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2021 Scholars

We asked each of this season's scholars to tell us about themselves and their zine project. 

Learn more about them below!

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HANNAH KEZIAH AGUSTIN

http://hanake.pb.online

 

Tell us about yourself: 

 

I am Hannah Agustin, a Filipina writer, a low-income undergraduate student, Christian, and first-generation immigrant. I am 19, studying at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as a Film Studies and English - Creative Writing major and a music minor. As a diversity leadership certificate recipient, I aim to wrestle for the liberation of the colored in every piece of art I do. I believe in the social responsibility of artists because art is too powerful to simply be aesthetically pleasing. In my zine, I aim to do that by highlighting the immigrant struggle as a woman of color who is both young and low-income. Because zine-making has existed primarily for low-cost mass production, this medium allows me to reach out to people from different walks of life without the need to shell out money. I grew up in Manila treasuring zines from artists for less than a dollar and it taught me more about life than I ever could have imagined. Most activist organizations in the Philippines sold zines to spread propaganda that forwarded the rights of the poor and oppressed. I would like to bring that to my work as much as I can! Because zines touch on a variety of topics from music and art, to politics, sexuality, humor and personal memoir, I think that it perfectly encapsulates what I want this project to be: a call to action, an awakening, a testament of my existence — as an immigrant and as a human being.


Tell us about your zine: 

 

The zine I am hoping to publish is a graphic memoir / creative non-fiction that talks about my family's experiences as immigrants. In my author's note I wrote this: This memoir is a mapping out of our pilgrimage as immigrants from that point onward. I wrote these stories as a recollection of what it means to start in America. I chose to write it because it hides my accent — not that I’m ashamed of it — but this is the clearest way I can share my family’s diaspora. It tames my tongue. From the language barrier to picking up our neighbor’s trash to walking for three straight months because we had no car, this is a remembrance of what we’ve dealt with financially, emotionally, and spiritually — the stresses of acculturation. This move has changed our lives in the most sobering way possible. This is my story in pictures and journal entries and receipts, anything that helps me remember the grit of making something out of nothing — the narrative of all first-generation Americans.

It took my family twelve years to get a taste of the American dream, but just like all dreams, all these fell apart right before our eyes when we felt the alienation of being in a predominantly white suburban community in the Midwest. As a low-income undergraduate student who works three jobs, I felt this on an even deeper personal level, adding up to the fact that 80% of my school is AngloAmerican. But thanks to American colonization in the Philippines for 40 years, I can "hide" my otherness. I can strike up a conversation without people asking where I'm from. Still, microaggressions exist that hinder immigrants from having the same opportunities as others.

This zine aims to raise awareness towards the plight of immigrants. It vignettes the struggles we wrestle with and the supposed American dream. It merges ideas and ideals. It draws memory as a souvenir of our past selves. My point of view in the shift of culture, people, beliefs, and principles brings forth the next generation of people of color who will dominate our country. This is especially important because 2020 is the year that people of color under the age of 18 outnumber white people. It is the best time to be alive as an immigrant!

 
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MEKAH S. DEY

instagram.com/noble__g

 

Tell us about yourself: 

 

I am a folk artist, student, mother, full spectrum doula and creatrix who is born& rising in Minowakiing (Milwaukee). I envision my work as service, a point of connection  and a sanctuary, where the observer can put down their labels for a minute and just be. The same way in which a parent will guide their children, gentle and firmly, I call others in to imagine how our collective actions will affect the quality of life for future generations.
 

The struggle I’ve had with mental health (labeled by society as autism, bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety, depression and complex-PTSD) also greatly informs all aspects of my life. Everything about my existence nestles in with the mission of supporting marginalized people. 

 

Naturally, my artwork mirrors the state of the indigenous world, so I am currently investigating: purification, maintaining dignity, manifestation, solitude, balance, connection to the land, personal liberty and inter-generational healing.

Tell us about your zine:

The featured zine I am sharing with the community is called "Shoveling Out". It's all about moving through the illusions of society that create confusion when it comes to mental health, sex, and money. I focus on what cloudiness I'm clearing after leaving abusive relationships and homelessness in 2019.

I highlight what has assisted in my creative healing process and provide readers with gentle challenges and perspectives to consider. It represents the point of view of M.E.(mother earth), an indigenous woman, chosing to do the dirty, inspiring work of decolonizing life. 

I also have some poetry zines and a summer zine, SUN ROUTE, that is from the "mekah musings" series. I explore many themes which include afro-futurism, spirituality, non-conformity, decolonization, sustainability, vulnerability, healing, liberation in praxis, motherhood, relationships, astrology, energetic alignment and getting down to the roots. Each zine is created in hopes that it will be printed out and experienced in the physical. In-joy!

 
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SALMAN LEE

www.instagram.com/salmanlee_art

 

Tell us about yourself:

I am a graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts and that journey has been a really unique experience of gaining a better understanding of who I was as a multifaceted youth. Having interned at Artworks for Milwaukee, Express Yourself Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Art Museum, I have been lucky enough to gain mentors who all nurtured my intersectionality. Their guidance prompted me to explore my Asian identity—something I always understood was a big part of who I was, yet felt extremely disconnected to.

 

A way I’ve reconnected with my racial identity was through exploring current topics in my art, some including: the Harvard case, the term banana within the Asian community, the fetishization of Asian men, Asian masculinity, and the history of Asian slurs. Representation is also a big factor I consider that motivates my work. Beyond the big screens, there also lacks art that explores the Asian experience. With my work I hope to contribute to the growing body of work that discusses Asian social issues.

 

Tell us about your zine:

 

The zine that I will be creating aims to educate others about the existence and history of the Hmong community. I want to explore the idea of cultural shift and assimilation through the question, “What do you miss from home?” People often underestimate the effects that immigrating has on people and communities. The impact of culture shock has only become more prominent to me as I have grown and become more aware of my parents and grandparents actions. All my life we have had a garden in our backyard, and the connection never really occurred to me until recently that it is because Hmong people were predominantly farmers. These traditions and lifestyle are things that are so ingrained in my parents that despite the shift in life, are some that cannot be erased. It has also been a big theme in the community among older generations of hopes in the future for the Hmong to have their own country. Many fled their homes to escape genocide, and many Thai and Laotians still carry negative associations with Hmong as traitors today. With dim chances of returning to their old lifestyle, I am curious to educate myself about what my parents miss from their home whether it be physical or cultural.

 
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