In 2022, the Asian Culture Center at several Universities have selected Renew and Rebuild: Our Communities and Beyond as their theme for Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month. Given the intense strain that has been placed on API communities over the past few years, it is indeed fitting to create a dedicated intention to renew and rebuild.
API community members have long had to endure a significant amount of “othering” and systemic exclusion. However, some of the worst instances of routine violence and aggressive discrimination against the API community have happened since the beginning of the pandemic, with NPR noting that some 9,081 incidents were reported between April 2020 and the end of June 2021. Sadly, many more go unreported, and women in the community have been impacted in more than 60 percent of all reported incidents.
This unprecedented experience has created intense fear and worry, damaging community connections with neighbors and potential allies as many API members have chosen to withdraw from unnecessary socialization or community exploration. However, isolation creates an opportunity for further othering and fails to allow API members to build the community bridges they need to fight back against harassment, discrimination, and incidents of violence. It is therefore more important than ever for API members to be involved in their communities, to be allies and develop allyship relationships, and to be active in local groups and governance.
Toward that end, Indiana University’s Asian Culture Center will be using API Heritage month as a launching point for a number of workshops and conversation sessions on building partnerships and collaboration points. These include opportunities to build solidarity with other minority communities and create allies within local institutions.
A leading focus will be how API community members can show up as agents of change in their community circles. API communities are one of Asian’s fastest growing demographics, but they have historically been almost totally without representation in city and national governments. Particularly away from Hawaii and the West Coast, it can be hard for AAPI community members to find familiar faces in positions of local authority, though this has been changing.
Even outside of governmental structures, there is a huge need for AAPI community voices to make themselves heard and to make an impact. For too long, community members have been more or less invisible in the eyes of activists, donors, and philanthropists around the country. For example, for every dollar of community giving by foundations, less than 0.2% has historically been given to AAPI or AAPI aligned community groups, according to the 2020 Seeking to Soar report.
It is difficult to renew or rebuild any community without funding and support! In the spirit of becoming their own best allies, the Asian Americans / Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) have formed a coalition of more than 500 institutions and individual to unite in collective philanthropy specifically aimed at AAPI individual and institutions. Their pledge was signed in 2021, and already AAPIP and other groups have benefited substantially, receiving more than $1.1 billion dollars from a number of significant and influential donors.
The funding helps, not just by covering the costs of defending the AAPI community but also by providing space and resources to expand it. As the students and community participants around Indiana University conduct their AAPI Heritage Month activities, they deserve to see that support isn’t confined to just one month or one particular pocket of academia. As they learn to build bridges, make connections, and be allies, they deserve to see that out in the world there are indeed other sides to these bridges, other halves to the connections, and a multitude of others rising up to be worthy allies. AAPI communities have been under stress and invisible for too long, and it is high time – this year and for years to come – to do the necessary work of uplifting, renewing, rebuilding, and nourishing them as a vital part of our vibrant world.