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Red Scarf Revolution

Silong Chhun is a man with a mission ... and powerful designs

Silong Chhun shows an onlooker his designs. Courtesy photo

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History is the greatest teacher.

It teaches us how to start conversations, creates understanding and awareness and motivates change. Most of all, history teaches us to connect to each other in meaningful and poignant ways through ideas, dialog and the human experience.

One Tacoma man believes deeply in all the teachings history has to offer, and he is ready to start a revolution of a unique kind - through wearable art, design, awareness and conversation - about one of the darkest and most heartbreaking periods in world history and one that has directly impacted millions of people.

Silong Chhun is the man behind the Red Scarf Revolution, a project with a mission to bring awareness to the tragedies, atrocities and cultural destruction the Cambodian people endured from 1975 to 1979 under the communist Khmer Rouge regime and how that period impacts us today.

The Khmer Rouge enacted what is called the Year Zero revolution. At the heart of the revolution's mission was an aim to replace the current culture with a new one and erase past history. They stopped at nothing to achieve their goals, which resulted in brutality toward the Cambodian people, particularly teachers, artists and intellectuals.

Nearly two million Cambodians were murdered during that time.

Chhun wants to pay homage to the people, culture and language of that time period (and beyond). But his vision doesn't stop there: he also envisions a multi-faceted, local community resource center in the future. He's a deeply proud local who feels the area is ready to be engaged, and his personal experiences reflect this.

"I was born in Cambodia, and my parents settled in Tacoma when I was two years old in 1981," said Chhun. "We lived in the Hilltop (neighborhood) for about a year before making the Salishan projects our home.

Tacoma raised me to be who I am today. The diversity in the city and the people I've encountered throughout my life shaped my perspective on how I approach life. To always be open, be kind, and give when you are able to give. Growing up, my family was fortunate and blessed to have had help from our family and the people in the community."

The Red Scarf Revolution was born from these roots. And for Chhun, it's a project of passion.

"Red Scarf Revolution started because I felt that more people need to know and learn about Cambodia's not-so-distant dark history. The concept of awareness by design is to provoke conversation and open the door to dialogue about Cambodia and what Cambodians are all about. The name itself is a representation of the red Kramas, a red scarf that is associated with the Khmer Rouge. The Kramas were a staple of the Cambodian culture before it was a symbol of the Khmer Rouge; we're taking it back and giving it back to the people," Chhun said.

"Specifically, one of the goals is to bridge today's Cambodian youth with their history while providing a sense of self-worth and identity in order to move the culture forward. I want to provide a platform for Cambodian-American youths to discuss history with their elders. The Khmer Rouge era isn't taught in schools, and I feel it's part of my responsibility to pass down our history. It is who we are and we can't ever lose that."

>>> Silong Chhun

It begins with art. The Red Scarf Revolution website ( features Chhun's apparel designs, which are available for purchase. Each design tells a powerful story.

"Each piece designed represents a moment in the history of Cambodia. The Great Empire, The Golden Age, The Dark Tragedy that is the Khmer Rouge era, and The Diaspora.

For example, the Of Gods and Kings design represents the ancient history of Cambodia during the period when Angkor Wat flourished. The next designs are of Sin Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea, the two most famous singers from Cambodia. After that, there are designs that represent the Khmer Rouge era, and finally we have designs that represent the survivors and the Cambodian American diaspora with the Le Drapeau design."

Chhun also encourages website visitors to contact him if there's a color or size that they are interested in but don't see. He's also open to doing custom orders upon request.

While Chhun appreciates designing, he also is passionate about the bigger picture.

"I hope the people of Tacoma will take a look at Red Scarf Revolution and be interested enough to ask questions. Red Scarf Revolution is not a clothing brand, but more of a concept, an idea of bringing people together to ask questions about the genocide that took place in Cambodia, but not be limited to that. Red Scarf Revolution is about raising awareness on social issues that affect us today, and we want people to ask serious questions in hopes of finding a solution. The clothing is just one of the mediums we use to spread the awareness. Red Scarf Revolution is also heavily involved in various projects from films, music and community building as well."

In fact, the Red Scarf Revolution is sponsoring an upcoming Oct. 11 comedy fundraising benefit for a medical mission to Cambodia. Visit its Facebook event page for more details.

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