Asian Americans Advocate To Invest in NYC’s AAPI Communities

The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) and the 18% and Growing Campaign gathered in front of Queens Borough Hall Wednesday to call on City Council to invest in New York City’s AAPI communities.

Over 70 advocates, service providers, and community members attended Wednesday’s rally, in which speakers and attendees urged City Council members to support the collective fiscal requests of the greater AAPI community that would enhance the health, wellness, and economic well-being of thousands of New Yorkers.

The rally was the first 18% and Growing Campaign rally in Queens, a borough that is home to some of New York City’s oldest Asian American communities.

First founded in 2008, the name of the 18% and Growing Campaign takes its name from the fact that AAPI New Yorkers now comprise more than 18% of the City’s population. Today, the 18% and Growing Campaign is a unified coalition of 90 AAPI-led and serving community-based organizations from across the five boroughs.

But despite the AAPI community’s expansive growth and development, funding for AAPI communities in New York City has historically lagged behind.

Picture : TheUNN

“Over the course of the last 15 years, the 18% and Growing Campaign has been at the forefront of the push to get AAPI New Yorkers the resources and support they both need and deserve. Though persistent and harmful stereotypes like the model minority myth lead many to believe that all AAPI New Yorkers are thriving, the reality is quite different,” said CACF’s Co-Executive Directors Anita Gundanna and Vanessa Leung. “Enhancing programs like the AAPI Community Support Initiative will allow community-based organizations across the city to continue to improve and expand their programming for those who need language access support, mental health resources, and more. While there have been tremendous strides made when it comes to City Council support for our communities in recent years, we are reminded of just how much we still have to do – especially in terms of getting AAPI New Yorkers who are most marginalized the critical, culturally responsive support they need.”

In order to get our communities the support they need, the 18% And Growing Campaign will be advocating for the following critical funding needs:

  • Enhance the AAPI Community Support Initiative to $7.5 million to expand social services by AAPI serving community-based organizations to address the fiscal equity needed to build bridges between culturally competent and linguistically accessible services and the most vulnerable AAPI New Yorkers.
  • Enhance the Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund (CCNSF) to $7.5 million to provide capacity-building support to Black, Latinx, and AAPI-led community-based organizations.
  • Enhance the Access Health Initiative to $4 million to support community-based organizations (CBOs) who provide education, outreach, and assistance to marginalized New Yorkers on how to access health care and coverage.

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up 18 percent of New York City’s population, yet our communities rarely receive the funding and support they need to thrive,” said CACF’s Director of Policy and Government Relations Felicia Singh. “As we continue to experience the economic and health-related consequences of the pandemic, it’s become clear that the city has to do more to increase access to mental health care, culturally responsive youth programming, and gender-based violence prevention programs. As budget negotiations continue to ramp up, we’re calling on City Council to continue to build on last year’s investment in our communities by supporting our proposal in full.”

Several members of 18% and Growing Campaign spoke at Wednesday’s rally, including Tsering Lama, Policy Manager at Adhikaar, Christine Serdjenian, New York Organizer at Armenian-American Action Network, Mohamed Q. Amin, Founder and Executive Director at Caribbean Equality Project, Mitch Wu, Director of Queens Community Services at Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), Micah Dicker, Outreach Worker and Communications Specialist at CIANA, Shaaranya Pillai, Deputy Director at India Home, Julie Ma, Director of Strategy at the Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC), Josh Bentley, Grants and Advocacy Coordinator at Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc (KCS), Sandra Choi, Civic Participation Director at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, and Ngawang Tsering, Vice President at Tibetan Community of New York & New Jersey (TCNYNJ).

“Every day in our bustling worker center, we are providing essential services like Workforce Development, Health Care Support, Community Safety Support, Adult Literacy classes, Civic Engagement and Legal Services,” said Tsering Lama, Policy Manager at Adhikaar. “At this critical time, where CBOs remain the lifeline of the City for many communities, it’s critical that the NYC legislators fund AAPI CBOs like Adhikaar and our members of the 18% and Growing Coalition.”

“Being underfunded results in our communities being underserved. An equitable budget would help Armenian-Americans with data collection and disaggregation, increase access to much-needed mental health care services, and create culturally responsive educational curriculum and youth programming,” said Christine Serdjenian, New York Organizer at Armenian-American Action Network. “We are proud to be a part of the 18% and Growing Campaign and echo the fiscal requests of the greater AAPI community that would enhance the health, and economic and social well-being, of all AAPI New Yorkers.”

“New York City is home to the largest Indo-Caribbean and South Asian foreign-born population, many of whom live in immigrant communities like Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park in Queens. For the past three years, community-based organizations have been on the front lines providing life-saving services through resource mobilization,” said Mohamed Q. Amin, Founder and Executive Director at Caribbean Equality Project. “The 18% and Growing Campaign amplifies the intersectionality and growth of the diverse AAPI communities and our collective fight for fiscal equity, an investment in community-driven solutions to create thriving, sustainable immigrant communities.”

“It is difficult to ignore how AAPI New Yorkers have been neglected and how they have not been accounted for when it comes to funding social services and public benefits,” said Emira Habiby Browne, Founder and CEO at CIANA. “Budget equity means fighting for the most essential needs- health, education, language access, safety, and more- that are being kept from nearly one-fifth of our city’s population.”

“We pride ourselves in providing the tailored services our communities need, addressing gaps that conventional senior center programs just fail to address,” said Shaaranya Pillai, Deputy Director at India Home. “Despite how challenging and how expensive it is to find culturally competent care and personnel, we continue to invest in our older adults.”

“Access Health is an imperative program – it is essential. It allows community-based organizations to help our new neighbors or long-tenured friends get the benefits they deserve,” said Josh Bentley, Grants and Advocacy Coordinator at Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc (KCS). “And yet, if the equity budget, the city, and the state continue to neglect us, we cannot continue to offer these services to the extent we wish.”

“The investment that Asian Americans receive falls short of our community’s numbers here in New York City,” said Tina Han, Community Leader at MinKwon Center for Community Action. “WE DEMAND OUR FAIR SHARE!”

“The Tibetan community here in New York City is the largest in North America and we have around more than 20,000 Tibetans in NY/NJ,” said Ngawang Tsering, Vice President at Tibetan Community of New York & New Jersey (TCNYNJ). “We need our community center to help us preserve our culture.”

“As a member of the AAPI community, KAFSC recognizes the urgent need for greater investments and resources to support our rapidly growing and diverse community, particularly for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence,” said Jeehae Fischer. Executive Director at the Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC). “KAFSC stands in solidarity with our fellow community members in advocating for transparent investments and equitable opportunities that will allow our AAPI community to thrive. Together, we can build a more just and humane social ecosystem that supports and uplifts all New Yorkers, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

“New York City continues to struggle to get AAPI New Yorkers – many of whom are from immigrant and limited English proficient backgrounds – the resources they need to lead fulfilling and productive lives. To close that gap, resources must be allocated to community-based organizations like ours that have the trust and deep ties in the community to provide human services, health care, mental health supports, and racial literacy programming,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC). “We join the 18% and Growing Campaign members to call on the City to enhance the AAPI Community Support Initiative to $6 million so that Asian American community members can receive culturally relevant and language-accessible services needed to not only survive but also thrive in these troubling times.”

Wednesday’s 18% and Growing Campaign rally was the second of four planned budget rallies across New York City. We will next rally on May 16th at McKinley Park in Brooklyn, and on May 24 in Little Yemen in the Bronx. To RSVP, head here.

For more information, please contact Winnie Kong, CACF’s Communications Associate, at [email protected].

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