An Apache Wedding Vow: "Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth."
I first heard this wedding vow about this time last year, at Kat and Kyle's wedding. I had just started my photography class at NYU, and though I'd been taking pictures for years, I was able to talk technicalities for the first time. It was my second time to visit beautiful Colorado, and it was in the beginnings of my and Skyler's long distance romance. We were really lucky that Kat and Kyle extended an invitation to me, as I hadn't even really met the two of them quite yet. I got to sneak some cute photos of the two of them throughout the ceremony and the reception, but I was still in the beginnings of my picture taking, and I was also shy about getting too close!
Kat and Kyle live in a beautiful home in Olathe, Colorado and during my last visit to Colorado, I got to visit them again and take some photos of the two of them and their many dogs on their beautiful property! It has been a year since I first heard that beautiful wedding vow, and taking photos of them was beautiful evidence that they had lived up to the Native American blessing.
Enjoy the photos of Kat and Kyle below and keep on making, everyone:
I saw Kristina Bustos for the first time onstage at Raised Pinay, an incredible piece of theatre that I was lucky enough to be able to attend. It featured over a dozen Filipina women sharing their experiences of what it is like to be raised pinay. At the end of the show that I attended, I remember sobbing, realizing how untapped the Filipina experience often is when it comes to storytelling. I will forever be inspired by this piece of theatre. You can learn more about it here: http://raisedpinay.strikingly.com/
Kristina is an incredibly inspiring woman who is starting a blog that features art by Asian American women. I got to take photos of her to feature on the about page of her new blog, which I'm very excited to read! During the day, Kristina works with the elderly, a vocation that requires incredible compassion and love. My favorite quote from our time together was, "I want to make it sexy to care for the elderly." Oftentimes, when it comes to giving, it is easy to give to children or to other specific needs, like to the disabled or to the sick because we can tell ourselves that we are helping the future, and like Kristina shared, it's easier to see where your money or efforts are going and it's easier to see those efforts pay off and grow. It's harder to see that with the elderly, so it requires a really beautiful persona, like Kristina's to work for such an important cause.
Kristina interviewed me about The Creation Trade for her blog, Arawsol. I will link it here when it is available online!
For now, enjoy the photos of Kristina below:
“But there's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin.”
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day
This particular series of photos does not come to you from as clear a trade as the other series of photos have. It might be that this short and sweet set of photos is not the result of a trade, but rather an act of appreciation and gratitude I have for two very important women in my life. My mom, Elenita Cabrera, and my New York "mom", Doreen Henry, are two of the most inspiring women I've ever known. I have come to know myself because I have, more than ever, asked questions of them.
If Elenita Cabrera is the woman who brought me to this world, Doreen Henry is the woman who woke me up in New York. This year would have been impossible without the two of them in my life and I am getting emotional simply typing this up because it means that tomorrow, I will say goodbye to my sweet Ms. Doreen. Thank you for treating me like a daughter here in New York--everything from cooking dinners for me, taking me to Thanksgiving, warning me when there was rain. I love you.
Part 6: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."
I know crystal because we are both recent graduates from NYU. Her program, Art & Politics and my program Art, Education, & Community Practice are sister programs. I met crystal even before the year began, at a mixer meant to introduce their cohort to our cohort.
Since we come from similar programs, it should be no surprise that we have many shared interests. We are interested in art, in culture, in politics, in community based work, in the youth. Since we both chose a one year track program, we also have in common that this year was tough. It's hard enough moving across the country--she too moved from California. Throw in the stress of finding a place in New York city, the job necessary to pay for that place in New York city, the desire to maintain relationships with friends and family across the country, the search for a community to build and share with, and well, a full time load of graduate classes, and you've got yourself one stressful year.
A common theme throughout my conversation with crystal was self-care. How do we take care of ourselves? How do we make space for ourselves and for one another?
Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
People who do organizing/activist work are people who work hard, often for little to no money, and often without ever being able to ultimately see the fruits of the seeds that they have sowed. There are times I've felt burned out like no other. This election year, in particular, I have grown weary of discussion, of the tiring road it is to get on the same page with someone whose values are different from my own. It's a difficult task, but it's a necessary one if we ever hope to live in a world where we can have different views and still love each other, respect each other and dialogue with one another.
What this all means, at least to me, is that if we hope to change the world for the better, we must first take care of ourselves. There have been times that I have felt selfish wanting to take care of my own needs. Sometimes that need is simply having a conversation that I know will satiate an anxiety or a discomfort in me. Sometimes that's me going home early because I'm just plain tired. Sometimes it means going for a run, even if there are a million other things that seem more pressing sitting on my to-do list.
Self-care is something I think that I've known was necessary in my gut for a long time. This year, though, I have found a beauty and wonder and glory in self-care within a community. While crystal and I did not get to spend as much time together as I would have liked this year (we are totally staying in touch and that will change!), her openness, grace and willingness to be vulnerable is something I recognize. It's the same openness that I felt when I was with my friends Erika and Emily all year. That same kind of desire to understand one another and ourselves, always constantly seeking to grow and find a more just world to live in in this physical space and on the spiritual plane that we all exist on as well. To taking care of ourselves. To allowing ourselves to be taken care of. To giving ourselves to others.
crystal makes beautiful jewelry that she traded with me. Here is a photo of the necklaces that are now part of my collection!
Enjoy the photos of crystal below!
“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
― Alan W. Watts
It is fitting that this set of photos follows the photos that I took of Saleah, because PJ, like Saleah, is someone who believes in me and the work that I do. I met PJ at an event earlier this year, Worldwide Woodside, where I did a reading of Si Malakas at Si Maganda for a group of children. PJ showed me the coloring book that he had created, and it is that coloring book that I traded him for with this set of photos.
PJ's latest venture is a mobile Filipino Library, a growing collection of Filipino-authored books that he is bringing around Queens, a borough with a dense Filipino and Filipino-American population. This is a project that followed a book festival PJ hosted earlier this year in collaboration with the Queens Museum, where I got to read my book out loud again, and I got to meet incredible authors and listen to them read their works. some of their books are featured in these photos! PJ wanted photos of this project more than he wanted photos of himself, and so when we met on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, I did my best to do a bit of both.
This past year, I did a lot of reading about the Philippines, about Filipino culture and about Filipino-American culture. I learned more about my cultural identity here in New York than I ever did in a classroom throughout all my schooling. I learned that there are experiences I have in my family that mirror many experiences other Filipino-Americans have in their families. Something really beautiful about culture is realizing that you and your experiences are not isolated, but are interwoven in a larger picture. Learning about culture--whether it be my cultural identity in terms of race, geographic location, religion, etc., is a beautiful reminder that I am not small. Rather, I am interwoven with the experiences of so many others, and my story is an integral piece of that tapestry. PJ, among many others, was a reminder to me this year of how large and dynamic that tapestry is when it comes to Filipino-America. I look forward to learning more and hopefully weaving more colors and patterns in that big piece of art along the way.
Enjoy the photos of PJ below. I will also take some photos of his coloring book that he traded me with and add it to this blog when I get a chance!
“We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something - with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.”
― Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Saleah found me because she found the project that I am working on, Si Malakas at Si Maganda. She called me a few months ago, asking me about the work, and then asking if she could interview me for Kollaboration, an awesome organization whose mission is to "build bridges, out-create negative stereotypes, and promote diversity. We are a global platform to discover, empower and connect the next generation of artists and leaders to reach mainstream media prominence and change culture." You can learn more about Kollaobration here: http://kollaboration.org/. After we spent a bit of a while talking, and after exchanging emails, however, Saleah asked if she could instead write an article for her other work place--NBC Asia America. Naturally, I was honored at both requests, and her desire to bring attention to the work that we are doing at Invisible Storybook. You can find the article that she wrote about the work here: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/invisible-storybook-tells-relatable-tale-si-malakas-si-maganda-n607216
When I met her in front of Chelsea Market last week, it was the first time I had ever met her in person, although we had exchanged emails and phone calls many times over the past few months. I was so honored to meet her, learn about her and her passions, geek out about theatre, in particular about Ali Ewoldt's casting as one of the lead roles in The Phantom of the Opera, the first woman of color to ever take that role on Broadway--and she, like Saleah and I, is Filipino! Saleah recently interviewed her for Kollaboration, and I was so excited to hear about their conversation. It made me want to watch Phantom again!
We met mostly to get to know one another, but I could not help but ask to snap photos of Saleah, who I hope will become a lifetime friend of mine! We have so many passions that we share, like the passion to write and the passion for theatre.
Something that I found myself reflecting on as I walked to the train home was how much we have to be grateful for. Currently, I am teaching 2nd and 3rd grade and there are days that this gets frustrating and difficult. It is never not challenging, and I don't ever know what to expect when I get to school. Saleah was such a lovely reminder that there are so many things to be grateful for. It took us a while to finally meet between both of our busy schedules, but I will forever be grateful for Saleah, who believed in me and my art without ever meeting me in person. We can spend our lives trying to do good in the world and trying to create and sometimes, we, or at least I can feel that this work is unimportant or is going unnoticed. Saleah is a reminder to me that sometimes, people do notice. And not only do they notice, they send you love and they let you know that they see you in the world. Sometimes, they'll believe in you the way that Saleah has believed in me. Let's believe in ourselves enough to create. And let's look at the world with bright, open eyes so that we can believe in others too.
Enjoy the photos of Saleah below:
"The opposite of war isn't peace. It's creation." ~Rent