spotlight on Joann Wang, co-founder and East Side Stories’ director of operations



By Marielle Rodriguez, Triple-coordinator I’s for social media and brand design


We met with Joann Wang, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of East Side Stories (ESS), a non-profit based in NYC that aims to share the AAPI experience through media, education, and film, to commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

To generate meaningful stories and conversations about the AAPI experience, ESS brings together local talent, AAPI creatives and filmmakers, AAPI-owned businesses, and other community organizations.


We talked to Wang about the reasons behind the creation of ESS, how her cast and crew prepare for pandemic-related liabilities on a set, and the steadfast perseverance and camaraderie of AAPI small enterprises and the communities that support them.


Let’s discuss your history.


What gave you the idea to start East Side Stories (ESS)?


I work as a full-time school counselor and a part-time vocational counselor. I am Taiwanese-Mongolian.

As a side project, Shane, our independent filmmaker, and I created ESS.

More than 50 Asian Americans were interviewed for our “Stories From the Heart” series about love and what it means to them.

During that endeavor, which was back in February 2020, we got to know a lot of wonderful folks.

Many hate crimes against Asian Americans actually took up shortly after that.

We witnessed a lot of people who were quite outraged and wanted to take action.

We had not worked with ESS at that time due to COVID.

It remained merely a YouTube channel.


Because we believed it would be a fantastic opportunity for people to focus their efforts and what they want to accomplish to convey Asian American and Pacific Islander tales, we made ESS into a nonprofit organization.

Although you can’t always march or protest, you can express your emotions via art and produce something more significant. We reasoned that the best method for individuals to do this would be through a nonprofit.


What purpose does East Side Stories serve?

What do you want the work of your organization to accomplish and encourage in others?


Through education and storytelling, ESS aims to serve our creatives as well as the community.

We believe that ESS will serve as a platform for not only disseminating knowledge and information about what it means to be an Asian American and Pacific Islander, but also as a gathering place for creatives to learn from one another, share knowledge and resources, and engage with the neighborhood.

We frequently observe organizations that are unable to effectively advertise themselves, thus ESS would be delighted to help: “Let’s help you develop an entertaining film to market your business.”

You are someone who is doing fantastic work for the community, so let’s hear your story.