In Oriana's Shoes: In Every Season Grow
Name: Oriana Chun
Where do you live now? Las Vegas, Nevada
Industry: Human Services
What does it mean to you to have a voice?
To have a voice is to have power, some voices may seem to reach further but ALL voices have power. I believe a voice isn’t necessarily audible; a voice can be seen or felt by an action or by behaviors. A voice should leave an impression, perhaps a footprint indicating I was there.
How did you find your voice?
I left my home state of Georgia and extended family from the South. I grew up in Japan for my elementary years and in Las Vegas for middle and high school. Growing up as a military kid, my family was often the only black family at any function. I never really noticed. My parents always found black churches, even in Japan, but I never noticed the difference. My parents encouraged the family to be pretty immersed in the culture of Japan. Experiencing living, dining, and language communities. I was taught to celebrate the culture and experiences. My father and mother shared about my heritage being a Black American but more than anything taught me I was a young lady, a human created by God in love and with purpose. I feel Japanese culture, military culture, Black Southern culture all have given me the voice of passion for others. I can be soft-spoken but extremely vocal for those who appear to not have a voice, or for those who speak from a broken place.
There is a powerful lesson I’ve carried from childhood. A little boy did something very mean to me in school when I was in grade school. I don't remember what it was but I remember my feelings were hurt. I remember a woman, maybe his mother, made him apologize. He said sorry and I said that's okay. The woman said no and got down to my level. She told me never say that's okay. It's not okay when someone hurts you, but I can and should say, I forgive you. That stuck with me. We are talking about 32 years ago but I reflect on that often when someone hurts or offends me. I take it further as the forgiveness is liberating for me.
What event or series of events helped you find your voice?
My identity growing up was never of a young black girl. I apparently didn't talk like one, dress like one, or act like one - whatever that meant. I was a girl who was comforted and accepted by Asian sisters, especially because even being so small framed I ate the food their mothers made, often requesting seconds, but visually didn't blend in. To be honest my hair was totally a thing in my youth. I enjoyed conversations with my white girlfriends but I didn't have a place there either because though my parents provided well for us, we had a certain financial cap.
I have had a lot of interesting conversations with people. Often people ask me odd questions like where am I from or if I am mixed, implying I am not American. I tend to gravitate with a large population of people who are extremely family-oriented and have spent many years following my divorce sitting at the feet of older women and their wisdom. Many of these women were Asian, Black, or of Spanish heritage. The core values I find are so similar. I believe through all these outside influences and contributions from family, friends, strangers, and life in general, my cultural identity is so much more than the physical appearance of my dark brown skin. I believe my voice comes across gentle at first and raises as needed to be heard.
I began expressing my voice after my divorce and graduation from my Bachelor's Program. It was so liberating; it gave me the strength to pursue growth. I had been in a marriage and put myself in a relationship that was so far left from what I knew. It was abusive and very unhealthy. Once I decided to start changing, focusing and moving where I was, I was able to start growing in my life and my voice grew with me. I became a victims advocate for individuals affected by sexual assault and began to work with individuals wounded by trafficking as well as various sexual traumas. I started talking within my own smaller communities about the effects. I realized we all have smaller or sub-communities that hold on to their knowledge and truths. If I was seeking wisdom and knowledge, I had a responsibility to share what I would learn back to my communities so they could grow in wisdom and knowledge.
How did 2020 help you refine/redefine your voice?
2020 had more effect on my thought process than my voice but as a result of 2020 my voice is beginning to elevate this year. I don't have to do everything, but I have to be intentional about everything I do. Being in isolation and with my family, my house, and even in the communication of dropping things like food off to people, I really looked at everything I thought needed to be done. Now I know what needs to be done, what's important, and what is unnecessary fluff and stress. In a society that promotes more more more, I have learned I don't need more. I need to appreciate and nurture what I have, being faithful and attentive to the small allows the growth, appreciation, and beauty of more.
Whose voice are you influenced by?
I did not have a mentor to help grow my voice and as I am now in another season, I have begun searching for mentorship. I can say my mother and Aunt had a huge impact on my growth spiritually and my views on marriage, family, motherhood, and caring for myself.
How has your voice influenced others, particularly those in your community?
I support other women by being present and reminding them of why they do what they do or why they can do what they need to. I say my peace. I may interject more if I feel the need to really drive a point home but as of late, I try to control my emotions. I've gotten to the point that my voice and story aren't for all and my focus isn't for those who reject me. My voice and story are for those who need it, who I am assigned to encourage and empower for their needed season through my words.
Where will your voice lead next?
I’m not sure where my voice will lead next but I know it's the wind. To have a voice for me is to release my breath - being my soul or parts of the spirit being inside me - and leave pieces of that spirit in the places I go. Hopefully carrying a seed, a purpose, a thought from one woman to another. Crossing borders, territories, and landing in hearts that can inspire, heal, and perhaps even thrill with a laugh or two, reaching the mothers, sisters, daughters, and kinsfolk I may never see in this life but may hear my voice in generations to come. Who knows if your voice only reaches one person but that person changes the world. It never would have happened without YOUR VOICE.