May 28, 2015

"Poetry is a Political Act"

Photo starting from top left corner: Mia Mungus, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Kay Ulanday Barrett, and Dark Matter.

by Kara Carmosino
Training Manager at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)

When we talk about leadership, we often think of those who hold elected office, helm organizations, lead rallies, advocate for their communities, coordinate important services. All of these are vital, but when I started to write this post about the people, especially APIs, who have helped me find my place in the world and whose leadership has cultivated mine, I kept coming back to those whose words were visionary, powerful and made space in the world for me to see myself.

In particular, I thought back to the words of a mentor of mine, a teacher and writer, the last time we corresponded about writing. She said, on the stories that are important to be told, “Keep writing what’s necessary.” I have thought of that many times since, as both a reminder of the power of the stories we tell and affirmation that the work of telling them is important work.

Preparing this post, I was also left reflecting on how short a single week is, to do justice to the myriad voices that exist in our community, as well as what has and hasn’t been represented in all the incredible posts shared this month. At APANO, we recognize communications and cultural work as a strategy for change, rooted in the belief that telling our stories, speaking truths, imagining alternatives and shifting culture matters. Yet, despite making space for the powerful sharing of stories all month long, we haven’t explicitly highlighted API writers.

So this is a chance to link to a small sampling of writers and work I wanted to amplify, given the week’s theme, chosen simply because they’ve stayed or resonated with me:

* Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha - the city of my desire

* Kay Ulanday Barrett - Psalm for a womon at age 60

* DarkMatter’s Alok Vaid-Menon - Trans/Generation

* DarkMatter’s Janani Balasubramanian Jealousy

* Mia Mingus - On Collaboration: Starting With Each Other

This is also an invitation to continue the conversation by signal boosting, sharing and (if you can) contributing to the API writers, artists, culture makers and visionaries who have helped to make space in the world for you and the people you love! As we know, this work is not separate from movement building—it’s integral and it’s necessary.

Read more stories from AAPI Heritage Month here.