Jason Chu Recites “A Thousand Names”

Jason Chu likes to flex his creative muscle in various mediums, including spoken word. “A Thousand Names” is such a piece, and the poem is presented in honor of Asian Heritage Month (which is May, in case you weren’t aware). This one should strike home for many of us. Respect the roots.

They came bringing names of a thousand villages
A thousand mothers and fathers and the lands they left
Came because to stay meant certain death
At the hands of those who seized and took with no regard
They came because they dreamed for the children not yet born
And so they worked – in restaurants and donut shops and liquor stores
And their tongues stumbled over words that were not yet theirs
And they grew old in a land that did not yet care
Holding on to food, clothes, words, the faint echoes from back there

They came in a million different journeys
And we grew up hearing their stories but didn’t always understand
Because I’m at home in this country, this land, this flag
This place where I speak a language that was composed by men
who never dreamed with eyes filled with Asia or lived in yellow skin

And so our distance grew like the silence
Like we were the aliens they had raised and carried inside them
And the air between us is thick, but we still bear their names
And each name carries stories that we rarely even claim
The sacrifices of a generation we sometimes can’t even stand
When we pick up the phone and hear their anxious demands
And honestly? Sometimes we curse them
Say they don’t get it, they’re so obsessed with curfews and grades
either the Ivy League or at least UCLA
Makin sure we play the violin, pushing us to earn a high paying wage
And we judge them saying they’re just playing a greedy and self-centered game

Not seeing behind them the stories with which they came
The villages they left, little sisters they couldn’t save
Traditions that they lost, the homes they gave away
In the hopes that their children would not go hungry to their graves
So today? We come bearing their names
A thousand generations lived in the lands they left
We come because we pray before they find their death
We can speak life into the world and that’s the legacy they’ll have left


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