Rarely in life do things go exactly as planned, we were reminded on March 2nd. As is typical of New England winter weather, an unexpected Nor'easter swept through months of logistical work by organizers, workshop facilitators, and students coming far and wide for ECAASU Conference 2018. But the show, dialogue, and solidarity for Asian Americans continued onward -- and here is what we learned:
1. Incredible things happen when people come together.
The storm cancelled hundreds of flights over the weekend. But despite this, conference goers came together to help each other hitchhike and power through upwards of 6-hour snowy drives to Ithaca -- coordinating rides with some had only met for the first time.
2. We all have it in us to affect change in our communities.
Each of us has the power to play a part. From the people who just go to conference to the people responsible for putting everything together, each person that decidedly takes that first step to show up is an active and vital participant in the community. Both are needed for this ecosystem to work. No part is too big or too small.
3. Passion (not perfection!) makes us stronger activists and allies.
Now more than ever people are encouraged to speak their minds, and thanks to the internet we are empowered with an easy to use, widely reaching platform to holler from. Yet at the same time, there is also a trend of silence drawn by fear of not being “woke” enough to partake in conversations.
While it is incredibly important to be able to clearly articulate your ideas, utilize terms in proper context, and have foundation for your ideals, the most important thing is to never let fear inhibit our voices. It’s not about being a picturesque pinnacle of the community -- it’s about being honest to your truth, and respectful of others in action and in dialogue.
4. Everyone’s journey through struggle, and role in the community is unique.
Steven Lim broke away from the pressure of a stereotypical STEM career, and Mimi Thi Nguyen, in the face of harassment, created a new punk community that was inclusive and respectful of women and people of color. They found success and empowered their communities by deviating from the narratives that were subscribed to them by society.
But it doesn’t necessarily mean that theirs is the path YOU should follow. With any leader or role model we idolize the most important thing to remember is to be cognizant of ourselves. Think about your own standards, needs and talents, as you listen to others. Let them help you find (or make!) your own path and role in the community.
5. Question what you know, and listen for what you may be missing.
How do you know something to be true? How do we fight misinformation? In workshops throughout the conference the solution was to critically evaluate the narrative of Asian Americans we are told in schools and in media.
And as noted starkly during Paul Tran, Diane Wong, and Mei Lum’s speeches, when we understand what is missing, what is false, and why narratives are being erased or passed down incompletely we are empowered to preserve and create our own stories.
6. Change only starts with dialogue -- it is incomplete without action.
After most conferences, there are the "post-conference feels" that linger into the weeks following. The echo of passionate community leaders speak of their journey and their visions. The warmth of camaraderie -- discovering we are not alone in our struggles against discrimination and search for identity. It is recharging and inspiring. But if we don’t share what we’ve learned, take steps in our individual lives to fully live our truths, or advocate for the issues that moved us over the weekend, then what was the point?
Want to keep conference going? Join our Facebook Friend Finder Group to network with other Conference attendees, as well view videos and photos from the weekend!