The word “ Bánh Mì “ means “bread” in Vietnamese. Bánh Mì sandwiches are a long-time Vietnamese staple that’s been influenced since the French colonization. It was the first Vietnamese food I grew to like as a Southeast Asian kid growing up in a White middle class neighborhood outside of Chicago.
Through "The Bánh Mì Chronicles," I am looking to "break bánh mì" with AAPI folks in Chicago and beyond, to understand the work they are doing for themselves, their community, and their family. This journey will ensure that our interactions with each other become a part of our history.
Where to listen
Storytelling: Recording Our History in Action w/ Dr. Ada Cheng
Season 1 of The Banh Mi Chronicles podcast has finally concluded! Thank you to everyone who has followed and listened to the podcast. In the past 3 months (October '19), I am thankful to have the opportunity to interview my incredible guests for these 12 episodes. Back in early summer when I was planning for the podcast, I wanted to focus on uplifting API (Asian Pacific-Islander) locally in Chicago and beyond to hear their work they are doing for their community, .their family, and themselves. Oftentimes, the API narratives are often overlooked, neglected, erased, and forgotten in America. As more of our API continues to emerge thanks to renewed research and digital access, it is important that we advance our own history so that we have a blueprint for our younger generations to continue the work that we are doing in elevating the visibility and platform of our community, and stand against the erasure and oppression that ethnic, racial, LGBTQ+ minorities face here.
Special thanks to my guests, my friend Huythang Tran for designing the podcast logo, and Chanho Kim for his additional audio editing assistance. Be on the lookout for a special 2nd season soon!
Continue to uplift!
For the season 1 finale of the podcast, Dr. Ada Cheng joins me as a guest on the podcast. I met Ada back in June 2016 at a queer storytelling show, a week after the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando. At the time, she had resigned from her position as a tenured professor at DePaul University to pursue theatre and storytelling, and became a naturalized US citizen. In this interview, she reflects back during that period, and goes into the creative and critical challenges that she experienced as a storyteller / storytelling producer. She discusses the importance of developing new storytellers, specifically in the POC communities, and why telling our own stories do indeed matter to our history. Check this episode out, and please follow her on Facebook or her website for upcoming events and workshops that she conducts.
Ada Cheng is a professor-turned-storyteller, solo performer, and storytelling show producer. She recently performed her solo show NOT QUITE as the keynote for Women and Girls in Georgia Conference at the University of Georgia. She is the producer and the host for four storytelling shows, including Pour One Out, Am I Man Enough?, Talk Stories (with Randy Kim), and Speaking Truths Series. She creates platforms for people to tell difficult and vulnerable stories as well as spaces for people and communities who may not have opportunities otherwise. Please check out her website: www.renegadeadacheng.com. or on Facebook at Renegade Ada Cheng.
Audio Editing Credit: Chanho Kim (www.chanho.kim)
For this week's season 1, episode 11, singer / musician SuperKnova chats with me and shares her journey as a Korean-American transgender musician. She recently released her 2nd EP called "American Queers" which can be found on all streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, Google). We talk about her process in making her latest album, her visibility as a trans artist in the Chicago music scene, and her recent live performances in the city with a future US tour in the works.
SuperKnova is a Chicago-based transgender musician who creates Queer Pop, a unique sound that incorporates hip-hop inspired drums, driving synths, and virtuosic guitar solos. She writes about identity, queerness and the struggle of being your authentic self. You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SuperKnovaMusic or on Instagram @superknovamusic
Audio Editing Credit: Chanho Kim (www.chanho.kim)
For this week's Season 1, Episode 10, Brandon Lee, Japanese-American and community activist from the Chicago Uptown neighborhood, joined me for "The Banh Mi Chronicles" podcast back in late October to discuss his experience over the years with Asians American Advancing Justice (AAAJC) in Chicago. Brandon recently left AAAJC for a brief hiatus at that time. He looks back on the challenges of mobilzing the Asian-Pacific Islander (API) community here locally when factoring the difficult history that each community has with one another. Recently, AAAJC-Los Angeles affiliate laid off a number of staff members in a controversial move that was due to "budget windfall." This move has sparked concerns within the API community organizing movements, and he discussed the impact that it will have for the API communities in a critical 2020 election and census year.
Bio: Brandon Lee is a born-and-raised Chicagoan who has lived in the Uptown neighborhood his whole life. He has spent some of that life working in Chicago organizing and nonprofit spaces, with a focus on the Asian American community, most recently with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. He got his start organizing while a student at University of Illinois-Chicago in the Asian American Coalition Committee. In his current quasi-sabbatical he’s doing his best to rest a little bit while also diving deep into the wider Star Wars universe and lamenting the Cubs’ September collapse
Audio / Sound Credit: Chanho Kim (www.chanho.kim)
For this week's Season 1, Episode 9, Huy Nguyen and Mickael Van Pham sit down and chat about their different paths going into comedy and theater. They perform together as a comedy improv duo called "Fish Sauce." As 2nd generation Viet-Americans, they navigated through the assimilation process growing up in communities unfamiliar to their family. They share their family's reaction when they decided to pursue their own career in the arts after spending time as corporate professionals. Through their recent journey into comedy and theater, they share their hopes and ambitions of breaking into a field that has long ignored Asian-Pacific Islander folks. Check this episode out
Huy is an actor/writer/director originally from the Pacific Northwest where he studied drama at the University of Washington before making Chicago his artistic home. He believes that art should be accessible to anyone with an open heart and free mind
Mickael Van Pham:
Michael Van Pham is an actor and improviser from Memphis, TN. You can see him performing with the all azn arts collective Club Asia, the unfiltered af Act Up, or at MINt Thursdays at the Annoyance with MINt Bizkit. Michael would like all theaters to participate in the #castPOCchallenge2020. When he’s not doing comedy, Michael is currently playing God of War and POKEMON Sword #sobblesquad #sushigang
For this week's Season 1, Episode 8, Joy Messinger sits down "The Banh Mi Chronicles" podcast and takes us on a journey as a queer Korean adoptee in Western NY. She talks about her experiences in the racial, social, gender, LGBTQ, disability and reproductive justice movements, and the importance of understanding self-care and boundaries in this work. Joy has been living in CHicago for the past decade continuing this important work, and she also shares her own passion for basketball and her hatred of another North Carolina college team.
Joy Messinger is a passionate community advocate whose personal & professional life have been guided by a commitment to reproductive & social justice. She is a Program Officer with Third Wave Fund overseeing a $1M grantmaking portfolio for youth-led gender justice activism and serving as Co-Chair of the Funders for Justice Healing Justice Strategy Group and Funders for Reproductive Equity Youth Engagement and Leadership Working Group.
Prior to Third Wave, Joy was Deputy Director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. Over her five-year tenure, she grew ICAH's training & education, oversaw the expansion of its youth development programs, established its monitoring & evaluation system, broadened its employment policies, and collaborated on the passage of Chicago Public Schools' Comprehensive Sexual Health Education Policy & Illinois' conversion therapy ban.
When she's not working, Joy is active with Asian American, LGBTQ, and feminist organizations, serving as Board Treasurer with the Youth Empowerment Performance Project and volunteering with the Chicago chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and the Midwest Access Coalition. She previously served as a Treasurer of Invisible to Invincible (i2i): Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago, Co-Chair of the LBTQ Giving Council at the Chicago Foundation for Women, and Co-Chair of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance Board of Directors.
Joy holds a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
For this week's S1, Ep 7, Jenn Ho, the creator of Lawrence & Argyle sits down with The Banh Mi Chronicles podcast as she reflects on her experience growing up as an American-born Viet-American and witnesses the challenges that her parents as refugees from the Vietnam War faced during the US refugee resettlement. Originally born in Chicago, and spent her childhood to adulthood in San Diego, she moved to Chicago. It was by living in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood that she created the "Lawrence & Argyle" merchandise (named after the Asia on Argyle intersection in Uptown) that reflects the immigrant / refugee experience. She shares her inspiration behind the message and the importance of proudly identifying as an immigrant / refugee in a time where these communities have been under attack. Be sure to check out this episode and grab yourself a souvenir from the Lawrence & Argyle website below!
Jenn Ho is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. During the day, she is an archivist at CSU San Marcos. On the side, she runs Lawrence & Argyle, an apparel company that celebrates America's immigrant heritage. She lives in San Diego with her chihuahua, Olive.
Follow Lawrence & Argyle on IG and Facebook at @lawrenceandargyle, or online at www.LawrenceAndArgyle.com.
For S1 Episode 6, Loreen Targos shares her experience in the political activism / advocacy sphere. She talks about mixed Asian identity experience and the environment she grew up in that helped to shape her political views, and her desire to get involved in civic engagement through theatre, grassroots organizing, and more recently, her husband Byron Sigcho Lopez's successful election as an alderman (city council member) in the Chicago 25th ward. She shares her word of wisdom for those who are interested in becoming civically engaged, and her thoughts about the current political landscape heading into 2020. Here's her bio below:
Bio: Loreen Targos lives and works in the city of Chicago. Loreen serves as Political Director and Best Friend to Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez who can be found on social media @sigchofor25. She also is the Board Chair of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, is an active member of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, and is a steward in her union, AFGE Local 704. You can follow her on twitter at @lotargos and on instagram @lohugswis.
Welcome to S1 Ep5 of "The Banh Mi Chronicles" podcast. I bring to you Hac Tran, a 2nd generation Viet-American who speaks about his experience being involved in the Chicago Uptown community, specifically in the "Asia on Argyle" street neighborhood (also nicknamed as "Little VIetnam" or "New Chinatown"). In our conversation, he speaks about the Vietnamese diaspora, the gentrification issues in the Chicago Uptown neighborhood, and the Haibayo event (a Southeast Asian-American themed late night party held once a month in the Asia on Argyle neighborhood) that he and his partner Jennifer "Nuky" Pham co-founded and organized together. Be sure to check more about the Haibayo event on Instagram @hai_bayo, and their website at www.haibayo.com
Hac Tran is an urban planner, community development professional, and cultural producer born in Chicago. His experiences range from youth development with Americorps Jumpstart and capacity building in Vietnam with Save the Children and Global Village Foundation, to human services with various community-based organizations in Uptown and food & cultural focused event planning throughout Chicago. Hac holds a BA in Political Science from DePaul University and a Masters in Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently the Diversity Business Outreach Manager for Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown.
For this Season 1, Episode 4, I spoke with both Sok Theary Nak and Leakhena (Lyk) Yoeun. We serve together as board members with The National Cambodian Heritage Museum (NCHM), currently the only museum outside of Cambodia that centers on the history of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields era, and serves as a memorial space for survivors and the 2+ million lives that were lost during that 4 year period (1975-79). In our discussion together, we spoke about our upbringing with our parents who came into the Chicago(land) area as refugees. We shared our experiences with the Chicago Uptown neighborhood which serves as a the hub for many Southeast Asian refugees, and our role as board members with the museum. Sok Theary shares her experience going to Cambodia for the first time with her family this past summer while Lyk shares her experience living in Cambodia soon after her father's stroke.
Sok Theary Bio:
Sok Theary is a refugee immigrant whose family was sponsored to the United States from Khao I Dang refugee camp in the late 80. She has been involved with the Cambodian community since moving to Chicago in 2000 as a teenager and became a participant in the after school Youth program of the Cambodian Association of Illinois. Finally having the opportunity to immerse herself in the cultural arts of Cambodia, she dove right into the classes offered.
Now a preschool teacher and mother of two, SokTheary and her children are currently enrolled in cultural music classes together at the museum, and her daughters are avid participants in the cultural dance program. As a unit, SokTheary and her family love the arts in all forms, theater, dance, music, visiting museums , and listening to poetry and storytelling.
Leakhena Yoeun (LyK) bio:
Lyk Yoeun is a second generation Cambodian American born and raised in Chicago. Both of Lyk's parents are Cambodian genocide survivors. She recently just return back to Chicago this Summer 2019, after living in Cambodia for about three years.
Lyk's identifies herself as American Born Cambodian, or ABC. She’s had to overcome challenges, while learning to appreciate the identities of East meet West merging together. Through her parents’ mentorship and support, Lyk learned to live and survive identity crisis. One of these accomplishments to overcome identity crisis is in her ability to navigate both worlds, being able to speak, read, and write in both English and Khmer.
Lyk balances work and personal time by doing meditation, yoga, reading, creative writing, dancing, music, food, and traveling. For more on the Cambodian Museum, please visit www.cambodianmuseum.org or go to our Facebook page and "like" us at www.facebook.com/cambodianmuseum
For this season 1, episode 3, I welcome Anu Bhatt as our guest for this episode. Anu is an actor, dancer, and playwright. She was originally raised in San Diego, CA before moving to Chicago to pursue theater. She recently moved back to San Diego, and is currently promoting her solo show, "Hollow / Wave" in other cities. While speaking with her, she was in the midst of preparing for that show in New York on 10/29 . Anu shares her experience on what it was like creating "Hollow / Wave" which takes the audience on her journey through dance, family, her experiences as a South Asian American woman, and her personal battles with mental health. We also chatted further about her difficult challenges in breaking through the theater / film scene as a South Asian American woman, and her own way of explaining what "the handful of sand" means in context to the lack of representation and visibility of POC (people of color) actors, writers, producers and directors in TV / film / theater/ media.
Anu Bhatt is an actor, dancer and playwright. Her one-woman show Hollow/Wave premiered at Chicago’s Silk Road Rising in May 2018 and is now touring, including off-Broadway at the 10th annual United Solo Festival. Anu received her B.A. in Linguistics at U.C. Berkeley and her M.F.A. in Acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She is an Indian classical dancer and loves speaking languages. She is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency. www.anubhatt.com. You can also follow her play on Instagram at @hollowwavetheplay or on Facebook at Hollow / Wave.
Trigger warning: Topic of suicide and mental health
For Season 1, Episode 2, I chatted with Joanna Leynes who shares her personal experience with mental health as a suicide survivor, and has since been on a mission to advocate for suicide awareness and prevention. We connected through the loss of our mutual friend Allen Lau who passed away on 8/16/2019. We shared fond memories of him, and the importance of honoring his memory. This episode is dedicated in his honor. Here's Joanna Leyne's bio:
"Joanna is a 36-year-old wife and working mother of 2 young boys. She is a second generation Filipina-American, born and raised in Chicago. She works as a Product Content Manager for a website. Outside of work, Joanna enjoys portrait and event photography and graphic design. She is an outspoken mental health advocate and writes about topics like family life, wellness and beauty on her new blog www.mamajley.com and on her Instagram @mama_jley. "
For information on suicide awareness and prevention, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org
The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Suicide Hotline for Transgender folks: www.translifeline.org; 1-877-565-8860
For our 1st episode, Etzkorn Lewis Wong shares his upbringing as a mixed Asian-American in Chicago-Rogers Park, his new journey as a singer-songwriter-musician, and his experiences being a caregiver at the age of 17 after his mom's near-fatal aneurysm.
For more information on Etzkorn Wong, please check out his Instagram profile @etzkwng
Welcome to The Bánh Mì Chronicles podcast. In this preview, I'll share with you what prompted me to start this podcast, and how I came up with the title. I am eager to share with you on what to expect for this 1st season as I'll be breaking "banh mi" ("bread" in Vietnamese) with fellow Asian Pacific American community folks in Chicago and beyond to learn and celebrate their experiences in uplifting their community and themselves.
Stay tuned for the 1st season!
Randy Kim--Host and Producer