Lina Khoeur '18
This summer, I have had the privilege of working with Asian Prisoner Support Committee, currently the only organization in the nation that works to provide culturally competent support specifically for incarcerated API communities. Through APSC, I’ve been able to work with organizations on both local and state government, but the most important work I’ve been able to do is the class we facilitate in San Quentin State Prison: Restoring Our Original and True Selves (ROOTS). In ROOTS, we work with lifers on topics like acculturation, intergenerational trauma, and histories of colonization, specifically in relation to Southeast Asian identity. This work has been transformative, not only for them, but also for me - being able to talk with people who have spent years going through the same struggles that I am going through continues to provide more for both of us than we could have ever imagined.
During our classes, and during my internship, I talked with and organized with so many people from so many different stages of the process. I got to grow with people who were just starting their organizing journey, collaborate with people who have been doing this work for decades, and share with people who are still dealing with the worst repercussions of an unjust institutionalized system. Being in this space both challenged and expanded my ideas of community and solidarity, and gave me the space to feel grounded in my own identity, privilege, and power. Organizing in these intersectional spaces continues to push my boundaries of understanding gender, ageism, culture, and many other identities, all compounded with the incarcerated state. Doing this work has allowed me to see how those labeled as “other” continue to resist, grow, and fight for change.
Vanuyen Pham '18
When I learned that the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC) was the only national civil rights organization devoted to empowering Southeast Asian American communities through advocacy and leadership development, I knew it would be an incredible opportunity for me to intern there, and it was everything I hoped for and more. SEARAC was the perfect place for me to grow more comfortable within my identity, to be in a space surrounded by fierce, empathetic leaders who were supportive mentors, and to understand the remarkable history of how Southeast Asian Americans have fought hard to carve a space for ourselves in this country and make our voices heard.
For once, I was in a space where I was innately understood, owing to our shared histories, experiences, and struggles. SEARAC is uniquely situated as an organization with deep ties to community partners, but is also a state and national leader in policy research and is oftentimes the only source of disaggregated data focusing specifically on Southeast Asian Americans. Here, I was able to better my explore my interests in direct community work as well as broader level policy advocacy, and to think more deeply about intersectionality both among issues that Southeast Asian Americans face, and also across other racial and ethnic groups. I was able to go into the community to interview Southeast Asian American youth on their sexual and reproductive health needs, but also had the chance to visit the California State Capitol on legislative visits and learn more about the policymaking process. I am determined to continue seeking public policy experiences after graduation, while always remembering to ground my advocacy in the communities that I am a part of and working for, and this is all due to my experience at SEARAC. I am immensely grateful to have been part of SEARAC, and I know I will take the love and resilience that I felt there with me wherever I end up going next.