24.5.16

Kindred Journey 15 - Chhaya Chhoum

I found out about Chhaya through the NY Times conversation with Asian Americans about race. Chhaya is the founding executive director of Mekong NYC, a non profit organization dedicated to organizing Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans, recent immigrants, and families in the Bronx New York. Mekong started out as a project of CAAAV (Communities Against Anti-Asian Violence) which grew out of a lot of hatred and racism directed toward the Asian American community in NYC. Chhaya immigrated to the US with her family fleeing the violence of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (over 150K Cambodian/Vietnamese migrated to the BX between 1975-2000), but was brought into a late 70's world of poverty and violence in the form of city life. She joined CAAAV at a young age and became an organizer fighting against slum lords, poverty and trauma families carried with them. Her work in the Bronx is ground breaking considering the incredible challenges both Cambodian and Vietnamese families face with regards to cultural difference, language, housing, and so much more that really deserves a specific intentional support network. Chhaya's work shatters that model minority stereotype which denies the lives, struggles, and stories of so many Asian American youth. I also dig that she talks about the use of art to heal and organize!

Sources: APA Institute, NY Times, Petra Foundation

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