As my term as APIAVote-Michigan president winds down, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on my past five years with the organization. Who knew back in 2007 how far we would come?? I am proud to have been part of the leadership of this wonderful organization and am excited to see the continued growth and success of the organization under incoming president Theresa Tran and vice president Willie Dechavez.
A bit of history
In 2006, many respected community leaders guided me as I convened an ad hoc coalition of Asian American groups and individuals to educate Asian American voters in Michigan about affirmative action and mobilize voters in opposition to Proposal 2 through educational forums, town halls, and phone banks. That fall, Dr. Sook Wilkinson convened a group of Asian Americans to host voter registration and awareness events and create a public service announcement about the importance of voting.
After the November election, the group came together to debrief our efforts, and we decided to continue on to register, educate and mobilize Asian American voters in Michigan. Denise Yee Grim served as the first chair of APIAVote-Michigan in 2007.
Instead of writing a full-blown recap of the past five years (that would be too long!), I will share three things of which I am proud and three things for which I am hopeful.
I am proud of…
1. Grassroots: I am proud of the commitment that our organization has shown to nonpartisan grassroots community engagement. We saw a gap, and we continue to seek to fill it. Through our voter engagement work in the 2008, 2010, and 2012 election cycles and Census 2010 campaign, we have directly engaged tens of thousands of Asian American community members.
2. Innovation: First we started a youth leadership corps. Then we started two community needs assessment projects for the Asian American community – one in Southeast Michigan and one in West Michigan. We started an Asian American immigration story documentation project. I am proud of the groundbreaking work that APIAVote-Michigan has done over the past few years and know that this spirit of innovation and creativity will continue!
3. Intergenerational pan-Asian American organizing: Our Board and our contractual staff have been an intergenerational, pan-Asian American mix of South Asian Americans, Southeast Asian Americans and East Asian Americans. This diversity of experience and perspective is one of our most tremendous assets for our work.
I hope to see (in the Asian American community)…
1. Moving the grassroots to action: Let’s build on our grassroots efforts. APIAVote-Michigan has been a voice at the state and county level in redistricting, immigrants’ rights, and voting rights. I hope that the Asian American community continues to grow in our capability and willingness to advocate for ourselves on issues that matter to our families. We can’t let our growth stop with just population numbers – it is critical that we empower all of our community members to participate in elections and then to engage policymakers on issues. [I also hope to see more Asian American candidates for office from all political parties!]
2. Lifting up the underrepresented: I believe that we need to do much more work to lift up those that are not as fortunate or economically privileged in our community. I have been proud to be part of an organization committed to underrepresented voices and ethnic groups in the Asian American community. There is more to be done to ensure that those in our increasingly diverse community who don’t quite fit the Model Minority Myth are empowered to address issues in their communities.
3. Collaborate: Since our beginning, APIAVote-Michigan has been a part of coalitions and partnerships with Asian American ethnic groups and non-Asian American groups. Only by working collaboratively can we learn lessons from others and build stronger, more impactful efforts to make change in our communities.
Many thanks are owed to the initial informal coalitions that came together with a shared vision of a more empowered Asian American electorate in Michigan. In addition, none of the work that APIAVote-Michigan has accomplished in its five years would be possible without the hard work, perseverance, and commitment of:
· the many volunteers who have registered voters, called voters, stood in the cold on Election Day surveying voters, or participated in other volunteer activities;
· the financial support of various foundations and coalitions* who have been generous with their grants and subgrants, along with several corporate sponsors and many individual donors;
· the current and previous Board of Directors who have led the organization to where it stands today;
· the Advisory Board, led by Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood; and
· the contractual staff and interns that we have been so lucky to find (and put to work!).**
As you celebrate the close of 2012 and beginning of 2013, please consider making a tax-deductible donation of $25, $50, or $100 to APIAVote-Michigan.
Thank you for a life-changing five years.
* Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (Knight donor advised fund), W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Ford Foundation, Michigan Voice, Michigan Nonprofit Association, APIAVote National and Asian American Justice Center.
** Past contractual staff and interns: Napapond Fay, Arthur Wang, Denny Chan, Gurtej Singh, Samira Ahmed, Barbara Stachowski, Wendy Yuan, Nancy Yan, Sally Kim, Mahima Mahadevan, Prasanna Vengadam, Mohammad Ashraf, Nasima Ahmed, Gao Nu Yang, Monika Kothari, Steve Su, Nasreen Islam, John Geahan, Mitchell Diep, Mehreen Ahmed, Vivian Le, Lian Le, Niño Laput, Rebeka Islam, Nicole Ni, and Xee Yang.