What would you tell your community, if you could? What secrets would you share, what questions would you ask? Pahole Sookkasikon was curious enough to find out.
Frustrated with the pessimism and perpetually critical posture of his academic and activist circles, Sookkasikon started the API/A Love Letter Project earlier this year with the intent of sharing some love. He started collecting letters from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who wanted to tell stories and talk to the community and posting them on a blog.
The blog posts are love letters in the classic sense: confessional in tone and occasionally tending toward indulgence, but always heartfelt and honest. Virada Chatikul writes about America and Thailand, and belonging:
Once, we had a khon performance (Thai masked theatre) during a funeral. As the music played, one of the uncles said, “I can’t listen to this. Makes me cry and miss home.” That wasn’t the only time. When we practice in the parking lot of the Temple after the Sunday crowds have gone and all that remains are parents, volunteers, community elders, a small audience will gather to watch and applaud the little pocket of “home” we’ve created. For those few minutes, they can forget the daily reminders of “this is not my country” or “this is not my language.”
I realized that this is all they ask for — just brief moments that are theirs, when they can breathe a sigh of relief and stop pretending, when they can sing their royal anthems, when they can process around the Temple to the sound of long drums, when they can show their children with confidence and without shame, that this is how you walk around your elders; this is how you greet them, and this is how you thank them.
The voices are varied. Activist Nicole Lee addresses those who criticized her calls for nonviolence before ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle’s trial this summer. Erik Ku writes about all the things his parents could never have known they’d need when they immigrated to America. Suny Um tells, silently, about growing up as a second-generation Khmer-American queer man. It’s called the Asian Pacific Islander/American Love Letter Project, and it’s your Tuesday love.
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