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VOA Connect (04/06/2018) In the Delta


((PKG)) MISSISSIPPI CHINESE
((Banner: In the Delta))

((Reporter: Ramon Taylor))
((Camera: Ye Yuan))
((Adapted by: Martin Secrest))
((MAP: United States / Mississippi / Delta region))
((Photos / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))

((Banner: Two Asia-American photographers from New York traveled to the Mississippi Delta to document Asians in the Deep South))

((EMANUEL HAHN, KOREAN-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))
I think sometimes it's hard when you're not just a minority, but you're like really, like two percent of the entire state. They were always, kind of, in this interesting third position.
((Photos / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))
((ANDREW KUNG, CHINESE-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))

I spoke to Emanuel at his apartment in Brooklyn Heights and was like, I've always wanted to shoot southern landscapes, like, what kind of theme can we, kind of, wrap this around? And so he was like, oh, why not Asians in the deep, rural south.
((Photos / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))
((EMANUEL HAHN, KOREAN-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))

One of the narratives that I was very, kind of, familiar with was the model minority myth, and that is, you know, that Asian Americans, kind of, overachieve and that's, kind of, what we’re typecast as.
((Photos / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))
((ANDREW KUNG, CHINESE-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))
What we were able to see was that a lot of people in the community along the Delta made enormous contributions economically in the region, whether it be opening grocery

((Photo / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))
stores or whether it be being a NASA engineer. And those are the types of stories that we don't typically hear, and those narratives aren't really present.
((Photos / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))
((EMANUEL HAHN, KOREAN-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))

For Steve Yee particularly, he went through this harrowing journey of first escaping from China to Hong Kong, and then through Hong Kong, ending up in the Mississippi. And one of the stories that he told us was of just discrimination, just a lot of football guys picking on him and him going to the principal to complain about it, and the principal telling him to man up and basically stand up for himself. And I think for him he was, kind of, fortunate to find art as, kind of, a way to channel his energies.

((Photos / Courtesy of Andrew Kung))

((ANDREW KUNG, CHINESE-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))

I think in large urban cities, we're very used to seeing people on the street. Like, “Oh, it’s another Asian American person. Cool.” Like, you're not really fazed by it. But I think when you're in the South, especially along the Mississippi Delta and more of those rural pockets, whenever you see another Asian, you're like, “Wow, like, our families probably have some sort of tie and we're probably united on some type of front.”
((RAMON TAYLOR, VOA NEWS))
Some of the families you spoke with are elderly or in their later years. If you didn’t tell the story, it’s possible that no one would hear it outside of the immediate families that exist in their own lives. Why is it important for you guys to tell those stories?
((Photos / Courtesy of Emanuel Hahn))
((EMANUEL HAHN, KOREAN-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER))

A lot of the younger generation are moving outside of the Mississippi Delta as they seek better opportunities. There's just a handful of these older generations that are left, and once they pass on, it is possible that there might not be that many Chinese Americans left in that area. And I think it's so important to capture that before we lose it.

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