although she grew up reading books all the time, the idea for a book never came until she graduated from law school in 2007. Her journey started with the novel FOXSTONE and has continued over the course of 12 years where she continued to work on her craft, even getting an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. 5 books later, she came out with “Loveboat, Taipei,” a story based on her own experiences attending a summer camp in Taiwan where she was able to revel in Asian culture and build amazing relationships. For Abigail, this coming-of-age story was written with the intent for 1) the Asian community to feel that they too can be protagonists of a novel and 2) showcase the diversity and humanity that exists within the community. Tune in to the episode to learn when the sequel is scheduled to be released!
When pitching her work to publishing companies, some challenges she faced included not being able to get through marketing due to gatekeepers not being able to relate with the characters–an issue that writers of color often face in the white-dominant publishing space. Despite these challenges, she has found strength in being able to work with agents who share the same vision for her work. We end the podcast with Abigail telling aspiring novelists to continuously write and find people they can resonate with. Despite all the obstacles and barriers that exist in this journey, she encourages people to never give up since “a writer’s life is mostly rejection.”
1) Follow author Abigail Hing Wen AND Project Voice on 1 of the following social media platforms
2) Write an Apple Podcasts review for Project Voice
3) Tag 3 friends in the comments (any social media platform)
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Florence Shin and Athina Wang from COVRY Eyewear to talk about how they celebrate and set a new standard for diversity in the eyewear industry. These long-time friends who ended up going to schools on opposite coasts, found themselves working in the same city after college. With offices that were a block away from each other, Florence and Athina met each other during lunch breaks to discuss their business ideas. Realizing that they were always having to settle for eyewear that didn’t fit well, they want to create a product that would reflect the beauty of diverse face shapes. Unlike other fashion pieces that could be easily hemmed and altered to fit one’s body, adjusting pieces that were meant for the face was much more complicated. That is how COVRY was born.
What started as their personal desire to produce eyewear that fit them well, soon became this movement away from one-size-fit-all to pieces with sizes that fit real people. In this pursuit of creating eyewear that combines fun, functionality, and comfort, Florence and Athina talk about the importance of listening to their customers. Whether it’s gathering responses via social media or talking to people in person at popups, it was important they were able to hear what their customers wanted and needed to adjust their design accordingly. We end the podcast with the two discussing their favorite pieces and what smart features or superpowers they would want their glasses to have.
COVRY celebrates diversity through handcrafted prescription eyewear. Our eyewear goes beyond the standard fit with our exclusive Elevated Fit® designed for comfort. Each design combines high quality materials, such as plant-based acetate, vegan leather and UV protection, with an effortless, classic style for women and men. 👓 👓 👓
About the Co-Founders of COVRY: Before they were the founders of COVRY, ATHING WANG and FLORENCE SHIN were high school friends with a passion for the fashion industry. Although they had never planned to start a business together, they connected on their struggle for finding stylish eyewear that fit their low nose bridges and high cheekbones. This inspired them to create COVRY's signature Elevated Fit® and embark on journey to smile with confidence.
Athina’s Instagram: @athina.w
Florence’s Instagram: @florence.shin
Julie McConnell sits down with Cece Horbat to discuss all things environmentalism. As someone who has been interested in the environment after watching NBC commercials about recycling, Cece is now majoring in environmental justice at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.
Responding to the article “Five Ways to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive,” Cece finds a correlation between the diversity of the environment and the human population and feels that it is inherently wrong that some people do not have equitable access to the resources that the earth has to water, whether that’s clean air, water, or even healthy. This lack of equity may be due to a variety of factors such as geographic location, economic stress, and/or lack of education.
What also comes hand in hand with this lack of access to the outdoors is the lack of awareness of how humans are impacting the environment. Although the topic itself may be complicated and overwhelming to tackle, Cece encourages people to start by reflecting on their individual choices. It starts with consciousness and the willingness to educate yourself about how you can be living more sustainably, whether that is reusing plastic bags or even buying a reusable boba straw. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution and you have to figure out what changes you can make in your everyday life that works for you. As Cece said, “We all deserve a safe and happy place that gives us what we need, and the earth does that, so we need to respect it in the best way that we can.”
CECE HORBAT is a Chinese Adoptee from Albany, NY. Aside from her love for a good deep discussion about adoption, she's passionate about the environment. CeCe is pursuing her masters degree at the University of Michigan studying Environmental Justice. When she's not drowning in homework, you can find her in search for the best new food place while sipping some boba and petting a dog.
Julie Connell sits down with Nkauj Iab Yang from Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) to deliver an engaging and educational episode centered around trauma–from how it's defined to the long-term consequences that unfold when trauma goes unaddressed. This episode covers a wide variety of trauma with trauma being defined as emotionally and physically distressing experiences that challenge one's ability to cope.
The conversation starts off with a focus on the older generation who lived through the war in Southeast Asia and fled their homeland for the sake of their well being and safety. Besides having experienced violence firsthand, these individuals had to face many stressors that came with resettling in a foreign country. Faced with language barriers and lack of access to resources and information regarding higher education, many Southeast Asian communities suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty. Many people had to learn how to navigate America on their own since there was no pre-existing Southeast Asian community to provide guidance or emotional support.
Because survival was of the highest priority, people oftentimes found themselves too busy to find time to cope with their trauma. This results in 1) unaddressed trauma that gets more harsh and violent as it is passed from one generation to the next and 2) lack of positive, community-defined coping mechanisms. The conversation now shifts to the younger generation who are negatively impacted by intergenerational trauma while also having to deal with present-day stressors as a result of data aggregation. Because the data of all Asian American communities get grouped together, many of the nuanced problems faced by the Southeast Asian community often gets overlooked. Although in reality there is an education and wealth disparity gap between the Southeast Asian and East Asian communities, the perception that they all fall under the Model Minority Myth has hindered Southeast Asian communities from accessing necessary services and resources. Yang emphasizes how we need to focus on highlighting appropriate and accurate data that reflects the story and situation of these communities.
We end the podcast reflecting on the importance of speaking out about trauma and combating the stigmatization of mental health as a form of collective healing.
SEARAC is a national civil rights organization that empowers Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese American communities to create a socially just and equitable society. As representatives of the largest refugee community ever resettled in the United States, SEARAC stands together with other refugee communities, communities of color, and social justice movements in pursuit of social equity.
NKAUJ IAB YANG is the Director of California Policy and Programs. She works closely with Southeast Asian American led and serving organizations throughout California to build a statewide Southeast Asian American equity agenda, identify the appropriate strategies, and advocate for local and state policy change. Nkauj Iab spent the last 13 years committed to youth organizing, youth development, and policy advocacy.
She holds a Master of Arts in ethnic studies from San Francisco State University and a bachelor of arts in ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
Jessica Nguyen sits down with Cynthia Koo and Irene Kwong to talk about their experiences as Asian-American women business owners in the stationery industry. In this interview, we explore how they turned their passion into a career while dealing with obstacles from external pressures.
Cynthia and Irene briefly introduce Wonton In A Million and Simply Gilded, respectively, before delving into how their obsession with stationary during their childhood carried over to adulthood. Their interest to pursue this interest professionally grew as they discovered the welcoming stationary community. As they look back on their journey as creative entrepreneurs, they reflect on how it wasn’t something they set out to do full-time right from the beginning. Facing difficulties with breaking into the market and their fears of financial instability, the process to eventually go all-in on their passion projects was gradual as they built confidence in their craft. Technology played a crucial part in that process as it enabled them to find inspiration, do research, and connect with other artists and designers.
Because there is no definite guidebook when it comes to being an entrepreneur in the creative industry, they advise aspiring entrepreneurs to be really passionate about their craft and to strike a balance between consuming and producing art. When faced with creator’s block, they advise artists to change it up by trying things that are new and challenging. They also want to remind the listeners that this path is never set in stone and that although things may shift as things progress, it’s important to maintain the mindset that the path to success may be long and arduous.
Given how far they’ve come with their businesses, they want to share their experiences with the greater community, particularly Asian American women, by speaking at conferences or doing a podcast episode like this one. They hope that by talking about their stories, Asian American women who have thoughts about starting their own business will feel seen and heard, empowering them to pursue their passions even if it is the road less traveled.
CYNTHIA KOO is the founder and designer of Wonton In A Million, a stationery brand that's home of the Dimsum Steam Team. She grew up eating dimsum at Oriental Garden, the restaurant my dad has managed in New York City for over 30 years and one day in 2015, she started wondering why there weren’t punny greeting cards featuring the little dumplings, buns, and pastries that made up her favorite Chinese cuisine. Thus, Wonton In A Million was born. Her sincere hope is that the Dimsum Steam Team makes you happy and hungry, inspires you to eat more dimsum, and "touches your heart" (the literal translation of "dimsum")!
IRENE KWONG is an unconventional entrepreneur with a deep love for exploring the imaginative world she inhabited in her childhood. After departing from an almost decade-long career in pharmacy, she finally had the opportunity to live her dream of building a creative business (and playing with stickers all day!). She currently resides in Seattle, WA with her husband Darren and 2 kids, Jake and Lily.
Simply gilded specializes in beautiful and whimsical stationery products for home, office, creative expression, and beyond! From magical washi tape designs to notepads, magnets, pins, pens, a monthly subscription box, and more, simply gilded strives to spark joy and delight with their products and messaging.
Simply Gilded: @simplygilded
Simply Gilded Box: @simplygildedbox
Juniper Bunny: @xoxojuniper
This is it. We made it. Season 4 finale.
As many of you know, Project Voice has been running for a little over 2 years since November 2016. When I first started the podcast, I only expected myself to produce 15 episodes at the most. It was started by me and a bunch of my friends who I invited to share their experiences on the show. Most of us didn’t come from an academic background in ethnic studies or Asian American studies. We were just speaking from our own experience[s].
I was learning as I was going through the conversations taking place on Project Voice, and over time, eventually became very active and involved with the activist community. I learned to be more convicted with my beliefs while at the same time, open-minded and respectful towards those who hold different views from mine. I’ve learned and listened from a variety of perspectives.
As many of you know, I have not been in the U.S. for a few years now and just moved my base to Australia where I’ll be living for at least another year. During this time period, I plan to reach out and connect with the Asian Australian community and potentially other Asian diasporic communities all over the world outside the U.S. As an American, I feel like It’s time to learn and listen again. My busy schedule means I won’t be able to keep up with our monthly release for Project Voice.
However, I do want to say that I spent a long time to decide putting Project Voice on another hiatus. To be honest, I wanted to transition out of Project Voice for more than a year now and have been putting this decision on hold because I see how much value it offers to our community. I can see how much I’ve grown through this project as well as many other people who’ve been following PV since. I feel honored to see how many people have heard about Project Voice and how many inspiring change makers have been interviewed on our platform. At the same time, ironically speaking, I do feel like I’ve lost my voice working on Project Voice, a now large-scale platform for influential voices. For me right now, I want to spend some time to rest and reflect on how Project Voice can continue thriving as an AUTHENTIC media outlet for our Asian community tuning in all over the world. What can we do with our content to keep our audience informed and engaged AUTHENTICALLY?
As a child of immigrant parents, I knew what it’s like to feel like I have to reinvent the wheel and now having an established platform for other Asian diasporic folx to share their stories, my next questions are: how can we improve our reach so that many others won’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel? And also, how can I transform Project Voice into a self-sustaining platform for not only our current generations but our future generations of aspiring creators and storytellers as well?
I’d like to thank our listeners for tuning in, sharing feedback on our podcast, and engaging with our content. I’d like to thank our team members for the time and energy they put into contributing a cause that they care about. I’d like to personally thank Grace Abe, our graphic designer and illustrator for leading last year’s rebranding project. Because of Grace, we were able to provide a powerful visual experience alongside with the release of our episodes. Last but not least, I’d also like to thank our sponsors, Found Coffee and Bharat Babies for believing in our mission. If it weren’t all of you, Project Voice would not be where it is today.
About a year ago, Minnie Ng and I invited Jen Sungshine to share with us not only her history and experience in activism and video production under Love Intersections but her insights about collaborating with other multitalented QTPOC artists as well. From our interview with Jen, we will learn about why collaborations may be the most effective and ethical approach to sharing stories of communities across borders. In this episode, we also will discuss more about the importance of engaging in difficult dialogues and listening with empathy and compassion as creative activists.
As we near the end of season 4, Project Voice will be preparing for its lineup for season 5 (and ANOTHER big surprise coming soon!). If you are interested in being interviewed, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Jen Sungshine speaks for a living, but lives for breathing life into unspoken situations in unusual places. She is a nerdy queer Taiwanese interdisciplinary artist/activist, facilitator, and community mentor based in Vancouver, BC, and the Co-Creative Director and founder of Love Intersections, a media arts collective that cultivate a vision of collaborative filmmaking and relational storytelling. Jen's artistic practice involves learning through unlearning; and instead of calling you out, she wants to call you in, to make artful social change with her. In the audience, she looks for art in your interruption.
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Content warning: sexual assault
Years before the online #MeToo movement that took place in October 2017, Yee Xiong filed a civil suit case against her attacker. Determined to bring justice to her case, she bravely held her ground despite the bribery and threats that occurred during the conviction. It was only a few months later that Yee reached out to me to again to share news of her huge win of her lawsuit case. The legal battle lasted for 6 years. According to a NY Times interview, Yee hopes that her victory will send “a very powerful and positive message to the world that people will be held accountable for their actions, no matter how long it takes.”
In this episode, Yee will share with us how she navigated through the legalities of her case and healed herself after the incident. On a larger scale, we also will discuss about how sexual violence is related to immigration rights.
Yee Xiong is a daughter of Hmong refugee parents and an advocate for sexual assault survivors and immigrant rights. She earned her BA in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis, and works as a community educator at her local rape crisis center in Yolo County. She is passionate about building solidarity among historically oppressed communities through grassroots organizing, women and youth of color empowerment, Southeast Asian and migrant worker issues, and ethnic studies.
Follow Yee on Instagram @yee.speaks!
Brought to you by our co-host, Afsana Oreen:
Anti-Blackness within the South Asian diasporic community is often not discussed. That’s why I was excited to learn how Nina Bhattacharya – a writer, educator, and cultural organizer – combats anti-blackness. I invite you to modify her strategies, with some additional guidance from the Aerogram’s article “The Revolution Starts with My Thathi,” the next time you need to confront anti-Blackness in your community or in unfamiliar spaces.
Nina Bhattacharya is a writer, educator, podcast producer, and cultural organizer based in Cambridge, MA. Her writing has been published in The Toast, Kajal Magazine, and The Aerogram.
Recently, a man by the name Edward Blum and the Students for Fair Admissions have teamed up to sue Harvard for discriminating against its Asian American applicants with its affirmative action policy. Affirmative action has been one of the hottest debates for a while within our community and I thought that it would be really helpful to have Quyen Dinh, Executive Director from the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, also known as SEARAC, on the podcast to share her personal story as well as SEARAC’s findings on the important impact affirmative action and data disaggregation has had on our Southeast Asian American community.
Quyen Dinh is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). As Executive Director, Quyen has advocated for Southeast Asian Americans on key civil rights issues including education, immigration, criminal justice, health, and aging. Born to Vietnamese refugees, Quyen identifies as a second-generation Vietnamese American. She holds a Masters of Public Policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Quyen was born in New Orleans, LA, and grew up in Orange County, CA and San Jose, CA. She currently resides with her husband in Washington, DC.
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It is no surprise to us how often Asian women are bombarded by harmful messages from society and media. Tired of being told how we should navigate the world, Sung Yeon Choimorrow and I will be opening up the conversation on body issues by first discussing and dispelling stereotypes fostered by microaggressions, internalized racism, fatphobia, racism, and more. Later on in the podcast, Sung Yeon also will share her professional involvement with body politics through means of organizational advocacy under the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). She will bring up topics on NAPAWF’s current agenda, such as immigration and deportation. We will end strong with closing remarks to questions that many of us in our community have asked every day: What does #bodylove mean to us? What does it mean to have agency over our bodies? How can we change the culture and attitude around our politicized bodies and finally reclaim agency over our bodies?
Sung Yeon Choimorrow is the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the nation’s only organization dedicated to advocacy at the intersection of gender and racial justice for Asian American Pacific Islander women and girls. She is a Public Voices fellow with the Op-Ed Project.
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So, I was ecstatic to know that Bharat Babies was going to be a sponsor for Project Voice and I really wanted to give the platform to its founder, Sailaja, because what she’s doing for our community is really inspiring. When I was looking for sponsors for Project Voice, one of the items on my criteria was to partner with a business who reflected our values and I believe that Bharat Babies really fit the mold for us as a business. As someone who grew up craving for stories that looked like me, I thought it was refreshing to hear that there was someone out there who decided to make a change about it. So, here I’m going to have Sailaja share her story on how she started Bharat Babies.
Bharat Babies is an indie publishing house that shares the stories of South Asian characters doing everything from the everyday to the extraordinary. From stories of superhero, the celebrating festivals, to standing up for themselves, Bharat Babies helps to ensure that every child can see themselves in the stories told. Bharat Babies can be found at www.bharatbabies.com, facebook.com/bharatbabies, twitter.com/bharatbabies, and instagram.com/bharatbabies.
Sailaja has been a passionate volunteer in the Hindu Youth community for over twenty years and is an accomplished academic with degrees from Northeastern University, Harvard University, and Simmons College. She has also worked with multiple startups, helping them to refine their brand identity and develop their marketing communications. Her unique set of skills and experience help to her to drive Bharat Babies forward. Her ambition is to have Bharat Babies be an active participant in the field of multicultural children’s literature, moving forward with the belief that we need diverse kids lit for a diverse world. When she's not working to change the face of children's publishing, she can be founded hanging with her two adorable children at the park or at circus class (really, that's a thing).
After coming back from a retreat for Asian American women, I have fostered a deeper appreciation for physical spaces dedicated solely for Asian women. That’s why Dr. Connie Wun is here today to share about her upcoming launch of #ImReady, being held from November 3rd-4th, 2018. She will be sharing how she founded her own organization for AAPI women as the director of AAPI Women Lead, “an intergenerational organization that strengthens the social and political power of AAPI communities through the leadership of AAPI Women-identified, women and girls in solidarity with other communities of color.”
“The #ImReady Movement aims to strengthen the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the US through the leadership of self-identified AAPI women and girls. Our goal is to challenge and help end the intersections of violence against and within our communities. We do this work in solidarity with other communities of color.
The #ImReady Movement raises visibility around self-identified AAPI women and our experiences with #MeToo, racial discrimination, war, immigration, and more. It also celebrates the leadership and power of AAPI women in Education, Business, Technology, and Politics. At the conferences, we bring together AAPI women leaders and our supporters to learn from one another, tell our stories, and to highlight our diverse leadership stories.
We invite you to join us to better understand the complex Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas, histories, and experiences. We invite you to come honor the stories and leadership of our communities.
We are bringing together some of the most brilliant people to explore what it means to be a self-identified AAPI woman in the United States. We know you are one of them.”
Connie Wun, Ph.D., is co-founder of AAPI Women Lead, a non-profit organization that helps to support the progressive social and political platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S through the leadership of self-identified women and girls. She has spent the last 20 years dedicating her work to ending violence against women and girls of color as a professor, high school teacher, organizer and activist, and mentor. She is also the founder and director of Transformative Research, a consultancy that conducts and trains organizations on community-driven research and data analysis. Her work is informed by her experiences of being born in Oakland, CA, raised throughout working class communities of color in the Bay Area, and as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. Dr. Wun is currently a Visiting Scholar in the Women and Gender Studies Department at San Francisco State University. She is a former National Science Foundation Fellow, American Association of University Fellow, UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellow, Mills College Research at the Intersections Fellow, and EdTrust-West Fellow. Some of her publications can be found on Truth-out.org and Feminist Wire as well as in Critical Sociology; Journal of Educational Policy; Race, Ethnicity and Education; and book anthologies on race, gender, school discipline and violence. Dr. Wun received her PhD from the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley.
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We are honored to be releasing a 3-episode special feature with SEARAC, also known as the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center. “SEARAC is a national civil rights organization that empowers Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese American communities to create a socially just and equitable society. As representatives of the largest refugee community ever resettled in the United States, SEARAC stands together with other refugee communities, communities of color, and social justice movements in pursuit of social equity.” Each month from October to December 2018, Project Voice will be releasing an episode that highlights an important social justice issue that SEARAC is fighting for on behalf of Southeast Asian American families, students, and elders.
This month, our topic of discussion will be on our current government’s immigration policies. Oftentimes, the fight for immigrant justice does not uplift or highlight the behind the scenes organizing anchored by the wives, sisters, and community members of those facing deportation, today we are going to have SEARAC share a new resource created by and for families who have been directly impacted by unjust deportation policies. Particularly, this toolkit centers around the experience of the #ReleaseMN8 campaign in its rise to prominence since its creation in 2016. Katrina, SEARAC’s Director of National Policy, will be imparting us valuable findings from the Southeast Asian American Solidarity Toolkit: A Guide to Resisting Deportations and Detentions from The #ReleaseMN8 Campaign.
What is “#ReleaseMN8”?
“In August 2016, the families and supporters of eight Cambodian American men in Minnesota—collectively known as the MN8—decided to organize a campaign to fight the sudden detention and orders of deportation of their loved ones. The #ReleaseMN8 campaign wanted the men, all in their 30s and 40s, to return to the communities where they had faced and overcome countless difficulties in their lives. It also sought to inspire others to join the movement to restore human rights to all refugees and immigrants. The #ReleaseMN8 campaign went public in September 2016. The determination and commitment of the MN8, their families, and their supporters led to the eventual release of three of the eight men.”
Katrina Dizon Mariategue is the Director of National Policy, leading and coordinating SEARAC’s national advocacy efforts promoting social justice and equity among Southeast Asian American communities. Prior to this role, she served as SEARAC’s Immigration Policy Manager for three years overseeing the organization’s immigration policy and racial healing work. Before coming to SEARAC, Katrina worked in the labor movement for six years at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). In 2011, she was elected to serve as DC chapter president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the only national Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) union membership organization. In this capacity, she led the chapter’s local advocacy campaigns and organizing work around immigrant workers’ rights, coordinated civic engagement programs for the 2012 elections, and strengthened local networks through extensive coalition building efforts. She also served on APALA’s National Executive Board and co-chaired the organization’s Young Leaders Council.
Katrina holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also served as graduate coordinator at the Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy to advise, mentor, and educate AAPI students on campus. In her free time, Katrina enjoys playing with her 2-year-old daughter, food tripping with her husband, binge watching shows on Netflix, and watching Broadway musicals.
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Suffering from writer's block? Seek inspiration by listening to author Sharbari Ahmed's journey writing across different genres. She shares why it is important for her to challenge tropes about South-Asians, particularly Bangladeshis and Muslims, in her pieces. I hope you leave feeling motivated to turn your daydreams into stories as I did.
- Afsana Oreen
Sharbari’s short fiction has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Asian Pacific American Journal, Catamaran, Caravan Magazine, Inroads, Wasafiri, Painted Bride Quarterly and Roanoke Review. Her debut novel, Dust Under Our Feet (working title) is forthcoming in 2019 by Amazon India/Westland Publishing.
She is a 2018 Storyknife Fellow and a Tribeca All Access Fellow. She is on the faculty of the MFA program at Manhattanville College and Artist in Residence in the Film and Television MA Program at Sacred Heart University.
In 2018, she gave a TEDx talk about grappling with her Muslim identity, entitled, “Between the Kabaah Sharif and a Hard Place.”
She was on the writing team for Season One of the TV Series, “Quantico” on ABC. Most recently she wrote the screen adaptation of Mitali Perkin’s YA novel Rickshaw Girl. Her debut book The Ocean of Mrs. Nagai: Stories was released in November 2013 by Daily Star Books.
Her play Raisins Not Virgins was produced by the Workshop Theater Company and has been performed worldwide. The screenplay version was part of the Tribeca All Access program at the Tribeca Film Festival.
She was born in Bangladesh and raised in New York, Connecticut and Ethiopia. She lives in Darien, CT.
Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pg/MrsNagai or Twitter @sharbarizohra!
Ever since Project Voice has relaunched its brand, I’ve been waiting to share with you my latest interview with June Kaewsith (Jumakae) on healing and transformative justice. What’s so unique about this conversation is that it speaks to me where I am today as a social justice activist. Oftentimes, as social justice warriors, we often navigate through life with strong messages that we often show a lot of passion advocating. But does that mean we always have to live like martyrs? When and how can we begin to take care of ourselves and our body?
In this episode, June and I will explore the intersections of social justice and healing. We all have our own trauma and adversity, but for many of us, healing from these experiences is still something that we all as people of color are remembering and learning. Other themes we’ll be discussing include the meaning of alternative spaces of healing, decolonization, and self-care. What do self-care and healing mean to us? What does it mean to decolonize our mind and body? How can we perform self-care/self-healing when the work we do can be emotionally, mentally, and physically destabilizing and retraumatizing for us (i.e. call out culture)? What does it mean to be a healer? June and I found ourselves taking a step back to reflect on our “angry activist phase” and re-examining the intention behind doing the work.
Also, on October 2nd, 2018, June will be launching her online summit, Your Story Medicine. Your Story Medicine is 14 days of immersion with changemakers and entrepreneurs in the field of coaching, the arts, and wellness. Join us as we dive into the intersections of social justice and healing. Enjoy free resources and guided meditations from several of our speakers to support you on your journey toward resilience!
June M. Kaewsith, also known as "Jumakae," is a multidisciplinary artist, wellness consultant, and storytelling coach. She has conducted spoken word workshops and mural projects with various youth groups, and has facilitated theater skits with community members addressing local issues from workers' rights to environmental justice. As a keynote speaker, she has motivated crowds through her original poetry in high schools, college campuses, and various nonprofit groups throughout California. Clients who have sought her as a storytelling coach are change agents who have gone on to tell their stories on large stages in front of thousands of people, entrepreneurs pitching project proposals and product launches to board rooms for a handful of investors and funders, and individuals or artists seeking confidence in their ability to speak and perform their work publicly.
Through her additional practice as a wellness consultant ("Green Tara Guidance"), she is a 200 hr registered yoga teacher trained to work with survivors of sexual trauma through Peace Over Violence and a transformational life coach (which she rephrases as "life doula") with a professional certification from Leadership that Works. With her passion for the arts and somatic learning, she holds self-care and storytelling workshops for organizations and individuals to become more comfortable with their mind and body.
"Exercise the heart as much as the mind."
You can learn more about Jumakae and contact her at: www.jumakae.com
If you would like to learn more about Your Story Medicine: How to Move from Trauma and Resiliency, go to: www.yourstorymedicine.com
I’ve had the awesome opportunity to interview Jenn Fang of Reappropriate, known as “one of the oldest AAPI feminist and racial activist blogs” on the Net, on Project Voice right before our official rebranding launch! Active for almost 20 years as a blogger, Jenn will speak on how much the online Asian activist community has grown and changed since she started. Along with that, Jenn will share her thoughts in support of the validity and necessity of the Asian American feminist movement.
As someone who understands how becoming a voice for the Asian diasporic community can lead to expectations she’s expected to meet because of the role that others see her in, I’ve asked her to also address her critics’ feedback in regards to her beliefs and work under @reappropriate.
I highly encourage you to tune in to hear what Jenn Fang has to say on what it means to be an Asian American activist and feminist who is open to learning and growing. Our interview will include topics that range from fighting Internet bullying - a subject hat Jenn and I both feel super passionate addressing - to forming alliances with other POC communities and fighting anti-Blackness within the Asian community, and finally, to exploring what it means to practice radical love in this world that often forgets that conversations and change don’t just take place online but in the real world as well. All I have to say is this: since following Reappropriate, I’ve felt a lot more knowledgeable and convicted with my beliefs as a self-identified, proud Asian American feminist.
Jenn Fang is the founder of Reappropriate.co, one of the web’s oldest and most popular blogs dedicated to Asian American and Pacific Islander feminism, pop culture, and politics. Her writing has been featured in several outlets including Quartz, BlogHer, Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, Asian Americans for Obama, Angry Asian Man, and Northwest Asian Weekly. Jenn is also co-curator of AAPI Rewind, a weekly digest of AAPI news and commentary.
Follow Jenn at @reappropriate on Twitter and Facebook or her blog at reappropriate.co! Support Reappropriate at patreon.com/reapprorpriate.
Project Voice will be launching its new look and logo September 15th, 2018! Please subscribe on our new website so you don't lose touch with us!: projectvoicepod.com.
Vi and J of the Journey to the West podcast and I have come together to discuss how important it is to reach out and collaborate with each other as Asian American content creators. We thought it would be a very valuable collaboration to share about our experiences growing up as Southeast Asians who did not come from an upper middle/middle class background. We’ll be talking about how differences in socioeconomic background and education have led some of us Asian Americans to feel disconnected and invisible within the community; for example, how does our upbringing affect our engagement in academic dialogues about race and identity? How does the role of intergenerational difference contribute to where we stand as a community on the bread and butter issues? We will also reexamine what it means to be “Asian American” - is there a better term for us to claim and use to refer ourselves as a means to establish solidarity through our shared experiences? (Hint: how about Asian diasporic?)
Vi and J were some of the first who reached out to me when I was being harassed online, so I’ve also invited them to share their past experiences of being cyberbullied within spaces like Reddit and Twitter. Moving forward, Project Voice will be inviting from activists and content creators to share their fight against toxic Internet culture.
Although she is shy in the camera, Vi is an early 20s post grad who enjoys travel and skincare/makeup. She, along with the members, kickstarted JTTW to talk about the things she loves while keeping it real at the same time.
J is a 2nd-generation Fil-Am living on the East Coast and a regular voice on “Journey to the West,” a podcast about diaspora issues, topical news & feminism, hosted by Asian women. Her interests include reflecting on social issues and exploring complex identities. Connect with her @j_maraan on Twitter, and catch new episodes of the @JTTWpodcast!