Exploring Black and Asian Solidarity at AAPI Civic Engagement Fund’s Gathering in Montgomery - Little Tokyo Service Center

Exploring Black and Asian Solidarity at AAPI Civic Engagement Fund’s Gathering in Montgomery

Grant Sunoo, LTSC’s Director of Community Building & Engagement, and Avalon Igawa, LTSC’s Community Engagement Specialist, recently attended the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund’s annual gathering on June 28 and 29 in Montgomery, AL. The AAPI Civic Engagement Fund provides support for our organizing efforts around homelessness, community planning, public safety, and housing justice. This year, the conference was titled, “Building Bridges for Justice & Freedom.” Read about their experience and some of their takeaways:

What was the purpose of the conference? Who was there? Who organized it?

Grant: The gathering was for grantees of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, which funds groups nationwide doing work in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Their focus is not just civic engagement, but also power building and engaging with issues that are racial justice or social justice oriented. There were about 50 organizations represented. The gathering was really about grounding our work in Black and Asian solidarity.

What was the significance of the conference being held in Montgomery?

Grant: There was a very intentional reason to go to Montgomery, specifically as the birthplace or the home of the Black Civil Rights Movement, as well as a place that has been deeply affected by the legacy of slavery. It was really important to be in that specific place as we contextualized our work to build solidarity.

What places did you visit while you were there and what was the impact?

Grant: We visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum. These are really powerful spaces which are  designed to maximize impact and to help you to understand the direct throughline from slave trading, to slavery in the US, to Jim Crow segregation, to lynching, to mass incarceration. The exhibits and spaces help visitors understand how that has affected Black people in the US.  It was really emotional and heavy, but also uplifting to learn more about the fight for liberation.

Avalon: That was an important framing and made me think about ways to incorporate shared liberation and solidarity in the work that we do.

Which of the conference plenaries stood out to you?

Avalon: There was one plenary about “AAPIs in the Carceral System” which was really powerful to think about. One of my biggest takeaways was that there’s little to no data about Asians who are incarcerated, so a big struggle is just getting information because they can’t report how many AAPIs are in jail. And this lack of information is a roadblock to visibility and creating solutions. 

What made it unique to attend a national AAPI convening as opposed to a local one?

Grant: Being there in community with people doing parallel work in their own cities was really powerful, and to be able to process together with them was important. We were there when the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action happened, so there was a lot of value to be able to watch everyone compose their statements and to compare notes and experience that together.

Avalon: You don’t get to be in spaces like this very often, especially with people from across the US. It was great to be reminded of the amazing work that people are doing in all of these areas, and how we can support the work that’s being done both in and around LA.

Anything else you enjoyed about your trip?

Grant: We ate at two barbecue restaurants in the same afternoon. That was crucial.

Avalon: We drove to Selma after the conference ended and ate at this hole-in-the-wall place called Lannie’s. It was delicious!

Find out more about LTSC’s efforts to learn from national and international networks by reading about LTSC Director of Real Estate Debbie Chen’s recent trip to the Vienna Social Housing Delegation where she learned about the city’s innovative social housing models.

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