Building Foundations of Love:

Let’s Write Toward Compassion, Connections, Bridging and Rebornness

Building Foundations of Love: Let’s Write Toward Compassion, Connections, Bridging and Rebornness

*CC BY 4.0

Ethan Trinh, Georgia State University

“Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say” (Perl, 1995, p. 235).

Writing is a powerful tool for me, as a Scholar of Color to connect, to thrive and survive in the Ph.D. program. I thus invite you to be brave, take a deep breath and enter this circle of writing with me so that you can find your true self again. We will stop tearing up because someone does not believe in us. We will stop sabotaging ourselves. We will not feel ashamed for our skin color, our nationality, our gender identity, our accents, our hair, our look. We are Scholars of Color, who are brave, strong, and critical. We stand together, uplift and build bridges. We thrive and inspire each other to go through this doctoral program. We have talked about bridging and connecting the mental and financial struggles during this program, but we have not discussed how to build a Foundation for a bridge of conversations. Let’s talk it straight here, dear Scholars of Color!

Starting this doctoral program was an excitement, but going through this program is a pressure. We, marginalized graduate students of color, Scholars of Color, (queer) teachers of color, doubt about our self, that we are not writing “academic enough” to publish in a high tier journal. We doubt about our ideas as “not intelligent enough” to compete with other scholars. We doubt about our research as “not profound enough” to present at a conference. We doubt about every single word that we write in a sentence, and we feel we are not skillful enough to write an academic paper. We end up quitting the program because the doubts of “enough-ness” overwhelm and set us back (Trinh, in press). Do not let setbacks set us back. I am done with “enough-ness”. I am done with self-sabotaging. I am done with the rigidity of academicization that presses us down before our true talent and originality has the opportunity to blossom. We always have something to say. We always have something to write about. We are the most beautiful writers on earth because we know who we are as a writer. When we get together as the community, we write beautiful poems, essays; we draw beautiful paintings; we laugh aloud for mundane stories at school and in academia; we sit closer together -- with our communit(ies) of color. This is a Foundation that we need to build and continue to develop. Let’s think about a blank page. How would we make a blank page a beautiful picture by using different colors, different lines, different voices (you name a few) into it? How would we create this blank page a masterpiece where we see each beautiful color blended, intertwined, and sparkling. Since this is a picture created by our communit(ies).

You can think this is a pep talk. You can think this is another reflection of a desperate graduate student in a doc program who tries to hold on to a rock before he falls off the bridge. The bridge is oftentimes dangerous for someone who wants to die by suicide to get out of this program due to high rates of anxiety and depression, literally (Flaherty, 2018). You can think this is another cliché piece that you can easily find in Chicken Soup for the Soul. It does not matter to me. But if you find this piece relatable, connecting, important, and fun to read, now it matters. I write this piece because I see the doubtfulness that is embracing us, or at least me, a doc student, who gets stuck in the cycle of writing, papers, research; the cycle is vicious. I write this so that we can sit closer to each other, talk through and share with each other to build this bridge so that we can continue the doctoral program – with (self-)love, wisdom, understanding, empathy and confidence to one another.

We are talented auto-ethnographers to catch the movement of creatures, of spaces, of time, of our thoughts. When we put a word down on a paper, we know it is the moment that we are going to write something beautifully, connectedly, truthfully and wonderfully. Through autoethnography, we expose ourselves naked on a paper. We go beyond the physical borders and spaces to travel through time. We get a chance to sit down, reflect, and empower our own selves who experienced the moments of happiness and sadness. We look through those moments, question the roots of the events, critique, and envision the next steps. As Anzaldúa (2009) states, “we have begun to come out of the shadows; we have begun to break with routines and oppressive customs, and to discard taboos; we have commenced to carry with pride the task of thawing hearts and changing consciousness” (p. 73). We are our own agents for our lives as we start doing our own autoethnography.

Recently, I have started to see writing as a powerful tool to meditate, to clear dark clouds in my mind, to let myself flow in the sea of silence, peace and calmness (Trinh, 2018). “Yes, I confess it, I wrote, and write, for therapy” (Perl, 1995, p. 210). When I write, I let all six senses flow free to let myself immerse into spaces. I hear the clanking noise of an old washing machine upstairs. I feel the cold on my feet in an early morning. I smell the smoky overcooked egg in the kitchen when my dad is in hurry to eat his loaf of bread alone before leaving for work. I feel my heartbeat racing when I find something interesting to write about. I taste the bitterness of cà phê sữa đá (a Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and ice) as I just got a sip of it to get inspiration. I sense a spirit sitting next to me, whispering to my ears that my writing is worth it. I think Gloria Anzaldúa is whispering to me, “The act of writing is the act of making soul, alchemy” (Anzaldúa & Keating, 2009, p. 30). I include all senses in writing because it helps me feel the liveliness in each breath. I feel my soul dancing happily. I write because I know that I am living, not existing. I write to make myself and others validated in a harsh academia. I write toward compassion, toward connections, toward bridging and toward reborn-ness.

Another personality is just born out of thoughts, emotions, challenges, and confusion.

While I am writing this, I see the heaviness of class that weighs on me. As a Vietnamese queer, immigrant, graduate/Scholar of Color whose voice is silenced, made invisible, and overlooked by the high-power authoritarians, what could I do to connect and build bridges with people like me? Who am I to claim that I am done with “enough-ness” while I myself have to struggle every day to get a paper published? I therefore use writing as a weapon, a tool to fight against oppression and power. Do you know how I feel after that? I sense Liberation, Equity and Pride. I write those three words in caps because I want to emphasize how these are truly meaningful to me, and (I hope) to others. My freedom surrounds me. My imagination is free to travel across space and time. The non-binary embraces me, encouraging me to write for inclusiveness, for the end to marginalization, for queerness (Trinh, 2019), for anti-oppression in academia, for social justice, and for us – graduate students who feel alone and not belonging to academia.

Before asking “Why Foundations (now), I would add “What is Foundations?” For me, the foundation of Scholars of Color is the space we bring our voices, our stories through ethnography, our talents, our perspectives, our love to each other, to those who are struggling by their own, to those who are thinking they are alone in this doctoral journey, to those who do not believe in themselves. You are not alone in this journey. Let me say it aloud one more time: You-are-not-alone-in-this-journey. I state it clearly as the definition of the Foundations because it should be viewed and understood clearly. The Foundations are built on trust, encouragement, support, criticality, and love for and with people of color. The Foundation will be broken and demolished if we do not have a trust for each other. The Foundation here could be imbalanced, vague and fragile to some people, but for us, Scholars of Color who are experiencing this struggle, the Foundations are a bridge to unite us –to help us come out of the shadows and be free in our speech, our voices. If we talk about “Bridges and Foundations”, let’s talk about sharing burdens and spreading love!

“Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say” (Perl, 1995, p. 235).


Anzaldúa, G., & Keating, A. (2009). The Gloria Anzaldúa reader. Durham : Duke University Press, 2009.

Flaherty, C. (2018). A Very Mixed Record on Grad Student Mental Health [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Perl, S. (1995). Landmark essays on writing process. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press.

Trinh, E. (2019). Breaking Down the Coatlicue State to See a Self: Queer Voices Within a Circle. The Assembly: A Journal for Public Scholarship on Education. Retrieved from

Trinh, E. (2018). How Hugging Mom Teaches Me the Meaning of Love and Perhaps Beyond. The Journal of Faith, Education, and Community 2(1), pp. 1-14. Retrieved from

Trinh, E. (in press). From Creative Writing to a Self’s Liberation: A Monologue of a Struggling Writer. Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement


Ethan Trinh is a transnational Vietnamese ESL Instructor in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He is a doctoral student at Department of Middle and Secondary Education, Georgia State University. Ethan is inspired to do research about queer transnationals, ESL, Vietnamese Studies, and Chicana Feminism.