On Tuesday morning, artist/poet/educator Flo Oy Wong shared her photo of these gorgeous peaches ripening on a tree in school garden near her home. Sweet Dawn, Flo’s neighborhood walking partner, wanted to bring her friends to enjoy the vibrant school garden, home of milkweed plants and more.
“From my morning exploration at the school garden behind my house. The insects – wasps, bees, ladybugs, Monarchs (big ones) – were plentiful.”
wasps lady bug bees buzz
on sunflowers milkweed grapevines
FLO OY WONG July 28, 2021
Two days later on Thursday morning, Flo and her neighborhood walking partners, Wonderful Wendy and Sweet Dawn were so sad. They discovered that the peach tree had been cut down. Flo wrote a poem, Robust Peaches 2, about the giving volunteer tree — now a memory shared by friends.
Robust Peaches 2
kissed by the sun,
grow by a low concrete
wall at the neighborhood
The peach tree’s inviting
palette, a deep reddish hue
with gold undertones, glow
under azure sky.
Abundance of fruit weighs
heavily on limbs limping
towards ground, enchanting
walkers who pass by.
One day, workers tear down
the peach tree, a volunteer one.
No one planted it.
It just grew.
Soon, when children return,
masked or double-masked,
to start the new school year,
the peach tree, pregnant with
bounty, will no longer be there.
FLO OY WONG
July 29, 2021
THE PEACH (Prunus persica, Rosaceae) is a deciduous tree native to the region of Northwest China between the Tarim Basin and the north slopes of the Kunlun Mountains, where it was first domesticated and cultivated. It bears edible juicy fruits with various characteristics, most called peaches and others, nectarines.
Peaches are not only a popular fruit, but also are symbolic in many cultural traditions, such as in art, paintings, and folk tales such as Peaches of Immortality.
The Peach Blossom Springis a fable written by Chinese poet Tao Yuanming (365-427) in 421 CE about “the chance discovery of an ethereal utopia where people lead an ideal existence in harmony with nature, unaware of the outside world for centuries.”
This stunning video is generated by a model which simulates complex interactions within the tree, including growth, carbon partitioning among organs and responses to environmental, management and genetic factors. The model presented here is of a peach tree but is not calibrated to a specific tree. Developed by Mitch Allen, P. Prusinkiewicz and T. DeJong in partnership with The Virtual Tree. From the UC DAVIS Fruit & Nut Research & Information Center.
The Heirloom Project with Roots and Shoots was created by ArtsEd4All to encourage the harvesting and sharing of free seeds with friends. The project shares stories and free resources about seed saving, planting and other small acts of kindness that can be taken to help pollinators, people and the environment.
WORLD POETRY DAY celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity.
Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.
Yesterday, I received two poems, from two friends who struggled to find the words.
I share their poems today, in observance of WORLD POETRY DAY.
Pools of Red
Gunshots pierced the air,
then landed in bodies
of mostly Asian women
working at the spa.
One by one, the women
Crumpled to the floor,
which colored crimson.
Moist fresh blood.
Pools of red.
No more plasma.
No more lifeblood.
To take a breath.
Killer shot them because
of his alleged sex addiction.
They were Asian women.
Targets in my homeland.
Open season it appears,
to spit at, to harass, to tackle,
I am Asian (american) woman.
FLO OY WONG
March 20, 2021
They’d Done Them Wrong
Six sisters linked not by birth, but death.
they were reared under the wrong signs
wrong place or time. Maybe that
the parents were at fault.
Of a skin color of the wrong choice.
Born with it. Some men didn’t care
why would they? Money
gave pleasure to their flesh.
No one wants to be down low
And miserable. I use to think
only women understand pain
like they each other could feel.
I shed a tear, and die inside.
Who dealt them the wrong deck of cards?
Money, skin, sin, and all those righteous themes.
All the wrong reasons for a killing spree.
March 20, 2021
On the occasion of World Poetry Day 2021, Director-General AUDREY AZOULAY of UNESCO writes, “Poetry lies at the heart of who we are as women and men, living together today, drawing on the heritage of past generations, custodians of the world for our children and grandchildren.”
Deepest gratitude to Flo Oy Wong and Victor Yan for sharing their poetry and friendship.
Stop AAPI Hate
Our communities stand united against racism. Hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the alarming escalation in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University launched the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center on March 19, 2020. The center tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
Encourage those who experience or witness acts of hate towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to report an incident at our website. The reporting form is available in 11 languages. Reporting incidents helps us understand what is happening and guides us in developing policies to advocate for.
“From the cities, villages, and farms of their birth, they journeyed across the Pacific, seeking better lives for themselves and their children. Many arrived at Angel Island, weary but hopeful, only to be unjustly confined for months or, in some cases, years. As we remember their struggle, we honor all who have been drawn to America by dreams of limitless opportunity.
Unlike immigrants who marveled at the Statue of Liberty upon arrival at Ellis Island, those who came to Angel Island were greeted by an intake facility that was sometimes called the “Guardian of the Western Gate.” Racially prejudiced immigration laws of the time subjected many to rigorous exams and interrogations, as well as detention in crowded, unsanitary barracks. Some expressed themselves by carving poetry and inscriptions into the walls in their native language — from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to Russian, German, and Urdu. These etchings remain on Angel Island today as poignant reminders of the immigrant experience and an unjust time in our history.
If there is any vindication for the Angel Island immigrants who endured so many hardships, it is the success achieved by those who were allowed entry, and the many who, at long last, gained citizenship. They have contributed immeasurably to our Nation as leaders in every sector of American life. The children of Angel Island have seized the opportunities their ancestors saw from across an ocean. By demonstrating that all things are possible in America, this vibrant community has created a beacon of hope for future generations of immigrants.”
The History That We Stand On, and The Future We Stand For
On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet, at age twenty-two, to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. She was invited to write a poem inspired by the theme, “America United.” Amanda wanted to write about a new chapter in our country, while acknowledging the dark chapter in American history that we are living through. “Now more than ever, the United States needs an inaugural poem,” Gorman said. “Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.”
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover and every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid The new dawn blooms as we free it For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it If only we’re brave enough to be it
In response to the Inauguration Day, poet Flo Oy Wong wrote this new poem, inspired by Amanda Gorman, America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, and Kamala Harris, the first woman, as well as the first African American and first Asian American, to serve as Vice President of the United States. Kamala means“lotus flower”in Sanskrit.
As a Petal of Hope Takes Shape
In brackish water, hope emerges from a cracked seed like the lotus. In search of light, hope wends itself, stretches towards illumination, waits to dance with dreams. As a petal of hope takes shape it tastes like delectable kindness. It smells sweet like heartfelt compassion. It feels like golden silk stitched to goodness of humankind.
FLO OY WONG, January 5 – 19, 2021
The world premiere performance of Huang Ruo’s “Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island” with The Del Sol String Quartet is currently planned for October 2021 on Angel Island.
In celebration of World Kindness Day, we would like to share some holiday gift ideas, inspired by our ArtsEd4All family.
Our post-screening community conversation on October 24th inspired us to offer another dose of THE ANTIDOTE. This time, we are sharing some new stories and Simple Gifts from our ArtsEd4All family. It is our hope that the film will inspire others to put their own creative ideas into action, or even better – offer your support to someone else who can use a helping hand. Start small and put your whole hands, heart and mind into whatever you choose to do. Thanks for joining us. We wish you love, kindness and creativity this holiday season!
#1: SHARING LOVE, ART & KINDNESS — “YOU ARE LOVED”
It’s always special to receive a surprise package in the mail. Andi’s day was brightened when she opened the box to find a beautifully radiant painting, “You Are Loved,” from artist Crystal Vielula inside. Crystal’s thoughtful gift of art is especially special and precious to Andi because of the special story behind the painting. If you would enjoy supporting an artist’s campaign of kindness, Crystal is holding a “YOU ARE LOVED” print sale. 100% of the profits will be donated to Black and Queer Groceries, a mutual aid organization that is delivering groceries to black and queer people in need in the Bay Area. Visit Crystal’s website for more info: https://www.crystalvielula.com/you-are-loved-print-pre-sale.html.
#2: KNIT TOGETHER — HELP STANDING ROCK STAY WARM IN WINTER
Winter has arrived, and the weather is turning cold. So when Gail shared that the Auntie Sewing Squad was organizing a Warm Coat and Extreme Cold Gear Drive for Standing Rock and Black Hills, we visited their website to see how to help. ArtsEd4All enjoys a great knitting project, so pull out your circular looms, it’s time to make some woolen beanies! Join the Aunties and help protect our friends at Standing Rock and those living on ancestral homeland in the Black Hills who are facing below zero temperatures this winter. When you are ready to send your items, check the Auntie Sewing Squad website for mailing addresses and visit Native-Land.ca, a website dedicated to helping people across the world learn more about their local Indigenous history. DIY TUTORIAL: How to loom knit a hat (super easy for beginners) https://youtu.be/BonWux0A2yM
#3: REMEMBER TO LOOK UP — WALKING “UNDER ONE SKY”
A trio of friends – Flo, Andi and Mara – first began walking together “Under One Sky” back in July with The 2020 Global Slow Marathon, a global art project launched in Scotland with artist Iman Tajik asking the question, “What is Solidarity?” The Slow Marathon is done, but The Skywalker FAM is still walking, lifting eyes and cameras to the skies with gratitude for each beautiful day of blue. Like the shape-shifting clouds that we observe daily, The Skywalker FAM collective photo album is ever-changing. Some days, a photo appears with a poem or a song, and we always welcome new members into the family. Please send your sky pics to email@example.com.
#4: GO GREEN — “SUCCULENT CITY”
Make your garden grow! One of the most beautiful visions realized during our time at The Studio at Mayeda was giving children a bit of Earth to call their own. With resourcefulness and care, the students were able to establish a small container garden of fruits & vegetables and succulents on the school’s rooftop. Have you ever saved and sprouted the seeds from your apple at lunch? Or tried to propagate succulents from a leaf or a cutting? Growing something of your own easy and fun. With some added research into the native plants in your area, you will get to know your neighbors – the birds, bees, butterflies – as Norma did when she helped to create a pollinator garden for PAWS (Pets Art Wonderful Support). Who knows, as your garden grows, you might even make a new friend who love trees as much as you do!
#5: FEED A NEED — BAKE SOME DOUGH
Whether you are making dough for bread or for art, there are so many wonderful ways to get creative with just a little flour, salt and water, and it’s easy to make a little bit extra to share. Our friends Joanie & Markknow that a good bake can go a long way. While Mark has been treating listeners to readings from Roshi, his new book of poems inspired by San Francisco, Joanie has been making her own kind of music in the kitchen, Their lucky friends have enjoyed the gift of her tasty zucchini loaf, garlic onion foccaccia and a festive holiday assortment of #PoetryAndCookies. Over the years, ArtsEd4All has kept Ruth Asawa’s bakers clay recipe handy, making loads of dough for holiday keepsakes and collaborative art pieces with generations of school children. Resourceful makers in San Francisco go to the Scroungers Center for Re-Usable Art Partsaka SCRAP, the non-profit creative reuse center founded in 1976 by Ruth Asawa & Anna Marie Theilen, two resourceful women who knew how to make their materials go a long way. You can support SCRAP by attending Ruth Asawa: Through the Eyes of Her Children, a virtual conversation about the legacy and impact of the renowned San Francisco-based artist, on November 19, 7-8pm PST. Mention SCRAP when you donate items to the Community Thrift Store in San Francisco, and SCRAP will receive a monetary donation.
#6: WASTE NOT, WANT NOT — SEW A “MAGIC BAG”
Kamilla, a former student recently reached out, wondering if we might be able to share the instructions for how to sew a “magic bag.” When she was in middle school, Kamilla and her friends all learned how to sew these cloth bags with Ms. Toupin at The Studio at Mayeda, in order to reduce the use of plastic bags at school. Ms. Toupin was thrilled to hear Kamilla’s special request and worked up the instructions for anyone who might enjoy a crafty way to cut down their plastic use. Try making your own to give out as gifts to friends. Instructions for Ms. Toupin’s DIY Magic Bag: https://archive.org/details/ms-toupin-diy-magic-bag/mode/2up
#7: SPREAD JOY — THE DEL SOL STRING QUARTET & THE JOY PROJECT
Music is good medicine that can spread joy, build human connections and bring us out into nature —The Del Sol String Quartet is bringing THE JOY PROJECT, free concerts in public settings around the Bay Area, where people can enjoy the music while safely practicing social distancing in the open air. Del Sol has commissioned a body of very short pieces written to give joy, by composers ranging from classical- music lions to young students and non-classical figures. Legendary composer Terry Riley responded with the rainbow arrow that has become the project logo. Join Del Sol’s “Joy list” for the latest information regarding locations and times to hear Del Sol play.
#8: DO YOUR DANCE — THE “FAM DANCE JAM”
We all try to do our best to get out an exercise, but sometimes it’s nice to mix things up with a fun alternative. When artist/poet Flo Oy Wong turned 82, she told her friends Mara and Andi that she really wanted to celebrate with a dance party. We have such fond memories of celebrating Flo’s 75th Birthday with dancing in the street in 2013. This time, we made Flo a special 2020 Birthday Dance Megamix and set a date on Zoom. We boogied for twenty minutes non-stop and had such a good time that we are already planning the next dance party. This time, Flo can’t wait to invite her family to join the JAM. Celebrate good times with the people who make your heart dance! Work off a bit of that holiday meal and savor a slightly bigger slice of pie with your Sistas!
#7: SING OUT — EQUAL JUSTICE SOCIETY “HARRIET TUBMAN”
Steve Porter the artist works big. His mural projects seem to grow exponentially with each new attempt… 48’… 88’… Steve’s newest project is around 145 feet long! Sometimes, Steve lets his imagination run wild, working for days on end, before inviting the public to add the color as they did on “One Spring Day.” But while working in the schools in Shreveport, Louisiana, Steve Porter the art teacher set his sights on an even bigger challenge — How to involve all the children who had not previously had the chance to participate? With the support of teachers and paraprofessionals, the children shared their talents when they created the 360′ long “This Ability” Mural. Steve says, “I believe that we all have the ability to make a positive difference in a child’s life. When given the opportunity to do something, then do it — advocate for, speak for, and fight for those that are so often overlooked.”
#11: SHARE YOUR STORY — “BLAKE MINI LIBRARY”
In 2016, young Blake Ansari constructed and donated a rainbow-colored mini-library to the students at Rooftop School who, in turn, assembled and donated the library to the Hamilton Families shelter in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. For the past 5 years, ArtsEd4All has hosted the annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive, inviting San Francisco school children to join Blake in his efforts to bring the joy of reading to homeless children. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic will require an alternative approach. This year, please share your love of reading by purchasing a book or two through the ArtsEd4All Bookshop. The Bookshop affiliate program pays a 10% commission on every sale, and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores. All ArtsEd4All Bookshop proceeds from MLK Day to Valentine’s Day will be applied to the purchase of a special delivery of books for the Blake Mini Library at Hamilton Families shelter. Antigone reminds us that we must support our local bookshops and video stores, with her story of kindness, an appreciation of artist Michael McConnell, and Faye’s a tiny, magical local establishment that deserves to stay alive and thrive.
#12: SMILE MORE — “BLUE MIND” & BLUE MARBLE SMILES
“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” – Leonardo di Vinci.
The Blue Marbles Project set out to pass a blue marble through every (yes, every) person’s hand on earth, along with a simple message of gratitude. This slow-motion global art project is a clear reminder that everything we do on this little blue planet matters. Through art, science and technology, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is helping people to better understand the true value of water. “J” collaborates with a dedicated network of Blue Mind ambassadors, including Margaret, who is using her tech expertise to show that a smile really can create a ripple effect of kindness. Blue Mind research shows that nature is therapeutic, promotes general health and well-being, and blue space in both urban and rural settings further enhances and broadens cognitive, emotional, psychological, social, physical, and spiritual benefits. “This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring.” Our mission is clear: see to it that all people understand, have access to and practice Blue Mind wherever they are, because water is medicine for our bodies and minds. Our waters are a gift that we must work together to protect, as we are reminded after this tragic fire season that has upended so many lives, including that of The Nichols Family.
Do you know someone who would like to help to create a groundswell of support for Blue Mind?You can support J on Patreon, and give the gift of Science. Sign up as a patron at any level, starting at $1/month ($12/year).
ArtsEd4All would also like to express our thanks to The Antidote Team for allowing us to share their beautiful and inspiring film, THE ANTIDOTEwith our community.
Oakland Chinatown-born, NELLIE WONG has published four books: Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park, The Death of Long Steam Lady, Stolen Moments and Breakfast Lunch Dinner. Her poems and essays appear in numerous journals and anthologies. Two pieces are installed at public sites in San Francisco. She’s co-featured in the documentary film, “Mitsuye and Nellie Asian American Poets,” and among her recognitions, a building at Oakland High School is named after her. A poem of hers was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She’s traveled to China in the First American Women Writers Tour with Alice Walker, Tillie Olsen and Paule Marshall, among others. She’s taught poetry writing at Mills College and in Women Studies at the University of Minnesota.
GENNY LIM is San Francisco Jazz Poet Laureate emeritus, born and raised in San Francisco to immigrant parents from the Kwantung region of Toisan, where an oral culture rich with folklore, natural medicine and healing songs was brought to America. The rhythms and music of the Toisan (Hoisan) language, find harmony of expression in the freedom of contemporary jazz and it is there, where Lim’s voice has flourished. She is author of five poetry collections, Winter Place, Child of War, Paper Gods and Rebels, KRA!, La Morte Del Tempo, and co-author of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, winner of the American Book Award and the forthcoming anthology of Senior Asian American memoirs, Window: Glimpses of Our Storied Past. Lim’s award-winning play, Paper Angels, was the first Asian American play that aired on PBS’s American Playhouse in 1985 and has been produced throughout the U.S., Canada and China.
At the age of 9, artist/poet/educator FLO OY WONG, a De Anza College alumni, knew that she loved words. A few years later, say 79 years, she has become a poet who uses English and her parents’ native Chinese dialect to show and to tell her collected stories of family and community. A co-founder of the Asian American Women Artists Association, she has received three National Endowment for the Arts awards. In 2018, Flo celebrated her 80th birthday with the publication of her art & poetry book, Dreaming of Glistening Pomelos. Through her art and poetry she supports those who use their individual and collective voices for social justice. She stands by individuals and organizations who put diversity, equity, and inclusion into practice. As an elder, she connects with younger people who inspire her.
DEL SOL STRING QUARTET
The San Francisco-based DEL SOL STRING QUARTET is a leading force in 21st century chamber music – whether introducing Ben Johnston’s microtonal Americana at the Library of Congress, taking Aeryn Santillan’s gun-violence memorial to the streets of the Mission District, exploring Andean soundscapes with Gabriela Lena Frank and traditional musicians, or collaborating with Huang Ruo and the anonymous poets who carved their words into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station during the years of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Our current lineup, featuring Del Sol founder and Artistic Director Charlton Lee on viola, cellist Kathryn Bates and violinists Ben Kreith and Sam Weiser, looks to bring a fresh energy, freedom, and precision to our diverse repertoire. By bringing the string quartet tradition from its European roots into global traditions, including an emphasis on the Asian continent, Del Sol makes contemporary chamber music a dynamic part of today’s culture. https://www.delsolquartet.com/
JING JING YANG, Cupertino Poet Laureate
JING JING YANG is Cupertino’s sixth Poet Laureate. Jing Jing grew up with a love for poetry, listening to her father recite Chinese classic poetry from the Han, Tang and Song dynasties. Since moving to Cupertino in 2011, Jing Jing has been a part of the City’s poetry community and has enjoyed the programs of previous poet laureates as a creative outlet. Jing Jing aims to help Cupertino become a place where the West meets the East, the past meets the future and its poetic voice be heard around the globe. https://www.cupertino.org/residents/arts-and-culture/cupertino-poet-laureate
GENEVIEVE LEUNG, Associate Professor, University of San Francisco
Genevieve Leung is the academic director of the Asian Pacific Studies MA program and director of the Asian Pacific American Studies minor. She has a BA in linguistics from UC Berkeley and dual MA degrees in linguistics (TESOL) and education (Language and Literacy) from UC Davis. She received her PhD in Educational Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught high school English in Japan, as well as English writing, effective communication, and reading and vocabulary courses at Stanford University. She was the co-instructor of the TESOL Workshop at the University of Pennsylvania, training novice ESL teachers in the fundamentals of TESOL. Genevieve is also very interested in heritage language maintenance, particularly of Chinese Americans of Cantonese and Toisanese/Hoisan-wa language backgrounds. https://www.usfca.edu/faculty/genevieve-leung
Him Mark Lai; Genny Lim; Judy Yung, eds. Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island. University of Washington Press. June 1999. ISBN 978-0-295-97109-4.
Lim, Genny. Winter Place. Kearney St Workshop Press. ISBN 978-0-9609630-4-1.
Lim, Genny. Child of War. University of Hawaii Press. January 2003. ISBN 978-0-9709597-3-7.
Wong, Flo Oy. Dreaming of Glistening Pomelos. Ling Oy Press. September 2018. ISBN 9781732619807
Wong, Nellie; Merle Woo; Mitsuye Yamada (2003). Three Asian American Writers Speak Out on Feminism. Seattle, Washington: Red Letter Press. ISBN 0-9725403-5-0.
Wong, Nellie (editor) (1999). Yolanda Alaniz (co-editor) (ed.). Voices of Color: Reports from the Front Lines of Resistance by Radicals of Color. Seattle, Washington: Red Letter Press. ISBN 0-932323-05-7.
Wong, Nellie (1997). Stolen Moments. Goshen, Connecticut: Chicory Blue Press. ISBN 1887344039.
Wong, Nellie (1986). The Death of Long Steam Lady. Los Angeles, California: West End Press. ISBN 0-931122-42-2.
Wong, Nellie (1977). Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park: Poems. Berkeley, California: Kelsey St. Press. ISBN 0-932716-14-8.
Voices of Resilience: An online exhibition celebrating the Angel Island Immigration Station’s historic poetry and poems submitted by the public; Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (2020) https://www.aiisf.org/voicesofresilience
بنیآدم اعضای یک پیکرند که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند Human beings are members of a whole, since in their creation they are of one essence. — Saadi Shirazi
Slow Marathon 2020: Under One Sky is a collaborative artwork supported by Deveron Projects, based in Huntly, a market town in the north east of Scotland with a population of 4,500. The Slow Marathon is an annual walking event, which Deveron Projects co-concepted with Ethiopian artist Mihret Kebede in 2012. Celebrating the human pace, it is both an endurance event as well as a poetic act, that brings together friendship, physical activity and an appreciation of our varied landscape. Before responding to the pandemic, this year’s Slow Marathon was initially planned for Saturday, June 13 as a 26 mile /42 km walk.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iman Tajik, a Glasgow based artist and photographer originally from Iran, re-imagined the annual event as one of global solidarity through collective participation. Borders and the movement of freedom are his key subject matters – influenced by his personal experience of crossing borders. Through the Under One Sky project, artist Iman Tajik is forging a digitally collaborative relationship with many walkers across the world. He is collecting photos of the sky that people see when they look up while walking, and these images will be brought together in a massive artwork, created by all of the participants.
Our current climate adopts an increasing fear of the outsider into our lives and homes. Some of our politician’s rhetoric about Covid-19 being a ‘foreign virus’; subsequent border closures – they all play into existing xenophobia. The virus however, doesn’t acknowledge borders. A pandemic affected us all. So, what can we do to show that we all live under one sky?
An open invitation, sharing Iman’s poetic goal to walk around the world, was put out via social media calling for Global Slow Marathon participants. Together, we would walk 40,075 km / 22,091 miles, equaling the circumference of the Earth.
The Skywalker FAM
On July 9, 2020, a trio of friends who enjoy a daily walk around their respective Bay Area neighborhoods accepted the Global Slow Marathon invitation. Flo Oy Wong, Andi Wong and Mara Grimes dubbed their walking group, The Skywalker FAM. They were soon joined by Maggy, Antigone, Jan, Margaret and Anna Maria, along with other friends who have pledged to walk soon. If you would like to join the project, we welcome your participation. Walk only once or walk daily – as you wish. You can snap a photo of the sky and send us your image and mileage and we will add your individual contribution to our total Skywalker FAM mileage.
To date, The Skywalker FAM has collectively walked 182.10 miles (or 7.0 marathons) and we’ve taken hundreds of photos on our daily walks to be shared as a record of our collective journey. By agreeing to walk together, we’ve taken time for ourselves and each other to practice “social connection.”Each day, we venture out to gaze at the skies overhead, remembering to express our wonder and gratitude for the things that keep us moving.
So far, 315 walkers from over 40 different countries have walked 37176.66 kilometre — and the project is fast approaching 49 million footsteps together, 95% of our journey around the Earth.
A walk isn’t always a walk! We hope that everyone can join us, whether that’s on two legs, less or more, or on wheels. It’s not about how many miles, km or metres we cover individually, it’s about what we achieve together.
The Skywalker FAM appreciates that the Global Slow Marathon 2020: Under One Sky, as re-imagined by artist Iman Tajik, has given us an opportunity to be socially connected through walking, even as we are called to shelter in place. Cumulatively, mile by mile, we wend our human trail across the surface of our planet and through as many borders as we can.
February 21st is International Mother Language Day, which was established to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The United Nations states, “At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.”
National Geographic Explorer anthropologist Wade Davis coined the term ethnosphere to describe the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, intuitions and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. In his 2003 TED Talk, Wade points out the staggering loss of half of the languages on Earth, “What could be more lonely than to be enveloped in silence, to be the last of your people to speak your language, to have no way to pass on the wisdom of the ancestors or anticipate the promise of the children?”
Thanks to special readings by “The Last Hoisan Poets” – contemporary Chinese American poets Flo Oy Wong, Nellie Wong and Genny Lim – audiences have the opportunity to hear the sounds of the disappearing dialect that was spoken by many of the Chinese immigrants who first came to America. In the first part of the twentieth century, most of the Chinese immigrants came to America from the Pearl River Delta in China’s Guangdong region. The three poets trace their roots to China’s Toishan village, home of the Hoisan-wa (a.k.a. Toisanese/Taishanese) Chinese dialect.
Nellie read three poems: Ngoi Leng Gah Thlim, My Two Hearts (1981) (04:04); Poem for My Grandniece, Eva (2019) (12:46); Ode to Rice Crust Soup (2012) (15:39)
Flo opened with a New Year poem: Slin Nin Loy Luh, New Year Comes (2020) (19:26); followed by a poem about the family’s restaurant in Oakland Chinatown, Ai Joong Wah, Great China (2018) (20:12).
With “Song Siew, Two Hands,” (2020) (21:29), a newly written poem dedicated to her father, Gee Seow Hong, Flo invited the audience to follow her lead, as she taught the poem through gesture and call and response. To close the program, Flo and Nellie playfully demonstrated – Ah Jeong Doy, Clap Your Hands(29:11). El Gee Ngneck, Throw the Pig’s Neck (30:30), two traditional nursery rhymes that the sisters learned in childhood, growing up in Oakland Chinatown.
Watch the full Lunar New Year 2020 program by The Last Hoisan Poets:
Last November 2013, the students of Rooftop School received a very special present from Flo — their own art show. Rooftop Art’s “A Slice of Life”at the Luggage Store Annex was a companion show to Flo’s 75th birthday show, “The Whole Pie.” As a nod to Flo’s interest in poetry, visitors were invited to stroll through the Tenderloin National Forest to read poems written by Ms. Woo’s 4th graders.
This year, as Flo celebrated her 76th birthday with family in New York, Flo revealed that she was working on a new project with her granddaughter Sasha. As a visiting artist in Sasha’s classroom, Flo used visual art to help children to see the poetry in trees. At home, Flo and Sasha worked together to make a very special tree box.
FLO: My tree project with Sasha started when I was home in Sunnyvale. I took pictures of these trees when I was going on daily walks. I sent them to Sasha after she asked to see the tree trunks I was talking about. My husband Ed knew about my tree-sharing and he began to point out trees to me. There was one, in particular, which inspired me to write my poem, Tree Trunk.
Fast forward to mid-October when I taught a tree-drawing lesson in her 3rd grade class. The day before the other lesson her teacher selected, Sasha gave me input. She told me she didn’t want me to repeat what I had taught in her 2nd grade class.
Flo suggested that the class learn how to draw trees, a spontaneous decision that met with Sasha’s approval. Flo discussed trees, focusing mainly on color of trunks. After demonstrating how to draw a tree Flo told the 3rd graders they could draw either realistic or fantasy trees. The criteria? They had to fill their paper top to bottom, side to side. She introduced them to non-dominant hand drawing and requested one tree be drawn with their non-dominant hand. Then, the students needed to create interest in the negative spaces. They also wrote tree stories. One boy, a ballet dancer at the Met, drew a dancing tree. A girl created one with swirling energy in the trees and the surrounding environment. The hour lesson turned the students into vibrant and energetic tree detectives.
When the class was through, Sasha conducted an exit interview with her grandmother about the lesson. Sasha’s critique: She would have cut back the drawing time so more artists could share their work with her grandmother.
FLO: What I liked so much about the lesson was this – I integrated my love of poetry and art for this eye-opening, heartwarming classroom experience. In the evening at home Sasha and I memorized Joyce Kilmer’s poem. We recited it around the dinner table.
Sasha memorizes Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees, just as her grandmother had done when she was a young student at Lincoln School in Oakland Chinatown. Flo learned and recited Trees for a tree planting ceremony. She recalled, “We buried a time box with the tree. I wonder if our box has been uncovered. I have remembered Trees for over 60 years.” Sasha and Flo also listened to Louis Armstrong and Paul Robeson sing their musical settings of Kilmer’s poem.
Trees drawn by Ms. Robin Farrell’s 3rd grade class at Hillside Elementary School (Art by Andreas, Andrei, Aynsley, Bianca, Bruno, Clara, Dominick, Erin, Graham, Hamilton, Joshua, Leo, Luke, Max, Mia, Michaela, Nathaniel, Paul, Salett, Sasha, Yogev & Zev)
Flo and Sasha’s TREE BOX
When Sasha and Flo find a 1930s box at the local antique store, they decided to make a box tree art project. Sasha includes Joyce Kilmer’s poem (partial) and her Paw Paw’s poem. Flo adds some color atop of the colored pencils Sasha used to render the tree.
Sasha includes two blue porcelain miniature birds that she has purchased from the antique store.
Sasha makes a tree out of a paper bag fragment to add to the tree box.
As a surprise, Flo adds a bird to the lower right front of the box, while Sasha is away at school.
When the box is finished, grandmother and granddaughter take some time to reflect on the process of making The Tree Box together. Flo and Sasha use Flo’s iPhone to record their shared memory of three and a half weeks of bonding and intergenerational learning.
“A Moveable Feast” is a visual art lesson created for our 2011 Art Is… Expression study, in response to the art of Flo Oy Wong, visual storyteller.Rooftop families were invited to work together to eate a mixed-media collage using memories and stories about food as the source of inspiration.
Artistic expression gives us a way to capture and share family stories. Food, like music and art, is often the way young children begin to learn about family and culture. We believe that art making gives us a way learn more about each other and helps to build connections between individuals, families, and inter-generational understanding. Art, like food, is a moveable feast that nourishes the spirit.