Los Angeles, CA
Current Role: Childcare and Youth Advocate
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Tell us about your family story.
My family came to the United states in the Early 80's when they were sponsored by the Red Cross to come to the states. Before coming to the states, my mother and her 3 siblings were orphaned and ran from Cambodia to Thailand where they lived in Khao I Dang Refugee camp until they were sponsored to come to America.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Cambodian/African-American?
I think that as a first generation Cambodian American who is half black, I not only carry the traumas of the people that came before me but their strength and resilience. I have the DNA of the ancient Khmer who built Angkor Wat, as well as the slaves that helped build this country.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Teaching myself how to read Khmer even though I was never formally taught and no one else in my family actually knows how to read khmer, not even my elders.
Reflecting on how you grew up, what did you learn or appreciate from your family?
I really learned to appreciate every bit of the Cambodian American experience. I grew to appreciate the struggles and find the good amongst the bad. It took me time but I've fully embraced my Cambodian-ness unapologetically, as well as my blackness. I used to be ashamed that my family was so different, that we ate different foods that smelled funny. I was embarrassed that we listened to different music; although I loved Khmer music, I didn't want anyone else seeing or hearing me listening to it.
Now, I happily pull up at the red light with my Khmer music on full blast while singing my heart out, no shame. Not only do I love eating Khmer food, I know how to make a lot of dishes and I am learning more all the time! So now I really appreciate growing up with so much culture; I feel bad for people who were raised not knowing flavor. I wouldn't trade my upbringing.
I've realized that every bit of our experiences as Cambodian Americans makes us just that much more unique. I really appreciate being raised by refugees. I think it made me tougher and it just gives me that much more motivation knowing the roots of where I come from to where I am now.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
Yes, I developed an obsession with Khmer music early on at the age of about 6 years old. I used to sit and watch karaoke videos all day long until I eventually learned to recognize the words on the screen. Over about a two year span of time, I taught myself basic Khmer just from watching Khmer karaoke videos.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Khmer community?
My advice for the younger Khmer generation would be to learn to have pride in your Khmer identity. The earlier the better, because it has a large part to do with loving and accepting yourself as you are. It will make things a lot easier and you will have a stronger more confident sense of self. Surround yourself with other like-minded young Cambodians who want to make a positive change in the world, specifically in Cambodia and within the Cambodian community.
We still have a long way to go as a people and it is important that we strive for excellence within our communities here in the United States, so that we can then go back to Cambodia and share our resources and help build the country up.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Progression. Always striving to be the best version of myself and always trying to keep a positive perspective.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
I've recently created a private Facebook group that currently has a little over 2k members called, "Beautiful Brown Bodians." The group is for Cambodians who want to combat colorism in Khmer culture and many other issues that affect our community while connecting with each other on the basis of the love for our culture.
I have been recently exposing the colorism that has been prevalent within the Khmer entertainment industry for years now and that has recently gotten worse with blatant displays of blackface in both music videos and movies. In calling out these production companies, I have created a petition to stop colorism in the Khmer entertainment industry, mainly to stop the forced bleaching/skin whitening of prominent celebrities and to stop the use of blackface. You can sign the petition here.
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.
Charles Calvino Hang
Danielle Bopha Khleang
Emma S. Buchanan
Firda Amalia Herryanddhy
Grace Bora Kim
Justin Cardona (JCool)
Kaitlin Kamalei Brandon
Krystal M. Chuon
Lina (Spring Roll Fever)
Mei Mei Long
Melissa Khoeum Barnett
Note K. Suwanchote
Sam "Smushipig" Javier
Samrach Sar, Esq.
ចាប សាត Sath Chap
Sotheara Jeffrey Lim