At my first APANO event back in 2013, I was too nervous to fully participate. When the facilitator asked an optional icebreaker question, everyone shared but me. I was a new member, politically informed but not yet politically engaged, just another person looking for community in this city and unsure where to go.
The relationships formed in that room would grow into a passionate base of members invested in gender, LGBTQ and reproductive justice; a Board-adopted framework enshrining a commitment to all of our diverse families having what they need to thrive; a story collection project on bodies, gender, sexuality and families so powerful that I now have a tattoo of the title; and Oregon’s 2017 Reproductive Health Equity Act, now lauded as the most progressive reproductive health bill in the country.
As APANO taught me, that’s the power of organizing.
As I leave my role as APANO’s Director of Programs, it’s with the knowledge that, in the past year, we have witnessed white nationalists organizing on our doorstep; we’ve watched anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy gain ground across the state; we’ve continued to struggle to fund key services our communities rely on and seen those communities face increased profiling, targeting, exclusion and violence.
Yet I also leave knowing that, since my graduation from the API Community Leadership Institute (API-CLI) in 2014, the number of alumni has grown from 35 to over 80, many of whom are taking on leadership all over the state—including one graduate running for office. My first day on staff at APANO was our first day in the Jade District office, and now we see daily progress on the construction of a long-awaited community vision for a permanent cultural center and 48 units of affordable housing. I have watched APANO grow from an organization with a track record of successful issue advocacy to an organization with a clear political analysis and set of values, able to both deal with the world the way it is while imagining something new. We hosted a visionary keynote conversation between Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, whose words continue to resonate. Our youth organizing base won ethnic studies in Portland Public Schools and inspired the passage of a statewide bill. After years of important coalition work, immigrants from Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations and all of Oregon’s kids now have access to health coverage. And we’ve won key victories at the ballot for affordable housing, health care and funding for schools.
Most of all, I’ve seen people like me—new, nervous and hopeful—come to APANO and find space to grow into their own stories, voices, power and leadership, and go on to organize and support others in doing the same.
From that first workshop onward, I have seen the power of critical connections, shared opportunities and space to dream up and win changes that first feel impossible, then irresistible. I will continue to invest in, fight for and believe in that work, and I hope that you will as well. I am so grateful to have shared and done my small part to help shape this chapter of APANO, and I can’t wait to see and celebrate what new growth lies ahead.
With love and gratitude,
This programming message is brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501c3 nonprofit organization.