This episode, we’re joined by our lovely returning guest, Jonathan Gibbs, creator of the Black and Asian Alliance Network, a proud, gay, Black and Filipino American filmmaker, storyteller, podcaster, and gamer based in Brooklyn, NY.
In this episode, we chat about:
- The importance of solidarity among marginalized communities
- Issues of performative activism and establishing genuine allyship
- Holding individuals and corporations accountable and enacting change
- The need for representation and visibility in media and entertainment for our communities
- Raising the bottom line for our underrepresented and historically marginalized communities
- Challenges and benefits of social media
You can find Johnathan Gibbs at:
You can follow me at:
- Website: yellowglitterpodcast.com
- Instagram: @stevenwakabayashi
- YouTube: @stevenwakabayashi
- Subscribe to my weekly newsletter: mindfulmoments.substack.com
Steven Wakabayashi: Hi everyone. My name is Steven Wakabayashi, and you’re listening to another episode of Yellow Glitter, mindfulness Through the Eyes and Soul of Queer Asian Perspectives. This episode, we’re joined by our returning lovely guest, Jonathan Gibbs. Jonathan Gibbs is a creator of the Black and Asian Alliance Network, a proud, gay, black and Filipino American filmmaker, storyteller, podcaster, and gamer based in Brooklyn.
Welcome back to the show, Jonathan.
Johnathan Gibbs: I always love being here. It is always such a joy and an honor to be here on the Yellow Glitter Podcast with the Steven Wakabayashi. Thank you so much. I’m so extra for no reason. Thank you.
Steven Wakabayashi: You’re very welcome. And last time we had you on, we talked about the movie Fire Island, and can you believe it’s been like almost like a year since then?
Johnathan Gibbs: Almost a year.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. What has come out of that conversation as soon as we last spoke?
Johnathan Gibbs: I’ll tell you people like, especially on Reddit, they’re like, oh yeah. Like I’ll be commenting on something remotely gay and Asian, whether it’s in like the Gay Asian subreddit or other places. And then random people will comment and be like, when are you doing another podcast? And I’m like first of all, it’s not my podcast. It’s Steven Wakabayashi’s podcast called Yellow Glitter. Check it out, get into the other episodes as well. But , I think that episode really, struck in invigorated Gaysian zeitgeist of folks to get to talking.
So I’m happy we were able to do that.
Steven Wakabayashi: That’s great to hear, especially when we were first ideating and discussing the topic. It didn’t seem like it was a point of discussion, but I, oh, I will say I had a discussion about it with some folks after the podcast a few months after, and it was actually really nice to see the discourse evolve into a, less of any representation is good, but this discourse of just what we wanna see more of, and surprisingly the conversation was not with Asian people, but it was folks that were non-Asian.
Johnathan Gibbs: That’s interesting because I think there’s a lot of work to do in the Asian lane, whether it’s gay, Asian, or just any Asian. I’m not critiquing your conversations outside of it. I am wondering, I did say, I remember saying on that episode like, Joel Kim Booster, I know you’re gonna hear this because the world is too small for you not to hear this.
Someone’s gonna pass this. I just wonder if the worlds so small. I just wonder if any of them listened to it and processed it. And I know they didn’t get back to me, so, and you didn’t tell me about Not to me either. However, a celebrity did get back to us and we are working jointly on a project that is yet to be announced, I think.
So that’s extra exciting, especially in the Gaysian Lane, and I hope to be back for that in the future. I’m calling it now.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes. Wait, can you share anything or not yet?
Johnathan Gibbs: I mean, you are the same level involvement that I am, so I’m, it’s not our project. We’re consulting on a project that is going to be huge for Gaysians everywhere.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, that project?
Johnathan Gibbs: Boy. What did you think I was talking about?
Steven Wakabayashi: It took minute to process. I was like, what? Oh,
it’s gonna be great.
Johnathan Gibbs: You’re asking me like, I’m the one. Oh,
Steven Wakabayashi: it’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be so good. But anyway, with that, I think we have a really a lively discussion for our episode today, which I think is also really timely given just the state of our world politics and what we’re seeing happening.
And the topic for us really today is to dive in deeper with performative activism. And so I know for us both, this word touches many parts of our hearts, minds, and soul deeply. I’m just curious specifically for you, Jonathan, why does this topic resonate in particular for you?
Johnathan Gibbs: Oh gosh. Because I think if I really think about it, like ever since I was a teenager, angsty teenager, discovering my identity and things, the thing that has always held true, even from way back then to now, and I think it could probably be a little more refined, but I always live by this philosophy that I don’t like fake people.
I don’t like liars, and there was a third one, but I, but somewhere down the line, like in college or something, I realized like, oh, those are all three the same thing. So it’s like hypocrites, fake people, and liars. That’s something that like, teenage me was like, oh no, I, that I, this is my mantra. I can’t stand by it.
So, life happens. Time has gone on the Universe 616, where we are in everything, everywhere, all. Actually, that’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe reference. I’m sorry. We have evolved to this point in 2020 where everybody picked up the Book of Black Lives Matter in May after George Floyd, and then of course Breonna Taylor, which they picked up after George. Breonna Taylor happened before George Floyd by months. But once George Floyd happened, then everybody was like, oh, Breonna Taylor. And it’s like, oh, okay. There’s the first thing there. It’s like y’all weren’t paying attention until anyway, being a black person and seeing how everybody took up the mantra and Banner for Black Lives Matter, especially in 2020 when that movement started in 2014 ish after Trayvon Martin.
And after the incident in St. Louis. Listen, there are so many names and hashtags, Mike Brown, I think between then and now that it’s hard to keep up, that’s how debilitating this work is. But to see everybody jump on the bandwagon and post Black squares and be like, oh, we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do that in Black Lives Matter, and literally gushers and fruit by the foot, talking about Black Lives Matter.
This is why in 2020 I was like, you know what? Give it at best two years and at worst one year, I think I’m saying that right. And these people are not going to care about this anymore. And in then it happened. I mean, we’re in 2023 now. And where’s the book on Black Lives Matter. It’s back on the shelf.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah.
Johnathan Gibbs: And before 2020, before 2020 Black Lives Matter had been around for so long that the conversation around Black Lives Matter had evolved into are they a terrorist group? That’s really what’s so weird to me. If you really think about it, people were talking about Black Lives Matter in that sense, until George Floyd happened.
Then it suddenly became what it always has been to the mainstream culture. So that’s the jumping off point for me. And performative activism. Yeah, my modern jumping off point. I’ve always helped by the mantra of like fake people, hypocrites, liars. But it kind of just culminated for me in 2020 and I was like, then I started seeing it in everything in my life and we’ll get into it, I’m sure.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. Yeah. And I think we’ve talked about this many times too, of just like, Not on the individual front, but companies, companies said that they were standing by in solidarity with black communities, with Asian communities, Bipoc communities,
Johnathan Gibbs: Trans communities.
Steven Wakabayashi: Trans communities. Yeah. Exactly.
Johnathan Gibbs: They just threw everything at the wall and were like, yeah, we’re on board. And it’s like, are you though?
Steven Wakabayashi: Exactly. And as we see, Just the financial landscape of everything that’s unfolding, especially towards the end of 2022. We saw a lot of layoffs happening, and most of it were starting with their DEI chapters within the organization.
Diversity, equity inclusion initiatives all came to a standing hault. I think I saw most recently a study that published Spotify’s a hundred million dollar Dedication to DEI initiatives. Coming out of the issues with Joe Rogan on his podcast, they’ve only used up 10%. Of that budget so far. And that’s being generous.
And I think the issue there is just the amazingness that you get from the lens of pr, whether it’s for the individual, for the organization, but when it actually comes to moving the needle impact your communities and actually helping to raise the bottom line. We don’t see it happening. And so I think, yeah, for you and myself in running our own organizations initiatives, I think we see so much of this happening around us too.
And what I wanna also highlight is, you’ve been getting pretty big on TikTok. You’ve been getting quite a number of folks following what you’re saying, your message putting out there. How’s that been?
Johnathan Gibbs: Before we go on to that, I just wanna say, I fully recognize, and I think I’ve said this in the past on other episodes, that your listeners, it must be like a perfect balance when I’m on here because I’m so frantic and passionate and you are just so calming and like we both
Steven Wakabayashi: We’re a good match,
Johnathan Gibbs: We’re great. We’re like the yin and yang of podcasting. So I apologize for my ranting is what I’m saying. But as far as TikTok,
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, you’re good. We allow everything here. No apologies needed.
Johnathan Gibbs: Thank you. As far as TikTok goes, I just think that it’s got a really good algorithm. I’m finding that I’m using TikTok for everything, not everything, but more of the shorter versions of videos. And I’m completely, for now out of long form videos, so I don’t put anything on YouTube. Though every corporation is trying to mimic the other corporation. So now TikTok has stories, but I only use Instagram for stories and then for posting pictures, I don’t really post pictures because since the pandemic, I haven’t been taking pictures of myself.
That’s a whole other topic. And then, YouTube, like I said, good for long form. I’m not doing that. I’m writing a screenplay. And it takes a lot longer to produce something in that capacity and I would probably upload it to YouTube, if not submit it to film festivals at this point. So with TikTok, if I have a thought and I am super random and it’s not for Twitter, where it’s just super random typed out thoughts, then I’m gonna make a video about it.
I have experimented with confining myself to talk’s three minute limit and putting high amounts of production in there. So we’re talking about the camera moving around and I’m not using Capcut, I’m doing it the old fashioned way. I’m running it through Premier Pro and like doing cuts and adding my own music
Steven Wakabayashi: Premiere?
Johnathan Gibbs: And stuff like this. Yeah. And I find actually those videos do very well. I did one about Breman Rock and then I did, and then with a, I did one on Bretman Rock with a promise to follow up with Awkwafina. And then, and so that one gained a lot of traction. Remind, yeah.
Steven Wakabayashi: What was that video about
Johnathan Gibbs: For this the Breman rock one was about how he’s a cultural appropriator, or at least how a lot of people, especially in black communities, think that he’s a cultural appropriator.
And then of course, allied Asians also call this out. I have a more, I won’t say a more nuance take, because that sounds shady, but for me it is undetermined if that’s actually the case. But make no mistake about it, like I completely understand why a lot of people think he’s a cultural appropriator. And the thing is, we need to hear this from the horse’s mouth.
We need to hear from people like Breman Rock and Aquafina, for them to say, yes, the reason I talk like this is because I grew up around these people. Or no, I didn’t grow up around it, but this is so far off that actually it’s performative. It’s right on topic. So are these people, these two people in particular, have they done a certain performance to gain the notoriety that they gained in order to be propelled to the heights that they’ve been propelled?
So Breman Rock, I followed him since 2015. I’ve done research for that video. I found as far back as 2013 that he was doing things like being super extra in 2013, twerking and doing all this crazy, what people would say is the lifting of African American vernacular English in his videos. And what I realized, especially when the very furthest back video that I could find of Breman Rock was of him twerking and it was on his Facebook videos collection. So I had to scroll a very long time. What I realized is around that time, the time that video was uploaded, Miley Cyrus was crowned as the Queen of Twerking.
And it’s because she was on the MTV Video Music Awards. And if you remember, that sparked a huge debate because everybody was like the news media and mainstream was like, oh twerking, it’s twerking. And black people were like, twerking has been around for literally thousands of years, like what is going on?
So my conclusion there is it’s highly possible that Breman Rock’s personality, cuz he was like 13 or 15 or 14 years old at the time, was completely influenced by a white woman who was ripping off black culture, but other people say no, that’s just how it is in Hawaii. There’s so many black and Asian people around each other.
I’ve heard lots of jokes about how like, if you’re a Blasian, you should go to Hawaii because everybody looks like you. I haven’t found a place as Blasian where everybody looks like me, so I’m interested in that. But yeah, so that’s one of the reasons why I blew up on TikTok. It’s videos like that where I’m talking about the intersections of Black and Asian identity and culture.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah.
Johnathan Gibbs: Put a nice bow at the end.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, that’s, that is interesting. And you’re very right. I think we need to hear from the horse’s mouth of just like folks talking about it and sitting in discourse with it, though I. I don’t know if we’ll ever get that with certain individuals.
Johnathan Gibbs: I was about to say, I don’t think anybody’s gonna just flat out admit like, yeah, I was acting like a caricature of a Black person to gain fame and notoriety.
Like even Aquafina was asked about it point blank to her face in front of a camera during the Shang-Chi press junket, right? And she sits there. She’s, I think her reaction is oh, that’s a very interesting topic that I’d like to explore more of. And then lit, I counted the second she stares in the camera for literally like 28 seconds.
Wow. This is after Shang-Chi she came out, there’s a video and I think it’s a South Asian person that called her, not called her out, but just asked her the question. She completely floundered on it.
Steven Wakabayashi: She just didn’t say anything. Yeah.
Johnathan Gibbs: She basically, she said one little thing, which was like, oh, that’s interesting.
I’d like to talk more about it. And then she stared at the camera for that long. So it’s like, girl, let us help you. Let us try to figure out what’s going on. I got blocked by Awkwafina for at that time, and there’s a whole Buzzfeed article about it. You can look it up. Just type Jonathan Awkwafina.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And then also now like zooming out into even just like the broader social media landscape. Right. We see this not just being with Breman Rock or Awkwafina, but we have influencers also taking the stage. And I think my perspective, and we’ll start the conversation is I think it’s really tricky, especially when we talk about the benefits of being an influencer with financial gain, with political gain, leveraging maybe some of these talking points and not actually moving the needle for the communities, but co-opting in many of these initiatives as a part of developing and growing platforms.
And I think the interesting part over the years, and sometimes it’s like too many names to name in particular, but especially in the height of specifically like Stop Asian hate, there’s a ton of accounts, right? Like are really popular and pretty big. But unfortunately as we look at initiatives or programming or things that they’re actually creating. I have still yet to see anything that they’ve actually pushed forward for our communities, unfortunately. But in tandem, I see them getting partnerships with major brands and all that stuff, and I think even MLK himself said it really well. There’s just this trickiness with finance and the ability for movements to be co-opted by corporations and by money that it’s just, it’s sometimes not able to stand in parallel with one another, especially with social activist
Johnathan Gibbs: I am so glad that you’re able to always bring it back to the main thing while also taking everything that I ranted about and making it relevant to the main thing. Right. So, Everything that I said about Awkwafina and people like Awkwafina and Breman Rock, you highlight perfectly what is going on with corporations as well.
So with Awkwafina and Breman Rock, it’s social clout. It’s the performance of a thing, in this case, Black folks to gain social clout to reap the benefits. But if we’re talking about corporations like Gusher and Fruit by the Foot, or Ford or Honda or Square Enix, even saying Black Lives Matter, then it’s for the social cloud of being on the bandwagon of saying the thing that’s popular at the time without any real tangible stuff.
And like I know some of you, a lot of I, I feel like some of your listeners are gamers, and I am a gamer as well. And like we understand the difference between like Square Enix North America and the people who run the English version of their Twitter, which they’re the ones who said Black Lives Matter and then. Who is a producer on Final Fantasy 16 who just recently said, Black people don’t fit in fantasy and that’s why you don’t see a lot of people of color in Final Fantasy 16 because this is based on,
Steven Wakabayashi: but they’re Dragons magic, but there are
Johnathan Gibbs: dragons magic summons and it’s like, girl, what? So like I say that to highlight the juxtaposition of Square Enix, the company saying Black Lives Matter versus one of their top producers right now saying that Black people don’t fit in to the story.
Steven Wakabayashi: Which was crazy. And then the context there for listeners is that it’s this whole video game, right? Where you quite literally have no Black people, right at all. They’re not even the towns folk, they’re not even the like the main characters you play comparatively to. For example, like other games, other RPG lineages from final fantasy lore, there had been more diversity, Black folks, Asian folks, white folks, and it just seems like we’re almost going backwards.
Johnathan Gibbs: I saw a very interesting claim and I, when I thought about it, I was like, wow, you’re right. But in all of this discourse about that, someone said, there has never been a Black woman in a Final Fantasy game. And I was like, you know what? You are right? There has never been a Black woman there. And if there is Black representation, it’s not dark skin.
Black representation, like people always throw up Sazh Katzroy from Final Fantasy 13, and then Barrett bla, not Barrett Blackman. That’s the person who sued me in 2008, Barrett, whatever his last name is in Final Fantasy seven. Right. But even Barrett in seven was Mr. T like based off of stereotypes.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yep. Yep.
Taking us back right is this whole measure of I’m doing this so that. I can ultimately get this, which I’m not gonna tell you, but I’m saying this also because this is what you want me. Oh
Johnathan Gibbs: yes. This is what you want me to say, what you want to hear. And I wanna mention the third arm of this.
So I said people like Awkwafina and Breman, rock, social clout, corporations, I also, I guess social clout as well as financial, like just reputation, right? But then there’s the more, and this is where I think we get into the heart of the conversation of why we wanted to talk about this today. It’s activists es and especially us being in the Black and Asian in our respective Black spaces and our respective Asian spaces, and then our respective intersecting Black and Asian spaces.
You see a lot of people in Asian spaces that are for Black lives and Black people. Talking a lot about what Black people want and what Black people think, and what is anti-Black and what is racist against Black people with little to no Black people there to speak up for themselves. I saw this a lot as a creator of the Black and Asian Alliance Network.
It’s still a very heavily Asian populated space, which that’s not bad, you know? Thank you Asian people for showing up and understanding why there are not a lot of Black people in this space because Black people are exhausted of having to deal with this and I know they’re gonna be Asian people out there like, we’re exhausted too.
We’ve been getting a text since 2020 and ever since Trump said the thing about the China virus, and even before that, because I was one of the people that was calling on my Black friends to be like, Hey, I remember very clearly in November, 2019, I, there was a man in San Francisco who, like this entire neighborhood of people were bullying him, laughing at him, and like stealing his cans and he was crying.
I think the Asian man was crying on video, and so people were mocking him. And I sent this to a lot of my friends. I was like, this stuff is like crazy. Like this stuff going on against Asian people is wild. Like I have half of my family is Asian and so this really hurts me. And people were like we don’t have the capacity to deal with that right now.
We’re like dealing with X, Y, Z, blah blah, blah. And I’m like, that is such a trash thing to say to me knowing that I’m Black and Asian. Right? And these were not Asian people saying this to me. Right? And then Covid happened three months later. And then all the anti-Asian violence, like of course there was, I say all that to say that there was anti-Asian violence before, but then it like kicked up into turbo, like it’s morphing time.
It just turned into something completely different. And so that’s why I’m saying like Asian people would want to acknowledge that there was stuff happening long before 2020. But in the grander scheme of things, and this is where we talk about oppression Olympics, but like in the grander scheme of things, I say all this to say, I understand why places like the Black and Asian Alliance network don’t have a lot of Black people, but at the same time, I’m annoyed when the conversation between Asians is about what Black people want or what’s good for Black people when Black people are not present.
That’s a form of performance for me. Exactly. To bring it back to the main.
Steven Wakabayashi: Exactly. It’s exactly the point. It’s speaking on behalf of others when you could quite literally just ask the question, pose a question, or just say, that’s not right, and just end it there. I feel like there’s some comments on social media where people will try to stand in on behalf of others.
But you don’t necessarily have to, one, do the explaining on behalf of the others, right. But also, you don’t have to go into this whole narrative of what they, to your point, what they want, what they strive for, because you’re ultimately not them. And the funny thing too, it took me many years of reflection, especially in holding space just like you, that at the end of the day, sometimes the work of inclusivity is much easier than we think.
It’s just bring people into this space. And if people don’t want to be in this space asking them what’s up with that? Why don’t you want to be in this space? And how can we make it so that your voice is also heard? And I think the really fascinating part with it is we have to reflect our own propensity to perform, especially in doing this work.
Because at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, am I really showing up for my community, these other communities, or am I wanting to do this more for me? And I think that’s the hardest truth for so many people to come to reckon with, because people don’t wanna be labeled as racist, right? People don’t wanna be labeled as being close-minded, discriminatory, all these things.
But fact one is we’re raised in this culture and this community of inequity that has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years that we’re absorbing into just the way we act, the way we behave, right? So innately we have these propensities that we’re working actively to undo, right? I think they said it really well on Twitter.
Some folks said it’s a matter of undoing the racism that’s deep within. I’m actively undoing the colonial mindset. But also, I think the second part that I was trying to get to was the fact that I think until we reckon with who we’re actually starting to do this work for, we can’t truly do the work for others.
And at the end of the day, we have to figure out our own house, right? Clean up our own house, clean up our own shop before we open our mouths. Or start even like going on social media, going on the internet. And I will say with grace and compassion, I think that’s why I also stepped away from social media for a while now, because I really had to reckon a lot with just what was coming up for me.
And there were flavors and moments where I could catch myself. Now looking back like, yeah, that was really more performative instead of just doing this work. And so I think the beauty of just this past year for me and just. Just evolution of my own self. My work has been focusing more on the output, the community engagement.
How are we rallying people together? How are we sitting in conversation? How are we collaborating with other organizations and partners? And then for me, that is really important. And then I’m going to put together my thoughts somewhere.
Johnathan Gibbs: What’s interesting is that you are doing all of this work and there are people like you doing all of this work, and there are Black people who don’t even know that you’re doing this work. And I think that’s the aim and the goal of the Black and Asian Alliance Network is to let everyone know that, there is a group of people, there are people out there who care about the other side. But I recently sat in, what happened? Something big happened.
Oh, there was this, I don’t know what his name is. I forgot his, I’m not gonna repeat his name, but he threatened China Mac recently. You could look up China Mac drama from like, when was this recorded? In March, 2023. And see who was beefing. It was a Black guy that was beefing with China Mac and saying like he was gonna show up to the show, or China Mac was saying he was gonna show up to the show because the man, him, the guy, he was like, he literally said, he’s like, I hate Asians.
And then he called China Mac out and then China Mack was like, what? Okay, I see you’re coming to New York. I’m, so anyway, I was watching a lot of videos on YouTube about that in the livestream. I was in a livestream of someone and they said something on their stream where they were like, Yeah, Asian people don’t like Black people, blah, blah, blah.
And I’m like, there are plenty of Asian. And I’m in the comments just going off like there are plenty of Asian people who are doing the work. As a matter of fact, Asians argue with Asians about how the work should be done, whether or not we should be caring about Black people and their causes. And they fight each other.
They call each other Boba liberals and they’re mad at the conservative Asians. And then the conservatives are saying, you’re too to this and too liberal, and blah, blah, blah. There’s a whole other conversation. And I imagine that your audience here knows that know, because you probably have a primarily Asian audience, you know that there’s fighting in fighting within Asian communities.
I say that plural because Asian is not a monolith, but you know from the Black side, they just see Asian. Some not they, not all, but the, a lot of the people that could be involved in the conversation. They just see it as Asian and they don’t see the nuance that’s going on over there. Just like I think to the point when there’s a bunch of Asian people talking about what Black people want, you don’t know that because Black people are not a monolith.
Like in Black communities, they fight over stuff like LGBT representation, like how we should spend our money, whether segregation versus Integra. Like there’s so many points being made within Black communities that I think a lot of people don’t know about. So I guess if we’re talking, we’re not talking about solutions at this point, but I just want to say that a solution would be yeah, just see each other.
And I think part of the work of making this more substantial and less performative, we just need to recognize that we’re not monoliths. That’s the very first step. That’s the very first step.
Steven Wakabayashi: I love that. I think you made two really great points, and one of it is right, there are communities that aren’t defined by these giant monoliths and thus such there are a myriad of people within each communities doing this work, putting in the effort and labor that goes also unbeknownst to other people because they’re not publicizing it. Right. And it’s one of those things that I’ve said time and time again, and I know I struggle with this sometimes as a matter of just trusting in the process. And I think when we also, on the flip side, right, when we as a community rely on signaling, like I, for example, if I’m saying, I need you to prove that you’re doing this work for me.
Where is the labor going? Right? And then we instantly start to see this shift, this paradigm shift towards more of this performance. Now we’re indexing more so on. I need people to say these things. I actually don’t need this downstream effect, whether it’s legislation or whether it’s community building advocacy, or just helping to move the needle and raising the bottom line for certain communities.
Right. And the one more thing I want to add is also, Regardless of what’s happening. Also at the very top right now, we see a lot of award shows giving amazing awards to many Asian celebrities and movies. And I think where we also struggle is with the Asian community and celebrities getting new heights than ever before.
We also have Asian communities facing homelessness at a higher rate than ever before, and. It’s just one of those things that also what happens in media, right? Let’s talk about performance, right? Which is putting people on stage saying, look, I have these people here. They’re making a ton of money getting all these deals, da.
Isn’t this great for you? But when we look at the data and the statistics, we see that there are a ton of people also within either the same ethnic or racial group, struggling really hard, facing homelessness, food insecurity, or just having no food at all. Or having no jobs. Especially with the rocky economic landscape. And just also no support systems. Because
Johnathan Gibbs: Are you saying this from an Asian perspective, Steven?
Steven Wakabayashi: Specifically for Asians, yeah. And this is the analogy of just you have Asian celebrities,
Johnathan Gibbs: so it’s just amazing to me that we’re now arriving at this point when, You know what people on the Black side have heard for a while. Obama is president now, so
Steven Wakabayashi: that’s a great point.
Johnathan Gibbs: Nothing else is a problem, right? That’s, and you’ve got, Halle Berry won the award in early two thousands. You have Michael Jordan and all these beautiful black people doing runway and so there should be no. Like we are united in this struggle as Black and Asian people to recognize the BS of people trying to leverage the anomalies that are successes from our communities as some way to cover up the real stuff that’s going on to our communities as a result of being locked out of certain things.
And when we talk about representation, I had a profound shower moment just this week. About representation matters, which I have not voiced or written anywhere. So you’re hearing it here first folks hot off the press representation, and it’s not a fully formed thought and that’s why I haven’t said anything, but I’m trying to work through it and process it right now here, live on the podcast in a recorded form.
But what do we mean? Like representation to me is oh, like we have this stage and there are different stories being told and Asians need more representation, so we need to include Asians on this stage of other people so that the world in the mainstream can see it. And I’m like, how about what?
What if the world in the mainstream actually just went to the Asian room and the Asian neighborhoods to see the stories that they are creating and to see, because the people who are creating, and some of these filmmakers might be activists or these storytellers also might be activists, then you will learn about New York City having the largest poverty stricken community in New York City being Chinese people.
You might start seeing stuff like that instead of getting just one movie that sweeps at the Oscars and then all of a sudden that’s Asian representation. Like to me, the very fundamental notion of just the way we represent like it’s almo, it’s like hunger Games. Why are we volunteering one tribute to represent an entire demographic of people when there are stories happening back at home in our own districts, whether it’s Black folks or Asian folks or anybody.
I think that at least from the Black side, it’s more developed. You have the Tyler Perrys of the world, you have Spike Lees where like they’re gonna create regardless. And then we could argue within our own Black community, whether that’s trash or not. Like it’s Coonery and Buffoonery and like why does Tyler Perry keep on making the same movie over and over again?
And then proponents for Tyler Perry being like, but this is representing people that wouldn’t be in Hollywood because he’s representing people from a lower class. And we like that because we are also considered lower class. And so this is entertainment for us. I don’t see that for Asians, at least not Asian Americans.
Now, mind you, there’s an entire box office in Asia. There are rosters of celebrities and, but those are Asians and not Asian-American. And I know very well as an Asian-American and being in those circles that there’s a clear distinction between Asian and Asian American. That being said, Asian American representation is through the lens of what white Hollywood deems appropriate.
When I’m saying that, hey, you should have Asian American represent and then you could fight over, and I see you typing in the notes. Yes. Fresh off the boat was one of those things that Asian Americans fought over and good for that. But we need more of that kind of conversation is what I’m saying.
And that’s my take on representation right now. And I say right now cuz it might evolve
Steven Wakabayashi: and we’re here for it. I think we use the word intersectionality for identities, but I think we can also use intersectionalities for concepts and theories too. And I could see intersectionality also playing a role in this concept that we’re not a monolith, right?
As one idea and then this whole aspect of representation, the intersection of that would be then, Having a myriad of stories of all these different people that we ultimately want to express. And then if we think about that, are we actually getting the representation right of the people that represent the diversity of the Asian community, of the Black community, of all these other communities that aren’t represented often by white media?
]And I think the thing that I go back to with representation is also, it’s just awareness building is not really the work itself to me. You almost need two parts, right? Where some people just need to be aware so that they know exactly what to do. But then if people just are aware of the situation, are you actually solving it?
Example is like world hunger. You can tell everyone it exists, but is it actually moving the needle for world hunger? Not really. And I think sometimes representation’s sake ends up falling flat because of that. And so I think for me at least, where the needle starts moving is thinking about the bottom line.
The people who are the most disadvantage in a particular situation, right? Whether they’re geographic, financially, socioeconomic, all these different criteria. How is the livelihood for them and their experience being improved? And to me, you can go to any community and just measure that experience to see really what it’s like to be in that space.
Johnathan Gibbs: Absolutely. And so Steven, you just made a perfect point for something that we have talked about offline before and something that I’m processing for my screenplay. So I’m gonna go off the script here and ask you, you said you made a great example of like world hunger. Someone can talk about it and we all know it’s a thing, but is anything being done? How do you feel about land acknowledgements, since we’re talking about performance and performative activism, how, what do you think about land acknowledgements at the beginning of Zoom meetings or even at in-person meetings?
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, I think that’s the same thing.
Johnathan Gibbs: Cause land acknowledgements bring up the fact that we are on the land of these people and then we move on with the program. Even if it’s a moment of silence, what is that actually doing?
Steven Wakabayashi: It doesn’t do anything. You’re right. You’re right. It’s not moving the needle for the communities that have been harmed and I think there have been some discourses that I’ve read about it that’s quite fascinating. That’s basically pointing out like, Hey, you like doing these land acknowledgements. What is it really doing? And is it really helping to gain land back? And I have been challenging some of the discourse in terms of what we start doing in the spaces. And so one of the things that was a practice was like you start talking a little bit more about stories and narratives of what they maybe have done as a practice of celebrating who they are is a culture and a community, and trying to build awareness of that.
Not just saying, Hey, this land is this person. But I do agree this is a serious issue right now that still exists, that is still perpetuating across many different communities, native communities across the entire world. Still being treated very poorly. Under-resourced too. Absolutely. Especially in parts of America.
And I think absolutely. I saw some of the grocery stores with prices for produce in not even $10, but $20 figures because it’s just a scarcity to get some ingredients where they’re at.
Johnathan Gibbs: So I don’t know if this is a revolutionary idea or not or if it’s problematic.
Steven Wakabayashi: What do you suggest?
Johnathan Gibbs: But I’m just, but I suggest, so first of all, I had done some reading about this as well. It is off script topic. This is not, but I think this is probably part of performative activism. So I think, so some people have said just include links on your slideshow to donate to people. I would take it a step further and say, if you’re gonna, if you care as we all should about the land that you’re using to do your presentation or that you simply exist on, then with every event that you do, then just, and especially if there’s ticket sales or whatever, commit a certain percentage, whether it’s high or low, to donating to whatever cause would be on that link that you’re acknowledging the people of.
Does that make sense? I tried to string together a bunch of words and I hope it made sense.
Steven Wakabayashi: No, it makes total sense. That’s the point, right? You’re actually moving the needle, and I think the same thing could be applied for people who talk about LGBT rights and that’s all they do. They just talk about it, but they don’t actually move the needle. Where I will say the asterisks is, I think specifically for communities who are under resourced and under financed, I think there are different ways that you can contribute besides financial, where you could volunteer, you can actually invest your time and labor into things. But I think, finance, time, labor, these are resources that we have that we sometimes have to do something for on the finance category.
But I think these are exactly the resources that organizations and people need.
Johnathan Gibbs: Yeah. At very least a link to, yeah, how you could learn more about or help these people, right?
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, absolutely.
Johnathan Gibbs: If it were up to me, people listening, I would give all the land back and just hope that we as Black folks and as Asian immigrant folks, we’d get just a little slice. Just give us a little bit, give us one state. We’ll be good with that. We’ll make an economy out of that. We’ll give you back all the content. I’m,
Steven Wakabayashi: if it were up to me paying my rent to them instead of my landlord. I’m okay with that. You want my rent money? Take it.
Johnathan Gibbs: That’s actually a more realistic idea of what would happen.
If we quote, if we, if in a parallel universe, like if we can do the man in the high castle on Confederate, then we can also imagine a world where all of a sudden all the land was turned back to the native and indigenous population of the United States. In a realistic sense, they would probably just take over all of real estate then.
We wouldn’t just tear down everything. We just have to pay our rent to them. And you know what? They would deserve it after all the 200 something years. Just, yeah. But about that. But that’s the ultimate performative activism actually. It’s like we’re all sitting around talking about performative activism while we sit on land of people that has been stolen.
Steven Wakabayashi: You’re right. You’re right.
Johnathan Gibbs: And there are people decimated. Hello.
Steven Wakabayashi: You’re right. You’re right. And then buying and selling property on top of it, right? If you steal someone’s car and then you sell the car to someone else and they sell it to someone else, whose car is it? But anyway, I, we don’t have to go down that.
I have a question for you. Going back to the point of social media, Jonathan, what do you think the role is of social media and activism? So we’re talking about all this stuff that’s happening in that landscape. How should we be using social media, if we should be using it at all?
Johnathan Gibbs: We should definitely be using social media, but should, but it should only be used as a tool, an accessory to the work that you’re doing.
We cannot, and this is something I’ve learned and that I’m trying to develop further, especially with Black Asian Alliance Network, like of course, Black Asian Alliance Network was created during the pandemic when we couldn’t go outside anyway. But your activism has to stretch beyond the screen at this point.
Now that we’re kind of rounding around the corner towards the end of a pandemic, hopefully, like I’ve gone on Amazon and bought. A giant dust pin, a dust pan, a push broom, and a trash picker upper. And I went around my block here in Crown Heights and picked up trash at midnight and cleaned the block.
And this block is messy as hell. And guess what? By the time I was walking back to my house, it was already messy as hell again. But I was like, you know what? But I feel like I did something. It might seem minute or stupid because wind blew the trash back into place. But just imagine if we had a hundred people doing that.
And under the banner of Black Asian Alliance. So like now we’re going with Black and Asian people going to different neighborhoods that are Black and Asian and cleaning them up and people seeing that. Social media in that sense is used as a tool and an accessory to make the message known, make the movement known.
Or soup kitchens, hey folks of any demographic, if you wanna help fight hunger in New York City, we’re pulling together our resources to do a soup kitchen and we’re meeting here at this, armchair activism and sitting behind the screen and arguing all day, that’s a lot of energy spent on nothing.
It’s a lot of it. You might educate someone, they might get hit with stray bullets of knowledge of learning. Oh, I didn’t know about that demographic. Let me look into that. And then where does it go In activism, you have to be active. And it’s something that I’ve learned in recent years and I think we should all, I don’t think it takes getting older to realize that you just need to get on the, and there are young people who have figured it out.
So for those of us who have jumped on since 2020, know that you posting a black square, putting BLM in your profile is not activism as far as I’m concerned anymore. Yeah. Social media is an accessory to I think real life work that you do.
Steven Wakabayashi: I think you brought up a really good point around the topic of like education. It’s not activism. There’s also a plethora of books written also, specifically if it’s black activism, written by Black authors, why aren’t we funneling people to buy these books? But what I’m also seeing that’s happening is, do you see this sometimes on social media where it’s just this regurgitation from some activists where they’ve read the book, they’ll take a few bullet points from it, distilling it, making it overly simplified.
And again, as we talk about performative activism, trying to do this work for behalf of others. So it’s just the vein of this whole concept of education for education’s sake. I think there’s already a ton of resources out there that we as a community need to lean on and leverage, and then actually put the effort into doing the work.
Johnathan Gibbs: Okay, but Steven, do you know that there are entire Instagram accounts of people taking those points from those Black authors and then yes, it’s their fault for doing this, but then it’s also the audience’s fault for being like, okay, that’s enough. Yeah, that’s amazing. I’m just going to reshare this and that’s enough.
I’m not gonna look into any sources or anything. And it got such to the point, and this is not just this example I’m about to give you, but plenty of other accounts. It’s like that is their model as they just take points and make beautiful infographics and then that’s it. And that’s the extent of people’s activism.
But I wanna tell you a story about my acquaintance Ijeoma Oluo who wrote the book. So you want to talk about race and funny backstory, we didn’t meet on the best of terms, but now we’re social media friendly. Like I’m sure she would invite me out to her house if she wanted to, like we’re cool.
Didn’t start off cool because I was making fun of the voice actress and I thought it was a white woman and this is a whole, she’s like, no, this is like legendary Black voice actress such and how dare you. And I was like, oh god, I feel stupid. But that was a moment where like we were able to be open so far off the point, whatever.
All that to say, there was a controversy in like 2020, 2021 something where there’s this Instagram account that did everything that you said about the bullet points and all of this called something like, so you want to talk about, I don’t think it said anything after that. I think it was just so you want to talk about, and everybody thought that was Ijeoma Oluo behind that account because she made the book, so you want to talk about race.
And so it was that account was making like these amazing points and everybody was sharing millions of followers, landed a book deal. Then people somehow found out that this had nothing to do with a Ijeoma Oluo or the creator of, so you wanna talk about race? Guess who it was. It was a white woman and all of a sudden people were like, what?
She was basically the Rachel Dolezal of Instagram accounts. And a lot of people, a lot of people Ijeoma herself posted like messages She got where she was like, I am so sorry for supporting this. I thought you were behind this. Because the Instagram account literally stole 90% of the name of her book as the Instagram account’s name.
Literally stole the font. So you know that this was insidiously done. They were trying to mislead people into thinking that so the same font that, so you want to talk about race uses on its cover was the same bond that they used on all of their posts to make it look like. And I don’t know what the excuse or the justification was that was given by the White Lady.
I don’t know if she, I don’t know if she owned up to the fact that she did use the same font to try to mislead people or not, but I think she ended up changing the name. This happened two years ago and it’s just, it’s, it shows you that it was a big deal too. It was a pretty big account.
Steven Wakabayashi: It wasn’t small by any means.
Johnathan Gibbs: Not at all. It had over a million followers. It was at the height of that time when people were taking up the banner and were like, oh yeah, Black Lives Matter. But you can’t even bet your sources of who’s pedaling this stuff to you.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And that’s, at least that’s where I stand, especially as an educator, as somebody also doing this work, that we also have to think about the work that’s been done and help amplify that as a part of the processes rather than simply regurgitating.
I don’t think just being on a spin cycle, going back and forth, we’re ever gonna gain any momentum to actually move the needle forward and ah, I think all of this said and done could be a way that we’re actually procrastinating, moving the needle on the things that are the hardest to do. Cuz you and I both know.
We put in so much work to pull people together, is so hard because this is the work that’s essential and that’s needed. Right? And sometimes we have to again call it out when that’s happening, when we’re procrastinating or we’re being performative with it and say, you know what?
I recognize what’s happening. And then also maybe like at least what works for me is I call it out and I say, Steven, I recognize that maybe this is really hard, this thing that you’re trying to do, maybe break it down. But I have made it intentional in this past year and a half of just really trying to name both procrastination and performativeness, especially when it comes to this type of work.
Yeah. So that takes us to kind of some things that’s coming up too. Especially as we start gearing up for the next presidential election. We start seeing the evolution of the landscape of social activism and maybe the terminologies, the causes. I think we’re going to be in for quite a ride, especially with what’s happening all around the spheres of different political arenas.
And one of the things that I think that I’m very disheartened by is just the hijacking of certain terminologies that have been used in leverage as a part of, again, we’re talking historical context, right? Of work that had been done previously. This term woke was used to define just being aware. It wasn’t really to define anything else beyond that, right?
Just being aware of systemic injustices, systemic prejudice, systemic racism, and it is being co-opted by many other parties, let’s just say that is intentionally here to disrupt the momentum forward. And I think especially as we continue forth with our work, again, I think that’s where this ladders up nicely into the whole piece of education and why education with the root text is so important is because this helps to educate people.
Based on what the intentionality was as a part of the movement. And so I do think this detachment and this distancing away from some of the root education that we had resulted in maybe some of the terminologies being co-opted by, even if in good intentionality, but it didn’t come across properly.
I think we’re not really doing our due diligence to stand on the shoulders of everyone that had put in so much work, whether it’s in academia or in political advocacy for many decades and centuries. And so that’s just my little quip of just why it is so important and powerful to lean on education that have been done by so many people that have been putting in the effort is so that we can ensure that as we move forward, we can ensure that we keep adding on top of each other’s work. Yeah
Johnathan Gibbs: Woke, it’s like the if you remember, I mean, this is only the last few years they started off with CRT Critical Race Theory. Oh yes. I think that maybe they had to go back to the writer’s room on that one because maybe it was too complicated for some of their constituents to say. Or it was that their opposition was pushing back and I don’t know if the point was made, I know the point was made in some places, but I don’t know if the point, maybe the point was made so much that they abandoned CRT, but saying like, oh, it’s a college level concept, and like nobody’s teaching CRT to your kids in school. Stop that. Like we just need more of that kind of energy. It’s like, shut up. Stop it. Like you’re being ridiculous right now. Yeah. So with woke it’s just short, simple and sweet. And they can’t even define it, but they can say it. And so they can put the woke agenda and it’s , no, like once again, we just need people to stand up and be like, woke has always meant this other thing.
Stop it. You’re being ridiculous. But unfortunately, like as much as I said, you could get hit with by those stray bullets of knowledge and maybe be enlightened on something in the opposite. Like it’s like this stuff spreads like wildfire when it’s just the dumbest, like when the stupider, the idea is the easier it spreads is basically what I’m trying to say here.
Like, oh, woke. Oh, so everybody’s woke. Like, how do you even define that? There’s a video that came out around the time of this recording where a Black woman asks this white lady, Like the lady’s about to launch into her spiel about wokeness. And the anchor, the Black woman who’s the host of the show is like, hold on.
Not even in a , confrontational way. She’s just like, so that we’re on the same page. Can you define woke? And then for a minute, she stumbles and she can’t do it. And then it later came out that the lady like burst into tears and now the story has been turned around to make it look like the anchor bullied her and made her cry because she couldn’t define.
I was like, no, y’all are out here just willy-nilly tossing around the word woke as if it literally means anything other than being aware to the social injustices around you and you’re trying to make woke sound like some kind of boogeyman or monster that is threatening you when all it, and even before CRT or woke, it was politically correct for them.
Pc, PC culture, like it’s all it’s the same thing, regurgitated in different ways. And it’s annoying because at this point with woke, it’s been super hijacked. I mean, 2017, nobody was talking about woke because in 2017, that was Jordan Peels Get Out, and that opens with the, I think it’s Childish Gambino. I could be wrong. Stay woke. The song is called Red Bone, but the lyric is stay woke bam. Yeah. So they’re just trying it at the end of the day and a lot of people are falling for the idiocy. Yeah. Please don’t let us spill. And I know it has. I know it has because I’ve already seen it happening in conversations in Gaysian spaces.
Yeah. Where some of you guys are talking about the woke agenda and I’m like, please stop it. Know what the hell you’re talking about.
Steven Wakabayashi: Okay, so Jonathan, then where do we go from here? What suggestions do you have for the future you wanna see?
Johnathan Gibbs: Don’t fall for the okie-doke. That’s short and sweet.
Short and sweet. Don’t fall for it.
Steven Wakabayashi: Don’t fall for it. going back to the education piece, this is not also new. There have been many ways that in previous historical contexts, so many, it’s so many to name, it’s been done in World War ii. It’s been done with the height of political unrest all the way into the early nineties.
It’s just so many different instances in which there was manipulation of certain terminologies that grassroots organizers would use. And I think this is where I just highly recommend going back into literature and reading. My recommendation, I was always start with Wikipedia and just see what words you’re searching and what resources it’s pointing to.
And that usually has a really great plethora of books. Listen to audio books, get a library card and see what have people done. And a book that I’ve been recommending lately has been this book called The Persuaders, which accounts many of our current day political activists and leaders and also how they’re managing.
And working through many of the things that we’re experiencing right now, Alicia Garza, BLM, AOC, and just how are they working in the realm with people that they don’t see eye to eye with and people that they also sit very different political spectrums with and how are they helping to move the needle?
And I think that’s where my story is a little bit of just figuring out ways that we can help find bridges between each other even when it’s difficult. And I will say definitely I still struggle with certain ideologies and communities that that really continue to perpetuate harm, let’s just say.
But, I am trying to also be humble and sit in solidarity with many of these educators who are helping to push the needle in having conversations that are difficult, that are essential, that are necessary, that previously in the past, I took for granted because I had thought maybe that lunchtime argument at the lunch table was so important when in reality there’s a larger conversation at play, whether it’s with legislators, with assembly members, community organizers who are part of the decision.
I think I will end with two notes. One, compassion with all of our process and where we’re at and adding to the larger collective movement where we can, I think that’s, Where we can show a lot of compassion. But I think the second part is I’m losing a lot of time in my schedule now for just creating space for unnecessary inviting, and especially when I recognize that we all have a very similar goal.
That’s where I’m focusing and indexing a lot of my work and energy to figure out how we can move things forward together.
Johnathan Gibbs: Unfortunately there are a lot, it’s not a little, and I’m not naming names cuz I’m not finding those kinds of shots, but I will call out the dynamic. There are people out here who are utilizing this work as a vehicle to, what’s the word I’m looking for?
I was gonna say hate on, but I was trying to find something a little bit more poetic. But basically,
Steven Wakabayashi: I mean just for their own personal gain.
Johnathan Gibbs: Personal gain. Literally leveraging oppression for their own personal gain. And the oppressions of others. And this kind of hearkens back to what I was talking about earlier when I was saying like how some Asians within Asian infighting will leverage the oppression of Black people to make points against the side, the other side, within their Asian infighting to basically dunk on the other Asians.
We talk about the ladder of privilege, like it’s an up down thing. But I talk about the matrix of privilege because it is a, the spreadsheet of privilege, it goes left, right up, down. It’s three-dimensional. And so it’s more than just this two-dimensional idea. And so as a man, but someone who is Black and Asian.
Yeah, but cis male, like I’ve seen a lot of people go around and leverage their identity to basically dunk on other people that are also oppressed.
Steven Wakabayashi: It’s also the like to your point, oh, this just like sparked a ah, it’s like aha. It’s like you can hold certain power in different instances, right? In different contexts.
Like you mentioned. It’s like the matrix of privilege. And when we hold power in a certain space, I think we really need to think long and hard about what we’re using it for. To your point, Are we using it to raise the bottom line for others? Or are we simply just having a lot of internalized stuff that we have yet to work on just being poured out into the world?
Johnathan Gibbs: Absolutely. Said. Yeah. Because when I get into fights with people like one thing that I’m having to realize and tell myself is maybe this is not all about the thing. Maybe because of the, it’s their work of the work. There’s some stuff going on inside that is causing these people to act in this way.
Yeah, right. And this is very interesting because we’re having this part of the conversation now. I just saw a play a musical, and I’m not gonna name the musical, not because I’m trying to hide the identity of the musical or the people in it, or the writer, but because of spoilers. But I have to talk about the story basically.
And it’s a very famous person who won one of the highest honors for their first work. And so their follow up work basically asks the question, what happens when Black people take over the reins and white people are no longer the majority, and the musical posits that a, some Black people who care about pronouns and identity politics and being woke have hijacked that ship in order to gain the dunking power over white people and have treated them just as, and so then the second act of the musical, so the climax of the first act is Black people have now won, they’ve taken over.
Then the second act is showing Black people in a way that white people acted and it makes room for the Black people that got left behind and is like, oh yeah, those, that person. Really went wild with it. And then the person who really went wild with it and won for the Black people was like, oh no, we don’t need representation.
And literally hijacked the ship of wokeness and caring and representation and fairness and equity to somehow make it look like Black people would be just as bad as white people. And their tool for doing it would be those things that I’ve mentioned. And I highly disagree with that. And I was actually very surprised that this could come from the person who made their first work, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
And so it’s not out yet. It’s in previews. And so once it comes out, I’m very interested to see what the is gonna be to that. I’m sure by the time this comes out, it will have come out by the time this come this podcast,
Steven Wakabayashi: we’ll do a follow up,
Johnathan Gibbs: we’ll do a follow up, all of that to say that there isn’t even in this thing that I disagree with, there is an acknowledgement that there is a sect of people.
Who do hijack movements in order for their own personal gain and in order to dunk on other people. And while I don’t agree with the playwright in terms of that’s how everyone who cares about pronouns or wokeness or representation has done it, I will acknowledge that there are people who do it.
Steven Wakabayashi: You’re right and I think there is right financial gain, like what we mentioned earlier, financial gain. Political gain, our gain.
Johnathan Gibbs: Social clout.
Steven Wakabayashi: Social clout. Exactly. And I think when we develop more acuity and awareness to it, I think we have to figure out ultimately what we do with it as a community. I think we’ve had a very lively conversation.
So many important points of just things to just earmark and just hold on to and see where the world goes with a lot of these thoughts. I have a few quick questions for you as we wrap up. The first one is just looking at all the stuff that we talked about. Do you have any last notes for
Johnathan Gibbs: So what I would say is at this point, Using social media as an accessor.
I think that’s the big point. The one that I made earlier that I really hope that people can come away with is like, if you really are into this activism stuff, do stuff on boots on the ground, find something, whether it’s, I don’t know, community gardening or like community cleanup or organizing, making people more aware, but then actually doing stuff instead of just fighting about it on social media and putting a black square on your profile picture and typing BLM in your profile, your grinder profile, we need more than just that.
That doesn’t suffice. We’re not stuck inside the house anymore. Put your money where your mouth is. That applies to me too, which I’m trying to do.
Steven Wakabayashi: So both of us. Yeah. And then for me, I think a measurement framework that I have is how you’re raising the bottom line, how you’re raising the bottom line within the community that you sit in.
Question for you, what’s bringing you joy lately?
Johnathan Gibbs: Oh, what is bringing me joy lately? I don’t know if I’ve talked about this on this podcast, but I was involved over the last two years with a huge battle with the New York City Gay Men’s course. I’m just gonna say the name. And I have moved on to another choir, lavender Light Gospel Choir, the first and oldest, and as far as I know, only openly LGBTQ Gospel Choir, which centers Blackness.
So I’ve become part of that choir now, and I’ve gone to one rehearsal and I just felt like I belonged in that singing group. Like I have never felt like I belonged in any other singing group as a Black queer chorister. So that is really bringing me joy right now. It might not be as big and like part of my coral journey is always being in these huge organizations because I really like that sound.
I always said sitting down as a child watching tv, I always wanted to be a part of the Mormon Tabernacle choir, but number one, I’m not Mormon. And number two, they probably, they have Black people in there. But like we know the history of the Mormon church and if you don’t know, you better look it up. But I think that my sanity is more important than the size of the group at this point.
And I do want to be, I have been wanting to be in something Coral, so I found this and it is bringing me joy.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, I’m so happy for you. That’s amazing. You have to tell me when you perform. I’m gonna go cheer you on.
Johnathan Gibbs: Yeah, they do have concerts and I didn’t know that. And that’s actually part of something that I hope to help.
They’re an activist group. They made that very clear in the first rehearsal. And I look forward to bringing my energy. In doing that, boots on the ground work, giving my energy to helping this group that’s been around for since the eighties, get updated and lending my knowledge wherever I can while respecting their history and their identity.
Steven Wakabayashi: that sounds amazing. And then we’ll also put the link to them in show notes so listeners can check them out. And then also follow-up question is how can people find you and engage with you? If you wanna learn more
Johnathan Gibbs: Hit me up on TikTok or Instagram. My username is Jonahsahn, j o n a h s a h n.
Lately I’ve been playing with the idea of making that my name, that people call, like people that don’t know me moving forward from 2023. I just didn’t, but like I don’t, I can’t, it’s weird to me to introduce myself as Jonah. Like my name’s Jonathan, so I don’t know. It’s just, maybe it’s just a play of words.
Obviously it’s the kana.
Steven Wakabayashi: You can totally do it. Whatever you feel empowered to go for it.
Johnathan Gibbs: I’m saying I don’t, it’s not that I don’t feel empowered, it just sounds, it feels weird to me, so I’m just gonna keep on calling myself, Jonathan. But on the internet, it’s Jonahsahn. So there you go.
Steven Wakabayashi: Wow, it was great having you here, Jonahsahn, and for me. You can find me on Instagram at Steven Wakabayashi or on Twitter waku, and to get the show notes and see other episodes, you can visit our website @yellowglitterpodcast.com. We really appreciate you listening and being with us in conversation in Community.
Hope you took a lot out of the conversation today and hope your day and be a little bit more mindful coming out of this conversation. Take care and we’ll see you again soon. Bye now.
Johnathan Gibbs: Bye.