Confronted with Disappearing Chinatowns & Cultural Hubs, National AAPI Coalition Launches Multilingual, Anti-Gentrification Toolkit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Nahida Uddin, National CAPACD, (347) 283-1757, nahida@nationalcapacd.org

 

Confronted with Disappearing Chinatowns & Cultural Hubs,
National AAPI Coalition Launches Multilingual, Anti-Gentrification Toolkit

October 30, 2019 (Washington D.C.) Earlier today, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) launched the #OurNeighborhoods anti-displacement toolkit available online at aapineighborhoods.org. The first of its kind, this online resource is a response to the unique and often overlooked cultural and linguistic needs of the diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, threatened by rapid gentrification of their neighborhoods. As AAPI neighborhoods across the country witness aggressive development, long-time residents and small businesses are often left out of the process.

National CAPACD, a coalition of nearly 100 community-based organizations spanning 21 states and the Pacific Islands, developed the toolkit in close consultation with local groups leading innovative and effective organizing campaigns in AAPI neighborhoods. Borne out of an effort to support and build the resources of these local organizing campaigns, the toolkit includes an analysis of gentrification, strategies from the organizing field,  examples of successful anti-displacement campaigns, and custom data on housing costs and poverty. The toolkit was developed with the support of The Kresge Foundation.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani shared at the launch event, “National CAPACD developed the #OurNeighborhoods toolkit because our coalition has made a commitment to address the most urgent challenge that poor AAPIs face today – displacement resulting from gentrification. Seventy-three percent of low-income AAPIs live in the highest cost housing markets and as a result, AAPIs are disproportionately at risk of displacement. Here in DC, the reality is more bleak. Well beyond “at risk”, what was once a thriving Chinatown, now holds fewer than 300 Chinese residents. We are witnessing, rapidly and dramatically, the loss of neighborhoods that are the centuries-old living account of immigrant survival, resilience, and celebration.”

Recognizing the importance of lifting up the stories of AAPI neighborhoods, the toolkit documents successful and innovative local organizing campaigns. One such story documents the success of a youth group, run by the Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA LA), in ensuring that a city plan for their neighborhoods  included a provision that promoted affordable housing for extremely low-income people. SEACA had no prior urban planning experience, but their youth identified the need to be involved and included in the planning process – SEACA’s Executive Director Sissy Trinh stated in the case study, ‘we’re not against change, we’re not against density. But we need to make sure that it benefits our families and our communities.’ 

She went on to share “Our communities want to be involved in the planning process for the neighborhoods that they call home… when change happens, they don’t want to be left behind, but there is very little information or resources available on how to engage in neighborhood planning. There is even less information available that is culturally compotent or linguistically accessible to diverse AAPI communities. National CAPACD’s #OurNeighborhoods toolkit is an invaluable resource for groups that know very little about neighborhood planning processes, like us, that are forced into the frontlines against gentrification to protect our right to remain in our homes. We also appreciate the toolkit because it highlights and celebrates the wins made by groups that have limited capacity and so few spaces to lift those wins up ourselves.”

In response to the unique linguistic needs of the diverse AAPI community, National CAPACD translated key parts of the toolkit into Bangla, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese, with plans to translate into additional languages.Chhaya CDC’s Lead Organizer Jagpreet Singh notes “Chhaya appreciates National CAPACD’s efforts to develop a resource that is of practical use to our communities. Organizing in NYC neighborhoods, we know the enormous amount of resources and time that goes into multilingual work. The #OurNeighborhoods toolkit is essentially an assertion of the AAPI community’s right to engage in neighborhood planning processes. The community-driven approach with which this toolkit was developed is a challenge to standard planning processes. City or neighborhood planning processes can theoretically engage community members, but provide no real entry for community members, only serving and furthering the cause of for-profit developers. The #OurNeighborhoods toolkit provides community members and the groups that serve them a tangible and practical entry into the process.”

The narrative of AAPI displacement is also the narrative of AAPI poverty, a narrative too often denied or overlooked in broader conversations on poverty and racial inequity. Responding to the scarcity of data that reflect the status of low income AAPIs, National CAPACD paired the stories of successful strategies and campaigns with custom data as an additional resource in the #OurNeighborhoods toolkit. We know that from 2007 to 2014, AAPI poverty increased by 50 percent and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander poverty increased by 71 percent, compared to the general poverty population, which increased by 22 percent. Yet AAPIs are left out of conversations on poverty, as well as the corresponding conversations of rising housing costs in the face of poverty. Therefore, the toolkit offers data on poverty and housing cost for groups to use when meeting with elected officials and other decision makers.  

To address the need for an AAPI voice within a broader movement to address the racial inequities perpetuated by gentrification, National CAPACD launched the toolkit with a multiracial panel of national partners and local members leading on anti-displacement work across the country, hosted at Community Change, a key ally in this work. The panel included Karen Chen, Executive Director (CPA Boston), Chris Genese, Senior Organizer (Community Change), Paige Kumm, National Organizer for Membership Development (Right to the City Alliance), and Dia Parker, Executive Director (Los Vecinos de Buford Highway). Panelists discussed how AAPIs can work with other communities of color in grassroots and national anti-displacement efforts, and the responsibility to include AAPIs in transnational organizing efforts. Paige shared her experience that people often lose their fear once they realize they’re not alone, and Dia reminded us that when we come together as a multiracial movement to challenge gentrification we can turn our pain into power. Chris affirmed the toolkit on the panel, stating “The challenge of organizing is we bring people together but we often don’t have the tools to make the strategy accessible, which the #OurNeighborhoods toolkit does.” The panel was attended by over 100 stakeholders in person and via the live stream.

In reflecting on the resource, National CAPACD Director of Community Empowerment Anjan Chaudhry states “The stories featured in the #OurNeighborhoods toolkit are a tribute to the collective power of our communities, despite tremendous challenges and extremely limited capacity. We hope that the data and in-language resources provide groups with additional support in their local organizing efforts against aggressive gentrification that is threatening the Chinatowns, the Little Mekongs, and countless culturally and economically distinctive AAPI neighborhoods across the country. We plan to grow the institutional support for this work so that we can deepen our support of local organizing efforts. As a witness to the real impact that multiracial coalitions across the country are having, we hope to continue the conversation started here today on what racial equity looks like in the development process and how to ensure that the voices of immigrants, indigenous populations, and communities of color are included in envisioning the future of #OurNeighborhoods.

###