Winner of the Pulitzer Prize


Viet Thanh Nguyen gives a keynote speech at the “Transcendients Community Celebration: Challenging Borders” for the Japanese American Nation Museum

The Transcendients Community Celebration: Challenging Borders, a free one-day event, kicks off on Saturday, March 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Japanese American National Museum.

The community celebration offers music, dance, art, speaker series, and hands-on activities along with artist Taiji Terasaki’s groundbreaking collaboration with the Japanese American National MuseumTranscendients: Heroes at Borders. The participatory exhibition honors heroes from Los Angeles and across the nation who are fighting against discrimination, prejudice, and inequality at our physical and social borders.

“I wanted to celebrate the individuals of the past and present who have fought and stood up for justice and righteous practice. I wanted to find reassurance that there are communities of individuals who are fighting for those who desperately need empathy, compassion, and justice. These are the heroes who speak for the voiceless, the disenfranchised, and those on the boundaries of society–its borders, physical or psychological,” says Taiji Terasaki about those individuals that he has highlighted in his exhibition.

Transcendients” combines two words, “transcend” and “transient,” to speak to the human experience—one marked by uncertainty and vulnerability, yet also hope and transcendence. The celebration on March 7th of the more than fifty Transcendients “heroes” and their work is set to spark conversation, discussion, and explore the possibility to rise above both visible and invisible borders.

New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen will deliver the keynote session on transcending the borders from the perspective of an immigrant, a refugee and a writer with a bicultural identity. Nguyen was born in Vietnam and came to the U.S. in 1975 at the close of the Vietnam War. First gaining worldwide recognition for his Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The SympathizerNguyen has gone on to win multiple awards and grants including being named a Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundation fellow.

In addition to Nguyen’s keynote session, a selection of the heroes being honored in the Transcendients exhibition will join for a curated speaker series with facilitated conversations exploring transcending their respective borders. Known as “the fairy Godmother of the L.A. food scene” KCRW Good Food Host Evan Kleiman will join with “Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley and Executive Director of Inclusive Action for the City Rudy Espinoza for a conversation on challenging the borders of food in Los Angeles. Additional speaker series include challenging the borders of human rights and art activism in Los Angeles featuring “heroes” Aziza Hasan, the Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change and John Malpede, performance artist and founder of the Los Angeles Poverty Development. Following each speaker series, attendees will have the opportunity to meet the heroes first-hand and participate in more intimate conversations.

Live music, dance performances, large-scale art installations and interactive workshops will activate the celebration including border-crossing dance and music hosted by “hero” Betto Arcos with performances by FandangObon, El Santo Golpe, and East LA Taiko. Interactive workshops and activities include communal weaving lead by artist Marianne Sadowski designed to weave participants’ stories into a structure of hope, shelter, and communal strength. This structure, to be made out of wood, will take form throughout the day as people’s stories form the weft of the structure interwoven through the warp of cords.

Additional workshops include a Yonsei collective memory workshop led by Nikiko Masumoto on “memory crafting” with activities and exercises to learn how to best construct gatherings that help transform facts and knowledge of history into practices of memory. A letter-writing workshop will guide participants on how to create letters to send to individuals detained at the Mexican/American border to help people in immigration detention cope with isolation and stress.

This event is free and open to the public of all ages. Admission will also be free all day at the Japanese American National Museum to view the exhibitions: Transcendients: Heroes at BordersUnder a Mushroom Cloud: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Atomic Bomb, and Common Ground: The Heart of CommunityJANM is located at 100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For more information, please visit The Community Celebration is produced by Community Arts Resources (CARS) in collaboration with Terasaki Exhibitions and the Japanese American National Museum.


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