Last summer, I conducted a series of oral histories with Asian American women who have been involved in different aspects of the reproductive justice movement. It’s not comprehensive, but I tried to reach out to a mixture of different activists, advocates, and scholars. The transcribing took hours (5-6 hours for each hour of interview), but it was finished and submitted last fall to the Smith College Sophia Smith Collection.
I’ve come very far since I mass-emailed random listservs in hopes of landing an interview with these folks. It served as a basis for my own growth in political consciousness as well as development in understanding that I belong to a larger Asian American community. Some of their stories, I’ve shared with other Asian American students in the hopes that they will inspire action in the same way they did for me. Below, I’ve included two of my favorite quotes from Beckie Masaki (API Institute on Domestic Violence) and Helen Zia (former Editor in Chief of Ms. Magazine).
From Beckie Masaki, on her long-term vision around gender-based violence:
I think [that] might sound utopian, or “That will never happen in our lifetime,” but I believe that it’s possible to—or definitely possible to—There’s so much work that we could do better to move, to shift the scale. When you think about it, look how far we’ve come, you know, just even in my lifetime. I grew up pre-Civil Rights Movement, where laws were—Even in my lifetime, I think maybe the year when I was born is when Japanese Americans had the right to citizenship. So it’s really within my lifetime that a lot has changed, and so I have a lot of hope in the next generations or, say, within your lifetime how much is going to change.
From Helen Zia, on having discussions with those who are apolitical:
People come to consciousness—I mean my notion is people come to consciousness and awareness at their own time. You cannot force somebody to be into politics or into a certain political framework, if they’re not ready, if they’re not into it, if it’s not their experience. On the other hand, the fact that you bring it to them, later they might become ready. And you—young activists, any activist—you’ve planted a seed. It’s not like it just goes in one ear and out the other. Somewhere it lives.