Coming Together Honoring AAPI Voices in Pop Culture at WonderCon 2022

WonderCon 2022

From Left to Right: Stefanie Bautista (educator); Ariel Landrum (therapist); Angela Luong (co-founder of CalmOn!); Farrah Wong (co-founder of CalmOn!), Dr. Elizabeth 방실 Smith (PsyD); and Lorran Garrison (school psychologist).

Author: Ariel Landrum

On Saturday, April 2, 2022, WonderCon 2022 hosted a significant panel discussion titled “Coming Together: Honoring AAPI Voices in Pop Culture”. The event occurred from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM in Room 213AB in the Anaheim Convention Center.

The panel brought together six distinguished AAPI creators from diverse professional backgrounds. Presenters were moderator Stefanie Bautista (educator and co-host of The Happiest Pod on Earth); co-moderator Ariel Landrum (therapist and co-host of The Happiest Pod on Earth); Angela Luong (co-founder of CalmOn!); Farrah Wong (co-founder of CalmOn!), Dr. Elizabeth 방실 Smith (PsyD); and Lorran Garrison (school psychologist, author, and co-founder of Little Brainstorm). These accomplished women shared their experiences, insights, and hopes for the future of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) representation in media.

Understanding the Collective Mindset

The panelists discussed the importance of cultural humility in their professions, acknowledging the need for continuous learning and understanding of different cultures. They emphasized the importance of understanding the collective mindset of AAPI families, which often differs from the individualistic mindset prevalent in Western cultures.

A collective or collectivist mindset refers to a cultural value that prioritizes the group, community, or society over the individual. In cultures with a collective mindset, individuals often consider the needs and goals of the group when making decisions rather than focusing solely on their desires or ambitions. This mindset fosters a strong sense of community and interconnectedness, with individuals viewing themselves as part of a larger whole. It’s common in many Asian cultures, including those within the AAPI community. Understanding this collective mindset is crucial when working with or within these communities, as it influences family dynamics, decision-making processes, and communication styles.

Intergenerational Trauma and Mental Health

The panelists also touched on intergenerational trauma within the AAPI community, acknowledging the sacrifices made by previous generations and the impact of these experiences on current generations. Intergenerational trauma refers to transmitting trauma from one generation to the next. This can occur when the first-generation experiences traumatic events, such as war, displacement, or severe discrimination, and the effects of these experiences are passed down to subsequent generations. These effects can manifest in various ways, including psychological, social, and physical health problems.

Mental health, on the other hand, refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and it also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

From Left to Right: Stefanie Bautista (educator); Ariel Landrum (therapist); Angela Luong (co-founder of CalmOn!); Farrah Wong (co-founder of CalmOn!), Dr. Elizabeth 방실 Smith (PsyD); and Lorran Garrison (school psychologist).

According to Dr. Smith, Ariel, and Lorran, in the context of the AAPI community, mental health is a significant concern. Despite the diversity within the AAPI community, there are common experiences such as immigration, acculturation stress, and discrimination that can impact mental health. Furthermore, the cultural stigma around mental health issues and a lack of culturally sensitive mental health resources can hinder seeking help.

Dr. Smith, Lorran, and Ariel discussed the importance of decolonizing mental health. This is challenging and changing the Western-centric perspectives and practices currently dominating the mental health field. Providers must address the biases, stereotypes, and systemic inequities within mental health services, research, and policies.

Decolonization seeks to validate and incorporate diverse cultural understandings of mental health and wellness. It emphasizes the importance of context, including historical, social, and cultural factors, in understanding mental health. This approach respects and integrates indigenous and non-Western healing practices and perspectives, acknowledging multiple valid ways to understand and address mental health issues.

Dr. Smith highlights how the high rates of suicide among young AAPI women need to be a priority in the mental health field. She highlights the urgent need for addressing mental health within the community and how inclusive, equitable, and culturally sensitive mental health practices will foster health and wellness among AAPI women.

Cultural Awareness in Professional Practice

The panelists also shared how they integrate their understanding of AAPI cultures and experiences into their work. Angela and Farrah shared the importance of cultural awareness when designing characters for different audiences. They noted design elements that highlight and promote differences in an affirming way. Stefanie, Lorran, and Dr. Smith, who all work with children and families, discussed the importance of understanding and respecting the values of the families they work with. They shared various stories of putting the families’ values first in their work.

Cultural awareness involves understanding and appreciating the differences and similarities between different cultures. It’s about recognizing that people from different cultural backgrounds may have different values, beliefs, traditions, and communication methods. Cultural awareness is crucial in today’s diverse world, promoting empathy, respect, and mutual understanding.

The panel concluded with the panelists expressing their appreciation for the opportunity to share their stories and experiences. They encouraged continued conversations about AAPI representation and experiences and invited attendees to contact them for further discussions.

Check out the entire panel below:

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