Advocacy Director Courtney Chappell writes:
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, or APAHM, a month typically filled with back-to-back celebrations to honor the rich diversity and history of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Collective storytelling, shared experiences, and a sense of renewal and belonging are at the heart of these shared experiences, which always leave me feeling seen and centered.
APAHM in the time of COVID looks and feels quite different. COVID-19 has unleashed hatred and harassment against AAPI communities and businesses: it is killing Black, Brown, and Native and Indigenous people at higher rates and re-traumatizing communities; and it is exacerbating racial and structural disparities in our country. And communities of color are once again on the front lines as leaders – organizing, building power, offering spaces for healing and care, and demanding change.
At Legal Voice, we are doing the internal work necessary to show up as allies and partners with communities, especially now. Over the last year, we dove deep into discussions about race equity to reflect on what we want our work to look and feel like and what the commitments that we will make to each other will be.
Out of these conversations grew a set of values that will be embedded across our organization. Honoring the diversity and lived experiences of those we are in partnership with will serve as a guiding principle in our work and the heart of our advocacy. Similarly, by grounding our work in community lawyering, we will center those most impacted and emphasize that the path to effecting systemic change is just as important as the outcomes when building transformative community power.
Simply put: our work and our organizational culture will be guided by anti-racist values that push us to constantly reexamine our actions and our impact – with each other and with our community partners. In this way, we can actively work to dismantle systems of oppression and institutional barriers that prevent women of color and LGBTQ+ people from living their lives with dignity, autonomy, and equality.
These values are deeply personal. This weekend I walked through the International District in Seattle with my family. As we passed by the shuttered Wing Luke Museum, I was reminded of how often communities rise up in times of crisis. The Wing Luke, for instance, launched an online digital initiative to collect stories, art, and dreams as part of their Resiliency Campaign. That movement-building requires intention, hope, and love. And to center those experiences is the soul of community advocacy. The galas and celebrations may be absent this APAHM, but I still feel renewed and hopeful.