A Recap of Kundiman's Inaugural Youth Leadership Intensive

On July 9th–13th, Kundiman hosted its inaugural Youth Leadership Intensive at Fordham University Law School!

Here's what a few of our participants said about the experience:

"The Kundiman Youth Intensive was the most transformative experience of my life. I hadn't realize how starved I had been for a space that was devoted to being uniquely Asian American. I felt completely understood and embraced by people who could relate to what my life was like. Finally, here was a way that I could situate myself in history, literature, and community, without having to codeswitch or struggle to feel represented." –– Emily Lu

"Studying Asian American literature, history, and journalism with so many brilliant Asian American youth was an incredibly formative experience for me. I learned so much more from one 8-hour day in the program than a week of school, [and it] really taught me the importance of Asian American stories, no matter how controversial or "niche" they are. I'm so happy that this program exists, both to create a community and give others the opportunity to create their own." –– Valerie Wu

"The Kundiman Youth Leadership Intensive was an incredible intersection of Asian American literature and history, and how our past affects the cultural and political landscape today. I've never received such a comprehensive overview of Asian American culture and history as I did in the short week we had, and we were able to explore all of this creatively through creative writing exercises that I really enjoyed. The Intensive created a community of like minded peers whose stories are similar to mine, but still different, and this environment was extremely important to those who lacked strong Asian American communities in their regular lives and was an opportunity to build another one for those who did. " –– Mei Kane

Read on to see some highlights from our week together!

 Visiting Artist Wo Chan with the Youth Leadership Intensive students.

Visiting Artist Wo Chan with the Youth Leadership Intensive students.

Students worked on communication, teamwork, and public speaking, while building confidence, empathy, and creativity. Since we believe that successful leaders are not just ambitious and intelligent, but caring and empathetic, we began each day with meditation and a writing exercise.

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We learned about the rich legacy of Asian American literature and history through lessons taught by Ryan Lee Wong (History) and Caroline Lee (Literature). Below is Ryan Lee Wong's lesson on Asian American activism: He brought in copies of BRIDGE Magazine, a magazine put out by Asian American activists at Basement Workshop in the 70s and 80s, and the students loved paging through these documents of radical history.

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We met in small groups, led by our three wonderful Home Group Leaders (and Kundiman fellows!): Dan Lau, Margaret Rhee, and R.A. Villanueva.

 Kundiman Staff & Home Group Leaders

Kundiman Staff & Home Group Leaders

Students met with a luminous roster of Visiting Artists and Power Lunch speakers for the week. Each day, we had a Power Lunch with an industry leader in fields of technology, medicine, publishing, law, and finance. Our Visiting Artists included poet and drag performer Wo Chan, National Student Poet Eileen Huang, and Hawaii-based poet Wing Tek Lum.

 Students with Eileen Huang

Students with Eileen Huang

 Students having lunch with Tara Hariharan, head of research at NWI Management LP.

Students having lunch with Tara Hariharan, head of research at NWI Management LP.

It's summer in New York –– we had to get outside! The week included writing through Central Park and a field trip to the Museum of Art & Design to see Filipino American artist Cynthia Alberto's exhibit "Buhok at Anting Anting and Weaving Together." Alberto's exhibit was inspired by the use of human hair in the artworks and artifacts of cultures worldwide, and students were invited to donate their own hair to a new weaving that would go into the permanent collection at the Museum of Art & Design. They may have left with fewer locks, but now their hair will be woven into a museum forever.

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Each student took part in a Kavad oral history project, with the intent of creating an archival collection of young Asian America in all its brilliance and diversity. Stay tuned for the final project!

All in all, it was a life-changing week, not just for the students, but for all of us involved. We have more photos of the week in our Facebook album. Thank you to our inaugural class of #KundiYouth18 –– you inspired and impressed us all!

 Emily Lu with Cynthia Alberto. Photo by Prashanth Kamalakanthan.

Emily Lu with Cynthia Alberto. Photo by Prashanth Kamalakanthan.

 Photo by Prashanth Kamalakanthan.

Photo by Prashanth Kamalakanthan.

Cathy Linh Che Interviewed in The Rumpus

Cathy Linh Che, Kundiman's Executive Director, was interviewed in The Rumpus by Raj Chakrapani, and she spoke about what makes a good writing program, the importance of community, and the significance of Kundiman.

"Kundiman exists as a space specifically for self-identified Asian Americans. At the Retreat, you don’t have to worry about appealing to a white peer or professor. The gaze shifts to one that centers Asian American conversations. Many at the Retreat have shared histories of war and colonization, immigration, adoption, being mixed race, being first generation, or second, or third generation. When we gather together, new kinships are forged."

Read more here!