Sometimes people only appreciate AAU for the noise we make or the campaigns we win. While we are proud of these achievements and fond of making noise, we are intensely aware that these campaigns and these victories are the product of long, steady, consistent, quiet work of investing in new leadership; taking the time to build healthy communities and leaders by creating our own practices, traditions, and institutions; and taking each battle as an opportunity for learning from traditions of struggle that preceded us and an opportunity for learning and passing on new lessons to the next generation.
Since its beginning in 1985, AAU has: helped to organize Cambodian tenants to fight for and win subsidized housing; organized a citywide coalition to push the justice system to respond to the racially motivated murder of a Cambodian man; initiated a lawsuit that resulted in the hiring of Asian bilingual staff and the structuring of services for English Language Learners; played an instrumental role in halting the proposed construction of a baseball stadium that threatened to close off the only side of Chinatown not already blocked by corporate development; organized community members to fight for and build a multiracial charter school designed especially to serve immigrant and non-English speaking children; led a campaign against predatory gambling that helped defeat efforts to site a casino a block away from Chinatown; anchored a coalition to support the 2009 student boycott of South Philadelphia High that resulted in a Department of Justice complaint citing the school district with violating the civil rights of Asian immigrant students by acting with “deliberate indifference” to repeated acts of racial harassment and violence; led a group of community partners in putting together a report on the state of Asian American communities in Philadelphia.
Youth in AAU’s programs initiated an annual Mid-Autumn Festival, a day for reclaiming the streets of Chinatown in a celebration of culture and community; organized students across the city to successfully fight the 1995 SEPTA student fare hike; helped build a community garden for elderly Chinatown residents; initiated legislation to secure welfare benefits for high school students until age 21; nurtured hundreds of younger children in our summer camps; in 2012 collaborated with immigrant parents to successfully demand a halt to the cuts in services to bilingual staff in the school district; and in 2014-15 conducted hundreds of peer and community surveys, testified before City Council on injustice of Keystone testing for immigrant students; signed on to an anti-wage-theft bill, and registered 100’s of new voters in the Asian community and provided on site language-interpretation-help for immigrant voters. Through all of these activities, AAU involved growing numbers of youth in advocating on their own behalf and built the leadership capabilities of broader sectors of the Asian American community.