Hey everyone! Hope you are all ready for classes to end! Today, we’re presenting our fifth APA Leader for 2017, Constance Chan! Constance is currently the Co-President of SCAPE and created the Unite the Mic series! Read her interview below to learn more!
Name: Constance Chan
Major: English (Creative Writing)
What does being APA mean to you?
Being APA on a larger scale means being a part of generations of incredibly strong immigrants, activists, and community leaders. It means being a part of a community that is trying to balance diversity in terms of gender, sexuality, culture, etc., with the need for solidarity under a common identity. It means bearing the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Vincent Chin, and lynchings you never read about in history classes. It means being a part of a community that does amazing work for justice and its own community but is still struggling to address its own antiblackness, its own participation in gendered and racialized discrimination, its own not-woke-ness (for lack of a better term.)
But, you know, it also means hanging out with my family in Chinatown and getting a free drink because the manager knows us. It means my mother, who grew up in the low-income neighborhoods of Hong Kong and just casually got her PhD from UCLA when she immigrated here for graduate school. My grandfather, who was a taxi driver/factory worker in Hong Kong and is now watching his children and grandchildren succeed. It means being ashamed of my identity because of the racial slurs that were thrown at me as a child, and then finding community with other amazing APAs at USC. It means my mom yelling my Chinese name from a distance and my white friends looking confused. It means that having Viet Nguyen as my faculty mentor makes me really, really proud.
Explain in detail your involvement with the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus:
Currently, I am co-president of USC’s Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment with Andy Gu (hi Andy.) We’ve planned events together to combine advocacy and Asian American issues—for example, we’ve held GMs on voting and representations in media, and we brought APA speakers from Buzzfeed, Kollaboration, the Cartoon Network, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice to campus. My personal baby is Unite the Mic, an open mic series I’ve created that spotlights artists of color. I’ve never done CIRCLE, which feels weird to say, since everyone’s done CIRCLE, but I did speak at CIRCLE’s retreat this past year and was so incredibly encouraged by the work APASS is doing to make us more conscious of our own identity and the complexities of the society we live in. Off campus, I’ve volunteered at legal clinics and election opportunities with Asian Americans Advancing Justice—they are just such an incredible organization, with a piercing and inspiring vision and dedicated staff.
What story do you think every APA should know?
Oh, there’s so many. Just read up on the protest literature of the 60’s and the events that have mobilized APAs. Read about the New York Chinatown protests in the 70’s that addressed police brutality. Read about the Chinese Massacre in the 19th century. Read about Merle Woo, one of the first protest-poets in the Asian American movement, a super dope professor who got fired from Berkeley twice for supporting student protests. Read Race and Resistance by Viet Nguyen. Watch Slaying the Dragon. APAs get pinned with the “quiet Asian” trope all the time, and we often participate in these harmful narratives ourselves. If you read through these historical—and even present—voices, however, you can only come to the conclusion that we’ve always been conscious, we’ve always been loud, we’ve always been unapologetic.
All money aside, what’s your dream job?
Not sure what category this is, but some kind of attorney that fights for vulnerable lives? When I was in high school, my church hosted a talk by a nonprofit legal organization that works to fight slavery and human trafficking internationally. The org does raids, litigation, and aftercare for survivors. Since then, that specific kind of international human rights law has always been the dream for me. I’ve always wanted to write a book of poetry about my legal adventures too, and to donate the profits to some nonprofit. Also, one part of this inspiration came to me when I first interned for the district attorney’s office, I was interviewed by a top DA who recently had put a white supremacist gang in jail. I asked him what he loved about his job, and he said, “I was bullied a lot in high school, so I like the idea of bringing society’s bullies to justice.” I understand that the PD’s, not not the DA’s, office is more the place to talk about innocence and vulnerability, but I thought that was pretty baller.
If you could give a Ted Talk, what would it be about?
I’d love to give a Ted Talk about creative writing workshops and how they’re a space for not only incredible vulnerability and compassion, as people share art about their deepest darkest secrets, but also a potential site of insensitivity, insecurity, and honestly, just really pretentious people. I’m really interested in how art/writing coincide with psychology and interpersonal relations, and how the process of sharing your art with others can be a good or bad tool.
On the other hand, I’m really passionate about the idea of building a cat farm when I get a job in the future, so I’d definitely want to talk about the infrastructure and vision of the whole thing. I’d love to come home to a twenty tabby kittens every day if the lawyer thing doesn’t work out.
SCAPE FAM. Andy, Reshma, Aileen, Amy, Andrea, Jacky, Teddy, Alex, Isha, Alice, Quinn, Natasha, Mya, Cynthia. You all are so positive and untiring and I’m grateful for the energy each and every one of you brings. Andy, thanks for keeping us on track and for never hesitating to do both the big and small jobs that seem to intimidating or tedious for everyone else. SCAPE wouldn’t survive without you.
Andy Su, you are actually one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met and I’m so grateful for your continued support for SCAPE. Alex Kanegawa, thank you for your piercing insight and for helping Andy and me whenever we need direction. Mary, you give Andy and me confidence in the idea that we know what we’re doing and your thoughtful interest in the lives and wellbeing of students is so, so appreciated.
Natalie and Ifelola, and everyone else from Christian Challenge who loves me extravagantly, you’re the best friends a girl could ask for. You all know my weaknesses, the weird and ugly parts of my being, and you love me through it all.
APASA: Y’all are great. Thanks for letting me do this interview. Thanks for the food, the music, the connections, the free swag, the countless families within your orgs. Sarah, it’s been so cool to meet you freshman year through Dance Off, at the very beginning, and then to see you take on the lead as APASA ED. Aseem, thanks for coming to SCAPE events so faithfully and making us feel like what we do is worth it.
APASS: Jonathan, thank you for always letting us take your blankets and store Portos in your office LOL. You and Queena provide such an incredible space for students to connect, learn about their own identity, debrief & rest/nap. Speaking at CIRCLE retreat was definitely a highlight of the semester, and seeing the next generation of APA students get fired up about justice and self-introspection reminded me of why I do what I do. APASS is such a home for people in this community and I always wish I could spend more time in the office.
Kevin, the long-suffering boyfriend: thank you for always being there, always supporting me, always willing to stand for hours at my open mics although art and activism are boring. Thanks for being my shoulder to cry on, the clapping hands that cheer me on in my achievements, the big heart that so many people depend on.
You, if you made it through this whole post, especially that one part about the cat farm—thank you! Go like APASA’s post and show them some love <3
Thanks again Constance for letting us interview you and taking the photoshoot. We are so lucky that you are so involved in our community!