In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM) highlights a few Asian American artists in our midst.
For the past several years, AWUM has collaborated with local artists in support of our mission, which is to end domestic violence by promoting safe and healthy relationships within the Asian Pacific Islander community.
This week, we focus on Mr. Tou SaiKo Lee, Spoken Word Artist, Hip Hop Emcee, Community Organizer. Tou has been a committed partner in promoting AWUM’s mission and we are honored to serve with him.
In late 2013, AWUM commissioned Tou to write and perform a poem about masculinity, which he titled, Man Forward. This powerful piece was created into a digital visual poem, due out this summer.
AWUM is delighted to have Tou accompany us in our vital work. We asked Tou a few questions about his craft and the role of the arts in promoting social change. Here are his responses:
Q: What is your main art form?
Tou: Spoken Word, Hip Hop Music, Hmong Mouth Harp (Ncas) and Harmonica.
Q: How long have you been engaged in developing and refining your craft?
T: 10 Years
Q: What motivates you to do art?
T: I write to seek justice, equality and quantities of gummies.
I’m inspired by the mother who sings poetry to influence her children about past survival stories to motivate them for future struggles of a village life. The former gang member that mentors youth to make sure they don’t follow the same path of self-destruction. The dedicated daughter that keeps her family together while earning a master’s degree and stands up for her community.
The elementary grade school boy with the courage to stand up to a bully that has been pushing around another kid because that boy knows it’s just not right to hurt others.
Exploring balance, such as balancing my health and well being with being dynamically creative. I might jog around a park when it’s warmer in Minnesota or on a treadmill in the wintertime while reciting to memorize a song or poem. I might do movement meditation through martial arts while brainstorming on new ideas for short stories.
I might be eating fruits and veggies at a farmer’s market while practicing performance movements for an upcoming show. I might just sleep more to dream of ideas for new projects. With limited time these days I have to find that balance between creativity and health.
Q: What role does art play in creating positive social change?
T: Art can inspire a movement in a dynamic way and influence people to join the movement by teaching, storytelling, touching emotion and revealing truth through creativity. Learn from those before us. Pass it on to those after us. Be present and visible to inspire a new generation. I feel as a writer I should make an effort to seek out people to learn from whether it be elders, peers or younger ones. Create echoes of knowledge.
Q: Why do you want your creative works to support AWUM’s mission?
T: I believe our creative expressions should uplift the influential Asian women in our lives, raise awareness about the injustices that affect our sisters and take pride in working towards peace, understanding our challenges coming to this country to adjust, organize and move towards healthy relationships.
To hear more of Tou’s work: https://soundcloud.com/tou-saiko-lee. To reach AWUM: www.awum.org or 24-hour crisis: 612-724-8823.
This article and photo was provided by Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM).