Growing up in the Martindale-Brightwood area, I have had the unique privilege of being part
of both Black American and Korean cultures. My journey began in Daegu, South Korea,
where I was born to a Korean American mother and a Black American father with roots in
Mississippi. My parents served in the U.S. Army, which further enriched my understanding of
diverse perspectives and cultures.
What I would like for people to know about the importance of being part of Black American
and Asian cultures is that celebrating my multicultural heritage lies not only in the rich
traditions, histories and contributions of both Black Americans and Koreans, but also in the
shared experiences of struggle and oppression that have shaped these communities.
Both Black Americans and Koreans have faced significant challenges in their histories. Black
Americans have endured centuries of slavery, segregation and ongoing systemic racism,
fighting for civil rights and equality. Similarly, Koreans have an account marked by colonization, foreign occupation and division. The Korean people have experienced the pain of Japanese colonial rule and the Korean War, which resulted in separation and lasting scars.
However, both cultures have demonstrated remarkable resilience, strength and solidarity in
the face of oppression. The civil rights movements led by prominent figures like Martin Luther
King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks in the Black American Community, as well as the
struggles for independence and democracy in Korea, exemplify the shared commitment to
justice and the fight against inequality.
Acknowledging these shared struggles can cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation
for one another’s experiences. Through this understanding, we can build bridges of empathy,
support and solidarity between Black American and Korean cultures. By coming together, we
can amplify each other’s voices, stand against racism and discrimination in all forms and
work towards a more just and inclusive society.
The way I like to bring the two cultures together is through food! Because food is a universal
language, it plays a role in fostering this solidarity. Sharing meals from both Black
American and Korean culinary traditions is a celebration of our cultural heritage and an act of
embracing diversity and unity. These shared experiences around the table allow us to engage
in conversations, foster understanding and build connections that transcend cultural
So, let us gather around the table, savoring the flavors of Korean short ribs, baked macaroni
and cheese, collard greens and yaki mandu while honoring the shared histories of struggle
and resilience. Together, let us promote solidarity, challenge systemic oppression and build a
future where cultural diversity is celebrated and equality is achieved.
Tyonna Irving is a member of KB Butterflies, a group celebrating people of Black and Korean heritage. This piece is part of a 4-part series in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To read the next part of the series, click here.