Melissa Raman Molitor, ATR-BC, LCPC
The Kitchen Table Stories Project is a multimedia healing justice
project centering the voices
and narratives of the local
Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora. The goal of
this project is to create collective power through art, and to claim space in our community with our stories, traditional practices,
and cultural wisdom.
In 2020 there was a marked an increase in US media coverage of violence and hate crimes against people of Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander (ASPA) descent within the context of COVID-19. Anti-Asian racism is not an outcome of the pandemic, it is endemic to our country, and there is a history of scapegoating Asian communities in times of national crisis. Still, the surge of shuttered ASPA-owned small businesses and family-owned restaurants due to the devastating effects of the pandemic and the increase in political attacks on immigrants and communities of color, is contributing to the silencing and erasure of ASPA voices in our communities.
The Kitchen Table Stories project aims to disrupt harmful sterotypes, anti-Asian narratives, combat erasure, and create a sense of place and cultural permanence for ASPA communities through allied voice. It recognizes care as an art form that draws on cultural wisdom, ancestral healing and collective power, and will take place in multiple physical and virtual community spaces.
The Kitchen Table Stories Project is supported in part by the Evanston Arts Council, the Evanston Community Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council Agency
Kitchen Table Stories Exhibition
I am honored to have been awarded the 2021-2022 Curatorial Fellowship at the Evanston Art Center. The Kitchen Table Stories exhibition will be a collection of work created by local Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander artists. For more information visit Evanston Art Center's website.
Kitchen Table Stories Exhibition
July 9 - August 21, 2022
Evanston Art Center
Opening Reception: July 15, 2022 6-9pm
Traditional cultural and healing practices are creative embodiments of a people, and are often expressed through the arts. They have been passed down from generations and are integral to daily life. Few customs and traditions throughout the world have been untouched by colonialism and imperialism, and many have been misappropriated or eradicated. Decolonizing the arts involves reclaiming, renewing and reaffirming these practices. It necessitates critically examining the structures that are in place to oppress and erase people and communities. It is decentering the dominant white narrative and shifting focus to spaces, voices, and stories that represent people who are racialized and marginalized due to their social identities.
The Kitchen Table Stories exhibition is a step towards reimagining the spaces that have historically excluded Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander American voices. Despite the current movement towards the decolonization of museums and galleries, artists of color remain underrepresented across the US. The attempts to be more inclusive are often exercises in fetishization, exoticization and tokenization of black and brown artists. Who are the cultural gatekeepers of these spaces? Who decides which stories are told? Who tells them? Who contextualizes them? Who witnesses them?
The Kitchen Table Stories exhibition is a celebration of stories shared by local artists who identify as Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander. Artists were asked to share the stories that have been passed down to them from ancestors through family and friends, and create work that reflects their own lived experiences. The result is an exploration of the intersections of immigration, citizenship, race, culture, social identity, multigenerational relationships, and family history. In the spirit of stories that are shared at the “kitchen table,” the guest is invited to participate by engaging in discourse that considers the importance of telling our own stories and the power of the arts in that process. The audience is asked to reflect on universal themes such as language, food, home, family, heroes and belonging through the lens of their Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors in a space that centers hospitality as an art form that draws on cultural wisdom, lineal healing, and collective care.
"Unless we know ourselves and our history, and other people and their history, there is really no way that we can have positive interaction where there is real understanding"
- Yuri Kochiyama, Human Rights Activist
Did You Know?
Over 10% of Evanston's residents identify as ASPA, and that percentage isn't accurate. Due to the limitations of boxes on census and city surveys, the term "Asian American" does not resonate with many who identify as ASPA. South Asians, for example, seldom identify with the term because the general understanding is that Asian American refers to East Asians. Filipinx, and other communities whose countries were colonized by the Spanish, sometimes identify as Latinx. Further, in Evanston, there are many mixed families, especially White-ASPA families, with family members who might identify as "mixed race."
Despite the fact that ASPA's have lived in Evanston for generations, and there is a solid and growing number of ASPA's in Evanston, historical data, community stories, and artifacts are nowhere to be found. The lack of documentation of a community is a function of white supremacy. It is a systemic erasure of a people. The perpetual foreigner stereotype is one that has been applied to ASPA's in the U.S. Regardless of whether they were born in or the US or your family has been in the US for multiple generations you are not American. This certainly rings true if it is supported by a lack of documentation that a community ever existed.
“By not showing up in American history, by not hearing about Asian Americans
in schools, that contributes to that sense of foreignness.”
- Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn, Teacher-Educator
Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice initiative
In 2021, the TEAACH Act was passed in the state of Illinois, mandating that Asian American history be taught in all IL K-12 public schools. Although this is a significant step towards ensuring that ASPA people and stories are brought to light, we have to ensure that the ASPA experience in the U.S. is not reduced to a monolithic experience and limited to facts and dates. We can start by ensuring that students who are learning in our D65 and D202 have access to ASPA people and stories in their own community. ASPA students should be able to read, see and hear about people whose stories reflect their own, and non ASPA students should be able to find ways to make personal connections to the ASPA experience in their own community. How can we teach Asian American history without knowing our own ASPA history here in our city?
The Kitchen Table Stories Project is partnering with the Evanston History Center on a project called "Placemaking." The goal is to establish an accessible archive of the ASPA community in Evanston. We are currently researching historical documents and artifacts, and gathering oral histories to include in the archive. The goal is to unearth these stories that have been hidden for so long, and to establish a timeline for the ASPA community in Evanston.
What is TEAACH?
With its historic passage in April 2021, the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act amended Illinois School Code, ensuring that every public elementary and high school student in Illinois learns about the contributions of Asian Americans to the economic, cultural, social, and political development of the United States.
Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, every public elementary school and high school shall include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the events of Asian American history, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest, as well as the contributions of Asian Americans toward advancing civil rights from the 19th century onward.
Ensuring that Asian American history is taught in our schools lays a foundation for cross-cultural education for all students in Illinois and advances racial equity.
TEAACH Programming and Professional Development
Kitchen Table Stories Project will be hosting a series of TEAACH Professional Development Workshops in summer 2022 and throughout the 2022-2023 school year. Through Kids Create Change, we will also be offering art-based programs for students K-8 during the 2022-2023 school year.
More info coming soon!
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Chicago
Illinois State Board of Education
Learn about Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American history, culture and stories...
"To know a people, know their stories"
Check out the PBS collection of stories that explores the history, traditions and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May HERE.
PBS: The history of identity, contributions, and challenges experienced by Asian Americans.
Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that will chronicle the contributions, and challenges of Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. Personal histories and new academic research will cast a fresh lens on U.S. history and the role Asian Americans have played in it. Watch HERE free.
Asian Perspectives on Screen - Film List
Skokie Public Library
Why Asian American Representation Matters, Even in the South
Center for Asian American Media
Check out the winners from the APALA (Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, a division of the American Library Association) Literature Awards 2005-2021
Asian Pacific American Library Association Book Awards List
Evanston Public Library
Recent Asian/Pacific American Awards Picture Book Winners and Honor Titles
Recent Asian/Pacific American Awards Children’s Literature (Middle Grade) Winners and Honor Titles
Skokie Public Library
A Literary Guide to Combat Anti-Asian Racism in America
Essential Nonfiction Exploring Asian Culture and Asian American Experiences
Beyond Manga: The Asian American Experience in Graphic NovelsBeyond Manga: The Asian American Experience in Graphic Novels
Asian American Authors - Searching for Clues, Love, and Magic (and Zombies!?)
Chicago Public Library
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021 for Kids
A Reading Guide on the Asian American Experience from Viet Thanh Nguyen, Charles Yu and More
Social Justice Books
ASPA Resources and Activities for Kids, Families & Educators
Asian Americans in the People’s History of the United States
U.S. Department of Education: 12 Ways to Enrich Kids’ Appreciation of Asian-Pacific American Culture
Asian Pacific Heritage Month Educational Resources
Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Activity & Curriculum Ideas
Observing Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021 at Skokie Public Library
Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books
16 Asian American Heroes Our Kids Need to Know About
8 Badass Asian-Americans We Can't Overlook This Women's History Month
Righting A Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II Poster Exhibit
Paragon Book Gallery (local)
Philippine Expressions Bookshop
Artist Regin Igloria shares how to make basic handmade books using recycled materials as part of the Artists Book House's Virtual Book Arts Workshop series
Learn about the meaning of the traditional origami paper crane HERE.
Learn about Suminagashi HERE.
Resources for ASPA
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE)
Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP)
Asian Lifenet Hotline - Suicide Prevention
Asian Mental Health Collective
Asian Prisoner Support
Asian American Racism & Mental Health Resources
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)
Mental Health Issues Facing the Asian American
NAPABA Hate Crime Legal Resources
National AAPI Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA)
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
Chicago Korean American Art Association
Korean Cultural Center of Chicago
Philippine American Cultural Foundation
Local Resources - Chicago Area
Alliance for Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Chicago
Chinese Mutual Aid Association
Coalition For A Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC)
Japanese American Services Committee (JASC)
Midwest Asian Health Association (MAHA)
National Asian Pacific Center (NAPCA)
Artist: Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya
The History of Anti-Asian-American Violence
The New Yorker
Stop AAPI Hate National Report
On Anti-Asian Hate Crimes: Who Is Our Real Enemy?
The Long History of Anti-Asian Hate in America, Explained
The Long History of US Racism Against Asian Americans, From ‘Yellow Peril’ to ‘Model Minority’ to the ‘Chinese Virus’
'I Will Not Stand Silent.' 10 Asian Americans Reflect on Racism During the Pandemic and the Need for Equality
This Is What No One Tells You About Being Asian In America In 2021
The Scapegoating of Asian Americans
Beyond Ghandi and King: The Secret History of South Asian and African American Solidarity
Black and Asian-American Feminist Solidarities: A Reading List
18 Million Rising’s Black History Month Reading List for Asian Americans
20+ Allyship Actions for Asians to Show Up for the Black Community Right Now
“The changes we have to have in this country are going to be for the liberation of all people — because nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
- Fannie Lou Hamer
For a guide to this AMAZING training click HERE.
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