Asia Wesley, 20’s
I currently work full time at a university and am also getting my Master's in English Literary studies!
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Black & Cambodian.
Tell us about your family story.
I was so excited to come across your Instagram page and saw so many pieces of myself in both of you. Thanks in advance for sharing your family’s and your stories with the world!
My mother is also a Cambodian refugee and was separated from her family when she was seven years old. She escaped the Khmer Rouge and eventually made her way to Thailand with the help of Red Cross. When she was 15, she found herself in the farthest place from her home country: New Hampshire. She was adopted by my white grandparents, the only family I know, and navigated the U.S. as she learned a new culture, language, weather changes, and much more.
Upon graduating high school, she looked for places that would give her a little taste of home and went to the University of Arizona where she did find more brown people and where she could run track. After graduating college, she went back to a cold place and apparently missed the snow... and has remained in Colorado ever since. She met my father, whose great grandfather was a slave, but he spent his childhood in Texas. My mother and father have remained in Colorado since having my younger brother and me, and the rest is history!
P.S. to this day, my mother has not been back to Cambodia and still has not been able to find her parents or siblings. To her knowledge, she has no contact with any family members other than her adopted parents and siblings.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Black & Asian?
Growing up in a biracial household meant living and breathing two cultures. I grew up in the metro Denver area of Colorado and was one of probably 20 people of color in my high school of about 2,000, and one of them was my younger brother.
I remember one of my friends telling me that her mom made a comment to her one time saying that she felt bad for me because I must have grown up so confused not knowing who I was. However, I’m happy to report that I was farthest from confused, and in fact, I had a very good idea of who I was and I still do.
As a black and Cambodian American, I got to hear two languages, go from eating delicious gumbo in the south to smelling my mom’s spicy egg rolls in the summer. I could make a running list of all the benefits of being Asian and Black American, but I would have to say that the biggest one is knowing exactly who I am and where I came from.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I think my proudest accomplishment was going to college and learning how to tell my story and my family’s story. I was always drawn to reading, writing, and learning new languages, and I think it has a lot to do with how my mom raised me.
As a refugee who survived a genocide, my childhood was filled with the stories of how she escaped that would move from English to a sprinkle of words in Khmer when she would forget the English translation. It pushed me to learn languages myself and I’m now on to my fifth language and counting!
Reflecting on how you grew up, what did you learn or appreciate from your family?
I appreciated how strong my mom was in raising us. My parents got divorced when I was 10 years old and my mom raised us as a single mother. Then, when I was 17, my brother was in a horrendous car accident that left him paralyzed and she had to move away from her work to care for him full time, and still does.
Despite all of the challenges that my mom has gone through, she has shown strength and I’ve learned so much from her. I don’t know how she does it all, but it makes me not take anything for granted and to remain strong for both my mom and brother.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I don’t speak my mother’s native language fluently, unfortunately. I think part of it has to do with growing up in a biracial household and my father did not speak Khmer. I am slowly learning, though, and plan to become fluent before visiting Cambodia!
What advice do you have for the younger generations in the Black & Asian community?
One piece of advice I would give is to be proud of who you are and to tell your story! Too many times, people of color are lumped into one single story and it’s important that we break the monolithic story about certain races and ethnicities.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Learning new languages, words, or phrases and being able to speak them to others. :)
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
My travel blog!
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
To be featured, read the directions and fill out this form. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome.
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