A story from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative APANO Voter Organizing, Training & Empowerment (VOTE) Network.
January 2016 - on one of the first Saturday’s of the new year, a nondescript corner office building on 82nd Ave in Southeast Portland was filled with activity and livelihood. Walking or driving along 82nd Ave, one does not easily notice the brick and mortar building where the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) is based. It’s tucked away inside the Wing Ming Plaza, across from Wing Ming Herbs and above Yan Zi Lou Chinese restaurant. The space begins to fill as community leaders from Eugene, Salem, Beaverton, Corvallis and neighborhoods around Portland gather around a U-shaped table for the APANO’s VOTE Network meeting. It's not often that Asian and Pacific Islander (API) leaders and organizations come together in this fashion to discuss how our communities are going to become more civically involved, not only in this critical election year, but for a longterm movement.
[Image description: Several adults sit around a circle of tables. A tablecloth reads "APANO." Red lanterns hang from the ceiling. There are banners, flags, signs, etc. with Chinese characters along the back wall.]
On this day, 16 leaders from 13 different organizations shared their thoughts and ideas. From the long established Chinese American Citizen’s Alliance (CACA) that is one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, to the Micronesian Islander Community (MIC) that was founded to serve the needs of Oregon’s Micronesians, these groups have a common vision: to promote justice and civil rights and raise the visibility of APIs in Oregon. Our state’s 250,000 individuals who identify as API share a common fate. Our communities have made rich contributions to the economy, business, labor, culture and the fabric of this state. However, our accomplishments have not been met without hardship, discrimination, exclusion and imprisonment. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Japanese internment camps during World War 2, to present day examples where anti-immigrant sentiments and values live on, we continue to fight for justice and recognition. On that Saturday morning, we talked about our rich and powerful histories, but also real barriers to our participation due to language, cultural barriers and restrictions. Leaders discussed the importance of civic engagement and the value it brings to our communities.
[Image description: A large group of adults pose in front of a display of flags, red lanterns, banners with Chinese characters, a framed illustration of a man with a long white beard.]
The VOTE Network, which stands for Voter Organizing, Training and Empowerment, is newly formed in 2016, with thanks to Northwest Health Foundation’s Healthy Beginnings + Healthy Communities Initiative. The Network brings leaders from diverse Asian American, immigrant and Pacific Islander communities to increase participation in civic engagement and help build the capacity of organizations. APANO’s civic engagement program recognizes that voting builds awareness about our communities concerns and their power to make positive changes. Meaningful civic engagement means making voting relevant by supporting voter registration, voter education and Get Out The Vote in ways that connect the issues to the concerns in our communities. APANO does this by creating spaces to dialogue with candidates in selected races, by analyzing and endorsing priority ballot measures we believe have the biggest impact on Asian and Pacific Islanders, and building the power of our communities to impact political decisions through voter education and turnout.
Our growing list of VOTE Network Organizations:
Chinese American Citizen’s Alliance
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Associations
Philippine American Chamber of Commerce
Japanese American Citizen’s Alliance
Korean American Community of Oregon
Micronesian Islander Community
COFA Alliance National Network
Portland Lee’s Association
Zomi Association US
DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon
Asian Council of Springfield and Eugene
Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs
Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce
Oregon Minority Lawyers Association