LEX & the APIENC family brought so much… so many things, but what i’m most thankful for is the healing that it brought to me when i felt too overwhelmed to know where to start, & i want to share some of my learnings, un-learnings & re-learnings. radical vulnerability, as nerve-wracking as the build-up is,
Organizing in the time of COVID-19: A Reflection Series from APIENC
When we took on the role of coordinating APIENC’s Summer Mutual Aid Project, we were both fairly new to APIENC, just joining as a volunteer and Summer Organizer. Despite our newness, we understood the importance of mutual aid in this moment and were committed to building interdependent QTAPI communities. We didn’t fully know what it would take and look like for APIENC’s intergenerational trans and queer Asian and Pacific Islander community in the Bay Area, so we were curious and committed to learning as we went.
It all started with the Dragon Fruit Project (DFP) reunion, scheduled to happen on March 21, 2020. Since last December, a volunteer team had been planning for an in-person event to celebrate all those who had contributed to our intergenerational Dragon Fruit oral history project. However, as the date came closer and as COVID-19 spread in the Bay Area, the team decided to indefinitely postpone the event, and to prioritize the safety and health of participants who were planning to attend. Even though we were physically unable to see each other, we decided to offer a Phone Tree as a resource for community members to check in with one another. As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, California officially put into place Shelter-In-Place orders that would drastically change our community’s needs and ways of organizing.
I haven’t always felt comfortable asking for help. Previously, I thought asking for help meant I was not “good enough,” and I thought that struggling on my own was a reflection of true strength. I learned this mindset from my family, who are Brown working class immigrants always battling to survive. I experienced this individualistic culture in my own Indo-Caribbean communities, where asking for support was never seen as an option. I witnessed systems of power silencing the needs of marginalized communities. Different internalized oppressions fueled this mindset, and I never had a space to unlearn these ideas and invite in new values.
To me, APIENC is love — love that the world desperately needs.
As a chronically ill, Việt, queer, nonbinary person, I felt unheard, othered, and silenced for far too long, by nearly everyone in my life in some way. I don’t blame them for that, but it hurt compartmentalizing myself. In that process, it began to be hard to see myself. The self became selves. I was often confused, constantly wondering why my relationship to love and vulnerability was missing something. I felt broken. I struggled to build support systems that held me.
There I was, on a zoom call with over 30 people who I had just met the weekend before, having a vulnerable one-on-one conversation with Sammie for everyone to watch.
This was during the third session of APIENC’s annual Leadership Exchange, or LEX for short. Usually, LEX is an in-person, 2 weekend-long training for trans and queer API organizers, but this was no usual year. Since meeting in person wasn’t an option, APIENC held LEX over 6 weekends, over zoom. I had just started as one of APIENC’s Summer Organizers when I signed up for LEX, not knowing what to expect.