Contributor Anastasia Kim reviews East West Player’s reading of Udaya Kanthi Salgadu’s Letters From My Mother.
As the first month of the new year comes to a close, I applaud the efforts of those who were, and still are, involved in the campaign to raise or heighten awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Last Thursday, January 20, 2011, my friends over at East West Players (EWP) invited me to a staged reading called Letters From My Mother written by Udaya Kanthi Salgadu and directed by Shaheen Vaaz. In collaboration with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), the East West Players managed to throw a wonderful exhibition spotlighting a heart wrenching yet inspiring story of courage, tenacity and hope brought forth by a mother’s love.
Letters From My Mother is story about a young, Sri Lankan high school graduate named Sripa who had to endure 26 months of forced labor in the United States. With the promise of a consistent salary that she’d be able to send back to her family underscoring her decision to leave everything behind, Sripa soon realizes that her life in the United States isn’t exactly what she’d envisioned. Without a way to contact her family, and not a single cent to her name, Sripa finds herself enslaved to the iniquity that is human trafficking. However, despite the bleakness of her situation, Sripa endures with great fortitude owing to her mother’s letters to her, and the care of an inquisitive neighbor, who later helps rescue her. As a storm gathers in her confidence, Sripa relinquishes fear, and in its stead, she embraces her mettle. Sripa takes her life back.
Thanks to the wonderful cast of talented actors such as Anjali Bhimani, Tamlyn Tomita, James Kyson Lee, Camille Mana, and many more, I saw quite a few teary-eyed members of the audience that night. The cast painted a realistic portrayal of what it must have been like to be in our playwright’s shoes, and we were definitely drawn into the story.
After the reading, a post show discussion panel followed suit where we were made intimately familiar with our real-life Sripa. The playwright, Udaya Kanthi Salgadu, who wrote Letters From My Mother based on her own experiences, was perhaps introduced much later to put the focus on the consequences of human trafficking rather than singling out the victims of it. She was remarkably cheery that night given the topic of her play, and stuck around to meet and greet the viewers. It was wonderful to see that she’d melded her experiences, courage, and resolve to showcase a powerful message not only relatable to victims of human trafficking but people across the board. It was amazing to see her speak from a position of resilience and accomplishment rather than from a position of victimization and weakness. This was her first play, and I hope that while she is on the path to becoming a valued nurse in our community, she will continue to share her words of wisdom with all of us.
There is an estimated 12.3 million people who are enslaved around the world today, according to CASTLA.org. It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century. Although organizations and volunteers alike are putting forth great effort to impede its growth, human trafficking will not go away without a fight. Please help join this cause in stamping out human trafficking. Go to CASTLA.org and find out how you can help. Freedom and equality isn’t just black or white anymore. Let us fight to give everyone an equal hand at what they rightfully deserve.
– Anastasia Kim
It’s that time of the month! The Vagina Monologues are back, this time with the Filipinas version, taking the stage on Sunday, April 25 at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.
Presented by Ted Benito/PAE Live! and TDRZ Productions, Inc., the inaugural show of PAE Live!’s features an all-Filipina cast for a one-night only benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues, the award-winning play based on V-Day founder and playwright Eve Enslers’s interviews with more than 200 women. The stories are funny, touching, raw and very real, celebrating the sexuality and strength of women everywhere. For the past 12 years, through the liberation of this one word, countless women throughout the world have taken control of their bodies and their lives.
This year’s cast of The Vagina Monologues: Filipinas 2010 pulls together iconic Filipinas from the world of entertainment, including:
* Tia Carrere (actress and Grammy award winning artist for Best Hawaiian record Ikena)
* Actress Jennifer Paz (double Ovation award nominee for Miss Saigon (winner) and The Last Five Years, and starring in the upcoming Road to Saigon)
Did you know that up to 60% of API women experience intimate partner abuse or sexual abuse in their lifetime and are least likely to report it? That is an extraordinarily high percentage given that the national average is 33%.
Now, Asian American stars Sandra Oh, John Cho, Aaron Yoo, Lisa Ling, Leonardo Nam, Archie Kao, C.S. Lee, Joan Chen, Justin Chon, Far East Movement, Kaba Modern and more than 100 other members of the creative community will appear in a series of videos supporting the Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF), which provides a multi-lingual 24-hour call center, emergency shelter, transitional housing program, counseling services and various community outreach programs to address domestic violence. Hundreds of others contributed their time, experience and resources to produce the videos and help raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.