Plumbing the 💩 that is 2020

Portrait of Anne Ishii holding baby Dario while sitting on a bed.

Hi folks. It’s been several weeks since I’ve addressed you directly, so (1) You’re welcome, and (2) I’m sorry I disappeared for a while, but I’m back on my business. [See (1)]

As you may recall, AAI closed shop for a couple weeks to get much needed R&R, and to work on the ground within our communities. Well, we did it, and now we’re back, but the world continues to keep the lever pulled down on this soft-serve machine pumping poop. You may feel frustration. I know I do. That we have to tolerate mere reprieves between torrents of utter crap, in lieu of real joy, but look, fruity cocktails and sunny days are not nothing! Please enjoy what you can. And remember to accept those fruity cocktails/mocktails. We need pockets of relief if we are gonna continue shoveling dookie. This is doubly so when it’s dookie that keeps morphing from solid to liquid to solid, all over you.

AAI staff group picture at a staff party.

But here’s a light at the end of a colon: we can now envision plumbing.

(I’m still in the metaphor, so what.) We’ve adapted new strategies, new habits, and new systems to organize co-operatively with our neighbors. Asian Arts has a redoubled initiative toward our mission to create community through the power of art. We are doing this in the next year by focusing on narrative (and not news), and recovery (and not directives). We will signal boost and aggregate information from our peers, but leave vital reporting to qualified experts. We will serve you as neighbors but continue to hold our representatives and aid providers accountable for frontline services. We will be novels, not newspapers; vitamins, not antibiotics. It is vital to our mission that culturally specific contributions at the intersection of art and social justice continue to thrive. We do this by telling our stories.

Long-term strategic thinking and urgent community action are not mutually exclusive, and we continue to work with peers in arts leadership to advocate for a just Philadelphia that can learn from and respond to society’s negligence in protecting people of color but especially Black Philadelphia. All Black lives still matter.

We take it as a given that Asian Americans are a meaningful part of Philadelphia’s social fabric, but this truth is sometimes made obscure by the way our traumas are handled by the media. Anti-Asian violence has unfortunately not gone away. We repeat now and forever, that the world must see Asian Americans as complete humans. No quest for racial equity is complete without a recognition of our complete selves. Let me share with you a triggering story. Consider this your warning.

A couple weeks ago in Center City, a pregnant Chinese American mother was punched in the face and called racial epithets, unprovoked. The trauma of the assault is compounded by the victim’s young daughter witnessing the attack, helpless to intervene. This is unacceptable behavior. Asian Americans do not deserve less justice, nor should the world tolerate erasure of our traumas for lack of fitting into a monochrome media lens. This was clearly a racially motivated assault, and we hope people recognize this as such. But again, we work toward a definition of justice that does not reflexively call upon criminal justice. We reiterate that racial equity cannot be achieved without neighbors and peers seeing Asian Americans as complete humans, but we also want to think in this particular case about the assailant’s complicated background, a woman of color panhandling and showing evidence of distress.

I hope you can hold all of these perspectives with us.

I apologize for how lengthy this all got. In sum? We can stand for justice, implore a disavowal of anti-Asian violence, AND define justice without the tools of oppression that led to the violence in the first place. I’m sad every time violent news forces us to delay positive narratives—creation, re-generation, growth. But this is plumbing. This is how we safely dispose of the sewage instead of merely digging it up. 


We have a last dash Census Giveaway to make sure you’re all getting counted! I can’t stress how important it is to turn in your Census surveys, and it only takes 15 minutes! Fill yours out here before September 30th.


A cartoon of a person holding a checklist with AAI logo and pictures of AAI merch and boba with text "WHO COUNTS...? YOU COUNT".

Show us proof you turned in or helped family members fill out a census survey (snap a pic and tag us on IG @AsianArtsPhilly) and we will give you a limited editionUNITY AT THE INITIATIVE T shirt designed by artist Jeffrey Cheung (size Youth Medium) and a $5.00 gift certificate to Mr Wish!