Diane, we first met at the thirtieth-anniversary gala for CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Over the years, we have discussed our related projects and aligned political frameworks, often while sharing food. What are the origins of this exhibition?
The exhibit was inspired by the Homeward Bound series I did with the W.O.W Project at Wing on Wo & Co last winter. The series of public programs was done in collaboration with Mei Lum, founding director of the W.O.W. Project, and Huiying B. Chan, a multimedia storyteller whom I met through the Chinatown Art Brigade. It featured stories of migration, displacement, and everyday resilience in Chinatowns around the world including Lima, Havana, Johannesburg, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Sydney, Singapore, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Seattle. The exhibit builds from the series and uses photographs and oral histories from our own academic research to honor, preserve, and build on the histories and contemporary issues of Chinatowns through community-led and curated narratives of residents. There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to connecting our academic scholarship to what is happening on the ground in communities and to more intimate spaces like our homes. This exhibit was a way for me to be creative and to redefine what I have been taught about academic knowledge production and rigor — and to produce work that is accountable and responsive to the demands of the communities I write about.