The refugee movement has made parts of Buffalo incredibly diverse. While the influx of refugees from all over the world has created a cultural melting pot on the East Side, West Side, and even North Buffalo, there are many who feel that these populations are at risk of losing their own cultural and ethnic identities.
Knowing that this is true, Vietnamese theatre artists David Huynh, Jonathan Castanien, and Carolina Do set out to preserve their heritage by founding The Sống Collective. The Collective was also put in place as a response to the global refugee crisis that saw refugee resettlement numbers come to a standstill.
Now, The Sống Collective, in partnership with Second Generation Productions, is getting ready to launch Collective Stories – an evening of works by 10 multidisciplinary Vietnamese artists. These works are inspired by discussions born of Free Southern Theatre’s story circle methods – to voice social protest and to preserve cultural identity. The result is a multimedia event composed of video, music, and poetry.
Dedicated to telling stories that dare to subvert preconceptions of Asian Americans.
Among the artists presenting works include Jonathan Castanien (co-founder, The Sống Collective), Carolina Do (actor, Grand Horizons), Dinh Doan (actor, N o-No Boy), David Huynh (actor, The Emperor’s Nightingale), Ê MIA (musician), Yên Nguyen (actor/model), Maria Ta (Program Director, Ujima Company), Michelle Vo (actor, “Bull”), and Tony Aidan Vo (musician/actor, “Queen Sugar”).
“Community has always been the heart of our events and the reason we give a platform to artists,” says Sống Collective co-founder, David Huynh. “Even in these isolating times, we were driven to find a way in which we could help others feel less alone, while also actively finding meaningful ways to help communities affected by this pandemic. We’re excited to bring attention to RAISE (Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast).”
Stories centered on Vietnamese culture and identity to stream with donations going to support undocumented workers affected by the pandemic.
“Undocumented Asian Americans constitute a powerful political force,” says Audrey Pan, Community Organizer for RAISE. “Our stories highlight the complex realities of the Asian American community beyond the culture of assimilation and model minority racial tokenism that renders invisible the violence of poverty and racism the API communities face everyday.”
The presentation will be live streamed via The Sống Collective’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, May 20, at 5pm PT/8 pm ET. It is free to view with donations being collected to support efforts by the NYC non-profit, RAISE who is providing financial aid to undocumented workers. Collective Stories is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Lead image: Maria Ta – Program Director, Ujima Company