Songwriter inspired by love for her community - Define American

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Songwriter inspired by love for her community

Julie Yeeun Kim’s mission and music in the heart of Los Angeles

The first year of the Define American Undocumented Artist Fellowship concluded on November 30 breaking new ground on the type of support available to these artists and the amazing work they can produce individually and in collaboration with their local communities. We are beginning the new year reflecting on the work of the incredible artists in the program and sharing stories of their partnerships with community-based organizations.

No one creates art in a vacuum and an artist’s surroundings and lived experiences can heavily shape the direction their art practice takes.

Julie Yeeun Kim’s art is definitely informed by where she lives and her experiences growing up there.

Julie was born in Korea and raised in Koreatown in Los Angeles, CA, home to several diverse cultures all living together in one place. She enjoys living in this intersection of cultures and, as a singer/songwriter, Julie was influenced by the Korean, Latin, and Gospel music she heard in her neighborhood. In 2018, Julie collaborated with jazz musician John Daversa’s Big Band on the album “American Dreamers,” which was awarded three Grammy Awards in 2019, including the one for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble.” She speaks more about these experiences in her episode of LA Made.

Another strong influence is her experience growing up in church, where she regularly sang in choirs and on worship teams. She is currently pursuing an MA in theology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA and is very interested in the intersections of faith, community and politics, particularly politics surrounding issues of race and immigration. Julie has collaborated with several faith-based organizations, including Voices of Christian Dreamers, Los Angeles churches and Christian universities, to raise awareness in faith-based communities about the issues immigrants and especially undocumented immigrants face. She hopes this will develop into a national church tour melding together music and conversation around the immigrant experience.

Julie brings all of this into the studio with her when songwriting. Mining her unique perspective and a broad array of life experiences, Julie’s lyrics speak to specific personal events while also being full of nostalgia. Her ability to share her own journey in a way that is relatable to a broader audience speaks to her skill as a songwriter. The first single of her new EP will be released on March 19, but you can listen to one of her previous singles, “Dreamers,” on YouTube.

Julie also helps other emerging creatives learn to interpret their lived experiences into art by teaching English and Asian American Studies at California State University, Long Beach. The students she works with come from a broad range of backgrounds culturally and personally. Julie’s ability to make sense of her own influences and experiences in her art practice informs her ability to help her students learn to do the same.

The Undocumented Artist Fellowship is made possible through a grant from the Kresge Foundation. Read about more artist fellows! Want to see more great work? Support our 2020 artist fellows by donating today!

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