Words have always been my source of strength. I emigrated to the US from Vietnam when I was 5 years old. Although English was my second language, I took to it like a fish to water. I read books with an insatiable appetite and wrote a bunch. I wrote short stories, poems, and essays – not always willingly, though, because writing is hard. But books and wonderful teachers and my obsession for words kept me working on my craft, which I didn’t know at the time was my craft.
Throughout college, my words matured, strengthened by the rhetorical obstacle course set forth by my professors and polished by the sheer amount of conversations exchanged. My words evolved from being eloquent – but superfluous at times – to having depth, logic, and structure. And in that time, I found my voice.
Last week during the elections, I had a voice but didn’t know what to say. Whether or not our President-elect actually believes in the hatred he promotes, his presence and victory gives permission to those who do to act on their fear and ignorance. And I felt disbelief, anger, fear, and sadness. And my words – that which I take the most pride in – failed me. I wanted to say angry things. Sad things. But I couldn’t say anything. The best I could do was let people know that I was here if they needed someone to talk to, listen, grieve with, or vent.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on my mission with collective blue. Our team came together because we wanted to create a space in Austin where people like us – minorities, women, LGBTQ, and immigrants – could feel welcomed and supported. Where we could find the right friends and make dope shit together. I have something to say now.
I am livid. I am galvanized. I have never felt so stubborn and determined to make something work. The mission of collective blue is to help creators showcase their work, build community, and get paid fairly. We want to share your stories and help you find opportunities to make your art your livelihood. We want to be around people who share our values of being community-oriented and unapologetically themselves.
In this time of uncertainty and fear of Otherness, our community has to be more fearless, more caring, and more prolific in our work than ever before. This is a call to arms. Make your music. Paint your mural. Register your LLC. Be unapologetic about who you are and unapologetic about your art. Triumph over those who doubt you by being kinder, better, and more relevant.
In the words of author Toni Morrison,
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.”
Know that we will do everything in our power to support you – the community. Go forth.
Nina Ho, ceo & creative director