By V. Châu
Ham Chơi is the craving for play
around a sprinkler on a hot summer’s day
But Ham Chơi isn’t so simply childlike joy; there is subtext; a steep price.
Ham Chơi is an accusation of pretense;
A desire to put on a show.
Ham Chơi is a question.
An interrogation asking: “Who do you think you are?”
Ham Chơi reminds you to know your place.
In the American imaginary
to “ham it up” is the tendency towards
the theatrical and exaggerated
This idiom also alludes to the lard
used to remove stage makeup
mentioned in the Minstrel song: “The Ham Fat Man.”
Ham Chơi could also be
mistaken for a Korean person
Who is mistaken for me-
We mistaken for each other
Ham Chơi is the insistence on liberty
A State of being
A being which is free.
V. Châu is a storyteller of the immigrant experience, a self identified Third Culture Kid (TCK), First Generation college graduate, and former Southeast Asian Refugee. They’ve facilitated conversations around the immigrant experience at conferences and community centers, shared their own lived experience at storyslams, participated in racial justice training with grassroot orgs, and dived into advocacy work around anti-deportation on the West Coast. Currently, they are completing their AmeriCorps term at Public Allies Cincinnati where they spotlight Alumni stories and lead workshops at the intersection of professional development and social justice.
This piece is part of Public Allies’ campaign to highlight voices of LGBTQ+ members, alumni, staff, and partners throughout Pride Month.