I had the pleasure of recently attending the Asian Americans Advancing Justice national conference in Los Angeles. I came to the conference with great pride and hope: pride in our collective efforts advocating for AAPI communities, and hope that our ongoing discussions might materialize into a deeper connection between our White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG) and the people we serve, AAPIs who strive to find a voice for their communities across the country.
The RIWG hosted a workshop entitled, “Demystifying the Federal Government: Your Toolbox for Asserting Your Rights & Navigating the Federal Agencies.” Speakers from the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Labor, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration assembled to discuss available governmental resources for AAPIs with respect to civil rights, grants, financial aid, training, language assistance and law enforcement. The audience included a group of regional representatives from agencies like mine, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, ready to address as many questions as possible.
Our hope came into fruition with rich dialogue between the RIWG representatives and workshop attendees who came from geographically diverse locations such as Cincinnati, Atlanta, Boston, and California. We discussed the various linguistic and cultural barriers that exist among AAPI communities and how to overcome them, namely with the assistance of AAPI community-based organizations as the bridge. The group also delved into how our agencies partnered with WHIAAPI to create and implement agency plans to improve language access and workforce diversity for AAPIs.
"How can we open doors to federal services that have been closed to us in the past?" one participant asked. It was a defining moment where our RIWG members pledged our assistance, sharing contact information for RIWG members across the country and WHIAPPI's “Guide to Federal Agency Resources.” A Federal Executive Board director also chimed in to help make local connections.
We were as it should be: One united front of federal agencies, working together to demystify the work that we do by engaging with our community partners. I look forward to the RIWG's continued dialogue with AAPIs throughout the country, a powerful conversation toward meaningful change.
Christine Park-Gonzalez is a Program Analyst for Outreach, Training, and Public Relations for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She is also a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Regional Interagency Working Group.