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May Day and What’s at Stake for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month for the LGBT Community

The beginning of May is meaningful for millions of people in the United States and countless more people around the world for the celebration of May Day and its recognition of international workers, as well as for the kickoff of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. For the LGBT community, this is an opportunity not only to stand in solidarity with immigrant workers and the AAPI community, but to lift up those voices in our community and to recognize the scope of diversity in our rainbow. Current events and the political climate we’re now in not only provide a unique backdrop to think about this diversity, but underscore the urgency to make sure we continue to fight for as broad a vision of social justice as possible.

NQAPIA is proud to kick off May and AAPI Heritage Month with our local partners around the country and with our allies in both the AAPI and LGBT movements. It is an opportunity for us to expand beyond stereotypes and bring our complete selves to the collective narrative of the AAPI community. President Obama’s intent to appoint fourteen new Commissioners to the White House Advisory Commission on AAPIs, including openly LGBT Michael Byun from ASIA Ohio, and actor Maulik Pancholy is evidence of the heights our community has reached, as well as other luminaries such as Helen Zia, Urvashi Vaid, George Takei, and Margaret Cho who have achieved greatness in many other areas of public life. Progress is not just measured at the top though, and we are just as proud of the unheralded but just as critical moments that happen every day as brave LGBT AAPIs change hearts and minds in their families and all of our communities.

The actions that are happening around May Day focusing on immigrants’ rights and international workers are very real reminders of why LGBT and straight alike, we all need to fight for immigrants’ rights This movement has always included LGBT people, but in recent years, brave people like Jose Antonio Vargas, Bupen Ram, Erika Nunez, and others highlighted in our “Uncovering Our Stories” campaign have made the connection between coming out of the closet and coming out of the shadows and we are proud to lift up their journeys particularly this month. Here in Washington, DC, LGBT stalwarts like our friend Rea Carey from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force put their bodies on the line  leading up to this May Day calling on the Administration and the Congress to keep our families together and fix the broken immigration system.

The theme for AAPI Heritage Month this year is “I Am Beyond” and our work this month will continue to push beyond traditional perceptions of what the AAPI community is and how we build love and community there. We will continue to push beyond silos of identity politics and bring movements together to fight for legislative and administrative policies for immigrants and our families. We do these two things because we look to a future, beyond the here and now, where all our communities live free and just lives.

White House: Inside and Outside

This week, Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) LGBT people spent a lot of time engaging the White House on a range of issues. On Thursday April 24, the White House honored the most recent round of “Champions of Change,” recognizing AAPI advocates who worked to improve access to health care in our communities. NQAPIA was on hand as Bruce Thao, who is an Advisor for Shades of Yellow, was recognized as a Champion of Change for his work at Hmong National Development.

WHChamps 24April2014

caption: Shades of Yellow’s own Bruce Thao at the White House (second from the right)

 

Later that afternoon, the White House continued to recognize another set of individuals from the community as it named fourteen new members of the Advisory Commission for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Among the fourteen were openly LGBT people like Michael Byun from ASIA Ohio, one of the major direct service agencies for AAPIs in the Midwest, and the actor Maulik Pancholy. They will undoubtedly build on the work their predecessor Hector Vargas from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

On April 25, dozens of immigrants’ rights activists converged on the White House on the outside this time, calling on the President and the Department of Homeland Security to designate “temporary protected status” for Philippine nationals in the aftermath of Hurricane Haiyan.  The rally included people from the Relief 2 Recovery coalition, the #Not1More campaign, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). NQAPIA Co-Director Ben de Guzman addressed the crowd on behalf of NCAPA, saying “We know that relief means relief for gay and straight alike!”

NQAPIA continues to work on immigration issues and will be bringing a number of local partners back to Washington, DC to continue to bring AAPI LGBT perspectives to bear with representatives from the White House in May as part of Asian American/ Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Keep an eye out for the latest we’ve got going on via our blog, on Facebook, or Twitter.

 

AAPI Heritage Month, LGBT Pride Month, and Immigration

By Steven

This month has been incredible. From attending a meeting with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to participating in an immigration rally at the capitol, I felt myself thoroughly integrated into both the political environment of DC and the national immigration movement it facilitates. In hearing about Cambodian refugees, same-sex binational couples, and LGBT DREAMers at events like the ECAASU Youth Forum and different coalition meetings, it became clear that the immigration issue intersects multiple communities and various causes. The fact that so many of these communities are denied citizenship status means one thing. It means that while we are a nation of immigrants, we are not yet a nation for immigrants. And for me, making the latter a reality so that the former is truly celebrated has been what this movement is about.

As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month drew to a close and LGBT Pride Month began, I am proud to say my celebration of LGBT pride didn’t start in June, nor did my celebration of my AAPI heritage end in May. As an individual whose identity refuses to be singular and whose identities intersect, my own experiences led me to appreciate how issues that affect LGBTs also affect AAPIs, and vice versa.  For me, this symbiotic relationship between different identities and the communities that grew around them reminds us of why we need to stand with one another on issues like immigration. Through hearing from influential members of the DC community, like Jason Tengco and Congressperson Mee Moua, I understood how our leaders were once in the same position as me. While structures of oppression make queer, immigrant people of color work harder for positions of power, I am empowered in knowing that it is not impossible for me to change these structures.

Intern Blog: NQAPIA at the White House for AAPI Heritage Month

This is the first in a series of blog posts by NQAPIA 2013 Summer Intern, Steven.  Welcome aboard, Steven!

 

My name is Steven Cong, and I’m a 1.5 generation, queer Chinese American student at UC Berkeley. This summer, I have had the wonderful opportunity of building my professional development as an intern for NQAPIA. Within my first week of work, I received more opportunities to strengthen my networks and improve my skill-sets than I would have first imagined.

I still find myself processing the fact that I saw President Barack Obama in person at a White House reception for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month during my very first day of work. I also had the chance to see renowned queer AAPI s like dancer Dana Tai Soon Burgess,  writer Helen Zia, and White House staffers Jason Tengco and Gautam Raghavan at the event. With that inspiring LGBT and AAPI representation, I had the privilege of being affirmed as a queer person of color in the United States, which excites me for more great experiences to come this summer.

 

Video:  President’s speech at White House AAPI Heritage Month Event, 5/28/2013

Capture. POTUS Video AAPIHM 28May2013