Each month, we will spotlight a new Storyteller in our Storyteller Series, without whom, Project Ava could not do what we do. Read more stories here.
Write an aphorism you live by:
I often use my passion as the defining factor of who I am as a person. As I got older, I realize that there are two big identities that shape my choices: being a daughter of immigrant parents and being Vietnamese American. Society has always made me hyper-aware of my different existence. Growing up, I was categorized as “other”. My language abilities, my name, and the fact that my parents couldn’t partake in school activities isolated me. This isolation destroyed my sense of self and made me reject who I was. My K-12 anecdotes are mainly truths of how I wish I had English-speaking parents, bigger eyes, and anything else that would make me more “American”. In college, I met people with the same experiences and sentiments. They helped me become more cognizant of the beauty of being Vietnamese American and a daughter of immigrant parents. These two identities formed my Ipseity; framing the unique outlook, choices, and practices I have on life.
Why did you become a Storyteller?
I believe in storytelling as a form of relationship building and advocacy. Project Ava has provided a platform for me to share my experiences with people who have similar yet different identities and passions. Through my stories, my voice could help people understand the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s of my world. Connections, knowledge, and action are also formed when we hear the stories of others. Project Ava has opened up my eyes and taught me to look and understand the different and beautiful perspectives we have in society. Project Ava uses this mindset to bring together people to empower each other through the power of linguistics, creativity, and art.
Where do you consider home?
Being a 1.5-generation Vietnamese American, home has always been a confusing concept for me. Growing up, I never have a sense of belonging to a physical place. Nevertheless, the meaning of home has become more fluid for me now as an adult. Right now, home to me is the experiences I have with people who are in my life. My family has been my anchor and this connotation of home.
Who inspires you?
The womxn in my life inspire me. I am fortunate enough to grow up with five amazing sisters who are conscious of social injustices in the world. They keep me grounded in the way I think and challenge me when I become too complacent in my ways. My sisters uphold that equality should be a right for every person. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to discuss, learn, and fight for the social justices of our society. They support me in becoming a better sister, activist, and person.
What impact do you want to have in the world?
I want to be a part of a progressive change in our journey to education reform. I want to be able to see the children of our nation, and every other nation, to have the opportunity to learn. Knowledge is a powerful tool that makes people stronger and provides choices. My parents have shown me that knowledge brings the power and change we want to see in the world. Education is also a privilege that I know not everyone can easily have. I want to make education a necessity for all kids so that they can use it to empower the world we live in.
When did you find your passions?
My passion is always evolving with every new person, experiences, and changing environment. But I know that education reform is the trajectory I want to be on. My students are the catalysts that make me want to be a better educator and learner. They teach me the importance of knowledge and the beauty of learning. My students also help me realize the inequalities and barriers they face just to get a taste of it. They help me fight for what is right and what I believe in. Education is a basic human right.
How would you like to improve yourself?
I want to be a more vocal advocate for myself. I tend to forget that above everything, I’m still a human being with raw emotions. There have been times where negative voices in my head overpower my sense of self-worth. Self-love and care are very important. Without these dynamics, you can’t have the passion to care and love others. I’m slowly learning to be more of myself and who I am so that I can be a stronger activist for my community.
If you’re interested in reading more works by Jade Phan, you can find them below: