Gabrielle Widjaja, a Chinese-Indonesian born, California-raised creative, has crowd-sourced answers to the question, "Now tell me why you're proud to be Asian" via Instagram and compiled them into a zine titled, 'We Are Still Here.' The question stems from the rise in Anti-Asian racism, and the compilation inspires tenacity and strength within the community. Widjaja powerfully mentions in her project description, "This is not a plea for acceptance; it is a declaration that we are here."
Throughout the pages, you'll find striking bursts of red, captivating screenshots of answers from the Instagram question box and thoughtfully selected and very personal family photos. The intent behind the zine is to inspire comfort and collective healing, and as you flip through the pages, you'll find just that. Art has become a thoughtful vehicle for change when graphic design is combined with a powerful message of resilience and strength.
This zine was rapidly created from crowd-sourced responses in reaction to the heightening anti-Asian sentiment in the US and abroad. This is a project about comfort and collective healing. Pictured below are select speeds and pages from the zine.
For as long as we have survived in this country, Asians have consistently been viewed as outsiders and used as scapegoats while our homelands and native tongues were desecrated by Western imperialism. In the US, our existence has always felt apologetic. We are invisible in a country that only measures us by the cultural and capitalistic value we produce. When we aren’t being used to further the white supremacist agenda and pitted against other communities of color, we’re thrown aside like take-out leftovers. Despite it all, our grandparents, our parents, and we ourselves have carved out our own diasporic spaces to not only exist, but thrive.
Each generation born overseas only grows stronger, sown and cultivated by the tempered hands of those who came before us, allowing us to take root in these spaces despite unfavorable conditions. We are fiercely determined to flourish in places that so reject us, fueled by the tenacity and strength of our elders who brought us here, resolved to fulfill the wishes they worked so hard for. Their struggles have not been in vain.
Though our faces may be vilified, our cultures and our women fetishized, our languages tattooed on colonizer bodies but mocked in the streets, our food dismissed as “gross” until deemed monetizable, our bodies targeted for anger, slander, assault, and murder, we ares still here and here we will stay.
Each day, we wake up to the news that more and more of our community have been attacked, many of them elders and women. Their faces remind us of those in our own families that we hold dear; grandmas, grandpas, aunts, mothers, and daughters. Our people are angry, hurt, frustrated, and exhausted.
In this moment, as in other historic manifestations of cyclical violence against the “Other,” we walk the streets afraid for our lives because of our identities. Our whole lives we have been given reasons to perpetuate self-hatred and reject our heritage in hopes of gaining acceptance and assimilation.
But today we stand our ground. We are as strong as our families were before us. Their blood runs lucky-red through our veins. We will continue to be a loud, proud, and resilient community.
I collected family photos and stories via email and received replies on Instagram answering one prompt:
"Now tell me why you're proud to be Asian"
Across Asian cultures, community is family and family comes first. This is a digital scrapbook of our collective family, telling stories of laughter, cheer, and tears in the process of uprooting life and starting anew in places we’ve made our homes. This is not a plea for acceptance, it is a declaration that we are here. We’ve always been here and we are not going anywhere.