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Jin-Ya Huang

The Girl who Caught the Fish

By Erin Ratigan
Photos by Noemi Conchas

She looks like her mother, from her smile and gently sloped brows to her nose and direct gaze. As activist and artist Jin-Ya Huang tells her life story, it’s clear the similarities don’t end at her appearance. Her mother, Margaret, also gave her strength, determination and community spirit. “I will never stop talking about my mom,” she says. “She’s my inspiration. She’s my North Star, and she’s my light guiding me through the work that needs to be done.”

 Jin-Ya is an artist and the founder of Break Bread Break Borders, an educational program and catering business that supports female refugees by training them in food service. BBBB cooks earn food management and handling permits, allowing them to find jobs and support themselves and their families. Their mission draws from her mother’s passion for public service and supporting immigrant communities. Margaret’s photo is featured on the “about” page on BBBB’s website, a young Margaret looking directly into the camera, beautiful and unassumingly glamorous. It isn’t just a photo — it feels like a celebration, as if she knows what her daughter will do one day to pay it forward.

Margaret passed away in 2015 from multiple myeloma, and for Jin-Ya that loss feels as fresh now as the day it happened. “When I really struggled with the grief, I wanted to turn it into some kind of action,” she says.

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