Asian American Hero of CO: Ratha Sok
By: Patricia Kaowthumrong | Follow Ratha on Instagram
Ratha Sok hopes his service to the community helps build a stronger foundation for new generations. As a first-generation Cambodian American who was born and raised in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood, the graffiti artist is proud to have broken the negative stereotypes that can be associated with the growing up in the lower-income community.
“My greatest achievement is being a product of the inner city and breaking the stereotype of that population to make something of myself, along with not falling into the Asian cultural expectations of ‘professional’ roles in society,” he says. “I instead molded myself into a position of passion and hard work in the arts, which is often frowned upon in Asian cultures.”
Sok’s career as a graffiti artist started 10 years ago and evolved into the production of public and commercialized murals across the Denver metro area and beyond. You can see his work at Chuey Fu’s restaurant; in Lakewood’s Belmar neighborhood; Sweansea Elementary School; Natural Grocers stores in Denver and Boulder, and more.
Examples of Ratha's work:
In addition to working full time at Coors sign shop and as a freelance artist, Sok is the founder of the Cambodian streetwear brand, Khmer Ninjas. His other community-oriented endeavors include hosting lectures and leading workshops at local summer camps, Lakewood Cultural Center and other organizations. He has also participated in projects for Khmer Buddhist Temple, Cambodian Heritage Camps, and Colorado Dragon Boat Festival and is a longtime advisor for the West High School Mural Club, which he founded.
“Ratha has been a leader in the Denver community, especially to Cambodian youth,” says his nominator. “He has led by the example and has exemplified what it means to break the Cambodian stereotype. He has broken barriers beyond what most can even begin to understand especially coming from a marginalized group that does not exactly fit the most of your ‘typical Asian.’”
Sok’s lives by the mantra “Make your ideas into reality,” and advises younger generations to maximize their time and talents. “Don’t waste precious time and energy,” he says. “Also, remember to surround yourself with a support system that uplifts you.”