On Wednesday evening, we attended a storytelling event that our podcast friend, Randy Kim, hosted with his longtime mentor, Ada Cheng. They created a beautiful space where seven community leaders shared their life passions, stories, and challenges through speech, music, poem, and comics.
The Talk Stories show started in 2017 with the mission of featuring different points of views in our communities and uplifting people from all backgrounds. As Ada shared in the opening statement, "Everyone has a story to share. My work is to encourage others to share their stories." We are moved by the vulnerability that each performer brought with them.
This show was made possible by the following collaborators: The National Cambodian Heritage Museum, Chinese American Museum of Chicago, Japanese American Services Committee, and OCA Greater Chicago.
Some of My Takeaways
Etzkorn Wong: The power of music. Music helps us connect with one another and explains what words cannot. Etzkorn shared a calming, dreamy-like song about believing in yourself, even when you are faced with obstacles along the way. He also shared a piece that he wrote in tears after his sister and his sister's boyfriend dodged a car accident a few weeks ago. We felt such honest emotions and passion.
Rohan Anand: The power of bringing people together. It was inspiring to hear how Ronan rallied together funds and community members to have a slot in Chicago's Pride Parade on June of 2019. We loved his analogy of comparing his time in the parade to his own life: "You're marching forward in your life with... [the right] people and energy. If people are in front of you and not moving, they’re standing in your way. They need to stand beside you or up in front of you to lead the way, or they can get back the other way."
Veronica Murashige: The power of questions. Being a 4th generation mixed Asian-American, Veronica explained the questions that she has received since childhood from the frustrating “What are you?" to "Is she [Veronica's mom] your nanny?" to "Are you adopted?" She reminded us of the importance in understanding all parts of who we are and figuring out how we can move forward in our lives with confidence.
Isabel Garcia-Gonzales: The power of microaggressions. Isabel told a series of stories that happened to her over the years, stories of when she experienced racism and sexism. Growing up in her town of Wisconsin, there were only about 9% of the population who were people of color. Every woman, woman of color, and person of color should find their community where they can feel safe to be themselves and to speak their truth. As Isabel said, "In solidarity."
Sina Sam: The power of seeking closure with our past. Sina gave a heartfelt and melodic poem about her hardships being born as a Khmer refugee child in the Khao I Dang camp between Cambodia and Thailand. We can find healing and unity through reflecting on difficult times and being honest about our true feelings. It was powerful when she said, "We [younger Khmer generations] respond in English because we know our broken tongues sting your heart. Your hearts can’t hold anymore."
Taneka Hye Wol Jennings: The power of family. Taneka spoke on how, as a child, she was adopted by a white family and moved from South Korea to New Jersey, US. Her adoptive family did not always understand the obstacles she went through and how to talk about issues with race/identity, but they made the effort to make her feel loved, heard, and accepted. Family is anyone who truly loves and cares about us - who is there for us no matter what.
Grace Chan McKibben: The power of love. Love has no boundaries, as Grace discussed her story as a Chinese woman falling in love with her African-American husband, Tom. Their path to interracial marriage in 1991 was not easy because Grace's family and community were concerned about the racial and cultural differences. With their determination in making things work, Grace and Tom were able to receive support from Grace's parents.
Grace described, "I am forever grateful to my dad for always being supportive of his children and there’s only one way to pay it back – to be unconditionally supportive of my own children even when I may not completely understand them."
Thank you to Ada and Randy for hosting this event and bringing these amazing individuals together in one night. We are truly inspired by their words and talents, and look forward to supporting your future events!