Hi PrYSM friends and fam! My name is Franny Choi, and I’m absolutely thrilled to come on as the new SOUL Program Director! I’ve had a great time so far getting settled, learning a ton about PrYSM, sweating my brains out in the hot-as-balls office, and getting to know the amazing staff and youth. PrYSM is such a unique and inspiring space, and I’m honored to be part of it.
I recently graduated from Brown University, where I majored in Ethnic Studies and Literary Arts (brownspeak for creative writing). I was also involved in Brown’s Third World Center as a Minority Peer Counselor. Unlike the “diversity” or “multicultural” centers that a lot of other schools have, the Third World Center tries to carry on a legacy of actively fighting the system, and not just peacefully integrating into it. The center gets its name from the Third World Movement, in which African, Asian, and Latin American nations banded together in solidarity to fight against colonialism and oppression.
It was in the TWC that I began to understand this idea of solidarity and feel a sense of a common struggle with people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Of course, I feel a special connection to APIA people; at the same time, I understand that, as a Korean-American, I carry a certain amount of privilege into this space. My parents were not refugees, but immigrated to the U.S. so that my father could attend school. Like many other Koreans, they started out poor but had the cultural capital to climb the socioeconomic ladder and eventually join the middle class.
But we shouldn’t let the successes of South Korea and Korean America make us forget that Korea is also a postcolonial country, that it also experienced a brutal, divisive Cold War, and that half of its people are still struggling under oppressive rule. I’m definitely not trying to say that this means I understand the Southeast Asian American experience, or that Korean Americans have struggled as much as SEAAs have. But I want to point out that the model minority myth is very good at hiding this common history and preventing us as APIAs from forming solidarity. This fight is far from over. In joining PrYSM, I hope to take a step toward rebuilding a coalition between Southeast Asians and East Asians in the movement for justice and love.
I’m coming in excited to learn about the Southeast Asian American struggle and to share what I know. I can’t wait to see everything that PrYSM will teach Providence, Asian America, and the world about what it means to fight for change.
“so please, my fellow silent news blips,
my fellow ghosts, please know
that it is no small gesture
to hold the rotting pieces of violence bleedingly between your fingers,
raise them above the frame this station has labeled ugly
history that this network has called second-hand,
and say: we have always been here.
and in the end, we will call each of our own by name.”
–from my piece, “The Other 97%”