Monday, October 29, 2007

About Kalayaan

Kalayaan is a word in Tagalog that means "freedom" or "independence."
Asian America is not a monolithic concept; it cannot be located to one focus, locale, or situation. Yet, we must realize that the very term "Asian American" grew out of a collective sense of resistance amongst young peoples of different origins, uniting on their campuses and communities with an understanding of their common histories (and present times) of oppression, and a unified program for social change.

"Asian American" as a race is a subjective, social process--it grows and changes with the parallel growth and change within our communities, and we hope to reflect the diversity and wealth of opinions, reflections, and statements of our constituencies through the pieces on this blog. Moreover, we understand that through these writings, and these platforms of online networking, we may contribute to our goals and mission as an organization, and advance our commitment to issues of social and economic justice.

This is not the end in itself, but rather one of many means by which we seek to spread awareness of our concerns, commitments, and passions; to engender dialogue; and to network among like-minded students, activists, and organizers around the country.

As Yuri Kochiyama, Asian American activist, quoting African revolutionary Franz Fanon, has said many times past, "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it." Here is our attempt.

-Ryan Fukumori & Joyce Yin
Communications Co-Chairs, NAASCon 2007-2009 board

The 2007-2009 NAASCon Board

Denny Chan | Co-Chair
Denny Chan hails from Michigan! That's right, he spent 20+ years surrounded by white suburbia in the Midwest and has slowly begun to pave his path to organizing and activism. He currently makes up the other dynamic half of the NAASCon co-chair duo, and will be graduating from the University of Michigan in 2008. A sociology major, Denny has been involved with various Asian American organizations in a number of different capacities. He is waaaaaay excited to help empower and unite Asian Americans from all across the nation. When he is not in school or organizing, Denny enjoys food, good safe conversation, catching up with friends, and his greatest weakness, overly dramatic Chinese television series.

Christina Chen | Co-Chair
Christina Chen is a junior studying Political Science and Comparative Ethnic Studies at Columbia University. She currently makes up one half of the Dynamic NAASCon 2007-2009 Co-Chair duo, and is excited about NAASCon’s potential in galvanizing folks to create a strong, cohesive, and empowering progressive AAPI movement. She has been involved with organizing and volunteering for people of color resource organizations since junior high (THAT’S RIGHT SHE’S BEEN DOWN FOR A LOOOONG ASS TIME), and has worked on APA access issues ranging from immigrant rights, affordable housing / gentrification, education, LGBTQQI rights, mental health, voting rights / civic participation, labor reform, domestic violence, healthcare, environmental justice, etc. She loves to build coalitions with like-minded student of color organizations, mobilize from the ground up, hang out in the Yay Area, watch great movies, and spend time with her NAASCon, AAA PC, and blood fam fams!

William Ching | Advocacy Co-Chair
A proud San Franciscan native and Advocacy Co-chair, William currently attends UC Berkeley, majoring in Comparative Ethnic Studies. He is actively involved with prisoner and immigrant rights with the American Civil Liberties Union. He has got nothing but love for this down[e], people of color. A budding activist, he is passionate about mental health, HIV/AIDS and prisoner rights. He has previously worked with San Francisco's Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, focusing on youth leadership and tackling issues of racism, heterosexism and class discrimination in the LGBT community. Full of wanderlust, William hopes to study abroad in Spain and South Africa.

Dorothy Young | Advocacy Co-Chair
Dorothy Young is one fierce activist punk sister out of Los Angeles, California – and don't you forget it, girl! She has worked on APIA identity, people of color, gender, queer, and educational equity issues at the University of California, San Diego, as a (sometimes) board member of the Asian & Pacific-Islander Student Alliance, Queer People of Color, and Associated Students UCSD. As one of the Co-Advocacy Chairs 07'-09' (holler!), she's looking forward to instigating and agitating alongside APIA progressives across the nation. Besides organizing, Dorothy's passions lie within music, art, dialogue, collective decision making, and vegan burritos. Peace and love.

Derek Yung | Advocacy Co-Chair
D. Lok Yung is New Yorker and a pretty awesome person. That being said, he believes he deserves the best, and he's willing to fight for it. Hailing from East New York, he has seen the importance of disenfranchised communities to come together in order to create a future that everyone deserves. He has worked with the resident APIA group at Sarah Lawrence- APICAD, along with other groups like Students for a Democratic Society, and Chinese Staff and Worker's Association. When he isn't out on the streets or in the library of Sarah Lawrence College, he enjoys quality television, beats, rhymes and life.

Justin Reyes | Programming Co-Chair
Justin Reyes is a down[e] and brown brother who's finally unafraid to own it! He's a balikbayan box full of personal history that he's still trying to understand. But in the meantime, Justin's a workaholic who loves being around progressive folks. He spends most of his days on the (mostly) sunny campus of UC Santa Barbara, where he's equal parts Asian American Studies Major/LGBTQ Studies Minor and raging activist/organizer. As NAASCon Programming Co-Chair, he's excited to stir things up at the conference! Justin also works on hella grassroots/organizing projects including coalition building within people of color, APA, Pilipina/o, and queer communities. You can usually find him on the Amtrak to LA or eating his #8 combo from Asian Cafe.

CC Song | Programming Co-Chair
The question that C.C. is the most afraid of is “Where are you from?” In the past five years, C.C. has lived in Rochester, New York, New York City, New Jersey, Michigan, and Atlanta Georgia. She is going to spend her fourth year at the University of Michigan as the co-chair of the United Asian American Organizations, the A/PIA political coalition on Michigan campus. She enjoys creative writing and is currently working on a novel for her creative writing major. Her journey in Asian American activism embarked in her sophomore year of college when she was part of the A/PIA High School Conference planning core in Michigan. She hopes to be a writing professor eventually, helping college students and youths alike to see writing as a tool for social change.

Toby Wu | Programming Co-Chair
Xinghua (Toby) Wu is excited to serve as a Programming Co-Chair of NAASCon. He is a junior at Swarthmore College, where he is pursuing a special major in History and Education and has worked extensively with the people of color and the queer communities on campus. At home, he has worked with Chinatown Youth Initiatives (CYI) and the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF) in various capacities. Toby is passionate about empowering and mobilizing young people from all marginalized backgrounds, and he wants you to be, too! His other interests include good conversations and creative expressions of the body and soul. He was born in En Ping, China, and raised mostly in the fabulous New York City.

Ryan Fukumori | Communications Co-Chair
Yellowbrown. Diasporhythmic. Verbalicious. These are a few of the made-up words that Ryan Fukumori (Communications Co-Chair) uses to describe himself. A native of the People's Republic of Berkeley, California, Ryan currently attends Columbia University in New York City, and studies Comparative Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies. He's been involved in a breadth of grassroots campaigns and organizing efforts—in particular, APA community building, anti-war mobilization, immigrants' rights issues, ethnic studies advocacy, and labor rights. In his spare time, he performs as a rapper and poet under the name Heiroku, using performance to demonstrate the crossroads of artistic expression and political awareness. Ryan also enjoys long walks on the beach, red bean ice cream, and all power to the people. One love!

Joyce Yin | Communications Co-Chair
Although her family relocated to the Bay area a few years ago, Joyce Yin is and will always be a Midwestern grrrl at heart. Currently going into her third year at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she is majoring in Gender and Women's and has thrown herself into the fight to get an Asian American Studies Program at UIC. Although becoming intensely aware of her identity as an Asian American womyn early on in high school, Joyce didn't become involved with the activist movement until entering college whereby she has been working herself into overdrive to facilitate dialogue with fellow Asian Americans as well as other marginalized communities, and to educate herself on the intersectionality of race, class, gender, etc. As one of the Co-Communications Chairs, Joyce hopes to spread the NAASCon love, promote awareness, and to empower others to utilize NAASCon as a safe space for people to share their experiences and learn from one another. A few other things to note: she has a loud, uninhibited, and obnoxious belly laugh, enjoys all-things to do with pop culture, and loves loves LOVES penguins. Peace and solidarity.

Chibo Shinagawa | Constituency Outreach Chair
Chibo is a fierce, dynamic activist and is currently a sophomore at Mills College in Oakland, California. (Hell, yeah a women's college inthe yay area. REPRESENT!) She is planning on double-majoring in Ethnic Studies and Sociology. She currently spends her year in California but when she's not in California you can find her in the DC area or Ithaca, Ny fighting for justice and being awesome. She is passionate about reproductive, economic, environmental, and social justice. Her emphasis is working on leadership and being part of the progressive movement by building solidarity within the APIA movement. She is passionate about equity and building alliances of strong communties of color. Chibo is currently involved with Choice USA and the Asian Pacific Islander Sisterhood Aliiance onthe Mills College campus. She is in love with NAASCon and is so proud to be amongst a community working together as a national APIA student coalition.

Johnny Vo | Finance Chair
Johnny Vo is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has been heavily involved with the Asian American Student Coalition (AASC) and has been an executive board member for the Leadership Conference for Asian Pacifics (LCAP) event series in 2004 and 2006. He has worked alongside organizations such as Pan Asian Community Alliance (PACA) and the Pan Asian Studies department of the Tucson Unified School District. As the current NAASCon Finance Chair (send money!), he wants to become more involved with movements and dialogue across the nation, develop critical programming for AAPI students and provide a strong foundation for future activists/advocates to build upon. Living in the Southwest, Johnny enjoys photography, independent movies and film festivals, playing with his dog, Bloo, and appreciates ice cold drinks and air conditioning. It is time for change, are you ready?

Dennis Khau | Technology Chair
Dennis Khau is a native of Virginia and presides as Technology Chair of NAASCon. He currently attends Roanoke College working towards a B.S. in environmental science. As a campus leader, he is an advocate of promoting diversity and inspires to educate and promote awareness of issues faced by the APIA community as a NAASCon National Board member. In serving as the Technology Chair for NAASCon, he hopes to revitalize the online community with informative content and discussion that will serve and assist past and future advocates in their endeavors.

About NAASCon

NAASCon is an organization created by and for students of Asian American descent. NAASCon aims to serve as a forum for Asian American student activists from across the country to compile resources, coordinate campaigns, and build community around shared values of social and economic justice, human rights, and collective decision making.

NAAScon envisions a progressive Asian American student movement that works in solidarity with all oppressed communities to construct a just and equitable society in which human dignity is respected.

In order to achieve our vision, we aim to:
-to foster an understanding within the Asian American community of the interconnectedness of the struggles of oppressed people.
-to develop the leadership of Asian American students by providing them with tools and skills and effect change on their campuses and their communities.
-to build collective power amongst Asian American students in order to work toward social and economic justice for all peoples.
-to address inqualities and injustices within our diverse communities.

The 2007-2009 NAASCon board draws its representation from East Asian and Southeast Asian communities; by no means will this entail the exclusion of South Asian, West Asian, Pacific Islander, and mixed race communities and experiences from our board's work. Simultaneously, we recognize that Pacific Islanders may choose to identify as indigenous instead.

We acknowledge the intersectionality of the identities expressed by all members of our AA community, and we will fight for all oppressed peoples in order to advance our vision of a just and equitable society.

We consider "Asian American" to be term of empowerment and collective action; however, we recognize that it is a label that must be constantly reevaluated to support the needs of the ever-changing AA community. We hope to be progressive in our understanding of "AA", as the origins of this term are rooted in our past (and present) struggles to foster a sense of common identity and political self-determination. We will challenge the historical limitations of the term AA by embracing communities that have been historically marginalized or underrepresented in this umbrella, and we hope that you will join us in our efforts by engaging in this discussion, as well as give us important feedback on how we can achieve these goals.

NAASCon adopted the label "Asian American" because of its logic and purpose. The logic of personal investment in the term includes a shared history containing both positive experiences such as art, literature, culture, and struggles, as well as negative experiences of discrimination, hate crimes, prejudice, and endless anti-Asian legislation, actions, and stereotypes. The purpose of the label, which was born in struggle, is nothing less than the affirmation of our existence, a collective spirit that represents, both literally and figuratively, social and political power. However, unless we actively acknowledge the often-ignored ethnic groups, narratives and experiences contained under the label of "Asian American," such a label becomes problematic.