Hello my fellow APIA friends, allies and those of you who may just be curious to learn more about Sparks. My name is Dee Pha (as in paw) and I am the Development Director here at Sparks. I am a proud Hmong-American woman, Minnesotan and a spicy food enthusiast.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about the law of cause and effect, which states that for every effect there is a definite cause; likewise for every cause, there is a definite effect. More simply defined as, what you put into the world, you get back. I share this with you because I have noticed a deficit in understanding where people truly come from. No, I do not mean what their ethnicity or country of origin is, but instead what life experiences shaped them to be who they are now. As a way to get you to open up, I would like to share with you a little bit about where I come from.

Growing up, my parents would often tell their stories living their life with uncertainty. As children they spent most of their time hiding in the jungles of Laos during a war meant to annihilate them. For much of their youth, they grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand heavily regulated by the military who dictated when they could leave the campsite. For their adult life, they found themselves lost in the United States, a place where they did not quite understand the customs yet was quickly subject to working some blue-collared job that demanded long hours and barely paid enough to support their family of six.

Being Hmong-American meant that I understood the stories of struggle, sacrifices and strength of those before me and continually honor the ways in which they have paved the way towards progress.

The act of storytelling has been a means of survival for the Hmong community. With no physical place to call home, we often would create a home with the stories we passed on from one generation to the next. It’s this act of sharing where you are from in order to determine where you will go that has inspired me to encourage others to do the same.

Through Sparks, I hope to enrich the narrative of the United States and challenge the current ways in which history is retold. I want to inspire others to value their story and be empowered to share it with others. History should not be confined to what the textbooks tell us to believe, but instead be influenced by the personal narratives that each one of us holds. By bridging the past with the present, we can heal the wounds of this country and eventually create an America that truly reflects its diversity.  As Development Director, I am committed to doing this by creating new opportunities for APIA youth to practice their art and channel their inner historian in order to tell an accurate story of what it means to be an American.

Just as the law of cause and effect states, I hope that by sharing our stories you also feel comfortable to share yours with us. Sparks has been a home for the unheard Asian Pacific Islander American narratives and I invite you in to learn from the stories shared by our artists.

Happy reading!