We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Kong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Above all, I have a deep love for storytelling and community. I am deeply interested in art and work that is rooted in the material world, and is a reflection of conditions. I think creating art for art’s sake is not enough. Rather, as I’ve grown as a cultural worker, I am urgently learning to be more intentional and responsible with how and what I create. It’s strange for me to solely define myself by the work I make, and to think of cultural work as a “career”. I pursue cultural work because it grounds me in the people I love and their stories. Everything is so much bigger than me–everything is defined by everything, and the brilliance of cultural work allows those meanings to always continue expanding.Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a nonbinary Korean diasporic poet currently based on occupied Akimel O’odham, Hohokam, and O’odham land. My intention is to create work that explores both racialization of the yellow feminine in the west, and the violence of western forces on our homelands. Additionally, I see my work as a kind of family mythology and cultural anthropology, and hope to integrate familial stories into larger frameworks informed by material conditions, imperialism, and war. I am where I am always because of the love and support of community. I am most proud of my work reaching diasporic Korean folks all over the world, and the way they’ve told me my work has resonated with them. From this, I learned I need to be deeply intentional with what I create. Nothing can be written just for the sake of being written, rather, creation is a deep responsibility. As my friend Raji says, “Who are you accountable to?” I think of this question now when I create and put things into the world. I want the work I make to be accountable to the right people. Once you’re grounded in your community and those who love you, your creations will flourish and reflect that love.Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First, I would take friends to Palabras Bilingual Bookstore. Palabras is a community pillar, headed by thee amazing Chawa and Jeff, featuring books and art from phenomenal local creators, such as Anna Flores (IG: @pochaterca), Claudia Belen (IG @cloudiabelen), and Raji Ganesan (IG: @ritualvibrations). I cannot rave about Palabras Bilingual Bookstore enough. We would spend our time perusing through the eclectic and diverse collections of books and artwork. For delicious earth lattes, we will step to Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge in the Grand Ave Plaza, and then grab a yummy dessert from family-owned shop, Onyx Sweet Shoppe on Roosevelt Ave. After eating this decadent treats, I would introduce my friends to community organizations, such as Worried About Rent (IG: @worriedaboutrent), which supports tenants fighting for the right to safe housing in the Valley, and Mutual Aid Phx (IG: @mutualaidphx), which focuses on collective care in the city of Phoenix. I’ll book us for massages with Systemic Healing Arts, headed by Bri Rose White, a Phoenix-based therapeutic masseuse and energy worker. On the way there, we’ll plug in a playlist of local musicians like Carly Bates, Raquel Denis, and AJ Odneal, to get in the perfect headspace to unwind. After all the knots are worked out of our bodies, we’ll head back to the Grand Ave Plaza, to get matching tattoos with Ellie at @hexttats. Finally, we’d grab vintage masks from Crisp U.S. Thrift (IG: @crispusthrift) and end the night at El Charro Hipster with drinks and live performance.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to give thanks to my family and comrades at Desert Diwata. The amazing humans at Desert Diwata have been my anchor for the past couple of years, and have centered me in the necessity of community work. Desert Diwata is made up of brilliant artists, scholars, and workers, and I am so grateful to each and every one of them for their labor and love. Danielle, Ronae, Jayme — ily. Also huge thanks and shoutout to Project Nia’s Alison and my cohort with AYO, NYC! for their inspiration and deeply-intentional abolitionist educational programs.
Furthermore, the work of Dr. Joy James, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, June Jordan, and Eve L. Ewing have deepened my study of identity, intentionality, and urgency. I am also deeply grateful for the diasporic Korean community who challenge and educate me every day, especially friends Becky, Amber, Soy, Stephen, Riley, Vic, and Chaelin. Fellow cultural workers and pals for their love and feedback, Sean Avery Medlin, Anna Flores, Claudia Belen, Amanda Sia, Raji Ganesan, Chris Aldana S., Czaerra Galicinao Ucol, Natalie Wee, and Warren Hunt. Finally, besties Bhavna and Alexa for always keeping me grounded.
Brandon Tran, Amanda Sia