Final Report: A Zine for Asian American Femmes

Project Description

Love You, Miss You, Take Care is a collaborative zine series dedicated to uncovering and acknowledging Asian American femmes’ unique and shared experience with race, gender, mental health, and legacies of immigration and assimilation. So many of us in the Asian diaspora feel isolated in our struggles, this zine is an invitation to connect so we can transform and heal together. In a world that has expected you to endure, here, you’re invited to release.

Throughout this series, I will host a conversation around the questions: What are Asian American femmes doing to transform their shame and pain? How can this be shared?

Each zine installment will feature the story of one Asian femme who I have identified in my research to be doing transformational work around mental health, including an interview and resource sharing of an activity around self-actualization, learning, and strengthening on an individual and community level. This will be accompanied by an educational topic addressing injustices our community experiences and are fighting against.

Proof of Concept / Prototype

My first two prototypes (above) and higher fidelity prototype (below)

Context / Research

Key Findings:

Asian American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms of any racial, ethnic or gender group — National Alliance on Mental Illness

Of the Asian American community that have reported facing mental illness, only 4.9 percent of this population used mental health services, the lowest rate among all racial and ethnic minority groups. -National Institute of Mental Health

Suicide remains the most common cause of death for Asian American Pacific Islander adolescents, the only racial or ethnic group whose leading cause of death is suicide. — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A constellation of barriers operate for all Americans: cost, fragmentation of services, lack of availability of services, and societal stigma toward mental health. But additional barriers deter racial and ethnic minorities; mistrust and fear of treatment, racism and discrimination, differences in language and communication, and lack of cultural competence in health care. -Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health

Avenues for change include:

  1. Improving the quality of and access to data around the Asian American community.
  2. Community-based education that honors and preserves confidentiality and culture.
  3. Individual and group conversations that aim to radically shift the culture around mental health in the AAPI community.
  4. More representation and authentic storytelling related to multiracial ethnic identity and mental health.
  5. Learning histories and strategies of mutual aid and applying the framework to mental health in the AAPI community.

Longer Description

As a 2nd generation Korean American femme who has struggled with mental health for more than a decade, I feel called to explore this invisible illness that hurts our community and create this resource that I wish I could have had while growing up.

My thesis is really about bringing this community together and joining it myself so we can heal together and build towards the future.

This zine is intended to act as a tool for movement building against racism and sexism and towards a powerful community. Three parallel goals are 1. to provide tools for helping our community’s immediate mental health needs, while 2. laying a foundation of political and historic education for a long term fight against injustice, and 3. bringing community together over shared values.

I hope to put momentum behind the message that what is revealed can be healed and to do my part in radically shifting the culture around mental health in the AAPI community. Let’s handle what we need to handle right now, so we can plan for the future.

Supporting Research / Process

System mapping:

https://bit.ly/3dOft0C

Starting from “sexist racism” you can follow the left or right path through self-compassion or shame. If you follow the shame path, there is a feedback loop that occurs when STUCK feelings lead back to SHAME — this is where I intend to interrupt this system by connecting to SELF COMPASSION through sharing resources, stories, and inspirations.

Workshops on mutual aid: Cloud 9 and Resource Generation

BUFU + YJC + RG

Key takeaways:

  • Mutual aid happens when people get together to meet each other's basic survival needs with a shared understanding that the systems we live under are not going to meet our needs and we can do it together right now!
  • Mutual aid exists within a community and outside of state-sanctioned & mediated structures. Aims to meets needs that have been articulated by people in the community.
  • The idea being that we handle what we need to handle right now, so we can also plan for the future/ co-create a future together.
  • Most marginalized/invisible societies have historically relied on mutual aid due to not being “eligible” in-state/NGO/etc pipelines — they have been doing this for a long time — they have been in crisis for a long time.

Leading Group Work + Tacit vs. Explicit Knowledge + Non-Bureaucratic organizing

Community agreements are an intentional structure that outlines boundaries and expectations to maintain safety and respect in a group setting. When talking about emotionally charged topics, I've found that having these guidelines helps people to feel supported enough to open up and share with authenticity and depth, even with a group of people who they do not know.

Tacit and Explicit Knowledge

Nonaka’s spiral of knowledge

Explicit knowledge is easy to see and measure; documentation, statistics, data, instructions. Tacit knowledge is impossible to measure and critical to success; soft skills, mastery, unconscious knowledge. In the best circumstances, these two types of knowledge interact and create new knowledge, this is the magic of working in community rather than in a vacuum because tacit knowledge can best be learned by spending time, observing, interacting with, and learning by doing.

“By putting this into writing and sharing this information we make the knowledge explicit. By giving this to others, they can train on this explicit knowledge and build new tacit knowledge. When reading this I realized — this is exactly why I share.” — Why I Share (medium article)

Non-Bureaucratic Organising

I was introduced to language and tenants of non-bureaucratic organizing through this academic article. This is something I have been interested in and have worked on in my own film company, without guidance or research. It’s been energizing to work in a non- hierarchical environment— i enjoy the ease of communication, the flattening of power dynamics, and the rejection of traditional senses of professionalism which allows for more empathy and flexibility. However, I’ve experienced some real trouble from the space that can be opened up that lacks boundaries, lacks communication protocol, lacks a feeling of safe and intentional structure. This article was very helpful for me to understand how to avoid risk while leveraging benefits. This will be so important to leading group work as well as instructing others to lead through the zine. Here were my key notes:

  • Novel knowledge-intensive organizations support the recombination of capabilities and the sharing of tacit knowledge. This “Flexible form” — in the turbulent institutional environments of today's management needs “extensive, multidimensional collection of capabilities” (p. 362) that mixes close-knit and even formalized communication with tacit intra-firm relations.
  • Caution with non-bureaucracy is leading to an “unstable kaleidoscope of shifting coalitions, chaotic communication patterns, random combinations, and general information overload.
  • Management intentionality” — approach to explaining processes by which learning facilitates emergent, purpose-related outcomes for organizations. An important factor delineating the boundaries of new forms in recent organizational research and has the potential for utilizing managerial intentionality as a proxy for defining the boundaries of new forms
  • Network forms of organization — “networks of individuals engage in reciprocal, preferential and mutually supportive actions

Facilitating Conversations

FemBeat Posts

FemBeat is a radical film company I co-founded and run with creative partner Kayla Galang. We each opened up and talked about our relationship to the Asian diaspora together, something we’ve never spoken of at length before. This was on IGTV and kicked off the first day of AAPI month.

We posed this question (lower left) to our audience on Instagram and LOVED the conversations in the comments. Friends and followers really opened up to us, which helped me to realize how people want to talk about this, they just need a nudge and an invitation.

Asian Femmes Braintrust

I got a group of my Asian femme friends to talk about Asian diaspora, mental health, and the research I had been putting together throughout the semester. The 2-hour session flew by, we all unearthed and shared things we hadn’t talked about before (at least outside of therapy and family, if we’re lucky). We all agreed to make this an ongoing group meeting.

Interview and followup meeting with Kwonyin

I reached out to my first collaborator. After some email exchanges, we found a time for me to interview her! We talked about her relationship to the Asian diaspora and mental health, and her path to becoming a healer in the community. She has become a great ally for me, flexible, open, creative, and very passionate about this cause. We decided to set up a follow-up meeting where we could discuss what activity she might share.

After the meetings, I asked Kwonyin and the Asian femmes group to fill out a google form where I could gather their reflections and feedback.

Throughout my research, I had compiled a list of about 20 topics/themes to explore through the zine booklets. I asked Kwonyin and my Asian femme friends to vote on their top 5 each. I put together two graphics from the google form information.

Research gathered from group meetings

Zine Submission Guidelines

After the interview with Kwonyin, I put together submission guidelines by referring to a friend’s groupwork booklet called Spaghetti and Money. I made sure to reach out to this friend, Illyana Bocanegra, to let her know what I loved about the booklet, and ask for their blessing in adapting it. They said “Yeah of course! Go for it. Feel free to credit me in any way.”

About one week later, I met again with Kwonyin. By sharing the top 10 topics that my Asian femme group was interested in, along with the Spaghetti and Money pdf, Kwonyin was able to come to the meeting with two activity ideas for us to discuss together: meeting your inner child, and guided mirror work.

We decided on the latter, which could focus on the topics of “Radical acceptance” and “How to do transformative work.” She referred to the submission guidelines, wrote up and sent over text and photos. From there, I got to work with a graphic design friend of mine to create a higher fidelity prototype!

Goals/Schedule

Process Logs: blog posts tracking progress throughout the semester

Log 1 | Log 2 | Log 3 | Log 4 | Log 5 | Log 6 | Log 7 | Log 8 | Log 9 | Log 10 | Log 11 | Log 12

Appendix

  • Augsberger, Astraea, Albert Yeung, Meaghan Dougher, and Hyeouk Chris Hahm. “Factors influencing the underutilization of mental health services among Asian American women with a history of depression and suicide.” BMC health services research 15, no. 1 (2015): 542.
  • Lee, Hyunji Hannah. “DATA, COMMUNITY, AND MEANINGFUL CHANGE: MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCACY IN THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY.” Asian American Policy Review 29 (2019): 52–95.
  • General, US Surgeon. “Mental health: Culture, race, and ethnicity.” A supplement to mental health: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services (2001).
  • Gonzales, Frances. May 2, 2017. “Where Are the Asian American Mental Health Stories?” https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/05/asian-american-mental-health/
  • National Associate of Mental Health.. January 1, 2011. “Asian American Teenage Girls Have Highest Rates Of Depression; NAMI Releases Report.” https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2011/Asian-American-Teenage-Girls-Have-Highest-Rates-of.
  • Petkova, Iva. “Bureaucratic versus non-bureaucratic organization: explaining form, function, and change in new forms of organizing.” Management and Organizational Studies 2 (2015): 33–51.
  • Pew Research Center. June 19, 2012. “The Rise of the Asians.”https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/06/19/the-rise-of-asian-americans/.
  • Pew Research Center. Sept 8, 2017. “Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population.” https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/08/key-facts-about-asian-americans/
  • Soller, Alicia. Sept 25, 2017. “Asian American Women Are Killing Themselves — Here’s What We Need To Do About It” https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/09/asian-women-killing-themselves/
  • Wang, Charlene. “WHY ARE SO MANY OF US SECRETLY DEPRESSED? EXCAVATING THE LAYERS OF ASIAN AMERICANS’ STRUGGLES WITH MENTAL HEALTH AN INTERVIEW OF JR KUO.” Asian American Policy Review 29 (2019): 86–96.

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Samantha Skinner

Samantha Skinner

2 Followers

Co-director of FemBeat, studies integrated digital media at NYU, and can’t sit still when there’s a good beat playing.