Multiplicity in Identity
The moment I knew that I had found something special was in one of our first meetings. I don’t exactly remember which one, but I remember finding something profound in that moment when we were discussing our mission, our focus, who we were. We are refugees and we are immigrants and we (I) are (am) biracial, so we exist in this space where we must live with being ethnic and also being American. And it was that focus, that idea that AMERICA is intrinsically a part of us, as the society in which we live and breathe and work and play, that drew me to these people and told me that I had found my kin. They understand that being Asian or Pasifika is not the same as being Asian/Pasifika in America.
Since we are, of course, Asian and Pacific Islander and Pacific Indigenous and, as I said, refugees and immigrants and biracial and American, we live in a constant in-between state. And that feeling of in-betweenness is something I have felt all my life as a biracial person. It was always very distinct, the differences between my two families, my white family and my Filipino family. Someone was saying to me just the other week that I look ethnically ambiguous and that really does sum up my existence. Whenever people say that, it’s usually a comment on my ethnic-ness more than my whiteness and in some ways often reaffirms my otherness. It says you are not white, but what you are is unclear.
Throughout my life, I have felt separated from my fellow Americans. I feel othered in white spaces, I feel othered in Asian spaces. It’s like there’s always a taint upon me, whether that’s the whiteness or the Asian-ness really just depends on the space and the people. But that feeling of never quite belonging, I think, manifested in the identity that would overtake all others for me – artist. As I grew, the locus of my identity formed around my desire to create, and that’s something that I’ve found within the people in BAPAC as well.
To find a group of people, all artists in their own way, who understand that feeling of not quite fitting in with your family or your society, to varying degrees, is an extremely gratifying experience and ignited for me a passion for advocacy that I’d forgotten in my cynicism. Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective matters because it’s full of people who remind us that when we hyphenate, we do so for a reason. Whether it’s AAPI-American, Latin-American, African-American… Both sides of the hyphen are a part of who we are.
Written by Sam Callanta, Co-Founder & Project Manager of Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective.
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