Project Framing Statement
Written in August 2021

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp escalation of anti-Asian violence. Some of us, out of grief and fear, demanded increased surveillance and punitive accountability for perpetrators of hate crimes. Others emphatically called for racial solidarity to end police violence against Black and other communities of color. These violent crimes exposed underlying tensions that have existed between Asian and Black communities since the creation of the inherently anti-Black model minority
1. Read more: “The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans” by Claire Jean Kim. myth,1 in the 1960s. The harmful myth has pitted Asians against all other communities of color, and erased our own racial struggle through shortsighted narratives of bootstrapping and economic success.

How will we choose to remember this moment? How will we continue to process, grieve, heal, make meaning, and build trust and power with other communities? This project engages Asian and Asian diasporic designers in learning, building, and practicing intra- and inter-community solidarity. Part public memory work, part educational resource, and part working toolkit, this initiative will look at the Asian diaspora through the lens of transcultural space to create connections (not equivalencies) between our histories and the histories of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Asians have been dispersed from their ancestral lands through imperialism, colonialism, war, deployment of indentured labor, immigration, and globalization. In the US, these refugee and immigrant communities inhabit and shape cultural centers and landscapes that intersect with Black and Brown communities, and are predicated on Indigenous dispossession.

The racialization of Asians is not new; nor is it separate from the oppression of other BIPOC communities. As Erika Lee writes in "America for Americans," anti-Asian hate and xenophobia originated from violence and racism towards Black and Indigenous people, the first “others” of our settler-colonial nation. Understanding the spatial entanglements and root causes of our individual and collective racial trauma will provide context for the Asian diasporic community to move in solidarity with Black, Brown, and Indigenous movements and work with more intention, purpose, and compassion towards new forms of communal knowledge. It will liberate us from the model minority myth, inviting us to model new stories of solidarity through design practice.

The initiative takes a microhistorical approach, centering the voices of Asian diasporic designers working in solidarity with BIPOC communities. The first phase will be a collection of stories by recording and transcribing oral history interviews with Asian diaspora designers and through hosting and documenting a series of convenings focusing on urgent topics related to the role of Asians in anti-racist design. These stories and learnings may be synthesized and structured into annotated transcripts, public resources, and educational toolkits.

The gathering of stories is rooted in the belief that shared knowledge is a form of mutual aid. While it is important to amplify Asian voices, which are historically erased from our national consciousness, this project foregrounds Asian experience as inherently bound to other BIPOC communities, with whom we seek reciprocity. The freedoms that some of us have been afforded are predicated on the oppression of others. This unsettling reality structures Asian solidarity as a process of undoing and uplifting.