SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Jason Bayani remembers discovering how he was not alone as an Asian American poet.
“I have to be in space with all these different artists from all over the country,” he told KPIX 5. “It’s like watching all these people who look like me, share the same stories.”
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Now he is supporting others as artistic director of the Kearny Street Workshop – the oldest Asian-American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country.
The non-profit organization began in the former Kearny Street International Hotel in 1972, protesting evictions and fighting for workers’ rights.
But over the years, KSW has become a springboard for thousands of Asian American artists.
“Kearny Street Workshop is known as a pioneering organization,” said former CEO Nancy Hom.
Hom says KSW was among the first to have an art exhibit in the Angel Island Detention Center, the first to publish Filipino-American poetry, and the first to present an Asian-American jazz festival.
Today, its annual APAture festival features dozens of emerging artists.
“The structure of APAture means that every year there will be a new influx of people coming and being trained and nurtured,” Hom said.
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The non-profit organization offers workshops and performances, from photography to podcasts, outfitting artists like Kazumi Chin, Michelle Lin and Dara Del Rosario.
The trio produced KSW’s first podcast, titled “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive,” which features conversations with Asian-American artists and community activists.
“What I love about KSW and all of its programming is the imagination that happens, which is really essential in making changes,” said Lin.
And now the nonprofit is creating its own living history.
His collection of artifacts – such as part of the original door to the International Hotel – and his interviews for an online archive.
“It’s our way of making sure our story is told by us,” Bayani explained.
The massive project will be a legacy of the creative support the Kearny Street Workshop has provided for nearly five decades so that Asian Americans like Jason can be seen and heard.
The Kearny Street Workshop is accepting applications for its fall APAture festival which features Asian American artists. The deadline is in July.
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The “We Won’t Move: a Living Archive” launched a GoFundMe to record its second season.
GoFundMe: http: //tinyurl.com/fundseason2. For more information: kearnystreet.org