Unblended is an interview and photography project by Chanel Matsunami and Alisha Acquaye. We focus on the mutual empowerment of Black and Asian friendships. With our artistic expressions that center community and dreaming of better worlds, we are excited to explore what unique shapes solidarity takes in other Black and Asian friendships, and what lessons they can teach us about loving and uplifting people of different identities.
Unblended is born out of our relationship as best friends. Our project reflects the values we share as individuals and as friends: joy, love, respect, curiosity and patience. We’ve been practicing active listening, mutual solidarity and self-education on how to support each other as Black and Asian people for nearly a decade. Together we’ve experienced transformative situations that led to productive conversations on queerness, police brutality, Anti-Asian hate, anti-blackness, cultural appropriation and what it means to be an ally.
We’ve led workshops and projects amazing organizations that also champion solidarity across marginalized communities, such as The Black School and Women of Color in Solidarity. Most recently, we were in the inaugural cohort of the Bandung Residency, led by Asian American Arts Alliance and MoCADA. We both serve as mentors for their second cohort.
About Alisha Acquaye
Alisha (she/they) is a creative writer, poet, workshop bae and community organizer from Brooklyn, NY. Alisha is immensely inspired by community care, mutual solidarity, Black creative expression, and the power of queer BIPOC healing. Their art contemplates Black femme pleasure and joy, time travel, shape shifting, ancestral magic and infinite healing.
Alisha’s work is in Catapult, Carve magazine, Teen Vogue, Allure, Airbnb.org and more platforms. She is the proud recipient of NYSCA’s 2023 Support for Artists Grant, which uplifts her writing her first book, and her work as lead teaching artist at NY Writers Coalition. As a teaching artist, she curates loving and imaginative writing spaces for Black writers to explore different realms within themselves through the power of world building, poetry and imagination.
As a community organizer, Alisha creates workshops and events for friendship building, mutual solidarity and BIPOC joy.
About Chanel Matsunami
(they/she) is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. They explore fantasy, queerness, and Japanese diasporic identity through photography and performance. Chanel has exhibited at Pao Arts Center, Boston, MA; Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle, WA; Chashama, New York, NY and more. As an educator, Chanel teaches digital storytelling to young people who are recent immigrants to the United States.