Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Angelika Weaver, January 8, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Personal and family background

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Partial Transcript: All right, this is Dan Wu interviewing Angelica Weaver.

Segment Synopsis: Angelika Weaver is introduced as being from Williamsburg, Kentucky, where she works in the Williamsburg Police Department as a Victim's Advocate. Weaver discusses her father being from Whitley County, Kentucky and her mother being from Kiribati, a small island in the Pacific Ocean slowly disappearing due to rising sea levels. Weaver expands on how the entire county will become environmental refugees, even purchasing land in New Zealand to alleviate displacement. Weaver describes the power of oral history projects, social media, and reunions in keeping family together despite diaspora. Weaver further discusses the barriers to visiting Kiribati and why she hasn't since 1999.

Keywords: Diasporas; Family; Victim advocates

Subjects: Identity; Kentucky; Kiribati; Law enforcement; New Zealand; Oral histories; Whitley County (Ky.); Williamsburg (Ky.)

00:05:02 - Family and relationships

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Partial Transcript: Tell us a little bit about your immediate family here in, um, Williamsburg.

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says that although much of her dad's family is local in Williamsburg, KY, she doesn't know them well, and her mom's family is spread across Hawaii, Marshall Islands, and the Gilbert Islands. Weaver talks about how, when her mom first came to the United States, she was very lonely and joined the Catholic Church. She says Thanksgiving was an important holiday to her mom, where everybody was family and up to twenty people would attend. Weaver discusses the idea with Wu that the trait of making community is a survival mechanism.

Keywords: Community; Family; Gilbert islands; Thanksgiving

Subjects: Catholic church; Families; Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony; Hawaii; Marshall Islands; Survival; Thanksgiving; United States; Williamsburg (Ky.)

00:08:16 - Her Mother and namesake

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Partial Transcript: Um, tell me a little bit about your mom's journey to this country, how she met your dad, how that, um, all came about?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver talks about her mother's upbringing and how her mother chose her name. Weaver says her mother, Rose Tekoneni Lewis of the Tekoneni Clan, was the daughter of the first medical doctor in Kiribati, and much of her family on the island were doctors and lawyers. Weaver says her mother's family was relatively well-off and well-known in the community. Weaver shares a story of how, when her mother was a young teen, her grandfather diagnosed her with leprosy and sent her to a leprosy colony, and a nun named "Angelika" cared for Weaver until her brothers rescued her, which lead Rose to eventually name Weaver after that nun.

Keywords: Namesakes; Rose Tekoneni Lewis; Tekoneni clan

Subjects: Kiribati; Leprosy; Nuns

00:10:14 - Parents' relationship / Settling in Williamsburg / Father's alcoholism

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Partial Transcript: How old was your mom, um, when she met your dad, and how did they meet?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says her parents met in their twenties and moved to the United States together when they became pregnant with her, settling in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Weaver says that until she was fifteen her family lacked basic utilities because her home was in a very rural area on the outskirts of town. Weaver talks about how her father served in the Vietnam War and as a military policeman, which she says led to depression and alcoholism, but for most of her life he worked in the City of Williamsburg Maintenance and Sanitation Department. Weaver says that, prior to her father's death by drunk driver when she was seventeen, her parents marriage was tumultuous and argumentative. Weaver says she and her family were homeless for some time during her mid-teens before briefly staying with her grandparents and then staying in the hall of their Catholic Church. Weaver discusses navigating her own religious identity and her mom coming to terms with it.

Keywords: Catholicism

Subjects: Alcoholism; Catholic church; Churches; Kiribati; Military police; United States; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Williamsburg (Ky.)

00:17:07 - Mother's English fluency / Experiences with racism growing up

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Partial Transcript: Um, when--when you were growing up, um, and in terms of your parents' relationship with each other, um, were there language barrier issues, were there, sort of, cultural barrier issues?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver recalls a lot of people being unable to understand her mother's accent whole she was growing up, her paternal grandmother being racist, and experiencing otherness as a child. She says she became cognizant in grade school that few kids were like her. Weaver tells three different stories of times she was called derogatory terms in school. She mentions that, when her mom transferred her to the private school St. Camillus Academy, which had a more international demographic, Weaver had the opportunity to bond over those shared experiences.

Keywords: Cultural barriers; Grade schools; Otherness; St. Camillus Academy

Subjects: Asian Americans; Childhood; Elementary schools; Other (Philosophy); Racism

00:25:02 - Visiting Kiribati

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you ever remember a time where you felt, especially--when was the first time you visited Kiribati?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says home will always be Southeastern Kentucky to her. Weaver describes feeling lonely when she first visited Kiribati as a child, because her mom didn't teach her the language or customs. She mentions that, although she's in a Facebook group with many of her relatives, they speak in Kiribati so Weaver can't participate. She discusses how, when she visited Kiribati, it was a point of contention between her mother and her family that she had not taught Weaver any cultural traditions. Weaver mentions that, despite their disappointment, her cousins took it upon themselves to teach her. Weaver thinks that If she visited now, it would be a more reverent, educational experience. Weaver says the islands were very split on cultural holidays, but her family practice Catholicism and celebrate them.

Keywords: Catholic holidays; Catholicism; Family; Southeastern Kentucky; Traditions

Subjects: Culture; Facebook (Electronic resource); Families; Home; Kiribati; identity

00:30:17 - Community in Kentucky / Otherness

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Partial Transcript: To you, um, here in Williamsburg, what do you consider your community?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says that, because she is one of few minorities in a very homogenous area, she seeks community in Williamsburg with other outsiders in society, including transgender and Hispanic residents. Weaver discusses her reality as an Asian-American in the US, from code-switching, otherness to getting asked where she's really from. Weaver says she strongly identifies with being a Kentuckian, while acknowledging her mother is from Kiribati. Weaver shares an anecdote of her brother experiencing otherness, where he was frustrated with having to check the "other" box for defining his race and how, by the next year, Pacific Islander had been added. Weaver says that she is saddened that her children are not as engaged with Kiribati culture as she'd like, and tell a story of her son's experience being called a racial slur used against Mexicans.

Keywords: Community; Otherness; Outsiders; Southeastern Kentucky

Subjects: Code switching (Linguistics); Communities; Kentucky; Other (Philosophy); Racism; Stereotypes; Williamsburg (Ky.)

00:44:53 - Hobbies / Recharging

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Partial Transcript: Um, switching gears a little bit, um, what are some of your favorite, sort of, non-work things to do?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says she began writing post cards for relaxation during the pandemic and mentions that the most rewarding part was when people wrote back. She says she began writing cards for people in the community who were sick or isolated after asking around on Facebook. She talks about watching TikToks to rest going on social outings with friends and her husband to recharge. Weaver acknowledges that for her resting often comes with guilt, which she learned by nearly working herself to death in the past.

Keywords: Card making; Connectivity; Coronavirus; Covid

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Hobbies; Pandemics; Self-care, Health; TikTok (Electronic resource)

00:49:39 - COVID-19 impacts on work

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Partial Transcript: So, I mean, speaking of COVID, we're basically two years into COVID. Um, tell me a little bit about your work and then tell me about how COVID has affected your work?

Segment Synopsis: William talks about how, as the only law enforcement-based victim's advocate of her kind in Williamsburg, she works with domestic violence victims in every aspect of recovery. She says nothing changed dramatically within the first year of COVID-19, but by the second year, the demand for her services had increased by forty-six percent. Weaver says that, before COVID-19, she would stay with victims for an average of two weeks, but now the average duration of a victim's stay is two to three months. Weaver expands on the importance of healing vicarious trauma working in fields such as hers and mentions how many peers have succumb to addiction issues, which highlights a need for self-care in domestic violence advocacy positions.

Keywords: Addiction; COVID; Coronavirus; Domestic violence; Victim's advocates

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Family violence.; Law enforcement.; Mental health; Self-care, Health.

00:54:08 - COVID-19 personal and political impacts

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Partial Transcript: Um, how has COVID, in the last few years, affected your personal life, family life, friendships, um, good or bad?

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says that amidst the successive toll of the 2016 elections, COVID-19 pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd, she has had to navigate establishing boundaries, such as turning off and filtering out the news at times. Weaver acknowledges the power of social media in civic engagement, especially through TikTok. She mentions that she had considered running for local office and reflects on the corruption of local government and family connections. Weaver talks about deciding that her place was not in politics, which has led her to pursue social action through community-based means, such as being interview for this project.

Keywords: Civic engagement; Coronavirus; Covid

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Floyd, George, 1973-2020; Pandemics; Social media; TikTok (Electronic resource)

00:58:55 - Asian-American hate and identity

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, I mean, as a personal aside, I think your story in particular is the kind of story that we don't hear about in terms of Asian-Americans.

Segment Synopsis: Weaver says that though she has experienced anti-Asian sentiments in the US throughout her life, it hurts differently and more personally to her since the COVID-19 pandemic began. She says that when others act with ignorance and hate towards Asian Americans, Weaver doesn't it take it as a personal attack and instead attributes it to a disconnect. Weaver discusses how modern politics of Asian American identity have affected her relationship to her Kiribati heritage but says that more than anything it has made her feel connected to anyone deemed as "other" in her community. Weaver concludes by wishing to her children that, if she could do it all over again, they would be more inclined to see the world, understand that American identity is itself diverse, and what it means to be American.

Keywords: Anti-asian; Community; Others; the Other

Subjects: Asian Americans; COVID-19 (Disease); Identity; Kiribati; Solidarity