Hello! My name is Hollis Wong-Wear and I am excited to be a new Interledger Community Ambassador. I come to this work as an artist, a community organizer, a filmmaker, and a dot connecting enthusiast who is passionate about the intersection of creativity and social change. I am fascinated by new and daring models to challenge the status quo, and thus I am thrilled to dig into the technology and opportunity of the Interledger Protocol and catalyze discourse about creating more equitable financial ecosystems. More specifically, I have been honored to participate in the Future|Money Grant Program to bring in artists and creatives to generate new work that imagines financial futures - big shout out to Kokayi Issa for his vision with the program, and for bringing me into this fold.
Here in the United States, we celebrate May as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so I want to share a bit about an Asian American hero of mine who inspires my work largely and whose philosophy I feel speaks directly to the potential of the Interledger Protocol.
Grace Lee Boggs was born in 1915 to Chinese immigrant parents in Providence, RI, and was a woman who forged her own path as an intellectual, an author, and an activist. She was the first Chinese American woman to receive a doctorate in Philosophy, and after establishing herself as a notable intellectual and author within the socialist literary community, she departed academia to devote herself to on-the-ground service in alignment with Black-led labor and community organizing in Detroit. She intrinsically understood the importance not only of cross-racial solidarity, but of the power of self-reflection and self-evolution to be an agent of change and justice in the world. She believed not in incrementalism but in how creativity and imagination could spark dynamic shifts for the poor and the marginalized. As she wrote in a quote I revisit often:
"The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to think not only about change in our institutions, but changes in ourselves." - Grace Lee Boggs
Reading Boggs' work in the pandemic gave me a great amount of hope as we saw system after system fail the most vulnerable in our communities. It inspired me so much that I wrote a song, "Grace Lee," with the refrain reimagine everything so that every time I perform I can share her life and her call for us to be more daring in how we change ourselves to change the world. The art I've included here is an illustration of a young Grace Lee Boggs by Janelle Quibuyen.
I think her call to "reimagine everything" is precisely what the Interlegder Protocol endeavors: to imagine universal connectivity and empowerment for those who have been traditionally excluded from financial systems, and an ecosystem that encourages and resources instead of punishes the marginalized. The current financial system hums on inequity and disparity of wealth; as impossible as it may feel to go beyond what we've always known, how can we use our imagination to fuel new possibilities in this space towards radical financial inclusion?
Another element of her work I feel speaks to my personal aims with the Interleger Community Ambassadorship is honoring critical connections over critical mass. I revisited this passage in Grace Lee Boggs’ The Next American Revolution in which she quotes Margaret Whetley, who in her work tackles how helpless it feels to act on a small scale level when problems are so massive and abstracted. She employs the concept of quantum physics to beat back against the idea that “scaling” is the most worthy trait of worthwhile action.
“A quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently. Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. We are more likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of this system, and thus more effective.
However, changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. Activities in one part of the whole create effects that appear in distant places. Because of these unseen connections, there is potential value in working anywhere in the system. We never know how our small activists will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. […]
The real engine of change is never critical mass. Dramatic and systemic change always starts with critical connections.”
I love this passage and I feel it directly aligns with the potential of the Interledger Protocol to transform people's lives. Interconnectedness can start small: one transaction, one conversation. Scaling for scaling's sake is how we've gotten to the deeply inequitable systems we now operate within. How can we imagine new ways of connecting?
I think this is the heart of why the Future|Money Grant Program, and the artists who will be creating with this cohort, is so exciting. As an Ambassador, I look forward to developing these critical connections within the cohort itself as well as within each artist's community, understanding that local depth does indeed have global reverberations and impact. I look forward to seeing how I can support and facilitate the artists as they explore, consider, and create new possibilities through their generative artistic practice. I wish for my work to be organic, responsive, and added fuel to the momentum of these artists' visions, individually and collectively.
Feel free to reach out, and I look forward to sharing more as the Future|Money Grant Program proceeds!