“The biggest challenge is just owning yourself and coming to a place of comfort and confidence where you realize you don’t have to shrink or assimilate yourself to sit in all these spaces. And if anything, maybe you don’t even want to be in those spaces and need to create your own spaces.” — Jeanette Lam
Filmmaker, writer, educator, and community organizer Jeanette Lam began her journey into documentary films after capturing the last days of her grandfather’s life in Taiwan. In this episode, Jason Rebello and guest co-host Felicia Scott chat with Jeanette about other seminal moments in her film career along with her drive to give BIPOC filmmakers the freedom to share their stories on their own terms. Jeanette also shares a very personal story of finding her own voice as an Asian American queer woman outside of filmmaking while encouraging more collaboration between all BIPOC individuals.
Transformational Moments in this Episode:
- How Jeanette’s film “A Flower in a Dark Place” amplified the voice of incarcerated youth
- What makes filmmaking either a harmful or healing process
- How Jeanette has learned how to “take up space” as an Asian American queer woman
- Ways we can end anti-Blackness in solidarity together
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About Jeanette Lam
Jeanette Lam is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and educator whose work reflects themes of identity, connection, and healing. Jeanette is a Creative Producer and Lead Educator at Youth FX, an Albany-based film organization designed to teach young people from marginalized communities technical and creative storytelling skills. She is also a member of NeXt Doc Film Collective, a cohort of young non-fiction filmmakers of color working to decolonize documentary, by re-framing and re-defining BIPOC stories and realities. Jeanette published her documentary short film The Last Hands in Zellige in USA Today in 2018 and screened her latest short film A Flower in a Dark Place in the Richmond International Film Festival, Docs Without Borders Film Festival, Social Political Film Festival, and NeXt Doc’s Decarceration Film Festival.
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Jason Rebello: We would like to welcome Jeanette Lam documentary filmmaker to join our amazing podcasts here. Jeanette, welcome. Happy to have you here. And we’d love for you to introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about your background and especially how you came to find filmmaking as your creative outlet and Micah say career. I’m going to, it sounds like from everything I’ve read about you, your mission and passion.
Jeanette Lam: Thank you guys so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. I’m calling in from Albany, New York which is the Indigenous land of the Mohican and Haudenosaunee People. Right now I’m working as the creative producer and lead educator at Youth FX. We’re a film organization based in the south end of Albany, designed to teach young People of Color creative and technical storytelling skills.
Jeanette Lam: But how I got into filmmaking, I honestly feel like it was an accident. I always say I made my first documentary before I really understood what a documentary was. Long story short, it was the summer of my freshman year of college and I was teaching English in my motherland Taiwan. I hadn’t been there since my childhood, so I hadn’t seen my grandparents in a long time. My grandfather had actually gotten really ill and he didn’t remember who I was, which was a difficult experience because my mom is one of seven siblings and she’s the only one that’s living in the U.S. So all of my family still lives in Taiwan and is a close-knit. I’ve had this disconnect in some ways.
Jeanette Lam: I spent that summer after I was teaching the program, just following my grandpa around and filming him and trying to fill this void that I feel like I had in my childhood. When I got back to the U.S. He actually ended up passing away. The video and the short documentary that I had edited on iMovie ended up capturing our last moments together. I feel like that was a really transformative moment for me, and just helping you realize how powerful of a tool film can be and capturing these in-between moments and immortalizing them. So it’s what led me here.
Jeanette Lam: Then I studied film and journalism in college. After college, I was accepted into this fellowship called NeXt Doc, which is a international fellowship for young filmmakers of color working to decolonizing the documentary industry. Through there is how I got connected with Youth FX, and here we are now.
Jason Rebello: That’s incredible on so many levels. First of all, shout out to your land acknowledgement at the beginning of your intro. It’s something that we at Firefly do it before all of our presentations and facilitations. In Chicago this is the land of the Potawatomi Nation, and I know Felicia can share hers, but I think that’s so profound. For people to just start regularly doing that would just be really epic as far as I’m concerned. You know a lot about a person when that’s how they intro themselves with that type of acknowledgement. Thank you for sharing that.
Felicia Scott: That was cool. I’m in Queens, New York, right by JFK airport in the land of the Lekawe People. It was great for you to segue into that. I have a quick question for you. Well, I’m going to ask you a couple of questions, all I can get them there. But you’ve really managed to amass an interesting body of work. What I think our listeners at Firefly would really be interested in learning more about would be your film, A Flower in a Dark Place. That’s where you recorded incarcerated youth. Would love to know what was the inspiration behind that project?
Jeanette Lam: This only such a long story, but I’m going to try to condense it for you guys. It began my freshman year of college. I was a part of this program called Storytelling and Social Change. I went to school in Richmond, Virginia, I went to University of Richmond. Freshmen from the school would partner with Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Facility. Essentially, young people who were incarcerated and students in this program would share life stories as a means of better understanding of themselves, each other, their commonalities. At the end, we would create like little zines, like little books, about our stories.
Jeanette Lam: It was a really cool program, but I feel like what really struck me about it is that these types of short term peer to peer programs are designed to be extracted. Even if that’s not what they front themselves as. They want us to do this program and connect and share all these life stories, and then you leave and you never talk again. They actually had a policy that said once you leave, you’re not allowed to keep contact for privacy reasons, whatever that means.
Jeanette Lam: Long story short, throughout college I stayed involved with juvenile justice where it was just something that really struck me. My partner and I freshman year really connected. Our hometowns were only 30 minutes apart and we were living these vastly different realities and a lot of that had to do with race, class, all of these things, access to resources. I just feel like it really wasn’t fair.
Jeanette Lam: In Virginia, the re-incarceration rate is 70% of youth will be re-incarcerated after three years of their release, which is just staggering and insane. So three years after the program, I was still thinking about it. Still thinking about its impact on me. So I wanted to go back to create a film about it.
Jeanette Lam: At first, it was just going to be a film about the program that documented the relationship arcs that would happen through it that would be difficult to explain to people if they weren’t a part of it. But there were two young men who are a part of the program, and there weren’t enough students to pair up with them equally. So my mentor had asked me if I wanted to step in and I was like, “Yeah, I’m making a film. But yeah sure I’ll step in for a week.” Long story short, week after week I started connecting with them more, just came to a place where I realized my relationship and friendship with them is much more important than a vision of whatever project I wanted to make. That was the moment where it shifted and it become really more of a collaborative project.
Jeanette Lam: I have access to this equipment and I want to create something for us. Even just for us to remember each other, since we’re not allowed to talk after this. With the help… Their names are Cain and Kalil, they were my partners. With the help of them and also three other partner pairs, we decided what is the goal of us wanting to make something? It was really to bring people in to that experience with us and just help them, or allow them to experience what we would experience on those Thursday nights.
Jeanette Lam: We decided to just record our last one-hour conversation. The visuals were based off of a poem that one of the partner pairs wrote. One of the young men described himself as a flower in a dark place, and after I heard that I couldn’t un-hear it.
Jeanette Lam: There are several different versions of the film because the conversation was an hour. So I cut down four hours of conversations to like 20 minutes. There were a lot of different versions that could have been very political or talking about the system and all these different things. But I think I wanted it to be a collaboration, and going based off the poem that they wrote, it really was about inviting people to see young people who are incarcerated in a different light. I feel like a lot of the times when you hear about juvenile justice or anything having to do with the system, people automatically have terrible stereotypes and things that they think about. I feel like this project was really an effort just to honor them, allowing me to come into their lives and also to capture how much fun we would have together.
Jeanette Lam: In the audio, I feel like you hear us laughing and dreaming and reflecting and all of these things together that you would do normally when you’re just hanging out with your friend. So that’s kind of how that project came about and it’s actually flourished in really amazing ways.
Jeanette Lam: After I graduated from college I was like, I’m not going to listen to these rules anymore because I’m technically not a student anymore. I can connect with the young man that I was in relationship with, or friends with. I started exchanging letters with Cain and Kalil. Then a year after I had the opportunity to go back [inaudible 00:08:15]. There was a new iteration of the program and I had an opportunity to go back and show them the film, and kind of speak to the class.
Jeanette Lam: In that time, in those nine months that I had passed, I had screened the film in a lot of different places. Every time, I just wished so badly that Cain and Kalil were there to see the way that they were impacting people. People really felt like they had a relationship to them after watching that film, or knew someone like them, or saw themselves in them. So I ended up creating this little book that was letters written directly to them from people around the world who had watched the film. When I went back, I gave it to them just as a present for them to see how far their stories have reached.
Jeanette Lam: Then the crazy thing is, a week after that Kalil had a court hearing and he was up against a pretty intense sentence. He was aging out of juvenile prison and moving into adult prison. The sentence was just completely unfair. Long story short, his lawyer contacted me and asked if I would serve as a character witness for him because of the relationship we had with the film. I was like, yeah. Could I also submit these letters that I have been collecting from people all over the world? They let me do it, and the judge, he’s this 80-year-old, white man in Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital.
Jeanette Lam: He read the letters. He actually left the room to read them all, and when he came back, he read one of the letters out loud and he was just like, completely… You could see something switching him in that moment. I don’t want to share the details of his case, but it ended up being really positive and way better than we expected. Six months after that, Cain also had a court hearing and we were able to do the same thing and I was actually able to testify for him. He ended up getting released that day.
Jeanette Lam: The film has really taken its own life in this really beautiful way that’s just way beyond the film. I feel like it’s… I don’t know. I think it really has been a tool that has shown me how powerful stories are. Even in the most cruel systems that are deliberately designed to dehumanize people, I feel like people being vulnerable and sharing their truth, really humanizes them.
Jeanette Lam: I want to give all credit to Cain and Kalil because I feel like it’s not me that did anything. If anything, it’s them being honest and vulnerable enough to share with me that I feel like was able to come full circle and help them out. That’s been the most beautiful… I don’t even want to call it a project, but you know what I mean.
Jason Rebello: That’s incredible. Go ahead, Felicia.
Felicia Scott: was going to say that I just think it’s obvious how working on the project had impacted their lives. How has it affected you? Has it changed you?
I feel like I don’t even know how to answer that question. I feel like it’s changed me in so many ways and I think it’s taught me, or reminded me. I don’t know the right terminology here, but I think it’s really instilled in me that I’m a storyteller or a relationship person before I am a filmmaker. I feel like it’s reminded me I came into this because I care about people, and I care about people’s stories and that will always be more important to me than, I don’t know, the technical side of things or the industry things, or all of those things. I could say so much, but that’s my simple answer.
Jason Rebello: It’s amazing. I love I had a chance to just look it up and learn a little bit more about the NeXt Doc film collective. I think it’s such a powerful thing because from what I read about, it’s creating this next generation of BIPOC documentarians. I think that’s such an important thing from the concept of, there are so many stories from our various communities that either A, have never been told. Or B, have been told by people who the stories don’t belong to. That don’t oftentimes show us in the best light. It’s such a critical medium for us, I think, moving forward. Especially for the next generation to be able to learn about all the stories. We have to have these stories coming out of our own community. That’s incredible.
Jeanette Lam: Just echoing what you just said Jason, and also circling back to your question, Felicia. I feel like that’s a huge thing that working with Cain and Kalil, or collaborating with them, has taught me is that when you put the power in the hands of the people who are closest to, or most proximate to, whatever the story is about. That’s how stories should be done. I could go on a whole tangent about this.
Jeanette Lam: I recently had a conversation with one of my friends who’s actually a part of NeXt Doc. It was about impact producing and talking about who should make what films. One of the things they said that really stood out to me was about… Something that’s really important when you’re going into making a film, is thinking about if you can recognize the potential harms of making that film. Because filmmaking is supposed to be a healing process for both the filmmaker and the people involved. But unfortunately, historically it hasn’t been that way. Especially a documentary which comes from predominantly wealthy white men going into, like you said, BIPOC communities and extracting and benefiting from these stories. What NeXt Doc is trying to do, and a lot of other people in the industry now, are trying to shift that culture. Like you said, restoring power to people to tell stories about their own communities.
Jason Rebello: That’s incredible. I love… I remember that when I first saw that title, A Flower in a Dark Place. It had echoes of Tupac’s A Rose That Grew From Concrete, right? Absolutely. Absolutely. I was like, oh, I know exactly where this is coming from, this love.
Jason Rebello: Something that has gotten more coverage as of late as this year unfolds, and we deal with all the different challenges that are merging from various hate groups. Anti-Asian has been really at the forefront I think for the last few months. Not that it’s new, not that it’s just now happening, but it’s starting to be a part of a conversation. I know you actually had the opportunity, or you availed yourself to participate in a rally in Albany where you bravely shared some of your earliest experiences as an Asian American Queer woman in a world where you felt immense pressure to assimilate. What are some of the challenges that are top of mind for you and not just as a BIPOC filmmaker, but also as a human being existing in a dominant culture?
Jeanette Lam: That’s a great question. That rally was a really intense experience. I think it was following the shooting in Atlanta. It was like three days after it, I think, so it was like planned very rapidly. I feel oftentimes that’s how it happens. The communities that are grieving are also the ones that are organizing.
Jeanette Lam: I’m not sure if you guys saw the video, but basically what happened is I was supposed to speak in the beginning of the rally, along with five other Asian women. An organizer had asked us to come talk about our experiences. Right before I was supposed to speak this white congressman came up to me and said, “Oh, there’s a lot of Congress people here today that really took time out of their busy schedule. So we’re going to let them go first, but you’ll get to speak.” I was just like, okay, word. He told me it was two people. It was a line of 20 people. They just said absolutely nothing. They were chanting empty chants. It was just really infuriating to stand two feet from them, and I literally watched this happen in real time.
Jeanette Lam: I think that rally is super representative of how I would answer your question. Even when we create spaces that are by us and for us, somehow it still gets colonized in real time. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is just learning how do you take up space? Also, how do you do it in a way where you’re uplifting other communities that are also marginalized and face different types of oppression in their own way?
Jeanette Lam: This reminds me of a quote. I don’t know if you guys have heard of Ocean Vuong. He’s a really amazing Vietnamese writer and poet. He’s someone that really inspired me the past few years. He has this quote that I saved in my phone and it says, “Being Queer saved my life. Often we see Queerness as deprivation. But when I look at my life, I saw that Queerness demanded an alternative innovation from me. I had to make alternative routes. It made me curious. It made me ask, is this enough for me?” I feel like that is something that has really stuck with me.
Jeanette Lam: I feel like when you have more intersectional identities that are marginalized in different ways, you can almost plug all of that into this quote. It makes you ask is this enough for me? Is the way things are right now on the status quo and the way we still live under these intense white supremacist structures… white supremacist structures. Is that enough for me or do I want something more?
Jeanette Lam: I think the biggest challenge is just you owning yourself and coming to a place of comfort and confidence where you can realize you don’t have to shrink or assimilate yourself to sit in all these spaces. Maybe you don’t even want to in those spaces and you need to create your own spaces. I feel like that’s what being a part of NeXt Doc and Youth FX has really taught me.
Jason Rebello: Thank you so much for sharing. It’s so important because I put this on equal footing with people trying to break into even the tech space. It’s so important on so many levels and there’s so many barriers and challenges that are thrown up every corner. From access to social capital, to financial capital, to not having your work taken from you and repurposed. Once the wrong people are going to involved there’s so many different challenges of that space. But again, it’s work that we have to continue to do and support people that are in those communities that are doing that heavy lifting.
Felicia Scott: I’d love to ask a question based on what you just said, Jason. A little bit earlier, you said that it’s the communities that are grieving that are usually organizing. Then they brought another word to my mind. It is exhausting. When you talk about the work that we do. When you talk about decolonizing spaces as well, what do you do to keep yourself inspired and motivated? And is there a particular project right now that excites you that gives you that energy that you need to keep going?
Jeanette Lam: I think honestly what inspires me or keeps me going, is being in community with people who I know want to move to the same places I’m trying to move to.
Jeanette Lam: This isn’t necessarily a project. So I’m an educator at Youth FX, and currently I’ve designed and I’m teaching this five months fellowship called the Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship, and it’s original program. We’ve been doing it since March and it’s for five young People of Color who are from the DMV area, so DC, Maryland, Virginia. Where I grew up in Virginia. The whole fellowship is centered around community building while also exploring what role self-reflective storytelling can play in reframing or redefining personal narratives or communal narratives.
Jeanette Lam: So a lot of the young people that I’m working with are first time filmmakers, but I think something huge that they’ve affirmed for me is that just because you’re a first time filmmaker doesn’t mean you’re a first time storyteller. Especially being from communities of Color where a lot of our coming to the U.S. Was sometimes not by choice. Either through enslavement or displacement by war. Like my dad’s side of the family were refugees of the Vietnam War.
Jeanette Lam: All these different things that have happened to communities of Color in the U.S. A lot of times stories get stripped from you without your consent or without your wanting. I feel like a lot of the work that communities of Color have done in the industry of storytelling has been about preserving our stories or bringing them even to the forefront. But I think something that I’m trying to work on now is I feel like I used to… I don’t know, this is something I’m still grappling with.
Jeanette Lam: For example, recently I watched this short doc by a filmmaker, Carol Nguyen. It was about her family’s refugee story from Vietnam. It was very similar to mine, and it was really emotional and really heartbreaking. At the end I realized that it was really beautiful, but it was just this huge depiction of trauma. I feel like a lot of times when you don’t see yourself in the mainstream, one way to humanize yourself is for people to understand the things you’ve been through that humanize you. A lot of the times that type of approach is for the white gays, because you want white people to know what you’ve been through and then validate you subconsciously somehow.
Jeanette Lam: I feel like I’m trying to move into a space of radical imagination, which is something that we talk about a lot at Youth FX and NeXt Doc. Where do you see yourself? Where do you see your community? How do you get to that vision That’s something I’m really excited right now about the fellowship is not something we’re trying to practice in the fellowship. All the young people are making 10 minute short films about their visions for themselves and their communities. They are all so talented and so cool. There’s everything on the spectrum from talking about mental health or community care spaces, or unpacking what the American dream actually means and who it’s for.
Jeanette Lam: I think that just the level that they’re thinking at, they’re high schoolers, is just so awesome. I think they keep me motivated and excited and remind me why this work is so important. Because hopefully down the line, we won’t need to be having conversations like this. I’ll just be the norm. And land acknowledgement will just be the norm. And all these things will just be the norm.
Jason Rebello: It’s going to take all of us putting in the work that we’re doing and then some to be able to get there. But again, I think to your point, it’s through the action of doing and showing as an example, we can give people permission to do the same. Even as powerful as you coming on and sharing a land acknowledgement, and reminding us who are accustomed to doing it. I love that as a part of an introduction to who you are and where you currently are. I love this concept of radical imagination. That’s really powerful. It Resonates with the rebel inside me. Truly, that’s what we need more of.
Jason Rebello: We’ve asked a lot of you sharing yourself today on this podcast, and when we conclude, we like to ask if there’s a question or request that you have for inclusion champions like ourselves or practitioners or the greater community as a whole. This is your opportunity to make that ask.
Jeanette Lam: I love it. I think something that I’ve been thinking a lot about is this question that we’ve talked a lot about in NeXt Doc and Youth FX. What is your desired future? I think along with that, what will it take to get there? Who do you need beside you to get there? What does that look like? I feel like it can look like different things at different times of your life.
Jeanette Lam: I feel like the first time I heard that question a few years ago, it was when I was going through a lot of personal things with my Queerness. I was asked that question in a filmmaking space. So I think it was designed to be answered. What’s your desired future for the filmmaking industry or whatever. But I feel like I couldn’t stop thinking about my desired future right now is just for me to come out and own it.
Jeanette Lam: Shortly after that, I did come out and it’s been awhile now and I’m further along in my journey, a lot more confident. And I feel like coming closer to myself has allowed me to be a better filmmaker, a better educator. It’s allowed me to share more of myself in all the spaces that I show up in. And in turn, I feel like it allows other people to show up more too.
Jeanette Lam: I think that’s a cool question to gauge at different times in your life, like where you are and what do you need to get closer to yourself about so that you can get closer to the communities that you’re working with. That’s a good question for you, Jason and Felicia. What is your desired future?
Felicia Scott: My desire, it really is to one day be unemployed because there is no need for people who do what I do. Because like you said, it’s the norm and it’s taught at home, and it’s part of how you’re taught in school. So there’s no need for someone called the diversity consultant. That really is my dream. I think one of the ways that I really believe it can happen is again, going back to what you said about the white gaze. I think that we have to build our communities outside of it.
Felicia Scott: I think we’ve spent so much time saying, look over here, look at me, look over here. They’re valid and have value if you look. I think we need to recognize our own stories and build our communities and build businesses, and do what we all know that we can do. I think as we do that, I think some of the things that we’re asking for we won’t have to ask for. They’ll come to us.
Felicia Scott: So really what I want to do is help us really build strong communities of Color that are willing to be interdependent, but can be completely self-reliant as needed. That really is what my vision is because as long as I have to get your permission to have it, then I don’t really have my power. So moving us to spaces where we’re not asking for permission to be who we are.
Jeanette Lam: Wow. I love that.
Jason Rebello: Oh my gosh, I should have gone first. I love it all. It’s a great question to continue to reflect on. The way I’ll answer is this. Something that’s been bouncing around in my head is I’ve been listening to a lot of old interviews from Baldwin, hearing him talk about being terrified at the moral apathy, right? The death of the heart which is happening in this country. He talks about the people with this kind of hate in their heart, do not transform. It literally means that the figurative or literal kind of collapse of our country and our future.
Jason Rebello: My vision is that we’re able to support enough people on their growth journey that we reach a tipping point where it doesn’t have to be everybody. I don’t pretend to live in a fantasy world where everybody will be doing land acknowledgements, but we don’t need everybody. We just need enough. We just need to reach that tipping point where we can really start to push our society, and honestly our civilization, in a completely different direction. Because my mind tells me that there are some incredible challenges ahead for humanity in the next coming decades. If we can’t get past the stuff that we’re still working on after 400, 500, 600 plus years, we’re going to be in trouble, right?
Jason Rebello: My vision, and it seems dark, but my vision is about continuing to do this work and being excited about doing this both professionally and in my personal life as well. To help enough people make this transformation and unpack and heal, whatever needs to be unpacked and healed so they can stop dehumanizing their fellow human beings, and to start recognizing the collective potential. If we can allow everybody to show up as their true, authentic self. The power that comes from that, to your point. What you mentioned earlier about how much more of yourself is coming into your work and how more empowered you feel now that you can be more honest and out about who you are.
Jason Rebello: You take that and you multiply it over hundreds of millions of people, all of a sudden being able to show up as their most authentic self. And my goodness, I am excited about the potential. If we can get more and more people to do that. If we can create societies, organizations, and systems that allow more and more people to do that. That’s my vision.
Jeanette Lam: I love that. Thank you. Can I ask you guys one more question? Just out of my own curiosity.
Jason Rebello: Sure.
Jeanette Lam: I’m like interviewing you. But no, I feel like this is something I’ve really been deeply thinking about the past year. I even mentioned it in the speech that I gave at the rally. I really believe that our solidarity is our weapon and that white supremacy’s biggest fear is the collectivization of People of Color. Even though I believe that strongly, I feel like I’m still thinking and reading and in conversation with people a lot about how do we get there? How do we build cross community solidarity in a way that doesn’t flatten us, and honors the fact that everybody has a different experience, just goes through different things. How do we build solidarity around the fact that we all understand what it’s like to operate under the system of white supremacy?
Jeanette Lam: I don’t know. I think just speaking for myself, from the perspective of an Asian American woman, I think this is something that I’ve been really grappling with and trying to think about the past year. In some ways for my own community, I think there needs to be two things that happen. Not necessarily to say that they’re the only two things. But I think in some ways there needs to be a reckoning, especially east Asians have this proximity to whiteness. Either because of colorism because you’re lighter skin. Because you kind of like… Our immigrant parents have bought into this system where the closer you get to this job, the closer you get to making this amount of money. When really what they’re saying is the closer you get to whiteness, you’ll be more accepted. Maybe they don’t see it that way.
Jeanette Lam: I think there needs to be a reckoning about people saying it’s not just about ending white supremacy. It’s also about ending anti-Blackness. Those two things are very intertwined, but people don’t name it that way because I think sometimes it makes them uncomfortable. I think that’s the first thing that needs to happen.
Jeanette Lam: Then I also think there needs to be a big education on radical traditions of solidarity that have just been erased from our history. I didn’t even learn about Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, Frederick Douglas. I didn’t learn about any of these things until my early twenties, and it sucks. I feel like if we had more education on these things and on the relationships that these Asian women had with Black freedom fighters, it would be really inspiring to people in my generation to feel like we have more footing to find our way forward. These things aren’t new, they’re rooted.
Jason Rebello: That’s why we need more storytellers like you out there because it’s intentional, at least in my personal opinion, the lack of those stories and those truths being told is with intention. Felicia, you can talk a little bit more about this than I can, but it’s also why we intentionally teach the history of white supremacy culture as a part of our transformation work that we do. It’s one of the more sobering moments for 50 tech managers to be on a call to be confronted with that. But it’s also a really powerful moment.
Jason Rebello: Even the way that we facilitate it is such that you get to see it across the entire globe, across the entire span of history, right? Whoever you are, whatever identity you are on that call, you are on our trainings, you are learning about some things that most people have not ever heard about as far as history and the connective tissue that links it across all the different members of the BIPOC communities. We’re right there with you. That meeting, that part of education needing to be brought to the table more often. Then I’ll shut up and let Felicia share.
Felicia Scott: I think you both have given the answer. I do believe it is education about our own histories and each other’s histories, because I think we don’t know enough. It’s human nature, I think, to tend to think you’re the only one who’s struggling, having a hard time, et cetera. What we really need to understand that all of us have been through it. I do believe we need to understand how historically we did work together collectively.
Felicia Scott: But the idea of the model minority was created and it was created for exactly what’s happened, which is more division. I think we just all really need to understand, we need to stop and wake up and realize that we’re fighting each other for crumbs that have fallen off the table. We’re not fighting for a seat at the table. We’ve been fighting for crumbs that have fallen to the floor to see who could get the crumbs. We don’t want the crumbs. We want a seat at the table. When we realized that, I think that we will be able to work together more collectively.
Felicia Scott: I really do believe we can’t let the conversation be, is it going to be Black Lives Matter or Stop Asian Hate? No, this is not an either-or. This is a both-and conversation. We have to, as communities, insist on the both-and conversation. When we do that, I think that’s, what’s going to move us to that space where collectively we have more of a voice and we have more influence and we have more power. Again, we have to stop fighting for crumbs.
Jeanette Lam: Wow. Thank you guys both so much. This has been so awesome. I feel like I’ve learned so much from both of you, too. I feel like it’s this, just having conversations with people and building relationships and community and not just swiping on Instagram. I feel that’s what a lot of it has reverted to.
Jason Rebello: Yeah, absolutely. It’s all about the dialogue. Which is why we consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to use whatever platform that we have to be able to bring voices like yours to more and more people in this effort of solidarity and collaboration. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today.
Jeanette Lam: Thank you so much for having me.