What is one of your earliest memories of the power of human connection?
I remember dreading my first day of middle school. Weeks earlier, my family immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam, and I was afraid I would not fit in because of my clothes and the limited number of phrases I knew in English. During that first year in New York City, I spent a lot of time in ESL classes, and it was my teacher, Ms. Jones, who made me feel less alone. In between language lessons, Ms. Jones would play her favorite songs for our class and show us dance moves from her childhood. During the holidays, she would throw little parties so we could experience the traditions first-hand that I had only read about in books. Ms. Jones did everything in her power to help us feel like we belonged and that we were just like all the other kids.
What values guide your work?
Compassion, reciprocity, and joy. I recently moderated a forum on the impact of anti-Asian attacks on the AAPI community after a showing of “The Chinese Lady” at the Public Theater. Before the event, I wanted to ground my facilitation in the teaching of Robin Wall Kimmerer, a scientist, author, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she wrote: “Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”
Talking about generational and vicarious trauma within the AAPI community was not an easy conversation, but we held space for one another to process the pain that arose after these incidents. We shared our feelings of loneliness and anger and discussed the way we view ourselves in contrast to how others view us. At the end of the forum, we also made room for joy as we collectively imagined what community care and safety could look like for all of us.
What are you working on right now?
Every year, I reread a five-page impassioned letter that Sol LeWitt wrote to Eva Hesse in 1965 encouraging her to let go of self-doubt in her creative practice. “Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling,... grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!” I’m heeding these words by creating a series of monochromatic tapestry weavings with the sole purpose of experimentation and play.
How has the experience of the pandemic affected you and your work?
The pandemic coincided with a huge shift in my personal life. I became a mom in 2021 with all the excitement and tenderness that I am still trying to put into words. In between changing diapers and juggling remote work, I have been thinking a lot about the ways in which our society can better support parents and caregivers in their personal and professional lives.
The depth of isolation and loneliness over the past two years has also been on my mind as our city begins to reopen. We all have been through a lot individually and collectively, so how can we be there for one another as we move forward? What tools are available for us to support each other through this moment in time?
What's giving you joy right now? What are you hopeful about?
Watching our daughter go from walking to running, from babbling to saying mama, has been a great source of joy for me. Even in moments of sheer exhaustion, I try to remind myself to be present in her growth, her curiosity about the world, and her connection with the people around her. On a deeply personal level, my relationship with my daughter has given me hope. She has taught me so much about my capacity to learn and grow, to get out of my comfort zone, to forgive, to let down my guard, to slow down, and to love deeply and unconditionally.