Two years ago, when Jess X. Chen was still an undergraduate at RISD, she sent us this essay for publication. Although we decided against accepting it due to space constraints, we recently have decided to publish it on our website in honor of her return to RISD campus with Will Giles as part of their “Last Words * First Songs” API*A Poetry tour, which WORD! and VISIONS are co-hosting. In this piece, Jess articulates many of the themes that her work continues to explore: how we are able to move through the borders that exist in our everyday, defying conventions with our art as will. We at VISIONS hope to continue existing as the bridge that spans borders, between RISD and Brown, between Asian and American.
by Jess X. Chen
Performed as the 2013 RISD Undergraduate Commencement Speech
Beyond this microphone are five hundred artists who have never been in the same room together for four years. Beyond this room is the Rhode Island Convention Center, beyond these walls, is all the local communities of Providence, Rhode Island, and beyond that is the rest of our lives on Earth.
It is no accident that we have been brought together in this room today.
If there is anything that being here at RISD has taught me it is; “the only boundary between art and design is “convention.” 1
October 8, 2015
We, a collective of Asian/Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students at Brown University, write this statement out of deep concern for the recent decisions of the Brown Daily Herald (The Herald) to publish egregiously offensive and racist content.
The Herald’s staff privileges writers who continue in the legacy of white supremacy, further marginalizing students already systemically oppressed by the University. In an effort to recenter and stand in solidarity with Native and Indigenous students, we call attention to The Herald’s errors and their history of racism. Due to the racist underpinnings of this incident, we also call AAPI community members to interrogate the ways in which we are complicit in the erasure of Native and Indigenous people. Moreover, we cannot view AAPI and Indigenous identity as separate—there are AAPI people who hold Indigenous identity. We, as a community that experiences a continued history of racism and colonization, must evaluate, address, and decolonize our own actions. Finally, we aim to hold both the The Herald’s staff and the University accountable for the violences they perpetuate against Native and Indigenous peoples, and broader communities of color at and around the University since its inception.
Edited by Paige Morris ‘16
*Disclaimer: This piece represents the writer’s views on Indigenous People’s Day. It is in no way, shape, or form representative of all of Native Americans at Brown (NAB) or Indigenous Peoples across the world.
Yá’át’ééh, shí éí Ronald Charles Scott, Jr. yinishyé. Naasht’ézhí Tábaahá nishłí, Tsénjíkiní báshíshchíín, Áshįįhí dashicheii, dóó Kiis’áanii dashinalí. Chʼínílį́déé naashá.
Hello, I am named Ronald Charles Scott, Jr. I am of the Zuni Water Edge Clan, born for the Honeycomb Rock People of the Cliff Dwellers People Clan, my maternal grandfathers are of the Salt People Clan, and my paternal grandfathers are of the Hopi Sun Clan. I am from Chinle, Arizona, which is in the middle of the Navajo Nation reservation. By this traditional introduction I am showing you who I am, who my relatives are, and who I represent. I am currently studying abroad for the fall semester at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
**What does POC solidarity mean to you?**
VISIONS, SOMOS Latino Literary Magazine, and OBSIDIAN Magazine—Brown/RISD’s literary and visual art magazines centered on people of color and their experiences— want to start a conversation on solidarity among communities of color. We are creating a collaborative zine to start what we hope will be the first of many discussions on this topic.
Share your writing and visual art engaging with the topic of solidarity in POC communities. Email submissions in 300dpi .jpg, .doc, .docx, and .pdf formats to the Brown Publications of Color Collective at BrownPOC@gmail.com by March 15, 2015.
[event poster credits to Alex Karim at OBSIDIAN]
Facebook event here!
VISIONS is officially accepting submissions for our Spring 2015 issue!
We publish work of all genres and mediums ranging across poetry, painting, translation, photography, non-fiction and sculpture.
We ask you to provoke our notions of identity and culture. To challenge the idea of a single Asian or Asian American experience.
Please send your art and writing to email@example.com by Thursday, February 26. Images must be 300 dpi or higher. We look forward to reviewing your work!
This essay was initially slated to appear in the Fall 2014 issue. However, our print vendor is based in the People’s Republic of China, and as we found out at the very last minute of production, PrintNinja is subject to Chinese censorship laws. Thus, they could not print the magazine if it included this documentation of the Hong Kong protests.
In order to receive the magazine in time for our biannual release event, we were unfortunately forced to pull Larry’s essay from the print issue. We printed it domestically as an insert that will appear in 300 select copies.
We were angered and disappointed by yet another case of censorship. In retrospect, perhaps we should have foreseen the implications of outsourcing our printing to China. But more importantly, this incident served to remind us of the privileges that we often take for granted, of the absolute necessity and right to freedom of speech and press we all deserve. It reminded us of our position as university students in America and of our privilege to publish in a forum such as VISIONS. We must remember that injustice anywhere impacts us all, and continue to draw attention to the ongoing struggle for universal suffrage and democracy outside the United States.
A Visual History of the #UmbrellaMovement
photo essay by Larry Au
Perhaps more out of luck and habit than anything else, I happened to be able to watch events develop in Hong Kong this summer until the eruption of the so-called “Umbrella Movement” at the end of September. After graduation, I returned to Hong Kong, where I witnessed the annual July 1st March, a tradition since 2003, when half a million took to the streets to protest the implementation of national security legislation perceived to curtail civil liberties. This year’s march was the biggest since it began. What would otherwise be a thirty-minute walk from Causeway Bay to Central took over six hours to complete. In the tropical summer heat and sudden downpours, the call from those gathered was clear and simple: “Let us have a genuine choice for our 2017 elections”.
When the National People’s Congress handed down their decision on August 31, very few had expected it to be as restrictive as it was. Even pro-establishment and pro-Beijing politicians were caught by surprise.
On a Saturday afternoon, seventeen students of Brown University filed into the Faunce Memorial room to a long table where they began to take out their notebooks and pens. Mia and I were there already, placing snacks on the bench next to the window, as participants recognized each other, filling the airspace with greetings and laughter. Then, the hosts of the event, the poets Paul Tran and Zainab Syed, came to sit at the long table, and the workshop began.
The day was October 18th, and VISIONS was hosting its first writing workshop, produced with the help of the Asian American Heritage Series (AAHS). In a few hours, Paul and Zainab would leave to perform at AAHS’s “Beats of Resistance,” a showcasing of spoken word poetry that also featured the poet, Jamaica Osorio. Paul and Zainab were both former students and poets of Brown, so Mia and I asked them if they would like to host a poetry workshop.
Paul and Zainab worked off a lesson plan they made, and began by asking all the participants why they were here. It was, indeed, a Saturday, and they were using it by sitting in a room full of strangers—with the sounds of laughter and conversation from the Main Green drifting in through the windows. Why were they here? One participant said he wanted to explore his half Asian identity, and another claimed she wanted to forge spoken word to reflect what we feel. Some felt fear of speaking aloud and wanted to overcome it; others wanted to explore how writing poetry could become a process of healing.
Together, Zainab and Paul explained that the spoken word was borne out of sacrifice, out of putting shattered pieces back together to create something that was bigger than one’s self. Their own journeys as poets seemed to reflect this, as Paul came from a family where he was the first to speak English, he was the first to go to college.