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Just Breathe

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Submitted by: M.J. Kang

Artist's Project Description:The Korean Winner, explores a first-person account of being racially targeted with my daughter during the pandemic and the generational trauma that comes from continuously being othered and not allowed to be who we are. Asian Americans are considered the model minority who make things difficult for other people of color. We're known as the good POCs who do well, and we're not. We're human beings who come from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Like everyone in America, our lives are varied, and Asian Americans can be from 49 different countries - we're not all the same. Some AAPI's are wealthy, and some live below the poverty line. Some AAPI's have multiple generations of family members who are college graduates, and some are high school dropouts. We're all Americans, trying our best to live, survive and possibly thrive. I want to expand Korean Winner to build a 90-minute one-person play about my story, perhaps centered on How to Be Korean Again. As someone born in Seoul, Korea, immigrated to and raised in Toronto, Canada, I witnessed my parents having to start over again and the emotional weight that came with the stress of living in a country that doesn't make sense - different language, customs, values. I grew up in a traditional Korean household where my parents spoke Korean to my sisters and me. We were their translators and taught them to navigate Canadian culture and felt the emotional burden of being their parents. In my early years, my life with my family was very Korean - we were only allowed Korean friends outside of school. My after-school activity was Korean folk dancing, where I performed in a troupe. In my teens, I turned away from my Korean culture, and I stopped speaking the language. I'm now embracing who I am again in my forties - all aspects. I've recently started retaking Korean language classes to be fluent again, and I plan to take up Korean folk dancing - something I have loved doing. I want to build this piece where I incorporate what makes me Korean, how I see it - and what it means to be raising a mixed daughter. This piece will be funny, honest, authentic, and from my heart. It will feature elements of Korean folk dancing, including Korean drumming. (I learned how to play the changgo, the Korean hourglass drum.) It will also feature my personal stories. These personal stories will include times when I wasn't perfect and when life felt impossible to continue, but I still keep trying. As a teenager, I ran away from home, lived in a hostel because my parents were physically abusive. I married at a young age because I wanted to feel safe. Luckily, I chose my husband well, and my marriage has survived. And despite wanting to stop being part of this world since the age of seven when my grandfather left to visit Korea and died during his trip there - my mother blamed me for his death; I still keep on hoping and believing in the goodness of human beings. That's what makes me a winner - I keep trying, even when it's hard to at times. It's a story that's relatable about resilience, hope and needing to keep on seeing the humanity for the best it can one day be. I have another idea. I hope it’s okay to propose a second proposal. These two plays are plays I want to write. They are plays that are dear to my heart and I think are valuable for me to complete and for the public to see. Elder Care is a play about three sisters and their father as he runs away from his long-term care facility and as they try to find him. He has early-onset Alzheimer's but still wants to get the American Dream before his mind goes away from him. His type of Alzheimer's is not genetic. He had a series of mini-strokes due to stress from immigrating, which caused brain damage. These strokes he may not have even known he had. The three daughters gather together at his apartment as they clean it up to gather evidence of where he might be. They find remnants of their history, which astonishes them by what he's kept and the love he had for their mother, who has passed. They search for him throughout Toronto. They hope to find him, as well as their history and their future as a family that's fractured. This piece relates to my 8:46 piece, Korean Winner. Despite forces that do not want Asians in the west to do well, we will try for ourselves, our families, and our future because we belong.

Artist's Bio