Bridging Futures

September - June

Bridging Futures is an intergenerational archiving project connecting Chinatown movement elders with a youth cohort to draw lessons from the Civil Rights era. Through community discussions and workshops engaging the now-defunct Chinatown-based art publication, Bridge Magazine, the cohort will explore international solidarity and decolonial futures for our Asian-American activism.

A commitment to being a part of this cohort includes the following:

  • Commitment for the full 10 month program (September 2021 - June 2022)
  • Age range: 18-30 years old
  • Priority given to Chinatown-based and NYC-based women, non binary, trans, queer Asian Americans
  • Interest in cultivating an art practice (drawing, photography, writing, film, multimedia etc.)  
  • Each participant will receive a stipend of $600

Applications for Bridging Futures are currently closed. Join our newsletter to hear about future opportunities to work with W.O.W.

The Bridging Futures cohort with an altar they designed in response to the prompt: how would you create a space to honor your younger selves?
Meet our Bridging Futures 2022 Cohort: Ying Situ, Celia Le, Kim Savarino, Helen Yang, Hua Xi, and Lynn Huynh!

Ying Situ is an educator and organizer based in Queens. She loves writing, going on long walks, and getting really close to bodies of water. You can usually find her in Chinatown or Flushing, two places she holds close to her heart. Ying is most excited to join the Bridging Futures cohort because she is looking forward to growing deep community relationships and revisiting the bridge we're walking on as Asian Americans to a future free of prison bars, where all the people we love are thriving!

Celia Bùi Lê is a senior at Columbia University studying East Asian Studies and Linguistics as well as the Vietnamese Translator for The Southeast Asian Diaspora Project. Currently, she is exploring the connection between Vietnamese French colonial art and the Surrealist movement through multimedia. Her visual essay, “Race, Nation, and Identity: A Look At Ethnic Minorities and the Nation-State,” has just been published in The Weatherhead East Asian Institute’s 2021 issue of The Reed. In Celia’s free time, she enjoys making various types of pandan cakes. She is excited to join the Bridging Futures cohort to look at art through an intersectional and decolonial lens.

Kim Savarino 譚金美 is an artist working in theater and dance. She is based on the traditional lands of the Lenape and Canarsie peoples, and is a Southerner in all her roots (China, Sicily, West Virginia, and Southern California). Kim creates performances that weave together folklore and movement. She’s a proud company member with Third Rail Projects and La MaMa’s Great Jones Rep, and has worked with artists including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Jawole Zollar, and Andrei Serban. Kim is deeply inspired by the work the WOW project does, and is looking forward to spending a year drawing connections between past and present movements for justice and equality with this incredible cohort of people!

helen yang, originally orbiting between china and the southern united states, is putting roots down in manhattan as she fully leans into her adult life. she is dedicated to understanding history, labor organizing, and exploring the ways we can collectively care—for each other and ourselves—while living under capitalism. she spends her free time reading, skating, tending to her plants, playing super smash bros, making zines, and is always on the search for the best jasmine tea. she is over the moon to join the inaugural BF cohort so she can build camaraderie, create, and cultivate growth for her organizing and her learning.

Hua Xi is a writer and artist. Their poems have been published in The Nation, Electric Lit and Boston Review. They are so excited to join the Bridging Futures cohort to connect with elders about how to be an activist today including all its complicated questions. 

Lynn Huynh is a writer exploring food, race, and design in the city, particularly paying attention to how these conditions shape the Asian American community. Her scholarship, creative practice, and aspirations are grounded in the idea that we must (and can) radically reimagine and rebuild a world made for us. She's looking forward to the acts of knowledge-building and preserving Asian-American activist histories while working with Chinatown elders. She's also excited to support her Bridging Futures peers in their endeavors as well!

Bridge Magazine archival pages used for an activity at the Bridging Futures showcase. Photograph by Marion Aguas.

The 2021-2022 Bridging Futures program culminated in the publication of "Letters to Our Younger Selves," a collaborative zine that represents the cohort's work and learnings over the year. During this year, the cohort met twice a month to engage with the Bridge Magazine archive and the artists and writers involved.

A Letter from the Bridging Futures Cohort

To our younger selves:

Letters to our younger or future selves often begin with questions: How are you feeling right now? What would you like to do one day? What did you dream about? How do you spend your time? Simply the act of asking these questions can be an act of care, of calmness and of curiosity. We are not sure we have the answers, but we hope this publication can be an act of questioning. 

At the beginning of this year, our cohort began to meet in the basement below Wing on Wo & Co just like the original creators of Bridge Magazine had done several blocks away half a century ago. Bridge: the Magazine of Asians in America started publishing in 1971 as a project of the Basement Workshop, a local Asian-American arts collective. The political and media landscape in America was markedly different at that time. The term “Asian American” was only beginning to be used starting in 1968. Bridge was not only a place to publish stories but a necessary facet of its related political movements. Its pages provided a place to have dialogue between Asian Americans with diverse experiences, curated and edited by other Asian Americans. Its writers and editors were also often community organizers, political activists or otherwise involved in the tides of social change.

It is our hope that in creating a publication at this time, inspired by the original Bridge Magazine but in a newer form, on newer platforms, with new voices, we can help connect the issues faced by Asian Americans today to the movements of the past. We also hope to bring updated perspectives that stem from our own personal and movement-related experiences. The 70s and 80s were a time when feminist movements fought for progress alongside Asian American movements. Our cohort has been intentionally inclusive of queer and femme identities. We hope to build on the work of the past to create something of our own.

During the year that we worked on this publication, we met with many movement elders in the Wing on Wo & Co basement who shared with us their experiences of building a new publication, often while being young, while also growing up and while also finding their own individual ways in the world. The culmination of these learning experiences shaped our collective framework in building Bridging Futures: one focused on connecting the past, present and future temporalities of New York City’s Chinatown. The theme of our issue is therefore “Letters to Our Younger Selves."

“Letters to Our Younger Selves” is both an issue theme and an invitation for participation. During our time working on Bridge, we were reminded every day of the value and significance of staying connected to our pasts. To past movements. To past challenges. To past hopes and past dreams. Waves of activism can surge and then fade over time. Publications can pop up and disappear. With these ongoing changes, community and movement memory can often be lost. But so much about being Asian American ultimately has to do with the past, with where we came from and who was here before us. So we wanted to make this issue as a way to remember. We wanted to tie together memories of when we were younger with memories of when the movements around us were younger.

We hope the letters in this issue, and inspired by this issue, will bridge age and generational gaps. A letter to a younger self might be a letter from a movement elder to a young student. It might be a letter from who you are now to who you were before. It might be a letter from you to your inner child today. It might be a letter from a student today to a young person in the future. We hope these letters will help us learn from past experiences but also help us to sustain the spirit and excitement and idealism of being young. This issue includes a range of letters from our Asian American community, as well as prompts and activities encouraging you to write your own letter.

Asian Americans today face our own challenges of discovering how to be in the world, and this ranges from the political to the very personal. Politically, the Asian population in the U.S. is now 20 times what it was in 1970 when Bridge first started publishing. Yet we are also making this publication at a moment when anti-Asian violence has been on the rise, a fact we feel keenly as we all live in NYC. There is a sense of urgency at this time that reminds us of the urgency present in the early pages of Bridge, which highlighted  imperialism and the anti-war movement, racism and exoticism, housing and mental health, and other social issues facing the community.

At the same time, we also believe that the personal must be considered alongside the political if we are to truly care for ourselves and our communities. During one of our working sessions where we talked about what we wished our younger selves had known. We talked about so many different aspects of growing up, and how it is a constant process that takes place over our whole lives. We were particularly inspired by a children’s issue of the original Bridge Magazine that highlighted the joy and the necessity of a multigenerational emphasis. We write these letters believing that it will always be important for us to make space for personal growth alongside movement progress.

In line with the theme of growth, we also hope this is a publication that will grow and change each year like the original magazine did. When Bridge began, it was a primarily China and Chinese American focused publication based on NYC’s Chinatown. Over time, the publication evolved to include stories on a broader range of national Asian American issues. This year, the group of us that worked on this magazine were East or Southeast Asian, which likely follows from both Bridge Magazine’s original history and from the fact that this project is still based in Chinatown. Many of the stories in this collection focus on Chinatown, and the movements that are a part of its history. We believe that having a Chinatown-focus in this publication is valuable and timely because of the rich diversity of stories in this area, which could easily fill more than one publication. However, we do also recognize that this is not the only representation of the Asian American experience, and that South Asian, Central Asian and many other experiences must be included for a publication to be truly “Asian American.” In this publication, we did not want to speak for other communities, and instead tried to narrow in and give due attention to the Chinatown community we worked out of. We acknowledge this focus upfront as an intentional celebration of this space, but recognize its limitations in encompassing the full range of the Asian American experience. 

We all still have a lot of learning and growing up to do. We believe that everybody does over their whole lives, and so do the political movements that we are a part of. So we thank you for taking a moment in your days and your journeys to spend a bit of time with this publication that we have put together. One day we hope to read this issue again and remember the younger selves that we were.

- Lynn Huynh, Celia Bùi Lê, Ying Yu Situ, Kim Savarino 譚金美, Hua Xi & Helen Yang

(1) Tomie Arai, artist, organizer, and contributor to Bridge Magazine, leads the cohort in a workshop. (2) An event attendee reads through the Bridging Futures publication. Photograph by Marion Aguas.
Cohort member Ying Situ reading from the Bridging Futures publication. Photograph by Marion Aguas.
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