Last night, Sulu DC received the DC Mayor’s Community Service Award for our work supporting and advocating for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) artists in the District of Columbia. We are incredibly honored and humbled to have been nominated and selected by the DC Commission and the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. It was a true privilege to be in the presence of organizations, businesses, and individuals who contribute to the cultural and economic vibrancy of our city.
It was only three years ago when five Asian American artists came together to form Sulu DC to address the need for visibility and support for AAPI artists in the DC metro area. We did not know then that our modest, curated productions would one day anchor artists’ careers and development, and become a meaningful space not only for the artists but also for the broader AAPI community in DC. Our mission has been to provide empowering spaces for artists—a space for full expression of themselves and our individual and collective history. We are creating a world where AAPIs create and participate in art that addresses our social context.
I cannot express the importance of receiving this award both on an organizational and personal level. To be recognized for our work is a testament to art as an integral part of public life. All across the nation (and in history), funding for arts education tends to be first on the budget cutting block. My fellow artists and I continue to fight against the idea that artists are not professionals. Every day is a struggle for artists to be paid what our labor and talent is worth, and for the arts to be recognized as an essential component to community and public policy. But last night was one those moments of light—a reminder that we are making an impact and that support can emerge from where you least expect it.
Many thanks to Mayor Vincent Gray, the DC Commission and the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs for believing in our vision. We look forward to working with everyone in strengthening the AAPI community and growing our city. Of course, the work of Sulu DC would not be possible without the time and energy of the Executive Team—the group of volunteers who dedicate their lives to serve AAPI artists and the AAPI community through advocacy in the arts. Thank you for sticking with me on this often ambiguous journey.
- jenny c. lares.