Radical Joy and Ginger Roots with VAYLA

“Radical Joy and Ginger Roots with VAYLA”

by Aanya Kapoor

During my second term at VAYLA, I focused predominantly on creating our first zine. Ginger Roots is VAYLA’s storytelling program, with which we aim to uplift one another through our personal narratives. It is a collective healing space intended for AAPIs (Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders) to reclaim our power, our bodies, and our stories through sharing in community.

The name ‘Ginger Roots’ pays homage to our ancestors and diaspora. Ginger is a flowering and healing herb, which envelops the body with its warm, aromatic and spicy flavor. It soothes not only the body but the soul. The healing properties of ginger have led to its widespread use throughout Asia and the diaspora.

Ginger is symbolic of the enduring resilience of our refugee and immigrant heritage. It represents a balm for our souls. Ginger Roots is a reclamation of identity, a chance to heal our voices, to embrace all the senses, and to facilitate community healing. For all of these reasons, we have chosen to name our zine, Ginger Roots.

This project has been one that I am extremely proud of and grateful for. It is also necessary for me to explain that doing this type of work, collecting different types of art, writing, and media created by other Asian folks and sharing it all, is a privileged type of work. This entire term, I focused on radical joy and healing. To shift away from VAYLA’s civic engagement roots and instead center seeking pleasure and contentment is not something most people can do. As someone who has to work on avoiding burn-out because of how much I immerse myself within justice issues, taking some time to actively seek happiness within my community and the amazing things we produce has been a healing practice and one I’d like to keep engaging in.

Engaging in this practice has also given me hope. There have been moments when studying sociology, gender and sexuality studies, and current events have left me without much hope for our future. That feeling of hopelessness and helplessness can be difficult to combat and I think part of overcoming that is by centering radical joy. Working on this zine has taught me about balance. I engage in the hard and difficult conversations, volunteer with organizations I care about and so on, but I also remind myself that going outside and being in the sun, blasting some music and having a little dance party, cooking a meal I’ve been wanting to have, are all important acts that heal me. Balancing these things has allowed me to not feel shame for wanting to heal myself and be content and comfortable with who I am, so I can bring my best self to VAYLA and all the other work I do.