May 14, 2020

Resiliency is Spaciousness - a Talk with Jenny Chu

Jenny Chu is a member of APANO’s Arts & Media Project (AMP), radical thinker, community convener, activist, and writer who identifies as Chinese-American raised by immigrant parents. She brings people together as the Community Engagement Manager at Write Around Portland (WAP), a core committee member of Arts Workers for Equity (AWE), as a board member at PICA, and through her passion for the arts.

How has COVID-19 impacted you?

As a community-oriented person, it has been very difficult being so isolated. For many people, we’re missing the freedom of movement. You know the typical things that we took for granted like convening in spaces.

You work a lot in the community as well, how has COVID-19 impacted that work?

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way in which we gather as a community and through Write Around Portland. We partner with social service agencies, and we bring community together through writing workshops at senior residential care communities, homeless shelters, treatment centers, hospitals, correctional facilities––obviously, right now the healing aspects of connecting people around the same table over writing is being outweighed by the health risks of the coronavirus.

Write Around Portland is currently rethinking our entire year. We’re resilient and we’re finding ways to reach people with community and writing through remote methods.

We just launched a weekly workshop online for a $5-$30 sliding scale donation for folks who can support it.

So Write Around is finding ways to be resilient - what does resilience mean to you?

Resilience is the ability to find spaciousness in even the most tough situations. Being able to have time for all the things that matter to me is resilience. Having time for all the relationships that matter, all the relationships where you feel truly supported and seen; to be able to have the capacity to return that care.

The resilience to be able to read that book, to think critically, to get clear on your values, to fine tune your internal compass, the resilience to be able to create freely. Resilience to just get lost. Even when you're holding a lot of different responsibilities and obligations. The resilience to hold paradox; the grief and uncertainty with beauty and delight.

That's what resiliency looks like to me.

And what does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is a quiet kind of presence.

The best leaders are the ones that are consensus builders, they’re the ones that are oftentimes coming from a place of deep humility, not hubris––a kind of fierce humility. They’re the ones that might have an idea for something but also give room and space for other people to bring their ideas to the table, and they’re able to incorporate those ideas into something new.

The collective vision always supersedes any singular vision. We have to do this collectively, and people have to be given space and opportunities in relationship to the ways in which they can participate in collective leadership.

What does API womxn leadership mean to you during APAHM?

API womxn leadership is the unseen labor that API women leaders carry everyday like caring for their community and caring for their parents in addition to whatever formal leadership they have professionally. This month is a time where we can celebrate all aspects of our radical selves like our womxn leaders.

Jenny's Call to Action

Liberate yourself so you can work on how you treat people.

Deeply invest in what you are consuming (i.e. where you’re spending your money, what you’re reading, what you’re eating, who you listen to etc.) and how you treat people.

This blog post is part of the API Womxn in Leadership series to commemorate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This series is also under the banner of #CourageDuringCOVID, a larger project highlighting API Oregonians doing meaningful and radical work to protect one another. Learn more about our Courage During COVID series. This programming message brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501(c)(3) non profit organization.