Westminster Alum Advocates for AAPI Community with "Call Me By My Name" Project

A Filipino American woman with dark brown hair stands with a DSLR camera with a red brick building and green shrubs in the background.

May 31, 2022

“Call Me by My Name” is a new and powerful photography project by Westminster College alum Janessa Ilada (’16) in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May).

Janessa is taking portraits of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) across the Salt Lake valley—collecting personal experiences to raise her community’s voice. Growing up in Utah, Janessa says she didn’t think much about her identity as Filipino American.

"As I got older, I realized I was missing part of myself and my identity. When I studied Public Health at Westminster, we discussed a variety of topics addressing community needs. That opened my mind and made me think about how I can get more involved to give back to my community,” she recalls.

“I want to share AAPI voices, the experiences we've had with our names, and what our names mean to us,” Janessa says. “We need to have conversations and end the normalization of changing our names or going by a nickname to make it easier for people of non-AAPI descent to remember.”

“Call Me by My Name” is Janessa’s second photography project for AAPI month. Her first project in 2021 highlighted Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls wearing heritage clothing at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

“During COVID-19 and the rise of Asian hate, these images demonstrate our community coming together—that representation matters and has power,” Janessa says. “My time as a student at Westminster taught me the importance of community and how we can be advocates for change.”

Janessa wants Westminster students and other alums to see themselves in the photos, start much needed conversations, and spread awareness. “I know if I were still a student on campus, I would've wanted to see stories like these,” she says.

Visit Janessa’s Instagram jness.wanders@instagram to view the “Call Me by My Name” collage, series of portraits, and personal experiences.

Her project will be on exhibit in the Zions Bank Founders Room at One South Main Street on Wednesday, June 22 from 5–8:00 p.m. RSVP to medrina.kawusu-konte@zionsbank.com.

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