Building Black and Asian Solidarity Through Art

By A4 Staff
May 31, 2023

The legacy of Black and Asian American solidarity runs deep but too often goes untold. From the very beginnings of the civil rights movement, Black and AAPI activists have stood in support of one another, advancing a greater justice that is answerable to all.

Nearly twenty years before the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, Frederick Douglass gave a speech unequivocally condemning the looming restrictions on Chinese immigration: “I want a home here not only for the negro, the mulatto and the Latin races but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours.” In the 1960s, phrases like “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power” became popularized by the growing number of Asian Americans involved in the Black Panther Party, most notable of whom was Richard Aoki. When Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, his friend and fellow activist Yuri Kochiyama tenderly cradled his head as he died.

During the pandemic, a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and renewed attention on the state-sanctioned violence against the Black community spurred by the murder of George Floyd sparked a new sense of urgency. In the face of overwhelming violence and misunderstanding, artists and activists have responded by continuing to build on the legacy of solidarity building.

To support this critical work, in 2022, Asian American Arts Alliance (A4) and The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) launched the Bandung Residency Program, the first NYC-based residency intended to foster understanding and allyship between the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black communities.

The four-month long residency is an opportunity to cultivate a dynamic safe space for changemakers interested in engaging in social justice discourse, restorative healing, location-based cultural activities, and expanding the narrative between communities. Here, we share seven projects from our inaugural cohort:

Unblended Project - Alisha Acquaye and Chanel Matsunami Govreau
For the Bandung Residency, writer, poet, and workshop facilitator Alisha Acquaye and interdisciplinary artist and educator Chanel Matsunami Govreau partnered on an intimate photo and interview series celebrating Black and Asian friendship. Titled “Unblended Project,” these images are a poetic distillation of what it means to be in solidarity with one another; at its core, it’s being a good friend. “I feel like you are my sibling,” said Tiff, one of the participants photographed, of their friend Reid, reflecting on their friendship of 11 years. “I’m closer to you than some of my family.”
Identities - Hidemi Takagi
The inspiration for community-based photographer Hidemi Takagi’s portrait and interview series, “Identities,” came from a personal place. Starting with her own family, Takagi’s work is an exploration of multiracial and mixed-race identities—Takagi is Japanese American, her husband is Haitian American, and their daughter is mixed. “Through the process of creating ‘Identities,’ I search to visualize our roots and the cultural tendrils that have grown and intertwined from them and also address the issues of mixed-race identity, racism, and immigration in America,” writes Takagi.
Safekeeping - Hannah Miao
In Hannah Miao’s project “Safekeeping,” the artist, writer, and journalist sat down with Black and Asian neighbors in the Lower East Side’s Seward Park to paint their portraits and ask them questions about what safety and community could look like. One subject, 30-year-old Jamie, considered the question of safety as a prompt to imagine a utopia. “My personal utopia is money is not a care,” she said. “You’re fed, you’re clothed and there is entertainment in your life. Isn’t that all that you want for life? I get to make art. I get to have a family and make babies and just be human. That’s what my safe world looks like.”
Flushing Memories - Gloria Lau and Daphne Lundi
Gloria Lau is a landscape architect, urban planner and visual artist. Daphne Lundi is an urban planner, textile manipulator, and “ a fan of the science-fiction of city-making.” Together, they are Laudi CoLab, an art-based design studio that works to amplify community stories that have been erased or undervalued and push the boundaries of storytelling mediums. For their Bandung project, the duo explored and created work surrounding the archived histories of Black and Asian communities in Flushing, Queens. This included documenting Google Street views of Flushing’s Korean, Chinese, and Indian businesses; unearthing architectural records of Black churches and neighborhoods; and creating textiles that echo their unearthed archives.
Blasian March - Rohan Zhou-Lee
In the fall of 2020, writer, dancer, and organizer Rohan Zhou-Lee organized the first Blasian March. Honoring the 6 year anniversary of the murder of Jennifer Laude, trans Filipina woman, by U.S. marine Michael Pemberton, the march brought into focus the shared effects of white supremacy on communities of color. Protestors at the event chanted and held up signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for Jennifer,” “Asians for Black Lives,” and “Black Power, Asian Power.” Since then, the Blasian March has become a national solidarity action with chapters in Connecticut; Washington, DC; Chicago; and Los Angeles. They have organized book fairs, marches in solidarity with Afghan refugees, and trans pride rallies. On June 11th, the New York chapter will be marching to fundraise for climate justice and raise awareness on how climate change is affecting Black and Asian communities around the world.
Untitled - Jess X. Snow and ​​Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
The act of painting a portrait is deeply vulnerable for both artist and subject, requiring patience and above all, a profound trust in the ability to see and capture a person’s essence. At the center of artists Jess X. Snow and ​​Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s portrait and mural collaboration is a belief in this process of seeing as an act of care. For their Bandung project, the two artists painted portraits of one another. In addition, they also collaborated and assisted one another’s mural works empowering and shedding light on issues affecting women, LGBTQ, and Black and Asian communities.
Viral 《不要出门》 - Jamel Mims
In Viral 《不要出门》, rapper and artist Jamel Mims’s virtual video game, Mims’s rap persona MC Tingbudong provides a narrative soundtrack as players explore six interactive, bilingual musical experiences. Written as a conversation between Chinese and Black Americans, MC Tingbudong’s virtual world is a reaction to the racism of a “Chinese virus,” #BlackLivesMatter, and the ongoing violence against Asian Americans in the midst of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China. “In this pandemic era Planet Earth, every person is a hazard or potential threat,” writes Mims. “As Black America and China are put squarely in the crosshairs of the pandemic, we spent the past period embroiled in waves of outbreaks and protest with no signs of slowing down - from #BlackLivesMatter to #ClimateActionNow to #StopAsianHate…what does the future hold?”

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