Did You Eat Yet? May 2024 – APAHM with Jen Soriano

Hello fellow freedom lovers!

My name is Jen Soriano – some people call me JenSo – and I’m an author, musician, and former board member of 18MR. I’m excited to be guest editing this month’s newsletter for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month!

I’ve dedicated most of my life to the belief that stories, guided by radical values and amplified by organizing, can change the world. To put that belief into action, I co-founded MediaJustice, a movement hub for digital freedom, and ReFrame, a national utility for narrative power building.

In addition to co-editing Closer to Liberation: A Pina/xy Activist Anthology, I recently came out with my debut book, NERVOUS: Essays on Heritage and Healing. NERVOUS is a collection of personal essays to further conversations about mental health, transgenerational trauma, and collective care. It took me eight years to write this book, which is really my heart between two covers, so I hope you’ll check it out if you haven’t already.  

Happy APAHM to all! But what even is it? The way I see it, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month started as the federal government’s “DEI” approach to admitting that Asian Pacific American people have done big things to contribute to the American nation.

While recognition can bring needed policies and resources to our communities, I think the significance of this month is different for radical and progressive APA people. For Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi (APIDA) activists like us, we have the opportunity to claim this month for ourselves outside the need for validation by a liberal (at best) and increasingly right-wing state.

To me, this looks like leveraging May as a time to celebrate our heritages not just for recognition or diversity spectacle, but as a tool for building power. 

Tongan and Fijian scholar Epeli Hau’ofa wrote, “The past is alive in us, so in more than a metaphorical sense the dead are alive in us – we are our history.” And while history can weigh heavy on us from Partition to the Nakba to the U.S. bombing of our islands, and so much more, it can also uplift us. There is so much we have to learn from each others’ stories of resistance and (r)evolution.

Celebrating our heritage and healing our minds/bodies/souls can help with individual wellness, but it can also help us experience the interpersonal freedom that gives us a deeper capacity to work toward the liberation of all.

This month, we celebrate the inspiring work of the student movement for Palestine. Students from at least 553 campuses across the country have risen up to demand university divestment from Israel’s apartheid regime and genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people. APIDA students, supported by APIDA faculty, are working in solidarity with Palestinian and Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) students across the country through groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. These U.S. protests have even inspired transnational solidarity across Asia, sparking campus protests from Sri Lanka to Japan to Bangladesh.

As of this writing, protesters have successfully pressured several campuses to consider divestment. Sacramento State and Evergreen State College became the first colleges to agree to a divestment strategy. In the process, students are learning about participatory democracy, community-based security, and transnational solidarity in practice, all skills we need to resist oppression and construct the alternative worlds we deserve. This is just one example of how resistance is a remedy, and of what the Arab Resource and Organizing Center says so truthfully: Palestine will free us all.

Celebrating our heritage and healing our minds/bodies/souls can help with individual wellness,  but it can also help us experience the interpersonal freedom that gives us a deeper capacity to work toward the liberation of all.

This month, we celebrate the inspiring work of the student movement for Palestine. Students from at least 553 campuses across the country have risen up to demand university divestment from Israel’s apartheid regime and genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people. APIDA students, supported by APIDA faculty, are working in solidarity with Palestinian and Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) students across the country through groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. These U.S. protests have even inspired transnational solidarity across Asia, sparking campus protests from Sri Lanka to Japan to Bangladesh.

As of this writing, protesters have successfully pressured several campuses to consider divestment. Sacramento State and Evergreen State College became the first colleges to agree to a divestment strategy. In the process, students are learning about participatory democracy, community-based security, and transnational solidarity in practice, all skills we need to resist oppression and construct the alternative worlds we deserve. This is just one example of how resistance is a remedy, and of what the Arab Resource and Organizing Center says so truthfully: Palestine will free us all.

Thank you everyone!

Signing off with a quote from Yuri Kochiyama: “Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.”  This reminds us about kapwa, that our interdependence is our medicine and our power. 🪷 🐯🍉

Isulong,

Jen + Irma, Turner, Sharmin, Kari, Leyen, Allison, and Brenda – the 18MR Team

Active Campaigns

  • Graphic says "Asian Americans say no to Zionism and Islamophobia! - 70+ Asian American and allied organizations tell The Asian American Foundation: Drop Jonathan Greenblatt! The ADL is not an ally to Asian American communities, organizations, and movements."

    Say NO to Zionism and Islamophobia!

    Say NO to Zionism and Islamophobia! 70+ Asian American and allied organizations tell The Asian American Foundation: Drop Jonathan Greenblatt! The ADL is NOT AN ALLY to Asian American communities, organizations, and movements.
  • Duotone read and deep dark green image of protesters facing militarized police officers in the background. Main text reads: To District Attorney Jenkins: Drop the charges against the Bay Bridge 78! We are part of a long linesage of people who have used civil disobedience to help bend the arc of history towards justice - from the civil rights movement to the right against apartheid in South Africa. bit.ly/BayBridge78. 18MR's logo is on the bottom right corner.

    I was Arrested on the Bay Bridge

    I was arrested for demanding an end to genocide. We are part of a long lineage of people who have used civil disobedience to help bend the arc of history toward justice – from the Civil Rights Movement to the fight against apartheid in South Africa.  As a Filipino American organizer for racial justice, I’ve […]
  • PARDON APSC4

    PARDON APSC4: Our beloved family APSC 4: Borey “Peejay” Ai, Nghiep “Ke” Lam, Chanthon Bun, and Maria Legarda are at risk of deportation. Tell Governor Newsom to pardon them NOW so they can remain home with their families and community. Here’s some things you can do!

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