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AAPI policy summit provides platform for political power, advocacy discussions

Rob Bonta, attorney general of California, gives a speech at the Asian American Pacific Islander Policy Summit. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

By Amy Wong

March 10, 2024 4:55 p.m.

This post was updated March 10 at 9:12 p.m.

Students and faculty discussed initiatives and policies to increase advocacy for higher education and voter turnout at the Asian American Pacific Islander Policy Summit on Friday.

The summit, held at the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, was organized by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the California API Legislative Caucus and the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. In line with its theme, “Moving from Collective Knowledge to Action,” participants discussed subjects important to the AAPI community, such as homelessness and civic engagement, and spoke with and heard from AAPI leaders, including California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who delivered the keynote address.

Gabrielle Andrade, a third-year cognitive science and political science student, said she attended the summit to be in a space where AAPI community members could discuss their advocacy efforts and how those efforts relate to their identities.

“It was really inspiring, listening to all these people who are passionate about voting representation (and) education in terms of ethnic studies,” she said.

Being informed about policies that relate to AAPI communities is important for voting, added Haley Hosokawa, a third-year Asian American studies student and a lead volunteer coordinator for the event. In the last election, an increase in AAPI voter turnout was important to see the change in the policies the AAPI community wanted, Hosokawa added.

When AAPI community members exercise their right to vote and become informed on current policies, elected officials and organizations begin to recognize the change these communities want to see, Hosokawa said.

The collaborative space of students, faculty and politicians at the summit helped avoid the creation of an echo chamber, said Bryce Trevino, a volunteer and attendee at the summit. Politicians need to listen to their constituents, and events like these help them know what is important to the AAPI community, added Trevino, who is also a third-year political science student.

One topic discussed was the competition between different advocacy organizations for funding. Andrade, who is Chinese and Mexican, said she felt sad that the two groups she belongs to are sometimes pitted against each other to receive funding for advocacy, adding that she hopes a solution can be created to avoid the dilemma.

“There was this whole idea of this back and forth between the HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) and then API individuals fighting for their part,” Andrade said. “There was talk about breaking that boundary, where it’s allowing multiple, whole, different-serving institutions existing in one place.”

Andrade added that the session about advocacy in higher education related to her personal experiences in the United States education system. She said in high school, ethnic studies and intersectionality were rarely discussed, as history was often narrated from the perspective of the majority rather than minority groups.

She added that the summit helped her think about how to translate her previous work in voting rights advocacy to the AAPI community.

Emiko Kranz, an assistant managing editor at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center who assisted Hosokawa with volunteer coordination, said the policy summit helped bring people from different backgrounds within the AAPI community together to propose more well-thought-out solutions.

“What is important to you is important to other people. … Other people likely want to see the same change you want to see in the world too, but it takes a lot of different voices,” Kranz said. “It takes a deeper understanding of these issues to make sure that the responses to these issues are tailored to your community.”

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Amy Wong
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