Nearly 100 advocates for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in Los Angeles met face-to-face on April 8 in the first community roundtable in the city hosted by the White House Initiative on AAPIs (WHIAAPI) Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG).
Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles and the Asian Pacific Planning & Policy Council (A3PCON) served as official partners in holding the event and engaging representatives from diverse organizations across southern California.
WHIAAPI Commissioner Sefa Aina welcomed the group and captured the hearts of participants with stories of his roots in local community organizing. Sefa challenged advocates to champion the needs of their communities and encouraged federal representatives to listen to and address those needs.
A lively discussion ensued following the introduction of eleven Los Angeles-based RIWG members from federal agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and my agency, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Community advocates needed to know: Who were we, and what could we do for the AAPIs who face discrimination or a lack of access to government services? How do we navigate the process to apply for federal grants?
Dedicated RIWG members rolled out the collective vision of working alongside AAPI community groups to tear down real and perceived barriers in accessing services. Advocates offered ideas on how to work together, whether that is in jointly promoting the visibility of local AAPI issues or explaining (in plain-language) government processes to AAPIs. Members shed light on their legal mandate to remedy disparities in access to employment, education, health, and services for veterans.
The roundtable also included a session on best practices in applying for federal grants. Officials from Grants.gov; the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Housing and Urban Development; and the Small Business Administration relayed specific grant opportunities along with tips on how to best apply for them, while grantees from the Thai Community Development Center and Advancing Justice shared insight from their experiences. Federal representatives pledged their support to assist advocates through the process.
AAPIs have not traditionally knocked on federal doors. Everyone in the room understood the cultural and linguistic barriers involved. Yet, a collaborative synergy began to circulate in the room as advocates and RIWG members engaged in dialogue and became better acquainted. The RIWG is local, accessible, and here to help. We have already heard from many community members since the event—a beautiful start to a critical partnership in the interest of AAPIs throughout Greater Southern California.
Christine Park-Gonzalez is a Program Analyst for Outreach, Training, and Public Relations for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.