Last month, half a dozen of APEN’s founders — leaders who made our early beginnings in 1993 possible — had a reunion at my house for a Sunday lunch. We ate, laughed, shared space, and told stories about what it was like in those early years when we set out to create the country’s first network of Asian Americans fighting for environmental justice in immigrant and refugee communities.
Those conversations brought memories flooding back to all of us of why we set out to found APEN in the first place and how we were going to start by embracing and learning from the incredible wisdom and resilience that our communities, and communities of color across the country, already have.
Our vision was clear: To be accountable to the working-class communities of color leading the fight for our families, our neighborhoods and our environment where we live, work and play. To embrace solutions that come directly from the frontlines.
A generation later, we are still carrying that vision forward. In these chaotic times, APEN’s vision today is more relevant — and critical — than ever. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce APEN’s 25th anniversary celebration: “Local Roots, Statewide Impact.”
On September 26 at the Oakland Museum of California, we will come together to celebrate our victories, share stories, and grow our movement for a healthy, just future where all of our communities can thrive, all while generating vital financial support and momentum for the vision APEN has embodied since the day we were founded.
From the climate crisis and local pollution to anti-immigrant policies and displacement, the threats our communities face now have been around for a long, long time. But lately I’ve been feeling that in our current moment there is a need, a hunger, for solutions that come directly from the real lived experiences of the frontlines.
From shaping a Green New Deal to articulating a bold new vision for housing for all in California, there is an opening and an excitement for the wisdom of APEN members and the real solutions our communities are contributing. By returning to the vision at our roots and multiplying our movement across the state, we are growing our power while taking leadership from the frontline communities that are our heart, our home and our base.
But we need to come together, and stand behind our vision, if we’re going to take this next step. With our community behind us, we can keep growing. We have to.