As most of the world shut down in early March, I found myself just trying to survive each day - anxious, drained, and helpless. Then one day in April, my mentor, Dr. DJ Ida brought together a small group of Asian American womxn activists from across the country to create Asians* in Focus. After a few meetings with the team, I truly found myself transitioning from surviving to THRIVING - a feeling I honestly didn’t think I would experience for a while. Even though we were all meeting each other virtually for the first time, we connected through our shared experiences of the pandemic and our commitment to advocating and sharing the stories of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community (AANHPI).
So in May 2020, the team launched our debut project, Asians* Unmasked: a photovoice project highlighting stories of the AANHPI community during the time of COVID-19. May was a great time to recognize both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Asians* Unmasked was created to identify and encourage the development of creative efforts that will make positive change at the individual, group, and societal levels. The project reflects the diverse pandemic experiences of AANHPIs, including racist attacks, mental health struggles, and new normal adjustments. What we didn’t anticipate when we started brainstorming the project, was the extraordinary response to the killings of so many of our Black and Brown siblings. Many of the photographs we received, reflected the calls for Asian/Black solidarity and the emphasis on the importance of Black lives.
In July 2020, we were able to launch the virtual gallery (also available in ADA), composed of seven categories: 1) life/community changes, 2) connection/isolation, 3) racism/oppression, 4) health/mental health, 5) service to others, 6) resiliency and hope, and 7) ways to change the world.
The seventh gallery, Ways to Change the World, was a new category we created after our call for submissions because we wanted to showcase that many of the photographs reflected in their own ways - a need for change.
A view of protestors (shot through a wet, bus window) with signs supporting Black lives, all lined up on a busy sidewalk with historical buildings, homes, and trees in the background.
Asians* in Focus is excited to continue Asians* Unmasked and will call for another round of submissions in October 2020. Join our email list at www.AsiansinFocus.com and follow @AsiansinFocus on Facebook and Instagram to receive new announcements. We look forward to seeing more photographs of the diverse experiences of the AANHPI community, as 2020 comes to a close. We welcome you to join our project and to share your stories with us.