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The Sounds of California logo and a bowl and chopstick with the text Sharing Comfort and Care.

Indulge in the “Sounds of California” and “Sharing Comfort and Care” Humanities Projects Online

As the winter holidays begin, we invite you to enjoy the rich outcomes of two Humanities for All Project Grant-supported projects. Sounds of California recently published a new online community archive that highlights the multimedia projects they hosted in different communities across the state, including a Sounds of California: Boyle Heights Playlist. Sharing Comfort and Care features story maps, recipes, and an online cookbook from two of the most underrepresented groups within the Asian American and Pacific Islanders category: Cambodians and NHPIs. Learn more about these projects and hear reflections from the Project Directors below.

Sounds of California, Alliance of California Traditional Arts (ACTA)

Master artist of Philippine kulintang music, the late Danny Kalanduyan, holds two big sticks as he plays his instrument at ACTA’s first Sounds of California concert at the Oakland Museum in 2015.
Master artist of Philippine kulintang music, the late Danny Kalanduyan, performs at ACTA’s first Sounds of California concert at the Oakland Museum in 2015.

Incorporating photos, videos, and audio recordings of interviews, conversations, and performances, the Sounds of California: Boyle Heights project engaged residents and academic researchers in documenting this historic neighborhood and its multicultural heritage. Activities included community celebrations like Dia de Los Muertos, the musical culture that has grown up around Mariachi Plaza, and a legacy of social and political activism that continues today in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, ACTA recorded ten original new songs that explore deep connections to neighborhoods by local musicians, including Quetzal Flores, Raul Pacheco, and Nobuko Miyamoto. Regarding the project’s accomplishments, ACTA Executive Director Amy Kitchener shares:

“The Alliance for California Traditional Arts is proud to present the Sounds of California: Boyle Heights project and microsite, which highlights the past, present, and future of this community through a tapestry of poetry, melodies, and stories that are born out of the very unique soundscape of Boyle Heights.

The 2020-2021 Sounds of California: Boyle Heights project includes the launch of a brand-new Sounds of California multimedia archive website showcasing new fieldwork from a Boyle Heights-based community documentation team, 10 original compositions by local artists on Boyle Heights’ culture and history and will soon showcase 10 new songs composed with community members in collective songwriting sessions. The project was recently celebrated at Mariachi Plaza with a day-long Sounds of California: Boyle Heights festival on October 16, 2021.

Each component of this project serves as an affirmation of the neighborhood-led stewardship of community, often in the face of rapid gentrification and other forces causing displacement of local people and cultures.” – Amy Kitchener, ACTA Executive Director and Co-Founder

Sharing Comfort and Care, UC Irvine

Two persons stand close hugging each other and smiling.
Fepulea’i Shiphrah 2012. Courtesy of the Sharing Comfort and Care Project.

For the past two years, with guidance from UC Irvine Professor and Humanities Center Director Dr. Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, student researchers have been collecting stories from the Cambodian and Pacific Islander communities in Southern California through an oral history-based project to document the practices of caregiving and comfort that support and sustain community in times of crisis. The collection team includes Thuy Vo Dang (UCI Libraries), Dorothy Fujita-Rony (UCI Asian American Studies), and Madelynn Dickerson (UCI Libraries) in collaboration with The Cambodian Family and Empowering Pacific Islander Communities. Just in time for the holidays, the team has published a beautiful 143-page illustrated book of stories, poems, and essays, along with a selection of traditional Samoan, Guamanian, Tongan, and Cambodian recipes contributed by family members and other community participants. Download a copy of the e-book version of Sharing Comfort and Care: Stories of Migration, Health, and Foodways in Cambodian and Pacific Islander Diasporas, and learn how to make Cambodian Chicken Curry and other delicious traditional foods.

Regarding the culmination of the project, Project Director Dr. Judy Tzu-Chun Wu remarks:

“I am so proud of our collective project. We proposed this initiative to promote intergenerational storytelling and sharing for two underrepresented groups, namely Cambodian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We wanted to record and highlight stories of migration, health challenges, and foodways. We proposed this before the COVID-19 pandemic and had to adapt to create our project in a virtual environment. Still, I think our “Sharing Comfort and Care” message is particularly apt given what we are collectively experiencing. I am so appreciative of our researchers, storytellers, community partners, mentors, and sponsors who have persevered through a racialized pandemic and co-created this project. We hope you enjoy the compelling memories and delicious recipes and that they provide you with a sense of comfort and care.” – Dr. Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Professor of Asian American Studies, Director of the Humanities Center, UC Irvine

To visit the Sounds of California online community archive, click here. To read about “Sharing Comfort and Care,” listen to recorded interviews, and view the cookbook and story maps click here.

Humanities for All grants support public-facing humanities projects that respond to the needs and interests of Californians, encourage greater public participation in humanities programming, particularly by new and/or underserved audiences, and promote understanding and empathy among all our state’s peoples to cultivate a thriving democracy. Learn more about the Humanities for All Project Grant program here.

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