Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great Spring Break! APA Leaders is back in action and without further ado, we are proud to introduce our 5th APA Leader, Albert Chang! Albert Chang is currently QuASA's Assistant Director and extremely involved in the APA and queer communities. Check out more about Albert in the interview below: Name: Albert Chang Major: Environmental Studies Year: Senior ‘16
What does being APA mean to you? Just like any other cultural community, being APA is being connected to an identity and community that is greater than yourself. It’s a self-determined identity that I find pride in; an identity and an experience that is shared between myself and other APAs. It’s a unique identity experienced through the American lens that seeks to create community amongst many Asian ethnic groups in a country of diversity and adversity, while at the same time celebrating the unique and vibrant cultures that fall under the APA umbrella.
As the only Hmong-American student at USC (as far as I know), I do sometimes feel isolated. As the son of immigrant refugee parents, I along with my siblings had to navigate being authentically Hmong while attempting to assimilate into American culture in order to survive. However, the Hmong experience is only one of many narratives under the APA umbrella. It’s thanks to the welcoming APA community that I’ve been able to connect to and resonate with other stories and experiences that are entirely different from my own, but go through similar themes of oppression and resilience.
Being APA is also important in understanding how I fit within the Queer community and with other queer people of color. As an APA, I experience queerness in a very different way than say a white queer person. Navigating the racism and oppressive structures within the Queer community has been an exhausting, yet empowering and incredible learning experience. In the face of oppression coming from the white, patriarchal and hetero- cis- norms, it’s encouraging to find solace and community with other queer APAs.
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. Throughout my time here at USC, I’ve invested most of my time and energy to the Queer and Ally Student Assembly. As a freshman I wanted to find community with APASS and APASA, however as the only Hmong-American student, I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t share that automatic connection or link to the APA community then, and it probably didn’t help that I was a Spring Admit (who btdubs, have a real shitty welcoming experience into USC imo). I remember walking into an APASA meeting hoping to get involved, but then realized it was an Eboard meeting and they were talking about member org presidents, and I was like, what am I doing here. And I mean, there was also this other looming fact that I was really gay and like fresh out of the closet. I explored and developed my queer identity instead, and found a home with QuASA. It’s interesting because I feel through my experience with queerness, I was also able to develop my APA identity. The Queer community is so complex and diverse, with people coming from backgrounds and histories so different from my own, that it made me hyperaware of my APA identity.
I was a late bloomer to the APA community: I got involved with APASS’s CIRCLE my last Fall semester at USC (shout out to Thurs. Session <3 Jonaney, sup RAKateOh). CIRCLE was an amazing experience and I wish I had done it so much sooner! I learned so much from people’s insights around complicated and critical issues, and strongly resonated with their experiences as APA. I surrounded myself with the Queer community for so long that I had been missing out on such a dope community that nevertheless was embracing, welcoming, and inviting to seasoned students like myself. I’ve been going to APASA events more often and have loved each one so far; I’m always amazed and inspired by Lorna’s, Sally’s, and the rest of the APASA team’s work and dedication to bringing events that not only celebrate APA culture, but that educate and advocate as well.
I think it’s incredibly important to understand how different experiences and identities can intersect to create tangible socioeconomic effects. The Queer community is not immune to racism. The APA community is not immune to homophobia or transphobia. Sexism and misogyny exist in both. I think it’s important that as we move forward to recognize that we as a community need to be involved in these conversations, even if they may seem removed from us.
What story do you think every APA should know? Know your story: where you came from, how you got here, what your people have gone through. And with that, know everyone else’s story and where your story fits with theirs; make an effort to listen and learn. The APA community encompasses so many unique and rich cultures, languages, and histories. And finally, know the stories of people outside the APA community. We need to recognize that we have shared experiences, a shared struggle against the dominant power. We need to be sensitive to injustice in all its forms and to stand in solidarity with ourselves and others.
Tell us about one of your most memorable moments at USC. Well it wasn’t at USC’s campus technically, but it was during a class on property owned by USC so I guess it counts. I did a semester out on Catalina Island and enrolled in the Scientific Diving class under the Environmental Studies program. I remember the first time we had gone diving, after spending a couple days on doing the basics, and it literally changed my life. I remember swimming through this gorgeous kelp forest with beautiful fish all around me and thinking, “wow, I’m in class right now”.
All money aside, what is your dream job? SCUBA Diving! I’m actually a certified AAUS Scientific Diver currently and it’s honestly my biggest passion. I love being in that big, open space where all you see is a deep blue around you and the fractured sunlight shining from above. It’s terrifying, yet at the same time humbling, quiet, and serene. I love fish! I love swimming with them, watching them, and eating them! Fish are honestly really cool, and incredibly smart and beautiful and tasty. So my dream job would be able to integrate SCUBA into my life, whether that’s working professionally at a dive shop, becoming an instructor, or using it for science.
What motivates and inspires you? My parents and my family. My parents are badass: they lived through the terrors of the Vietnam War and came to America with literally nothing from the refugee camps in Thailand. They had to quickly learn and adapt to a foreign culture and world full of nuanced social, political, and economic forces that were not norms to Hmong people. They sacrificed everything they knew to build a future for me and my nine (yes, 9) siblings, putting most of us through college. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for their generous sacrifices.
Anyone you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?
My parents: yall are badass, and I have everything to you to thank for. Love you so much. ~ <3
Alyssa Coffey: QuASA’s two-time trailblazing Executive Director. Thank you so much for all that you do for QuASA, you’ve been its firm citadel in the face of admin and ignorance. You’ve led QuASA fantastically. I’m excited to see where you’ll go next! I love our road and camping trips, or just our excursions through the city. It’s been an adventure with you ~ <3
Vanessa Siebold: Roomie for life! You have been such a huge impact on who I am today. I will always remember the times in Apt. 243, our sessions on the balcony in the mornings, and just coming home to a chill environment with you and Rachel after a long day of trying to be a person. I love that we have made this little rave fam, it’s honestly brought so much happiness into my life. ~ <3
Rachel Jones: My other roomie, resident, and dear friend! I sincerely miss your presence but am so happy to see you doing well back in New York! I love watching your snapchats, your students are honestly the cutest. We need to plan this visit to New York! ~ <3
Jasmine Aguilar: I’m so proud to call you my friend, and I truly cherish the time we spend together. I will always remember the first time we danced together at Beyond and how much pure fun we had. I’m also really wanna play that game you’ve been working on so let me know! ~ <3
Andrew Clark: Ok, I’m like really glad you came back into my life this past year. Cheers to our weekly porch sessions. I feel like you and I challenge and understand each other so well. I’m also really glad I took you to your first rave ~ <3
Queer Fam – yall the homies APA Fam – yall the homies Queer APA Fam – ‘eyyy
Thank you again to Albert for the photoshoot and interview. We are so grateful for everything you do for our APA and queer communities. Look forward to see the remaining APA Leaders in the coming weeks!