This past Sunday, I had the privilege of designing a time of celebration for AAPI Heritage Month for my church, First Pres Hayward. I had different folks in our church community who identify as AAPI share objects that symbolized their culture, family, or heritage in some significant way.
It was a beautiful and emotional time, as people shared everything from old family photos, to traditional clothing, to Korean hymnals, to art pieces, to crumpled up paper symbolizing what family members brought over on their journey to the U.S.
At the end of our time, I shared this poem that I wrote, to celebrate the gifts that we bring to the table. Here it is:
The Poet says
“I praise you
because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful
I know that full well.”
Yet the gifts of being Asian AND American in these lands
we have rarely known.
Buried beneath the weight of Yellow Peril
Hidden behind the labels of “other”
“foreigner” and “stranger”
we have felt fear more than wonder
exclusion more than embrace.
But to acknowledge your works
is to acknowledge
that you are a good Creator;
To celebrate the gifts we carry
is to remember
You are a generous Giver.
So today, we choose praise.
We praise you for ancestors who carried tears in their eyes,
hopes in their hearts, and memories in their bags,
names, stories, and faces in their minds.
We praise you for these sojourners
leaving behind revolutions and genocides,
families lost in mushroom clouds
lands destroyed from colonization
homes ravaged by wars they did not start,
names too demanding for the white man’s tongue
We praise you for the work of their hands-
diplomas that weren’t valued here
songs and poems lost to thick accents
sweat unseen and poured out
on railroads and farms, laundromats and factories
lives given up for family and country.
I praise you for our resistance leaders
marching for just immigration laws,
fair labor practices,
freedom from internment,
protection from hate and violence,
dreaming of Civil rights for all
I praise you for the unseen expressions of love-
bellies filled up,
fruit cut after meals,
bills paid in secret,
for intuition and indirect communication,
for never having to be asked.
I praise you for theologies of han and jeong
for scripture read with the eyes of the exiled
for God as Creator, as Mother, as Master,
for Jesus, the One from a liminal place,
for deep understandings of honor and shame.
I praise you for communion performed with roti
hymns uttered in mother tongues
after-church fellowship over jook and sinigang
early morning prayer before the crack of dawn.
I praise you for churches that were language schools,
welcome centers, culture preservers,
for dining tables transformed into remnants of home.
For every gift-
both seen and unseen
valued and dismissed
named and silenced-
We praise you.
We are fearfully