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APA News and Happenings

API Activism: Where Do We Fit in the Black Lives Matter Movement?

Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Su, one of the APASA interns for this year. Last Wednesday, February 10 was our first APASA-sponsored APAHF event, “API Activism: Where do we fit in the Black Lives Matter movement?” Since February is Black History Month, we decided to incorporate API solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement into our original discussion topics of the history and current issues in API activism. The event featured a short presentation on the history of API activism, followed by a panel discussion with various API activist leaders in the community.

 

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The panelists talked about a variety of topics, ranging from their work in activism and the API communities, their politicization, their involvement with Black Lives Matter, and how they address anti-blackness in their lives. Ren-Yo Hwang spoke on their work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and how by talking with the prisoners, they were able to see firsthand the injustices that arise from stereotypes and biases. One story Ren-Yo shared involved a woman who had served much longer time in prison than her Asian friend who had actually planned the theft. This difference of rulings was related to racial stereotypes and the friend’s connections that allowed her to get a lighter sentence. Ren-Yo also discussed the discrimination that queer and transgender people face in dealing with the law.

When asked about how they became politicized in the first place, the panelists told stories about their life experiences and the activist work they have done. Calvin Chang spoke about how where he worked, a police officer mistook the Asian Pacific Islander man as the offender they had reported instead of the white man, pinned him against the wall, and threatened to use his gun. Calvin had to explain that the white man was the person he should have been arresting, and that instance showed him how ingrained racial stereotypes are in society and the law enforcement in particular.

In discussing their involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, all panelists spoke on the importance of the API community showing solidarity with the Black community. Many of them also mentioned how being in those communities has also allowed them to make lifelong friends and create bonds that reach beyond activist work. Sasha Wijeyeratne spoke about their experiences specifically with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and the connections they have made within the Queer People of Color, Asian Pacific Islander, and South Asian communities.

All panelists emphasized the importance of getting involved in social justice issues in any way possible and addressing anti-blackness in daily life. Referring to what students can do to get involved now, Andy Su talked about his work with API Equality-LA that actually started from his time at USC.

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After an interesting panel discussion, various student participants asked engaging questions about the panelists’ work and what students can do to combat injustice at this point in their lives. In general, the event was extremely informative and gave new perspectives on what role APIs play in social justice movements.

 

Michelle Su

APASA Intern

UC Irvine’s 31st Annual Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference

Hyphenated: Navigating Identities 12496056_977077229034343_3089483035833262251_o

Hello! My name is Thanya Chat and I’m an APASA intern currently shadowing Vivian, our Internal Community Chair.

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Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending UC Irvine’s 31st Annual Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference (APAAC), which brought together delegations of students from all over Southern California to hold important discussions on race, disempowerment, LGBT rights, and more within an API context.

The theme, “Hyphenated: Navigating Identities,” provided a strong foundation for the presentations and workshops that took place, as well in investigating, celebrating, and raising awareness for Asian Pacific Islander communities.

The conference began with an opening keynote from activist and author Deepa Iyer. Her presentation and personal narratives addressing hate crimes and marginalization of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asian communities emphasized the importance of taking a stand against injustice.

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Former USC APASS director and current Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity at Harvey Mudd College, Sami Pendakur, also presented regarding campus activism and the need for social action and change. Her presentation focused on increasing social justice and moving towards more equitable practices on a local, regional, and national scale.  

The third and final keynote speaker then wrapped up the conference with a passionate and personally meaningful speech on the school to prison to deportation pipeline. A well-known activist and project director at the Community Youth Center of San Francisco, much of his work focuses on a commitment to aiding youth and working towards more inclusivity for APIs.

Alongside these inspiring and informative speeches, APAAC also featured performances from several of UCI’s cultural organizations, as well as opportunities to participate in workshops covering topics from cross-cultural adoption to gender identity.

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Ultimately, the event was successful in creating a respectful and safe space for honest discussions and the exchange of personal stories. Through attending APAAC, I was able to learn a lot about my cultural identity, as well as how I can help break barriers and improve conditions for APIs socially, politically, and economically. I would highly encourage anyone and everyone who may be interested to attend the conference next year, as it is sure to be a very meaningful experience.

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Thanya Chat

APASA Intern

APASA Attends WCAPSU's Fall Summit

Hiya! I’m Sophia, the USG Delegate for APASA this year. It’s only a few weeks into the semester, but APASA is ready to do some important and necessary work within the APA community! Over Labor Day weekend, four APASA representatives attended the West Coast Asian Pacific Islander Student Union (WCAPSU) fall summit at the UC Davis. With the theme of “(re)Visioning Values,” the summit had a focus on three pressing issues in the APA/API community: mental health, affirmative action, and anti-blackness.

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Going into the weekend, I was unsure of what to expect. For all three of the APASA representatives, this was our first WCAPSU summit. We arrived in Davis past midnight on Friday and woke up early the next morning to begin what would become two days of brainstorming and organizing with students from 10 different campuses throughout California.

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The opportunity to meet with students from so many schools was definitely what made the summit special for me. Being able to see what resources other students have at their campuses and what USC can learn from other schools, public and private, was really useful to me as an advocate.

Leaving the summit, I think a lot of the attendees really connected with ideas of allyship and accountability. We, as young APA leaders, need to work on being better allies. The APA community has too often contributed to anti-blackness, and we need to hold ourselves accountable. Luckily we got a few tips from Franchesca Ramsey (Chescaleigh on Youtube) about allyship:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0

While we ourselves need to be more accountable, we also need to hold our schools accountable to the APA community (and we have the power to do that)! That is why one of my primary goals this year is building more coalitions with APA leaders at other campuses as well as with USC’s other cultural assemblies.

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The WCAPSU summit gave me a lot of hope. What inspired me throughout the weekend and continues to push me forward in this work is the knowledge that we as a community are incredibly resilient. APAs have the power to make changes on our campuses, and we know it is possible because other students have already begun to do so.

Fight On!

-Sophia Li

LA Town Hall: Response to the Racist/Misogynistic Flyer Sent to UCLA and USC

Political is personal and it affects all of us. “How many people have to get hurt before something gets done? The university won’t move until they see pain, yet pain we hide it so well,” said Uyen Hoang, the director of the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA. Last Wednesday, USC’s APASA, USC’s SCAPE and UCLA’s APC teamed up to hold a LA Asian Pacific Islander Town Hall meeting in response to the racist incident that occurred earlier in February. The primary aim of the town hall was not to focus on the flyer but rather, to emphasize three things: context, community, and a call-to-action. It was both exceptionally informative yet awfully painful to hear what people of all different backgrounds had to say about college campuses not being post-racial and the administration’s passivity towards discriminatory acts.

Here are a few snippets of the stories told at the Town Hall. A Native Hawaiian spoke of a Caucasian graduate professor who was outwardly racist and assaulted a student of color, yet is still an educator at UCLA. An American-Indian of Navajo descent spoke about how UCLA was his dream school, yet now, he’s not in love with it as he once was… because of discrimination that still exists. He spoke about fraternity parties themed as “Bros and Navajos” and being asked if he gets free tuition because he is an American Indian. He was ecstatic, as were most other students, that we were talking, acknowledging a serious lack of education and also, a lack of action on the administration’s part. Another student explained how a student wearing a headscarf was both verbally and physically harassed.

A lot of people believe America is colorblind and post-racial, but it’s not. Colleges, like USC and UCLA, which boast about fostering diversity, should be ashamed. Anh Nguyen, the President of VSU at UCLA, could not have said it better when she told students, “Remind the university as a whole that they are responsible for the students… It’s a systemic change [needed] in society… it needs to start from the policymakers.” APASA’s Assistant Director, Alison Chang, also mentioned, “On an individual level, it’s hard to fight back to those micro-aggressions. But, that’s why we do it as a community. Only when we stand together can we truly be heard.”

In order to stand together in solidarity, the Town Hall Meeting closed with various people signing a list of demands addressed to UCLA’s administration. The Town Hall was largely focused on sharing pain rather than speaking about how to respond/act as a community, but healing must come first before action. It also had a significantly larger emphasis on UCLA’s campus climate as opposed to USC’s. However, UCLA has also had a longer history regarding administration’s passivity towards addressing discriminatory acts than USC. A lot of students at USC are still unsure of what specifically to ask from administration or if there is a need to address administration. Is it strictly an education issue? We may have a diversity requirement but is it enough? What else can we do?

Questions may still remain unanswered, but the Town Hall made it clear that discriminatory acts still exist and will continue to persist unless we speak up. Even if these acts are not addressed to you, they are directed towards members of your community and it won’t just stop. As Alex Kanegawa, a member of SCAPE, said, “A lot of people assume that we should just let it go… But then, we’re going to be internalizing our own oppressions… And we shouldn’t let it keep happening.”

It was surprising to see how acts of discrimination could fully alter a person’s college experience. College campuses are meant to be safe and inclusive, but what happens when they are not? It’s disappointing and a clear indication that something must change. Pain in life, should stem from a bad breakup or from breaking your bone, not from the harsh words and hurtful actions by other members of your community.

Updates on these issues show that standing up for what you believe in can lead to change. The Chancellor of UCLA has released a letter addressing the UCLA’s list of demands clearly and he understands it is a university issue and explains how UCLA will go about addressing those demands, setting a timeline and a procedure. USC’s Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Dr. Carry, has also spoken out, with no real plan of action. What do we want on campus for USC? What do students want on USC’s campus?

Hahney Yo

APASA Intern