At the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP), we stand with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities against the reprehensible, ongoing, and significant rise in attacks and hate incidents targeting Asian Americans that have been spurred on by racist pandemic rhetoric this past year. To our AAPI communities, collaborators, partners, staff, and board members: you are not invisible. We see you, we hear you, and we stand beside you, not only as allies but also as accomplices, to decry these attacks and work together to dismantle and rectify the racially motivated violence and economic inequity that have been a consistent part of our nation’s history.
For far too long, the daily struggles of Asian American communities in this country have been glossed over by such things as the “Model Minority Myth,” which falsely depicts an assimilation success story while ignoring the rich and varied array of diverse peoples and cultures that fight against ongoing systemic violence. We must not forget that the first immigration law to bar entry into the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, occurring a full decade before the opening of Ellis Island. For context, it was not until The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 that any law limited immigration through Ellis Island, and even then, that law favored immigrants from Northern Europe. We must remember the inhumane treatment levied against Asian immigrants as they were forced into indentured servitude in order to build the railway infrastructure of the West Coast. In fact, the creation of the first Chinatown in San Francisco was an attempt by these immigrants to form a community where they would not be lynched. The list is near endless: from sequestering legal Asian immigrants on Angel Island (off the coast of San Francisco) for weeks, months, or years to the forced removal and detention of Japanese Americans to the ongoing exploitation of Southeast Asian workers.
Founded in 1987 as a social justice organization, PFP recognizes that being anti-racist involves remembering these histories and acknowledging how they continue to shape present-day realities. No minoritized community in the United States is exempt from the impacts of systemic racism or white nationalism, and we must always be ready to advance opportunities for racial, sexual, and gender-based justice. This becomes all the more clear during times of upheaval when individuals look for a population to scapegoat rather than address the larger social causes that pit us against each other.
At PFP, we are devoted to changing the landscape in terms of equitable access and investment in community infrastructure, through which we build power and possibilities in the cultural life of Philadelphia, a minority-majority city. As such, we have always been committed to amplifying and learning from AAPI voices, words, and wisdom, and we see it as our responsibility to fight with all minoritized communities against the daily violence of systemic racism. Over the decades, PFP is proud to have developed community-driven sustainability initiatives alongside venerable Asian American organizations to coordinate around folk arts and traditional knowledge in the city’s Chinatown, as well as South and West Philadelphia neighborhoods. In 2005, in partnership with Asian Americans United, we co-founded the Folk Arts- Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) a public K-8 school with folk arts and cultural heritage at its core, and a multicultural anti-racist vision. These allied relationships are what have made PFP a successful organization and what continues to motivate our work going forward.
#StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate #BlackLivesMatter #AsianLivesMatter