Chinatown CDC Youth experience National CAPACD

Southwest Airlines donated flight tickets to Chinatown CDC which allowed us to send two youth participants to the National CAPACD Convention in June. Below are reflections from one of the youth:

The 14th Annual National CAPACD Convention in Washington, D.C. brought together more than 200 community organizers, social service providers, and affordable housing developers to share insights and ways to tackle issues that cut across communities. Chinatown CDC has been a member of National CAPACD since its inception.

During the convention, we heard from many plenary speakers including Wade Henderson, President of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He spoke passionately about the history of the civil rights struggle as a story of triumph over racism and discrimination, as a transformative movement that systematically dismantled “separate but equal,” and put America on a pathway to become the democracy of today.

He called on us to support comprehensive immigration reform because those of us who fight for economic justice for our communities should understand that the 12 million undocumented individuals, who are living outside the protection of the law, are disadvantaged and marginalized and underprivileged —just as Asian Americans have been in the past.

We learned from Congresswoman Judy Chu about how Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), as a demographic, have been excluded from national dataset because there are not enough statistics about AAPIs.

The panel discussions were also enlightening. We listened to many stories including one about how a CBO in New Orleans organized youth to fight against illegal landfills in their communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; we heard about Chinatown CDC’s Eco-District that would implement green infrastructure through electricity and water efficiency retrofits and by heating and cooling buildings using solar power and storm water. We learned that it would be a mutual benefit to the landlord who will see cost savings and the residents who will have a higher quality of life. We learned about how sometimes community organizers and affordable housing developers may have tension but ultimately realize that they are working for the same community.

National CAPACD has done remarkable work: it has created an infrastructure that connects AAPI communities from across the region and country; it has provided direct services to AAPI community-based institutions in such areas as capacity building, foreclosure mitigation, support for entrepreneurship and small business sector work in our communities. National CAPACD hopes to create a pipeline of leaders from AAPI communities to federal employment and positions, so that we have a voice and a place at the table.

Part of National CAPACD’s Strategic Plan is about changing the narrative that views Asian-Americans as being economically well-off. Philanthropic and corporate organizations, the federal government, and financial institutions have historically underinvested in Asian American communities because of the “model minority myth” and the lack of data and statistics about AAPI communities. But this reality speaks to the important role that National CAPACD must play in the years to come—in creating and building awareness, and disaggregating data about Asian Americans so that these institutions can properly respond with funding, policies and targeted programs that would improve the economic vitality of AAPI communities. In 2013,National CAPACD released a report that spotlighted the AAPI population living in poverty increased by more than 45% since the wake of the 2007 housing and financial crisis.

It was a great honor for us to attend this convention. We are grateful for the chance to visit our nation’s capital, inspired by the grassroots organizing and community development of so many AAPI leaders from across our country, and fired up by the deep passion and strong commitment shared by all of us toward bringing positive change to our communities. What felt particularly profound to me was our visit with the newly-appointed Deputy Secretary of Labor, Christopher Lu, and his remark to “put our hands on the ark of history and bend it once more toward justice.”

Eric Wu, AAA Alumni and CATS tour guide


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