Tag Archives: Storytelling

Seedcast: Art and Activism Across the Pacific

by Mia Kami

Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.


My name is Amelia Filohivalu Yvaana Kami,  but I commonly go by Mia Kami. I am Tongan. Both of my parents are Tongan. My mom comes from the main island, from the villages of Kolomotu’a and Hofoa, and my dad is from Haʻapai, which is an outer island. I’m currently based in Suva, Fiji, where I just completed my studies in law and politics at the University of the South Pacific (USP). I am a singer. A songwriter. A new graduate and job-seeker. A daughter. A sister. A woman of the Pacific.

In 2018, a cousin of mine reached out because she was involved in an anti-logging campaign in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea, and her group needed an anthem to motivate the team while inspiring awareness about these issues in the world and building momentum for their campaign. It was a smart decision. Art communicates and motivates in a way that data and speeches do not, merging the heart and the head. I was honored to be asked.

When I’m in the early stages with a song, it’s just me and my guitar. I start with a theme and some chords, then let the melodies and the words flow, recording myself so that I don’t lose anything good. With this anthem, I didn’t want to be too obvious, so I stayed away from lyrics like “deforestation is bad.” Luckily, pretty early on, I found the word “rooted,” and it just stuck. “Rooted” became the center and title of the song.

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Born in the Aftermath of 9/11, Tasveer Festival Centers South Asian Stories

by Beverly Aarons


On Sept. 11, 2001, the twin towers fell, and the face of terrorism became Muslim, Sikh, and South Asians of all religious persuasions. Xenophobia burned through the American landscape, unmasking deep-rooted racism hidden just beneath a thin foliage of inclusivity. Many people who were perceived as foreign were harassed. Rita Meher, the cofounder of Tasveer, was told “go back to your country” only weeks after she became a citizen. The experience shook her. She began to doubt her decision to immigrate. Was America really the land of inclusivity and opportunity she had imagined it to be? But out of the embers of her disillusionment the seeds of a new vision began to sprout — Tasveer, an arts organization, festival, and platform to showcase South Asian film, literature, and storytelling.  

“It’s never so straightforward that this happens and then we do this,” said Meher during an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. Her journey to cofounding Tasveer with Farah Nousheen in March 2002 was filled with many twists, turns, and surprise destinations. But if one had to highlight an important waypoint, it might be Meher’s first film, Citizenship 101, an autobiographical account of what life was like for South Asians in the shadow of 9/11. Nousheen, who Meher said is an activist and a friend, encouraged her to make the film and helped cultivate Tasveer into a social-justice-centered organization. 

“Our existence hasn’t been weaved into the community yet,” Meher said of the South Asian community, “but as you see in Seattle or greater Seattle, our population is huge.” She wants South Asian characters to go from sidekick to center stage. Tasveer has begun achieving that goal by funding films like Coming Out With The Help Of A Time Machine, which opened the Tasveer Festival Oct. 1, 2021, and introducing audiences to filmmakers like Aizzah Fatima and Iman Zawahry, the producers of Americanish, a romantic comedy about Muslim immigrant women navigating love, career, and family. Americanish will screen at the festival’s closing night on Oct. 24, 2021. 

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OPINION: Unsteadiness

by TQ Vu

(This piece was originally published as part of the Duwamish Valley Youth Storytelling Project and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

As part of the inaugural Duwamish Valley Youth Storytelling Project, three local high school students, Jazmine Petty-Yeates, TQ Vu, and Tommy Mac, had the opportunity to participate in a workshop and develop stories connected to community while also exploring the complexities of their intersecting identities. The workshop was facilitated by journalists and community storytellers Bunthay Cheam and Jenna Hanchard to increase access to journalism for BIPOC and employ youth. The project was in collaboration with the Port Community Action Team and sponsored by the Port of Seattle. The workshop helped students become better listeners and storycatchers to continue passing down and honoring the stories of our communities using their medium of choice.


Words From TQ

For the 16 years I’ve been breathing, my dad has always been there for me. Maybe not exactly when he went into the house right before I fell off my bike and got the worst cut I could’ve imagined. But when I struggled with telling the time or having trouble with my brand new iPad not connecting to the Wi-Fi, my dad was always to the rescue. Bringing me home extra Safeway donuts or buying an extra hamburger when he stopped by Dick’s for lunch. My dad and I have always had a good relationship. But that’s because good father-daughter relationships only require a good father and not necessarily a good daughter. Because I thought I knew everything about my dad, from how he chewed his food to how long it took him to shower or drive to places. It wasn’t like he didn’t tell me stories, either. In fact, I heard many of them from his childhood. How he once chased a chicken onto a roof or how he played soccer barefoot in the streets.

What I never considered was how arduous his experiences might have been. The experiences that have put me where I am now. Although I try to not take everything I have for granted, hearing about his journey here made me realize that I continue to anyway. Because the way he described these experiences made me sound like I was being a complete crybaby over a boy not responding to one of my texts. Because when I finally processed the stories themselves, I could barely imagine myself in his shoes and persevering through these experiences. Because when I stepped into a new building, the only thing you could possibly compare to my dad stepping into a new country was the feeling we both felt.

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Seedcast: Storytelling Is Guardianship

by Tracy Rector

Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.


Many of us have known for quite a while that climate change, accelerated by human decisions and behaviors, is not only real but a direct threat to life as we know it. While the findings of the IPCC report released in August of 2021 might not have been a surprise, that didn’t make them less alarming. The report inspired urgent conversations not only at planet-focused nonprofits like the one I work at, Nia Tero, but on a global scale and in individual homes: What can we do to heal the planet? What role can we play? Where are the solutions?

The good news is that human decisions and behaviors can also heal the planet, as evidenced by the land guardianship carried out by Indigenous peoples around the world in the form of tending to the land with fire, seed saving, or not taking more than you need. Indigenous land stewardship shows us not only the ways of the past and present but also the ways of the future. As an extension of that work, Indigenous storytelling links a millennium of knowledge with current day action. This is why Indigenous storytelling is an integral part of climate justice today.

Nia Tero Storytelling Fellow Jonathan Luna (Huila) connects Indigenous land sovereignty and narrative sovereignty in this way: “As part of creating the world, a place with more justice and liberation for all, historically oppressed and marginalized people, which include Indigenous peoples, need to create our own narratives regarding our lived experiences, be it historical or contemporary. The role of storytelling in these struggles, in all of its multiple forms and media, is fundamental and necessary; there are no imitations, fast-forwards, or shortcuts. The narratives of the people who dedicate their lives on the frontlines of defending the most biodiverse, water-rich yet fragile ecosystems that contribute to help sustain the world’s climate are the stories that policymakers need to be seeing and hearing.” 

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Multidisciplinary Artist Shontina Vernon and the Power of Story

by Beverly Aarons


Some birds aren’t meant to be caged — not by tiny steel bars and not by tiny forced narratives woven around their lives like intricate vines with pointy sharp thorns. As I listened to multidisciplinary artist Shontina Vernon tell me about her art — and by extension her life — during our telephone interview, I thought about how society’s carefully woven metastories threaten to confine us all like beautiful but trapped birds with very few of us daring an escape. Shontina Vernon is the one who got away.

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What the Emerald Means to Me: The Power of Unity

by Sharon Nyree Williams 

(In support of the Emerald’s 7th Anniversary fundraiser we asked community members to share about what the Emerald means to them.)


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Barbara Earl Thomas Traverses the Geography of Innocence

by Beverly Aarons


Each human being is a vast planet filled with uncharted territory. The darkness, the unseen, and the mystery of each of us can intrigue and terrify or even invoke violence, especially if we are living in bodies racialized as Black and even if we are just children. And it’s through this topography that Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas guides us in “The Geography of Innocence,” (Seattle Art Museum — November 14, 2020–June 13, 2021). The Geography of Innocence is a room-scale exhibit that explores “the colors we’ve assigned to sin … and our preconceived notions of innocence and guilt, assigned in shades of light and dark.” The exhibit will feature cut paper portraits of Black children, capturing their tenderness and vulnerability. 

“So when people step into the room, they’ll just be in the Barbara environment,” Thomas said during our telephone interview. “… You are going to be relocated in the geography of my idea.” 

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