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An American Vocabulary: Words to Action / Japanese American National Museum



An American Vocabulary: Words to Action

Audrey Chan and jason chu

Japanese American National Museum

March 2023


An American Vocabulary: Words to Action is a collaborative project by visual artist Audrey Chan and rapper jason chu. This set of flash cards portrays figures, events, and practices rooted in community, care, and action.

Through these words and images, the artists invite you to participate in a shared vocabulary of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) agency and unity in the fight for justice, healing, and understanding.

AANHPI communities often have a complex relationship with language, both English and heritage tongues. These cards symbolize the ways AANHPI communities have had to translate their inimitably American histories across linguistic, cultural, and imaginative gaps.

They raise questions about American identity: Must one discard the language of previous generations to be perceived as “fully American”? What is lost—or gained—in translation? What words will we use to tell our stories?

An American Vocabulary: Words to Action also includes educational activities created by JANM’s Education department. The project was launched October 8, 2022, with a public art event on the JANM Plaza in Little Tokyo that included live music, an art demonstration, and community organizations.

Audrey Chan and jason chu are participating artists in the Artists At Work initiative in Los Angeles County 2021-2022, a collaboration between the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum and Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California.


Artists At Work in Los Angeles County is produced by THE OFFICE performing arts + film and made possible with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, Asian Arts Initiative, and the Ford Foundation.

National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum (NCPD@JANM). Located in the Little Tokyo Historic District of downtown Los Angeles, the NCPD@JANM will further reinforce JANM’s mission and examine the rights, freedoms, and enduring fragility of American democracy through educational programming that includes exhibitions, media arts presentations, public programs, conferences, and civic dialogue/public forums.

Advancing Justice-LA is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI). Founded in 1983, Advancing Justice-LA serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice—LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice.


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