02/21/2017

AAA Fund Stands With Grace Meng for DNC Vice Chair

Grace Meng

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2017

AAAF Stands With Rep. Grace Meng for DNC Vice Chair
Nation’s oldest Asian American Democratic PAC Supports Northeast’s first Asian American Congresswoman

The Asian American Action Fund is proud to stand with Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) on her re-election bid to serve as the Democratic National Committee Vice Chair. Rep. Meng was voted in for the first time in July 2016, and currently runs ASPIRE PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. The Asian American Action Fund was pleased to support Rep. Meng in her historic first run for Congress in 2012, and in her race to become DNC Vice Chair this summer.

Bel Leong-Hong, Chair of the Asian American Action Fund, and Chair of the DNC’s AAPI Leadership Caucus, said, “Rep. Meng has been a tremendous guiding force at the DNC to encourage outreach to Asian American communities and the rising American majority. It is in part due to her leadership and outreach that 87% of AAPIs nationally voted Democratic in 2016 – one of the highest Democratic turnout results. However, our community is a swing vote, and it’s crucial that the Democratic Party continue to engage Asian American voters by having strong representation in leadership.”

Rep. Meng is a daughter of Queens and the first Chinese American Congressmember on the East Coast. She introduced a bill banning the use of the terms “Oriental” and “Negro” from U.S. law. The bill was unanimously passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2016. Six weeks after being sworn in, she also led an effort to allow for disaster relief funds to be used for the rebuilding of houses of worship after Hurricane Sandy.

Grace is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Subcommittees on the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia and the Pacific. Grace also serves on the House Small Business Committee where she is the Ranking Member of the Agriculture, Energy and Trade Subcommittee. Grace is also a Senior Whip in the House and a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids’ Safety Caucus, the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues. She helped create and serves as Co-Chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus which works to mitigate excessive aircraft noise that adversely affects communities. Prior to running for Congress, she served in the New York State Assembly and as an attorney.

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AAA-Fund (www.aaa-fund.com) is a progressive political organization that is dedicated to empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the United States.

Silence, memory, and endurance: a personal family history

China kleptocracy

Sometimes I look at the abyss we’re headed into and I shiver. We are going to have unqualified kleptocrats running this country, which has thus far survived because of a strange mix of democracy, special interests, and forward thinking by our nation’s leaders.

Then I remember what my family has been through on both sides, and I know that we have been through worse and survived. Over the past few months, I have been collecting the oral history of my 92 year old grandmother, who was born in 1916 (Chinese years start at 1 – East Asian counting of ages.) I regret that I started so late, for she is the only one whose memory of these years is intact.

Consider the chances: on both sides, my grandparents fled China for Taiwan, and then decades later, my parents migrated to America. This dual migration has led to many silences that ring through our family’s history and the loss of important historical documents. My paternal grandma, or Nai Nai, was the only one from her village who was able to leave China before the Cultural Revolution. My paternal grandfather, or Ye Ye, manned the flight controls on a plane for the Kuomingdang (Nationalist) Army, and was even sent to the United States to train for a period. Which I guess places him in this era of Taiwanese pilots who trained in America from 1937-1945, as my grandma cannot recall the exact years.

They had been placed into an arranged marriage at an early age, and knew each other growing up. Nonetheless, the fact that my grandpa still called for her to come and join him was a rare opportunity. When my grandmother arrived at the departure point, it was a month before her name was called to go on one of the few planes leaving for Taiwan. When I asked if she was scared, grandma laughed and said, “No, I always had a lot of courage. Even when my siblings didn’t want to go outside, I wanted to explore.”

For a young woman, Nai Nai was able to attain a certain level of education and even studied accounting. As a child, she and her sisters had managed to escape the traditional footbinding because they were set to start school, and had to walk there, so her mom opted not to begin. Over the years, Nai Nai kept in touch with her family in China – parents, brothers, and sisters – through letters. Through missives, she learned that her parents, and her brothers all died, mostly due to starvation. One younger sister, or mei mei, remained by the first time she was able to return to China in the 1980s. She had never expected the war and the distance to last for so long. While grandma was heartbroken she didn’t get to see her family altogether again, she is grateful for the life that she has lived, and for all the experiences she has enjoyed. My grandpa Ye Ye was one of three sons, one of whom was sickly and passed early. His eldest brother passed when he was in his 30s. So Ye Ye became the only one to go to Taiwan, and then America.

My father and mother were both born on the emerald isle of Formosa, also known as Taiwan. On my mom’s side, my Gong Gong and Poa Poa were set to give her up for adoption as she was the 4th child born into the family, it was wartime, and there wasn’t enough food. The elderly neighbors were looking forward to taking my mother into their family, but when she was born, my Grandma decided my mom was too cute, and our biological family kept her. In the time that they grew up, Taiwan was subject to the longest stretch of martial law that any nation has ever had.

She would meet my dad in elementary school, and then they would go on to date as young adults. After college, my dad’s professor needed help with research in the United States, and asked him to assist. Much like my grandfather did, my father came to the US and then called for my mother to join him. It was in the United States that they settled and raised one child.

Three generations, spanning three different countries. If it had been for any of these experiences being different, or chance intruding, my life wouldn’t be what it is. So I am grateful to the generations that come before – to their strength and resilience, and I seek to preserve these memories for the generations that come after. In recognition that they survived when so many didn’t, and of the nimble and enduring spirit that sustained them, I vow to remain resolute and strong. The things that I have seen and experienced are dwarfed by the alignment of luck that it took for generations on both sides to come across three countries to America.

Like most Asian American families, we came here after the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, and now there are three generations of us living in the United States. We are here by law and by policy, as teachers and doctors, as professionals and creatives, as people of faith and people on a journey, giving back to the country of our birth and adoption. To know history is to know yourself. We are here as free citizens, whose ancestors fought wars in search of freedom. No one can take that from us unless we let them.

On the passing year/ resolution

More than a couple of people have said to me that 2016 has been the worst year of their lives, and how they will be glad to see it end.

It certainly has been a year of aberrations. From Brexit to World Series Cubs to the Colombian people rejecting the FARC deal (and it going through anyways), 2016 has been unique if nothing else.

In thinking about milestones and experiences, I want to hearken back to one particular moment and one particular person. In the middle of the 2016 DNCC, which was a spectacular feat of imagery and logistical organization, we found out that Joe Montano passed. Waves of shock and grief spread through the AAPI, Virginia, and California communities at the DNC. But of course it wasn’t limited to us, as his reputation preceded him. He’d organized with and trained many, and people referred to him as a kuya, or older brother. I personally broke down in a stairwell while writing his memorial. Security saw me sobbing and didn’t bother moving me.

At the end of an exhilarating and exhaustive week in Philly, many of us came together in a crowded Reading Market restaurant stall to have a memorial for Joe. We vowed to fight in his name and to “live like Joe” – to live kind lives full of joy and to be humble and gracious. It was months before the nightmare of the presidential election results.

It just crossed my mind how Joe was the first person I introduced a St. Louis friend who was relocating to central Virginia to, and how kind and rapid his response was. That was one of the many kind things Joe did for friends and strangers alike.

My resolution after this long and strange year is to pay it forward, uplift new leaders, find new allies, continue treating all people with respect, and to fight like the dickens for overlooked communities. The last part might seem slightly out of sync, but Joe was always giving voice to those who couldn’t speak for themselves. And we, we have to give voice to our deepest selves, and find reserves that we didn’t know that we had. And try to find the joy along the way. There’s a lot in life to celebrate, even amidst the political turmoil. Joe would turn to us with a playful twinkle in his eye, flash his pearly whites, and share his latest joke. #LiveLikeJoe

–Caroline

In defense of libraries, now targets of hate crimes

As a child, I spent many hours growing up in the library, nestled in the safety and security of kind librarians and a plethora of books. I took great comfort in being able to explore the range of Greek and Norse myths, science fiction, and Sweet Valley High. Libraries were a great refuge growing up since my parents were and are working class, and I could never hope to own all the books that I voraciously read.

Libraries have been under attack for costing too much, even as they have transformed from simple centers of learning and education to community centers (some of which house makerbot centers as well.) They have learned to stay nimble and offer ESL classes, job placement, and community movie nights on top of traditional author readings. At my hometown library, immigrant families gathered on the weekends and then spread out to gather their individual spheres of knowledge. Outside of work and home, they are some of our strongest community gathering places and safe spaces for families and young people. Libraries now stock graphic novels, cds, video games, and the like to attract youth. The central downtown library even houses a recording studio in its basement.

This is why it’s highly disturbing that instigators of hate crimes have chosen to target libraries for hate crimes. From defacing public copies of the Quran with swastikas to individuals wearing hijabs being harassed inside, libraries and what they stand for are increasingly under assault. In NYC, libraries are some of the main application centers for the municipal ID program that provides undocumented New Yorkers (and many hipsters seeking museum discounts) with badly needed government identification. In general, libraries are diverse microcosms of our communities.

“In the last year, we have had startling increases in the number of hate crimes,” Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association, said in an interview last week.

“I am stunned that I have seven or eight examples, because we have never had these kinds of crimes before in libraries,” she said. “We are in an increasingly difficult situation, because the communities are as divided as they have ever been.” (NYTimes)

Libraries and librarians provide publicly accessible knowledge and serve as safe spaces. They stand for free learning and community building. It is worth remembering that librarians and the American Library Association were one of the main opponents of the PATRIOT Act, because of the provision that libraries had to turn over lists of patrons and their reading habits. Those who seek to attack libraries are not just seeking to disrupt safety and community, but also are attacking learning and freedom of thought.

–Caroline

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