2016 may be a watershed year for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) political empowerment: AAPI voters are poised to make a significant impact next year, with our rapidly growing numbers and influence in a politically polarized nation that faces increasingly tight elections.
But to realize that potential, we must effectively harness AAPI electoral power – and in September, more than 120 AAPI nonprofit leaders took one step closer to that goal at a historic national summit in Chicago. Co-hosted by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the leadership summit convened more than 80 AAPI organizations from 25 states to strategize non-partisan AAPI civic engagement, for 2016 and beyond. The organizations span fields as diverse as health, social services, housing, economic development, civil rights, and community organizing, but are united by a common purpose to elevate AANHPI electoral power.
Led by Advancing Justice - Chicago, the two-day summit on September 17 and 18, 2015, examined both the current state of AANHPI civic engagement and potential future collaboration to ensure greater AANHPI participation in upcoming local and regional as well as next year’s Presidential elections.
To prepare for the summit, Advancing Justice-LA worked with the Coulter Foundation to survey participating groups on civic engagement issues. The survey found that the greatest barriers to building AAPI political power center on the knowledge (or lack thereof) of AAPI community members about the American democratic system, the importance of voting, and key issues being decided at the polls (e.g., ballot measures in many states). Language was also identified as a top barrier. The survey also identified key points of collaboration, including strong interest in health, immigration and education policy issues, and hundreds of thousands of AAPI community members already being targeted and reached on citizenship, voting and other civic participation issues.
The national leadership summit in Chicago served as an important first step in bringing together key AAPI leaders on AAPI civic engagement. To build on the planning and coordination at the summit, Advancing Justice - LA and the Coulter Foundation will co-host the next national Advancing Justice Conference (AJC), on March 29-30, 2016, in downtown Los Angeles. Open to all interested individuals and groups, AJC 2016 will focus on “Empowering Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities, 2016 and Beyond” and feature plenaries, workshops, trainings, caucuses and other events intended to strengthen nonpartisan AANHPI civic participation. We hope to welcome 500 or more guests to Los Angeles for AJC 2016 and we hope you will join us! For more information about AJC 2016, please contact Karin Wang, Vice-President of Programs and Communications, [email protected].