National Civic Leadership Forum (NCLF) – Empowering AAPI for 2020
September 15 – 18, 2019
Joel Wong, Editor CLUSA
Over 200 AAPI (Asian and Pacific Islander Americans) Leaders representing 100+ organizations and 12 ethnic groups gathered in Washington DC for three plus days to net-work, identify issues, build coalitions and learn to work as a group. This was a monumental task that took months of preparation and hundreds of hours of volunteer work under the leadership of CLUSA, APAPA, AAUC and the co-chairmanship of SK Lo, Vincent Wang and volunteers from many like-minded organizations.
AAPI are the fastest growing and arguably the best educated and “successful” immigrants since the enactment of the 1965 (Hart-Celler) Immigration and Nationality Act which allowed non-European immigrants to enter the US en masse to become citizens. It is significant to note that the term AAPI represents many diverse ethnic groups that have heretofore seldom cooperated with each other, never mind about forming coalitions and speak with one voice.
The Forum was jam packed with information and net-working opportunity for seasoned and new AAPI leaders alike. The following are some of the highlights.
This was the main theme of the Forum and there were seminars, training sessions, workshops, panel discussions and fireside chats to engaged audience to review current state of the AAPI community, shared best practices, and provided training for key building blocks for civic engagement. There were the political and non-political tracks for this exercise and APIAVote provided some excellent training. Keynote Speakers were Tina Tchen (former Chief of Staff for Michelle Obama) and Frank Wu (C-100 Ex-President) amongst others.
Conference attendees were given training, talking points on issues of concern prior to their scheduled visits to their Congressman and Senators on Capitol Hill. Many younger Leaders have not had this type of experience before, and were most appreciative for this opportunity to visit, opine and discuss issues with their state representatives. Three major issues that have emerged are: immigration; the 2020 Census; and, racial profiling related to Chinese espionage and academic research.
Capitol Building Visit:
Former Congressman David Wu offered the most popular personal guided evening tours of the Capitol Buildings. He takes special pride in educating and explaining to his audience the architectural and historical significance of the Capitol buildings and all the associated artifacts, paintings and sculptures, etc. AAPI leaders who have never taken the tour were impressed with the knowledge and the enthusiasm of Congressman Wu and his ‘lecture 101’ on the home of the US Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government.
At the Reception Congresswoman Judy Chu, CA was presented the “American Civil Rights Champion” award honoring her continuous effort to support our community for equal rights and justice. Her support for falsely accused Asian American scientists Sherry Chen and Dr. Xiaoxing Xi was especially heart-warming. Dr. Xiaoxing Xi was present to witness her acceptance of this special award.
Representative Lloyd Doggett from Texas was honored with the Leadership in Public Service award in recognition of his support of the AAPI community in Texas. He is a founding member of the Texas Asian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Asian American Complete Count Committee (AACCC), and was instrumental in helping the community secure a federal grant for building the Asian American Resource Center in Austin.
Other Congresspersons, notably Ted Lieu, CA, Sheila Jackson Lee, TX, have also stopped by to greet the assembled AAPI Leaders.
Unprecedented Declaration of Unity by Attending AAPI Organizations:
The three-day conference reached its climax in a press conference and signing ceremony on 9-17-2019. Led by C.C. Yin, over 90 community leaders signed a joint statement to call for full-scale civic engagement which includes volunteerism, donation, social advocacy, community service, voter registration and political participation at local, state, and national levels. This is a process of self-empowerment that we learn from the experiences and lessons from all other immigrant groups.
AAPI Leaders attending this Forum have all pledged to keep this momentum going long into the future. This unprecedented signing ceremony was witnessed by invited news media and videotaped by DingDing TV for release to mainstream media.
Overall, NCLF 2019 was a major success. All the AAPI Leaders present were encouraged and are enthusiastic in spreading the ‘gospel’ of AAPI unity and coalition.