Photo by Sareena Barron
Deceiving stereotypes, inadequate sexual health references, and troubled homes: these are just a few of the many issues the Khmer youth of Long Beach--young females, in particular--are currently facing.
There are resources and hope for these struggles, however. Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) is a community of young women dedicated to the preservation of pride in one's self, Khmer culture and social justice. What began in 1997 as HOPE for Girls, a Cambodian young women’s reproductive health and empowerment project, is now a Long Beach-wide organization led by young, determined Southeast Asian women.
While there are many Khmer support groups in Long Beach, KGA is one of the few that not only caters specifically to youth, but is also youth-lead.
This Saturday, KGA will be hosting its 9th annual Yellow Lounge Showcase, featuring art and performances by the city's underrepresented Khmer youth demonstrating the struggle and survival of the face of their obstacles and give them an opportunity to be heard.
"My first time at the Yellow Lounge was as an emcee, and I was so scared because there was a big crowd of people, but they were so supportive that it gave me confidence," said Leah, a Poly High School senior. This year, Leah will be joined by four other girls in reading the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. "The poem really speaks out to me but with each challenge (the speaker) faces, she also rises, which I think describes each and everyone of us," she said.
This is fitting, as theme of this year's Yellow Lounge is "Like a Lotus, We Rise." And like a lotus flower, both KGA and its youth like Leah continue to grow and strengthen as symbols of the increasingly resilient Khmer community.
"I used the be really shy, but after joining KGA I've learned that I can do so much in the community. I've gotten out of my bubble and grown as a person," said Leah.
KGA will also be debuting a brand new logo and interactive website during event.
The Yellow Lounge is taking place Saturday, August 3, 3PM to 7PM at the Long Beach School for Adults located at 3701 E Willow St. For more information, visit www.kgalb.org.