July 31, 2017

A Note from Policy Director, Zahir

I received the call from APANO’s Executive Director Joseph Santos-Lyons about a week after Trump’s win last year. Usually a call that like from a future boss offering me a job I dearly wanted is a reason to celebrate.

But not this one. When Joseph asked me to become APANO’s first Policy Director, both of us knew that APANO--and the communities we both love and cherish--will face a whole host of hardships that we couldn’t yet quite comprehend. In fact the first time Joseph and I spoke on the phone after the election, I began crying, not because I was overjoyed about my new job, but because a Sikh young man had been killed near my parents house in Sacramento, California.

It’s been an incredible six months and as much I would love to continue to serve APANO and the Oregon API community, I am moving to Ohio on July 30. My partner Claire is a professor and her new position is taking her to Denison University outside of Columbus. I leave with a heavy heart.

I owe so much to APANO but especially this: on my first weekend in Portland, my partner took me to a night of stand up comedy sponsored by APANO. I had heard over and over again that Portland is so white—and indeed it is—but what I learned that evening is that there are many dynamic people of color making this state and this city more inclusive, more accountable, and more equitable.

There are many things that remain highlights. I was incredibly moved by the campaign my colleagues and friends led on Reproductive Health rights. I felt honored to play a small part in pushing for Ethnic Studies.

But by far what I will cherish the most is the work I was able to do on what is called the “c4 side.” APANO endorsed candidates during this year’s school board race and it was a thrill to be able to to interview and to campaign for candidates. This represents such a bold step for an API group in the US, the idea that we are engaging policy work not just as a traditional non-profit, but also as a group that can donate and make bold statements. Moving ahead, this is what gives me confidence that APANO will succeed: it is constantly trying to challenge itself and the API community to do more, to be better.

APANO is in such a great position right now. Yes, Oregon is so white but Oregon is also changing rapidly and APANO is presenting a vision of the state that the state may itself take years to catch up with. What is holding Oregon back are the very ideas that APANO is advocating for and I can’t wait to see the future that APANO builds for Oregon.

I will always remain a fan, a supporter, and a member.

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