Co-author says “the younger Chinese generation in America should be more political than their parents”
In April, Angela Bi and Lillian Liu, the founders of Massachusetts Student Arts Spaces, decided to produce a printable digital coloring book called “Celebration of Nature.”
They originally created the coloring book in hopes of bringing comfort to everyone in this stressful pandemic time. But after the death of George Floyd and the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, they decided to use it to raise funds for local African American businesses, institutions, and causes around the Commonwealth.
The coloring book is available on the Student Arts Space’s Ko-fi page. After donating $3, readers will get access to all 50 entries from 25 young artists.
The funds raised through this initiative will go toward Black Market Nubian, a market in Roxbury focused on social and economic justice and arts and culture; Jamaica Mi Hungry, a restaurant in Jamaica Plain and a food truck; Spark FM, an urban and Caribbean radio station and the first to be owned by a Black woman in Boston; Action for Boston Community Development, a majority people of color-run organization that offers tools and resources for over 100,000 impoverished people per year; Massachusetts Bail Fund, an organization that posts bail up to $2000 in Essex and Suffolk counties; and ACLU Massachusetts.
“This coloring book is very simple but it can be really powerful,” said Bi. But the meaning of this project is more than just helping the Black community for her.
Bi is from a Chinese family, which she described as “not political at all.” She said her parents never even voted for president in the past. But given what Trump had been doing in the last three years, she added, “my mother is going to try to vote this year.”
The author felt the younger Chinese generation in America should be more political than their parents. “As Asian youth, we are setting a pretty good example,” said Bi. “This is an opportunity for Asian teenagers to educate their parents about this [Black Lives Matter] movement and why we should support them.”
Bi said that she and her co-author hope to make a positive local impact on Bay State businesses that are supportive of Black Lives Matter. Also, she felt the popular movement is not only related to African Americans but is about racial equality for all people of color in the US.
“If you are going to continue your life in America, there is a responsibility for you to participate in America’s politics, especially when the politics may affect you,” Bi said.
Unsurprisingly, the “Celebration of Nature” coloring book is not the first time she has tackled challenging issues with artwork.
In 2018, Bi’s painting Love made it into the Modern Youth Identity exhibition in Seattle.
Bi said she feels Chinese families expect too much of their children. Which stresses them out. So, the work featured a bloody cake under a knife—because she wanted to portray the message that “sometimes familiar love can become very overbearing and kind of toxic to a teenager.”
This year, after the COVID-19 outbreak began in the US, she heard some Asian people were attacked after President Trump labeled coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” So she drew another untitled piece that depicted a Chinese feast. She used Chinese characters “病毒” (“virus”) to blur out diners’ facial features. A cake on a table is decorated with the character “福” (“fortune”) and stabbed by a knife.
“I think that the hate towards Asians and specifically Chinese people is a product of fear and ignorance. COVID-19 should not be called the Chinese virus because it reduces the Chinese identity into one negative trait,” concluded Bi.
Sirun Li is a graduate student in journalism at Boston University, majoring in photojournalism and documentary making. She previously wrote for the film magazine Kandianying (看电影) in Shanghai, China.