Wisconsin Organization of Asian Americans & the Ban

On Saturday I spent the evening with members of the Wisconsin Organization of Asian Americans (WOAA). It's been a long time since I have been around such a large group of diverse and progressive Asian Americans. It is not rare for me to end up at parties with Nepalese folks or even attend meetings with small groups of Asian-Americas, mostly Hmong youth, but to be in a room of more than 55 Asian-Americans from every part of the continent was a treat.

For months now, Al Poliarco and I have been planning on bringing the issue of this ban to WOAA. For Al, this ban puts his whole family in danger. He and his partner have been together for ten years and are raising three beautiful teenagers. If this ban were to pass, his partner Bill would have no decision-making ability for their children or even for Al. Al is heavily involved in the Philipino community and WOAA, and as a result he was determined to have them endorse our campaign and publicly talk about the ban.

When we took this issue to the WOAA steering committee a couple of months ago, they gave us nothing but support. After a couple of months of organizing with them, they made the ban the main issue at Saturday's Spring Potluck. The event was packed with food representing diasporas and cultures, people from the age of 5 to 80, of all occupations and backgrounds, Asian Americans whose families have been in the U.S. for generations as well as people who have recently migrated to the U.S. It was beautiful.

And it didn’t stop there. After the first hour of eating and mingling, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin arrived to speak. She talked about the ban and its harmful consequences and related it to the struggle of Asian Americans. She also engaged questions about immigration, some in relation to the ban and other questions about her vote for recent federal legislation regarding immigrant rights.

The last hour of the potluck, Fair Wisconsin hosted a panel of Asian American gay and non-gay people working to stop the ban. This was the most nerve-wracking part of the evening for Al and me, as we were worried about how people would relate to the panel.

On the panel we had a diverse group of Asian folks sharing personal stories about immigration rights as they relate to the ban, coming out as gay in the Hmong community, stories about how this ban would impact Al’s family, and why it is important to work on this as non-gay Asian-Americans.

As the panel shared their stories, the audience really listened. Everyone was warm, welcoming and motivated to do more to stop the ban. People in the audience shared their own stories about living in internment camps, facing discrimination, and not understanding how once again we could single out a whole group of people for discrimination.

One woman voiced her frustration with the official Catholic stance on the ban, as she is a Catholic woman who sent her kids to Catholic schools. And one of the elders in the room talked about how we all have gay and lesbian members in our families.

People were beyond supportive. The general membership urged the Steering Committee not only to endorse the campaign but also co-sponsor a door-to-door canvass with Fair Wisconsin.

And of course there was an after party. In my opinion, no one knows how to party like the Philipinos.

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At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Saad Akbar Khan said...

It was beautiful and inspiring to be there and be one of the panelists. Asian communities are in general conservative, and it filled me with hope to have these folks be so supportive. No one was less than extremely supportive.
When we look inside our hearts, we are all fair. Hate is learned, not instinctual. We are teaching people to unlearn their hate.


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