Vincent Pan’s Speech at the CAA 2015 Celebration of Justice


Chinese for Affirmative Action
46th Celebration of Justice
September 17, 2015

By Vincent Pan

Let me begin by thanking you and welcoming you to San Francisco Chinatown.

With last year’s closure of the Empress of China restaurant, we needed some extra time to find a new venue in the neighborhood. I am glad we were able to do so because by being here at the Far East Cafe, you are helping to support Chinatown, its workers, its residents, and its businesses.

With all of the changes in San Francisco, can we have a round of applause for supporting San Francisco Chinatown?

And another way to support Chinatown is to ensure the community has a say in its future. To that end, I would like to invite you to a District 3 Supervisor candidates forum CAA is co-sponsoring next week. Wilma Pang, Julie Christensen, and Aaron Peskin have agreed to attend and I will be one of the moderators. There will be full Chinese interpretation and translation so please join us next Wednesday night at the City College Chinatown campus auditorium.

Chinatown is important to us. And our physical space in Chinatown has always grounded our citywide, state, and national advocacy work at Chinese for Affirmative Action. And at last year’s dinner, we underscored this commitment to place when we announced a capital campaign to renovate our Kuo building offices a few blocks from here.

With major pro bono help from Mock Wallace architects, our goal was to raise $700,000 to add an elevator to increase accessibility for all, and to replace cubicles with open and shared spaces that reflect how work occurs today.

Tonight I am pleased to share that we will be conserving our precious community room mural with the assistance of the original and noted artist Hung Liu, and her husband Jeff Kelley.

They are here tonight so let’s show them our appreciation.

And now for a very big announcement.

With leadership gifts from Rolland and Kathy Lowe, Emily Lee, Frances and Frankie Lee, Germaine Wong, and John and Caroline Lee, and additional donations from nearly one hundred community supporters, many of whom are here tonight, we have achieved our goal of raising $700,000.

So let’s give a very big round of applause to all of our supporters, which includes all of you.

Though construction will start in the new year, it is not too late to support and be recognized in this part of CAA history. We welcome additional donations to meet enhanced technology and sustainability goals, and you can note the capital campaign whenever you donate to CAA.

I would like to highlight two aspects of our programmatic work tonight.

First, if you have been paying attention to the presidential primaries, you know that the discourse – if we can call it that – on immigration is alive and well.

Let us understand that the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the xenophobic hostilities, and the overt racism is a direct result of the failure of our elected officials pass meaningful, fair, and compassionate immigration policies.

By show of hands, are you or your parents immigrants?

We know we are a community of immigrants, and we have long been affected by issues of migration.

Whether fighting exclusion laws and establishing birthright citizenship in the 19th Century and 20th Century, or benefitting from the overhaul of immigration laws 50 years ago that occurred as a result of the African American led civil rights movement, the struggle for immigration reform continues to be our struggle.

In San Francisco alone, there are 10,000 undocumented immigrants of Chinese descent. They share the same names that we have; they may arrive from similar regions of China; they are our family members. And like immigrants of all backgrounds, they are simply seeking to live lives of peace and purpose.

It is estimated that 10 percent, or 1,000, of the 10,000 undocumented Chinese Americans in San Francisco are young people eligible for the deferred action program created by the Obama administration. This program would allow them to come out of the shadows with new work and civil rights protections. Another 30 percent, or 3,000 additional undocumented Chinese American immigrants, will become eligible for relief when other administrative programs go into effect next year.

It is our responsibility and our obligation to make sure every eligible immigrant – in our community and in all communities – has the information and access to these programs that can help them.

Your support to CAA can help us grow our efforts to do that. Can we count on your support?

The other program highlight is about City College of San Francisco.

I hope you don’t if I put aside humility for a moment and just simply say that our Move City College Forward campaign to keep City College of San Francisco open has been a major success.

Our advocacy helped win the State stabilization funds that City College needed, local governance of the College has been returned, litigation from City Attorney Dennis Herrera prevailed, and the out-of control Accreditation Commission is now getting the scrutiny it deserves.

We should acknowledge State Senator Leno for his leadership on the budget and Assembly Member Ting for his work on holding the Accreditation Commission accountable.

Of course there is more to do, but it is important to celebrate progress so let’s thank the City College faculty, staff and students, and our Director of Programs Jenny Lam for leading our involvement that signed up 10,000 people to this campaign.

It is worth pointing out that there are more Asian Americans enrolled in City College than there are in all of the Ivy League colleges combined. But you might not know that from the way the mainstream covers Asian Americans as the model minority. This is a myth that must be dispelled.

In fact, in California, 87% of Asian Americans in California get their higher education start in a public college or university. And as a community, we depend on, we benefit from, and we must remain committed to public education that contributes to the public good.

Especially as part of the new American majority comprised of communities of color — we have an obligation to promote the public good to advance all people, with special attention to those who have historically been kept out.

Because what matters most is not what we look like but what we stand for. What we stand for drives CAA’s involvement with the California API Budget Partnership that helped win the One California proposal to increase services for immigrants. What we stand for fuels our work with the Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality network to help emerging social justice groups share resources and ideas. What we stand for motivates our leadership in the California Civil RIghts Coalition on issues across police violence, education equity, immigrant rights, and queer justice.

What we stand for fosters a comprehensive view of social justice because, as feminist Audre Lorde put it, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
The times are changing and I am convinced in the growing awareness that we do not live single-issue lives, and that our view of justice and equality must be expansive. But I am equally convinced that though the times are changing, we are must work harder to not mistake change for progress.

We know that change for the sake of change can be superficial and not substantive. We know that disruption for the sake of disruption can mask stubborn inequities. What we we need now is change that is compassionate and conscientious. What we need now is change that is demands justice and equity. What we need now is to make change good.

Thank you for joining us to celebrate 46 years of Chinese for Affirmative Action, and thank you for everything you do to make change good.