August 1, 2017

What is Cultural Work?

by Candace Kita,
Cultural Work & Development Coordinator

As the Cultural Work & Development Coordinator at APANO, I use the term “cultural work” on a daily basis. What does it really mean, though? At APANO, we define cultural work the use of arts and culture to “center the voices and experiences of marginalized Asian and Pacific Islanders, shift harmful narratives, envision alternatives, and foster movement building.” Ultimately, we seek to change the stories that are told about Asians and Pacific Islanders and other communities of color in ways that promote our health, success, and wellness.

Shifting cultural narratives may seem like a broad goal that is difficult to measure. Generally speaking, culture and values change slowly, with many factors at play. However, the cultural work strategies that we use are tangible and continued efforts to tell unheard stories and bring people together. We employ API artists to use visual art, music, dance, theatre, and more as mediums to illustrate what justice looks, feels, and sounds like for our communities. Most recently, we hired six API artists to create original visual artworks inspired by APANO’s six core values, ranging from gender justice to environmental health among communities of color.

Currently, we are in the midst of planning our annual cultural event series, MicCheck!, which brings community members together for art, performance, and storytelling that opens our eyes to issues and ideas that we might not have considered before. Featuring events such as a free screening of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs and a person of color-centered arts and literary festival, MicCheck! this year will focus on solidarity-building between APIs and multiracial communities of color.

Cultural work opens doors to conversations that can change hearts, minds, beliefs, and values. And revolutions in values refuse to stay quiet--they reverberate into revolutions in policy, revolutions in practices, and revolutions in how we envision a just and beautiful world.