My fellow members and friends. It is with great pleasure that I join you today in celebrating our achievements and accomplishments, recognizing our challenges, and looking forward to the amazing work that VAHMS will bring in 2022.
If six years ago I had told you that we wouldn’t see each other in person for more than two years, that our entire organization and explorASIAN festival would be remote and shift to virtual… would you have believed me? …probably not. Without a doubt, the way we work today is very different from when I joined the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, our normal was challenged and our lives changed. The prolonged local shutdowns put pressure on all of us, especially among Asian communities, who suffered and continue to suffer increased racist acts.
For us, at VAHMS, these past two years, we had to learn and work in a different environment. We cancelled, rescheduled, and moved online our most important events and meetings to deliver our programming, and to keep our audience informed. The funding and partnerships opportunities also changed, making it difficult to produce our only fundraising event. All the challenges we faced these past years to keep the organization afloat have shown us just how important everyone is to our work, and that our ability to adapt to rapid change is vital if we want to continue being relevant to our audience.
Through the years, the explorASIAN festival has supported Pan Asian arts and cultural heritage and has contributed to the spirit of solidarity and social cohesion among our diverse communities. We are very proud of our past successes and recognize the continuous need to reflect and improve to overcome future challenges, to keep the organization relevant, to increase our membership basis, and to strengthen and maintain our relationships, especially with Pan-Asian communities, and Indigenous peoples. It is my hope that our members, volunteers, partners, collaborators, sponsors, and donors large or small, will continue to play a vital role in increasing VAHMS’s impact and reach in the community.
In 2021, our initiatives and events were centred on creating opportunities for the public to learn more about Pan-Asian Canadian communities, foster inclusive representation, and develop a more dynamic organization. Our board meetings and committees continued working virtually to plan and deliver a high-quality 25th Anniversary celebration, increase partnerships and relationships, obtain more grants, and propose fundraising campaigns.
Internally, it was all about Board Governance and implementing procedures and strategies to produce a comprehensible 2022-2025 strategic plan, a board manual, job descriptions, and a well-planned budget that helped us control expenses and manage to pay professional fees to performers and artists. Externally, our Executive Director and Committee Chairs coordinated volunteers to help with the social media posts and content, silent auction, and events happening in different provinces.
Important highlights from our 25th Anniversary celebration were the many letters of support and videos we received from the three levels of Government, Pan-Asian consulates, and SFU Director, Laurie Anderson. Senator Vivienne Poy, and Curator, Zainub Verjee in their remarks, accoladed the many years of VAHMS serving Pan Asian Communities in British Columbia.
We proudly celebrated our Silver Anniversary with a successful virtual explorASIAN Festival programming, a special video, a VAHMS retrospective recalling the many successes of the organization, and a virtual Recognition Awards Ceremony that included our first virtual auction. We officially launched the 2021 virtual Interconnected Spotlight for Artists, a collaborative project that supports diversity and inclusion among the Pan-Asian art community. Since 2019, the INTERCONNECTED project has opened opportunities to virtually exhibit Asian Canadian art and has promoted the creative expressions of talented emerging and professional Pan-Asian Canadian artists. This year, this same project will emphasize community interaction by providing exhibitions and networking events for artists, galleries, and the public.
In 2021 we partnered with various Asian Heritage Month Societies and art organizations in different provinces to create the national CanAsian Arts Network Council, which will open even more opportunities for Pan-Asian artists to work and be recognized. In collaboration with these organizations, we also produced the Critical Conversations series aimed at giving artists a voice to address their challenges. This Fall, we will virtually participate in the 3rd National Asian Heritage Symposium in Edmonton, Alberta, and in 2024 hopefully, we will produce the 4th National Asian Heritage Symposium here in Vancouver.
VAHMS priorities this year are the commitment to producing meaningful events that will celebrate heritage, appreciation of values, and connections while reflecting on difficult topics such as identity, equity, representation, and inclusion. Internally, we will remain vigilant that we increase our financial capacity, that our expenditures are calculated to reduce risk, that we prioritize community engagement and volunteer recognition by keeping the principles of Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion at the heart of our work.
To achieve our organizational and programming goals, we have partnered with Vancouver Pride Society, SFU Vancouver Campus, SFU David Lam Centre, SFU Global Asia, SFU Indigenous Studies, the Consulate of Indonesia, and more cultural and organizations. We will strive to engage and maintain a committed team of qualified Board of Directors.
After six years working on the VAHMS Executive Board, first as the Chair of the Programming and Partnerships Committees, and later as the President of the Board; the time has come for me to leave my position. I hope that during my tenure, I was able to move the organization forward, bring together a team with a vision for the future, a team who will care and work together in pro of the Pan-Asian arts and culture and the celebration of Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
One key takeaway from my six years collaborating with VAHMS is that when we work together, we can do extraordinary things. Every one of you has helped me thrive as President of VAHMS, and I know that, by embracing my new roles as Curator, Advisor, and Past President, we will continue to significantly overcome obstacles and achieve amazing things.
To my fellow Board of Directors, Advisors, Executive Director, Members, and Volunteers thank you for your professionalism, hard work, and support over the past six years. Let me finish by saying how privileged I feel to have had the opportunity to serve VAHMS and let me echo Saint Paul in saying that “I have run with perseverance and have finished the race”. Whether I have finished it successfully or not, is not for me to say – I will leave it to my fellow VAHMS members and the community to be the judges.
Leticia Sanchez, VAHMS President, January 16th, 2022.
Voice for the Voiceless
VAHMS Director Jimmy Yan interviews Loretta Seto, an award-winning playwright and children’s book author, fiction- and screenwriter, and Dr. Ally Wang, a scholar in Ancient Chinese Literature who has published 15 journal papers and translated a number of works into Chinese.
Click here to read Richmond News’ coverage of Voice for the Voiceless.