MINNEAPOLIS (March 24, 2010) – Curtis Chin, Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, was in Minneapolis to look at starting a Twin Cities chapter, and to show the 2009 APAP documentary film he directed, “Vincent Who?” for students and community at the University of Minnesota.
Chin is a Michigan native now based in Los Angeles. He travels around the country showing the film and organizing trainings, townhalls and community forums. The Minneapolis film screening drew more than 100 students and community. The APAP meeting later that evening at the Midtown Global Market drew around 20 community members including past and current activists looking at the idea of forming a local APAP chapter.
APAP is a national network of progressive Asian Americans and allies. As a 501(c)4, its main goals are educational including, screenings, townhalls and trainings.
The Global Market meeting was organized by Thien-Bao Thuc Phi, and attracted around 20 people, including Penh Lo, Juliana Pegues, Renyi Zhang, Bee Vang, Pamala Vang, Yefei Jin, Katherine Kwong, Ed Bok Lee, Karen Tanaka Lucas, David Mura, Kong Pha, Mark Tang, Sishir Chang, Linda Nguyen, Adam Chow, Lee-Hoon Benson and Carolyn Nayematsu. There were also students present from Hamline University’s Asian and Hmong students organizations.
“It was great to see so many people interested in connecting with other progressive AAPI’s both locally and nationally,” said Chin.
The meeting outcome resulted in potential members looking at organizing house parties to discuss the idea of starting an APAP Twin Cities chapter with community members.
“This could be a perfect opportunity to continue discussing the chapter, whether it’s feasible and what the goals would be,” Chin added.
Chin noted that APAP is a way to help smaller organizations on the state and local level, have a louder voice with a connection to a national organization. He said that media and elected officials tend to more often respond to national organizations, and that it helps get heard locally and nationally.
Some present at the Global Market meeting were founding members of the Asian Renaissance Festival back in the 1980s and were active in forming many ‘firsts’ groups and efforts in the past. They spoke of a little burnout after a lot of work, but that their passion for the community had not disappeared.
“…We really need a pan Asian group that is progressive in the community and with participation of people who decided to stay here, and saying ‘this is my home and I want to make this a better place,” said Mark Tang, local resient. “This will make for a better voice when there are issues of complicity.”
Chin said he is excited to meet with local groups and see where their issues are unique and where they overlap with other communities and the national APIA concerns. He said that each local group is independent and links to the “national narrative” with town halls and democracy summits on issues like hate crimes and immigration. The conduct trainings to help chapters set up phone banks, organize fundraisers, produce or screen documentaries and films.
There is a minimal fee for individual and chapter memberships, and only a small portion goes to the national chapter to offset media and online services. He said the online blogs average around 10,000 visitors per month.
“We don’t want to much bureaucracy and we don’t want to much overhead,” said Chin.
The chapters are allowed to endorse candidates and it helps to have a national affiliation. He said that the independent chapters are free to form their own values, and they don’t always overlap with other chapters.
“We encourage the local groups to organize and take ownership,” said Chin.
There are not strict criteria to being progressive but that it is a good compass to guide the chapter direction. He said to keep in mind that the organization has been anti war, supported progressive immigration reforms, and is pro choice.
There are presently around 14 chapters formed or forming on the east and west coast, and that the Midwest has interested community in Chicago, Detroit, Madison, St. Louis and now Minneapolis. Chin is visiting Ohio next.
APAP has a national State of Asian Pacific America House Party 2010, that will be held Sunday, May 2, 2010, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. (CST). To host a party, just gather 12 to 20 friends, family members or co-workers and dial into the national APAP conference call. It can be double as an informal gathering with snacks or a potluck.
Chin said that APAP is finalizing the speakers for the meeting. He said to expect a good one, as last years meeting included noted guests as Barack Obama’s brother-in-law, Konrad Ng; the White House’s Tina Tchen; Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth and Congressmembers Judy Chu and Joe Sestak.
The national meeting will make time available for the guest to speak for a few minutes and then take a question or two. Afterwards, the attendees at parties around the country can discuss what issues are important to them and write up a report to post on the APAP website along with photos.
“This will become a record of the issues that AAPI’s around the country are talking about,” said Chin. “We’ll even submit a report to the Obama administration.”
Since APAP was founded in 2004, as part of the Howard Dean campaign, its has since gone on to host national house parties with Howard Dean, Senator John Kerry, Congressman Mike Honda, Elizabeth Edwards and other national leaders.
Earlier that afternoon, China was at The University of Minnesota, where the Asian American Studies program hosted about 100 students and community to view the first APAP documentary produced by Chin, “Vincent Who?” which looks at the historic hate crime murder of Vincent Chin and examines the state of AAPI political empowerment.
For the 25th anniversary of Vincent Chin, Chin went to 14 town halls across the country to ask young people if they knew who Vincent Chin was, and most did not. The film tells the story of how young attorneys unknown at the time but famous now, fought to have a civil trial verdict that contrasted the injustices of the criminal trial.
Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit in 1982 by two white autoworkers, and Asian Americans around the country galvanized to form a movement to demand civil rights.
The film was co-sponsored by the Asian American Studies Program, and Departments of English, Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, History, Political Science, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Office of Equity and Diversity.