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Advancing Justice Conference 2013

USC Students at AJC on Saturday As the IVP of SCAPE and one of APASS CIRCLE's Teaching Assistants, I've been excited for the National Advancing Justice Conference for awhile.  Prior to the conference, I brought my CIRCLE participants to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice LA's office.  We met with Nathanel Lowe, a community organizer, who introduced us to some of the AAAJ staff that are actively working to make a positive impact in the community. Besides the conference, they are currently working on Gurmukh Singh's case. Singh was detained for five months and now after being released, faces deportation and separation from his wife and two daughters.

Last month, 17 USC students attended the conference hosted by Asian Americans Advancing Justice.  USC students from APASA, SCAPE, and APASS came together to attend the only national conference that focuses on civil rights and social justice for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.  We were fortunate enough to have funding from USG to support us and Andy Su, SCAPE's Community Service Chair, to organize all the logistics for us to attend. The conference was from Thursday, November 14th to Saturday, November 16th.  I personally was only able to attend Saturday's portion of the conference, including two plenaries and a workshop, but found it a worthwhile experience nonetheless.

The first plenary was Cross Racial Movement Building: Bridging our Difference for Effective Action, which started off with a panel of four influential leaders, Tuyet Le (Moderator), Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Tammy Bang Luu, and Johnny Ramirez.  There was a great discussion about building coalitions across racial lines.  A thoughtful question that I enjoyed was, "What is a shared vision of justice for our community that takes into account our differences?"

The workshop I went to was Arts in Activism: Arts and Arts Organizing in Social Justice, with Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Alison De La Cruz, and Patrick Huang.  Traci came to campus last year to do a workshop about acts and activism with APASA, so it was nice seeing a familiar face.  My favorite quote of the day came from her saying, "You must be accountable to your dreams." The workshop discussed the intersection and incorporation of the arts and activism.  We participated in helpful breathing exercises and a thoughtful and fun writing, music, and performance activity.  Overall it was not only educational, but inspiring as well.  Traci is a community leader I truly appreciate and look up to.

The last plenary and closing session of the conference was Winning Immigration Reform: What Will It Take and How Will We Do it?  The panel consisted of Congresswoman Judy Chu, Professor Bill Ong Hing, Reverend Deborah Lee, and Gurmukh Singh.  I most looked forward to hearing Congresswoman Judy Chu speak, especially with the work she has done regarding immigration.  I was also moved by Gurmukh Singh and his family.  It saddens me to see him fighting so hard to stay with his family.  There is a petition going around to support him, and you can help by signing it here!  During the panel, there were many tough issues addressed, such as the politics that are stopping comprehensive immigration reform from passing, S.744, and the future of DREAMers, much of which, I did not know about before.

Overall, I was glad I was able to attend the conference.  I left feeling invigorated and inspired as an Asian American leader, not just on campus but in my community as well!

Vivian Tsai