Yesterday, I was video interviewed by Brenda Wood, for her "Good People" segment on the local news on Monday nights. I think it went pretty well and I think it was pretty clear that I'm a social justice activist. I'm a little apprehensive about how it will be edited and shown.
There was one point where she asked me what I get out of the work and I was surprised at how emotional I got at that question! I said I get a lot out of working with the refugee and immigrant women. It's great to see how our work with them allows them to move forward with their lives, empowers them to become community leaders, to open their own businesses, etc.
Later, she came back and asked me why I got so emotional. I mentioned growing up in the US being the only Asian in the neighborhood and not being accepted by Americans and then living in Taiwan and not being accepted as Chinese. The unfairness of being rejected and discriminated against for aspects of my identity that I can't change is what fuels my activities with regard to social justice.
But I don't think about that very much. I mentioned that it's important to acknowledge the past because it informs who you are. But if you focus too much on the past, you can't move forward. And certainly the rest of the world is moving forward, with or without you.
She asked if I would volunteer with my organization even if I wasn't paid. First I asked if it was still as executive director. When she said not, then I said yes (paying bills, doing payroll, having to deal with staffing issues, and all the administrative stuff is not what I want to volunteer for, as important as it is) and described my tree of life as a crape myrtle tree, with the multiple trunks representing the different pillars of my life -- social activism, art, and family. The trunks come from the same roots, the branches of each trunk are intertwined, and all work together to sustain and grow the tree. (Deep, isn't it? Sometimes I got it in me.) So I would still volunteer and be active because it's something I believe in.
Then she asked me about my art. I mentioned my knitting and pottery and she just loved the metaphor of my molding the clay like my work molds the women my organization works with. I said I can certainly take credit for bending the clay to my will, but my influence over other people is definitely not as extensive! I prefer the metaphor of the quilt, where you take pieces of different fabrics and sew them together to create a new fabric that is beautiful and useful.
She asked about my pottery and I mentioned how you have to really concentrate on centering the clay, and you can't be thinking other other things because then the clay will fly off the wheel or fall in on itself. It's like meditation, it clears the mind, but unlike meditation, you have an object at the end that you can share with other people. I guess you could share the serenity you get from meditation, but I still prefer giving pottery. She asked if I sell the pottery or give it away. I most definitely just give it away and I joked how my family is pretty tired of getting pottery from me.
But that may actually just be my husband. Most other people are pretty impressed when they find out that I made it myself. I think in such a consumerist society, we have become removed from the actual creation of things and when we are exposed to it again, we are impressed. I didn't go off on that consumerist jag in the interview.
She loved the molding clay metaphor anyway and said they might come to my pottery class to film me actually throwing a pot. In the end that didn't happen.
So how did she find me to want to interview me? A few weeks ago, I was honored by a girl-serving organization for my work with women and girls, and Brenda Wood was the MC for the event. She read my introduction (which I did not write), which talked about my work on women's issues, refugee issues, nationally and locally, etc. It was a lot just in the last 4 years, since I've been executive director of this organization and I felt pretty tired after hearing all that. I don't try to do all those things all at once and so I guess I hadn't thought about it cumulatively.
Plus, I'm usually looking forward, not backward. I mean I do try to reflect on past experiences, but mostly in order to apply lessons learned to future activities. Moving on!