Archive for category gender & equity

For Women to Be All That They Can Be

This is the second of a two-part blog post by Barbara Phillips on her observations at the April 2011 convening of the California cohort of the NGEC Organizational Fellowship ProgramClick here to read Part I of the post, and Barbara’s initial reflections focusing on gender democracy and the roles often assigned to women that were part of the cohort’s discussion.


The April 6th and 7th conversation at the OFP convening of the California cohort reminded me of a billboard I saw recently advertising the value of a particular community college.  The image presented a single Mother and two children, and the text exhorted her to attend this college so that she could become “the backbone” for her family.  This troubles me because there was nothing on that billboard about her intrinsic value, her dreams, her goals.  Her further education was presented as something of value only in relation to her ability to serve her children.  By comparison, let me mention that slogan of the Army targeting men – “Be all that you can be!”  I say this understanding fully that the toughest place to work and the toughest work to do is challenging the culture within our own communities – especially around issues related to gender.

Let me recommend two pieces of reading.  Check out the article “Reclaiming the Politics of Freedom” by Corey Robin in the April 25, 2011 issue of The Nation.  He makes the case for an explicit, progressive argument relevant to why we should engage in policy advocacy by re-positioning the role of the State as an instrument of freedom:

Without a strong government hand in the economy, men and women are at the mercy of their employer.  When government is aligned with democratic movements on the ground, it becomes the individual’s instrument for liberating herself from her rulers in the private sphere, a way to break the back of private autocracy.

Perhaps he offers some answers to our struggles with engaging policy advocacy, and crafting an analysis of the role of the State and the relationship we should have with it.

Another good read is a beautiful, provocative, and small book by Leela Fernandes, an activist/scholar entitled Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-Violence, Social Justice and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism (Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco, 2003).  Her ideas speak to our struggle against replicating that which we oppose and our sense of impotency in the face of the powerful systems of the status quo. Fernandes offers the possibilities of spiritualized social transformation that gives us the tools to create alternative forms of practice that do not replicate problematic structures and privilege, and which support participatory democracy.  Her tools challenge all forms of injustice, hierarchy and abuse from the most intimate daily practices in our lives to the larger structures of race, gender, class, sexuality and nation.

At its core, Fernandes’s work makes the case that a deep understanding of and adherence to non-violence should begin with understanding that compassion, humility and love are not just feelings but are practices.

She discusses the transformative power of these practices in daily life and especially in the realm of “public” practices – within our organizations, with our colleagues and collaborators, our communities, and even our oppressors. See if her ideas contribute new possibilities as the OFP cohort works through the struggles discussed during the April convening.

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Social Justice Organizations Moving from Intention to Practice: the Journey of Minnesota’s Fellowship Organizations

Social Justice Organizations Moving from Intention to Practice: the Journey of Minnesota’s Fellowship Organizations

By Barbara Phillips, Social justice activist and former Ford Foundation Program Officer for Women’s Rights and Gender Equity

The Minnesota cohort of the Organization Fellowship Program convened on March 24- 25, 2011 in sunny, cold St. Paul, Minnesota.  We were ever so fortunate to be in the beautiful and huge conference room of the Northwest Area Foundation with sunshine streaming through its windows wrapping around two walls.  It is tremendously valuable to be in beautiful, comfortable spaces.

Those who are stuck in thinking all should go just as well or even BETTER if activists are more “authentically” stuck in some dank, dark, dreary space need to get over it.  Why do you think the Rockefeller Foundation keeps up that beautiful villa in Bellagio, Italy and uses it as a place of contemplation, reflection, and strategic thinking for scholars and activists it considers worthy of investment?

So, we were in a space conducive to challenging work, and the creative facilitation by Bo Thao-Urabe and Karen Perkins enabled high energy, extraordinarily focused collective thinking throughout the entire convening. The convening engaged the organizational leaders in sharing and reflecting collectively.

As the groups shared their work, I was first struck by what seemed to be a deepening of openness, honesty, self-reflection, and appreciation for the uniqueness of each organization and understanding of the work.  Each group shared a particular challenge now encountered in their work, and then there were thoughtful, respectful, creative responses from the collaborative

Some challenges lifted by these groups are:

• How to create, articulate, write and incorporate gender equity into policies and practices,
• How to approach concerns about “offending” the community,
• Defining who the organization is accountable to, and therefore, how do we pick with whom to collaborate,
• How to manage the risk-taking component in all of this, including approaching a potential partner/collaborator/ally,
• How to align the conversation of the board and leadership, who are focused on organizational level policies and practices, with the more personal conversations within the community,
• How to handle the practical side of transitioning from a “crises center” to an “organizing center,”
• Here’s a project we intend to launch; give us your feedback.

It became clear at this March convening that the OFP groups now owned its share of this space – no longer are they looking to AAPIP for answers; these OFP leaders are creating answers within themselves and among each other.

Then, extraordinary community organizers – Eun Sook Lee, Kori Chen, and Pakou Hang – challenged each member of the OFP to take the risks of launching itself into actual community organizing.  As each OFP member is changing internally, how will they move that change externally into programming, into base-building, into that community base, and ultimately into the larger community and public policy?

The most telling comment upon the transformation already experienced by the OFP members came when a member commented, “This is scary stuff.  I can hear it now, but I couldn’t hear it two years ago. I’ll face much opposition. It’s scary.  Are we willing to take that risk?” 

And the answer of the OFP groups is a resounding “YES!”

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Creating Community Identity – Ideas + Questions Inspired by New Orleans Convening

OFP participants at New Orleans convening

(Sharing some reflections from our recent convening  – written by Megan Powers, NGEC’s Capacity Building Manager in Minnesota.)

A question bubbled up among many during NGEC’s recent OFP cohort convening in New Orleans: How can a group help to create and harness a community’s identity?

After viewing “A Village Called Versailles”, visiting with New Orleans residents and organizers, and much discussion, cohort participants noted that part of the success of the neighborhood’s organizing work can be attributed to a strong sense of community identity.

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OFP Cohort Progress & Learnings – Year One

NGEC JourneyAs part of our ongoing learning and broader community sharing, the NGEC staff is sharing a few key reflections about the 1st year of our capacity building approach, process and tools  from the NGEC  Organizational Fellowship Program cohort.

Knowing that there isn’t “one model” for change, we’re actively documenting the questions, processes and challenges of our cohort that offer “signs of progress.”

See the full text here:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Freedom Inc ~ Kabzuag Vaj

NGEC just wrapped up our final 2009 peer learning call with the  OFP cohort and our  special guest speaker, Kabzuag Vaj of Freedom Incorporated.  The OFP participants asked great questions and heard engaging examples of Freedom Inc’s work around what cultural change means  for them and what kinds of decisions and strategies have shaped who they are as a social justice organization.

About Freedom Inc
:  Freedom, Inc.’s mission is to inspire and educate individuals through leadership development and community organizing that will bring about social, political, cultural, and economic change to low-income communities.  Their projects include advocacy & services for victims of domestic violence, as well as weekly youth groups where girls and boys learn about & discuss leadership, healthy relationships, academic & community issues, and anti-oppression principles & tactics.

Freedom Inc was founded in 2000 by a group of young Southeast Asian girls in Wisconsin who came together to talk about community issues. As stories were shared, they realized that many forms of oppression were taking place within and amongst their community, which consists of low-income Hmong and other Southeast Asians.  They reflected on the violence within many of their own families, & realized that those incidences related to larger systemic issues of poverty, racial profiling, immigration, & other forms of violence that continually impact their community.

Freedom Inc:
image from

Kabzuag Vaj is a long-time advocate for Hmong women, girls, and families.  She is a co-founder and current Executive Director of Freedom Inc. As part of her position, she also works on program development and advocacy for families experiencing domestic violence. Formerly, she worked at the Hmong American Women Association. More recently, she has been part of a team of Hmong women activist/advocates working to address root causes of abusive international marriages. Kabzuag has participated in several groups including INCITE! Radical Women of Color Working to End Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Advisory Board of Creative Intervention-San Francisco and the Madison Equal Opportunity Commission. She earned a B.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kabzuag has studied and lived in Thailand. A Hmong refugee, she and her family have been active community members in Madison for more than 25 years.

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Nov 5th in San Jose ~ “Finding the Words Translating API/LGBT Issues Into Action”

FREE (donations are welcome!)

November 5, 2009 | Registration Begins 6:30 PM | Event 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
United Way Bldg., Rm. 105
1922 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126

” LGBT issues are API issues. Find out how immigration and marriage equality affect our communities and how conversations about these issues are lost in translation.

Panel includes representatives from API Equality, Out4Immigration and Song That Radio.  For more information or to RSVP, go to”

South Bay First Thursdays is a monthly dinner series for people in the non-profit, for-profit, and government sectors interested in Asian American & Pacific Islander (AA&PI) community issues and service opportunities. Our mission is to foster a sense of community and understanding through educational events, focusing on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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Advancing Justice Conference, AAPIs Building New Foundations for Civil Rights ~ 10/29 – 10/30 in LA

Featured panelists at this event include speakers from some of the NGEC’s OFP organizations:  KGA, SAN, KRC, & CPA!

Visit the Advancing Justice site for all the details and scroll down for more information on specific workshops.

Advancing Justice 2009

“The Advancing Justice Conference is an inaugural national civil rights and social justice conference, expected to draw several hundred individuals from across the country. The conference aims to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders in one place to address a broad range of issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. It serves as a unique forum where researchers, advocates, direct service providers and other leaders can meet face-to-face, talk about their common challenges and find ways to work collaboratively.

Taking place over two days, the conference covers a variety of issues including: immigration reform and enforcement, immigrant integration, human rights, civil rights and national security, health care, Census 2010, redistricting, low-wage workers, hate crimes, and LGBT rights. It also includes presentations on corporate and foundation fundraising, new media, community organizing, board and commission participation, capacity building, and intergroup collaboration.

The Advancing Justice Conference is a joint project by the Asian American Institute (Chicago), Asian American Justice Center (Washington, D.C.), Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco) and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (Los Angeles).”

A few workshops to note:

Civil Rights at the Intersections of Gender Identity, Sexuality, Immigration and Race

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009
Time: 2:15 – 3:45
Place: Room 6, First Floor
Workshop Track: Civil & Human Rights

This workshop will explore intersections between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) struggles and the broader Asian American and Pacific Islander civil rights agenda, with a goal of promoting greater inclusion of LGBT issues by Asian American and Pacific Islander allied organizations and advocates. Speakers will cover issues such as the parallels between the efforts to ban marriage between same-sex partners and earlier laws prohibiting interracial marriage, the similar struggles of undocumented immigrants and transgender individuals, and the efforts to raise the concerns of same-sex binational couples in both the marriage equality and immigration reform movements. An allied organization will also discuss its challenges to support LGBT issues in a community that is highly religious.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center is a California State Bar certified provider of MCLE credits and this workshop has been approved for 1 hour of credit. To receive California MCLE credit, attorneys must pay an additional $10 per workshop that offers MCLE credit. Payment collected separately onsite.


Ben de Guzman
Co-Director of Programs
National Queer API Alliance
Yongho Kim
Civic Participation Coordinator
Korean Resource Center
Hector Vargas
Deputy Director, Education and Public Affairs
Lambda Legal
Karin Wang
Vice President of Programs
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
(Workshop Moderator)
Doreena Wong
Asian/Pacific Islander Queer Women/Transgender Activists
Shin-Ming Wong
Helpline Attorney
National Center for Lesbian Rights

Organizing Low-Wage Workers and Fighting for Justice

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009
Time: 10:45 – 12:15
Place: Room 3, First Floor

Asian immigrant workers throughout the United States face numerous obstacles to fair wages, equal treatment and safe and healthy working conditions. In response, low-wage workers and their advocates have fought for justice through the courts, governmental agencies and organizing. Advocates focusing on problems in the taxi industry, home care workers, guestworkers and restaurant workers will share the effective strategies they have successfully engaged to address the unique challenges facing each community.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center is a California State Bar certified provider of MCLE credits and this workshop has been approved for 1 hour of credit. To receive California MCLE credit, attorneys must pay an additional $10 per workshop that offers MCLE credit. Payment collected separately onsite.


Yungsuhn Park
Staff Attorney
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
(Workshop Moderator)
Jennifer Rosenbaum
Legal Director
New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
Sentayehu Silassie
Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance
Aquilina Soriano
Executive Director
Pilipino Workers Center
Alex Tom
Chinese Progressive Association

National Security and Civil Rights

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009
Time: 10:45 – 12:15
Place: Room 5, First Floor

Since September 11, 2001, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Americans (AMEMSA) have come face to face with racial and religious discrimination with disturbing regularity. From the workplace to schools to the United States border, these communities are subjected to higher levels of scrutiny and suspicion in the name of national security. This workshop will showcase how community members and advocates are working to reverse the trends in laws, policies and attitudes that have endangered the civil rights and civil liberties of all.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center is a California State Bar certified provider of MCLE credits and this workshop has been approved for 1 hour of credit. To receive California MCLE credit, attorneys must pay an additional $10 per workshop that offers MCLE credit. Payment collected separately onsite.


Sameer Ahmed
Skadden Fellow
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Veena Dubal
Staff Attorney
Asian Law Caucus
(Workshop Moderator)
Nadeen Elshorafa
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Hamid Khan
Executive Director
South Asian Network

Capacity Building For Small Organizations

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009
Time: 2:15 – 3:45
Place: Room 5, First Floor
Workshop Track: Capacity Building

Small community-based organizations often have challenges in getting off the ground, particularly in difficult economic times. This session will discuss board development and volunteer management tools to enable small organizations to grow and expand.


Jury Candelario
Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team
Deborah Ching
Nonprofit Consulting Group
Preeti Kulkarni
Board Member
Asian Pacific Americans for Progress
Tuyet Le
Executive Director
Asian American Institute
(Workshop Moderator)

Don’t be Left Behind: Get the Buzz on Integrating New Media Techniques into Your Work

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2009
Time: 2:15 – 3:45
Place: Room 5, First Floor

The Obama Campaign revolutionized online communications that ultimately led him and his team to the White House. In California’s gubernatorial race, candidates have already demonstrated the importance of this phenomenon as they announce their candidacy. From galvanizing the community to outreaching to potential donors, online communications are becoming more essential to organizational success. It offers community-based organizations timely and cost-effective opportunities to reach their target audiences. It’s not just a trend of the future; it has established itself as the 21st century industry standard. How can your organization develop these mediums to reach its goals? Where does your organization start? Where can it improve? Join us to answer these questions and learn about how your organization can use this interactive, participatory medium—such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, action alerts, YouTube and podcasts—to build fresh communications strategies and strengthen constituent support. Participants will learn about online communications tools available at minimal or no cost, gain insight into which online techniques will best meet your goals, receive materials and recommendations for further resources, and participate in a world-class discussion with the industry’s experts.


Ted Fang
Keith Kamisugi
Director of Communications
Equal Justice Society
Peter Swing
Director of Communications and Donor Relations
Asian Law Caucus
(Workshop Moderator)
Jen Wang
Phil Yu
Creator and Editor

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