This year the month long celebration of Lunar New Year overlaps with Black History Month. Lunar New Year is a time of celebration, new beginnings, and being with family. As Asian American activists, we’re expanding our definitions of family and who we fight for. We’re asking: how will we live our commitment to Black and Asian solidarity in 2020?
We are re-launching our limited edition Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X design, which was created by Natalie Bui, a Los-Angeles based Vietnamese American illustrator.This design reflects the radical legacy we see ourselves in – one in which Asian Americans are in deep solidarity with Black communities.
In honor of Lunar New Year and Black History Month, 18 Million Rising is partnering with The Free Black Women’s Library of Los Angeles (TFBWL-LA) and founder Asha Grant. During this limited run, we will be donating 50% of all proceeds from the sales of our Yuri and Malcolm X design to support their work.
Meet Asha and the The Free Black Women’s Library - Los Angeles
18MR: Asha, tell us about how The Free Black Women’s Library LA got started.
Asha: The Free Black Women’s Library was birthed by OlaRonke Akinmowo in the summer of 2015 in Brooklyn, NY to celebrate Black women writers, artists, and creatives through community trading.
The Free Black Women’s Library - Los Angeles is a new sister-site established January 2019. We are a grassroots, location-independent traveling book exchange and free literary event series that centers Black women writers, our events ranging from art-making workshops to book discussions and screenings. Our vision is to unite and build brave anti-racist, anti-sexist communities across Los Angeles who are committed to love, liberation, and literacy for all.
18MR: What do you see as TFBWL-LA’s role in communities in and around Los Angeles?
Asha: We have provided both a safe and brave space for community members to bring their full selves to our events. All events are free and donation based and welcome to folks of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities. With a collection of over 400 books written by Black women, we’ve been able to recycle an average of 100 books per book swap. Our community gained over 1,000 books sustainably in one year without supporting mass distributors like Amazon.
LEFT: Asha Grant, Founder of The Free Black Women’s Library - LA at Reparations Club by Cara Elise Taylor
Many library visitors share the events, which have helped reignite a love for pleasure reading, leaving with new books and often times new friends.
“Audre Lorde teaches us there is no liberation without community, community building being at the center of everything we do.”
18MR: We look to Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X’s friendship as an example of how we can be in community with one another. Can you share instances of solidarity between TFBWL-LA and other community groups?
Asha: Last year we had the pleasure of joining forces with amwa (a collective of Pan-Asian art workers that envisions art and design as tools to build radical, inclusive spaces) for a collaborative art-making and discussion event inspired by the book How We Fight White Supremacy by Akiba Solomon and Kenyra Rankin.
Pan-Asian solidarity for Black lives holds particular significance in Los Angeles and the west coast at large. Much of our two community’s social and political history interlinked and intertwined in a myriad of ways–from the zenophobic and racist Japanese incarceration camps where over 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II to the murder of 15 year old Latasha Harlins by Korean shop clerk Soon Ja Du in South Central in 1991. Our collaborative event was a rare opportunity for both communities to come together in the name of Black solidarity to dream up and map post-liberation worlds where freedom for Black women and femmes means freedom for us all.
18MR: Thank you so much for for sitting down with us, Asha!
This campaign will run between January 25 - February 29. Celebrate Lunar New Year and Black History Month in style with your very own Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X sweatshirt.
Half of all proceeds will go towards The Free Black Women’s Library - Los Angeles. If you would like to make a direct donation, you can paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org