We asked Betty Yu, 2016 SOAPBOX Alumni Honoree, to share more about what inspires her work, her connection to The LP, and more. Read to find out what she had to say.
What is your bio in six words or less?
Interdisciplinary artist and media maker advancing social justice.
Can you tell us about your relationship with your neighborhood (or a neighborhood), and how it may have shifted over the years?
I was raised in Sunset Park Brooklyn and spend over 20 years of my life there. My parents still reside in the house I grew up in and I still call Sunset Park my home. It is a neighborhood where the social issues, languages and cultures of the Chinese and Latino communities intersect – it shaped who I am today. Sadly that is rapidly changing. In the last 8 years, Sunset Park has been getting gentrified and the working class folks, immigrants and small business owners who made the community vibrant and culturally-rich – are systematically getting pushed out. I am concerned about the housing situation for folks like my parents and future working class generations to come. This is why I’m so passionate about anti-displacement organizing work and how arts and culture can advance this fight.
How did you first get connected with The Laundromat Project? What impact has participating in the Create Change residency had on your practice?
I joined the Laundromat Project community in 2012 as a Create Change artist in residence. Through the residency, I was able to teach and engage in participatory art-making with the Chinese immigrant community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where I grew up, at the laundromat that my parents have used for years. The LP continues to have a profound influence on me and my development and trajectory as an artist and media maker committed to economic, racial and social justice. I am so grateful to The Laundromat Project and artist community who helped open up doors and opportunities to collaborate with other social justice-minded artists and community organizations. I am grateful for The LP community, their integrity and all that they have taught me as an change-maker artist. The Laundromat Project is an extremely unique and important organization that does work in the intersection of social justice and the arts with communities that are hardest hit by racial and economic injustice.
What most inspires your creative practice?
When I am able to collaborate with community members, community based organizations, folks that are hardest hit by racial and economic injustices – to use and create art, media and culture to help tell their stories and advance social justice. It’s the intersection of arts and activism that inspires me. I feel like we’re in an exciting moment and critical juncture where community-based arts and cultural organizing approaches are being used in really innovative ways to advance Black Lives Matter, workers rights, housing equity and immigrant justice in NYC and around the U.S.
What is your favorite book, film, and / or album about NYC?
“Do the Right Thing” (film by Spike Lee)
“The Warriors” (film)
“Midnight Marauders” (album by Tribe Called Quest)
Free-association—tell us the first word that comes to mind:
Anything else you want to tell us?
I hope there will be other organizations around the U.S. that replicate or exemplify The Laundromat Project’s model, as an arts organization dedicated to supporting and fostering artists of color who are invested in community-based arts with a social justice mission.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Betty Yu is a NYC based multi-media artist, filmmaker, cultural worker, media educator, and longtime community organizer. For over 4 years, Betty managed the national Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), a project of the Center for Media Justice. Her documentary “Resilience” about her garment worker mother fighting against sweatshop conditions, screened at film festivals including the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. Betty’s interactive multi-media installation, “The Garment Worker” was part of a art exhibit in Chinatown in 2013, and featured at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive 2014. She was a 2012 Public Artist in Residence at The Laundromat Project, collecting oral histories and teaching media making to Chinese immigrants in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Betty is currently on the Board of Directors of Deep Dish TV and Third World Newsreel, two progressive media arts centers that distributes and exhibits social issue films. Betty is a 2016 A Blade of Grass Fellow for Socially Engaged Art.