Young Cash Karen (Y.C.K.) is an ongoing project about a community of young men refugees from Burma (or Myanmar) who have resettled in Rochester, New York. They are Karen, a Burmese ethnic minority that has fought a decades-long civil war against the Burmese government over the native lands of their people and for their very right to exist. For most or all of their lives, the young men of Y.C.K. lived in remote refugee camps along the Thai/Myanmar border, until taking the leap to resettle in the United States.
Young Cash Karen is a portrait of these young men and their current lives as they assimilate to the United States. Y.C.K. has developed into a nuanced exploration of the intersections of culture, gender, race, and globalization. It portrays a tribe of young men who are experiencing the difficult process of displacement and cultural adaptation. Yet despite their hardships they retain a sense of unapologetic pride of their identity and history. The title, Young Cash Karen , comes from the same name the young men have chosen to represent themselves—much like a crew name. They proudly use the name to express a sense of belonging and solidarity.
My own identity as a mixed race Asian-American woman is a part of the project as well, as it shapes my relationship with this community of which I am now a part of.