I have never been someone who gets involved in cultural organizations, but through an unexpected turn of events I landed myself the position of Public Relations Chair for the Asian Student Association (ASA) at Simmons College. In this role, I have become more educated on issues facing AAPI communities and gained greater insight into my multiracial identity. ASA has also given me the opportunity to organize cultural events and meet inspiring AAPI leaders. One such event was ASA’s annual gala.
Community leaders and artists were invited to demonstrate their involvement in Asian communities for this year’s “Asian American Activism” themed gala. The evening began with keynote speaker, Diana Hwang, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative (AAWPI) and recent Massachusetts state Senate candidate. Admittedly, I already knew Diana prior to the event. I had heard of her organization and helped volunteer for her campaign, so when we booked her as a speaker I thought I had already known all about her. However, although I knew of her accomplishments, it was clear that I was unaware of the obstacles she had to overcome to get to where she is today.
Diana spoke about getting her start in politics and having to confront the reality of being one of the only Asian American women working at the State House and City Hall in Massachusetts. Though, instead of just accepting things as they are, she aimed to change the status quo by founding the Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative (AAWPI), the country’s only political leadership organization that aims to ensure that the next generation of Asian American women leaders has a voice in their government.
Aside from educating rising community leaders, she strives to empower women through personal example. She shared with us the hardships of running her state senate campaign and how she was honestly terrified, but tried anyways. Her ability to show up and face her fears was, for me, one of the key takeaways from that night. After hearing her speech, I walked away with a sense of renewed energy and purpose, knowing that, if you’re passionate about the work you're doing, anything is possible.
The following performances were just as moving. From poetry to dance, I was in awe of how each artist was able to use their craft to share their passions and experiences with the audience. Finally, the evening came to a close with a student panel. Each student was asked to explain their definition of activism and elaborate on how they are advocates for positive change. Though their answers varied, their goals were equally amazing. For me, this was the perfect way to end the evening. After hearing from individuals who are already established leaders, it was nice to hear from young activists who are still working to find their political voice. While I was listening to them speak, I took a step back and realized that these students were around the same age as me and that, although they all may not have found their place yet, their achievements were just as inspiring and noteworthy.
There I was listening to fellow Asian American millennials working to make a difference and I realized, in my own way, I am beginning to as well. From helping put together this gala to educate others on the importance of activism, to joining Asian American Millennials Unite (AAMUnite), I am finding my voice and working towards being an advocate for positive change. I’m not where I want to be...yet. This gala helped me realize that there’s so much more I want to do. But now, I feel ready to use my passion, face my fears, and be a leader.
This post is by contributor Alisha Morales.