The APIAVote-Michigan Annual Meeting held on April 25, 2010 at the Korean Cultural Center provided an opportunity for myself and Samira Ahmed, the 2010 Census Project Co-coordinators, to present a summary of the joint partnership of the APIAVote-Michigan and the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ) team census project that was intended to increase the mail return rate for the 2010 Census.
In reflecting back over the last four months, we were thrilled to report that we had participated in more than 80 community events and had engaged more than 9, 500 members of the diverse Asian Pacific Islander American community in Michigan.
There were many highlights during the project.
One of our greatest successes included securing two (Detroit) City Connect grants to provide outreach to the hard-to-count Hmong population in the Osborn High School area in Detroit. This outreach included addressing 21 sections of English class during one school day at Osborn High School. Visiting Mr. Cue’s Hmong homeroom sparked a great conversation during which we strategized how to encourage non-English speaking elders to participate in the Census.
In March, we facilitated a community leader roundtable and an Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) training at the People’s Community Services site in Hamtramck to focus on the issues of privacy that face immigrants. It was especially rewarding to establish new relationships with the Bangladeshi community in Hamtramck.
There were many key lessons that were learned and the successful engagement of the community was possible because of the firmly established relationships in place as a result of APIAVote-Michigan’s grassroots activities over the past several years.
It is critical as advocates to understand the diverse dynamics involved in engaging immigrants that are in the US by choice and those that here as forced refugees because they were victims of human rights violations in their home countries.
Strategies for addressing the uniqueness of each community were successful in gaining trust and laying the foundation for future APIA advocacy programs for voting, immigration, citizenship and community surveys.