DePaul professor creates video dialogue series as part of Multiculturalism Project


DePaul Newsline

The Multiculturalism Project is part of DePaul’s initiative to advance equity and inclusion goals.

Documentary filmmaker and DePaul associate professor Chi Jang Yin is the director of the Multiculturalism Project, a video dialogue series about intersectionality, anti-racism and diversity mentorship. 

The Multiculturalism Project is part of the university’s initiative to advance equity and inclusion goals. The series will interview 17 DePaul community members including faculty, staff, students and alumni who applied for or were nominated for the program. 

Upon completion this spring quarter, the series will have a dedicated page on the website of DePaul’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.

Yin is the area head of photography and media art at the DePaul Art School, the 2020-21 presidential faculty fellow and trained diversity facilitator at the National SEED project, a leadership program aimed to drive personal, institutional and societal change toward social justice. 

Yin says the series was inspired by TED Talks because they highlight the individual’s personal journey through the speaker sharing their experience in order to educate and inspire others. 

Professor Chi Jang Yin, director of the Multiculturalism Project. (DePaul University)

Using this framework, Yin intertwines her passion and experience in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training to promote an open dialogue of social justice issues through personal testimonials. 

The series includes a diverse range of community members, providing viewers the opportunity to learn about their different perspectives.

“I realized… how accurate a perspective on this systematic oppression we need to present,” Yin said. 

Participants will choose to speak about three themes: intersectionality, anti-racism and diversity mentorship. While the series will be conducted in an interview style, speakers will be asked different questions pertaining to their theme of choice. 

“It’s all about how that related to their personal journey and the authentic turning point, what happened to them,” Yin said. “[For instance,] what I bring in is I think, as a person of color, I constantly have to negotiate space… I continue to negotiate my space in public as well as in private spaces.”

Under the restrictions of the pandemic, Yin will conduct virtual interviews over Zoom. Despite the limitations, Yin is intentional about how she sets up each shot. She will provide speakers with the same virtual background to use, guide them through lighting and requests they dress as if they were attending an in-person interview.

Yin emphasizes the importance of the project’s visual aspect, and she is determined to make the most out of the series’ visual elements. She said her intentionality is inspired by Frederick Douglass, who was the most photographed man of the 19th century.

“He foresaw the importance of photography and portraits,” Yin said. “He would wear the most sophisticated, professional suit that you could imagine and purposely not smile in front of the lens.” 

Douglass never smiled in photographs because he wanted to portray an accurate sense of how Black Americans felt at the time in the country’s history. He believed that the camera could not lie, regardless of who was holding it.

“When someone’s seeing me, how they interpret [me is based on] our visual element, and sometimes sound too,” Yin said. “Like in my case, when I open my mouth, people will know ‘Oh, she must be an immigrant. She has some kind of accent.’ Having a visual element of that person, how that person looks, is part of the counter-story.”

Yin believes that representation is especially important for people of color, who historically are underrepresented in media. 

She also recognizes that asking individuals to share their personal experiences on camera can be incredibly vulnerable, and lets each participant know they should only share what they are comfortable with. 

“The person always has a right to pass. And I think that is so important. During the SEED diversity seminar that we have, we focus on besides respecting other people, we also have to respect ourselves,” Yin said. “This is an opportunity to reflect. But you absolutely have the right to say that, there is a certain story I don’t want to share because I’m not ready or you have [another] reason.”

Yin explains that while each interview will be different from one another, with speakers from various backgrounds and experiences, they all have a common theme: systematic oppression. 

“A lot of times people will say, ‘Something happened to you just [because of] a single incident…’ but no, because of this series of work, you will see all these stories are from individuals, but they all represent this bigger structure…” she said.

In addition to providing an educational element, the series intends to create a sense of belonging for students from different backgrounds. 

“I think it is important for students, for faculty, for alumni, to know, someone who looks like me is talking here,” Yin said. “Someone who has shared a similar experience is sharing their story here. And I think that we have all these people actually…in every pocket of [DePaul], but the thing is, we don’t really have time, and we don’t really have the space to share. And this is what this project is about: to create a space for people to share.”