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Meet the Fellows: Joseph

IMG_0839Hi, my name is Joseph & I am a 25 year old Oakland raised/ Bay Area Native. My mother is a Cambodian refugee and my father is ethnically Chinese, but nationally Burmese. I am from a marginalized community within another marginalized community. I also work as a healthy retail associate for Mandela Marketplace.

I have this idea for an enterprise. I call it Soup For The Soul. The concept, providing cultural soup based dishes from different communities weekly, to other communities willing to learn and experience new dishes.

Our vision statement: “Bringing communities together with one dish at a time.”

Our mission statement: “Engaging communities together by providing cultural soups to encourage the importance of diversity.”

It’s funny, this idea I had was inspired by a job I previously had. I used to work in a casino where the employees were from all different ethnic backgrounds, one of the perks with living in The Bay Area. There were card dealers, who predominantly were older Asian womxn which I can ethically identify with from my community. These older womxn treated me as their son, nephew, younger brother, and little cousin. I barely know what it was like to have aunts, so I was profoundly grateful to develop these small intimate relationships. Then this lovely idea came to me, what if all these womxn were to meet on Sundays, to cook for a community who are willing to try some cultural dishes with ethnic themes every week? This small little idea of having my new aunts, play mothers, older sisters, and cousins blossomed into Soup For The Soul.

With this knowledge, I began analyzing how this would also benefit communities, say from a social perspective. I wanted to address the issue of cultural unfamiliarity. I told a friend once, communities always have a misunderstanding of each other and I feel that should be addressed. My friend told me, “It is not that there is a misunderstanding with communities of color, yet rather an unknowing and unfamiliarity of other communities of color.” My friend pushed me to begin addressing the social issue of cultural incompetency and how we should push for solidarity and an alliance with other communities. I find this issue of cultural incompetency important because just like you and I, everyone wants to be heard.

If Soup For The Soul were to become as successful as I envisioned, then it would comfort me knowing that there are communities being heard. There is cultural awareness and education being brought to the attention of others. A transfusion of understanding other backgrounds and having communities share their hxstory and experiences.

If you too are someone who deeply believes in unifying people together and building solidarity amongst communities of color, then please reach out to me. I am generally looking for individuals who are definitely down to cook a large pot of cultural soup for the community. If you are or know a chef, Mom, Pops, aunt, grandmother, or just someone who knows how to throw down in the kitchen, feel free to contact me to further feed, educate, and bring people of color together. If there are any resources or if you have any ideas to expand this enterprise, contact me @ (510) 703 8288 or email: j.jojo.tsai@gmail.com.

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