Archive for category NGEC news

How NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program Built Our Organization’s Capacity to Achieve Gender Equity

By Vincent Pan, Executive Director, Chinese for Affirmative Action

When we consider change, our mindset is typically to reflect upon the past and then imagine a different future.  This is a necessary approach, but it is rarely enough.

Instead, sustainable change requires us to look inwards – at our own beliefs, biases, and behaviors – so that we critique and transform our whole way of being.

In many respects, this is the true challenge of capacity building.  How do we, as individuals and as institutions, intentionally shape our own evolution even as we attempt to shape the evolution of our communities?  How do we do this to achieve a more wholehearted and healthy version of ourselves?

The three years that Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) participated in the National Gender & Equity Campaign (NGEC) was part of our attempt to answer these questions.  Through philosophy and through practice (and more practice) we sought to improve how we understand and live our commitment to gender democracy, gender equity, and gender justice.

At times, even plans were profound.  For example, re-organizing our offices to be more physically open encouraged sharing space and subsequently power.  The creation of unexpected teams across work areas, and the rotation of responsibilities within teams, broadened our perspectives and deepened our empathy for one another.

Those steps were part and parcel, and precursor, to the explicit address of gender.  In many ways, gender equity became both a means and an ends.  It was an open challenge as each insight spawned exponentially more pathways to pursue.  Each measure of growth revealed more horizons to explore.  I can better see the pursuit of gender equity as a living, breathing process that must continually surface and resurface in our politics, in our policies, in our programs, in the lives of those who participate in and with our efforts.

Today we live in a time of great danger.  Recorded poverty in America has never been higher even as our capacity for materialism surges unbounded.  Two wars abroad and the domestic war on our civil liberties drain our moral and financial reserves.  Fundamentalists exploit the lack of a coherent system of ethics in our country to further divide and oppress people using class, color, gender, and identity.

Yet it is also a time of great hope.  A new generation of activists has within its grasp the ability to achieve a new universal consciousness.  It is a consciousness that does not circumvent or freeze identity, but instead marches with it towards social justice.  It is consciousness based on love and compassion, and on fairness and freedom.  It is a consciousness that asks what it means to be a human being in the twenty-first century.

Ultimately, this campaign was about us re-engineering our DNA.  This is as it should be, because only by transforming ourselves, as deeply and inwardly as possible, and as individuals and as institutions, can we begin to create the consciousness and fulfill the hopefulness these difficult times demand.

Vincent Pan participates in group discussion at NGEC Organizational Fellows Program Convening

Vincent Pan is the executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco.

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Ending at the Beginning: A Reflection about the Final Convening of Organizational Fellowship Program

By Iris Shiraishi, Mu Performing Arts

“We end at the beginning” – that was my first thought walking into Nile Hall at Preservation Park in Oakland, California last week.   Three years ago, walking into the same hall, I had so many questions as we embarked on our collective journey in the Organizational Fellowship Program, a project of the National Gender & Equity Campaign (NGEC).  I can’t say that all those original questions have been answered, but I can say that they’ve been supplanted by those that come from a deeper understanding of the issues as we work towards gender and equity.

I loved meeting up and hearing from folks across both the MN and CA cohorts. I loved seeing past staff join the convening.  It is from these deep and lasting relationships that I hope I/Mu/all of us can begin at this ending and continue on our work with renewed focus and passion.

AAPIP’s plenary session on Philanthropy and the Economy on Saturday was awe-inspiring!  Each of the speakers communicated their purpose and dedication from such a deep, honest, authentic place; you could not walk away without feeling energized and inspired.  I will know to conjure up their presence whenever I get discouraged or too bogged down in the mire of the work.

And that was a rockin’ reception and dinner!  Those little scallop things melted in your mouth; the liquid refreshments flowed oh so freely and I was able to laugh a lot with more folks throughout the evening.

Thank you AAPIP for a great convening; thank you for all your support over these three years; thank you for helping me do my work!

Iris Shiraishi is a part of the Mu Performing Arts leadership team and is currently the Artistic Director for Mu Daiko and director of its taiko programs.   

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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:

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Building Power, Collective Leadership and Cultural Change

NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program is convening in New Orleans this year around the themes of: Building Power, Collective Leadership and Cultural Change.

We’ll be exploring aspects of these practices within the context of what’s happening in New Orleans, and providing space for each OFP member to share and reflect upon how these manifest in their own communities.

AAPIP will also host a screening of  the documentary “A Village Called Versailles” with filmmaker, Leo Chiang.

In a New Orleans neighborhood called Versailles, a tight-knit group of Vietnamese Americans overcame obstacles to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, only to have their homes threatened by a new government-imposed toxic landfill. A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES is the empowering story of how the Versailles people, who have already suffered so much in their lifetime, turn a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance for a better future.

A few other sites and resources around the recovery & movement building efforts in post-Katrina :

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8/21/09 – Minneapolis: Lora Jo Foo reading from her book, “Earth Passages”

Asian American activist and author, Lora Jo Foo, will be doing a reading from her most recent book, Earth Passages: Journey through Childhood, on Friday, August 21 at 6:30 pm at the Loft Literary Center.

The Loft Literary Center
1011 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415

RSVP: Please RSVP by Friday, August 14, 2009 to Margie Andreason at
For more information, contact: Bo Thao, Email: / Phone: (612) 729-1994

Lora Jo Foo has a special connection to AAPIP. She led the Ford Foundation research that resulted in her first book, Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns, and Responsive Civil and Human Rights Advocacy. After the book was published, AAPIP worked with Lora to take this book across the country on a listening tour that resulted in the development of the National Gender and Equity Campaign.

AAPIP supports Lora’s work now because her newest book, Earth Passages: Journey through Childhood, is about her memories as a daughter, woman, and activist seeking change that aligns with what AAPIP is trying to highlight and change through its work now.

The event is optional. It’s free and will have some light refreshments. We encourage you to let others you know about this event who may be interested.

About Lora Jo Foo
A garment worker at age 11 and a union organizer for eight years in the garment and hotel industries, Lora Jo Foo became an attorney representing low wage workers in sweatshop industries. She litigated numerous groundbreaking cases on their behalf. She co-founded Sweatshop Watch and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. In 2002, she published her first book, Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns and Responsive Human and Civil Rights Advocacy. A gifted photographer, Foo has photographed throughout the United States and world. She has exhibited her nature photographs in galleries and at fine art fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area where she lives. She stopped litigating in 2000 and returned to her roots as an organizer. She also returned to school and received her Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2002. Most recently she was the organizing director of a major California union. In 2004 and 2008, she was the National Voting Rights Protection Coordinator for the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.

About the Book Earth Passages: Journeys through Childhood consists of 28 vignettes and 53 color nature photographs, and tells the story of the author growing up in the inner city ghetto of San Francisco’s Chinatown – in poverty, in a housing project, at the age of 11 sewing in a garment sweatshop. In the girl’s rare escapes into the woods she discovers a magical world so unlike the ghetto in which she lives. The stories from childhood are paired with color nature photographs taken by the author as an adult. The stories are terse, pithy and powerful. They transform and imbue the very beautiful nature photographs with a much more complicated, almost bittersweet meaning.

Event Sponsors: Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (National Gender and Equity Campaign), AAPIP-MN Chapter, Full Thought Inc., Loft Literary Center

Co-Hosts: Margie Andreason, Brian Grandison, Kaohly Her, Angelique Kedem, Kathy Jefferson, Laura Lablanc, Megan Powers, David Nicholson, Bo Thao, Bill Thurston, and Lorri Todd

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