This poem was originally written for an event hosted by the Brandeis Asian American Students Association celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which takes place every May. To reflect this celebration, “Crescendo” encapsulates my identity as an Asian American and the ways in which the narratives of influential Asian Americans, such as Yuri Kochiyama and Fred Korematsu, often remain excluded from our educational experiences growing up. This piece represents a much larger struggle currently being undertaken by Brandeis students in the Asian American Task Force, who are fighting for the creation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies Program at Brandeis University. “Crescendo” was recently performed at the third annual Justice Jam, an event sponsored by the Critical Perspectives in Urban Education class.
Crescendo. noun. a gradual increase in loudness in a piece of music.
Apparently, I’m some static, flat-dimensioned entity,
as opposed to
a motion-filled, energized identity,
am I supposed to
not question my place even if it’s
remaining floating somewhere in between the background and foreground?
Back and forth,
End to end,
But who or what is in between?
Gender is not a binary,
and neither are race relations,
it’s not just black and white.
Black letters on white paper,
textbooks written, curriculum rigid,
they must’ve used invisible ink when this was scripted.
Cause often times my education came from the front page of Google.
I’m nisei like Yuri Kochiyama,
that’s second generation,
like Fred Korematsu,
matsu, to wait,
but I’m not gonna wait for this weight to be taken off these shoulders, grandma’s shoulders,
please hold her,
you must carry her,
memories with you.
They call us models as a minority,
shoving us into the foreground to snap their photos,
yet they don’t actually want to see us walk down the runway,
dare I say,
I wish our views were heard more.
Not in one ear out the other,
maybe one year we won’t just be another
muted accompaniment in the background for once.
We’re perceived as always smooth and well-paved,
running straight and parallel along the road.
Abiding by the speed limit that was set for us,
to exceed it, to excel, is to threaten, can’t you tell?
Because when that happens, they never fail to tell us to stay in our own lane.
“Hey check this out, I heard this is swearing in Chinese!”
But I’m not-
“Well of course you’re doing well in Calc”
I struggle as a student too you know.
I’m still working on myself too you know.
Still working on that internalized racism.
Society’s mirror isn’t cracked but it’s warped,
you’re still whole in the reflection but something seems forced.
As if someone’s over your shoulder, pointing,
stop doing that, act like this instead,
be ashamed of that, or you’ll never get ahead.
So you start joining in on the bashing,
and by the time you realize
that it’s you on the other side,
the damage has been done.
So decrescendo that,
wait, don’t suppress it,
drag it out from the shadows,
and play it accented.
now allow me to edify.
Don’t taste-test my culture,
only to spit out my food for its smell.
Karlie Kloss wants girls to learn to code,
but she’s still dressed as a geisha on the cover of Vogue.
Now I’m not here to call people out,
I’m out here because they stay stomping us out.
verb. to increase in loudness or intensity,
it’s not just the work of one.
You don’t have to play any louder,
if others join in the playing.
– Olivia Nichols