Sometimes It’s Just in Your Bones

By Joyce Yin
New Organizing Project blogger 
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Me passed out at the Asian American Resource & Cultural Center at UIC after our speak-out for Asian American Studies in 2007

 

When Jane first approached us about writing our final blog posts about why we are doing work in our respective movements, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, that won’t be too hard to write. I know why. Piece of cake.’

Wrong.

When I initially sat down to write my blog post a few days ago, I can’t lie, it was a struggle. I kept starting, writing a few sentences and would end up scrapping everything I’d written and start over again. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for me. Social justice work is something I’ve been working on since the beginning of college, something I knew I was invested in and dedicated to. I knew this. I knew this in my bones. But articulating ‘why’ just didn’t come easily to me.

It finally occurred to me that, for me, I don’t think there’s ever really been one moment I could say was THE moment when I knew I wanted to get involved in social justice movements. Rather, it’s been an ongoing accumulation of experiences that provided me [and still do] the motivation to do this work. From the not-so-pleasant, like being told I wasn’t good enough because I’m female, to the transformative, like watching AAPI undocumented youth ‘come out’ and share their empowering stories, these are all reminders and driving forces for me.

That being said, I do distinctly remember a moment where my consciousness changed from one of complacency to actually wanting to do something about the inequalities I witnessed on a daily basis. It was junior year of high school. I had to write a mini-critical analysis paper on a topic of my choosing but I couldn’t decide what to write about. When I spoke to my sister, who was then involved in her own fight for Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she suggested writing about the model minority myth. I had no idea what she was talking about. Model minority? What?

But as she explained this concept to me, I realized that that inadequacy I’d always felt in relation to other Asian Americans, that I wasn’t ‘smart enough,’ well, it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t just imagining things. What I felt was real. And a whole community of other people had experienced what I’d felt too. This feeling of knowing that you aren’t alone. And that others were actually being active participants in their own lives and not simply sitting around complaining about how dissatisfied they were with life. It acted as a kind of catalyst in my life. It was like I’d woken up.

From that point on, it was a domino effect. I wanted to change things. I wanted to do something. I got to college and I’ve been involved in social justice work in some capacity ever since. I don’t think I have one specific issue area that I care about. While my experience has been primarily focused on ethnic studies, media representation equity and immigration, I care about so many more in addition to those. I don’t think I could choose. I’m passionate about just about all of them!

Looking back over this last year, having been a NOP blogger for phase one and now phase two, I’m so grateful to have had this experience. I’ve never particularly thought of  myself as a writer but NOP has helped me better articulate myself in both writing and speaking. I found that many times as I was writing a blog post, the process would help me sort through my thoughts and even allowed me to have some mini-epiphanies [really!]. It was both a transformative and therapeutic experience for me. And, can’t deny it, receiving kind words from everyone didn’t hurt either. It never gets tiring to hear that someone connected with your writing, especially when it comes from someone you never would have expected.

As a result of being a NOP-er, my voice is a little less muffled and I hope to continue blogging on my own. If you’re a blogger or have thought about starting up a blog, I encourage you to think about becoming one of our phase 3 bloggers when the time comes – you won’t regret it!