Growing the Dragon Fruit Community
The Dragon Fruit Project embodied the Lavender Phoenix practice of community building across generations, gender identities, ethnic and racial identities. Many hearts and minds from around the Lavender Phoenix universe have touched the Dragon Fruit Project: academics, elders, youth, staff, volunteers, and so many more. For years, members would point to the Dragon Fruit Project as their first involvement with Lavender Phoenix. Many new volunteers were drawn to Lavender Phoenix because of the Dragon Fruit Project itself, looking to understand more about our history, connect across age, and make our stories known. The Dragon Fruit Project comes from a long lineage of storytelling, and we hope it will be part of a longer lineage of others that come after us. From transcribing the first oral histories to planning Dragon Fruit Network events for dozens of attendees, this community has grown tremendously from just a piece of fruit (just kidding!).
“I also had started volunteering with APIENC [Lavender Phoenix] at their Dragon Fruit Project Working Days to transcribe the oral history interviews they had recorded. Because of this, I got to hear queer Asians and Pacific Islanders from previous generations talk about how they had navigated their identities and built communities from the ground up. Hearing these histories helped me to recognize our ties to the legacies of folks who’ve come before us and made our lives and communities more possible, and the legacies we’re building for the people who will come after us. “ -Ethan Li, DFP Committee Member
Who is the Dragon Fruit Community?
The Dragon Fruit community consists of anyone who has participated in a role throughout the duration of the project, including anything from oral history transcription to event-planning, phonetree coordination to podcast editing, workshops to zine-making, and anything in between! Hundreds of people volunteered over the years to make the Dragon Fruit project flourish. While we don’t have the space to list every member of the Dragon Fruit community, we honor all who participated in making Dragon Fruit grow!
In this room, we’ll learn about the ways that the Dragon Fruit community blossomed and grew and the kinds of projects that the Dragon Fruit Project inspired.
How did we Build the Dragon Fruit Community?
Community Events and Workshops
Events were an important way to bring our community together and share our stories while building relationships. In 2014, we hosted an event at the GLBT History Museum which brought DFP community together to engage with some of the oral history videos and learn about the project. In 2015, we held a series of events on “Listening Through Generations,” including a flagship event at the SF Public Library where generations of the Dragon Fruit community came together to share and process oral histories. We also hosted many intergenerational brunches to eat and build together!
A flyer for the event “Listening through Generations: A Celebration of LGBTQ API Community History” held at the San Francisco Main Library August 13, 2015.
Later, we took Dragon Fruit “on the road” to various conferences and community partners, where we brought even more people into our histories and our futures. Oftentimes, when presenting at schools and universities, students would share that the Dragon Fruit Project was the first time they had seen themselves reflected in history. During one workshop at Stanford’s Listen to the Silence Conference in 2015, community elders joined an intergenerational conversation, sharing how storytelling empowered them to see their work as being part of history. Over the years, as we learned more about our history and about how to build intergenerational networks of care, our workshops developed as well. We began creating workshops about precolonial gender identities in the Asia Pacific, and hosted workshops about the function and purpose of community care throughout time.
A slide from Queer and Trans API Hxstories of Community Care presentation at the UC Berkeley Queer & Asian Conference in 2018.
A slide from Queer and Trans API Hxstories of Community Care presentation at the UC Berkeley Queer & Asian Conference in 2018. With artwork by Shreya Shah on the left and artwork by Monica Trinidad on the right.
Some of the spaces that Dragon Fruit Project facilitated over the years were the UC Berkeley Q&A Conference, San Francisco State University, Stanford, Chinese Progressive Association, Creating Change conference, NQAPIA conferences and leadership summits, and more. These were important spaces to connect and share the history about Bay Area TQAPI organizing and experience and they brought Dragon Fruit Project to a wider community than ever before.
Resilience Archives and Artist Collective
As the Dragon Fruit Project expanded, so did the vision of what it meant to document and preserve our histories. In 2016, the Resilience Archives was created as a collaboration between Lavender Phoenix and Mia Nakano, an Oakland-based artist, archivist, and founder of the Visibility Project. Growing from our oral history work, the Resilience Archives aimed to document TQAPI history through collecting photographs, organizational documents, t-shirts, and other physical memorabilia. As part of the Resilience Archives, we created a series of workshops that aimed to “empower individuals to share their stories through the artistic practices of archiving, storytelling, and filmmaking.” In the years following, the Resilience Archives went on to host performance workshops, community archiving workshops, and live storytelling events, serving as a space for preserving and sharing a wide-range of TQAPI history and culture.
An image of performers part of the Resilience Archives.
In the summer of 2016, the artist collective, led by Maria Hu Wu, hung an exhibition at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The artist collective was loosely inspired by DFP & RA, and gathered community artists to create original art inspired by our community’s histories.
Creative dissemination of our stories has always been central to the Dragon Fruit Project. One way of sharing community stories historically has been through zine-making. Zine-making is a “do it yourself” medium where people use whatever resources they have to clip, paste, scan, and draw our stories into creation. It became more popular during the 1990s as a format for sharing stories and information in punk and queer communities. In early 2014, inspired by our oral histories, community members created the first Dragon Fruit Zine, showcasing key quotes from the project. In following years, others co-created zines featuring poetry, art work, and reflections from the Dragon Fruit Project. Check out the “Party Favors” room of the museum to download our zines!
Community member holding up the first Dragon Fruit Project Zine at the GLBT History Museum event in 2014.
Intergenerational Relationship Building
As our process of recording oral histories slowed, we knew we still needed meaningful ways to connect across generations and highlight the needs of our communities of all ages, but particularly with older TQAPI. In the summer of 2017, Lavender Phoenix staff and Justine Xu, a Summer Organizer, met with community members to understand what they wanted and needed next. Justine and Paige Chung, another Summer Organizer, held over thirty 1-1s with community members, youth, and elders.
We heard about the importance of consistent interactions and genuine relationships with older folks, some of whom are isolated, or have less access to traditional support from given family members. Throughout interviews, we heard how many young people were eager to build strong, long-lasting relationships with people older than them. For many, it was an opportunity to build chosen family, share stories, and find ourselves as part of something larger. We began hosting more intergenerational community gatherings to meet our people’s needs – from young folks helping elders navigate new tech communications to fishbowl conversations where people could ask deep questions to other generations- our relationships grew and became the foundation for our Dragon Fruit Network which you will learn more about in the Dragon Fruit Legacy room.
Dragon Fruit community members at the 2016 GLBT History Museum event.
Invite someone (maybe from a different generation from you) to have a 1-1 conversation. Ask them what excites them and what kinds of community connections they are looking for.