AAPIP Voices

Board Member Alice Ito’s remarks on cross-cultural partnerships


The fundamental social change which I think is really worth struggling for– is nothing less than a transformation of society so that all people are respected and valued; so that systemic injustices are eliminated; and the rights of all are truly upheld. I’m not talking about the right to make and take as much wealth as possible; or the right to buy and consume as much as possible. I’m talking about the rights of indigenous people; the rights of migrants; the rights of children; the rights of elders; the rights of all.

As you know, in a few days Native Americans in Philanthropy and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy are sponsoring a visit to the historic sites of the Sand Creek Massacre and Camp Amache, one of the camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated by the U.S. government during WWII. The camp guards were U.S. soldiers. …My parents helped me understand at a young age that some people “belonged” more than others in U.S. society. I knew I was a member of a group [Japanese Americans] that had been despised, hated, and had experienced injustices carried out by our own government. I also became aware of others who faced similar exclusion.

As an adult, relationships across differences were a key to my deepened understanding of other cultures and communities. Native people and people of other ethnicities, races and cultures gave me insights into their selves, their lives and communities. We worked together as comrades to address barriers and injustices we had in common. We worked together to strengthen our communities and to create positive change.

Through personal relationships and further learning I eventually understood that all these many examples of people being treated as less than people, being forcibly held, moved, having their cultures assaulted, and communities dismantled,– these were not isolated incidents that were exceptions to our U.S. history of democracy and equality.

I urge you all to consider ways of working in cross-cultural partnership as an essential strategy for successful social change, as you continue your journeys. I applaud all of you working to make positive change within your own communities, and to make change in larger society, to eliminate inequities and to ensure justice and well being.