Last month’s Atlanta-area spa shootings in which eight people were killed, six of whom were women of Asian descent, and ongoing anti-Asian violence, created a rare moment of visibility for the country’s often overlooked Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. And the moment is already fading. To turn this moment into a lasting movement, AAPI communities need new platforms to amplify our collective voice and exercise our growing power.
And AAPI communities have a strong foundation to grow from.
Greater Boston is home to remarkable AAPI-led organizations that serve individuals, families, and businesses in our communities. With the additional headwinds of COVID-19 and the rise in anti-Asian violence, many of these organizations, already undercapitalized, continue to need our support. As AAPI communities continue to grow, inaction will mean our needs will increasingly outpace the public’s understanding of and support for our communities. We need new and expanded platforms to advocate for our diverse needs to policymakers and other decisionmakers.
Gratefully, we have a playbook to follow, made possible by the wisdom, creativity, and hard-fought struggles of peer communities.
For decades, groups like the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League have created a collective voice for Black and Jewish communities in service of civil rights and justice for all. More recently, a new generation of organizations like the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts and Amplify Latinx have each created a shared platform to advocate for systemic reforms and are flexing and growing their communities’ political and civic engagement muscles. Each of these organizations is helping to coalesce a diverse set of communities around their shared needs, and by creating a shared voice, they are able to amplify all voices. And by having these platforms, these organizations can join together the power and numbers of their individual constituencies to drive lasting change with shared impact. With nearly 1 in 10 residents and 1 in 3 people of color in Greater Boston identifying as AAPI, now is the time to build our power and unite with others for our shared future.
Turning that vision into reality requires two things: money and practice.
A new national report released by Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy shows that for the past 30 years, national foundation funding to AAPI communities has been flat and shockingly low, hovering around 0.2 percent of total foundation giving. These numbers are stark when you consider 6.5 percent of the United States identifies as AAPI.
AAPI donors and allies are rising to close that gap. The recently launched Asian Community Fund at the Boston Foundation is raising permanent funds to build the long-term capacity of AAPI communities to meet our evolving needs. Still, given the gap between current support and growing needs, we will need additional public, corporate, and other philanthropic funders and donors to join with us.
But beyond funds, we will have to find our collective voice. People demographers call “Asians” hail from more than two dozen countries and speak even more languages and dialects. Economic disparities across AAPI communities are the largest within any racial group. Finding a shared voice across this diversity won’t just happen. We will need to practice allowing for multiple narratives to coexist, and we will need to learn to make space for those who are most in need and to celebrate our differences, growing our interdependence in the face of shared threats. As we do, we will learn valuable lessons to put in practice as we build lasting relationships beyond our AAPI communities.
Fifty years ago, my parents fled communist China to Hong Kong and immigrated to America, arriving at a time when there were few Asians in America. They put their heads down and faced down overt xenophobia and racism with the hope that we would fare better. As a parent, I want my 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son to not only stand proudly in who they are, I want them to be able to imagine and advocate for bright, equitable futures for all. To make that happen — we need to start now.
Stephen Chan is vice president of Strategy and Operations at the Boston Foundation, and national board chair of Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.