"Literature has always been a central artform for Asian American communities. We believe it needs and deserves perennial stewardship. Not simply creating and holding space for it to exist––we believe stewardship means collectively determining what it might make possible, and for whom. We see the Festival as an opportunity for more equitable distribution of resources, for creating cooperatives, for sharing commitments to one another's well-being: solidarities. We see it as a space for investing in literature's potentials, and thereby our own." ––Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Festival Philosophy
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, in partnership with Kundiman, Kaya Press, and other community partners, hosted its biannual Asian American Literature Festival from August 2nd–4th, bringing a series of excellent readings, workshops, lectures, and salons to the Eaton DC, Library of Congress, and Smithsonian Freer|Sackler Galleries.
Care and caregiving, the theme of the festival, could be felt surging through all of Kundiman's events, an emanation of our core values of generosity, inclusion, and courage. Our Pacific Islander Poetry Reading with Will Nu'utupu Giles, Christopher Diaz, and Lee Kava kicked off by situating attendees with the questions of "What is sacred to you?" and "How do you protect it?," eternal questions that are especially important in our modern times.
Kundiman also participated in a live Poetry Foundation VS Podcast, hosted by Franny Choi and Danez Smith, who interviewed Kundiman co-founders Sarah Gambito and Joseph O. Legaspi and current Executive Director Cathy Linh Che on the organization's storied start, growth, and necessity as an outlet in the literary world. Catch the podcast here when it goes live in October!
We returned to our roots Friday night and hosted an informal salon in our hotel room at the Eaton, where 50 readers gathered to share snacks and stories and celebrate the Kundiman community.
On Saturday night, we gathered our 2019 Mentorship Lab Fellows and Mentors for their first public reading as a group! J. Mae Barizo, Paul Aster Stone-Tsao, June Daowen Lei, and Ananya Kanai Shah read poetry; Bushra Rehman, Divya Nair, Kimarlee Nguyen, and Shrima Pandey read fiction pieces; T Kira Madden, Pik-Shuen Fung, Julie Ae Kim, and Danielle Batalion Ola read non-fiction pieces.
It's not Kundiman if there's not karaoke! We rocked the house with Queer Literaoke emceed by our very own Dan Lau, who was joined by Kazim Ali, Kristen Arnett, Jericho Brown, Regie Cabico, Wo Chan, Ching-in Chen, Franny Choi, Sarah Gambito, Mimi Khúc, Gowri Koneswaran, Joseph O. Legaspi, Ricco Siasoco, and Yanyi for a night of reading and song.
Kundiman hosted a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on Sunday in partnership with Wikimedia DC, where guests worked to fill in gaps in the availability of information on Asian American writers, adding 8,180 words and editing 39 articles. Pages were created for Rick Barot, Ching-in Chen, Crystal Hana Kim, Krys Lee, T Kira Madden, Prageeta Sharma, and the Asian American Literature Festival, too!
Sunu Chandy, Krittika Ghosh, and Purvi Shah joined us later in the day for a Kundiman co-sponsored Caring for Liberation Writing Workshop that explored healing and community building through collaborative bricolage projects.
During Friday's VS Podcast, Joseph O. Legaspi read the line "What wasn't a possibility is present in our arms" from his poem "Vows (For a Gay Wedding)," and we can't help but feel that line perfectly encapsulates the experience of the 2019 Asian American Literature Festival, an unprecedented gathering of every living generation of lovers and writers of Asian American literature in a compassionate space.
Read more about the festival in 2019 Mentorship Fellow Paul Aster Stone-Tsao's recap here.