May 11, 2020

Our Health Should Not Be Tied to Race or Class - A Conversation with Alyshia Macaysa

Alyshia Alohalani Macaysa-Feracota is a community organizer and freelance Health Equity strategist. Alyshia’s work, consciousness, and power is rooted in her lineage as a Queer Native Hawaiian Filipina and her journey in understanding the continued physical and spiritual displacement of her people.

You drive racial equity centered strategies through various work groups in Portland. Why does this crisis need a racial equity lens?

The aim is to highlight the unique needs of BIPOC communities, get them culturally relevant resources, and contextualize the health outcomes we see with the historical oppression communities of color have experienced. The crisis care plan is what I like to think of as a score sheet. The plan lays out what we would do in the situation that our healthcare system gets overwhelmed. Who gets the ICU bed? Who gets the ventilator? Who gets care? The issue is that the current scoring system is based off of who is most likely to survive.

That’s an issue when Black, Indigenous, People of Color have not had equal opportunity to survive in the first place.

You also work with UTOPIA PDX, can you tell us more about that?

UTOPIA-PDX, the United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance Portland, is a sacred space to strengthen the minds and bodies of QTPIs - Queer and Trans Pacific Islanders. We recently released $10,000 in financial support to Queer and Trans Pacific Islanders and folks of color. The goal was to get them resources as quickly as possible to take care of urgent expenses and relieve some of the stress folks are under. It’s small, but necessary to show our love for our people.

What does API Heritage month mean to you?

I, for the longest time, have never really felt connected to API history or Heritage Month. Primarily because the celebrations in the past that I've seen have focused specifically on East Asian communities and, so, I never really saw myself or felt really connected to it. But I do feel a responsibility to continue to assert the narrative of what it means to be Asian and Pacific Islander in ways that really honor our histories and the complex relationships we have with one another.

Part of that is sitting in difficult conversations with one another as a community to talk about the erasure we’ve committed of each other’s stories, and building genuine relationships rooted in solidarity and our collective liberation.

It’s also important for me to lift up the womxn (cis and trans) and non-binary leadership of our API movements. Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask says the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement isn’t led by womxn on accident. The Americanization of Hawai’i, and it’s patriarchal nature, gives just enough power to cis-men of color to think real structural change is happening. But I believe womxn’s mana (energy) stays alive because no matter how perfect or obediently we operate in an Americanized system, it’s purposely designed for our failure, and we know that. So mana wahine lives on because we know as womxn that our place is in the struggle, and our reward is in liberation.

What needs to change?

We need better data. We need better data practices. We need researchers to be committed to that change. We need whole systems to be committed to that change. Right now leaders just do not see the struggle of what it means to be Pacific Islander, and within that what is the struggle of what it means to be Micronesian, and within that what it means to be trans, for example.

Data practices still center white people as the beacon of good health. It’s all in relationship to what white communities have, and the assumption that what they have is what we need. Self determination over our lives, our neighborhoods, and our stories is what we need.

Alyshia's Call to Action

Push back against divide and conquer tactics of white supremacy culture. I truly believe that we as API people cannot heal until we heal our relationships with ourselves and with other communities of color. Our liberation and healing is linked to their liberation and healing.

This blog post is part of the API Womxn in Leadership series to commemorate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This series is also under the banner of #CourageDuringCOVID, a larger project highlighting API Oregonians doing meaningful and radical work to protect one another. Learn more about our Courage During COVID series. This programming message brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501(c)(3) non profit organization.