A/P/A Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project

Project Framing Statement (developed in May 2020):

Recognizing the critical need for documenting the COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad of ways it has and will impact Asian/Pacific American communities in New York City and nationally, the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, in collaboration with Tomie Arai, Lena Sze, Vivian Truong, and Diane Wong, has developed the A/P/A Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project. The NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives will serve as the collection’s repository.

We undertake this project in a spirit of solidarity with other communities of color who suffer the profound effects of structural racism and state violence. We begin documenting the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on Asian/Pacific Americans in the midst of protests against the killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black people at the hands of police and vigilantes. Intersectionality and cross-racial solidarity are central pillars of this project as we move forward to understand the current moment. Both provide an important lens through which to document complicated and rich lived experiences, as well as the work we still need to do to educate our own communities about state violence. With A/P/A Voices, we affirm our commitment to Black communities and Black lives.

From the anti-Asian violence and xenophobia that has spiked since the early days of the pandemic (and reemerged in the national consciousness) to the ways that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Pacific Islander communities and Asian immigrant service and healthcare workers, Asian/Pacific Americans are too often at the center of COVID-19 coverage and conversations as objects of anger, sympathy, and/or curiosity.

We believe, however, in documenting the complex and multifaceted experiences of Asian/Pacific Americans as subjects of their own stories. We hope this project offers space for thinking about the parallels, intimacies, and possibilities for solidarity between Asian/Pacific Americans and the communities that are most impacted by these seismic shifts in our history. 

There is no other major COVID-19 documentation effort about and for A/PA communities at this time. We believe that this documentation is essential not just for our communities’ own processing and storytelling, but for all of us to learn from this moment now and into the future.  To that end, this public memory project is intended to be broad in scope. We aim to cast a wide net, but endeavor to include stories from A/PA communities that often remain unrecorded. By virtue of our institutional location, we also have a particular interest in New York City and the university communities in which we are embedded.

We are collecting documentation of the experiences of Asian/Pacific Americans living during COVID-19 by:

  • Recording oral history interviews with narrators who wish to share their A/PA COVID-19 experiences or perspectives for archival preservation and future access. These interviews will be conducted remotely (while social distancing protocols are still necessary) or in person (only when safe to do so).

  • Collecting a wide range of recorded interviews to document, as thoroughly as possible, A/PA COVID-19 experiences.

  • Collecting digital artifacts including, but not limited to: articles, flyers, and resource lists; publications and journal articles; photographs and images of artwork and installations; video and audio recordings. Select artifacts may be accessioned, alongside the recorded oral history interviews, by the NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

For more information about this project, please visit apavoices.org or contact apa.archives@nyu.edu.