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After twenty years on staff and nine years as APEN’s Executive Director, I am transitioning out of my role as Executive Director.

I am deeply humbled and grateful to have been a part of APEN’s growth to become the powerhouse that it is, to organize our Asian immigrant and refugee members, to create and win grassroots policies, and to help build the environmental justice movement in California and nationally.

When I first came to APEN as a youth organizer in the mid-1990s, I didn’t anticipate that this is where I would spend the majority of my adult life so far. I didn’t grow up in an Asian American neighborhood or ethnic community, but I came to APEN because I wanted to be part of environmental justice organizing that was rooted in Asian communities.

AYA (Asian Youth Advocates) members in Richmond in the 1990s
Through my experiences organizing with young people at APEN in those early years, I saw what it could look like to build power. That first group of Laotian refugee girls and young women who joined APEN’s youth program played such a critical role as connectors in their community. They were translators, literally and figuratively between their families and the community, and it was clear that they would be the catalysts for building an inter-generational movement for environmental justice in Richmond.

Since then, our community organizing has grown tremendously. The young women that were part of APEN’s youth program got their parents and grandparents involved in organizing. We connected with Chinese workers and elders in Oakland Chinatown, and fought for healthy workplaces and tenant protections. As we started going up against big industrial polluters like Chevron, we quickly realized that in order to change the impact that big polluters were having in Richmond, we would need to build stronger, broader alliances that could have a meaningful impact in bigger arenas. We would have to be part of building a bigger movement for environmental justice nationally.

APEN members and staff at a rally in Chinatown in the early 2000s
I am proud of the work we have done to establish APEN as the largest multilingual Asian American voter mobilization program in the country. We played leadership roles in critical coalitions like the California Environmental Justice Alliance and the national Climate Justice Alliance. Together with our allies, we have won major policy victories like the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing program which invests $1 billion over 10 years in solar for multi-family affordable housing.

Through it all, we’ve maintained the heartbeat of the organization, and continued to expand and deepen our community organizing.

APEN leaders Lipo and Saeng Chanthanasak at the State Capitol in 2014

I want to personally thank you for your support over the years. APEN was born as a movement organization and we’ve been so generously supported, held, and encouraged by all of you. APEN would not be where we are without this broader community of support.

In every change, there is an opportunity. I am excited to share that our APEN board, staff, and members have decided to take this opportunity to transition to a Co-Director leadership structure, in which two Co-Directors will work together to lead our organizational strategy, power building and campaigns. As we work together to build a more leaderful and regenerative movement, I believe this new structure better reflects the values of shared leadership that are core to APEN’s identity.

I could not be leaving APEN in better hands. I am thrilled to share that Vivian Yi Huang, APEN’s Deputy Director, will be starting as the first of our two Co-Directors! Vivian is a true visionary, warrior, and brilliant leader who will support APEN to grow into a more powerful, more effective, and more impactful organization.

I am not going far. I plan to transition into a Senior Strategist for APEN Action, APEN’s c4 sister organization. I will continue to play a leadership role in strategic power building in the electoral arena to deepen my advocacy for Asian immigrant and refugee communities throughout California. I plan to officially transition out of my current Executive Director role on December 31, 2021.

I am excited to work with the Board to bring on the new leadership at APEN in this critical time. We are at the highest capacity we’ve ever been and are celebrating this moment of the next phase of APEN’s organizational growth. I am looking forward to the many opportunities ahead for APEN and the next set of victories that APEN will accomplish.

With deepest appreciation and gratitude,

Miya

P.S. — Please honor my leadership and invest in the next generation of leaders at APEN by donating to our Grassroots Asian Environmental Leadership Fund. Find out more and donate here.

In this moment, it is more important than ever that we invest in grassroots organizing on the frontlines of the struggles against climate change, displacement and environmental injustice.

Make a donation to APEN today to support our organizing in 2021 and beyond.

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