• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    Over 100 Kundiman fellows have called for the board’s resignation.

    Dan Sheehan

    May 21, 2024, 12:01pm

    Over one hundred Kundiman fellows and community members—including Ocean Vuong, Alexander Chee, and Solmaz Sharif—have signed an open letter calling for the resignation of the entire Board of Trustees of the prominent nonprofit organization for writers and readers of Asian American literature.

    The letter, which was published online yesterday evening and has already been viewed over 7o,ooo times on X alone, begins:

    To our communities,

    We, a concerned collective of fellows and community members, regret to inform the public that the Kundiman co-founders, Sarah Gambito and Joseph Legaspi, and Board of Trustees have failed our community. We can no longer allow this behavior to go unchecked, and believe that bringing this to the greater creative community will ensure proper accountability.

    After seven months of internal discussions, ongoing delays, institutional harm, and a lack of commitment on behalf of the board in the midst of an active genocide, we are left with no choice but to call for the resignation of each member of the current Kundiman Board of Trustees: Ricco Siasoco, Wylie Chen, Katrina Venturina, Nina M. Chung, and Chia-Chee Chiu.

     

    The letter goes on to detail a number of grievances and demands, all dating back to an October 11th incident in which the Kundiman co-founders and board “took to Kundiman’s social media accounts to delete a staff-posted statement of solidarity with Palestinians and replaced it with one that conflated Jewish lives with Israel while also erasing Gazans entirely.”

    A full timeline of what happened next can be read here.

    If demands (which include the appointment of an interim board to take up the operations of Kundiman for 6 months in order to facilitate “the restructuring of the organization to be community-centered”) are not met, the organizers of the open letter say they will escalate “into a total boycott” of Kundiman.

     

    The letter closes with the following:

    While some of us debated whether we should also engage in a mass exodus from Kundiman, we refrain from doing so at this time. We refuse to abandon staff, leaving them to contend with the harms of this board alone. It cannot be understated: Kundiman is not a property owned and operated by a select few who have appointed themselves as our stewards. Kundiman is a space that derives its power, impact, and trust from the community of fellows and staff members who comprise it. To ignore, silence, and dismiss this growing majority of voices and to pursue a corporate model that stands in direct opposition to Kundiman’s values of generosity, inclusion, and courage, is a deep betrayal.

     

    You can add you own name to the letter here.

     

    [UPDATE]

    On May 22, the Kundiman Board of Trustees issued the following statement:

    We have heard clearly that members of our communities are experiencing unimaginable levels of pain and real harm due to geopolitical devastation and humanitarian crisis. We see that many are seeking collective healing from these harms. We continue to emphasize the power of writing to amplify efforts for justice and human rights.

    Kundiman’s mission is to nurture generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. We are an organization of and for writers, and we will continue to support writers who vocalize their positions through their writing.

    The Kundiman Board of Trustees has continued to wrestle with ways that Kundiman, through its mission and capacity as a literary nonprofit, can rise to the challenge of supporting our communities. These include our Fellows, graduates from our annual retreat, and countless other individuals, organizations, and institutions who over the last 20 years have helped Kundiman become the sacred, beloved space that it is now.

    We take our responsibility seriously as a governing authority to steward the organizational mission and vision. While we strive for a future where all people’s rights to self-determination and dignity are fully realized, we refrain from taking specific advocacy positions on behalf of the organization itself, despite what our personal feelings may be. We believe in the sharing and exchange of ideas, but not in conformity. Asian American literature encompasses a boundless multiplicity of identities, genres, and lineages. We need all those voices to speak in real time. Platforming those voices has been Kundiman’s purpose for the last 20 years, and will continue to be its purpose for the next 20.

    Over recent months in particular, even in our deepest desire to hold steady to Kundiman’s mission, we missed the opportunity to effectively center the voices of those closest to our work. We acknowledge that the lack of the Board of Trustees’ public communication in the past has generated new confusions and concerns, and we thank those who have called us in, publicly and privately, with respect and deep shared love for Kundiman, to do better.

    Your input has allowed us to identify ways that our organization can and must grow—organizationally and programmatically—to fully achieve our mission.

    One avenue is the creation of Kundiman’s first, full-time leadership position wholly dedicated to the expansion of Kundiman’s work. Once hired, we will support the new Chief Executive with achieving our mission through new, creative, bold, and accessible programming and partnerships that are more responsive to and inclusive of marginalized communities. Our communities, both publicly and privately, have proposed ideas for making this possible, including through town halls, which we would wholly support under the Chief Executive’s operational leadership.

    Other avenues we are building include the strengthening of internal governance and financial controls and the expansion and diversification of the Board of Trustees to achieve greater representation, transparency, and accountability. We fully recognize the value of a more inclusive process for Board nomination and participation, and we plan to pursue that. Kundiman has an opportunity to lead inclusive practices at both programmatic and governance levels.

    Throughout this process, we are committed to acting in accordance with Kundiman’s values of generosity, inclusion, and courage—allowing for community members to build power and impact through their writing while holding space for a diversity of voices. We will do this while maintaining our fiscal and legal obligations as volunteer board members of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

    These changes will help us, and we hope all of you, expand Kundiman’s ability to create more transformative spaces where Asian Americans can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever changing diaspora.

    Unchanged is our belief in the power of our words to illuminate and reinvigorate how we can understand and practice mutual flourishing. We continue to stand steadfast behind Kundiman’s mission to nurture generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature.

    Sincerely,
    The Kundiman Board of Trustees

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.

    x
    %d bloggers like this: