Living in Williamsburg, Kentucky, a town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains with a population of 5,000, is a mixed bag for a Pacific Islander. Angelika Weaver’s mom is from Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean (it sort of rhymes with “hear a bus,” because -ti makes an s sound in the Gilbertese language that’s spoken there).
Angelika herself was born in Williamsburg, where everyone knows everyone else. “I do feel like I am part of the community,” she tells Dan Wu, on this week’s episode. “But then there will be moments in time that I will be very aware that I am different.” She elaborates:
Take, for example, when the George Floyd thing happened and people were very divided in this town about what that meant. Some of those instances I feel like I’m very separate from what other people believe or think, and they don’t sometimes realize that I am half Asian American. I am half Pacific Islander. And so the things that they say are hurtful, but at the same time, sometimes I think they don’t realize that the things that they say are hurtful, because they just see me as another Appalachian woman.
“It’s like the positive and the negative all rolled up together,” Dan says. “Like you’re accepted enough to be part of their racism.”
Angelika works as an advocate for victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in Whitley County. She says about 10 years ago, she shifted her focus from intervention to prevention, which meant broadening her scope from individual victims’ situations.
“If I want to get rid of domestic violence and sexual assault in a community, then I really need to look at the community as a whole,” she says. “The criminal justice system is a reflection of the community it serves. And so we say things like, we don’t believe women should be sexually assaulted. But we also say things like, maybe she deserved that because she was at the wrong side of town, and she was wearing a short dress.”
She says bringing about that kind of cultural change is slow, but it’s possible. “If enough people believe in the same message, we just all have to get together with one voice to make that happen.”
A warning for cynics: Listening to this conversation may give you a touch of that same optimism.
Listen to the episode:
It’s hard to believe, but we only have one full episode left in this season of “Where Y’all Really From,” the first show to come out of the LPM podcast incubator! The team is planning for season two, so send them a message to let them know what you want to hear more about.
And stay tuned next week for a blockbuster season finale. Here’s Dan with a hint:
Learn more about the show and subscribe for free at whereyallreallyfrom.org.
“Where Y’all Really From” is part of the Louisville Public Media Podcast Incubator. We get support from the Community Foundation of Louisville, Podchaser, Rankings.io and the Eye Care Institute’s Butchertown Clinical Trials.