07/21/2017

Anyone’s Activism

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second piece on Tam v. USPTO, third piece on power, fourth piece on feminism, and fifth piece on Columbia’s xenophobic vandalism.

(c)2017 Kevin Chu

(c)2017 Kevin Chu

In the face of the immigration ban, students of my college reacted quickly. Within the day after the executive order was released and during the entirety of the following week, our campus hosted a group of protesters at all times—sometimes in masses including at least ten percent of the student body at any given moment.

Student groups organized, and they organized quickly. Despite the other responsibilities of being a full time student—classes, homework, extracurricular activities—the students of Columbia University were determined to show the administration that this issue deeply affected our community, and addressing the ban is of the utmost importance. They produced a list of demands, and some professors even came out in support of student actions. Movement happened fast.

Within a few days of the executive order members of Columbia’s administration too condemned the ban. This was unsurprising, as they have condemned Trump in the past, some going as far as to say that Trump and Pence together constitute “a president and vice-president that challenge the central idea of a university”. The administration also released statements urging students from the affected countries to avoid leaving the U.S. until further notice, and set up for pro-bono legal services for students who may be affected.

Columbia student groups are continuing to push for the administrations to provide greater legal support as well as free housing over the summer for students from the seven countries who will not be able to return to their homes in summer. Though provisions are unconfirmed, the University administration has come out stating that they are going to continue to do what they can to support students.

While politically mobilized college students are often put down as being oversensitive and unable to produce any real change, I believe that there is a lot to be learned from the work of student activists. Already in my six or so months at this university, I feel like I have learned so much about political mobilization.

Even when change can feel so slow college students are quick to act. They turn their passion, their empathy, into organization perhaps even faster than they churn out papers. In the past, I have heard many adults condemn college students and their intense dedication to activism. They say that college students should be focusing on their studies, that these are not things we should be concerning ourselves with.

In many ways the mode in which my peers have worked around the immigration ban should be modeled—it shows us that you do not have to be a professional organizer, nor a politician, nor a pro-bono lawyer to fight for these issues and instigate change. You can be a researcher, an artist, a computer science fanatic.
Anyone can advocate for human rights if they decide it is important to them. These students are pre-med, double majors, members of multiple clubs, and work part-time, but still they make it their business to protect the rights of the human. All they need is some time, a voice, and a community to make significant changes.

I have learned from these students that you do not need to commit your life to activism to be an activist. If your passion is programming or dance, you may commit your life to that, and still be an activist during dinner table discussions, still spend free moments pressing for the safety of other people, and still do whatever you can to support those people and organizations who do commit themselves entirely to activism. Anyone can be an activist—and everyone needs to be an activist if we want to create real, meaningful change. So be an activist; in any way you can.

– Amanda Ong

Congressional Tri-Caucus Chairs Issue a Statement Opposing Efforts to Undermine Public Education

Our Media Vision for 2017

Asian Americans in media
For 11 years, we the blogteam and now the social media team have written 4000+ articles here. We’re the leading generator of AAPI progressive news & befriended many throughout AAPI media (including AsAmNews, NBC Asian America, Asian Journal, Hyphen Magazine, et al). After 100s of job postings, press releases, explainers, annual topic campaigns, reposting our friends’ news, and events (ours and others), we’re growing our coverage for this new era to include AAPI dialogue about this new hateful era. Staff pieces like our Executive Director’s call to arms, our former Endorsements Chair’s path to power, our Executive Editor’s fightback manual, etc. give us direction and advance our cause.

For 17 years, AAAFund, our parent organization, has empowered AAPI in public life, brought victory to ever more progressive AAPI running for office, and proudly given AAPI a voice of which to be proud. Our mission leans progressive & grows steadily in scope (our whole media effort didn’t even much exist 1y ago) and funding. We enter a Trumpian era which will erode our civil rights thus we fight back. We’ll make every effort from fundraising to media to networking to grassroots/campaign volunteering to identify, publicize, oppose, and defeat all threats to our community. We’ve great relationships with all the best organizations to do our best work ahead, together, in unity, with purpose, never tiring.

Join us, write us with your ideas for what you and we can do together this Trumpian era. Our ideas include:

  • We applied to do a workshop at ECAASU. We’re very excited to advance/push the discussion with a famously involved and aware group. It’s precisely the sort of advancement we need to continue winning elections (record-setting number of AAPIs won 2016 elections) and empowering all AAPI. Topics will include
    • AAPI relations to affiliated groups like environmental, racial, economic, social justice, foreign affairs, etc.
    • AAPI-originated/intra-AAPI racism, best left for AAPI to discuss as its our problem requiring our solving
    • DNC failings/shortcomings and where we can direct efforts
    • our own community’s historical weaknesses and failures – surely tons of such has been said over the years in private, let’s get them shared, vetted, actioned; tops is why AAPI don’t get more involved beyond preaching to the choir and how to motivate the choir
    • our history – gets at why AAPIs need to be involved
  • lies AAPI believe (see below)
  • give us your feedback by commenting below

A foremost example of these ideas is coverage of why some AAPI voted Trump. We invite such folk to tell us why. Articles like this and this tell the story so we’ll write about how to defeat mis-guided AAPI beliefs.

Let’s do this together!

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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