Dear Asian Youth is a nonprofit literary magazine that works to uplift APIDA youth across the nation. This week, Pacific Ties interviewed second-year labor studies major Maisha Kalam, one of the Chapter Leads of Dear Asian Youth at UCLA, to gain a different perspective on the organization.
1: Why did you join DAY?
Kalam: I joined DAY to find a community of individuals at UCLA who I could relate to and learn from. DAY members share many commonalities, but our personal experiences are also shaped by our various cultures and upbringings. DAY also provided a place for me to write creatively about topics I felt strongly about. It seemed like a welcoming outlet for expressing my thoughts and experiences, which is what ultimately drew me to the club.
2: What sparked the idea for the podcast “Dear Asian Girl?” Are there any similarities between it as a medium to the main publication? Any differences?
Kalam: The “Dear Asian Girl” Podcast was made by the national team to provide a more intimate and personal platform for sharing experiences. Historically, the voices of APIDA women have been underrepresented, ignored and silenced. This podcast challenges that pattern by uplifting the voices of APIDA women and shining a light on the issues we deal with. The podcast platform allows for deeper conversations about topics concerning the APIDA community, tailored to the women in our community. The podcast, in portraying actual conversations, feels open and raw in a way that a publication isn’t always able to. The main goal however remains the same. Both the DAY publication and podcast are focused on upholding values of being informative, supportive and inclusive.
3: How does DAY functioning as a predominantly remote organization affect proceedings under COVID-19 as well as in general?
Kalam: The remote nature of the organization has pushed us to really consider how we can keep our members engaged and form a community. [email protected] was founded during the peak of the pandemic, when many of us were feeling lost and searching for connection. The timing meant that the club was entirely remote and we needed to plan accordingly. Following the model of the national DAY team, as well as the guidance given to us by the Chapter Committee, we were able to figure out a system that works for us. A mixture of zoom meetings, discord channels, spreadsheets, and virtual movie nights helps keep our club moving and our members engaged. Stephanie Hu, the high schooler who founded Dear Asian Youth, managed to employ social media as a tool to connect Asian youth across the world. This inspired us to have faith in our organization, in spite of the daunting task of running an organization entirely remotely. We have learned to use the remote nature of the club to our advantage. The virtual platforms we use allow our members to show off their digital media strengths. It also opens doors for collaborations with other chapters within DAY’s international chapter system, allowing us to connect with others that may not be physically close by. Further, it creates the opportunity for us as Chapter Leads to be flexible with our meeting schedule, allowing members to partake in chapter activities no matter where they are tuning in from.
4: How do you integrate inclusivity and intersectionality into this organization?
Kalam: We promote inclusivity with our open-member policy, meaning that literally anyone in the Bruin community can join DAY at UCLA, and through our creative content. The topics we cover in our content are not solely based on a singular community’s experiences. Drawing from our own encounters and researching current events, we’re able to write about topics through an intersectional lens. Recognizing how our experiences relate and are intertwined with the experiences of others is vital to advocating for social change. DAY at UCLA likes to focus on subjects that are often overlooked, even in conversations about inclusivity. Our posts about “Pride Month in Asian Countries” and “Asian and Black Solidarity throughout History” are a few examples of that. We are always actively making an effort to see how we can support not only the APIDA community, but other marginalized communities as well.
5: What makes DAY special to you?
Kalam: What makes DAY special to me is its ability to encourage connections. Something unique about DAY is the fact that we can work with other chapters worldwide. Through DAY, I’ve made connections and friends that I would never have met otherwise. I started at UCLA, amidst a global pandemic, feeling lonelier than ever. [email protected] has given me a space to make friends and express myself. It has given me the opportunity to give back to my community and pursue my creative passions simultaneously. Connecting with fellow APIDA individuals has been so eye-opening and made me realize how often our voices are ignored in popular media. DAY started off as a way for a young teenager to express her thoughts through poetry, and has grown into a massive non-profit organization that empowers the voices of Asian youth worldwide. I believe that DAY shows what is possible when we come together through creative expression.
6: Anything else you would like to add?
Kalam: I’d like to give a special thanks to my fellow Chapter Lead Kailani, for being someone I have come to rely on for club and personal matters alike. [email protected] wouldn’t be the same without you. I can’t wait to see where our adventure takes us next! I also want to acknowledge all of our lovely members. Thank you for being so open to sharing your stories, for supporting us in supporting our community, and for inspiring us to do more. And for our West Regional Leads, we couldn’t do any of this without you and are always grateful for your support!
We encourage you all to follow us on instagram @dearasianyouthucla to stay up to date with our chapter and to check out our mother organization, @dearasianyouth. Thank you for having us PacificTies!
Photos by Maisha Kalam and Kailani Tokiyeda
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