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APIA leadership that is breaking the silence

Every day, students who identify as Asian & Pacific Islander American (APIA) face the injustice of educational inequity in classrooms across the nation. APIA voices are too often silenced or disregarded because of the "model minority" myth and the idea that educational equity is a "black-and-white" issue.

Students need more leaders who look like them serving in office, organizing in their communities and working to change the policies that affect their schools — leaders like LEE member Indira Dammu, a policy analyst in North Carolina.

Indira was compelled by her experience in the classroom to become a leader who would advocate for policies that took into account her experience as both a teacher and as a first-generation Indian-American immigrant. She explains that “the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience has been historically erased or overlooked when discussing race, ethnicity and identity in America.”

That’s why LEE is launching the Asian & Pacific Islander American Diversity in Public Leadership Summit, taking place October 13-15 in New York City.

This free weekend workshop supports APIA leaders with classroom experience in dismantling systems of inequity and oppression — including issues of invisibility, erasure and silence of the APIA communities. Participants will develop the knowledge and skills in advocacy, elected leadership, organizing and policy to be the leaders students desperately need.

LEE member Diana Tang is a community organizer and advocate for students in Houston. She was inspired to lead by the experience of her two grandmothers who grew up in mainland China with limited prospects but worked hard to create more for their children and grandchildren. Diana says that becoming a community leader showed her that “people directly impacted by systemic oppression need to be at the forefront of the work. Relationships and understanding other people’s motivations are how we move others to action, and there must be system-level change to create lasting steps toward equity.”

Bruce Leal, a LEE Policy Advisor Fellow in 2016, was instrumental in creating steps toward equity for Hawaiian students by helping to create new policy that ensures a quality education for students who speak English as a second language in the state of Hawaii. The policy notes that “when students’ identities, histories, cultures, and languages are included in a meaningful and equitable education, they are better able to learn academic content and the official language medium of education, be it English or Hawaiian.”

If you are a LEE member who identifies as APIA and looking to develop a foundation of the skills needed to succeed in advocacy, elected leadership, organizing and policy, we encourage you to submit your application for the APIA Diversity in Public Leadership Summit today. Now’s the time to explore how your APIA leadership can change the systems that continue to oppress APIA students and our communities.