A Journey Back…

A Journey Back…

Storytelling MattersYanqing with Melinda Weekes, Zun Lee, Jane Chang Mi, and Erica Ginsberg at the Creative Leadership Lab

Yanqing YangAUGUST 16, 2016 | BY YANQING YANG

Ed Note: Yanqing Yang is an anthropologist, cultural organizer, and art educator. She’s a founding team member of China Youthology, a youth culture research and connection platform which aims to empower youth driven change. Check out her talk from MaD 2012 here. She initiated Butter Youth Conference, the first youth story sharing platform in China in 2009 and has run more than 50 Butter Youth Conferences with 300+ youth opinion leaders speakers and 2000+ audience members. She provides training workshops to local community artists and initiates socially engaged art projects. She’s also a founding team member of Bamboo Bicycle Beijing, an organization empowering youth leadership through teaching them to build bamboo bicycles. Now, after teaching over 300 students to make their own bamboo bikes, the community has spread to start workshops in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Denver, and Boston. Yanqing is a 2016 alumni of NAMAC’s Creative Leadership Lab—and she is incredible.

Before joining NAMAC’s Creative Leadership Lab, I was building a cultural connection platform for young creative changemakers and thinking about how to build a system of collaboration. I was also part of a summer program for Bamboo Bicycles Beijing, experimenting how to cultivate community leadership through bamboo bicycle workshops and how to make the business sustainable. At the same time, I was also collaborating with different community art projects with different creative partners.

I was busy, excited, but also tired. Everything was happening fast in this world. So much impact was going to be made, so many problems were waiting to be solved, so many people were eager to connect, so much new knowledge needed to be gained. A good leader, to me, is a super hero.

“What brought you here?” I was asked this question the first day I arrived at Sundance and met other creative leaders from all around the nation. “Well, to have a break from the busy daily routine, to connect to some great people and learn from them. And also breathe some fresh air,” I murmured in my heart.

“What brought you here?” I was asked this question the first day I arrived at Sundance and met other creative leaders from all around the nation. “Well, to have a break from the busy daily routine, to connect to some great people and learn from them. And also breathe some fresh air,” I murmured in my heart.

I didn’t expect the following days’ short stay in Sundance to be such a long journey. Besides the framework I learned and the inspiration I gained for my own work, I found the most powerful aspect to be the real connections that we made.

“Things are not getting worse, they’re just being uncovered,” Gibran, our brilliant workshop facilitator shared with before asking us to share the challenges we are facing. Everyone reflected on himself/herself deeply. A lot of the challenges I heard were not about leadership, but about humanity. It was the first time I felt having problems and challenges was a blessing because of the opportunity we have to become better together through it.

Every day we practiced “connecting.” We talked, we listened, we discussed, we collaborated, we meditated, we felt each other’s breath. We connected to the ground, connected to our bodies, connected to our hearts, connected with other human beings no matter their race or origin. There were moments full of joy, and full of tears. Especially, the last day’s vision-sharing. Different from any other vision story-sharings I heard at other places, this wasn’t as much a passionate speech about dreams, but rather a revealing of vulnerability. The tragedies of childhood, the unbalance of passion and reality, the confusion of a new life choice, the struggle of letting go… Everyone was so honest and so brave to share their vulnerabilities. And the visions that grew from facing vulnerability were so powerful.

We clapped and cheered for each one. Wendy made a poem by putting the words from our vision stories together: Hand in hand, I saw tears in our eyes.



The people become truer versions of themselves.
And my vision is another challenge
I was born to a mother addicted to crack cocaine.
I take exception to being
an exception.
My vision is to crawl through the darkness and see through the fog
This is our shrivasana.
My vision takes me only to when I leave
this room.
How do I give a small piece of what I have received?
I am amazed by the trees.
Why am I here?
I was in a terrible place. We are all resilience; we persevere,
We are in a place of holding,
and being held.
How can we bring power to truth?
Arte es vida; Vida es arte. How did I forget, my life IS art.
When I was thirteen, my mother asked me
to leave home.
I’m very sorry for your loss.
I am a miracle of epic proportions.
It is the ordinary moments that push us
to this moment.
I wait for clarity an expert level.
I have lost my train of thought, but I will open my house, to listen radically.
I got this far by treating myself hard. What has brought me back to present?
What is the story, really?
If I was a hero, I’d know what to do.
Something I really understand is the essence of humanity; a massive, beautiful desert.
I know my intention.
I declare it; the source of my fear
when the shaman is extracted from the artist.
Our mic check is call and response; this humanity is all of us.
I belong with myself.
I belong to the earth
I am creating where I belong.
We are creating where we belong.
Its less of a vision and more of a quest.
Where do ideas come from?
It starts, with coffee shops.
Honor those who came before.
If you want my story, I am here.
I cannot stop thinking of Margaret Mead;
I will not lose my outrage, or be complacent.
It should not be so easy
to turn the page.
I am inspired, and young, and scrappy, and hungry.
To take a seat in the circle, each of us is incredible.
Who takes this seat next?
This is a film about joy.
I have worn my anger like a badge.
There is beauty in this struggle There is beauty in this struggle There is beauty in this struggle.


Bamboo Bicycle Beijing Bamboo Bicyle Beijing

Though it was just four days, it has been a long journey. What I took out from this journey was a new understanding of leadership. A good leader is not born to be extraordinary, but an ordinary person who lives an ordinary life and makes choices in small moments. A good leader is not undefeatable, and can sometimes be very vulnerable. She faces her vulnerability. A good leader is not an expert who knows everything, but she knows how to empower people. A good leader gives love and takes care of people, also receives love and gets taken care of.

This is the good leader I want to be. Not a super hero. Everyone can be such a good leader of our own life, community, and the world. With the new energy generated in my heart during this journey, I am going to make more real connections like this happen in everyday life and work.

STORYTELLING MATTERS is a blog series at NAMAC featuring original and curated writing and photography about global story culture and innovation in the hopes of facilitating conversation about the ethical and responsible use of creative technologies in community. If you have a story to share for the series, let us know! creative@namac.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.