Kavad is a multi-faceted storytelling program comprised of community interviews, public readings, educational workshops, online media, and new creative writing by Asian American poets.


In the "kavad," a three-dimensional form of traditional Indian storytelling, a box unfolds to reveal the secrets of a particular story. We have chosen "kavad" as the central metaphor for this program as we partner across communities and generations of Asian Americans in the telling of a collective  Asian American story.


Past Kavad Projects: 


Kavad is the only program of its kind in the country and is of particular significance in that it not only employs ethnological modes of preserving Asian American history but also helps to re-create and re-invigorate our communities through creative work and community dialogue. Through Kavad, Kundiman brings forward the poet as witness, historian, and social activist.


Mother Tongues

We never talked about it. Since she escaped the communist regime in Vietnam, my mother resolved to leave her past behind. Any question about the war, the refugee camp, or the Saigon gangster that had been my father met unshakable silence. Con oi, du roi. Me dien cai dau. All I knew of my family’s history came from library books, neighborhood gossip, or the long-distance calls my mother made across the Pacific while I pretended to sleep. Living without a history denied all possibilities for “existence.” And though she determined to protect me from what the telling revealed, I could not reconcile her trauma with the desire to understand where we came from, how we got here, or what unspeakable violence demanded we live in fear of that knowledge.  
-- Kundiman Fellow

We do not enter this life as tabulae rasae; we are born with the ability to recognize our mother's voice. In utero we begin to hear the sounds basic to language.  As we grow, we internalize the rules and structures that turn sound into meaning. Mothers give us our means of discerning language; language gives us our means of knowing our world. Past documents and images can salvage only so much of this past.  To capture our mothers' narratives we must incorporate the ephemerality of memory through speech.  We must begin with her own words.  

Mother Tongues recovers diasporic narratives by chronicling the lives and experiences of mothers across three Asian American generations. Interviews, poetry and performances will combine to form an archive that will document the triumphs and challenges of building lives in America.


Project Manager

Melissa Reburiano is a poet and a doctoral student in Applied Anthropology at Columbia University.  An Arthur Zankel Fellow, Ms. Reburiano's research examines race/ethnicity, gender, and social formation in emerging digital geographies. She has presented her research at conferences nationwide and has served as a teaching fellow at The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University.  A longtime educator, Ms. Reburiano has devised and facilitated college-preparatory curriculum for The Harlem Children's Zone and has most recently worked with the Asian American Writers Workshop to offer the organization's first workshop using strategies of improvisational acting to teach elements of the creative process. 


Project Coordinator

Paul Tran is an Asian American activist, historian and spoken word poet from Providence, RI. He's won "Best Poet" and "Pushing the Art Forward" at the national college poetry slam and numerous fellowships from Kundiman, Coca Cola and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His work combines oral history and performance the reimagine the violences inherited from the American war in Vietnam. Paul is the cofounder of the Gravediggers Poetry Collective, a workshop for emerging writers of color, and coaches the 2014 Providence youth slam team heading to Brave New Voices.


Call for Poets

We are looking for three first generation Asian American poets interested in the intersection between oral history and creative writing. These poets will interview their mothers, respond to these interviews through poetry and participate in the culminating reading at Fordham University. There will also be a round-table discussion with Asian American youth poets on June 1 from 12:00 - 1:00 pm. Honorarium is $400.

Access the Online Application
The application deadline is April 18.
Notification to applicants will go out by email on April 25.


Call for Youth Poets

Eligibility and Application

Asian American youth ages 13 - 18  
Access the Online Application
The application deadline is April 18th.
Notification to applicants will go out by email on April 25th.

Youth poets will attend an oral history/creative writing weekend intensive workshop and then will interview their mothers, respond to these interviews through poetry and participate in the culminating reading at Fordham University.


Youth Oral History/Creative Writing Weekend Intensive Workshop

Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1
10:00 am - 1:00 pm 
Fordham University, Lincoln Center
Lunch will be provided.



Thursday, June 5, 7:00 pm
Fordham University, Lincoln Center
South Lounge

113 West 60th Street
Fordham University, Lincoln Center
Take A, B, C, D & 1 trains to Columbus Circle. 
Exit at 60th Street & Broadway.  Go west of Columbus Avenue.
Upon entering the glass doors inform the security desk that you are attending the English Department event. Take escalators up 1 floor to Plaza level. Head to the back of the Student Cafeteria.