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Giving thanks

On Wednesday, May 22nd, the International Examiner presented me with its 2013 Community Voice Award for Individual Artist. Since time was short (and I was also responding to/cracking up at the roast given by Soya Jung), I could not fully express my gratitude that night. Below is a more complete version of my intended remarks.

Thank you to the folks at the International Examiner for this honor. This is especially meaningful to me because it was through working as a writer and editor at the Examiner 20 years ago that I learned so much about our  community and established relationships that continue to enrich my life to this day.

Someone said that giving is a learned behavior, and I learned that from my parents, Joseph and Cora del Rosario, who are here tonight. Once they were working, they put their younger siblings through college, showing me how important it is to help the next ones coming up.

I’ve also learned about giving from my partner, dear friends and friends of friends. They have literally given me keys to their homes so I could have a safe place to stay, not just when I’m traveling, but here in Seattle, when I needed it most. They have fed me, clothed me, comforted me. Besides meeting these very basic needs, they have also helped  me move forward as an artist. They have bought my art and promoted my work to their family and friends. They have chipped in to send me to art workshops. They have given or loaned me photographic equipment and art supplies. They have mentored me and inspired me. They have opened doors to teaching, to exhibiting and to so much more. I can’t thank each of them enough for the ways they bless my life.

Now, these are all very personal exchanges. But there are those anonymous exchanges that have helped me get where I am and do what I do.

If you have ever paid sales tax in the state of Washington or federal taxes, thank YOU because you too have helped me.

When I needed dental work but didn’t have any insurance, you made it possible for me to go to International Community Health Services and Seattle Indian Health Board, so I could eat without pain and keep working.

When I needed primary health care but could only afford catastrophic health insurance, you made it possible for me to get quality care at a community clinic and afford low-cost prescriptions.

When I wanted to continue learning, you made it possible for me to take art classes at Seattle Central Community College.

Whenever I go teach young people art, you make it possible for me to get there by bus, so I can use parking and gas money on other necessities.

You make it possible for me to teach, to provide arts education to young people at community-based arts programs funded by Seattle’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. You make it possible for my work on race, gender and identity to be shown at the Wing Luke Asian Museum’s current exhibition, Under My Skin. You also make it possible for the collective I co-founded, IDEA Odyssey, to promote artists and visual art that explores culture, diversity and identity through funding from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, 4Culture and the Washington State Arts Commission.

So thank you, each and every one of you. When you give not only to your loved ones, but to our collective community, you make it possible for each of us to get what we need in order to pursue our dreams and to keep giving back.