Meta-Practice

Collective Agreements from the MAP Fund

I recently learned about these collective agreements for panelist discussions from Jenn Woodward of c3:initiative, from the MAP Fund‘s RE-Tool: Racial Equity in the Panel Process (2018, PDF). I think these are great agreements to review to cultivate equity and mutualism.

Openness to others’ points of view 

Awareness of power dynamics 

Positive spirit, generosity, laughter, constructive critique 

Full attention to discussion, limiting distractions*

Letting others speak, finish thoughts, deep listening 

Staying grounded in the guidelines and criteria  

 

[*On Zoom, to me, this means limiting the what’s entered in the chat window to relevant items like agendas, links, spellings of names, etc.]

Standard
Art & Development

Some Thoughts on Public Art

Notes from a panel on public art

Last week, I participated in a webinar called “Public Art: The Way Forward.” It was hosted by the Armory Show and moderated by the Armory Show Executive Director Nicole Berry. The guests were Jean Cooney from Times Square Arts, Michelle Woo from For Freedoms, and two artists in Messages for the CityNekisha Durrett and myself. 

Here are some of my recent thoughts about sentences on public art—some things I said during the panel, and things I wanted to say but didn’t fit in.

On the purpose of public art, and public art during COVID and the current racial justice movement

It’s interesting to reflect on public art in this moment, as monuments to white supremacists and colonialists are being toppled. Some people think those monuments represent history; I think they represent re-writing history with certain people as victors.

Public art is cross-sector. It is where visual form, storytelling, and civic dialogue intersect. Public art is a way we, as a society, discuss what we value and who we are. It asks us to think about participation, engagement, and representation.

I like to think about artwork as more than the object and the artist’s intent. People leaving a mark or toppling a statue is also part of the life of an artwork. So are people discussing what statues mean, what should replace it, and whose stories should be represented.

Truly public art is democratic. The purpose of democratic public art is to serve the public with representations, stories, and voices that reflect them.

In contrast with historic bronze statues, there’s the murals on boarded up storefronts in downtown Oakland, CA, which have sprung up in the people’s uprising for justice for Black lives. There, public art is the voice of the people, where you see emotions like anger and grief, calls for action, and—what artists can do best—transformative visions of society.

For artists, public art is an opportunity to bypass art-world gate keepers and connect with more democratic and diverse audiences.

 

About freedom of expression in public art

[In response to: “Do you feel more of a responsibility to have a message in public art? Is there less freedom of expression?”]

I don’t feel more responsibility to have a certain message, ideally. I do feel more responsibility to be ethical and diligent working in partnership with a community.

There is less freedom of expression in public art, but that’s OK, because that’s what studio practice is for. It’s not always about you. I value creative freedom and artistic autonomy as an artist. But that might be in the same way that someone else may value liberty above all and think it’s a good idea not to wear a mask in the middle of a pandemic. There’s more to life than doing whatever you want whenever you want.

Public art can be complicated and require compromises. But shouldn’t just be a sacrifice—there is a tradeoff. There are gifts that you can’t gain alone, which come from being in relationship with others, and those relationships are nurtured by listening, mutuality, understanding, and sharing.

There is a phrase that comes up a lot in different things I think about, as well as in current events, and in Messages for the City. I come across it in studying psychology and how people find purpose or meaning. I hear in when people talk about belonging. It’s why people participate in movements for social justice, and why they sign up to be public servants, and run towards danger, like the FDNY paramedics, rather than running away. It’s the idea of “becoming part of something bigger than yourself.” Public art is a way that artists make art that is bigger than their individual studio practice (and often, but not always, utilizing larger capacities and platforms).

 

About how the art community can promote public art and public artists

Every art opportunity is an opportunity for more equity, diversity, and inclusion.

I have to thank For Freedoms and Times Square Arts, because the artists and designers included in Messages for the City include legends whose work I’ve admired for years and sometimes over a decade. So I’m very grateful to be included. I also say this as someone who’s mostly experienced The Armory Show from the perspective of an art handler, installing art at the fair.

I think there are a lot of amazing public art organizations in NYC. I think sometimes they are comfortable following the lead of major galleries and museums. It would be nice to see them take more risks with artists—especially women, Black, indigenous and POC, queer, trans, and disabled artists—whose work is not validated by the market.

I think if institutions are serious about equity, the have to:

  • Pay artists.
  • Don’t ask artists to work for free or on spec.
  • Change the culture that undervalues artist’s labor, where artists compete against each other by submitting budgets where everybody else gets paid for materials and labor, but artists get paid for only a portion of their studio time and even less of their admin time.
  • Think about the resources, support, and mentorship it offers to artists—that translation and accessibility are not afterthoughts.
  • Have strong, genuine relationships with communities, and connect artists with those communities with enough time, outreach support, and accountability.

Since public art is inherently cross-sector, it encompasses social practice, community art, crafts, outsider art, etc. There’s so much attention, resources, scholarship, documentation, archiving, support, and platforms in the art world, there’s no reason a disproportionate amount should go to the top 5% of artists being collected by the top 1% of people in the art world.


Note: The webinar had many great questions asked in the Q&A function. Unfortunately we were only able to answer a few questions. I asked the moderator if it’s possible to capture the questions, and she sent a spreadsheet with emails, so I emailed my answers to some of the questions. It was nice to learn that this is an option.

Huge thanks to everyone who attended the panel, the Armory, For Freedoms, and TSQ Arts, and the fellow panelists. I felt honored to be part of such a lively and timely discussion.

Standard
belonging, Community, Values

On Belonging: From Hopes for Chinatown to Black Lives Matter to Anti-Asian Sentiment to Racial Solidarity

I became interested in making art about belonging in 2016, coinciding with the beginning of this Presidential administration and its policies which told Muslims, Mexican and Central American migrants, and trans people: “You don’t belong here.”

Over the past few years, the importance of belonging has been continually affirmed by the way othering characterizes American society now: political divisiveness, racism, xenophobia, the increased visibility of white supremacist groups, the murders of Black Americans by police and vigilantes, and the failure of the justice system to value Black lives.

Whenever I hear of a “___ while black” incident, I see it through a lens of belonging: white privilege allows a white person to feel entitled to police another’s belonging. It’s on the same spectrum of othering with victims in the movement for Black lives. Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers didn’t have to say, “Go back to where you came from” or “You don’t belong here” because that’s implicit in the decision to follow him while carrying a loaded firearm. When no one is charged for murdering Breonna Taylor, it communicates that being Black entails an exemption from belonging in a civil society where citizens can expect to be safe in their homes and live free from senseless state violence. When the justice system fails Black victims of police misconduct, it says that Black people don’t belong to the privileged class for whom justice will be served.

This spring, fear of the coronavirus triggered latent Sinophobia to become explicit in a wave of anti-Asian incidents. Art institutions posted pledges to speak up if they witness anti-Asian hate. (While I appreciate the allyship, I resent the necessity of promising to do the right thing. Decency should be enough, but othering robs us of our humanity, so we have to reiterate that we deserve basic civility.)

Yuanyuan Zhu—who works at Chinese Culture Center and has been an enthusiastic, crucial collaborator of my belonging projects—experienced a hate incident in San Francisco in March. In my Hopes for Chinatown project—bridging Art, Culture, and Belonging and 100 Days Action’s Art for Essential Workers—YY shared her hope for Chinatown:

“Less discrimination. More understanding.”

Photo of artwork being installed on graffiti-covered plywood covering storefront windows.

Christine Wong Yap, “Hopes for Chinatown,” 2020, site-specific public art: participation, hand-lettering, digital print, 80 x 148 inches and 96 x 48 inches. Commissioned and installed by 100 Days Action for Art for Essential Workers. Photo by Jeremiah Barber.

In the past 10 days, despite the ongoing pandemic, American uprisings have sprung up in all 50 states to insist that the police misconduct and anti-Black state violence will no longer be tolerated.

I am hopeful that this is an inflection point in history towards social change. As individuals and communities facing reckonings, the time is ripe for Asian Americans to confront our anti-blackness and white supremacy. In fact, coronavirus-related anti-Asian sentiment provides an opportunity to develop our understanding of systemic racism and the need for Black solidarity.

We APAs want to stop anti-Asian hate. We want people to know: We are not the virus. We want to not be perpetual outsiders. We want our belonging to not be conditional.

If we truly want less discrimination and more understanding, we have to do our part: to recognize that we have benefitted from advancements in civil rights won through Black struggle, to acknowledge that the model minority myth has been used to invalidate systemic oppression faced by Black people, and to address and rectify anti-Blackness pervasive in our communities. We have to stop othering Black people so we can see our struggles for justice and belonging in America are connected and intertwined.

 


Resources


Black Lives Matter Solidarity Statement and Phrases in Chinese

As a public service in language accessibility, I asked the Chinese Culture Center to share the text of their solidarity statement with me so I can post it here. You are welcome to copy and paste the Chinese phrases for use in activism supporting Black lives and justice.

Chinatown in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter
華埠與“黑人的生命很重要”堅定地站在一起

CCC adds our voice in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all people who are committed to justice and equity.

We are deeply saddened and outraged by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other lives lost to state-sanctioned violence. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families, hold space for your pain and rage, and share in a feeling of loss for those who are mourning loved ones taken from their communities.

Chinatown and Asian Americans across the country are deeply committed to equity and empowerment. We honor and acknowledge the leadership of the black community during the Civil Rights Movement that paved the way for many Asian American organizations to rise up and serve our communities. Institutional racism and violence against black lives must end.

舊金山文化中心與“黑人的生命很重要”運動及致力於正義和平等的所有人發聲。

我們對喬治·佛洛依德和哈迈德·阿伯里被謀殺以及其他無數因國家暴力行為而失去生命的人深感痛心及憤怒,為此保留空間以感同身受。

華埠及全美各地亞裔群體齊心致力於平等與民權。我們尊重及感謝非裔社區在民權運動期間的領導,為許多美國亞裔組織的崛起和社區服務的發展鋪平了道路。針對非裔群體的制度性種族歧視和暴力必須結束。

Black Lives Matter.
黑人的命也是命。
黑人的生命很重要。
黑人的命是珍貴的。

No justice, no peace. 沒有正義就沒有和平。

⁣⁣In solidarity,⁣⁣

CCC Team- Hoi, Jenny, Jia, Sheng, Weiying, Yuanyuan
中華文化中心團隊: 梁凱瑤,  梁凱欣, 柳嘉潔, Sheng, 于濰穎, 朱媛媛

For our AAPI community members looking for a place to work on personal development and learn more about solidarity, check out Chinese Progressive Association’s Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit at www.asianamtoolkit.org/.
對於美國亞太裔社區成員,如果想咨詢關於個人發展並了解更多團結一致的信息,請訪問www.asianamtoolkit.org/,查看華人進步會的“亞裔種族正義工具包”。

Standard
Art & Development, Art Worlds, Citizenship, Values

Hopes for Chinatown: Ethics, Complicity, & Tactics Rationale

I was invited to an art opportunity that was funded by a tech company that I detest. I weighed the ethics of my participation. Here’s what I decided to do.

Sorry this is so wordy—I’m choosing transparency and thoroughness.

Background

In early May, I was invited by 100 Days Action to contribute art to Art for Essential Workers.

“100 Days Action is installing art on boarded up storefronts by local and national artists with images of optimism and solidarity with our essential workers.”

100 Days Action is “a Bay Area artist collective that produces creative resistance projects to build community at the intersection of art, activism, and social engagement.” It was formed immediately after the 2016 presidential election in response to Trump’s 100-Day Plan.” I know several of the members and respect who they are and what they do.

Art for Essential Workers is a cool model of a program that supports the community, small businesses, and artists. They invite artists to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with sketches to show business owners, who pick from the designs. Then 100 Days Action prints and wheat-pastes the artwork, to be seen by essential workers and neighbors. The project started with the Mission District in San Francisco and is now expanding to Chinatown.

Art, Culture, and Belonging

The chance to display art in SF Chinatown via Art for Essential Workers plugged in beautifully with Art, Culture and Belonging.

Art, Culture, and Belonging is a community-engaged project exploring the impact of art and culture on belonging SF Chinatown. I’m the lead artist and I work in partnership with the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco and the Chinatown Arts and Culture Coalition.

Since shelter-in-place restrictions, we’ve pivoted programming to online platforms and encouraged people to support local Chinatown businesses, which have been slammed by compounding losses resulting from shelter-in-place, xenophobia, and reduced tourism. For many reasons, I haven’t been able to travel and engage the community as much as I planned.

Because of this, Art for Essential Workers is an especially welcome, timely way for the project to have a physical platform in the neighborhood.

Hopes for Chinatown Project

In Art, Culture, and Belonging, we solicited stories about belonging in SF Chinatown, including a question about hopes for Chinatown. I’ve taken excerpts from these responses to create the artworks for Art for Essential Workers. (Thanks to YY Zhu and Weiying Yu at CCCSF for translation and proofreading.)

Photo of Dragon Seed Bridal and Photography storefront. A big sign above reads, "Dragon Seed" in brown text on white background. Below, the window is boarded up and covered in a wheatpasted poster. The text on the poster is in English and Chinese. It reads: Hopes for Chinatown. To see people living and working in peace and harmony, by Alina. Everyone in Chinatown will be safe and healthy. Anonymous. Less discrimination. More Understanding. YY. Chinatown's Generations of love and care will continue. Sunflower. The text is in red in light pink boxes on a background of red with a scale-like pattern of overlapping concentric circles.

Christine Wong Yap, “Hopes for Chinatown,” 2020, site-specific public art: participation, hand-lettering, digital print, 80 x 148 inches and 96 x 48 inches. Commissioned and installed by 100 Days Action for Art for Essential Workers. Photo by Jeremiah Barber.

100 Days Action worked with the Chinatown Visitor Information Center to secure permission to install art at Dragon Seed Bridal and Photo. They installed my artwork on May 30. Dragon Seed is a longstanding business on Clay Street, facing Portsmouth Square. I’m pretty sure I’ve patronized this business—purchasing traditional clothes and trying on cherng sam for my wedding there.

I’m also excited about the location on Portsmouth Square, as that’s the neighborhood’s ‘living room.’ As a child, I played in the playground, getting splinters from the boat-shaped play structure located in the shade of the skyway. In spite of the physical distance, these memories—the sense of familiarity and continuity—make me feel connected to this location, and very proud to contribute to Chinatown in this way.

Funding

Art for Essential Workers “is funded by the Facebook Analog Research Laboratory and private donors.”

The association with Facebook presented a problem for me.

In 2014, I declined invitations to develop art projects at Facebook (see my blog post). It related to the lack of public accessibility and public good, balanced against public harm and lack of accountability in the Bay Area’s economic inequality and quality of living.

Also, a former Facebook AIR told me they had conflicting feelings about their participation. I also noticed that as soon as another Facebook AIR completed their residency, they deleted their Facebook account. Knowing myself—that acting against my conscience would lead to regret, which would haunt me for years—and values—money comes, and money goes—it was easy for me to decline and feel secure about my decision.

There are many well-known reasons to believe Facebook is evil. Two reasons that are unforgivable to me: Facebook tweaked its algorithms to mess with user’s moods. As a psychology nerd, this a major no-no. And, I don’t think Trump would be be president right now without Facebook’s negligence. [Not to mention Facebook’s complicity and collusion: Facebook board member Peter Thiel has donated at least $1.25M to Trump, and a few days ago, Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg’s inaction on Trump’s violence-inciting posts.]

Complicity

I’ll point this out so no one else has to, internetz: I’m already complicit. I’m on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. I quit Facebook years ago, though I may have to re-join for my day job or art partnerships with institutions. As an artist whose “Hopes for Chinatown” project is now a part of Facebook art programming, my work may be used to “art wash” its corporate misdeeds on its platforms and internally. If I felt fine with this, I wouldn’t feel the need to write this post.

Considering agency within partnerships with institutions

In the past I’ve had a self-limiting view of artists’ agency in relationships with institutional partners: I thought the institution gets to set all the terms, and the artist was so relatively powerless and needy that they just have to accept what is offered. But artists have more agency than that.

In my zine on interdependence, I learned about some tactics that have informed my thinking over the years:

“Instead of competing for individual … opportunities, [radical opportunists] utilize project-related apparatuses to foster temporary yet tangible collectives, clusters, and networks based on principles of solidarity and equity.”

—Kuba Szreder, “How to Radicalize a Mouse? Notes on Radical Opportunism,” in Dockx, Nico, and Pascal Gielen, eds. Mobile Autonomy: Exercises in Artists’ Self-Organization. Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015.

 

“members and allies of this [alternative, artist-run] ‘field’ must leverage [our power] within … commercial, academic, … and civic spheres… to position ourselves outside, and in resistance to, these hegemonic power structures… using radical forms of participation to forefront self-organized, inclusive, and equitable structures.”

Sarrita Hunn, “Artists for Artists’ Sake.” Temporary Art Review, October 15, 2015.

I think some of these ideas are at play in 100 Days Action’s participation. When I asked them about their thoughts on the funding, they shared some of their deliberations. I can’t speak for them, but I think they are parlaying the resources to benefit artists, small businesses, and essential workers through this project.

Here’s another idea that resonates from the zine:

Seeking “opportunities to support folks … (rather than solely … individual projects)”

—Weston Teruya, as quoted in inter/de-pend-ence, 2015.

I’m not saying that the Hopes for Chinatown project falls neatly within, or is an example of, any of these concepts or calls to action. But these ideas have been helpful for thinking about how I partner with institutions, who benefits from my projects, why, and being able to have more agency and options than to either accepting or rejecting.

Response

I will donate 100% of my $500 artist fee to support Feed & Fuel, the Chinatown Community Development Corporation’s response to COVID.

Feed & Fuel mobilizes legacy restaurants like New Asia and volunteers to prepare and distribute up to 1,600 meals per day to seniors living in SROs and public housing, where residents live in 80-square-foot rooms with communal kitchens where social distancing is impossible. Feed & Fuel reduces transmission rates in dense housing among a particularly vulnerable population of elders, helps local businesses survive, keeps restaurant employees working, and provides a safe way for volunteers to serve the community. Learn more about Feed & Fuel, watch their informative video, and donate  if you can.

Feed & Fuel tackles multiple issues—loss of business from xenophobia and shelter-in-place, serving vulnerable elders, and stabilizing food security. And it’s all organized within and by the local community. I love that it’s an effective, responsive social initiative, as well as an aesthetically elegant network of relationships, mutual empowerment, and service.

Chinatown Community Development Corporation is a non-profit 501(c)3 founded in 1977.

Rationale

Another useful set of questions are:

“Given an opportunity…
Do I believe in what this institution does/stands for? Is it the ideal venue for this project/my work? Does my work feel alive in this context? …
Is this opportunity helping me reach the audience I want to reach?…
Is there enough freedom in this opportunity? Is this the best artworld for my work? Is it the most effective use of my time/money/energy? …

Am I being instrumentalized? Am I okay with that?”

Helena Keefe, “Standard Questions for Artists” from Standard Deviation, via ArtPractical.com, June 13, 2013.

My answers to these questions are “no” followed by all “yes” responses. That’s much different than in 2014.

With Hopes for Chinatown/Art for Essential Workers, I’m compelled by:

  • the public accessibility of a street-level storefront window
  • engagement with a community facing economic and public health uncertainties under Covid and shelter-in-place
  • coordination between community-minded organizations
  • the messages’ emphasis on optimism, health, and discrimination
  • the alignment with this neighborhood (a low-income, immigrant community of color), at this urgent time, with me. (Not to trying to toot my own horn, but I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time for this project: I’m Chinese American, and in a position to submit bilingual artworks that amplifies voices from the community.)

So rather than being stumped by a complicit-or-resistant choice, these questions have helped me think through tactics of circumvention, re-distribution, and public benefits. Ultimately, I participated because I think the impact on the local Chinatown community will be a net positive.

Documenting and sharing my thought process—and registering my hesitations openly for other artists to consider and discuss—are also part of this experience. I’m happy to engage with other artists, curators, and thinkers in respectful dialogue about this. If you have questions, please ask. I always prefer open dialogue over silent recriminations or unspoken criticisms.

Standard
Citizenship, Values

A Statement on Black Lives & A Note to Self

A Statement on Black Lives

I stand in solidarity with everyone fighting for Black lives now, and with Black activists who have been fighting for social justice for generations. I recognize the toll of systemic injustice on all Black people. I call for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breanna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and all those who’ve lost their lives to police brutality. I am grateful to Black people because I have benefitted from advancements in civil rights won through Black struggle. I acknowledge that my model minority status has been used to deny the reality of injustice experienced by Black Americans. I recognize the work I need to do as an Asian American to check my privilege, increase my cross-racial solidarity, and confront anti-blackness within the Asian Pacific American community. I recognize that this statement is just the beginning.

A Note to Self

Here are a few ideas I’ve been thinking about over the past two weeks. This has helped me feel more grounded, less reactionary, less needy for validation, more authentic, and more helpful.

Less is more.

Choose quality over quantity.

Contradictions exist.

You don’t have to resolve them. You don’t have to weigh in much of the time. Know your values. Feel secure in the actions that you are taking. It’s OK to hold multiple contradictions, and to care for multiple communities, issues, and concerns.

Things are complicated.

It’s normal to feel a lot of feelings right now. Different people will be on different pages. Everyone falls short sometimes. Don’t sweat the small stuff. In five years, what will you want to remember about this time?

It’s noisy out there.

Opinions are just that. Remember who’s been doing the work all along. Listen to people whose insights are grounded in practices that you respect. Turn down the volume on distractions.

One step at a time.

When problems feel overwhelming and abstract, identify small concrete steps. Start there.

It’s healthy to take breaks from social media.

Get off the hamster wheel of reacting, sharing, checking, scrolling (/feeling outraged, judgmental, exhausted, numb). There is plenty of information out there. Balance sharing with synthesizing new information and formulating deliberate action steps.

Know your spheres of agency, your voice, your platforms, and the differences between them.

Social media is just one tool. Turning off the firehose affords the mental focus to re-center and act in other spheres of agency. Within each sphere, find your lane. You don’t have to occupy every lane.

Don’t forget to balance the negative with the positive.

There are many reasons to feel and express rage, despair, grief, outrage, and sorrow. And… there are many reasons to feel connection, gratitude, love, joy, transformation, and hope.

When the negative feels personal, pervasive, and permanent, it is critical to our sense of hope—and to our resilience and sustainability—to affirm the realness of the positive.

Standard
Art & Development

A New Bandanna Design: See the Good in People

blue bandanna with calligraphy in teal and white, stating, notice small acts of kindness and connection; see the good in people

See the Good in People, 2020, two-color screenprint on cotton bandanna, 20×20 inches. Available on ChristineWongYap.com.

I have been making bandannas for a few years. I see them as mementos that remind us of our core beliefs and express them to others.
I recognize that recommendations to cover faces in public may freight the timing of the release of this bandanna. I actually designed this bandanna prior to these guidelines.
This text was inspired from an unfortunate personal experience I had in a public space last December. Strangers stopped to help, share sympathy, offer soothing commendations, and accompany me when I had to speak up.
After, my brain kept returning to the physical sensation of the incident, which triggered feelings of loathing, vulnerability, and self-pity. But I deliberately shifted my attention to the kindness of strangers.
This helped me re-write the story from one of misfortune to one of faith in humanity. It also became an experience of self-knowledge: because I changed my negative feelings into positive ones, I felt powerful.
I learned that seeing the good in people is sort of a superpower.
I would be thrilled if this bandanna helped to lessen some of fear and division of our present moment and to increase our awareness of connection and togetherness.
I’ve launched a new Shop page to sell this bandanna, as well as some reprints of previously sold-out bandannas from the Belonging project, and other zines and books.
I’m a working artist. Over the past few weeks, some of my day jobs and freelance gigs have been postponed or canceled. Your support is greatly appreciated. The funds also help me pay Forthrite Printing, the artist-run, small business in Oakland, CA who printed these.
Standard
Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: BRIC ArtFP Exhibition Open Call

BRIC’s ArtFP Exhibition Open Call received over 250 applicants, from which 3 finalists were selected.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////+

Selected images represent 1:83, or 1.2%, of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

Standard
Citizenship

Points of Reference: Alone Together, Part I

Some points of reference from a pandemic-stricken NYC.

News is coming out faster than I can process. Here are some articles, podcasts, and other references on my mind lately.

The Negatives

Rising Sinophobia

Someone close to me was spit at, in a Sinophobic, coronavirus-fear-fueled incident, last weekend in Manhattan. The next day, I read this:

“Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety” by Sabrina Tavernise and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (NY Times, March 23, 2020).

It is disheartening beyond words. There are so many things to be upset about:

  • As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough bad news, humans turn against each other.
  • The flattening dehumanization of racism—the racist doesn’t care if you’re Chinese or any other Asian nationality, whether your family has been here in the US for generations, whether you are actively serving society as a doctor fighting coronavirus, or whether you work in a community organization around belonging.
  • This is happening even in liberal bastions like San Francisco Bay Area and NYC, with large Asian and Asian American communities.
  • Attackers are weaponizing the very thing we’re all terrified of right now—aerosolized or projected bodily fluids—in a perverse act. Paradoxically, the racists could be asymptomatic carriers spreading coronavirus to those who they claim to be guilty of spreading disease.
  • When the attackers are other POC or immigrants, the rift in racial solidarity can feel especially hurtful.
  • Scared Chinese families resorting to arming themselves—aided by loose gun laws and fear mongering, and possibly under-educated about handgun safety, self-defense legal and moral issues, and systemic analyses.
  • Bystanders did nothing.

The dearth of leadership from the White House

A corresponding disaster compounding all of this. I really feel for the nurses and doctors who have to salvage a mess that could have been managed better.

 

The Positives

What to do about rising Sinophobia

  • Report anti-Asian incidents at standagainsthatred.org and caasf.org.
  • Some of us have racists/xenophobes in our families. We have to pick our battles, but consider that these attackers probably have family members who might have pre-empted these attacks with reason, empathy, and gentle disputation.
  • Asians and Asian Americans need to show up for other immigrants and POCs, not just our own self-interests. We can’t expect racial solidarity when we don’t show it.

Learn from the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

  • Sign up for “Bystander Intervention Training: Responding to COVID-19 Scapegoating and Hate” this coming Monday and Tuesday. Check the Center’s website for more online classes.
  • See their tips, especially the third image on what to do if you see someone being attacked or harassed.

 

 

 

Proactive politicians & arts institutions

Not waiting for leaders to lead

In contrast to the White House, S.F. Bay Area and NY politicians have been more proactive in restricting movement.

Arts institutions have also been more assertive, closing museums and studio programs before reluctant, slow-moving bureaucrats call for such closures.

I’m grateful to be allied with arts institutions who have taken leadership when leadership was lacking.

I’m also glad to see institutions heeding the call from artist-activists to donate gloves and masks to local hospitals, just as MAD Museum did last week.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

A huge THANK YOU to our Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Operations @hendrikgerrits and team for leading the charge to collect all of the Museum’s masks and gloves to donate to the Montefiore Medical Center (@montefiorehealthsystem ), in order to provide our city’s healthcare workers with the #PPE that they need to continue their lifesaving work. #Repost @hendrikgerrits with @make_repost ・・・ Our team at MAD Museum is donating all of our masks and gloves to Montefiore Medical Center to help protect our city’s healthcare workers who are putting everything on the line to take care of us. Thanks for the inspiration/suggestion @tin20000 Thanks for coordinating @shabdshabd #stayathome #madmuseum #strongertogether

A post shared by Museum of Arts and Design (@madmuseum) on

If you have PPE to donate, or need donations of PPE, visit GetUsPPE.org. It’s the combined efforts of several grassroots, DIY acts, such as Mask Crusaders.)

New Podcast: Staying In with Emily & Kumail

Humor, relatability, psychology

A new podcast by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, with proceeds benefitting those affected by COVID. You may know Kumail from Silicon Valley or his woke tweets.

What I love about the first episode is listening to a funny couple that loves to be funny together. I also really related to some of their personal story. (You never know who is immuno-compromised, and how much this impacts the caregiver.) And finally, Emily’s advice is grounded in her background as a therapist.

 

Free Face Mask Patterns

pink/grey/cream hand-made face masks on a black cutting mat

Face masks sewn based on the the Fu Face Mask pattern from FreeSewing.org, using in-house materials.

I’ve been sewing face masks for the past few days, using the “Fu Face Mask” pattern from freesewing.org. [Here’s a printable pattern.]

I’m offering them for free to front liners, essential needs workers, seniors, people with compromised immune systems, people with underlying health conditions, or their caregivers. I’ve been sending them directly by mail.

Next week, I’ll donate 20 to emergency food pantry workers at Make The Road NY, an immigrant-rights organization.

I figure that something is better than nothing, and the less masks consumers use (and the more we can launder and re-use masks), the more masks will be preserved for doctors and nurses.

I’m using materials I already have, rather than order online, in order to preserve supplies. I’ve been using yardage leftover from home sewing projects, as well as past art projects. It’s been satisfying to re-purpose things that I made with positive intentions around happiness or human flourishing into something that might help people in tangible ways now.

If you’re interested in making masks, check out artist Stephanie Syjuco’s findings from prototyping various mask options. She’s using a modified “Deaconess” pattern, as her aim is for volume.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

For those interested in sewing masks: I tested out three designs that are currently circulating and here are my findings. The “Deaconess” design does seem the best for mass production and quick use while other designs could be better for personal fit and customization. I also posted this as publicly viewable on my Facebook page if you want the direct links to the patterns. Please note that these are NOT a medical alternative to proper PPE (personal protection equipment), and these are “last resort” items that can be considered due to lack of supply. I’ll be moving forward with producing “The Deaconess” model in quantity (with minor modifications) at home while under shelter-in-place, because it seems like we have reached the point where they are needed by others… Good luck out there, everyone! 👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 PS: link in bio to crowd-sourced Google doc of hospitals and medical centers across the country seeking mask and PPE donations. Before seeking to donate home-made masks, please find out first if they will take them! 👈🏽👈🏽👈🏽

A post shared by Stephanie Syjuco (@ssyjuco) on

 

Here’s a nice article about this grassroots movement: “A Sewing Army, Making Masks for America,” by David Enrich, Rachel Abrams and Steven Kurutz (NY Times, March 25, 2020).

 

Standard