In the fall of 2017, the #MeToo movement went mainstream, finally bringing much-needed attention to the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment within society. As a result, a number of powerful men in Hollywood, in the media industry, and even in the judicial system were finally held publicly accountable for their predatory behavior (though, sadly, Brett Kavanaugh ended up with the ultimate job promotion).
One critique of this current iteration of #MeToo is that the face of the movement is often famous white women, effectively silencing the experiences of women of color and working-class women. But, if anything, history teaches us that women of color are resourceful and resilient. And when we are excluded from mainstream movements, we create our own spaces. At this very important moment in time, that’s exactly what women of color are doing: raising awareness about the issues we face, advocating for ourselves and our families, strengthening our political power, and mobilizing our communities.
AAPI Women Lead is an organization based in the Bay Area that is doing work to raise the visibility of self-identified women from Asian and Pacific Islander communities and their experiences with #MeToo, racial discrimination, war, immigration, and more. The co-founders of the organization, Dr. Connie Wun and Jenny Wun, are sisters who wanted to respond to the lack of research on and support for AAPI women who have histories and experiences of violence. They both experienced sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, one in academia and the other in corporate America. This, among other things, informs their perspective. The goal for AAPI Women Lead is multi-faceted. They want to strengthen the political and social platforms of AAPI communities in America by centering the leadership of AAPI women and girls. And they want to challenge and end the violence against and within those communities.
A foundational part of the underlying philosophy of AAPI Women Lead is that they view these issues through an intersectional lens and they acknowledge that they do this work in solidarity and struggle with other communities of color. Simply put, they look at the many ways gender-based violence, racial discrimination, class, and immigration status impact the lives of AAPI women. And they do not work in isolation, but instead understand that these are issues pertinent to all communities of color, and they want AAPI communities to do their own work in support of racial justice and to dismantle anti-blackness within their own communities.
Recently, Dr. Wun was featured on a BET panel about the midterm elections and the importance of vulnerable communities coming together against the toxic political climate created by Donald Trump and Republicans. Here’s a shortened version of what she had to say:
On November 3, AAPI Women Lead held its first #ImReady conference, which brought together more than 300 self-identified AAPI women across the fields of business, politics, technology, and non-profits to share stories and participate in workshops and healing activities. The roster of speakers included Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Surina Khan (CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California), Killer Bee (a professional MMA fighter), Terisa Siagatonu (a Bay Area poet, community activist, and organizer), and more. The conference was such a success that they are already planning for a 2019 conference, in addition to a leadership institute, and a series of movement-building conversations with AAPI communities across California to partner with AAPI women leaders and conduct surveys to learn more about AAPI community needs. To that end, they are fundraising to further these efforts and take their community-driven research campaign across the country.
At the end of the day, all of their work is about AAPI women claiming their own narratives and collaborating within and across communities to create a progressive social and political platform and movement that heal and liberate AAPI communities and other communities of color. As co-founder Dr. Wun has stated:
“[Our] work is to team up with progressive communities of color to unapologetically own our voices and our power, everywhere. We have stories to share. Healing to do. Politics to occupy. And movements to strengthen and build.”
To learn more and support the incredible work of AAPI Women Lead (every contribution is vital and much appreciated), click here.