Please find the full text of Belinda’s reflection beneath the images. There are left and right buttons on the images to view more.
What is something that you learned from the fellowship that you would like to share with others?
I learned so much over the summer. The elements of the fellowship, learning from other fellows and their experiences over the summer, my own experience. I’ve been thinking about organizational structure and what that looks like. How the bases form the larger movements. I’ve struggled a lot with fluid and unreliable structures in student organizing, though there are a lot of really important things that come from fluidity. But it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what shared responsibility looks like in those situations, and people can get really burned out and confused about why it can feel so bad to do this work that is supposed to bring us closer to healing and grounding and connection. What does sustainability feel like? What does it take to build it? I’ve also been thinking about isolation and when I feel isolated, how to address that as emerging from capitalism?
I began forming some answers during my time at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA). They were so intentional with their organizational structure and check-ins and I felt really supported by my supervisor. There was a week that work was feeling really stressful for me, and my supervisor was just like, what’s the point of our work if it ends up manufacturing this kind of urgency for us? The whole point should be that we are building something away from urgency, that we are building structures that allow rest and spaciousness. We adjusted my schedule and our team’s timeline for the entire summer. That was an amazing moment for me, to see how structures can protect our rest, what sustainable structures can look like. As opposed to people feeling like they have to be martyrs and put so much on themselves and they end up feeling so alone. And I’ve been there before. We need intergenerational healing and organizing that can last and outlive the systems that are not serving us.
What was a highlight from this summer?
Through Seeding Change I was able to meet so many other fellows, and only so much relationship-building can happen within orientation and closing retreat, but I feel like if I’m ever in California or Philadelphia or wherever I can reach out to these people. I was able to become close with the other fellows who were placed at CPA. But with all the fellows, it was nice to connect with so many people who hold similar questions across the U.S. We all have different relationships to being Asian American and I got to broaden my sense of Asian American communities. Before the fellowship I mainly just knew folks from my college in terms of political Asian American community. It was also really good to hear from fellows who were older and not in college, and reflect together on what organizing can mean at different moments in your life. It feels like we will be part of each others’ lives one way or another throughout the rest of our lives, and I’m excited about that.
I didn’t expect to be placed with the youth team at CPA. I was surprised, but I’m really grateful for that placement. The staff were really supportive and there was so much energy for the work. I was able to build some foundational understandings of how youth organizing plays a broader role in organizing for the worlds we need. I hadn’t thought much about youth organizing before and it felt powerful to lean into. In some ways it was healing. I began to wonder what I and the people around me needed when we were young, and if those needs were met. And if not, what could have happened if they were.
The older you get the more you learn about these violent systems, and hopefully how to survive and abolish them. I feel like I’ve gotten to do that, that’s something I’m really grateful for. And I hope I can support other people in finding what they need amid these systems too. My work with the youth team at CPA this summer led me to starting work with Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) in Providence this school year, and I’m continuing to think about different generations and layers of needs. There will always be young people, and also older people who are still dealing with things that happened to them as young people—what they were told as young people. What does it mean to build youth power and for young people to step into the power that has always been theirs?
Did you learn anything about yourself this summer with Seeding Change?
Another big part of Seeding Change for me was that I had a lot of firsts! My first time in San Francisco (SF), my first time living on my own, moving into a new city and figuring that out, and also having a full time job. Especially since it was the summer before my senior year of college, it meant so much to be able to explore some real possibilities for what my life might look like after graduation.
I’d been thinking for a while about maybe trying to live in SF. I grew up in relatively affluent and conservative predominantly white spaces in eastern North Carolina, and in recent years I’ve been learning a lot about histories of Chinese American communities, queer and trans communities, and radical organizing in the Bay Area and had been thinking about what it might be like to be part of that, to build relationships among those roots. And it was so lovely to be in community there this summer! I’m so grateful for the grace and support of CPA and Seeding Change, and all the new and old relationships that surrounded me this summer that made it possible for me to try so many of these things that I’d been dreaming about.
Is there a learning that you would like to implement into your community (home, campus, student orgs)?
Something I’ve been thinking about is a capstone project that I’m required to do as a senior. I’ve been thinking about a project with a healing framework, healing that can center harm caused by imperialism, capitalism, racialization, ableism, colonialism, compulsory gender and sexuality. All the ways that can affect and sometimes define our relationships with each other and ourselves, how we build our sense of community and sense of self. And also interpersonal harm and addressing harm in spaces that are supposed to be anti-imperial or anti-capitalist, having structures for that.
I appreciated the space to think about healing as a fellow. I’ve been thinking about the healing workshop from our closing retreat and how intentional Seeding Change has been about providing support through curriculum like that but also things like always being able to sign up for a 1-on-1 with an RA. And I remember one time at CPA, the fellows were doing an orientation hot seat with staff and I asked, “Do you feel like you have a healthy relationship with organizing?” And I remember Linda (the deputy director) said something like, “I don’t know if I think about it that way anymore. I just know sometimes it will get difficult and now I know who I can call on when things get difficult. I go to my therapist, my friends, my family.”
That was a big moment for me: the importance of learning about yourself and where you can find support. I’d been going to therapy for a few months before the summer and hadn’t been sure if I wanted to continue for the summer. But hearing that, and seeing so many people around me at CPA and in Seeding Change who were so open about how they were finding the support they needed, convinced me that it was worth it to keep investing in my healing so that I could feel good doing this work and supporting other people too. And it doesn’t always have to look like therapy. I’ve also been thinking about transformative justice, and being honest in our relationships and figuring out the work of repair and growth. Being able to keep coming back and do that with people close to me—that’s where I want my organizing to come from. I am grateful for Seeding Change and CPA and for being able to bring things back from both of these experiences. Seeding Change has been a new grounding.