How Grace Lee Boggs Changed My Life (and Maybe Yours Too)

By: Scott Kurashige

Twenty years ago, I wrote to Grace Lee Boggs completely out of the blue. She had no basis for knowing who I was or what I was involved in. In fact, I had only recently learned about Grace through the research of my friend, Jung Hee Choi.

In the spring of 1998, I was 27 years old and officially a PhD student at UCLA. However, I had little prospect or expectation that I would finish my degree or become a professor. Instead, my life revolved around student activism and community organizing. Foreshadowing the Trump counterrevolution at the national level, Pete Wilson’s terms as governor served as the last reactionary gasps of power from the white soon-to-be minority and the conservative political forces in California.

Similar to today, we activists were toiling 24/7 to organize protests and build the resistance. Communities of color led a series of massive, inspirational demonstrations in response to Propositions 187 (attack on immigrant rights), 209 (banning affirmative action), and 227 (outlawing bilingual education), as well as police brutality and assaults on workers rights. Nevertheless, we fretted that we were constantly on the defensive—not just from the Republicans in California but also from the Clinton administration’s pursuit of corporate globalization, mass incarceration, and neoliberal austerity measures.

I was convinced we needed a revolutionary movement; and I would do my part to ensure that Asian Americans would step up and join with other communities of color at the forefront of the struggle. Much of my time in this period was devoted to organizing two connected events held in Los Angeles in May 1998. The “Serve the People” Asian American community activism conference brought several hundred people to UCLA to recount the historical lessons of movement building and share strategies from contemporary organizing.

Continue reading “How Grace Lee Boggs Changed My Life (and Maybe Yours Too)”

Reappropriate’s Top 5 for #GivingTuesday 2015 (and This Year’s Master-List of AANHPI Non-Profits)

giving-tuesday-2015

This year marks the fourth annual Giving Tuesday, a national day to reject the crass consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #NotOneDime, a grassroots movement to boycott both consumer-based “holidays”,  is credited with a projected loss of $1 billion dollars in revenue this year compared to previous years. Instead, Giving Tuesday encourages charity and goodwill through small (or large) donations to any non-profit organizations.

Giving Tuesday typically publishes a database of non-profit organizations that will receive your donations, but I’ve found in the past that AANHPI were woefully underrepresented. So, for the last several years, I have published my own (long, but not comprehensive) list of quality AANHPI non-profit organizations to support for Giving Tuesday. This year is no exception: after the jump you’ll find 2015’s updated list of great AANHPI-focused non-profits.

Before we get to the full list, however I’m going to give you my personal top five picks for 2015. This is, of course, a tough list to make since I think every organization in the larger list deserves our charitable support.

Reappropriate’s 2015 Giving Tuesday Top 5:

  • CAAAV: Organizing Communities is one of my favourite local-level, community organizing non-profit groups. Founded in 1986 in response to a spate of anti-Asian hate crimes, the group has metamorphosed into a powerhouse for NYC-area community organizing, with a specific focus on interracial and interethnic coalition-building for fair housing and tenants’ rights. Not only does CAAAV do essential grassroots work, but I’m particularly struck by their unapologetic framing of their work as part of a larger fight to combat institutionalized anti-Blackness and anti-Asian racism.
  • APIA Vote is one of the nation’s foremost non-partisan AANHPI groups focused exclusively on civic engagement. The AANHPI community has notoriously low voter registration rates, and the mission of APIAVote is to do something about it. As the all-important 2016 presidential election approaches — and in a field where Rightwing xenophobia and (anti-Asian, among others) race-baiting is par for the course — APIAVote’s work is particularly necessary, and a donation to them right now will have enormous impact.
  • The Sikh Coalition  is one of several groups that have done stellar work this year highlighting instances of anti-South Asian (and, often, anti-Muslim) hate crimes, and advocating for victims and their families. I choose The Sikh Coalition for particular attention given how I have personally relied on their campaigns this year to keep me abreast of news on this front; other noteworthy groups also doing this work include SALDEF and SAALT.
  • NAPAWF is a national organization that focuses specifically on advocacy for AANHPI women, with one of their primary interest areas being reproductive rights. They have been very active in elevating the voices of AANHPI women in the current fight to defund Planned Parenthood, and even in the fierce urgency of the moment with regard to the fight to preserve abortion access, NAPAWF has done an excellent and necessary job injecting race into the national conversation.
  • Boggs Center was given a place of honour in my 2014 Giving Tuesday list, but I feel it necessary to once again include it in this year’s Top 5, in memory of Grace Lee Boggs whom we lost earlier this year. Boggs’ legacy of social justice and activism indelibly changed the modern Asian American Movement, and the Boggs Center continues to do important community work in the Detroit area.

I encourage you to make a Giving Tuesday donation this year to one or more of the listed organizations in this post. You can either join me in giving to one of my 2015 Giving Tuesday Top 5 (above), or you can pick any of your favourites from the larger list of equally deserving organizations (after the jump)!

Don’t see your favourite organization on the list? Please leave a comment to have it added!

Continue reading “Reappropriate’s Top 5 for #GivingTuesday 2015 (and This Year’s Master-List of AANHPI Non-Profits)”

Shame on Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ami Bera for Voting to Block Syrian Refugees

Representative Ami Bera of California
Representative Ami Bera of California

The headline says it all: shame on Asian American House Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Ami Bera (D-CA) for casting votes earlier this evening to essentially block 10,000 Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States.

Earlier tonight, the House passed the sweeping bill (HR.4038, or euphemistically, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act) which would have placed such severe restrictions on the process of admitting refugees from Syria or Iraq as to essentially block their entry. The bill’s author claimed that the legislation was designed to protect America from national security threats posed by incoming refugees, yet refugees are already subject to the most stringent, and one of the lengthiest, vetting process of any incoming immigrant group. Since 2001, 750,000 refugees have been admitted and resettled in the United States, and none have gone on to commit an act of domestic terrorism.

Nonetheless, House Republicans authored and passed a bill that blocks entry of refugees from Syria and Iraq — refugees who desperately need our help — and they did it with legislative language crafted to explicitly target a specific group of people for exclusion based on their ethnic origin.

Continue reading “Shame on Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ami Bera for Voting to Block Syrian Refugees”

A True American Revolutionary: Rest in Power, Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

grace-lee-boggs-revolution-evolution-big-rip

Grace Lee Boggs — revered civil rights activist and scholar and Asian American feminist hero — passed away this morning. She was 100.

Founder of the Boggs Center and co-founder of Detroit Summer, Boggs lived a life dedicated to activism and social justice, with her efforts focused in particular on inner city Detroit. However, her work extended far beyond Detroit’s city limits in terms of influence: she has inspired (among others) several generations of Asian American activists and feminists — including myself.

Continue reading “A True American Revolutionary: Rest in Power, Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)”

Please donate NOW to support Grace Lee Boggs’ hospice care!

grace-lee-boggs-support

Earlier this year, the AAPI community was devastated to learn that revered civil rights icon Grace Lee Boggs was in hospice care with failing health. Last week, the Boggs Center issued a statement that offered much relief to Boggs’ many well-wishers: ever a fighter, Boggs’ health has improved substantially in the last month.

However, with that happy news comes another issue: the cost of Boggs’ care far exceeds the funds she or the Boggs Center have available to support her. So, with that, the Boggs Center is asking for the community’s help. They are asking us to chip in — whatever we can spare — to help offset the costs of Grace Lee Boggs’ $8000/month hospice care (statement after the jump)

Continue reading “Please donate NOW to support Grace Lee Boggs’ hospice care!”