By Zachary FR Anderson, AsAmNews Staff Writer
In a TikTok posted on Nov. 23, 2021, Joshua Breaux and his family were sitting in the living room of their Baton Rouge home to check the results of his 23&Me test. Breaux was seventeen at the time and was raised in Louisiana, deep in the heart of his parents’ Cajun Country, but he knew he was not Cajun–– he was adopted by his parents two years after being born in Moscow.
The test revealed that he was 52.8 percent Central Asian and 39 percent Western Asian. It turned out that Breaux’s biological parents were both from Tajikistan, a Central Asian country of nine million people that was once part of the Soviet Union.
“Growing up, I wasn’t really connected to my Tajik identity,” Breaux said in an interview with AsAmNews.
With a better idea of his ethnic origins, Breaux began his ongoing two-year journey of reconnecting to his Tajik roots. He started a Facebook group called Culture of Tajikistan where he posted skits and videos throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, to engage with Tajiks in the diaspora and in the homeland.
“I had people from my part of the world interacting with things I was saying,” said Breaux. “It was a great place for me to expand my knowledge.”
Breaux moved his content to Instagram and TikTok while beginning his studies at LSU. With the base knowledge he gained from the Facebook group, he posted content more centered around Tajik identity and engaged with a rapidly growing younger audience–– including other young people of Central Asian descent.
“I’d post something [on TikTok] and I’d get a lot of feedback and comments like ‘you’re the first person I’ve seen on TikTok who’s posting about the culture,’” said Breaux. “It’s a good outlet for me.”
As of this writing, the content on @tajiknamedjosh has 19.9 thousand followers and over 1 million likes.
At LSU, Asian Americans make up only 4.15 percent of the student body, Breaux’s cultural work was able to go beyond social media. An active member of the campus’s Asian and Muslim student associations, he uses his platform to raise awareness on campus of Tajik culture.
In April, with the help of the LSU Asian American Ambassadors, Breaux hosted a Tajik cultural night which included demonstrations of traditional dance and music, and displays of traditional clothing which he was able to gather after making quarries on his social media platforms from the Central Asian diaspora in the US.
“Because of Josh, our organization was able to learn more about Tajik culture than we were even aware of,” Ambassadors Vice President Chloe Hoang told AsAmNews. “I truly feel that if it wasn’t for Josh, a lot of our own Central Asian students wouldn’t have a platform and representation that they do now.”
But according to Breaux, journey of self-rediscovery is not finished. In addition to the revelation of his roots, the 23&Me test also revealed that he had a younger half-sister living in Kansas. Since then, they’ve met several times and have grown closer to each other.
Earlier this year, she was able to visit Breaux in Louisiana where he took the opportunity to introduce her to other Central Asian youth.
“When you’re adopted you feel a little isolated from the culture,” said Breaux. “The rest of the diaspora have a different cultural context and it’s harder for us to connect.”
In the future, Breaux hopes that he will visit Tajikistan–– a trip that he and his family are currently planning.
“My life will never be the same when I cross that line,” said Breaux. “I can’t think of anything right now that I want more in my life.”
When he lands in Tajikistan, Breaux said the first thing he wants to do–– after kissing the ground–– is meet up with one of his friends in-country and eat some traditional food.
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