On June 12, 2014, Chinese for Affirmative Action celebrated its 45th anniversary at Empress of China in San Francisco Chinatown. Below are reflections from CAA Executive Director, Vincent Pan.
Good evening. We are here to celebrate justice. We are here to celebrate 45 years of Chinese for Affirmative Action. Now is an appropriate time to do so.
Moving City College Forward
As I speak, we are in the midst of a battle of epic proportions: to keep City College of San Francisco open for all 85,000 of its students. By applause, how many of you have benefited or know someone who has benefited from City College?
What we want for City College is simple: a fair process so that our students can continue to learn and grow, and so that students seeking an education can pursue their dreams and participate in society. If you visit the new Chinatown campus, just around the corner, on any given day you can see for yourself the thousands of students trying to learn English, gain job skills, and improve themselves and their futures.
Their education is a public good. It is good because it benefits everyone when people are educated. It must be public because everyone deserves a chance to expand their minds.
We need to be clear that what the Accreditation Commission has been doing threatening to close City College is outrageous. What we need to do is save City College and save it now.
The Commission must come see that the hard work of the faculty and staff at City College have brought the College in compliance with standards. The Commission must not pursue a destructive path when there are clear options to prevent the educational futures of 85,000 students from being ruined.
I do have some hopeful news to report. Yesterday, in an outstanding admission of their own flawed processes, the Accreditation Commission has proposed a new policy – one that could give City College more time. We are cautiously optimistic that this is a step forward.
Any progress is not by accident. It is due to the hard work all of you – all of us – are doing to move City College forward, including the 10,000 people we have enlisted to support our petition.
But we are not out of the woods. The Governor is now negotiating the State budget, and we need him to include the stabilization funds for City College initiated by State Senator Mark Leno. We also need the community to stand with City Attorney Dennis Herrera to protect every right that City College and community colleges throughout California have to a fair process.
What we need to do is save City College and save it now.
Unfortunately, the Accreditation Commission is not the only stubborn body that CAA has been dealing with.
The Fight for Immigration Reform
A nationwide poll conducted two days ago shows that 79 percent of Americans say undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the U.S., with more than six in ten agreeing with a path to citizenship for all immigrants. The American people want immigration reform – one that keeps families together, clears the visa backlogs, and protects worker and civil rights.
And yet a year after the Senate passed its version of comprehensive immigration reform, House Republicans have done nothing. They should be ashamed.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated. Many of us are. We have organized, we have sat in, we have struggled, we have fasted, we have traveled across the country. And yet we can’t stop and we won’t stop.
When we witness a child crying because her mother was taken by ICE, or hear from a teacher whose student is in foster care because his parents are in immigration detention, or when we serve as confidantes to a restaurant employee who has not been paid because the boss knows they don’t have working papers, or talk with community members forced to grow up never knowing their brothers and sisters, we are even more motivated to fix this broken system by any means necessary.
If this Congress can’t get the job done, then we need a new Congress. And the President should stop playing political games that go nowhere, and use his executive power to halt all unnecessary deportations immediately, once and for all.
The struggle for immigration reform shows us that there are many heroes among us who continue the fight for social justice. And we are honoring four heroes tonight – the California Immigrant Policy Center, Jack Lee, DJ Yoon, and Isabel Huie – and you will be hearing more about them or from them later.
Renovating the Kuo Building at 17 Walter U. Lum Place
We have always been a community of heroes. Thirty years ago in 1984, two of those heroes – Lien Ying Kuo and Simmone Kuo – gave CAA a permanent home at 17 Walter U. Lum Place. Their generosity has allowed the Kuo Building to be a critical hub for CAA press conferences, forums, services and workshops that have reached tens of thousands for three decades. The Kuo building has hosted everyday people as well as members of Congress and the Cabinet of the United States.
Tonight I am pleased to announce a capital campaign, chaired by board members Kathy Fong and Randall Lowe, to bring the Kuo Building and CAA into the future. Once again heroes in our community are stepping up to the challenge, and lead donors for the campaign have already emerged to pledge a total of $350,000 — bringing us to the halfway point of our $700,000 goal.
Our most critical lead donations come from Emily Lee, and Rolland and Kathy Lowe. Emily Lee, has long been a champion for the community and a supporter of CAA. I am pleased to call her a friend and to recognize her generosity. Many of us know Kathy and Rolland Lowe have served the civil rights and San Francisco Chinatown communities in many, many ways. In addition to everything else they do, Kathy and Rolland have been mentors to me.
We also have leadership gifts from Germaine Wong, chair of the CAA board, Frances and Frankie Lee, and John and Caroline Lee. Their support is also heroic and greatly appreciated, and their gifts represent just one part of so much they do for our community.
Support for the Kuo building will improve accessibility for all constituents at CAA, accommodate changing community needs, update how we work to be more collaborative and technology-based, and support the next generation of social justice leaders.
Emily Lee, Rolland and Kathy Lowe, Germaine Wong, Frances and Frankie Lee, John and Caroline Lee — they demonstrate that there are heroes among us.
The Heroes Within Us
We are pleased to recognize the heroes among us. And we should also recognize the heroes within us.
I think that’s the lesson that Yuri Kochiyama and Maya Angelou were trying to teach us: that we can all push ourselves to be more radical and revolutionary — not just in our politics but in every way we show up in the world.
When I consider how we celebrate justice, I think about Loni Ding behind a camera, Him Mark Lai with a pen in his hand, and Sinclair and May Louie giving back to the community. I think about Ling-chi Wang and Lillian Sing, Henry Der and Diane Chin. I think about the next generation leaders of the groups in Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality.
But most of all I think about you, and how each of us, together, can celebrate justice.
We celebrate justice through the commitments and choices we make every day. We celebrate justice by allowing the hero within us to shine. We celebrate justice by doing our fair share to make the world a more humane place. There is no gesture too small, there is no contribution too insignificant.
Isabel Huie, long after her retirement, used to visit the staff at CAA on a regular basis. The last time I saw her she came by with baked goods and hugs, and as always, a petition to sign and a cause to support. She spoke with a soft voice but by example was a giant. Izzy showed me the way. Izzy showed us how to celebrate justice.
We are here to celebrate justice. We are here to celebrate 45 years of Chinese for Affirmative Action.