Energizing Northern California AAPI Communities Through the Regional Interagency Working Group

Region 9 Interagency Working Group

Members of the White House Initiative on AAPIs Region 9 Interagency Working Group (RIWG) met with community leaders in San Francisco, CA, for its first AAPI Community Roundtable, April 25, 2014. (by Ana Fortes)

“What can we do for you?” was the question we, the Region 9 Northern California Interagency Working Group (RIWG) posed to community leaders at last Tuesday’s AAPI Community Roundtable. Our event drew 90 representatives from over 70 organizations serving Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, and provided community leaders the opportunity to set the agenda for our RIWG in the coming year.

After a quick panel introducing the RIWG and its member agencies, we opened the floor to hear from our audience about priority issues, including issues facing Filipino homecare workers, the preference of Korean domestic violence survivors to seek help from community-based organizations instead of shelters, the alarming numbers for AAPI men with HIV, and more. 

RIWG members led lively interactive sessions on (1) Healthcare and Social Services, (2) Economic Development and Capacity Building, (3) Worker’s Rights, (4) Civil Rights in Education and (5) Environmental Issues. Questions and concerns from the community filled the room, as each breakout group brainstormed ideas for collaborative projects and solutions. Significantly, the issue of capacity building and funding for community-based organizations and nonprofits repeatedly bubbled up in almost all sessions. 

Our co-sponsor, the California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs, helped get the word out to our target audience, and together we turned out an impressive array of health care and social service providers, youth organizations, legal and community advocates, academics, women’s groups, foundations, as well as state, federal and congressional officials. 

Our other co-sponsor, the San Francisco Bay Area Federal Executive Board, highlighted the amazing work you can get done working collaboratively across federal agencies. We had representatives from the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights; Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Labor (DOL), Occupational Safety and Health Administration; DOL Women’s Bureau; Environmental Protection Agency; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration, and DOL Employment & Training Administration.

Our AAPI Roundtable was a great opportunity to build a network amongst community leaders and our agencies. As an RIWG, we learned that if we work together, we can better serve and engage the AAPI community in ways that we had not considered before. 

Dr. Tung Nguyen, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, thanked the community for sharing key issues and taking time to have a dialogue with their local federal agencies. Thanks to the Bay Area community, we, the Region 9 RIWG, are energized to work together and make our voice count on behalf of our local AAPI communities.

Tong Qin is the Director of Asian American and Pacific Islander Outreach and Deputy District Director for the Small Business Administration in the San Francisco District Office and Ana Victoria Fortes is the Program Analyst from the Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau. 

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