By Jessica Xiao and Randall Yip
Nancy Wang has been telling stories rooted in her Asian American experience for 40 years, despite growing up in New Orleans in predominantly White neighborhoods and going on to work in mostly White organizations.
She puts it bluntly in an interview with AsAmNews.
“I was definitely yellow on the outside, White on the inside,” describing what is known in Asian slang as a “banana.”
At the time, she earned a living by combining her passion for being a dancer and choreographer with the security of a regular paycheck from her job as a psychotherapist.
She recalls moving to San Francisco and joining San Francisco’s Asian American Theater Workshop and meeting her future husband, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo.
“He was raised in a White world, but his parents, particularly his father would always tell him, ‘never feel ashamed of who you are.'”
The two became engaged after just a seven-month courtship, much of that across continents because he had traveled to China. The proposal came via a long-distance call from China. She said yes.
“I went, what did I do? Who is this guy? So here we are 41 years later,” she said.
Kikuchi-Yngojo and Wang would join forces not only in marriage, but also professionally. The couple would form Eth-noh-tec, a San Francisco Asian American storytelling theater non-profit.
“Telling our stories can galvanize and incite empathy in the allies that we need around us,” said Kikuchi-Yngojo via a statement. “Telling our stories with compassionate listening helps us confirm that we are never alone in this struggle. Telling our stories can make a difference.”
This coming Sunday, May 28, Eth-noh-tec will team up with four other performers for an in-person and virtual performance from Oakland, CA entitled Strong Like Bamboo.
All six will share their stories of both discrimination and survival, as they all have thrived in this era of anti-Asian hate. The performers include Linda Yemeto, MJ Kang, Alton Takiyama Chung and Emil Guillermo.
It will be followed by a panel discussion lead by Russell Jeung, a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.
Audience members will then be asked to break up into small groups for a chance to tell their own stories or to just to listen in a supportive environment.
“By sharing your story, it relieves the burden of holding it all inside by yourself,” said Wang. “And again, you’re not alone. And people can listen with empathy and compassion and that makes all the difference in the world to have someone listen to your own pain and be accepted and not be shamed.”
The free performance runs from 2-5 at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Free tickets are available through Eventbrite.
You may also join the event virtually. You must register here to get a Zoom link.
AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.