San Francisco-based poet Michael Warr and poet/translator Chun Yu co-founded Two Languages / One Community in 2015. The poems they’ve shared here evolved out of the project between 2020 and 2022 and include contributions from renowned authors from Chinese American and African American communities. The collaboration—which emerged during a period defined by COVID, injustice, violence, and social division—reflects the possibility of unity rooted in creativity.
Two Languages / One Community (TLOC) is the product of two poets born and raised in profoundly different countries (China and America), who spoke dramatically distinct languages and grew up in cultural and social environments with seemingly little in common. Through poetry, Yu and Warr found powerful connections and built the project to bridge the two cultures and peoples.
TLOC’s first public program was a workshop series that used writing, storytelling, and translation to exchange culture and life experiences between Chinese American and African American residents from the San Francisco Bay Area, where their communities are often culturally isolated from each other, even though they live in the same neighborhood or work together.
Yu and Warr believe that sharing poetry and stories deepens the cultural connection between these communities that have endured long histories of violence, discrimination, and struggle.
During the last few years—especially during the Black Lives Matter Movement and solidarity against anti-Asian violence—they have worked closely with institutions such as the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, the Asian Art Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and many more, to present a series of solidarity events with poetry readings which drew thousands of participants from diverse communities. Each of the award-winning poets translated by Chun Yu in this online feature for Poetry Northwest will be featured in an upcoming bilingual anthology from Two Language / One Community currently titled Together in Poetry. To their knowledge, this will be the first-ever English/Chinese collection of poetry centered on the writing of Chinese American and African American poets.