May 29, 2020

We Belong at the Table: Grace and Carol Talk Leadership During COVID-19

Carol Lee and Grace Henricks are two powerhouses of APANO’s team. Grace is APANO’s Small Business Advisor, and Carol is APANO’s Business Navigator Consultant. Together, the two have paired up during the COVID-19 crisis to provide assistance and resources to small businesses all across APANO’s community.

What work have you been doing in the community?

Carol: I’m being more available to our clients, so that they know that they have a resource. Someone to turn to. There's some food insecurity. There are some leasing or tenant issues, and some legal issues - the issues are varied but they all have to do with people not being able to earn a living and really being afraid of the future. I think it's an important role to serve - just trying to be a resource.

Grace: The nature of our work is different because of the COVID crisis. It is more crisis control and crisis management now. Carol and I are both part of a city wide network. That is the Inclusive Business Resource Network, and I was so excited when I found out what that is. It's a dozen other organizations that are interconnected and servicing economic growth and support of all of our people of color in all of our minority groups. We are part of the city wide effort towards developing economic opportunity and economic stability.

Sounds like you two are also able to work towards longer term growth for our communities and help build some resilience for business owners. What does resilience mean to you?

Carol: Resilience is having hope, it’s being able to look internally to find some strength and not being afraid to ask for help. It’s being open minded. It’s being creative, it has to do a lot with inner strength which is pretty hard to muster sometimes. But, I think if you’re able to ask for help, that is an important part of resilience - our work allows us to help our community find resilience in themselves.

Grace: I think resilience is being soft - in that you do not have control over so many things especially during COVID. You have to not be attached to outcomes. I think that resilience is being able to let go of some of the outcomes, and being soft in that process.

Very true, resilience doesn't have to mean just being tough. You two have really been community leaders in this time - what does that mean to you?

Carol: Leadership is being resourceful, being able to work with others and being able to manage resources, and bring creativity into it. Leaders are creative thinkers when it comes to solving problems without obvious solutions.

Grace: A good leader is also able to meet you where you are. You allow the people that are following you to bring their strengths to the table. You gain a lot of strength from that kind of team building.

Absolutely. Why is API womxn leadership so important?

Carol: I think API women have been underrepresented everywhere. I think it's important that we have a voice and a place at the table, and I'm happy to see that happening, slowly, but I think it's important to call attention to it. We have a lot to offer. Bringing our cultural heritage into our leadership roles is an important thing.

Grace: Asian cultures, well, all cultures that I know of are deeply rooted in patriarchy. I think API women need to be visible for our younger women and our girls growing up. We have so much to offer. I remember, I don't know, 15-20 years ago I was at a happy hour cocktail party and the room was talking about what celebrity you most identify with. And you know, I couldn't think of one and I thought… Jackie Chan. Because there weren't really any Asian women to identify with. I think that it's important to establish women participating at all levels of society. Like Carol said, we belong at the table too and so do our daughters.

Grace and Carol's Call to Action

Take political action! Everything we do is political, how will you participate in the system that surrounds your daily life?

  • Count yourself in the census
  • Vote
  • Make demands from your legislators and representatives

As COVID 19 continues to impact our community, our resolve for our work only deepens. We invite you to join us in #CourageDuringCOVID and make a gift in support of the APANO Communities United Fund to help us continue to protect one another. Give Now.

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 content brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization.