Last Saturday, DC Chapter officers of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) walked the hallways of St. Augustine Church in downtown D.C to participate in a youth summit hosted by Asian American Leadership, Empowerment and Development in Youth and Families (AALEAD). As the sounds of young voices filled the room, one may have been fooled by what this group was about. Instead of discussing the newest television or music fad, they spoke about immigration, organizing and their culture.
The summit itself brought together 60 local students to learn and discuss topics relevant to the younger AAPI community such as Bullying, Navigating Asian American Families, APAs in Media, etc. With the growing presence of young Asian Americans in the Greater DMV area, AALEAD has aimed to create a space to develop up and coming leaders by connecting them to their peers, creating outlets for them to get involved in their community, expanding their understanding of AAPI issues and providing a safe space for coalition building.
APALA-DC, along with 11 other organizations, was fortunate to have participated in this first ever Youth Summit by hosting a workshop on Immigrant Rights and Civic Engagement. With the launch of APALA’s Jon Delloro Mentorship Program in July 2010, and its first ever Young Leaders Council back in April, it has been one of the organization’s primary focuses to actively engage and educate young people on labor unions, workers’ rights, and civic participation.
The workshop conducted at AALEAD carried on this mission by talking to summit participants about the history of struggle in the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community and challenged them to continue the fight in the present, by using tools such as organizing and social media. The workshop concluded with small break out discussions to address concerns within their own communities and to share stories about their vision for the future.
One of the participants, born in the U.S and of Vietnamese heritage, spoke about taking a day off from school with some of his classmates to participate in an action involving the Maryland DREAM Act. He told the class about how he ventured out to the Senate offices to speak directly with their Senator about why he believed it was important to vote for the bill.
Many in the workshop also shared personal stories about their families’ own immigration challenges and what they did to overcome those hurdles. The end of the experience was quite fulfilling. The students ended the session by saying they did not realize there were so many ways to become engaged in their own community, and they seemed enthusiastic for further involvement.