A friend of mine recently invited me to an Asian & Pacific Islanders Open Mic, hosted by Luya Poetry in Chicago. The event billed itself as “…a welcoming space for poets of color, with an emphasis on Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Pacific Islanders to express themselves, [and] share their stories…“. The open mic was part of a larger series of events in the National Poetry Slam. Both my friend and I were expecting a variety of poems about life and love, that happened to be told by Asian/Pacific people. Instead, the majority of the works focused around simply being Asian, racism, cultural assimilation, and personal stories of trauma.
I knew this type of show was likely, but I was still hoping for something more diverse. I don’t want to diminish the personal stories and experiences of all the poets who went up on the open mic. As writers and poets, telling our stories can be a way to bring others into our world and perspective. I just wish that every story didn’t have to start and end with a theme surrounding race; something that not all minorities hold as an integral part of our identities.
Human beings tend attach themselves to relationships. We become loyal to our work places, schools, families, sports teams, religious institutions, political parties, favorite product brands and nations. More often than not, loyalty is one directional. Once loyalty is given, there is an implication of staying true to that person or idea, even in cases where rational decision making would say otherwise. Gaining loyalty based on some arbitrary societal vector can often lead to a means of control and even subjugation.
In the United States Deceleration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” a phrase which, in the context of his time period, was indicative of a people who opposed the political and religious notion of The Divine Right of the King. But in a modern context, there are two things clearly wrong with this statement. Humans were not created, we evolved, and we did not evolve equally.
Years ago, I found a online journal of an aerospace engineer. Her hopes, desires and random thoughts were placed out there on the web. Fascinated, I created a website of my own. Starting out as just a journal, it later expended to music, band and even movie reviews. I watched as friends around me created Live Journals, Dead Journals and Blogger accounts. Then slowly, one by one, I saw them either totally delete their accounts or restrict them to friends or by password. Some of their posts were hilarious, but for many, it was too much, too exposed and too open.