Dear ACC Family,

As I write from New York City, my heart and mind are with you during these challenging times.

In the midst of this health crisis, it is clear we also face a human crisis. Similar to past natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and international conflicts, the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed distrust, misunderstanding, and prejudice.

As a biracial, bicultural, Asian-American woman and leader of a cultural exchange organization, this is deeply distressing on both a personal and professional level. When the pandemic hit New York, I witnessed a disturbing escalation of racism, beginning with my six-year-old daughter who protested, “But I don’t have Coronavirus” as strangers moved away from her on the subway. I listened to stories of staff members cursed at and spit upon, and witnessed the pain of grantees who had been attacked.

Prejudice burns in a profound and painful way, and creates divisions that threaten the health of society in our globally interconnected world. Lack of understanding and respect engenders the worst kind of hate—one that uses the diversity that is the very foundation of a strong civil society to divide us against each other.

So why do I remain more passionate than ever in my belief that the Asian Cultural Council’s work and mission to advance international dialogue and respect is paramount? 

At ACC’s core is an unshakable commitment to fostering compassion, empathy, and mutual understanding through cultural exchange. But what does that really mean? And what is cultural exchange at a moment when international travel—and person-to-person interaction—is on indefinite pause?  For ACC it means maintaining international connectivity within and beyond our widespread network of alumni, partners, and supporters.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, our team pivoted first to address the immediate needs of the individuals currently on their fellowships. We worked quickly with each of our fellows in Asia and the U.S. to ensure their safe travel home. In addition, we secured stable housing, mental health services, and financial commitment to our graduate scholars and the individual fellows who chose to remain in the U.S.

With these members of our ACC family settled, we now turn to the needs of our extended community—our alumni, our colleagues in the art fields we support across the globe, and all of the partners who make our work possible. We are moving thoughtfully towards next steps, strategizing how ACC can best serve in the urgent present to adapt to an uncertain future.

Cultural values are the core of who we are as human beings; they inform the way we look at the world, the way we treat others and ourselves, and the way we give back to our community. ACC activates the power of the arts to create the space to spark dialogue, fuel inspiration, and build lasting relationships across borders. Our programs provide artists and arts professionals opportunities to engage with their international peers and participate in the cultural exchange experiences that transform irrevocably.

When this crisis passes and we venture back into a changed world, we must all make a conscious decision. Will we allow the societal ruptures created by misunderstanding and mistrust to divide us? Or will we rebuild and reconnect to better weather the next challenges thrust upon us?  I know ACC will be here, fostering our international community through the arts and cultural exchange, as we have for the past 56 years. We sincerely hope that you, our global family, will join us. 

Miho Walsh
Executive Director
Asian Cultural Council