Sisters Bring Awareness to Discrimination With an Award Winning Art Piece


Nadine and Natalia Tong

In their piece, the Tong twins show many depictions of discrimination against minorities.

By Eva Smedeby, San Juan Hills High School

When presented with the idea to participate in the OC Human Relations “Know Better” contest, senior students Nadine and Natalia Tong decided to take part. Unbeknownst to them, their art piece would be featured as 1 of the 5 winners, with the attribution of a $5,500 grant.

BRIDGES supervisors, Ms. Villalba, Mrs. Sanchez, and Mr. Sotelo first introduced the contest to the BRIDGES task force, where Nadine and Natalia, as members of the organization, heard about it.

“We both have always enjoyed the arts and saw this contest as a great opportunity to both have fun drawing and do something to support our BRIDGES program for years to come. We wanted to express our dedication to fight discrimination and make a difference in the world,” said Nadine Tong.

Their art piece features a collage of different movements, including BLM and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The drawings are presented with a variety of different symbols and metaphors, all in an effort to promote diversity, especially for underrepresented minorities.

“Drawing in metaphors and symbols has become something that we have been inspired to do as it makes you look at the deeper meaning in our overall message— that’s what cultural inclusivity is all about,” said the Tong sisters.

Although, the focal point of the piece is the portrait of an Asian woman, who takes up half of the page and is seen wearing a mask while looking directly at the viewer of the art piece. As members of the Asian community, Nadine and Natalia Tong wanted to ensure that the discrimination they  face first hand doesn’t without recognition.

“Being Chinese, we really wanted to spread awareness on covid xenophobia towards those of Asian descent, which is why we were inspired to draw an Asian woman as the main focus of our art piece,” said Nadine.

The correlation of different movements and races and ethnicities portrayed in the background all tie into the pieces’ overarching motif, to promote inclusive unification– henceforth the title, “The Truth Around Us.”

“All these interconnected ideas of peace and inclusion tie into our message to fight discrimination, and that is genuinely what we love about our piece– the way you can take so many diverse movements and ideas and bring them all together inot one unifying theme,” said the Tongs.

Their composition was up against 150 other submissions amongst 5 districts, where only five of those pieces were selected.

As one of the winners, Nadine and Natalia received a $5,500 grant, but intend to use the money to support the ongoing battle against discrimination. “We plan to use this money to fund our Task Force retreats and put on more events like Unity Week at our school in the future.”

In addition to the grant, “The Truth Around Us” will also be represented as the feature photo for SJHHS’s Unity Week this year– an event run by DIRHA and the BRIDGES task force that educates students on diversity, discrimination, and the importance of forming unity.

“Our society has been constantly presenting discriminatory obstacles for those most vulnerable. But regardless of our gender, our sexual orientation, our race or ethnicity, and our status in society, we are all human and we are all together,” said the Tongs.

The importance of creating a safe, inclusive and anti racist environment has always been prevalent, and the message behind  “The Truth Around Us” shows that the circumstances on behalf of the lockdown make no exceptions for continuing this ideal.

“We truly believe that the only unjust virus is discrimination,” said the Tong sisters.

This story was originally published on The Express on February 25, 2021.