Over the past few years, the rise in anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, combined with a global pandemic have made normal, everyday life difficult for the AAPI community. By sharing stories and insights from those in the Chinese American community, Committee of 100 hopes to shed more light on the issue and help celebrate the amazing accomplishments from within the Chinese American and AAPI community to the world at large.
The staff of Committee of 100 sat down with one of our Next Generation Leaders and asked them about their careers, what the past few years has been like and their hopes for the future. Committee of 100’s Next Generation Leaders program focuses on young leaders who are passionate about the organization’s mission to promote the full inclusion of Chinese Americans across society and advance the betterment of U.S.-China relations. The program was first established in 2017.
This month, we spoke with Ricky Qi, filmmaker and National Geographic Photographer.
Ricky is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer who focuses on human tradition and heritage and the myths, traditions, and stories we tell. From Altai Mongolia, to Kham Tibet, to the Hengduan Range among the Mosuo people, Ricky’s work is inspired and grounded by his firsthand experiences witnessing those from traditional cultures learning to navigate an increasingly interconnected world. These experiences have profoundly influenced his perspectives as an artist and storyteller, affirming his passion for genuine connection and breathing intimacy into his work. A child of two cultures, Ricky strives to tell stories that describe the human condition with clarity and compassion. His work has been featured on publications such as National Geographic, NPR, as well as in galleries such as the Forbidden Palace Museum in Beijing. Follow Ricky and his work on Instagram, @supplythelight.
Connect with Ricky on LinkedIn here.
Connect with Ricky on Instagram here: @supplythelight
Committee of 100: As a Chinese American, what are some of the challenges you have encountered to become a leader in your respective field?
Ricky: I am a filmmaker and photographer; in artistic fields such as mine, the value of a work can be determined by the emotions it elicits, the skill of execution, or how it builds upon existing artistic precedent to create something new. But above all those things, I believe a work’s power hinges on authenticity. But what is authenticity? And how can one be authentic, or know what is true or what is not? That was one of the biggest challenges I faced when I began my journey as an imagemaker.
In my twenties, I wanted badly to be someone of import, to make my mark on the world. I wanted to make a change for the sake of making it, so that I could say, “Here’s this thing. I did it.” Now, further along in my journey, I recognize that for myself– and maybe many of you can relate– the hard work of making things happen actually is the ‘easy’ part, not to say that it is ‘easy’ by any stretch of the imagination! But the real, difficult, rewarding work comes from the process of understanding oneself: your wants, your needs, your dreams and your fears, your weaknesses and your strengths. It requires a willingness to venture far down into the cave of the self and learn who you really are. It’s scary and dark down there; there certainly are dragons. But with patience and discipline, you’ll also find something far more valuable than any outwardly notion of success or praise; you will discover your center. It is the deepest of wells, and through it you may refresh yourself and be a refuge for others.
Committee of 100: There are more than 6 million Chinese Americans in the United States today and it is one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. Do you feel that Chinese Americans are well represented in government, business, and other parts of society?
Ricky: In recent years Chinese Americans have made strides across a wide swathe of industries and disciplines, and it has led to increased confidence in the public as well as within our community. We’re doing much better than ever before, but I acknowledge we have much room to grow.
Committee of 100: What do you believe needs to be done so that more Chinese Americans feel empowered to follow their dreams and push forward to create the programs/businesses/position they want?
Ricky: Paraphrasing something I heard recently, “Being Chinese American shouldn’t inform who you are. Who you are should inform being Chinese American.” The present opportunities and successes that we enjoy are gifts passed down by the previous generation: waves upon waves of immigrants who worked in silent unrecognition for the basic acknowledgement of our humanity in this country as well as our right to work and to prosper. And now the baton has been handed to us. It hasn’t always been this way, so let’s continue to widen our definitions of what we can do to contribute to society. We’re businessmen, lawyers, physicians, yes. But we are also politicians, architects, teachers and musicians. Previous generations have built a solid foundation for us to look further than ever before. Let’s take what we’ve been given, and widen our scope of who we can be.
Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?
Ricky: For me there wasn’t a single “aha” moment. It was more a series of proddings saying, “Hey, try this. You might like it.”
Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?
Ricky: Treasure the unique experiences and qualities you have been given, and share it with others.
Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?
Ricky: I don’t need to be remembered. I would like to just be here now.