This is an edited version of remarks given at CPA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, From the Streets to the Sky, Forging Our Futures, 草根崛起五十載, 海闊天高鑄未來, on 4/1/23 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Watch the full speech here at 1:00:48.
52 years ago, a college student named Pam Tau Lee went to volunteer at a storefront on Kearny Street. She walked into the wrong storefront and the rest, as they say, is herstory.
18 years ago, on a humid afternoon, I walked into a canopy at the WTO protests in Hong Kong and heard Feiyi Chen & Alex Tom talking about the impact of free trade on immigrant factory workers in the US. Half a year later, I joined the staff. I had seven coworkers, none of whom were parents with kids at home, Facebook was just starting to be a thing, and member leaders warned me not to talk about organizing workers in Chinatown “just stick to education.”
Today, Pam Tau Lee is an elder who has mentored hundreds of young people. We have a staff of nearly 30, I am mama of two cutie pies, one who teaches me dances from TikTok, and CPA’s leadership team is majority mamas with young kids. We have supported workers in winning multi million $ wage theft settlements and even more importantly, winning more fair and dignified workplaces & policies, we have built electoral and narrative power, and our youth have led successful citywide campaigns and even more importantly, won more meaningful decision-making roles for young people.
I am so proud and so grateful to be part of this living movement legacy and the many generations of leaders and members who have built CPA, From the Streets, To the Sky! I love our theme because it speaks to the DNA of CPA. That since our founding, CPA has been a space for everyday people to get together, develop solutions and take action. “To the Sky” describes our bold long-term vision, our belief in the vast potential of our community, and how we organize intergenerationally as part of larger multiracial movements for justice.
From the Streets, To the Sky is about Daih Wong, A Zhen, A Yi who…spoke out on US-China relations, organized coworkers to protest unpaid wages and to raise minimum wage, and brought their young children to CPA for meetings, because this was the one place where they were asked for their views.
It’s about Tiffany, who asked in high school why wouldn’t the world’s wealthiest nation have universal healthcare, and why shouldn’t CPA youth have their voices heard …even if they are the only non-senior citizens at the single payer healthcare meeting?
Now at 50, we stand yet again at an historic crossroads that will define future generations. What has the world come to when bringing our kids to school or letting our parents take a walk feels so unsafe; when I don’t know a single person who feels economically secure; when climate disasters have become routine? Then here comes the next numbing cycle of state and mass violence, while those in power tell us that the only way to survive is to stick to ourselves, fight for ourselves, and watch our backs. As this country grapples with white supremacy, Anti-Asian racism has been co-opted to promote more racism, and when our unity is needed the most, our communities are being recruited to be wedges breaking POC solidarity.
At the same time – the pandemic pushed humanity into an awakening, a collective realization about what really matters and how much we need each other; how much our wellbeing depends on everybody else’s. We see historic uprisings for racial justice, gender justice, workers, young people, our climate future. And that is a historic opportunity to bring our people together. So as we look towards the next 50 years, we have big plans to grow our organizing and grassroots power towards CPA’s member vision called “Forging Our Futures”, for a future where our people don’t just survive, they thrive; including respect and voice at work, safe and equitable schools, resilient and healthy communities.
Great, so, how do we get there? We can sum it up with the theme from our gathering in Chinatown days after the Atlanta spa shootings – “Love our People, Heal our Communities.” When we talk about loving our people, we mean we love our people enough to fight for them, to listen to them, to walk with them in finding their voice and demanding justice. When we say “heal our communities”, we don’t just mean the important task of tending to our communities’ suffering and wounds. We’re also talking about a holistic response to repair and transform longstanding intergenerational trauma and violence that we simply cannot afford to ignore. (My partner always says trauma not transformed is transmitted). To reimagine what is possible in our hurt world, we have to start by healing ourselves as individuals and communities, so that we can build collective practice to transform ourselves, AND the systems that have failed us. For a future where everyone’s humanity and dignity, is not just honored but celebrated.
Friends, siblings – what gives me strength and hope is knowing that this 50 year old grassroots organization has met the challenging crossroads of political persecution, economic recessions and multiple US wars with grassroots victories through the decades. Our proven resilience, our clarity of vision, our values, and our powerful community has allowed us to shine through dark times.
Now, with new generations leading the way, more than ever before, we claim our long lineage of Asian American and multiracial progressive and radical movements and declare our commitment to Forging Our Futures, From the Streets to the Sky!
52年前，曹玉娟 Pam 去到 Kearny 街打算做義工，但她走進了一個錯的門口。後來的事， 大家都知道了。
草根崛起，海闊天高 描述的是大黃，阿珍，阿儀…他們發表對美中關係的想法，他們組織工友抗議欠薪和爭取提高最低工資，他們帶著自己的孩子去CPA參加會議- 因為這是一個會徵求他們意見的地方。
我們在描述的是 Tiffany 小雯，在高中時說發問，為何世上最富有的國家沒有全民醫保，為何CPA的青年聲音沒有被聽見，即使他們的是在單一支付者健保會議上惟一不是長者的參與者。
同一時間，世紀疫症推動人類覺醒，集體意識到生命中真正重要的是甚麼，而我們又如何需要彼此- 我們能否得到幸福，全賴其他人是否也幸福。我們見到爭取種族正義，性別正義，工人，青年，氣候，歷史性的起義。這是一個歷史性的機會去聚集大家。當我們將目光放向未來50年，我們將會組織和建立草根力量，朝著我們的願景「同鑄未來」- 一個我們不止生存而是蓬勃生活的未來，包括在工作得到尊重和聲音，安全和公平的學校，充滿韌性和抗壓性的健康社區。
我們將如何做到呢？在亞特蘭大按摩店槍擊案發生後，我們在華埠組織的集會主題「關愛鄰里，治 癒社區」就是一個方向。當我們說關愛鄰里，指的是我們的愛足以讓我們為他們抗爭，去聆聽他們，與他們同行去尋找自己的聲音並爭取正義。當我們說治癒社區，指的不單是照料社區受的苦和傷口。我們指的也是一個全面的修補，去轉化那些我們不能再忽視，長期的跨代創傷和暴力 （我的伴侶常提到，不被轉化的創傷就會到處散播）要重新去想像在這個受傷的世界有甚麼可能性，我們要從治癒自身和社區出發，去建立集體實踐轉化自己，和轉化那些有負於我們的系統。創造一個不止尊重，也表揚我們每個人的人性和尊嚴的未來。