We had the good fortune of connecting with Connie Ni Chiu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Connie, how do you think about risk?
What’s profound in this question is how others have taken risks for me, in me, and with me. I wonder often about how taking risks is passed down in families as a declaration of love and how risks evolve through the generations as a sacred part of our stories. I wonder a lot about where I would be or who I would become without the risks my mom took to flee her home, leaving everything behind to rebuild in a country that bombed her and refused her. What if she stayed? What if she didn’t leave everyone behind? Would I be missing from her life? I don’t know the answers. I can only feel her risks as inherited and sacred to my being, my becoming. The other way I think about taking risks is as a big leap of faith, a sense of trust wide enough to cushion all the possibilities of danger — physical, emotional, spiritual, relational. There is a paradox to taking risks, to invite danger and transformation into your life simultaneously. It’s a matter of trust. Risk is trusting others with your life. If I fail, will you be there to hold me and lift me back up? Risk is trusting unfamiliar and unknown spaces with your safety. Moving to New York City alone at 22, in search of a home and life; moving back to Los Angeles at 26, alone and still in search of a home and life. And through it all, not knowing how your heart would expand or shrink in every transition, yet still moving. Risk is trusting your feelings and decisions without the ability to predict or control the future. Saying “I do” because you really do. Risk is trusting yourself generously. Sometimes that’s all you have, that’s all you need. My therapist tells me that I have catastrophic thinking so I tend to see everything as a risk, but (and this is an important but) all are worth taking. Amidst a global pandemic and racial justice uprisings that defined 2020, I quit a stable job to build on trust, especially in a moment and movement that demanded we be more radical in our pursuit of racial justice and healing. I took a risk, trusting that the world would also take risks for me, in me, and with me in our collective fight for liberation. That’s how the and/now collective came to life. Some risk, a lot of trust, and a bit of poetry. What I’ve learned so far is that taking risks is like writing poems of our experiences — a collection of words and phrases defined by space and line breaks, uncertain of connections and endings until we arrive. And when we arrive at the end, it’s always tender, necessary, significant. I’m still defined by these spaces and line breaks, not quite having arrived yet. But I trust the ending to be tender, necessary, and so, so significant.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The origins of the and/now collective is part accidental, part destiny, and all passion. Our mission is to build a radical collective for revolutionary wellness and collective rising through the prism of racial justice and social healing. We are Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and mental health practitioners that center the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). Our unique approach bridges DEI and mental health, focusing not only on organizational change and strategy, but also on the deeper work of individual and collective healing from injustice and trauma. How we show up for ourselves and each other is discovered in this intersection. The “accidental” part of our story is that my co-founder, Dena Scott, and I had no intentions to build a business together. We’ve always dreamed of collaborating on projects that speak to our hearts’ work of racial justice and healing. It was in the crisis, pain, and trauma of George Floyd’s murder that and/now emerged as a way to build towards a different kind of world that centered Black Lives and BIPOC healing. As Dena and I started facilitating “healing sessions” for Black employees and holding space for racial(ized) trauma, we looked at each other across Zoom and said, “let’s do this.” Launching a business as two women of color in 2020 is life changing, both in the challenges and difficulties, as well as the abundance and joys. Despite being practitioners in our respective fields for over a decade, we didn’t know anything about running a business or marketing or legal or even taxes! There’s so much we didn’t know and still don’t know. Yet we learn and build, make mistakes and grow, ask for help and receive in ways that fill our spirits. The support from our various communities has been unimaginably generous and tender. and/now is only just beginning and we are so in love with how expansive the possibilities are. In these past six months, we’ve created relationships with clients that are rooted in a radical vision for community. 2020 has seen an expansion of DEI and mental health in the context of a global pandemic and ongoing anti-Black racism, and we would be lying to say if we didn’t doubt ourselves and our business from time to time. However, one of the best lessons we’ve learned along the way is that there is only one us, only one and/now, and only we can do what we do the way we do it — and that matters for the people we meet and serve. It is up to us to build it, as imperfect as it may be. We are building.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a huge foodie so I’d recreate my wedding weekend menu — hands down the highlight of 2020! Let’s start with the rehearsal party: Howlin Ray’s (Chinatown). Platters of Nashville hot chicken at all spice levels and fried chicken sandwiches smothered with their “come back” sauce. I’ll admit that I cried that night — from the heat of the chicken. On our big day, we treated our wedding party to Konbi (Silverlake) for lunch. Platters of Japanese sandwiches with pork katsu, eggplant katsu, egg salad, and a side of their famous chocolate croissants. For the grand finale dinner, we ate Hungry Bear Catering (Glendale) — family style with 200 of our loved ones. Platters of crispy squash blossoms, mini fried chicken & waffles, Hokkaido scallops, miso butter + furikake chex mix, miso carbonara, galbi jjim, and miso black cod (can you tell that I love miso?). Wedding desserts included Milk Jar cookies, Winston Pies, Randy’s donut holes, and Jim’s Bakery dan tat (egg tarts). And we can’t forget about the late night snacks after dancing: platters of purple rice spam musubi from Broken Mouth (DTLA). This is our go-to spot so if we could’ve had a second wedding dinner, their Hawaiian x Korean fusion menu would’ve been it. To cure hangovers the next morning, we’d go to Kang Kang Food Court (Alhambra) for sheng jian bao (Shanghai pan-fried small bao). Platters of their perfectly crispy buns, yet bursting with soup and flavor on the inside. For my non-foodie visitors, we’d explore Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District by foot, and then the Ballona Creek by bike, which takes us from Culver City to Venice Beach. I’m not a beach person but catching the sunset at just the right time is always worth the ride.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Can I say “everyone & everything” that’s been in my life so far? Probably not, so here’s a short five: 1) My mom, family, husband, and beloved grandpa who passed away this May. I truly am because of you. 2) My and/now collective co-founder, Dr. Dena Scott. Who would’ve known that meeting each other six years ago would lead us to this beautiful journey despite the distance, time zones, and separation. 3) The song “Heavy with Hoping” by Madeon, which felt like arms wrapped around me when grieving my grandpa felt like a tender drowning. 4) The words and voice of adrienne maree brown, especially her writing on grief: “that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands; that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.” 5) Critical Race Theory (ban or no ban, nothing will hold us down)