Meet Frankie Concepcion, a writer, teacher, and community organizer from the Philippines, who is currently in the process of getting her green card. Frankie is also the founder of Boston Immigrant Writers Salon, a platform where “immigrant writers could actively challenge and reshape the ways in which [they] are portrayed by much of mainstream media." Most importantly, BIWS is a community where immigrant writers can feel safe exploring their identities. Frankie, thank you for opening up to us!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Frankie Concepcion and I am a writer, teacher, and community organizer from the Philippines. I moved here 9 years ago to attend university and now I am in the process of getting my green card. For many years I have been working with youth, especially immigrant youth, in the Greater Boston area, be it through teaching, volunteering, or working for nonprofits such as Enroot, which is based in Cambridge and provides support for immigrant students in Cambridge and Somerville.
While waiting for my work authorization, I created the Boston Immigrant Writer's Salon as a way to empower, celebrate and inspire immigrant voices. I wanted to create a space where immigrant writers could actively challenge and reshape the ways in which we are portrayed by much of mainstream media. But most of all I wanted it to be a space where immigrant writers could feel comfortable sharing and exploring their identities, free of judgment, and through that, find a community to be inspired by and collaborate with. I've been blown away by the support and responses I've received so far and in many ways, I didn't realize how much this space was needed until after it was created.
2. Where or when do you feel most at home?
I've been reflecting on this question a lot recently. This weekend I actually got invited to a "Housewarming" by the performance duo Adobo Fish Sauce, which was part performance, part dinner party. I realized that as an immigrant (especially one waiting for a green card), I so often think about home in terms of what could be taken away from me at any moment. Being at the housewarming allowed me to reframe that and look at home from a sense of fullness, and taking stock of all the good things I already have.
I came to the U.S. as an international student, so living in the U.S. always seemed temporary to me. It is only recently that I've begun to feel like I can finally call it home. I'm no longer waiting on a deadline, or afraid that for whatever reason I could be ripped away from the community I've surrounded myself with. I feel at home now that I am allowed to create a home. I can now pursue opportunities, build relationships, travel, and create without fear. That is home to me.
3. What can we do to ensure we feel safe in our communities, identities, and cultures?
I feel the safest and inspired when I am surrounded by people with the same values as I have. We don't all have to be the same. I simply feel most at home with people who understand the reality of what it is like for me living in the U.S. as an immigrant, a womxn, a person of color, a Filipino. I want to surround myself with people who understand that it is not going to be easy to be a good ally, and yet are willing to do the work anyways. Of course, finding those people is hard work, too, and I'm not great at putting myself out there all the time, but after finding a community that really supports me I have found so much value in putting in that work. I feel this way because I know from experience that the alternative -- expending emotional labor to either constantly challenge or educate folks, or deciding whether or not it is even worth that battle-- is exhausting and can be harmful to the self.
The other thing I would suggest is to just take care of yourself and know yourself. I know that I feel most healthy and fulfilled when I am actively working towards my goals. I take care of myself by taking time in the morning to meditate and make lists and reflect because I know that it helps me feel strong and happy. It makes me feel safe because I know I am doing what I can to manage my anxieties and push myself towards happiness. Everyone has a different way of doing it. But what matters is that you do it.