The conference was a beautiful experience. Flights cross country are always exhausting, but I had a great hotel and got to immediately meet with fellow NAPAWF sisters at the locally famous Nando's peri peri chicken place. This dinner was my first time meeting NAPAWF sisters from other chapters and they were a cool bunch as expected (the NAPAWF chapter in the Bay Area helped me to make some of my first real friendships in the Bay Area, so yes they're a great bunch!). The night ended with a bunch of my east coast homies from college and I talking Afghan politics while the first snowfall that DC has had this season drifted beautifully outside. Ah how I miss snow!
|Oh snowflakes, I love thee|
The next day the conference was on! I think it was the coolest conference that I've been to, full of passionate, friendly young Asian women ready to go out there and fight for the rights of our communities. That morning, NAPAWF founding sisters and conference participants sat on the floor to talk, instead of sitting on a typical panel desk with a microphone. I think that symbolized the organization and the women in the organization better than anything. This was not a sisterhood of hierarchy; we were on equal footing with one another, we are friends, colleagues and sisters in arms! Founding sisters shared their deeply personal stories as to why civil rights, women's rights, immigrant rights work mattered to them. Most of us are immigrants or were the children of immigrants that struggled and suffered as they worked hard to establish a life in a new land (my story included). It was wonderful to feel connected, though I was desperately trying not to cry from their stories because well, my make up would run (I'm kidding...sorta).
|Keepin it real, NAPAWF style|
But the big day was Monday because it was Lunar New Years, Happy Year of the Dragon! Oh yea and it was also LOBBY DAY. Often when people think about 'lobbying' they think of cigarette and oil companies. Unfortunately though do hold a disproportionate hold on what goes down in Congress, there are amazing groups and non-profits that lobby for reproductive rights, immigrant rights and healthcare reform (the good kind). Speaking of reproductive rights, last Sunday was the 39th anniversary of the landmark supreme court decision Roe v. Wade, and that Monday, while we at NAPAWF were fighting for women's rights over the bodies, anti-abortion crowds descended upon the capitol like dark vultures of oppressive doom (sorry I'm biased, does it show?). It was a bit surreal for me to race through DC through the rain in a cab while mostly Caucasian masses held up huge photos of mutilated fetuses and signs proclaiming their love for inequality, I mean...religion (or something).
|NAPAWF sisters looking well behaved, don't be fooled|
Did I mention that I love Congresswoman Barbara Lee? I love Barbara Lee, and it was great to drop into her DC office. We met with one of her head staffers and though Lee's office is petty aware on on our side when it comes to healthcare issues, I made sure to notify her office about the plight that refugee women and men faced in the Bay Area due to unbelievably high unemployment rates (which conversely affects everything from healthcare, to family violence, to poverty). Though local leaders in the Bay Area are usually progressive, many may not know of issues affecting certain communities on the ground until someone (usually advocates) notify them about the issue directly.
After our lobbying efforts, we joined a Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Women's Briefing with a panel of great speakers from different Federal agencies and White House initiatives. After the policy briefing, NAPAWF was given their moment to shine by sharing our personal stories regarding reasons behind fighting for universal healthcare, ensuring safe environmental conditions at nail salons and avoiding the deportations of innocent people and tearing apart families through our immigration laws. These are issues that are integral to the well being of not just our communities, but for communities throughout the country.
Again with the tears, during the briefing, my friend and fellow Bay Area NAPAWF sister told her emotional story of her mothers healthcare problems. You can hear her story, as well as the stories of other NAPAWF ladies here. Again I was trying not to cry hysterically in front of the White House panel. That was hard, but definitely not as hard as telling the story in the first. Props to you Jenny Ton, and thank you for sharing!
|Go girls!! Right up there on the White House website front page!|
I had to leave before the panel ended, but I had the fortune of running into former NAPAWF Executve Director and current White House Initiative on AAPI's Executive Director, Kiran Ahuja in the hallway. That was a nice end to the conference as I rushed off to catch my flight.
It was a special experience to get to know and represent alongside such amazing, strong and loving women. Thank you girls and thanks to NAPAWF for such an empowering weekend. It gives me hope to continue the work I do. I know that as long as there are women like us in the world, we will continually fight for the rights of communities and individuals who do not have the opportunity or privilege to stand up for their rights. May we one day have universal healthcare, uphold and expand our reproductive rights and see a more fair and just immigration system. These are tall orders, but I have hope, I know that WE have hope and are working to make these dreams a reality.
|Sisters, proud and taking charge on Capitol Hill!|