- Hometown: Cái Dầu Châu Đốc, An Giang, Vietnam
- Role: Communications specialist for the Minnesota House People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus and Queer Caucus
- Years of legislative service: January 2023 to present
“My mission is to inspire other voices from underrepresented communities to share their experiences through storytelling and literature for intergenerational healing.”
Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?
I decided to work at the Legislature to advance my civic engagement skills and learn firsthand about the intricacies of the legislative process. As an early education specialist, I have advocated for early childhood education for nearly a decade. I published my first children’s book, “My Daddy Tells Me,” to amplify the biracial Asian-Black narrative in children’s literature and to lower the reading disparities among our Black and multilingual students.
I also chose to work at the Legislature because there is a long history of a lack of representation in government jobs. Government institutions were originally built to exclude people of color and complex identities from the process of making decisions that impact their daily lives. We’ve heard a lot this session about how “representation matters,” and it goes beyond having elected officials of cultural and expansive identities. This was another great motivator for me to join the Legislature as a communications specialist. We have to take space, make space to set an example for other changemakers who are from BIPOC and underrepresented communities to expand their knowledge of the legislative process and increase their engagement with civic duties. You can’t be what you can’t see, so I am proud to work at the legislature to represent for the ones who feel their voices are unheard and their presence is unseen.
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my interpersonal development skills. The combination of my intersectional identities and my discipline in anti-bias and anti-racist pedagogy allows me to establish meaningful relationships based on understanding, allyship and reciprocal respect.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
One of my beloved mentors said, “You are your ancestor’s wildest dreams come true. Keep showing up to spaces as your authentic self, even if it makes others feel uncomfortable, because you never know who is watching for permission to be their authentic selves.” This quote lives “rent-free” in my mind because, in any circumstance, people will try to make you feel inferior and that you don’t belong. Rather than gaslighting yourself into second-guessing your value or worth, you have to find the courage to be both your biggest champion your cheerleader. Growing up, I struggled with my biracial diaspora and felt like I wasn’t good enough and that I needed to mirror the status quo to blend in. When I was given this piece of advice, it was life-giving. I felt empowered knowing that my ancestors are still behind me in spirit and that their collective cries for freedom manifested a 5foot-6-inch, independently bold and beautiful brown-skinned woman. It is a powerful thing to give someone permission to be unapologetically themselves and to live freely in their own skin.
Who or what inspires you?
What inspires me is the sheer joy that marginalized communities continue to exert despite the centuries of trauma and systemic racism they have endured. Generations later, as descendants of enslaved people, we are continuing to trailblaze legislation and break barriers in America. Under white supremacist systems, marginalized communities have had to work against each other under a scarcity model. Rather than accepting the poor infrastructure we inherited, we are taking a stand for not just our own communities but our collective liberation. It is inspirational when you can see social justice fighters from diverse identities and intergenerational backgrounds band together to reclaim our rights, culture, language, traditional way of life from archaic systems of abuse and violence.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
We do not suppress our dark history and the injustices our marginalized communities have faced. While we have a lot more work to do to correct the harmful laws and systems that have been designed to oppress and subject people to brutality and violence, our state lawmakers are working to build a more inclusive state that is reflective of our diverse communities.
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
I am currently reading the work and teachings of Dr. Silvia Federici, specifically her books “Beyond the Periphery of the Skin: Rethinking, Remaking and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism” and the “Patriarchy of the Wage: Notes on Marx, Gender and Feminism.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To suggest a staffer for this series, use the email icon above to contact Holly South.