The AAPIP Network Convening in Washington, DC as part of the Joint Affinity Group Unity Summit brought together a national collective of AAPI leaders in government, nonprofit, and philanthropy for an afternoon of learning, connecting, and sharing.
An inspirational Saket Soni testified of the difficult challenges and injustices faced by Asian immigrants in the United States, particularly in Chicago and New Orleans, where he now lives and works as Executive Director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. The injustices for which he fought against gave, as he put it, almost “a perpetual sense of having just arrived – as if there hasn’t been a long presence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the country.”
Soni’s comment reminded me of the challenges that AAPIs continue to face in philanthropy – broadening awareness of our community’s needs, increasing philanthropic investment in our communities beyond the zero-point-something percent of foundation dollars, and disaggregating data to show how the model minority label hardly fits. It is as if we have only just arrived to philanthropy, as if AAPIs have only been philanthropic in more recent years. And yet, one of the early books written on philanthropy over a century ago was on the Spirit of Chinese Philanthropy, by Columbia University scholar Tsu Yu Yue.
Through twenty-four years, AAPIP continues to challenge traditional views of who philanthropy is, and who philanthropy is for by building a model of democratic philanthropy to serve our communities by offering values consistent with the AAPI identity. We need to tell our own stories – and AAPIP’s giving circles work encourages individual stories of philanthropy to be told, and how it is making a difference in local AAPI communities. We can be encouraged by the 39 AAPI giving circles and the over $2 million additional philanthropic dollars invested.
Though it seems at times that too little progress is being made, we must remember the words of civil rights leader Dorothy Height: “If the time is not ripe, ripen the time.” AAPIP’s efforts, and gatherings like the network convening, help to ripen the time for AAPI philanthropy to contribute to meeting community needs and solving systemic inequalities.