"And there it was.
Something meaningful to do." Jasmine Wong
In the early months of the year when the world was riddled with anxiety and uncertainty, Jasmine Wong took upon herself to set up a charity initiative that would soon involve over a 100 youths from all over the world.
Jasmine Wong started Class of 2020 for two reasons - charity and giving young creative individuals a platform for creative expressions. Working entirely remotely and banding together with 6 other young creatives, Jasmine Wong set out to publish Class of 2020
- a 76 page A4 zine chronicling works from over 100 youths across the world. On a quiet Wednesday night, we spoke to Jasmine Wong on what Class of 2020 actually meant to her.
As a non-profit initiative, ALL proceeds of this zine will go towards Class of 2020's partner, GlobalGiving's Covid Relief Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
How did the team came to be?
Doing the project alone and not knowing how to start, I knew I couldn’t do it all alone. I’m not someone who knows many creative people. All my friends at school want to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, bankers. But to no surprise, Instagram has let me into a world of people like me, and through that there’s a community of people who understand me creatively. Some members of the team are people who have reached out to me previously to collaborate, people my gut has told me to reach out to and have been interested in what I have to say, or one member was through someone I wanted to feature initially. My best friend is also a part of the team- she’s extremely rational and is going into biochemistry, we’re complete opposites, but it works and she keeps me grounded whenever my ideas make me fly off the ground. After they all said yes, I figured 6 other members were enough for now, I put them all into an Instagram group chat and got a zoom meeting together.
How did you get in touch with all the collaborators?
The first mission I gave my team was to give me 5 names of people they knew that were interesting. We sorted out tables of their Instagram, their main craft, where they were from, information like that in order to make sure we represented a diverse bunch of people. My team and I then went through each of them to think about who we should do shoots with, particularly for those who had a less tangible craft. But as the project went along, some collaborators would lose interest and stop replying, and some new ones joined- it was all a process.
Class of 2020 is made up of team members
Syed Abdullah Albar, Gabe Tan, Haydn Gwyn,
Yu Kakinoki, Iyiola Oyeleke and Candice Lui.
Photography courtesy of Muhammad Shaiful @4stantine_
In this day and age, technology is a tool that is able to connects everybody when. I understand that many of your team members were located all over the world. Why did you decide for the project to exist as a physical zine?
For the first few weeks, debating over a physical zine and a digital one was like ping pong in my head. I did Instagram polls, in which most people voted for digital zine. My team rooted for a physical one. Sometimes, you have to go with the people right behind you, there’s no reality to people tapping buttons on Instagram. I understood that a digital one was going to be easier in distribution, a lot easier. But, I felt physical zines have a draw to them, in just how authentic they are. It may have caused me a lot of stress in doing shipments, dealing with the printers, but it was worth it. Holding a physical book is different: it’s real. No one is really going to sit there in front of their laptops and read all our interviews, it becomes a much more meaningful thing when it’s something you can hold. Like, it’s about understanding the people in this zine are real people, like you and I, and their words are worth publishing.
Photography courtesy of Skye Lai @skyelai___
Some of your collaborators are animators, musicians. How were these elements adapted into the physical zine?
This was an argument that became pro-digital zine. But, the most direct way I overcame it was through using QR codes
to link their work. Other than that, it was really just getting across their message, their aesthetic. The pages I designed,
I tried my best to get across their vibe. For example with the animator, understanding what he liked and the inspirations behind his work and working straight from that, as well as getting a fluidity in his pages. To be honest, I started just wanting our collaborators to showcase their work, especially for graduates who may not have had that opportunity to.
But as the project developed, I realised how much less of an opportunity we have to say and show what goes on behind
our works, why we do what we do and unravel the hardships of being a creative, being a youth. I wanted to redefine what success looks like for people reading our zine.
What does being a part of the Gen Z means to you as a publisher?
Being a Gen Z as a publisher, it means I have to be able to best represent my generation as accurately as possible and in the best possible light as possible. Just in order for young people and the other generations to see who we can be - not just you know lazy, disconnected and entitled. Uhm and for them to see who we have the potential to be and what we are willing to sacrifice in our journey in order to get to where we want to be and in order to help the people who need to be helped. And I think through the Class of 2020 zine, it is important for me to touch on these subjects with the interviewees because it's not just about what they are producing, or how they look or how or their talent or skills are. Really I just wanted to see who they are as a person and their backgrounds and their values and in order for someone else to see that they are represented in the zine. Also having a diverse cast of people was very important in order for it to be very all inclusive. You know, because we have to change our mindset and we have to sort of reform society’s norms I suppose. That starts with us.
Photography courtesy of Tiffany Tong
Why Call it Class of 2020?
When I first started the project, a friend who reminded me of doing the project was going to be a part of it. But a few weeks in before even coming up with doing a zine, he quit because of personal things. But we did bounce ideas off each other for names and we were just saying dumb but catchy names. He said ‘Class Of 2O2O’ thinking it wasn’t so good. But I loved it. I just felt it was so right. For a while, I found it hard to justify to people what it meant and often got misunderstood that this project was exclusively for the graduating class.
But I really meant that we are all the Class Of 2O2O because we need to learn from this year. Like at school, you can have thousands of lessons but not learn from it - so you’ll never graduate. The name had a ring of positivity. To say that, we will be graduating this year together. We will learn, we will change as people, as human beings. We can never go back to old ways after Covid. It’s also about uplifting each other and validating our own voices as we venture into the next chapter.
Possible for there to be Class of 2021 perhaps? ;)
I have no idea. I didn’t plan for anything beyond this one zine. But, knowing now that people are inspired and people are genuinely interested, which still surprises me, I do want to do right by people and continue. I didn’t expect for people to actually submit their work either. So in terms of our Instagram, I think I will try to keep it up to give people the platform they need. But my team will get busy and I don’t think they want to be so committed anymore. I’m going off to start University and though I will try my best, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe we’ll do another project that’s not a zine! Who knows what the future holds, I certainly did not expect any of this only a few months ago.