Reimagining Legacy: Rest as Resistance

May 31, 2024

Dear Community,

During this Asian American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month we must reflect on how our heritage extends back further than any history or empire we have been taught about. Our culture is not performance, but political power. Just as community care has held many names it continues to hold us as we pave our paths forward to reimagine leadership and power. 

AAPI womxn in my life have taught me that fearlessness is a myth. So much of being first generation Asian American, a child of refugees, and being a femme leader requires the audacity to speak up, self-advocate, and be afraid while performing, achieving, and healing with much uncertainty — all while building and holding community. 

Yet, I have never met a well-rested Asian American womxn in my life. Through the seasons of movement work, I see and know that AAPI womxn as well as femme labor are the core to communities throughout the diaspora but are still often invisible. AAPI womxn lead through nourishing the collective with presence, tangible gifts, and unrelenting devotion to the next generation.

It is in knowing this that one of my core guiding leadership questions for the last five years has been—what would I have needed as a young person to cultivate a leadership journey anchored in belonging and radical joy rather than grind culture and sheer grit?

What would have made my advocacy more safe, just, and equitable? 

How are we modeling the next generation of AAPI leadership in the south and beyond? 

Understanding how AAPI womxn have led at the intersections of violence and erasure can teach us so much. And at this time, I need more than grit in my leadership to steward the evolution of VAYLA. 

We have arrived at a moment now where I must model radical rest in order to reinvest in self love and movement work that span over generations and this life of mine. And through this I know VAYLA remains committed to nurturing advocates in the ecosystem that continue to do movement work. 

It has been an organizational lifetime (FIVE YEARS!) since VAYLA’s founder transition—we are thankful for our history and growth. Our roots have weathered so many literal and figurative storms, from hurricanes to the ever-present trauma of bearing witness to and existing within systems perpetuating state violence. 

Our legacy has been woven through harm reduction and intergenerational healing across ethnic and class lines with young advocates that continue to inform and guide our work. And as we persevere, our team has also blossomed, reimagining an ecosystem together through a few initiatives like:

🌱 Farm to Families
📝 Louisiana’s Anti-Hate Reporting
🌿 Launched Ginger Roots and our inaugural Zine
🌸 Advocate-led Reproductive Justice Podcasts Our Bodies, Our Stories and Blossoming & Becoming
🌟 AAPI Rising: Soul Care, Teach-Ins & our AAPI Rising in the South Speaker Series
🌳 Earth Rising: Sinews in the Cypress
💞 Mutual Aid
🐉 Seeding Power Storytelling Circles
☕ Monthly Cha and Chat
🌊 Partnered with Speak Easy Farm, Veggi Co-op, VIET, New Orleans Public Library, Emergency Legal Responders, Newcomb Institute, Sprout NOLA, and many more local artists, creators, and culture bearers.

This growth work is ongoing, seeded with intention and love—none of which would be possible without creative interns, genuine advocates, Community canvassers, and each and every single one of our staff and leaders, both past and present.

At this inflection point, I will be on Sabbatical beginning in June, with a few pre-committed talks in-between, until the end of September. This time will allow me to reflect, restore, and regenerate—anchoring movement work in knowing the value of Asian American femmes like me who lead and will lead. I look forward to renewing a presence for all of the things in our everyday life that get sidelined in our constant production amid rapidly increasing crises from peace and climate to reproductive and human rights.

VAYLA remains in steadfast hands—led by Deputy Director, Anthony Johnson, Esq. during this season. I know I will return more fortified in my resolve to incubate AAPI leaders anchored in community care and reimagined leadership. In the meantime our team continues to grow together, sit in community, seed power, and take strategic action.

Thank you so much for being a part of our collective story through your continued support of our (r/)evolution as AAPI rising in the Gulf South. 

See y’all on the other side,

– Dr. Jacqueline Thanh, DSW, AM
Executive Director
VAYLA New Orleans