This post is a write-up from Priya Pandey, ECAASU High School Fellow, about her experience at the Chinatown Beautification Day this year. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Chinatown Beautification Day as workshop facilitator on Asian Americans and the DREAM Act. The goal of our presentation was not only to inform the attendees about the issue, but also to address the misconception that immigration reform is not just a Latino issue. I remember wrapping up my presentation and receiving a round of applause. That applause was a moment when I reached an epiphany: this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. A year later I am back at CBD as a proud member of ECAASU's National Board, continuing to do and pursue what I love: empower young Asian Americans.
The theme for this year's conference was "Speak: Redefining Our Narratives." A powerful message that resonated through each and every one of the workshops. More than 100 attendees came from all walks of life, but with the same mission: as Asian Americans speaking up and gathering a collective voice for our communities. However, gathering a collective voice is more than just reinventing the status quo, but also planning and organizing for the future, something that keynote speaker Dennis Chin of GAPIMNY stressed in his address.
Throughout the day, each and every workshop exemplified the idea of speaking up and reshaping our identities. The workshops covered a diverse range of topics from P.C. Culture, Asian American's and Sex, and Realizing the American Dream.
Photos from the workshop above
In the workshop, "Take Action! Create Change!” a prevalent theme was to provide emerging student leaders with an Action Plan Toolkit. Our goal was to help students build their own "Action Plans" based on pressing issues in their communities while teaching them the importance of goal setting and coalition building. After we designed action plans, we discussed the core tenets of activism. Our youth weren't afraid to rock the boat. The discussion eventually evolved into a dialogue about the need for a collective voice for our communities. Emotions of frustration, zeal , and positive rage erupted from all across the room. We were engaged in a dynamic, challenging, and stimulating conversation about why it was so important for our communities to no longer remain the silent model minority and to find a voice.
One of the fundamental problems our youth face today is being able to find a platform to speak and turn their concerns into positive catalyst forces for change. Many of our workshop participants came to us afterwards and told us how they were just so disillusioned about the lack of political voice for the Asian American community, and how grateful they were to have attended this workshop. Chinatown Beautification Day was able to provide each and every one of these blossoming student leaders with an outlet to explore their identities, gather a collective voice, and take back their agency. My experience with Chinatown Youth Initiatives has been one that I cannot fully encapsulate into words. Being able to empower my peers at such a young age is an experience I could not have found anywhere else.