We (Regine and Nina) both grew up in US cities with significant and interconnected Asian communities, San Francisco and Houston respectively. Living in Austin, though, we’ve struggled to stay in touch with our cultures. Finding an authentic Filipino restaurant or hearing someone speak Vietnamese in a crowd is an almost impossible task – and trust us, we’ve tried.
In doing research for collective blue’s APAHM campaign, we stumbled across the Asian-American Resource Center. Stepping into this building and seeing free Vietnamese as a second language classes, hearing little kids speak Tagalog, or checking out literature on Asian American Studies (written by Asian-Americans) gave us a sense of belonging that we didn’t realized we had missed so much. It also blew our minds that the AARC is the only Asian-American Resource Center funded by a city government in the entire United States.
In opening the door to the zen garden (and AARC as a whole), we knew we had found the perfect backdrop to share the stories of some of our fellow Asian-American creators.
Regine and Nina
It’s raining on a Saturday morning with no signs of letting up anytime soon. Despite the gloomy weather, six Asian-Americans gather in the lobby of the Austin Asian-American Resource Center and chat energetically about their plans for the rest of the weekend. Unbothered by the storm outside, the group shares jokes and their subsequent laughter echoes down the halls of the building.
Common themes arise during the discussion: culture, family, belonging, representation. Culture can feel like a push and pull at times for Asian-Americans. June Chee, production assistant for BossBabes ATX, says, “I’m from Chinatown in Houston, Texas. I know that I and a lot of other Asian-Americans have had to work through the muddy waters of living with such Asian focused values and also growing up with such a distance of those values in America and the West.”
Family and loyalty are two of the values that June refers to. Miguel de la Rosa, a cinematographer, chimes in, “When I was young, my parents brought me up on the importance of family. I truly believe that everything that I do should be given back to them especially for the sacrifices that they’ve given to me, like bringing our entire family over here.“
Sophie Kwok, founder and CEO of Love Intently, was able to capture deeply personal stories of other Asian-American families and their journeys to the US. “I got to do a research project during my time at Austin Center for Design on second generation Asian-Americans and their parents,” Sophie elaborates. “I got to hear all these crazy, untold stories about their journeys to America. The very same stories that we hear about refugee crisis today are similar to what they experienced and it gave me an immense respect for them.”
Everyone in the room is familiar with stories of families and immigration and the sacrifices of our ancestors. Blaigne Ayuma Sixon, local musician and saxophone player, reflects on the gravity of what it means to be a Filipino in the US, “I’ve come from so many roots and talents. I’m just an amazing product of what’s been made over centuries.”
Often, Asian families move to the US to provide better opportunities for their children. MJ Tangonan, “design wizard” at HomeAway, describes one such opportunity that’s unique to his story, “I got a job through Nike using Twitter. I got to design logos for Asian-Americans Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson. It was amazing.”
Though the rain put a damper on the weather outside, it didn’t affect the group’s positive energy. After establishing inside jokes and participating in an Instagram follow train, we all made plans to keep up with and support each other. “One thing I value about my culture is the community and how outgoing everyone can be,” Ryan Magsino, Graphic Designer at Nland Surf Park says. “You can feel comfortable anywhere and make friends in any setting.”
In chatting with all of the talented creators at the shoot, a major idea that we talked about was that great creative work comes from a diversity of authentic voices. You can help amplify the voices of Asian-American creators by learning more about the vast range of Asian cultures, checking out the Asian American Resource Center (open to all), and supporting Asian-American creators through local events like Austin’s Asian American Film Festival (AAFF).
For more stories of Asian-American creators, check out our Instagram and Facebook.