April 30, 2015

What Stories Do We Tell?

Photo: Midori Minamoto, Dorothy Vickers, and Mark Smith at St. Philip Church, 1959. Urban League of Portland Records, Oregon Multicultural Archives at Oregon State University.

By Kyle Weismann-Yee
Program Coordinator, Oregon Humanities
2012-2013 Graduate of the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Institute

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month provides many of us common point to look to our collective past and celebrate contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. But history is ultimately story telling. What is commemorated is usually what is well documented and/or well preserved. It generally fits into a safe, mainstream narrative. It frequently is told from a male perspective.

But what about contributions that have not been as thoroughly preserved, lost from collective memory or push to the margins? What about silent acts of resistance that will never be heard? Do we remember civil rights leader Midori Minamoto Hamilton’s early involvement with the Urban League of Portland after her family was interned during World War II? Does anyone remember Patsy Takemoto Mink’s 1972 presidential primary campaign in Oregon on an anti-war platform? What about Mrs. Chan equal suffrage speech in Cantonese to white Portland suffragists in 1912, translated by her daughter? Do we remember the contributions of these Asian women in Oregon? What may have eluded our collective memory or been forced to the margins that we are unaware of? What about the acts of resistance that history was unable to preserve?

For many who read this, their names and contributions are likely new. These stories may not have been lost from history, but have sat at the margins – far too often the norm for women’s and LGBTQ’s experiences. When we collectively look back, we have a responsibility to lift the stories that have been silenced. Through these stories we can take inspiration to carry the baton from those who have moved us toward justice.

Right now there are leaders in our communities taking this charge. There are local Asians4BlackLives groups forming to end anti-Black racism. Groups like Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines organize for international solidarity and de-occupation and democracy in the lands of their ancestors. APANO’s Strong Families Team is organizing at the forefront of gender, sexuality, and reproductive justice. Nancy Haque was recently named co-Director for Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy organization. All of them, and many others, need our collective effort to create a place where everyone can live up to their full potential as who they are.

So let’s take a moment to recognize and honor the collective and individual acts of resistance that are not documented. Let us draw inspiration from those who have organized for justice before us and from those in our lives who are resisting oppression and continuing this work for justice. Let us raise these narratives, experiences, and examples of leadership, both past and present. We have the ability to amplify their contributions so they – we – do not stay in the margins.

Read more stories from AAPI Heritage Month here.

Join us on Thursday, May 7th, 2015 for our annual Voices of Change Celebration to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month! Event runs from 6:30-9:00pm for an evening of cultural performances, delectable food and the fellowship of 200+ supporters and friends. We are thrilled to host the event this year in the Jade District, Portland’s International District. We will be at the home of the 2015 International Night Market, which attracted over 20,000 visitors last year. For sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, please contact Office & Events Manager, Melissa Magana at melissa@apano.org or call 971-340-4861. We look forward to celebrating with you.