CAAM is incredibly grateful to have a group of amazing board members. We’d like to introduce you to Myong Leigh, who joined CAAM’s board 10 years ago. Myong is the Board Vice Chair. He is the Deputy Superintendent of Policy and Operations for San Francisco Unified School District.
Myong shares more about how media plays a role in education and what he enjoys most about being on CAAM’s board.
Can you tell us a little about your personal background—where you grew up and how that has shaped your understanding of the world?
I am a Korean American immigrant, and my family moved to the States when I was five years old. We settled in Wilmington, Delaware. I attended public schools there from kindergarten through high school, and nearly all of my classmates were white or African American. There were very few Asian Americans in my community. I experienced a lot of racism as a kid, including regular taunting and teasing (e.g., being asked if I knew Kung Fu or Bruce Lee, kids making slanty eyes and calling me various slurs, and more). I internalized a sense of embarrassment at being different and a strong desire to assimilate with mainstream American culture. I also formed a sense of empathy for marginalized people and a feeling of resentment and judgment of ignorance within the dominant culture. It took me a long time—during college and increasingly since then—to engage consciously and deeply with the complexities of my racial identity and identity as an immigrant.
What would you say drives your work as a CAAM board member, and in all of your work?
I’m disturbed at how far we still are from the ideals of a pluralistic society where all people are respected and viewed as equal. Disparities in how power, privilege, and wealth are distributed are so glaring and persistent and are in many ways intensifying. I’m struck by the pervasiveness of many forms of discrimination, including racism and “otherizing” of Asians and other people of color. I feel a responsibility to notice this big picture reality and to do my part to make positive change reflecting our nation’s stated principles of equality and justice.
What drew you to CAAM?
I was interested in contributing to an Asian American community organization when I learned that CAAM was looking for board members. I was also curious about the opportunity to meet artists and others dedicated to creating art in a social and political context. I frankly didn’t know much about filmmaking and I liked the thought of being exposed to a new ecosystem that intersected with my interests, as well as my identity.
Can you talk about your involvement in education and how education ties in with CAAM’s work?
I’ve worked for the San Francisco Unified School District for many years. More than 40 percent of our students are also of Asian descent, so CAAM’s work ties directly with the history and identity of many of our students, families and alumni.
What role do you think CAAM plays in diversity, including, changing peoples’ careers, changing communities and changing perspectives?
I deeply appreciate CAAM’s mission and efforts to promote pluralism through art and storytelling. CAAM’s work to build community is also so important. By gathering together to enjoy CAAM events, we learn and grow collectively, building a sense of pride and connection. These shared experiences complement our individual inquiry and reflection.
What areas of CAAM have you worked on and what do you hope to do with CAAM in the future?
I’ve focused most specifically on financial management, serving on the board’s finance committee and now the audit committee. That said, being on the CAAM board has mostly meant meeting people whose work I admire and enjoying rich learning experiences through CAAM’s work.
Do you have a favorite CAAM or CAAMFest moment or memory?
The first year I went to opening night of the SFIAAFF (now CAAMFest) was exciting. For whatever reason, I had no idea prior to that this event happened each year. It was thrilling to see so many members of our community coming together and have such a wonderful time watching the opening night film and then enjoying a spectacular party at the beautiful Asian Art Museum. I’ve gone to the opening night screening and gala each year since and really look forward to it, even though it’s always on a school night!