THE BLOG

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Hands Up United Partner for Asian American and Pacific Islander Artist Delegation to Ferguson

06/04/2015 09:59 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2016

This is a joint piece by Tef Poe and Gregory Cendana:

All of the national media and cameras may not be on Ferguson, MO anymore but people are still building, organizing and protesting for change. Later this week Hands Up United will host the first-ever Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Delegation to Ferguson: A Culture of Resilience, Resistance and Restoration-Black and AAPI Communities United Through the Arts. The delegation aims to show that we are all more alike than we are made to believe and now more than ever we need to come together to stand up for racial and economic justice.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), a constituency group of the AFL-CIO, is the first and only organization of AAPI workers and union members working to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. APALA has a history of standing in solidarity with other communities of color. During the organization's founding convention in 1992, the group's first action was a march to demand justice for Rodney King, a black construction worker who was assaulted by Los Angeles police officers.

More than 20 years later, as seen through the senseless deaths of Mike Brown and countless others, police brutality and the frequent lack of police accountability continue to plague communities of color. What happened in Ferguson is not an isolated incident but is part of a wider system of discrimination and racism. Ferguson is everywhere.

Hands Up United was founded last year immediately following the death of unarmed teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson. Driven by the collective efforts of many of St. Louis's strongest organizers, influencers, and artists, Hands Up United seeks to empower millennials nationwide to speak out against injustice and end institutional racism by empowering their community through art, culture and technology. Through strategic organizing campaigns that employ direct action and base building, Hands Up United has quickly become a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beyond over-policing, communities of color are also negatively impacted by mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization as well as poor conditions in our neighborhoods, schools and work places. Despite attempts to inflame tensions between members of the Black and AAPI communities, APALA and Hands Up United have come together to fight back.

Our members have been learning, building and growing.

The changing demographic shifts in the U.S., the current political climate and advances in technology all add to an already fertile ground for organizing communities of color. We continue to be inspired by a new generation of activists grounded in the importance of community, healing and love. We understand the model minority myth is rooted in anti-Black racism and we will educate others on how it is used to divide and conquer communities of color. We know that black people are disproportionately impacted by state violence and there is a particular reason to say #BlackLivesMatter.

Art and culture are essential in how people express themselves, how people are united and how movements are built. We believe that utilizing art and culture will foster a unique space for learning about the shared challenges within Black and AAPI communities while recognizing and celebrating our differences.

As we prepare to come together June 4-5 for this historic gathering, follow @APALAnational @handsupunited_ and the members of the delegation:

Jenny Yang (@jennyyangtv)
Jenny Yang is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand up comedian who produces the first-ever (mostly) female, Asian American standup comedy tour, Dis/orient/ed Comedy and has been a writer and performer on viral Buzzfeed videos. Jenny was born in Taiwan and raised in Southern California. Before her start in comedy, Jenny dedicated herself to the Los Angeles labor movement.

D'Lo (@dlocokid)
D'Lo is a queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comedian. He is a member of Teada Productions (theater company creating work around the stories of immigrants and other poc), on the board for Brown Boi Project (organization that works to build leadership, economic self sufficiency, and health of young masculine-of-center poc) and a co-producer for DisOriented Comedy. D'Lo's poetry and short stories have been published in various anthologies and academic journals, most recently: Desi Rap: Hip Hop and South Asia America (by Nitasha Sharma) and Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic (co-edited by Sharon Brigforth) and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.

Taz Ahmed (@TazzyStar)
Taz Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. She can be heard monthly on the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast and can be read monthly in her Radical Love column. An avid writer, she was a long-time writer for Sepia Mutiny and is published in the anthology Love, Inshallah. Taz also organizes with Bay Area Solidarity Summer and South Asians for Justice - Los Angeles. You can find her rant at @tazzystar and at tazzystar.blogspot.com.

Terisa Siagatonu (@madfreshrisa)
Terisa Siagatonu is a spoken word artist and arts educator from the Bay Area. Her emergence into the spoken word world as a queer Samoan womyn and activist has granted her opportunities to perform on stages ranging from San Francisco's historical Herbst Theatre to the White House.
She's a member of the Da Poetry Lounge/Hollywood Slam team, helping her team place 2nd in the nation in 2013 at the National Poetry Slam. Off stage, she is a recent graduate from USC with her Masters in Marriage/Family Therapy, a counselor at the Southern California Counseling Center, and facilitates poetry writing workshops.

Johanna Puno Hester (@johanna_hester)
Special Assistant to the Executive Director at The Homecare Providers Union (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930, Johanna Hester was elected an International Vice President (UDW District) in 2012, where she began her career with AFSCME as Lead Organizer for the Organizing and Field Services Department in 1999 and earlier with SEIU in 1991. She was awarded the Philip Vera Cruz from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) for her organizing and union leadership in 2009 and is a recent graduate of the Harvard University program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government. Johanna is now championing the homecare cause in California and is in her second term as the National President of APALA.

Special Guest: Tefere Gebre (@Tefere_Gebre)
Tefere Gebre is the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. Tefere, born in Gondar, Ethiopia, was a political refugee and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. A standout track and field athlete, he attended Cal Poly Pomona on an athletic scholarship. While in college, Tefere worked his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS and a member of Teamsters Local 396. Since, Tefere has devoted his entire life to the values of hard work and a voice at the workplace. Tefere served as the Executive Director for the Orange County labor federation starting in 2008. During his tenure Tefere redefined the growing labor movement in Orange County, Calif., and was one of the key forces in advancing progressive change in the traditionally conservative county.

Poe (@TefPoe) is a rapper and activist from Ferguson and is a founder of Hands Up United. Cendana (@gregorycendana) is a DC-based dancer, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO and chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.