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At Be the Bridge Podcast, we intentionally interview bridge builders doing incredible work all year long. And it just so happens that we are highlighting an interview Be the Bridge founder and our host, Latasha Morrison, had with Pastor Raymond Chang as we welcome in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Heritage Month. They have an important conversation surrounding breaking the stigmas of mental health, discipling students, and acknowledging history.
Latasha and Raymond talk about a life-changing trip he took called the Reclaim Trip, where he and others with the Asian American Christian Collaborative toured historical Asian American Civil Rights sites in California. It was a trip that fostered remembering history and reclaiming identity. And he and Latasha even dream up an incredible opportunity for the Be the Bridge community. We are all connected; and gaining historical context helps us better understand, empathize, and lead in the church and in the culture.
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Asian American Christian Collaborative
Epic Movement – Community of CRU for Asian Americans
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Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.
The full episode transcript is below.
You are listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison.
Latasha Morrison 0:06
[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!
Each week, Be the Bridge Podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.
Latasha Morrison 0:17
[intro] …but I’m gonna do it in the spirit of love.
We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society, but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.
Latasha Morrison 0:54
Be the Bridge community, I am so excited to have another friend with us on the podcast today. And I know some of you may have heard of him. Some of you this may be the first time that you’re going to hear about him. But it won’t be the last time! So I’m so excited to introduce our community to Pastor Raymond Chang. He is the President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative, and the Executive Director of the TENx10 Collaboration. This is an initiative of Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Seminary. He is an active preacher, writer, he speaks throughout the country pertaining to Christianity and culture and race and faith. He has lived all around the world. Listen to the places he’s lived: Korea, Guatemala, Panama, Spain, China. And, I’ve been to three of those. Well, I’ve been to two, but I’m about to go to Spain also. So we’ll have to talk about that. He’s traveled to nearly 50 countries, I want to be like him when I grow up, and is currently pursuing his PhD in higher education focused on the cross section between spirituality and racial climates. And he currently lives in the Chicagoland area with his wife, Jessica, and his new baby daughter!
Raymond Chang 2:21
Latasha Morrison 2:21
So congratulations on the birth of your daughter! What has that been like? This is your first child, right?
Raymond Chang 2:32
Our first child. We’ve been married for awhile. God blessed us. It’s been awesome. Life is so precious. And I mean, like every little thing that she does feels like a gift or a miracle from God. And so just been loving every moment that we sleep and mostly don’t sleep. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 2:51
I know. I’ve been following you on Instagram. And just leading up to everything I saw just some of the things that, you know, as you guys were preparing. I had a chance to meet you in person here in Atlanta when you came down to do the event, the Stop Asian Hate event here in Atlanta with the atrocities that happened a couple yers ago at the massage parlors here. AAPI did a, excuse me, Asian American Christian Collaborative did an organization, I think you partnered with some of the local organizations. I met your wife then.
Raymond Chang 3:32
Yes, that’s right.
Latasha Morrison 3:33
She wasn’t pregnant at that time. (laughter)
Raymond Chang 3:35
No, she was not.
Latasha Morrison 3:37
So a lot transpired!
Raymond Chang 3:40
And let me just say how meaningful it was, Latasha, that you were there, that you showed up in solidarity, that you were being a bridge between communities. It was really remarkable to see how the event in Atlanta rippled throughout the entire country that we were able to host 14 simultaneous rallies at the same time, on the same day, with the same message. But it made it especially special that you were there.
Latasha Morrison 4:07
Yeah, and we were able to continue that conversation a little bit more. We hosted a Be the Bridge Live event in the fall around November, and we had some, a panel from some of the Asian American community here in the Atlanta area to kind of even they spoke to it a little more. We’ve done work with Peter Lim. You know, he was there that day.
Raymond Chang 4:32
Yeah, I like Peter. I just spoke with him yesterday or two days ago.
Latasha Morrison 4:35
We love Peter. I knew Peter from when before I even moved to Texas, I met him through some work we were doing with the community together and we’ve just remained connected. And we were meeting out of the same co working spot. And so his church and everything. So yeah, so some good stuff happening here in Atlanta and it was an honor to stand in solidarity with the community, you know, to put our voices together for justice and righteousness to be seen and to be heard and felt by everyone. So it was an honor to be there with you. So I’m so glad I got a chance to meet you. I didn’t realize you live in the Chicago area till just now. I was just there. And yes, I was just there. I spoke at a school, Timothy Christian School or something.
Raymond Chang 5:35
Latasha Morrison 5:37
I spoke there. Yeah, so I was just there. And I was like, I know so many people here. I gotta go back. So that means I have to come back to that area and connect. So besides like, the big thing, the birth of your daughter, so exciting. What is her name? What is her name?
Raymond Chang 5:58
Her name is Sophia. That means wisdom. And so we’re praying that God’s wisdom would just be bestowed upon her in everything she does.
Latasha Morrison 6:06
I love it. I love it. I love it.
Raymond Chang 6:06
We need wisdom these days. You know, everything is just falling apart. And I’m like what we need is people who have wisdom.
Latasha Morrison 6:17
And This is gonna even put more fire under you. Because now that you’ve had a daughter, like fatherhood is gonna impact you even more. Because now you’re like, “Oh, y’all better get this right because my…” (laughter) I know, there’s like, so many I’m pretty sure concerns and just prayers that you have for your daughter, hopes and all the things. How do you think fatherhood will impact the work that you’re already doing?
Raymond Chang 6:45
Exactly what you just said. I think it’s lit a new, or it’s intensified the fire. So with AACC, we haven’t, you know, we’ve been able to connect with some people and there have been many generous people, and we’re trying to figure out how to really kind of build capacity so that we can pass down the organization to the next generation. And a little while ago, like, a few months ago, we got a note that said, “Hey, a part of this gift is for my 14 year old kid.” And basically, when we connected with his mother, she talked about all the discrimination that he had already experienced, the bullying, the racial, you know, the racial slurs. I mean, he was even chased down the street, you know, for being Asian, and then he was spat on once for being Asian. And this is a 14 year old kid. And they said, “Well, we’ve been looking for,” he was like, “I felt like you were saying the things that I was saying, you know, that I needed other people to say, but only me and my mom and my family were the ones that were saying it. And I felt like you were saying it to the whole country.” And so he was looking for an organization that was Asian American Christian and decided like he wanted to give. But when we talked, I was just like, “Man, we’re too late already.”
Latasha Morrison 8:09
Raymond Chang 8:10
And so we’re too late for him. And I’m like, I’m hoping that we’re not too late for my daughter and whoever else is in those generations that come after.
Latasha Morrison 8:20
Right, right. And it’s like, we have to educate our kids. And not talking about some of these things that are happening, and you know, I’m thinking about this 14 year old. It just grips my heart. But recently I’ve seen a video. It was an older video. And it was a little girl, she was riding her bike, there were some kids, a group of Black kids riding their bike through the neighborhood. And they were throwing things at them, spitting on them, and just, you know, saying racial slurs to them. And you know, this was in the early 1960s when I saw this, the video was from 1960. So to hear you talking about, you know, this young 14 year old who’s having to endure this in 2023, that should break and grip all of our hearts. You know? It may not be happening in your neighborhood, but it shouldn’t be happening in any neighborhoods. And so, one of the things you had said recently, you said, “We have an entire generation of active church goers who have somehow never been discipled out of racism and sexism.” And I mean, we see it. And I think that’s the thing that is hard to swallow, Ray, is like, when I see things and when someone who is far from Christ, if they say something or do something, it’s like okay, I can understand why they have this mindset. But when I hear pastors or people who claim to know Jesus, or you know, are, you know, active in their church say things that are so counter the message of Jesus, the gospel, that is so sexist. I’m like, “What gospel? What Jesus are you following?” This is so true. How is this possible? How is this possible? And we know there has to be like a complete rediscipling of…and I want to say, I don’t want to just say white Christians, because some churches are racially integrated, and some of this same poison or ideology is, we can see it as some of our own communities, too. You know?
Raymond Chang 10:46
Absolutely. And I think that’s the challenge. It’s like most people don’t see how the discipleship that we’ve, that many of us have inherited, is actually a discipleship into deformation instead of a formation in the Christ. And so, our definition of discipleship and our understanding of discipleship is more towards deformation instead of Christo centric formation. And, you know, like, and to your point about a lot of these multi-ethnic churches or even ethnic churches that kind of have been swayed or influenced by a very racialized kind of theological perspective or even movement, they perpetuate the things whether they’re in the room or not. Perfect example, I was in a room and it was several evangelicals, there were no one who was racialized white there. There was almost everyone who was a person of color, you know, Black, Asian, Latino. In the conversation, even though there were no quote unquote white people there, all of the same patterns that you would expect within spaces that are committed to a kind of a white cultural framework or commitment emerged in that space. Because it’s been internalized within so many of us.
Latasha Morrison 12:19
Raymond Chang 12:19
And so you know, even I just walked with a church that ended up in, trying to help them years ago, that ended up in the Washington Post because it went from being a diverse community to pretty much an all white community even though they had a pastor who was Asian American. And so his ideological commitment led them to basically double down on the things that have consistently divided the church in the US where, was the driving force of segregation and destruction of all the work after reconstruction and many of the challenges that we see today.
Latasha Morrison 13:04
Yeah, cause we can go in these environments, and kind of like what you would say cultural assimilation happens. There’s a process and you see it even when no white people are around. I’m dealing with something currently now that I’m like, “Who said this? Who wrote this?” And I’m like, wow, okay. You know? And it’s not surprising, but it is surprising sometimes. Because many of us, I can say, this journey and a lot of people that I meet, especially people of color that have grown up in evangelical spaces, this is a process that a lot of people of color are going through and there’s a lot of what people call deconstructing. You know, trying to see like, okay, what is gospel? What is cultural? What is…you know, like, trying to really decipher all of this. And, my prayer is just that we don’t take Jesus out of it in the midst of it. Because I see that happening too. One of the things, you are the leader of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. And so we just, we mentioned about some of the events that you guys hosted across the country. And I was so glad when your organization started, I was so glad to see this because it’s so needed. It is so needed from a Christian perspective. And, even one of my friends, Vivian Mabuni, she does a lot of work within CRU for the Asian American community and just even hearing some of the things, you know, some of the passions and heart that she has and her and Kathy Khang. Like, it’s just having that, being in that space and sharing that space of solidarity, I was just so glad to see your organization really be birthed out of that. Tell those who are listening a little bit about Asian American Christian Collaborative and what you do.
Raymond Chang 15:14
Yeah. Well, I mean and you were there basically from the beginning. I don’t know if you remember this, but one of our, one of the first kind of big projects we did outside of our statement was co-host a series on reconciliation.
Latasha Morrison 15:30
Raymond Chang 15:31
With AACC and Be the Bridge, you know, kind of put together a three part series. And it’s, I think it’s still available on our website, at least, or on our YouTube channel. But yeah, so we emerged because of very much like the the lack of kind of an institutional voice when it came to the anti Asian racism that we saw emerging mostly around the politicized rhetoric around, you know, China virus and kung flu, where the most powerful man in the country was, you know, flippantly saying it and intentionally saying it, as you saw, you know, in one of his notebooks where he basically took out like COVID-19 or Coronavirus, and he wrote China flu or kung flu or China virus instead. And how that started emerging in the pulpits and the pews.
Latasha Morrison 16:26
Raymond Chang 16:26
And so we were concerned that the people that we were in fellowship with were going to ignite the latent anti Asian kind of sentiments that kind of have existed throughout the history of the US all throughout the country, and that the church wouldn’t be exempt from that. And so we wrote this statement and it spread wide. We were very grateful for how far and wide it spread, to the point where we were like, “Okay, this might be the time to organize and develop something more formal.” And then a lot of the work that we did was to educate and to kind of declare the dignity and the worth of Asian American lives, kind of articulate the histories and the racialized patterns and experiences that many of our community members face. And then of course, at the same time, one of the things that we saw was the continued killings of African Americans who were simply just existing. And we felt like one of the things that we knew we had to do was to break the dividing wall that kept our communities apart. And if you look at the history of how our communities, the African American and Asian communities, were kind of pitted against each other, you’re like, “Oh, my goodness, this is going to take a lot of intentional work.” Which is why again, we’re grateful for you stepping in and say, “Hey, let’s do this together.” Because you literally are trying to be the bridge. And so we did that. And then, of course, after George Floyd was killed, we hosted a march in Chicago that went from historic Chinese church to historic Black church, a mile and a half apart, that never interacted. And, the pastor of the Black church at the time, he’s still the pastor, Charlie Dates. He basically, he was in the midst of mourning his mother’s loss was like, “Hey, I believe in this.” And so him and Watson Jones and Jonathan Banks from UOF, and several other Black pastors were like, “We’re in on this.” And we had about 1000 to 2000 people marching all Asian Americans. Because as I was marching with the African American community, especially with Black pastors in other kinds of marches post George Floyd, they kept asking me, “Where are the Asian Americans?” I’m like, “Well, Chicago is only 5% Asian American. I see them, but I get it.” And I said, “Maybe we can show you that, maybe we can show you where the Christian Asian Americans are.” So that’s what we did. And then of course, you know, we kept doing the work, producing, we’re trying to produce more content and convene and events, but also to, you know, to facilitate more discussions and dialogue. And so, you know, we hosted several panels between Black and Asians and Black and Latinos, and so on and so forth.
Latasha Morrison 19:16
Yeah, yeah. And I would love to hear because I’m thinking of this as you’re saying, I was like, you know, we need to do more. Because I feel like this work of solidarity, this is why Be the Bridge created what we call our BIPOC community, which is Black Indigenous People of Color. And one reason is because we don’t know each other stories. And, you know, we don’t know what it’s like to be a Korean American or a Chinese American or Filipino American or Vietnamese American in the United States. And those are all different stories that we push into this one umbrella of Asian American. But those are all different ethnicities, people groups, history, totally different history, totally different language. And so those stories are different. And so that’s something that we need to understand. We don’t understand the, what it’s like. And when you start talking about like South Asian, like those that are from India, the things that they’re dealing with and the caste system, and how some of that has followed them into the workplace here in America or within the school system. And so that’s why we’ve created that and I want to see more solidarity work. I think it has to happen in order for us to really unite together to deal with some of the other larger issues at hand. You know, when you start talking about the broader Asian American community, what are some of the issues within the church that your community is dealing with? You know, because I think I was talking to one of my friends, who was one of our early, she’s actually Taiwanese American, and we were just talking about Christian culture. And, she was like, she got stuck because she was like thinking about what is the, like, not Western culture, not white Christian culture. She said, but “What is the Taiwanese identity within the Christian culture?” You know? I can like when we look at that, we can see that as it relates to the Latina community. You know, we can see it within the Indigenous community. But a lot of times it’s been called pagan and shoved aside. But what do you see, like, as it relates to the Asian American community, that identity within the the church itself?
Raymond Chang 22:16
Yeah, great question. And yes and amen to what you just said about solidarity. I don’t think that you can, I don’t think that you can fully understand how heinous white supremacy is until you see how it has affected the African American community, how it’s affected and manifests within the Indigenous population, within the Asian American population, and the Latino population. And I think it’s when we understand each other’s stories, that we understand that the tensions that emerge within our communities and both across racial lines and within our own races like really do have a genesis back to the commitment to exploit, extract, dehumanize, and strip the dignity from our people to exclude and to basically push out and call other and push down. And so 100%. I think you hit the nail on the head with we have to learn each other’s stories. And I think for me, the most helpful thing was learning about the African American experience and the history of African Americans, to understand the Indigenous community in the US, and then, of course, like, the variety of stories within the different populations, and along with the Latino and the Asian American populations. One of the things that are unique about Asian Americans is that we don’t speak the same language. You know, like, with majority of the Spanish or the Latino population or Latin X population or Latina population depending on where you’re coming from, we don’t have a common language. And there was, and like a lot of other populations, there was kind of those who are dominant and those who were oppressed within our communities. If you go to Asia, no one really identifies as Asian. Right? It’s like every person within every country identifies as their own ethnicity or their own nationality. And they have very distinct cultural expressions, though there are some common themes that exists, that that cross borders. And the other piece is that we’re much more of a transnational community because of the waves of immigration and how so many of our family members are still, you know, in our kind of, quote unquote native land or home countries or countries of our ancestry. But within the US there are like, you can kind of break it down into at least three big buckets, maybe four or even five. You have East Asians, you have South Asians, then you have Southeast Asians, then you have a large chunk of Middle Easterners and those from like the Russia and the Russian type of population. And they’re all technically Asian, because they’re all on the continent of Asia. Like Israel is in Asia. Right? And so how do you make sense of that? When most, when there’s different questions. Right? And a lot of Middle Easterners they process, they don’t necessarily know where they fit, they know where they fit geographically and across the continent, but culturally there’s such difference and diversity there too. And some Middle Easterners identify as Asian as within the continent of Asia, and some choose not to, and that shifts how we have the conversation. But to be Asian American is a racial category that is located or that’s connected to our existence in the US and, and it’s one that was driven out of a need for kind of political power. Because what many Asian Americans in the 60s realized was that they were all experiencing the same things, whether they came from Korea or Japan or China or Cambodia or Thailand or whatnot, and yet, they had no voice, their voices were suppressed because they didn’t have any political kind of entity to rally around it. So that’s where the Asian American category comes from. But when it comes to our populations, I mean, we’re, it’s extreme. I mean, like, even within China, the number of languages that are just spoken in China is unbelievable. And so we don’t really have like one specific type of population, which I think most people would recognize in the US. But what is interesting is how much social or not just social media, but media itself, namely through like the entertainment industry, has shaped even my own experience as a Korean American. Like nobody knew what a Korean was when I was growing up. They would always call me Chinese or Japanese. And then because of the rise of Kpop, and K dramas and you know, all things Korean, the first thing that people assume I am now is Korean, because that’s the thing that everyone knows. And so it’s been fascinating for me to watch the transition over time.
Latasha Morrison 0:00
I have so many questions. Right? Because I’m thinking about, you know, because I think that identity is really important. And I was just telling you before we came on, I went to Korea back in October. And it was like, it was just, it was surreal. You know? This is a trip that we had in mind since I was in college. One of my best friends is, she’s Asian and Black. I mean, she’s Korean and Black. And so she, her father is African American, her mom is Korean. And her mom speaks the language, she doesn’t speak the language, she knows how to cook the food and all of that, but she had always wanted to go. And so it was like in 2019, she was going through some tough things and I was like, “You still need to go to Korea. You need to have something to look forward to.” You know, I had always said whenever she goes, I’m going.
Raymond Chang 0:57
Latasha Morrison 0:57
(laughter) Yeah! I was like, “When you go, I’m going with you.” And so her mom had been trying to get back, you know, but of course, we were supposed to go the next year, but the pandemic happened. So we ended up going in 2022. And actually her mom has sisters there. And so we got to go to people’s homes. It wasn’t just like a touristy trip. But we really got to go like connect with the culture and people and have traditional Korean food which is very different from what we have here and everything. But one of the things I noticed that I keep telling everybody. Like, can you explain that? But I noticed like, I was like, “I do not see one old car.” Like there’s not a car, I was looking for…no, it was like one of those things like over here like, you know, when you see a Volkswagen you say, “Punch buggy no punch back,” you know? I was over there looking. I said, “Okay, y’all, see if you could find one like beat up car with a dent. Like see if you see a car that’s beat up with a dent. Or either a car that’s like older than 10 years.” Never saw it.
Raymond Chang 2:15
Interesting. I don’t know. Maybe something has shifted. I’d be curious. Maybe like, I do wonder if Korea has gone to primarily like a leasing model of cars. But that’s interesting.
Latasha Morrison 2:27
They don’t have hoopties in Korea, y’all. They don’t have hoopties. (laughter) And listen and they’re not litterbugs. Let me tell you. It’s so clean over there. And I was talking to Peter about it. And Peter was like, yeah, his son was carrying trash around in his hand, because we could never find a trash can to put it in. I was like, yes. And then Wi Fi everywhere, like, on the buses, on the trains, the train stations clean. You know? And I was like, okay, has anybody ever visited, you know, within the states like there’s this issue, we’ve had it here, but mainly in New York, you see it, where the subway stations where people fall off the tracks or people get pushed onto the tracks. I mean just some crazy things are happening. And you know, the first thing that I was like, why don’t we have barriers separating the people from the tracks? Like, why aren’t there barriers there? Like, it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard. You can even put in temporary was until you can build some to save some lives and to let you know, to keep train tracks from being weaponized. In Korea, they already thought about that. You don’t have access. You know, there’s a door that opens up and then you get on the train, you don’t have access to that. So I was just really impressed. I got to do a lot of historical things. And it was a good trip. You know, I’m from a military family. And so a lot of people in my family have gone to Korea before. So it was just a really good trip. And it was a really good trip to go with family. My friend’s family is like my family, and to meet her extended family and to greet them with gifts and learn a few words. You know, I’m horrible. But anyway, it was a great trip.
Raymond Chang 2:52
Well, I hope you had some raw marinated crab. That’s my favorite.
Latasha Morrison 4:13
Raymond Chang 4:15
Did you try that? I’m assuming a lot of pork belly and a lot of Korean barbecue.
Latasha Morrison 4:34
Yes. I didn’t realize that they eat a lot of pork and a lot of beef and a lot of seafood. But we had like a lot of octopus and just a lot of bulgogi. And you know, all the things. So it was good. It was a great trip and just learning the history. I love learning history and given context and understanding like you know, there’s, you know, we’ve had the Korean War. To find out, okay, what happened. We know about it but it gives more context to understand what’s happening now. And so yeah, it was great. It was a beautiful place, we got to go to Busan and also to Geoje Island. And so when was the last time you’ve been there? Do you plan to go back and take your daughter?
Raymond Chang 4:39
About five years ago. I can’t wait to take her. It was about five years ago, can’t wait to go back, you know, especially because we don’t have as many family members that are there anymore. They’re getting older and older. But there’s just something about when you land and you eat the food and you just interact with people, and it feels like home. And then you went to some of the most beautiful places throughout the country. And so I’m so glad to hear that you went.
Latasha Morrison 5:54
Yeah, it was good. It was good. So I know my friend, she’s making plans to go back because her mom has sisters there; they’re getting older. She has family, she got to meet a lot of family, but she still has more family to meet. And just connecting with that history and identity, she went herself, but she wants to take her children back. So it’s all good. But I think that there are some things, you know, it was helpful for me to see that and experience that with her. And, you know, I really feel like context is really important. And I think even in our communities, when we talk about the Korean American and African American community where there’s like historical tension. And a lot of that was done and in some ways, like on purpose. As it relates to like, shops that are in African American communities, a lot of people, you know, don’t understand the history to that, and understanding that history to that helps us move forward today in more solidarity, when we understand that we’ve been kinda like played against each other in a lot of ways. And so how do we move beyond that and not perpetuate the racial division within our communities. And so, being able to go and experience and having friends, I’m able to share, even with my community, those experiences. And so I know, you’ve done the same. I saw so many, during the George Floyd protests that were happening in the summer of 2020, I saw so many Asian American churches that were out there in solidarity. And just almost like it, it made you cry in a lot of ways, you know, what was happening. I think that’s some of the backlash against that solidarity movement of 2020. I think those are some of the things that we’re dealing with now, as it relates to race relations here in America right now. So you know, what do you see? You know, one of the things that you you were talking about, you talk a lot about mental health on your social media as it relates to your community. And I know, like in our community, it was a point where it’s so taboo. And it’s just kind of like, “You just got to pray. You gotta pray.” Or we label it then we kind of brush it off. And I know that comes from just from some of the cultural things that our community has dealt with. What has that been like in your community? Because I know it’s a higher shame hierarchy as it relates to cultural context. How are you guys dealing with mental health within your community?
Raymond Chang 9:03
Yeah, I mean, I think getting people to talk about it is challenging, as you just alluded to. There’s so much stigma, you know, what it means to, you know, like…I mean the US is primarily oriented around this kind of strongmen kind of ideology. Right? If you’re not strong, you’re weak; and if you’re weak, you’re going to get eliminated or exterminated. You’re not going to last; you’re not going to survive X, Y, and Z. And so I think there are elements in which the community sees generally like mental health as weakness, and most of that comes from a lack of awareness and understanding how chemicals work in the brain and how trauma affects us and even like immigration trauma.
Latasha Morrison 9:50
Raymond Chang 9:50
For many Asian Americans, there’s a significant trauma that people kind of experience because they were routed up from the community that they knew and then basically had to start all over, where they didn’t know the language, they didn’t know the customs, they didn’t know the culture, they didn’t even know how to access social support, which is why the Asian American church was so significant for many immigrants and why there really is a higher population of Christian Asian American Christian, hire population of Asians who are Christian in the US, then there are in pretty much throughout all of Asia. The church really became a space where they were doing mercy and justice work. They were providing kind of insight into how to navigate society, oftentimes even kind of giving resources to help with that. But yeah, there’s still a significant stigma, I mean, and if you add the Christian component to it, because Christians generally are still behind when it comes to engaging with mental health issues, you know, there’s a over spiritualization of mental health challenges and problems and over spiritualization of the solutions that are required. And so, you know, you couple of those things together, you know, bring shame to the family, bring shame to the community, bring shame to kind of the broader community as well, as well as like the hyper spiritualization and then you have a recipe for people not to talk about what they need to talk about when they need to talk about it and get the help when they need to get help before things get out of hand or out of control, or, you know, before it’s too late. And so, a big part of what we’re trying to do is normalize conversations on mental health. And so we encourage pastors to talk about going to counseling or therapy from the pulpit, and to bring in experts who talk about mental health issues and to do it in a way that doesn’t have to contradict your faith commitments. In fact, if God made the mind, God also knows how to address the things that kind of create hindrances in the mind. And so, I don’t think that we…and I also think that, you know, we just generally have kind of taboo topics culturally, that are both that emerge from within the population as well as is imposed onto the population. And, I think, as Asian Americans, if we, internally from the community, we don’t want to be seen as the one who can’t really, that isn’t the exemplar within our own communities. But also, we don’t want to be seen as kind of the weak link outside from the outside. Because we know the greater challenges that exist for us to simply just navigate society in the same way that that occurs for a lot of the minoritized or racialized minority populations. And so, yeah, I feel like we’re trying to talk about it more, share more statistics around mental health, help families engage with the discourse, but just create space for conversation around it.
Latasha Morrison 13:08
Right, right. And one of the things I missed, you’re also the Executive Director for the TENx10 Collaboration that’s an initiative out of Fuller, led at one point by Kara Powell. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is?
Raymond Chang 13:29
Yeah, so Kara is still very much involved. I stepped in as the Executive Director for it. It’s a collaborative youth discipleship initiative that’s seeking to make faith matters more for 10 million young people over the course of 10 years, which is why we’re called TEN x 10. And the work that we’re doing is working with a variety of organizations and entities as a collaborative to essentially kind of spark conversation around the fact that there’s a million young people walking away from the faith each year for a variety of reasons. It’s probably closer to 1.4 million as we speak. And that, you know, the church is basically becoming less and less of a relevant presence in the lives of young people. They’re walking away as soon as they’re able to walk away. And the church should actually be the entity in which people find meaning and relevancy and having the conversations that they need to have. Unfortunately, young people aren’t finding that, especially after you know, what we’ve just kind of, as we’re going through what we’re going through since probably 2016 and shortly and beyond. And so, yeah, so we’re trying to work with a broad ecumenical, kind of population of entities and organizations to really help equip youth leaders to do the work of reaching young people more effectively, but also to talk about why people are walking away from the faith and what could make a difference. And we’re trying to herald this idea of relational discipleship that’s radically focused on Jesus as the thing that we think will make a difference. And so we think that if more people just spent more time in relationship over merely programming, which is where a lot of our kind of ministries have gone into, then we might see a transformation take place. Because, you know, the first thing Jesus did, you know, he didn’t start a program, he entered into relationship. So we’re trying to encourage people to do that. And, you know, of course, we’re working with a broad coalition of people to do so.
Latasha Morrison 15:48
Yeah, we just had…that’s so good. I’m glad you’re working with it. And just to give some context to our listeners and some of the work that you’re doing. This month is AAPI Month that we’re recording this. I’m like this, I tell my people like, “Look, I am Black 365 days of the year. So, we don’t have specific days that we talk about specific things.” I’m like, I just want to make sure that we interview bridge builders that are doing incredible work in our society and highlight their work. So this just so happens to fall in that. I don’t even know when they’re going to air it. I don’t even know if it’s going to air then. But what would you want our Be the Bridge community to know and to understand? There was something that you did last year. I was following you when you were, I think it was reconciliation…I don’t know if you were leading it, or if it was Monrovia was leading it, church out in California. But you were going to different Asian American sites and telling the history. And I was like, first of all, I need to be on that trip when you do it next time.
Raymond Chang 17:21
Let’s do it. Let’s do a Be the Bridge group trip!
Latasha Morrison 17:22
Yes! Hey, I’m serious. Like, I really want to do it. I was even talking to one, Inés, I think she was there or either she went…she’s out in Pasadena. She goes to, I know she went to Fuller, she’s a pastor out there in California. But I think either she was following it or either she was planning it to go. But anyway, I want to go. I want to expose Be the Bridge to that, because I was like, I’ve never visited some of those places. You know? Tell me a little bit about that. Tell the community about that.
Raymond Chang 18:00
Oh man, it was life changing. So we started in LA, and we went from LA to San Francisco. It was called the Reclaim Trip. And we basically went to, it was in some ways you could call it a Christian history tour or an Asian American Christian Civil Rights tour.
Latasha Morrison 18:19
Raymond Chang 18:19
You know like a lot of people go to the South for African American history and of course, it’s not just limited to the South. But, you know, the primary place people go tour is the South. And other people go on the Trail of Tears to understand more in depth the Indigenous experience. Then, of course, you know, one of the things that we realized was that there’s a large portion of the population that doesn’t know not just what Asian Americans went through or endured or experienced, but how Asian American Christians were present in some of these kind of solidarity, social justice, kind of Christian righteousness and justice efforts. And so we started by visiting the oldest kind of, the most historic kind of Japanese church and the Korean church in the LA area. Going to the museum. Walking with kind of living legends that kind of made a difference within the communities as Christians, out of their Christian convictions, even though they were born in the Japanese kind of incarceration camps. And you know, going to historic Filipinotown and Koreatown and learning about the LA riots and the tensions between the Black and Asian communities, talking about how Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo were formed, and what those things kind of mean for the community today, and the role of the church within both activism and advocacy work here and in the US, but for kind of liberation abroad. And so then we go from California, we visit a couple of museums as well, too. And then we go to a lynching site. Right? So one of the things in LA is the site of the largest single lynching in the US, which occurred against Chinese Americans. And so most people think that, you know, the Asian Americans were exempt from any sort of like racial violence, but that’s not the case. And, you know, basically 10% of the city of Los Angeles at the time descended on 10% of the Chinese population and wiped them out. And so that says, 17 to 20 people were killed during that time. Then we go to Manzanar where the Japanese incarceration took place. And there were multiple sites, almost a dozen sites across the country, where basically Japanese people were told, “You can take one thing that you can carry, and then you’re leaving your house.” Which meant that they lost everything when they got back. The number of people that lost everything, which is why there’s such a sizable Japanese American population, or there was a sizable Japanese American population in the Midwest and in Chicago and other places. Because when they went back after they were released from these concentration camps, everything that they knew was gone.
Latasha Morrison 19:13
Yeah. They lost everything.
Raymond Chang 21:11
And then you hear a few stories of like, “Oh, no, but then their neighbors preserved it,” or “The people that worked at their farms preserved it.”
Latasha Morrison 21:31
Yeah. Outliers, yeah.
Raymond Chang 21:32
But so many lost so many things. So we went there. When we went to Manzanar and what was crazy was, as soon as we walked in, this white family was walking out, and they said, “This is propaganda. None of this happened.”
Latasha Morrison 21:50
Raymond Chang 21:51
And I remember just like, I mean, that was like one of the most viral tweets I ever tweeted. I remember, like, everyone picked up on it. And then even when I was sharing that…because like one of the students that were with us – and we had a group of probably like 25 to 30 people that ranged from the age of six to probably like 56. So it was extremely rich. Because you had kids experiencing the same thing as adults. And none of them had ever seen anything close to this.
Latasha Morrison 22:20
Raymond Chang 22:21
But like, even when you go to the site where people were incarcerated, there were people that visited and said they don’t believe that this actually happened. They couldn’t believe that the US would ever do anything like this.
Latasha Morrison 22:37
They refused to believe it.
Raymond Chang 22:39
They refused to believe it.
Latasha Morrison 22:40
Yeah. You know, but Ray, it’s because we don’t teach history. When you go to Germany and you visit sites there, the memorialization is not with the Nazis, the people that caused the harm or the oppression, it’s with those who endured the harm. You know? And they tell their stories so that it’s not repeated. We did a reconciliation tour in Rwanda. And we met with government officials. We went to a reconciliation village of people who are living together in community that were once torn apart by the atrocities of the genocide. And a part of their system to make sure that this is never repeated again, there’s things that had to be done in their community. One is get rid of those that are calling the tension. So they changed their language, their main language from French to English, and they had to throw out some of the troublemakers in their country that were that were causing the divide. But one of the things that they do is they tell the story. And they have to tell the story. You have to say, “This is the genocide of the Tutsi.” Because they don’t want to just say genocide, because then people will say, “Well, you know, there was a lot of Hutus that died too.” You know what I’m saying, the narrative changes. And that’s what has happened here in America. The narratives have changed, stories have been what people call whitewashed, where you will not believe how many people where we’ve stated history with facts and people have said, “That didn’t happen because my teacher told me.” I posted something about Tulsa, Oklahoma. And this lady came into my comments and said, “This is not factual. This is the lie.” I said, and I posted a video and I said, “Well tell this to the police officer of Tulsa who just talked about it and they actually acknowledged this history that actually happened.” And I think we really have that fear of thinking that not talking about it is going to make it better or make it go away. Not talking about it makes it worse because you have ignorant people that will repeat the same mistakes. You know?
Raymond Chang 25:12
And I think the problem is some people were like, “Those mistakes were not mistakes. They were good.” And they’re like, “That was a part of the plan.” And I’m like, that’s why they’re trying to erase Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Bridges from the curriculum. They’re calling it whatever they’re trying to call it when it’s not the thing that they’re actually calling it. And so, yeah, I’m like we need to tell, you know, we need to remember better. It’s like a biblical concept.
Latasha Morrison 25:38
Raymond Chang 25:39
All throughout the scripture God calls us to remember, remember, remember.
Latasha Morrison 25:44
We just had Resurrection Sunday. What is that about? Remembrance.
Raymond Chang 25:48
That’s exactly right! All communion!
Latasha Morrison 25:48
Which just went through Lent. You know what I’m saying? Like Christmas. You have the Passover. All of those things are about remembrance. We know how important it is to remember. Every year people celebrate their birthdays or they celebrate their anniversaries. What is that about? Remembrance. Again, it’s about remembrance. So you have to get underneath that. Why is it that some things you don’t want to remember and other things you do? And you’re trying to say that all remembrance is bad? So we got to really ask the hard questions and name a thing a thing. People, you know, don’t want to remember because it makes them feel some kind of way. But whose feelings does that center when we do that? It’s not centering the feelings of those who were afflicted and harmed by that system. If you don’t like hearing about it, imagine what we felt like having to live it or having to live it?
Yeah, 100% to that. And like that’s, I think that’s essentially was the heartbeat of the trip that we did through AACC.
I love it.
Raymond Chang 27:11
We went from Manzanar to San Francisco and we went to historic Chinese church, we went to the oldest Japanese church. What most people don’t know is that that Japanese church when everyone was incarcerated and sent to the concentration camps, Howard Thurman’s church met there.
Latasha Morrison 27:29
Raymond Chang 27:31
And so, you know, there’s so much richness and legacy and history.
Latasha Morrison 27:36
Oh my goodness.
Raymond Chang 27:37
And then you’re now in this, you know, like, you’re within a congregation that is wrestling with how gentrification and the community changing around them is kind of forcing them to recalibrate how they do ministry, and how they kind of preserve the things that are beautiful about their legacy, but also kind of adapt to the reality. And I’m like, if these churches go away what a loss. What a loss of a living memorial.
Latasha Morrison 28:12
Raymond Chang 28:12
And my hope is that, you know, and like if you’re ever like, “Ray we want to do this,” and there’s a group of people from Be the Bridge.
Latasha Morrison 28:12
No, we’re gonna do it! We’re gonna do it. It’s gonna be a thing now.
Raymond Chang 28:16
We should totally find a way to do it. And we’ll take people with us, and we’ll figure out how to make it all work. But that would be, yeah, it’s totally, it’s life changing. I mean, almost all the, oned young person went, I think 14 years old. Realized that Asian Americans weren’t all docile, went back to the school, and when they experienced kind of racial discrimination felt boldness, because they saw other Christians who had done the same in the past. He said, “I’m actually proud,” like, before there wasn’t pride to be Asian American or Korean American. But like after the trip, it was like this pride of being Asian American, not because it’s like, better than anyone else. But because there’s a dignity to the history and to the resilience to the experience. But we’re never taught.
Latasha Morrison 29:22
Yeah, we got to do that. Yeah, we need to figure out all the details. You guys heard it here first…my team has heard me screaming, “Yes, we’re gonna do it.” But you know, we went to Rwanda, we took a group, we took about 20 people with us to do this reconciliation trip in partnership with Africa New Life there which is a Rwandan led organization. And I mean, this was like really understanding like the cost of what reconciliation could look like. It was so very hopeful trip to see the hope that atrocities had birthed in this country. And so I think, you know, this context of learning, I love to learn history, even when it’s not connected to me directly I think it’s really important. But I think we can do some crossover and exchange some stories within our communities that could be life changing. And so we’re gonna do that. I don’t know when, but we’re gonna do it. But soon. Because I had already said, “If there’s another one happening this year, I’m going.” (laughter)
Raymond Chang 30:44
We’ll have to make it happen then. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 30:46
Because there’s this desire to know. The same thing is like you want to know the Indigenous story because that context helps you lead better. It helps you understand your community, because we’re all connected. You know what I’m saying? If one part of the body suffers all the parts suffer with it, when one part of the body rejoices, all the parts rejoice with it. And so I think, as we understand our history, we don’t feel isolated or in a silo, and we don’t play this oppression Olympics type thing. But given us really context for what’s going on. I think that’s some of the things I was…someone had sent me this link. And, you know, we have these things coming up as it relates to affirmative action. And so some of that, you see the plan of people against each other in some of the things that’s happened. And it was like all these Asian American organizations that are in support of ending affirmative action, but I was also thinking, like, if they understood the history of why these things were put in place, if they understood true American history and what people had to endure and how long people were prevented from going to some of these higher institutions. You know, my father was born into a country where he went to segregated schools. My aunt was just telling me how she was a part of that first class that integrated at this high school when she was in the 10th grade, and how she went from making A’s and B’s to make an all F’s because the teachers didn’t care about them. And they didn’t want to be there, because they wanted to go to the Black school. But just how we went about desegregation, how it harmed our community. But if we understood that, if we have that context, I guarantee you, there wouldn’t be all of those organizations that would be a part of that. But we don’t, it’s stuff that you don’t, it’s like the plan is to keep people ignorant, so that sometimes you can weaponize the ignorance. You know? And so, we have to have more conversations like this and really have those tough conversations within our communities, so that we can have more solidarity. So I’m glad that we were able to have you on here today. Now, there’s a lot happening. What are some of the things you know, I ask this question…there’s so much to overcome now. And you had this post on Holy Saturday and you were talking about like resurrection is between despair and darkness and the anticipation of what’s to come. And so I notice this in a lot of our society, looking at things that are happening, we don’t like to sit in lament. We don’t want to acknowledge the pain and the despair and the discouragement. We don’t want to embrace that knowing that Sunday does come, resurrection is coming. But we don’t want to move on to the joy so quick, before we really let the the the work of lament take place in our hearts. And you know, so people are feeling overcome, they’re feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes we can desensitize ourselves to it and we want to move on and not really deal with the grief or the sorrow that we’re in. What are some things that you’re lamenting right now?
Raymond Chang 34:39
I mean, a lot. I think, you know, the number one thing I’m hearing from pastors and parishioners and congregants all throughout the country is the just the devastation of the loss that we all went through over the last few years. I mean, especially if you’re coming from kind of under resourced minority communities. It’s just different. I think, the sheer exhaustion. And I mean, we made probably one of the most significant transitions from basically being in person all the time to the majority of our existence going online. And I don’t know, if most people have been able to, we’ve just had to adapt, but there hasn’t been like a transition or process that people have been able to kind of reflect on and navigate and even process through. And so, you know, there’s elements of that. I think what’s interesting right now is kind of, what’s heartbreaking right now is actually the affirmative action thing can potentially become explosive for the Black and Asian communities if we’re not careful. And I think that, you know, if you look at the trail that we’re seeing, it’s mostly this one kind of basically white conservative guy named Edward Blum who’s mobilizing Asian Americans to essentially say and using Asian Americans to fight this affirmative action case, when the majority of Asian Americans broadly support affirmative action. And so I’m always trying to watch for things that can be potentially explosive between communities and the ways that white supremacy tries to kind of pit us against each other. And then, of course, you know, just things like people leaving the church and walking away from the faith and deconstructing without reconstructing and all the church abuse that we’re seeing and stories of just kind of failed leadership. Yeah, so there’s a lot to lament, for sure. And I think sitting in it and understanding the weight of it actually is more helpful mostly because it helps you realize that you can do something about it through the power of Christ through the empowerment of the Spirit. And so the more you understand the problem, the more you’re able to actually concoct a solution or at least be a faithful presence to try to be one. And so, yeah, I mean, I think the divisions are still real, the conspiracy theories are pervasive. The propaganda is just all over the place. And the political divides are destroying families, and I’m like all these things need to be tackled. And then of course, you have the gun violence. The insanity of the gun violence. Something can be done. It’s just we have to decide whether we’re gonna choose guns over kids or kids over guns.
Latasha Morrison 37:44
Yeah. Yeah. And it is that simple You know? Because in both of the things that just happened, if those red flag laws would have been expanded there could have been something that could have prevented. In each of those cases those poor parents did not even know that their children had the type of weapons that they had. Had no idea that their children were capable of something like this. And so, I think it’s just healthy to sit in it and see where God leads. Because I think there’s like this collective justice that lament could lead us to together if we’re not just trying to bypass it and move on and get over it. And, you know, “Stop the crying.” But we don’t like to sit and that’ definitely a western culture thing. But, you know, I really want to make that commitment, like, as we’re talking about the college stuff, like to make that commitment together to get out ahead of it before it’s happened. There’s something that we could do, there’s things that we can say, and I think there’s, you know, there’s some things that we can do to get out ahead of it, to not let division win in that case. It could like some of the times that things that are meant for evil could also be be turned into good. And I don’t feel like God wastes our pain or hurt. But we’re gonna be in contact about that, because I’m serious about this. I don’t think you know, I’m serious about this trip. And I’m also serious about this. Okay?
Raymond Chang 39:42
Let’s do it!
Latasha Morrison 39:44
So what’s something that’s bringing you hope, Ray. Last question. What’s something that’s bringing you hope?
Raymond Chang 39:50
I mean, it’s conversations like these. It’s knowing that there is a community, an embodied community both here locally in Chicago that’s committed to the same thing that’s truly diverse that want to see a difference as well as all throughout the country. I think one of the things that we need to do is find ways to get into the same room together. Because we’re so busy trying to basically survive and stay afloat that oftentimes we don’t know how to get into the same room together. But I think there’s something so generative about getting into the rooms together. I think the other piece, the more I press into the scriptures, the more I’m like, oh, my gosh, everything that we need is right there.
Latasha Morrison 40:39
Raymond Chang 40:39
Everything! And I’m like, why is it that people choose not to see it and don’t want to see it or don’t know how to see it and twist the words of God, the Word of God to mean whatever they want it to mean. And so, I see a lot of hope in knowing that God went before us to offer us something as significant as the Bible itself, established a church as imperfect as it is, and calls us to consistent repentance and faith and keeps his arms open so that we might be embraced. I’m like, there’s nothing better than that. But, you know, so I think that gives me hope. But then it’s also like, knowing that I’m not alone. Like, I know, you’re doing the work. There’s so many others that, mentioned several earlier that are all doing the work. And I’m like, I’m just grateful. So it gives me hope that there’s people doing it, even if we’re not the majority of people doing it.
Latasha Morrison 41:38
Yeah, yeah. That’s so good. Yeah, I feel hopeful. Like having conversations like this. Knowing that organizations like yours and mine exist, and so many others. We’re just doing our part. There’s so many great organizations out there that are doing amazing things with great leaders. And we always tell people, like if you’re breathing, you can do something. I don’t want people to get overwhelmed and overcome with hopelessness thinking like nothing matters. It all matters. Because you and I both in the midst of the chaos and the despair and not knowing what to do, we took a step to do something. You know? And so if you have breath in your body, if you’re breathing, take a deep breath, breathe in, breathe out, and get to moving. You know? Maybe it’s using your voice, maybe it’s arts, creating something. But there’s something that each of us can do. And I can’t wait to see it. So I’m excited, Ray, about what’s happening. What things do you have going on for your community, the Asian American Christian Collaborative. What are some things that are going on next for you?
Raymond Chang 43:01
Yeah, I think what’s been interesting is that, you know, like, the ways in which we’ve been engaging with kind of civic and religious entities, the conversations we’re having with entities like the White House and other kind of federal agencies, that’s been really interesting, especially as an Asian American Christian organization. I think we have a really cool parenting series right now taking place in California. And so it’s three points, three kinds of events. One is on mental health, one is on technology, and the other one is on violence, more specifically tied to gun violence and what parents can do about it. You know, we also have kind of other events taking place throughout the country. And we’re trying to figure out…I think the the big stuff we’re trying to figure out is how do we really make sure that as we do this stuff nationally, we’re also grounded at the local levels. And so we’re talking to some of our local partners on what would be helpful as we continue to move forward and transition from being kind of responding to all of the things that were happening to the Asian American communities to becoming a little bit more proactive. and so yeah, a lot of stuff there. You know, we’re trying to put on more programming and you know, help with churches, especially Asian American stuff, Asian American identity development, Asian American Christian Identity Development, solidarity work, and the like.
Latasha Morrison 44:30
Yeah, all the things, all the things Well, you can add Be the Bridge Reclaiming Trip to your list. Okay? (laughter)
Raymond Chang 44:43
I will do it!
Latasha Morrison 44:43
I was serious about that. It’s been great having you on the podcast. Thank you so much for listening. You can follow Ray on all the socials. You get to see a picture of his beautiful little baby girl. And it will have all those things in the show notes. And if you’re interested in going on this trip that we’re talking about. You see, those who are listening to the podcast would get first dibs. So if you’re interested, when we post this on our social media, go on there and comment and put your information, put your email address and say, “Hey, I’m in.” You know, you say “I’m in.” And then you can almost, you know, we always have info at BeTheBridge.com. You can find out more information there. But we’re gonna make this happen. See, I already put it out there, Ray. It’s out there.
Raymond Chang 45:41
It’s gotta happen now. (laughter)
Latasha Morrison 45:43
It’s gotta happen now. Because they’re gonna come up there. They’re gonna say, “I am interested in doing this.” So yeah. (laughter)
Raymond Chang 45:51
I love it. Well, I’m looking forward to it. Yeah, I’ll make sure to go on that trip when we do that one.
Latasha Morrison 45:59
Okay! But thank you so much for listening.
Go to the donors table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of this podcast. Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production.
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