When the Typhoon left the East side of my country with nothing, I was in a conference of Filipino Americans in the middle of Illinois. In the Midwest, a lot of Fil-Am or Asian American folks in general, build Asian American student organizations in college, in order to see faces that look like them.
This is the 21st year of the Filipino Americans Coming Together Conference (FACT) and it gives me grief and even anxiety that the conversations about identity and the layers of what it means to be Filipino American are still surface level; bubblegum almost. I took into account that I come from the Bay Area, which is notorious for a lot of diverse grassroots organization that teach ethnic studies and plights of people of color at a young age, and kept in mind that the people in this conference are happy enough with just seeing brown faces. I took these things into account but still got frustrated because I expected so much more.
It made me question if I was being too pushy, or militant, or cared too much, but when did anyone care this much about Filipino(a)-Americans or Filipino(a)s? Only when a tragedy hits does a public eye focus in. Only when there is severe lack of structure does the community come together.
When the Typhoon left the East side of my country with nothing, I was in a conference of Filipino Americans in the middle of Illinois. When the conference housed people who looked like me, but who didn’t want to push themselves enough to analyze or question their identity, I spoke up in a meeting of the Midwest Fil-Am Organization Executive Board members and told them that I expect more of our community.
There have been too many people who have fought, spoke, and died for us to only be satisfied to see physical similarities. We as brown bodies have pushed, jumped, and broken too many hurdles for us to only be complacent with scratching the surface of what it means to be living in-between the Third World and the United States. Filipino Americans have witnessed our motherland experience too much loss, corruption, and colonization not to repay our homeland’s struggles by being present and active in our knowledge of self, and knowing our trajectory as a people.
I’m slowly working with these organizations to try and put Filipino American and Ethnic Studies curriculum in General Body and Midwest Conference formats. We can’t keep losing ourselves. Haiyan has taken so much of our people, that we cannot control, but activism is a choice, responsibility, and legacy we must always uphold.
- Gretchen Carvajal is a poet, writer, and speaker currently attending the University of Wisconsin’s First Wave program. She is also the managing editor of the Off/Page Project’s official blog. For more information on Gretchen, visit her blog here.
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