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APIA Anthology Vol. 6

INCOGNITO APIA Affiars Anthology Volume 6 2018 University of Florida

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The APIA Affairs Anthology team would like to thank the Office of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs as well as the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs for being cruicial to the creation of this publication. We would also like to thank the APIA Affairs ambassadors and volunteers who spent an innumerable number of hours collaborating. A special shoutout goes to PJ Thompson, a fellow MCDA ambassador who kindly aided us through the graphics process of making this publication.

This publication, of course, would not be possible without the APIDA community here at UF, as well as our alum. We extend our deepest gratitudes to you all for being your most vulnerable selves through your artwork in this anthology. Thank you for sharing yourself with us and the readers for generations to come.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR We are always masking: Our passions Our sexuality Our mental health Our “smelly” food  Our accent Our religion Our struggles Our fears As a Desi woman growing up in the United States, I never had a sense of self; there was never one version of me, but several. At home I was the Dhara who was quiet, withdrawn and hot-tempered. At school, I was the social butterfly overachiever who strived to be the best. With my friends, I was the goofy extrovert who could never be taken seriously.  With so many images of myself, I always struggled to answer “Tell me more about yourself ”. Which form of me do they want? The constant battle between my personalities is an occurrence not uncommon among the Asian Pacific Islander Desi Middle Eastern American community. With dangers like the model minority myth and being the perpetual foreigner, it can be impossible to live authentically. We are bullied into withholding fragrant, flavorful foods in exchange for bland bologna sandwiches. Or we tell our families that we are hard at work in the library because spending time for ourselves selfishly undermines our family’s sacrifices. Often we turn in our seasoned paintbrushes for new stethoscopes. Or we painfully conceal our partners and sexuality for fear of being disowned. How much longer can we go on like this?  This year’s anthology aims to liberate us from living our lives INCOGNITO. In a fast-paced apathetic society, finding vulnerable spaces is a challenge and for the sake of protection, we suppress parts ourselves from others. The artists in this anthology have made beauty out of pain. They have graciously allowed us a window into their masked selves.  Now, it is time to embrace:  Embrace our passions Embrace our sexuality Embrace our mental health Embrace our “smelly” food  Embrace our accent Embrace our religion Embrace our struggles Embrace our fears

Dhara patel

TABLE OF CONTENTS Home (Revisited) 10 The One Like the “Drowning Girl” 11 Unnoticed 12 MY THAI-ME TO BE LAO-D 13 ASIAN MELANIN 14 Reflection 15 HANDKERCHIEF 16 Veil 18 Code Switching 19 Disclosure 20 Get Home Safe 21 Serenity 22 I Am A Rugger 23 “I am so much more.” 24 Reflection: A Music cover 25 Letters from (and to) my mother 26

Event Spotlight: Project Motainai 29 Gatorship 30 Mosaic 31 Ikigai: Reason for being 32

STAFF Editor-in-Chief Dhara Patel

Co-editors Dikshitha Shankar Kaeli Flannery

HOME (REVISITED) REBEKAH KIM | FOURTH YEAR Two years ago, I wrote a piece about how the identity of the home for Asian Americans is hidden. It’s not blatantly obvious, it’s not marked, it’s not a physical, tangible place. Now, I realize that Asian America is a feeling, and it exists not in space, but in time. Home for Asian Americans is within the moments we spend with our community, with our families, and with people that understand us at our core.

My home is Asian America. Yes, it’s not on the map, And yes, it’s not tangible either. But it’s real. I can feel its presence. I can feel its gentle caress. I can feel its welcoming arms. I can see it. Yes, sometimes it’s invisible, Even to me. It’s invisible when America Becomes all I can see. During times like these, I doubt my home, But it’s where I belong, And where I need to be. But my home is real, My home is alive. My home is reaching out... Within all of those who also understand The reality that is Asian America.


The One Like the “Drowning Girl” Suchi Panchal | Second Year Acrylic on Canvas This work was done in acrylic on canvas and depicts the issue of acid attacks in India. These attacks occur in the name of honor, rejection of sexual advances, and other reasons of punishment predominantly towards women. This work was inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s “Drowning Girl”. The incognito portion of this work lies in the fact that, as beautiful and historic Indian culture is, it still has it flaws. These flaws tend to be hidden from the world or become a taboo topic to discuss amongst family members that don't want to "tarnish" the great Indian culture. But the lack of conversation surrounding these issues only perpetuate the act itself. We should be more open to discussing the bad that comes with the good.


Unnoticed Narayan Kulkarni | UF Alum This fictional piece is written from the perspective of a lamenting, young Asian American who reflects on their relationship with a cruel parent. It intends to creatively yet directly depict the child’s perspective, including examples of how this child must go “incognito” as an Asian American when interacting both with the parent and classmates.

You see that delectable dish that you loved to eat as a child, A proud parental preparation pushed down my throat Without recognizing that school bullies mistook the aromatic spice As dynamite, and force-fed me until I exploded. You see straight A’s on a report card Without recognizing the sleepless nights needed to achieve them, The perfect child I must be to you while I must validate The model minority image perceived by my classmates. You see an obedient child Without noticing that you manufactured the poison of beliefs And marinated my flesh into meat that would end up On your white boss’s dinner table. If only I had the chance to ask you: “Why have these and so many other things Gone unnoticed between us?”


MY THAI-ME TO BE LAO-D ASHLEY SOMCHANHMAVONG | FIRST YEAR Digital Illustration When thinking of what being incognito means to me, I immediately think of identity. Incognito is about concealing a part of oneself and I can relate. In my piece, I wanted to highlight the two aspects of my identity. The first part of me is my culture since I am half Thai and half Laotian. I am proud of my heritage and I show this with the flags in my piece. I wanted to have it on the outside, because everyone basically knows me for my heritage. But the second aspect of who I am is how I also identify as pansexual. Being pan means that I like people regardless of gender. I show this in my piece internally because I have not had the courage to come out until now. This opportunity has given me a way to showcase who I am, inside and out. It is my Thai-me to be Lao-d.



My poem, “Asian Melanin”, tells of the story of a woman who is tan but does not want to keep her tanned complexion. Her “sun”-given skin is beautiful, but she is questioning its beauty due to Western standards of beauty. She compares the skin to dark soil and thinks of her skin unsightly at first. She acquires a “malice” toward her skin tone and while the actual skin tone of the Asian woman is meant to be ambiguous, she believes her skin tone is still too dark, like the blackness of burnt matter and soil. She wants to bury her dark “body”, as in get rid of her tan-ness, and make it blend in with the soil. She aims to bury her skin tone because her dark body seems like a “horrid sight”. She questions whether to fully get rid of her body and become a “white” ghost, which just means making her skin tone as fair as possible. The “Earth” represents the people and social influences which tell her that her skin tone is too dark. She comes to the realization though that the sun gifted her with a unique shade, that her skin tone came from the warmth of the sun and that beautiful sentiment makes her rethink the beauty of her skin. She realizes she shouldn’t mask her color, especially when the sun (which poetically “beamed more” on Asian lands; warmer climate made Asians darker than Europeans) “gifted” her with her tan color.

I shunned the sun who grew my soul Colored in it so richly, so decadent and whole Which fair beauty my body stole Blackest soil darker than Asian tans Indulgent brown hues shine in the face and hands    Unknown to me, I was the soil and sun’s lovechild I curse the dark hues of the world away by a thousand miles My malice for my melanin I felt my charred flesh and bone The blackest ones sat in darkness alone The sun bestowed a gift to me I thought it rotten and burnt to the third degree I grasped the dirt and dug down deep To bury my dark body for the longest sleep Let the blackest soil fill its empty void While I search foreign land to grow new what I destroyed Would I rather ghost my soul in milky white Than keep that dark body, a truly horrid sight? How could I shun the holy sun Who made me the most beautiful one? While the Earth may tell me otherwise The sun’s gift deserves no mask or disguise Illumination birthed my melanin Let me illuminate Earth in the sun’s blessed skin



Self-Portrait linoleum block print



The marks [blanks] are left for your own truth.

Days when I could no longer hold it in. Whether it be tears that swelled or That which would drip from my nose. When I could not bear to be noticed. Where I needed to cover it up because if You knew‌if you knew‌ One twist it takes for spirits to open A flip of a switch to change the minute, hour, day I hear ruckus in the distance. Din I should disregard But I cannot. One sound becomes more, then A ripple that makes me queasy. I hide in my clothes so even if you Squint like I do, it is nonexistent. So I am just like you. I shut my mouth because when you hear blank Your eyes twitch and I feel you Look into me and crush my

Right to think, believe, live Looking, always looking

For that sweat that makes my Skin glisten of guilt. For being blank


Every single day. I.D.? Check. Glasses? Check. Next A handkerchief. My favorite was blood red with Passionate colors of life of Pastures and the Sun. Everywhere I went the Linen followed and I Stood bold shouldered and Free. Then Everyone looked Mouths spoke Arms moved So in my pocket it Stayed. It has been with me for A long time. Through nervousness, I Grasp it tightly in my Fist. In Fear, it has shut my Whimpering mouth and hid my Tearing eyes. When Nothingness comes, it has Tightened on my neck. However, all days come to an end. Scars forgotten as new ones form. Old joys become habit and there are New objects of excitement. The handkerchief is left at home. No longer does it call out to me To carry it everywhere I go. But Always will it be a part of me Folded into many depths, many Memories, tragedies. The handkerchief is left at home. Left but not forgotten. 17


Tho Tran | Fourth Year We are always veiling parts of our identities.


Code Switching Kaeli M Flannery | Third Year

Code Switching: the practice of alternating between two or more languages or dialects, depending on social context. I created this piece to convey how contradictory and isolating the world of academia can be. The switching of dialects functions to shift between identities and interpersonal relationships. While education seeks to enhance our ability to communicate, it is important to recognize it's intrinsic ties to classism and privilege. As I speak to my mother, I observe the dissonance in our ability to communicate our perceptions of the world. My vocabulary begins to feel foreign and I find myself questioning a language that is not equitable for everyone. She asks me, how is school Good I don’t know how to say Overextended, convoluted, illuminative In our language I thought new words were supposed to make communication Good What happens when all of those theoretical essays, 500 page textbooks And ramen noodles Force me to divide Myself Into parts for easy consumption I tell you how I want to change the world someday You reply, that’s so Good I want to propel a string of words To pull you into my thoughts My aspirations, my passions, my achievements How many letters after my name Will it take before All we have is silence There is no such thing as Simplification The word itself has 5 syllables I just want to smoke one With you and Let the visceral speak for the intellectual When I say Good I hope you see me



Suchi Panchal | Second Year

Acrylic on Poster Board

This piece was inspired by the “taboos” in Indian culture. There are many things that aren’t discussed in our community. Topics such as: sexuality, gender, abuse, intercultural relationships and mental health were heavily drawn upon in this project. This piece consists of anonymous quotes, poems and personal statements from not only authors, but everyday people as well. After speaking with multiple people from the Indian community, I was able to truly understand the hardships many go through when it comes to these topics. I’ve seen children suffer silently through mental illness, fight their sexuality, and break off relationships that aren’t congruent with their parents backgrounds; all because these topics are seen as taboo. The lack of discussion surrounding these topics force the youth into a lifestyle that isn’t suitable for themselves. For example, Mental Health is a difficult subject for many youth from the Indian community to discuss. My goal for this piece is to start a dialogue, break a barrier, and force a conversation. The piece itself showcases what is hidden behind the surface level of young Indian people. To achieve this I added a slow dry liquid to create a translucency in the paint, to help the words emerge from behind the portrait, creating disclosure.


Get Home Safe Othelia Jumapao | Third Year My piece is a poem I wrote in response to the #metoo movement. I wrote it because I realized that the sexual harassment APIDA women face on a daily basis is considered a norm. We are expected to ignore these insults and our pain. As the model minority myth, we must look perfect and not show our suffering. Thus, APIDA women are inherently incognito. We often must invisbilize ourselves in white cishet spaces to survive. "We can be hurt in our homes." This line means we can release our suffering in our private spaces away from the outside world. That seems to be the only acceptable form of grief from my perspective as a Pilipinx American.

We can be hurt in our homes, and we can scrape off The sediments of dirt, On our shoes. We can let our eyes Finally close Because of that burning. That burning of uncried tears From my mother and my grandmother Sears through my eyelids. We can roll our shoulders back In our homes. And remember our weight is the weight, Of halo block cement and shuddering waves. We can exhale in our homes, let our breastbones collapse. Hear, the air seethe through our clenched teeth. All of that air inside of us that muggy, island air that reclines and hangs heavy with apologies. We can be hurt in our homes, but never on the streets.


Serenity Pristina Kuo | Second Year Digital Illustration This digital painting epitomizes a girl deep in contemplation. It also explores the question of what we see as our true selves and who we really are. Â I aspired to convey a meditative mood that resonates with an atmosphere of serenity intermingled with a flush of melancholy. This work seemingly illustrates an imaginative and ethereal state of mind that is set apart from the structured and tangible world.


​I Am A Rugger Desmond Zeng

| UF Staff

A short exploration of why I play rugby and its importance to me.

Just down the road from the sparkling glass and steel behemoth of the latest UF Health hospital is a small nondescript bar adjacent to coin laundry. High on one of its walls is a long, nondescript piece of 2x4 lumber engraved with a litany of letters and numbers. Each set encapsulates a moment in time when a Gainesville Hog crushed an opposing player, imposing his physical presence onto his opponent. Among all of these sets of initials and dates is a notched "DZ" representing the time I took down a runaway Tallahassee Conquistador. A gloomy, dreary northern Florida February day saw me come onto the field as a substitute player. Late in the game I found myself staring down a rumbling man a bit taller and huskier than me. Just seconds earlier I had watched him slash his way through three of my teammates. It quickly became clear that I was the last obstacle he had to surpass on his way to score a triumphant try. I don't remember much about the tackle itself, but the roar of cheers from my teammates and the sharp pain on the right side of my skull a few inches above my sideburns are clear reminders of my steadfast strike. Considering the hazards faced by rugby players in every game, there is a reason so many people around the world are willing to “give blood, play rugby” as a common bumper sticker likes to phrase it. The savage, physical nature of rugby is balanced by the beauty of how every player is equally capable of scoring, passing, and tackling. I always feel a certain degree of satisfaction when I am tackling an opponent who is physically larger than I am. Rugby provides me with an opportunity to show others that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. One of my earliest and starkest memories from college rugby is being called a “chink” by one of Yale’s players and moments later knocking the air out of one of his teammate on a tackle. In a society where being short carries certain negative connotations and can have tangible social implications, rugby empowers those with a lower center of gravity by giving them a critical advantage in gaining leverage on other players in physical confrontations like tackles and rucks. Even in my seventh year of playing rugby, I am driven to continue improving my rugby skills, aiming for crisper passing, better positioning, and more aggressive lines of attack on offense. Part of this stems from a personal desire to be the best player I can be, but more importantly I also feel a minor obligation to excel at rugby as one of the few Asian American ruggers. With limited representation in contact sports, it’s important to me to demonstrate that I can play alongside and thrive among others, even in light of my physical shortcomings. Despite the countless scars littering my knees and elbows from falling on rough fields, a persistent taste aversion to Blue Moon, and an endless list of embarrassing stories to tell, rugby is an integral part of my complex identity as a 26-year-old Chinese American rugger.


“I am so much more.� Sonam Parag | Third Year Pencil and ink On the outside, we are all looked at as students; going to class, studying for exams, building up our future careers. Students begin to create this mask that hides their true identities, outwardly portraying only academic pursuits. In this piece I wanted to show that there is so much more to us students than just academics. We all have many interests and hobbies that have had such a large impact on our lives, it has started to define who we are, that is, not just students, but so much more.


Reflection: A MuSic cover Prit Patel | Second year This is a musical cover piece by Christina Aguilera sung by me. It is a song about having to hide one’s true identity from society even though it feels wrong. It is a song reflecting on how a girl wants to show her true colors.


Letters from (and to) my mother Kaylyn  Ling | First Year A poem based on brevity and honesty. This piece looks at the struggle of interracial/intercultural dating common in the APIA community when traditional expectations are placed on young couples. Many people who struggle with these issues revert to secrecy and dishonesty–they attempt to love in hiding (or incognito). This poem pushes the truth to the surface and unveils all-too-real tensions.

I have only asked one thing of you, My beloved daughter. I have only asked that you fall in love with A nice Asian boy. One who understands our culture. He must Be caring and considerate Lend you his coat when the weather is bad, Make you laugh

Bring joy to your houseHave the ability to support Go to school and earn a good living, Be a loving father 26

And give me wonderful grandchildren. I have only asked this much, Yet you came home with The man I will marry

Someone who doesn’t understand Our language, Our history, Our people. He understands me

I have only asked this much, My beloved daughter.

You cannot accept my truth

And for that,


I am sorry. I am sorry, too. 27



Falisha Kurji | APIA Affairs “Motainai” is a Japanese phrase meaning “What a waste!” that nods to the conservation efforts made by the Asian American community. We effortlessly reduce waste by reusing plastic butter containers, washing plastic cutlery, and devotedly turning off lights, usually in the name of saving money. While we have made some strides to reduce our footprint, we still have a long way to go. Falisha Kurji, a second year sustainability major and APIA Ambassador, is the creator of Project Motainai, an interdisciplinary movement for change. Through education and advocacy, Project Mottainai events focus on rarely discussed environmental issues that affect various communities in different ways. Environmental fields have a white face in America, even though people of color are most affected by it. It’s time to add some color.

For this year’s first Project Motainai, students gathered from around campus to discuss the intersection of conservation and sustanability with culture. Through intergroup dialogue, a consensus was made that there is a dire need for inclusivity in environmental movements. As the semester winded down, Project Motainai had another discussion centered around problematic plastics and reducing plastic use in general. In order to combat heavy plastic use, the Office of Sustainability and APIA Afffairs offered attendees environmentally-friendly pens, stickers from recycled paper, reusable stainless steel straws, and DIY face scrubs. Project Motainai will be continuing in Fall 2018 to tackle more environmental issues we cannot ignore. Especially in the current state of our climate, environmental, and politics. The species we coexist with have offered us so much as humans. It is only right that we act as advocates for beings that do not have a voice. We must be mindful of our impact on the earth. We only have one planet.


gatorship MCDA Red-eyed and full-bellied, the APIA Affairs ambassadors embarked on a journey through self-discovery, social justice, diversity, and active listening. Gatorship is a unique program under the MCDA that aims to engage students in conversations about identity and larger social systems through peer-to-peer dialogue. This weekend long retreat teaches its participants the foundations of social justice, as well as comfort with vulnerability and emotions. Two of our very own ambassadors, Falisha Kurji and Dhara Patel, were assistant directors for the 2017-2018 year. If you ask any past participant what you do at Gatorship, you probably won’t get an answer. The secrecy behind Gatorship is what keeps the magic going. The lack of reservations and expectations creates a powerful experience and brave space that can be so difficult to find in UF’s fast paced culture. You’ll hear “trust the process” more times than you can count on your path to self-growth. Because expectations can impact your impression of Gatorship so heavily, don’t let other people’s experiences shape your own. That can mean don’t let someone’s bad time dissuade you from applying, but also don’t let people’s positive experience hype up your expectations too high. Gatorship will not always change everyone’s lives. It will not always make participants cry. It will not always help you find your best friends. For us, it brought us closer together in ways we could not have imagined. Gatorship has empowered us to be active participants in the fight for social equity. It has challenged us to reach within an search for compassion in times when it feels impossible. Gatorship served as the base we needed to create impactful initatives centered around common struggles. Look out for applications in the fall, retreats in the spring.


Mosaic multiracial/Multiethnic/Transnational adoptee Support Group Kaeli Flannery | Kevin Van | Yi-Guang Chang | APIA Affairs A voice that often lies incognito is the voice of the multiracial/multiethnic and transnational adoptee communities. With dreaded questions like “So... what are you?” and labels like “ethnically ambiguous”, it is impossible to ignore the societal impacts of multiracial/multiethic identity on individuals. People usually view those as biracial/multiracial as having “the best of both worlds”, but in actuality the identity can lead to a lack of sense of belonging. There is a sentiment of not being enough for any cultural spaces. Mosaic aims to provide support for those who identify as multiethnic/multiracial, as well as those who identify as transnational adoptees. Transnational adoptee is defined as someone who was adopted from a country different than that of the parents. Mosaic is a closed discussion group where people meet to have needed conversations on topics such as race and humor, interracial couples in media, and racial identity through time. Mosaic provides a space for people to share their lived experiences and alleviate the isolatioin a large campus such as UF can bring. The group meets in the APIA Suite every other week and will resume Fall 2018.


IKIGAI: Reason for Being Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month

Ikigai is this years theme for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month. Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “reason for being”. APIDA Heritage Month is normally celebrated in May, but UF celebrates in April in order to provide a full month of celebration before students leave for the Summer. APIA Affairs has tirelessly collaborated to provide numerous events that ask us: what makes us tick? what is our reason for being? The events of APIDA Heritage Month also serve to remind us that we are intersections of multiple identities. We do not exist as one identity solely at any given point of time. This is why we have been extremely intentional about creating intersectional dialogue showcasing parallels between identities. The concept of Ikigai is incredibly important for the APIDA community. We often put our passions on the backburner in order to pursue more “practical” professions that are guaranteed to earn us wealth. A lot of this pressure to “succeed” stems from our families’ imigration stories and tales of sacrifice. It is easy to feel suffocated by the desire to give back to our families. We hide our poetry, our paintings, and our prose to make room for stethoscopes, computers, and suits. We let the model minority myth and racial stereotypes keep us from straying outside of the STEM field. With this year’s theme, APIA Affairs strives to say it’s okay to love art, social justice, teaching, history, and other non-STEM fields of study. It’s okay to self-explore and self-discover. It’s okay to be you.


APIA Affairs Anthology 2018  

This year’s anthology aims to liberate us from living our lives INCOGNITO. In a fast-paced apathetic society, finding vulnerable spaces is a...

APIA Affairs Anthology 2018  

This year’s anthology aims to liberate us from living our lives INCOGNITO. In a fast-paced apathetic society, finding vulnerable spaces is a...