by Poonam Kapoor, Red Envelope Giving Circle Member.
“Beyond this monetary support is the symbolic support that the community can fund our own projects and ideas” – Tracy Nguyen, Program Coordinator API Equality Northern California and Red Envelope Giving Circle grantee recipient.
AAPIP recently hosted a panel discussion about giving circles at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) Thriving Together conference in August. I was invited to share my experience being a part of the Red Envelope Giving Circle (REGC). REGC’s goal is to create positive social change for LGBTQ APIs in the San Francisco Bay Area by funding individual and organization-sponsored projects to catalyze action around critical issues facing our community.
We’ve funded a diverse array of initiatives that cover topics that educate and inspire our community of queer, gay, lesbian, trans, gender non-conforming, bisexuals, allies, etc ). We proudly create a space to encourage our grantees to creatively express themselves ranging from topics like politics, arts, immigration, family, and of course, sex. Here’s a little bit about a few projects we’ve supported in our 2014-2015 grant cycle year:
- Dragon Fruit Project, an intergenerational oral history project which documents our LGBTQ API stories over a span of decades. With our help the project will reach a larger audience across the world by having the print documentation expand to online. Similarly our grant for the “Visibility Project”, a national portrait and video collection dedicated to the Queer Asian American Women & Trans community by Mia Nakano allows for transcending national and international boundaries so that our stories are accessible to many via the internet.
- El Camino, an insightful short film that tells the story of a young man whose parents are in prison. It educates the public about hardships young people face when their parent(s) is incarcerated. We were able to help with the production support. The film will be submitted to festivals such as Frameline and Sundance film festivals. Educational packets will also be distributed to two nonprofits that work with young people whose family members are incarcerated.
- Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency, a memoir by Willy Wilkinson about Willy’s journey from lesbian activist to now trans leader in the community and public health advocate.
Why did I get involved with REGC?
I may be on the giving end now but previously I was on the receiving. I was closeted until my mid 20’s, avoiding an arranged marriage and feeling isolated and depressed. I was in need of community, people that looked like and had similar values to me. I started to immerse myself in API LGBTQ spaces and realized the power of shared experiences. There, I felt like home and at ease with all my identities.
The API LGBTQ community gave me so much so it was only natural to contribute my time and resources. Doing so not only benefits others but cultivates my own sense of leadership and that I understand the struggles our community is facing now. I joined REGC three years ago and it has been a ball. We have a nickname for ourselves – the Queer Lucky Ducks! Our mascot is a little rubber ducky. We’re a group of likeminded individuals serious about social justice but bring a lighthearted approach to our work. We are proud to support our community elevating its voice. Since our inception in 2012, we have distributed $32k in grants to 16 organizations. Our average grant is about $2k. It is a small but important contribution, and moreover a sign of solidarity that we value our communities stories.
Why do we do this?
Because, no one else will. Our community is a minority of a minority and invisible to most in the LGBT and API funding world. As we do not receive the type of philanthropic support that non queer API or even other queer non API organizations receive. As we don’t like sitting on the sidelines waiting for funders to change their mind, we’ve taken on pooling our money to show them the different themes affecting our community so they too can understand the need to contribute.
When silence and shame are ingrained in our culture, it takes something to be loud and proud of who we are. With the API community covering the entire Asia Pacific we are constantly learning and sharing what it means to be queer and API.
We invite you to contribute as our giving circle appeals to a variety of donors ranging from 6 year old Vivian to 75 year old Marion. Enroll your giving circles, foundations and individual donors to give to Queer API projects. Let us be one community of shared values of love, freedom, and full self-expression.
Poonam Kapoor believes LGBTQ rights are human rights and has been a member of the Red Envelope Giving Circle (REGC) for three years strong.