The opening plenary at AAPIP’s 2017 National Network Convening and Annual Meeting: “Elevating AAPI Philanthropy: Leaders. Knowledge. Impact.” featured historian Jean-Paul deGuzman of the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. deGuzman, who won the 2013 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, provided an historical overview of how Asian and Pacific Islander communities “catalyzed moments of resistance and movements for change” at various social, economic, political, and cultural “flashpoints.” The purpose of the presentation was to provide a grounding upon which convening participants could reflect and engage on the continuing need to expand and mobilize resources that support AAPI communities to build a more just and equitable society. Dr. deGuzman closed his presentation with the following reflection:
Inverting W.E.B. DuBois’s query to African Americans in The Souls of Black Folk, “How does it feel to be a problem,” historian and critic Vijay Prashad perceptively asks Asian Americans “How does it feel to be a solution?” Is our solution to simply raise up those who “made it” as examples for the rest of us? Should we only aspire to material wealth and comfort? The history of Asian Americans in Los Angeles begs us to consider another path. When we look to the historical actors we have encountered today we see a long story of a diverse and often fragmented community, but one that was never complacent with the status quo. We see immigrants and their children, workers, students, and everyday individuals exercising their agency to craft a more equitable world, working within and across diverse communities. This political moment implores all of us to think creatively and act boldly, and I am confident that the gatherings like this are an important collective step in the right direction.