November 6, 2018

Democracy Is A Garden That Must Be Tended To

They say that democracy is a garden that must be tended to; when it is well kept, it is beautiful, thriving, blooming with color. But when you let the weeds and hate grow beneath the surface, it suffocates everything.

This election, the dignity and safety of immigrant communities, of our families and loved ones, are on the ballot. Our communities are once again under attack, from white nationalists, from people who want to take away healthcare access, from people who wish to sow seeds of hate and feed the darker angels of our nature. Our response must be to defeat this darkness, to breathe life again into our vibrant, diverse democracy.

I’ve been blessed to see all of our work first-hand, from behind the scenes and on the front lines. And believe me when I tell you: What we’ve done matters. What we’ve done, what we’ve worked for is worth every minute.

Here’s what we did at APANO, together, in multiracial coalition, across generations who call Oregon home:

In response to hate and intimidation, we’ve centered AAPI voices in our organizing, putting our faces, and our stories -- as Asians, Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders -- at the forefront of our movement -- at people’s doors, on the airwaves, and on social media. Oregon’s history has long been marked with anti-immigrant, anti-AAPI sentiment -- and the choice before Oregon voters this November will either continue that narrative or give us an opportunity to challenge it.

Three months of campaigning and more than than 35,000 dials, 3,000 doors knocked, 14 canvasses, 8 evening phonebanks, dozens of outreach events, and $300,000 in investments later, we’ve thrown the full weight of APANO’s resources towards preserving the last decade of progress and tackling the issues of today.

As an organization, we’ve made groundbreaking strides in bringing more people into our civic community. We’ve devoted time, treasure, and talent towards educating, empowering, persuading voters to join our movement for a more equitable Oregon.

We’ve extended our reach into Beaverton & Washington County -- my beloved home, the place I grew up -- to try and engage some of the 14% percent (80,000 folks) of Washington County that identifies as AAPI. We’ve empowered voices of youth to talk about the impact of Measure 105 on their own lives and families. We’ve even textbanked voters for the first time!

We've coordinated with every progressive ballot measure campaign and people of color-led organizations who lift up our communities (PCUN, Latino Network, Forward Together, Chinese Americans Citizens Alliance, Micronesian Islander Coalition, Korean American Coalition, Filipino-American Center, and more!).

We’ve campaigned and canvassed for women of color candidates who stand in this fight alongside us -- Jo Ann Hardesty for Portland City Council, Janelle Bynum and Teresa Alonso León for the Oregon State House, and our ally in Salem, Governor Kate Brown. We’ve fought for the one-of-a-kind, first in the nation, Portland Clean Energy Initiative -- a people of color driven ballot measure at the heart of the environmental, economic, and racial justice effort.

One of the things I’m most proud of is APANO’s tenet in election work to expand access to the ballot and engage communities that are often ignored by the mainstream political process. APANO has worked to expand language access through new voter registration, multilingual outreach, visibility in local ethnic media, and our voter guides -- in seven languages including Chinese (中文), Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt), Korean (한국어), Tagalog, Russian (русский),Spanish (Español) and English -- trying our best to make sure that caring members of our community can exercise their vote and their right to shape the society we live in.

We’ve piloted an exciting operation called the APANO Ballot Assistance Center -- opening up our office for the final 6 election days in November to all -- building upon our multilingual language access work to make sure that language or first-time voting errors don't lead to the disenfranchisement of our communities and communities of color at large. We continue to develop a robust multilingual voter education program.

There is so much potential, so much that is possible here in Oregon.

I know that for each and every one of us who have been involved in this fight, we can tell a story of why this effort was worth it, why it mattered that when our communities needed it most, we ran towards the fight, not away from it. Because after all, what wouldn’t you do to keep your families and friends safe, to preserve the place you live, the place you love for generations to come?

Our communities of color worked hard this election because we have to -- because we have protect each other.

But our politics won’t change until the people involved change. We fight for all those who color and help make Oregon more beautiful by being here.

When our communities are under attack, what do we do? We show up and fight back.

Now let’s finish strong. Let’s win. VOTE.

This programming message brought to you by APANO, a 501(c4) nonprofit organization.