A year in the life of an APEN leader

by | Nov 13, 2023

My name is Lily Zhu (朱賢莉), and I’m an APEN leader from our membership in Oakland Chinatown. I want to tell you a little bit more about what it means to be an APEN leader – what the day-to-day of our community organizing looks like.

I am from Shanghai, and I’m a student at Laney College in Oakland. I am a Tai Chi sword performer, I speak four languages, and I make really delicious tea-leaf eggs. In 2020, I became an APEN member, and in 2022 I was honored and thrilled to be elected to APEN’s Leadership Steering Committee.

Here are a few highlights of being an APEN leader in 2023:

APEN leader Lily Zhu sits at a table gesturing


I believe that people in our community should be involved in the decisions that affect us. I was excited to participate in our City Council President’s townhall to shape priorities for Oakland District 2.

Photo by Joyce Xi Photography.


APEN’s grassroots membership learned about our 2023 priorities. As a member of our Leadership Steering Committee, I helped facilitate small group discussion.


Together with other APEN members, I rallied to defend Mayor Thao’s decision to fire the police chief.


Along with Restore Oakland, I and other APEN members led a series of community circles about community-centered approaches to Public Safety. I also participated in a statewide team learning about Green and Social Housing.


May was so exciting. I was thrilled to get to travel to APEN’s Los Angeles launch and to see how the team is expanding in our fight for environmental justice.


I participated in and recruited three other members to join this year’s APEN Academy 101 – APEN’s core leadership development program.


I am so excited about the work APEN is doing to create a Resilience Center at Lincoln Rec in Chinatown. In August I was able to join a resilience tour in Chinatown and speak directly with one of the commissioners of the California Public Utilities Commission.


I participated in APEN’s annual Leaders Advance to plan our priorities for 2024 and connect with other leaders from across our membership!

Photo by Joyce Xi Photography.

This year, APEN members like me engaged in community education, environmental protection, cultural enrichment, and sharing legal knowledge. Our activities are diverse, innovative, and engaging. Through online interactions, academic classes, and energetic outdoor events, APEN members gain a deep understanding of the information presented, witness the community’s fair and just vision, grasp the strategies, and become familiar with the rights and interests of new Asian immigrants.

None of this would be possible without your care and support. I am so grateful for donors and supporters like you who generously contribute your time and resources to stand with APEN in our fight for environmental justice.

2024 is going to be a really big year for APEN, with even more activities than this year. We’re up against some of the biggest companies in the world, and we can’t slow down now.

Will you support Asian immigrant and refugee leaders like me in 2024 by donating to APEN today?

Together, we can build a healthier, happier, cleaner, and more harmonious community. Thank you!

It’s APEN’s birthday! We’re hosting a festive night market in Downtown Oakland on July 20, and we’d love to see you there.

Click here to save your spot.